Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Driving Through the WIlderness

Was that a cat? A big cat? A WILDCAT?

We're driving up the Alaska Highway in the Yukon. And because a road runs through it, we forget this is wilderness. So it's possible I saw a wildcat. Earlier today, we saw a porcupine. Roadside. A porcupine!

And just now, off to my left, on a tall roadside bank, I see a cat. A big cat. Not a feral house cat, but a big wild cat. I'm scratching my head because I can't locate in my memory banks what wildcat wears mottled, shaggy fur and stands very long and tall. Allen and I rattle off the common wildcats -- cougars, mountain lions, pumas, bobcats, tigers, lions -- and dismiss all possibilities.

What did I see?

I don't doubt it's a wildcat. The collection of wild animals we've seen in this wilderness (with a road running through it) would make zookkeepers salivate: nearly two dozen black bear, stone sheep (even a baby), wild wood buffalo (perhaps 20 of them), moose, caribou, mule deer and half a dozen or more feral horses.

I now I have this mystery. But, it's easy to solve, because here in Teslin, Yukon, where we've stayed for the night in the parking lot of the Yukon Motel, there's a free wildife museum which, I imagine, documents all the wildlife in the Yukon. Even this wildcat. So I go in.

And I find (after passing through tons of souvenirs) an amazing display of taxidermied wildlife. Things we might see in the Yukon: polar bears, black bears, Arctic fox, Arctic wolves, grizzlies, mule deer, musk ox, dall sheep, mountain goats, beavers, Alaskan moose, timber wolves. And there, nearly at the end of the display is MY CAT! It's a Yukon Lynx.

I saw a lynx. In the wild. Alongside this road that cuts through the wild.

And I wonder what roadside attraction we'll see today ...

Everywhere a Sign

Gimmicks attract tourists. Things like the biggest ball of rubber bands, the largest sculpture of a squirrel. The largest collection of road signs in the world. That's where we are.

It's called Sign Post Forest and it makes this little town of Watson Lake, a dusty respite on the Alaska Highway, a popular place for tourists to stop and play. And to leave their footprint, a piece from their life, a road sign from their town (swiped in the night?) a wooden plaque they carved their name on or even their license plate.
Everything gets nailed up on square wooden poles. And everything has words on it indicating whose footprint it is, who they are, where they are from.

There must be hundreds of these poles bearing thousands of signs. At last count, there were 72,000 signs. A battalion of footprints from around the world.

We see remnants of Germany, Japan, Holland, every Canadian province, Italy, Spain and, of course, the states and towns of the U.S.

And we see inventive footprints; outside the box footprints: an Igloo waterbottle, guitar, a Scrabble Board, flipflops, sneakers, fishing boots. But mostly, street signs. Mostly enthusiasm. Footprints from around the world.

And we see people darting through the "trees" of this forest with signs and hammers, to add their own presence, their own Kilroy Was Here" sign. There own footprint.

At the end of our hike, we find my favorite: A little plastic trash can, nailed upside down on the pole. Singed by Walter, Katie and Theresa, from various towns in Georgia. It's the message that I like the best: "No garbage here; life is wonderful."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hiding Our Fears From The Kids

"Come on, you can do it," Maddie says to me, giggling, encouraging me to swim under the birch tree that's fallen across the hot spring. When she giggles, she scrunches up an adorable little nose with dancing freckles.

I don't want to duck under the water. It's wild water, the Liard River Hot Springs, a provincial park in British Columbia. The natural hot springs (112 to 126 degrees) blends with a warm-water swamp inside a boreal forest. There's lush vegetation on all sides and I've been warned to watch for moose, who like to hang out here, and back bears, who've been seen crazing within 10 feet of the water. The same water I'm supposed to duck under.

The water's full of sulphur. What will it do to my hair? What else might be in the water?

But I do as she says. Because I refuse to show her my fear. Fear is contagious. And I don't want her to be afraid of the water, so I duck under and (I'm surprised) pop up unharmed on the other side of the tree.

She's thrilled. And claps her hands. She's so cute. She's 6, and along with her brother Joey, 4, splash around in the hot water with us and their mom and dad, Collin and Jackie. They used to live in Montreal, but now live in Whitehorse, a Klondike community about six hours to our north. They come here to play. It's one of their favorite spots.

"Come on. Follow me!" This time it's Joey, and he swims upsteam, then disappears around a bend in this little meandering waterway. He's leading us to where it's cooler. We need cooler right now. All of us have pink cheeks and arms. So we follow (Allen, too), swimming upstream. It gets so narrow, we swim single file.

Then I see Joey slip under a little v-shaped branch with about a 6-inch clearance from one side of the creek to the other and to the top of the water. I stay on my side of the claustrophobic 6-inch opening.

"Come on. You can do it." Joey's just as cute - and insistent -- as his sister.

NO I CAN'T. I tell him: "My head's bigger than that hole."

"My mommy got through, so you can get through."

"I have bigger hips than Mommy does," I tell him.

"The opening is bigger below," he says.

What a cutie.

Then I realize I must not show him my fear. I HAVE to duck under, in this cooler, muddy water, where leaves and branches reach out to strangle me, and snakes and bears await to gobble me up.

So I do. And I pop up on the other side (Allen does, too). Unharmed. Then we both quickly retreat back to the hotter water. Back to where we can see the bottom of the pond. We keep on swimming until we reach the steps and climb out of the water.

We're done. We're ready to go. We turn and see the kids still playing, still dangling off fallen trees. Still ducking under the water. Still having a grand time. Unafraid.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lured On and On By Nothing But Beauty

It's 6 p.m. and we call it a day.

We pull over at Summit Lake, the highest point along the Alaska Highway, to set up camp for the night. We walk, eat and gawk at the beauty surrounding us.

We're in a bowl of beauty.

But it's far from nighttime. The sun's still high and the road beckons. So we decide to continue on. For just a while. Because it's so beautiful up here in British Columbia, along this historic highway.

On the road before and after the lake, we flit past stone sheep, moose, caribou. Mountains rise and fall on both sides. Frozen creeks -- some five feet thick with snow and ice -- thaw under 20 hours of sunshine. Their water at first a trickle, then a stream, then a current. For miles we follow rushing waters snaking through glacier-flattened countrysides. Twice we see beaver ponds, their dams holding well, their lodges mounded high.
And then, what is that blue?

The color of Muncho Lake, an Alaskan Highway respite for boaters and campers, approaches both blue and green, but arrives at neither. It's opaque, thick. And it's big. We skirt its edge for miles.

The road meets the water on one side and the mountains on the other. And it's desolate. We meander past an occasional trucker, camper or pick-up truck, one with a dog in the back. But generally, it's just us and all this beauty. And that amazingly blue lake.

What is that blue? Cerulean? No. Ultramarine? No. I got it. Turquoise.

Muncho Lake is a bowl of turquoise.

Hours later, the intense beauty continues to lure us along. We can't stop. We drive and drive because over each crest, around each curve, down each valley, breathtaking beauty abounds. And, it's daylight. Forever it seems.

Finally, we come to rest in a long-ago glacier's alluvial fan. And we're in another beautiful bowl. It's snowcapped, and the steep sides rise into the Canadian Rockies.

And no one else is here. We walk, and gawk, then climb back into Otto, where we draw our shades, against the daylight.

At 10:30 p.m, I peak out and see the field of rounded stone, some the size of basketballs, with long shadows. Aha! A setting sun.

Finally, about 11 p.m., darkness. And we settle in for the night in our beautiful bowl. Finally.

Finding the Original Alaska Highway

 We do it.

We touch Mile Zero on the famous Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, BC, and head northwest to Alaska.

The highway's famous because it's a Baby Boomer, a classic, an original. Born out of need in World War II. The U.S. needed to defend Alaska in case the Japanese attacked it, too. But how? There's no way from here to there unless you fly. 

Or take a boat.

So,in '42,  thousands of  U.S. and Canadian military and civilians built this road, down from Alaska and up from Dawson Creek, BC.

So this highway is historic. Famous.  Classic. An original. And one of the greatest engineering feats of the last century.

But here at the start, it's hard to tell where it really begins. The city maintains five starting places. So take your pick: A monument in the shopping district, another in a traffic circle. Still there are three more at the side of a big parking lot.

I can't tell which one is the classic start, the original start, so we just pick one, take pictures. And go.

About 18 miles into our historic journey, we discover a fraud. A big betrayal. This isn't the original Alaska Highway. Oh, it does the same thing, gets from here to there, but the years have straightened and widened it and in places moved it so the big rigs, carrying oil, lumber and even food, can pass through more quickly.

The surface we traverse is younger than I am.

We discover this remodeling of history because at Mile 18 we see a sign leading us to the OLD Alaska Highway, to a spectacular curved wooden bridge built in '42 and still in use. It's a classic. An original.  190 feet of it. A sign says it took nine months to build this bridge. It was the first of its kind in Alaska and the last one still in use. But not as part of the highway anymore.  Instead, it's inside a provincial park. For tourists to use.

So we use it, and enjoy the view of the massive ravine is scales.

The awesomeness of this historic bridge -- and my need to absorb more -- leads us to where we are today. At the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum  in Fort Nelson, BC, about 250 miles away from that bridge. We find something original, something classic. A museum about Fort Nelson and its past, told through  display cases of mostly just stuff from the '30s and '40s. And mounted game.  A white moose. Caribou and stone sheep. Even fish.

And then there's a video about the building of the Alaska Highway, some fabulous pictures documenting the travails, and cars, trucks and big machines outside, all used in building the highway.

But the best, was  Marl Brown, who was 10  when the highway was built. He started this museum and caretakes all that's in it, including a car barn with fully operational antiques,  a Packard, a Studebacker  and a 1924 Model T he bought in 1950 for $100.

He's 79 and looks comic-book silly with his unkept white beard and hair. The twinkle in his eyes indicates he intends to create all this silliness. To entertain. To educate.  And I love it. Because he' a classic. An original. And I found him along the Alaska Highway.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Just A Spot of Coffee and Conversation

It's 6:30 a.m., and I'm having coffee inside the Buckinghorse Lodge Restaurant along the Alaska Highway. Horseshoes and pictures of horses, moose and bear decorate the paneled walls inside this low-slung eatery. The linoleum floor shows the cracks of age.

Two display cases feature hunting knives, another music CDs. Up at the cash register, there's a small display case with jewelry. And there's a table with last night's desserts wrapped up for sale.

It's just me this morning, with my coffee, sitting at a wooden table, soaking in the rustic nature of this out-of-the-way place. We're at Mile 175 on the Alaska Highway, and the cook tells me there's no name for this town. It's just a place. The mailing address is Pink Mountain, but it's not really Pink Mountain.

Like I said, it's an out-of-the-way place.

Then three grizzled men come in, separately, and sit at different tables.

These guys are truckers, and they're all eating breakfasts of eggs, toast and sausage. And they talk. To each other. In code.

"I came down the 85."
"I'm just going to kilometer 5."
"He might of did the fry head ..."
"He chained up in the middle ..."

And then there's stuff I do understand. These three men, all wearing denim and cowboy hats, all sitting apart, come together with their talk. They exchange stories about brake linings, oil pan repairs and bears. "Saw a big one this morning, coming down from Fort Nelson." "Seen any grizzlies yet?" "Nope, just black.")

A female trucker comes in.

The talk stops. I hear chewing. Utensils clanging on plates. She visits the washroom, then leaves.

The talk resumes.

One by one they leave, without a wave or a spoken farewell. Their bellies filled, their need for human contact satisfied.

And then a fourth guy walks in. This one's much younger. Maybe in his 30s. He orders coffee and toast. And heads for the jewelry, where he asks the price of a necklace. $8. He buys it. Slips it in his pocket and leaves.

A family of four (with the cutest little kids) comes in for coffee, potato chips, candy. And another trucker stops. And another.

And then it's just me. Sitting here, writing, drinking my coffee. Waiting for the door to open again. Realizing this is no out-of-the-way place.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Art So Real ...

The dogs are barking. Incessantly.

They are standing on our bed in back of the motorhome, looking out the window and barking.

We call out to them to hush. They don't. We stand and wiggle our fingers at them. But they bark. And bark.
OK. SOMETHING is out there. And the dogs are worried. They aren't barkers. They usually hush on our first insistence. Well, maybe on our second.

But they are barking and ignoring our pleas -- our demands -- for silence. So SOMETHING OUT THERE is troubling them.

But it can't be serious. We're parked in downtown Chetwynd, BC, at the Visitor's Center, getting ready to explore the art that makes this place the Chainsaw Sculpture Capital of the World. We're surrounded by amazing craftmanship, amazing artistry.

Since 2005, artists from Japan, Germany, the US, and even right here in Chetwynd spend three days each June using their chainsaws -- THEIR CHAINSAWS -- to carve art out of cedar logs 8 feet long and 3 feet wide.

The sculptures decorate the town, in public spaces, in parks, along paths, on street corners, along sidewalks. So we plan to go for a walk, with the dogs, and enjoy this art.

And the walk is happening sooner than we planned because the dogs are barking and we can't shush them.
So I go into the back of the motorhome to look out the window. To see what they see.

And I see it. A bear.

The dogs are barking at a massive grizzly rearing behind a pickup truck. And he's roaring. A forever roar. Because he's a work of art. A sculpture. A wooden chainsaw creation.

And he's so realistic, he fooled my dogs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Better To Be Safe ...

We change our plans.

I'm not happy about it. But I'm not sad, either. Because I understand why we must change our plans. For safety.
The road I want (the Cassiar Highway) meanders through long, lonely, rustic, twisting, mountainous stretches of British Columbia. Gravel paves portions of this road.

The road promises a bounty of bear, moose, caribou, deer and other animals. But limited services. Like fuel. Limited because it's so remote; it's the road less traveled. That's why wildlife abound. And why I want to go there.
But we change our plans, trading endless vistas of animals for logic. I understand.

And logic tells us to use the the road most traveled, the famous Alaska Highway, know for years as the Alcan Highway. It's about 100 miles out of our way, but safe.

So we head northeast from Prince George, BC, up the Hart Highway, our eyes set on Dawson Creek (Mile Zero of the famous road) because, of course, there's not much else to do with our eyes. (I'm pouting.) I'm sure the wildlife hang out on the remote road, not this one, the one with lots of fuel and other vehicles.

Wait. Look, LOOK! A bald eagle, sitting on a low branch over that rushing creek. We pass by him within 100 feet. He's huge. I'm thrilled.

"Did you see it?" Allen yells. A bear. Allen says a black bear ambled down an embankment just as we passed by. He's about the size of a refrigerator laid on its side (not as long, but as wide).

WAIT! I see another bear, off to the right. What's he eating? Grass? We suspect maybe clover.

Now, LOOK LOOK! A beaver. And he's HUGE! I'd guess three feet by 18 to 20 inches. And what a LONG paddle tail! He' sitting on a log in the middle of a ponded area, chewing on something, using his paws to hold something up to his mouth. His redwood-colored fur glistens in the sun.

And, Yeah! Another bear. And another.

Within a four-hour span, we see seven bear, that bald eagle, the beaver, geese, crows and and something, maybe an otter, that slips into the water as we pass by. We also see magnificent vistas of snow-capped mountains, birch-filled valleys, mountainsides awash in spring colors, the edge of the Canadian Rockies, patches of roadside snow and the ice on a frozen lake beginning to give way to Spring.

And we find fuel, no problem.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Soup's On, Um Er, Off


I love soup and it's chilly today here in Prince George, BC, on Victoria Day, a day to honor the Queen.
So I order soup at DeDutch Restaurant, an eatery, we discover, that serves a motel, so it's no more Canadian than I am. Or elegant.

But it has free Wifi, so we decide to eat there.

With the soup, I order a patty melt (no cheese) on sourdough bread. Allen orders bacon and eggs and pancakes.
Our 20-something, fashion plate waitress bobs her head when I ask about the soup. Pea soup, she says. "We always have pea soup," she bobs, smiling wide, showing her teeth.

She can't vouch for the soup, because she's never had it. But (the bobbing resumes) she's seen it and it has carrots in it, and bits of meat, probably ham. And it's always available.

Her words end, but her head still bobs.

Yum. Pea soup. One of my favorites.

I'll take a cup, I say, along with my burger.

She bobs and bobs then heads to the kitchen, about two feet away.

I hear clangs, bangs and dishes breaking, then a voice sails through the storm: "Well, I eat my soup out of a bowl."

Soup? Are they talking about MY soup? More pointedly, ME?

Seconds later, Miss Bobbin' stands table side and asks, "Do you really want your soup in, like, a coffee cup?"

HA! They WERE talking about my soup.

Oh, sweet youth. She's never heard of a cup of soup.

No, I assure her. I'm not talking about the vessel. I just want a small amount of soup.

"We serve our soup in bowls," she says, and, yes, she's still nodding, and, clearly, misses my point.
So, I tell her, bring it on. I'll take the bowl.

She does.

And, it's AWFUL. Terrible soup. Perhaps it sat out all weekend (this is Monday) and spoiled. It tastes spoiled.

So when she returns to ask after our meal, I mention the soup's inedible. And she nods, and scrunches her nose, and says, "I imagine so. It's just powdered, you know."


Yes, I reply, when she asks if I'd like it removed from our bill. Which, with the soup removed and the tip added, closes in on $40. For a burger and eggs with pancakes. But, of course, no soup.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Imagine That

I'm sitting in the front seat of Otto, watching the clouds consume most of the mountains in front of me at Cache Creek, BC. And I'm sipping delicious hot coffee.

It rained all night long, giving the pastures a welcome drink and turning the rutted roads quite muddy.

It's OK. We're not going anywhere. I've got my coffee and we're camped at the Historic Hat Creek ranch, where yesterday I met Fergus, a 60-something grandfather (I met his granddaughter, Shelby too), who drives the tourist attraction's stagecoach.

Now, Fergus is a small man. I'd say he's a wisp. So when I see him this morning, I chuckle a little because he's nearly swallowed up by his 10-gallon hat, chaps and the ankle-length suede coat he wears as part of his stagecoach persona.

And he, like me, is sipping his coffee, but he's outside, walking down the muddy, rutted farm lane to where the Belgians graze.

I grab my binoculars because I'm curious how he beckons these massive beasts to come to work. Will he whistle for them, holler out? Does he hold up their harnesses and rattle them for attention?

So I watch. As he walks. And sips his morning coffee.

Then what do I see?

I see this pint-sized cowboy pitch his paper coffee cup into the woods.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Belgians of Hat Creek Ranch ... My New Friends

I hear the stagecoach, so I grab my camera. This time is has to work. It just HAS to work.

It's the fourth time I've tried to take a picture that shows how close the old-fashion stagecoach gets to our motorhome. Feet. It passes within FEET at least twice a day. And each time, my camera has failed. Bad batteries.
I want this picture for another reason, too. The Belgians harnessed to the stagecoach befriended us. Well, sort of.

We met the massive horses (2,400 pounds each) on our first day here at the Historic Hat Creek Ranch, a tourist area, really, where adults play make-believe to show kids and other adults life on a farm in British Columbia 150 years ago. As we walked the dogs past corrals and pastures that day, I saw four Belgians out in the field and just whistled "hello."

Two ignored my welcoming; two others, however, galloped up the hill to visit us.

What a sight! These are massive horses, easily standing five feet taller than either of us (to the tip of their ears). Their muscular legs end in pie-plate sized hooves covered in hair that dances about as they prance. They stretched their massive heads past the barbed wire to sniff us. I patted their muzzles. Scratched behind their ears. The dogs ignored the experience. I fell in love.

So because of that walk, and the friendliness of those horses, and my heart, I want to take their picture. And that's why I've run out for the fourth time when I see the them coming.

The stagecoach driver (the same one all these times) takes pity on me. And stops the team. "Want to get a picture?" he asks the obvious. Of course, I feel compelled to explain my odd behavior, to tell him about my bad batteries. He just smiles at my story. And keeps the team still.

We then introduce ourselves, and it's my turn to smile. He's Fergus and the horses? Arthur and Hobson. Solid names for loyal subjects of the Crown.

Fergus says this is the final round of the week for Arthur and Hobson. Soon they'll be turned out to pasture for a few days off.

And as I finish writing this tale, I hear the Belgians' throaty, gusty neighs, so I turn to look. And I see them gallop through their field, with their heads high and their tails and manes twisting in their breeze. Home from work, I see. Their weekend begins. And I think they know it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Across the Border, Northward

We stop just north of the border crossing in British Columbia. To breathe.

The days leading up to today compress in my mind into one big umbrella, with spokes leading to food, car, clothing, money, dogs, motorhome, family, friends. And so much more.

Nothing in our life went untouched in my umbrella. But we got everything done (packed the right clothes, got the right vitamins and medicines, packed the right food -- what is and is not allowed to cross the border, fixed the motorhome, stored the car, etc.). A whirlwind, but we closed that umbrella today, snapped it shut, and crossed the border.


I can breathe. And the dogs need to stretch.

So we stop at one of the first rest stops we see in British Columbia and walk. Well, we really hike. Up a hill, which is more like a grassy knoll or dike beside a meandering stream. The stream is deep, muddy, and moves slowly. The dogs enjoy sniffing around the edges. And we walk along the top, following a well-worn path. And breathe.
Then, something catches my eye.

Look. Up ahead. To the right. In the water, on the other side of the stream. There's a turtle moving pretty fast toward us in the water.

No. No. Wait. It's not a turtle. It's a dog.

There's a dog in the water, swimming toward us. Pretty fast. The sun glints off the side of his vey wet head.

Good heavens. It dived. And it's still under.

It's an otter. AN OTTER! And he's up again and he's swimming toward us.

My dogs ignore the otter, who's not ignoring them. He's popping up and down in the water alongside us as we walk. LOOK! There's another curious otter. AND another one.

THREE. THREE otters do the dog walk with us. They stay in (and under) the water and we stay on land.

And they stay underwater for long periods. Then they surface and breathe. Just breathe. Here at a rest stop in British Columbia.

The otters and I. We just breathe.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action

I'm standing in make-believe land. Where Thelma and Louise drove off the cliff, where Indiana Jones tracked down that treasure, where massive red rocks formed the backdrop for Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Austin Powers, City Slickers. And a gazillio other films.

I'm in Moab, Utah, where Arches, a national park, unfolds just minutes outside town. But lightyears from anything I'm used to seeing.

We stop and stare at massive, brilliant red rock pillars so dramatic their names create tension: The Fiery Furnace, Devils Garden and Couthouse Towers. My favorite? The Three Gossips. And of course, Balanced Rock. I read where it weighs 7 million pounds.

Balanced Rock sits precariously upon its spire. As I walk closer, it goads me into rethinking my center of gravity. Or ducking. Logically, one sharp puff and Balanced Rock's a has been. But it stays perfectly perched.

And I'm standing for a while, just staring at this rock, wondering how it stays up there, when I see make-believe in the making.

A man (the actor) has stepped up on a rock and holds his hands out sideways while another man (the cameraman) sits on the ground, taking a picture of the man on the rock. Two more men stand behind the cameraman -- the director and producer, perhaps?

I walk closer; then I get it. They're just tourists, creating a silly picture. Here's the scene: At the angle of the camera-shoot, it looks like the "actor" is holding up Balanced Rock, preventing it from falling over. Like in this picture.

I wait. And when the picture's taken, the four men gather around the camera and laugh and pat each others' backs, because the shot's perfect.

I ask to see the picture, too. Yes, it's perfect.

As I walk away, returning my senses to what's real, I notice the four men walk apart. Apparently, they came together only for that moment of make-believe. In this land of make-believe.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day, from Moab, Utah

       Those who know me well, know of Emma. My daughter. 
       She died before she was born.

       So I share this day, Mother's Day, with millions of women who unlike me, wear the Mom Badge for having survived:
* Endless nights of walking the floor.
* Singing nonsensical songs over and over .... and over and over.
* Streams, miles and piles of pee, vomit, poop; and baby burps.
* Tripping over toys; tracking down toys; putting toys together. Toys, toys, toys.
* Trying to figure out where it hurts; trying to figure out how to stop the hurt; knowing when you have to let it hurt.
* And letting go of the tiny hand; agreeing to stop holding hands in public; handing over the keys to the car. And handing over that hand to someone else.
A wonderful friend sent a poem to me with various titles: Awesome Mom, Before I Was A Mom, Being a Mom. And I cried. Not out of grief for what I never had, but because I finally found the words  to explain why I, who never raised a child,  wear that Mom Badge, too:
    Until Emma, "I didn't know the feeling of having my heart outside my body."
Happy Mother's Day. 
By the way, here's Emma's picture, along with a wonderful tribute my husband Allen wrote in 1997. But please, when you look, understand Emma never lived outside my body, so this picture is of her in death. 
Here's another special link, EmmaKate, a song written in her honor by   John Eidsvoog. Listen to the end, and you can hear her flight into Heaven. In Jeremiah 1:5, God said, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart." 

Dancing With The Past

I feel silly. Because we're doing something patently touristy.

While the rest of the world engages itself in Abbottabad, Navy SEALS and the death of the mastermind of terror, we're bouncing down a small side road through dusty farmland in Fort Sumner, NM, to see the gravesite of, ahem, Billy the Kid.

And were doing this because I read about it on the Internet, in a Things To Do link. And I like to do oddball things.

So we pull into the graveyard's parking lot and find it's just us and two other people  today  (both men; one a trucker) paying respects to the villainous kid.

And I think we're all embarrassed. Because we're not making contact  And we're waltzing around the graveyard, staying equidistant.

It's easy to dance out of each other's way because the walled compound has sidewalks that meander past  a few other graves, all from about the same time period (late 19th century). So I watch as we all feign interest in those other graves, dipping to read headstones, then swaying on to the next, all waiting for our turn with the famous guy, all staying out of each other's way.

OK. It's our turn. We cha-cha up to the 
gravesite (fenced-in to protect it from vandals) and read the tombstone (manacled, because it's been stolen twice). We take pictures and, when it's our turn, we sashay out.

And so ends the graveyard ballet.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Signs Say It All

It's time to leave Waylon Jennings Rv Park (pics) in Littlefield, Texas (population 7,000).

We spent two nights here with water and electric hookup for free, in exchange for, well, not much to do.  Except watch a Little League game or two at night and, during the day, walk the dogs around a dry, dusty sports complex we share with tumbleweed, trash, broken glass and broken fences. Oh, yes, and prairie dogs.

We can see through the beginnings of decay where things were nice, once. And the city tries, we can tell, to keep this little horseshoe-shaped park, well, spiffy. Not current, but spiffy. Tidy. Tiny.


Hand-painted signs ask for donations and suggestions (both "appreciated"). A big sign tells us the dos and don'ts of the place. Another small sign, beneath of flag pole in front,  salutes a couple of fellows who thought up the idea of an RV park in the first place.

It's a very small park, with room for 10  RVs, tops. Yet, still, I find more signs.

Near the front of the park, I find a large  sign, with a wood-carving of Waylon,  Littlefield's most famous son. And then I see  the impressions of his cowboy boots in concrete, the shape of Texas.

There's a sign for the Fannie Mae Horseshoe Court next door. Fannie Mae is Waylon's aunt.

Sweet. Simple. Connected.

But it's time to leave. Everything's packed away. We're driving out, when I turn and say "Stop!"

I see yet another sign.  In front of a grassy area inside the horseshoe, where I count 13 trees. The sign says "Littlefield National Forest."

Spiffy. Tidy. Tiny. Homey. And definitely humorous.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Been There, Done that

I find a Web site (freecampsites.net) that says in Littlefield, Texas, there's a free campground. We can stay for free, up to four nights, with free elecricity and free water. Free.

And what a fun name: The Waylon Jennings RV Park. Waylon's Littlefield's famous son.

The only drawback is it's pretty much in the nowhere of Texas, off the beaten path, up northwest aways from Brady on secondary roads. So, it'll take a while to get there. But we don't care. We're not in a hurry. And we love going where we've never been.

So we head northwest, through unfamiliar hills, valleys, mesas, cotton fields, cattle ranches. Pure Texas.
And we get hungry. Out here in our new nowhere. But we don't want to cook. So I ask our GPS to find the nearest eatery and it does, a McDonald's, 26 miles away. Straight ahead.

So we drive on and, finally, turn off the secondary road onto a tertiary road to get our fast food.

And we drive smack into a familiar place, Post, Texas, a town carved into the middle of a Texas nowhere in 1907 by the cereal magnate C.W. Post. But, more personally, it's a town we visited in 2007 on our maiden winter journey in our then new motorhome.

A small world.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sometimes, You Don't Get What You Pay For

I'm checking the Internet for a cheap place to stay tonight. We're meandering through the Texas Hill Country and like it here. And we want to stay, for just a few more nights.

So I'm cruising the Internet, checking for boondocking sites (a piece of ground we can park on  overnight, for free, like Walmart.)

I find instead a curious thing. A city (very small) park, with water, gas and electric hookups, for $10 a night (cheap!). On the honor system.  The little write-up warns the park has four unmarked spots with hook-ups.

Four sites? They're probably taken. So, I find  a nearby Walmart, just in case ...

As we enter the small town, I warn Allen to drive into the campground slowly. It must be run down. Remember, $10 a night? So let's watch for nails, pipes, broken wood strewn across the road.

I see the sign up ahead and tell Allen to turn left, then slow down. Watch out for debris. He does.

No need.

We enter a park so luscious, so meandering, so lovely we're mesmerize. We  pass a long manicured grassy area landscaped with war memorials and mock antique street lights. We drive by a swimming pool, a beautifully-appointed playground, a small softball complex surrounded by an exquisite shoulder-high stonewall.

And the trees! Beautiful live oaks gracefully reach out here and there, creating large pools of dappled shade.

It doesn't look like a campground. No concrete slabs or  numbered pavilions. Only dirt/gravel lanes  that swirl around shaded grassy areas. We know we're in the camping area because we see one other motorhome. Just one. We don't see any others, or any other sites.

So we ask our fellow camper for help, and he directs us to what becomes our own piece of earth, in a grassy circle far away from him, where we hook everything up and stay planted. Paradise.