The Noob Files #1 – Out of Step

 

Dear Diary,

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

Who would have thought I would ever quote someone like Friedrich Nietzsche? Surely this is a sign of how topsy turvy my life has become since answering a call to the wild.

A city girl gone mad.

And I have a toenail to prove it. What’s that you say? Let me explain. After 40 years of successfully competing in the male dominated world of Logistics in suburban LA, a lifetime of raising children and cultivating a spousal relationship, all while keeping house, and finally to being sidelined by a devastating auto-immune illness…my time is my own.

I finally have time to listen to the inner voice that had been silenced so long by the manic pace of keeping up with my overdeveloped sense of responsibilities. So what was the first thing that inner voice said to me after a lifetime of silence?

“So what now genius?”

Really? My inner voice is a smart-ass? I should have known.

It has been 3 years since the sudden end of life as I knew it, and I have to say it has been a long lonely road to where I am today. I said lonely, but so deeply satisfying. It’s almost as though my life is beginning to come full circle. Once in a while I can feel the joy I haven’t felt since I was a child, the joy of just being alive. Really alive.

But…

This most certainly has caused me to be out of step with those around me.

I should say MORE out of step with those around me. More out of step than just being the only one of my friends that still has their original boobs, original flooring in their home, has not or ever will have appointments with botox, and now…can’t even get a pedicure, thanks to the toenail that has been lost to traning for The Next Big Thing.

And to add insult to injury, I have discovered that being a Noob is a thing. Not a good thing either. Geez, to think I am a Noob at this age to anything is both gratifying and insulting at the same time.

But the truth is what I don’t know about the outdoors is staggering. And there is not a single survival skill I have learned in my previous life that carries over into this world (ie; being able to find parking in Beverly Hills, being able to meet tight budgets, etc.).

But I’m learning.

2 years ago I took my first solo trip, up the west coast from LA to Seattle. An epic adventure that started it all. A year ago I started walking. 2 months ago I started hiking. Yesterday my toenail fell off (Oh my gosh…is that normal?).

And beginning in June, this Noob has an epic adventure a month planned for the rest of the summer. And at least half of them are solo. I have truly become a mad baby boomer.

June – The North Rim of the Grand Canyon

July – The Redwood Forest and Gold Bluff’s Beach

August – The Lost Coast

September – Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon

And the rewards for all of the aches and pains of being an auto-immune riddled late blooming hiker? Too many to list, but a very tangible one is that my rare disease rheumatologist says in his entire career he has rarely seen not only a halt in my rapid bone loss, but a bone density gain of 10% over where I was last year.

The little engine that could.

I ran into one of my Bunco Club babes at Target the other day. We talked about the summer Bunco nights planned and I realized they were all in conflict with my epic summer plans.  When I stated so, my friend said…”Chris, you are so ADVENTUROUS (I put this in caps to illustrate her emphasis on the word)”.

I was stunned. Never in the history of the world would I have thought that I would ever be described as adventurous. The me who is afraid of just about anything that moves, the me who is a compulsive planner, the me who is an over-achiever, the me who is competitive, the me who dreads the unknown, the me who hurries to fill all of the expectations put on me along with those I put on myself, the me who is a chronic worry wart, the me who is frankly…pretty boring. Surely I am all these. But adventurous? Never.

Until now.

I am increasingly aware that I no longer belong in the manic world of keeping up with “fill in the blank”, nor do I yet belong in the natural world of the great outdoors. But I am embracing my in-between-ness.

And I understand now why nature calls me.

It does not care what I am wearing, how old I am, or how quickly I can scale it’s mountains. It doesn’t care that I am there, yet while I am it seems to be it’s most beautiful for me.

Nature is not embarrassed for me when I am gasping for breath or fall on my butt. It doesn’t grow impatient as I sit in wonder of it. It impassively awaits me as I work through my terror of heights and falling (there, I said it).

Nature doesn’t laugh when I accessorize my outfit with color. That’s right, I said color. Check out these gloves.

Pinkgloves

Thankfully Jesus walks with this Noob. So I may be solo, but I am never alone.

If the journey is the destination…then I am already home.

Where I can be found dancing to the music that only I can hear.

Finally.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shoal Bay East – A Dream Within a Dream

Dear Diary,

I’ve saved the best for last. Shoal Bay East. On an island full of beautiful beaches, this one rises above the rest. With it’s impossibly white powdery sand, warm aquamarine water that gently kisses the shore, an absence of footsteps but our own, and a shallow area of reef for snorkeling, this beach has it all.

Shoal Bay East

As I went through the images that we took there, I realize anew that photographs are the windows to which we can view our memories. A moment forever frozen in time. A tiny time machine that can transport us back to that place and be relived as often as we desire.

This is one of my happy places. This moment in time with my family on the most beautiful beach in the world. This window to a memory where I am always on vacation, my daughter is forever a child, and my husband wears a perpetual smile.

FAMILYMAN

Along the 2 mile beach, there was a place we stopped to eat. A local man was there resting his freshly broken arm. He was very friendly and I found myself in conversation with him immediately. He asked me about LA and seemed to relish in my description of life in Southern California.

I asked him how he broke his arm. He told me another local had broken it the night before. I was more than a little taken aback. I couldn’t help but ask him why someone would do that. He simply replied, “because he doesn’t like me”.

He went on to write down his name and address on a little index card he pulled out of his pocket. When he handed it to me he said, “Please think of me now and then when you are in your Southern California paradise”.

I realized then that this man was desperate to get off of this island. This place that I had saved so long to come to, this place that I was trying acutely to drink in every minute, to remember every sound and sight of.

One man’s paradise is another man’s hell. How many of these cards had he handed out?

It had gotten awkward.

We politely moved on, but the man still haunts me from time to time.

We spent the rest of the day walking, laughing, swimming, snorkeling. I couldn’t bear to leave it. But we had to, so I thought of something I could do to help me remember this place.

It was just a simple thing. I just wanted to take a little of this powdery sand with me to have a tangible reminder of paradise. If anyone ever doubted how perfect this sand was, I could whip out my little sample and let them ooh and ahhh as they ran the tiny specks of heaven through their own hand.

So I took out the only thing I had on me to gather sand in, an empty Pringles container. I filled it half full and took my prize with me back to our room.

I reluctantly packed our bags to leave. It seemed like just a memory already. The post vacation depression was already setting in and I hadn’t even left yet.  RendezvousBayview

Early the next morning we left our perfect beach that I had come to know as my own. I was a little mad that it didn’t care that I was leaving. It would go on being indescribably beautiful to someone else. Or to nobody else. It didn’t matter. I wouldn’t be here ever again, which struck me sullen.

At least I was bringing a tiny piece of it back with me in the Pringles can that was carefully packed in my luggage along with a couple of shells. Such a small token of what loomed large in my memory…and still does.

We retraced our travel back the way we came. We didn’t have to fly with chickens or an overweight plane this time though. Thank goodness.

We arrived in Puerto Rico where we had to claim our luggage and go through customs, which was on the far side of the airport. The airport in Puerto Rico makes me feel a little like a zoo animal. It is floor to ceiling glass on a single level, with everyone outside pressing their faces to the glass to get a look inside.

We dutifully picked up said luggage, made the long walk to customs and took our place in the queue to be inspected. I looked behind me (as everyone Mom does to make sure we hadn’t dropped anything) and to my absolute horror noticed on the dark floor a powdery white line all the way across the airport to my suitcase.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I pulled my suitcase forward to try and distance myself from it, but since it was coming from my suitcase, it just continued to follow me.

My face went red hot. I broke out into an immediate sweat as if I had just run a marathon.

I felt like a very bad drug mule that was clumsily trying to smuggle cocaine into the US.

I don’t do well in these kind of situations, I immediately go to worse case scenario.

Locked Up Abroad.

I knew I looked guilty. I couldn’t help it. I don’t normally smuggle white powdery sand into the US, so how was I to know how unreliable my Pringles vessel would be at transporting my stash?

Damn that Shoal Bay sand for being so impossibly fine and white!

I tried to get my husband’s attention without drawing any to myself, but he was focused on placing his luggage on the conveyor. It was too late. All I could do at this point was hope he would get a good lawyer so I could come home again.

It was my daughters turn to put her little SpongeBob rolling case on the conveyor and they waved her through.

Good they were through…hopefully they could behave as though they didn’t know me when the customs person nodded to the policia and they took me down.

I set my suitcase on the conveyor and braced myself. No matter how I set it, the sand just kept coming. All the saliva had left my mouth. My face was tomato red and I could feel my heart beating out of my chest as I handed over my passport.

I stared at my husband and daughter waiting for me, memorizing their faces.

The attendant hands me my passport and tells me to pick up my suitcase.

Just like that I am through customs.

Thank you God! Thank you, thank you God!

When we finally got home and I opened that suitcase, let me just say I have never seen such a mess in my life. It’s like I threw a few cups of flour in with my clothes, not quite sure if I was baking or traveling.

It took me a week, but I managed to salvage some of that sand with a paint brush. It now resides safely in a bottle in a shadow box along with other little baubles I picked up, and a photo of my daughter and I walking along the beach in Anguilla.

ShadowboxA window to a beautiful memory.

As for my smuggling career? Well over my friend, well over.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mead’s Bay and a Chocolat Day

Dear Diary,

I had chosen Anguilla for it’s idyllic beaches first and foremost, but not far behind was it’s rich and unique culture. How many Caribbean island nations can say they launched a revolution to be independent as recently as 1967? And won! They are still distantly associated with the U.K. as a territory, but enjoy much more autonomy than “Pre-Revolution”.

You gotta love that spunk in an island of only 6,000 people (in that time, the population has swelled to 13,000 modern day).

I had only spent a couple of days on Anguilla and I already felt a panic that time was going too quickly. When you work 51 weeks to have 1 week away…how can you not feel as though Father Time is a cruel taskmaster by it not being the other way around?

I had done my homework and booked a day tour on a Catamaran called “Chocolat”. We were picked up in a dinghy with about 6 other folks to sail and snorkel for a day. I had lived on a Catamaran for a week on Bimini when I went to swim with the dolphins (I never did get to actually swim with them, but we chased them around in the Catamaran and they chased us which was good enough), but this was a first for my hubby and daughter.

What a first it was.

Chocolat

Captain Rollins is very seasoned which was a delight as we sailed around to nearby Prickly Pear Cays where we snorkeled and enjoyed lunch. We then sailed to Sandy Island where we again took to the water.

My daughter and I with Captain Rollins (seated) preparing to snorkel. The gentleman in the blue shirt is another tourist (my hubby is behind the camera). Isn’t the clear turquoise water alluring?

Captain Rollins

Very interesting coral as shown below, but  I shall not bore you with the countless photos of fish I took.

Sandy Island Coral

Except for this guy might prove interesting.  A Barracuda, but we were not afraid of each other and he moved on (thankfully because they have a nasty bite). They are masters of camouflage, can you spot him?

Barracuda

We had to cut the day short because of a fast moving storm coming in and we didn’t want to end up like this guy. Just kidding, this ferry was picked up and dropped here by hurricane Luis that devastated an otherwise temperate island in 1995.

Beached ferry

We headed to another nearby beach on my list to see (Mead’s Bay) but the storm moved in and the surf picked up so we walked along the shore until we came to Dolphin Discovery.

The day decidedly went downhill from there.

My husband is aware of my adoration of dolphins and whales, and knew I was lost to him for an undetermined amount of time at that point.

I love pretty much any ocean mammal, but especially dolphins and whales. Dolphins are second only to humans for brain power (recent studies indicate Dolphins may actually use more of their brain than we do).

I grew up watching the wild dolphins in the ocean in Hawaii. We were fascinated with each other, from a distance. Which is how it should be.

I am always torn when I feel a rant swelling up and wanting to come out on my blog. I’m torn because I think I should let it, then I squelch it because negativity isn’t good for anybody.

But what if it were good for dolphins?

So here I am wandering around the rusted tank where the dolphins are held captive (because I can here in Anguilla) just staring at them in adoration, admiration, and raw pain. It kills me to see them treated like circus animals. In the wild, dolphins live up to 40 or 50 years old while in captivity their mortality rates are staggeringly low at 8.2 years. I can get really, really mad about it if I let myself.

One of the dolphins swims up and rolls over so it can see me. We stand like this for at least 30 minutes. I wish I could know what it was thinking. Does it know what I am feeling for it?

Dolphin

I decide to walk around to a different spot, and here it comes, following me and rolling so it can see me eye to eye again. At this point I am spilling tears. I can’t help it.

Dolpin2

People who enjoy swimming with dolphins, or dolphin-assisted therapy, often say that the dolphins themselves seem so happy. Sadly, but understandably, they are misunderstanding the situation. The apparent smile on the faces of dolphins is actually just a physicality, not an emotive response. It remains there as part of dolphin anatomy, no matter how sad, upset or ill they may be.

Does it just think I am a source of food? Apparently not, because when one of the trainers walked by, it still focused on me.

I felt so bad that it’s dorsal fin was torn from giving people rides in the water (this is a big tourist draw from the cruise ships at St. Maarten). There are 3 dolphins that give roughly 30,000 tourists entertainment a year at this facility. That is a lot of shows, and a lot of dragging large people through the water with a little dorsal fin.

After an hour I tore myself away. I would give anything to be in the water with them, but will not propagate dolphin captivity by giving them my money to do so. So I leave.

As an update to the Dolphin Discovery environment, it has been moved to open ocean water, but is kept by the ferry station and is very shallow. They are subject to 24/7 ferries and associated gas, oil, noise, and trash that accompany the busy pier.

I think it poignantly ironic the Republic of Anguilla that so deeply values their freedom, has a national flag with three dolphins that are meant to symbolize Friendship, Wisdom and Strength.

2000px-Flag_of_Anguilla_(1967-1969)_svg

I think it is only when we are standing at the throne of God will we truly grasp at what deplorable stewards we were with the wondrous resources he entrusted to us here on planet Earth.

Maybe then I can swim with the dolphins.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

Liquid Bliss – Little Bay, Anguilla

Dear Diary,

Day two on Anguilla. A desert island in the northern most part of the leeward islands in the Caribbean. Paradise Island.

One of the provisions that my hubby insisted upon in agreeing to accompany me to Anguilla was that he be able to rent a 4×4 for the duration of our stay.

I didn’t understand why one would need a vehicle on an island that is only 16 miles long and 3 and half miles wide with only one stop light, but a deal was a deal.

So off we went into the only real “town” on the island to rent the Jeep I had reserved in advance. As it turns out…there is a catch. A driver’s license from California does not fly in Anguilla.

Really? So someone who can negotiate the serpentine lanes of hell in Los Angeles is not qualified to drive on a remote little island where most folks travel by bicycle?

Nope.

So off we went to the little DMV (haha, that’s funny. It was a counter in a drug store I think) and took the “test” (show your valid license from anywhere) and paid the fee (pretty hefty at 20.00) and the hub was officially licensed to drive in Anguilla. A genius way to have users help pay for the maintenance.

driver's license

Pretty easy huh?

Not so fast.

Ever tried driving on the opposite side of the road you are accustomed to when there is no other traffic to help keep you in line? Very hard to make a left turn into the left lane when you have spent your whole life executing that turn into a right lane.

Needless to say when we would actually come upon another car, it was nerve wracking to be second guessing whether or not you were in the right place (at least once…we weren’t).

I was trying really hard to not get mad about having to spend so much time on the second day of my very short vacation having to negotiate red tape and relearning how to drive backwards…er sideways. And by drive, you know I mean backseat drive, right?

Luckily, I could distract myself with the directions on how to get to Little Bay Beach. Even though it had started to rain lightly but steadily, we were undaunted in seeking our destination.

Even now 10 years later, I can’t help but smile when I think of Little Bay Beach, Anguilla. Why?

So many reasons.

I had done my homework before going to Anguilla, so I knew Little Bay was a must on our itinerary. It is listed as remote and serene…does it get any better?

Little Bay is only accessible by boat or repelling down an ancient rope on a vertical cliff. When we had finally found the beach and looked down from the overgrown aforementioned vertical cliff, we had to rethink repelling. It was slick, and even if my hubby and I were willing to gamble with our adult lives by living so dangerously, neither of us were willing to take the risk with our daughter.

Already the Jeep was paying for itself. It would have been a long walk in the rain if a taxi had dropped us off.

So off we were to find boat transportation to Little Bay. We parked at Crocus Beach and began asking around at the locals hanging around playing dominoes. Not those actually playing dominoes because by interrupting a domino game in Anguilla you would be putting your life in mortal danger (probably not literally, but I wasn’t going to gamble there either), but those standing on the periphery.

We were informed to ask for Calvin who would be sitting under a tree.

Indeed he was. We enlisted his charter (a little dinghy) and I instantly fell in love with him. He brought a large umbrella for us (from a local café I think), and used his well worn party hat to shield himself. Does it get any more adorable? Somehow, I don’t think the hat was doing much good but you wouldn’t know it.

calvin

Within just a few moments our destination was in site. It didn’t disappoint. Then again, nothing in Anguilla does.

As we neared the shore, the rappelling cliff came into sight. Probably a good idea to have Calvin boat us in. Please disregard the rain on the lens ok?

Littlebaycliff

Oh but even in the rain, the little beach (hence the name) was divine. I am including a photo I plucked off of the Anguillabeaches.com site since I didn’t get it in it’s entirety..

Little Bay Beach

Just as soon as we disembarked the sun started peaking out from the clouds, but I was already in the water snorkeling with my little family. What an incredible place to be underwater. There was so much to see I couldn’t nearly list it all here, but I will try with horribly inadequate photos…

I have circled some sea urchins, a parrot fish, and Blue Tangs all in this photo. The entire Bay was teaming with life. I had no idea what was coming though…

underwaterlittlebay

As I free dove I noticed a little tiny school of what looked like bait fish of some sort…

smallschool

and within seconds I was completely engulfed by a huge bait ball which was remarkably fascinating and a little gross feeling (on my skin) all at the same time.

bigschool

Even if I would have been thinking about what follows bait fish, I wouldn’t have been afraid. I have never been too afraid (although I have not come face to face with a Great White and I hope I never do) of underwater creatures. I am much more frightened by those who walk on two legs.

Oh and bears. You know I’m terrified of bears.

Still surrounded by the bait ball, I made my way to the surface to get air and right before I broke the surface I came nose to nose with a giant sea turtle. I still wonder if the startled scream I let out could be heard coming out of my snorkel above water. The poor sea turtle was just as startled as I, but did not scream.

I wish I would have had the presence of mind to snap a photo. But I didn’t.

When I filled my lungs with air and ducked back underwater, my friend was gone. And so apparently was the bait ball. Just that fast.

An unforgettable experience.

I did however have the presence of mind to snap a photo of what was above water, a most incredible cave. The perched Pelican can give you an idea of the scale. Unfortunately my free dive fins did not allow for easy exploration so I just marveled from the azure water.

cave

While scouring the bottom of the bay, I found an old wine glass (these use to be pirate waters) and as soon as I handed it to my daughter to look at, it was promptly dropped back into where it came, never to be found again. I suppose things are meant to be where they are.

Sigh.

After spending what seemed like minutes but was actually hours, Calvin came to fetch us from our liquid bliss at exactly the agreed upon time. I could pretend that this Eden was my own playground (we didn’t see another soul all day), but I couldn’t pretend to stop time.

Double sigh.

Goodbye Little Bay. I still miss you.

Goodbyelittlebay

And I still smile.

Until next time dearest.

 

The Most Beautiful Beaches In the World

Dear Diary,

Oh I know what you’re going to say, “Have you been to every beach in the world”?

You know I haven’t.

But even if I had, it’s subjective isn’t it? Still, the travel gurus (Trip Advisor, Travel Channel et al) seem to agree with me since at least one of Anguilla’s (British West Indies) beaches make their lists every year.

The truth is, I would be happy on any beach.

But this is one of those places that you just knew would be perfect, but reality even managed to surpass that expectation. And I had some pretty stiff criteria.

Perfectly White Sand Beaches

No Other Footprints But My Own

Relatively Low Crime (I was so stressed out from work, I couldn’t take a whole lot more worries)

Warm Tropical Water

No Street Traffic (Oh please God, Los Angeles is too much!)

So when I arrived with my young daughter and reluctant husband in tow (this was in 2005) after flying from LAX to Fort Lauderdale to Puerto Rico to Tortola to St. Maarten and finally to the island of my dreams…Anguilla.

Oh you know it, it’s the island Brad and Jen were photographed together for the last time, Orlando Bloom honeymooned, Jay Z and Beyoncé on the beach, Sandra Bullock with her son Luis and ad infinitum.

Because it’s just that beautiful.

But how does one on a budget go to an island that is the playground of the rich and famous? It can be done.

I knew I was in trouble though as our planes kept getting smaller, and by the time we left for St. Maarten from Tortola, some of our fellow passengers were chickens.

Nope, not kidding.

Also on that plane was a woman so large there was a plank put in the aisle so she could sit down for take off….and that is why we arrived without our luggage. They had left it on the tarmac because the plane was too heavy. Not just ours, but that didn’t make me feel better when we had to wait for 4 hours in St. Maarten for another plane to bring our luggage. But that’s part of the adventure right?

So when we were finally told that our luggage would not arrive until the next day and hailed a taxi to take us to the French side of the island so we could catch the ferry to Anguilla, how stressed out was I when the taxi driver told us we only had minutes before the bridge between the Dutch and French side closed for the night. Seriously?

To his credit and my frazzled last nerve, he drove like a crazy man and I am quite sure there were not more than a few bicyclists stuck to his grill, but we got there in time.

So after a day of travel that spanned 6 countries and more than a couple of mishaps, how do you think I felt when I opened the French doors of our room and looked out at this view?

RendezvousBayview

Blissful.

Here we were on Rendezvous Bay at the Hotel and Villas with the same name. A Rendezvous with heaven it must mean.

It was everything I had hoped. Perfectly white sand beach that went on forever with nobody else on it. I dared not breathe lest I wake up back on the plane with the chickens.

But it was real.

We shed our travel clothes and cares and dove into the crystal clear warm water where I would stay, on one beach or another, for a week.

Arriving at the destination of a bucket list item is the fruition of a dream. What makes the dream real however, are the moments in time that follow the arrival. The moments we spend in awe of beauty, in respect of other cultures, in interactions with the people in those cultures, and the time we get to spend with our loved ones away from the hustle and bustle of our every day lives.

So are they the most beautiful beaches, or the most beautiful moments?

I will expound on this island and it’s most beautiful beaches in the world in future posts, but I will leave you with some photos of beautiful moments, forever frozen in time on Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla, British West Indies, Lesser Antilles.

My daughter and I strolling along the empty beach. Priceless.

BEACHWALK2A mermaid in an aquamarine Eden.

underwater

Our upstairs villa room is the one with the towel hanging over the veranda. I think we were the only ones there. In May no less. LA seemed to be on a different planet.

ourhotel

My hubby photographing me waiting to try and photograph the perfect sunset.

meandsunset

And I got it…

perfect sunset

I snapped this as I walked along the dirt road with my hubby hand in hand to check out of our hotel. The palm trees frame the shot of Rendezvous Bay, and another perfect moment forever in my heart.

RENDEZVOUSBAY2

We say good-bye to this beach, but not to Anguilla. There are more beaches and moments to share.

Until next time dearest.

A DIY Bathroom Makeover and Marriage Encounter Workshop

Dear diary,

The DIY bathroom makeover was intentional, the marriage encounter workshop was accidental and resultant of the aforementioned.

I know, I’m as surprised as you.

Here is a photo of the bathroom before and after;

Before

Before

After

After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish I could provide a before and after of the marriage encounter, but we look the same on the outside. Only the dynamics changed.

Significantly.

Enough time has passed since the completion of this project so that I can revisit it without a divorce attorney. I’m kidding of course! Sort of.

So here goes.

My bucket list is comprised not only of places I’d like to go, but things I’d like to do. A DIY project placed high on that “to do” list.

I always promised myself after I retired that I would undertake making over rooms in my house for several reasons;

Save money. A reliable end result that resembles what I envisioned. Enrich my skill set. Work as a handy partner with my handy hubby who can do anything (MacGyver style).

Ah…how naïve I was. If I knew then what I know now I would run not walk, to the nearest contractor and gleefully hand over my hard earned savings.

But I was blissfully ignorant.

It started out simple enough. A small remark made offhandedly after dinner when we sat in our respective places in front of the TV on our iPads (I’m not proud of that but I have promised to always keep it real). He was doing whatever it is he usually does, and I was coveting admiring on Pinterest all of the luscious photos of what other people have done with various rooms of their homes.

I came across one where some other handy soul had framed a large builders mirror (late 80’s/early 90’s) in such a way that it made it look like like separate mirrors. I shall use our finished product as an example here because I no longer have the one that inspired me.

Before

Before

After

After

Big generic builders mirror before. This is our guest bathroom that used to be our kids bathroom. If that isn’t enough said to illustrate what this bathroom has been through, you’ve never had kids. Not to mention the headquarters for my niece’s wedding party, and at least 5 proms worth of girls. My son was easy. Lots of fond memories, but I was over the look.

Big generic builders mirror after. The shelving unit is hiding the middle section of mirror.

I told you he is handy.

Ahem, back to my story.

I was showing him the before and after similar to the photo above and at right, and here came the reply that started it all….

“I can do that”.

He began to get a clue of what that statement started when I began asking 7,000 questions (I didn’t really count, it may have been more) about what a room makeover entailed, where to begin, what supplies we would need, etc. etc. etc.

He said we would need to remove the carpeting first.

I would later ascertain that what he meant was “someday when we get ready to take on this project”. He would shortly find out that by virtue of asking, I was creating an action list.

Imagine his horror when he woke up the next day to what I had so proudly accomplished, which was pulling up the carpet and exposing this layer of linoleum underneath. I restrained my gag reflexes when I was so proudly showing him what I’d done, like a little kid that had just cut their own hair.

That’s glue on the linoleum, by the way. Yuck.

IMG_0711

In hindsight I suppose something inside of me knew that this was a calculated “no going back” move, but I was consciously driven by my optimistic “can do” attitude and a very loose grasp on exactly how long a true make-over takes.

He was furious, and I couldn’t figure out why. I was willing to do all the work, he just had to give me verbal guidance on the steps. What was so hard about that?

He went out to get a scraping tool for me (he is Tim the Tool Man Taylor in this regard) and after a short demonstration, I began to bring up the linoleum. I made good progress even though I can promise you I would have rather been doing anything else. The small bathroom without a window instantly smelled like the dank concrete in a basement. Yuck. I was feeling better and better about my abilities when I powered through the eeby geebies of it.

When he came back to check on me (it was still early in the game, he would know better than to do this later on) I just happened to be using this tool to pry up the wood tack strips (don’t be impressed, I had to look up what those are called) along the wall.

He. Came. Undone.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING”? (Oh yes, he was shouting) He posed this as a question, but since he didn’t give me time to reply…I can only assume it was rhetorical.

“YOU”RE GOING TO RUIN THAT TOOL”!

Is he serious? I’m going to ruin this heavy metal tool by prying on some little old wood strips? I suspect this is a gross over exaggeration, but I was still willing to be his whipping boy in order to get the job done.

He rolled his eyes and turned to go get the right tool, all the while muttering obscenities under his breath. What was the big deal? Why didn’t he just bring me the right tools to begin with? This question went through my mind, but I knew better than to actually ask it. Even rhetorically.

He finished the floor in a huff.

Whatever.

In hindsight, this should have been a huge red flag that while opposites attract, they probably don’t work well on DIY projects together. More on that later.

My hubby suggested I be the one to remove the cupboard doors and drawer. I struggled even with that. Who knew there are two kinds of Phillips head screwdrivers? I didn’t. He nearly lost it again, but I had not “rounded out” his screwdriver yet, so I survived. Sheesh.

I’m not going to lie. I was not removing the toilet. He did that. And put some sort of cover over the hole. Did you know there is a wax ring around the base of toilets? Very messy. Very very messy. And gross. Very gross. But I hung in there.

I did an exceptional job of cleaning up at this point (notice the supplies neatly arranged on the saw horse thingy). The hub remained unimpressed.

bathroom paint ready

Already I was feeling a tinge bit under-appreciated. I should have paid more attention to that.

We removed the huge builder’s mirror and safely tucked it away. The hubster suggested we cut a pool noodle and use it as a foam edging to protect the mirror. He’s hard to be mad at when he’s this brilliant. You feel me?

We had to turn it around since our little Lucy was having no part of the doggie in the mirror. She’s funny.

mirror

The next step was to paint. I don’t need any help with that. I had already decided that the walls and counter top would be grey, and the cabinetry would be white. I set out to get a sample of the grey I thought I wanted.

As it turns out, there are more than 50 shades of grey – and I went through quite a few of them before I found just the right one. I spent one whole day prepping to paint. Being an anal retentive does not mesh well with DIY.

dexterized bathroomI started painting and after I was almost done with the walls, the hubby came in and said, “Can I give you some advice”?

This was not rhetorical since he was giving me time to answer. So it must be a trick question then. Yes that’s it, a trick question. I was going to have to bite here because I didn’t have a trick answer.

“Yes” I said. He replies, “Why didn’t you start with the ceiling”?

This is not advice. This is another question. He is waiting for me to answer. I don’t know why I didn’t start with the ceiling. It sort of makes sense now that he’s asking me, but I am beginning to resent his tone.

“I don’t know why. Why you didn’t offer the advice BEFORE I started to paint”? I replied with a tone of my own.  This was totally rhetorical on my part.

“You don’t need to get defensive” he says.

“I’m sorry, I’m just tired” I say.

He replies, “So am I, I already have a full time job remember”? Totally rhetorical on his part since he is walking away while still talking.

There it is. An aha moment for me. Had just this short time of retirement already made me insensitive to impinging on the valuable time of others? This silenced me in the moment, but was a preview of upcoming attractions with sharp exchanges that are out of character for us most other times. I say most.

I sanded and painted and sanded and painted and sanded and painted (3 coats) the vanity both inside and out. When my hubby came in to replace the water pipe doodads to a higher quality, he said I shouldn’t have spent so much time on the inside since nobody would see it. Really?

I would know it, therefore I would see it.

But I kept this comment to myself. Evidently he doesn’t know how far a “good job” would have gone. All those years of management school and all I can use it for now is to a critical end with my talented but communication challenged other half.

Before this project began, I logged countless hours researching the best method of painting cabinets. I finally settled on an acrylic alkyd based paint along with Zinsser primer. We invested in a paint sprayer since I knew this would probably not be my last painting project.

Just for the record, there is more than 50 shades of white too. I finally settled on Swan White from Benjamin Moore who I have to thank for making me a paint snob.

I couldn’t use the paint sprayer indoors though, so the vanity was done the old fashioned way. With a brush.

Pay no never mind to how beige that tub/shower looks next to the new white vanity. Since it was not in our budget to replace, I had a plan.

vanity2

I commandeered the shed in a corner of our yard and moved everything out while transforming it into my temporary paint room where I would paint the vanity doors, drawer, faux drawer fronts, and bathroom door.

paint shed

We had to have the insides of the vanity doors cut out by a friend (in exchange for some valuable spirits) and my husband put bead board in it’s place. The hubby removed the bathroom door because I was reluctant to beat on the long pin with a hammer. That’s what I told him anyway. The real reason is I just didn’t trust myself with a weapon at that time.  We wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt. Right?

More sanding.  It doesn’t take long for those finger tips to scream “enough”! I used to have nails…

ouch

I had painted two coats and had sanded in preparation for the third in just under 2 weeks time. When I turned on the paint sprayer and pulled the handle to spray, it sputtered and spit large chunks of paint all over the cabinets and when I brought it up to look at it (while nurturing a healthy disbelief) it managed to spit on the door too.

Aaaaaaaargh! I had to start all over.

Meanwhile, my daughter and I were taking turns being the whipping boy for MacGyver. It became a joke between us, when he would call for one of us, that person would tell the other one, “you owe me”. When a string of cuss words would precede the calling of a name…the stakes were higher and no words needed to be said by the unlucky one chosen to go into the fire that time. There was no flying under the radar for this build.

His framing and shelving were coming along and I knew when he would drop something off at the paint shed, it was my duty to paint it and give it back for his next step.

Since it was my project, it fell on me to pick out the counter top at a builder’s surplus warehouse which was quite a distance from my house.

It took a whole day, but mission accomplished. Exactly the color and style I wanted at a bargain price. Woohoo! It took all three of us and a pulley system my hubby rigged up to get it in, but what a difference.

My daughter literally ran back to college from Spring Break at home with Mom and Dad.

He walked me through how to adhere the backsplash and I managed that one without supervision.

sink top

Now we were firing on all cylinders, except for one thing. See how hubby put up that pretty bead board on the walls?

He forgot to have me paint it first (this photo was taken after I painted the bead board).

Really? If I didn’t know better I would think he was torturing me intentionally now. Do you know how hard it is for paint to self level (I learned this the prior two weeks with all of the other painting I’d done) when it’s not laying flat? PLUS now I had to worry about getting paint on my pretty gray walls.

Arrrrrrrrrrgh.

This is beginning to be like a bad Laurel and Hardy movie. A silent film, because we were barely speaking at this point.

Luckily the end result was so stunning, it propelled me to keep going with the vanity doors again. What a difference eh?

by toilet

I didn’t use the paint sprayer anymore. I couldn’t trust it, so we weren’t friends at all. I used the old fashioned way, and in another two weeks (Before you judge how long it took me, I still have other chores to do remember)…voila.

vanitydoors

Finally done.

The tile floor was next, and oh how I dreaded working that closely with the Grinch who had stolen my make-over joy. As he explained to me how to ensure we were getting a straight edge on a crooked floor (it’s amazing how many things are crooked and slapped together even in an upscale track home), and how we had to lay out each tile with the spacers, I began to get a deep appreciation for what he had gone through when he laid the tile in our master bathroom while I was at work. I had no idea.

He also created a tool that would enable him to cut such small tiles in whatever size we needed. Of course he did, ’cause he’s MacGyver. I was still mad at him though. Especially when he kept hitting the vanity with grey tile grout and I was endlessly touching up. After 2 days we finished and I had to hand it to him…he knows his stuff. And yes, I put shelf paper in the vanity to temper the affects of him setting his tools on my beautiful paint job.

tile2

Next up was the mirror back onto the wall (whew…intact) and the frame. This was the origin of much colorful language as he worked on and around the mirror.  While most people on pinterest glue their frames right onto the mirror, he insisted this wasn’t safe and actually built a frame for the frame. Yes, those are 5 gallon stir sticks on the side. Hey don’t judge, we didn’t have to pay California’s “wood fee” (WTH?) on those, and they were precisely the width we needed.

frame for frame2

At this point we had to rewire the light bar for two light bars, one over each sink. While this is not new for him, I am terrified of electricity so believe me when I say this couldn’t get done fast enough. He hung the new light bars and I could finally throw away that tired old broken thing. When I asked my kids who broke the end bulb holder, they of course didn’t know. Someone must have broken in and done it while we were gone. Kids are funny.

lightbars

The photos are taken at various stages so please forgive. I am shocked I remembered to take any at all since we were pretty focused on the finish line at this point. The actual frame  and shelving unit still had to go up so the cussing was not over.

Once again, he focused on safety and rather than rely on the mirror to hold the weight of the shelves, he cut it perfectly to contour the backsplash so that it was self supported but covered the mirror behind it.

shelving close up

He added molding and bead board for aesthetics and it was ready for final paint. Frame and shelving unit photo below. Notice all of those tools under the sink on my beautiful vanity shelf with no shelf paper in sight? Notice the light bulb and globe that was collateral damage? Nope, me neither on both counts. There is no place for anal retentives here, believe it.

shelfandframes2

The only miscalculation was the slightly larger bottom shelf which I assured him was fine. I would make a floral bouquet to fit and nobody would be the wiser. See how  agreeable and supportive I am? Management school charm I tell ya. My hubby would probably disagree.

The larger reality however, was that although I had claimed this as my vision and project, the dramatic transformations were as a result of MacGyver’s time and talent.

The new faucets I had picked out to match the overall 1920’s theme were put in and I added the decorations I had made and purchased along the way to the shelving unit and sink top. The vanity doors were put on with the new handles (he was mad that I got them at Hobby Lobby, I guess they were more fragile than ones you might find in a hardware store. Who knew?) and after cussing and a couple of replacements (like the globe), we were good to go. Did I mention that he dropped his drill down the front of one of the vanity doors and it had to go back to paint? No? It must have slipped my mind.

As for framing the medicine cabinet, that was purely his idea and not part of my original vision. Credit where credit is due.

I had found and spray painted an old frame, painted a piece of plywood with chalkboard paint, added some flowers, and I wrote how I was feeling on it before it was hung.

pictureframe

The original bouguet I had made that inspired me to choose the 20’s theme went onto the new toilet my hubby installed (more cussing and yelling, and me cleaning up after a wax ring. Not my favorite.). I embellished the old soap dispenser to match the new décor. I picked up curtains at WalMart to hide the buttercream colored bath/shower. New throw rugs from Target added color to the floor.

It was almost done.

babyboomer2

I chose artwork from magazine covers (off of the internet) from the 1920’s depicting how women were changing after the 19th amendment. All in yellow, white, grey and black. My hubby put up the new towel rack and we were finally, finally done.

pictures

I love those before and after shots don’t you? The medicine chest is visible here.

Bathroom ipad22

Stay with me…this is the last one I promise…

bathroom ipad42

How could two people who have raised two terribly wonderful children and built a life together for 23 years, struggle to work harmoniously on a DIY project? I am going with the theory that like Hemingway and Picasso, he is a talent that works best alone. As for his tortured muse? I just don’t fit into that roll so well. But having successfully gone through the fire, we are richer for it. Would I go through it again on another room? Not on your life.

So if you are wondering what your relationship is made of, don’t bother with opinions. Just take on a sizable DIY project together. Who knows? Something beautiful just might come out of it.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Things I Learned On the Trail – That Everyone Else Already Knows

Dear Diary,

I totally accept the fact that I am a very late boomer (play on words there) when it comes to the outdoors. We are just now getting acquainted for the first time in 3 decades.

But I am hell bent on getting trained for the Next Big Thing.

I appropriately equipped myself (this time) on my solo day hike to bag a new trail on an old mountain.

I have been preparing for this day for months. Trekking sticks, check. Hydration pack, check. Hiking shoes, check. Hiking socks, check. Annual parking permit, check. I’m  good to go.

So with a very light heart and a song on my lips I set out to seek adventure in the San Antonio Mountain Wilderness (in California, not Texas), which is also the mountains I grew up by and can see out of my current home’s windows. I see it everyday, and every day I vow to conquer it.

The day has come. On a Thursday morning the parking lot is not full yet and I jump out of my car and to the rear of the Suburban to gear up. I have filled the hydration pack with 2 liters of water (more than I should need), a light lunch, and emergency matches etc.

I noticed that my hydration pack was wet so I assumed I set it on the mouthpiece, and I made a mental note to be more careful next time.

I set out on the trail and am feeling dang good about myself. This is my mountain, and the old Ice House Trail is one I was originally introduced to by my intrepid Mother when I was a tender 4 years old. That was 53 years ago, and even though I have taken a 30 year hiatus from this mountain, I have a lot of great family memories of this trail and the swimming hole creek that it follows.

After about a mile I reached back to feel of the hydration pack and noticed it was still dripping. A lot. The only reason I hadn’t felt the wetness is because I had tied my down jacket (did I leave that out of my original list of trick equipment? Sorry.) around my waist.

I sat down on a log and took it off for inspection. I couldn’t really find anything wrong with it, but as I took the entire bladder out of the pack, I noticed that my Curious George of a husband had not snapped the tube back into the bladder after he had taken it apart.

Because that’s what guys do. They have to take things apart. They just do.

I snapped it back in and noticed I had lost a whole liter of water. Thank goodness I brought extra.

Another mile and I was turning onto the trail of my desire. It added 2 miles to the destination versus the Ice House Trail, but was not as steep of an ascent. I was anticipating a leisurely climb to my destination known as the Mt. Baldy Saddle where many different trails converged.

The first 3 or so miles was aromatherapy heaven (scents of pine, California sage, and other plants I don’t know), except for the group of women ahead of me that were talking so loudly it was kind of defeating the purpose of getting out in nature. I couldn’t see them, but I could definitely hear them talking in their native tongue, an Asian language.

I made it to a tent camping site along the trail (known as Cedar Glen Campsite) where the women were seated on the only felled log, eating their lunches. It was hard to be mad at them, they were pretty adorable. They asked me if I was going to the Saddle, I replied “Yes, I’ve never been this way before though”. They replied with a like destination, and it would be their first time to the Saddle on this trail also.

Good. I thought to myself that I would wait for them at the Saddle so I could give them all “high fives” to celebrate our mutual achievement. Then I moved on.

I noticed right away that the trail was markedly different than what I had experienced before Cedar Glen. The trail earlier had been equipped with railings to protect against the steep talus (loose broken rock) mountain side.

The railings were gone. The trail narrowed to about 12 inches wide and I noticed a new development…snow. I wasn’t worried, the trail was well marked by a couple of sets of footprints (quite large actually) so I set my foot down on one of them to follow.

Shawoop! The footprints had turned to ice and were so slick not even my new trick hiking shoes could grab hold of a footing. I stopped and looked around me. The snow on the steep mountainside above and below me tracked with big horned sheep footprints going in a straight vertical trajectory. HOW DO THEY DO THAT?

I reasoned that if the big horned sheep can go straight up, and a couple of large men are ahead of me on the human trail, certainly I could do this.

I recited a mantra of my husband’s, “Don’t let fear hold you back” over and over in my head as I made my way through the slick ice and onto solid ground just 10 ft. up the trail. No sweat I thought, I can do this.

The next patch of snow/ice was on where the switchback turned sharply to the left and  up. I put my foot down on what I thought was solid ground and Shawoop again! If not for my trekking pole, I would have fallen backward down the rocky mountainside.

I at this point noticed how very far down that was. About 500 ft. down a rock and log strewn steep mountainside so far down that I couldn’t see where I would actually land.

I shouldn’t have done that.

It was then I noticed I could no longer hear the Asian women coming up behind me. I am standing on ice, with only ice ahead of me and behind me. I am too frightened to go back down passed the very slick part I had just traversed, and since there was open trail just pass the slick switchback…I pulled myself up to it with my arms and trekking poles.

I was not having fun anymore. Not at all.

I kept going with the thought that the Saddle was probably just around each slippery bend, and then I could take the familiar Ice House Trail back down to my car.

But it didn’t happen. The trail just kept getting more and more steep.

I kept pushing on until I reached a point where the trail had washed out due to a landslide, but the landslide was only about 2 ft. wide. I stepped over the landslide and froze.

My trekking pole had caused a tiny landslide where I had planted it, and I made the mistake of watching the rocks go down. So I am literally frozen with terror with my legs wide apart and no leg muscles to either retreat or advance.

It occurs to me here that I am waaaaaaaaay out of my league here. I have made a dire error in assessing my skill level. I made mention of this to God in my almost constant praying at this point. As the panic begins to rise, I think of how long it will take to find my body. I told my hubby where I was going complete with the name of the trail, but I know he wouldn’t retain it.

I have no choice but to move my now shaking legs. I tried to get on my hands and knees, but the trail was too narrow and unstable to allow it. I moved forward an inch with my back foot, and after about 15 minutes, got it to about a foot away from my front one.

About 4 more feet forward and I was off of the talus. I couldn’t go back now for sure, but forward was so steep and treacherous that I stopped again and considered my options.

No cell phone service. No other person in sight. I had no options.

It was slow going after that. I reluctantly put one foot in front of the other with such trepidation that it actually took me an hour to go a mile. The snow was getting deeper, which actually made it easier, but I was getting cold.

I stopped to put on my jacket but as I turned my head to unwrap it from my waist, I saw just how far down the mountainside was now. I couldn’t see an end. I was overtaken by such a quick and deadly vertigo that had I not had my trekking pole on solid ground, I would have toppled over.

In all of my 57 years, I’ve never had vertigo before. I don’t like it at all.

I dared not make a move to put on my jacket which would require letting go of my poles. No way. I’d rather freeze.

If I wasn’t so terrified, I would have been mad at myself for putting me in a position where I could actually die. Why can’t I just be happy with crafting and DIY projects like my friends in retirement? Oh the irony.

Just as I was about to burst into tears from panic and fatigue, a man came tearing around the bend in the trail (no trekking poles) and bade greeting.

Instead of crying out in relief and begging for his help…I composed myself and asked him if I was almost to the Saddle.

Because that’s what we humans do. We try not to appear as though we are the dumb asses we actually are. Wait…I might be just speaking for myself here. Never mind.

He assessed my equipment and said with my ankle high hiking boots and trekking poles that I should be fine, but the last bit would be much more steep and treacherous. He said I might ask the opinion of the two women coming down behind him, and he went on his way.

SERIOUSLY? MORE STEEP AND TREACHEROUS THAN THIS?

I was again literally frozen in terror. A terror that I have never known before this point.

Before I can get too maniacal, the aforementioned women (in their 50’s, a very fit 50’s) came around the bend in a lighthearted, upbeat pace. They are not racing like the man before them, nor are they clinging to their trekking poles and carefully making a shaky commitment to every labored step as I am.

They stop and greet me and without so much as a “Hello”, I blurt out a question as to the quality of the trail further up. I state that I am not enjoying myself anymore and need to make a decision whether to keep going or cut bait and retreat. Can they help?

They reply, “If you don’t like this, you definitely won’t like what comes next. We probably should have worn our crampons.”

That did it. Sometimes the evils of the known are better than the evils of the unknown. I don’t even know what crampons are, and ignore that it rhymes so closely with tampons.

I ask if I can follow them back down and they said no problem.

But I didn’t miss the look they gave each other. It was an exasperated “Oh no, not another annoying newbie”. They said a little impatiently to “just follow their footsteps” and continued on their way.

I said, “Ok, thank you”. But in my head I thought…”screw you, I’ll follow my own footprints”.

There she is. The saucy city girl that will fall down the side of the mountain with her pride intact.

I don’t know if it was because I no longer felt so alone and vulnerable, or because the sun had melted some of the ice (let’s go with that one shall we?), or just because I knew that other people were able to do it, I made it down quickly.

Well quickly compared to how slowly I had gone up after I lost my nerve.

The women had vanished in the distance long ago, but after passing Cedar Glen I relaxed a little and itemized what lessons I had learned this day. If you read them and apply “duh” after each one, you will replicate how I heard them in my head.

1. Fancy shmancy equipment does not take the place of leg muscles.

2. Check said equipment after Curious George has had his hands on it.

3. Don’t explore unfamiliar territory without Tarzan as a hiking companion, alone (this is problematic to future hikes as just about everything is unfamiliar to me).

4. Stop and turn around when the Asian women do.

5. Write down where I am going in the event I do not return so Curious George will know what to tell the authorities after 24 hours has passed.

6. Do not look down.

I finally make it back to my car (with no water left) and realize that in my excitement to hit the trail, I left the driver side door standing wide open. For 5 hours. On the most crowded mountains in LA and San Bernardino Counties. Oh.My.Gosh.

Thank God my hubby (Curious George) does not know about my blog. This shall be our secret ok?

I quickly assess that my purse is untouched, as are the fancy shmancy trekking poles I bought my husband in the hopes that he would go with me someday.

I am still thanking God for saving me from myself yet again. In so many ways.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

A Liebster Award? A Whatty Whatta?

 

Liebster Award

I don’t need the specifics…I just care that it ends in Award and I was nominated by a blogger I really enjoy reading, God Bless you Karen Campbell at 2000 Detours to Zen. She always leaves me feeling lighter and sunnier after reading her blog, but I gotta say Karen, it’s going to be hard to top this on the happiness scale.

It’s incredibly flattering to be nominated by a fellow blogger.

Now comes the pressure to follow all of the rules correctly. I can do this. Because I am an overachiever.

I have to add here that this is not my first writing award. In the 5th grade I got 4 (yes I said 4) A+’s because while the other kids made up their stories on half of a sheet of paper, I turned in a complete story of 7 pages (back and front) about 2 kids going into space, with illustrations by yours truly.

Evidently my overachieving started early.

So here are the rules as I understand them;

Liebster Award Rules
• Thank and link to the nominator on your page. (Thank you again Karen at 2000 Detours to Zen)
• Answer the following 11 questions provided by the nominator.
• Share 11 random facts about yourself.
• Nominate 5 other Blogs with less than 200 followers.  I changed it from 11 since it used to only be 3. I am aware of the irony that I was the 11th nominated on 2,000 Detours to Zen.
• Post the Liebster Award rules in your acceptance post.

So here goes…

Question 1. Reach for the book closest to you and turn to page 29 line 4. What does it say? Answer: There is an equal distance between Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew (I’ve been having trouble sleeping and this does the trick) which is  “Villian, I say, knock me here soundly”. Now if there is something Freudian here I don’t want to know what it is. The other is my bible and it is in Genesis “let me find Grace in the sight of my Lord”. Yes, let’s have that one define me shall we?

Question 2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
Answer: In a place where I can fall asleep and wake up to the sound of the ocean. Then within 6 months I would move back to wherever my family is. So that is my final answer.

Question 3.  If you could change one thing about the world, what would you do?
Answer:  Really? The whole world? I can’t even get cooperation to change my living room. I’ll just let the world be bigger than me and promote peace within a very tough but intimate crowd…my family.

Question 4. Is the glass half empty or half full?
Answer: It doesn’t matter because either way it still needs to be cleaned.

Question 5. When was the last time you ate a homegrown tomato?              Answer: 2 months ago from the tomato plant that comes back every year that my Father-In-Law gave us. He’s been gone 5 years now but his tomatoes live on.

Question 6. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Answer: Mrs. Donny Osmond, a Postal Carrier, and a writer. I’ve given up on Donny and the USPS, and I’m good with it. I’m still working on the latter.

Question 7. What is your favorite time of the day?
Answer: Morning when the day is new and full of possibilities.

Question 8. What inspires you?
Answer:  Other writers. They keep the playing field of life level. And my family that tolerates me, especially my daughter who is the most caring and intelligent person that I have ever met. As an RN, every one of her patients are lucky to have her on the job. She is my only hope to have grandkids too I might add.

Question 9. What is your favorite childhood memory?
Answer:  Watching The Wonderful World of Disney and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom hosted by Marlin Perkins on Sunday nights. We would get popcorn after taking our baths and the TV was ours for these shows. It was family time that was predictable and safe.

Question 10. What three things in nature do you find most beautiful?
Answer: Water, water, water. The sea, a mountain lake, a puddle after the rain in a desert, a babbling brook. The smell, feel, look, and sound of water anywhere in nature. Except flash floods. Nobody likes those.

Question 11. For What would you most like to be remembered?     Love. Just love. Although realistically I will probably be remembered for something a little more neurotic.

My 5 Nominees…I have no idea how to tell how many followers someone has. Just sayin’.

Lulufille.wordpress.com – Who reminds me that someone beautiful can come from an ugly upbringing every time she posts.

Awakeningtoawareness.com – I am sure Eric has already been nominated numerous times (since his blog is award free) and has more than 200 followers, but he’s who I’d like to be when I grow up. Intelligent writing at it’s best.

Snapsandstories.com– Richard keeps me entertained with his stories and photos of his travels and the enthusiasm with which he writes.

Runninginafoodcoma.wordpress.com – Alex is a gifted writer with at times a wickedly humorous and at others a grippingly poignant grasp on the realities of everyday life.

2000detourstozen.com – Karen is a fearless and talented writer who is entertaining and reminds me to not sweat the small stuff through both the lens of her camera and outlook.

Random crap…

1.) I had a blog I really loved until I discovered a stalker had deeply infiltrated my electronic life. I deleted it in a panic and lost some of my best writing. I’m almost over it. I had to cloak my identity on my new blog…but I’m coming around to being less paranoid. I think this qualifies as 3 or 4 items don’t you?

2.) I was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps after Basic Training because I was so worried about my sister being at home without me.

3.) I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility (see number 2).

4.) I graduated high school early and was accepted to study abroad in Athens but ended up not going because…I was worried about my sister. Surprised?

5.) I’ve written a book I think is pretty good but stopped just shy of finishing it. This is how I self sabotage. Have I shared too much?

6.) I cry when I see anything being abused or injured in any form of media so sometimes I have to retreat to my happy little world while I refortify.

7.) I have now been able to satisfy a bucket list item by winning an award. Thank you again Karen!