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 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 and the on the Facebook page.

If you read it or have read it and like it please post a review on 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!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mac Angel


We left Longview Lake Park today. After John finished judging the show on Saturday night we decided to stay another day. Our motto on this trip is that we have a month to get to Oregon. It probably won't take that long but when we start to get in a hurry about something one of us will look at the other and say, "What's the hurry? We have a month." So we stayed an extra day. We walked four plus miles every day around the park. I'm happy to say that I found a place in Missouri that I really like.

We completely forgot that it was Labor Day weekend until the campground began to fill up. Mary is such an oasis that we were fairly insulated from all of the activities in the park on Saturday night. Apparently there were lots of activities. The woman who I spoke to when we were lost in the rain without working windshield wipers (check the last post if you need the story), who made me feel like an idiot (rightfully so) was out tending to her little garden when we came in from our walk yesterday morning. We stopped to visit with her. She is from Missouri and an absolute hoot. When John asked her about how the weekend was going she shook her head. "Well hell, we had a damn fight last night. Had to call the Rangers in to break it up." She said it wasn't far from the coach. I remember hearing some noise outside and then fell asleep. She continued, "Yep, people get drinkin' that beer and their heads get big, and then there's trouble. This mornin' I got up real early, put on my warbonnet, grabbed some big garbage bags, and headed down there. I rolled em out and made em clean up the whole campsite." She grinned. She drives a golf cart and lets the little kids in the park sit on her lap and drive it around. I told John, they are all going to want golf carts for Christmas this year. Anyway, she and her husband were very nice and we really enjoyed our stay.

We only had one problem. We were situated right in the middle of the campground. There was a lot of space between campsites but the place got pretty full. Each campsite had a grill and a fire pit. And every camper had a fire in their fire pit. We were determined not to close up the coach and turn on the air conditioning, so by bedtime last night we were a little nauseated from the smell of wood smoke. I stepped outside before bed and it looked like we were in a ring of fire! Everyone was having a great time, kids on bikes and scooters, dogs and Frisbees, a guy on a Harley, lots of ball games, and junk food, smores, hot dogs and the people next to us had a massive jug of what looked like Cheetos. It was full on Friday and two thirds empty this morning. That's a lot of Cheetos. We took our walk this morning, packed up and hit the road to Wichita. It is only about 200 miles so we were here and set up by 3:00. Between here and there we encountered wind. John loves wind. Not.

Mary was buffeted from pillar to post, zig zagging down the highway. It took our stellar mileage of seven to eight miles per gallon, down to five and a half miles per gallon. Thankfully diesel is cheap this year. Being as we didn't have that far to go and we have a huge fuel tank we didn't have to get out of the coach until we got here. I made the reservation here when I thought we were going to be here on Sunday. The pickins were kinda slim. We followed the GPS right off of the Interstate and made two quick turns in an industrial district. John said tonight that it must be a law of the universe that they build these RV parks between an Interstate and a railroad track. It's not fancy but it works.

Our guide in a cloud of dust

So we made the turn into the park and all I could see was a massive cloud of white dust blowing past Mary. It obliterated the view into the park and when John stepped out of the coach he stepped into 98 degree heat. The wind howled and Mary rocked. Finally he came back and the guy with the golf cart pulled in front of us to guide us into the park. We nearly lost him in the dust.

I decided to take the dogs for a walk while John set up the coach. I put the leashes on them and we stepped out into the blast furnace. It's amazing what a difference 200 miles can make! We were out for ten minutes or so and by the time we got back to the coach I felt like a piece jerky.

We settled in and John put in his order for a light dinner. He requested some soup, a salad, and what he calls one of my "famous" sandwiches. In our quest to find decent food to eat we found Arnold's light bread. They are little thin rounds of whole grain bread that make great sandwiches, without so many calories. The famous sandwich has meat and cheese and lettuce, onion, red wine vinegar, mustard ... it's pretty good. So I got our dinner put together and put it on the table.

I had been working on my book blog on my MacBook Pro all day. I splurged and got the Mac in January, and I have been in love with it since the first time I turned it on. It is the Mercedes of laptops, simple, great quality and the best screen resolution there is. So instead of moving it off of the table where I usually work, I turned it and pushed it over on the window side of the table and put the place mats and silverware down next to it. I put a bottle of Newman's Own, Oil and Vinegar salad dressing on the table and we sat down to eat. John got up to get his vitamins so I grabbed the bottle of salad dressing and put some on my salad. I put the top on, gave it a few twists and when he sat down, I got up to get my vitamins.

The next thing I heard was "Oh shit!". I was tapping capsules out of a bottle and I stopped and closed my eyes. I sensed that something happened that I might not want to see. He said, "The cap wasn't on!". I turned around to find him sitting with the salad dressing bottle in his hand, and salad dressing was EVERYWHERE. It was all over his new blue shirt (ruined), it was in his hair, on his hands, face and arms, all over the table, on the floor, on the leather seats, on the dogs, on our sandwiches, in his soup, all over the place mats ... just plain everywhere. I looked at my laptop from across the room and my eyes bugged. I walked up to the table, afraid to look, but unable not to. I looked closely at the laptop. There wasn't one drop of oil on the thing. Not the tiniest little bit. It was everywhere else in the area but not on the computer. I know I have a Mac Angel.

Apparently when I put the top on and twisted it the little paper ring on the top was what twisted and not the top. When he picked it up he gave it a couple of good shakes and the top flew off. The rest is history. I spent an hour this evening cleaning up oil and doing the laundry. The shirt is history but the rest survived.

Tomorrow we head off to Clayton, New Mexico. I believe it is about 350 miles from Wichita and in the middle of nowhere. The next stop is Santa Fe for a few days of fun. We are looking forward to that. I'll take lots of pictures and be back in a few days with the continuing adventures of The Joneses. There are some photo albums on my Facebook page of Longview Park.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Showdown With The Home Gestapo and Lost In Missouri

Freedom Hall Show Ring (photo by Liz Shatner)

It's been a long twelve days. A week ago Saturday we loaded up Mary and headed to Louisville for our yearly adventure at the Kentucky State Fair World's Championship Horse Show. We had our reservation for Mary at the KOA in Clarksville, Indiana and the menus planned for the suite in Freedom Hall. We looked forward to spending the week with friends, both local and from all over the country.

We had a reservation at the now infamous Porcini in Louisville for out annual Saturday-before-the-show dinner with Donnie and Phyllis Brookshire. If you don't know why the restaurant is infamous and are curious, just Google, "Rick Pitino, Porcini". It was a great meal, a great time and we had a great week. Congratulations to everyone who had great rides and won great ribbons! Especially to Tre and Emily Lee, who had a awesome week, and to the Brookshires and Gendrons, who had a super week as well!

We returned home with Mary on Sunday afternoon, tired and ready to get her unloaded and have a good night of rest. Normally we are home for a couple of weeks after the week in Louisville, and have time to recover and organize for our long fall trip in Mary, but this year John is judging the Mid America horse show in Kansas City beginning on the 1st so we planned on leaving on Wednesday. Essentially that gave us two days to get Mary cleaned up and get her packed for a two-month long trip. We discussed the logistics and decided to break the homeowners association rules (yes, we knew we were breaking the rules) by leaving her at the complex, in the guest parking space, until we left. The other option was to take her out to the farm, where she normally lives, for one day and then bring her back. Ridiculous. John said, "We are going to piss someone off." I said, "Too damn bad. There are people here breaking rules left and right and I don't see anyone doing anything about it." So it was decided.

The guest parking lot is out the back door and down a small hill from our unit. It is very convenient for us to be able to load and unload her from that space. Hardly anyone uses the space. Visitors are few on that side of the complex (and now I know why) and most visitors park in the driveways of the people they are visiting anyway. So we went on about unloading, cleaning, stocking her with food, and filling her with our clothes and things.

We went out to eat for lunch and dinner for two days and ran non-stop, like two crazy people to get everything done and get the condo ready to close up. We were on our way to dinner on Monday night and had just come around the corner where Mary was parked when we saw an older man with white hair, and a red bandanna tied around his head, leading a big white dog. He was waving us down with what I would describe as a stressed and angry expression. John stopped and rolled down his window. The guy waves his hand at the coach and demands to know if we have guests staying in "that".

Please start this You Tube video and then continue to read the blog post. Thank you.

John said no, and explained that it belongs to us. Then the man shouts at us (do people really think we are deaf?), "YOU CAN'T LEAVE THAT HERE OVERNIGHT!" John says, "Yes, we can." The man was obviously unhappy with that answer. He informed the man that the rules say it can be there for 24 hours. There was more back and forth about the rules being broken, and threats about fines and attorneys. We were both tired and short fused, and the man was getting belligerent. He hollers, "WE'RE GOING TO FINE YOU!" I hollered, "JUST KNOCK YOURSELF OUT!" John (who slightly shocked by my outburst) said, "You know buddy, you really need to get a job. You don't have enough to do." He hollered at John, "YOU'RE A NICE GUY!!!" and John hollered back, "WELL SO ARE YOU!!!" Then the guy turned and shouted over his shoulder, "OH GO TO HELL!" and stormed off.

We were both stunned. And then we were steamed. We went to dinner and I called one of our neighbors to find out who the hell that jerk was. She didn't know. Then I decided to visit the neighborhood-know-everything-and-everyone, who lives across the street from where Mary was parked. I marched across the street and rang her doorbell. I waited and waited and finally she opened the door. I said, "Can you tell me who the guy is with the white..." She cut me off and said, "Elrod" and backed up two steps like she was going to shut the door. I asked if that was the first name (seemed appropriate) she said, "No, Bob. He's on the Board." She's talking about the blessed group of individuals who make up the Home Owner's' Association (the real Gestapo). She had the expression of a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar. I thanked her and marched back across the street, thinking that was an odd encounter. Turns out she was the biggest duck in the puddle. Not a huge shock but a disappointment to be sure.

John asked me for the HOA president's name and phone number so I looked it up and he called him. He is a very nice man, and John apologized for breaking the rules, and causing him any grief, but also told him that being cussed by a board member in the middle of the street didn't seem appropriate in any way. The nice man agreed, he told us it was okay to leave the coach until Wednesday, that we would receive a letter from the HOA regarding the matter. John said they would be getting a letter back, and then they hung up.

After putting in a restless night we dragged ourselves out of bed and hit the floor running again. Another neighbor came to the door about 10:00 and we chatted for awhile. Apparently the entire neighborhood was buzzing about the coach and the incident with Board Member Elrod. She and her husband are very nice people and she just couldn't understand what the big deal was. My speculation is the same as John's; people really need more to do than to have a fit about looking at a luxury motor coach for two days. If we had parked an old junker car there and left cigarette butts and beer bottles piled in the guest parking space I would have understood the fuss. But I don't get this. The phrase "Get A Life" seems to fit.

After this we will bring her in, park all 50,000 pounds of her on the concrete driveway (technically that's where she is supposed to be for up to 24 hours) and let them deal with the damage to the driveway if she breaks down the concrete. I swear.

So Wednesday morning, before dawn, we fired Mary up and hit the road. We debated laying hard on the air horn as a farewell to the 'hood, but decided there were several nice people who didn't deserve to be rocked out of bed before the sun came up. Our destination was Virgil and Sandra Helm's farm in New Bloomfield, Missouri.

If you've read my prior posts you know how I feel about Missouri. It is a beautiful state but there is some kind of bad karma between me and Missouri. But there are some great people (like the Helm's) and several horse shows there so we have to go every now and again. I have a hard time looking forward to it, based on my history with Missouri.

We were motoring along, enjoying finally being on the road again. The day was pleasant and as we traveled north the weather began to cool off. We've had a brutal, humid summer in Kentucky so the cool air was so welcome. When we got close to Virgil's farm John called him to refresh his memory about the best way to get into the farm with the bus. He got the directions and told me to keep my eye peeled for Road BB. Check. We found Road BB and made a left on the narrow road.

We drove in the country past neat little places and pretty big farms, long horn cattle, a field full of goats (Ransom took special notice), big round bales of hay, hills and valleys, and ... John says, "I know it seems like we've gone 20 miles but I know it's only been 5 or 6 miles." I was thinking that it was more like 20 but I nodded, knowing that when you are looking for something it always seems to take longer than it really does. So we passed more farms, and houses, dogs, a few horses grazing, a few more hills and a few more valleys, three or four big redneck four wheel drives going 70 miles per hour, and John says, "I don't know. Maybe we passed it." I looked at the narrow road with no shoulders and thought to myself, "How in God's name will we ever turn this mother around if we are lost?" We kept driving. I tried to remember the address that I put on Helm's Christmas card. All I knew was that it wasn't Road BB. I slumped in my seat, creating disaster scenarios in my mind.

John called Virgil again. He explained how far we had gone and Virgil told him that when we turned on Road BB we were supposed to take an immediate right on Highway 54. That was the address on the Christmas card! I heard near panic in John's voice when he said, "Virgil, I don't know where I can turn this thing around." We drove on. And on. And on. John kept repeating, "I don't know where we are going to turn this around," between huge sighs. I thought that 150 gallon fuel tank was the best invention ever.

Finally we spotted a wide gravel driveway on the left side of the road. We determined that the car was going to have to be unhooked (can't back the bus with the car attached) so that was the first chore. It was sprinkling. I moved it as far to the side of the driveway as I could get it so I could help John back the bus out into the narrow road. I was wildly waving my arms, watching a blind curve to the right of us, in case a four wheel drive redneck truck came barreling around the corner (during this endeavor we both imagined hearing dueling banjos). Before he was as far as he could go he stopped. I heard his voice over the roar of the diesel engine but couldn't understand him. I wave him back again but he doesn't move. Sprinkles turn to rain. I'm pissed off. I march up to the driver's window. The bus is blocking the road and I can't see if the imagined four wheel drive redneck truck is going to bury itself into Mary's side. John hollers, "I can't get past the car!" I look. It's in the way. I run for the car, move it up ten feet, so now it is sticking out in the road, and by the time I get back out of the car I see that he didn't wait for me and has backed Mary to the point where the tag axle is hanging over the ditch. Two more feet and she is going to be stuck permanently across the road. "Stop!" I holler in total exasperation. I blew a gasket, threw my hands up in the air, got in the car and drove off.

In the rear view mirror I watch him pull Mary up and then straighten her on the correct side of the road. And then I realize that I have no clue where I'm going. I drove until I could pull over and let him by. He blew by me going so fast that I had to floor board the car to catch up. We made a hard turn to the left, and when I looked in the rear view mirror of the Camry I saw the bicycles tilt so far to left that I could see the front tires standing straight up. "SHIT!" I hollered (to no one but myself). The bike rack had come loose and if I didn't slow down I was going to dump the bikes in the road.

These bikes are those Landrider bikes that we suckered into on a TV infomercial, one rainy day when we couldn't get outside. They have automatic shift on them and are supposed to be easy to ride. Not really. They are also really expensive (as these kinds of bikes go). So I slowed down. Thankfully so did John. My left turns for the next 15 miles were carefully navigated until we finally arrived at Virgil and Sandy's place. I got out and Virgil says, "Gee Karen, did you get wet?" I looked like a drowned rat. John and I looked at each other and cracked up laughing. I looked at the bike rack and it was hanging on by one hook. It really is a miracle that they weren't scattered from hell to breakfast somewhere in Missouri.

We went to dinner with Sandy and Virgil and had a great time. And we slept with the windows open in the coach. Wonderful. Today we went to breakfast and then Virgil took John and I out to see some horses "out in the country". Holy cow. We drove for an hour out into an Amish and Mennonite community, to a nice man's Saddlebred farm. The countryside is gorgeous. We looked at some nice horses and then drove back to Virgil's place so that we could get on the road and get to Longview Park in Kansas City. We had a reservation at the campground by the lake for Mary for three nights so John can judge his show. The weather was still off and on rainy and we tootled along enjoying the day. Ransom sat with me in my navigator's chair and Breezy tucked in behind John's seat.

We were doing great but when we got close I realized that I didn't have, and couldn't find, an exact address for the campground. I put the address of the parks and recreation department in the GPS which I figured would get us close. We got on I-470 and off at exit 5. It was raining pretty hard. The big wipers that clear the rain off of Mary's giant windshield were slowly rocking back and forth. The GPS (Genius) wanted us to turn right on 109th Avenue. So we did. We were lost. Again. We drove and drove until we were on a road that was heading into a residential neighborhood. John stopped twice while we had heated discussions about what to do. "You can't sit here in the road," I said. "We have to go even if it is the wrong way." He sighed, again, and again. Finally we just drove until we found a big church parking lot to turn around in. Once she was turned around I said, "Please stop here and don't move an inch until I get some directions to this place." Not one to want to sit still at any time, anywhere, it was a request that was granted begrudgingly.

I finally found a phone number for the campground and got this grouchy woman who made me feel like an idiot (which I can definitely be sometimes). I hung up and stormed back to the front, plunked myself in my seat and said, "We have to go back to where we turned off." John sighed again. The rain came pelting down and the wind was blowing hard. We're both stressed out to the max. The windshield wipers made a slow, half swipe, and they quit. Dead. No wipers. "Oh perfect," I said. "What comes next." I was thinking that Missouri was again treating me the way Murphy usually does.

We were both quiet for awhile studying the road hard between raindrops. We made the turn onto the main road and followed the signs to the campground, like the grouchy old woman said to. We drove, and drove, and drove some more. We kept seeing the little tent on the brown sign, pointing to the campground but it was becoming more and more like Road BB.

John and I read "Younger Next Year" recently (highly recommend) and have become believers in the science behind exercise being what will keep us healthy and happy into our later years. So we have been diligent about working out. We belong to Snap Fitness and they have clubs everywhere, plus we have weights and workout DVDs in the coach. Earlier we were talking about going to Snap to work out once we get set up here in Longview. As we drove, without benefit of windshield wipers, and unsure that we were not going to end up unhooking the car and having a melt down in the road again, I looked at him and said, "I'm not going to Snap tonight." He said, "Two seconds before you said that I thought the same thing. I'm having a scotch" We both fell into a fit of laughter. After what seemed like 50 miles we happened into this beautiful campground, which is nearly deserted. It's quiet and the weather is supposed to be perfect for the next two days, in the 70's and sunny. We actually didn't get into the scotch tonight and we will hit the gym tomorrow.

I'll get my camera out and start taking photos to post. I have to get back into the swing of traveling in Mary now. It's great. We both just love it. When we leave here we are headed to New Mexico for some time in Santa Fe and Taos. We are going to the canyon country of Utah, the Redwoods of California and Crater Lake in Oregon. We'll spend some time in Springfield with Arcuris, see my family, and head to the horse show in Las Vegas in October. From there we'll go to the Scottsdale show at the end of the month and then home again!

The book is still on track. The only thing left is for me to get an author's proof (a real book!), approve it, and then it will be available. Just another two to three weeks! I'll keep you posted!