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Continuing the discussion of our recent trip to Carmel I began in my last blog, would bring us to day two of our three day trip. The first day, as reported previously, the weather was mostly about rain, clouds, and overcast skies. Though we held out hope for good weather, we presumed if the forecasts of late here in Northern California prevailed, cloudy days would likely remain the case for the remainder of our time on the road. To our complete delight and surprise, we awoke the next morning to see sun streaming in through the slats in the windows, and bright blue skies overhead when we went to the car to head out for breakfast. Yay.

Like you might notice in many European towns, visitors to Carmel also often choose to get where they want to go on foot. This, I would presume, not only because it is a lovely setting for a stroll outside, but also it is a very popular tourist destination. Parking during peak season, can be at a premium. Many times I’ve circled the town ad nauseum waiting for a spot to open up, with people jockeying for position like competitors in a game of musical chairs. This day, however, we were going to take the scenic route around 17 Mile Drive to do some sight seeing, and then on from there into Monterey to visit the aquarium. I have been along 17 Mile Drive many times over the years. The first time I ever saw this unique and gorgeous span of coastline, was the day after I married my first husband. Three days of our honeymoon were to be spent at the Del Monte Lodge, located about at the center point along the route of the drive itself. The lodge today, is known more familiarly as The Lodge at Pebble Beach, and is touted as a five star luxury golf resort. Back when we got married, the room rate was $68/night. I was nineteen and my new husband but twenty-two, so for us $204.00 was a big splurge. I still have the cancelled check tucked away in my yellowing memories album to remember it by. Today, $68 is less by half than the rate you would be charged by the hotel for the privilege of having your cocker spaniel spend a night with you in the same establishment. Woof. Well it is not the same establishment as it was when we were there. Though the view is unchanged, still spectacular, and the basic look, outwardly at least, remains much the same, the price tag for a night’s stay has gone up considerably. A room overlooking the garden were you to book it today, begins in the $1,000+ range, with rooms offering a view of the golf course or an ocean view increasing exponentially from there. You will not find my name written in their guest book any time soon.

I have actually stayed at the hotel twice, the second time was with my second husband and my two children. I don’t remember what the bill was for the second stay, but I know we had secured two rooms for a three night stay. I guarantee, if it had been $1,000 plus a night for each room, I would have remembered the details most vividly. There were several things that stood out about the hotel at Pebble Beach, aside from the magnificent cliffside view of the Pacific. First, though not necessarily remarkable, a porter loaded our luggage in a golf cart once we’d checked in. When all baggage was on board, he conveyed us, along with our bags, to our room (Hotel 6 does not offer this perk). When we arrived everything was then offloaded and carried up the stairs. Well not us, of course. I believe we managed the stairs without any help, thank you very much. Our hanging clothes were neatly tucked away in the closet, and each bag was opened and placed on a luggage carrier. After that, the porter explained the amenities to us, such as ice machine locations and pool hours, and provided us with restaurant information should dinner in their lovely dining room be in our plans. There was a nice tip involved for all his helpfulness, naturally. The rooms, I must say, were bright and spacious and beautifully appointed. Each room had a sitting room with a settee, two end tables, lamps and an easy chair facing a fireplace. A fire was laid in the grill waiting to be lit by a hotel employee each night if the room guests desired them to do so. The big thing for me, was along with the expected room phone sitting on the writing desk, there was an additional phone located on the wall in the bathroom alongside the commode. Interesting. Perhaps more business is conducted from that particular vantage point than I’d previously realized.

I guess “you get what you pay for” may well apply to the above paragraph. For $1,000 plus a night and an additional $140 for my dog, I want to get a lot. As I said, our little inn had a lot of quaint wonderful things about it, but none of them included carrying any of our bags up the two flights of stairs to our room, nor was there an elevator available if it happened you couldn’t mount the two flights yourself. What you would do in that case, I have no idea. I would assume either book a room on the lower level, or commandeer a hotel employee to help you move in and out. However, my feeling is that I don’t go on vacation to live in my room. If I did, perhaps $1000/night would seem less prohibitive. I suppose if money is no object, and that concept doesn’t live in my world, than whether the room was $150/night or $3000 a night would really be a moot point. I do have to say, like flying first class, all the delightful little spoiling touches are most welcome. A whole bar of soap, for example, and, yes, a phone by the commode for those calls that simply can’t wait. I do not require such a high level of spoiling as a human being regularly, though I do not reject the pleasure of indulging in them from time to time.

Approaching the entrance to the Aquarium, a young woman stopped us asking if we were members. To be honest I didn’t know they had members, but we both shook our heads no. If not a member, she told us, tickets must be purchased on-line as there is no longer a ticket booth on the premises. Really? I looked up the site on my phone, clicking on tickets. Entrance to the Aquarium now costs $60 per adult. If either Richard or I had never been before, I would have just booked it. Since both of us have been numerous times, $120 seemed a lot of money. Talking it over, we decided we could probably put that money to better use during our trip, so we decided to pass. Leaving the Aquarium to another trip, we wandered over to the Cannery Row area. Steinbeck coined the phrase “Cannery Row” in his book of the same name, and it is today officially the name given to it. There are no operating sardine canneries along the wharf anymore, of course, just rows of touristy shops and restaurants, anchored by the Aquarium at one end of the street. One shop pretty much looking like the next, most selling tee shirts, sweat shirts and touristy items with “I Visited Monterey” or “Monterey is calling, and I must go” emblazoned across the front. We took a walk along the beach, and made our way along the boardwalk, ending up at the pier. Walking along the pier had sort of a carnival feel to it. Gulls hopped about on the well worn wooden planks, grabbing up a piece of discarded caramel corn here and there, or scavenging for a handout from someone walking by. In the distance, the steady barking song of the seals on the rocks across the marina provided background noise. Vendors were busy stocking their display cases with cooked crab, shimmering oysters, and other seafood offerings. Had it not been for the fact I had reached my capacity at the restaurant earlier, I might have signed up for some crab on the half shell accompanied by a chunky slice of sourdough bread. Docked on one side of the pier were two boats each bearing signs on their sides advertising whale watching tours. People were lined up in front of the designated boarding areas waiting to be let on. Have to admit, I was curious about the tours. I might have gotten in line but for the fact though the sun was shining, it was chilly out, so decided to reserve that adventure as well for another trip when warmer weather prevailed.

Having our fill of store hopping, we collected the car and headed south towards Carmel again turning right at the roundabout and following the arrow towards the entrance to the 17 Mile Drive. Paying the $11 requested by the guard at the gate, we began the drive following the arrows as we drove along. So many trees were down from the recent storm. There were huge root bases evident on both sides of the street everywhere we went. Tree and stump removal trucks could be seen all along the route with massive cut pieces of trunk lying around them. A local told us the crews were concentrating on clearing the streets of debris first and moving on to the side areas for clearing and cleanup as time permitted.

As always, when in that area, I was struck by the incredible opulence of the homes nestled among the trees. Some of them appeared to me like palaces fit only to be dreamed of by kings or titans of business with vast coffers from which to draw. Many were built right on the lip of the ocean, perched high on the edge of the rocks so close to the sea they looked as if they could easily slide off only to disappear into the frothy surf. Those homes with uninterrupted views of the ocean, cost more than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. Though I have never been invited in for tea, I imagine these palatial estates to be vast showplaces for beautiful art such as is displayed in the many art galleries available for viewing in downtown Carmel. It would be fun to be able to peek in a window here and there and see what surprises lay inside the walls. I’m quite sure there are laws covering such behavior, so we stayed beyond the fences in our own world, satisfying ourselves with simply observing the beauty of our surroundings as we wound around from one curve to the next.

There are many opportunities to pull over along 17 Mile Drive and take pictures, some which we availed ourselves of. Most of the pullouts had signs posted offering up a brief history or some background information about the view you were looking at. I will include some photos with this writing, though they could never convey the breathtaking beauty we were experiencing. At Bird Rock, we stopped so I could grab a few shots of, well, the birds. The birds in question, according to the sign posted in the parking area, were cormorants. Large numbers of these mid size grey/black birds could be seen perched on the rocks not far beyond the wave line. According to the sign writer, cormorants are coastal birds, as would be obvious by where we were standing viewing them, known for their impressive diving capabilities. A young man was standing not far from us holding controls guiding a drone as it swooped down low above the rocks. Manipulating the controls, he brought the drone back to where he was standing. Curious about what he was doing, I struck up a conversation. Michael was his name, he told me, and he was Canadian. “Good day, eh”, had already given him away as one of mine, from Toronto. The drone was being used, he told us, in the filming a documentary he was producing about the western shoreline and it’s inhabitants which he had hopes to promoting to a studio or television station in Southern California. After a moment, he asked if I’d be interested in previewing some of the footage he had just taken. Peering into the lens it was amazing some of the images he had captured. Chatting for a bit longer, we parted ways, wishing him success on his venture.

When the afternoon began to wane, we turned the car back towards Carmel. Not wanting a big meal such as we had enjoyed the evening before, we went into Carmel proper in search of a good old greasy cheeseburger. Mulligan’s Pub was where we ended up. Mulligan’s was definitely a local watering hole. A lovely crackling fire was blazing in the corner of the bar and we sat at a table close by to soak up some of the warmth. Two cheeseburgers with fries were ordered and we sank back in our chairs to take in some of the local color. People came and went mostly calling each other my first names. Though we were not part of that band of travelers, they were fun to observe. The cheeseburgers arrived, and were absolutely delicious. Leftovers boxed and put in a bag, we walked the half a mile or so back to our lodgings and called it a day. More in my next blog about our last day in town. That’s all for now. Have a lovely rest of your weekend.

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Richard and I drove down to Carmel last week for a three day mini-vacation. With all the unpredictable weather that has been circulating around Northern California the past few weeks, some of our friends didn’t think it the best time to travel. Our reservations had been in place for several months. Listening to the pros and cons, particularly with so much water on the ground, in the end, the lure of the coast won over over the arguments not to go. After that, it was damn the torpedoes full speed ahead. Certainly it wouldn’t be the first time either of us made a decision other people in our lives didn’t support. Most probably, it will not be the last. As I always do, I asked my “angels”, who seem ever present in my life, to hang close and keep an eye on us just for a little extra insurance.

Monday, our first day on the road, proved to be the most challenging of the trip. Gray skies persisted overhead most of the morning. Far off in the distance the, massive accumulation of darker, angrier looking clouds, left little doubt there was more rain on the horizon. Many of the side roads along the route we’d chosen leading to Highway 5 were either closed or had significant water in the roadways. Once in the belly of the beast, it was either forge on, or turn back. In either case, it was obvious there would be water to be dealt with. Having grown up outside of Auburn, Richard is a fount of information about just about everything going on in the Sacramento area. According to him, the farmers in the lowlands take care of their own water issues, be it too much water, or not enough. Whether this is true or not, I have no way to verify except to ask Richard, who I believe we have already established has an opinion on the subject. Interesting though. (As an update. I learned from another viable local source this in fact is correct. The land, and the waterways are privately owned.) From the looks of things, whoever is in charge, had way too much water to take care of this year. The weatherman I watch in the mornings said today the snow and rainfall counts this season mark the third in the highest in recorded history.

Driving along, there were trees down on many properties, some with wires wrapped around them secured with yellow caution tape. When we got stopped in one direction, we’d try another. At one point, we came upon a huge pool of water. We pulled up behind two similar looking mid sized delivery trucks parked in tandem at the lip. The pool spanned the width of the road oozing into the pastures on both sides, then spread out about a half a city block from the middle. The truck drivers stood talking animatedly with their heads together next to their cabs. Though we couldn’t hear their conversation, we surmised they were discussing whether to go through the massive puddle, or turn back. While the men came to a decision, a short line of cars had begun to fall in together on the opposite side of the pool. All of the vehicles present seemed to be waiting to see what the truck drivers were going to do, before making a move themselves. Shortly, both drivers returned to their vehicles, and started up their engines. Our small band of silent witnesses watched as the two trucks, one following the other, tentatively entered the water. I figured the point man had the most to lose. If anything was going to go down (literally), he would be the first to tell the story. Richard’s take on the situation was if either truck didn’t sink beneath the surface, then we should be safe to cross. Swell. At that point, I was leaning more toward the logic side of the argument of our friends suggesting not to have come at all, but it was a little late in the game to switch teams. We watched, holding our breaths, as one truck then the next slowly forded the overflow area, each making it to the other side without incident. Next in line, like pioneers crossing a raging river in their wagon, we moved up to the edge and slowly drove forward into the water. Out the window it looked like waves lapping at the side of the car. I had a mental picture of all my doubting Thomas friends glued to the 5 o’clock news as Richard and I were helicoptered out of our sinking vehicle all with “I told you so’s” forming on their lips. Mommy.

When we reached the other side, the small caravan waiting there, taking our cue, began to cross as well. After that, it was a short distance to the main highway which we traveled sans puddles. Once on Highway 5, other than the wind which was strong enough to nudge us into the next lane if not paying attention, the weather cooperated with only a light rain falling the rest of the way to Carmel. My first glimpse of the ocean came after cresting a hill outside of Monterey. It has been a long time since I’ve seen my beloved sea. Bouncing up and down in my seat like a kid who’d consumed too much chocolate, I nearly burst out of the door when Richard pulled over next to a sand dune, and raced down the hill towards the water. Rain or no rain the ocean, to me, is the best place to find yourself on earth.

Once I’d gotten enough sea air to hold me for the moment, we drove on down the coast and checked into our room at a charming Carmel inn. The rooms, as usual, are photographed with a wide angle lens for the benefit of promoting guests to book them on the website. What had appeared on-line to be a large spacious room, was in fact in person a small, not so spacious one. As usual, I’d packed enough clothes to cover any event from an alien landing to a volcano eruption. The closet held about five hangers comfortably but we made it all work. The bathroom was very small, definitely a one person affair, with only a shower and no tub. Along with half the clothes I’d brought with me, the new bubbles I’d tucked in my overnight case were definitely not going to be put into use. Note to self “Bring a bar of soap”. Don’t know who’s body the small versions of soap in the guest packs were for, but they wouldn’t have covered the average infant. By the time I’d had one shower my little bar was down to a nub, and I don’t have a lot of area to cover. I’d purchased four traveling bottles so as not to have to carry larger bottles with me. Each bottle came with a different colored lid. I was sure memory would serve me as to what product was stored in which color, so didn’t feel the need to mark them. I must remember to remember I can’t remember —-. I’m not sure whether I washed my face with conditioner or shampooed my hair with cleansing cream. If so, they are apparently interchangeable. Good to know.

The first day of the trip was pretty much devoted to getting to our destination and getting settled. In the evening, we went to the Mission Ranch Inn for dinner. What a lovely setting for a restaurant. During the summer months, you can sit outside in lawn chairs and enjoy your adult beverage of choice while overlooking the ocean. Flocks of sheep roam on the pasture beyond the patio area and can sometimes be seen being herded by the owner’s (I assume) Australian shepherd. What clever dogs that breed. Amazing how instinctively they know to manage a herd of animals so much larger than themselves. I’ve always had a secret yen to own one. May do it yet.

It has been years since I’ve eaten there but remembered the food and the ambiance. There is a fireplace and a piano bar, for those who are so inclined. We sat in the back room which was a little more intimate, and quieter. Dinner was not a disappointment. Three tender ribs of rack of lamb resting atop mint chutney, served with pan basted baby yellow potatoes and Swiss chard. Yum and double yum. I left only the pattern on the plate. There was a tense moment, however. I asked the waiter for mint jelly. I KNOW!!! From the look on his face, shooting was probably too good for me. Why can’t they just give it to you and keep their thoughts to themselves? For the price of the meal, it should have come with a vehicle. Mint jelly doesn’t seem too much to ask. Our chef, when we owned the restaurant, used to get sooooo upset if I asked for either tartar sauce or mint jelly. It’s simply not done in the high end culinary world, and it galled him to no end I insisted on doing it. Their opinion is the flavors should carry themselves without enhancing them with anything else. Personally, I don’t care if you want your lobster dipped in marmalade or pour A-1 on your Brussels sprouts, as long as you enjoy your meal. Even if I’d cooked it, I would feel the same way.

After a delicious meal and a long day, we sank into bed. Sank, being the optimum word here. The bed, well loved from the feel of it, was like an old stable horse. It was high on both ends but dipped deeply in the middle. I looped one leg over the side to keep me from rolling into the abyss. Also, for a room with a fireplace on one wall, it was chilly. The fireplace, gas not wood, looked lovely, but when lit and on high didn’t seem to provide much heat. There was a small wall heater which we cranked up to the max and by the time our stay was over the room had come up to a comfortable temperature. These, I always say, are the fun things about staying in quaint old inns. This is precisely what gives them character. You can go to a new hotel with all the amenities, but then what would you have to write about?

I read recently an article about tips passed on from workers in well known businesses. Secrets you need to know, or perhaps would prefer not to, about how these businesses are run. One such tip was from someone who had worked in a well known and rather pricey hotel chain. His suggestion, “never walk on the carpet in your bare feet”. According to this whistle blower, hotels only shampoo their carpets about twice a year. Whatever is spilled, projectile vomited, or tracked in on your boot, is covered up in between washings with room spray and quick fixes. I worked in a motel as a maid for nearly a year when traveling with my ex-husband. I remember being amazed at how infrequently they washed the bedspreads. The sheets were washed in between guests of course, so that is where you want to rest, but the bedspread can be full of whatever it’s full of. My tip would be, don’t sleep with your face pressed against a hotel bedspread with your mouth open. I’m just saying.

Carmel was as wonderful as I remembered it to be. The line of Northern California coastline along the 17 Mile Drive really can’t be matched in shear beauty and accessibility. This trip was made all the better by it being early in the season so less people on the ground and parking everywhere we went was easily accessible. I will finish my story at my next writing. There is frost on the pumpkin this morning but the sun is up and shining brightly in the sky. Yay. Happy humpday to you.

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Last week I enjoyed the first vacation I’ve taken in quite a while. Richard was my guide on this road trip. Sunday night he was waiting at my house when I got home from work, and once my copious “gear” was loaded in the trailer, we were on our way. Rolling along I80 our “rig”, as he called it (old truck driver), took up a big chunk of highway. The massive fifth wheel fell in line obediently behind Richard’s truck, and behind that, the boat and trailer bobbed and weaved into view from time to time. Our choice of venues was the mountains, specifically Plumas County in the vicinity of Lake Davis. Richard and I have been dating now for about five months, and are still exploring what it is we like, and what doesn’t fit so well, about one another. This was to be our first trip together, and the most time we have spent in each other’s company. Not sure what that was going to look like, I noticed a few butterflies had taken up residence in my stomach. A reflection, no doubt of that feeling of stepping into the unknown.

I had not been to Plumas County before, or at least as I remembered. The first leg of our adventure took us up I80 towards Tahoe. Then, we cut across the flat expanses of the Sierra Valley, before heading uphill once again at the end of the journey back into the tall trees where Lake Davis was tucked away. As we made our way up, up, up the mountain pass, I was taken in by the beauty of the area. Though burn scars marred the hills in quite a few spots, the forest still remained awe inspiring. All the scenery was lovely to drink in, but it was the sky in particular that continuously held my attention. During the day, the color was the most brilliant shade of blue, with only an occasional white cloud drifting by from time to time to provide a little contrast. Then, when nighttime took over, the sky became an inky backdrop for a million twinkling stars for onlookers to enjoy.

Reaching the top of the hill and passing through the small town of Portola, the lake finally came into view. Other than a few bobbing gulls, there was no one visible on the water. Driving parallel to the lake for a few more minutes, after several more turns in the road it disappeared from view, and before long we arrived at our destination. The campground was named for the mighty grizzly bear, even though the massive animals are not native to that region. Though I needed not to be worried about grizzlies poking their furry noses into my affairs, their brothers and sisters, the brown bears, were definitely to be found lurking about. Signs were posted everywhere warning visitors bears roamed freely and to be prepared by carrying bear spray, and keep them at bay at campsites by disposing of trash in the appropriate bins situated around the parks. The bins were equipped with heavily weighted bars across the top to keep the critters from rooting about for a late night snack in the contents. Though I’m sure we may have had a visitor or two in the night while we slept, I never saw anything more menacing than a chipmunk up close and personal, and was glad to be able to report that. I was told if confronted by a bear, to stand tall, and try to look large and ferocious. Is that all? I’m sure some massive 1,000 lb. bear is going to intimidated by 110 pound me. Somehow, I am not convinced even standing on my tippy, tippy toes and baring (pardon the pun) my teeth, would have any effect on having the beast’s gaping mouth being the last thing I saw before oblivion took the controls. Well, after the bear stopped laughing, of course.

Never having traveled with a fifth wheel before, it was quite an experience watching Richard getting us settled in our spot in the campground. Light was still holding onto the day, but was quickly losing the battle. He worked with an efficiency coming with years of experience, and in no time had the trailer disconnected and leveled. The boat had already been offloaded in the section in the campground designated to store water craft. The trailer situated, there were only the hoses to the water and electrical sources provided with the rental of the campsite that needed to be secured before the trailer was ready to live in. I was more of an impediment then a help, I’m guessing, but Richard was very patient and showed me how things were done and just before the sun pulled up the covers for the day we were set up and ready to go inside. Yay. None too soon for me. I had begun to look about in the creeping shadows to see if I noticed any beady little eyes staring back at me. Since Rick passed away, I’ve been plagued by bear dreams. This brought a bit more reality to those illusions than was in my comfort zone.

Inside the trailer, “slide outs” were moved out to their extended positions. With the flick of a switch, the inside of the trailer moves into position and voila you have a small home on wheels. Love it. In the upstairs area there is a master bedroom with full sized closets, a loo, shower, and sink. In the main salon on the ground floor, there is a dining room table with a leaf, a couch (which makes out into a bed), a recliner (of course), a TV and the kitchen. The kitchen had two sinks, a stove and oven, microwave, and refrigerator freezer. Wow. All the comforts of home. I believe my son would call this “glamping”. Full glamping to my mind wouldn’t involve dishes or cooking, I’m just sayin. Fortunately, because I was exhausted, we had grabbed a sandwich for the road, so none of the equipment needed to be put into use at least for our first night at the campsite. I kept thinking of that old, old movie with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, The Long, Long Trailer”. Really funny movie about traveling with a trailer if you every find it on some ancient TV programming.

Waking up to another gorgeous pre-fall day the following morning, Richard cooked bacon and eggs on the outdoor table top grill while I acquainted myself with the workings of the bathroom inside. The water line on the toilet seemed unusually high, so when he came in I alerted him about it. After looking the patient over, he determined it to have a slow leak. A familiar diagnosis in the over sixty group. It became evident that unless we were to spend our time in the tall trees staring at the toilet bowl to see if it was going to overflow, the water would have to be turned off unless we needed it for a specific task, like washing dishes, showering, or using the toilet itself. No matter how perfect a time you are having, I believe the universe has serious issues with perfection as a concept, so always throws in a little something to keep you on your toes. When speaking to the owner of the campgrounds, as well as the store located at the entrance, about our toilet situation, he told us there were two public bathrooms on the premises should the need arise. Always nice to have a backup.

Looking around, it was obvious a lot of people were there enjoying the area along with us. Nearly every spot had a trailer and equipment set up on it. Oddly though, there weren’t any people evident except Richard and I, and the owner and his wife. Asking where everyone was, we were told that most of the trailers belonged to weekend people who came and went as the mood struck them, and there weren’t any visitors other than ourselves booked until the next weekend. The warmer summer months, and snowy months for ski enthusiasts were the busy seasons, he went on. With fall approaching, and colder days on the horizon, the visitors, he said, would begin to dwindle in numbers. I got the impression there weren’t many people for him to talk to up there other than his wife, because it took about an hour of non-stop conversation, before we could finally back out of the door and escape to go to the lake.

Lake Davis was lovely, though hardly a beehive of activity. Few boats in the water, there were spotty signs of life around the shoreline, and children could be seen playing near the water on the bank across from us. Getting ready to launch the boat, I got out and held the tow line, while Richard backed the boat and trailer down the steep ramp. Up the hill from the launch site two men sat in a truck towing a fishing boat, waiting for us to launch so they could get their day going. Right in the middle of the ramp, our boat slid neatly off the trailer landing with a loud metal bang on the cement. Hmmmmm. Now I’m not an avid fisherman, but I’ve been on a boat many times in my life, owning two. Though admittedly, it’s been awhile since I’ve launched a boat, I don’t believe that is how it is supposed to work. The door on the driver’s seat slowly opened, and Richard stepped out, uttered several unmentionable words, removed his ball cap and scratched his head. The two men in the truck behind us got out as well. All three men stood in a circle shaking their heads and looking at the beached boat. Whoops. Suddenly a woman walked up. The lady was, I’d say, in her seventies, and very buff for her age, or any age. Insinuating herself in the middle of the men, mixing a little estrogen with the testosterone, and surveyed the damage. The men tried several approaches to get the boat back onto the trailer without success. Watching them for a moment, she said she had an idea. She told, or more insisted, Richard get back in the truck and slowly back up. Without hesitation, he did as he was told. I was surprised, actually, but the woman was formidable I’m telling you. As he slowly backed up the lady pulled on the tow line. As he backed up further and further, the boat’s prow rose and rose until it belly flopped forward and was once again situated on the trailer and secured. Go girl power. The woman shook my hand afterwards, and nearly removed my shoulder from the socket. I don’t know what she did to buff up like that but I’d be curious to find out.

Thanking everyone for their help, the band dispersed. The boat got launched at last and we were afloat. Heading out into the center of the lake away from the shore, Richard located “a good fishing spot”(they all looked pretty much the same to me) and slowed to an idle. The fishing gear was retrieved from the back of the boat and Richard loaded up the hooks with the sacrificial worms and some balls of pink “stinky bait” he called it. Slathering ourselves with suntan lotion, we tossed the lines into the water allowing them to troll along beside us. Within ten minutes, I had the first catch of the day on the end of my line and in the cooler, and shortly thereafter Richard added a second fish to the pot. I was enchanted by the site of four pelicans floating along in the water not far from where we were fishing. Every now and again one of them would turn upside down to retrieve something floating about under the surface. Canada geese passed overhead, honking loudly to let us know they were headed north for the winter, and several pairs of loons moved up and down closer to shore. The two fish we caught early on were to be the only takers for the next four hours. When the wind began to blow quite fiercely, we closed up shop and went back to the campsite.

I will write more next time and include some pictures.

Enjoy every moment……they are our most precious commodities.

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Night before last was the weirdest night I’ve had in a while. Of all things, I walked in my sleep. Well, perhaps you wouldn’t call it sleeping, as I remember parts of what is transpiring. I guess it’s more of a twilight in-between place I find myself where logic does not prevail. This is only the third time I can remember ever experiencing such a phenomena. Each time, once the episode is over, it leaves me with the strangest feeling like there is an unfamiliar dialogue streaming in my head. Sort of the way I feel after waking up from a bad dream. Takes me a while to shake it. In the first two episodes I endured, the sleep walking was triggered by medication. Not recreational, no, no, no, but prescribed. The first time, I believe, was attributed to a pain medication my doctor had prescribed post surgery. In this most recent instance, I can only point to the melatonin I decided to take before going to bed to help me sleep as being the likely culprit. I took the natural sleep aid once before and experienced perhaps a lingering laziness the following morning as the only side effect. This time, so desperate to get a good night’s sleep I also drank Sleepytime Tea, rubbed my arms with lavender laced cream, and may, I say may, have taken two instead of one melatonin capsules by accident. My bad. Totally, my bad.

The first time I went wandering about while still asleep I was in my twenties. My then husband, discovered me piling into my car at 2:30 a.m. fully dressed, lunch packed, and preparing to head off to the work. I had packed the back seat with a pup tent and some camping gear. Not only was it a Sunday morning, so there was no work, but 3:00 might have been a little early to arrive at the office had it been an actual workday. Why I packed camping gear I have no explanation. I suppose I could have pitched the tent and made some s’mores until everybody arrived for work on Monday. My husband said I made no sense when he asked what exactly I thought I was doing. Realizing I wasn’t sharing his dimension, he guided me back to the bedroom, put my pajamas back on, and tucked me back in bed. That time, I didn’t remember getting up at all. This time, was much different.

The second time it happened, I got up in the early hours of the morning and made a meatloaf and ate a full dinner leaving the remains of my mess on the counter and going back to bed. That night I’d taken medicine for the pain associated with an abcessed tooth. Have some memory of that incident, but only whipping light and fluffy mashed potatoes. I woke up the following morning with catsup on my shirt, only to find the dog standing on the counter licking up the residue of what was left on my kitchen counter. Thankfully, I didn’t either try to drive that night or go down the deck and take a swim (we lived on the Sacramento Delta at the time). My angels do keep me safe in spite of myself, I always feel.

This time after consuming all the sleep aids, I picked up my book. Under normal circumstances, if tired, I barely get two pages under my belt before my eyes droop. I’m not sure to be honest I even opened the book to begin reading before I dozed off. It was early, before seven probably. I don’t usually drop off that early in the day, but as I said, I haven’t been sleeping. Also, I am adjusting to working eight hours a day again after all these years. I woke up with a start. Groggy, I looked the clock by my bed. Almost eight o’clock. OMG. I had slept, and overslept. I flew out of bed and began to run around the house, stopping first to push the on button on my coffee maker. Being late on my third week on the job is simply not good form. Somewhere among the cobwebs and sinewy stuff cluttering my gray matter, an idea hatched in my addled brain. Suddenly I remembered I needed to call the Automobile Club and have them jump my battery in my car before I could leave the house. Now, this would not be a surprising thought to entertain, if my battery in fact needed jumping. It did not. First, I called work to tell them I would be late. A man answered who told me my boss was not in the office and wouldn’t be in until the morning but he could take a message. Morning? What are these people stupid? What morning? Then, he offered to give me my boss’s supervisor’s number. Really? Yup, called old John (who I don’t know from Adam) and told him I was going to be late because I had called AAA and they were on they way. Thankfully, the phone calls ended there. I did, however, continue on without restraint to send an email to my boss explaining the whole situation in detail. Next, I made a piece of toast (one does have to eat) and suddenly at that point became confused. Looking out the window, rather than getting lighter outside as it would during the daytime, dark was closing in. Now, my mind had no idea how to process that. It had no idea how to process that, because I had only been asleep one hour when I woke up and had begun this whole charade. Good Lord, it was now only 9:00 p.m.

When my eyes opened the following morning I was sleeping sideways on my bed, glasses on, cell phone in hand, with Boo on my chest staring in my face. On my phone I could see I had sent several texts about my battery to friends as well who had responded and gotten no further communication from me. Four concerned voicemails were waiting in the queue. “What”, I wondered, “had I done”? Oh man.

How embarrassing is that? I had to go to work and explain I created all this mayhem while asleep, or quasi asleep. I half expected to be handed a check and have her tell me they already have enough mental situations on campus without adding me to the pot. Amazingly, they were all laughing about it. The email was pretty funny stuff, I have to say. I’m sure there was some serious ribbing going on about me when I wasn’t in the room. My boss told me I definitely brought the entertainment factor to the table. I do my best.

So, it was just another day in the life of at my house. Really my life never seems quite bubble in the center. In the atmosphere in the world around us, we have to learn to lighten up and laugh at ourselves. Oh, and last night I nearly beat myself to death when I opened my blinds to find something looking back at me. It was the tree outside my window. It hadn’t moved there during the night. It has by the looks of it been there for many years, three years definitely since I’ve been here. I don’t know. Maybe I’m suffering from PTSD. Happy Tuesday!!!

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Its a welcome sight, watching the rain slither down the window. Huge leaves litter my yard, the air is crisp, and I am tucked away warm and snug inside. Life is good. My kitchen is set up for cookie baking today. The mixer is resting on the counter surrounded by bags of flour and sugar waiting for me to work my magic. Though I’m not a sweet eater myself, a basic flaw in my DNA, I do enjoy baking for friends and family. As with everything in 2020, distribution of my baked goodies will have to look different this year. I may have to send them reindeer mail.

It has been over a month since my positive Covid test. Other than the Covid Brain symptoms still fogging up my thinking processes, I am virtually symptom free. According to the medical professionals I have spoken with, I am no longer a danger to myself or others. Well, at least, with regard to spreading the virus. Have to admit, I do still feel a bit like Typhoid Mary. If I tell someone I had the bug but have recovered, they seem to study me closely with one eyebrow lifted as if I was either openly oozing bacteria or lying about being on the mend. If I sense hesitation, I don’t take it personally, but rather chock up it up to the person erring on the side of caution. I get that, I really do.

With the vaccine beginning to circulate, there is now a shard of light at the end of the tunnel. It will be a glorious day indeed when we finally step out from beneath this heavy blanket of fear and suffering into the light again. Perhaps we will value our freedom and our loved ones on a far deeper level because of this? I know I will be grateful for small things like sitting at a table in a coffee shop with a friend, planting a kiss on one of my grandchildren’s cheeks, or simply stepping outside with my face fully exposed to the sun. I have promised myself never to take these small blessings for granted again once this pandemic is put to bed.

While we are waging war on Covid-19, Russia has been busy digging around in our lingerie drawers looking for whatever secrets they can root out, our legislators are searching for ways to undermine our democracy, and unemployment and hunger continue to be alarmingly on the rise. Just another day at the office. Tiring of it all yesterday, rather than turning on the news and immersing myself in the insanity, I turned on holiday music and allowed my assaulted psyche a day of R&R. It was lovely. In my years on this planet I don’t remember a more turbulent political climate than the one the United States is currently experiencing.

I kind of look at all this this way, just because your folks are loon toons does not mean you have to be. We are all given personal choice to regulate how we behave. That being said, I choose rational and logical as the paths for my thought processes. It is both amazing and unsettling to see how quickly irrational thinking can grab the reins and steer the team down the wrong path in the woods. One person with power and influence can spread discord quickly, allowing it to permeate others like an out of check cancer.

I’m trying, but not always succeeding, to elevate my thinking, choosing to look at the miracles around me and not just concentrate on the derision. Yesterday, I went to get my blood drawn. It was a fasting test, so I sat in the waiting room stomach growling, craving my overdue dose of morning caffeine. Immediately after surrendering my arm for the expected bloodletting, I drove across the street to the Starbuck’s drive thru and got in line. Pulling up to the window to pay for my order, a cheery employee told me the car in front of me had paid $5.00 towards my order Really? I just loved that and immediately felt my heart smile. I thanked her, and asked to pass it on to the car behind me. Now I don’t know, but I’d like to think, this carried on down the line. What a nice gesture. Whether this act of kindness stopped with me or kept on going, it made me happy and started my day in a positive note which remained with me the rest of the day. Yay. We are the guardians of our moods, and it is within us to guide them in the direction we would like them to go.

Today is a different day all together. So far today I am on a roll in the stupid is as stupid does department. First, I dropped my house phone on the floor and lost the piece connecting it to the power supply. Now neither the phone nor I have left the house since the unfortunate accident, but do you think I can find that little plastic piece? Nooooooo. I have looked everywhere. Perhaps this is a sign from the dinosaur phone gods saying, “Susie, get rid of your stupid land line. Nobody in this century has land lines anymore.” I do, and a piece has now gone missing. Sigh. I keep the land line because in case of an emergency 9-1-1 can track your land line but not your cell phone. Ah well, I’m not going to fight the elements. It will show up in a potted plant, or stuck to the bottom of a chair one of these days, undoubtedly two days after I’ve tossed the phone and bought a new one. Murphy’s Law at work in plain sight.

Immediately following the strange plastic thingy disappearing I was going into my bedroom, a not unfamiliar landscape for me, and slammed my knee hard into the side of my nightstand. Now, this nightstand had not recently been moved by a mysterious intruder here to simply rearrange my furniture. It was in the same spot it has resided for two and a half years and yet I didn’t see it. I don’t suppose I can attribute this to Covid brain as well? The list of blame on the virus is getting long. So, I now have a huge bulbous knot on my knee which not only hurts but looks rather unattractive. Thank God for extra strength Tylenol, manna of the gods.

I shall say goodbye for now. I am off to create deliciousness in my kitchen. Hopefully, I will emerge with tins of yummy cookies and all my digits accounted for.

Happy Thursday to you. Stay safe and pass on a little kindness.

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I believe I might be described as an “A” personality. My friends are always telling me I move like the wind when trying to get something accomplished. I always feel a sense of urgency for some reason, as though I am racing against the clock. Not exactly sure why this is, but I do know it is a feeling I experience often when planning out my day. So much to do, so little time to do it in.

Lately it seems a lot of people are busy. Interesting phenomenon, considering we’re supposed to be sticking around the house watching the grass grow due to the corona virus as well as the putrid air that has prevailed of late here in Northern California due to the fires. What are we doing that creates all this busyness? I know what I’m doing, just curious what the rest of the population is up to. Thankfully, I am rarely bored. I can always find something to do with myself if left with surplus time on my hands. Aside from a myriad of hobbies I enjoy, I get a certain rush from cleaning house (I know, and no I cannot drive to your house and clean yours.), love to cook (most days), and am an avid reader. If all else fails, I can plop myself down on the couch and watch something on Netflix that catches my eye. Sometimes I find it fascinating out of the hundreds of movies I have available to me at my fingertips, I can search for an hour and not seem to find one that makes me want to push watch. Hmmmm.

This week for the first time in weeks today the air is actually less toxic than incapable of sustaining life. Send up the balloons, alert the media!! I believe I can step out my front door and inhale as well as exhale, maybe even take a walk. Stop it. I know. From what I understand, Portland was actually entertaining the worst air quality on the planet a while back. Hard to imagine it that way. Such a beautiful area. I lived for a year in Longview, Washington, a stone’s throw from the Oregon border and about an hours drive to Portland. Often my ex-husband and I shopped in the Portland area. Oregon doesn’t have sales tax, so we always saved a bit at the register while enjoying the gorgeous surroundings in the process.

Though we loved Oregon, Washington state also has much to offer, particularly for the avid outdoors man such as my ex-husband. Verdant forests, prolific waterways perfect for hooking a bass, trout, or crappie, and excellent hunting for those who lean in that direction. I do not. Hunting will never be my bag (if you’ll pardon the pun). An animal lover from my lilac toenails to my unnaturally blonde hair, killing an animal even to cull the herd would be difficult for me to do unless it was mortally injured and in pain. As I’ve said in previous blogs, if I kill ants on my kitchen counter, I send a letter of condolence to the family.

While living in Longview David and I spent most of our days off exploring the gorgeous Southern Washington area. He was a Texan, born and raised. Well, raised at least. Though actually born in Arkansas, his family migrated to Odessa, Texas where he and grew up hunting, fishing, and riding. I’ve always loved communing with nature, but before moving to Washington I’d had little experience baiting a hook. My parents were inside people, though my stepfather loved to garden. For a man who had little use for most of humanity, when working in his garden his touch was gentle, his knowledge vast, and the result of his cultivation skills often breathtaking. Mother simply was not bred for the outdoors. As I’ve mentioned before most of my mother’s people are of English descent with delicate pale peach skin prone to bursting into flames if exposed to extended sunlight. I must have picked up some olive tones from my dad’s side of the pond because though still light in complexion, I’ve always been able to add a nice coating of bronze over the summer months. These days I stay out of the sun as far as “lying out” to promote a tan. Ignorance was bliss when I was growing up so we slathered on the baby lotion and cooked to a golden brown like a Christmas turkey on the beach. My dermatologist is reaping the rewards of all that sun worshiping today.

While living in Washington, Silver Lake was our favorite place to cast a line. According to my ex, early morning hours were the prime time to catch fish. With that in mind, we were often on the lake before the sun rose above the horizon. I never argued the point, having not one single insight into fish and their personal preferences as to when to be hooked. Often when sitting in the boat on these early mornings we would share tidbits about our lives. These conversations were held on the down low so as not to disturb the fish circling the hooks below. This, also a tip from the David. Odessa, I was to learn, was considered one of the most dangerous towns in the nation. The city held the dubious title of one of ten “murder capitals of Texas”. Whether or not Arkansas was written on his birth certificate David was a Texan from the top of his Stetson hat to the bottom of his Lucchese cowboy boots. Men who hailed from those parts were familiar with taking care of themselves, he told me. As I recall David’s mother once said if they couldn’t find him when a youngster they looked for a ring of boys surrounding a mound of dust and David would be somewhere in the middle either beating the tar out of someone or having the tar beaten out of him. These rough beginnings left a lot of jagged edges to be whittled off when carried into adulthood. Some got whittled down, while others, well, that’s another story.

Silver Lake was within driving distance of Mt. St. Helens. Even though the catastrophic erruption had occurred a decade or more before we arrived in the state the evidence was still clearly visible. Everywhere you looked there were trees strewn across the ground or just jagged stumps. Eerie to see and unimaginable to be involved in. Nature surely can pack a powerful punch as is evidenced in everything we see of late. Certainly for people in California and the Gulf Coast the absolute power it can exert over us has been very evident this year.

While in the area we visited the Vistors Center (hence the name). I got a pair of sculpted bears made out of the ash to take home with me. We hiked all around the area and were left in awe of the magnitude of the damage.

Often while in the state we went out into the woods to explore for a day. David was well versed on living on the land. I remember while living in Arkansas he would bring home huge catfish and skin and filet them as if it was a walk in the park. After watching him on multiple occasions, I asked if I could try it. After about two hours I had whittled a six pound fish down to enough edible meat for Kitty (our resident feline at the time) to make a meal out of.

For me, being a city person, it was fascinating to be around someone so well versed in the ways of the woods and the country. I always felt in an emergency if I was with him I wouldn’t have to worry about surviving.

Lately, when we’re told every week to be prepared to leave our houses at a moment’s notice, I leave a bag packed with important papers and essentials, and keep the cat crate close by to carry Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, should we need to make our exit in a hurry.

You can’t live your life in fear. It will be as it is destined to be, or so I believe. However, you can be prepared and that is what I intend to be. Other than that it is a particularly gorgeous Monday morning, my coffee is hot and sweet, and I am prepared to greet my day. Have a great one!

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Need and want are interesting qualifiers. Since I’m home more than not of late, I find my mind enjoys a little word play now and again. I need air to live, for example. I want to win the lottery (from my lips to your ears). I don’t want an obscene amount of money mind you, just enough to allow me a little latitude when it comes to fulfilling some of the items on my bucket list. Too much money can be both a blessing and a curse. If it brought you undying happiness why is it so many privileged people find themselves unfulfilled and unhappy? Truth is, I have had lots of money and no money in my lifetime and haven’t found that having a well padded bank account contributed to my happiness significantly except for the freedom it provides. When I was young I was never in pursuit of great wealth. I didn’t marry for money any of the four times, and this is well reflected in my present financial state; not on the street, but certainly not on my way to total solvency either. Have I done anything myself to earn large sums of money? Nope. Do I wish I had lots of zeroes behind the numbers in my bank account? At times.  Not because I have my eye on a red Ferrari or there’s a Coach handbag I’ve been admiring. That answer, would be only because I would love to have the freedom to travel, and financial stability allows you room for that. After seeing to my family’s welfare and world peace, of course (thank you Miss Universe), if suddenly independently wealthy most likely I would rarely be home. Rather you would find me sipping ouzo on a lovely patio in Greece, cruising down the Danube, or exploring the Chichen Itza ruins. Ahhhhh, what lovely thoughts on this Covid-19 driven Monday.

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Boo, of course, would have to accompany me. Though she believes she runs this saloon, in truth when it comes to what we do and where we go it is I holding the wallet with the credit cards not she. Perhaps she would ride on the plane with me as my support animal. God knows she qualifies. Knowing Boo she would want to be in First Class. It would be nice to travel first class for a change, rather than in steerage like I usually do. I have only flown first class once, and business class twice. Each time it was a luxury to have both elbow and leg room to spare. The airlines are squeezing you in so tight these days it can actually be hazardous to your health. The only time I flew first class was to Hawaii in 1983. Such a treat. Now, from what understand first class passengers have pods for sleeping and other amenities reserved for the rich and famous, but even back then the perks were obvious from the moment you sat your behind in your comfy, roomy seat. In tourist waving down a flight attendant is like finding a sales clerk in Kmart. I remember once in Kmart after actually locating someone who worked there, I inquired as to where I might find the candles. His response, “In the candle department, I believe.” All that in-store sales training really paid off.

In coach when flying if you need immediate help your heart attack will simply have to wait until your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and your seat belt is correctly fastened and the guy in the window seat has made it back from the bathroom. In first class if you as much as crook your finger a flight attendant appears like magic at your aisle offering you a refill for your drink, a glistening smile, and another pound bag of nuts. On the flight to Hawaii where I flew first class they actually sliced delicious slabs of perfectly cooked prime rib at the aisle, served with a twice baked potato and fresh asparagus with Hollandaise sauce on a real plate. So far superior to the unidentified meat in a plastic tray you are treated to in coach. Whoa. You pay for the prime rib several times over when you consider the difference in price between coach and first class so perhaps in the end you’d be better served to cook one at home and pack yourself a sandwich.

When this pandemic allows for activities beyond my front door a road trip is planned with a friend to Montana. I have been through, lived in, or visited a good majority of the United States. Montana, is not one of them. I’ve been close by, having driven through Wyoming. Beautiful. I’ve got a friend in the Boise area and have cruised as far north as Priest Lake in Idaho which is close to the Canadian border. I’ve passed through Nebraska, but missed the Dakotas and generally visited most everything south east of Montana at one time or another. If not for the virus holding us captive I think it would be fun to take an extended road trip and cover the spots I’ve not seen yet. For example, I’ve been to Phoenix numerous times, and seen Sedona, but I have yet to take in the majesty of the Grand Canyon nor have I had a glimpse of “The Thing” much advertised on Interstate 10 as a tourist attraction not to be missed.

When I was small, I lived in my maternal grandparents house from just after my first birthday until nearly nine. My mother and I went to live with them when my father died unexpectedly at twenty-five. My grandmother, a lovely and accomplished woman in so many ways, never drove a car. For someone who never took the wheel, she thoroughly enjoyed being in the car when someone else did. Many weekends during my childhood were spent on the back roads of Nova Scotia exploring all the wonderful sights to be seen in that beautiful part of Eastern Canada. Often we took a day trip down the Cabot Trail, a must see if you are in the area or would stop for some fabulous seafood at one of the many restaurants littering the picturesque outer areas of the province. Always I loved those trips. The window would be half open and untethered by seatbelts as we were in those days, my nose would at the top of the glass taking in all the images whizzing by as we drove along.

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My first long road trip was from Nova Scotia to California with my mother and my recently acquired step-father in the summer of my ninth year. Our transportation was a shiny new Buick sedan of which I took up one half of the rear seat. With nothing pressing to get us to Santa Ana and my new “father’s” first day on the job still a month away we stopped often on our route.  In Chicago we began our southwestern trajectory on Route 66. I believe we ate at every Howard Johnson’s along the way. Never heard a complaint from me. They had 28 flavors of ice cream and as a chubby little girl my goal was to sample every flavor. In New Mexico we visited the Carlsbad Caverns. All these years later I can still picture those eerie caves with the beautiful formations. Funny how some experiences imprint themselves on your mind. The painted desert was also on our playlist, as was Las Vegas. Never having seen a desert nor a cactus (Nova Scotia is not known for either) my nine year old brain was like a porous sponge soaking up all these new and fascinating visual experiences.

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Some of us choose to remain close to home on our life’s journey. For me, there has always been the urge to see what lingers just beyond the rise of the hill. As I get older it sometimes feel my world has gotten smaller, but still if given the opportunity to cruise over the crest of the ridge again straddling the back of a Harley, I know I would grab it in a second without hesitation.

Aging is just another crossroad on our journey, one more experience to be embraced. If lucky, we are all going to get a little ripe around the edges and the best way to approach it, for me at least, is to make it yet into another adventure. There is no guarantees at any age how many years a person will continue to inhabit this earth, so with that in mind I feel deeply the importance of living fully each and every day. Make it a good one.

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Waking up in spare bedroom on the farm in Manitoba on the morning of my ninth day there, I realized I had just one more night before my trip came to a close. Looking around the cozy room my mind captured a mental picture to place in my memory book. I would remember the cheerful curtains decorated with cherries, the antique rocking chair in the corner with the colorful afghan Chris had given me as a welcome gift tossed over one arm, the photo gallery of family pictures lining one wall, and the birds singing happily in the boughs of the huge oak tree just beyond the window.

Dressing in capris and a tee instead of my usual work attire, I headed towards the kitchen. As usual the family was gathered there. Eva and Dawn were talking excitedly about our road trip. Bob J. was answering their barrage of questions about where we were going and what we were going to do while I loaded another unbelievable Chris breakfast onto my plate. Lake Winnepeg was to be our destination he was telling the girls. Sounded wonderful. For me any place with a body of water was probably a good place to be.

The girls were excused from the table to go with their mom to get dressed for the day. Bob J. filled in the details on our Lake Winnepeg destination. Specifically we were going to Grand Beach Park. Lake Winnepeg, he went on to say, was one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world. Grand Beach Park, though a bit touristy for his tastes, offered everything to do outdoors from swimming, boating, fishing, hiking to an amusement park. The latter he told me was what had the girls all a twitter when I’d arrived on the scene. Let me insert here when I was a kid I loved amusement parks. No matter how high the roller coaster, how stomach turning the ride, I would be first in line to hop on board. As I crested and rolled over forty this became less of a draw for me. In particular I am not fond of rides that jerk you about like a writhing hose on full water power or flip you upside down like a pancake on a grill. Nope, not for me.

Chris, characteristically, had packed us a huge wicker basket filled with sandwiches, snacks, icy cold bottles of water, lemonade and fruit for us to nosh on during our trip. There were times when I really considered proposing to the woman but didn’t get the feeling she would be inclined to leave Ray to move to California with me. It would be a marriage of convenience, mostly tipping the scale on my side. As much as I enjoy cooking, and I do, it would be lovely to have someone else man the fire from time to time particularly with as practiced a hand as hers.

The weather cooperated offering up a gorgeous day with only enough of a breeze to cool us off paired with a gloriously blue blue sky interrupted only by white fluffy clouds occasionally floating by. The girls amused themselves picking out animals and shapes from the passing clouds while Bob J. kept me entertained with history of the areas we drove through and Manitoba itself. The massive array of books in his library apparently were not just for show because he had an impressive knowledge of what he was speaking to which added another layer to my admiration of the man.

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Often I speak of my “near perfect moments”. That day held many of them. Driving along with the windows down, the girls chattering, Bob J. weaving his stories, and the countryside fully dressed for spring with wildflowers covering every hillside was definitely bordering on the nearly perfect.

We arrived at the beach around noon. What a lovely expanse of sand it was, a long line of grassy dunes marking its border. Bright beach umbrellas protruded out of the sand here and there and just out of reach of the incoming waves a group of children were busy building a sand castle. “Ahhhhhh”, my soul murmured. “Home.” Removing my sandals I dug my toes deep into the warm sand. Bob J. carried the heavy picnic basket and umbrella while I tagged along behind loaded down with towels, buckets and shovels, a bag of sunscreen and changes or clothes for the girls, and my backpack. Walking in the sand will quickly point out what parts of you are out of shape. In this case after walking what felt like five miles there were so many places to point to I couldn’t narrow it down to a particular area of my body. Once the blankets were spread out and lunch consumed the girls wriggled out of their shorts and tops their bathing suits already on underneath. Grabbing buckets and shovels they ran down towards the water to play. Watching the children plop down oblivious to the sand sticking their skin and begin to dig reminded me of the basic joys of being a child. For most children, not all certainly, childhood is a place of infinite possibilities where dragons breathed fire, unicorns pranced in glittering rainbows, and life, so complicated as we get older, was defined by far simpler terms.

Bob J. dozing in and out in his beach chair didn’t offer much by way of conversation. Left to my own devices I reflected on what an interesting and enjoyable time I’d had on the farm. I would miss them all each in their own way. They had welcomed me as though I was family and I had come to consider them as part of mine. Leaving would be bittersweet. Home was beginning to whisper my name, but knowing I most probably never see my Manitoba clan again left me feeling a bit melancholy.

The day passed quickly. Bob J. and I played frisbee after his nap. With a long drive still in front of us we packed up our gear and retraced our steps to the truck. Exhausted from sun and fun, both girls napped in the back seat most of the ride home. For me leaving the ocean behind always left me sad. Though home has always been where I have hung my hat at the time, the coast has always felt the most like a permanent home to me. Growing up in Nova Scotia with the sea at my back yard left an indelible fingerprint on me that has remained throughout my lifetime.

That night Chris outdid herself. Grilled lobster with drawn butter was the star of the show accompanied by sweet ears of corn, savory garlic bread, and an enormous tossed salad packed with vegetables from her garden. We finished it off with a slice of rhubarb and strawberry pie. The girls browned and exhausted went to bed without a murmur as did Bob J. and I. My plane was leaving just after lunch the following day so it would be time to say my goodbyes. Why is it times you get so much joy from seem to pass in an instant and those you wish would go quickly by drag on like an insurance seminar? Always I will remember that trip as the years tear off the calendar. Some experiences are just rich and this would be one I would count as such.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I actually have an appointment this morning. I know! My appointment book has been as chaste as a novitiate for weeks. Today I am to have allergy testing. I’d be lying if I didn’t insert here that going outside in the big bad world feels a little off putting. My instructions were to wear a mask and maintain social distancing. K. Yesterday I cranked up my car and drove it for a bit both to remind myself driving was part of my routine and to give my car a chance to recharge it’s battery. When I came back I dragged the industrial size bag of potting soil I purchased several months ago around to the front yard and worked in the dirt for a couple of hours. People walked by and stopped to say hello or waved while I was out there and it felt less isolating and more like being part of a community.

While outside beneath the massive trees lining my property (well, mine as long as I deposit a rent check) I was serenaded by the sad song of a mourning dove. Movement on one of the branches overhead drew my eye to where I could see a dove perched on a large nest in the crook of a limb. Mom, or so I called her, I’m not clearly versed on how one goes about telling the difference in doves and wasn’t formally introduced, remained on the nest while her partner flew back and forth to the ground or to other trees gathering whatever he was bringing to the table. Soon I could see three dear little feathery heads pointed towards the sky beaks open so I’m assuming dad had been tasked with providing lunch. A friend called so I stopped for a moment and went in the house to take a break. Telling her of my sweet birds (yes, yes I realize they are of the earth and not actually mine but they are on my property so for now I shall lay claim to them), she said doves were a sign of peace and restoration. Boy, could we use that right now. She went on to suggest I purchase food and a feeder for the birds and then they would remain in my yard and make it their home. What a lovely thought. I do love birds and all creatures. However, after spending $8.99 for eggs yesterday and $12.99 for instant decaf coffee I am hesitant to take on the feeding responsibilities for other living things beyond Boo and myself.  Nonetheless I ordered both food and a feeder before I had time to talk myself out of it. C’est la vie.

dove mourning nesting protection camouflage to protect them from predators

Going back outside to finish my potting I was pleasantly surprised how peaceful it made me to know the little family was settled in above me. Our world is populated with such incredibly beautiful and interesting wildlife. I never stop marveling at the vast selection of creatures provided for us to share space with and enjoy. When I was little my grandfather enrolled me in a course through the Audubon Society. Birds were a particular love for both him and my grandmother and this they shared with me. He and I would sit in his cozy den and study the different species of birds and their habitats. It was always special for me to spend time with the first important man in my life. Sadly we would only have seven years together before he passed away. My grandmother too was a bird fancier. Many of her knick knacks, which were plentiful, were decorated with birds.  When fall arrived I can remember walking behind my grandmother while she carried the red vinyl step stool to one of the huge trees shading our back yard. My job was to carry the net bag of suet which was going to be hung off a limb to feed the birds prolific in the trees where we lived.  Suet, for those of unfamiliar with the term is a mixture of fats and grains. From what I have read, it actually serves to keep the birds warm. In Nova Scotia this would be a plus in any form. Once the bag was suspended we would watch the birds from the dining room window as they circled down to pick pieces of the mixture out from between the holes in the netting. Funny, how some memories just stick like glue to your insides and remain there always.

Birds are interesting little beings with definite personalities, at least the domesticated variety. My friend Carol had a bird named Wilbur. Wilbur was a lovebird by description who shared a cage with his “wife”. I do not remember the female’s name but lovebirds, appropriately named, mate for life. The two were inseparable. Wilbur wiled away his days attending to his lady love while singing happily in his cage. The wife died unexpectedly one day leaving poor Wilbur devastated by her loss. They purchased another mate for him but he never warmed up to his new “wife” with anything near the fervor he had loved the first. The heart wants what the heart wants I guess spans all species.

I too have always considered myself a nester. My ex father-in-law told me once if he gave me a cardboard box and a ball of twine somehow I’d come up with a home. Home has always been a bit of an elusive commodity for me. Truth is I’ve never let a lot of grass grow under my feet. Having counted thirty-nine moves in my life hasn’t left much time for establishing deep roots.  That being said, it has been necessary to create “home” at whatever location I currently found myself in.

Longview-WA

While living in Longview, Washington with my ex husband home at the time was a motel room. Working a construction job at the lumber mill we knew on arrival our stay in the glorious northwest would most likely last under a year. To lease a place to hang our hat would most likely have required a one year commitment, not doable in our case. Also, with our household goods taking up space in a storage unit in the Bay Area we had nothing to furnish it with. So, we opted to stay with other construction types at a local motel catering to nomads such as ourselves. There were two rooms plus a bathroom in each generous sized “suite”. Ours was on the second floor overlooking the pool. Each unit had a sliding glass door leading out to the balcony which gave it more of an apartment vibe. There was a small refrigerator in the room off the bedroom/sitting room which comfortably held a sandwich and a quart of milk before feeling crowded. Since we would be there months rather than days I began to look for options for cooking in place and storing food as going out to dinner or picking something up every night was both expensive and is definitely not the healthiest option.

Having no utensils or cooking implements posed a problem. Someone suggested thrift shops. Up until then I had never stepped foot in one. What wonderful places to forage in. For a five dollar bill you could get a whole bag of mismatched silverware. Who knew such riches existed at the Salvation Army? I asked my husband to construct a makeshift three shelf unit with bricks and planks on an empty wall in our room. I filled the shelves with the mish mash of well loved pots and pans purchased with my bag of silver leaving the remaining shelves for food storage. After speaking to the motel owners about wanting to cook in the room they provided me with two two-burner hot plates to cook on.  This still left me with little room to store fresh items so once again I found myself standing in the motel office asking about refrigerator options. As miracles do, one showed up to help. The owner had an apartment size refrigerator in storage. The next day it was hooked up in our “spare” room. Yay. Before long I was cooking all all burners if you will. We made some great meals in that little room that year. My ex was an excellent cook. Hailing from southern Texas he made some delicious pots of gumbo or etoufee which we shared with neighbors who regularly followed the enticing smell to our door.

All in all it was an interesting experience that I will file in my memory book under “innovation”.

 

 

 

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Last night was one of those stress filled nights where I found myself doing yoga at 2 a.m. in an effort to calm my chattering brain. Lately I invest a lot of energy trying to live in the moment I am currently inhabiting. In spite of my finest efforts, now and again my mind goes rogue bombarding me with what if’s and unsettling scenarios for the future. During these episodes like Michelangelo on steroids, my psyche begins frantically painting scenes of Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, and I sitting on the street corner with a sign reading “Need Help” or me ending up in some sort of group establishment known for its abysmal food cohabited by people wiling away their hours plucking imaginary berries out of the air.  None of this is based on any fact, mind you, but in the wee hours when darkness is upon me my thoughts can play tricks on my intellectual properties allowing doubt and misinformation to cloud all rational thinking processes.

Fear truly can rule you if you allow it run unchecked. Reality is sufficiently frightening without giving fear free rein to step up and fabricate things for you to worry about. Feelings and thoughts are just that, feelings and thoughts. They are not tangible entities but rather fluid malleable parts of us we can bring to the forefront or make disappear at whim. You are at the controls, sort of like when parents tell their offspring, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out”.

Fear is not new to me. Truth is I’ve done a lot of things in my life that have terrified me. Sometimes you have to stare down your fears and kick them to the curb. At one point I actually suffered from anxiety attacks while married to my ex-husband, David. Now to be clear, I am not for a minute suggesting my ex caused these attacks to occur (I’m also not suggesting he didn’t), simply stating they manifested themselves when I was married to the man. They began at the onset of our ten years together. Much of our time was spent traveling across the U.S. working for a large, very well recognized, construction company. Like hermit crabs we transported our home with us setting up camp in each new location as one job closed and a new opportunity presented itself. The first move, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, was to Washington state. More specifically, Longview, Washington. We worked and lived there for eleven months before packing up after accepting the next job offer which was to be in Ashdown, Arkansas. Our household goods at the time were stored in the Bay Area. Not contemplating returning for some time we decided to drive to the San Jose area, spend a week with my family there, load up his truck and my car with the contents of our storage unit and make a beeline for Arkansas. Along for the ride were my Shih Tzu, Sushi and Kitty, my twelve year old gray tabby. At the end of our journey together these two animals had logged enough miles to be honorary long-haul drivers.

We set out on that trip each in our respective vehicles. These were what I call the “lean years” for us. His beater Ford truck was nearly as old as I was and my car at the time was a K car purchased at auction. A comfortable car for driving, the outside no longer matched the well preserved interior as a result of an unfortunate rear ender I’d been involved with prior to leaving for Washington. In an effort to keep the repair costs down, as it wasn’t a new vehicle either by any means, the body shop had actually riveted the hood back together leaving it sporting a somewhat Frankensteinish appearance. I know.  Between the rivets on my hood and my husbands severely overtaxed truck bed the characters in Grapes of Wrath had nothing on us. Both animals rode with me. Sushi generally occupied the shotgun seat with Kitty preferring to ride in the area below the window above the rear seat where she could catch some sun. Cats, unlike their canine counterparts, do not signal when they need to relieve themselves, so it was necessary to have the litter box on board on the floor in the back seat. This, as you might imagine, was not always a delightful addition to my trip.

There were so many scary parts to that trip I hardly know where to begin. At the time I was madly in love and off on a new adventure. “Damn the torpedoes full speed ahead” sort of thing. My car had been having brake problems, something we had decided to address on our arrival in Arkansas. If you are scratching your head at this statement, may I join you? Why on earth we would take a chance on traversing high mountain roads with an old truck loaded to the max with hhg’s and an old car with poor brakes escapes me, but what can I say? Nothing, exactly. Sometimes shaking your head is all you can do.

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We reached the top of the Continental Divide as the sun was getting ready to go down. It was summer, but the temperature was cold enough at that altitude to elicit a shiver when I stepped out of the car.  I had pulled to the side of the road in response to David’s signal he was doing so. After stepping around the side of the truck I realized why. Our second flat tire on the truck was apparent on the right front.  The first one was while going across the Great Salt Flats of Utah, which I will discuss as I continue my journey in upcoming blogs. Perhaps brakes and tires might have been two checks we needed to make on our “Preparing for Trip List” prior to hitting the road. I hear you. I don’t believe it helped that the poor old truck was toting a load on it’s back nearly as tall as it was long, but the why’s of the situation really are a moot point at this writing. Choice A, with no Choice B on the horizon was to change the tire in the darkness with the help of a flashlight which was our only available source of illumination. There were no cell phones back then so if you got in a situation like that in a remote place you either took care of it yourself or stayed until hopefully help showed up. David, always helpful, suggested that aside from holding the flashlight it might be advantageous to keep an eye out for bears or mountain lions. “Really”? Luckily knees knocking together is not a known lure for wild beasts so we got the tire changed before being eaten which was definitely a bonus to my way of thinking.

Once the new tire was in place David lit a cigarette while we discussed going down the other side of the mountain. Since my brakes were not performing at optimum capacity the steep grades could present a bit of a problem should I need to say, stop, at some juncture. Being consumed by a bear was starting to look pretty good to me. The plan, hold your hats here, was that David would go first in the heavy truck. As we wound around the mountain careening through the darkness should my brakes go out I was to ride up onto his bumper and he would bring me to a stop. Valium please.  Make it two. As we crested the mountain in tandem I said a silent prayer we would get to the bottom via the road and slowly stepped on the accelerator.  Several times when we hit substantial grades I was only able to maintain a narrow margin behind the truck’s bumper. Even the dog was sweating. Finally, angels on my shoulder, we miraculously hit level ground with all body parts attached. Life, was they say, is good.

colorado-berthoud-pass

There was an eclipse that night. We secured a room at a local motel. Interesting place. The owner had taken over an abandoned storage facility and converted it into motel rooms. Probably a great plan in conception but perhaps not so great in execution. The ceilings, for example, were really low. Had David been a couple of inches taller then his six feet he might have had to bend slightly to go from room to room. Also, even without the eclipse the fact there were no windows in our unit made it really dark when we switched off the light. Lying there without the tiniest benefit of illumination in the room I can remember breathing into my diaphragm three or four times in an effort to slow down my still hammering heart before drifting off to sleep. Looking back I have to say, even though my life was chaotic in the best of times it certainly was never boring. I guess that’s a good thing in hindsight.

Somehow I made it through those years. Being afraid and pushing through it probably gave me an edge when dealing with the loss of Rick a year and a half ago and all that has come after it.

Have a great and adventurous weekend!!

 

 

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