Thursday, April 23, 2015

Red Rock Road Trip

We left at 8:30 a.m. but our trip didn't start until we were already on the road for 45 minutes. The trip doesn't start until we have our doughnuts and coffee.

Here are my beauties. Just so you know I never drink coffee with caffeine. As a matter of fact I call it Caffeind for how it  affects me. But if I have caffeinated coffee only once a year it doesn't keep me awake all night and I'm all right. So that's how it works for me. Once a year caffeinated coffee because I really like the taste and the little buzz. Just for the road.

On this particular trip I'm having a Dutch Brothers non-fat hot latte with a plain unsugared buttermilk. YUM. One must indulge a few times in life. It ain't gonna kill ya.

Now that our vacation is in full swing, what next? Pick up the rental car. My car already has 250,000 miles on it. It wouldn't do to break down in the Nevada desert. Talk about casting a pall over the whole she-bang!  So we pick up the rental car, pack it to the gills and get off down the road! Lost Wages here we come! It's a 12 hour ass kickin' haul to the place where The Road to Hell is Brightly Lit. 

So far we're in good spirits because "we ain't tarred yet" but we will be "tarred" by the end of this day's drive.  We go past Nevada City and head for Donner Pass and then further on past Reno to the Fernley turn off south where the real Nevada begins.

It's bleak out here. Lots of completely abandoned houses.

But we're happy and what is enhancing the experience is Comedy Central on XM Radio. Wa Hoo! Have always wanted XM Radio so I could listen to Comedy Central and here we are.

Love to laugh as we go down the highway. Insisting that the world keep turning our way. And our way. On the road again....

Finally make it to Tonopah where we stop at Tonopah Station for a bite to eat.

Cheesy. Typical. Boondocks. Casino. I don't get the baby branding.

Then it's back on the road to Oy Vey-Gas. We roll in around 10:30 p.m. and I'm punchy and he's punchy but we have to drive down The Strip because I've never been to Vegas before much less seen The Strip and even though the whole spectacle revolts me in a deep way I have to see it so I can say I did.

Camelot. What would King Arthur think? I bet the Round Table is a roulette wheel. What do you think?

Caesar's Palace. The Caesar at this one is some mafia don. Don Caesar Corleone.

Circus Circus.... Circus Circus. Two Circuses wasn't enough. They had to give it two more.

I was struck by how much The Strip reminded me of that other crazy event in the hot, stinkin' desert. Burning Man. I have been to The Burn. People go out at night and let it all hang out. In both there's spectacular lights and fire. In both there's people misbehaving like there's no tomorrow.  Marty says I have it all wrong and that the average Las Vegas tourist is an old retired person. He says there's not the drunken debauchery that I think there is. He makes Las Vegas sound like old folks camp. Well, who am I to know? I refuse to go in any big casino. The environment inside those gigantic windowless rooms with all the racket and lights and smoke make me have a seizure.

So we go on to our "little" hotel off the strip. It's called Sam's Town and it's only 9 stories tall. We crash in a room that looks out in to an indoor atrium with fake waterfalls and fake wild life and it smells like chlorine. In our room on the top floor you can't open the window but we find we don't have to turn on a noisy AC or heater so it's OK enough. I'll survive one night in Las Vegas.  They do have a pool so the next morning I get to swim. My first swim in months! What bliss. What is it about water that makes me feel so good?

Now we're off to Hoover Dam. First we get bilked of 10 bucks when we take a wrong turn and drive around Lake Mead where we don't intend to get out of the car or do anything. Arriving at Hoover Dam there's more entrance fees and parking fees and tour fees and sneezing fees. Nope. Sorry. I lied about the first fee.

According to the tour guide nobody is entombed in the dam.

The turbines, built in the 30s, are still running. The one in the close foreground is out of its casing for repair. Large!

Hit the road again. We're off to the Big Kahuna. The Canyon Grand. Our gateway will be Williams, Arizona named after my good friend Georgia Williams. Kidding again. But it makes me think of her. We stay at the Days Inn where they also have a pool. Get the trend? Yes, you're right. My vow is to stay at places that have pools. I like to swim. We don't have a pool at home and there's nothing but the local reservoir that's only good when it's 105 degrees in the shade. Since we arrive late there's no time to go to the Canyon so we go find a local cafe that has really ordinary street tacos. Cheap. 
Unsatisfying. Better meals ahead!

The next morning we head out. It's an hour's drive to the South Rim. I was at the Grand Canyon when I was 10 years old and our family was driving Route 66 to visit my mom's sister and her family in Los Angeles. I don't remember much but I do remember being blown away by the vista. This time it made me kind of hyperventilate. Pictures cannot even do it justice. A mile deep and 18 miles wide in places. We really want to go down but it's a ferocious over night hike and we're simply not prepared for this. You'd think a solution would be to hike down and have your helicopter bring you back up but, nay, it's so steep in places we're told that even going down is super tough. Another lifetime, I guess. Sigh. Too soon oldt. Too late schmart.

The thing about the canyon now is that it is really developed compared to what it once was. (Isn't everything?) Where once you simply drove through the pinyon forest and then were flabbergasted when you literally drove up to the edge you now have a vanguard of parking lots and buildings between you and the rim. We park our car and immediately get lost. How can you actually miss the Grand Canyon? Where is it? It's gotta be over there. Is it out the back door of the Visitor Center? No. Is it between those two buildings? No. Let's go back to the parking lot and try again. This time we see a sign. Canyon Rim thattaway.... a little walk up hill puts us in the breathtaking zone. So we walk along the well fenced edge for a while marveling at the sheer size of the thing.

Those little red and white dots over on the next ridge are people.

The Canyon is 277 miles long so we decide we need to see more places where we've never been before. To the east there's Desert View which has a cool-io stone tower on the edge. We need to see it. Our general destination will be the Vermilion Cliffs (great color, great name, doncha think?) and the Navajo Bridge spanning the upper part of the Colorado River where it starts to be the Canyon.

The lady architect who designed this said "You wouldn't believe how much it cost to make it look this old."

After a lunch of hot dogs and a bit of shopping at the Desert View Trading Post we're off for the Vermillion Cliffs. I love the high desert here. The temperature is in the 50s and 60s during the day and 30s and 40s at night. Very comfortable traveling weather. Also the distances between these grand places are not far. You see the Vermillion Cliffs for miles before you get there so there's not that "are we there yet" feeling.

There they are. Way off in the distance.
I don't have a good picture of the Navajo Bridge because we were standing on it and there's no place to stand away from it so you'll have to be satisfied with a view from the bridge. I wanted Marty to go down there so we could get some perspective but he wouldn't. Well, whatever! Party pooper!

The mighty Colorado River about 20 stories below.
At the base of the Vermillion Cliffs was a place on a road sign called "Cliff Dwellers". We thought there must be a cliff dwelling there. Let's go see them. You would have thought the same, wouldn't you? Well, I'm here to tell you there are not. An interesting hovel there looks so amazing in person. But when you see it in a picture you think Oh my God how did the inhabitants survive when that rock fell on their house?

It's actually a "pedestal" rock and they built the "house" around it. I want to know: what happens when it rains? I can just see the couple in bed with water streaming down the outside of the rock like some "Lucy" episode. Lucy! Waaaah!

Back to Williams for the night. Tomorrow is the #2 Big Kahuna: Monument Valley. But before we do we have to stop in Cameron. We've been in the Navajo Nation ever since we left the Grand Canyon and we have to have Fry Bread! At the Trading Post we have an amazing Navajo Taco and I'm so sorry I didn't take a picture of it. A Navajo taco is: a plate size disk of deep fried bread kind of like a puffy not-sweet pancake. It's piled high with chili meat and beans, lettuce, tomatoes and shredded cheese. #1 it was so huge we had to split it and #2 it was in the most fascinating dining room with Navajo rugs and stuff all over the walls. Can I just afford a beautiful Navajo rug? No! I can't. 
Something else for the next life.

I couldn't swim that night. Too stuffed. Swim tomorrow morning before we go on.

The next day we had snow flurries off and on as we went higher in elevation. On the way to Monument Valley you drive right past the highest mountain in Arizona.  It was cool. Hey, we're on vacation. We don't care about anything less than a major typhoon.
In Kayenta just south of the Valley we stop for lunch. This time I remember to bring in the camera. Marty has a Navajo Hamburger and I have the Navajo Beef. I wanted the Mutton Stew but they're all out.  So next time.

There was nothing at all special about our lunch except the bun is not a bun it's fry bread. Now you know what fry bread looks like. By the way I didn't weigh myself the whole time we were on vacation. Don't want to know. Can't make me know. We'll deal with any extra pounds when we get home.

Here's some observations about Navajo society. It's not negative or anything. They let their dogs and horses roam free. A lot of their dogs look pretty rangy, too. I felt sorry for one of them that looked particularly scrofulous and gave him some of my leftover beef. Aside from letting their animals run free I must say the Navajos are a very entreprenurial people. There's shanties all along the roads that are selling pottery, jewelry and other stuff. We didn't stop. I wouldn't be able to browse and walk away from one of these shanties and I don't need more stuff. I have enough stuff to dust already. I did check out a basket in the Cameron Trading Post and it was made in Pakistan so I'm also leery of the veracity of their offerings. It just wouldn't do to enter a shanty, turn over a pot and see that it was made in China. Let some other people deal with that. The other observation I have of Navajo people is that they have very neat ranches.  Nowhere did we see piles of junk or legions of abandoned cars. Also being in the Navajo Nation reminds me of when I first went to Hawaii. In the auditorium of the Art History lecture I looked out over a sea of black hair. Just one or two blondies. So different from where I was from in Iowa. I think it's good to go somewhere and be a minority. Takes one out of one's comfort zone and makes one be observant. 

So we drive on.

The first give-away that you're headed in the direction of Monument Valley are isolated towers of rock.

Just a harbinger of things to come.
And then you're there and you're having the same heart palpitations that you had at the Grand Canyon. At a photo op on the road I remarked to a German Tourist "No bad pictures here" "Kind of like Yosemite". She agreed.

At John Ford's Point there was a pitiful little beast tied up all saddled and ready to go for "The Best 5 Bucks You'll Ever Spend". The person waiting in the truck will hop on and go out to a point so you can take a picture of them. The lone cowboy silhouetted against the sky. We didn't take them up on it. But I did take a picture of the beast. 

A little mustang straight out of a Frederic Remington painting. Complete with scrawny ewe neck and small stature.

"Stagecoach" starring yours truly, John Wayne and directed by John Ford
It was all downhill from here on out, literally and figuratively. Sedona was nice but it's a little sister compared with the two big brothers further north.

We took in Wickenburg (where Ian Tyson claims "the west was fun!") and saw a group of what had to be 100 cowboys riding down main street after some kind of traditional trail ride. We never did find out what it was. But no matter.  It got hotter ,too, so by the time we got back to Lake Isabella in California to work on Marty's house it was up from the mid-60s to the low 90s.
After we got the work done we went down to a hot spring on the Kern River. It was kind of scuzzy and stinky with sulfur but the setting was serene. In spite of that I was kind of down. I guess it was because our trip was almost over and we had a great time. I was not ready for it to be over.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

What's That You Say?

There was a young fellow from Boise
Who at times was exceedingly noise;
So his friends' joy increased
When he moved way back east
To what people in Brooklyn call Joise.

Warning: This blog contains kvetching ("kuh-vetching"). If you want happy-happy-joy-joy don't continue any further. Better to go elsewhere.) 

When I was young I couldn't figure out who I was. For one thing nobody could pronounce my name. If mom and dad had the sense to stay in Quebec it wouldn't have been a problem. But they didn't and so I was doomed. Being of French derivation in a small Mid-western town is kind of a pain in the butt. It's not like there isn't any French influence there. After all, the capital of Iowa, for example, is Des Moines which means "of the monks" in French. Of course, no one in Iowa pronounces it right. They say "Duh Moyn".  We're even known to joke and call it "Dez-Mow-Nez".

It was bad enough that my last name was unpronounceable to the good people of the plains but Mom had to give me a first name that was impossible as well. It was invariably butchered by everyone who tried it. Even my own parents chickened out and let our name be butchered. My last name "Benoit" became "Buh-nore" or Buh-noor" or "Buh-Noise".  I guess they were trying to wrap their tongues around what they thought was a French pronunciation. More often than not it was just plain "Buh-Noit". The reason my mom gave for this amazing lack of forethought was: "I wanted to give you an appreciation for things French". That's exactly the way she said it. "Things French." Why, she couldn't even use the correct syntax. So she called me "Renee" and this became "Irene" or "Reenie".

I wasn't the only victim.

Here are some other examples of the proverbial fingernail on the black board:
Prairee doo Sheen (Prairie du Chien, WI)
Nuh-Vay-Duh (Nevada, IA)
Pee-Roo (Peru, IN)
DEE-Troyt (Detroit, MI)
KAY-ro (Cairo, IL)
Ver-SALES (Versailles, KY)
Brett FARVE (Brett Favre; I had to throw him in even though he's not a town. He's just another unfortunate person like myself.)
Del-High (Delhi, IA)
Try-Po-La (Tripoli, IA)
MAD-Dread (New Madrid, IA)

Anyway, I left and finally got some sense of who I am so it's all OK now. I pronounce my name the French way. I'm exercising cultural integrity. Some people think I'm being affected or snobbish or whatever. They can think whatever they want. It's about them. It's not about me.  Just so everyone knows that the supposed high and mighty get come-uppance, the way my name is pronounced in French is the name of a Japanese dildo. Ben-wah balls. That's so you know I bear my name with equal pride and shame. I can't be snobbish knowing what I know. Anyway, in California no one cares. It's only the Hispanics who are being phonetically tortured here now.

Too-Larry (Tulare, CA)
Tibber-Ron (Tiburon, CA)
San Ruh-Fell (San Rafael, CA)
Puh-No-Key (Panoche, CA)
Kally-Entee (Caliente, CA)

Hey, if I'm wrong, correct me!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

'Tis the Season To Be Jolly

I know, I know, don't tell me.  That the song pertains to Christmas and it's true. Christmas is definitely a season for jolliness. However, I'd like to put in a pitch for spring to also be a jolly season. After all, do people ever say "you must have Christmas Fever?" Never!  

I don't know about you. I feel jolly!  How can anyone not feel jolly when collards, broccoli, kale and potatoes are coming up like crazy in the garden? The tomatoes will quickly catch up.

I feel jolly when the horse is weeding the tall grass right in front by our porch.

A Jolly Road Trip
We took a road trip the other weekend to Mt. Shasta. I think I've mentioned this before but I will mention it again that Mt. Shasta is a dormant volcano that rises over 14,000 feet in the middle of NOwhere so you can see her for a hundred miles before you ever even get close. She's quite a presence. Some people say she's the Queen of the Harmonic Convergence and full of spiritual energy. I'd rather call it the Harmonica Convention but I can see why they say this. She absolutely dominates the whole terrain.

On the day we went to her she was shrouded in clouds and it was raining. This was taken in the little community of Gazelle north of Shasta. Isn't it just stunningly beautiful? I imagine the snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Herds of elk, bison, deer.  

On the way back home we drove through a torrential down pour of monsoon proportions. It was fun and exciting because we have a good car and new tires and it hardly ever rains like this where we live.

Today the world outside looks glorious, a breezy, sunny day.  I sit inside and I complete my 7th rug. I will get up soon and go out. Crocheting  rag rugs suits me in a way that knitting does not. It's quick. My stitches don't have to be perfect and they're very useful!

Number 7; 100% cotton; flannel center, broadcloth edging, 33" wide x 42" wide.

Here's the one my cat loves best.