22 September 2017

Wednesday 6th Sept {I think}

The next morning, we followed the signs that directed us to the entrance for the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.  I wasn't sure what I expected, but I am pretty sure I was thinking "forest=greenery, a multitude of tall trees", instead of focusing on the "petrified=mineralized remains=takes lots of time=perhaps living forest no longer exists in this location".   So ya might see why I was a bit puzzled when we turned at the brown National Park sign and saw more desert looming ahead.

We covered a lot of desert, the high desert of the northwestern plains and the many deserts thru the southwest.  I must say that my vocabulary was sorely tested and found lacking.  Each desert is so very different.  The rocks, the minerals, the layers, the colors, the vegetation, the terrain, the animals, its all very distinct from every other desert.  But I could not fully capture how this brown rock was different from that brown rock; it was a richness, a hue, that indicated different elements, a different history, each with its own stories to tell.  I was hard pressed to adequately describe how this grass, waist height and densely thatched, was completely different from that sparsely bunched low grass.  I know that various life forms find each habitable, suitable; but I don't know this snake from that, or that lizard from this.  But please know that it is not enough to merely label the terrain as the "desert" and that that word means one uniform sort of thing.  The desert is as varied as the lushness of the Smoky Mountains and the Mississippi pines region.  The desert flows from one sort to another, but there are also abrupt geological shifts that reveal themselves in formations of rock that are completely unlike that surrounding rock, as much as the foothills are different than the bayous.  It would be easy to let this unfamiliar landscape seem to blend into a sameness, but it is none of it alike.

East of the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert stretches across the northern part of Arizona, the southern part of Utah, the northern part of New Mexico, and the southernwestern part of Colorado.  The Painted Desert itself is vast and embodies many distinguishable area.  The part of the Painted Desert that lies to the immediate north of the Petrified Forest is the Black Forest.

Jerry is standing next to an Agate Bridge, a petrified tree that formed a bridge.  The sandstone around it has eroded over time, leaving this mineralized tree trunk acting as a bridge over the gully under it.  The striated rock formations pictured to the right are called "The Tepees", part of the Blue Forest, within the Petrified Forest.  We did take other pictures of both the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert, but again, we felt that few of them did justice to the actual views we were looking at.

We did stop at Crystal Forest Museum & Gift Shop and had some very interesting conversations with the staff there.  A young woman showed me some of the various handmade jewelry that the area natives have made, Hopi, Navajo, Apache, Zuni, and Ute.  She talked about some of the stones, the symbols, and the methods.  I was very impressed and tho I don't often wear jewelry, I do have an appreciation of it, especially handcrafted pieces that show skill and have cultural significance.  In the end tho, I was so overwhelmed with the variety that I chose a simple orangish red Jasper necklace that reminded me of so many of the wildflowers that we'd seen along the roadside throughout the trip.  In the southwest, much of the reddish orange we'd seen were squash blossoms.

That afternoon, we drove down thru the Gila Mountains to Silver City, New Mexico.  We spent the night in what had been a convent and then a monastery, and is now Holy Trinity Anglican Church.  It sits in front of the Guadalupe Montessori School.  It was a wonderful evening and felt very peaceful and soothing.  Below is a screenshot of a part of the grounds.

Grand Canyon, South Rim

If the Hoover Dam can be said to be an engineering feat, the Grand Canyon is surely one of the Great Wonders of the Western World.  Well, I mean, it is.  All by itself, the Grand Canyon is utterly awe inspiring.

Originally, when planning this trip, we had thought we would see both the south and the north rim views.  As the crow flies, if it were directly across this huge water-carved canyon, from one rim to the other is a mere ten miles.  However, it takes an estimated four hours to drive around the eastern end, northward and then drop down a bit south to hit the north rim.  That's one way.  Only ten percent of the Grand Canyon's visitors make the trek to the north rim and we'd thought we'd be in that slim selection.

Not to be.

In the effort to maximize our enjoyment while minimizing travel time via vehicle, we decided to forego the north rim views.  In the words of the german husband arguing with his wife, "it's the same view, only backward from there".  I'm not exactly sure that's correct, but the amazing views that we were witnessing from the south side seemed to be enough for us.  In fact, I was perched on one bench for so long that I could have shot a time elapsed shifting of shadows, had I thought of it.

I did take a few videos, with my camera.  As I was videoing the panoramic views, I was providing some commentary, descriptions, dates, etc.  I was being fairly quiet about, but I overheard one woman warn another that she should be careful, that girl is talking to herself.  I didn't bother to correct her, instead I continued talking as I lowered my camera and continued to sit and admire the view.  I discovered that was one way of having the entire bench to myself.  That "unduly embarrassing" filter?  Gone, left it on the desert in Nevada next to the ET Hwy.

I loved seeing the geologic layers of the Grand Canyon, the strata was so clearly distinguishable one from the other.  When reading about the vast coverage of time represented by these layers, it is easy to understand why the 1540 occurrence of  the Hopis guiding the Spanish explorers to the south rim was listed under "recent past".  The visitors' centers do a great job of explaining and demonstrating to their tourists lots and lots about the Grand Canyon, throughout time, its formation and development, the various people who have populated it, the relics found there, the animals and plants that are unique to the canyons, and oh so much more.  There are staff and displays, telescopes set up for viewing, pathways, bike rentals, tour groups, and so forth.  We avoided most of the crowds of the village and stayed focused either on the Canyons themselves or this structure pictured above, which is the south eastern Desert Watch Tower.  The views are amazing and we felt that the pictures we took did no justice to the experience.

That night, we stayed in a cabin in Holbrook.  Jerry bought and made some steaks, potatoes, and salad.  We ate in and enjoyed a quiet evening, away from the restaurant crowds.  I was extremely tired so went to bed early, only to awake a few hours later, having propped myself up on one arm and punched the mattress angrily.  I'd been sleeping quite well on the trip until that point; after that evening, I would have horrible dreams for the remaining nights on our trip, including an episode of sleep paralysis, the first I've experienced in over a year and a half.

Into the Desert

{{By the way, the scenic drive thru the Redwoods is aptly named "Avenue of the Giants"; how cool is that?}}

Sunday evening, we finally escaped California and tootled our way to Tonopah, Nevada.  By tootled, I mean we repeatedly sang, "This Land Is Your Land {this land is my land" and "America, the Beautiful".  If anyone had been with us, they would have been nauseated by our overly dramatically acted out, sweeping arms, loud, off key renditions as we bellowed different ad libbed versions {including a really Really REALLY bad attempt to scat in jazz style; jazz hands I've got, scat I have not}.

Tonopah's accommodations were outstanding; we had a cabin and were able to take long hot steamy showers.  It was my first desert town that I spent any time in and we ventured forth to find a restaurant.  Several places that had been advertised in the office and in our cabin were actually closed.  As in, out of business, not just for the day.  We also passed lots of hotels that were deserted and many other buildings that had not very creative graffiti.  Tonopah had been a mining town and I think when the resources were depleted, the booming economy sounded a sour note and withered into a deflated company condom that was discarded and left behind when the investors moved on.

Monday, Labor Day, Sept 4th, we headed east on Hwy 6 and turned south on Nevada State Route 375, also known as the "Extraterrestrial Highway".  There were signs along the road that warned that cattle may cross the road and that you should watch for this.  There were at least three, possibly even four, ways of phrasing these notices; just to cover all their bases so there was no misunderstanding that yes, the cows roam freely and yes, they may cross the road, and yes, it  is YOUR responsibility to avoid hitting them.  We did pass several herds of cattle, including one exceedingly frisky calf that was feeling his oats and romping about the desert, amongst the sage brush as tho it were on an obstacle course and in training.  It was a rather quiet moment, when we were NOT listening to any audio books and I was watching this energetic calf when Jerry ad libbed, "first we zig, then we zag; then we zigzag quickly".  I'm not sure why I found it absolutely hilarious but I laughed until I suddenly said, "I have to pee."  We'd already left the incredibly kitschy, yet adorable, A'le'Inn Restaurant and there was nothing on the map that I could recall for quite some time.  So after awhile, with the pee urge passing into a more painful territory of "do it!  do it now!", we pulled off the road and I did what I have not done since I was a small child.  I relieved myself behind the passenger door, as tho it were a shield of privacy that would protect me from the gaze of those passers by in the big white extended cab pick up that was crammed full of people.  No traffic for the entire morning, for hours, nothing.  In mid squat, mid stream, a truckful of folks.   The truck actually slowed down, as tho they were going to offer assistance and then rethought that when they clearly saw a rather large white woman squatting next to a small yaris with Mississippi tags.

*sigh*  so much for the "avoid anything unduly embarrassing" pact with myself.

That afternoon, we pulled up to a small ranger's booth standing in the middle of the desert.  I had a flash of the Phantom Tollbooth set up and so missed much of her spiel, catching only "you have a good day now" as we pulled off.  I looked down at the brochure that Jerry handed me and it was for Lake Mead, which I did not realize was a National Recreation Area.  Google maps did not show that to me when I was writing down directions the night before, altho we were on the right road.  So it was really odd for us to have been in the desert for most of the afternoon before and most of that day, then to see this huge body of water nestled down into the rather barren and dry landscape.  It was very beautiful to see the mountains on the other side, which were either dark grey and black or purple and beige.  In a few places, we saw some of the reddish pink layers that were lower to the water level.

Even tho I knew that we were coming up on the Hoover Dam, I mistakenly thought that the actual highway crossed over the dam into Arizona.  So it was a bit of a surprise that there was a new, taller, broader bridge built for traffic, turning the Hoover Dam into a closed loop only approachable at this time from the Nevada side and depositing you back on the Nevada side.  Being that it was Labor Day, it was tremendously crowded, altho I still saw a fair amount of the remarkable features, including the Winged Figures of the Republic, the art deco inspired statues that guard the Hoover Dam.  Also of note were the clocks, one on each side of the bridge, one which announced Nevada time and the other, Arizona time.  Arizona, it should be said, does NOT observe Daylight Savings Time, which I think is an absolutely smart thing to do.  Kudos to them.

That night, we stayed in Kingman, Arizona, in a beautiful cabin and had a great night's sleep in this more than adequately airconditioned place.  The next stop?  Grand Canyon, south rim!

Leaving Portland and heading South

Friday morning, we greeted September and bid Portland b'bye, as we turned the yaris southwest toward the Pacific Coast.  We enjoyed that very much, arriving in Crescent City, California midafternoon.  The airbnb host that evening was a young school teacher with a super sunny disposition.  If I had small children, we'd move to Crescent City just so they could have her for preschool.

We'd gotten there with plenty of daylight, so were able to ride down Pebble Beach Drive and gawk at all the awesome views, including the lighthouse which sat atop its own very large rock {or very small island}, connected to the mainland by a very narrow bridge {one lane if driving a vehicle; but very wide bridge if you are walking}.  We did not go to the lighthouse, we just pulled into the pull off area and viewed it with huge waves crashing up against the rocky base.  It actually was really a house, not just the round tall structure that housed a swiveling light.  Oddly, my hard of hearing husband heard the metronome like tone that sounded all night like.  I did not hear it until my attention was drawn to it, and then I forgot about it again.  So we both slept well.

In the morning, we set off southward thru the Redwoods.  Oh so very impressive.  I could have meandered within their realm for weeks instead of mere hours.  We did not get any pictures of live trees that truly captured their majesty.  I am partial to this shot of a downed section.

We'd stopped at a tourists' gift shop, which we had not done at all the first part of the trip.  It was there that we bought a sapling to bring back with us.  We chatted with the store owner who kept referring to us as northerners {probably heard me speak before he heard Jerry say anything, bless his heart}.  Once we let him know that we live in Mississippi, he heaved a sigh of relief and said, "oh, ok then, that there tree ought to be just fine."  Their shop offered two kinds of trees, one was more hardy than the other.  I think we had gotten the giant sequoia.  The other type was a coastal redwood that is the longest living plants on earth.  I honestly couldn't really tell the difference when I was traveling by the grand beasts, which was which.

Then we took Hwy 1, the North Pacific Coast Highway, almost to San Francisco.  It was Saturday of Labor Day Weekend and as we got closer to the more heavily populated area, more and more vehicles were parked along the road, with crowded beaches far below.  At one point, traffic came to a stand still, it was 6p local time and people were heading home for supper, the sun was setting and temperatures were cooling off.

We turned east, above San Francisco and headed toward Vacaville, where our airbnb for the night was.  I did not have a very good California map, relying on written directions I'd jotted down the night before.  My cell phone is NOT smart and the screen is very small, so connecting easily to the net does not happen, and there is no way to enlarge a map anyway.  Our hosts had left explicit instructions on their airbnb page that check in time was not to exceed 7p.  I texted them to let them know where we were and I thought we'd be there in an hour or so.  Perhaps half an hour late.

*sigh*

Apparently google maps did not take into account that it was Labor Day weekend and we must travel through part of the Napa Valley to reach Vacaville.  I certainly did not even register this and make the appropriate adjustment either.  So after two hours, I texted the hosts again and told them where I THOUGHT we were {no guarantee, tho the cashier at the gas station seemed to be very sure of herself when she said, "but it's shorter if you go this way."} and apologized that we would be later than the 7p check in time.  She texted back, "don't worry, be happy".

I took her at her word.  We pulled into their drive at 9p, opened the door to the car, and stepped out into 110 degree fahrenheit night.  About twenty degrees hotter than it had been on the coast during the day.  Our hosts were great and we loved their big dog, "Moxie".  They seemed to think that Moxie was a blonde lab.  We seemed to think Moxie was a pit mix, but didn't voice our thoughts as he was a sweetie and they were probably hoping we'd agree that yes, Moxie's a very big, broad blonde lab.

{solemnly nodding head}

Sunday found us trying like hell to get out of California only to end up unable to take this road because it was closed, or that pass because it was closed, or this other route because it was closed, or this highway because it was not to be found.  California roads were labeled with very lovely names instead of having route numbers displayed as well.  So instead of looping thru Yosemite and taking the Tioga Pass, we ended up in Lake Tahoe Hell on Labor Day Sunday.

The pretentiousness was heavily scented and I swear I was about ready to break into hives when I overhead the boy at the next table over order two mimosas with casual disdain.  The waitress loudly guffawed and then asked rather incredulously, "champagne?  here?  No, the only alcohol we serve is bud and bud light.  In bottles."  She was shaking her head as she walked away and I felt as tho my world were regaining its balance.  I wanted to reach over and slap the back of the kid's head and then tell the girl that he was with that she could do much better.  But I promised myself before I left for this trip that I would not do anything unduly embarrassing to Jerry and getting myself arrested qualified as unduly embarrassing.  Besides, the girl had that adoring look on her face as tho she was super impressed with this dolt, and ya can't talk reason into a girl who's convinced herself that she is oh so lucky to have this winner around.  Ya just can't.



20 September 2017

Middle Part of Our 3 Week Trip: PORTLAND!

When we got to Portland, it was Friday night, August 25th.  We had enjoyed the previous week's travel, but we were also looking forward to being in one place for longer than a night or two.  But most of all, we wanted to spend some time with Daughter Donna, my husband's adult child whom we did not yet see this summer {if you've been keeping tally, you'll remember we saw all four other kids and grandkids either at their homes in Mississippi or Florida, or they came and spent time with us in Starkville, Mississippi sometime during May to August}.

We greatly enjoyed our visit, complete with me dabbling my toes in the concrete pool and later in the evening, enjoying the home theater experience as we watched the much touted Mayweather and McGregor fight.  I haven't watched boxing in a very long time, like never.  But I surprisingly enjoyed the fight.  Including the various commentary, provided by both the on~air ringside professionals and the in~basement nonprofessionals.  Some of it was quite humorous.  Indeed.

Jerry and I ate out a few times that week, mostly either Mexican or Vietnamese, with some Middle Eastern thrown in for variety.  I'd tried quite a few new dishes, including Poc Chuc, which is a dish from the Yucatan, in southeastern Mexico.  It was pork that had been marinaded in a citrus base, grilled, cut into nice sized chunks, served over rice, with beans and cheese.  The best part of the dish were these pickled purple onions that were very citrusy.  So good.

On Sunday, the 27th, I met with Colby Pfister of Infinity Tattoo on Lombard.  Generally speaking, it's a good idea to visit the shop and meet the artist, so the two of you can discuss the work you want and whether that person wants to do it, when they might be able to fit you into their schedule, and how much it might cost and what sort of time frame it might take to complete.  They often draw up the piece based on your descriptions and you can decide if that works for you.  It's called a consultation and most artists prefer to do it in person.

However, I knew that I was going to be in Portland for about a week, that most artists' schedules book up ahead of time, and that I wanted to have this tattoo done earlier in the week, so I had some time to start the healing process before we got back on the road, traveling through the dusty desert.  I had contacted several artists in the Portland area about six weeks before I planned to be there, described what I had in mind, and we went from there.  Colby set up the appointment and drew up the center piece, the three blooming flowers {carnation, chrysanthemum, and marigold}.  I'd given him a deposit so that he didn't invest the time into the design when he didn't really know if I'd show, as we'd never met, let alone worked together before.

I was a tad late {this never gives a good impression, so I advise against this}, because I had shown up way early, before the shop was open and went next door to kill some time.  The pedicure took more time than I thought, so I was about twenty minutes late, which I apologized immediately upon arrival for.  We got to work right away, discussing a few things like the vinework for the necklace, which he drew on me after he transferred the stencil of flowers onto my chest.  Then I perched in the chair and he fired up his machine and away we went.

There are many impressive things to say about Colby and the piece he did for me, including his method of tattooing.  I have had a few folks work on me over the years and never had I had anyone with a technique quite like his.  The biggest difference for me was that he dabs instead of wipes.  Wiping excess ink {and beads of blood, perhaps} tends to smear the ink and stretch the skin as well as fatiguing the muscles, especially in delicate areas like the upper chest and neck.  Dabbing doesn't irritate the skin as much and seems to actually use less repeated cleaning of the area, at least that's what it felt like to me.  I had never ever even thought of dabbing up excess ink and clearing the area instead of wiping it.  Due to the placement, it's not as tho I could really watch much of what he was doing most of the time, so I couldn't be sure, but it seemed like he was able to adjust his technique so that he had less ink to clean up anyway.

If you've ever had work done on your chest or neck, you might have noticed that you probably have more plasma seepage than a comparable piece on a less sensitive area like your arm or leg.  Since I have had a bit of experience with various locations as well as artists' work, I was not overly alarmed.  But I am very glad that I was able to get the above picture the following day, after I'd cleaned up the area but before it began to slough and shed.  You can see some bruising and swelling, pink, red, and purple areas; again, because it's a fairly delicate and sensitive area.  I can only imagine how much more irritated the area would have been if it had been wiped repeatedly.

I am hugely pleased and would ask Colby to work on me again if I were in the area and in the market for another tattoo.  I love the design, I appreciated his style and technique, and it was a rather enjoyable session.  I'm glad that the shop was a bit slower than usual, so there were not many interruptions; because even with the steady pace we kept, it was over six hours from start to finish.  Well worth it tho, wouldn't you say?

I also got together with a friend of mine from college, some 25 years ago.  It was great catching up with her and spending the evening over a good meal.  It seems like a life time or two has gone by since we first met, so many changes, relationships, births, deaths, etc.  It was a good time to look back on our own lives and decisions too.  The most satisfying part is that we are both good with where we are in our lives, and that's an awesome place to be.

Jerry and I took the bus and the tram several times over the week.  We revisited one of our favorite places:  Powell's City of Books.  A store so large and varied, ya need a map.

Jerry knew exactly where he wanted to go, so he wasted no time making his way to the gold room, on the first level, where the sci~fi, fantasy, mystery, horror, thrillers, and graphic novels are.  The room right next to it is painted in a coffee hue, which is appropriate, since that is the cafe.  I settled in with the few books I'd selected from the pearl area, on the third floor, on knitting and crochet.  My bergamot tea was perfect, as was the peanut butter cookie.  The woman across the table and I struck up a conversation as I was admiring her belt, a wide leather holster she wore low on her hips, with a pouch on either side, one flap was shaped into a leaf while the other was a rose bud.  The pockets were large enough to carry all her essentials, she'd said.  She had taken it off and spread it on the table so I could take a few pix, but my photo skills leave lots to be desired.

Also while in Portland, Jerry and I met with Donna and went out on the Spirit of Portland, a two hour river boat cruise.  There was a Tom Petty tribute band {Petty Fever}, food, drinks, and a few tour groups involved.  Lots of fun!  The people watching alone was rather humorous and I truly hope that I am as energetic as some of those dancing fools when I'm their age.  Tho, come to think of it, I already am some of their age and haven't got nearly that amount of energy.  The tribute band even had at least one tribute groupie.  It was our last afternoon in the area, as we left the next morning to continue our trip, turning southwest to the coast and following it down thru the redwoods.  More on that part of the trip, our third week, coming up!

14 September 2017

Craters of the Moon

Friday morning, 25th August, dawned crisp and clear, with a the Tetons to one side of us and the Snake River to the other.  We drove west on Hwy 26, heading across the smiley plains of Idaho, mountains pressing in from the north and south.  Our next stop was Craters of the Moon.

If you've never been and you're thinking about heading that way, you ought to make a point of stopping at the Visitor's Center for the Craters.  Most rangers and park staff are pretty knowledgeable about their areas, but these folks are passionate.  I'm not sure how long any of their assignments are for, but one gentleman who was holding a group of kids' attention was demonstrating how the craters were formed, I think he was a permanent, not seasonal, employee.

What was really impressive to me is that the same thermal dynamics that brought us this lava landscape eons ago also is what fuels the geysers today, hundreds of miles to the north east.  The fine blackened grit that stretches for miles is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  All sorts of rock formations are accessible off various driveable loops.

I was amazed at the variety of vegetation growing amongst the rocks.  Bright splashes of reds, yellows, and oranges brilliantly were showcased against black mounds.  Altho I didn't see any animal life, I have no doubt that pika, rabbits, and grouse make their homes there.  It was well worth the few hours we spent rambling about.

Then we headed farther west, pushing on into Oregon.  My brain was full of all the sights we'd seen, all the wildflowers, the fields, the plains, the mountains, the red, browns, sand, black, and orange hills.  I thought of all the animals we watched cross roads and valleys and climb mountains, the elk, deer, goats, and tiny quick lil chimunks.  So many birds, from the tiny sparrows to the huge crows.  I was ready for a bit of a rest, to stay in one place for a few days, catch our breath and process the vast variety of the first part of the trip.  In short, I was ready to visit with Daughter Donna for awhile, in Portland, Oregon.


YELLowstone and the Grand Tetons

Hwy 212 arcs up into Montana, down past Red Lodge, and then zigzags thru Devil's Pass into Wyoming.  As you can see from the map's screenshot, the road is full of switchbacks and tight curves.  What you don't see is that the views are breathtaking, because you are going up, and up, and up and then down, and up and up and up, and then down, and then up  and up and oh hey! is that snow and ice in August, why, yes, it is! and up again.  There were a few good spots to pull over and enjoy the view, both going up and up and coming back down on the other side of multiple peaks.  Perhaps this view does more justice to the terrain:



Shortly after navigating all that, we entered the northeastern corner of Yellowstone.  Earlier this summer, Jerry bought a lifetime senior pass for the National Park system for ten dollars, and additional ten as it was bought online.  The price went up to $80 August first, and an additional ten if bought online.  Even at that price, it really is a steal, especially if you plan to see multiple parks with others.  The pass covers Jerry plus three other people, which came in very handy, as we ended up going thru eleven fee entrances for National Parks on this trip alone.

I hardly know where to begin with Yellowstone, it was simply amazing.  Some of the geysers and basins were sending up clouds of white billowing steam.  Others were pretty trippy in glorious multiple layers and swirls of color, from the minerals and sediments reacting with each other in the water and over the stones.  This was one place where I just gawked at everything.

It was sprinkling for awhile, but as the afternoon progressed, the cloudier the sky became.  We didn't care because life goes on and the buffalo roamed about the fields, the meadows, and the middle of the road.  There were young ones who didn't stray too far afield, sticking with their moms; but occasionally, you'd see one dash off, away from the group for a quick sprint and then turn and meander back with a sort of swagger.  There were a few traffic jams, as buffalo always Always ALWAYS have the right of the way, as well they should.  The huge beast can meander as slowly as he wants, take up the whole road, and we all are just awed.  I was watching some of the oncoming drivers as they passed us {because I could no longer see far enough ahead to watch the buffalo} and their grins of delight were contagious.  The picture that we'd taken simply doesn't do any of the sights justice.

Of course, we were able to catch Old Faithful, which was amazing.  Even waiting in the dimming light of dusk during the rain, the anticipation of seeing this for ourselves was thrilling.  At one point, while Ol' Faithful was warming up and spitting lil jets, about three feet high; I glanced to my right and against the dark grey sky, perched above a mountain top, was the most vivid rainbow extending for a good distance into the sky before it began to fade.

By the time we queued up with all the other vehicles leaving the park, it was dark.  Apparently the white SUV behind us was under the mistaken impression that there was plenty of room in front of us and swerved out to pass, directly into the path of oncoming traffic.  There was NO room in front of us, nor now was there any room behind us; but fortunately there is a lower speed set thru out the park and there was also a wide shoulder on the other side of the road.  But the vehicle still ended up going off the road entirely.  Sometimes karma is immediate.

We ended up curving thru the Grand Tetons, heading toward our airbnb for the night in Irwin, Idaho.  If you are ever in that neck of the woods, I highly recommend Buck's Gas & RV.  It is so much more than what you might expect of a gas station or an RV park.   This dude has a lil of everything you might need or want to fully enjoy the Grand Teton's and the Snake River, whether it is a canoe, tube, or bike rental or some snacks for your excursion or a good night's rest in a cute lil cabin for a reasonable price, this dude has you covered.  It's a one man operation, tho he does have a few folk came help him run the register during peak seasons; oh! and his name is not Buck, it's Sean, but he'll answer to Buck, I know because I called him that a time or two.

The place is sandwiched between mountain ranges on one side and the river on the other.  You can't get any closer to both the Tetons and Snake River than that!

Sturgis, South Dakota

The annual Motorcycle Rally that Sturgis, South Dakota is well known; it happened the week before we got there, but there were still folks around and music on Main at a few intersecting streets in the evenings.  Since we had had extra time on Tuesday, what with leaving Lincoln Nebraska at 3a, we were able to see quite a bit.  So on Wednesday 23rd, we just rested for the most part.  We poked around Sturgis some, stopping to spend a mid~morning hours at a diner on Main, just a few blocks from where were staying for two nights.  It was a lovely way to spend some time and just relax.

We sat near the front windows, so we were able to watch lots of what was happening on Main.  There were still lots of folks that were lingering in the area, so we saw some beautiful bikes and various packing, riding, and dressing styles.  From viewing previous year's pictures of the rally, I was glad I missed the crowds.  The older I get, the less tolerant of crowded areas I become.  However, sometimes you have to deal with them, if you plan to see some sites like Mount Rushmore.

Our airbnb host was planning a trip to Asia for this fall and so the three of us discussed various travel related topics, which then lead to him grabbing his atlas and showing me an alternative method to approach Yellowstone than I'd originally planned.  So Thursday morning, we loaded up and bid our farewells, and headed to Hwy 212, a very scenic route favored by bikers and many others.

13 September 2017

Tuesday continued, Blackhills, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Sturgis

Because I've never been a huge fan of cameras, I often forget to take pictures of incredible sights.  I usually am too wrapped up in enjoying the moment.  When I was younger, before widespread internet usage, where you can google all sorts of images, I used to buy postcards on trips, rather than take pictures.  I figured the postcard will have angles I can't always get with my camera.  Besides, at the time, digital was unheard of and you took multiple shots, eating up rolls of film, to be sure you got at least ONE good shot.

Now, I do have a small digital camera.  It's great, as long as I remember to use it.  I have a very small screen on my cell phone too, with lower resolution, so it's not great to use as a camera, but it will do in a pinch.  There again, I often forget that it has that option.

But mostly tho, I forget to take pictures.  It's me, not the camera, at fault.  So the first half of our trip has one picture, but I do have lots of brochures and maps and notes.  Some I can find online, I'm sure, to share.  Some notes tho, exist only in my head. Those will be shared here too, well, most of them.  There are a few that might not be entirely suitable for public consumption.  Like the misreading of the bumper sticker that made Jerry and me laugh belly bursting guffaws that startled the park ranger.

Anywhoooo, this map of the Black Hills & Badlands of South Dakota & Northeastern Wyoming was used so much that I left one copy in tatters and had to pick up another.  That and I love maps.  When I was a kid, I was happy with a map and a dictionary, even if where we were going did not correspond with the map.  Someday I will visit the tri~state area of PA, NJ, and NY and be able to make way way to the Lackawaxen and Delaware, where Zane Grey's home is, provided the roads haven't changed in the past forty years.

I think this will be my last post of the day, I'm going astray here.

So that Tuesday afternoon, of the 22nd, back in August, we drove outta the badlands and the Pine Ridge, right over to the Black Hills.  We skirted Rapid City and zipped down 79, ooohing and awwing at the looming mountains, the granite faces of which were looking pretty shear and not supporting much growth.  Then we took a sharp turn on forty and merged with the traffic flowing toward Mount Rushmore.  I was decidedly underwhelmed with Mount Rushmore when I actually saw it.

Lemme 'splain, Lucy; lemme 'splain.  See, we've all seen these huge up~close pictures of the faces of our four presidents.  But we don't usually see them from afar, from the perspective of what the typical viewer of the actual Mount Rushmore would see.  We don't see the faces nestled into the surrounding mountain ledges and faces.  So when we do see these sixty foot faces, we're all like, wow, sixty foot face!  Four of them!  woah!

But when I saw them, they seemed so small compared to what I expected, what I had built up in my mind.  I was thinking I would veer around the mountain side and up head would be looming Washington's nose and it would scare me, from the sheer size of this monument.  So when I actually did see it, from afar, from the Avenue of Flags, I was kinda disappointed.  I felt like, dude, that's it?

Then I caught myself and realized 400 men worked on that.  I looked at the features and imagined men crawling across the surface, hanging in harnesses, as they chiseled away, sculpting the finishing touches on this one's nose and that one's eyebrow.  I looked at Washington's lapels and thought about the detailed attention.  Then I could appreciate it all, a little.

Perhaps it also had to do with the crowded chaos around me, the people walking their non~service pets around and past signs that forbade you from bringing your animals farther, the smokers leaning next to the No Smoking signs, the obnoxious children who sniveled and whined, the multitudes of inconsiderate people who stop to take their pictures completely mindless of others moving behind them in the walkway.  Perhaps it had to do with the heat and sun and discomfort of standing for too long, listening to the woman berating her husband for bringing the wrong camera, watching people climb up to perch on rocks when the signs clearly ask you not to do that.  Perhaps I was feeling peevish anyway and this all just made me feel more irate.  But I was super glad to leave the maddening crowds of ill mannered people behind and seek refuge in my vehicle.

As we drove the seventeen miles to Crazy Horse, I sat back and enjoyed the mountains, refusing to look at traffic, but instead, keeping my gaze slanted upward, toward the peaks and cliffs and sky.  For as much as I was underwhelmed with Mount Rushmore, I was that much impressed with Crazy Horse.  They seemed to have put much thought into every aspect of the ongoing project as well as the visitors' center, the museum, the collections, the stories told, and so forth.  I've included a link, but there are many sites online which discuss Crazy Horse the man and also the monument.  I urge you to take a look, especially if you are unfamiliar with either.

They plan to spend the next five years or so, focusing on the hand and the upper part of the horse's mane, of which the extended hand rests.  Yes, it will take considerable amount of time and work yet and it may never be completed as there are several controversial points of view to consider; but the amount of work, the type of imagination and creative forces at play, this one family's story and determination, and the message brought forth is intensely impressive to me.  We left that memorial feeling awed and hopeful in ways that the white granite faces of four {which could all fit on the side of Crazy Horse's head} failed to inspire.  This reddish brown mass of sediments that made up that mountain was easily visible to us later was we found an unbeaten dirt path which took us to the top of a high mountain, allowing us to look out over the other mountains, down into canyons, and gave us a respite from the touristy towns below.

We saw mule tailed deer and chipmunk, wrens and sparrows, and towering rock formations with cracks and crevices from which pine trees grew.  We did not see the big horn rams the road signs below warned us to watch for.  We didn't see sure footed goats perilously clinging to the side of rocky mountain faces.  We did see huge pick up trucks that were meant and probably needed for these dirt roads, especially during the winter months.  And we saw more than a few puzzled or amused looks when our lil yaris bounced along the track, crossing over the cattle gap, kicking up a low lying cloud of dust as it passed by.

That night, as the last of the day's light left the sky, we pulled into Sturgis, down Main, past the myriad of biker shops, leather shops, tattoo shops, bars, and diners.  We found our airbnb for the night and met our host, who had a few suggestions for us the following day, as we stayed in Sturgis for two nights.  More on Sturgis tomorrow!


Day 3, Tuesday 22 August

Later in the afternoon, on Monday the 21st, we pulled into Lincoln, Nebraska.  We were a bit disappointed that we didn't see the Solar Eclipse, but knew there would be many pictures and videos and stories shared by others; so we weren't too upset.  We found a steakhouse right on the main highway, a place called "Cheddars {made from scratch kitchen}".  There we ordered steaks; of course, what else would you order in the middle of the plains?

Jerry's rare steak came out just the way he wanted.  As did my medium well ribeye.  The sides were forgotten, but I do remember the warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream.  So good, almost as good as the perfect steaks, but not quite.  The steaks had a fresh rosemary seasoning that worked well to set just the right note of great taste, texture, and smell.  If we ever return to Lincoln, we would make a point to find Cheddars and sample their steaks again.

Our airbnb hostess showed us into our quarters, the basement of a 1950s ranch style home that had been made into an apartment for her daughter when she was in college.  We were both asleep by 9p, the earliest I think either of us have been tucked in for years now.   Early bedtime meant early to rise, way Way WAY too early.  We both woke around 2a and lay there til about 3 and then got up, admitting we weren't going back to sleep.

Originally, I'd planned to visit the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, which was closed on Mondays.  But on Tuesday they were to have a noon lecture, as well as starting their public tours at 11a.  Since we woke so early, I couldn't see waiting around for that long, and after leaving a note to reassure the host that our accommodations were fine and apologizing for setting off the Wiener Patrol {she had two dachshunds that would most likely raise a ruckus when they heard us leaving the basement by the side door, and they did, a fine raspy rowdy ruckus indeed}; we loaded the car with our bags and head west young man, head west!

By the time the sun greeted Tuesday morning, we had already stopped at an Iron Skillet, one of the few actual sit down restaurants at truck stops that remain in business.  We were just about to turn northward, heading thru the Niobrara River Valley and the Sandhills.  I'd also picked up a brochure focused on Nebraska's roadside flowers and grasses.

We were well into the plains and were beginning to see vegetation that we don't normally have in Mississippi.  There were fields of yarrow, poppy, sunflowers, black~eyed susan, sandreed, wheatgrass, wildrye, and needlegrass.  We were beginning to see vast ranches and altho we still had rolling hills, everything was carpeted with various green and colorful vegetation; but nothing that was taller than waist height.  We did see some cattle, occasionally; but mostly, it was just miles of fields with the smattering of groups of well tended and neat clusers of buildings.  The houses were often multistoried, but still smaller than the big huge barns.

There were hundreds of miles where we did not pass another vehicle, it was very peaceful and soothing.  Then we drove into a small town called Valentine, Nebraska; just before we crossed into South Dakota.  They had a small visitor's center, but the t~shirts weren't my size.

We'd been listening to Peter Cozzens's "The Earth is Weeping:  The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West".  Much of the countryside we would view that day had been the locale for many of the skirmishes that were being discussed one those specific disks that we were listening to.  It was sobering and thought provoking.

Once in South Dakota, we turned west, leaving the sandhills, riding into the Badlands.  We were on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  I do a fair amount of knitting and crocheting for charity and have donated many hats, scarves, and afghans to Pine Ridge over the years.  I wanted to see for myself this place that was so destitute, and yet so very large.

It's bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, a huge sweeping land of plains and buttes and mesas and layered rock formations with startling bright colors.  A land of dry dirt and loose gravel, the vegetation no longer lush and verdant.  The sage brush and other scrub brush grew no taller than my knees.  The few and far between trees grew low and twisted, close to the ground, as tho hunched from the winds.

Gone were the sprawling ranches, well tended and manicured buildings.  Deserted mobile homes dotted the prairie now.  The occasional home stood back from the highway, down a dirt road, in the middle of a space that seemed to exist isolated and alone.  Multiple vehicles clustered around several small single wide mobile homes.

Pine Ridge is one of the poorest places in the USA, it was THE poorest until a couple years ago, when two other reservations in South Dakota became even more impoverished.  The land is huge and sprawling, yes; but only about 25% of it is suitable for agriculture.  Less than thirty thousand people live on the Reservation.  Little to no local work is to be had, there are no thriving economic sources, no industry, no agricultural base, no sustainable cottage industries that can adequately support a family, let alone a multigenerational family that live together in a trailer.

The land is barren and eerily beautiful, but the area youth flee as soon as they can.  We'd stopped for lunch at the Wagon Wheel, a rather run down bar that served buffalo burgers, fries, and pizza.  And lots of alcohol.  We talked the barkeep, she grew up there, just down the road, she nodded a bit to the south, on a ranch that her family had had for generations.  She was a white woman, she said that in her classes at school, her family ranked among the wealthiest, but compared to out there, she nodded to her truck with Rapid City plates, they were dirt poor.  "Still," she shrugged, "now I appreciate the beauty of all that, I missed it all when I was a kid."  She sighed and stared off, "I thought I was really something, getting out, going to Rapid City.  My brother owns this place, it ain't much, but it's a helluva lot too.  I drive down from Rapid to help him out."  I asked how far that was, and she shrugged again, "oh, about 75 miles, give or take.  One way.  How you like them burgers?"

A few more words about Pine Ridge:  unemployment is between 80 and 85%; a full half of the residents live beneath poverty level; many families have no electricity, no phone, no running water, and no sewage system; most folks have no health care or inadequate access to health care, and yet, some of the highest rates of depression, suicide, diabetes, alcoholism, drug addiction, malnutrition, and infant mortality of the USA can be found right there, on Pine Ridge.

I'll continue the rest of Day 3, our trip into the Black Hills of South Dakota in the next post, leaving behind the poverty of Pine Ridge and entering into the glitz and glam of Deadwood and the motorcycle rally center, Sturgis.

TOTAL ECLIPSE, zero visibility

So day two of our trip started with us bright eyed and bushy tailed in Joplin, MO.  Our hosts had a busy day planned for themselves; especially Torrie, who taught Astronomy at a local university.  However, they were fretting over the cloud cover and were avidly watching the meteorologist's report on the morning news to see if the skies were to clear in enough time for the lunchtime solar eclipse.  We left, to head to St Joseph, thinking that perhaps the sky was clearer there.

That was not to be, as it became increasingly clear to us that the cloud cover was there to stay for at least the day.  The sky was a solid sheet of grey, the sun did not even peep thru a bit.  It was overcast for the entire drive along Kansas and Missouri, north to Kansas City.

Along the highways were huge digital signs announcing "SOLAR ECLIPSE TODAY:  NO STOPPING ON THE ROAD OR SHOULDER".  At the exits, many trucks were parked with people sitting in their lawn chairs in the truck bed, wearing their special glasses, gazing up at the cloud cover in vain.  The roads remained fairly empty of city traffic, which was eery, as I've been thru Kansas City during lunch hour and it's no picnic.

But this was like a stroll in the park, just as easy as a breeze.  There was us and then too I think there were several large rigs and a smattering of law enforcement.  So as we neared St Joseph and I could tell our cloud cover was not going to clear off, I gestured to Jerry to keep driving.  If you didn't know there was an eclipse happening, you'd think that there was a bad storm brewing; the sky darkened and we hit the lights for about half an hour.   At about 1:06, the dark deepened and a few minutes later, the day began to lighten again.

Our Shaded Noontime was rather anticlimactic.  But we made excellent time to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Our trip: Day 1: Sunday 20th August 2017

Sunday morning, the 20th of August, I awoke feeling somewhat nauseated and a little anxious.  I couldn't put my finger on it.  We'd packed for the trip the night before, leaving some items to load until the morning, like a cooler with frozen bottles of water that would keep the unfrozen drinks cool and our medicine, computers, pillows, etc.  We were both excited for the trip and looking forward to it.  But for some reason, I was almost panicked and having a difficult time getting myself to calm.  I felt like I needed another shower, even tho I had just taken one.  I was incredibly hot and that made me worry about later in the trip and how I would fare when we crossed the desert; yes, our yaris has air-conditioning, but there was no guarantee that it would be able to handle the triple digits of the dry desert.  Then I reminded myself that it's been a good lil car and has handled triple digits of moist Mississippi heat and let's not go beggin' or borrowin' trouble.  As anyone with anxiety disorders can tell you, sometimes there is no rhyme or reason for when or what will trigger it.  But this particular spell didn't last for long; by the time we said goodbye to our three lil dogs, Sophie, Chiquita, and Libby, I was ready to go.  I reclined the seat and rested to achieve a calmer state and by the time we pulled into Waffle House for breakfast in Winona, about an hour's drive to the west from Starkville; I felt much, Much, MUCH better.

Our plan was to head up I55 to Memphis and catch I40 west past Little Rock, then take the scenic AR 7 north thru the Ozarks.  It's one of the top scenic drives in the USA that National Geographic recommends.  I heartily recommend it too!

We did have a slightly off putting moment or two in West Memphis at the Arkansas Welcome Center.  One of the two employees had asked Jerry where he was from and at his reply of Mississippi, she quipped, "Oh, I'm sorry."  Thing is, this is our home, where we choose to be.  Mississippi does have its faults, sure, but there are many good things about Mississippi too.  Someone who is acting as a welcoming ambassador should not put down your home, even if they view doing so as a joke.  Jerry wears a billed cap which proudly proclaims that he is retired Coast Guard, he was in active service for over twenty years.  After he retired from the military, he worked in the food service industry for a few years before he worked for Mississippi State University.  He then worked at MSU, in the Vet School's library, working with students, faculty, and staff.  He retired from that in 2015.  So you might say that he knows a thing or two about working in a service oriented industry, especially dealing with the general public.  So when we have great encounters, we are sure to compliment them and also to let their superiors know that they did a great job.  We do the same if there is terrible service; so that night, he wrote to the Arkansas Department of Tourism.  Other than that tho, we were determined to kick off our trip with good spirits, so didn't let that get us down.

So we set off on AR SR 7, thru a fair piece of the Ozarks, a mountain range that Missouri and Arkansas share.  For those of you familiar with Lil Abner, you may recall that for a time, there was a themed amusement park that focused on the Lil Abner characters.  The now defunct park is closed to the public, but you can still see quite a bit as the road travels along portions of the creek, campground, and several buildings.  You can read all about Dogpatch USA here.

Scenic 7 twisted and curved, climbing up and then dipping down, cautioning you to drive slowly.  We gawked at the Buffalo National River, cutting a swath thru the valleys, over the years creating a grand canyon of the Ozarks, different in presentation but similar in creation as THE Grand Canyon in Arizona.  I'd picked up a brochure on the wildflowers because there were some that I didn't recognize at all, tho many I did.

Mexican Hat, Queen Ann's Lace, Black~Eyed Susan, chicory, Cardinal Flower, Purple Coneflower, Rose Vervain, Goldenrod, Plains Coreopsis, Butterfly Weed, and Tickseed grew plentifully along the highway, into the fields, down the valleys, and up mountainsides.  We saw a few barn quilts, too.  I read that the Buffalo is this country's first national river; I didn't even know we had national rivers!  It was all lushly beautiful.

For lunch, we stopped at the Ozark Cafe, in Jasper, Arkansas.  It's one of the oldest continuously operating restaurants in the state.  It's on the National Registry of Historic Places, as the original Ozark Cafe was opened in 1909 and served only one item per day, either a soup or a stew.  One bowl cost a quarter.  It today's market that 1909 quarter would be $6.50!

One of the reasons Lil Abner's theme park did not succeed for long is because Branson is able to attract many entertainers that it could not.  Branson and the Pigeon Forge/Sevierville/Gatlinburg area of the Smokies share many of the same entertainment companies, which provide venues for variety shows, musicians, plays, etc.  Lil Abner's and Branson only sit an hour or so apart.  There were other reasons for the park's demise, including the retirement of the artist who drew the comic strip, so folks became less familiar with the characters.  But speak to most anyone who grew up in the sixties, and they can tell you something about the movies and tv shows featuring those comic strip characters, including Schmoo!

We pulled into Joplin, Missouri to spend the night with our airbnb hosts late.  It was almost ten and we brushed our teeth, after saying our hellos, then fell into the very comfortable bed.  In the morning, we set off for our drive north, intending to witness the solar eclipse from St Joseph, a bit north of Kansas City, in totality.  But that was not to be...

I'm back!

In more ways than one.

I hadn't realized that it was so long since I posted, wow.  Skipping over lots that has occurred since then, I do want to highlight a few points.  In May, my Jerry's oldest grandchild graduated highschool and is now starting college.  Oh my!  I remember nine year old him, coming over to help PawPaw by picking up around the yard, fallen limbs and branches, raking together trimmings from the hedges, and hauling it all to the burn pile.  Obviously, he's grown lots over the past nine years, but wow...it's amazing to see where he is now in life, the person he has grown to be.

Over the summer, Jerry's youngest came to stay with us for awhile.  She's graduating college this fall and usually takes most of her classes online.  But there are times when she takes some in the classroom.  This summer, she took a couple classes and we got to spend time with the youngest grandchild, who turned two in July.  Talk about changes!  A baby's growth truly is mind blowing.

Also during this summer, we went to visit Jerry's sons.   His youngest son is in the military and his family was getting ready to leave Florida and move to Virginia.  It was great to be able to spend a few days with them and to see how their toddler has become a little girl.  Today, she turns four!

Jerry's oldest son and his family are in their new home on the coast; far enough inland to survive most of the storms' flooding, I think.  His wife is due to deliver next month, a lil girl, which will be a bit different for them as they've had almost nine years with their son.

A few weeks ago, we visited with my husband's daughter in Portland.  While there, I met up with a college friend from back in the day, whose daughter is a senior in highschool.  *sigh* It feels so odd to be in this age bracket {"welcome to my box", I think as I check off the appropriate category on surveys}.

It's great to know that everyone is doing fine, for the most part, in all aspects.  Sure, there are some things that can be better, there always is.  But there are many things that could be worse.  And for the most part, I think everyone is happy and healthy.  So that's awesome.

The other way that I'm back, is because we just returned home from a three week long, 7200 mile trip.  It's the trip I want to focus the next few blog entries on, so get ready for some stories, some pictures, and plenty of good times.

A few months ago, when we began planning our trip; we started with listing a few sites we wanted to visit, places to go, things to see, and used this to help us map out our trip.  My Scenic Drives has lots of neat features, some of which I relied on while planning and some I used heavily afterward.  And it's free, so yea!

We also used airbnb for finding places to bunk down for the night, or in a few cases, two.  We were able to find exactly what we wanted, where we wanted, for the price range we wanted.  We also learned a thing or two about our preferences {private bathroom, please} and what works for us {flexible check in and check out times}.   Overall, we were extremely pleased and recommend the service to others; we'll be using it again, for sure.

So I'll probably either do each day as an entry or post various portions of the trip together.  But here's a general picture of the overall trip:


27 January 2017

Shouldering the Mantles Left Behind

I hadn't realized that it had been months since I last posted.  So this is long overdue.  These past few months have been good, overall; with a few splashes of not so good thrown into the mix.  I've been focusing moreso on crochet and knitting, on a daily basis, so finishing up some projects, starting some, etc.  There will probably be a separate post about that, with pictures of current stages and all.

This post is a bit more somber.

Last fall, with the death of my mother's brother, the last of my maternal grandmother's children died.  It made me think about the passage of time, how generations of young become generations of aged, and how eventually we all go thru the dying and death process and yet, most of us are so ill prepared in this society to even think about end of life, dying, death, and grief.  Those remain taboo subjects of a sort, with intense associations and responses.

Many near and dear friends in my generation are looking at these issues with some depth, for the first time, with a parent's passing.  In my family, we are shifting our views from the elderly to the younger generation that is now becoming the elderly, the oldest of this generation are now the oldest in the family, period.

My husband, who is in many ways, in the generation that is a tad bit older than me, is now the oldest in our family.  His father died in 1991, his mother died in 2015.  His mother was an only child, tho his father had siblings, the last of whom, we will bury today.

At age sixty, my husband became an orphan.  It's not an easy concept to grasp at any age, being without a parent, let alone two of them.  At 61, he's now the eldest in the family, even extended family.  We don't have a well defined position with meaningful importance in our society for this person, tho most of us intuitively understand that that person holds untold amounts of knowledge, that that person often holds the keys to history in a way that we cannot fully grasp at that time.

Today, my husband's first mother in law, his children's grandmother, died.  She was 82, leaving a son, his son, and other grandchilden as well.  Calls were made, trips are planned, adult children and adult grandchildren are returning to home, to pay their respect, to say their goodbyes, to take on the mantles that are now left behind.

23 October 2016

beeeee good

Starkville Oktibbeha County School District's mascot is the yellow jacket.  My husband is very supportive of their sports' teams, in particular, their football team.  In large part, this is probably because his mother, he, and his kids had all gone to school there.  Two of his grandkids went to school there for a few years, too.  Since then, they've moved on and now live elsewhere, where yellow jackets are considered pests and not a point of pride.

Years ago, when I first met Jerry but before we were even engaged, I knit on a loom a very long tailed, shaped yellow and black stinger hat with a deep brim.  Since then, he asked me to affix a retired Coast Guard patch the rim's front.  Now, when the weather warrants, he wears his hat to his  Friday night football games.  Folks usually ask him where he got it and if his wife would consider making and selling one for that particular person.  It tickles me, but I am super glad that he doesn't volunteer me, since I don't like working on deadlines.  Besides, I wouldn't sell themed hats, for several reasons.  One is that I'm not licensed to use the Georgia Hornet {which has leased its mascot usage to SOCSD to use as its yellow jacket.  The other reason I don't sell my yarned works is because very rarely would this be considered profitable.  Handmade items are usually labor intensive and that alone would drive up the price.  I tend to make stuff with particular recipients in mind, and then give those completed products as gifts.  For one thing, it avoids the entire entitlement aspect of what a paying customer might think is justifiable demands on their part.  And no one's feelings get hurt on either end of the transaction.

Having said that, I am way behind on projects that I've started, worked on, almost but not quite completed for others.   Several folks are waiting for their afghans, tho they are not pressuring me, they do ask from time to time.  Sometimes, I will work on something for someone, and they won't realize it is for them until I tell them that I am almost done.  Then for whatever reason, I end up setting the item aside for an indeterminant amount of time.  Eventually, I complete the project, but it's almost anticlimactic when I do.

So it seems to defeat my purpose to start a new project, but sometimes, I just can't help it.  Projects press me into working on them.  They might prey on my mind, demanding my attention, until I begin dreaming of them.  Case in point, my husband has shared with me this picture he found online of a sneering hat.  I know that if I made it, he'd wear it.  And I love making stuff for folks who appreciate gifts.  So I foresee this as being a quick project that would be completed within a weekend.  Now that our weather is cooling off, hats are "in".

Also, I can't keep a secret.  I used to be able to keep them and did so.  But no more.  I had planned to make this for Jerry, since he does use blankets to keep warm while watching TV or reading.  I saw this awhile back and thought, hm.  But at the time, I didn't do anything toward that end because Jerry has a multitude of throws, none of which I've made.  He used to use a Raiders throw and then an MSU one, and of late, it's been a Dr Who one.  But I think I'll give the throw a go!

It's like a snuggle sack, but open in the back and only done in the round from the knees down.  I think I'd skip the white wings and just do the stinger and body as the main part.  I'd also do it longer so that it can extend up his chest and so that a doggie or two can fit under it with him.  All three girls tend to pile up with him in the cooler weather.  Libby usually sacks out along his right thigh, sometimes on the blanket, sometimes under.  Chiquita is always to be found under the blankets, usually between his shins, keeping the lower part of his legs nice and toasty.  Sometimes Sophie curls up on his thighs, or sticks her nose out from the blanket so that she can breathe fresher, cooler air.

I'll post pix as I go.  But I'm warning ya, I'm not yet ready to start on these.  I've been chomping on the bit at another possible project and I want to have a go at it first.  More on that later.

10 October 2016

the passing of an age

Ms Foxy, my mom's cat that had been her brother's.
This past weekend, my uncle died.  We've not been particularly close over the past twenty years, since I've moved to the South, leaving Pennsylvania.  But as a child, then as a teen, I do have fond memories of the times I spent with my aunt and uncle.  I spent many weekends with them, just outside of town, at their little house on the hill overlooking the dam where the area kids swam in the summer waters.  When my cousin was a baby and into her toddler years, I watched her often.  We called her "Pipshin" at the time.  She grew out of that nickname, I'm sure.  My uncle had adopted her when he was in his mid~forties, the age I am now.  He had had an entire lifetime before she came along, and yet, his most important role would be as her father, that would last him another thirty years.  He died at just 74.

Foxy lived til the ripe old age of 18.
My mother was five years younger than he was.  He was the closest sibling in age to her, with three older brothers than that yet.  All of them are gone now, my mother included.  It saddens me, in that mild way of resignation, not sharp horrifying painful grief, that all my Grandma's five children have died, passing from this earth, residing here for such a relatively short time.  Mild resignation because that is the way of the world, that time marches on and we age, cycling through our lives, dying off, and yet time continues, sloughing through generation after generation.

Last summer, I saw a few of my first cousins, other grandchildren of Helen Evert, nee Blass.  I also visited with some distant relatives, of extended family, grandchildren of our grandmother's siblings, grandchildren of those first cousins, grandchildren of grandchildren.  Our Aunts Flo, Ethyl, Lorraine, and a few others from that oldest living generation holding down the fort while the rest of us milled around them like moons revolving around these founding women who birthed generations of variously surnamed beings who have continued the life cycle, taking our places accordingly, here but for a speck of time.