Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Desert Christmas

We left this in Lexington

Headed down Versailles Road

Spent the night near the Mississippi River

Trekked across Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico

Came over the mountains in Arizona

Found the Saguaro

And landed in the desert

This is the first time we have spent the holidays in Arizona, but not likely the last time. We are staying out at Fort McDowell by Fountain Hills, where my dad and step mother used to own a home. It's about ten miles from Scottsdale. Mary is set up in a nice park across the highway from the Fort McDowell Casino. The Salt River Indians own the property that we are parked on. The day that we pulled in we spotted three loose horses traveling down a trail, head to tail, headed to the river for a drink of water. A day later I was pedaling with Ransom around the park when I spotted two cows with their calves moseying on down the side of the paved road toward the river, totally unfazed by all we RVers. Really cool.

We were scheduled to leave Lexington on Sunday December 5th so that John could attend a USEF judging clinic in Scottsdale on the 9th. But the weather didn't cooperate and we couldn't leave until Wednesday. Mary is a wonderful machine but she becomes a 50,000 pound bobsled in snowy weather. We made it into Ft. McDowell three and a half days later. We always say that we are not going to bust our bums to get where we are going, but when you are traveling Interstate 40 through Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle why would you take your time. There's not much out there but wind ... not John's favorite element, nor mine. He missed his clinic but that can be done another time. Now we are parked in a beautiful spot in the desert, surrounded by mountains and saguaro and prickly pear cactus, and enjoying the most beautiful weather we could ask for. The days are hovering around 70 degrees and the nights are cold enough to require a down comforter. We are walking with the dogs every day in tee shirts and I've been outside in shorts and flip flops (cute new ones) on a couple of afternoons. It's just plain heaven. We've had some rain but its not cold so we are fine with that.

Breezy is sacked out in her bed as I type this and Ransom is curled up in his new bed. He kept trying to steal Pocket Arcuri's little round, high sided bed when she was our guest, so I decided that he needed one of his own. It's a little bigger than Pocket's bed was, so when he gets comfortable in it all I can see is his side rising and falling with his breathing, and sometimes an ear or a foot sticking up. They are so happy here. In the mornings we take them with us while we pedal the bikes around the park. Each time we pass a coach or travel trailer with dogs we hear them sound off at the sight of us, madly pedaling with our dogs galloping alongside our bikes, their ears flying.

Before we left Lexington the weather was so bad for so long that Breezy didn't get out as much as she needed to, and she gained five pounds. I took them both into the vet before we left for their semi-annual checkups and Breezy weighed in at 49.9 pounds! She is the first foodie Border Collie I've ever been around. Tag, my last little Border Collie, was a non-eater. Food didn't mean a thing to her so I spent the better part of 14 years thinking up new ways to get her to eat. Not so with Breezy. So I bought Science Diet Light dry and wet dog food before we left and we put her on a diet and exercise program. She's not taking the diet part too well, but I think we've peeled a few pounds off of her in the nearly three weeks that we've been here. We've both lost a few pounds along the way as well. We take them for a long afternoon walk each day that usually concludes at about feeding time. There is a good gravel road to walk on about a quarter mile from the park so we head up the paved road to get to it. Every so often Breezy stops and licks the pavement. John swears she is licking up the remains of local road kill. We make the turn onto the gravel road and it is all uphill for a mile or so until you get to a rock quarry, where we turn around and head back. She leads us back at a hurried pace, so that we don't miss her dinner time, 4:00 on the dot and not a second later! I swear she has a clock in her stomach. Ransom will eat but he's not as food focused as she is until we finish with our dinner. I keep a little something special in the fridge that they get after the dinner dishes are done. He may be dead asleep in his bed but when I open the door of the refrigerator to get their treats, out of his bed he comes flying. I'm not sure exactly how they know that particular door opening sound when I've spent the last 20 or 30 minutes in the kitchen cleaning, clattering around, and putting leftovers away, but they do. At home Breezy will position herself in front of the refrigerator door, with her nose pointing toward it so that I don't forget to give her the treat. In the coach I would be falling over her if she did that so she sits next to the sink and watches my every move until I'm done.

Today we were walking back from our trek up the hill and a huge coyote crossed the road in front of us. He hung out in the bushes and watched us as we walked past him. John hollered at him and he took off. In the mean time Ransom was going to get all testosterone charged about the "big dog" that crossed in front of us. I explained in firm language that the "big dog" would eat him for a snack, and to chill out. I hope he got the message. He thinks he's tougher than he really is. I can hear the coyotes singing outside in the desert now.

We spent Christmas Eve at the restaurant at The Raddison Hotel at the casino. It is a beautiful place with a very good restaurant. We toasted my dad and Christmas in the desert and enjoyed a fun time together with our server, who was new. We were her third table ... ever. She was so sweet, from Missouri (she reminded us that it is the show me state) and we really enjoyed her company. She was really nervous and made some mistakes but it only added to the charm of the meal and the time of year. On Christmas Day Karen Anthony and her husband Leon Ray invited us to their beautiful home up on the hill overlooking Scottsdale. Along with their family we enjoyed great company and a wonderful meal. It has been an awesome holiday.

For Christmas this year (and the next 30 Christmases!) we are giving each other a new house. Or trying too. We found a lovely property in Scottsdale that is being sold on short sale. Neither of us really knew what that meant until after we got into it, but I can tell you that if you are looking to buy a property I would avoid short sales if at all possible. The market in the Phoenix area has taken a 50% hit in the real estate melt down so there are a ton of great values out here, but the short sale process is long and trying and without any guidelines or rules that we can discern. Thankfully our agent is a specialist in these sales so we are in good hands. We are both learning to exercise our patience regularly. So far when one of us has come up short in the patience department the other one is making up the difference. I'm not sure how much longer it will take to find out if we have prevailed in this purchase, but we are hopeful that we will know something in the next week or so. Since we sold the Florida property we have really missed having a warm weather home. We were both weary of living through six months a year of hurricane season and we both love it out here, so it seemed like a good place and a good time to shop. The second house that we looked at we both went head over heels for. That was at the end of October. But if it all works out our patience will be well rewarded. If not we'll go back to shopping and cut a wide swath around the short sale listings.

We will have to head back into Kentucky winter soon. I've spent so much time bragging about our good weather on my Facebook page that my friends are probably blocking my postings. For awhile John was calling his friends every day and when they would pick up the first thing he said was, "I'm surprised that you are still taking my calls." I was too. He was terrible about pounding our freezing Kentucky friends with all of the gory details, like, "I'm sitting in the sun but I'm going to have to go in because I'm SWEATING." Really cruel. Or, "I'm sitting on the patio of a local Mexican restaurant in the SUN having a MARGARITA." Below the belt stuff.

"Silent Partner" has had a good holiday season. I've had really nice feedback on it from a lot of people so I'm hopeful that they will all tell their friends about it and sooner or later it will have a really good following. I'm encouraged enough to keep working on the second book!

I hope that everyone has had a wonderful holiday and that 2011 is the best, most inspired year yet! I'll update on how we are coming on the house project as news comes along!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Passing The Hat

Sunset Against Mary in Scottsdale

We left Las Vegas and a wonderful time behind us and caravanned down to Scottsdale to the fall futurity show with the Arcuris. While we were in Las Vegas we saw "Viva Elvis" with the Arcuris and Doug West and then had a terrific dinner at Don Vito's Italian restaurant at South Point. It was the best time ever! I highly recommend any of the Cirque du Soleil shows and "Viva Elvis" was fantastic. There is so much going on in their human circus that if you saw the show ten times in a row you would see something new every time. The sound system in the Aria theater is the best in the world so Elvis's music sounded like he was in the building. They traced through his life, in music, dance, and acrobatics, incredible lighting, and special effects, and we were completely engaged for two hours. On Saturday night Ryan procured ten tickets to the PBR Championships at the Thomas and Mack stadium at UNLV. Ten of us took a limo bus (really!) to watch the bulls against the cowboys (bulls won that night!). They put on quite a show with music and lighting effects, smoke, clowns, audience give aways, all to a packed house. They carried one Brazilian guy out on a stretcher with a neck injury after putting in a 90.00 ride, and apparently he was cleared to ride on Sunday where he put in a ride of 91.25. The guy was unreal! One of his fellow countrymen won the championship and over a million dollars on Sunday. I think you must be at least half crazy to get on one of those massive, man killing machines. Like Las Vegas, the bulls have the advantage. It was a great evening of fun and excitement.

My recommendation for horse people in the east is, after Louisville is over next year, put the California Futurity Horse Show on your calendar, load up some horses and end your year with a great horse show, and some terrific times. What a great place for a show!

Ransom and his Frisbee

Scottsdale was, as always, gorgeous. The show was down some on entries but the facility at WestWorld is so nice that we enjoy it no matter what is going on. We got there late in the afternoon and while Tim and John were settling the horses in I was riding my bike around the area with the dogs, taking in a spectacular sunset. We had our first meal out in Scottsdale at Earl's (our favorite place to grab something quick to eat) and ate our last meal there before saying goodbye to the Arcuris. In between we ate Thai food, Mexican food, and everything in between. It's diet time when I get home! We had lunch with Howie and Jack Schatzburg at KO'Donnells, and dinner with Tim's clients at Mastro's Ocean Club, and dinner with Karen Anthony and her husband Leon Ray at Wild Fish. We had such a great time that we stayed an extra day to soak up that last bit of desert sun. And I pedaled my expanded butt around the area to take in the fresh air and sun. It was a great stay.

Breezy playing her favorite game - Tug!

Now we are headed home ... where it is cold. At the moment we are at an RV park in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. We left Scottsdale on Tuesday with the idea that we would take our time getting home. The problem is, there isn't much between there and home when we go down I-40 except flat boring landscape and wind. Lots of wind. The wind knocked Mary and John around all day on Wednesday from about Tucumcari, New Mexico, through the panhandle of Texas, and into Oklahoma where it picked up to 35 miles per hour. We had our most comical episode of the trip when we exited 1-40 onto the Kirkpatrick/Will Rogers Turnpike. We were on our way to Virgil Helm's place outside of Jefferson City, but needed to stop for an overnight before we got there.

Jumping for the Frisbee

We have taken the route before, and I remembered that there were a lot of toll stops along the way but we've traveled a lot of toll roads in the last three years, and I had them all mixed up in my head. We both forgot that on this toll road there are two toll stops that are unmanned, and require $3.95 each in coins. Only coins. We were traveling with about $300.00 between us but neither of us had much in the way of coins within reach. So we stopped at the first toll station when the first episode of panic ensued. There are signs on the toll station threatening legal ramifications if you pass through without paying the three dollars and ninety five cents, and a big funnel looking thing where you put your change. John began digging and so did I. He had fifty cents in change, and I had a little over two dollars. Not enough. Grumbling and cussing ensued. Thankfully there were two lanes and no one behind us. I said, "What about the hat?!!". The hat is a baseball cap that John throws change into when he empties his pants pockets at night. He said, "It's in the second drawer down, below the television in the bedroom." My heart sank. The second drawer down is sandwiched between the foot of the bed and the wall when the slides are pulled in. I'm thinking the only way to get to it is to wait for Mary's air bags to air up completely, which can take several minutes, and then put the passenger slide out to get to the hat. At this point we are both running up and down the length of the coach like our hair was on fire. After falling over each other a couple of times I decided to go outside to be sure that there wasn't a bill changer somewhere on the funnel thing that I didn't see. We were stopped facing north, the direction in which 35 mile an hour winds are coming from. I pulled the handle on the door and started to push it open when a gust of cold wind hit it and slammed it back in my face. Not to be deterred from my mission, I pulled the handle again and put my shoulder into it. This time I forced the door open, stepped out into what felt like hurricane force winds, and the wind pulled the door from my hand and slammed it shut. Keep in mind that these unmanned toll stations have video surveillance, so what happened at this stop is recorded for some unknown person's entertainment. I went up to the funnel thing, holding down my sunglasses which were perched on top of my head. The wind was whipping me off balance every few seconds while I ducked and dived, trying to find a bill changer anywhere on the dang thing. Not there. There is a sign demanding coins though. I holler to one on in particular, "This is the dumbest damn thing I've ever seen!" I was throwing my hands up in the air and storming around in front of the funnel thing. Finally, after my rant (which is recorded for history), I went back to the coach.

After battling the wind and the door again I found John sitting in the middle of the bed (with the slides closed the bed takes up the entire room, so crawling on or over the bed is the only way to the closet and dresser) with the top drawer of the dresser out. "The HAT!" he hollered at me, and pulled the baseball cap out. It was full of change, and a couple of old horse show pin passes, two screws, a few receipts and a tag off of a shirt that was new two years ago. I sorted through and got the change we needed, counted it twice and headed for the door again.

There is a small traffic light just ahead of the funnel thing. It was red and said "STOP". When you put your change in it is supposed to turn green and say "GO". I did battle with the winds again until I got to the funnel thing, looked it over carefully and started feeding change into the funnel. When I got done I stood there staring at the light, waiting for it to turn green. My plan was to make a mad dash for the coach when it did. I didn't have a back up plan if it didn't. I waited a few seconds. It didn't turn green. I went up to the funnel thing, my hair being whipped into eggbeater style (you can't know how much I hate the wind) and looked into it to see if some change had hung up somewhere. It hadn't. I commenced yelling at the funnel thing and throwing my hands around. That was such a constructive use of my time, don't you think?

Miraculously, no one had pulled up behind us. Apparently most people who travel this turnpike have one of those little windshield box toll thingies like we had when we had the Florida house, where you drive through and the box registers the toll. Only tourists wouldn't have one of those and I don't know what kind of insane people would tour that area of Oklahoma ... except us of course, because we are on our way to Missouri. These are two of my favorite places to visit. Ha.

Okay, so John is behind the wheel waiting for the light to turn green while I'm having a fit in the lane in front of the bus. I stormed back to the door and fought the wind to get it open, struggled into the coach and John says, "Why isn't the light turning green?" I flopped into my seat and said, "I don't know and I don't care. Let's just go." So we did. I expect that we will get something in the mail from the state of Oklahoma telling us that we are in violation of their toll booth rules. I intend to write back if they do.

We totaled roughly $25.00 in tolls that day, one toll because we pulled of at the wrong place and had to pay $1.50 to get off. Then we pulled into Will Rogers Downs to stay the night because it is the only place to put a big rig on that stretch of road. We spent a fun day and night at Helm's place and then at about 2:00 today we took off to get some road behind us before we get home and have to face the Gestapo again. I'll update you on that after we get settled at home.

Relaxing by the coach

This has been the most fun trip that we've taken in Mary so far. Every place we visited, every silly thing that happened, all of the wonderful people we spent time with and met, and all of the fun things we did, were just the best ever. We've been on the road since September 2nd and for the first time since we've been making these long trips I was sad to begin our journey home. John says that I'm usually harassing him to get home about six weeks into a two month trip and he can't get over that I begged to stay another day in Scottsdale. It was just the best.

We will be in Kansas City for the Royal in a little over a week. The book is doing well and I'm very pleased about that. I will have books with me at the Royal if anyone wants to buy one there. Just track John or me down up there!

I hope your summer was the best ever and that the upcoming holidays are too!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Happens In Vegas...

Las Vegas. What an interesting place. We are parked at The Oasis RV Park about two blocks off of Las Vegas Boulevard. It's a huge park on the south end of Vegas, about two miles from South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa and the site of the California Futurity Horse Show. The last time we were in Las Vegas we were treated to a lovely two night stay at Wynn, took a helicopter flight into the Grand Canyon and capped the visit with a night out at The Mirage Hotel where we saw "Love", the Cirque du Soleil show about The Beatles. Great fun with great friends! This time we are staying in Mary and attending the horse show, again, with great friends. It's going to be a fun stay for sure. We are trying going to try to see Cirque du Soleil's Elvis show while we are here and I'll see a friend who lives here. I'll update you on our adventures in my next post. So far, I have to say that I've never seen such a great place to have a horse show. The stabling is incredible, the arena and warm up areas are top notch, and when you arrive with your truck and trailer or van, employees of South Point greet you, escort your rig into the building where you unload your horses on mats, and take them to the stalls. They then unload your feed and equipment (I'm not lying!) and clean out your van or trailer. If you pick up a broom to sweep up they will stop you and insist on cleaning up themselves. We decided to have lunch today and walked through a door from the barn, into the hotel/casino where you can eat, gamble, bowl, shop, see a movie, get your hair done, buy a new wardrobe ... the list goes on and on. This is how to show horses!

Crater Lake, Oregon

When I last posted we were leaving the Redwood Forest in California and heading to Crater Lake in Southeastern Oregon. I keep saying this but I can't believe that I lived in Oregon for forty years and never visited this incredible spot. I'd heard about the blue water and seen photos of it but until I laid my own eyes on it I couldn't imagine just exactly what I was going to see. It is mostly an intense sapphire blue but depending on the sky, the time of day and where you are standing it can be deep royal blue, dazzling turquoise, or as John calls it, insane blue. I think his is the best description of all. We drove from Arcada, California to Diamond Lake in Oregon, which is close to Crater Lake, and stayed at the Diamond Lake RV Park. It was a delightful spot with lots of fir and pine trees, trails where we could walk the dogs, and an 11 mile paved path around the lake that you can walk or bike on. Of course we got lost on our way in but stopped along side the road and made a phone call before we had to unhook the car or something equally as stupid. The first night we went to the little pizza parlor that was across the road from the RV park and had a great pizza. The night was unreal, crisp and cool with a full moon. We slept with the window open to fresh mountain air and put an extra blanket on the bed.

Golden Mantle Squirrel

The next morning we got up and walked the dogs and had breakfast. We left the dogs at the coach and began the drive up to Crater Lake National Park. John has a senior pass to all national parks so we are exempt from paying to get in. He's very proud to hold the golden pass, using it to tease the rangers that are on duty at the gates. "I'll bet you want to see my ID because you think I stole my older brother's pass, don't you?" is one of his favorites.

Looking down into the insane blue water

Once we drove through the gate of the park we started up a long hill to the crater. There is a 33 mile drive around the crater with multiple turnouts and view points along the way. At the first turnout we encountered we pulled in and I grabbed my camera and got out. I was not prepared for what I saw. When we went to Mt. Rushmore I had the same experience. When we drove up to the gate to the park I looked back over my shoulder and saw the presidents faces in the mountain and it was startling. When we stepped up to the rim of the crater I was stunned into silence. We both stopped abruptly for a few seconds. The inevitable "Oh wow," came simultaneously. The rest of the day was one, "Oh wow," after another. We ate lunch at the lodge, a gorgeous place made of stone, timber, and bark, hiked to the rim on the far side of the park, and stopped at a waterfall where I had a moment. It was one of those like the one that John had three years ago on a perfect day at the coast in Oregon. I looked at him and said, "Let's sell everything and move back here." Then we come to our senses, understanding what that would entail. But you never know. Both of us tend to be rather unpredictable when it comes to life changes. If it strikes us both at the same time no telling what we might do!

Breezy taking in the mountain air at Crater Lake

That night we ate in and made a plan to go back up to Crater Lake the next morning. The weather cool that morning so we took the dogs. It was a perfect day and so quiet and peaceful up there that it was like having the park to ourselves. We both felt a special connection with the area while we were there. I took a hundred more photos and then we reluctantly said goodbye to the crater. We went down to the Diamond Lake Lodge and had lunch and then we took the dogs and went for a walk on the Diamond Lake path. It was a glorious afternoon and the dogs were having a blast. John got a phone call and he had let Breezy off of her leash so she was bopping along with Ransom and me while he talked. I spotted a small lake off of the paved path so the dogs and I headed toward it. Breezy, with her heavy coat, was thirsty and hot so she decided to take a swim. I watched as she eased herself into the water and then realized that she was slogging into deep mud. I was prepared to go in after her if she bogged down, but she slowly turned and and picked her way out of the water. She was a mess!

Breezy swimming in the muddy lake

Muddy dog!

John got off of the phone and rolled his eyes at us. Oh well. So we took off down the path, one clean dog and one dirty one. About a half mile down the path we came to a mountain stream. It was crystal clear and flowing gently. There was a bridge built over the stream and a woman came along on a bicycle. She stopped to admire the stream. John spotted the stream and said, "Breezy go clean up ... go get into the stream." The dog looks up at him and heads off to the stream where she gets in, swims out into the water far enough to wash off all of the mud, got out, shook off and came back to where we were standing. The woman on the bike was astounded. To be honest, so was I! She is such a smart dog and so attuned to us that she always seems to know what we want before WE know what we want, but that was just over the top! By the time we got back to the RV park she looked as clean and pretty as when we left for our walk.

Meadow by Diamond Lake

We really wanted to stay another day but we were expected in Springfield and it was time to park Mary and stay put for awhile, so we packed up on Saturday morning and drove three hours over to Arcuri's where we backed Mary into her usual beautiful spot on the farm. The dogs were free, Ransom to chase wild turkeys when the opportunity arose, and Breezy to work every day in the barn with John. I was able to visit my family and friends and we had a great stretch of beautiful weather while we were there. One afternoon we took off after John finished at the barn and drove to the coast where we visited the Sea Lion Caves just north of Florence. That was so cool, and then we had an early dinner at a little restaurant on the Suislaw River that runs into the Pacific Ocean, and drove back to Springfield. We were back at the coach by 7:30.

When Arcuris returned from the Morgan Grand National we all loaded up in our coaches and headed for Las Vegas.

Okay, I'll have photos of the rest of our trip in my next post. We are going to Scottsdale from here for the fall horse show and then we will be heading back to Kentucky.

Book update: It is now available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble's website and on their electronic reader, Nook, as well as on iBooks. I'm getting some great feedback from readers and I'm so tickled by that! It was fun to write and people say it is fun to read. YAY! I'm working on book two and John is busy harassing everyone into reading Silent Partner. He's relentless and is having a ball at this show handing out the cards with the purchasing information and website. I'm sure I'll have to order more cards by the time we get home! If you have read it and liked it, spread the word! Thank you!

Happy reading!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Yabba Dabba DO!

Welcome to Bedrock

Our stay in Utah was unbelievable. It is the land of rocks and rivers. Climbers, bikers, hikers, boaters, runners, geologists and all rock lovers will find nirvana in Moab. Every single bend in the road brought another "Oh wow" moment from both of us. And the dogs had a blast! We went to Arches National Park which was completely amazing. The national parks system in this country is worth every tax dollar that goes into them. They are wonderlands and that's an understatement. Picassa has made it a real chore to upload photos, especially if I'm not in a great spot for an internet signal (which I'm not at the moment) but I will get some sort of a web album up for those people who don't do Facebook. If you do Facebook be sure to check my albums for all of the photos. I was in photo heaven!

In Hidden Canyon

We also took a short hike up Hidden Canyon in Moab. It is a box canyon with a small creek running through it. No one was up there so we turned the dogs loose and they had an absolute ball. Ransom would disappear to the right or left of the trail and then reappear way up the trail ahead of us. It was warm out, in the 80s so Breezy, who loves water, went for a swim to cool off. Ransom, who hates water, waited until he was near overheating before he made the plunge. I was on the trail by the creek and heard a huge kersplash! I looked over and there were ripples in the water and then he came barreling out of the bushes soaked to the ends of his ears. The only time I've seen him happier was the first time we turned him loose down at the Oregon coast two years ago. He has has such fun on this trip because he FINALLY learned to come when we call ... most of the time. He disappeared this morning (we are at Arcuri's farm in Springfield now) and John asked me if I'd seen him. I said, "He's in the back pasture eating horse shit, I'm sure." There were some people here working on the annual laundry list of repairs on the coach, and one of the guys cracked up. It turns out he was across the driveway sunning himself. But he's usually eating horse shit.

In Hidden Canyon
We ate out one night in Moab at the greatest little restaurant! It's called Desert Bistro and the food is wonderful! It was a second to the Santacafe in Santa Fe, but delicious none the less. I told John that after this trip we could write a dining guide to the west. Desert Bistro is situated in an old ranch house with a view of the river portal. The menu is gourmet southwestern cuisine and they did everything right, from great wine, local fresh ingredients and a delightful waitstaff.

View from Dead Horse Point State Park

On our last day there we drove up to Dead Horse Point State Park. We decided to hike the circular trail, which is about six miles. The state parks allow dogs on leashes so we took the kids with us. On the map the trail looked well marked with spectacular views. Being as neither of us has been able to find our ass with both hands this trip, I was a little concerned about navigating by map. For some reason we both seem to have lost our map reading skills simultaneously. But we set off on foot, oooing and ahhhing over the views. They were spectacular. It was very open and desert like up on the rim and when we started we were on a paved path. Impossible to get lost, right? Wrong. They rarely get rain in the summer up in Moab but when we went to dinner the night before I noticed some weather up in the state park area (about 30 miles from Moab). Sure enough, it rained and it washed out some of the cairns, which are small stacks of stones that mark the trails. Once we got off of the paved path we started watching for the little stone stacks but about a mile into our hike they disappeared. We ended up wandering through the desert (I'm making this dramatic but really the paved road was a stone's throw away from where we were) where I managed to get stung by a small, innocent looking little cactus. The little bugger went right through my shoe! I howled and jumped around while Breezy, Ransom and John looked at me like I'd lost my mind. I peeled off my shoe and sock and pulled the little stinger out and then we trekked on. We finally found the rim trail again and probably only went a half mile out of our way (through the desert). We found a shady spot and watered the dogs and ourselves and then hit the trail again. We walked about two miles and came on the Visitor's Center where we were able to use the bathroom and attempt to find the trail again. Funny. We wandered around the parking lot for five minutes looking for it and finally John went into the Visitor's Center and asked. Finally we were on our way again. And it was getting hot. We had three more miles to go, which we turned into four by getting lost in the desert again. By the time we got back to the car it was 90 degrees and we were all beat. We ate in that night and got up the next day to begin our trip to the Redwood Forest in Northern California.

We took off on Highway 50 through Nevada. It's known as the loneliest highway in America. And it is. There are three or four tiny towns out there and a lot of mountain passes but not much else. Thankfully we had a full tank of fuel. We stopped in Ely, Nevada for the night. I expected this tiny town to be in the middle of the desert with nothing but a gas station and a bar. We had a reservation at the KOA which was right on Highway 50, which was no problem because it is after all, the loneliest highway in America. We found a pretty little valley with a nice KOA to park Mary.

Ely, Nevada from the KOA

The people at the KOA gave us some information about what was in town, including restaurants. John looked and said, "There's a Basque restaurant in town. Let's go!" Okay. We got Genius and put it in the car and headed to town. Now keep in mind that this town is bigger than I thought it was but was still just Highway 50 with one cross road. We followed Genius's instructions and ended up at a Chinese restaurant. We drove around and came back to the Chinese restaurant again. Then we did it again. As we were driving around in circles we noticed a Mexican restaurant on the main drag. After the third pass by the Chinese place we were in hysterics, and decided to have Mexican. It was great! We had margaritas that were kick ass (literally) and a wonderful meal. Score another great restaurant experience. It's called La Fiesta, if you ever happen to be in Ely :)

The next morning we drove the rest of the way through Nevada and on in to Placerville, California, which is on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Being from the west I have a healthy respect for the Sierras. People always think of the Rockies as being the tough mountain range but consider what happened on Donner Pass in the Sierras. They are beautiful but can be treacherous at times. So my advice was to take the split before we got to Carson City and head over Donner Pass on Interstate 80. We could buy Nevada fuel before we got into Califor$$$$nia and travel on a four lane highway instead of Highway 50 over the pass by South Lake Tahoe. The problem was, we got lost and ended up staying on Highway 50. When it came time to take a cut off to Interstate 80 John opted out. I think he was thinking that at least we knew that Highway 50 went all the way to Placerville and if we took a cut off God knows where we might end up, given our track record for the trip. So we ended up going through every little town along Highway 50 and around to South Lake Tahoe (spectacular spot) where we got really lost. Genius was telling us to take a shortcut. I couldn't tell from the map (those skills went into the toilet between the last time we traveled and now) if it was lying to us or not so we took the turn and ended up in a residential neighborhood where they had closed the road. Thankfully John can drive Mary through the eye of a needle now, not that he likes doing it. On the contrary. It was a bad day at black rock for him. Once we got out of the neighborhood (sigh, sigh, sigh, sigh ... you have to be f*cking kidding me's, and all) we got on the road that Genius wanted us on and immediately stopped due to road construction. They were repaving this road. It took us a half hour to go seven miles. Finally we got on the right road, which we discovered was the same road we turned off of to take the blasted shortcut. Then we had to stop at the agricultural station on the border. For the first time we were boarded by an agent to check for fruit. FRUIT. Not drugs, bombs or illegal aliens. FRUIT. Really, FRUIT. Anyway, the woman was pleasant and when John complained about the road she said, "You took that road?" and shook her head. We have had that happen a lot on this trip. They say, "You came in on (fill in the blank) road?" and shake their heads. We are going to have an official ceremony when we drop Genius into a toilet and drown it. I'll take pictures.

So the next part of our adventure entailed getting over the pass. That involved hugging the side of a narrow road with a sheer drop off on John's side of the road that was so far down that I got nauseous when I looked over the edge. So I didn't look again. It was a slow, twisting, winding, grind up the eastern side of the Sierras and a slow, twisting, winding, grind down the other side into Placerville. The KOA in Placerville is run by an idiot and it sits on Highway 50 where it sounds like the cars, which go (fast) 24/7 are driving right through the coach. It was a scotch night.

I'm going to stop here and do another post on our trip to the Redwoods (wild), our time there (wonderful) and the crown jewel of our sightseeing trip, Crater Lake.

Book update: Silent Partner is available on Amazon.com now. I've been struggling with the Kindle upload and finally turned it all over to someone who had a clue what to do. When he finishes I will have files that I can upload and that you will be able to actually read on all of the electronic readers. If you want to order the book click here. You can get updates on the Silent Partner webpage at silentpartneronline.com and the on the Facebook page.

If you read it or have read it and like it please post a review on Amazon.com. Click here to go to the Silent Partner page and scroll down to the bottom where it says "Create your own review". It's a simple process after that.

Thanks and happy reading!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lost in Clayton, Santa Fe and Taos

Ransom looking out at the Oklahoma panhandle

The theme of our adventure out west this year has turned out to be LOST. But that follows FUN.

We are in Taos. We arrived today after spending three nights in Santa Fe. To get to Santa Fe we had to cross the Oklahoma panhandle. To say that there is nothing out there is an understatement, but we've been across the Texas panhandle a number of times and in my estimation Texas wins the contest for nothingness. Oklahoma at least has a lot of farming and ranching going on. There is something almost appealing about the stark moonscape of Oklahoma's flat lands. As we were crossing John mentioned that I might want to check the bed for air pressure. I never would have guessed that we gained enough altitude to increase the pressure in the bed chambers, but they were both on 100 when I checked. I "dumped" them as was suggested and by the time we got to the tiny, arid town of Clayton, New Mexico for the evening, they had refilled themselves. We were going up, big time.

When we got to the Clayton KOA we discovered that we had a problem with Mary's left rear airbag. She rides on four airbags that keep her level when we are traveling (think back to our ride-height nightmares last year) and on a separate system, level her once we stop. It's a pretty cool system. We stop, John makes sure that she is aired up and then he pushes a button and you hear air whooshing while she increases or decreases the air in the bags to compensate for the grade that she is sitting on. The leveling system has always worked like a charm. There is a small auxiliary pump that kicks on every so often when we are parked, that provides air when the airbags need it, due to the inevitable settling and minor leaking of the bags. Once we were in Clayton the auxiliary pump seemed to be working overtime and when we took showers in the morning the water was puddling on the left side of shower floor. John mentioned that he thought she needed adjusting. We had a light dinner and went to bed early.

The only thing that captured my interest in Boise City

The next challenge was to get out of Clayton toward Santa Fe the next morning. We used Genius Garmin to get to the park, and it took us in a weird ass backward route, so when we got ready to leave we were having a problem figuring out which way to go. Genius took us to the main road through Clayton and wanted us to turn right. By now we are totally distrustful of Genius, and John was sure that it was because the software had not been updated. He's mentioned this fact 40 or 50 times from the first of the year until now. I was resistant to hooking the thing up to my computer, that's how distrustful I am of it. Plus I figured that the update process would be a pain in the butt. Anyway, we sat at the intersection and argued about which way to go. Genius said go right, John thought we should go left and I thought that Genius couldn't be that wrong so I reluctantly sided with it. That's rare. Not totally sold on Genius's advice, I whipped out that antiquated thing called a MAP, which agreed that we should turn right, and in a few blocks make a left on US 56. Looking at the map it seemed simple to me. Genius wanted us to turn right and then follow the signs to US 87. If we followed that advice we would head northwest and backtrack 30 miles. Keeping in mind that we get 7 miles to a gallon of diesel, that seemed like terrible advice.

Against his own sense of direction, John opted to listen to Genius and the map on the right turn, but then he turned right where we should have turned left, and headed back toward Boise City. We were treated to Boise City the day before. I was quickly and desperately pleading my case for taking US 56 WEST to Santa Fe, and for him to turn around before we ended up on the narrow road (with no place to turn around) and had to backtrack 50 miles. Navigating on the fly is becoming something of an art with me. I have to figure it out and convince John, all in the span of a minute or two, or we end up lost. Come to think of it, I'm not doing so well in that department because everywhere we've been so far we've gotten lost. Having to battle with the GPS is partly to blame.

So he took the desperation in my voice to heart, and he turned the bus around in a city block and we headed off toward Santa Fe. The rest of the morning was very pleasant. The closer we got, and the higher we went (Santa Fe is 7,000 feet), the prettier it got. We had a reservation at Santa Fe Skies RV Park. We had the address in Genius and it guided us off of exit 278 and headed us toward town. The minute we got off I knew we were going the wrong way. John realized it too. The problem then became, where the hell do we turn her around. We were headed straight for the Plaza in Santa Fe and the traffic was murder. It was 2:00 in the afternoon. We both had that awful feeling in the pit of our stomachs that we were in trouble. We crawled along Cerillos Road passing strip mall after strip mall. No churches (the best for turning around on any day but Sunday), and no industrial buildings, nowhere to turn Mary around. And we were getting closer to the Plaza. Of course, never having been there, we had no idea how close we actually were. Finally I spotted a mall on the right on Rodeo Road. "Can you turn her around in Dillard's parking lot?" I asked. He nodded and hit Mary's right turn signal. He never said much during this detour. Just sighed a lot. He's become a highly skilled motor coach driver in the last three years. Thank God.

He turned her around and we headed back. In the mean time I got on the website for the RV park (which if I had half a brain I would have done BEFORE we listened to Genius and got lost) and discovered that there is an exit, 276, right by the RV park. Visualize two grown adults shouting at a GPS unit. We did that for the next two and a half days.

Interesting yard art at the RV Park in Santa Fe

We set up in the RV Park, which was an okay place. I won't give it raves, but it was fine. The best part was that we had a 3/4 mile trail around the park where we could do our morning walks with the dogs. Power walks at 7,000 feet were challenging to we humans, to say the least. The dogs were fine with it.

The first thing I did once we parked and put the slides out was to take Breezy and Ransom for a walk. We headed down a gravel trail, past juniper bushes and a lot of yellow and purple sage. They did their thing and as we were heading back I spotted an ant hill that was teaming with big red ants. I guided them around it understanding that those were fire ants, mega nasty critters that sting and burn like hell if you get into them. We kept walking back toward the coach when a dog in the park started barking. Ransom stopped and moved off of the path toward the barking dog and when he did he stepped into another nest of fire ants. He jumped back on the path biting aggressively at his left front foot. I was trying to keep an eye on Breezy so she didn't get into them, while he was bounding around me biting at his foot. He tangled me up in his long red leash while I attempted to help him. Finally he pulled the ant from between his pads and shook it out of his mouth. Then he commenced tending to his wound, licking and licking. All I wanted to do was to get them back to the coach before they were attacked by any more ants. After I untangled myself from his leash he hopped along on three legs, trying to lick his swelling pad. The rest of the afternoon was spent tending his wound. By nightfall he was as good as new and from then on he was great at avoiding the ant hills. Breezy learns from observing. She cut a wide path around them too.

Now to the good stuff! We went into town that evening and had a fabulous dinner at the Santacafe on Washington Street. We have eaten in great restaurants all over the place and had some wonderful meals. This one rated right at the top. If you are ever in Santa Fe don't miss it. The next day we got up and did our 3 miles around the park under gorgeous sunny skies and then headed into town to do some gallery hopping. We got lost repeatedly amongst some ridiculous traffic before we found Canyon Road. We parked (that was a challenge!) and went door to door for a few hours. We saw some gorgeous art, a ton of beautiful sculpture, and some really unusual things.

John standing behind a giant sculpture

I posted a photo album on Facebook and will do a Picassa web album as well for those non-facebookers. It was a great day but we both kept commenting on the traffic and all of the people in town. It was wild! I needed to stop at Whole Foods for a few things so we pulled into the parking lot and finally found a place to park. John said, "I'll drive," meaning that he was going into the store with me and planned to push the cart.

We've been through this a number of times in five years. I'm a lone shopper. I hate grocery stores for the most part, but they are a necessary evil. I have my shopping schedule down to a science at home so that I'm never caught in a grocery store during peak hours. I am the world's fastest shopper. I get the cart and my list and if you see me coming you probably want to allow me a wide berth. The few times that John has gone with me to "drive", he ends up off somewhere where I'm not, and it takes me three times as long to shop.

So I glanced at the parking lot and looked back at him with raised eyebrows. He said, "I won't disappear, and I won't throw things in the cart. I promise." I said okay, and we headed off to the store. It was like the ant hill that Ransom got into. He pushed the cart into the store and we started in the produce section. While I was busy picking out avocados and tomatoes, he pushed the cart off somewhere. When I turned around he was nowhere to be found. Exasperated before I put anything in the cart, I set off looking for him. I found him on the other side of the large produce section shopping for bananas. "So much for not disappearing," I said. "But I found perfect bananas!" he said with a large grin. Okay. On to the rest of the list. It took about forty minutes to finish the short list, dodging shoppers from one end of the store to the other. John enlisted the help of a nice kid to pick out some cheese and he kindly escorted us to the tea section. Then he abandoned us. I had had enough of Whole Foods so we checked out. I looked at John and his expression said that he was far less enchanted with the idea of "driving" than he was when we walked in. Grocery shopping isn't for wimps. As if to punctuate the point, he pushed the cart with the bagged groceries out of the store, and was nearly run down by an old woman with freaked out white hair, who appeared to have styled it by sticking her finger in a wall socket. She was driving an OLD black Mercedes (built like a Sherman tank), looking under the steering wheel with a crazed look on her face. We laughed all the way out of the parking lot about the dangers involved in grocery shopping.

We had actually planned to go into town to The Shed for dinner that night but once we got back to the park one of our neighbors informed us that we had arrived during Fiesta. That explained the traffic congestion. We were advised to stay away from the Plaza at night. Good advice. So the next day we headed to the Plaza in the morning to beat the traffic. I had a request; I wanted to visit the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum before we left Santa Fe. So John agreed and we paid $18.00 to get into the museum. I have seen some of her work in prints before but never any originals. The museum was wall to wall people. We fell over people, bumped into people and half way though John looked at me and smiled. "I don't get it," he said. "Get what?" I asked. "This." He motioned to the artwork. The rest of our time in the museum (which wasn't long) he teased me about liking her art, which to him looked like nothing in particular. I love her use of color and she is probably the only artist who worked in abstract that I find fascinating. Everywhere we went for the rest of the day he teased me about liking her art. We laughed a lot. We always do!

Downtown on the Plaza

From there we wandered around the outside of the plaza area. It was 11:30 and after our early breakfast and 3 mile walk in the morning we were getting hungry. I got out my Droid phone and hit one of the apps that tells you what is nearby, no matter where you are. The Coyote Cafe was just up the street. The patio would open at 11:45 so we stepped into a Native American jewelry and gift shop to poke around and kill some time. John spotted a necklace in the back of the store and called me over to look at it. It was love at first sight. He said, "You have a birthday coming up," and grinned. The guy got it out of the case and I tried it on. I was a bit intimidated by the size of it but then I pictured it with the right outfit and I was sold. He matched some earrings and we happily headed off to the Coyote Cafe for lunch. That is another one to put on your list. We ordered the Navajo Taco, which is made on pan bread with chicken, pulled pork, and buffalo and all sorts of delicious other things. It was a great meal.

My birthday present!

From lunch we walked up to the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic church. By this time Fiesta is in full swing and we are again dodging people and traffic. It was worth it though. We stopped at some cool galleries and made our way over to the Loretto Chapel (which is now part of a hotel), with the mystery spiral staircase that was made without nails. Both churches were gorgeous and the staircase was fascinating.

It now has a railing. This photo is from a postcard taken before the railing was constructed.

We managed to find the parking garage and find our way back to the RV park and the dogs. We realized that we had only seen a fraction of the places that people had so kindly suggested to us, which means only one thing ... we must go back and visit again! It is a lovely town.

The next morning we pulled out and headed up the Rio Grande Gorge highway to Taos. We had a nice stay there, two nights, one dinner in town and one afternoon wandering the shops of the old plaza. We drove up to the Ski Valley. It is a pretty area and my guess is that during the winter it is spectacular. The greatest surprise was the drive out of Taos, over the pass in the Kit Carson National Forest and on to Moab, UT (today is Monday and we are now settled in Moab). I'll update once we finish our time here. It is truly a spectacular area and I cannot believe that I lived in the West for 44 of my 54 years and never visited this area!

On the book front, the author's proof was supposed to meet me here in Moab at the RV park today when we arrived. It's not here. I'm going to hold a good thought that it will arrive tomorrow. Please beat the drums for that to happen! If I get it and it looks fine it will be available to buy this week.

The good news for today is that we got here without getting lost!