Shoal Bay East – A Dream Within a Dream

Dear Diary,

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

Shoal Bay East

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

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

FAMILYMAN

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

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

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

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

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

It had gotten awkward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh. My. Gosh.

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

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

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

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

Locked Up Abroad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just like that I am through customs.

Thank you God! Thank you, thank you God!

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

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

ShadowboxA window to a beautiful memory.

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

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Liquid Bliss – Little Bay, Anguilla

Dear Diary,

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

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

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

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

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

Nope.

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

driver's license

Pretty easy huh?

Not so fast.

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

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

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

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

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

So many reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

calvin

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

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

Littlebaycliff

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

Little Bay Beach

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

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

underwaterlittlebay

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

smallschool

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

bigschool

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

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

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

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

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

An unforgettable experience.

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

cave

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

Sigh.

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

Double sigh.

Goodbye Little Bay. I still miss you.

Goodbyelittlebay

And I still smile.

Until next time dearest.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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?

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

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

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Really? I got permission.

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

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

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Here is a close up of the building…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the Gold Road Ghost Town Ruins…

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

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

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

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

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

Sitgreaves Vista

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

Sitgreaves Pass

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

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

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

Shaffers Fish Bowl

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

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

Route 66 Vista

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

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

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

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

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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…

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…

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.