Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

A rapidly moving fire broke out in my old neighborhood several days ago. Many people I know either had to be evacuated, or were at the very least, in danger of having to leave their homes. Though everyone is doing okay, people in the next town over from them are surveying the damage, many returning home to find nothing remaining but ashes. I am feeling very grateful this morning to be down in the valley. A picture popped up on Facebook when the evacuations were in progress, taken by someone located about three miles from Dale’s trailer. Huge plumes of smoke were visible billowing up on the hillside. His trailer is still parked up on the lot he occupied before coming to stay my house. As of this writing, it is still standing, but it was a close call. His direct neighbor, though their house is still in place, can’t return home with their seven animals because all the power lines are down and there is no electricity. Though I’ve never experienced having to live in a war torn country, sometimes these fire ruled summers feel a bit like I might imagine it, though obviously to a far lesser degree.

Though the local fire appears to be under control, we woke up this morning to find the the air full of smoke in our neighborhood. This smoke has blown in from another blaze much farther north of us that is still very active. It used to be I loved the breeze, finding it peaceful to watch the movement of grass on the lawn, or to hear the leaves rustling in the trees. Now, it is a signal of danger, as the brush in California is bone dry, there is no water in our reservoirs, and there are not enough fire personnel to fight these mammoth blazes once they erupt. Again, PG&E’s dirty hands are involved in the fire bringing us the smoke. A tree fell against one of their lines. Everybody is busy poking fingers at everyone else. Each summer it gets a little worse, but what to do?

We are stuck inside so are making the best of it. A technician came this morning to fix our internet connection to our cable. Recently we had to replace a box and it threw everything else out of alignment. Literally, I spent hours climbing around in the snakes nest of cords behind our large flat screen trying to address the problem. One phone tech after another rebooted on their end, walked me through progressive steps on my end, and to no avail. I connected, disconnected, located yellow wires, and red. I should get paid the big bucks and do this for a living. I’m getting pretty good at it. This time, I just couldn’t figure it out. Finally, I threw in the towel and asked them to send somebody out. What a nice guy. I pay a fee every month for maintenance on their equipment. If I didn’t have that connected to my account, I would have had to pay $100 for the privilege of having a repairman on the premises. He performed his magic in about a half an hour and now the TV and internet are working perfectly. I took the time to text a great review when prompted on my phone. When somebody goes above and beyond I think it’s important to acknowledge them.

I’m not the greatest person to watch TV with. Since the day I was born, I seem to have an over abundance of energy. Have to say Covid took care of that situation for about a month leaving me listless and without juice, but my energy level has returned to optimum speed of late. When I sit and stare at a flat screen, I have to be doing something else with my hands. If I don’t occupy myself, it won’t be long before my head is thrown back against the pillow and I’m sucking in air. Just the way it is. My theory is that I burn at such high octane most of the day, when I actually slow down and relax, like my laptop, my body goes into sleep mode. Fortunately, I am able to “power nap” as I call it. When I was working full time I used to sneak in a quick nap during lunch time on occasion. Behind my desk, I kept a small camping mattress. After I’d eaten, I’d close the door to my office, and take a 15 minute siesta. Somehow, I am able to set my internal clock to the time I need, and my mind sends out a wake up call when the elapsed time has passed. Weird, but then a lot of things about me are a little off bubble.

Thinking about plopping down on the floor on an air mattress doesn’t sound that inviting anymore. I prefer my nice soft mattress, and some fluffy pillows. Camping, I believe, though never say never, is intertwined in my past stories, not my future. However, one never knows what new stories you are going to find when you turn the next page. I’m open to new adventures every day. My son and his brood just posted pictures of them parachuting. He asked if I’d be interested in jumping out of a plane next time they go. That would be a negatory. They would have to pry my white knuckled hands off the door handle and knock me out with a baseball bat first. I am planning on zip lining. It is quite near the top of my bucket list. Not as adventurous to some, I would imagine, but it works just nicely for me. Someone asked if I would be interested in zip lining over the Grand Canyon. Um, again, that would be negatory. I don’t have a death wish, but wouldn’t mind injecting a little excitement in my life. Also, I would like to go white water rafting again. My first time was amazing, and I would sign up enthusiastically to experience that rush again.

In my twenties, I went camping regularly. Young bones don’t mind sleeping on the ground as much as older bones do I’ve found. We would pitch a tent, throw a sleeping bag on the ground, and sleep peacefully 8-10 hours. Please. Now, I have the most comfortable mattress in the world, and if I’m lucky enough to log seven hours of sleep on it, I throw a party. One of my favorite places to camp, specifically boat camp, was Cottonwood Cove on the Colorado River. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect setting to be outdoors. Pictures of the area are imprinted in my mind as if I’d stepped on shore there only yesterday. In the morning we would cook over a Coleman stove. There really is nothing to quite equal the aroma of bacon cooking outdoors. The water, that time of day, unless the weather was less than perfect, was pristine. Skiing across it was effortless, with no push back on your feet like you experience in choppy water. It was like skiing over a sheet of glass. That was my favorite time of the day to go.

Usually we set up camp several miles down river from the marina. There wasn’t much out there but gorgeous scenery, scrub brush, and sparkling river water. Being resourceful, and with no facilities where we were, we constructed a makeshift toilet. The toilet was dubbed “Lou” appropriately. Lou was a lawn chair with the webbing on the seat removed. One of the men had cut out an oval in the center of a piece of wood and placed a toilet seat and lid in the hole. Both were attached to the seat of the chair. A small shovel hung from a chain next to one arm. You get the idea. They had even thought of adding a side pocket where a newspaper and puzzle were available for those who like to linger a while after a big meal. Each person dug a hole, did what they needed to do, covered same and moved Lou to a new location. Very efficient.

There were so many sights to see on the Colorado. While visiting I saw owls, mountain goats, wild donkeys, eagles soaring overhead, all manner of lizards and even a snake or two. Midday the heat moved in with intensity. We would either sit in the shade on the bank, or take our lawn chairs into the water and submerge ourselves up to our necks to cool off. Fish would come and nip at the air bubbles on our bathing suits through the webbing on our chairs, which at first was a rather odd sensation. The women never took any makeup. The only cosmetic needed was sunscreen. You definitely needed to lather up. Back then we didn’t have as much knowledge as we do now about the dangers of tanning. I have paid for my years gathering rays with having many pre-cancers removed as time has passed. Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. Also, if you tended to burn rather than tan you needed to find a place in the shade, because even sunscreen couldn’t fully protect you from a bad sunburn when exposed out there.

One weekend we sank a boat while on the river. The beautiful ski boat, picked up brand new on a Friday night, was gathering moss at the bottom of the river two days later. Thankfully, those of us on board were all safe. There were three boats with us that ill fated weekend. The first day there, the weather was perfect. Waking up the second morning, however, the sky had turned grey. The wind picked up enough so that we had trouble keeping the tent stakes anchored. Deciding to wait it out until the following morning, when we woke up the sky looked positively menacing. Determining the best course of action was to break camp and head back to the marina. The first two boats headed up river before us, while we tore down the remaining campsite and loaded what gear was left behind. The wind had picked up to an alarming pitch and it was becoming difficult to hear one another in between gusts. My daughter, eight at the time, myself, my fiance, two friends and their young daughter, piled into the boat and pushed off. Once out on the water it felt more like being on a rough ocean, than a peaceful stretch of river. The boat rode up and over waves and pitched down the slope on the other side. Still moving forward, we appeared to be making some progress, when the engine swamped. This left us freely floating in the waves. Before long water began to enter the boat over the sides. Seeing things were headed for a bad end, I straddled the bow of the boat with one leg on either side to balance myself, and began waving a white towel I had found under the seat in the air. Amazingly, I wasn’t tossed into the churning water. By this time the people in back seat were submerged up to their underarms. It became obvious without assistance, we were all going to be in the water shortly. The prow of a boat, a cabin cruiser riding so much higher out of the water than our low profile ski boat, suddenly came into view in the distance. By the time they reached us, the people in back seat were fully in the water and the bow of the boat was halfway pointing to vertical. The boat pulled up next to us. I handed off my daughter and the other little girl and was suddenly pitched into the waves. I can remember bobbing up and down like an ear of corn in a boiling pot of water out there. With each resurface, I’d take in more water, and my limbs were starting to get tired. A guitar floated by, belonging to my friend’s husband also in the water. He had had to knock his wife out, as she couldn’t swim, because she panicked and was drowning them both. At one point it seemed I was moving away not toward the rescue boat. Coming up one more time, an oar was being held out in front of me. I grabbed onto it, and at last helpful arms sucked me up out of the water. In the end we were all saved but the boat, which went down like a bag of rocks. All I had with me was the bathing suit and shorts I had on. My purse, my ID, my credit cards, my mother’s engagement ring all went down with the ship, so to speak. When I think of that experience I can’t help but remember those angels on that boat. They were the only ones out there in our area in that storm, and they told me they wouldn’t have known we were there, except they had seen the white towel. Guess it wasn’t our time to go.

Don’t think I’m going to be seeing that kind of excitement today. An eerie red sheen is pouring across my table and the sun looks more like a blood moon. So, I will entertain myself doing things I like to do and close out the outside for now. Have a safe day.

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The last day of my trip to Manitoba had arrived. Butterflies flitted around in my stomach as I packed my suitcase and got ready to leave for the airport. Bob J. was to drive me. The man never seemed to stop. The day before while sitting next to me on the beach he had disclosed this was the most time off he had taken off since his wife had passed away. In another world, at another time or under different circumstances I believe those piercing blue eyes might have more than intrigued me. However, as I was not moving to Manitoba any time soon and most definitely he was not relocating to Northern California it seemed more prudent to just entertain an occasional bit of wishful thinking and leave it at that. Nonetheless, I found him both most attractive and definitely interesting and I felt sorry to be leaving both him and his lovely family in my rear view mirror.

Taking a last look around what had been my nest for the last nine days I zipped my luggage and took a final walk down the hall into the now familiar kitchen. All hands were on deck that morning including Bob, Sr. who was seated at the table blowing on a cup of coffee. A bag of wild blueberry muffins sat on my place mat with a handwritten note pinned to it from Chris “for my new and dear friend Susie for her trip“. A lump in my throat now joined the butterflies doing a rumba below my belt. The children were all questions as usual. “Susie, why do you have to go? Are you coming back? Can we come to California some time and visit you and go to Disneyland?” I didn’t have the heart to say this was probably goodbye. We took lots of pictures which are stored for me to revisit one of these rainy days when I am sorting through my memories.

Bob J. pulled the truck up outside. Hugs and kisses were spread all around along with the promises people make to keep in touch and see each other again. I remember looking out the back window of the truck as we rattled down the dirt road and seeing them all standing in the yard waving, Chris dabbing at her eyes with her ubiquitous apron.

Bob J. was especially quiet as we drove along even for him. I think there were a lot of unspoken thoughts left hanging between us we both allowed to manage themselves. Going back was to be different than arriving. Coming in they picked me up at the Winnepeg Airport and we drove the three hours to the farm. The plan this time was that I catch a commuter plane to Winnepeg at the local small airport. Once in Winnepeg I would board a commercial flight to Vancouver, and then on to San Francisco. This would eliminate the long drive to Winnepeg and back for Bob J. who needed to turn his attention back to the farm where it was needed.

About a forty-five minute drive from the farm the airport turned out to be small indeed. Other than an assortment of hangers housing the private planes stored at the facility, there was a tower, a large two story structure where passengers and families could wait or grab a bite to eat at the snack bar, and the tarmac itself. Most of the planes visible were smaller prop types, the only exception being the one larger plane with a line of about ten windows which I assumed was to be my ride of the day. In spite of all the traveling I have done over the years this was to be my first and until now my only flight on a commuter jet.

Bob J. and I sat next to one another in the waiting area. I took the opportunity to thank him for allowing me to be part of his and his family’s lives for the past few weeks. In turn he thanked me for coming and giving them an understanding of me and my life in California and the work I had done. At one point he covered my hand with his. I believe for him this was a gesture requiring some forethought and effort. We sat there quietly his hand on mine until my flight was called. Exchanging a warm hug I turned one more time to look at those lovely blue eyes before facing forward and walking across the tarmac towards my plane. Sometimes you look back in your life and wonder “what if”. For me this would be one of those times where I wonder what today would look like had I made different choices back then. However, one cannot spend their life looking in the rear view mirror. As my therapist is wont to say, “that is not the direction you are going”.

Ascending the steps into the plane I was surprised to find it rather small inside. On each side of the plane were rows of seats two to a row. The seat backs were folded forward against the seat cushions themselves. I chose a location about half way back and put the seat back in the upright position. There were six or seven other passengers getting situated with me but no crew in sight at that point. Storing my carry-on bag I sat by the window. Two figures emerged from the building I had just exited. Both were young, very young, and both wore uniforms, one with epaulets on one shoulder. Oh-oh. They looked more like they’d be piloting a Tonka toy then a commercial airplane. Momma. Obviously coming in the direction of our plane as it was the only one on the runway my butterflies began to actually fight with one another as the pair came up the steps and entered the doorway. Sigh. Not only was I going up in a small plane but I was going up with Jack and Jill at the controls. The pair introduced themselves as yes, the pilot and co-pilot, the young lady occupying the second seat. It would not have surprised me if someone said they were still in high school. The co-pilot also doubled as the crew. Before taking off she hunched down on one knee and ran over the safety features of the plane including where the restrooms and exits were and the procedure should we experience a drop in oxygen. Mine was already dropping. Before liftoff we were offered bottled water or a soda and a bag of nuts or chips. All the amenities. Check and check. For those of you old enough to remember when flying used to be a luxurious experience, I for one have to say I miss those days. Hot meals, excellent snacks, free drinks, magazines, head phones and complimentary blankets and pillows. The good old days. Now if you are handed a small packet of pretzels (usually about 7 to a pack) you consider yourself fortunate. Everything has a price tag attached to it during your flight and foot and elbow room has been reduced to such an extent by the time you land you are picking out china patterns with the person in the adjacent seat. These days I view air travel as similar to riding on a bus with wings.

After securing our seatbelts we taxied effortlessly down the runway and were airborne. Before the engines surged us forward I took one last look out my window to see Bob J. still visible standing inside the window of the building where we had waited.  A moment of regret hung over me before I pulled my book out of my backpack and settled in the the ride. I remember thinking that was one of the smoothest and pleasurable flights I had ever been on. The pilots did an excellent job both going up and coming down and in between we soared without incident like an eagle gracefully among the glorious clouds.

In Winnepeg the attendant at the gate for my flight to Vancouver came on the PA to announce my flight was overbooked. The airline was offering a free round trip value $300 to any travelers willing to wait for the next flight on the board. Hmmmmm. I went up to the desk and asked if I could still make my connecting flight to SFO in Vancouver if I accepted their offer. The answer I was given was was yes. Okie. Cooling my heels in the airport for the next three hours I found every position known to exist to achieve comfort on the seats in the waiting area. In between I grabbed a quick lunch and ordered a sandwich to stick in my back pack to eat later on the plane. Naturally my Vancouver flight was delayed. My luck just seems to run in that direction. Darn. Finally getting on board in Winnepeg the flight attendant said I would be really pushing it on the other end to connect with my next flight. Getting to my gate for the connecting flight apparently would require traversing a long expanse of airport in Vancouver to get to my next plane. Goody. Also, customs had to be dealt with. Sigh.

Arriving in Vancouver it was as promised. Customs lines were backed up as usual and by the time I got up to the agent I was really pushing the envelope if I was to make the next flight. After going through my luggage thoroughly (I must have a criminal face) the agent confiscated my bottle of water and my hair spray. The hair spray perplexed me so I asked why. It seems people can actually store a bomb inside. “Okay, you’re on to me. Take my Aqua Net but pleeeeease let me go or I’m going to miss my plane.” Finally I was freed. I sprinted down the aisles of the airport like a horse released from the gate at Daytona luggage flying behind me. Just as the gate agent was closing up shop for my departing flight I rounded the corner. Thankfully she let me board. The plane was totally packed and my seat was towards the back, the middle seat of three across. Stowing my gear in the overhead bin I squeezed by the portly gentlemen taking up the aisle seat and sat down in between two male passengers. Made it. Whew.

During the flight home I reflected on the week behind me. It brought to mind people who are brought into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. The season people come into your life for you to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never learned. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy, but only for a season.  My farm family, I believe, were season people. We kept in touch, but as life does it insinuates itself into your plans and moves you in different directions than originally planned. Last I heard the girls were in high school and Bob, Sr. had retired due to health issues. Bob J. had remarried and we had all moved on. Think of them often and my time in Manitoba. Seems like it was only yesterday I was sitting in that warm and friendly kitchen. Take time to have adventures in your life, it passes so quickly and then the chance to grab the ring is gone.

Have a great day, stay safe, test the water.

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