Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Symphony of Missteps

After months of being homebound or kid-bound, we finally get away for
a weekend of bicycling with each other and hiking with the dogs. As
we Google to make plans, we discover the artsy Chautauqua Institution
(near Jamestown, NY) sells Thursday night symphony tickets for $16
(way cheap), so we head west.

We also discover the upscale community isn't used to motor homes and
finds my request to overnight in the overflow parking lot novel enough
to approve.

So we walk the dogs (twice), eat dinner (beef stew from home), dress
up a bit and hop on our bikes for the 10-minute down-hill ride to the
amphitheater. We decide the dogs will be fine without us as long as we
leave the sunroof, vents and windows wide open to collect the mountain

Near intermission, as pianist William Wolfram presented a stormy
rendition of Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-Flat Major, I thought I
heard real thunder. During the interlude of bows, lightening snapped
all around. More thunder, more lightening, then a torrential rainfall
that wowed the audience as much as Mr. Wolfram did.

As we watch and listen to the rain, we think of Otto and the boys,
open wide to welcome in the mountain air and, we lament, the deluge.
We tick off decisions we wish we hadn't made:
Window over the bed: Open
Window over the sink: Open
Window over the table: Open
Window over the camera bag: Open
Window over the computers: Open

As the rain falls impossibly harder, we sigh and settle back to enjoy
42 minutes of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade." The rain finally
lightens and as the final applause dies, we hop on our soaked bikes
and pedal the 10-minute up-hill ride in a light drizzle.

What we find astonishes us. All is basically dry or just damp. Nothing
is damaged.

Doggies are very happy to have us home.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Right Whales Dine in Provincetown

We've come to Provincetown, MA, just to see the whales. Especially the
rare right whale. About a third of the world's population of right
whales have come to Provincetown to feed. It's an unusual occurrence.
And, boy, what a show.

We arrive early in the morning, at high tide, and watch finbacks arch
over the water's surface, feeding on an unusually large run of fishies
(we don't know what kind). The humpbacks leap upwards, then splash
down, banging their mighty tails on the surface. We see three, four,
five spouts of water all at once, then whales arch over the water or,
infrequently, leap into the air.

But we see no right whales.

Until just now.

It's evening, and the sun's to set in about an hour. First we see a
gazillion birds clouding over the sea ... and then we see why. Large
water spouts ("Thar she blows!") precede, almost announcing the
presence of three, four even five right whales. When their massive
heads break the surface, they hover there for a minute, and the birds
benefit from the flows of discarded fish and other sea creatures
spilling out of those massive mouths.

Then, the rare mammals dive straight down, flipping their tails
upwards, so the last thing we see are the tail fins pointed skyward.

Then the whole dance is repeated, time and time again. We are
exhausted following the antics, watching the water spouts, the birds
diving, the whales hovering, then flipping their tails.

Now it's nighttime and the sea is calm and dark. I wonder ... do
whales feed at night?

(The picture of Allen watching the whales shows the beach at Herring
Cove after a work crew using a payloader on steroids reclaimed the
sand winter's storm blew across the parking lot. We watched them work,
so it wasn't too awful to sit in the mess. It'll all be smoothed over
by the next storm.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Yet another Jacob story

We visit a dog park in Holly Hill, FL, and Jacob gets snarky with a much smaller dog. He settles down in time out, then resumes play, but not with the other dogs. To see what interests Jacob the most today click here.

Beaches, sun, fun and more

Every day at the beach in Florida is routine, mundane, predictable.

If it's a non-dog beach, we get up, walk the dogs, eat breakfast, make
up the camper, pack the beach bags, go to the beach, sit. Get up and
walk. Sit, read, nap. Walk. Sit. read. Walk.

If it's a dog beach, add a few more walks for the dog and a few swims.

It's a slice of paradise.

Sometimes, that slice is seasoned with humor.

This morning, as I was making up the bed I found a little red rubber
piggy (with severely chewed-up ears) tucked under my pillow. Who do
you suppose left it there?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another Jacob day

We visit Inlet State Park in Ft. Pierce, FL, to give the dogs a
chance to enjoy the beach.

Jacob enjoys himself a bit too much.

On a nature hike, he finds a rather large animal hole in the ground
and LUNGES into it, up to his shoulders (despite the poison-ivy ground
cover) to "play" with whomever is home (probably an armadillo).

On the way back to Otto for a scrub down (to get rid of the poison
ivy), he encounters an 18-inch tortoise and is STARTLED when the
critter tucks in his head and legs. Jacob barks and barks, then flops
down on all fours and CRAWLS up to nose around where the head used to
be. (Pause .... do tortoise bite?)

Then, after the bath, we head to the beach, discover dogs ARE NOT
allowed, so we leave them behind in an air-conditioned Otto.

Jacob lays in wait. When we return, he leaps out of Otto and, once
again, takes off. This time he races around the parking lot, gallops
down a wooden boardwalk toward the beach, then dashes into the hammock
before trotting back to me, with a smile on his face.

Bad dog.

Safe dog, thank God.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Encore! Encore!

We return to Frankie G's Island Diner on Saint Simons Island, Ga., for
more of those artery-clogging, delectable homemade potato chips.
Eric, our waiter, is the same guy who waited on us in January, and he
says remembers us.

He even remembers where we sat the last time we visited.

Hmmm. These chips drip with tons more cheese and gravy than usual.

Thanks, Eric.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Nice to meet you, Loyce

Easter is Loyce' 77th birthday. It'll be 200 or more years before March
23, Loyce' birthday, falls on Easter again. Doubtful either of us will
be around to celebrate that one.

Loyce and I spend a delightful day together on the fishing pier on
Jekyll Island. She catches nothing, but must be feeding something
because she rebaits her hook throughout the day.

Lois has been around the world and loves the Lord, the Gaither's
Homecoming Reunion, and a bag of good cookies she shares with me.

She asks for my e-mail. I love having met her. I hope she writes.

What's left was the best

We head to Fort Sumter (you know, where the Civil War began) and find
we can see it, but can't get to it; it's smack dab in the middle of
the water in Charleston Harbor. Boats leave at 1:30, 2 and 4 p.m. It's
now 2:30 p.m. We're not waiting.

Instead, we take what's left: a tour of a little known Civil War
fortress called Fort Moultrie, on Sullivans Island, also in Charleston
Harbor (but with a bridge; no boat needed). Wow wee wow. What a find.

This military installation first protected our shores during the
Revolutionary War and was last used during World War II. Many
skirmishes are documented here.

It's a walk through the history of our military might.

From one lookout, we can even see Fort Sumter. So we're good. On all

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jacob anoints our adventure

We get a slow start to our adventure, ambling no further than
Smithfield (just outside Rocky Mount), NC, for our second evening,
then on to James Island, SC, for our third.

James Island has this great dog park that is an island itself. Jacob
loves to swim after tennis balls more than play with other dogs. We
think he's worn out.

No so.

When we return to Circle W (our Wal-Mart parking lot camp site), Jacob
pushes the screen door open and BOTH DOGS escape. Joshua returns with
our first plea. Good dog.

Jacob, however, is out past the tree line, into the road and out of
sight in a blink. Bad dog.

Allen takes off running, I return to Otto to secure Joshua, grab my
shoes and a leash, then I pursue, too.

About a quarter mile away, I can see Allen (on the other side of a
stinky moat) pleading, his hands stretched upward and outward. Ah! He
must see Jacob!

I call "Jacob!" Nothing, "Jacob!" Nothing. Then, I sit on the ground.
"JACOB, COME!" AND HE COMES TO ME, wagging his tail, stinky (he
enjoyed that moat), goofy, just so happy to see me. Urghhh.
Frustrating dog. But, unharmed dog.

Monday, March 17, 2008

On the road again

About 2 a.m. we shut down for the night at a Virginia Welcome Center on I-95. We ate late (should I say early?), played late and slept late.

It's WONDERFUL being in Otto again. Like coming home .....

Sunday, January 20, 2008

We Are Home

We stay up until 4 a.m. winterizing Otto, packing up the clothes,
cleaning out the kitchen.

This adventure has ended. We are home.

Bye. Until we travel again.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thank God, for Jesus

We stop at a truck stop near Kings Dominion in Virginia for a bite to
eat and discover a tiny truckers chapel welcoming all to "Enter to
Worship, Depart to Serve." I snoop inside and find four pews facing a
single altar adormed by a simple cross made of two sticks held
together by twine.

"Leave your prayer concerns on the altar," reads a sign near the door.
I walk forward, again to snoop, and read the first concern. It's from
O.C. and my heart breaks: "My dear Rose and sweet Kevin, I can finally
let you go."

Loss is so painful. So permanent. God can and does heal. Especially

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Where Civil War History Began

We drive up Route 17, the coastal route, swimming through Georgia into South Carolina and stay for the night on James Island.

Before retiring, I google this place and discover it's where, on April 12, 1861, the Civil War began.  It's where, on the same island, in fact on the same northern side of the island, Confederate forces from one fort (Fort Johnson) fired upon Union forces occupying another fort (the famed Fort Sumter.)

Instead of nosing out more history, we high tail it for the nearest doggie park, which turns out to be an island (see the picture) in the middle of this island.  Jake has a blast chasing ducks out into the water and running circles around the other dogs. A sign says there are alligators in the water.

They must be sleeping.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Artery Clogging Delight

We make it back to our old haunt on Saint Simons: Frankie G's Island
. The big draw for us are the homemade potato chips, dripping in
bleu cheese, cheddar cheese and white gravy.

A single serving overwhelms a large dinner plate. And us. We can't eat
it all. Still, we manage to pack away enough to make the evening jaunt
with the dogs less of a workout and more of a waddle and roll.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Our Day of Rest

Today is our 59th day on the road and, for the first time, we choose to stay off the road and do nothing more than walk the dogs.

On that walk, we encounter a fellow and his greyhound, another man
(alone with his iPod) and a bunch of school girls riding bicycles at a
historical site marking the 1736 homestead of William Horton, a
military guy made famous because someone decided to preserve what's
left of his house.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Life's a beach

Don't Allen and the boys look marvelous?

We meet a man today strolling the hard-packed beaches of Jekyll Island
(off the coast of southern Georgia) doing what we dream of doing one
day: living on St. Simons Island (next door) and playing on Jekyll.


We're there in spirit, at least. After piling more than 11,000 miles
on Otto during this criss-cross country journey, we're still more than
1,000 miles away from home, but we feel "home," hanging out on "our"
islands: St. Simon and Jekyll. So we will stay a few days. And soak in
some new memories.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Waylaid by Tummy Trouble

It's 80 degrees (ahhhh) and we're so close to Gulf Shores, AL, we can
almost feel the salty breeze when our youngest and biggest Standard
Poodle gets sick. Really sick.

Jacob's problem involves lots and lots of blood in his very watery
stool. OH MY! And he's crying and crying. OH NO! Now Josh has runny
stool, too!

We stop into a Gulf Shores Welcome Center and are directed to a vet
just up the byway.

A few tests and $98 later, we find out it must have been something
they ate. Perhaps the Chinese Allen laced their food with the night

The sun is setting. The beach will have to wait.

The picture above is from before the tummy troubles. That's Jacob
going head to head with Allen.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Farm Routes in Texas

We agree to skip the loudness of Houston and escape from Interstate-10
to explore some Texas Farm Routes. We travel down Farm-to-Market
Road, Route 2436 and 3174. We see road name such as Black Jack's Lane.
Slo John's Road. Watch the slide show to catch a glimpse of the
cattle, horses, barns, windmills and junk we encountered.

Where's JACOB!!!

We stop for lunch/dinner in Flatonia (for real), Texas. While I
prepare (mircowave) our vittles, I notice one not two dogs. I look
left, right, check the bed. JACOB IS GONE!

How can that be? I aim to race out the door and find it locked. Fumbling with the deadbolt I holler out "JACOB!"

He ambles out of the bathroom. WHAT?

How did he fit in there?

San Antonio experience

After dropping our search for the Rio Grande, we aim our divining
rods toward the San Antonio River, where the River Walk beckons as
one of the most delightful tourist attractions in the country.

We arrive in town on Saturday night to a gazillion roadblocks and cops
flagging us AWAY from the intersections we need to use to arrive at
our Wal-Mart. We stop in a shopping center, fire up the computer and
find a new Wal-Mart location away from the congestion.

We are unaffected, because we look forward to the River Walk, the
Alamo and a new dog park for Josh and Jacob to enjoy.

The dog park, while hard to find, is one of the best we've been to: It
has plenty of space to keep the doggies from congregating in a pack.

Live lectures by volunteers perfect our Alamo experience (and I find a John McGregor, a possible ancestor, died during the seige).

Finally, we aim for the River Walk and an early dinner in this
unequaled tourist attraction.

As we arrive, we notice there is no river. There is mud. The water was
was drained Jan. 2 for annual repairs. It returns Jan. 9. We leave
Jan. 7.

Think of it this way: How many tourists get to see THE BOTTOM of the
River Walk?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Fasoldts Acting Suspiciously?

We go in search of the Rio Grande. We know it is between us and the
mountains. So we exit Interstate 10 southeast of El Paso, Texas, onto
a washboard dirt road that kicks up dust and gravel and rattles the
contents of us and Otto.

We head toward the Rio Grande. We know it is there. We want to sit on
the banks, dip our toes in the water. Say we've been there.

Silly us. After fording a dry landscape of cotton fields, ghost towns
and abject poverty, we find a border crossing with high wires and lots
of signs blocking our view and access to what must be the Rio Grande.
We stop. Turn around and pull off to the side. We take pictures. The
guards are watching.

Several hours later, we come to a multitude of flashing lights forcing
us and all traffic into a border patrol inspection station on I-10. Is
it possible they are looking for us? Could they possibly have decided
that our behavior at the border crossing was suspicious?


Thursday, January 3, 2008

What a Wind!

After a few hours at a dog-and-sawdust-filled dog park in Scottsdale,
we head on our way only to stop 20 minutes later because a huge wind
darn near knocks us off our tires. We'd survived the Santa Ana winds a
few days earlier, so we knew how horribly fierce the situation could
be. See the news account here.

So we spend a few hours at a rest stop, shower, read, eat. Peaceful
time. Then we head on our way and eventually stay the night at a Wal-
Mart Neighborhood Market on an Indian Reservation (or near one) in
Tucson, AZ. We stay up after 2 a.m. watching TV. How fun.

A Hidden Treasure in Phoenix

Delightedly, I share with Allen a living museum experience I've
enjoyed twice before: The Desert Botanical Garden, tucked away in a
corner of Phoenix tourists often miss.

Paved and hard-packed trails lead us past cactus and other plants from
deserts throughout the world. There's life from the Sahara, the
Kalahari, the Mojave, the Sonora. The varieties are boundless.

Enormous saguaros reach to the sky while octopus cacti squirrel around
the pebbles and sand. Quail bob around the ground in family units.
Cactus wren tease each other. It's 71 degrees. On Jan. 2.

A Dusty Place To Do Business

We spend the night in Quartzite, AZ, a town made famous by the
thousands and thousands of RVs that converge there in January and
February for the flea markets and rock and mineral shows. We hear
there are a gazillion places to boon doock,but arrive so late at night
we can see only one: a very, very busy truck stop.

In the morning, as we drive around, we find the others: acres and
acres of sturdy, flat desert speckled with motor homes dry camping for
the events.

We also find Quartzite is an oddity. We've never seen so many motor
homes in one place. And more, we hear, are coming. So we are leaving.

We stop for lunch at Tonopah Family restaurant and dine on real
hash browns and funny-tasting sausage (which the dogs enjoy because we
don't). Like Quartzite, it's dusty here. So dusty.

On the way down side: The roadside desert is incredibly trashy.
Sure, there's dust everywhere and lots of tumbleweed ... that's not
what I am talking about. It's the broken glass, plastic bottles and
paper wrappers that soil the experience. What a shame.