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.

Milestone

Photos by Martin John Aubin

I woke up this morning thinking about my 70th birthday (today) and how it’s a “milestone”.

I thought of an old song by Simon and Garfunkel from the album Bookends. “Old friends, sat on their park bench like bookends, a newspaper blown through the grass settles like dust on the high shoes of the old friends. Can you imagine us years from today, sharing our park bench quietly, how terribly strange to be seventy…”.

But it’s not so terrible. It’s just strange. And nothing is much different from yesterday. That’s the curious thing about aging. It’s like a long, slow slope. It’s not a cliff. Thank God. You look in the mirror at age 30-something and you might see a few gray hairs and laugh lines. Then over the years you see more until one day, like me, you just give it up and let the hair be gray like it wants to be. You might have a fling with botox but eventually that’s just an expensive indulgence and you give that up, too. “Be who you is, Tooter. Not who you is not. Those who do this is the happiest lot.”

This trip has been good for Marty and me. We’re getting out and getting stronger. We hiked through Cathedral Wash yesterday. It’s more like a slot canyon. It’s our consolation prize for not being able to go to Antelope Canyon, that incredible slot canyon near Page AZ. They said at the exhibit at the beginning that it was not “technical” but I would have been happy with a few carabiners, pitons and ropes. It’s “technical” for an old fart and at one point, which felt like miles down the wash but was probably only a few hundred yards, we had to turn back because it was not sensible for ones such as us to continue. Yet, we did OK. Going downhill was relatively easy. Go slow. Watch where you put your feet. Stop if you want to look around.

I thought going back up was going to be really hard but I utilized the old tried and true method of sitting on my butt and schooching up narrow and smooth parts. Marty put his foot in the right spot for me to brace against and we made it in fine shape. I had visions of saying to the mountain goats as they ran past (young people – hate ’em) “we need a ranger to save us!” But we didn’t. It was a grand day.

They call it a wash but it’s more like a slot canyon. Cathedral Wash near Marble Canyon/Vermillion Cliffs.
The strange rock formation called Tafoni. Gravel embedded is washed out and you get brillo pad.
It didn’t hurt much and was necessary to get up a steep, narrow section. Ya do what’s ya hafta do. It brushed off easily.
Bright Angel Point, North Rim. The haze is pollution from Phoenix and Los Angeles.
The mighty Colorado River was cold! Every body of water I see, if I can get to it, I get in. It’s an ablution.
Don’t fall down now! I have more things I want to do today!
Not a bad office, wouldn’t you say? (Lee’s Ferry Campground near Marble Canyon on the Vermillion Cliffs.)

Mesa Verde to Flagstaff

It’s been weeks since I last posted a travel blog. It hasn’t seemed possible to post anything but I have been writing all along. Truth be told, it’s gotten away from me. It’s gotten too big. Somethings have contributed to it getting too big. First, we were moving around so much and, second, I didn’t have internet access. A LOT of no internet access.

Here’s another admission: I’m getting a little bored with life on the road but I think that’s because we’ve been forced to stay in one place because the slide-out broke. We’ve been in a Forest Service campground at Pine Grove south of Flagstaff for over 2 weeks now and I’m really, really bored with it. Relief will come when our appointment to have the broken slide looked at – and notice I say “looked at,” not fixed – happens today. The moment of truth arrives!

But who knows what they will find? It will be fixable, and that’s for certain, but will they have parts on site or will they have to order them which will require us to stay in this area longer? (Please, God, no!) And, if so, how much longer? I can’t do anything about it. It is what it is. One of those things of trailer life that one must get used to. Upon reflection I’d say we’ve been having pretty good luck with everything else and the weather has been very, very nice. So, count my blessings.

One more thing. I can see that I’m ready to find a nice, permanent place to stay. I’m ready for bigger rooms and for my creature comforts some of which I’ve had to forego. There is much that is up in the air and yet to be determined but I’m ready for my new home. Anytime, Universe!

In the meantime, here are some highlights from a few weeks back.

*******

After we left Moab and the stunning Arches N.P. and Canyonlands N. P we drove to Mesa Verde, CO. We decided to camp there which turned out to be a good decision.

Cliff Dwellings! Deer! Mind-blowing Vistas!

There were seven completely unperturbed young bucks. One was shedding his antler velvet by thrashing the vegetation.
Now that’s real estate top of Mesa Verde! Room with a view! Cortez, Colorado far, far below.
You can see my shadow on the cliff wall. I’m the shadow on the far left on the right. Think of my shadow as a ghost image of the people who lived here.

After Mesa Verde we met my sister Toni to camp with her in the San Isabel National Forest by Rye, CO. She lives in Thornton, CO which is NE of Denver. This was a must-do. I don’t get to see my sister enough, you see. We talk all the time on the phone but seeing her is better. We share so much and always understand each other plus she’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys! We bummed around the area and checked out Bishop Castle which was up the road from where we camped. Read the sign in the picture and you’ll see why we felt leery of going in.

This is the work of industrious Steven Bishop who clashed with the local authorities because he wanted to use the stone he found on his land and they didn’t want him to. I think he won. What do you think?
He lets you come in to look around but gives you ample warning about what might happen if you do.

It’s been a life-long goal of mine to see the area Georgia O’Keefe lived in. So, after we left CO we went to New Mexico. The first thing we noticed about NM was that it has more single wide trailers than Carter has pills! Unfortunately, too many residents junk up their yards. I think of what Frank Lloyd Wright said about San Francisco (“San Francisco is the only city I know that could survive what you people are doing to it”). I feel the same way about beautiful NM. Marty doesn’t want to get out of the truck in Taos because he feels people there aren’t respecting Covid guidelines. Actually, Covid has more than hampered our enjoyment of our trip. In the “old days” we would have availed ourselves of what would have certainly been outstanding food in the Taos restaurants but he is even leery of getting take out. He thinks I take too many chances. Taos Pueblo was closed to the public. Only residents can go there. This is a major disappointment.

A stone house on the main highway through Taos. Neat-o.
What I would have seen in Taos Pueblo if I could have seen it. Open only to NM residents. And you have to prove it.

So, as a consolation prize we drive over to Abiquiu and it is neat. Unfortunately, Georgia’s home and museum are closed because of Covid. Bummmeeerrr!

Parking lot. Big whoop. Georgia’s home and Museum is closed.
I can see Georgia’s back yard over the wall. Another Big Whoop.

In Chimayo, which feels like we’ve been teleported to Mexico herself, the Santuario de Chimayo is crowded so we sit in the shade, eat our lunch and wonder about the tiny crosses stuck in the fences. We discover later that during Holy Pilgrimage penitents carry crosses to the El Santuario, which are then left as a sign of respect.

Looking down from the parking lot to the Santuario de Chimayo.
These tiny crosses are every where at first they seem very, very odd. Eerie in fact. But there’s a good mundane reason for them as it turns out.

After Taos we had a couple days of marathon driving. One day from Taos to Gallup and then one day from Gallup to Flagstaff. We need to get close to CA, and soon, because we need to finalize Marty’s CA driver’s license renewal. Because of Covid we were never able to finish the process before we hit the road. Because of Covid we would have had to stay in Madera for a couple extra months because appointments were being made that far out. We found out that cops are not allowed to cite you or if they pull you over they have to let you go. But it’s time, Marty feels. He is not comfortable driving for months with an expired license. I could drive. My license is good but I don’t feel comfy driving the big rig. He’s the one with Big Long Trailer experience and the strength in case something happens.

After NM comes AZ. Arizona is nice.

Arizona greets us with beautiful cliffs

But the roads are absolutely terrible. Bad like WY. No, worse. AZ is also emp-tee! Miles and miles of open land. No trees. No critters. No fences. No nuthin’. We stop at the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. When I was a 10 year old kid our family came through here on Route 66 to Los Angeles and we picked up little chunks of petrified wood right off the ground like nobody’s business. Today the park states they have a vehicle check but there’s nobody manning the station. In Holbrook just outside the park there’s petrified wood everywhere either being sold or used as decoration. So there ya go.

What colors do you see?
I love the Tourist Center at Painted Desert.
The Jasper Forest section of the Petrified Forest National Monument.
The Agate Bridge. This is a long petrified tree trunk supported by concrete so it won’t collapse.

By now all of you know about the slide disaster that we suffered when we arrived in Flagstaff so I won’t go into any more detail on that. We have our repair appointment and we hope it goes smoothly. At least we can visit the Grand Canyon and Sedona. If nothing else, AZ has spectacular scenery and great weather at altitude.

Elk mama and baby with family group are so kind as to stand right next to the road so I can get a great picture sitting in the safety of the passenger seat! No zoom used.
The Grand Canyon in a word: astounding.
Jamais disappointmente.
Sedona has too many tourists and an abundance of these great red rock monoliths.

Late breaking news: the slide seems to be fix-able. The day is still young so I’m not going to say any more on that subject. We are waiting in the relative luxury of Quinta Inn to hear further. If it’s fixed we’re off to North Rum of the Grand Cyn and then on to Lake Powell and Glen Cyn. After that Zion N.P. I am cautiously optimistic.

The Struggle Against Inertia

I think about why I’m on this trip and then…. I make Navajo Tacos.

She looked across the silent fields to the West. She was conscious of an unbroken sweep of land to the Rockies, to Alaska; a dominion which will rise to unexampled greatness when other empires have grown senile. Before that time, she knew, a hundred generations of Carols will aspire and go down in tragedy devoid of palls and solemn chanting, the humdrum inevitable tragedy of the struggle against inertia. – Sinclair Lewis, Main Street.

Maybe this is why we went out on the road. Maybe somewhere deep down inside we were fed up with life as usual. Maybe we realized that our time was limited but that the forces of inertia are not. Maybe we realized that even though it was going to be a struggle from time to time that we needed to do …Something!

*****

Here we are “stuck” in Flagstaff, AZ because the living room slide-out on our trailer is broken. I say “stuck” because Flagstaff is not a bad place to be right now. The weather is beautiful and the Grand Canyon is close by. We’ll probably go there in a day or two and while there we will linger like we have never been able to do before. What do they say? If life gives you lemons…

The broken slide presents a cascade of other problems. Because we can’t go down the road with a slide stuck in the out position we can’t empty our gray and black water tanks and we can’t get fresh water refill. To deal with this requires some sacrifice and ingenuity. From now on we will use the camp restrooms even though they are not even close. I’m sorry but I’m not trudging out to the far-away restroom in the middle of the night so we have a bucket that will get emptied as soon as possible in the morning. The camp host is going to allow us to dump gray water right where we are and as needed. Marty has devised a way to get a large water container to refill the fresh water a little bit at a time.

So, I’m not stressing. It is what it is.

Living full time in an RV is a whole different kettle of fish. Especially if you move around and don’t stay in one spot and don’t have full hook ups. We are not willing to make the sacrifice of staying in what we call “RV Park(ing Lots)” where, for the privilege of having water, sewer and electric hookups, you have to live cheek by jowl with other RVers. Not my idea of a good time in This Time of Covid or any other time for that matter.

The sky is blue. The air is clean. The breeze is mild.

We have food on the table. We have each other. Life is good.

And so, in celebration of being in Arizona which is home to the Navajo Nation I offer my recipe for Navajo Tacos which was taught to me by 2 lovely Navajo women we met recently at this campground.

Authentic Navajo Tacos

Native Americans substitute fry bread for the tortilla and create something uniquely their own and delicious

Eat fry bread when it’s hot right out of the pan. This dish is good vegetarian, vegan or carnivorian. Whatever you like and however you wish to make it.

6-8 servings

Make the dough first.

Fry Bread

About 2 cups flour

About 4 teaspoons baking powder

¼ to 1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 – 1 cup lukewarm water

1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add warm water to the flour mixture, and working with your hands, make a smooth dough. Don’t overwork it or it will become tough. It will be a little bit sticky – not too dry, not too sticky is the key.

3. Cover the dough and let it rest for about 30 minutes.

While the fry bread dough is resting make the toppings.

Make a simple chili with:

4 cups pinto beans

1 lb. ground beef, browned

Season to taste with chili powder, cumin and salt and pepper

1 large onion, chopped fine

1 large tomato, chopped small

1 head shredded iceberg lettuce

1/2 pound cheddar or Mexican style cheese, shredded

8 ounces sour cream

Green or red salsa or pico de gallo for garnish

About pound of lard or Crisco for frying

Once the dough has rested and you have the toppings ready it’s time to fry the bread. I’ve found that fry bread is best hot right out of the pan. This is why it’s important to have all the toppings ready before you start the bread. The simple chili can sit on the warming burner. Everything else is cold.

1. Heat 2 inches of lard or Crisco, in a heavy pan at a medium-high heat. If using a thermometer go for 350 degrees. Fat must be hot enough. Pinch off a little bit of dough and put it in the hot fat to see if it fries.

2. Once the fat is hot enough we’re ready to fry. Pinch off dough balls about the size of a lemon. Roll between your hands into balls. Pat balls into round flat shape and stretch further until they’re about a ¼ inch thick. Immediately and gently lay dough in hot fat.

3. Fry the dough quickly, one circle at a time, until golden on both sides, turning once with a fork or tongs. Watch so they don’t burn. Drain on paper towels.

Putting the tacos together

Put a fry bread on a plate. Add the toppings in this order: a layer of chili, some lettuce, chopped onion, shredded cheese, and chopped tomatoes. If you like add a dollop of sour cream and any kind of salsa.

In truth you can put anything you like on a fry bread taco but traditional ingredients always have some kind of beans and meat.

Go Left, Young Man

We skim the surface at Devil’s Tower, Deadwood, Southern Wyoming, Northeastern Colorado and finally hit pay dirt at Moab, Utah after a rainstorm.

I’ve been Madame Navigator for this trip. I read maps very well and have a good sense of direction. I can also memorize landmarks even if I’ve only been there once so it’s not easy for me to get lost. Because of this, Marty drives the rig and I’m happy to let him do it. What if we encounter a kerfuffle along the highway? I trust him to handle the kerfuffle. So, Marty has been Monsieur Pilot. This is a good division of labor but it has not made for an abundance of good will. For one, Marty will ask me for the same clarification over and over after I have already told him. This gets me frustrated and then I get tense and my voice broadcasts this irritation loud and clear when I answer. After many failures I have figured out what sequence he needs the direction to be in. Destination, followed by mileage, followed by direction of turn. Repeated twice in a loud voice. Sometimes this works, sometimes this doesn’t. But we muddle through.

Preamble: I’m shorting you on the description of our trip from Black Hills to Arches because as it turns out Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are in a word – spectacular. Don’t miss it. Don’t even be late.

Wednesday Sept 2nd

The day before we leave Connor Battlefield State Historic Site in Ranchester WY it’s hot and windy. At dusk it goes from clear to thick-with-smoke in about 5 minutes. There’s a wildfire someplace very close. Because I’m bored I say let’s go find it. We’ve got the headlights on because the smoke is so thick and we chase the fire trucks but don’t catch them. We don’t find where it’s coming from and by the time we get back to camp the smoke is already gone.

Thursday Sept 3rd

We leave Ranchester and head to a Forest Service camp that’s close to Devil’s Tower and the Black Hills. We go to Devil’s Tower as it’s still early enough in the day. Amazing.

We got inspired to re-watch Close Encounters because of this.

Friday Sept 4th

Deadwood today is really the same Deadwood as it was in the beginning. A modernized version of the original camp without the gold mining. All Gambling. Eating. Drinking. I didn’t see whore houses. Maybe they’re there. Maybe they aren’t.

Supposedly the place where Jack McCall shot and killed Wild Bill Hickok.

Saturday Sept 5th

Saturday is re-supply day. We buy groceries and meds. Then we stay in camp and read and surf the web because it’s hot. We do research on campgrounds where we are headed. As the day cools I reorganize our stuff. We have so much stuff we are not using.

Sunday Sept 6th

Bad, cold, rainy weather is coming tomorrow. Supposed to get down to 26 and snow. We head south to Ryan campground near Saratoga WY which is our first stop on the way to Utah. We’re racing ahead of the storm. We can see it in the rearview mirror almost so we better hurry.

Monday Sept 7th

I really like the beautiful country south of Saratoga. There’s a sweet little town called Encampment WY. Their Trading Post – filling station, grocery store, bakery smells nice. I could live here.

Further on we pass over the continental divide.

Near Encampment, Wyoming.

Our next camp on the way to Utah is Cobbetts Lake campground outside of Cedaredge, CO but it’s a long, long uphill grind and we smell the motor over heating so we stop and turn around. Luckily we’re self-sufficient so we can stay anywhere we feel safe and can turn the rig around. It’s getting late and we find a flat area next to a creek pullout in a sandstone canyon near I-70 and Grand Junction. That night a man pulls up, frantic. He’s running out of gas and his cell phone has no bars. He doesn’t know what to do. We pull out the paper map to prove that to continue driving up the road is fruitless. He should turn around and go back. Old fashioned still works and actually works better sometimes.

Tuesday Sept 8th

The day the camping world stood still.

I make a big mistake. We drive through a lot of rain to get to Moab and when we arrive it’s dry. We pull into our spectacular first-choice camp site Goose Island on the Colorado River just outside of Moab but it’s full so we go on to the next but it’s too far and we don’t want a repeat of yesterday, so we go back to the first camp. We see a spot that seems to be empty and the guy next door says, “Those people packed up this morning. It was raining and I think they left early.” So even though there’s a receipt for the previous campers still attached to the post we pull in. Marty is leery. He says since it’s raining and we can’t do anything anyway let’s stay and do stuff in the trailer in case they come back. We have a quiet afternoon and even make dinner but at 7 p.m. here they come in their painted up rental van and we have to leave.

Where to go? We drive south mulling over our non-existent options. Up ahead there’s a KOA. Shoot! Those guys are usually very, very expensive and they’re probably full but we pull in anyway not expecting them to have an opening but they have one and it’s $110! Teeth grinding. Hair pulling. Banging of heads.

We take it. What can we do?

It’s getting dark and there’s the looming certainty of not finding anything else. Bad Renee. It was me that advocated moving into the people’s site. I was going on this rationale: every Forest Service camp we have been in so far ALWAYS has sites that people reserve and then don’t show up or they leave early. What I didn’t take into consideration was that this Moab is a very popular place. I should have known by all the traffic. Lesson learned.

Wednesday Sept 9th

We get up early at KOA and go back to Goose Island to look at all the reserved tags. Who is leaving today? We ask someone, “Are you leaving today?” We find two camps that are leaving and we take one. Badda bing! Problem solved! Now we have a base. We can unhitch and go sightseeing. Thank ya, Jesus!

That afternoon the Gods of Travel reward our “suffering” with a spectacular drive through Arches. It rains off and on today which is beyond welcome to me.

Jenga of the Gods
This Court House rivals the best that Monument Valley has to offer.
I claim the Magic of Three!
The Fiery Furnace.
Zoom in to see teeny, tiny people under the arch.
Cold me in Arches works as a mask, too.
I love monochromatic and Canyonlands National Park is definitely that.
Speechless.
There are no words for this.
There are no words for this either. Amazing. Gorgeous Planet Earth. Our Home.