Sunday, September 12, 2010
Industries) in Vernal, Utah, when I hear this conversation between a
man (I'd say about 55) and a very young boy (6).
"Well, how ya doing, Tommy," the older man says.
Tommy says, "OK."
The older man continues: "You not kissing any girls are ya?"
What? My shoulders square. I'm on alert for inappropriate something, I
don't know what.
Tommy doesn't say anything, But, Tommy's daddy (I'm guessing) says,
"Be polite, Tommy, and answer Mr. Clark."
"No, sir." I can hear Tommy giggling.
"Well that's good, because you know what happens to little boys who go
kissing little girls?" I lean in, ready to intervene (and I still
don't know why.)
"They lose their teeth."
I can hear Tommy really giggle now. Then he slides into one of those
really good childhood belly laughs.
Turns out Tommy just lost both his front teeth and Mr. Clark knew this
and was giving Tommy a good tease.
And me, too.
with seats, doors and the like. I'm a large person and regular stuff
doesn't fit my regular.
I try to stand between me and my immense bounty. I'll bike ride,
paddle, hike, climb, swim or take steps (450 of 'em in Wind Cave) to
explore and enjoy the world. Frankly, I often do it slower than
regular people, or with more gasping. But I get it done. And I love
getting it done.
Today, I'm on a shuttle bus to explore a dinosaur fossil field 5,000
feet up in the Utah mountains. It's a part of the Dinosaur National Monument, a federal park in the upper eastern corner of Utah, on a
border shared with Colorado.
We ride halfway there, then hike a 1/2 mile up into the craggy
mountains in search of the remains of the largest creatures to ever
hang out on Earth.
I look around. There are six other people. No one else squishes out of
a seat. Just me. OK. Game plan A: keep up with the crowd, no matter
what, so I don't stick out. Pretend to be regular.
My group of seven plus our park ranger (a college intern) hop off the
shuttle and begin our ascent. I take up the rear (so no one can hear
This isn't bad, The initial ascent is minimal (See the picture? That's
my crew and I'm lagging behind). We hike through three distinct
ecosystems and millions of years of the earth's history. Along the way
the ranger stops us for a chat, to explain the rocks, the mountains,
the dinosaurs. To transform us into amateur paleontologists,
archeologists and geologists. And to rest! Catch our breath! Then we
As we near the dinosaur field, the pitch becomes steeper, more
challenging. We see fossils, small ones, and learn how to find other
ones. The ranger promises big discoveries. Up there. She points up. To
the trail that goes up. It's a switchback path. With very steep steps
at the end. And it's at the end, she says, where the biggest fossil
can be found.
Bait. She's dangling bait to get us to climb. I go for it, of course,
and I pant my way to the very end, where I see and feel a 6-foot
section of dinosaur femur, just hanging out in the rock face, where
it's been for millions of years. My reward. So worth it. (I didn't get
a picture. Go figure.)
I turn to scramble down and I see a startling sight. Three of the
regular people on this adventure ignored the bait. They're sitting on
a rock ledge. Resting. They've had enough. The steep climb back down
scares them, so they don't climb up. And miss the catch.
OK. This is a big lesson for me. I can climb up and down this mountain
because I want to. Because I challenge myself to do it. Not because
I'm overcoming obesity.
It's because I want to.
So I do.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
That's how hot it is. Outside.
We're in our (air-conditioned) motor home, driving though Death
Valley, CA, in September because we want to see how hot hot is. We
giggle. It's a novelty.
By the time we park and get out, the temperature drops substantially.
Not bad. I can breathe. And walk around without breaking a sweat. OK.
This is fun, I think, as the air conditioning from the motor home
lingers on my skin.
We've already decided to buy into a campsite with full hookups (water
and electricity) because the dogs suffer terribly in the heat. (wink
wink.) But we're so concerned about availability (only 14 sites with
hookups in the whole park) we pray about it. We ask God to make a site
available. For the dogs ... you know.
When we inquire for a site at the visitor's center, I'm surprised no
one snickers. Because God made nearly all of the sites available.
Hmmmm. We set up camp. It's 4 p.m. Only one other camper shares our
sense of adventure. There are 188 empty sites.
While Allen plugs in all the utilities, I walk the dogs. We go about
100 yards and I feel the situation change. This heat is no longer a
curiosity. It's real. It's serious. The dogs seem fine. Not even
panting. But I begin to feel hot. Not close, not sweltering. Hugely hot.
We turn back, where I find Otto's metal door handle so hot, it nearly
burns my hand as I touch it. Once inside, I notice my shirt and pants
feel clothes-dryer hot, so I shed the outer layers, quickly. And the
air inside is hot: 90 degrees in the front and 85 in the back. Even
though Allen cranked up the air conditioner 30 minutes ago.
This isn't fun anymore. This is serious. Oh, we aren't going to die or
suffer from heat stroke. Not that kind of serious. Serious in that we
need to pay attention to how we live, so the dogs don't burn their
feet on the ground outside (which Allen read can reach temperatures
above 200) so we don't burn our hands on hot metal or become parched.
I'm beginning to understand why it's called Death Valley.
To survive the heat and enjoy our stay, we need to reverse ourselves,
to live at night and sleep during the day. We nap at 6 (the metal
frame on one side of the bed is as hot as the front door! We use a
pillow as a heat shield.) Awake at 10 p.m. Walk the dogs. Easier. Much
easier. Even though it's 101 degrees. At 10 p.m. There's no sun
belting down on us. The ground is cooler. We watch for coyotes.
We eat dinner at 11 (using the microwave, not stove burners) and it's
now midnight. We need to stay up until the sun shines; but I don't
think we'll make it. We're finally cool (the air conditioning is still
cranked up) but we're tired. We make plans to use our awning
tomorrow to keep the door and bedroom wall from melting. And to shade
the ground for the dogs' feet.
Maybe we'll sit outside under that awning and eat ice cream. If it's
not too hot.
To avoid living in Death Valley's daytime heat, I want to sleep during
the day and play at night. But by 2 a.m., I'm out. Asleep. Lulled by
the cool of the 84-degree nighttime air.
But not for long. At regular intervals, I do battle with the motor
home's air conditioner. Every 10 or so minutes, it rumbles to life,
jolting me awake with its monstrous roar and a face-full of its
breath. After thrashing around, trying to dodge the forced air in my
face, I relent and cocoon inside our sheet, where I lay dormant. For
about 10 minutes, when the next battle ensues.
So by 9 a.m., I stagger awake. And it's already 101 outside. We
venture out to open our awning, sit and read our books, then walk the
dogs. But the air is oven-like and the ground hot, so we collect our
things and move back inside, at intervals. The dogs first, without
that long walk. Then me, then Allen.
By the time we're all ensconced (with my new best friend -- the air
conditioner), the temperature reaches 115 outside.
We nap, read, watch a little video of our church's road rally on
Allen's Nano. We chat, and giggle and shower occasionally throughout
the day because we can, because the water is hot, without turning on
the heater. It's just hot, from the sun pounding on the hose.
At dusk, we take the dogs on that long-promised walk and duck a bat
and coyote on the way. We watch the sunset's crimson tide spill over
the mountaintops and guess at the heat. I say 85. Allen guesses 105.
We check. It's 101. At 9 p.m.
Hot. Hotter than last night.
I'm now yearning for sleep. But hesitate. Because my new best friend
just roared back into action.
Outside temperature is 81. 81! And there's a gentle breeze. Is that a
fall nip in the air? Ah, refreshing.
I take the dogs for a brief walk, then climb back into bed for an
early morning nap.
Well, while I was out, the fall nip buckled under pressure from a
muscle-bound summer sun. It's now 108.
But a gentle breeze invites us outside again, where we walk the dogs
until one of them (Joshua) cries "ENOUGH!" and beelines for the cool
of the motor home. We set up our chairs under the awning and read,
enjoying the breeze, and feeling the heat rise.
It's now 110.
I decide to hand-wash my laundry to take advantage of the desert
sun. And am amazed: blue jeans dry in 15, maybe 20 minutes; undies,
5; cotton T's, 10. Even our hand towels wick out in less than 10. The
breeze helps. But, now it's not gentle. It's crass. It whips my
laundry, twisting it around. It picks up my shirts and smashes them to
The breeze is now a wind and the awning begs to take flight. We wind
it back in, collect our clothes from the desert floor and climb back
inside the motor home, which rocks like a boat on a tempestuous sea.
It's 115 outside.
Welcome to Death Valley.
Please, dear God. Bring them home safely. With just enough good
stories to wow their buddies.
We meet the 20-somethings in Cedar Breaks National Monument in the
southwestern corner of Utah, where the alpine meadow we're walking
through rises above 10,000 feet.
It's so high and surrounded by even higher peaks, I think of the Alps
and Maria twirling around in her noviciate clothing, arms
outstretched, singing "The Sound of Music." Allen and I climb the
gentle mountain top meadow with the dogs and I start humming "The
hills are alive ..." and then stop. Because I have no breath left. I
can't hum and walk at the same time. Ten-thousand feet is high up.
Very high up. How did Maria do it? We lose our breath just bending
over to tie our shoes.
As we walk back to the parking area, we see Adam and Austin, tugging
on their backpacks, adding stuff, taking stuff out. Their loads weigh
as much at they do combined.
"Look at the load that guy is carrying," Allen nods toward one of the
boys. It's an amazing mountain of stuff. We smile. Ah, to be young ...
We climb into the motor home and are set to leave when one of the duo
runs up to our window. And, in doing so, comes into our life.
"Hey, I know you are getting ready to leave, but can you take our
His grin cuts across his whole face.
We climb out and help document the beginning of their journey, which,
we discover, is the first of its kind for them. Two 20-somethings.
From Las Vegas, elevation 2030, striking out into the hills of Cedar
Breaks, elevation higher than 10,000.
"Take it slow," I warn. "It's pretty high up here."
"I know," Adam replied. "It's hard to breathe just putting our packs
I start to worry, like he's my nephew and I'm somehow responsible.
That's why I prayed.
"How long will you be out there?" I ask.
Just for the holiday weekend. They're due back at work on Tuesday.
I'd love to hear the stories they bring home.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
This continues my blog from yesterday.
So we do not go. That way, anyway.
Instead, we proceed with caution, forfeit some money and head west instead of north.
They were campers, like us, with their dogs, like us. They travel a lot, like us.
And apparently, they got in the way of some prison escapees and then died. They were burned to death. Inside their camper. Someone found their "well-groomed" dogs nearby. ID tags on the
dogs' collars helped police identify the dead couple.
Police think the suspects, armed and dangerous, live in our little world right now. Police say they are using back roads and are camping, in remote campgrounds and truck stops, in Yellowstone, which is in Wyoming and Montana, and are thought to be headed into Canada.
We're in Montana, at one point just north of Yellowstone. And we took back roads to get here. And while we never camp in remote campgrounds, we often sleepover in truck stops and rest stops. We aimed for a rest stop last night (before finding out about the murders) and --
thankfully -- couldn't find it. So we pushed on, into Helena To the safety of a Walmart parking lot.
We're here again tonight. In the morning, we're head to St. Mary, MT, for the eastern entrance to Glacier National Park.
Police have caught two of the three escapees. Maybe by the time we we wake up the third will be gone, too, from our little world.
And we can get on with our fun.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
After all, we're in serious wildlife mode here in southwestern South Dakota, where Route 87 winds through Wind Cave National Park and then, without hesitation, right through Custer State Park. We're scoping for buffalo (saw one, then a herd), mule deer (saw lots), prairie dogs (saw megalots), white tailed deer (saw two) and pronghorn deer (wait for the story).
The first animals we see are these two coyotes, on the side of a little rolling hill. Just over the hill, we see four pronghorn deer, one of which is crossing the road. I take a picture.
So we wait. While he crosses.
That's when we see the third coyote, stretched low in the grass, slinking toward the three other deer. He crawls through the grass, like a snake. Then, he slowly raises himself to full height and
saunters over near the deer. They see him. And move slowly away. Sideways.
He lowers himself again, and trots toward the lead deer, forcing the threesome to move uphill a bit.
WOW! I get it. It's a hunt. We're seeing a hunt.
Coyote No. 3 kicks into gear and works the deer by running back and forth in front of them, much like a Border Collie works a herd of sheep. Coyotes No. 1 and 2 (the ones I shrugged off earlier) hide just past the crest of the hill. I can see their ears. They are laying in
wait. Ready for the ambush!
In the picture above, you can easily see the three deer and Coyote No. 1. Now, glance up from the third deer on the right to the top of the first ridge, then just a little to the right and THERE! See him? It's Coyote No. 2. Ready to Pounce. Coyote No. 1 is up there, too. He's just harder to see. But he's to the right of No. 2.
We watch the adventure unfold for 10 minutes; no one else stops. Oh, they hesitate to see what we're looking at, but none seemed interested. Or perhaps they just didn't know it's a hunt. An honest-to-goodness National Geographic hunt! Or, for the older crowd, A Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom moment.
Now wait. The action subsides. No. 3 is giving up. He's slinking off to the right. Nos. 1 and 2 follow. There is no kill (and I'm kinda happy about THAT!).
Here's what we think happened: No. 3 was the front man, sent out to test the deers' sturdiness, to see if anyone was lame or sick. When all proved strong and well, the trio of hunters gave up, and set off to find breakfast elsewhere.
Friday, August 6, 2010
It's 7 a.m. and someone's outside Otto, rapping on the side door.
I roll out of bed (literally, because we're tilted), grab my robe (well, toss on a T-shirt) and sneak a peek through the kitchen window.
It's Wilford Brimley, in uniform.
Of course, it's not. But this park ranger sure looks like Wilford.
"Good morning," he nods, sort of Midwestern style, "I'm sorry to bother you so early, but do you have your receipt?"
The receipt he's looking for proves we paid yesterday for the privilege of staying overnight here at a fairly empty Wind Cave National Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Yes, I tell him, it's in my husband's wallet, which I'm please to discover in the place it out to be. I fish out the receipt and hand it out the door to Wilford.
"There's was no pen," I apologize for the looks of the receipt. "When we signed in yesterday, there was no pen at the station, so I used a rock, a charcoal rock to sign in."
He raises an eyebrow, accepts the receipt and shows me where it needs to be placed. He tips his hand to his hat and leaves.
But, not forever.
He shows up again at noon, and finds me sitting in the grass grooming my dog. And I think he's going quiz me about the dog hair and how I intend to clean it up (which I did, by the way.)
"I didn't see your husband earlier, so I brought an envelope up to you to fill out for tonight," he says, adding nothing about the dog. Whew.
"I'm sure you have a pen this time. We don't supply pens."
Why was he looking for my husband? (I didn't ask.) And does he think I'm trying to steal his campsite, to park here for free? (I didn't ask.) And why the sarcasm? (Ditto).
I fill out the little form, stuff $12 inside the envelope and Allen and I walk the dogs down the hill to the little station to pay in a proper way. I leave a pen behind for the next person and we walk back up the hill to Otto.
About two hours later, a different park ranger stops by to warn us of an impending storm. It comes and goes.
And another few hours later, a third ranger stops by to remind us about the hours we can run the generator.
And just when I'm all tuckered out with park rangers, I see Wilford again. And I'm sure he's going to yell at me for hanging our laundry outside (where no one can see it). So I scurry around to pull it in before he gets here. Which he never does, because there's now another
camper in the park to occupy his time.
I am so grateful.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Rushmore in South Dakota). And I stare out the window. The Badlands we
just exited present amazing landscapes and I watch for more as we
enter the Black Hills.
And, by golly, what amazing landscapes I see. Designed for kids. To
drive them crazy, to beg and scream "CAN WE GO THERE?!!!" I'm sure the
cacophony I hear includes a gazillions whines, cries and giggley
petitions. "PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!"
"CAN WE STOP?"
"CAN WE STOP?"
Mile after mile on I-90, kid-friendly/parent-cruel billboards
advertise tourist traps: Wonder Cave ("Don't Miss it!"), Sitting Bull
Caverns, Cosmos Mystery Area, Mt. Rushmore Shadow Resort (nowhere NEAR
Mt. Rushmore), USA Bear Country, Enchanted Eagle Treasures and the
most prolific of them all, Reptile Gardens.
There must be 10,000 signs for Reptile Gardens, some with cartoony
alligators, some with googley-eyed froggies, some with smiling,
hissing snakes, Look! There's one shaped like a train, with all the
smiling little reptiles sitting inside, waving me, inviting me to come
play with them.
We're strong willed. We didn't stop. But a million others did. As we
pass by, the parking lot vibrates with activity from cars, motor
homes, little kids, big kids. SUVs, Vans. EVERYWHERE!
The place we aim to see, Wind Cave National Park, is absent from the
screaming advertising menagerie.
Yet when we arrive, it, too, crawls with kids. And now us.
And I wonder how many of these families survived the gantlet of
advertising without giving in. And how many succumbed, at least once.
Monday, August 2, 2010
We're traveling the Native American Loop just north of Chamberlain, SD, when we see SOMETHING high on top the plateau. Sculpture? Fencing? Targets?
We drive a little closer and STILL can't quite make out what we see. Curiosity wins, so when we see a road leading up to the plateau we take it.
At the top is Roam Free Park and the little SOMETHINGS are informational markers at the edge of the ridge over which a magnificent view unfolds: the wide Missouri, trestles, bridges and
We're alone in this little park, so we pull right to the top, to the corner of a loop and get out. Into wind. Magnificent wind. So strong, we can't open both doors at the same time or we create a wind tunnel through the motor home. So, Allen spills out first, with his camera. I go next, with mine. It's 97 degrees. And windy.
Here's where I am easily amused. With the breath-taking scenery swirling around and the river and the sky far and wide, I focus on bugs.
In my immediate space, there are hundreds of grasshoppers fleeing my steps.
I step. They leap. I step. They leap. They leap away from me like a spray of water, arching in a semi-circle. Look at them all! I've never seen so many grasshoppers in one place in my life!
Allen steps closer to me and I notice the grasshoppers leap away from him, too, in a spray of activity, but the spray aims toward me. HA! Now the bugs (big guys, too, about three inches long) leap in a kaleidoscope of directions, away from Allen toward me, away from me
toward Allen and back and forth. Some land on my feet. Ew.
I try taking pictures, but I know it's useless. I snap the one above, then I just keep walking. And on cue, they respond by leaping.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Josh, my dominant Standard Poodle, walks just a little too close and Delila threatens menacingly. She rises up from the dust to make herself taller than Josh, who's already a tall dog, and curls her lips to expose impressive, meat-tearing fangs
A swath of hair from her neck down to her tail stands rigid.
She's not kidding. She postures, slowly. Stay away, Josh. Stay far, far away. Josh usually retaliates in kind. Not this time. Instead, he shrinks in submission.
Wow. I've never seen such a thing. He shrinks and slinks, slowly, lest he upset her. Wow. Josh, my dominant dog, subordinate.
We are at the Kiwanis Dog Park in Mankato, MN, as are a trio of beautiful, powerful dogs, (front to rear in the photo) Delila, Shep and Rorschach (when he was a puppy, he looked like an ink blot). Shep and Delila, both about 3 years old, are German Shepherd/Malamute siblings rescued from the streets of Kansas City. The Husky Rorschach (Rorsch for short) is 8 and never saw such poverty. He's always been a family dog.
They visit the dog park with Jim, their grandpa of sorts, who sits at a picnic table while the Josh/Delila chapter unfolds. The dogs belong to his daughter. However, they obey Jim, completely.
"Lila," he warns -- in a regular voice; no yelling -- during the Josh/Delila showdown. Delila backs off from Josh, who continues a slow exit from her space. She's made her point (that she's in charge). No need to continue the conversation.
"Oh, she can be a bitch," Jim explains, then storytells about a black ab Delila hates and dog owners who freak when dogs act like dogs and do things like mount each other.
He's so matter-of-fact I like him. I tell him it's the dog owners who cause most of the problems, not the dogs.
Then I tell him I used to be one of those owners, always trying to stop my dogs from being forward, from getting into trouble.
Then I see a young fellow heading toward the park with a little puppy.
Warning signals go off in my head. If Delila does her fang act again, will Josh let it go? Will he spar with her? Will the new dog owner understand?
I can't bear it, so I collect Josh and my other poodle, Jacob (who's been off hunting in the weeds), and we leave the park before any confrontation. But I return, without my dogs, because I want a picture of Jim's three beauties.
What I find floors me: that little puppy gleefully engaged in full play with the three big dogs AND two other dogs hopping around having a grand ol' time.
Delila, the bitch, is a sweetheart. The other dogs love her, play with
her and hop all over her. There's no growling, no gnashing. She's such a happy, friendly dog.
She just doesn't like Josh.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Louie pulls to the curb (he's good like that) and I leap out to immerse myself in the most mesmerizing statue I've ever seen of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Mesmerizing, but sad.
The sleekness, the thinness, the willowy nature of this work casts sorrow all about, as if to forewarn a mother and father that their child, this baby, dies a terrible death. Yes, we Christians know Christ died a horrible death here on Earth, but he lives on in Heaven and Earth. And we, too, will live after death.
But the ones left behind after we die mourn. Some mourn terribly.
This statue exudes that mourning for me. Look at the picture. See how the baby Jesus is gently touching his mother's face? He's consoling her. Now look at Joseph. I see such stoic anguish in his face. My heart tightens.
Just a block earlier, I saw a statue of a waif-like Mary, obviously created by the same hand. So we turn back to visit her. I walk all around her, noting that she, too, mourns. She carries a lily and casts her eyes downward. She slumps, slightly, as if life's a burden. Which it can be. Without Jesus.
I've written to both the town newspaper and visitor's bureau to find out who the artist is. I want to thank her, or him, for giving me such a powerful reminder of my faith.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
We're at a dog park in Mankato, MN, and there's a toddler -- a human
toddler --- sitting all by herself on the wooded hiking trail. Absurd.
Am I really seeing this?
We head her way because, of course, a baby left alone in the woods
needs help. Then out of nowhere, a chunky brown lab slathered in mud
comes roaring over to stop us. He growls and barks madly at my dogs,
who, thankfully, respond by walking away and not reciprocating the
attack. And then there's a smaller dog, a beagle/coon mix, also
aggressively beating us back, keeping us away from our rescue.
In flash, I see three other children, an adult and a picnic table
strewn with food. Aha. The real story coalesces as I see the gang
stroll over to the baby, who is still sitting on the path in the
woods. Now mom is sitting, too (above).
The mom -- babysitter, aunt, sister or whomever -- with the worst
possible judgement is having a picnic with her kids inside a dog
park. With their dogs. Who are, understandably, protecting their baby
and their food.
We skirt the crowd (all the while calling and whistling for our dogs,
trying to get them to ignore THEIR dogs, THEIR kids and THEIR food),
and finally get on the walking trail. THEIR dogs, unfortunately,
follow us. And when we get out of earshot of the family, THEIR dogs
settle down and become great dogs, friendly dogs, happy dogs.
Once we round the bend and the family comes into view THEIR dogs turn
I notice others dog and dog owners come into the park and leave. They
assess the situation, deem it unmanageable and walk away.
We do, too.
We're at the Paw Prints Dog Park in Janesville, WI, and it's 85 humid degrees. The gorgeous park unfolds on 17 acres of rolling prairie land with just enough mowed trails to keep people moving while the dogs explore.
My dogs (Joshua, 9, and Jacob, my baby, 7) embrace the experience. They head right out into the prairie, noses down, checking out the pee-mail and animal trails.
Did I mention the heat? 85 degrees. And cloudless. And 100 percent humidity. Which means the sun's brutal.
The three of us, the dogs and I, hike through the prairie's patches of wildflowers, grasses and weeds. I sweat profusely with each step. The dogs (big black poodles, each weighing about 90 pounds) slow down, and pant a lot. I'm drenched. Joshua gives up and heads back to the entrance gate, where he knows a bucket of water awaits.
Jacob and I push on, all the way to the end of the 17 acres, where I find a bench. I sit and survey and discover prairies lack shade trees.
That's when I notice Jacob's odd behavior. He pants frantically and lays down in a stand of tall grass (pictured). Seconds later, he's up again, racing toward another grass patch, circling around and laying down.
Poor guy! Is he trying to get away from the blazing sun? Is he suffering heat stoke?
I hop up and we both walk with a quicker step toward the other end of the park. Every so often, Jacob dives into the tall grass and lays down. Breaks my heart.
Allen meets us half way and Jake walks behind us, with a very uneven, very slow gait.
Wait, I get it! He's walking in our shadows. We are his shade.
He's a clever dog.
He's a survivor.
Monday, July 26, 2010
1. A bald man walking down the road. Shirtless. Tattoos dance around his neck, shoulders and chest. No, wait. Ewwww. That's no tatoo! It's a mighty python, undulating, twisting around itself and the man's neck and shoulders and then dangling down his chest. Shudder.
2. A road crew of six morbidly obese men. One of the big guys drives a piece of heavy equipment that has independent left and right hand steering guides that nearly disappear into his belly folds. He rams his hands into his flab to grab hold of the handles. And he drives quite well.
3. An Amish man, maybe he's Mennonite, on a recumbent bike. He sits Peter-Fonda low, holds his hands high and wide on the handlebars and probably dreams of the wind in his hair.
4. Sadly, instant potatoes on my plate. At a large, touristy Amish-style restaurant. Where the chicken was bland, the noodles mushy, the corn salty, the bread hard and, thankfully, the stuffing perfect.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
"Go out to the main road, turn left, and just over the bridge turn left."
The directions loop round and round in my brain as Allen and I head out on our bikes for an afternoon of riding a rail trail here in Whitehouse, Ohio. A rail trail is a paved (usually) bike path that follows where old railroad tracks used to be. A lady who lives here and has been there gave me the directions.
At the main road, Allen turns right.
Wait. I listen to the directions replaying in my head. "The lady said to turn left," I yell. Allen keeps on pedaling. "Allen," I crank up the volume. "You are going the wrong way."
He stops. And counters the long-time resident's advice. "I know we passed the trail when we came in yesterday. It's this way."
We continue on his way and, of course, come to no bridge or rail trail. We cruise, instead, through pretty little neighborhoods, where we see the homes and gardens of the people who live here. One house looks like ours, with pretty skylights smiling up to God. At another, a family labors to put up stone siding. Along the way, a couple powerwalks, nearly overtaking us.
And, of course, we have no map so we get lost. But we do know how to backtrack. So we do, past the pretty windows, the stones and the walkers.
Eventually we come to a sign for the park the lady mentioned. Yeah! Only this park has no rail trails. Awwww.
It has several dirt trails, though, so we chose one, a 1.5 mile loop. It takes us into the woods past an impossibly green lake, through a garrison of skinny pines (above ... look closely and you'll see Allen on his bike) and up, down and around meadows of neck-high Queen Anne's Lace, Black Eyed Susans and an impressive array of prairie grasses.
And, of course, we have no map, So after three miles on the 1.5-mile loop, we know we're lost. But we know how to backtrack, so we do, back past the meadows, the pines and the green, green lake.
As we pedal this last stretch back to the campground, I think about how we journey around, often without maps or plans, basically clueless about what's to come. What's up ahead is often exhilarating. Sometimes novel. Sometimes blase.
And, if we get lost, we always know how to get back.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
events that led us here, to Whitehouse, Ohio, where I sit with
instructions on how to use the tornado shelter that's about 250 feet
away. (That's it, in the picture. Well, it's the garage of the house
you see in the picture.)
And, yes, bring the dogs.
Let me begin.
Our 2010 Summer Adventure includes a visit with the kids and grandkids in Seattle, Glacier National Park, Yosemite, Death Valley and whatever we can pile on.
It begins now.
I'm brushing my teeth at the end of the first day of Our Summer 2010 Adventure. I rinse and ACK! POND SCUM! Our water tastes like POND SCUM. Oh, yuck. Spit spit. Where's the mouth wash? Gargle, gargle. Spit.
Must be something horrid is growing in our fresh water tank. Ack. Ack.
OK. No problem. No one use the water until we can rinse out the tank, sanitize it and rinse it out again. OK. No problem. Until then, we'll just use public restrooms. At Walmart. Or at the Rutherford B. Hayes Center (wonderful place to learn about our 19th president AND about
the history of croquet and other late 19th-century passions).
It's at the Center in Fremont, Ohio, that we try out our brand-new, $1,200 mega generator. It's 90+ degrees, so we need to use the generator to power the air conditioning we need to leave on in the motor home so our dogs don't die.
The generator guzzles all its gas in about three hours and, we discover, gets so hot it tries to melt our power cord plug. OK. Now we have sour water and a melting power plug. And we need to wash our hands.
That's when we decide to pay for an overnight at this campground, in Whitehouse, Ohio, an appropriate place to end the day after visiting a presidential museum. And we have total access to all the water and power we need to wash our hands and fix our problems. However, on the way here, a bully of a truck kicked up a rock and we think our windshield cracked.
OK. We have a dinged windshield, nasty water and a deformed electrical plug.
And now for the tornado.
The people who own the campground point to the garage just up the street and tell me to head there, with my dogs, if the tornado siren sounds. And, they say, it probably will because there's a watch on for tonight and this is, after all, Ohio.
That's why the campground is so empty.
Our life is such an adventure.
(It's 10:21 p.m. and no tornado yet, but a storm brews. OH! I see lightning!)
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Lots to do for our next outing:
- Bathroom door handle replaced
- Door shade replaced
- Paper products restocked
- Carpets shampooed
- Everything cleaned
- And so much more ....
But for now, we return to our other life, the one crowded with far too much stuff, far too many responsibilities, far too much to do.
We need to change all that.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
Is Erica alive?
I'm walking the dogs on Jekyll Island State Park in Georgia when I see a man on a powder blue bike and hear him hollering "Bla---ackie. Bla---ackie."
Sunday, March 28, 2010
She didn't answer his question.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
We're outside, puttering, when Bob hollers over. "When ya leavin?"
Saturday, March 13, 2010
"A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way.
"When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was.
"When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’
"Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?" He said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
Thursday, March 11, 2010
The TV newscaster wants me to watch the 10 p.m. news, so he headlines the biggest news of the day: Fog.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
My new friend Sherry walks up to me with a green bag full of paperback books.