Mark's Favorites

These may not necessarily be in my "favorite" order, but I think the best are in the first group.

INSIDER'S NOTE: These could sometimes go looong, as I felt the urge to go on and on about the cool things I'd learned, so you may want to skim through the middles at times. But don't miss the endings as I often made them to remember.

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A Million Acres to Heal, fire watching in Oregon
The folks at fire-watch headquarters in Gilchrist (really!) Oregon sent me up to the fire tower, where I spent the night - it was beautiful! Cathi was a little surprised to see me when she arrived the next morning, but we became fast friends.

The Air Way, helicopter rescue in Colorado
I stayed with Sean the entire day and we didn't get a call. So, how to write a good story when you can't really experience the subject? I got lucky.

The way down, skydiving in Virginia
This could be my favorite for both researching and writing. They offered me a tandem jump, which like a moron I said "was for sissies." I feared death the entire day of training, then stared it right in the face and laughed.

Slap Shot; Amateur ice hockey in Rhode Island
Hilarious. That's what the other hockey players thought of me, at least. I want a rematch!

Laying fire to the night sky in Vermont
I will likely remember this night the rest of my life. Thank you Lisai family for putting me in the center of the excitement. Read a countdown of a day setting up for a Fourth of July fireworks show with enough firepower to make me pee my pants.

High school art teacher helps us to see, in New York.
I think this was the first story I wrote. I was moved by the story and didn't even meet the subject. A very short, loving piece, and not objective at all.

Seeds of love, a bounty of pride in New Hampshire
You can research and research for hours on a story, then someone will tell you something and you'll just build your entire article on that. There's nothing for a writer like being inspired, and Frank was an inspiration. The local newspaper called me and asked to publish this story, insisting on paying me $75. I was surprised and pleased, and hoped that would happen again, but it didn't.

Roadhouse on Route 66 in Arizona
What fun I had with Christina that night in Flagstaff. You think tending bar is easy? Watch this!

Olympic Speed Skater in Colorado
I Googled Julie the other day (2014). She has done well on the USA team and is now in motivational speaking. I enjoyed writing this piece, and got one of my strongest endings ever out of it.

Crazy Horse Statue in South Dakota
A real eye-opening adventure researching this was! The Ziolkowski family will go down in history as creators of the most massive carved monument in the world, if they ever finish!

Volunteer Equine Therapist in Colorado
Helen was an inspiration and made a simple story at a horse ranch extraordinary.

The St. Mary's Blues; Life on the Great Lakes
Ever hopped a freighter before? I hadn't until this night, and what a night it was!

A Night with the Border Patrol in El Paso, Texas.
A few minutes after meeting Jose Gonzales in the border patrol offices, he pulled a handgun from a locker and holstered it, and I deadpanned; "OK, so where do I get my gun?" One of my clever witticisms that can make or break an interview. I lucked out and we had a great time, even though we saw no illegal aliens that night.

My SCUBA babe, SCUBA diving in Hawaii
Monique may have saved my life; not an ordinary day at the office.

Runners-up Favorites

Rescue of the Showy Lady Slipper in New Hampshire
Meet a pretty cool high school teacher who, I found later, went on to advise the President while working for the federal government.

Chair caning in Rhode Island
I worked hard to get this story and learned a great deal from the Morgans.

Dedication to Ernie Pyle, Hoosier Vagabond in Indiana
Meet the guy who motivated me to write about ordinary people I would meet wherever I went, and to go everywhere to meet them.

German POWs in WWII work for and enrich lives of Oklahoman family
Before meeting Dolores Williams, I would not have believed that we imprisoned thousands of German soldiers right here in the U.S. during World War II. News to you?

Hang gliding in New Mexico
I was amazed. Ever thing you can get launched into the air behind a 1981 Honda station wagon? Think again.

Christmas tree sales in California
I'd always wanted to work at a Christmas tree lot, sitting around a fire barrel and bringing cheer to the town - one of those bucket list things - and this was my chance. Worked out wonderfully, except no open fires allowed in the big city of Irvine, California.

The view from here, mountain climbing in Arizona
I had wanted to climb this "little" peak for a decade, and almost didn't make it this time.

Tabasco Sauce made in Louisiana
Wonder how that delicious, red sauce is made? Wonder no more; here's a taste of the McIlhenny family's favorite recipe.

Waking in Memphis
Reflections on my father's death, and life afterward.

Into Thin Air, riding in the Goodyear Blimp
This has to be one of the coolest ways to fly.

A Coal Miner's son, in West Virginia
After floating high above the ocean, I went a mine down into the earth. Man, it's dark down there.

A Sense of Touch, teaching piano in North Dakota
Donna has done more in her life than I ever will.

Thunder Road, riding the rails in Montana
This was my first train ride over the Continental Divide, but hopefully not my last.

Newsworthy, reporting life in Nebraska
Researching this story may have inspired me to work on a community newspaper.

Over the Edge, Fearless skiers in Wyoming
I was wandering around Bear Tooth Pass on my way from Wyoming into Montana when I saw these guys getting ready to ski down a sheer drop... and then climb back up!

Above the Wilderness with an Alaskan bush pilot
Flying again, but this time in a single-engine plane heading toward the Arctic Circle. We stopped and had hamburgers.

These Eyes; Cuban-American Storyteller in Utah
Carmen Deedy is a wonderful storyteller - and I think she's still at it. I'll have to go see her again sometime.

CINE-MAN, a life in media in Kansas.
Jim was an interesting character, spending a life studying the writings, music and films of others.

The Longest Day - the True America trip to Hawaii
How does one get from a carnival parking lot to Hawaii? First class, is how, and it only took 42 hours.

The final letter home
This is how I said farewell to the most exciting adventure of my life.

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