View Out of the Side Window

Stuckeys

Dear Diary,

It’s probably no surprise that I am a backseat, a passenger seat, and every other seat, driver. That’s what happens to us folks who have trust issues that turn into control issues and whatever else kind of issues that I am sure are side dishes to those.

I have long been remanded to silence on car trips (in my backseat driving capacity anyway) so my driving instructions, criticisms, and suggestions only occur in my head which leaves not much room for any other kind of thoughts.

On our long trips from California to Arizona and back I know the road so well that there is nothing new to discover, and nothing to distract me from the traffic. We have been in every establishment along the lonesome 40 at some time or another, so it has been relegated from road trip to just the trip home.

In recent years I have taken to reclining in the back seat and giving up control completely to my able bodied hubby to get us where we’re going.

My hobby is looking at the world through the side window which surprisingly is a whole new area of discovery. What I thought was familiar territory is quite different. A Dead Poet Society “aha” if you will. I look at the world anew, and it sometimes reminds me of places I’ve been so long ago that I almost forgot what they looked like, or that I was there at all.

For example, the Cajon Pass out of the side window on a rainy day looks like the cliffs of Hawaii, and for a moment I am transported there. The sights, the smells, the sounds of the tropical paradise of my youth.

The Mohave desert out of the side window reminds me of car trips (how long has it been since people took Sunday “car trips”?) with my mother and grandmother when we would stop at Stuckey’s and get pecan rolls to snack on. For a moment I am transported back in time to the little red Mustang with white upholstery and I can almost hear my Grandmother’s voice again. My little sister asleep by my side, and me dreaming of the day when I would be old enough to sit behind the driver’s seat. Little did I know how lucky I was to not have the responsibilities that come with that age.

The side window is a time portal, and I its willing passenger.

Try it sometime.

Until next time dear diary.

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The Best Little Ghost Town in Arizona – Chloride

Dear Diary,

There are two kinds of ghost towns, those whose occupants have long ago left the confines of their flesh behind, and those whose occupants are still warm and visible.

One thing that all ghost towns with living occupants have in common, an invisible sign that flashes “Approach with Caution”.

What makes someone give up all of the creature comforts that support a thriving community for one that is remote, desolate, and usually in a harsh and unforgiving environment, is also what makes them volatile and downright cranky, but also delightfully quirky and interesting.

And so the love/hate relationship is born between the ghost town inhabitant and the tourist he/she depends on to eke out a living. Whether it be donning a cowboy persona to fake a gunfight or sourcing the souvenirs made in China, the Ghosties (yep that’s what I call ‘em) depend on the dollar you and I bring to be entertained by that town’s history.

For some unknown reason…I am drawn to both kinds of ghost towns like a moth to the flame. I am not one that sees dead people (thank you for that God), but I can give those intrepid forefathers (and mothers) new life by learning of their rise and fall, and caring that they were there at all (I kind of rapped that last bit, did you notice?). As for the Ghosties…we tolerate each other.

With one exception.

Dave and Dory of Digger Dave’s in Chloride Arizona are the most welcoming and accommodating Ghosties there ever were or will be (and I have been around enough to be discriminating here). They and the town they represent are some of the most colorful and interesting you will find in an already colorful and interesting genre.

Dave and Dory are what make this ghost town stand out above all others.

DaveandDory

 

Digger Dave’s bar and diner are alone worth the drive. Just like any other saloon sitting in a 150 year old ghost town, its décor is wonderfully unique and kitsch.

As an added plus, entertainment is provided by locals (this one a snow bird) on weekends.

Digger Daves

My favorite is the women’s restroom though (notice the Donny Osmond album cover on the back of the door). Thank you Dory.

diggerdavesbathroom

Before I began my love affair with Chloride though, we were run out of town years earlier by a crusty old storekeeper when our daughter was still a little thing.

Let me elaborate (you knew I would).

What put this little town on our bucket list was not just its typical “Gold/Silver Rush of the American West” that a connoisseur of ghost towns comes to expect, but a more recent (relatively) oddity known as the “ Roy E. Purcell Chloride Murals”.

Since this was before the availability of the information highway known as the internet, we learned of the murals (more on the murals in a minute) on the thinly printed back of a hotel “things to do” brochure while staying at the Grand Canyon.

As if the Grand Canyon couldn’t keep you busy for basically the rest of your natural life.

So we kept this very close to the top of our bucket list and soon ventured out to discover what Chloride had to offer with very little expectation in 1998.

How wrong we were to expect little from Chloride.

We stopped in the general store (mostly souvenirs} to get our 5 year old niece and daughter post cards to mail from the oldest still operating post office in Arizona (Chloride in case you forgot where we were ‘cause I almost did).

The post office now resides in the old billiards hall building after the town fire at around the turn of the century.

postoffice

We have very timid and polite children so weren’t we surprised when we were run out of the store for apparently no reason? I swore I’d never go back to the town because of his bad mojo.

But I did about 17 years later, and boy am I glad I did because Dave and Dory more than make up for the crusty old man who by the way, is still there in the same general store.

Dave and Dory filled us in on why….he just doesn’t like kids no matter how well behaved they are. Now you see what I mean about some Ghosties? Volatile as heck and find no need to apologize for less than genteel behavior. You stand warned.

Built in 1860, Chloride is the oldest continually inhabited mining town in the state of Arizona. That’s a whole lot of Ghosties that have come and gone. Well maybe not gone.

At its height of silver chloride prosperity (hence the name) and many other precious minerals extracted from 75 mines between 1900 and 1920, this little town boasted a population of 5,000 (according to Wikipedia), and was the county seat. In 1921 the population dropped to 2,000 where it stayed until 1944 when most of the mines that were left closed. Today the population is roughly 150, with numbers swelling to 250 with the onset of “Snow Birds” in winter.

What’s unexpected in a ghost town that never dies is that some things are exactly as they were when abandoned. The Santa Fe train station was shut down in 1935, but its main building along with outbuildings are still intact with its doors appearing closed for just the night.

railstation1

railticketwindow

A rail car storage outbuilding. The rail ties are still visible where I am standing.

railcarstorage

Some rails are still intact after nearly 150 years.

railtracks

The desert may be harsh, but it preserves its history better than any other environment.

The jail is also intact with beds in the two cells, and in between them a sheriffs desk and chair with a wood burning stove. It is accessible to anyone, but enter at your own risk. The last time I was there this year, I noticed a used hypodermic syringe and needle littering the floor. Is the jail still being inhabited by those in chains of their own making? It would appear so.

jail

sheriffsoffice

jailcell

Now to the murals.

In 1966, Roy E. Purcell took a break from pursuing a Master’s degree in Fine Arts at Utah State University to labor as a miner in the Cerbat Mountains near Chloride, Arizona. While he was there, and with the support of local residents (hippies), he painted “The Journey,” a 2000-square-foot set of murals on some boulders about a mile and a half outside of town. His work, executed in the abstract Modernism tradition, led to early world-wide recognition for Purcell and helped launch him on a professional career that continues today.

These murals were very recently restored by Roy Purcell and volunteers to their original brilliant color. They are truly one of a kind and should not be missed, but be prepared to travel a primitive dirt road to get there (the way to the murals are well marked). I took these just this week under cloudy skies.

Dirt road to murals.

dirt road

Murals directions

muralstotal

murals1a

murals4

murals1 murals2

murals3 murals5

There are ancient Native American petroglyphs all around the murals, rather the murals were painted amidst them. I have to assume the hallucinogens of Timothy Leary’s time made one indiscriminant of historical sites. You post baby boomers will have to Google him.

Petroglyphs and murals

These petroglyphs are across from the murals.

Petroglyphs alone

The murals offer an excellent view of the town of Chloride below.

muralsandchloride

The town still plays host to artistic Ghosties that a short walk around the small town makes one feel as though they have been treated to an outdoor art festival, but without Sedona’s superciliousness.

There is a fine line between kitsch and art, but I love them both for they are Americana. This is just a tiny example of what Chloride offers with regard to individual expression of junk art. Most of it found in the desert in and around town.

kitsch1

kitsch2

For sale by owner…

houseforsale

The Chloride Historical Society has built a “mock” old western town tourist area with many of the original local furnishings. And the best part…not crowded like Oatman! We had the place to ourselves this day.

touristtown

A land/money/mine register in one of the buildings (housing a museum) is original and priceless to someone like me. It is by far the best and most accessible of any re-creation of settler life I have ever seen.

historicalmuseum

 

And by accessible, I mean you can play the antique piano in the Dead Ass Saloon and belly up to the bar. The whiskey bottles are empty though I’m afraid.

Here’s a couple of dead asses now. Just kidding, that’s my hubby and a friend.

deadasssaloon

piano

There are many original homes that are unique to rustic America. How many people can boast a vintage gas station AND railroad tracks running under her porch and in her front yard? I’ve seen the resident sitting and reading in this chair. I reckon it doesn’t get any better than that.

Filling Station House

One of the oldest buildings in the town was built by an ex Naval officer who left the sea because of recurring nightmares of drowning. The windows are still visible resembling port holes. His name has been lost to time, but not his sad end. He drowned in either his mine after slipping and falling or in a flash flood. The actual cause of drowning is also lost to time, but the irony is not.

His house was then used as a brothel known as the “House of Soiled Doves”. Residents say there is still an eeriness about it that keeps most away. Maybe it was the grey skies, but I felt uneasy when I took these photos.

rockhouse

rockhouse2

Once again I am stricken by how especially harsh life must have been for women back then. Long skirts in the summer heat of the desert? No running water or fans for hot homes (especially while cooking on wood burning stoves)? While having to worry about Indian invasions? I shall never complain again. Or at least for the rest of the day.

Pioneer women must have been deeply in love or indebted to follow their men to this place.

But who am I to talk? I keep coming back.

As if all of this is not enough…there are the abandoned mines that still have their chutes full of rock, as if the miners are only away for lunch. Maybe they are.

Chloride Mine

There is also a 40 acre cemetery with some very old graves. One is of an Indian Chief who recently got a large head stone carved in his likeness.

But you already know I don’t take photos of graveyards so you will have to go see that for yourself.

If you go, stop by and say hi to Dave and Dory at Digger Dave’s. Tell ‘em Chris sent you.

Until next time Dear Diary.

What Makes Something Real?

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Dear Dairy,

You know I don’t normally start my posts with a photo. I feel like photos are there to help illustrate a story.

But not today.

The photo IS the story. It’s the pile of crap I have begun to amass for The Next Big Thing. As the pile gets bigger, so does the feeling that I am a fraud.

So I keep asking myself, is The Next Big Thing real? The answer is always yes.

Unfortunately, I find I am surrounded by skeptics. Oh they don’t say much, except when I bought a ridiculously large knife with all kinds of survival gear tucked into the handle, and my Eagle Scout of a husband scoffed and said I had fallen for a gimmick.

I defended my choice while unloading the fishing hook, matches, compass, and showing him how I would defend myself against a bear. What I got was an impatient and curt reply, “If a bear gets that close to you, you would already be dead”.

I was afraid of that.

And this will be why the dreaded bear canister will be the last thing I buy to complete my backpacking ensemble. Because that means if it is really real, I will have to face my worst fear…bears.

And that’s also why I now know that this 57 year old (just by a couple of weeks mind you) city girl whose only real survival skill is finding parking in LA, will be backpacking the Lost Coast of California alone. The look on the Eagle Scout’s face said it all, he is beyond humoring me on this trip.

This is not new.  But guess what is new…nobody’s skepticism makes this bucket list item less real for me, in fact it hardens my resolve.

But let me tell you why.

This is the first time I have dared ever make a decision for just me. When I wasn’t running away or to something, when I wasn’t traumatized into or out of my comfort zone.

I am doing it because I want to…but somewhere else is the unrelenting desire to do it because I have to. Because I can’t back down. Not to the skeptics, but most of all…not to myself.

Not break the promise that I made to myself every time I was in the Grand Canyon, or Lake Powell, or Kings Canyon or Sequoia National Park or Zion or Bryce, or any other place in nature…that I would be back when I didn’t have to rush home to the cement jungle to be at work Monday morning.

Rush home because I couldn’t ever take off more than a week. It was too grueling trying to get caught back up on emails, meetings, payroll, budgets, deadlines, etc.

But I don’t have those constraints now. For the first time in my life, my time is my own.

So are my decisions.

My decisions for the last 57 years were made with the best interest of my parents, kid(s), husband(s), sister, nieces, and whoever else was most dominant in my life at the time. Unfortunately, the last person on my list of important people to consider was me.

Until now.

So the pile in the room we loosely call the office (loosely because nothing really productive happens there remember) keeps growing.

I have to start my training from ground zero again. The hip injury from my overzealous conquering of the Ice House Trail healed rather quickly, compared to my injury being an excuse to throw myself into the holidays and making it perfect for family and friends.

There I said it. I know what my true weaknesses are

But the holidays are past, and my overdeveloped sense of responsibility to be all things to all people is temporarily sated.

So bring it skeptics…this $&*! is real because I said so.

Until next time dear diary.

Route 66 – Kingman to Seligman, Arizona

Dear Diary,

I’m not sure what the big attraction is for me concerning Route 66. I think what attracts me is the history, but what keeps me coming back are the surprises it holds.

My story starts in Kingman Arizona, but I will have to do a rewind on this city as it is so full of both the history and the mystery it is a post unto itself.

Our adventure today takes us right outside of Kingman on old Route 66 heading east toward Seligman, and we don’t have to wait long for the surprise. What’s that you say? A giant green head that looks like it belongs on Easter Island, except it’s in the desert? Well of course it is, and even has a name…Giganticus Headicus.

Giganticus Headicus

But why? Because this is Route 66. Where terms like “quirky and kitsch” describe the normal here. Where the new meets the old and becomes a delicious melting pot of unique. That’s why.

Specifically with regard to Giganticus Headicus and why…the artist was asked just that and his reply was “because the place looked like it needed something like this”. The Frankenstein’s real name is Gregg Arnold, and after buying the old Kozy Court Trailer Park and relocating from New Jersey, he created his 14′ high masterpiece in 2004 out of wood, metal and stucco. He has been remodeling the building that used to house a restaurant and store into a gift shop.

Since there hasn’t been much that has changed in the last 10 years all I have to say is…Gregg knows how to pace himself!

Our next stop is Valentine Arizona, population 36 on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Truxton Canyon was renamed Valentine after Robert G. Valentine, Commissioner of Indian Affairs from 1908 to 1910. There is little more than a ghost town here now, and the large decaying building along Route 66 is what’s left of Truxton Canyon Indian School which was built to assimilate the native children into Caucasian culture (with heavy emphasis on religion). It served as a day school for the Hualapai and a boarding school for the Apache, Havasupai, Hopi, Mohave, Navajo and Papago. It closed in 1938. It’s this kind of history I am not sorry is rotting into oblivion.

Valentine SchoolValentine School 2Valentine is full of empty buildings. The stone, cement, and wooden cadavers are the only remains after Route 66 was abandoned when the interstate opened in 1978. It was a quick death along this 90 mile stretch between Seligman and Kingman.

A building you will not find here is the famous Valentine Post Office. After the town died, the post office was kept alive by the thousands of Valentine’s Day cards that would arrive here for the famous heart shape Valentine stamp every year around February 14th.

That tradition came to a violent and bloody end on August 15, 1990 when Jacqueline Ann Grigg was working alone and Bryan Allen Buckingham of Murfreesboro, Tenn (19 yrs. old) walked in and shot her to death for a little bit of cash and 20 blank money orders. He drove away in her car. Mr. Buckingham turned himself in to authorities in Laguna Beach 2 days later.

Jacqueline Grigg’s husband who owned the building that had housed the post office she operated for a dozen years was grief strickened.  He bulldozed the building and left town never to return. The post office used to stand next to this abandoned building.

Valentine Post Office Site

The famous valentine postmark was retired to the Kingman post office where workers will still use the cancellation for those who know to ask for it. Since there is no date on the heart shaped stamp, the Kingman stamp will also be on it.

Valentine POST mARKThe postmistress of the Kingman post office will happily place the Valentine stamp on your letter if you mail the letter with a stamp, of course, to her in an envelope:

United States Post Office
Attention: Postmaster Valentine Stamp
1901 Johnson Avenue
Kingman, AZ 86401

The town of Valentine is a broken heart of the Mohave these days.

We head 8 miles down the road to Peach Spriongs, Arizona which is the tribal headquarters for the Hualapai Reservation.

In the early 1880s, the railroad established a water station on these lands and called it Peach Springs, for the many peach trees found around the spring that fed their steam engines. Soon the small settlement reportedly had ten saloons but no churches or schools. Later it would also boast a roundhouse, several shops, a stagecoach line, and a Fred Harvey Restaurant. Nothing is left of note to this history is evident on Route 66 now.

Before we arrive at the Hualapai Lodge however, there is the crumbling historic Osterman Shell Station which was most recently put on the National Register of Historic Places. For a closer look, give these a click.

Shell StationShell Station 2Built in 1932 by Oscar or John Ostermann (depending on who you talk to) to accommodate the increasing number of Oklahomans traveling this road to California because of the “dust bowl” conditions in the plains during the depression (migration peaked in 1937 – 1938).  I can’t help but feel the terrible desperation folks must have had to pack up their meager belongings on 4 wheels and head to parts unknown because they had lost their farms or were dependent on the farms for their living.  Those less fortunate lost their lives. I lost an infant aunt and uncle to these dust storms in Oklahoma, my Grandparents chose to stick it out.  I ended up in California for different and more modern reasons (my parents divorce).

Dust Bowl

Woody Guthrie was the voice of that time through music and wrote such songs as “Highway 66 Blues”, “Talkin’ Dust Bowl Blues”, and “Oklahoma Hills”, with such lyrics as;

                    Rain quit and the wind got high,
                    And the black ol’ dust storm filled the sky.
                    And I swapped my farm for a Ford machine,
                    And I poured it full of this gasoline – 
                    And I started, rockin’ an’ a-rollin’,
                    Over the mountains, out towards the old Peach Bowl.

How many desperate Okies and Arkies stopped by this station in hopes of replacing a flat tire or broken spring with the little bit of money they had left?

dust_truck

The Grapes of Wrath immortalized the plight of these people who were met in California with prejudice, poverty, and hopelessness. They had no money to go home and made due in migrant tent cities created to accommodate the arriving hoards who increased California’s population by 20% in that era.

dorothea-lang-migrant-mother-tent

Here is a photo of the Osterman Shell Station during the 1950’s and much happier times;

Shell Station 3
The Hualapai Tribe (the current owners) was given a grant to restore it in recent years. I have to call out that they also know how to pace themselves. It hasn’t been touched. Things don’t happen in a hurry in these parts that’s for sure.

The Hualapai Lodge is lovely and modern. It is the primary starting point for travelers looking to explore the raw Grand Canyon West landscape via white water rafting, off-road touring, hiking, fishing, hunting and more. The Hualapai Lodge is the gateway to the breathtaking drive on the only road leading to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Please note that a permit from the Hualapai is needed to drive on the road into the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Hualapai Lodge

I shall return since seeing Havasu Falls (located in Grand Canyon West on the Reservation) is on my bucket list. Can you blame me?

Havasu Falls

On down the road just a few miles is a little place we found long ago when returning from the Grand Canyon. It’s called the Grand Canyon Caverns and has changed a bit since we were there last. Well sort of.

These caverns are not in the Grand Canyon but air comes into the caverns from the Grand Canyon through 60 miles of limestone caves, thus the name Grand Canyon Caverns. The temperature is a constant 56 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is only 2%. Because of this, there is no living thing, either animal or vegetable in the caverns. Not even insects. Germs are virtually non existent. Bacteria brought in by humans does not survive because there is no food chain.

This is a fascinating place and a must see, I am so glad we did. The Grand Canyon Cavern system is the largest dry cavern system in the United States and possibly in the world.

Funny story from our tour about 10 years ago. We arrived and were the only car in the parking lot, and after entering the gift shop and check-in desk for the Caverns tour we decided we wanted to see it. We paid for the next tour which was set  in about 30 minutes and set about browsing the shop. Nobody else ever came in.

When the time came for our tour we moved back over by the check-in desk so we would be ready to embark. The attendant (about 3 ft away from us) that had taken our money and given us our tickets got on the PA system and announced to the empty store that the tour was about to begin and would all ticket holders please assemble and form a line.

We still laugh about that. Gotta love somebody who takes their job serious eh?

During the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. Government deployed enough water and food rations to the Caverns to support up to 2,000 people for up to 2 weeks. These supplies remain today and can be seen by all visitors who tour the caverns. Because of the constant cool temperature and lack of humidity, these supplies are still as good as the day they were put here 50 years ago.

Military Supplies

Another testament to it’s ability to freeze it’s contents in time is the discovery of the remains of a giant ground sloth. This giant and extinct ground sloth lived during the Age of Mammals when the woolly mammoth and saber tooth cat lived more than 11,000 years ago. The study of the remains indicate it stood over 15 feet (4.6 m) tall and weighed near 2,000 pounds.

The claw marks it made trying to get back out of the hole it fell into are still perfectly preserved 11,000 years later.

Giant sloth marks

The tour is well worth the fee and I would do it again in a heartbeat, but this time I was more amazed by the transformation the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn had taken since our last trip out here a decade earlier.

Clearly they were trying to capitalize in the Disney movie “Cars” and their similarity (historically anyway) to the demise of the Route 66 of old. I had to get a closer look.

The dinosaur was there before. Route 66 kitsch remember?

dinosaur

A life sized representation of the characters from the “Cars” movie is new though…

Radiator Springs

Tater

We had never been inside so how could I not check it out after this very blatant leech on Route 66 fame? Gosh how I love it.

Switchboard

The Grand Canyon Caverns Inn is lost in time. An old switchboard sits at the check-in desk.

 

Cafe

 

 

 

 

The café was closed (evidently February is not considered tourist season, though I would beg to differ since the summer is too HOT for us boomers). But like as with most places along Route 66 we were free to roam the sites as we wished.

The back patio was not updated to attract customers off of the road and I would have to guess 50’s or 60’s here. My hubby is a serious backyard BBQ guy so he had to inspect the grill accomodations while I sat and drank a soda from the gift shop. It was flat. Probably a couple of years old. I drank it anyway.

PatioWe bid our farewell to Grand Canyon Caverns and climbed onto the bike for the ride into Seligman. I had never been there so was looking forward to the visit. The road was empty as we made our way. I’m good with it.

bike

We pulled into Seligman and into the first gas station to fill our tank before finding a place for lunch. We sat behind a Shelby Mustang and a new Camaro SS rented by two young friends to travel Route 66 and then on to Vegas. One was from Ireland and the other from Scotland. I pointed them to my favorite Ghost Town along the way (the topic of a future post). They were satisfying their own bucket lists by living the Route 66 dream. I discovered later that they had indeed visited my friends in Chloride.

Seligman is a wild little town of 456 people! Seligman founded in 1895 and the birthplace of Historic Route 66, is a small, unincorporated town named after a banker of the Santa Fe Railroad. 1987, the State of Arizona dedicated old U.S. Route 66 from Seligman to Kingman as Historic Route 66, due to the efforts of the Seligman Chamber of Commerce. The dedication will assure the preservation of the longest remaining stretch of old Route 66 left in the United States.

We stopped to walk around this iconic town as there was so much to see it almost had me on a sensory overload. The old Territorial Jail from 1860 is on display with a sign that reads;

1860 Arizona Territorial JailAt one time held such notorious outlaws as Seligman Slim, Three Finger Jack, Jim Younger, and many, many more.

In 1866, four Navajo Indians made a successful escape by tunneling from this small cell to the basement of the O.K. Saloon. Four days later they were recaptured after a blazing gun “battle” with Marshall Carl “Curly” Bane.

This is my very own Wyatt Earp admiring the accommodations from afar.

Jail

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We parked our pretty blue steed alongside others (who ended up being from Canada, they store their bikes in Vegas and fly down here whenever they can to ride Route 66 and enjoy the weather, they were on their way to the Grand Canyon this day and then on into the Texas panhandle) at the Roadkill Café 66 and went inside to enjoy the fare and wet our whistle for the ride back.

Roadkill cafe

I certainly hoped these guys weren’t on the menu. Creepy.

Roadkill cafe2

Across the street at the Rusty Bolt and Thunderbird Indian Store is a big surprise and possibly my all time favorite Route 66 display. Honestly…does it get any better than this?

rustybolt2 Rustybolt And with that I leave you dear diary, I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it. Until next time.

 

 

 

Route 66 – Topock to Kingman, Arizona

Dear Diary,

Route 66.

History, adventure, kitsch, mystery, are but a few of the words that come to mind when I think of Route 66, and I have discovered much of all of these along the Mother Road.

Topock to Kingman Arizona is a stretch of old Route 66 I have been over often, so I have learned many of it’s secrets (but many more are out there waiting) and have many an adventure to share with you. We first traveled this road when our children were small with our Chevy family van, then with our Jeep, and now with our Harley, but the only thing you really need to travel here is patience.

And water, lots of water.

Topock is where Route 66 begins in Arizona, and this stretch of the Mother Road is not for everyone. It is one of the most inhospitable of landscapes along the historic highway…with no water (ok, there is SOME water but it’s all in bottles in very few stores), very little gas, and a whole lot of very hot desert.

But don’t let that fool you. There is much to see here if you know where to look.

There is a new place of interest in Topock, known as Topock 66 where we often stop to wet our whistle, enjoy the views of the Marina and bridge to California, and of course the mighty Colorado River.

This is my husband enjoying the unique seating. He can be a butt sometimes, I’m not gonna lie.

Butt The men’s restroom is also a place of interest and no…I didn’t go in. I suppose you could call this lip service or urinals with benefits? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I warned you, Route 66 has it’s share of kitsch.

Lip Service

But enough of the new…let’s move on.

There are a few small fishing lakes in the marshes up the road from Topock 66. We have taken the nearby side road to these a couple of times, but that is not a Route 66 story now is it?

Route 66 is desolate after going through Topock (population 1,790) for quite a few miles and I must warn you to take water if you plan on traveling this route, despite it’s aridity it is uniquely beautiful.

Let’s just say there is no traffic. In fact we can say that we were alone, completely alone when I took this photo from the Harley. I’m good with it. After California traffic…I’m real good with it!

I’m used to the hot and harsh landscape, but a friend from Novia Scotia came down to visit once and described it as looking like the surface of the moon. I suppose he is right, but I would be frightened in Nova Scotia I think, what with all those trees and large hidden animals…and the COLD (remember that is my kryptonite). I think I’ll stick with the surface of the moon.

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We are traveling northeast here, toward Oatman, Arizona which is in fact our next stop.

Much is written about this ghost town, so a simple google search will fill you in on it’s resident burros left over from the miner’s days. They are wild, but come into town to beg for food during the day when hoards of tourists are present. They can get pretty cranky if you pet them but don’t feed them, and most recently I had one sneak up behind me and steal the bag of feed out of my hand.

They are not dumb asses.

I’m not going to say it, I’m not going to say it, I’m not going to say it….here is a couple of asses….dang I said it. I said it, but you know I don’t mean it, right honey bunch (this in case he ever finds this blog)?

Burro

Did you ever hear the legend on how burros got the crosses on their backs? No? Jesus rode on the back of a burro into the city of Jerusalem (to fulfill scripture) knowing he would be crucified, and as a remembrance…the burro has forever after carried the cross on their backs. Cool eh?

The town is named after the Oatman family who as a splinter off of the Mormon church were heading west (known as Brewsterites) in to find their own heaven on Earth, but in 1851 were massacred by Yavapai Indians about 25 miles north west of what is Gila Bend in South Arizona. Of the 7 children, only Olive (14) and Mary Ann (7) survived (an older brother was beaten and left for dead, but survived also) and taken captive by the Indians.

What happens to Olive during that time is debated, but what is not in dispute is that she was eventually bought by the Mohave Indians a year later, where the two girls were treated well and blue tattooed like other tribespeople who were coming of age. She was completely acclimated to the Mohave life 5 years later when her release was demanded by Fort Yuma (who had learned of her existence). Her sister Mary Ann had died of starvation along with many of the Mohave tribe due to a harsh drought during their time in captivity.

Olive Oatman

The Mohave (and Olive it is said) initially resisted but after being offered gifts and threatened with retaliation, Olive was released and repatriated. There is no record of Olive living in or near this current day town, but her autobiography published in 1857 sensationalized her story and made her nationally known. This is most likely the reason the town was named after the Oatmans.

Olive was reunited with her grieving brother, married a white man, and went on to lead a long and prosperous middle class life with her husband in Texas until her death in 1909, which coincidentally was when the town was renamed from it’s original Vivian.

This is us in front of what used to be the pharmacy and professional offices in Oatman’s heyday (where 25 million dollars in precious metals were extracted). And yes…those ridiculous smiles are on our faces pretty much the whole time we are riding the motorcycle. Notice the handmade Route 66 sign behind us, kitsch I tell ya, you gotta love it.

Oatman PharmacyWe continue northeast toward an old ghost town just outside of Oatman that is much less known (and even less of it left) than the aforementioned.

Just north and west of Oatman is a dirt road that we travel often to get to our second house in Arizona. It is full of old abandoned mines, and it is recommended that you pay close attention when you go off road out there since most of them are vertical holes in the ground. After awhile, they are easy to spot when you know what tailings look like. Tailings are what is left of processed rock after the miners have extracted their gold or silver.

Here is an example of tailings from a random photo that we took while exploring with friends in our OHV’s last New Year. The obvious mine tailings are circled in red, already you can see 3 just in this photo. Like I said, lots and lots of old mines out there, and we have explored many of them but that is a story for another time…

Mines

One other tidbit about burros in this desert before we move on to the Gold Road Mine Ghost town ruins…sometimes those furry hooved cuties find you.

My hubby and I were out shooting (He was shooting, I was reading, looking for mines, looking for rocks, taking photos, or any other amusement I indulge when he shoots) and out of nowhere here come two adolescent male burros into our “encampment” which by the way is about 70 miles northwest from Oatman in the middle of nowhere desert.

They decide they would help themselves to our ice chest and began merrily slurping up the melted water, and then the ice. Can you blame them? It’s hot and dry. I poured out all of our bottled Aquafina for them to drink, which they promptly tried to edge each other out for. The shooting didn’t bother them at all.

Aquafina? There’ll be no living with them now.

Burros and Aquafina

They have a tough life out here, especially like these that have been kicked out of their herd by an adult male (because they are competition now). I took a photo of how scarred up the back of their legs are from the coyotes trying to bring them down, but I can’t find it now.

I hate it when I do that.

Ahem, back to Route 66 and the Gold Road Ghost Town Ruins that 99.99% of people drive right on by. I took these photos in 2007 (which is just yesterday to me) before the brute squad threw me off of the mountain…but let me explain.

Like an honest citizen, I respectfully pulled into the Gold Road Mine Headquarters (back then they were offering tours of the mine for tourists because it was more expensive to mine than the gold was worth, and which we had taken a couple of years before) and asked for permission to take photos of the old GR ghost town which is hardly visible, and the gentleman behind the counter gave me permission.

Easy peasy.

My hubby drove me up the road about a mile and a half and dropped me off so I could hike down (not far for the first of the ruins, about 100 feet down the steep hill to more of them) and he and our daughter went back into Oatman for some ice-cream. They would pick me up in about 30 minutes.

These are ruins right by the road where I have taken the liberty of circling the remains of buildings and the Route 66 sign on the Mother Road.

Gold Road Ruins

 I hiked down, taking photos as I went and in my usual awe of the history of such a rugged place. I always feel extra sorry for the women, can you imagine having to wear long skirts or give birth in 110 degrees Fahrenheit with no water, much less air conditioning? I can’t hardly stand it with shorts and a tank.

Here I am surrounded by ruins, can you spot the large pile of tailings on a hill behind what is left of a building?

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 As I stood there in the footsteps of our intrepid forefathers having these thoughts, I see a group of about 7 men climbing up the mountain with intent. 7 huge men. A brute squad. All 14 eyes have a bead on me, and I have no doubt that I am their destination.

This photo shows the headquarters buildings down the mountain, a car on Route 66 to the left, ruins in the foreground, and incredible vista that one enjoys all along this stretch of highway. The brute squad had not yet come into my view when I took this…

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Really? I got permission.

I consider my options. Oops, I have none. My ride is in Oatman.

So I calmly stand there as if I am waiting for a prescheduled meeting, all calm and unafraid like. That was on the outside anyway. I was really, really scared. They could throw me down any number of mine shafts and nobody would see or hear from me again. For example the huge mine that is circled in this photo in red. I have also very clumsily shown in blue where the road runs here behind what remains of what used to be a very nice place.

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Here is a close up of the building…

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As I see the brute squad coming closer to me I start taking photos like I am a professional from National Geographic (I need very specific direction if I am going to act), and they are invisible to me.

I was very careful not to point the camera at them, I suspected that might cause me to lose my beloved Canon, if not my beloved life.

Here those photos are…notice the tailings in this one also…

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…and then the brute squad is upon me. So much bigger up close than I even thought they would be. Geeeez…all this for lil ole me? This day suddenly turned VALUE ADDED quickly didn’t it?

I explain that I got permission to photograph the ruins from the man at the headquarters building. They asked me his name.

Really? I’m supposed to know his name? Dang it, I didn’t ask.

So I described what he was wearing. That seemed to appease them somewhat and they proceeded to escort me back to the road. Like bouncers. 7 of them. I explain to them I don’t have a ride until my husband and daughter come to get me, all the while I am looking at that mine shaft just across the street.

I was very respectful as I took a picture of it. Just in case my camera was entered into crime scene evidence, they would know where to look for my body.

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They actually made me stand ON THE VERY NARROW ROAD while they stood back and watched. Like I was in time out and playing chicken all rolled up into one terrifying game. And they were cheaters.

I have never been so happy in my life to see the Jeep roll up with my little family in it. My husband looked at them a bit quizzically, but I jumped in like a stuntman and told him to hit the gas, which he obligingly did.

He laughed when I told him what had happened. I still don’t know if it was with me or at me.

Back to the Gold Road Ghost Town Ruins…

Gold mining began in earnest here in 1900 and by 1902 when the post office was established, there was a town with 400 residents. By 1931 the gold had run out, but the town held on until 1942 when the post office was closed and the town was razed to save taxes. That explains why there is almost nothing left but memories. This is a photo of Route 66 running through Gold Road in 1940.

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The gold must have not entirely dried up because a firm bought it and has been mining it since 2007 (probably why they were so persnickety when I took these photos as if I was a gold spy).

I can tell you the entire landscape has changed since they started there big time mining. I’m not sure if the ruins are still there. I’ll have to check the next time we go by, but the rumor is the security is so tight now that people don’t dare stop or an ATV will be on top of you.

Surely not me, the brute squad and I are friends now.

As we near the Summit, it’s hard to not want to stop and take photos every other minute. You can see California, Arizona, and Nevada from the Black Mountains.

Sitgreaves Vista

We move on to Sitgreaves Pass, which is the peak of this mountain and we will begin our long descent into the Sacramento Valley that will take us to Kingman. I took this from the back of the bike so I shot a little more of the road than I should have.

Sitgreaves Pass

There is an old graveyard here at the Pass, but I am not going to reveal it’s location. What with my new found respect for ghosts and all from my last road trip, I would rather just leave them in peace.

Just after the summit, there is a curiosity that is easily missed.

Strange stone steps up seemingly to nowhere near mile marker 30. Climb up the steps and you will find a natural seep in a concrete bowl with goldfish in it. That’s right…goldfish. They very intelligently dive when there is any kind of shadow pass over them so patience is key. It’s called Shaffer’s Fish Bowl, who stocked it is anybody’s guess. Shaffer perhaps?

Shaffers Fish Bowl

Here one is now…just patience that’s all it takes…

Shaffers Fish Bowl2

But the vista here is the real story. Just us, the Jeep, and a million dollar view. Does it get any better than this? On our motorcycle the turns are quite exciting. In the early days of Route 66, drivers would pay locals to get their cars over the pass. Can you see what looks like a dirt road to the far left by the beige sandstone? That was the original trail pioneers took through the pass. Hard to believe it is still there, but parched as this place is, things are preserved for an eternity (as long as flash flooding doesn’t disrupt the landscape too much).

Route 66 Vista

Just one more little curiosity before we hit the sandy flats that will take us to Kingman.

Cool Springs was an important stop along this road when it was built in 1926. It provided much needed gas and refreshments along this most beautiful but inhospitable place.

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As Route 66 prospered, so did Cool Springs. It served as a spot to rest overheated cars and their equally overheated passengers. The Cool Springs Gas Station added cabins and a chicken dinner café for travelers. This is what it looked like in 1942.

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In the 1950’s Route 66 bypassed this treacherous pass and moved to a straighter path through Yucca, Arizona and Cool Springs died a slow death. Cool Springs was destroyed by fire in the mid-sixties and nothing remained but the old stone pillars.

Cool Springs -2001

Cool Springs

In 2001 it was bought and restoration begun by Ned Leuchtner and completed in 2004, so for the first time in 40 years it is operational again. Ned was careful to replicate the Cool Springs of yore. We always stop and have an ice-cream or soda and peruse the 1950’s and 1960’s trinkets inside. Cool Springs is very cool.

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Down to Kingman we go. The Sacramento Valley is low and is not the place to be during heavy rains, but since it rarely rains here it’s a safe bet any time of year to get your adventure on!

Next time Kingman to Seligman…a very kitschy fun trip down memory lane.

Until then Dear Diary…

Bucket List Gone Wild

Dear Diary,

As a baby boomer, I remember when we didn’t live in such a risk obsessed society. When there wasn’t printing on a dry cleaning bag that said “this is not a toy” (and yes we used it as a toy….and lived). When I could ride my bike (with the banana seat) without a helmet at top (one) speed trying to beat the ice cream/helms bakery man home to get money from Mom. When we drank water from a hose instead of a bottle. When face time was actually face time. When we used to fall asleep in front of the TV on Sunday nights watching The Wonderful World of Disney (or was it Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom?). When hashtag meant it was your turn to take a hit off the bong (I just passed it….for real). Those were the days.

When did it all get so complicated?

The Pacific Coast Highway trip had provided me with countless subtle priceless experiences and awakenings (and one big ghostly experience) which I still have available to relive when I want or need to. But they were mine alone. I needed something that wasn’t just mine if I was going to make my marriage work.

When I got home with my new outlook, I realized I couldn’t remember when the last time my hubby and I had done something just for the fun of it. I don’t mean a vacation or a weekend away or a ride in our boat fun.I mean spur of the moment, caution be damned, catch us if you can fun.

Had we ever?

Even my bucket list was safe.  How could I ever hope to capture the thrill of that “just being alive ’cause it’s fun” feeling I had when I was a kid? I gave up on it, maybe it isn’t possible after we grow up and life gets mean, and hard, and heavy.

I tried not to think about it.

Isn’t it funny when we least expect it, when we aren’t looking for it or thinking about it, life just hands us what we need most? Hands us that freedom, that live in the moment, that pure joy, that breathlessness from being a part of something so big we are just happy to be along for the ride experience?

And this all happened on a whim. A simple letting go of the tether that kept me flying under the radar and I accidently soared. Something I never even dreamed of putting on my bucket list.

That was the moment I climbed onto the back of my hubby’s Harley Davidson motorcycle and went for the ride of my soul.

He’d always owned one, but I never rode it. Ever. I always considered it sort of an unwritten rule that we could never ride together because somebody needed to stay alive to raise the kids.

Kind of like the President and the Vice-President never riding in the same plane together rule.

Then came the day when I saw the Harley Davidson motorcycle sitting in the garage like an adventure waiting to happen while I was putting out the trash. Just like that I had that thought.

Who am I and where did that come from?

When I walked into the house and suggested to my husband that we take a ride on his Harley…I only wish I had taken a photo of the look on his face. It was like he had won the lottery and Pamela Anderson offer him a lap dance all rolled up in one.

I didn’t even own a helmet. What was I thinking? But it was too late to turn back, how could I crush the look he had on his face as he rushed around to get us ready before I could change my mind?

He offered me his safest helmet and I put on my ankle boots ’cause that’s the only thing I had to even slightly protect me from road rash. They were cute anyway.

Of course we can never do anything easy. As he rolled the Night Train Harley out of the garage, he hit the tire of the Jeep and broke off the passenger foot peg that had never before been put down.

Crap.

My pride would not let me tell him that it was not possible to balance the weight of my left leg on a tiny toe hold since I had lost those thigh muscles somewhere around 1995.

So I said a prayer that ended with “let your will be done” to God and climbed on, swung my right leg over a very small piece of seat, and sat down on a cushion that was about half the size of my butt.

If he didn’t say anything about me taking up too much of the seat, I sure wasn’t going to. I’m not crazy.

Then it happened.

He started the engine and it roared to life and it took me with it. How long had it been since I had given everything up for adventure? When I’d given up safety and predictability for whatever was in the stars?

What had I been waiting for?

As we pulled out of the driveway and I held on for dear life…I was transported into a whole new world. A world I never knew existed.

Freedom.

Freedom from worry, freedom from the mundane, freedom from the future or the past. All 5 senses on overload at once.

I had never been so close to God, in a good way. He was telling me….”see, this world was always just yours, I have been waiting for you to notice.”

I held onto my husband with my hands, my long lost leg muscle was holding onto my left foot, and my soul was holding onto pure joy. How long had it been since I gave up control for a leap of faith?

We rode to the Hualapai Mountains in Arizona, but we could have rode to heaven and back for that matter. I didn’t care where we went. I was a little kid again and everything was new and it was all there for me.

My husband had given me a face mask to help keep my face warm, and when people looked at me from their safe little cars they saw a helmet and a face mask. That’s all. I was…ageless, timeless, and BAD ASS!

Steppenwolf…how did I not know how right you were?

We were all born to be wild…eventually.

Next time dear diary…Ricky and Lucy buy a Harley Davidson for two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Highway Day 8 – Cannon Beach to Seattle/ Trip Conspectus

Dear Diary,

To be more accurate this post should say; Pacific Coast Highway – Cannon Beach to Astoria, because it was there I decided to head inland and catch the 5 freeway to Seattle, which I easily made in 4 hours.

My reasons for hightailing it to Seattle?  After 7 days on Pacific Coast Highway I was tired and longed to be at my destination where I would spend more than one night, I had finally found the answers I was looking for and more, and finally the Astoria Bridge.

Have you ever seen that bridge in Astoria over the Columbia River? Yikes! Truthfully, that was the tie breaker. If I had just started out on this trek I would’ve said “hell yeah let’s do this”, but I was 7 days into some pretty challenging driving solo.

In short…it scared the crap out of me. If I wanted to drive on water I’d ask Jesus to take the wheel, but I don’t. ‘Nuff said.

Astoria Bridge

Now for the good part of this story…Seattle.

I pulled into town with the usual metropolis view of high-rises and traffic, traffic everywhere.  Any big city can be so intimidating, especially when you have absolutely no idea where you are. But when I finally landed…

Oh. My. Gosh.

Seattle is so much more than I imagined. It reminds me of this coast’s most southern city (San Diego) for how clean it is. Like a sparkling gem between the blue of the sky and the blue of the water (the weather was on it’s best behavior while I was there).

I was a shameless tourist from that point on. I spent time at Pike’s Place Market which has been continuously in operation since it opened in 1907.

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I spent all day here and in Pioneer Square. Just a few words that come to mind when I think of this place…

History, people, coffee, wine, cheese, fish, art, books, music, blue sky, white clouds…never mind, too many wonderful words come to mind and I’ll lose you.

I took a photo of this totem pole, and what is most prevalent is the unbelievably beautiful sky, I just couldn’t get enough of it.

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…and yet another of Pioneer Square…

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Which sits on Elliot Bay…

Seattleport…and as a shameless tourist how could I leave out the Space Needle?

SpaceNeedle

It was an absolute pleasure to walk this part of town (the only part I got to see actually) where even the alleys were clean and lovely…is it a law to maintain them this way? LA might want to think about incorporating it if so…

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They say there is 697 things to do in Seattle and I’m a little mad at myself that I only did about 4 (I really really wanted to take the underground tour but ran out of time), so I have much work to do when I go back someday. That’s the only way I could bear to say good-bye to most of the places I landed on this trip…to promise myself I would be back (sorry Eureka and Gold Beach, you didn’t make the cut) and soon.

When I finally headed home I was changed. This trip had cleansed my soul and enabled so many truths to bubble up to my sphere of awareness over the 3,000 miles I traveled. The foremost of these is one truth that I have made my mantra.

Guard Your Hope…Not Your Heart.

I had been given the heart of so many and given mine as often on this trip. With the care of God and strangers (including the ghostly friend I made) I was lifted up to see above and beyond the physical, emotional, and soulful pain I had started this journey with.

I was healed in every sense of the word.

Our hearts are meant to be given with abandon to whomever would take or even steal it. Naturally along with all of the rewards of giving your heart, there will be those that break, betray, and reject it…but those are the exceptions, and the heart will recover (even when it seems it never will).

Love is the greatest gift of all, and although it sounds existential, I believe you really do get back what you put out there. So give it wantonly and without limitations or conditions.

But hold onto your hope. Guard it jealously and never let it be lost or stolen. Feed it with the good times to sustain it through the hard times when hope is all that is left. Hope and faith seem so fragile, but they are stronger than we know and are able to guide us through anything.

And I mean anything.

There would be much work to do after I got home to repair the damage done to our relationship…but both my husband and I had been changed by my solo trip and we would start that work as soon as I landed at my front door.

If I ever forget to not be afraid of an uncertain future, how strong I am with only God to guide me, or what it feels like to be very far away from my comfort zone…I shall again hop into my trusty steed and head out to horizons unknown.

As should you, if you don’t know the answer to…WOULD I BE ALRIGHT ALONE?

I now know the answer for me, but you need to find the answer for you.

Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible Mustang GT by myself Bucket List Item – check.

This is not the end of my journey dear diary, after returning home we purchased a Harley Davidson motorcycle (I know riiiiiiiight?) and the adventures started anew…

‘Til next time.

 

 

Pacific Coast Highway Day 6 – Gold Beach to Yachats, Oregon

Dear Diary,

I really couldn’t wait to leave Gold Beach, and ahead of me was the most anticipated accommodation on the entire trip – spending the night in the Heceta Head Lighthouse keepers Victorian bed and breakfast. I was very excited.

Little did I know that I would be spending the night with a ghost. Not just a bump in the night ghost, this one spent most of the night with me.

But that story in a minute.

The southern Oregon coast is a well kept secret. If I had my way, I would retire in some little house on this coast and live out the rest of my days in beach combing bliss.

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I finally stopped for a full meal. Even a greasy spoon tastes wonderful when your staple has been PB&J sandwiches. I followed 101 both alongside the Pacific as well as inland, although with the trees blocking my view of the sea, sometimes it was hard to tell whether I was inland or not.

I came upon Coos Bay Bridge, and what a marvel of engineering it is.

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As beautiful as it may be, like any other Californian I don’t like spending too much time either on or under a bridge. When you’ve lived in California for 50 years, unpleasant memories can pop up at the most inopportune times…remember the Oakland Nimitz Freeway collapse of 1989? Three levels of freeway reduced to one during rush hour?

I do. Just sayin’. nimitz-freeway-collapse1I had better get used to it though, Oregon has so much more water than Cali and the 101 will traverse many a bay, river, creek, and lake before I’m done.

I pass Florence and the Sea Lion Cave. I had wanted to stop there, but the reviews were lukewarm so I passed. Heceta Head Lighthouse was in my sites, and only about a mile away.

Please see Bucket List Value Added – A Ghost In My Room for a full account of this amazing place, the ghost that haunted me, and her suspected reason for doing so. The rest of this post will not make much sense without that reference I’m afraid.

After my night with Rue (also known as the grey lady) I can count her as one of the fascinating women I encountered along the Pacific Coast Highway, even if she was invisible and terrifying.

I took away far more than a ghost story from that night however. I was at total peace when I climbed back into my car the next day. I can’t say that the too tight twisted rubberband completely let go of the grief link, but I can say that it relaxed it’s grip on my soul.

I’ll never be ok with my Sister and Daddy choosing suicide, but I felt the weight moving off of me, like taking off a dark heavy cloak for the first time in a long time.

Rue also left me with a surprising truth.

We who persevere, who wake every morning and no matter how hard the day may be we endure (I always feel guilty when I say that, it’s not like I’m being tortured in an Iraqi prison, but so much is relative I guess). We who cherish and hold onto the hope of good times to cushion us when we fall on the despair of bad times. For those of us who trust in God even when it seems like he is nowhere to be found…we get credit for time served.

In the book of life it is noted that we lived our lives fully, we took the good with the bad and rode it out to the end. Our butterfly wings influenced the world in ways we will never know just because we kept flying.

For those who sought to end their strife/grief/pain in taking their lives, I think there may be a harsh reckoning in that they didn’t end anything. The ultimate price, for what did they pay? At least in Rue’s case, she was here a hundred years before I got here and how many hundreds of years after I’m gone?

There is tremendous merit in working through whatever it is that may be stealing our joy while we are still here on this beautiful Earth as mortals.

When I left this unforgettably scenic and mystical place the next morning, I took much comfort in knowing that we have a choice in which path we take, and the hard road reaps the most rewards.

I choose to stay and ride it out.

Thank you for indulging my ramblings, and I hope that by now my dear readers know they are really my diary. Until next time.

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Highway Day 5 – Trinidad CA to Gold Beach OR

Dear Diary,

Setting Gold Beach as a destination was an afterthought. I had held off deciding to go there until well into this trip. I don’t know why I had such a hard time committing.

I suspect it was because I really didn’t want to go there. For my sake anyway.

Let it be a lesson to all when we do something because we think someone else would like it, things are bound to go awry.

But it started out magical.

Waking up in Trinidad was as good as going to sleep there. I had breakfast in the dining room of the B&B with the lovely couple I had met the day before at Patrick’s Point.

Back into my Mustang, and I was off to parts unknown. Well not unknown, just unfamiliar. I was armed with my maps and sketchy AT&T wireless GPS app service.

If I was on the East Coast, I would have been through 7 or 8 states by now, and finally today I would be leaving my beloved California.

But not before paying homage to my favorite trees, the California Redwoods. I set off for the Newton P. Drury Scenic Parkway which was 30 miles north of Trinidad off of Highway 101, 10 miles of old growth forest. Heaven on Earth.

Just before I reached the Parkway, I saw a sign that said Elk Meadow, home of a large herd of Roosevelt Elk.

Why not? I had plenty of time.

About a quarter mile down the road I had turned onto, I came upon the vast meadow. Gorgeous, but no elk. I went on to the day use area and parked the pony to take a look around.

My car was the second car in the parking lot. There was a group of people mulling around (obviously with the other car) that eyed me suspiciously. Well now…wasn’t that a switch? I was only wearing my pink Monterey wind breaker, not the whole Hello Kitty ensemble. It had to be because I was traveling solo, that was a kind of triumph itself.

An inviting path lead to an old growth forest. It was calling my name.

I grabbed some water and headed out. The first thing I came to when the path led alongside the meadow was this sign.

Wild ElkI really would like to meet the person who needs to be told; Danger, do not approach wild elk on foot.

Maybe I don’t want to meet that person, ’cause even a dyed in the wool city girl knows better. Besides, I make it a habit not to approach animals bigger than me – wild or not.

I followed the path into the forest, where I happily followed it along until I was completely surrounded by ancient redwoods.

Anybody who has stood in a Redwood Forest can tell you it renders one reverently speechless. When able to speak again, it is only while fighting the urge to whisper.

I had no need to talk. I listened while they talked.

As the breeze high in the treetops rustled their leaves, it’s as though they were whispering their thousand year old secrets to each other in a language that we mere mortals are not able to understand.

I was an audience to Ents in Lord of the Rings, except better because these are real.

There are some trees in what’s left of the old growth forests that are thousands of years old. It boggles the mind to think that they were here before the birth of Christ.

The carpeted forest was silent under my footsteps. Only the sound of the trees could be heard. The noise in my mind and the rest of the world disappeared.

I continued down the path and was rewarded with trees larger and taller. A few photos might help illustrate their size…or not.

The trail is about 3 feet wide.

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I felt like Alice In Redwoodland (after shrinking) next to the roots of this fallen monarch.

Redwood 2

The trail is still 3 feet wide winding around the tree base.

Redwood 3

I came upon a small waterfall and babbling creek that was as surreal as the centurions surrounding it. I had to stop and breathe in it’s enchantment. Really breathe.

Redwoods4

I couldn’t help but think about how cavalierly I had pulled off the road to see this place,  no inkling at how magical all of it would be. No elk? No problem.

As I stood there lost in the moment, I heard a long, deep, and nearby GROWL.

Well now, didn’t this day just get value added.

The brain in fight or flight mode is amazing.  In a millisecond I had already (belatedly) established some alarming facts.

  • I had no weapon.
  • I had no cell coverage.
  • I had no idea how far away from the trailhead I was.
  • I had seen no sign of any other human being for at least an hour, so nobody would hear me scream.
  • Nobody would miss me in at least a week.
  • I do not have survival skills outside of the ability to find parking in LA.
  • I do not own a whistle.
  • I have no idea what kind of animal would make that sound except it is not small.
  • If they are a carnivore (what else would growl), they can already smell my terror so pretending to be a bad ass would be moot.
  • I must run for my life.

I also remembered my Mom telling me to never, ever turn and run from something that is challenging you. Good job brain indexer, you pulled that out from deep in the annals of time. I backed up slowly for about four steps and abandoned all good advice.

I turned and ran like the wind.

Did I say like the wind? Within a minute I was gasping for breath, my knees and ankles were protesting so loudly I was sure it was audible. Let’s face it, if whatever had growled really wanted to eat me, I’d already have been a Scooby snack with pink icing.

I made haste (I wish I could say I ran) toward the trailhead and the protection of my pony. I was outta there.

I will go back someday, but not without an Eagle Scout or equivalent flanking me.

I made my way back to PCH (here known as Redwood Hwy 101) and got back on track. I crossed over the Klamath river, and finally back to the coast.

My pony and I stopped for a north coast photo op and to put up the convertible top. Not sure why, maybe because I still felt a little exposed after my near encounter with who knows what.

No Cali PCH

I headed into Crescent City which was just as quaint as I had always imagined it. I used to daydream about opening up a B&B there (a guilty pleasure of mine is dreaming of opening B&B’s in places I choose on the map, don’t judge).

That was until I learned of the tsunamis. It happens to be the tsunami capitol of the US and was nearly wiped out in 1964 as a result of the 9.2 Alaska quake.

Crescent City 1964Poor Crescent City is basically at the mercy of any quake occurring in the Pacific Ocean. The topography of the sea floor near Crescent City creates a “funnel” that proves problematic for this place. Since 1933, there have been 31 tsunamis occur.

I would have loved to stay and explore the city’s lighthouses and other points of interest, but the only thing I stopped to enjoy is Starbucks. As if my poor little ticker needed any more stimulation after the events of the morning, but it was necessary to restore my sense of civility.

25 more miles and I bade farewell to California and hello to Oregon.

Norcalicoast

Southern Oregon is stunning. I am not accustomed to seeing the magnificent sand dunes transitioning into rocky shore line and back. It’s untamed, and this stretch of highway plays peak-a-boo with the sea behind groves of trees. The beaches are littered with drift wood, grass, dunes, and trees. Simply Gorgeous.

And cold. I’m used to temperate weather year round, and admit I’m spoiled rotten in that regard.

I passed through Brookings and headed still northward 30 miles toward Gold Beach.

Brookings, OR

and another stunner…

Brookings 2

I had an issue getting gas in Gold Beach. I didn’t know that you cannot pump your own gas in Oregon. The last time I saw a gas station employee pump gas in California I was barely old enough to see out of the window of the car in the back seat, so when I stopped and some little man came bounding out of the office and demanded my debit card, naturally I balked.

“Why do you need my debit card?” I asked, “I can pump my own gas.”

He replied with his hand still out, “Not here you won’t.”

By here I thought he meant this gas station. I groaned at the thought that I had picked a quirky place to fill up, but I had to go pee too bad to find another.

I handed my debit card over to a stranger…and for a moment I couldn’t let go even after I held it out and he took hold of it. I told you we in LA have trust issues.

I literally ran to the restrooms (this means I ran twice in one day…kind of a big deal for me), and as I dried my hands on my pants instead of the 50’s style cloth loop that went round and round over the sink (Ew), I was chuckling to myself about him not having my PIN so he couldn’t use my debit card. Silly rabbit.

When I came back to my steed, he handed me my card and told me to have a nice day. My tank was full and he charged my debit card without my PIN or signature? What episode of Twilight Zone was I in?

The lodge I booked was inland along the Rogue River. I didn’t necessarily have a burning desire to stay there, but my hubby has always been fascinated by the Rogue River mail boats of renown. I told him I would check it out.

Not the Rogue River mail boats was I checking out mind you, I have no desire to spend the day speeding up the river at 110 mph (not really, just seems like it) with my hair on fire. That is something we do regularly in Arizona on the Colorado River when Mr. Energizer Bunny is at the wheel of our boat.

I would check out the Rogue River on it’s shores from the room I had booked at the lodge. I had high expectations as this was the most expensive accommodation among the seven on the northbound part of this trip.

I checked in and was of course wowed by my room. I knew I would be, as I had seen photos of it online. Of course no photo is as good as the real thing. Tututon RoomAnd there it was, the object of my instantaneous obsession…the real fireplace with real wood for a real fire.

I suppose I should explain. I have only ever had a very rare occasion to have a fire (other than duraflame logs), and when we do my hubby insists upon doing the honors since I am fire-starting challenged.

Not this time kemosabe. The fireplace is mine, all mine wahahahahahaha.

It even had the firewood and kindling all set up ready to be lit. I just had to wait for nightfall.

The meal plan is quite pricey and a big deal at this place and most guests indulge since there is no place near to eat. Not me. Being in close proximity to strangers is exactly what I was trying to get away from. The gourmet meals and wine are served “family style” and just not my cup of tea. It seemed a little pretentious, and when I looked in while it was happening, I was right. But to each his/her own.

I enjoyed my PB&J with trail mix and water on my own veranda overlooking the river. It was beautiful, but not as placid as I had thought. There was a road just across the river (hidden by the trees) and I could hear logging trucks downshifting and Jake braking. The little dock in this photo is where the mail boats pick up guests for the adventure.

verandaview

The couple next to me had a small outside Jacuzzi and although I couldn’t see them, I could hear them just fine. They were enjoying a romantic rendezvous away from their respective spouses.

Awkward.

I took the opportunity to walk along the river which was lovely. I achingly missed my hubby for the first time in 5 days. He would love this place (except for the pretentious part). I got a little melancholy and went back to my room.

Rogueriverwalk

Since I had opted out of the meal plan, the office had given me a paper to fill out with what time I would like the complimentary coffee delivered to my room, which I was to fill out and hang on my doorknob where they would pick it up by 6 pm. Nobody ever picked it up.

I was starting to feel invisible.

I decided to take a nice hot bath. I had time to burn until sundown and was feeling a little sore from my “runs” earlier in the day. The drain plug wouldn’t work. Dang it all.

At least I had the fire to look forward to. I sat on the veranda and watched the sun set while it got colder and colder outside. Perfect. Finally.

I put flame to fire. I probably was licking my lips or something equally as compulsive while I sated the pyro in me.

The fire blazed into existence and my room started to warm up. I finally had phone reception and talked to my family sitting next to the warm fire overlooking the cold Rogue River outside. Queue the deer and bald eagle.

As the conversations on the phone wound down, so did my fire. I had exhausted the wood in the fireplace as well as what was provided in the little basket on the hearth. No matter, the receptionist said there was a wood pile on either side of the stair case.

I filled my arms and returned to my room and my fire where I stoked it back up and settled down in my comfy bed to check my bank activity, check in on social media, and my email.

I was appalled when I saw the $150.00 charge on my debit card for gas. I KNEW IT! My first day in Oregon and I get ripped off at the gas station? I was really mad. I couldn’t wait to call the bank in the morning. Argh.

After all of my online activity I stoked up the fire again and shut down the lights for a well earned nights sleep. The smell of the fire and the shadow of flames on the wall were delicious. I would have to stay in a room with real fire more often.

I don’t know how long I had been asleep when I awoke to the unmistakable ear splitting sound of the smoke alarm. It took me a second to get my bearings and jump out of bed to try and figure out what was wrong. There was definitely smoke in the room, so I threw open the floor to ceiling glass veranda doors and propped open the entrance door to get fresh air flowing.

The alarm was so loud I am sure I woke everyone in the entire lodge up. The damn thing just wouldn’t stop. I was so embarrassed I could’ve died right there. I certainly wasn’t invisible anymore, not in a good way.

After the alarm finally stopped chirping, I closed the entrance door to my room but was afraid to close the big glass doors to the veranda, so I left them open. I finally went to sleep with my teeth chattering hours later, not too long before dawn.

I still have no idea what I did wrong. When I told my husband about it, he laughed saying the flue probably needed cleaning or something. I still cringe at the memory.

I had a short driving day so I waited until all of the cars in the parking lot were gone to check out. I used that time to call the bank and raise heck about the troll that ripped me off. Customer service explained to me that the $150.00 was just to hold funds until the actual fee of $50.00 came through.

Oh geez, I’d wrongly accused that poor man. I still feel bad about it.

After I slithered down to check out (sans complimentary coffee), I felt compelled to confess to the receptionist while I waited for my receipt, “I was the one who made the fire alarm go off last night. I hope I didn’t disturb any of your other guests.”

She laughed and said, “Oh don’t worry about it, it happens all the time.”

God bless her.

Until next time dear diary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Highway Day 4 – Gualala to Trinidad, CA

Dear Diary,

I can describe Northern California in just one word – Spectacular.

But again, I am getting ahead of myself.

Maybe because I knew I would have the shortest drive day thus far ahead of me, or maybe feeling accomplished (having conquered a part of Highway 1 the day before that made the stretch between Carmel and Montereey look like driver’s ed), or maybe just being awoken by a gentle surf, I rose with such a feeling of tranquility.

I would say that on a map Gualala is unremarkable, but my soul had been fed by the Gualala River/Pacific Ocean estuary outside of my window, the redwoods at my back, and the incredible South African transplant I had met the afternoon before. Gualala is quite remarkable in that regard.

I also got to meet and speak with another transplanted (from my area – LA) very young couple who managed the motel where I stayed. They had moved here to make a go of the solitude of this place and hopefully start a family.

I encouraged them to tell me how they felt about their relatively new digs over the complimentary continental breakfast served in the motel office. This is another perk of traveling alone. There is nobody demanding your attention, so you have the luxury of directing it toward absorbing what the moment is offering.

Remember, my husband is the energizer bunny with the AAA personality type. He is always pushing me to hurry, hurry, hurry which leaves no time for anything but the task at hand.

The couple told me they loved Gualala, but the transition had been difficult. The nearest Walmart was 3 hours away (driving time one way) and while they had chosen this place because of it’s remote location, they found themselves longing for the option of stimulation (restaurants, theater, museums, sporting events, amusement parks, etc.) and conveniences (groceries, shopping malls, medical/dental care, etc.) that we who dwell in the city take for granted.

Still, they were not going back. The traffic, fight for parking, crime, cost of living, and the lines you must stand in for ANYTHING kept them on track to continue to adjust. What fantastic role models for braving new frontiers they were.

Yet another notch in my fascinating people belt.

With both my soul and stomach satiated, I packed the pony, put the top down, and hit the road again. I was blazing an unfamiliar trail from here on out. There is nothing quite like the excitement and anticipation of penetrating the perimeters of the familiar, liberating yourself from the chains of your own making that bind you to your quotidian.

I was ever so slightly becoming aware of something else. Just a dawn of awareness if you will.  The only way I can describe it is something twisted, turned, and pulled too tight. Like a rubber band when you twist it around and around while pulling it between your fingers to the point right before it breaks. The pinch points seem to be at each end, but in reality is every twist in-between.

I am not big on self-awareness, not because I have anything against it, I just never had time for such a self-indulgence. When self-awareness has crept in on its own in the past, it was usually as a result of a tragedy or horror. Not anything I wanted to spend any time analyzing that’s for sure.

What I was feeling was entirely new. A gentle awakening. A look inside that however fleeting, was generated by a calm desire to understand the obstacles lying between where I was, and where I wanted to be.

I also become aware that this journey was both physical and metaphysical. This is not something I had planned. Was it as a result of me taking this journey alone? Was it as a result of the time and distance I had put between the year’s events?

All I wanted to accomplish with this trip was to answer the question…WOULD I BE ALRIGHT ALONE. I still didn’t have an answer, nor did I have an answer for all of the rest of what was happening. It seemed like I was becoming more of a mess than I was straightening myself out.

The drive between Gualala to the point where I would turn back inland to join the 101 again was nothing less than stunning, and what I had envisioned when planning this journey. The sea became much more untamed than So Cali’s beaches, and I drove so close alongside it that I could feel the spray, taste the salt, and smell its incomparable fragrance.

Fort Bragg

Who needs Calgon? Take me away Pacific.

For the first time I was eager to go inland. I was looking forward to driving through forests of my favorite tree – the California Redwood.

Let me say I am not what you would consider a tree hugger, but when it comes to this tree I would do whatever it took to preserve it. The tallest and longest living tree in the world grows only in this place.

My love affair with these ancient living monoliths began when I first laid eyes on them as a little girl. My mother introduced me to them and her love for them was infectious. She in fact wants her ashes spread among them which is going to be a trick, since I’m sure that’s probably illegal.

I digress.

Since our first meeting, I have spent time with them but in inland places like Sequoia and King’s Canyon Nat’l Parks. Never enough time.

The old growth forests, like its mammalian equivalents the land elephant and ocean whales, were logged nearly into extinction. The giants were so threatened by tourists and loggers alike that the “Save the Redwoods League” was formed at the turn of the century and the preservation fight that continues today was born.

Since it takes a redwood tree 100 to 200 years to mature, every Californian (and for that matter everyone everywhere) should be concerned for their future safety.

Reacquainting myself with them by foot by way of the Newton B. Drury bypass was planned for tomorrow, for today I planned to enjoy them from my convertible by way of highway 271 (old highway 101) that parallels the new highway, but would allow me to drive through the forest on just two lanes.

It didn’t disappoint. I followed the Eel River through these magnificent trees for 31 miles.

Eel River

The sun dappled road and the perfume from these one-of-a-kind trees is like no other. It was so much warmer here that I was actually shedding layers as I drove. The sweet explosion to my senses was intoxicating. A one-dimensional photo leaves so much to be desired in capturing the experience.

giants1

I joined the 101 again to its 8 lane meander through this magnificent stretch of land as it bypasses the Lost Coast, and coincidentally the object of my Next Big Thing.

As I finally got closer to the coast again, the weather changed dramatically from sunny and warm to grey, wet, and cold. I approached Eureka with much anticipation, since I knew this place was lousy with old Victorian homes and a colorful history that only a town built by salty seamen and brawny loggers could render.

I kept putting back on layers with my pink t-shirt, pink sweatshirt, pink ball cap, and finally my new pink Monterey wind breaker with the hood pulled tightly over my ball cap as it started to sprinkle.

Hello Kitty does Pacific Coast Highway.

As I entered into Eureka I was met with a much different sight than I expected, which attributed to it being dramatically worse in my memory than it actually was.

Good people of Eureka, forgive me in advance of what I am about to say.

There was people wandering everywhere on the street in the middle of the weekday, and they seemed to be walking in a daze like zombies. I would later confirm this with a Eureka resident I met in Redding, Eureka has a serious drug problem.

There was quite a bit of police activity, and I became painfully aware that my purse and canon camera were laying on the passenger seat in my convertible for anyone to grab. I felt scared and vulnerable. I didn’t even feel safe enough to pull over and put the convertible top up.

The outskirts of town (despite being on the coast), were industrial and for lack of a better word…ugly. Why had San Francisco done such a good job with its shipping docks, and Eureka so poorly?

In a word…money. Eureka’s long financial descent started with the gold and lumber booms ending over the last century, then the economic hardships of the 70’s, 80’s, and most recently in 2009 had hit this city harder than it could recover from.

I would have thought coming from such a metropolis as the LA area would have better equipped me for this, but I was at a loss to ingest the desperation on Eureka’s streets. In LA prosperity and everything in between co-exist with poverty, but not in this place. There was no tolerance in any of it.

I was so glad I had not planned to bed down here. I couldn’t leave fast enough, and again I apologize to the Eurekans. I know I didn’t give you anything even resembling a chance.

On to my destination of Trinidad, CA. I was terrified at this point that Trinidad was going to be more of the same I had seen in Eureka. I felt very alone and…well, Hello Kittyish. I pulled off of the busy Highway 101 to Trinidad with much trepidation, all the while my mind was scurrying for a plan B.

I was “wowed” as soon as I left the interstate. The sun came out to meet me like a cheerful greeter through the dazzling mossy canopy.

Canopy

I had a heck of a hard time finding where I planned to bed down for the night as it was a Bed and Breakfast and not your standard hotel. While it was beautiful terrain, I was still skeptical about its hospitality.

I finally found my destination and discovered a note on the door “Back in 3 hours”. I knew I was a bit early for check-in, but seriously? Now what was I going to do if I didn’t feel safe here? My window on options was closing fast.

I drove down the street a piece to Patrick’s Point State Park. This photo is not very good (taken from over my windshield again) so you can imagine how green it really was in 3 glorious D.

Patricks Point State Park

Green is not a color I am accustomed to in So. Cali.

After paying the park fee, I struck out with my trusty map of the small park to find, you guessed it, the sea.

I parked and reluctantly left all of my worldly belongings in my trusty steed, and headed out on foot to one of many trails in the park.

And there it was. The mighty Pacific in all her glory.

PatrickPointweb

There was a couple on Outlook Rock (where I took this) that were taking turns snapping photos of each other. I offered to take a photo of them together, and I knew he was from LA by the reluctance with which he handed me his camera.

We have trust issues.

I took the photo and confirmed my suspicions…he was from LA. In fact, he was an oncologist and also on the board of directors for the UCLA cancer research center, where my niece (Susan’s daughter) was working to get her Masters Degree in cellular and molecular biology. When I asked if he knew her, he said he did. Small world eh?

He returned the favor by taking a photo of me with my camera, in all of my Hello Kitty Layers and Steroid Swelled glory.

Outlook & Me

I asked him where he was staying, as this was still a worry for me. He gave me the name of the exact Bed and Breakfast I had booked to stay the night and had found the “be back later” note on.

Thank you God.

It couldn’t be bad if this doctor was staying there. I asked him how he liked it, he stated that they liked it so much they cancelled their plans to spend time in Napa Valley so they could extend their stay.

Thank you again God.

Once again he put someone in my path that renewed my energy, filled me with happiness, and was such a genuine and unique people (both him and his wife) that my life is richer for knowing them.

We parted ways after chatting and I went on to explore the park with a much lighter heart. The sun was beginning its descent and I wanted to take in a little more. The photographic possibilities were endless.

The forest floor…

Forest Floor

The biggest slugs I have ever seen in my life were plentiful (I was careful not to step on one and make a mess of my shoes and their life). Ew.

Giant Slug

I headed back to the B&B and found the door open and my host inside. I had spoken to the owner on the phone when I made the reservation, and at that time she had prompted me to ask if any of the large rooms on the second floor were available for an upgrade.

I did so and she replied “No, we only have the smaller room downstairs available as all of our other guests are staying the week.”

I imagined staying in a coat closet with a toilet.

When I took my key and made my way to my room you can imagine how wrong I was when I opened the door and caught sight of my view.  My Room - Trinidad

Thank you God.

This was the small room? Really? I couldn’t even fit in this photo the office, changing/make-up room (yes a seperate room for that) and ridiculously spacious bathroom, but who cares with this view? And my own stove/heater thingy in my own sitting enclave. I was already sorry I was only staying one night.

I walked out onto the deck and gazed at Turtle Rock outside of my room. Turtle Rock was very loud with barking. What the heck?

I retrieved my hubby’s trusty binoculars (as it turns out the hotel provides them too), and I found the source of the noise…California Sea Lions. They were at the base of the gigantic rock and in the rough water surrounding it.

California Sea Lions Turtle Rock

I found out from the owners that the noise was primarily coming from the male bull of this harem and all of the young males who were attempting to gain access to the rock to rest, challenge, and mate.

The other smaller rocks around Turtle Rock had groups of the pinnipeds as well. I could just make out their shiny coats in the setting sun.

Small colony

I actually went out for a quick meal (opting out of my customary PB&J with trail mix combo) and came back to sit and sip a cup of herbal tea by the fake fire and the most glorious of views.

ViewfromBB

As I sat and watched the sun shine its last rays of the day, I quite unexpectedly felt one of the tight twists in my too tight rubber band give way. The Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement (ever after thought of as the Lupus Link in my mind) I had been in the fight for my life against for a year suddenly didn’t seem like such a heavy burden.

I was finally at peace with it. Suddenly, and with no conscience effort.

I was again mindful of the enigmatic awareness of what, I wasn’t sure. That peaceful self-awareness that had started my day had also ended it with an incredible gift.

The internal war I had waged against the dark passenger that had ravaged my body was over. I was at peace with the Lupus Link, and if it chose to take my life, then so be it. It has been in God’s hands ever since.

Sometimes the biggest battles are not won with will, but with grace.

Until next time dear diary, I leave you with my Trinidad sunset.

Sunset in Trinidad