Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Calm Before the Storm

Seventy days without rain in Phoenix but it’s on its way now:

U.S. Satellite

The benefit was a gorgeous sunrise this morning:

Sunrise over Four Peaks Arizona Sunrise over Four Peaks Arizona Sunrise over Four Peaks Arizona

The downside is that we’ve got tickets for NASCAR on Sunday. Why did it choose to rain this weekend?
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Magic in the Garden

Glass in the garden – sculpture eclipsing the plants. Hordes of people months into the exhibition sold tickets in time slots to avoid overcrowding. The Desert Botanical Garden is displaying Dale Chihuly’s phenomenal glass works set amongst the desert plants. Chihuly is the maestro of of avant-garde glass art. Always fascinated with glasshouses he displays within botanical gardens as well as 200 museums world-wide. The following photographs were taken from late afternoon starting at the garden entrance until after dark and finishing at the garden entrance.

Which is your favorite?

Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition

Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition

Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition

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Your SatNav is Shouting!

If you’re interested, we got lost in Oakland California. After Jimmy had said, “I’m not towing through any more big cities,” my bad angel made me say, “Well you’re going to tomorrow!”

Remember our towing-the-trailer-through-San-Francisco-and-over-the-Golden-Gate-Bridge blooper?

I shouldn't really have been messing with the camera at this point, but you know me!
I shouldn’t really have been messing with the camera at this point, but I can’t help myself.
Jimmy was all smiles once the narrow roads of SF and the narrow lanes of the bridge were behind us.
Jimmy was all smiles once the narrow roads of SF and the narrow lanes of the bridge were behind us that time.

With our last fiasco in mind we were trying so hard to avoid the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge leading into central San Francisco to the west of us, that we turned east and became embroiled in Oakland Good Friday traffic.

I’d studied the road atlas for several days leading up to the journey. We’d studied it together the night before. I’d memorized every route and bridge leading out of Alameda County and planned for every eventuality except the one that transpired.

After we left the campsite south of San Francisco I sat with the atlas on my lap and plotted our course inch worming my finger up the page, not daring to read a book or magazine, play on the laptop or daydream.

Maybe I daydreamed a little. We passed the top of the famous Lombard Steet on the streetcar, I took a photo and didn't even know it until I downloaded it! I should do more homework on our destinations like Mona Lisa!
Maybe I daydreamed a little. While on a trolley car I’d snapped a photo not realizing it was the top of the famous Lombard Street until I downloaded it. I should do more homework on our destinations like Mona Lisa.

On the outskirts of Oakland I began to chant directives. We stay on 880 North. We don’t want 80 West. We don’t want 80 East. We do want 580 West,” and repeated it several times to plant it in my brain, and hopefully Jimmy’s.

When I’d chanted myself into a trance and was staring fiercely at the map Jimmy said, “The sign says take I980 for 580 West.”

I looked up too late to see the sign. “980? We don’t want 980. We do want 580 West, though.”

“Should I turn off?”

“I don’t think we should go that way.”

“Should I stay on this road?”

“I don’t know now.”

“The exit is coming up. Should I turn off?”

“Y-y-y-y-ye . . . Um-m-m-m . . . N-n-n-n-n . . .”

“Say something!!”

“YES!” And Jimmy wrenched the wheel to the right with our trailer snapping smartly round to follow us. “Oh no, this isn’t right. We’re going east. According to the map we should be going north.”

“Oh great. Now look,” he said with that Dammit! look on his face. Six lanes of traffic was coming to a standstill ahead of us.

“We should have stayed on the road we were on,” I whined, wanting but not daring to blame Jimmy for making me say yes when I knew I should have said no.

Oakland drivers have a bit of southern California driving mania about them and they were changing lanes in a wild free-for-all across our bows.

Other road users don’t account for the fact that we have 7,500 pounds of rolling stock slamming into our rear end every time Jimmy brakes. If Jimmy tailgates, he’s on edge. If he leaves a safe braking distance between us and the car in front someone nips into it in their bid to gain 50 feet and he’s still tailgating. He was now displaying his don’t-mess-with-me rigid posture behind the wheel but trying to remain cool.

“There’s a sign for 80 West,” he said helpfully. “Should I go that way?”

Now let me see. Hmmm. Whoops. Too late!
STAY ON THIS ROAD! I think.

“DO NOT TAKE 80 WEST!” I shouted. “Don’t take 80 West,” I repeated a tad more calmly. We didn’t want 80 West. That much I knew. That was all I knew. That was the way to the Golden Gate Bridge via central San Francisco. The traffic jam gave me a chance to study the map. “I think I can see what we’ve done.”

“You’re priceless.”

“I’d like to see you navigate through this mess.”

“I can’t. I have to drive.”

“Well that’s lucky for you. I always get to take the blame,” and fumed for a moment until I saw the sign I‘d been praying for, “580 West! Keep to the right. If we can get on 580 West we’ll be okay.” Gleeful now, I informed Jimmy, “I know where we are now. We‘re on Eastshore Freeway.”

“Brilliant.” How can he infuse so much sarcasm into a single word?

Once we were on 580 West I relaxed a little and attempted to lighten the mood.

“Right! That’s got rid of the 80 West specter. At least we’re not going to get snarled up in San Francisco today.” Silence. Not even acknowledgement that I have spoken.

Couldn't he chill and remember our cruise on San Francisco Bay past Coit Tower?
Couldn’t he chill and remember our cruise on San Francisco Bay past Coit Tower?

So I tried again. “We just need to avoid 80 East or we’ll end up in New York! Hahaha.” Jimmy didn’t join in.

 . . . . or remember this view of the street(s) of San Francisco?
Couldn’t he relax now and remember this view of the street(s) of San Francisco?

“There’s the Golden Gate Bridge across the bay. You can have a last look.” Jimmy turned his head. At least his hearing was still functioning.

For the eagle-eyed among you, this isn't the Golden Gate Bridge at all, but once on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge we, no I, was happy to think it was. It's the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Can you understand my confusion?
For the eagle-eyed among you, this isn’t the Golden Gate Bridge at all, but once on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge we, no I, was happy to think it was. It’s the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Can you understand my confusion?

We’d towed the trailer over the Golden Gate on a previous trip. We’d “sailed” under it on a bay cruise. That day we’d given it a slightly wider berth than planned.

Sailing under the Golden Gate on a more relaxed day.
Sailing under the Golden Gate on a happier day.

Once ensconced on the picturesque route 101 going north I knew my map reading expertise (questionable that day, granted) wouldn’t be needed for another 100 miles or so, so traced our route back to study my booboo.

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. This is the right one!
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. This is the right one!

Where my wits had deserted me was at the confluence of five – that’s FIVE – interstate highways in a city of nearly half million people on a holiday weekend.

I think we’re lucky to still be married. Lucky probably isn’t the word Jimmy would use.

Can you see where he’s taking me?

Can you see where he's taking me?

Click on the picture and all will become clear!

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Turn Here Honey!

“You said we need gas. Turn here!”

Gas Station on the road to Monument Valley

“Do you think the pumps are still working?” Standard Oil was broken up under the antitrust laws in 1911 some of which eventually became Exxon, Mobil and Chevron. As you can see we were in Cow Springs which is on Route 160 in Arizona on the way to Monument Valley not to be confused with Wild Cow Springs Recreation Area in western Arizona not to be confused with mad cows. Speaking of which himself may have brought them to mind when I entreated him to “Turn here!”:

Dinosaur tracks on the road to Monument Valley

It seemed a reputable tourist destination from the look of the sign. Don’t you think so? Though I am the designated navigator himself picks and chooses when to listen to me. He didn’t turn so I cannot confirm if they were real dinosaur tracks.

The good news is that we made it to Monument Valley despite my misdirection:

monument valley
That’s our black truck. It was very orange by the end of the day.

monument valley

monument valley

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This is Your SatNav Speaking

There's Mt. Shasta! We must be on the right road.
There’s Mt. Shasta! We must be on the right road.

On the one hand it’s a wonder we can find our way out of a cardboard box. On the other hand our navigational skills strangely complement each other so we get by, through or around most obstacles to our destinations.

Who planted these big trees right next to the road?
Who planted these big trees right next to the road?

Jimmy navigates by cities, towns, pubs (sadly few in the U.S.)  landmarks and an innate sense of direction. The last being something that eludes me as I can get turned around in a gas station as though I have been spun blindfolded. I can, however, read a map, use a compass, orientate myself (most days) with directions given in north, south, east and west and navigate by route numbers and road names on a town plan. “Turn left here, take the second right, go half a mile and the campsite will be on your left.” And there it is.

“How do you do that?” Jimmy is convinced a type of sorcery is at work when I find my way around an unfamiliar town merely by consulting a map. But he is quicker to read and interpret road signs, judge appropriateness of road conditions and take decisions. “I’m not turning there!”

“But the map says . . . . oh, no, you don’t want to turn there.” I’ve directed him to turn, trailer in tow, into a junkyard, a muddy farm track, dead end streets, supermarket parking lots and non-existent roads.

If this is the wrong road at least the scenery is spectacular.
If this is the wrong road at least the scenery is spectacular.

So between us and with a big dollop of tolerance for each other’s foibles we have found our way throughout Europe and the U.S.

Yes, this is the right road!
Yes, this is the right road!

Navigating in the U.S. comes easy to me as the road system – interstates and in towns – makes sense to me. I know my east from my west even if do very occasionally fumble my left and my right. Odd numbers on roads generally indicate north and south and evens east and west. In town, if we’re at 4400 Main Street then 5400 Main is ten more blocks. If we’re just passing First Street then Sixth will be five blocks away. Watch out for those pesky Streets vs. Avenues! Fifth Street is an entirely different notion to Fifth Avenue. Add Fifth Street SW and Fifth Avenue NE to the mix and then you really have to think it through before striking out across town but it’s all logical if you’re paying attention.

The grid work of a town plan is a just mathematical puzzle – up two, across three and down one block and voilà, there is the restaurant. There must be a bit of spatial awareness attached to this thinking that Jimmy doesn’t apply to the problem. But truthfully, I think he just doesn’t try. He doesn’t have to. No more than I have to get out of the car when it is raining (and even when it isn’t) and pump gas. By and large the U.S. road system is instinctive to me. I grew up on it. I don’t have to figure it out. It just makes sense to me like speaking English makes sense. Lubbock, Texas is the exception to this where even the locals can’t give you directions.

Generally I can follow squiggly routes on the map and end up where I intended except when under pressure, especially time pressure calling for quick thinking and spot-on decision making. Those are the times I give Jimmy as much information as I can and then let him make the mistake, I mean decision. He seems to think I don’t know is not an acceptable answer when asking me which way do I go here? and insists I say something specific even if when I have no idea.

Jimmy and I navigating our way up Lake Powell. Oh yeah, like that's us.
Jimmy and I navigating our way up Lake Powell. Oh yeah, like that’s us.

Perhaps the issue of blame is important when we are lost.

You thought I was kidding. There I am in the pink shirt under the left-hand arch of Rainbow Bridge. You can only get there by boat on Lake Powell. (I sometimes stretch the truth.)
There I am in the pink shirt under the left-hand arch of Rainbow Bridge. You can only get there by boat on Lake Powell. It was a slightly bigger boat than pictured above.
Córdoba: Back Streets of the Old Jewish Quarte...
Córdoba: Back Streets of the Old Jewish Quarter (Judería) (Photo credit: Jesse Varner)

The road system in Europe still baffles me. Their ancient roads have evolved over centuries, not been planned and laid out coherently like in the United States. Modern motorway systems are logical to someone who likes numbers but cities are often rabbit warrens of narrow lanes. Many streets have origins long before America was a twinkle in C. Columbus’ eye. The Jewish Quarter in Cordoba is one of many places to get lost on claustrophobic winding streets that even a Mini Cooper couldn’t maneuver. And I can’t apply any logic to European country roads.

How we ever made our way through France to the south of Spain and back again – new to RVing – is beyond me.

We even got lost in the Channel Tunnel Terminal and ended up on an empty platform – our departure time imminent and no possibility of a U-turn with a 26 foot trailer behind us. After a panicked phone call a Terminal Land Rover took us on a tour of the platforms, up one and down another, to lead us onto our train.

Now wasn’t that an omen of things to come?

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It’s Hot Hot Hot!

Put the polar vortex out of your mind for a moment and try to imagine that it is blistering hot . . . .

Has anyone out there seen this sign? If not, can you guess where it is from the title?

Death Valley CA

Where in the world would you need a handy supply of radiator water?

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