Tents for Algernon

Dear Diary,

It is exactly 9 months until I must be ready for The Next Big Thing. I have created and birthed two human beings in that amount of time, surely I can do the same with my outdoorsy self?

Indeed.

I took the time last week while my Eagle Scout of a husband and daughter were enraptured by the fourth quarter of the Seattle/Green Bay play-off game to sneak my brand new REI backpack tent into the yard for a trial run assembly.

One of the reasons that I settled on this particular tent was the guarantee that it would take less than 10 minutes to erect, even in the most challenging of weather.

Just sunshine and a nice dry, grassy, level back yard for me, should be easy peasy.

I lovingly laid out all of the contents of the little sack as recommended on the directions to ensure everything was there. Check.

I tossed aside the rain cover and laid out the tent as directed. Check. I thought there would be more to it than there was, but I guess if I got one of those “footprint pads” it would cover the ground a little better . I made a mental note to add that to my list of things to get.

I assembled the poles and laid them out over the tent in a direction that would match the color coded sides. Very smart REI. Check.

I inserted the poles into the matching colored grommets (I didn’t know what a grommet was heretofore, but easy enough to figure out). Check.

The directions then said to hook the tent onto the poles. But I have no hooks. I HAVE NO HOOKS! I only have loops.

WTFarm? I run into the house and get my iPad where I watch on You Tube a young girl put together the exact same tent with associated HOOKS that I don’t have on mine. I check and double check. NO HOOKS! Only loops that no matter how I bend the poles, they don’t fit through.

I notice the tent in the video is different colors than mine and the date is from 2010 and my tent is a 2014. Maybe they did away with the hooks since then. But why would the directions on my tent say to attach HOOKS and not loops?

I’m 30 minutes into it now, 3 times the guaranteed time already and I only have my tent laid out with poles in the grommets.

I watch another video with step by step instructions for my tent and again, it has hooks. I DON”T HAVE HOOKS DAMMIT!

I’m 60 exasperated minutes into it now, the football game is over and I must gather my Eagle Scout of a hubby to come and verify that I do not have hooks, only loops. He knows he is on dangerous ground by the tone of my frustrated voice and reads the instructions, then verifies that what I have laid out on the ground does not have hooks but loops.

Then he carefully backs away.

There, that’s all I needed to know. REI has let me down by packing the wrong tent into the right sack.

I call REI to find out how late they are open (it is a bit of a distance from my house) so I can exchange it and confirm they have another one in stock. With their usual cheerful countenance REI assures me they will be open and more than willing to exchange it for the right item.

Fine then. That does not make me any less frustrated and I feel as though I can spit nails as I make my way back outside to pack up the tent and embark on an unplanned trip out of town.

I roll up the tent with no hooks and put it back in the bag with the stakes and guylines. I pick up the rain cover I had tossed aside and realize IT IS ACTUALLY THE TENT.

I had been trying to erect the rain cover in it’s stead.

Ah geez, how could someone so astute and well respected  for 40 years in the business world have become vacuous? Am I Algernon?

I laid out the actual tent, put the poles into the color coded grommets, and there they are…the hooks that I need to attach to the poles. Kind of idiot proof…so what am I?

Never mind, don’t answer that.

After 90 minutes, I put my tent up in less than 10. As I lay in my newly erected tent with my little non-judgmental canine companion Lucy, I hope REI doesn’t have caller ID and we can just pretend none of that happened.

I still don’t know what guylines are unless they are of the “Thunder Down Under” in Las Vegas variety, but not to worry, I have 9 months to figure it out.

I suspect making human beings will prove easier.

Until next time dearest diary.

Messages in Bottles – A Suicide Soliloquy

Dear Diary,

I am deeply regretting not getting a flu shot this year. I have had the flu basically for all of 2015, but it’s not the virus that wrecks my body. It’s the Auto-Immune fallout that is kicking my ass. Any little bump in the wellness road wakes up my “Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement” and it gets very angry. No matter how hard I try to get it under control, I’ve learned I can do nothing but ride it out. It has only taken me 14 years to learn this.

I’m a slow learner in the book of self awareness.

Evidently physical illness is not going to be the only beezy in January either. Normally I sail through this time of year on the calm waters of ignorant bliss. Totally unaware of what the end of January is the horrifying commemoration of until it is passed and I can once again thank my self protective subconscious for doing a bang up job in getting me through.

But not this year.

This is the first time in forever that despite the 13 years that separate the events, time is flowing toward the anniversaries of both my Father and Sister’s suicides in the same week.

Normally I sail fast and smooth like a schooner in 10 knot winds, just lay back and nap with my subconscious at the wheel and before I know it I awaken to February.

This year I woke up and the storm is in full gale at 70 knots, and my subconscious has abandoned it’s post at the helm. I am heading into rough waters which are so dark I dare not gaze into them.

I suspect a perfect storm was brewing inside my vulnerability from both the physical aspect of a battered body and the mental aspect of being cut off from all human interactions due to my self imposed quarantine to contain this beezy of a bug.

My husband quit asking how I felt 2 weeks ago, which is a bastard thing to do since he gave me the flu, but I forgive him because he is keeping me fed. So I have been sitting here in my head for two weeks which I can tell you is a dangerous place to be under the best of circumstances.

It was during this time when I was distracted with my Auto-Immune engine failure in my little boat of a body, that the perfect storm hit with such a huge wave of conscious realization that I didn’t have time to batten down the hatches. It struck me so completely and violently that I was left struggling to catch my breath and reeling with pain.

I have been here before though.

On my first voyage I was sure that I would sink and never be found. That the dark waters would swallow me whole before I even had the ability to send out an SOS. Terrified, alone, helpless, confused, mute and running blind, it wasn’t until I reached the other side and back into calm waters that I realized Jesus had been at the wheel all along. Why do I always forget that?

But he knows I do.

After my Daddy’s untimely death in 1988, not only was I wracked by a raging sea of grief, but the added anguish of not knowing what happens to a soul of suicide seemed like cruel and unusual punishment.

Is it robbed of it’s place in eternity because of a moment when it lost all hope? My Daddy was a good Christian man, was I to believe I would never see him again because he defied God by choosing the time to be freed from his broken mind? Would he be forever damned because he felt he could no longer bear the weight of his shackles of depression and commuted his sentence here on Earth?

Even after I donned the everyday coat of grief and set about going through the motions of life, the deeper darker issue haunted me. I dared not ask the question of the final destination of a suicide soul out loud, I was either terrified of the answer or that my fragile psyche would be put on display to be judged or damaged beyond repair.

And so I spent the first years of my Daddy’s suicide in this unchanging state of agony. I did not blame God, I did not blame my Daddy, I blamed society for applying such an unforgiving stigma on suicide that the survivors are left in a collateral damaged fugue state to fend for themselves.

When people asked how he died, I would vaguely reply that his heart had failed,   because it tends to do that when you shoot it with a .45 caliber pistol.  I would just leave that last bit off. Most wouldn’t pry for details because of my obvious sorrow.

I was caught in a viscous “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” loop that was eroding my sanity in agonizingly slow motion. Robbing my sleep of any peace or restoration. Where was my Daddy? Where was my Daddy? Where was my Daddy?

So my soliloquy begins with the message sent to me from the other side of the veil to answer that question, a message so impossible to believe, but leaves no room for doubt. A message delivered in a bottle, because the bottle does not create the message, it merely is a previously empty mode of delivery.

I had gone to Oklahoma in 1991 to meet the husband of my half-sister, the other child he had after my Mother brought me back to California at 6 months old and he remarried the Step-Monster. We are only a little less than 3 years apart in age, but since we were not raised together (and in fact she did not speak to me for the entire year I lived with them when I was ten because she so resented having to share him with me) we are worlds apart in all other ways.

Luckily as adults we rose above the resentment thing and are still very good friends.

Back in 1991 she was the only other person on Earth who could share the grief of what we lost. His babies. That’s what he called us. There is a kindred ship of souls that are wrecked. Misery doesn’t love company, it just recognizes it when it sees it and gravitates toward what it knows. I am still the only person she will speak of him with. Even then she can only mutter a few sentences and she’s done. While I sail on the waters of despair to find the calm, she is marooned on an island of fear.

I had been there a few nights of the week that I would spend when she came into my room and sat on my bed. All of these things are out of character for her. She’s not an intimate communicator, and is profoundly respectful of other people’s privacy.

I sat up and waited for her to gather her courage to tell me what was so important that she would so utterly abandon her comfort zone.

She couldn’t look at me and spoke slowly and deliberately, I could tell it was hard for her. She said she had to give me a message that Daddy had sent to us just a couple of months before I arrived.

WTHeck? A message from the great beyond? Really? She is uber pragmatic and to have this coming from her lips was quite surreal. But I dared not speak for fear of stopping this reluctant flow of information. By the time she was done, she had been so thorough I had no questions. It went like this…

She said that she was awakened in the middle of the night by the coldness of the body of her husband lying next to her. He was under the covers, but his body was as stiff and cold as a cadaver. She shook him but he was unresponsive. She jumped up and shook him again while shouting his name, her panic raising to a point of hysteria within seconds of the first shake.  

She reached for the phone with one hand while shaking him with the other when she felt his body immediately become warm and he began to rouse himself as one does when trying to awaken from a deep sleep.

When he opened his eyes they were filled with terror, and his skin became wet in a thin but distinct sweat. She asked him if he was ok, assuming he had suffered some sort of seizure or extreme night terror, and asked him if she needed to call 911.

He said no, but give him a minute to compose himself. She left the room to get him a glass of water, and by the time she came back he was sitting up in bed. He told her he had an experience that was going to be hard to explain, but was imperative that he try.

He said he was asleep having some sort of dream when it was interrupted by being awakened and floating above himself where he saw my sister and himself sleeping peacefully in bed. He was frightened by what was happening and tried to wake himself up, but couldn’t.

This is normally where I would check out and express skepticism, but I stayed silent.

She continued on. Her husband was instantly transported to a dark place with dense fog and a long corridor he was compelled to go down. He didn’t want to go down it, he was terrified but was helpless against whatever force was controlling the experience.

He walked down the corridor a long time until it opened up onto a very small dock. The fog was gone and it was a clear starry night on a dock by the sea. He could smell it. He could hear the water lapping against the dock. There was a young man of about 20 years old in a vintage Naval uniform standing there who held out his large and uniquely lined hand to introduced himself as soon as my half-sister’s husband stepped out of the corridor and onto the small dock.

The young sailor introduced himself as the Daddy of the woman my brother-in-law had married. Her Daddy. My Daddy.

I was stunned at this, but continued to hold my tongue. Just barely.

My brother-in-law could not speak, but the sailor obviously was not expecting him to because he did not pause once the introduction was made. My Daddy went on to say that he had two Babies, he had another one in California.

My Daddy continued on in his signature amicable style (to know him was to like him) by saying that he had spent quite a bit of time on that dock and that his ship was finally coming in, but before he sailed he had been granted the rare opportunity to send his babies an important message.

Daddy’s message was this; he had been forced to wait on that dock until the time of his natural death. The never ending starry night by the sea until the ship to pick up his soul and transport it to it’s final destination finally arrived as originally scheduled. Jesus was finally coming to lift him up out of the dark into the eternal light…but it was imperative that the message get to his babies to not do this. No matter how bad or hopeless things may seem, we cannot and must not do what he did. Daddy told him to take care of my half-sister and to tell his baby in California that he loved her always.

My brother-in-law shook his head affirmatively, and then my Daddy turned toward the ship of lights which was coming into the small harbor and  illuminating his peaceful face. It was when Daddy turned that he let go of my brother-in-law’s hand and in the same instant he was being shaken awake by my half-sister.

Her story didn’t end there. She was stricken by this and demanded to know how he would know what Daddy would look like. Daddy had taken his life on the very night he had moved into the new house he had built for the Step-Monster, long before my sister had ever met her would-be husband. The photos of him had never been unpacked.

After meeting her husband to be in the year after Daddy’s death, she had never spoken of him, much less shared a photo. Her husband had never spent time with any of her family alone where a photo or conversation could have been shared without her knowledge. He didn’t care for the keeper of the box of photos anyway…the Step-Monster. Huh, what a surprise.

In the weeks that followed my half-sister became obsessed with determining if the experience was really a message. She was aware of the physicality of it by what she had seen herself, but that could of been just a strange physical manifestation of a dream.

She asked friends to give her photos of men in uniform from about the time my Daddy served in the Korean War on a battleship. She showed them to my brother-in-law and every time the answer was no. Her husband went on to say that his hands were large and unique. He described them in detail which sent my sister into fits of crying because they were her Daddy’s hands. She wouldn’t tell him that though. She wanted more definitive proof.

Finally she went to her mother (the aforementioned Step-Monster to me), and got a photo of my Daddy and his cousin who had also joined the Navy at the same time.

She brought it home just like she had done with so many other photos of young sailors by then. When she showed her husband in the middle of their meal, he dropped his fork and became slightly terrified again. He said the man on the right was the man on the dock that night.

The man on the right is my 20 year old Daddy.

Daddy

She was done with her story. I was stunned. We talked about why he wouldn’t have just come to one of us, and years later I would realize that we would not have been the empty bottle. It would have been dismissed as a dream. A simple misfire of grief stricken neurons.

I cannot tell you what that message did for me. I knew where my Daddy was, and he was finally at peace. He was finally home. I also held onto his warning. When times got  hard I would always remember what he said, and taking an early exit was never an option because of it.

Until January 2001. When my sister that I was raised with, my best frenemy, my charge, the one I loved since I could remember, the one I protected, the one I talked to every day on the way home from work, the one that could make me crazy and sane in equal parts…took her life.

The one when I was planning her funeral and how to care for her kids I felt my life force draining. The one when I told God that I didn’t want to live anymore and he asked me to hold on for an hour. .

The one where I didn’t care about sailing my boat into calm waters, I was happy for the dark watered eddy to swallow me up and end the struggle.

But I was too busy with my kids (my 18 year old son had found her) and the grief of my mother and figuring out with the 2 fathers of my 3 nieces what the new normal was going to be, and I had that pesky agreement with God that I would hold on for a little while.

But where was Susan, where was Susan, where was my beloved Susan? The horrifyingly familiar torture was back. I knew I wasn’t strong enough this time to endure a lifetime of this question endlessly circling back around…unanswered.

Just a few months after my sister’s death I got a phone call at 4 in the morning. I don’t normally get calls at that time (accept the one I had gotten months earlier telling me of her death), so naturally I didn’t want to answer it, but I did.

It was my ex brother-in-law, the father of my sister’s two older girls. Even after their divorce, he still loved her and always wanted her back, but she was done. So he just became a fixture in the family. We kind of forgot that he wasn’t really supposed to be there.

Calling at 4 in the morning though was not normal. When I answered the phone I didn’t realize I wasn’t breathing until he said hello and I exhaled. I asked him what was wrong and he said that he needed to tell me what had just happened to him.

Really? He needs to do this now I asked? I hadn’t really deeply slept since my sister died, but even though I was already awake I really wasn’t in a conversational mood.  He said yes he needed to tell me now,  he sounded terrified and in fact stated that he was.

He said he had just had an out of body experience. I half listened on the phone.

He said he was asleep when he suddenly felt cold just as he was transported out of his body and could see himself sleeping on the bed. He tried to wake himself up but couldn’t. He was suddenly at a beautiful park. The sun was shining with white puffy clouds dotting the blue sky and there were flowers everywhere.

He was looking around and saw my sister in the park. He tried to yell her name so he could get her attention, but he could not speak. He wanted to run to her but could not move.

So he just watched her. She was laying on the park bench and she was about 18 years old, the age when he first met her. My little sister had her Imaging Technician uniform (hospital scrubs) reclining on a park bench.

He had my attention now. I can picture my beloved sis at that age still, as I write this. She with such stunning beauty that I used to tell her she was adopted and make her cry.

He continued on to paint the picture and said he had an urgent need to do so. I let him.

He said she was relaxed and had her arms up and folded under her head as she stared into the sky above her. Her legs were stretched out on the park bench with one leg lazily over the other. The expression on her face seemed peaceful, until the second she jumped up and took off running.

A van came out of nowhere and an arm reached out of the front of it and pulled her in through the windshield opening.

I have always pictured the Scooby Doo van when he told this story and ever after. I’m not sure why.

The van then drove back to the park bench where the arm deposited her and all returned to how it had been when he first saw her.

He then woke up in a sweat and terrified. He felt warmth return to his body. He didn’t know what was going on.

I did. I knew exactly what was going on. The message wasn’t for him, it was for me. Jesus was letting me know he’s at the wheel. It’s all under control.

I knew my sister would be ok then. She is in good hands with the angels in the Scooby Doo van. The wait in that park for her ride to the ever after will be a long one though, she was only 40 when she died. She was scrappy, so I can easily see her trying to pull off an escape from her beautiful purgatory.

When I see her again I will ask her why she didn’t try that hard to stay in this one.

Right after I hug the crap out of her.

Until next time Dear Diary.

 

What Makes Something Real?

IMG_1028[1]

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.

It’s Finally Time To Celebrate – You

Dear Diary,

Halloween.Thanksgiving. My Birthday. Christmas. New Year’s.

I’ve had 57 of them (well technically 57 of the last three, but you know what I mean).

When I was little it was an eternity before they would roll around again.

Since I’ve been an adult I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with the holidays. I start out so happy and festive on Halloween…and then by Thanksgiving I can’t wait to see family and am on a cheerfully steady roll toward the big one – Christmas. Then by New Year’s I’m exhausted, chubby, older, grumpy, and can’t wait to bid family and friends farewell.

I’m still waiting for them to leave.

While everyone sleeps in this morning after a night of reveling, I find I finally have peace and quiet and a moment to breathe.

And think.

What are my resolutions for 2015?

I go through the usual…lose weight, eat better, exercise, actively help humankind and animals in a meaningful way, take an exotic vacation, mark off bucket list items, then I always add a couple of fluff items that are easy to mark off like plant a garden (it comes up on it’s own now), and get rid of crap we don’t need. Done.

I’m already physically and mentally spent, so why do I do this to myself?

I let go of the resolutions. Finally. Forever.

I think it’s time to just celebrate me, and you celebrate you.

Do you know how hard it is to wake up every morning and take up our mantle of responsibility/expectation no matter how heavy it may be? Yet we do it. Day after day, year after year, and we forget to pat ourselves on the back for it.

We forget that this is our time.

So this year I resolve to be happy. That’s it.

Just. Be. Happy.

Be happy being me…warts and all. Right now. Whoever, whatever, and wherever I am.

I don’t need to do anything to be the best I can be, I already am. And so are you. Just the way you are. Right now.

This is OUR TIME. Don’t sleep at the wheel by comparing yourself to anyone else. Enjoy the ride knowing that you don’t have to make it matter because it already does. There will never be another you that passes this way again.

Happy Being Me

You were meant to be here, and you being you is the most genuinely important thing you will ever do.

Time doesn’t give us mulligans.

2015 is your year to be free of the expectation of being anything else but you.

Just. Be. Happy.

‘Til next time.

 

 

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

jail2jail3

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.

IMG_0242

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?

GR2

 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…

GRValley

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.

GR3

Here is a close up of the building…

closeup

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…

GR4

GR5

GR6

…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.

GRmine

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.

GoldRoadMine-66-1940

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.

shdw5x3cs1926

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.

Cool Springs2

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…

Dear In Somnia, It’s not working out between us.

 

Dear In Somnia,

I’ve been in a relationship with you for a long time. I keep trying to break up with you, but you’re still hanging around. I’m pretty mad about it. I don’t mind if you visit once in awhile, but you can’t live here anymore.

I know why baby boomers can’t sleep. It’s not just us, but since that’s the crowd I run with (not run…you know I can’t run even when I think I’m being chased by a wild animal see Pacific Coast Highway Day 5) so I feel like I can speak for a few of us.

I’ve had plenty of time to think about it, what with In Somnia stalking me and all, so I’ll share some obvious reasons and try not to expound on them too much.

1. We are the creamy responsible middle of a multi-generational worry sandwich – Our aging parents are getting increasingly feeble, our children are coping with launching and re-launching their careers in a difficult economic environment, and those of us who are lucky enough to have grandkids (I worry about never getting any from my selfish kids) get to worry about them too. We don’t cognitively go to bed worrying about it, but our subconscious knows, it knows our whole world can be rocked by one little phone call, and probably already has a few times. It knows…it knows.

As a side note on this subject – Christians are taught to lay our burdens at the foot of the cross, but I sneak back and pick mine right back up. I guess I don’t think Jesus can handle the job…I hope I find out he has a heck of a sense of humor when I get there.

2. Sensory Overload – We go a hundred miles an hour and before we go to bed (sometimes in bed) we are on the web, email, electronic games, TV, and most of the time these are simultaneous. Our brains need time to decompress not multi-task…but in a well tread world of immediate gratification, we expect our brains to instantaneously turn off and go to sleep like a computer. They don’t work that way, unless we take sleep aids which is my next topic.

3. We are a nation addicted to drugs – I only recently became aware of this in myself. It’s easy to get lulled into a dependence on both over the counter and prescription sleep aids. I got educated on the scientific end of the ramifications by my soon-to-be-RN daughter. I hate it when she does that. I wish I could go back to not knowing how they mess with your body’s natural rhythms. I kicked the addiction but I miss them like any other Tylenol PM or Ambien junkie. Sleep aids are drugs and there is a price to be paid both physically and mentally. I don’t need any more of either of those challenges thank you very much.

4. Money – this one is easy to describe…2009. With our retirements wrapped up in 401k’s and equity (which has still not recovered), need I say more? Now combine this with topic #1. That should do it.

5. Don’t believe what you tell yourself late at night – Some of my best ideas come when my mind finally slows down after going to bed, but if I lay awake long enough the dialogue with myself can take a left turn. A scary paranoid schizophrenic kind of turn.

6. We’re going to hell in a hand basket – That’s what my Grandma used to say and I would smile affectionately at her and say to myself “Awwwwwe, she’s just old”. Now I sometimes think the same thing (not verbatim since I never knew what a hand basket was) when I think too long about overpopulation, pollution, war, etc. I don’t know what scares me more, the issues or the fact that I’m old enough to be my Grandma.

7. Pain – As we get older, things start to hurt. That’s on the physical side. Then there are those horrors that we accumulate over time that can occasionally haunt us. You know that old saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? It’s not true. What doesn’t kill you…just doesn’t kill you.

How can we ever hope to sleep well again?

I don’t know the answer to that, so let me lay awake and think about it for awhile.

Until next time Insomnia (I mean diary).

A Bucket List Value Add – Ricky and Lucy Buy a Harley Davidson

 

Dear Diary,

I am an excellent driver. Excellent driver ( I can never say this without thinking of Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man). But I am, especially when compared to my husband.

He uses the braille method of driving, letting the raised roadway markers do the work for him. I believe we are the only people on Earth who have been pulled over for swerving at 9:00 in the morning.

And what was my hubby’s response to the nice highway patrol officer who asked him why he drives in such a manner while sober? “It’s my lane, I like to use all of it”. Oh God help us.

So why would I climb onto the back of a two wheeled machine with Mr. Magoo at the helm? It was too late to reason it out…I was already hooked on the ride.

While still in the afterglow of surviving my death sentence, my amazing coastal adventure, and my first Harley experience…when he said let’s go to the Harley dealer I gleefully obliged.

We were just going to look, that’s all.

I know my husband better than he knows himself. When he says he is going to look at something, what he means is he is going to buy something. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that kind of commitment, but when I climbed onto the back of the Night Train and it roared to life…my reservations evaporated into pure adrenaline.

It was a 45 minute ride to the dealer, and when I got my head out of the clouds I noticed a strange new phenomenon. Whether it was a nod, a hand motion or sometimes only a couple of fingers….every biker acknowledged us and we back.

Not my photo but says it all…

just-ride-292x300

Oh My Gosh….it’s like being a member of the cool kid club. I’m in for the new bike now…I’m all in.

When we walked into the Harley dealer I felt like a full fledged Son of Anarchy, I mean stepson of Anarchy, er stepdaughter of Anarchy…well something of Anarchy, but not Gemma Teller, definitely not Gemma.

ANYWAY, we walked around all those new shiny metal steeds with the Hub as my tour guide, and like any other herd of volatile horses…one stood out. It turned out to be a 2014 Street Glide FLHX in Daytona Pearl Blue. Other bad asses might like the matte black…but I must pop with color. That’s just how I roll.

Daytona Blue

After hours of waiting for my hubby to finish squaring off with the sales manager, we say goodbye to the Night Train…Hello bagger.

Wait…what? Bagger? And to think up until now I have always battled saddle bags.

This bike is quite a bit larger than my husband’s softail (I just learned that, I don’t know what it means but it sounds cool) so I immediately run into my first rub.

I have no idea how to get on it. Thank God I have long legs and my ridiculously clumsy mount is not as bad as it could have been (I guess).

My hubby starts the engine and we are ready to ride off into the sunset on our new stallion.

Oopsy…not so fast.

He accelerates but fails to fully make the turn and we stop just inches short of running into a parked truck. A parked truck I say.

Had I not put both of my feet on the ground when he did, we would have dropped the bike. It took all of our four feet to keep it from falling over.

What happened to my ultra cool Harley husband?

Evidently a bigger heavier bike handles much differently than a smaller lighter one. How clever of us to get that out of the way right off the bat.

We still laugh about that. Well…I still laugh about it, it’s too soon for him.

I was fine with backing up and trying again, no harm no foul…but I’m afraid it was a fatal blow to my hubby’s confidence, what with that 21k price tag and the grimaces of his fellow bikers on the line.

I dismounted (really, really not a pretty sight) and he backed up the bike and finally executed that turn. Needless to say I was hesitant to get back on, but I did.

I kept my feet on the ground for insurance when he took off again, and clever me found out it wasn’t a good thing when they flew behind me like a rag doll’s. I had to use my nonexistent thigh muscles to get them onto the pegs without touching the fast moving ground under me.

Crap, we had a lot of turns between the dealer and home. The adrenaline was all gone and replaced with fear bordering on terror now.  What had I gotten myself into? How had we turned from Jax and Tara to Ricky and Lucy?

I don’t normally drink alcohol, but when we stopped at a restaurant to eat I bellied right up to the bar. Three shots of courage and I was all good again. Real good in fact. I’m a cheap date.

Maybe it was the Fireball, but our new baby sure looked good under the street lamp just waiting to roar.

1530573_10201143114200338_1283155430_n

I hope it has patience while we get acclimated, but I carry a flask now for good measure. I don’t normally imbibe, so when we get stopped by a friendly highway patrolman and he finds my flask…how will I explain?

I guess we’ll cross that bridge of irony when we come to it. Meanwhile, I’ll be having the time of my life.

When was the last time I was a flask carrying rebel? Um, never.

Don’t tell my kids.

This is the stuff that bucket lists with value add is made of, and I’m all in for wherever the wild ride takes us.  I still can’t believe it.

Until next time dear diary, Route 66 here we come. Be afraid, be very afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

PikesMarket

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.

Seattlesky

…and yet another of Pioneer Square…

Seattlesky2

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…

Seattlealley

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.