Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Follies or BAH HUMBUG

Ransom soaking up the sun in the house

Okay. I admit it. I'm not a big fan of Christmas. Call me Scrooge Jones. Over the years I've tried to blame it on the weather, the shortened days, melancholy over being away from home and a host of other things. I just don't like the holidays. Period.

I know now it isn't the weather because we are currently in the most perfect weather anyone could ask for in Vero Beach, Florida. It is sunny nearly every day and has been hovering in the mid to upper seventies for a month. We have a lovely home here and our activities include daily walks on the beach with the dogs, swimming in the pool, sunning in the courtyard, sleeping, cooking, reading, bike really is a wonderful, restful spot. So it isn't the weather. Or the location.

When I lived in Oregon my sister Linda and I used to celebrate the winter solstice with a day at the art museum and dinner out or some similar activity. It was a celebration of surviving the dark days (in Oregon with the rain they are usually dark all day) and the fact that from December 21st to June 21st they got longer...a celebration of hope in a way...hope that we get through the dark days without having to talk each other down from the ledge. Okay, not quite that bad but bad. Since I've moved from Oregon and am now spending the holidays in Florida that hasn't been as much of an issue. In fact it is pretty much a non-issue. I do prefer the longer days of late spring and summer but getting daily sunshine seems to have alleviated the bad case of the drearies that I used to suffer from when I was geographically farther north. So it isn't the short days.

Breezy in Simpsonville before Thanksgiving

Being away from home on Christmas isn't it either although I do miss my family but I miss them all year long not just at Christmas. I've been home a couple of times in the last eight years at Christmas and it didn't seem to stop my out of sorts mood, my inclination to let my inner hermit take over my life and my constant clock watching in anticipation of when it will be over and we can get back to some sort of a normal life. So it isn't being away from home either.

The reasons I don't like Christmas have more to do with the greed, gluttony and some of the more bizarre traditions like cutting down a perfectly healthy tree, dragging it into your house, covering it with a bunch of stuff that you store for a year and use for two weeks, and installing lights on it thus turning it into a top of the line fire hazard (for those of you with children I do totally understand your delight in this ritual so please don't take this is my neurosis talking). And I despise the mall. I despise it in February, June and November. I totally detest it in December. The Internet has helped with mall-haunting issues but the bigger problem with shopping is what to get everyone. We all buy for pretty much the same people, pretty much all of our lives. At my age that is a long time. I'm finding as I get older that I want for a lot less and I assume that others are the same way so you have to become very inspired to buy gifts that are meaningful or at the very least useful and do not require dusting. Our family and friends mostly get food from us. Not meaningful and usually too high calorie to be useful. And very uninspired. So on top of everything else I suffer from a guilt trip for not finding inspiring gifts or for sending the same things year after year.

Show down between Ransom and the mini horse

On the food thing: I try every year to stay away from sweets and not over eat. Every year I swear that I'm not going to over eat. Every year I fail. The Christmas season is designed to highlight my weaknesses not my strengths. We always get yummy cookies (my biggest weakness in life) and candy and wonderful high calorie foods that are guaranteed to add that extra layer of goo around my waist, on my hips and thighs, and to those funny things that we get under our arms when we arrive at the time of life called "middle age"...what ARE those flaps for anyway? I gleefully (my only glee in December) indulge myself in sweets to counter the feelings of depression about the holiday. Christmas dinner is an excuse to gorge ("It's Christmas!" I say trying to find some way, ANY way to feel festive and in the spirit) and I eat until I can't either continue sitting or stand up. Laying down is the only alternative. By New Years when I get on the scale (tomorrow is dooms day) I'll cuss myself and the stupid holiday again because I (me and me alone) added five pounds of useless fat to my body in attempt to enjoy a holiday that I don't like. How stupid can I be???

During the holidays people are supposed to be happier, more forgiving, more generous. NOT TRUE. I'm beginning to suspect that there are a lot more people out there like me who rate Christmas below Root Canal on their list of favorite things in life.

Wandering down the beach

Case in point: Right after we got here, not long after Thanksgiving, I went to the grocery store. Before I tell you my tale I have to explain that here in Vero Beach you will find a lot of retired people...very OLD retired people. And there are a lot of wealthy OLD retired people here...grumpy, wealthy OLD retired people. And they are grumpy, wealthy, OLD, retired, and horrendous drivers. And they all drive either Mercedes sedans, Cadillac sedans, or Ford Mustangs. I suspect that Ford is behind the other two American car companies in the race to bankruptcy because of all of the grumpy, wealthy, OLD retired people in Vero Beach who are living out their NASCAR dreams on the highways around here in shiny new, hopped up Ford Mustangs. It would be funny if it wasn't so scary to look up and see a Mustang careening down the road toward you appearing driverless due to the fact that the person who is piloting the car is so old that he/she has shrunk to the point where they can no longer see over the steering wheel of the car. The ones who drive the big sedans aren't quite as scary because they rarely drive over 30 miles per hour. That only bothers me when I get stuck behind them on the Intercoastal highway A1A...which is ALL OF THE TIME. I use A1A (no choice) to get from home to town and back to home.

Okay, back to my shopping stories. Grocery shopping isn't a favorite thing to do unless I know I'm not going to encounter a herd of folks shopping at the same time. Then I kind of enjoy it. The traffic problems inside of the grocery store closely resemble the traffic problems on the streets and in the parking lots of Vero Beach so the entire experience is usually a hair raising one. My instructions to John when I leave the house for groceries are that if I'm not back in two hours to call the local police department because I've probably been locked up for road rage...or shopping cart rage. You think I'm kidding. I'm not proud to tell you that I lost my patience in one of the local Publix stores one day and ran over a woman's foot with my cart. On purpose. It wasn't one of my finer moments but she was one of those shoppers who gets in front of you and stops in the middle of the aisle so you can't get around her on either side and walks away from her cart leaving the rest of us stacked up in the aisle behind her hollering "EXCUSE ME" while she ignores you and gawks at everything. Well after four or five pile ups and the woman behind me actually running into me with her cart, I lost it and floor boarded my cart around the gawker in front of me and well...her foot was sticking out and I...AIMED AT IT AND RAN OVER IT. She said "ouch!" I looked over my shoulder and saw her wandering back to her cart, glaring at me but she wasn't limping so I pushed on. I had a small concern that I may be arrested for assault before I finished shopping but she apparently was too busy gawking to report me. I have not returned to that particular Publix store since then.

So after we got here I had to go and stock up on things. It was just after Thanksgiving so I planned my trip and drove to the Publix on 12th and US 1. It is a nice store and not normally as crowded as the one at Miracle Mile a few miles away. I parked, did my shopping and when the bagger offered to take my groceries to the car I looked behind me in the line to see a bunch of older people so I said, "Thanks anyway but I can get it. Help those people behind me." I'm not totally heartless. I pushed my cart to my car and as I was putting the groceries in the trunk a car horn blared in the parking lot scaring me out of seven years of life. My heart was pounding and I was instantly mad.

I have to explain to the people who haven't spent time in Florida that it is populated like California...totally without natives. They all left because the eastern, hypertensive, type A personalities that make gobs of money in their working years all moved here to retire. I have to assume that their only outlet for their hypertensive behavior after retirement is honking at people on the road. When I learned to drive (a whole other blog post) I was told that a horn was used as a warning tool (if you knew my mother and her teaching techniques you would understand why I only use my horn if there is a tsunami, tornado or impending apocalypse and I have to get home). If someone is attempting to run you off of the road, back into you or is exhibiting other dangerous behavior that is an appropriate time for most people to honk. I was told (in no uncertain terms) that you don't honk unless you absolutely have to. Most of the people in the Northwest adhered to that rule of thumb as well so when you heard a car horn it snapped you to attention. Not so in Florida. In Florida they honk because they are grumpy old people who think they own the damn road or are pissed off because they can't manage other people's lives anymore. Or they took seriously, "Honk if you're..." Well never mind.

Okay, so I'm putting groceries in my trunk and I hear this looooonnnggg horn blast. I jumped nearly hitting my head on the trunk lid and turned to see a parking lot drama unfolding. I wish I would have had the video camera. In the row of parking spaces behind me there was a woman in a brand new black Mercedes SL500 trying to back out of her space. I would guess her to be in her 50's. She was about three spaces in from the front of the store, a prized space if you can get it. Behind her was a little OLD lady driving a Cadillac sedan. I knew it was a lady only because her Q-tip white hair was showing just over the dash board Apparently she pulled in and discovered that the woman in the black SL was leaving so she decided to back up to take the space. The problem with that was that there was a man in a nice BMW convertible (top up) behind her and she was going to back into him (a good time to use your horn). He didn't just toot his horn though, he laid on it. I saw him try to back up to get out of her way but there was someone behind him so he was stuck. She kept backing and he kept honking until she stopped short of running into him. The only way out of the jam was for the little old lady in the big old sedan to drive on and find another space. Not happening. Instead she pulled up while the poor woman in the black SL was trying to get the hell out of the space and blocked her. By this time I was leaning against my car to watch this scenario unfold. I watched as the little old lady put her car in reverse and tried to back over the guy in the BMW again! Again he laid on his horn so she didn't back into his car. Believe it or not this scenario repeated itself through one more complete cycle before the person in the car behind the BMW decided to get the hell out of Dodge. That car pulled around the entire group and finally the BMW had room to get out of the way, the little old lady in the big sedan backed out into traffic blocking the incoming and outgoing cars until the poor (by now frazzled) woman in her beautiful 500SL was able to escape from the entire scene. I finished putting my groceries in the car and drove away, grateful that I wasn't involved in the parking lot incident.

Just a few days before Christmas I decided to take the bull by the horns and go to the Miracle Mile Publix and do the shopping for the Christmas meal. It is a newer and bigger store than the 12th Street Publix. So I got in my trusty little Camry and drove into town. The first thing I encountered was a guy on a bicycle at the intersection of Indian River Boulevard and 20th Street. He was riding the wrong direction (into traffic) and was hollering some nonsensical stuff at traffic (that would be me because I was first in line to drive by the kook). He nearly drove up the hood of my car. I refrained from using my horn fearing that I would scare him to death and I would not only have the guilt of not buying the right gifts and eating too much but the additional guilt of killing a kook during the holidays. I stopped as he cruised by my window shouting obcenities at no one in particular and continued on my journey to the store. Looking back I think the kook incident was a warning from the universe to go home and try another day. But I pushed on, found a space in the busy parking lot and went in to do my shopping. As I pushed around the store I noticed that a lot of people looked really out of sorts and I actually practiced my best manners through the entire experience. I made a note to myself to try to be tolerant and kind and practice my best behaviors on this shopping day. It was sort of an experiment to see if I could change the experience by changing my attitude. When I scratched the last item off of my list I headed for the checkout.
I got to the check out at the same time as a lady who had a hand basket and a just a few items. I actually got there just ahead of her but I said, "Go ahead of me please. You will be here all day if you get behind me." She looked at me with suspicion. "Are you sure?" she asked with a look that said I might pull a gun on her if she stepped in line ahead of me. "Yes, really, it's okay. Please go ahead of me." She skirted my cart with her back to the check stand and started putting her items on the conveyor belt. Then she said, "Thank you very much. I didn't want to invade your personal space." I was beginning to think this woman was an escapee from the local mental hospital until she explained herself. She said, "I was just on my way in here from the parking lot and I saw an old lady struggling with a case of water. She was trying to get it into her trunk so I stopped to help. When I reached for the water she snapped at me, 'Get out of my personal space! Did I ask you for your help?! What makes you think I can't do this on my own?!' She continued, "You know, I just wanted to be nice and help her and she started yelling at me. What's wrong with this picture? I'm being helpful and she's hollering at me for that." I commiserated with her about people while she was checking out telling her that this time of year was more dangerous than most. I wished her luck on the way out and she said, "Well if you see an old woman out there with A LOT of jewelry on steer clear of her." Next came checking my groceries out. That went well and the checker and the bagger were very nice. I decided to let the bagger help me out in case I ran into the elderly psycho woman with too much jewelry. As we were exiting the store she told me about trying to direct one woman into the "In" door so that she didn't get run over by all of the people coming out of the "Out" door. The woman got mad and started wagging her finger at her and hollering, "I DON'T CARE. Do you understand, "I DON'T CARE!" She said that if it weren't for risking her job she would have told her, "Fine. Get run over. I DON'T CARE either." So she kindly put my groceries in my car and I wished her good luck and happy holidays and got in my car. I'd been gone nearly two hours and I didn't want John to call the police so I called him to tell him that I had survived the store and was on my way home. I hung up and started the car.
I have one more gripe to register before I finish this tale of grocery shopping woe. I drive a car most of the time. Sometimes I drive the 4-Runner when we are home but mostly it is the car. So when I'm looking for a parking spot I tend to look for one that does not have trucks and SUV's on either side of it. I'm usually successful in that pursuit. But it never fails that when I come out of the store I'm surrounded by trucks and SUV's. Never fails. It didn't on this particular occasion either.
So I started my car grumbling about not being able to "%#@!!" see around these monster vehicles to get out and when I determined that the coast was clear I started to back out. I continued to do the round check (side mirror, rear view mirror, other side mirror and over my shoulder) and when I looked over my shoulder I saw a black Honda Accord backing quickly out of the space directly behind and across from me. The decision was horn or get out of the way. All of my good training (not so good) said NO HORN (I have taken no horn to an art form) so I grabbed the gear shift to put it in drive and move out of the way when I heard the crunching noise and felt my beloved little Camry groan and jump. Both of us put our cars in drive, pulled into our spaces and the woman (who wasn't old...probably my age...well not exactly young either) got out of her car and immediately started apologizing and asking if I was know the drill. I looked at my rear bumper and it was inverted on the side like a giant dimple. I groaned. I ran my hand over it. I groaned again. I looked at her car and it had a little bit of Camry paint on it and that was it. We exchanged information while she apologized ten more times. I said, "Have a merry Christmas," before we parted company. She apparently didn't think she heard me right and then she decided that she did and said in a surprised voice, "You have a happy holiday too!" and we went our separate directions.

Then I tried to back out of the space again. Of course I was punchy as hell but I started to pull out again and nearly had the same accident with a big old beat up pick-up truck. I pulled back into the space, took a deep breath, looked carefully and tried to pull out again. A guy walked right behind me while I was backing out and I had to stomp on the brakes not to run over him. By this time I was thinking that I just didn't have the right attitude about all of this. So I changed to road-rage mode, slammed the Camry in gear and blasted out of the space. I scattered two people who were attempting to walk behind me (Question: Do you walk in the path of a moving car? I don't. It's DANGEROUS). I managed to get out of the parking lot with my injured car and then called John. I asked, "Could we go to Mexico or to a remote island for the holidays next year?" He asked why. I recounted my sad story. He reminded me that they celebrate Christmas in Mexico. That's out.

There is a happy ending to my holiday story. Jason and Jennifer, John's grown kids were on their way down from Charlotte to spend the holiday with us. Jason has the fix-it gene so when he got here he and John went out into the driveway and a few minutes later they came in and asked me to come out. When I got out there I found the Camry bumper re-inverted to nearly new condition. There is a small crack in it that can be fixed with some epoxy I'm told. They stayed with us for four days and we had a lot of fun and we enjoyed their company a lot. They were understanding of our sort of UnChristmas celebration too. We ate a nice dinner on Christmas Eve ate leftovers on Christmas and played a Cranium tournament...three nights of hilarity. We would have had fun no matter what time of the year but Christmas gave them a nice vacation so we had something to be happy about this year.

Jennifer, Jason and Breezy unwrapping presents

This is the end of my rant about the holidays (aren't you relieved?). My best estimate is that we will be on the road again by mid February. I don't think John can sit still much longer than that! I'll be blogging more regularly then...Barb! Larry told me about your displeasure that I've taken a break from posting so now you have to listen to my tales of life while we are planted here in Florida! Hee, hee, hee! We wish all of you (or y'all) the happiest and healthiest new year ever!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fall into Winter

Pine Needles Lane

November 17

We woke up to a dusting of snow yesterday morning. It always snows here at least a little bit (and sometimes a lot) before Thanksgiving. John is currently in Kansas City judging the American Royal and I'm in Lexington trying to stay warm. The recent memories of warm desert sun and light weight cotton clothing are...torturing me! I'm not much of a cold weather person anymore. Having lived in the mountains in Oregon (which are gorgeous) where the weather can dip into the subzero zone during the winter left me with a new natural instinct. Like the birds I want to fly south at the first hint of winter chill.

On our walking path

When we got home we were greeted with 70 plus degree days, bright sunshine and beautiful fall foliage. I immediately resumed my three mile a day walks around the neighborhood. We live in a pretty development of brick and stone and it is covered with paved pathways for the residents to walk or ride bikes on. Walking is my favorite form of exercise and around here it doubles as meditative and therapeutic as well giving me my nature fix. On our walks (usually with Ransom or Breezy) we see birds of all descriptions, cardinals (my favorites...there are none in Oregon), gold finches, Eastern blue jays which are spectacularly colored creatures and there are three red tailed hawks that hang around a certain area of the path hunting ground critters. There are rabbits and squirrels (Ransom being a squirrel dog by nature is particularly engaged in their activities), ground hogs (they are a kick!) and neighborhood cats and dogs. The paths are mostly tree covered so they are spectacular in the spring, summer and fall.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about our trip to South Africa last November/December. This is the time of year that we were getting ready to go. Our travel companions, Gene and Annalize van der Walt are natives of South Africa, living in Oregon now and are going back to South Africa for the Christmas holidays this year. I've been emailing with Annalize a little bit and we both are feeling the same strange and wonderful melancholy about our trip last year.

We traveled for three weeks and had the absolute trip of a lifetime. We arrived in Cape Town, spent some wonderful time there and exploring the Western Cape. It is spectacular. The only place that I could compare it to is the coastal areas of California. We traveled to Swellendam, a small farming community and stayed at a 19th century bed and breakfast that didn't have electric lights in the dining room (we ate a heavenly dinner and breakfast by candle light) and our rooms over looked a pasture full of sheep. I grew up on a farm in the country so we opened the windows and let the fresh air flow through the room. I slept like an old dog! It was an incredible time. We boarded The Blue Train in Cape Town and traveled on the luxury overnight train (much like the Orient Express) out of the Cape, across the Karoo, a very dry and beautiful landscape enjoying gourmet meals and wonderful South African wines. Our destination was Johannesburg where we boarded a flight to Kruger National Park in the northern part of South Africa. We spent a magical week in the bush at two different resorts getting up close and personal with elephants, rhino, giraffes, zebra, leopards, lions and cheetah (just to mention a few). I will never forget sitting in an open topped Land Rover while a breeding herd of elephants filtered around us like we weren't even there! Or sitting six feet from a cheetah while he finished his kill and then following him while he chirped for his hunting mate. There was so much to love about the trip, the country, the weather, the people, the food, the accommodations and just the experience of being that close to nature was incredible. And to share it with good friends made it all the more special. If I live to be 100 the images, scents and sounds will never leave me.

Sunrise in the bush
Photo taken from our Land Rover
When we flew out of Kruger on a tiny little gnat of a plane (that I was positively terrified of!) my fear of crashing melted away when I looked out the window at the expanse that our guide referred to as "de boosh" and felt a new and wonderful connection to the continent of our origin. I said that I planned to go back and do it again but I'm not sure now that I would. I don't think that we could duplicate the sheer perfection of our experience there. Something tells me that I have imprinted those experiences in a most perfect way and I don't want to change that. So maybe our next big adventure will be to Australia to see the Outback or to Peru to see Machu Picchu, two of the places on my list of things to experience before I leave the planet. Time will tell!

In the mean time we will be gallivanting around our own beautiful country in Mary. We will be in Florida after Thanksgiving with Breezy and Ransom. I'll keep you posted on our travel plans from there. We wish everyone very happy holidays and a healthy and wonderful new year!!

Turkey Hunt

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Two year old colt that we raised at the World Championships with Tre

Hall of Fame photo (second from left Emily Lee, to left of John his daughter Jennifer Jones, to right of me John's son Jason Jones)

I finally got some photos from the Kentucky State Fair scanned. What a fun night!

We are in Missouri. On Interstate 44. Headed northeast. I think it is a nice day out. In my peripheral vision I can see some sun. I haven't looked up in about three hours for fear of seeing another one of those sleazy shops along the highway. I'm not crazy about where we are at the moment.

We had a rather bad experience in St. Louis a few years back. I won't go into huge details but we attended a horseman's convention there at a big hotel. We ate lunch at the restaurant in the hotel and by the time we began eating our dinner during an awards ceremony we both started feeling ill. We spent the entire night taking turns in the bathroom. We were so sick that at 4:00 in the morning I looked at John and said, "I think we should get to a hospital." He looked back at me and said, "We are in East St. Louis. I'll take my chances here at the hotel." He had a good point. Four o'clock in the morning on Sunday at an emergency room on St. Louis would probably have been riskier than staying put. We drove home the next day (how I'm not sure) and spent the next two days in bed. It was bad. So the idea of getting anywhere near St. Louis makes me queasy. I apologized to Mary this morning before we left. We will be staying in Mt. Vernon, Illinois at a small campground out in the middle of nowhere.

Last night we had our moment of total hilarity for this trip. It actually didn't start out that way. I'll try to describe this the best that I can but I'm sure I'll lose something in the translation. The slide-out on the co-pilot's side of Mary contains most of the kitchen. When you open it there is a counter and cupboard that is revealed. When it is closed you can only see the end of the counter. I'm inserting a photo to help you understand what I'm describing.

Narrow counter and cupboard hidden with slide closed

When we travel I usually keep a few things on the narrow counter like water bottles, dog cookies and munchies,so I have to reach back into a hole to get them but it is, or at least I thought it was a secure place to keep such items when we are moving. Yesterday I had a bottle of water, a box of dog cookies and a bag of potato chips (Kettle favorites) that had a bag clip on the top. When we stopped last night (more on that later) I opened the kitchen slide and when I looked at the narrow counter there wasn't anything on it but the box of dog cookies. I was perplexed. Where did the other stuff go? I stuck my head under the cupboard and looked and what I saw was the bottom end of the upturned water bottle jammed between the end of the slide-out and the wall. I reached back there and tried to budge the bottle but it was stuck in there and wouldn't move at all. John was outside hooking up the water and electricity so when he came in I asked him if he could pull the water bottle out when I moved the slide in just a little bit. He agreed so I waited until he was ready and hit the button that moves the slide in. "Is that enough?" I asked. "Nope, just a little more." I hit it again, "Nope." Again. "Nope." Finally he said, "Just move it all the way in." So I did. He pulled the water bottle out and handed it to me. Then I said, "I hate to tell you this but there is an open bag of potato chips down in that hole." Closing the slide all the way and taking the water bottle out left a small space (where things sitting on that shelf fall when you are traveling). My problem solving husband said, "No problem! I know how to get it out of there! I can do this!" and he trots off to the bedroom and retrieves his metal awning rod. It's about three feet long and has a hook on one end and a loop on the other. He put it down in the small space and started fishing for the potato chip bag by hooking the bag clip. There was just a little cussing as I watched him contort himself this way and that to try to hook the bag clip. Finally he got it and slowly pulled it up. "Oh shit!" he says. "What?" I asked as he came up with the bag clip but no bag. "Now how am I going to get it?" We had a moment of quiet brainstorming and then I said, "The vacuum hose!" He nodded. "That might work." It has a long solid plastic attachment. I figured that the suction would attach the bag to the attachment and he could pull it out of there. So off he went to get the vacuum hose (Mary has a central vacuum system) and plugged in into the wall. He gently fished it down into the hole and contorted this way and that until I heard him say, "I got it!" He very, very carefully pulled the bag up to the top of the hole. "Oh shit!" he says. "What?" I ask. He pulled the bag out...upside down. All of the chips were still in the hole. We disintegrated into hysterics. We both doubled over and laughed and laughed and laughed (we are a little travel weary). After I regained my composure I took the bag and put it into the trash. "How do I get the chips out of there? We can't leave them in the hole. They will attract mice." I shuttered at the thought. "I guess you just fish around in there with the vacuum hose until you get them vacuumed up. So he went to work. I heard chips rattling down the hose for a few minutes and finally he announced that he thought that he had gotten them all. We looked at each other and collapsed into laughter again.

He went outside and took Breezy and the frisbee to exercise her leaving Ransom with me. It was time to start dinner so the first thing I did was to go to the control panel and open the kitchen slide. As I was cutting the chicken I heard Ransom munching on something. Munch, munch, munch. I look down and he is madly eating potato chips! They are all over the floor. When I opened the slide the chips that John missed with the vacuum were left on the floor for Ransom to snack on. As I was convulsing with laughter John came in and asked me what was so funny. I couldn't talk I was laughing so hard. Finally I told him and we both lost it again. We couldn't look at each other for an hour without collapsing into laughter.

You probably had to be there...

Ransom ready to go home

Last night we spent the night at the Will Rogers Downs Casino. As we turned off of Interstate 40 onto Interstate 44 yesterday in Oklahoma City I had a sad, bad feeling. Normally I don't worry too much about finding places to stay along our routes so I don't do a whole bunch of pre-planning. We just go until we feel like stopping and then I get on the internet or into the Trailer Life directory. I decided to start looking when we turned off. No KOAs anywhere near where we were going. Those are the easiest and usually the best places for us to stop. I got into the RV directory. Nothing...I looked and looked and looked. Finally I found an ad for the Will Rogers Downs Casino. It said that it was just off of I-44 and had 400 RV spaces. I immediately visualized a big nice parking lot with tons of spaces next to a large casino with restaurants and know what I'm saying. So I called to make a reservation. After wading through layers of automated telephone system I got a hold of a woman who informed me that we didn't need a reservation because they had 350 open spaces. Okay...I hung up with an address to put into the GPS (grrrr....) and general directions in case the GPS (grrrr...) doesn't do it's thing correctly...which is a lot of the time. "Useless piece of shit" is Garmin's name...yes, the same nick name as Tom Tom. It's useful for some things, like Tom Tom was.Not useful for a lot of other finding where you are going. Enough about the GPS (grrr....).

Arizona desert

We had gone over 500 miles and had been over 500 miles the day before so we were both tired. We had to stop on 44 (a turnpike) and pay ridiculous tolls ($17.50 in one stop!) and by the time we went through the second one I realized that it probably would have been cheaper to go the extra 50 miles through Memphis and avoided the drive through Missouri. But it was too late for all of that so we drove on. We got off of 44 and headed out into the country looking for a huge casino. What we found was a race track (horse) and a huge field with 400 RV hookups and no RV check in office anywhere. So the only thing to do was to stop and call the casino again. I waded through the automated system and got a hold of a young man who when I explained that we were 42 feet with a car sitting in their parking lot wondering where to go said, "Just pick a spot." So I explained that we needed 50 amps if possible. "Oh...wait a minute." I heard some confusion in the background. Then he said, "Go to C-39". I said, "Okay. Where is that?" I'm looking out at a sea of grass with tons of little poles sticking out of the ground. "It's over on the north end by the bath house." I looked around and couldn't find the bath house. "I don't see it," I say. He says, "Just drive around and you'll find it." My patience is running very thin. "Look, we are 42 feet of motor coach towing a car. We can't screw around out here very much. Where is it from the Administration office (which we had passed coming in)?" I said. "One through thirty two are all 50 amp over by the administration building." Great. We took off looking for those spaces and found them right away. Only one problem...they weren't 5o amp. John is running out of patience at that point. I looked out the window and spied a security vehicle across the parking lot. I figured it wouldn't be long before he came and checked out what we were doing.

Sure enough. He drove up to Mary and he and John engaged in some conversation. I stayed out of it. When John came in he said that it was one through SEVEN that were 50 amp. So he started Mary up and we moved to number two. He got out, the security guard disappeared (telling us not to worry about paying until morning) and he opened the electrical hookup to find that it too was a 30 amp not a 50 amp. I saw the look on his face and said, "Washing undies can wait." I had expressed the need to do some laundry earlier and we have to have 50 amps to do that. Skipping undies was a small price to pay to just stop. I'm getting pretty travel weary and the fact that our house in Lexington isn't on wheels is one of my happiest thoughts today.

After we hooked up, the potato chip bag fiasco happened and after that we had a nice dinner and listened to the Colbert Report for some laughs before going to bed. We turned out the lights and listened to every red neck in local area pass by Mary in their hopped up four wheel drives on his/her way to the little casino for some off track betting. Amazing...

At this moment we are on Interstate 64 (sing and dance!) heading directly for Lexington, Kentucky. We are stopping at the only RV park on our path that has both 50 amps and cable television (its that political thing you know) and we should pull in at about 5:30 Central time. Breezy, who is lobbying me for her dinner right now, will get her dinner and I'll talk Ransom into eating his. Sometimes he is a good eater and sometimes he could care less. Only the threat that Breezy will eat it will get him started on some days. Anyway, I have some talapia to fix for dinner and we will have one last night in Mary before we get home. Home...that sounds wonderful.

We have been gone since September 2nd and have had the most wonderful trip ever...EVER. When we left we couldn't have imagined how much fun we would have, what smooth sailing we would have and how many great people we would be spending time with. To all of you, we love you and thank you for all of your time, hospitality, fun and friendship! To my loyal blog followers thanks for your patience for the long absences between blog posts! And too our friends in Lexington we missed you and will see you soon!! And last but not least to our beautiful motor coach and all the people who were responsible for us getting her, thank you!

We will be back on the road before Thanksgiving. In the mean time I'll do what I promised to do...put together the photo album of our trip and post it soon.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Enjoying the Desert

Red Rocks of Sedona

We left the farm a week ago saying goodbye to Oregon and our friends and family. It was great to see everyone! Linda and Rick, my sister and brother in law came down to Springfield to the farm and we had a great dinner at Excelsior Inn in Eugene. I got to see my dad three times while we were there too. The last time my step sister Patty joined us and we had a nice time catching up. I had lunch in Sisters with an old friend Brooke Harmon who I hadn't seen in way too long and spent we two nights up in Long Beach with Francina Grant, Judy Schlect and Francina's two daughters Ashtyn and Tenley. We had a nice dinner with Del and Susie Gianella and saw a lot of friends at the show in Salem.

Now we are in Scottsdale with the Arcuris. They have horses here at the fall show. My life long friend Nancy lives here in Scottsdale with her two dogs Brazil and Lucy so we are having a great time catching up. Yesterday Jean and Nancy and I went to lunch at a great place called the Painted Pony Cafe. We sat out on the patio in perfect weather and sipped a tall cold designer margarita and gabbed for three hours! It was really fun. While we were indulging ourselves in a well deserved girls lunch the guys were out visiting a local stable.

Covered bridge on Highway 58 in Oregon

Last Friday we pulled out of Springfield and headed over the Cascade range on Highway 58. It was a gorgeous day and the drive was great. We went to Reno and stopped for the night. From there we headed down Highway 395 and over the Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway again. This time I remembered to let the air out of the beds! When we arrived in Barstow they were full to capacity but fine. It was a beautiful drive again, different from our trip in April due to the change of the season but just beautiful in the fall too.

We went from Barstow to Flagstaff and stopped at a KOA that backed up to the national forest. It was a great spot in the pine trees and we were able to do short hikes on each of the two mornings that we were there. We had a choice of hiking up to a lookout or taking Fat Man's Loop. We decided on the latter route. We took the dogs with us and hiked until we were panting each morning. The weather was perfect so we decided to make a trip down Interstate 17 on the second day and visit Sedona. I've heard a lot about the area and seen photos but it was another one of our stops that had a WOW factor of 100. It is a stunning sight to drive into the red rocks. We drove through the town of Oak Creek and then Sedona which is brimming with tourist shops; galleries, restaurants, gift shops, hotels and resorts. It is just beautiful. We were in the Camry with the Breezy and Ransom and it was warm so we weren't able to stop this time but we will go back when we can spend some time.

Weather along Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway

John took the dogs out to the national forest for a quick walk early Monday evening while I was getting ready to fix some dinner. He was gone for awhile and when he came back he said, "Boy, I thought I really screwed up." I asked why and he told me that he got to feeling sorry for Ransom being on the leash while Breezy was loose so he decided that it was safe enough to turn him loose. We have been working on Ransom's "Come" command since he took off after the sea gull on the beach in Newport. So apparently John was walking with them and in a tender hearted moment he unsnapped Ransom from his leash. "What happened?" I asked. "He just took off like a brown streak! Down the trail! Just gone!" he told me. "He just dashed up the trail ahead of Breezy and me and disappeared! I called and called and finally looked at Breezy and told her 'Go get your little brother Breezy' but before I could get her to go look for him he streaked back down the trail as fast as he left!" At this point Ransom is dancing around the coach like an inmate that had escaped the prison (an apt analogy considering his time spent in the death row dogs program). "Well at least he came when you called him," I said. We both think that Ransom is feeling pretty secure in his new home and probably wouldn't go far enough to get lost. I just prefer that he not be eaten by a wild animal so freedom in the woods is off of the list for now.

On Tuesday we headed south to Scottsdale, pulled into West World and got Mary set up in Lot F near the polo field. It was a good spot, close for the dogs to get to the grassy area and a nice bike ride to the arena area where Tim's horses were stabled and the horse show was going to be. We had a fun week with the Arcuris and Nancy and are looking forward to coming back in the spring for the Carousel show again. The weather was so perfect that we spent a lot of time out by the coach under the awning in our patio chairs reading and relaxing in the afternoons. We ate daily (sometimes twice daily) at our favorite haunt "Earl's" which is about a mile from West World. It has an eclectic menu and John and Tim love their appetizers. They were reciting the menu from memory to Jean before she got to have the "Earl's" experience. I have to say that "Earl's" has one of the best apple cobblers on the planet. We had it twice while we were there and I have the added dimples on my bod to prove it. Dieting begings when we get home (big sigh). We all went to see "W." (the movie) while we were there. All of us were surprised by the movie. It wasn't the hatchet job that most people expect it will be. The advertisements make it look like it has many comedic moments but it doesn't. It is sobering though. I recommend it (unless you love George W. in which case you will probably want to skip it) and Josh Brolin and Richard Dryfus were astounding as George W. and Dick Cheney.

So after a very successful horse show for the Arcuris (five wins and a third place) we had our final "Earl's" dinner on Sunday night and we all went our separate directions. Jean flew home to Springfield, Ryan and Brita took Tim's car and headed to Sedona, The Grand Canyon and on home to Springfield. We woke up early pulled Mary together, secured her contents and headed east leaving Tim to look after his horses for two weeks or so before he heads off to the American Royal. Two weeks in the desert southwest in October should be pretty darn nice! Nancy goes back to the grind at work at the Science Center. She said to me in an email, "I feel like my people came and visited and now they are gone." It's great to see old friends and so hard to say good bye.

Just before we left Mary was beginning to act a little contrary...nothing serious just a little cranky, little things that wouldn't work but miraculously fixed magic. I think she is sick of us and wants a rest. She is about to get her wish. We are headed home and should be there on Thursday. I referred to her as a giant breadbox just before we arrived in Scottsdale so she may have gotten a litte out of sorts about it. I wasn't being derogatory at all. It's just that when we are driving in the wind she gets blown around a a giant bread box. I guess I need to be more careful about what I say!

Our route home will take us through New Mexico, the panhandle of Texas (by the world's largest cross again), into Oklahoma and....and....(I can barely force myself to write this) up 44 through Missouri. Missouri is a pretty state but Interstate 44 is littered with one adult bookstore/video store after another. YUCK. I made the trip once about five years ago in my car and by the time I got to Tulsa I felt like I needed to run for the shower. If it weren't for the fact that we both want to get home via the fastest route this would not be the route of choice. In fact it is only 50 miles more to go through Memphis to Kentucky. But I'll just keep my head down and keep myself busy on my computer or read as we pass down Interstate 44. Ick.

Okay, that's it for this post. I'll write again along the way!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Time On The Farm

Training barn at Arcuri Stables

We are in Flagstaff at the moment. I'll write more about our time here in my next post. I want to finish catching you up on our stay in Springfield at Arcuri's farm.

We actually went to the movies...twice! It was fun. We saw "Flash of Genius" about the man who invented the pause wiper and how Ford Motor Company robbed him of his invention and the ensuing battle to receive compensation and credit for his invention. It was good. Two thumbs up. The other movie we saw was "Appaloosa". Very cool western. It isn't probably Academy Award winning stuff but it was really entertaining. Two more thumbs up!

John worked some horses for Tim and Ryan while they were in Oklahoma showing at the Morgan Championship show. They did very well with their Morgans and Ryan won a really impressive World title. Congratulations to all of the Arcuris on another successful year! They run a first class operation and it shows in all of their horses and everything that they do. John had fun working the Saddlebreds while they were gone. Every morning Breezy went to work with John. He would get on his bicycle and take off down the driveway pedaling like mad. Breezy raced ahead of him as they disappeared into the trees. A couple of hours later I would look up and see John pedaling along through the trees and up to the coach and Breezy was lagging along behind him worn out from trailing him around the arena when he jogged the horses or running around the outside of the round pen when he lined them. She has an intense work ethic. Ransom stayed with me most of the time. He and I would walk the farm while sniffed everything and marked every tree, bush and rock on the place. That's life with a male dog. We usually encountered the turkeys and he would lock on and just shake with excitement at the idea that he might have an opportunity to chase them. We also played Frisbee in the arena next to where Mary was parked. There is a haystack in the arena (they aren't using the barn for horses right now) so Ransom's version of Frisbee is that I throw the Frisbee, he runs after it, picks it up and I spend the next ten minutes running after him while he runs around the haystack with the Frisbee in his mouth. We both get exercise that way. It is actually Breezy's Frisbee but she lets him play with it. She is a good and very patient big sister.

Breezy and John on their way to work

One morning John took the dogs out first thing in the morning. When I take them out first thing I always put Ransom on a leash. After he has had some exercise I found that I can take him out without the leash but first thing in the morning he is pretty fresh. Well on this morning John decided to take him out without the leash. The sun was just breaking over the horizon and it was a beautiful morning, cool and crisp. Ransom jumped out of the coach and locked on to a flock of young turkeys that were 300 feet from the coach, up a lane between two pastures. Before he could say, "Ransom" the little dog shot like a streak up the lane. As I said before, he is very fast. John whistled his ear splitting, dog retrieving whistle but Ransom was in bird chasing heaven, racing into the flock with total abandon. John told me that there were turkeys scattered everywhere, flapping left, flapping right, running through the pastures and gobbling all the way while Ransom lived out his fantasy. Finally he heard John's whistle and reality set in. It was over. He ran straight back, did his morning duties and happily hopped back in the coach for his breakfast. Sometimes he just loses his head.

People ask us what breed of dog he is. We tell them, " He's an Unolop." Some nod and say "Oh...". Other's say, "Never heard of that breed." Still others will ask, "What is an Unolop?" We are just messing with people. He is of unknown origin but the Humane Society where he came from and our vet suspect he is part Chihauhua and part Fiest which is a type of rat terrier. I suspect they are right. We call him Unolop (a nick name now) because he has one ear that stands up and one that flops over (one "uno", floppy ear "lop"...get it?). There is a lot that we don't know about Ransom but what we do know is that he is the funniest most entertaining dog that we have ever been around and has livened up our lives and Breezy's immensely! They have become close pack members, to the point where Ransom now grooms her face. It is very cute to watch. She just closes her eyes and he licks her face and around her eyes until he is satisfied that it is the as it should be. All three of us love him a lot!

Unolop in the driver's seat

Our only mishap at the farm happened when John went out to open Mary's bay door to the water/sewer area. He was going to empty the tanks. When he pulled up on the handle it broke off in his hand. I looked up from my computer in time to see him walk in the door with the handle in his hand. "Uh oh," I said. "Yeah, we've had our first big problem with Mary," he informed me. He got on the phone with the Monaco help line (which is usually no help at all) and got no help. They tried but there was a communication gap of some sort. So he hung up and remembered Bob, the nice man from Monaco that came out to help us last time we were at the farm in Springfield. We still have his card (I have about fifty cards from various Monaco employees) so he called Bob. Bob explained that he may be able to get the door open if he could get the plate off of the back of the handle and open it from the backside. Determined to get it open John thanked him and headed out to try it. I kept looking out the window to be sure that he didn't put another crease in his head and every time I saw him struggling to get his arm up in the space behind the door (check out the photo below...not a comfortable spot). I went outside to check on him regularly. Every time his arm looked more beat up. Finally I suggested that he call Bob back and have him come out and replace the handle. He thought that was a good idea. So he tried to call Bob again but he was gone for the day. It apparently was bothering him so he went out again and tried to open it with a pair of vice grips from the outside. He kept at it until he got it open. He came in the coach very excited. "You aren't going to believe this but I got it open!" He explained how he did it. "Wonderful!" I said. He went back out to empty the tanks but before he could get there he watched in horror as the door, which lifts away from the coach and then up, fell and closed again. He came back in and said, "You aren't going to believe this but the damn thing fell closed again." I said that I suspected that Murphy was busy terrorizing him. The next morning he called Bob and Bob came to the farm and replace the handle for us. Bob is a good guy. And John's arm was black and blue for a week.

John on his back on the rocks with his arm behind the door

Arcuri's came back from Oklahoma on Monday and we left to head to Arizona on Friday morning. There is a show in Scottsdale this coming weekend and on Monday morning (a week from today) we will begin our journey back to Kentucky. I'll post next on our trip from Springfield to Flagstaff and our visit to Sedona today. Spectacular...this country is just fabulous from coast to coast!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Catchng Up

Having a blast on the beach!

View from Mary in Newport

Okay...I know. I'm sorry! While we were Oregon we were pretty busy but now we are in Reno on our way to Arizona so I'll have some time to catch you up on our adventures (and misadventures). I will work on another web album of our time in Oregon. I got some good pictures of the Oregon coast, Hood Canal and of the farm in Springfield. Today we are taking the Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway again to get to Barstow and from there into Arizona. It will be a beautiful drive today. Unfortunately I probably won't take many photos. There was a bug massacre on the way into Reno yesterday and the windshield didn't get cleaned before we left this morning. Such is life.

Mary overlooking the bluff

When I last left you I think we were pulling into a KOA in Mountain Home, Idaho. It turns out that the people who managed the park knew people who John went to school with in Marion, Pennsylvania. Talk about a small world. And this was the first KOA that had a Kamp K-9, a fenced area with agility obstacles and toys where you can turn your dogs loose. It was the first time that we have been able to turn Breezy and Ransom loose together and it was just a riot! We found out that of the two dogs Ransom would be the agility dog! He is lightening fast, can jump like a deer and has no fear of the obstacles. It took me three seconds to get him up and over the elevated ramp. Breezy got half way up the ramp and decided that heights weren't for her. They ran and played and had a blast. The next morning we left there and drove to Sisters, Oregon for an overnight stay at the KOA.

View of Hood Canal from our campsite

It was an uneventful stay until we got ready to leave the next morning. It was cold out that night. Sisters is the Cascade Mountains and is around 4,000 feet in elevation so in September it gets really cold at night. John got up to take his shower and discovered that the hose attached to Mary was frozen. So he switched her over to the on-board water system and showered. I went on about my morning business and just as I was about to take my shower I heard water running outside. I looked out the window and it was shooting out of the faucet like an open fire hydrant. John was outside putting the bike rack on the car so I ran out and hollered, "There's water running!!!". He hollered back, "Okay!" I went back into the coach and started doing the breakfast dishes. About a minute later the door flew open and John staggered in saying something about hitting his head. He had his hat in his right hand and his left hand on his head. I stepped back from the sink as he bent over it and the blood ran into the sink.

I'm not squeamish. It's a good thing. We spent the next half hour mopping blood and icing a large crease in his head. He wouldn't go to the hospital for stitches ("I'll just sit around an emergency room for hours and then I'll have to have them taken out," he complained. "Infection is an ugly experience," I replied. I lost the argument). I wouldn't let him drive (and of course he has never let me drive so my first big experience was not going to be on a windy mountain road) so we had to wait for while while I quizzed him every five minutes. "Are you dizzy?" He shook his head. "Blurred vision?" Another negative. "Headache?" I asked. "What do you think?" he replied. He had raced around the end of the coach to turn the water off and when he did he whacked the top of his head on the edge of the bedroom driver's side slide slide out leaving a trough about three inches long. The only think that probably kept him from being knocked out was that he had his hat on. So after I was sure that he wasn't going to drive off of the road we decided to go on to Arcuri's farm in Springfield.

We arrived and parked Mary in her spot in front of the barn on a private part of the farm. It's like having our own little farm. The dogs can go out and play without leashes...mostly. Ransom is a little hard headed about coming when he is called now that he has found freedom from the leash. So we spend some time on the leash and some off. He has also learned to run alongside the bike. John worked with him on that. He took him out yesterday to get a little exercise. When he came back I asked, "So how did it go?" He said, "Fine until we rode up on a flock of wild turkeys crossing the road." The farm has resident wild turkeys and Ransom thinks he is a bird dog. One wild turkey outweighs him by double his body weight I'm sure and could eat him in one bite but he doesn't see it that way. Apparently he decided to try to catch one and nearly jerked John off of his bike. Anyway, it is a wonderful, peaceful spot at the farm. We were here less than one day before John decided that we needed to move up to the Oregon State Fairgrounds where they were having a horse show (to cut down on driving). Tim had a client showing there so I very reluctantly agreed to give up our private little spot. When we pulled into the State Fairgrounds I was completely depressed. The weather was awful and the RV area was dreary. The only good thing was that the van der Walts were next to us so we got to visit with them and Bill Blacklaw too. We stayed through Friday night and on Saturday we said goodbye and happily took off for the coast.

A view of Arcuri's farm

Tim and Jean told us about a cool place to park Mary in Newport. It is called Outdoor Resorts and cool just doesn't quite cover it. We made a reservation and when we arrived we were assigned to a space that was overlooking the ocean and next to the path to the beach access. Mary was parked overlooking the Pacific Ocean and with a perfect view of the Yaquinta Lighthouse. We set Mary up, thrilled at our good luck at getting the very best spot in the park, leashed our dogs and headed down a winding tree lined path to the beach. We descended a steep stairway to the sand and when we got to the bottom we looked around in amazement. The beach was empty! The tide was out and no one was there! It was time to let our dogs run together. Ransom had obviously never been to the beach so it was an exhilarating experience for him. There were seagulls and waves and rocks and sand and the weather was glorious. We unhooked them and Ransom took off leaping across the sand. He looked like a tiny gazelle bounding and leaping. Then he took off running in a big circle, around and around and around with Breezy on his heels. It was so funny that we both nearly fell over laughing. Those two dogs had a total blast and we had a blast watching them. They were so busy running and playing that Ransom (who as I mentioned thinks he is the bird dog of the world) didn't notice all of the seagulls on the beach. They ran until they were totally tuckered out and we releashed them and walked for awhile. According to all of the people who are regulars at the Outdoor Resorts park we managed not only to get the best spot on the grounds for Mary, we also arrived on the very best weekend of the year for weather. It was in the mid seventies with a light breezy, azure blue skies and beautiful sunshine. It was heaven and for a moment on the beach John looked at me and said, "Let's sell everything and move here!" I said, "Yes!" Then my memories of living in Oregon kicked in. I said, "Wait. I take that back." He said, "I loved it out here when I lived here before." I said, "Talk to me again after it starts raining," which I knew without a doubt it would do within a matter of days.

I love Oregon. I miss a lot of things about the state...the ease of getting to the coast or the mountains (within two hours either direction), the beauty of the entire state and the city of Portland (great restaurants and shopping too), the progressive thinking (very "green" state, environmentally conscious), no sales tax, no self service gas stations, friends and family close, and it is gardening heaven not to mention that the weather is very mild, not terribly cold in the winter or terribly hot in the summer. I won't ever say never about coming back here to live because you just never know where life will take you but I do remember what I didn't miss about the western part of the state when I left and moved to Kentucky. Darkness and dampness. I don't mind rain. In fact I like it when it rains in Kentucky. We get nearly as much rain in Kentucky as they get in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The difference is that when it rains in Kentucky it rains like hell and gets it over with. When it rains in Oregon first the clouds roll in. They are big puffy and charcoal in color...very dark. A damp wind will begin to penetrate your bones. Then you begin to smell the rain that is packed into those big dark clouds. Then it will spend a week doing things like drizzling, showering, spitting, raining, storming...there are more terms for rain in Oregon than you can begin to imagine. I remember the year before I left the state we literally had months of rain as the state made up for a lengthy drought (which doesn't mean that it didn't rain, it means that there was not much in the way of snow pack for a couple of years and rain levels were somewhat less than usual). After a couple of months of dark clouds and some form of moisture every single day I began suffering from a bad case of rain madness. I could barely drag myself out of bed in the morning. My allergies went nuts, I got obsessed with eradicating black algae which was growing on everything outside. I began walking with an exaggerated stoop, like I could avoid getting my hair wet, which when exposed to sufficient dampness turns into a mop of fuzz and waves. Gross. I wore out an umbrella and checked daily to see if I had developed webs between my toes. I love the sun and the blue sky. It lifts my spirits. I also love Oregon. It is a gorgeous state.

So we spent two glorious days on the coast of Oregon. The second day on the beach with the dogs was really fun until Ransom's bird dog persona took over and he took off after a seagull. The dog is fast...really fast. We ran after him on the beach as he disappeared from sight (he's small and fast and we're old and blind) hollering "RANSOM!! RANSOM!!" over and over. Apparently he got out of sight of us and decided that being that far away from us wasn't to his liking. We looked up and he was running flat out back to us. He bounced and leaped all the way back to the coach...on the leash.

The night before we left at about midnight the infamous Newport wind came up and rattled us out of bed. Mary's slides were vibrating and John ended up outside in the dark with his little metal rod retracting the awnings on the driver's side of the coach. It was so wild that we didn't get much sleep that night. In the morning we got up and hooked up the Camry, said goodbye to our wonderful spot and headed north to Washington. Our destination was Hood Canal, a gorgeous spot on an ocean inlet from Puget Sound where my some of my family (great grandparents, grandparents and parents) spent a good deal of time. We spent two days in a tiny little berg called Potlatch. Mary had a space within 20 feet of the water. It was beautiful. We took the dogs up to an old ball park on the hill and played frisbee with them and had a lovely dinner at the Alderbrook Inn, which I highly recommend if you are ever in the area. The resort is beautiful, right on the water with wonderfully appointed cabins and also a regular hotel and spa. From there we went to Long Beach, Washington to have a great two day visit with friends. It was a really nice loop through Washington and we got our coastal fix for this trip.

I'm going to stop here because we are heading into the mountains and I know I'm going to lose my signal and not be able to post this if I don't. I'll be posting again soon. I promise!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Helen, our fearless leader, on the float trip

We are on our way west again. Yesterday morning I drove into Jackson and picked up Breezy and Ransom from Happy Trails Pet Resort. They tackled me in the lobby hopping and wagging and talking to me. I hopped and cooed and hugged them. I'm not sure who was happier, me or them!

Jimmy, our resident comedian, on our float trip

It was raining yesterday morning. John, Jimmy and Helen decided to take one more ride so off to the hills they went with rain slickers in hand. I don't think they got a drop of rain while they were out. I took the dogs and returned to Mary where I unpacked the Camry and warmed Mary up. It felt good to be back with her and readying for our trip to Oregon. As I sorted laundry I thought about what a special week we spent with our friends at the ranch.

We stayed in "1st Cabin" named because it was the first cabin built on the ranch for guests. Jimmy, Helen and Corky stayed in a double cabin on the far end of our row. The ranch itself has been in the same family for 80 years. Between Helen and our wranglers and guides we were informed of the history of the ranch and how it became part of Grand Teton National Park. Anyway, 1st Cabin was the first in a row of cabins, made of logs and furnished with a double bed, a twin bed, a table and chair and a chest of drawers in a large dressing room. We left the windows open most of the time for fresh air but the logs were so insulating that we stayed warm every night. The lodge/dining room where we ate was about ten steps from our cabin. It was all log with picture windows lining the front to give us a perfect view of the Tetons. I took a hundred pictures of those mountains and no two really look the same due to the changes in the light and the weather. From the lodge you head downhill to the corral where they bring the horses in to saddle for rides.

1st Cabin

The horses are turned out every night to graze and rest and then the wranglers go out in the morning, gather them and bring them in for their day of work. They normally do two 2 hour rides per day. They break them up according to how well you ride and how much ground you want to cover. They have lesson rides for people who don't have a lot of experience. They have slow rides where you just walk and those mostly go up in the hills behind the ranch. There are medium rides where you walk, trot and lope some and they have fast rides where you walk trot and lope a lot so that you can see more country. Mostly those go down by the Snake River. Those were our favorites.
We had a guide, Randy who was really fun to go with. I rode with him for the first time on Thursday when we went to the river for our dash and splash ride. What a great time! He is from Mississippi and obviously loves the outdoors. When we would get ready to move from a walk to a trot or to a lope he would put his hand up and holler, "REGULATORS! Proceed at the (trot or lope)!" The second he put his hand up the horses all popped their heads up and readied themselves to pick up the pace. It made me laugh every time. He was full of funny stories and interesting information and I think he appreciated that we could all ride well. During the entire ride we were cutting up and laughing and he kept saying, "You people really need to cheer up!". He was my favorite guide. We had Stephanie and Ashely who were both good and T.J. who is the head wrangler there took us on our all day ride. He has been with Triangle X for ten years, is just 33 years old and had never had much of an interest in horses before he arrived at the ranch from Nebraska. Now he manages the entire herd and all of the wranglers. He also goes out to find new trails for all day rides and he and Ashely are engaged to be married some time next year. It feels like a family when you are there probably because a lot of the people who work there (between 60 and 70 during the season) have been there for years. We also met some people who took sabbaticals from their life long jobs to come out and work for the summer. There is no television or radio so you are liberated from all of the garbage going on in the world. I found out about the financial crisis on the Internet which I have found is a much less emotional way to get the news. Many, many of the guests had been there many times before. We actually met several people from Kentucky and some people who have Saddlebreds in Missouri. It is a small world. And Triangle X is quite a place.

Randy, our guide telling us a story

Carter Ragsdale sent John a song via his cell phone. He has had this song on his phone for some time. The song is a spoof on the Brokeback Mountain movie. It is set to a catchy country tune and the chorus goes, "I aint goin' down on Brokeback Mountain. I aint goin' down on Brokeback Mountain. That shit aint right, that shit aint right." John played that song for nearly everyone on the ranch. So by the middle of the week people were walking around smiling and saying "That shit aint right...". It was pretty funny. I heard it so many times during the week that I went to sleep with the tune playing in my head. If you see him at a horse show ask him to play it. He will do it happily!

You will never be hungry at Triangle X either. They serve three huge meals a day, mostly beef based. We had fillet, sirloin, prime rib, hamburgers, corned beef sandwiches and hot dogs (probably all beef!). On Friday we had salmon and it was delicious! In the morning they had all kinds of cereal, yogurt, eggs, waffles, pancakes, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy...hearty breakfasts every morning. On our all day ride they packed us a lunch of turkey and cheese croissant sandwiches, potato chips, a Hershey bar and an apple...for our horses. The night of our hike/float day we went into Jackson and ate at the Cadillac Cafe (next to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar) and had the best ever hamburgers and fries. As much as I rode and walked on this trip I know I didn't lose an ounce but I'm certainly more fit than when I showed up!

As I was groaning from sore muscles and as I was hauling my ass out of bed every morning John was jumping around the cabin and saying things like, "I'm not sore at all!" and "I think I'm losing weight!" I listened to this several mornings in a row and finally on Saturday morning, after our all day ride when I was getting up with my bones creaking and my muscles binding into knots he jumps up and says, "I feel pretty good this morning, how about you?" I looked at him and said, "Go to hell," fell back in bed and pulled the covers over my head. He howled with laughter and he bounced into the shower.

It wasn't that he didn't whine at all. He did his fair share of that. For our hike we bought a little nap sack to carry our lunches in and some extra water. He is fond of telling me that he is the pack mule and to let him carry things. I really appreciate that about him. He is always looking out for my well being. He is a wonderful person. So when we took off on our hike he probably had ten pounds or so of food and water in his nap sack (worn like a back pack). Helen was carrying 15 to 20 pounds in her back pack. To be fair she works out with a trainer who makes her run two miles and walk two miles in intervals with 20 pounds on her back so she was fit as an antelope for the mountain hike and the rest of us were...pretty pathetic in comparison! So half way through the day John started telling Helen, "I'm going to tell everyone that you made me walk 25 miles with fifty pounds on my back." I think he repeated that at least 20 times and each time the distance and weight got larger. She retaliated by repeating his complaint about buying a walking stick, "Stiiiiickkkk! Why do we need a stiiiiccckkkkk???" Needless to say we laughed a lot on this trip.

His other complaint was one that I knew he would have because everyone who rides a horse all day going up and especially down hills has it. You have to keep lots of weight in your stirrups going down hill not only for your balance and your horse's but to keep from rubbing sores on your horse's withers. After all of the uphill your legs get a little tired. The wranglers are great about stopping and letting us stretch our legs, find a private spot in the woods to relieve ourselves if necessary and to loosen the horse's cinches so they can breath, relax and get a few bites of grass. Then they tighten us all up and we all meander off to find a stump on which to launch ourselves back onto our horses (they call the mounting block in the corral "the dude launcher") and away we went again. By the time we were getting ready to stop for lunch John was starting to make noise about his knees aching. I smiled just a little. I wasn't being evil but after listening to him tell me that nothing had bothered him all week it was just a little heartening to hear him complain about aching knees. And I thought to myself, "Just wait until we start going down." As promised our guide took us up to around 9,000 feet on the ridge above a very deep canyon and we rode nearly the entire way back on the edge of this ridge. I thought my height issues might kick in but I actually didn't have any problems with it while I was sitting on Thunder. My left knee was singing to me pretty good but all I could hear behind me was moaning and groaning about knees from John and a bunch of other riders. Even T.J. who is only 33 was talking about his knees burning and aching. By the time we got to our next rest area we weren't sure that we would be able to get off of our horses much less get back on again. But five minutes walking eased the pain and we launched and went on down. It was a spectacular ride, the prettiest I've ever been on in my life and I've ridden quite a bit on the trail in different parts of the country. That night we all sat on our porch on first cabin enjoying a glass of wine with Jimmy, Helen and Corky and watching the sun set on the Grand Tetons. We were at peace with the world and our knees were serene.

Serious drinkers...John, Corky and Helen on the porch before dinner (I was behind the camera with a glass in my hand!)

Actually once I got up and rolling every day I was pretty sound except for the abrasions on the inside of my knees, the bruises on my contact points (butt and knees and one big weird one on my calf...clueless as to how I got that one). And the other strange thing that happened after my first day of riding was swelling on the inside of my thighs. I got up on Tuesday and they were swollen to where they actually touched when I stood with my feet a normal distance apart. I guess there is a first time for everything. I hiked the mountains like that. Jimmy was walking behind me and could see all of the colorful marks on my legs. He asked John if he had a good farrier. John said yes, that he did. Jimmy replied, "Well you need to get him to shoe her off of her knees!" and broke into his signature laugh. We love Jimmy and Helen. Great people and more fun than a barrel of monkeys to travel with.
Today we are traveling through Idaho. We will stop close to Boise in Mountain Home for the night. We left Jackson at 9:00 and headed up to Teton Pass. I'm still not sure what the elevation was up there but it was a 10% incline on the way up and on the way down. Mary handled it like a champ. Once I realized how high we were I made the dash to let the air out of the bed again. This time I caught it before it got to 100! It has been a beautiful drive today. Idaho is a pretty state. We are only one state away from my home state now. Tomorrow we will pass through Boise and into Ontario, Oregon on Highway 20 which will take us across the state. I don't get homesick at all but I always get excited when I know I'm going to visit. It is a spectacular state and there is still a lot of it that John hasn't seen.

That is it for me today. I'm ready to put my laptop down and cruise the rest of the way into Mountain Home. I hope you have had a great Sunday! My next post will probably be once we get settled in Springfield at the Arcuri's place...our Oregon retreat! They are some of our favorite people in the world and we can't wait to get there!
Here is the address for our last web album on Triangle X:

Bald Eagle on our float trip
PS. I haven't found the Yellowstone BUG yet but I know he managed to stow away in my luggage and is probably taken up residence in Mary somewhere. Stay tuned...