Eldarica

Now begins a new adventure. An adventure in place – but not really – because I always feel best when I light out for the Territory Ahead kind of like Huck Finn. I’m calling our new home Eldarica (el-duh-ree-ka)  for the sixteen pine trees we just planted.

There’s a hummingbird sitting on her nest outside my window. Barely 2 feet away and I try not to disturb her. She sits, flies away to where I do not know and then comes back. Now, there’s no way I’m going to remove any more limbs from that tree! A large Arizona cypress. It’s going to stay the way it is until she hatches her eggs or leaves because something happens. I have to let her do her job. The white thorn acacia that is now blooming everywhere must be nourishing her. Maybe this place will nourish me, too.

Can you see her? Smack dab in the middle of the picture on her nest.

We’ve settled in for the most part. I have my important kitchen equipment now and my desktop set up. I’ve made cookies in the oven. I’m making sauerkraut in the Kilner fermentation jar. I’m working on a story about yucca shampoo for Mother Earth News. The days are hot, the mornings and evenings cool and the nights cold. A gray fox barks outside our window in the dark. Early in the morning a western tanager alights in the mulberry tree and then flies on.

We decided to explore the Huachuca Mountains yesterday. The Huachuca’s are a mere 10 minute drive to the west of us. The highest peak is Miller Peak which is 9,466 feet above sea level. Its next-door neighbor is Carr Peak at 9,237 feet. There’s a road that goes up there that ends at a campground we’re told. The campground is at a respectable 7,200 feet and the road is passable when dry. So we go. It’s six miles and mostly one lane. For the first mile and a half it’s easy going.

Carr Peak is just out of the picture on the left. We’re headed for the top of that mesa on the left.

Pretty soon though it gets rough. Plus, there’s a big drop off nearly straight down into trees. A voice inside my head says quit but I can’t so both hands on the wheel we go slow unrelenting up, up, up.

North Yunga Road in Bolivia gives you a taste of what we experienced on the uphill climb to Carr Peak. I’m not kidding. We weren’t prepared.

I can’t take a picture on the way up because I can’t stop and certainly not let go of the wheel. No place to turn around either. Just keep on keepin’ on. We haven’t turned the trip meter on, so we aren’t sure how far we’ve gone or how much farther we have to go. Then we see a van coming down from above. It scrunches over to let us by and as we go past, waving thank you, we see the van is full of people. Are those people crazy, or am I? Then a Razr off road vehicle comes down the road, too, and passes us. Those people have the right idea! A van? A Toyota? No. A Razr, yes!

Finally, I find a slight turn out that is somewhat flat and let Marty have the wheel. We are closer to the “top” than we realize because there it is. Reef Townsite campground, thank God! The end of the road at Ramsey Vista CG is only a mile and a half further.

OK. Deep breath. Lunch time. Let the Toyota have a break.

Reef Townsite CG is nice and cool. No good views of the valley below because of the many pine trees. We think if it wasn’t such terrible road to get here this would be a nice place to camp. Site of an old mining camp. I wonder how those miners got their equipment up there in the mid 1800s before true roads. Burros maybe? Too steep for horse drawn wagons.

On the way back down, Marty goes in low gear and super slow. Great views.

Yes, you have that right. That’s the road we came up on in the foreground. The San Pedro River Valley out beyond with the Mule Mountains in the distance.
Ah! Mexico. It sounds so simple I just got to go. The sun’s so hot I forgot to go home. Guess I’ll have to go now.

When we get back down to the valley we decide to drive over to Tombstone and try the root beer.

All drunk. Homemade sarsaparilla. Say “sass-pa-rilla”.

A Fish Without Water

Feeling like a fish out of water? Almost literally, I am. This part of Arizona is constantly windy and wind sucks the moisture out of everything including you. I think, “Why did I come here? This place is not me.” So many good things about it but so many bad. I don’t feel at home in such a dry place. Alienated.

Then passing through Johnson Valley, CA in the Mojave on the way to Yucca Valley near Joshua Tree National Park I see a sign written in some pictographic language. Cambodian? How alienated must people from the jungle southeast Asia feel in the desert? And yet they adapt and endure. I can adapt and endure, too. The choices I made in my life up to this point put me in this position and I had to make a decision that I would not necessarily have made if all things were perfect. But since when was life perfect?

****** 

We saw that Nomadland won best picture. We had already seen the movie a while back. Our reaction? The movie glamourized that existence. We’ve been “nomads”, so we know what that life is actually like. Even the name “nomad” is glamorous.  C’mon. We call ourselves “full-timers”.

For one thing they didn’t show what it’s like when the weather is crappy and you’re stuck in your van for days. You could move to better weather but what if you don’t have enough money to pay for gas to drive somewhere else? Better weather is invariably far away maybe the next state over. And maybe the place where there’s better weather is already full of other campers and you have to stay in a rest stop with 16 wheelers rumbling all night long around you. It happens.

And another thing. Where do you go to the bathroom? They didn’t show that. Your option is what? A porta pottie which may or may not be clean. Which brings up the question what if you need to go in the middle of the night? How far away will that porta pottie be and maybe the weather is not so good or it’s dark and you can’t find your flashlight. So, you resort to a pottie bucket in your camper and don’t knock it over by accident. They didn’t show that.

You get the picture. And this is just the small part of the picture. Nomad existence is just like life. Long periods of no-so-nice punctuated by brief moments of glory.

If given the chance to live in a very nice house on the coast in Northern California any full timer in their right mind would jump at the chance! It’s not realistic that she decides not to stay. What? She likes bad weather and pottie buckets? Thumbs down. Hollywood blows it again. Great performance, though, by one of my favorite actresses (France McDormand). She deserved the Oscar.

******

Let’s say this about Arizona though: When Arizona has clouds, they are spectacular. When I lived in the Bay Area my dad would say “send me some sunset pictures!” And I would say, “Dad, they don’t have sunsets here. They have fog.” Now I wish Dad was alive and I would send him all the sunsets he wanted and more.

Fair weather cumulus in the Wilcox Basin
Sunset over our neighbors

Out of Arizona

Huachuca Mountain at sunset

I had a ranch in Arizona at the foot of the Huachuca Mountains. The border with Mexico runs across these highlands, for hundreds of miles to the east and west, and the ranch lay at an altitude of over four thousand feet. In the daytime you felt that you had got high up; near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were chilly.*

(*These are the immortal words of Isak Dinesen who wrote about her coffee farm in Africa. I bastardized them to describe our acreage here in Arizona because they fit pretty well with minor alterations.)

The best thing about this place are the clouds! Oh, the clouds! Very much like clouds you might see in the mid-west and I’ve missed them very much until now. Cumulus, cirrus, lenticular, lots of lenticular because it’s pretty breezy here. Sometimes windy! I hear the clouds will get even more interesting when monsoon season hits. Apparently in July and August the weather can get humid and the thunderheads will build until in the afternoon it will dump! Sometimes, I am told, up to 2 inches an hour. And then it quits and air is nice and things grow and get green. I’m looking forward to this.

Last night we had a visitor. We had just crawled into bed and I was dozing off. What is that sound? Not a coyote. I know coyote yipping. Instead, strange rasping kind of bark. I immediately thought fox. Sure enough, it was a gray fox. Marty got the flash light to shine a light on it because our dogs are outside dogs. In a nice pen and pretty safe, I would think, although I know foxes can climb. But why would they climb into a dog pen with 2 big dogs? For food maybe. For food left out but we don’t leave the food out.

Monsieur Gray Fox!

Anyway, it left right away and we haven’t heard it since but I would like to. I like that the wild is still out there and doing all right. At least I hope it’s doing all right. I feel that when the wild is doing all right then we are more likely to be doing all right, too.

Speaking of the wild we’ve had some nice hikes along the San Pedro River. It’s flat and shady and now there’s a bit of water. Someone said don’t wade in the water because the river originates in Mexico and you don’t know what “those people” are doing over there. Harumpph “those people”! I want to say you don’t even know those people so how can you say anything? So, I’m not concerned. Even if “those people” were polluting the water by dumping raw sewage or chemicals we’re miles from Mexico and by the time it gets to us the wild will have strained it and made it better. I’m not going to drink it! Just wade in it. There’s no industrial down there. It’s all Sonora Desert.

The San Pedro River originates in Mexico, flows north and joins the Gila River in Arizona

This area is chock full ‘o’ history! It was right here in 1540 that Francisco Coronado walked or rode north out of Mexico with 1,000 men, 3,000 cattle and 23 horses on his way to the Great Plains. I think that’s pretty trippy. In the map that I attached there’s the brown line of San Pedro River so it’s easy to determine that we are right in the path.

Way before that all happened, maybe 30,000 years ago, paleo-indians killed mammoths and other animals within 2 miles of our home. There’s a bone pit excavation site a stone’s throw from here. If my dad was still alive he would dig that (not literally) because he loved hunting for arrowheads in the plowed fields around Marshalltown. He would say, “It fascinates me to think who the last person to touch this might have been.”

Now we turn our efforts to improving the place. This is something we always do. This time it’s mostly going to be landscaping because the inside of the house is pretty fine the way it is. A little paint here, a little carpet or tile there. The cat is thrilled to have miles (to her) of room to run. She’s an indoor cat (you recall Mr. Fox of whom I spoke earlier) and so giving her all this space is making her a very happy cat.

Time is a River

I don’t have any travelogue to offer today. Just a simple musing on life and time.

“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.” – Jorge Luis Borges

I am older now. I just turned 70 last October. I can’t believe it. That sounds wise. It sounds sage but I don’t feel it. And I don’t feel particularly old but now when I contemplate starting a new exercise regime I think it might be best to visit my doctor and see what she says. My brother-in-law just keeled over dead in an instant of a heart attack. No warning. No nothing. He was 66.

I don’t remember when I was a baby but I do remember my youth. Youth was a time of gaining. Everything increasing. Getting more. Physical prowess increasing. Mental acuity increasing. I can remember when running up stairs meant nothing to me. I can remember when I could catapult into the saddle or sit for hours in lotus position or bend over backwards in the plow and think nothing of it.

There’s one thing. I think I’m still getting smarter. But I’m more forgetful now and then. What was that called? Who was that? My hearing is going and I have tinnitus. I have a cataract developing in one eye and glaucoma in the other. I had better than perfect eyesight until I was 55 at least. I also have high blood pressure. I used to have low blood pressure. I mean really low. Nurses asked, “Do you faint a lot?” I’m under a doctor’s care for all this and thank god for modern medicine or I’d probably be dead already.

The older a person gets the more it becomes a process of letting things go and then comes the ultimate letting go and death of the body. It’s the opposite of youth. A bell curve. Up and then apogee and then down. I was reading about Ernest Hemingway and thought, “He really needed a spiritual practice.” Because it was clear he clung to his robust life, bacchanalian, and when it started to fade, he could not adjust. He could not imagine living a life of letting go. So, he killed himself at what I would have considered a young age. Sixty-one.

Can I imagine living a life of letting go?

Palm Springs Weekend

Remember this movie? I was 13 when it came out.

We were in Palm Springs for a week waiting for results of Marty’s biopsy. He had a “thing” on the side of his face. The results came in. Thank God only a basal cell and now they will burn it off and we’ll be done with it… until the next time. He’s a strawberry blonde who won’t wear sunscreen. When I try to force him to wear it he has a baby hissy fit.

It snowed overnight on Sunday on Mt. San Jacinto, 8,900 ft above sea level and Palm Springs. It dominates the landscape like Kilimanjaro dominates the landscape above the African plains.
Then it snowed even more overnight on Tuesday.

Joshua Tree National Park – Where the Colorado desert meets the Mojave desert

I think these cholla cactus must be the allies from “A Yaqui Way of Knowledge” by Carlos Castaneda. They stand still when you look at them and move when you don’t.
Cholla cactus says, “Leave me alone, for crying out loud. I’ll puncture you if you don’t!”
Joshua tree and monzo granite in the background. It was so cold my camera shivered.

We enter by the south gate. Apparently, this is the Colorado desert part and it isn’t what I expect. No Joshua trees. Just weird leafless ocotillo, vast expanses, angry cholla cactus, shiny creosote bush. I think, “How can anyone ride a horse through this?” The vegetation is absolutely hostile. You’d be picking thorns out of your poor horses legs all the time. The cholla cacti look like strange creatures. Maybe they are the allies from Carlos Castaneda’s book A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Except he was poking around the Sonora desert with Don Juan the Yaqui brujo. The Sonora desert isn’t too far from here. Maybe 50 miles south. We see a lot of border patrol SUVs during our drive the next day to the…

The Salton Sea – A Huge and Weird Mistake

Green ooze surrounds the sea. Some beach! I liked Lake Powell a whole lot better.
I’m standing in barnacles and holding barnacles. Miles of barnacle die-off along the shore.
The chair fits right in with the environment.
The community of Salton Sea Beach had some prime real estate.

On Tuesday it’s nice – no rain – so we decide to drive to see the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea is weird. The air is unbearably quiet. No sounds. No birds. No people. No nothing. There’s a green ooze at the water’s edge that stinks. We decide that it’s dead algae or something. (yes, algae). My usual habit of getting in the water (I, at least, wade in everybody of water I find. It’s a thing I do.) is thwarted by the 20 foot deep edge of ooze. I think, “What if it’s so toxic that it eats my legs off and I’m standing there legless?” No, I’m not going there. 

The Salton Sea was a giant mistake created by the California Development Company back in 1905. They built a canal to bring Colorado River water to Imperial Valley farms. When the canal head gates became blocked with silt they made cuts in the river bank but that failed and the entire thousand miles of Colorado River water went spilling into the Valley for two years before they fixed it. The ginormous lake doesn’t have any in or out and very little replenishment from any source so it’s slowly drying up. It’s more salty than the Pacific Ocean.

Coachella Valley Preserve

Here I was expecting a thousand acres of farmland and some waterways with animals. I don’t know why I thought that. I also thought they allowed dogs on leash in the preserve but they don’t. So, the dogs stay in the truck while we wander around in a grove of hundreds of palm trees. The beautiful oasis pond that we saw in pictures on the internet is not there. Maybe it’s underneath the huge amount of fallen branches and leaves on the ground underneath the canopy. The place is in need of a decent wildfire or legions of gardeners.

Inside the grove it’s freezing. I can see why people, native or otherwise, would want to hang out in here when it’s 110 degrees outside the grove in the summer.

Again, I have this weird observation that the trees are creatures. Wookiee-like creatures this time.
Dwarfed, Marty is.
Hula girl tree
Cool in here but in need of some gardening TLC

I’m going to leave you with a recipe for treat that is rare outside of this area but that is easily made at home. This area is the world’s biggest supplier of dates.

Palm Springs Date Shake

2 Servings

¼ cup walnuts

½ cup Deglet Noor or Medjool dates, pitted

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of kosher salt

1 cup vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened in color and fragrant, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, place dates in a small bowl and add ½ cup hot water to cover; soak 10 minutes to soften.

Blend walnuts, dates with their soaking liquid, cinnamon, and salt in a blender until a coarse paste forms. Add ice cream and ¾ cup cracked ice and blend until smooth. Divide shake between 2 glasses.

Eat ‘em up! Yum yum!

Aqua Dulce means Sweet Water

A sojurn in the canyons outside of El Lay, a trip to the Coast and a Big Surprise.

Vasquez Rocks, near Agua Dulce CA where many a Star Trek episode with Capt. Jean-luc was filmed
Recognize this anyone?
The coast of Big Sur from the viewpoint at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park on Hwy 1.

Fish Taco Escapade

On a day trip over to the beaches at Ventura we stop in Fillmore for some outrageously great fish tacos at El Pescadero on State Route 126 from Santa Clarita. As we wait in the parking lot for our order a guy comes up to the driver’s side of the car. He is on foot, a bit disheveled and has an almost empty bottle of tequila in his hand and a glass in the other. He says in a very loud and friendly voice would you like some tequila? Uh, no, thanks, sir. (Bums everywhere and how dare they!) Another car has just pulled up beside us and he scurries over to offer them some tequila, too, in Spanish this time. What a wack job! Relentless! Oddly, the woman in the driver’s seat takes some tequila and I almost take a picture of this transaction but I can’t get a good shot. The guy’s back is to me and besides what if they object and get nasty? They leave and he comes back over to Marty. Are we sure? No, tequila? Yes, thank you we are sure. No tequila. Like all good drunks he keeps talking to Marty about kind of random things and won’t go away. I’m successfully staying out of it. Pretty soon the waitress comes out with our fish tacos. All of a sudden it dawns on me that maybe he’s somehow affiliated with the restaurant. You would think that the waitress would shoo a drunk away but she doesn’t. So, I lean over and say to the waitress who is that guy? She says Oh, that’s the owner. He’s just being sociable.

Here Today, Gone to Texas

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this. After all the build up to our decision to move out of California, only to change our mind at the last minute to stay, seemed unbelievably quixote. Now, guess what? We’re flipping back to the original plan. Say, what? Yes, indeedy. We are going to Texas after all.

I blame it on Marty. From the beginning of our travels we were determined to leave California. We were tired of the high cost of living and we wanted to live within our means in a beautiful place where there are horses. We didn’t want to continue to work into our 70s because we didn’t have meaningful work that paid and Covid showed us how easily things can go south. We needed to get going and get going fast before it was too late! Our dream was to live the way we wanted to live and it seemed that California would box us into having to make an income. We wanted out. So, we looked all over the western U.S. but didn’t find the perfect place.

Then we needed to come back to CA and Oregon to do some errands. We did them. When that was finished, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Marty starts making noises about looking at some land he found over by Paso Robles and Tehachapi. What’s going on I said. I just want to rule them out he said. You have to be kidding me and why I said. He said I don’t want to deal with moving all my stuff across state lines. (a back hoe, a box truck filled to bursting, a horse, a horse trailer filled to bursting, a pick-up truck and a sedan filled to bursting). He said I have to see how much it would cost to stay versus the cost of leaving.

I was very perplexed. I thought but didn’t say, “This is fruitless.” Being a real estate agent showed me what housing costs are in CA but knowing that Marty would not give up until he was satisfied I had to go along with it. The bare land he found was affordable, all-rightey, and he wanted to see if the whole out-the-door cost would be something we could do. Long story short: it isn’t. No way, no how. The professionals we talked to recommended that we budget $50,000 for the well (without the pump, mind you) and $195.00 a square foot for building (without permits and all that jazz). You get 3 acres of land for $18,000 and that’s the least of it.

Well, there’s your answer.

California is good for young people, rich people, people with really good incomes (2), people who paid off their mortgage or people who got land passed down through the family. It’s the age-old “we sold our property and now we can’t afford to buy anything here”.

So, we’re back to looking at properties in Texas and we are headed there in the next few days.  Shoot, you can get a house on 12 acres with outbuildings and mature trees near Abilene for $175,000.

https://www.landwatch.com/haskell-county-texas-homes-for-sale/pid/339136577

I said it’s not a small thing to have peace of mind because we won’t have a mortgage! There are ways to see the kids back in California or they can come visit us! We can make new friends like we did it at the Northern California ranch. We can do it again. It will be an adventure.

So, there you go.

Quick! Hit the Brakes!

And here we see that our plucky travelers come to a screeching halt, make a u-turn and change direction.

So, we thought we were going to the Texas Gulf Coast. It sounded so luxurious, the warm, slightly humid ocean breeze blowing in our hair and a clear Gulf sky stretching to the horizon and beyond. Still sounds good, doesn’t it? No, it sounds great! So, why the teasing lead-in to the story?

In spite of that lovely dream of staying on the road for a few more months of travel we have decided once and for all it’s time to settle down and, furthermore, we can’t leave California. Many people out there in Facebook land will be utterly aghast at this notion. As a matter of fact, some FB friends will think we’ve going stark raving bonkers and you know what? Based on all the momentum we had four months ago for moving out of state I would have thought the same thing. Did you know that a lot of people absolutely HATE California? I suppose you do and mostly for the following reasons:

CA is crowded (in certain places like cities but not all places like country places). CA is expensive (all over, yes, except for remote places like Modoc county, for housing costs and gas). CA has a lot of laws – many more than other states and I think it’s to keep our crazy, diverse population under control. Here’s an example of how CA has not been successful at keeping the diverse population under control and why some ex-pat Californians and others think CA sucks.

This is at a truck stop on I-5 near Lost Hills. No, not a third world country.

Yes, CA has a ton of problems but other places don’t have the ocean or our children or familiarity. We think we can have our California cake and eat it, too. See if we don’t. As Dolores Johnson’s mom always said: “You pick the relationship that has the problems you can deal with.”

We’ve looked at land in some places kind of far off the beaten track (but not too far off) and crunched the numbers and it looks like we can pay cash for the land and build a small house plus horse infrastructure and only have to get a small loan that we can easily afford.

In the meantime, we are enjoying the CA coast. It’s almost as good as the Texas Gulf Coast. It’s shirtsleeves weather here in Cayucos. The surf is up and Morro Rock at Morro Bay is just as spectacular as it always is.

Late afternoon fog over Morro Rock as seen from Morro Strand Beach. The power plant at Morro Bay on the left.
Some kind of ghostly apparition.
No sound except the wind hissing through the sand. The fogs pours in.

Driving with the Windows Rolled Down

Well, we left our happy home

to see what we could find out.

We left our folk and friends

with the aim to clear our minds out.

Well, we hit the rowdy road

and many kinds we met there

and many stories told us on the way to get there.

So, on and on we go, seconds tick the time out.

So much left to know, and we’re on the road to find out.

In the end we’ll know

but on the way we wonder

through descending snow

and through the frost and thunder.

We listen to the wind come howl

telling us we have to hurry.

We listen to the robin’s song

saying not to worry. – Cat Stevens

As we drive south along Interstate 5 along the west side of the Central Valley I think that if I were seeing these hills for the first time I would be blown away. The hills are tan or drab gray rumpled bed covers rising away from the highway. Smooth. Treeless. Later on, we see Los Tres Piedras on top of the highest peak near Coalinga. The Three Rocks are way up high and Joaquin Murrietta, the Mexican Bandit or Robin Hood, however you want to think of him, used them as a hiding place when he was fleeing from the law during the latter part of the Gold Rush. If I wasn’t so used to seeing these places I wouldn’t have to work hard to see them as if I were seeing them for the first time. There’s gold in them thar hills… or are the hills themselves the gold?

The Central Valley of California has changed a lot over the years since the Spanish came. The Spanish introduced cattle that decimated the tree population by eating the tree seedlings. They also damaged the waterways. The miners of the Gold Rush caused incalculable destruction by using hydraulic mining to extract gold and millions of tons of sediment got washed into the creeks, rivers and delta. After them, westward, ho! farmers came and dammed the rivers and drained the natural lakes.  Where we see thousands of acres of nut trees there would have been a vast and seasonal inland sea only a few feet deep after winter snowmelt overran the banks of the San Joaquin, the Merced and the Kings rivers. There would be giant Valley oaks trees spaced few and far between. John Muir wrote extensively of this paradise.

On this day you can barely see the snow-capped high Sierra many miles to the east because of a dense haze that Marty says is agricultural dust and air pollution. It’s a Big Valley all right but you couldn’t tell it today because both sides of the valley are obscured. What is progress if the natural environment is ruined?

We’re headed for the Gulf Coast of Texas just for warmth and fun and we’re also going to see if we might feel comfortable enough somewhere in southwest Texas to settle down. It’s been a blast to travel but it’s time to find a place to live permanently. Marty says he’d stay in California if we could find somewhere that makes sense but that’s a very long shot. California costs too much for people living on a fixed income and we’ve had it with the congestion. Oh, you know, Modoc county in northeast California could be good but the politics are obnoxious there and the health care facilities are so dinky as to be useless. Oh yeah, and the winters are too cold.

So, Huck Finn-like we light out for the territory ahead.

Winter is Coming!

We’ve been binge watching Game of Thrones in the evening after dinner. That is, when we’re not going out after dark to drive through Arches and places like that. In GOT it’s a phrase that is repeated over and over. That, and the phrase, “The night is dark and full of terrors.” Back here at “home” in our trailer we find that the phrase “winter is coming” means something a little different than what it means in GOT. For one we don’t have White Walkers to deal with, thank God!  But we do have winter to contend with and it’s bringing our northerly traveling to an end. Our northerly traveling has been so very interesting, educational and downright enjoyable. I’ve been surprised and flabbergasted by turns. We’ve seen things we didn’t expect and things that were better than we expected. We started this journey on July 15th and, in terms of miles driven, we’ve driven to Australia and half the way back.

My western states map shows our progress highlighted in day glow yellow. It’s a giant loop going north, then east, south and west from the Pacific coast to the Rockies and then to the southern deserts. We have loved (almost) every minute. Yes, there were times – especially early on – where we weren’t sure we made the right decision and were ready to pack it in. It took adjustments to go from a big house to a tiny trailer crammed with 2 dogs and a cat who were adamantly against such a major disruption. But they endured and we endured and we all eventually hit our stride. The trailer is home.

A horseman I know and greatly respect is fond of saying, “Adjust to fit the situation.” He is talking about horse training but, really, isn’t this great life advice? We’ve had to adjust. Sometimes we adjusted well. Sometimes not so well. In the end, and by in large, I’d say we’ve adjusted quite well. We could go on this way for a long time.

As we’ve traveled, we’ve learned a lot about this great country of ours. We’ve learned how incredibly geographically diverse and beautiful it is but we’ve also experienced how politically and psychologically diverse the people are, too. We chose to go out during a very challenging time and it really affected our travel. Most people were kind and thoughtful but some people were downright selfish and rude. Kind of like how we always are but even more so. Before Covid it was easy to ignore or forgive rudeness but now it’s front and center and hard to let go.

Someday soon we will be moving back into a house. We don’t know where exactly yet. But it’s going to feel weird to have so much space. The rooms might echo for a while as we figure out, “Do we really need so much stuff?”

Here are some pictures from various places on our last leg from Arizona to Oregon.

An ingenious person made use of a “toadstool” rock at Cliff Dwellers, AZ and built their house.
I defy you to assert that these drawings, based on real Navajo antiquities, are primitive. At Marble Canyon AZ
The builder made excellent use of abundant and local natural materials at Lee’s Ferry AZ on the Colorado River.
I enjoy the view and cool waters of Lake Powell at Lone Rock Beach near Page AZ.
You had to have been there. There’s no way to get a good idea of the scale any other way. It’s BIG. Zion NP
Again, Zion NP. Look very, very closely in the middle and slightly to the right. There are 2 people walking. That’s the scale.
Abert Rim in Oregon between Burns and Lakeview. Windless, the lake is a perfect mirror. There are bighorn sheep down there at the water’s edge.
Another planet. Not of this world. But it is. Lake Abert OR
I had to include this. Maybe it’s why OR has clean roadways. California get a clue.

In our next leg we will be finding permanent winter quarters. I’ll be writing about that process and showing pictures. It ought to be a discovery, too.

Leaving Lee’s

“Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky” – Ojibwe saying

We’re moving on today. We’ve been at Lee’s Ferry Campground for 10 days and we’ve done everything we could do, seen everything we could see. There’s plenty more but because of Covid we could not see Horseshoe Bend. There were always crowds of people and we didn’t want to take the chance. Other sights stand in. We would have loved to take a kayak or a raft and float down the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam to Lee’s Ferry but Covid again. You leave your car at Lee’s Ferry and then they pack you into a car with a bunch of other numbskulls not wearing masks and take you to the put-in at the dam. Not my idea of a good time. As I said, other sights stand in.

Not the least of which was the sighting of the condor on Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon. We had been to take pictures at Cliff Dwellers (it’s a modern town/community) and we stopped at a vendor where I bought a lovely copper bracelet from the Navajo Dine artisan. He gave us some recommendations including checking out the bridge for condors. I didn’t really believe him so when we went there the next day and some guy walking toward us on the pedestrian bridge announced that there was a condor underneath the bridge on the girders I couldn’t believe our good luck.

Marty wanted me to throw a rock at it to make it take off so he could take pictures of it in flight but #1 it’s illegal to throw things from the bridge and #2 there was no way I could throw a rock that far.

The fuzzy person in the foreground is me. A California condor can weigh up to 23 lbs. and have a wingspan of 9-1/2 feet. Think of it sitting in one of your smaller bedrooms and having the wings go tip to tip to each wall.

The part I’m going to miss about Lee’s Ferry are the mornings and evenings. That’s when the sun rises or sets and hits the canyon walls just right with a glow of orange. I could live at Lonely Dell Ranch. It’s remote and made of stone and they have many, many mature trees including fruit trees. Lake Powell is amazing even if at access points there are too many people.

That’s it for now. We have to pack up because we’re moving on to Zion National Park, More pictures to come and more commentary. All the best to you.