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Sunday, June 16, 2013

One for Dad

Captain Mike Temple at the helm

I wouldn't be the person I am today if it weren't for my Dad. My love for the outdoors and photography started young, and he was the one who introduced me to both. One of my first memories is hiking through the redwoods at Kruse Rhododendron State Park with the family, stopping every so often for him to set up his tripod to take pictures with his camera. He had converted an extra bedroom in our house to a darkroom, developing and enlarging photos as a hobby. When I turned 10 I got a small Brownie camera for my birthday and he helped me develop the pictures I took of the dog and my brothers in funny poses.

In the early years, he'd take my older brother and I camping, I think to get us out of Mom's hair for the weekend when my little brother was a baby. I remember waking up in the canvas Army surplus tent, that smell of mildew and damp grass mixed with campfire smoke drifting in through the flaps. He was an expert breakfast maker and we'd always have scrambled eggs mixed with linguica cooked up in a huge black cast iron pan.

He had a small Honda motorcycle for a long time, and as soon as I was tall enough to reach the pegs, I would go on rides with him, usually out towards the coast. We'd stop along the way and pick up lunch and eat it at the beach. My favorite meal on one of those trips was when we shared a big hunk of cheddar cheese and some Hostess cupcakes. My mom would never have served that for lunch and it felt like we were getting away with something.

A few years down the line we met some friends at a lake and they brought a little sailboat. Dad and his friend took turns tacking back and forth over the lake and he was hooked. He bought a 22 foot trailerable sailboat and from then on, it was sailing on the weekends and vacations. We would go to Tomales Bay on the weekends and launch it at the marina at Inverness, sailing up and down the long skinny bay.  We had a little dinghy so when we stopped for lunch, he'd throw us kids in and tell us to row to shore and play on the beach for a while.

Vacations were spent towing the boat to whatever destination Dad had read about during the year: Lake Shasta, Lake Berryessa, even the San Juan Islands one year. Sometimes we'd sleep on the boat but if it was an option, we'd boat-in camp, rowing all the gear to shore and setting up camp on the islands.

Of course 22 feet gets pretty small with three growing kids, and anyone who has ever had a boat knows that it's necessary to trade up whenever possible; so as the years went on, the boats got bigger. Since the larger boats weren't trailerable he'd berth them in San Francisco bay. In the summer, we'd motor up the San Joaquin River and spend three weeks baking in the sun in the Sacramento Delta, swimming and reading to pass the time. I pretended to complain, but really, there's nothing better than being able to go swimming whenever you want, hopping into the dinghy and rowing to shore for popsicles. I often think about that when I'm sweltering away in town during the summer now.

As the years went on, the boats got bigger, but his crew started to disappear. One by one we went off to college, got jobs, got married and he wasn't able to handle the boat by himself comfortably anymore. He traded down for the first time, selling his sailboat for a little cabin cruiser that didn't require raising sails and clambering around the rigging.

When he wasn't out on the water, he was tooling around on his cherished Moto Guzzi motorcycle. He even had a little trailer that hooked up to the back and he'd take it on road trips, meeting a group of friends he had gotten to know from the Northwest who called themselves the "Wet Leather Riding Club".  He was still a camper at heart.

Dad and his trusty Mamiya C22 in Yosemite, with Mom, brother Kevin and Mark.

When Mark and I bought our camper he and Mom were the first ones we showed it to when we brought it home. He poked his head in and said it looked like a lot of fun. We talked about camping trips we'd like to make, and asked his advice about tools we should bring, upgrades to make, etc.

In 2003 we had a long-planned trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone lined up, but Dad was in the hospital with some serious health issues. Mark and I couldn't decide if we should call it off or not. I went to visit him before we were to go and told him we were going to cancel. He said we should just go, that he'd still be in the hospital, so why not just go?

While camping in the Tetons, we got the call from Mom--come home. We left right away and drove straight to UCSF Medical Center from northern Wyoming, a fifteen hour trip, making it there by 9:00pm just in time to say goodbye.

I felt pretty bad about going on that trip for a long time. But after a while I realized it's what he would have done. Why sit and worry when it won't make any difference? Why not enjoy what time you have while you can?

In 2004 we made a five week road trip to Alaska, a trip my Dad had always wanted to make but didn't have enough time to accomplish. We had a lot of fun, saw some amazing things, and took a lot of great pictures. I used all of the skills he taught me: driving, photography, camping, even knot tying. I know Dad would have had a great time on that trip and we made sure not to waste the opportunity to have fun, just as he taught me.

So thanks Dad. I couldn't do this stuff without you.


  1. Well done, Kelly. Love, Mom

    1. Wow, that brought a tear to my eye. I miss Captain Mike and his beer batter waffles that Kevin wouldn't eat while lounging on the delta. Those were some fun times. Your Dad was the coolest! Like when he explained to me the engineering behind a fly swatter. Lol. Miss ya Captn Mike! Denise

  2. This is the story after reading of which i started to cry... How emotional this excellent piece of writing is!