A Travellerspoint blog

Finding heaven at the Jam Jar Lounge

A week in Hobart with Tasmanian devils and angels

Hobart, Tasmania, is halfway around the world from where we live. But one afternoon at the Jam Jar Lounge in historic Battery Point, we found our heavenly home.

Saul Chessin at the Jam Jar, Hobart, Tasmania

Saul Chessin at the Jam Jar, Hobart, Tasmania

We were spending a week in Tassie, staying just outside Hobart on Seven Mile Beach in a cottage with a fully equipped kitchen. So we stocked up on fresh produce, bread, wine and cheese at the Salamanca Market on Saturday, our first full day in Hobart.

We had arrived late on a Friday night, flying in from Coolangatta. Everyone but me wanted to go into town. And despite my mild protests, we hopped in the car trying to find our way through the blackness to Hobart. The only lights on the road were reflections from our headlamps in the eyes of wallabies and other small critters lining the road. Maybe it was a Tassie ritual— local wildlife welcoming lost visitors on lonely roads.

After a few roundabouts, we hopped on the Tasman Highway and headed in the right direction. Hobart is spread over seven hills between the banks of the Derwent River and the summit of Mount Wellington. So as we approached the Tasman Bridge, the hills as well as the bridge were scintillating, the lights reflecting off the water. What a sight. I was glad I relented about coming to town.

In an instant we were in Australia’s second-oldest city and even faster than that, we were lost. I saw a sign for Historic Battery Point. Let’s stop here and walk, I said. Everyone agreed.

There was a sign with an arrow for Salamanca Place so we strolled down a narrow lane, Kelly Street, and headed to the waterfront.

Sometimes getting lost is the best way to find a good time.

As we approached a steep stairway, “Kelly’s steps”, there was one helluva party going on. A band was perched on a outcropping next to the stairs, and the steps were packed with people. Shoulder-to-shoulder and cheek-to-cheek. Hundreds of them. Singing, drinking, and dancing.

We wound our way through these Tassie party devils and found our ourselves at Salamanca Place. More partying there— along the Georgian style warehouses restored as restaurants, pubs, and art galleries. Eventually, we walked back to Battery Point vowing to return.

And we did, several times. Battery Point sits high on a hill with a view of the Derwent River and was originally home to a gun battery. Today its gas-lit

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lanes are lined with fishermen’s cottages, colonial mansions, pubs, and restaurants. Saul instinctively found the best neighborhood bakery-café: Jackman & McRoss. We ate there three times during the week. It never disappointed.

On another afternoon in Battery Point, our wives, Sheri and Valerie, decided to shop . . . and they preferred that we did not. Ahhh, serendipity. I hate shopping. Saul and I were headed for a zip-a-dee-doo-dah day.

We kissed our wives goodbye and headed for the Jam Jar Lounge. The Jam Jar has a beautiful, old upright piano. And Saul is a bodacious, upright piano player.

Saul is my Buddha of the offbeat. He plays his music, the tunes he’s written. He’s recorded several CD’s with his band, New Soul Authority. He also plays solo. Saul was influenced by many styles of music, including old school jazz, 70-80′s funk/soul, and R&B, but he’s carved out his own sound.

Now, if I had Saul’s talent I would not be shy about broadcasting it to the world. But Saul is a solitary man despite usually being surrounded by people. Quiet and unassuming, he can easily disappear in a crowded room.

So there seemed to be something special about the angelic barista Sophie who listened carefully when Saul played his songs for the first time at the Jam Jar on a quiet afternoon. “Magical,” she told him. “Please come back and play. Anytime.”

Angelic baristas at the Jam Jar

Angelic baristas at the Jam Jar


When Saul and I walked into the Jam Jar for the second time, Sophie greeted us. “Would you like to play the piano?” she asked Saul.

Saul smiled and nodded, then headed for the old upright. I took a comfortable seat, laid back and ordered a long black.

With books on the shelves and photos on the wall of all my favorite jazz artists, this place felt like home. It has a “dog friendly” courtyard. (I should have brought my ol’ mutt Blaze.) It has a library with a wood fire, and on a wall on the way to WC, I discovered a mural of Al Capone and the Chicago skyline. It seemed strangely coincidental. My grandfather, Aura Clark, had been a county sheriff in rural Indiana during Prohibition. So growing up, I heard stories about Aura battling Capone’s bootleggers who ventured into Fulton County, Indiana. I never expected a Tassie connection.

Saul began to play, and the music sounded . . . well, as Sophie said, magical.

There’s something lyrical about a personal truth. A free-flowing melody. Light and airy, it floats all around you. And when it lands on your ears, even hearing it for the first time, you instantly recognize it― because it’s like bumping into an ageless, best friend.

I don’t remember how long Saul played. The time seemed fleeting and a bit bittersweet as if saying that this will end just as it begins. And I felt an ache because at this moment everything seemed to be at home in its right place.

The music was magical. And that afternoon at the Jam Jar was a taste of heaven.

Saul playing at the Jam Jar

Saul playing at the Jam Jar

Posted by davidmutticlark 13:58 Archived in Australia Tagged tasmania hobart battery_point jam_jar jackman_&_mcross salamanca_place saul_chessin new_soul_authority Comments (2)

One last beer at Jackson Lake Lodge

Summer’s last hurrah in the Grand Teton National Park

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My favorite place to have a beer: the deck of the Blue Heron Lounge, Jackson Lake Lodge, in the Grand Teton National Park.

It’s silent majesty sitting there. Almost no sound of civilization. No rumble or roar of traffic. The highway is far enough away. Just the euphony of muted conversation and the clinking of glasses as hikers, bikers and over-nighters at the lodge toast a grand view of the Tetons.

View of the Tetons from Jackson Lake Lodge.  Photograph by Michael Gäbler

View of the Tetons from Jackson Lake Lodge. Photograph by Michael Gäbler

The deck looks out over willow flats to the Teton Range. Mount Moran and Skillet Glacier sit in the middle of this panorama.

The Blue Heron’s website claims that it’s been voted the “best watering hole – human division” by the National Park Foundation. Human division? Is there another division for moose and elk?

The deck at the Blue Heron Lounge

The deck at the Blue Heron Lounge

Last week I began to panic. It dawned on me that we had not made our traditional annual trek to Jackson Lake Lodge and the Blue Heron watering hole. Summer was slipping away. The weather was about to change, but Friday’s forecast was perfect— sunny and 72 degrees. So we left Idaho Falls and took the route through Swan Valley to Alpine, Wyoming, and then northeast on Highway 89, a scenic drive that coils through the canyon along the Snake River.

I usually justify my beer imbibing with a preliminary hike. And the trail to Grand View Point is just right. From the lodge, it’s a 6-mile tramp, round-trip, and offers a sampling of the park’s diversity. You start in sagebrush flats and walk along wet meadows and ponds. The path climbs through a forest a conifers— lodgepole pine, Douglas fir and spruce, and then culminates at a rocky point with a 360-degree view.

To the west are the Tetons. The whole range stretches in front you, still some snow hugging their jagged peaks. Cumulus clouds float between the saw-toothed summits as if they’re mischievous, white puffy boys tempting the Tetons to saw them in half.
View of the Tetons from Grand View Point

View of the Tetons from Grand View Point

To the east, is a panorama of meadows, forests, and lakes reaching to the undulating mountains on the horizon.

View from Grand View Point

View from Grand View Point

It was one of those days. A day when the colors were so rich, the air was so clear, and the breeze was just enough to wisp away all worry. One of those days— a day that induces silence, a day when your sense of reality is heightened to a dream.

We spent fifteen minutes on the summit by ourselves, sitting on an improvised bench— a slab of dry wood resting on bookends of boulders. After Labor Day, the crowds seem sparse. We talked very little and listened a lot. The breeze and the birds seemed to perform a duet.

And then we made our return trek downhill. The beer was calling from the Blue Heron, and I was ready for a swan dance of I.P.A.’s.

Blue Heron Lounge

Blue Heron Lounge

We made it back to Jackson Lake Lodge and the deck of the Blue Heron Lounge. It did not disappoint.

Posted by davidmutticlark 12:36 Archived in USA Tagged grand_teton_national_park jackson_lake_lodge blue_heron_lounge Comments (1)

Travel as Transformative

How a penniless farm boy circumnavigated the globe and changed his world

At 14 years old, Aura Clark was a farm laborer. The economic depression of the 1890’s had wiped out jobs, farms and fortunes. Aura’s family couldn’t afford to feed him so they found a family willing to provide room and board in exchange for his labor.
Aura Clark (middle) has his photo taken with his mates in Yokohama, Japan during his voyage with the Great White Fleet

Aura Clark (middle) has his photo taken with his mates in Yokohama, Japan during his voyage with the Great White Fleet

Aura grew quietly discontent with the situation, so one year later, at 15, he ran away. He left the Kewanna, Indiana farm for Chicago to join the U.S. Navy.

He wasn’t old enough to enlist so Aura had concocted a plan. He provided the Navy recruiter with a name and a telephone number to confirm his birth date. The recruiter called the number at the county courthouse in Rochester, Indiana, and spoke to the clerk who worked with marriage and birth certificates. Unbeknownst to the recruiter, the young girl was a friend of Aura’s. She, too, had been farmed out to the Overmeyer family for room and board. And she, too, had escaped. Before Aura ran away, she promised she’d help him.

The recruiter nodded as he ended the call; satisfied and smiling, he placed the handset back on the phone. Aura was in the Navy.

Aura and America became inextricably linked. They grew up together, both putting on muscle and growing in strength. Aura transformed himself from a farm boy into a man with the help of the U.S. Navy while America metamorphosed from a republic to an imperial power with the help of enthusiastic farm boys like Aura.

In 1898, Aura went to war. The United States had enjoyed peace since 1848 adhering to the American tradition of non-intervention— a policy laid down by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers. But a confluence of factors—political, economic, social and yellow journalism steamrolled President McKinley into declaring war on Spain after the sinking of the battleship Maine in Cuban waters. Whether or not this war was contrived is still debated. But the outcome of the war was startling. In ten weeks the United States went from a republic to an empire, from an inward-looking country to a new world power. Spain had ceded the Philippine Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the United States.

"It has been a splendid little war," wrote US ambassador John Hay from London in a letter to his friend, Theodore Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

When Teddy Roosevelt became president, he sent Aura and 14,000 other sailors on a cruise of a lifetime. It was the Voyage of the Great White Fleet.

In 1907, Roosevelt ordered 16 U.S. Navy battleships of the Atlantic Fleet on a worldwide voyage. The hulls were painted white and decorated with gilded scrollwork.

Great White Fleet by John Charles Roach

Great White Fleet by John Charles Roach

Why did Roosevelt do it? In 1906, war with Japan appeared possible. The Japanese navy dominated the Pacific and posed a potential threat to the Philippines. Aura read newspaper accounts of America's problems with Japan: Roosevelt mediated the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1906 ending the Russo-Japanese War. The Japanese had obliterated the Russian fleet. But Japan failed to get all they thought they deserved at the peace table and blamed Roosevelt for it.

In the same year, anti-Japanese feelings were sweeping California. Segregation of Japanese school children had been ordered by the San Francisco Board of Education. When this news reached Japan, violent anti-American protests erupted.

Roosevelt didn't want war with Japan. The United States was not prepared— most of America’s battle fleet was concentrated in the Atlantic; only a few armored cruisers sailed the Pacific.

So Roosevelt persuaded San Francisco to end its segregation policy in exchange for an agreement with Japan to slow down its flow of immigrants into the United States.
And to impress Japan that the U.S. Navy could shift its battleships from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Roosevelt ordered the Great White Fleet to sail around the world. This multi-faceted approach demonstrated Roosevelt’s speak-softly-but-carry-a-big-stick philosophy.

When Aura steamed out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, on December 16, 1907, on the USS Connecticut, the flagship of the Great White Fleet, President Roosevelt was there to see him off.

Teddy stood on the deck of the presidential yacht Mayflower, anchored nearby. Beaming, he flashed his toothy smile. "Bully!” he said as the battleships painted white with gilded bows steamed to the open sea.

The fleet was bound for 20 ports of call on 6 continents over 14 months. They would travel 43,000 nautical miles. It was grand pageantry of American sea power.
Aura, a penniless farm boy, was transformed into a U.S. diplomat, as one of Roosevelt’s 14,000 sailors who would meet, greet, and promote good will along the way.

Rumors of war preceded the fleet’s visit to New Zealand. But when Aura and the Great White Fleet steamed into Auckland harbor, 100,000 Kiwis— ten percent of New Zealand’s population— lined the shores to greet them. For one week, New Zealand celebrated the Yankee visit. Officers were treated to dinners and balls. And Aura was given a Government Railways First Class Pass. The small leather pass was for special trains traveling inland to Rotorua to see the Maori tribesmen.

Next, the fleet sailed for Sydney, Australia.

Visit of the United States Fleet to Sydney, August, 1908 by Norman Carter

Visit of the United States Fleet to Sydney, August, 1908 by Norman Carter


So intense was Australia's interest in the visit that half the population of that city remained awake the entire night and thousands upon thousands of them long before night was over were on their way to the hill tops outside the city limits, where they massed seemingly in unbroken lines to view the spectacle. Estimates of the number of spectators vary from 500,000 to 650,000. — from Teddy's Roosevelt's Great White Fleet by James Reckner.

Melbourne greeted the Great White Fleet with madness.

Every window, roof and other projection was jammed and the American bluejacket marched through six miles of madly cheering people. San Francisco' enthusiasm was dwarfed by the people of Melbourne. Hospitals were full of people who had been trampled in the streets or had fallen off buildings while watching the parade. — from The Cruise of the Great White Fleet, a collection of postcards, medals, photographs, and memorabilia by William Stewart.

The fleet left Melbourne and sailed through a typhoon on its way to Japan. Seas ran above 40 feet. Waves rose 15 to 20 feet above the ships’ quarterdecks while winds whipped 65 miles per hour. The Virginia lost two lifeboats. Three men were swept overboard with only one not recovered, Gunners Mate Fuller of the Rhode Island. The typhoon scattered the fleet. It took four days to regroup and delayed entry to into Tokyo Bay and Yokohama by one day.

As the seas settled and the fleet approached Yokohama, Aura was informed that he would be granted liberty and was read a directive written by the Commanding Officer, Rear Admiral Perry: To insure against diplomatically damaging incidents, "only first-class men, whose records showed no evidence of previous indulgence in intoxicating liquor," would be allowed ashore. And, in reference to a planned reception for the crew, the directive went on to state that "the men will be made to understand that this, though an entertainment, is a matter of military duty" and all sailors should conduct themselves accordingly.”

Japanese hospitality was lavish. Flag officers were provided rooms at the Emperor's Palace, while the ships' captains stayed in suites at Tokyo's Imperial Hotel. Junior officers were provided railroad passes, and select enlisted men, including Aura, were given trolley car privileges. For the entire week the fleet was in Japan, there was continuous celebration.

The fleet left Japan with its major diplomatic mission accomplished. War with Japan had been averted, and the visit is credited as sealing the deal between Japan and the United States— the Root-Takahira Agreement that went into effect shortly after the fleet's return. According to this treaty, the United States and Japan agreed to maintain the status quo in the Pacific and to respect each other's possessions. Also, both nations consented to respect the "Open Door" policy in China and the independence and territorial integrity of that country.

The fleet headed home crossing the Indian Ocean to the Arabian Sea. It steamed through the Suez Canal, stopped to assist earthquake victims in Messina, Sicily, and then sailed across the Atlantic.

As they steamed home into the Roads, Teddy Roosevelt was there again, waiting for them aboard the presidential yacht Mayflower. Roosevelt had only two weeks left in the White House. William Howard Taft was to succeed him. Some time later, Roosevelt would say that the cruise of the Great White Fleet was "the most important service that I rendered for peace.”

Aura Clark advanced to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. But he wanted to become an officer and a gentleman. He studied hard but was unable to pass the mathematics portion of the entrance exam for the U.S. Naval Academy. Later in life, he would see his older son, Robert, admitted to the Naval Academy. And he would see his younger son, Donald, become a mathematics teacher. He was never penniless again.

Posted by davidmutticlark 20:52 Comments (1)

D'railed in Idaho Falls, Idaho

Getting off track on the way to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

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Diversions can be de-e-e-lightful. If you’re headed to Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons, chances are you may travel through Idaho Falls. It has the largest airport within a 100-mile radius of the parks.

Idaho Falls clings to the Snake River on the southeastern cheek of Idaho's wide bottom and is home to the nuclear cowboy. It's a mixture of scientists and engineers who crash atoms in insulated spaces at the Idaho National Laboratory, and farmers and ranchers who pick potatoes and corral cattle in gusty winds under big skies. A majority of its residents are Mormon, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Many tourists blow through town on their way to Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Park choosing to eat fast food on their way. But if you want to spend a few minutes and flavor the funkiness of people living on the wrong side of the tracks, I'd recommend D'railed Bar & Grub.
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The food is locally sourced, and they offer a good variety of regional beers and wine. The backyard is huge and hosts local and regional indie bands. Fire pits were added last month. They tamp down the chill and turn on the ambiance in the evening.

And, occasionally, you'll hear a blast from a train whistle from the tracks across the street.

What could be better?

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Posted by davidmutticlark 09:31 Archived in USA Tagged restaurants yellowstone idaho tetons idaho_falls Comments (0)

Spinning our Wheels

Biking the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in Idaho’s panhandle

The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is a more than a bicycle path. It’s a byway that bisects the beauty of northern Idaho, a 73.2-mile ribbon of smooth asphalt that laces rivers and lakes, the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation and historic Silver Valley.

The grades are gentle, and it’s easy to get on— there are 20 trailheads. And there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the views— 17 scenic waysides with picnic tables.

Our friends and traveling companions, Saul and Valerie Chessin, love to bike and hike and run. So my wife, Sheri, and I thought a spin on the trail would be the perfect outing for their fast-approaching 30th wedding anniversary.

But before biking, we needed some carb and caffeine bingeing. Fortunately, we were staying at the Clark House B&B. So this was not a problem. Gourmet gluttony at its finest on the elegant patio.

Clark House patio

Clark House patio

Clark House breakfast

Clark House breakfast

We waddled away from the Clark House on Hayden Lake, hopped in the car and headed for Harrison, Idaho, where we planned to hop on the bike trail.

Driving along the eastern shoreline of Lake Coeur d'Alene on Idaho 97, named the Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway, we glimpsed inlets and bays through giant cedars, wild flowers and huckleberries. It’s only a 35-mile drive, but it took us almost an hour to reach Harrison due to the serpentine nature of road.

We had planned on just riding a portion of the trail— a 16-mile section from the Harrison Marina to the town of Plummer within the boundary of the Coeur d’Alene Reservation. And then we’d ride back to Harrison for total of 32 miles.

We pulled into the parking lot at the Harrison Marina, a trailhead for the bike path, and hot damn, it was a beautiful day. But there was one thing I worried about: Saul and Valerie were in phenomenal shape. They loved intensity in their workouts. The harder, the better.

But when I bike or hike in a beautiful place, I like to slow down, breathe deeply and soak in the scenery. Consequently, I had concocted a plan. I knew Saul and Val had heavy-duty mountain bikes with big tires. So I decided to take our light road bikes with skinny tires. Our bikes were probably half the weight of theirs. If things went according to my scheme, they could bike their butts off while I cruised along the way. Everyone would be happy.

We hopped on the bike trail; Saul and I paired up as we pedaled while Sheri and Valerie rode together talking nonstop.

It was delightful; my plan was working. My bike glided effortlessly allowing me to savor the views. Saul and Val were enjoying themselves, too, occasionally having to stand up on their pedals and push hard to maintain their momentum.

Saul and I continued our conversation, sweating— he more than me— and taking in the vistas of forests and the lake.

To some it may appear as if we were just spinning our wheels. Pedaling but not getting anywhere. It was a round trip. We planned to end our ride where we began— in Harrison.

But I don’t know. Spinning our wheels seemed to enliven our spirit, the sweat serving as a sweet lubricant for a bit of soul searching. “When you pray, move your feet,” says an African proverb.

Or, maybe, we were just accidental tourists: bodies in motion colliding with our own souls. Or, maybe, we pedaled the trail to wrestle with God. We brought our issues, our questions, and our doubts. And we silently shouted at the Divine through the whir of our wheels.

Or, maybe, it was none of the above. Maybe, it was just a beautiful day spinning our wheels.
Saul and Valerie Chessin

Saul and Valerie Chessin

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

Valerie Chessin and Sheri Clark

Valerie Chessin and Sheri Clark

Posted by davidmutticlark 18:58 Archived in USA Tagged lakes idaho bicylce trail_of_the_coeur-d'alenes bike_path Comments (1)

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