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.

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.

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.

Route 66 – Kingman to Seligman, Arizona

Dear Diary,

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

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

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

Giganticus Headicus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valentine Post Office Site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dust Bowl

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

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

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

dust_truck

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

dorothea-lang-migrant-mother-tent

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

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

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

Hualapai Lodge

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

Havasu Falls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Military Supplies

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

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

Giant sloth marks

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

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

The dinosaur was there before. Route 66 kitsch remember?

dinosaur

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

Radiator Springs

Tater

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

Switchboard

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

 

Cafe

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

bike

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jail

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

Roadkill cafe

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

Roadkill cafe2

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

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

 

 

 

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.

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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.