Of Altitude and Attitude: The Lost Chapter

All right, it is not a chapter, and it was not really lost. I simply had too many balls in the air this month to keep track of which one was next as I was chronicling our Colorado trip. Still, I wanted to share this part of the story, so anyone who reads this series will not miss a beautiful, if not as breathtaking, part of the park. So, here goes, the rest of the story.

Our last full day in Estes Park was one of those, “What else can we cram in days?” First, I wanted to drive Fall River Road. We’d not visited that area, and we were interested in checking out the north part of Estes Park, including at least driving by The Stanley Hotel.

Fall River Road is not as spectacular as Trail Ridge Road. With that said, it is worth checking out. One reason to travel at this time of year, early fall, is to see the Aspens begin to turn. This drive did not disappoint in that respect. Unfortunately, for us, we were not the only people interested in those views. Also, it was a free admission day. Traffic was a bit of a problem, and keeping other folks out of your pictures required some patience or editing.

The drive down to meadows through which the Fall River runs was short but not without its share of mountain beauty. The side trip past the Alluvial Fan was disappointing, but only because we did not know what the Fan was. Accordingly, we missed what is reported to be an informative and scenic little hike. Still, we enjoyed what we did see, and we wanted to spend some time at Elk Fest in Estes Park.

Our little side trip on Fall River Road was enjoyable and short, even with stops for pictures and the side trip past the Fan. Then, the road dumped us back into the reality of north Estes Park. The drive from the park entrance/exit was educational to a degree. We passed The Stanley Hotel and noticed some other places worth checking out in the future. Also, we got a bit of a preview of what awaited us as we neared the Elk Fest.

We’d seen a significant increase in downtown traffic on Friday. The locals said it was a combination of the average increase for the weekend and the Elk Fest. By Saturday morning one could describe the downtown area as one big traffic jam. For those in the know, a bypass of sorts allows drivers to miss the primary tourist area. On this occasion, even that traffic might have been outrun by a determined inchworm.

It was mid-morning, and Elk Fest visitors were already parking along the highway. At that time, they were parking almost a mile away. Later in the day, people were hiking well over a mile to attend Elk Fest. Luckily, we’d spent enough time in town earlier in the week to discover side streets and potential parking spots that were at least marginally closer to the action.

The event, held in the municipal park next to City Hall, was precisely what one would expect in a small-town festival. The area was filled with food trucks, food tents, arts, crafts, and local businesses offering specials on services. There were also events such as Native American dancing, Bull Elk calling contest, and other entertainment.

Tents and booths for government entities and service organizations were present as well. They offered advice, asked for support, and provided information on various topics. One tent was occupied by a conservation group. That tent was fun because they brought a great horned owl as an attraction. It was quite a sight. Sadly, the sucker didn’t say “whooo” even once. 😉 He just blinked, swiveled his head, and ignored everyone except his handler.

We wrapped up our Elk Fest adventure with a nice lunch and buying a few t-shirts to memorialize our trip. Then it was time to head back to the cabin to begin the always exciting task of packing for the flight home. The next morning, bright and early, we headed back to Denver International, which brings up one final point that might be of interest.

The car rental Customer Service Rep at the airport suggested we take the slightly longer route to Estes Park. His reasoning was the quickest route was mostly flat land and interstate until you neared the city. The slower way brought you to the mountains much faster. While I totally understand and appreciated his advice, I discovered the faster route is not entirely devoid of beauty.

True, not long after you leave Estes Park, you find yourself crossing land reminiscent of west Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. That is, you can see for miles and miles because the area is flat. Still, there is one difference.

The mountains you are leaving are visible as a backdrop for much of the trip. Flatland, surrounded by mountains, can have a beauty all its own, as this iPhone picture clearly shows.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

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Of Altitude and Attitude: Challenging Our Waistlines

As a regular reviewer of restaurants on TripAdvisor* and other sites, I cannot leave the story of our Rocky Mountain excursion without mentioning the food. First, hat’s off to my long-time friend and Rocky Mountain regular, Scott Windham.

Scott made a couple of recommendations that were spot on excellent, one within walking distance of our cabin. Thanks to Scott and two other folks, we had gustatory experiences that were almost as memorable as some of the sights.

First up, the Dunraven Inn.  Scott let me know the Dunraven had “the best Italian food in Estes Park.” I hope Scott can forgive my skepticism, but my first thought when he made that statement was, “Oh, sure.” I cannot swear to his assertion, because I did not try Italian food anywhere else. On the other hand, I can say the Italian part of the menu was top notch. Also, the place has been decorated by past patrons in a way some will find familiar.

We consumed, or sampled, three entrees, spaghetti and meatballs, eggplant parmigiana, and baked ziti. All were excellent and large. We split the ziti, and half of the meatball dish came home with me for consumption in the future. I know eggplant parm does not travel well, so we regretfully left some of that on the plate. 

Scott’s next suggestion was a place called Notchtop Bakery and Café.** It was the first breakfast and lunch only place I can remember with a full bar and specialty drinks. We enjoyed lunch/brunch there twice, and it was extraordinary from the service to the pancakes to the Bloody Mary served in a Mason jar. Unfortunately, we did not have time or belt notch room to sample any of the baked goods.

While these places were good to great, our favorite spot turned out to be one recommended by the lady managing our cabin. When asked about a place with decent soup, she remarked the Rock Inn Mountain Tavern had a diverse menu. As it turned out, that did not include soup, but everything about the place seemed to click with us.

More than the food, it was the vibe of the place that got our attention. However, the Devils on Horseback (above) appetizer was one dish that matched the vibe to a T. For the record, the Rock Inn does not take reservations, and wait times could get lengthy, but we did not have any problems. On both visits, we found space at the bar to kill time, and on the second visit, we dined at the bar. In both cases, the food was good, the service was friendly and professional, and there was decent live music.

I will also mention Ed’s Cantina, and Bird and Jim Restaurant. I say mention because we only hit them once, and there were minor issues with both due to how busy they were more than anything else. Ed’s is downtown and was just up the street from the Elk Fest. We were seated quickly, but the location was not prime. Still, the food and service were grand. The only real complaint a Texan might have is paying for chips and salsa.  To us, that’s as bad as charging for tap water. 

Bird and Jim was packed, and even with reservations, we had to wait. The menu was pricey, and we were not big dollar hungry. We settled for sandwiches, which were good, but nothing fantastic. Still, there are some things about the place that would make me give it a second chance, or tell someone else to give it a shot.

In wrapping up, I must mention one place that is not technically a restaurant. Nevertheless, it is well worth checking out, after you’ve eaten a light meal. That would be Hayley’s Ice Cream, home of some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted.

Okay, final thoughts! We did not have one bad experience with the places we ate. All are worth considering if you’re in the area. Keep in mind, even when there is nothing special going on, parking may be at a premium. Reservations or early arrival are always something to consider.

The best news to report, from a personal standpoint, is the altitude must have made us burn a lot of calories. Small meals do not seem to be part of the menu plans at any place we visited or considered, but neither one of us put on weight.

Thanks for hanging with me on my reminiscing about our Colorado experience, and I hope your travel plans turn out just as grand on your next adventure.

*If you are interested, here are links to my reviews of the restaurants. Dunraven, Rock Inn, Ed’s Cantina, Bird and Jim.

**If you are like me, the name of this restaurant will haunt you until you find out what it means. So, to save you a bit of grief, here’s the answer. From their website: Notchtop Café originally opened in 1993 and was named after Notchtop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

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Of Altitude and Attitude: 12K and Windy

We met some lovely people on this Rocky Mountain adventure. Two of the nicest were a couple of gals about our age but in better high altitude shape. We met them waiting for the park and ride shuttle at Bear Lake. They live in Colorado and were familiar with the park. One, non-hiking excursion, they raved about was the Trail Ridge Road drive. They drove the full 48 miles to Grand Lake the day before and thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Of course, we had to check it out.

In the interest of full disclosure, we did not make it all the way to Grand Lake.[i] With that said, the time we did spend was well worth the effort. The road itself twists and turns around the mountains as it climbs from the 8,200 or so foot level to 12,183 feet before starting down the other side of the range. Every turn brings a new aspect of the mountains into view, from a splash of Aspen yellow decorating the green of the pines, to rock outcroppings and glimpses of the valleys below there is plenty to keep one’s attention.

One of our first stops on the drive was the Many Parks Curve overlook. The overlook is situated on a switchback curve at 9,600 feet. From the overlook, visitors can see numerous features and areas within the park. Its views are magnificent and hard to do justice in a photo, but here is a panorama that might give you a taste of what you can see from this vantage point.

While the overlooks and other viewing areas were fantastic, the drive itself was not shabby. There is not much one can do to make asphalt with stripes on it attractive, though surrounding it with nature can help.

The next stop on our little foray for this day was Forest View Overlook. This small piece of high-altitude paradise is reportedly 11,716 feet above sea level. It is certainly well above the nominal tree line of approximately 10,000 feet. The area surrounding the road and the overlook at this point is classic tundra, with warning signs reminding visitors the tundra is delicate. Stepping off of the path or road is against the rules, if not the law. Tundra is fragile, and tourists tramping around on it is bad for its health.

There was another aspect of being on the tundra at this altitude. The closest trees or other forms of windbreak were hundreds of feet down the mountain. The overlook was cold and windy!   It was not quite a wind tunnel effect, but people were being warned to take off headgear or turn ballcaps around to keep them from blowing away. Still, the views were worth the little walk to the overlook and the chattering teeth one experienced while gawking at the sight.[ii]

Our final stop before heading back to civilization for the day was Gore Ridge Overlook. This location is just a few yards shy of the 12,183-foot level. At that elevation, on that day, a park ranger measured the wind speed at 22 miles per hour, with gusts above 25, making the chill factor at, or just below, freezing. For us folks from Texas and most of the others huddled in their cars, that was a mite chilly. With that said, the view was magnificent.

The Who had a top ten song in the late 1960s, which included the chorus, “I can see for miles and miles.” The history of that song is a bit sad, but the idea of seeing for miles and miles is intriguing. One can certainly see for miles and miles, and miles, and miles, and then some from different locations on Trail Ridge Road. From this overlook, it might have been possible to see Texas, if the clouds had not gotten in the way. Okay, maybe just to northern New Mexico, but you get what I mean.

If I have not bored you to death with my reminiscences and amateur photography,  I have one more installment coming. Stay tuned.

[i] In our defense, we spent so much time, stopping, looking, taking pictures and generally enjoying the drive, making the round trip would have taken the rest of the day.  Or longer, if the setting sun made it necessary to stop and take additional pictures on the return leg.

[ii] The butte on the left above is the same one from the panorama taken at Many Curves.  We’re just hundreds of feet higher, and several miles away at Gore Ridge.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

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Of Altitude and Attitude: Bear Lake and Beyond

As chronicled in A Rocky Mountain Story, Bear Lake was “closed” when we attempted to visit it the first time. Our second try was more successful, but the start of our day made one wonder if we were in for a disappointment. First, we had a bit of trouble getting ourselves in gear. The day before, we hit the ground running, which some younger people might mistake for a fast walk. Nevertheless, we were in the park before it officially opened, which means we got in for free. That is always a nice perk. 

Our second foray in the world of national park tourism started a bit later. By the time we made it to the entry, all gates were staffed, and there were moderate waiting lines. Thankfully, the wait was not lengthy, and there was time to dig into my wallet for the $25.00 per day rate entry fee. When our turn came, the nice looking and very professional young park ranger looked us over and asked if we had a pass. Since I had money in my hand, that seemed a bit strange, but the ranger was just setting up the next question.

When I admitted, this was our first visit to a national park in some time, the ranger nodded and smiled. She then asked, very diplomatically, if either of us might be older than 62 years of age. Bingo! Discount bells began to ring in my head. When we admitted, we were indeed at least that age, the ranger explained that for less than the cost of a day pass, we could purchase an annual pass good throughout the country. We left her booth, pass in hand, ready to start planning our visits to other parks.[i] 

Okay, enough with the public service message. We left the gate in good spirits, and shortly had our mettle tested again. Bear Lake was open, but the parking at the Bear Lake Trailhead was full. We were diverted to remote shuttle parking along with hundreds of other visitors, one of the consequences for being a bit tardy. After seriously considering turning around and taking in some other sight, we chose to wait it out. That was a wise choice, and not as boring as we feared.

Our quest for this day was the Emerald Lake trail. This is a hike of just over 3 miles, with an increase in elevation of 650 feet. It was labeled as a “moderate” hike, and suitable for all visitors. I think the same folks who labeled it “moderate” work part-time at one of our favorite Tex-Mex places making the “medium” hot sauce. It was a moderate hike for kids, millennials, and people who trained at high altitudes. For us, and dozens of other hikers of middle age or later, it was a test. In fact, as you headed up the trail, you knew who was in the same climbing condition you were by looking uphill a few hundred feet to see the next informal rest stop.

Nymph Lake

Pretending to be the “little engine that could” we made the trek. It took a while, but we made it. Then, the first lake left us wondering if the exertion would be worth it. Oh, it was pretty, in its way. That is, it was cute if you liked the look of something about the size of a large stock tank in west Texas covered with Lilly pads. The mountains behind it were pretty, but it was surrounded by trees, limiting much of the view. It was not that exciting.

Thankfully, a text from our daughter and the encouragement of a park volunteer about the beauty of the final lake kept us going. The second objective, Dream Lake, was everything one expected a small mountain lake to be. The water was deep blue, and it was surrounded on three sides by majestic mountains. It was surrounded by trees to some degree, but they were simply the buffer between the mountains and the lake. They added to the beauty rather than masked it. It was here we had another up close and personal contact with wildlife.

Dream Lake

While taking a well-deserved break near the head of the lake, we were surprised to see a duck suddenly appear out of the reeds, almost at our feet. It waddled up, looked at us for a moment, nestled down next to the grass, tucked its head under a wing, and took a nap. We might as well have been part of the landscape. As I attempted to take a picture or two, a more inquisitive local showed up, a hungry little chipmunk.

The little fella, or gal, scampered down a rock near my pack. For a moment, I thought the little sucker would crawl into it. However, it looked at us for a minute and then noticed some crumbs dropped during another hiker’s stop. It munched a minute before scurrying past me to some rocks near the duck. For the rest of our brief stay, the little character checked on us regularly to see if we had anything to share. 

The next leg of our journey was a challenge. We could not tell how far we needed to climb, but we could quickly gauge the slope we were climbing. Our progress slowed to around 100 feet laterally and 15-30 fifteen vertically every time we turned a corner. That may not sound like much, but every little climb put us that much closer to 10,000 feet.

In my self-talk, I kept saying, airliners are pressurized to the 10,000-foot level, and I handle that okay. In spite of the positive vibes, my body kept reminding me the longest walk I made on an aircraft was from my seat to the toilet. Those were short and level. Still, the hikers returning from the lake kept encouraging us, saying it’s just a little farther, you’re almost there. They were, for the most part lying.

Be that as it may, we made it! Was it worth it? Probably, if for no other reason than to say we did it. Still, Emerald Lake itself was somewhat of an anticlimax. As the pictures illustrate, it looked a bit like a pool of water at the bottom of a damaged cement catch basin. Yet, as with cognitive dissonance similar to the fraternity initiate who tells himself the hazing was a good time because he made it, we were convinced it was beautiful because we survived.

Oh! By the way. I kept thinking the hike down would be less demanding than the hike up, not noticeably.

Next stop, 12,000 feet and windy! 

[i] Just in case you might be interested, there is more to this story. If you are not familiar with the national park senior annual pass, as of that day, it was $20.00. A lifetime pass was $80.00. The ranger also explained purchase four annual passes would allow you to trade them in for a lifetime pass. She was helpful, and the system seems to have some advantages if you like visiting national parks. Additionally, there may be fast access gates for pass holders at some entrances.

© oneoldcop.com – 2019

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Of Altitude and Attitude: A Rocky Mountain Story

All right, before the grammar hawks start swooping in trying to take my scalp for using altitude when I meant elevation, it’s a play on words, not a scientifically correct title! Anyway, my attitude at altitude on this trip was not the best either.  My love-hate relationship with American Airlines hit a rough patch on this trip, but that is a tale I’ve already shared on TripAdvisor. 

Shifting back to less lofty altitudes or elevations, let me share the tale of my birthday/anniversary surprise for the love of my life. For years, she has been campaigning for us to take a mountain vacation, and for legitimate, and sometimes contrived reasons, I managed to avoid the mountains.  

I mean, we both love the tropics. Not only that, we invested a not insignificant amount in resort memberships giving us access to beautiful beaches, pools, great restaurants, entertainment, and dolphins.  Who needed mountains, babbling brooks, and rustic cabins? Besides, we’d been to the mountains in southern Colorado, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska, and New Mexico. 

Truthfully, no one needs mountains, beaches, babbling brooks, or vacations for that matter.  Still, spending time with the people you love in locations such as those can be more than just a diversion.  You share joys, challenges, learning experience, and time you might otherwise miss.  For example, I learned that the time I spend on the treadmill 5-6 days a week is only marginally useful if someone my age is attempting to hike three miles up a mountain trail beginning around 9,000 feet above sea level.

Yes, our attempt to hike to the peak of Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park lasted about a quarter-mile.  If we’d purchased some oxygen before striking out, we might have made it far enough to need rescue, but we were spared that embarrassment.  On the other hand, we had a closeup, as close as the Park Rangers recommend, with two denizens of Deer Mountain. 

One was an exquisite mule deer buck who was peacefully feeding just below a rock outcropping we climbed to photograph the landscape.  The other was the nosey little Chipmunk featured at the top of the page. He was cheeky enough to have his (her?) own wildlife show. Their presence and the beautiful countryside made our first foray into the park more than satisfactory, but as I learned in the following days, we had not seen anything yet!

Yep, the scenery, the first sighting of native wildlife, and discovering my limited lung capacity at this altitude, oops, elevation was going to limit my adventures made for an interesting start of our time in the area. Still, as it turned out, the experiences of our first full day were not over.

Our next discovery started out as a disappointment. Realizing our ability to explore the higher reaches of the park would be limited by our lung capacity, we decided to explore a less arduous trek, according to the RMNP list of trails, sights, and locations.  So we headed toward Bear Lake, only to find it was inaccessible temporarily due to road work.

More than a little disappointed, we decided to return to our campsite. All right, campsite is an exaggeration. It was a nice little cabin next to a beautiful small river, the Big Thompson, but it was rustic and nothing like a 5-star resort in Cabo.  Heck, the Wifi seemed slower than my first dial-up service back in the dark ages of the internet. 

Sitting next to the river watching the sunlight play across the ripples while another guest tried his hand at catch and release fly fishing helped mitigate our disappointment.  Once we were suitably relaxed, we decided to dip into the next adventure on vacations such as this, exploring local restaurants. We’d already sampled one that was fantastic and had a list of other recommended establishments.

We freshened up, headed for the SUV, planning to start our next culinary adventure.  Before we made it to the car, another guest asked if we’d seen the elk yet. The blank look on our faces, let her know we had no idea was she was talking about. Thus began our second close encounter with indigenous creatures.  The clearing just east of our lodging was currently the resting place of a bull elk and his harem. 

It was that time of the year in the mountains. The elk came down from the upper elevations to the lower, relatively speaking, meadows.  This meadow was in front of the cabins just north of ours, and while people are told not to approach the animals closely they make themselves readily available for photographs and oglers.  On this evening, everyone kept a respectful distance, including a younger bull lurking around out of sight. All of the elk seemed oblivious to the other gawkers and me.

It was the perfect ending to our first full day in the area.  Stay tuned for the rest of our adventures.

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Of Idiots and Ignorance

First, if you find the title of this piece offensive, consider the following. 

Merriam-Webster states the word idiot is outdated and offensive.  It also lists 80 synonyms, most of which are apparently not considered outdated and offensive. At least, none of the ones I checked through M-W came up that way. Admittedly, I did not take the time to run them all. 

Suffice it to say, “idiot” is dated, and offensive. On the other hand, airhead, birdbrain, chowderhead, ignoramus, nimrod, and fool are descriptive nouns.   Interestingly, some of the words M-W does not flag as “dated and offensive” use the term idiot as a definition. For instance, nimrod is defined as ” slang : IDIOT, JERK.”

Okay! The question now is this.  Do I have a point, or am I merely attempting to push the edge of the envelope to catch your attention?  I genuinely hope I have a point, and I can communicate it understandably. Of course, you will be the judge of how well I accomplish my goal.

The incident inspiring this essay, or rant, was a “news” piece catching my eye when I opened my browser.  The headline was: “Family outraged after a Universal character made ‘OK’ symbol on 6-year-old’s shoulder.”

My first thought was, “Are you kidding me?” Then, I clicked the link and read the piece.  I guess with all the mundane issues in the news over the last year or two, you know, the Muller Report, the impeachment inquiry, the turmoil in Hong Kong, North Korean missile testing, and the latest Jenner gossip, I missed a significant development. The hand gesture to signify things are “OK” is now considered hate speech!

All right! Maybe at my age, I simply forgot the latest outrage in the hate speech dialogue. Whatever the truth of that statement, the title of this piece stands.  No, the parents in question are neither ignorant nor idiots for their reaction when they noticed or were told, the cartoon character was flashing a white supremacist sign over their bi-racial daughter’s shoulder.  They had, given the world in which we live today, every right to be outraged. One does not go on vacation to be insulted or used as a propaganda prop by an amusement park actor.  

The video clearly shows the actor intentionally making the upside-down okay sign. That use of the sign is now considered by many to be hate speech, and there is evidence white supremacists have deliberately adopted the gesture as a symbol of hate.  The idiot in the costume appears to have intentionally insulted the family.  Either that or his or her level of ignorance toward this matter was even more significant than mine. I find that hard to believe, as an innocent gesture would have been the universal sign for okay, not the inverted form.

So, to whom does the title above apply?  In some ways, it applies to all of us.  We all, as human beings, have a tendency to jump on the bandwagon without checking to see where it is going. Humans, for the most part, are joiners, or as the Bible says, sheep.  We go with or follow the flow, and social media gives us instant access to a multitude of bandwagons.

In this case, it appears a group of satirists decided to prank some within the general population and social media users specifically. They decided to claim the almost universal finger sign for okay was now being used as a symbol of “White Power.”  They claimed the gesture used by divers worldwide to indicate they were okay, or your equipment was okay, or they had your back was being subverted by nefarious forces to send a message of hate.

It was supposed to be a joke. It was supposed to make people who overreacted look foolish. It was a prank!  The problem was the world of social media is full of people who fall into the category described by the outdated and offensive term in the title. The other problem was those initiating this tomfoolery were ignorant of, or ignored, the potential pandora’s box they were opening.

It seems others within the social media universe jumped on the bandwagon with a  vengeance. They helped spread the misinformation to the point those within the white supremacist movement picked it up, initially according to some as a joke on their critics. Sadly, the Alt-Right, WP crowd decided they liked the way their critics and opponents reacted and decided to adopt the inverted okay hand signal as a gang sign of sorts. Now, anyone using the sign, in any fashion runs the risk of being considered a racist.[i]  

To close, let me make a point I have made in the past.  A point I will continue to make when something such as this comes to my attention.  Social media is an effective way to stay connected, make new connections, share stories, raise money, fight for causes, and so on and so forth.  It is also a dangerous tool, even a weapon, when used by mean spirited, evil, or ignorant people.  If you are mean spirited or evil, there is little I or anyone else can do, at least through social media, to change you.  On the other hand, ignorance can be cured. 

I was ignorant of the development concerning the okay sign until I noticed the post about the family mentioned earlier. That is no longer the case. If you are reading this, you can reduce your level of ignorance or increase your understanding by remembering the following:

  1. Do not believe any so-called news, revelation or other noteworthy nonpersonal posts on social media until you have researched it yourself.
  2. Do not like, forward, share, or repost something that might be controversial until you have given it some thought.
  3. If you just enjoy poking the bear, so to speak, by posting things you know will upset some friend or acquaintance of a different faith, political philosophy, or whatever, quit!  Do that in person or privately through PM or snail mail. 
  4. If you are one of those people who simply enjoys stirring things up and posting information you know is not true just to see how many people you can enrage or deceive, go to Washington and, join the clowns up there.

[i] I feel it appropriate to note, even the Anti-Defamation League, which is often quick to point the racist accusing finger at people suggests caution when accusing someone of being a white supremacist just because they flash the okay gesture. 

 © oneoldcop.com – 2019

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Donor (and parents) Beware!

Knowing your children and grandchildren have hearts for giving and service is a great feeling. OneOldCop is blessed with children and grandchildren falling into that category. From volunteering at church and community organizations to involvement with raising funds for various causes, my family does its best to make a difference. The problem, if there is a problem with their efforts, is a tendency to be a bit impulsive at times. For example, the first thing popping up on social media the other day was a fundraising post from a grandson.

That was nothing new in some ways. Requests for funds for church camp, cheerleading, football programs, or other causes show up regularly in one form or another. This one, however, was seeking to raise money to help with medical bills, and the goal was in the upper five-figure range. Additionally, the story in the post read as if it was written by someone a bit older than sixteen. My fraud radar went off immediately, hack job?

The good news is no one hacked my grandson’s social media or email account. He set up the fundraiser, and he posted the information for a friend who was badly hurt in an automobile accident. The bad news is no one hacked his account, and he set up the account, without anyone’s knowledge, permission, or assistance. The worse news is, the fundraising or “crowdfunding” site makes no attempt to verify the age of the “organizer” setting up the account. This, in spite of their minimum age requirement for setting up and withdrawing funds, which my grandson did not meet. When queried about this discrepancy, the agent for the site advised they would verify age before allowing funds to be distributed.

Some of you are probably scratching your heads about now wondering what’s the problem. That was the response of the organization when I first chatted with them about the matter. They thought waiting until funds were raised before enforcing their rules was just fine, and what difference did it make. So, I told them.

First, fraud is rampant on social media. Anyone dealing with fundraising needs to make sure there are safeguards in place. Here, the protection was the money would not be distributed or withdrawn without some verification of the person making the withdrawal meeting their criteria. So, in this case, my grandson might have raised an amount approaching or exceeding $10,000 before being told he could not withdraw the funds. This seemed wrong in at least two ways. It could interfere with the timely distribution of the funds, and it could open the door to fraud.

If you’re thinking fraud is not likely in a case like this, you have not been paying attention to the cases of abuse involving crowdfunding. People have raised tens of thousands of dollars fraudulently through well-known crowdfunding operations. The most egregious, financially, incident of which I am aware involved a trio of miscreants in New Jersey.

A young couple and a homeless guy concocted a story designed to raise a few bucks to reward the homeless fellow for spending his last $20.00 to help the young woman out of a jam. The response was unbelievable! They raised $400,000 to “lift the homeless fellow out of poverty.” It was a scam, and all three were charged with crimes.

Other stories of this nature abound. In some cases, people claim they or family members have severe conditions, such as cancer. In reality, they are looking for easy money from soft-hearted people on social media. Others are set up to raise money in the name of legitimate needs, but the money goes in the pocket of the organizer.

Yes, those things will happen with any fundraising effort. People will misuse money, lie about why they need money, and outright steal if it comes down to it. Yet the incident the other day added a new element to the equation.

What would stop an enterprising person from setting up someone such as my grandson?  He is a trusting young man and selling him a bill of goods might be easy. He also has a bit of a problem with asking for permission, learning somewhere along the way asking for forgiveness might be easier

While the account being discussed here appears legitimate, the campaign was set up without parental knowledge. Luckily, between his parents and his nosey granddad, it did not take long for the situation to come to light. Still, what if no one noticed? If the campaign went unnoticed by family and was successful, the situation could become more problematic.

A minor child, legally speaking, would have raised a significant amount of money, either on his own initiative or at the request of a third party. That in and of itself would not be a horrible problem. What happens next could be.

First, why did he raise the money without telling his parents? Here, I cannot see my grandson intentionally hiding it from his folks, but he might not think it was necessary. Or, he might wait to see if the effort was successful, so he could surprise them.

On the other hand, I can see him withholding the information because he was asked to keep it quiet for some reason. In this case for instance, it seems the information used in the campaign came from the injured friend’s sister. If she asked him to keep it quiet, for whatever reason, he probably would have agreed. What if she was being less than honest about the reason for raising the funds?

Again, this is a hypothetical, but clearly possible situation. Money has been raised in the name of helping a severely injured teen. The campaign organizer, a minor child, contacts the crowdfunding group to withdraw the money, and their response is, “Sorry.” They inform him he needs to appoint an adult beneficiary to withdraw the money.

Hopefully, he would head straight to his mom or dad and tell them what was going on. However, that is not often the way an independent teen thinks. So, instead of his folks, he tells the sister the problem, and she or an older family member or friend says, “Hey! Just put it in my name.” Hopefully, again, that would solve the problem, but what if the money just doesn’t make it to the doctor bills or whatever? Who will be on the hook if the thing turns out to be a scam of some sort?

In the case of the homeless guy and the gambling addicts, the crowdfunding company, if I remember correctly, reimbursed disgruntled donors. That was either a good deed on their part, a wise advertising move, or they listened to their attorneys. What if they had not stepped up?

I will not dig into the muck of what might or might not happen legally in a situation where a minor is tricked or coerced into setting up a fund.   That would depend on the circumstances, the courts, the jurisdictions, and the people involved. Yet, it should be clear someone might have liability here. For instance, it might be hard for the organizer’s family members to avoid legal problems.

Legal ramifications aside, my grandson and his parents would feel responsible to some degree. He would feel used and betrayed. They would be disappointed and might feel a moral obligation to repay people out of their own pocket. If the story got out, as it certainly would, the young man would face ridicule and embarrassment that could scar him for life.

Hopefully the preceding makes it clear this is a potentially damaging situation. The crowdfunding source in question here seems open to changing the age verification policy. One hopes, they will find a way to prevent a minor setting up an account without a sponsor or associate of majority age. Still, there are dozens, if not more, of these organizations operating today.

My guess is most of them have not addressed this issue any more clearly than the one inspiring these comments. Before anyone uses or donates to one of these services, some investigation might be appropriate. This would be especially true in a case such as the one triggering this piece.

A minor organizing one of these efforts under parental supervision is one thing. A child undertaking an initiative of this sort without parental supervision Is a horse of a different color.  The kid’s family may be at risk financially, friends and acquaintances donating to the fund may find they have little recourse in the case of fraud, and the entire system of crowdfunding takes another hit that was avoidable.

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