Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Chasing Petroglyphs: Newspaper Rock, Needles and Canyonland

As AdventureMan reads through these posts, he delights in how much he has already forgotten, and he looks forward to reading about what he called “one of our light days.”

I look at him in astonishment. As occasionally happens, I remember things very differently,

“We got a relaxed start,” I begin, which in our language means we did not hit the road at the crack of dawn, but maybe around 0830, “but we were on the road until about 2:00! And it was some tough driving! No place to stop for lunch, we just had apples and oranges by the side of the road.” And water. Lots and lots of water. It was again in the 90’s, and very dry, and there are signs everywhere warning us to drink water.

We don’t have to start from Moab, we just reach SR 191 and turn south. The first thing we come across is Wilson’s Arch:

And another place called Hole in the Wall, but I can’t tell if it is a famous Hole in the Wall or an adventure outfitting place. There is an ATV perched precariously on the top of the cliff.

We turned off 191 to go to Canyonlands, and soon came to Newspaper Rock.

Early on, I mentioned how fragile and transient petroglyphs can be. We don’t really know who made them. We know that many of the earliest petroglyphs incised were written over, improved, by later early peoples. And then, modern day man, who had done the most damage of all – carving his initials over ancient glyphs, removing glyphs, defacing glyphs, rubbing glyphs (thus eroding their edges and making them more vulnerable to weathering elements), chalking glyphs to make them more visible, even touching glyphs leaves chemicals that damage the quality of the glyphs.

When we got to Newspaper Rock, we parked at the wrong end of the parking lot and ended up on a trail going entirely the wrong way. AdventureMan kept saying he thought we needed to go back, but the further along we got, the more I thought we were on the right track – until the track ended. We walked back, and just at the other end of the parking lot was the Newspaper Rock – near the road and protected by a large grill.

The thing is – I saw others, too, nearby. I am so thankful they protected Newspaper Rock, because through the years many of the incisions have been defaced. I am hoping that the others are being protected by the very lack of trails and signage, by the lack of publicity. It’s a pity we should have to protect the petroglyphs from our own citizens.

On the wrong track, but the track led to more surfaces

Back on the right track

I think of Newspaper Rock as a kind of scratch pad. Even Leonardo da Vinci, the great inventor, engineer and artist, made sketches before he executed a masterpiece. I can see traces of the Fremont peoples, and I can see scraps of petroglyphs we have viewed in Vernal.

AdventureMan found Newspaper Rock a very emotional experience. He felt connected to these early people. When I look at these footprints of all sizes dancing around, I feel their joy. And look at the hand – that is almost modern in it’s representation of a human hand; and I think back to the petroglyphs at White Mountain which may have represented the human hand or may have represented the terror of a bear claw. These feet are so happy, and, interestingly, so similar in form. I wonder how they were formed?

I’ve broken the wall into different panels with photographs; taken in total, it is overwhelming.

Much more modern era; we see horses introduced

Those lines – snakes? Rivers? Directions? A life?

I would guess this central figure is a shaman, with what coming off his headdress? Some kind of special decoration on his legs? The target symbol, as opposed to the spiral? The smaller horned man? All those animals – prayers for a good hunt? Celebration of a good hunt?

This one intrigues me – a scorpion? It is just weird!

A dancing bison? Look at the feet and . . . um . . . feet; they are very hoof like. An elk with a magnificent rack and maybe a spear in it’s side?

These last two are not with the others. I believe some well-meaning guide has chalked them so that visitors can see the faint traces.

And this is what the Newspaper Rock looks like in total.

We were no longer alone. Visitors from all over the world were coming, looking and photographing.

We drove to the end of the drivable-without-dire-warnings road. The scenery was increasingly arid and bleak, with it’s own terrible beauty. At one point, we were about to hike out to an old dwelling cave, and we looked at each other. It was noon, and signs everywhere were saying “do not hike in the hottest hours” and it was HOT. We drank some water, ate some oranges, got back in the car, reluctant to pass on an adventure, but happy to pass on potential disaster.

There was actually a ranch out here, and this was the last water we saw. It’s still Spring.

Just a half mile there, and a half mile back . . . we passed.

June 13, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Public Art, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Arches National Park and Moab

I love that Arches NP has gone to a reservation system during the busy months. Everyone has an equal shot; you can book a time a couple months in advance. We love the morning light, so we have booked a 7:00 a.m. slot and it is a gorgeous day. There is no line at the entrance booth. There are no crowds at the various arches. It is all so relaxed!

The morning is crisp, cool, and magnificent with a bright deep blue sky.

Please forgive me, I am besotted with the textures and colors and the shapes of the rock and I have yet to show you a single arch.

Our preference, at Arches, is to drive to the very end, to Devil’s Garden, and hike while it is still cool, and then stop at the other arches on our way back. But we always have to stop at the one on the way.

I think this is Delicate Arch from below

I love these rocks that look like Aliens; this rock is on the hiking route up to Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch for sure

A wealth of arches!

Because I can’t resist a good mountain 🙂

We hit the visitors center at Arches, then headed into Moab for lunch. It was around 11, so we were the first seated at Pasta Jay’s, where AdventureMan had a Caprese salad and Saturnalia pizza and I had a pizza Rustica, which was a garlic pizza base and Caesar salad on top. We split a Tiramisu, delicious.

Arches National Park Visitors Center

When we picked up our Thai food last night, we could smell the pizzas from Pasta Jay’s, so we really had no problem choosing where we would go for lunch. Pasta Jays!

The heat in Moab is so dry that it is still cool enough to sit outside to eat. The setting is delightful, but oh! The noise! The Main street of Moab is full of trucks with heavy rumbling loads, squealing breaks and loud engines. There are Vans pulling ATVs, trailers full of kayaks and canoes, a constant, endless flow of noisy traffic.

But the food is delicious.

Caprese salad

Saturnalia Pizza

Pizza Rustica – a Caesar Salad on a thin pizza crust

Fabulous Tiramisu

We are thoroughly satisfied with our lunch, and we are delighted also to head back to the peacefulness of our cabin.

So this is not like FaceBook, this is the real world. In the real world, not everything is perfect. We are really happy to have a beautiful, quiet cabin because with all the driving and hiking, AdventureMan’s back is acting up. It’s been tender a couple days. He insists that the hiking in Arches was actually good for his back, but when I bring up canceling our activity for tomorrow, he only resists for a while.

To me, it made sense to cancel, even though it was something we had really wanted to do, hike the Canyon of the Ancients in search of more petroglyphs. It would have meant a two-and-a-half-hour drive down, four hours of hiking, and a two-and-a-half-hour drive back. To me, that did not make sense with a tender back. Life is short. We can do the hike another year, hopefully find a cabin down in the Four Corner area where we can stay and do a more thorough exploration of several nearby areas. Once we canceled, we both felt relieved.

We also had dinner plans, a totally tourist thing, a Sunset Boat Cruise with Canyonlands, and included Cowboy Dinner. All we had to do was show up. It turned out to be really fun, and the dinner, all kinds of BBQ, was surprisingly good. Canyonlands guide Brandon was entertaining and full of good information, he showed us more petroglyphs and arches, and got us back in time for dinner.

Can you find the arch?

Petroglyphs along Potash Road
A couple more arches if you can spot them

A great ending to a great day.

June 12, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Environment, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Tour of the Tilted Rocks

We leave the Wall of Bones to go back to the visitor center to pick up our car and hit The Tour of the Tilted Rocks.

Most of the visitors in this late May time frame seemed to be people in our demographic, 60s and older, people out exploring our country as singles and couples. We saw a couple of groups, and a couple of tours, but most of the people we saw looked a lot like us – retired, with the luxury of time to go exploring.

Most of these people were, like us, physically fit enough to climb the uneven trails, climb a few slippery rocks and hike straight uphill to view the petroglyphs. 

Leaving the Quarry Hall “Wall of Bones,” we got into our car for the “Tour of the Tilted Rocks” and spent the next couple of hours engaging with the spectacular scenery, helped along by both the brochure and the frequent guideposts along the way. We visited four separate petroglyph sites and countless sites of geological and paleontological interest. 

A wealth of petroglyphs! I can see similarities in these glyphs to the Fremont glyphs we saw yesterday, but these are more on the level of scratch sheets, practice for the advanced figures we saw at the McConkie ranch. You can see some elementary necklaces. I overheard in a passing group a person say that square heads are men and more rounded heads are women. I’m not sure that is true, but now I have more to evaluate.

Even the scenery looks a little like dinosaurs

This one is called Elephant’s Foot 🙂

Yet another site; love this . . . headdress? Or is it a jug with flowers – and legs?

The shoulder – waist proportion appears to be still evolving here. I can see a crescent moon and indications that some figures are probably men. Or maybe fertile women, with the moon?

So does the round head mean this is a woman? Her body seems more elaborately patterned than others. She appears to be waving. In some cultures, the spiral indicates long life, but maybe it can also mean a trail of life or a giver of life? More questions than answers 🙂

As the day heats up, these climbs seem more aggressive. We have hats, we have water and the dry heat sucks the moisture out of us.

So, a square head with elaborate patterning, maybe slaying a deer? So no, elaborate patterning is not a female thing.

This site has a lot of lizards

A piper!

I would love to know what this is about. An altar, with celestial bodies above? I wish I had a clue.

On the way back to Vernal, we had lunch at the Naples Country Cafe. I ordered the Naples Country Breakfast, and thank God for a helpful waitress who asked me what kind of gravy I wanted over it all. I hadn’t read it very carefully, just saw that it had a couple of eggs. She advised me to get the Junior version of it, and I asked for no gravy, no cheese. What arrived at the table was two eggs over easy on a plate full of hash brown potatoes, with a sausage, a slice of bacon and a piece of ham, and two slices of sourdough bread with homemade boysenberry jam. I was picky about what I allowed myself to eat, but I did eat all the jam, on half a slice of bread, because it was so irresistibly delicious. 

We got back to our room mid-afternoon to rest or nap a little, and to pack up for our drive tomorrow down to our cabin outside of Moab, Trail’s End at Pack Creek, which we hope will provide four nights of spectacular night sky viewing.

June 12, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, Public Art, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs, the McConkie Ranch

Imagine a ranch at the bottom of a huge long red cliff, a private ranch, which allocates land to public parking and has created a path about a half a mile to the cliffs and then up the cliff itself, to the shelves where the petroglyphs are.

I hope they had volunteers helping, as there were steps and a well-cleared path to help us make the climb. To top it all off, there is no charge. There is a donation box in the parking lot. There is signage, there are marked trails. This is the generosity of the human spirit in action, making these petroglyphs available to those of us who take an interest in them. Not charging us anything, trusting we will donate. Creating paths and a place to park. God bless the McConkies.

We are delighted we can still make this sort of trek. While the path zigzagged, it felt like we were going straight up. In places, we needed to climb up rocks. We were both panting when we reached the top, but oh, it was so worth it. These petroglyphs, were Fremont people petroglyphs, some very simple and dramatic, but many glyphs of people with elaborate necklaces, headdresses (or else they were aliens), and clothing. It was worth every minute of the climb. These are some of the loveliest petroglyphs I have ever seen.

We were very conscious as we climbed that it was dangerous. There were slippery spots, and other places which required some climbing. It isn’t just a matter of fitness, it is also a matter of acclimation to the altitude – AdventureMan and I were both very aware of how vulnerable we are, making these climbs. And we are so exultant when we make it to the top. We can still do this!

What does it mean that there is a circle around so many of the figures? Does it mean they are living? Does it mean they have moved on to the next life? Is it some kind of ancient hula-hoop? What I love are the bodies, the way these figures are more modern, with wide shoulders narrowing to a smaller waist.

Culturally, we tend to think of people wearing earrings and necklaces as female – are these female? No sign of breasts. Are they warriors? Priests? We don’t know.

A purse? A warrior decoration? A metaphor for seeds and falling rain? This is a fertile field for speculation.

Circles. Ear decorations. Necklace. Eyes and Mouth!

I am fascinated by the creature to the left. Some kind of skirt – corn husks? What would constitute a lower covering with separate strands? Gives a masculine feeling, but shoulders not so broad as the others. (Can you see why we chase petroglyphs? So much mystery!)

Parts are lost as rock cleaves and sheds . . . this head appears square, but what is this decorated halo-like circle around the top of the head? What is in his hand – is that a bell of some kind, with a clapper? The head of an enemy? A space suit helmet?

Look – horns! AdventureMan, who loves to yank my chain, says this is clear proof of aliens among us from earliest times, with their space suit and buttons and elaborate decorations.

So many questions. Feathers? What is he holding? What are the extra lines from shoulder to waist? Is that a helmet on his head?

AdventureMan would say that this is proof of jet-propulsion suits. I think it may have more to do with procreation . . . But what about this guy in the lower right, his head is more rounded and he looks like he has antannae?

These crack me up. It looks like a scratch-pad to me, practice for something else. But wait – see below – an entire section appears to have been cut away! Where is it? What is missing? I don’t even begin to know where to start looking for answers.

For me, this interlude, at the McConkie Ranch, physically challenging, in the heat of the late afternoon (but what great light for photos!) was one of the highlights of our trip. I look at this work by an ancient people and I marvel.

We have chased petroglyphs in Botswana and Namibia, in Saudi Arabia, in France, and in the United States. None have enchanted me the way these have.

June 11, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Botswana, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Public Art, Random Musings, Road Trips, Saudi Arabia, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: White Mountain, Eden and the Pilot Butte Ponies

Route for May 22, 2022

This morning, we slept in. Well, 0830 is sleeping in for us, it’s 9:30 in Pensacola and we are up and ready to hit the day. It is a quiet Sunday morning. We have a quick breakfast at the Outlaw Inn, and head out with our friend Google Maps to find White Mountain, and our first petroglyphs of the trip.

It’s an easy drive, just turn right outside the Outlaw Inn and then turn right onto a pretty good County Road. It’s a dirt road, but well maintained. Then we turn onto another county road, a road less travelled. And then Google tells us we’ve missed our exit to White Mountain. What?? There was not a sign of an exit! Not a road sign, not a track, not a visible indicator of a way. We back up. We get out. Oh. There. Faint tire marks turning off the road. AdventureMan goes further on foot to make sure the road continues.

The tracks are more visible once you are actually out in the field. We have an AWD vehicle, we have experience – so we decide to continue on the track. We continue for about half a mile, and the ground is softer. We have visions of being rescued, elderly, dehydrated, because we’ve bogged down out of sight of any road . . . we turn back and decide to follow the county road.

We are so glad we do. Just a couple miles further, we see signs for White Mountain Petroglyphs, and then come to a legitimate turn-off, a marked turn-off. Part way to White Mountain we see those tracks join the road, and we are glad we are not still out there in the field, worried about getting stuck in the sand, no shovels, no cardboard, nothing to help us free ourselves.

Although remote, there is a parking lot, a long-drop toilet, and a clear trail to the base of the mountain, and a clear trail – straight up.

Although Rock Springs is not as high up as Denver, we are still adjusting to the altitude and the dryness of the air. It is still cold, we are glad of it, because the hike heats us up and we take it at a comfortable pace because the air is so dry and our lips and faces are chapping.

Totally worth the hike. While these are not the best-preserved petroglyphs we’ve ever seen, they are original and intriguing. There is also a lot of modern-day petrographic activity of the high school demographic.

Elk

Bear Eating Deer?

The standard rule with petroglyphs (carved into rock) and petrographs (drawn onto rock) is NO TOUCHING. No rubbing, no outlining with chalk, nothing which might degrade the incision or erode the lines. Someone has used chalk, probably a guide, to help viewers understand what they are seeing. If you know anything about petroglyphs, you know that we can speculate, we can ask modern-day First Nation people, and in the end, it is all speculation. Are they celebrating a triumphal hunt? Are they imploring the spirits to be available for the hunt? Are these incised bear claws a tribute to the bear’s strength? A brag about a bear-clan strength? We can only guess.

Is this a birth petroglyh? Is it celebrating a real event or is it a metaphor? So many questions!

An idea of hands? Bear claws?

Impressive. Deep bear claw impressions – how long did it take to make these?

The zigzag – is that for long life? A direction to go for game?

Some are really hard to see on the rock faces, depending on the light and angle

View from White Mountain of Boars Tusk and Killpecker Sand Dunes, the largest living sand dunes in the USA

Boars Tusk is the remnant of an ancient volcano thrust 400 feed above the plain; an instantly recognizable landmark for hikers (and people looking for White Mountain.)

Boars Tusk with Killpecker Sand Dunes in background

We are pumped. We’ve spent a couple hours traipsing around the mountain, seeking out these obscure petroglyphs, trying to decipher what they were meant to communicate. Bottom line – we don’t know, but we are exhilarated and delighted to have found this site.

The county road loops back around to the main road to Farson, and we know that just short of Farson is the Sweet Water Smoke, a barbecue restaurant we’d like to try. We are famished. Hiking and cold fresh air will do that to you!

We find Sweet Water Smoke and are delighted. It is small, and four of the five tables are taken, which leaves one for us. The entire time we were there, people were coming and going, take out orders rolling out the door, this place is humming with activity.

And no wonder! This is not ordinary barbecue! Their cole slaw is Sriracha cole slaw. They offer roasted brussel sprouts as a side, along with more traditional baked beans, macaroni and cheese, etc. I was just blown away to find roasted brussel sprouts as a side in a small Wyoming town. We remember one time traveling through Wyoming when we felt desperate for vegetables and were told to go to this “wonderful restaurant with a salad bar.” The steak was delicious. The salad bar had potato salad, cottage cheese, jello salad, and macaroni salad.

Sweet Water Smoke changes out two additional entrees every week and features a goat-cheese cheesecake with chocolate ganache. Who could resist?

There is a route we want to follow next, the Pilot Butte Road, which is supposed to be challenging, but I think they may have improved the road since we read the warnings because it was easy with our AWD. Having said that, we passed another group busy changing a tire; the road was dirt and gravel and some potholes. Not what we would consider challenging, but a road where we took care.

We were looking for the herds of wild ponies.

Petrified log alongside the guide sign

No wild horses in sight, but some mind-blowing expanses of scenery along the track. There were inescapable signs of wild horses, piles and piles of signs of wild horses, but we never saw a single wild horse.

Pilot Butte, after which the trail is named

In front of us is a valley where Interstate 80, the old Lincoln Highway, runs. It is also where the Pony Express trail ran before the coast-to-coast railroad took over prompt mail delivery. It makes me sad to see that prompt delivery of mail is no longer a priority for the US Mail system. Here also ran several of the migratory trails as America moved westward. What courage and initiative it took – blasting away hills, bridging canyons and rivers, tunneling through mountains and building across swamps – feats of imagination and engineering. We are in awe of the minds that solved these problems.

June 11, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Geography / Maps, Restaurant, Road Trips, Survival, Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Joe Pickett Guides Us Through the Red Desert, Wamsutter and the Lincoln Highway to Rock Springs, Wyoming

The sun wakes us early the next morning, streaming in our window. The temperature is 22°F and there is a light frost on the ground. All we brought in are our backpacks, so we grab a quick breakfast from our supplies and head out.

It’s a beautiful day at 22°F

“Why would you want to go to Rock Springs, Wyoming?” asked my new brother-in-law with genuine bewilderment, at the end of our trip as we were spending time with him and my sister.

I didn’t know he had been born there, and still has family there. No, we had chosen this obscure route because of a series by C.J. Box about a game warden named Joe Pickett, a series we have both read from book one to book 22. In Off the Grid, Joe is tracking a crazy bear into the Red Desert when he finds a bunch of terrorists and naive young people putting together a magnetic pulse bomb to create havoc in the civilized western world. (Honestly, I don’t even know how to describe the plot to you, sometimes it doesn’t have to make a lot of sense, you just sort of have to roll with it.)

I had never heard of The Red Desert before, and I had driven that stretch of Highway 80, the old Lincoln Highway, several times. It was always just a place to get through, but this time we would be looking at it with different eyes.

It all started in Qaqortoq, on our Wake of the Vikings trip (just type in Wake of the Vikings in the search window of this blog if you want to more about that trip). In Qaqortoq, AdventureMan asked me what I would do if I lived there and I told him I would learn to spin wool, something I’ve always wanted to do. He said “If I had to live here, I would kill myself or drink myself to death.”

On this trip, we passed through several towns about which he felt the same. We like being remote on trips. He doesn’t like the idea of living remote.

The field irrigators are on, and the spray etches patches of fairy ice onto the grass.

It is a beautiful day, and we stop often, just because we can. It is cold, but it is also beautiful. These rocks, we learn, are called fortification rocks, because in territorial wars people could use them to strategic advantage.

note the bullet holes. Bullet holes were everywhere.

There were mountains in the distance capped with white snow. We began seeing pronghorns, and at one point, when we stopped to take a photo, I almost stepped on a dead elk, probably hit by a car. There was no smell, probably because it was still so cold.

Pronghorn

Baggs, Wyoming, is at the border between Colorado and Wyoming and is at the southeastern tip of The Red Desert. Baggs was where AdventureMan said he would kill himself if he had to live in a town with 411 people.

AdventureMan mentions there are routes into the Red Desert coming up, and I counter saying that they are tracks, not routes, and if we were to go in, and get into some trouble, it is very remote and we might be those tragic elderly people who foolishly thought they could survive, but couldn’t. Honestly, I would love to see the Red Desert AND I know we are not the people we once were. I think we could survive a lot, being who we are, and I also know it is not wise, at our age, to tempt the fates. I can’t really tell whether he is disappointed or relieved by my response. My best guess would be – both.

That’s the tip end of The Red Desert in the background. If you look at the Google Map of today’s journey, you will see a big empty space in the middle, a biblical “trackless waste.”

Just around lunchtime, we enter Wamsutter, a boom-and-bust town with several past lives. AdventureMan finds the Hacienda Mendez, where we have our first taste of cactus salad – it is delicious.

Dining area
Bar
Crispy chips and tasty salsa

Cactus Salad – Nopal Salad
Mexican Burger

Shrimp Tostadas

And on we go, down the Lincoln Highway toward Rock Springs, the Red Desert to our left with high tabletop plateaus guarding the tracks leading to the interior, and the Great Divide Basin to our right, along with the Killpecker Sand Dunes (Wikipedia calls them the largest living dune system in the United States. I didn’t know that – did you know that?)

We head into Rock Springs and find our home for the next couple of nights, The Outlaw Inn. I could not resist the name.

They gave us a really great room, with two bathrooms, one with a toilet and shower, one with a toilet and tub. Just pure luck.

Calamity Jane in one of the party rooms

Dropping our gear, we headed out to explore Rock Springs. We wanted to find the college museum, but when we found it, nothing was open. In Joe Pickett’s world, this was where his daughter April went to university, a rodeo college. What we did find was a wonderful museum, the Rock Springs Historical Museum, and a wonderful docent who was willing to answer all our questions. This museum was wonderful. It included a full jail, and a padded cell as well as well-curated exhibits of communications, health care, etc. through the earliest history of the county.

I am eager for tomorrow, when we have a real adventure, searching for the White Mountain Petroglyphs!

June 9, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Safety, Social Issues, Survival, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: A Day for Blizzards En Route to the Elk Hunting Capitol of the World

From time to time, we have a moment of reckoning. We love adventure. We always have. It is wired into our beings. And every now and then, we catch a glimpse of who we might also be, people in their seventies, “elderly” and vulnerable. We realize that today is risky. The weather forecasts are dire. Should we cancel?

We load up the car and head for Snooze, a popular breakfast stop, where I stoke my engine with an oatmeal covered with fruit, and AdventureMan has an omelette with cheese and bacon and hash browns. We stop at Trader Joe’s for an empty liquor box which serves for the rest of the trip as “The Food Box” and keeps our things from rolling around.

Google Maps gets us out of town, on to I-70 and we begin to see little specks of something that might be snow, but we agree that as long as the roads are clear, we are good to go. We do forego the very track-like road for an exit with a more used road, and head north, to Craig, Colorado, The Elk Hunting Capitol of the World.

The higher we got, the colder it got, but lucky for us, it just stayed that way until we left I-70 for highway 40 going north and west through Steamboat Springs to Craig. Here, on the two-lane highway, things slowly got a little dicey. Cars coming toward us were covered with snow. The sleet had turned into a light snow, and the temperatures had now dropped down into the 20’s.

We went through several mountain passes, the snow getting heavier, and beginning to accumulate on the highway. We slowed down. Fortunately, most of the other drivers were also slowing down; you can’t always tell where the ice patches are forming just by looking. We knew we had come through the worst of it when, after the last pass (where I almost felt like I was having trouble breathing) we saw trucks pulling over and taking off their chains, a really good sign.

We were so glad to get to Steamboat Springs. Our short drive had taken four hours, crawling along with low vizibility.

Steamboat Springs is a ski town, with high-end gift shops. This one had a full dinosaur skeleton leg for sale. I could see it in some nouveau-timber-lodge with high ceilings, but I shudder at the thought. We grab sandwiches, enjoy a walk around the town, and head off the few remaining miles to Craig. For a this leg of the drive, we even see some blue sky.

“Why are we going to Craig?” AdventureMan asked, “even though it is the ‘Elk hunting capital of the world?” 

About five years ago, we made a change in our travel habits. I grew up in a family that got up early, drove hell-bent-for-leather as far as we could go, sometimes 12 or 14 hours straight, a habit my husband never loved nor developed. Finally, I figured out there were other options, and we decided on “shorter days and longer stays.” Now, we are much happier travelers, and our adventures have fewer cross moments. 

“Craig is about halfway to Rock Springs,” I responded. “I knew we could drive the whole distance in one day but it would kill us. So I broke the day up, and Craig had these interesting cabins, Wild Skies Cabins. I’m interested to see what they are like.”

I often take a chance on something a little out of our lane, just to see how it works out. Then, I worry that it isn’t going to be a good thing. We found the cabins, and just as we started to unload our bags, we were hit with a furious flurry of snow.

The cabin was simple, and warm. We bundled the minimum necessary inside and AdventureMan just grinned. It’s just what we like. It isn’t large, but it is cozy, it has wood carved furniture, wood-paneled walls, a refrigerator, a microwave, and wi-fi. He loved that the comforters and sheets had fish and bear and canoes; he says it reminds him of boy scout camp. It is not fancy, but it is very private. From our deck we can see a herd of pronghorn deer settling in for the night. By the way, not a single elk in sight.

Don’t you love those sheets and comforters? The sheets are flannel! AND, we have some of the best Chinese food, still chilled and plentiful, to warm in the microwave, so we don’t even have to go out into the snow.

It’s always exhilarating to survive an adventure 🙂

View of our cabin as we leave the next day.

June 9, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Climate Change, Geography / Maps, Road Trips, Survival, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

Intlxpatr Goes Back In Time

We were on our way to gymnastics class, which involves driving over a long bridge, through a congested beach town and down a state double-lane highway, and my grand-daughter, age 8, is utterly caught up in reading a book to me, a book called Crush. It is about junior high, and although she is in 3rd grade, she is always interested in what the older kids are doing.

This book has an advanced vocabulary, so I am loving hearing her reading it out loud. At one point, she comes to a word that the teacher has blocked out, and she asks me what that word might be. The word is “kickass” which does not offend me, especially as it is applied to a girl whom I would definitely describe as kickass. It’s a compliment.

(When I was little, my Mom would send me to the library alone, with a basket of books. Around 10 years old, I had devoured most of the children’s section and started in on the adult section – especially science fiction and psychology. The librarian called my Mom and asked if I was allowed in the big people’s books and God bless her, my Mom just laughed and said “if she wants to read it, let her read it. She can read anything she chooses.” God bless you, Mom, for the gift in having faith in me, and in the free flow of ideas, and in my judgment.)

So I am not concerned about an adult word. She often asks me about words she hears on the playground, and we talk about what she thinks it means and what I think it means. I am outraged at the policies being developed in Florida to impede discussions in the classroom, but in my experience there is nothing that makes a book – or an idea – more attractive than having it BANNED.

When my son started reading, I made it a point to read the books he was reading so I could have some idea where his mind was going. I bought the four-volume set of the books my granddaughter was reading, and read them through (they are comic style, so easily read, each in under an hour).

The books are Awkward, Brave, Crush and Diary by Svetlana Chmakova.

Junior High is a lot like childbirth – as you get past it, you forget the pain. These books are so REAL. As I read Awkward and Brave, I was right back in the middle of all that turmoil. We forget! At that age, they are learning the painful lessons of being different, being rejected, suffering bullying, learning accountability, learning how to make a friend and to be a friend, learning how to deal with authority, learning so many things! And many of the situations are very uncomfortable, even as a grown-up. We all know what it’s like to be on the outside, looking in.

The saving grace of these wonderful books is the message that an act of kindness makes all the difference. That you can find a group that shares your interests. That the kind of friend you want is the friend that saves you a place at the lunch table, and maybe even shares tastes of their lunch.

The second set of books I discovered was the Friends series, by Shannon Hale. Once again, we are treated to the real nature of friendships, that there are cliques and pecking orders and false friends. There are betrayals and secrets and ganging up. Learning to be a friend depends first on figuring out who WE are; it gives us the confidence to discern. These books are all about learning about who we are and discerning who our real friends are.

In my life, with all my moves, I’ve been so lucky, I’ve always found some really good friends, and some will be reading this right now, friends even from far back in my childhood, my high school days, university and various places we’ve been stationed. Some friendships are based on common interests. For me, the best friendships are based on ground-level communications, where we open our hearts and share our realities, and hold one another up when we feel we may be about to falter. Some friends are always going to be there for you when you hit bottom, and are essential in the recovery process.

Today I got an e-mail about how continuous learning builds neuroplasticity, and neuroplasticity seems to be a defense against Altzheimer’s, even if you have a plaque build-up in your brain. I’ll take whatever learning I can get, and these books that take me back to the immediacy of middle school. I’d forgotten how much we learned there. I think I built a new synapse or two re-experiencing the horrors of that age, and I am thankful to the enthusiastic reading of my little granddaughter for an unexpected educational journey.

May 6, 2022 Posted by | Aging, Books, Character, Civility, Community, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Values | Leave a comment

Dirty Pool

So no, I don’t always play fair. The really cool thing about being married for a long time is that your partner and you learn tolerance and forgiveness, and in a long marriage, you really need both. A lot of both.

I’ve had a yearning for a new couch. I’m not a material girl; the last couch I bought was in 1996, and it is still in the family, living a new life as a couch and spare queen-size guest bed in our son’s house. Soon they will also inherit the really good bunk beds I inherited from my youngest sister (also in 1996) and they still have the original mattresses, mattresses with cowboys on them! They will go to keep my old couch company.

I take my time. I’ve been looking at couches for about 18 months now. I took AdventureMan with me on a tour of furniture shops, from top to bottom, and we were in total agreement, nothing was right for us.

And then I found it.

It’s small enough for our smaller house. It’s leather, in a honey camel kind of color that I love to sit in when we are staying at places like El Tovar, or Old Faithful Inn, or Timberline Lodge. It’s a lodge kind of couch, comfy. You and your friend can sit on it and drink coffee and share your hearts and solve the problems of the world, or just cry at the occasional tragedies we all sometimes face.

And look at the legs! I need furniture that is off the ground to keep the appearance in my smaller house from being too cluttered. I like light. I love these beautiful hand-carved legs!

So I go into AdventureMan’s office with my choice, and for a few seconds (it feels a lot longer than it really was) he is silent. And then he says “the cats will scratch it.”

Here’s where the dirty pool comes in. I was horrible, I will admit it.

“Who knows how long we will be here to enjoy it?” I said. “I need a couch so you can stretch out when you want to watch something on the big television. It doesn’t have to last forever; we are not going to last forever.”

And then, worst of all I said “And my Mother wants me to have it.”

How bad do I feel?

I feel sort of bad. I was really packing some punches, but pulling the “Mom wants me to have it” punch was probably a low blow. When Mom died, she left some money to be divided among my sisters and me, and some for our children. We’ve been using some of it for travel and some for renovations, but the truth is, it’s all in one of our pots, and I don’t really keep track of it, AdventureMan and I have just combined it with other incomes to share with our family and make our lives comfortable and fun.

He’s been handling a lot of the improvements and renovations. I take care of furnishings.

The truth is, he is very good to me. He is practical, and the other truth is, our cats are cats. They are destructive. I don’t know how to keep them from clawing at a leather sofa, but whether the sofa is leather or fabric, the cats will claw it, and I need a couch in my life.

“Buy the couch,” he says.

I know he will like it once it arrives. I know he will stretch out on it and eventually, he will be glad we have it. I know the cats will scratch at it and we will yell at them and clap our hands, and it will probably look really awful – down the road. It’s not like I am going to live forever. Thank you, AdventureMan 🙂

February 4, 2022 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Home Improvements, Humor, Money Management, Quality of Life Issues, Shopping | 2 Comments

And Now I Can Relax

Three 2021 Calendars

The last event is over. Christmas has been decorated and celebrated, we have feasted, we have opened gifts. It is Christmas Day, we are just home again from a wonderful morning with our son, his wife, and our grandchildren. It has all been exhilarating. I am exhausted from interacting with people I love. I am relishing the mid-afternoon Christmas Day silence.

AdventureMan is in charge of dinner for tonight, and he is excited about the preparations. I am excited about what he has chosen and equally excited that I am totally off duty.

You may have guessed by now that as well as being introverted, I am also very mildly OCD. The gifts I look forward to the very most are my annual calendars; one for the quilt workshop, one for my bathroom and one for the kitchen. Even with three calendars, there are times I get busy thinking about something – a project I am working on, an obligation I need to fulfill, a problem that needs resolving, or even, to my shame, a book that engages me so entirely that the real world flies out the window.

Even with three calendars to remind me, there are occasions when I space out, don’t show up where I have promised, and face the consequences, not the least of which is beating myself up.

With my first minutes of spare time, I opened my new calendars and transferred all my current appointments and obligations to the new year. Hope springs eternal that I can keep myself organized, on track and faithful to my commitments.

One of the moments of delight in my day today was seeing my granddaughter organize her 60 shiny new Scrunchies by colors, and within the colors, by shades. She did it beautifully, sensitive to distinctions between shades and tints and color groups, exactly as I recently did with my quilting fabric collection. Sometimes a little bit of OCD is productive. There is something so satisfying about colors arranged just right.

Another thrill, on this beautiful Christmas Day, was seeing an American Bald Eagle soar past our window headed for a tree on the Bayou. We see him now and then, but not so often that the sight becomes common, and fails to thrill.

AdventureMan just checked in, ready to nap. He said “Oh! I forgot I am on duty for tonight!” and I said no, not if he didn’t want to be. This is a day to relax and to be happy. He can take a pass, fix the duck breasts tomorrow, or the next day. We have plenty in the refrigerator to feast upon, and we can cut ourselves some slack. It’s been a complicated month, full of turmoil and uncertainty, and it’s ending well. Giving ourselves time to breathe when we can is a good thing.

I hate to think that seeking peace over excitement means I must be old. There are times in my life when I couldn’t bear the boredom and needed to fill my days with events and activities. Even now, I prefer my life to have points of interest and unpredictability; it keeps things interesting. Then again, after a month of uncertainty and unpredictability, of COVID infections among those I love, and projects where we were reliant on others to meet our needs, a month with an unexpected death and ceremonial duties, a month when I couldn’t swim, one small day of peace and reflection is not such a bad thing.

December 25, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Beauty, Birds, Christmas, Family Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment