Monthly Archives: June 2014

Leaving Arizona, A Lament

As I sort through accumulated treasures of the last eight years ready for the removal men to box up our lives and whisk them away, I tear up now and again. I have petitioned for this move to England and yet . . . . we have been comfortable in our Arizona bubble of the good life.

My days consist of meals out, coffee with friends, swimming, shopping, yoga, reading, writing, blogging, walking amongst the desert flora, book club, watching wildlife from our balcony, writing group and wearing lightweight to barely any clothing all year round.  What’s not to like?

Unbearably hot summers are alleviated with air-conditioning or going north. Our neighbor expressed it as eight months of heaven and four months of hell. Even now when it is 105° outside we’re comfortable, until the electricity bill arrives.

Our quest for the last eight years has been to look for the perfect place to live. With family spread around the world, there is no such place for us but all other factors considered we came close to it in southern Arizona. The weather has been kind to us in our ridge top apartment as we’ve watched monsoons and dust storms sweep through the valley from the comfort of our balcony. While the rest of the country endured an insufferably long winter we put the heat on now and again and wore trousers instead of shorts.

All photos taken from our balcony. Please click to enlarge. Go on! You can’t see them properly unless you do, especially the dust storm and the pink rain!

The next few months, year? two years? will consist of uncertainty, insecurity and temporary accommodation tempered by the warmth of family and friends. At least I hope they will be pleased to see us.

I have made a pact with himself, the green card-toting Englishman, who apart from his views on politics and guns could be a native Arizonian.  For two or three months each winter – possibly beginning December 26th – we will cross the English channel and head south until we reach sunshine.

Right now I am in my anxiety default position – brain freeze and inertia. I gaze at our apartment with Native American and Mexican decorating touches and my American Southwest photos adorning the walls and don’t want to touch a thing.

Our year’s hiatus from travelling, cocooned in comfortable stationary housing, has turned into two-and-a-half years of spinning our wheels.

Which way now? The UK beckons.

I need a new blog title. What do you suggest?

Exercise for Dummies

Namaste! Tree pose with cactus arms.
Namaste! Tree pose with cactus arms.

“What are you doing?” He didn’t need to preface his sentence with “Now . .” It was implied by his tone.

“I’m shoving a magazine down my pants. What does it look like I’m doing?”

“No need to be sarcastic.”

“I’m using the magazine as padding to protect my spine from the hula hoop.” My new waist whittler had killer knobbly bits on the inside. To demonstrate, I gave the hoop a little spin.

“See? No pain. Whoops!” The fruit bowl took a hit and needed to be pushed back a bit. With the table cleared, myself carefully positioned between bed, window and wall, and Jimmy well out of the way, I could get my hooping exercise indoors instead of looking a fool outdoors.

I tried again. “If I put the magazine in my pants, keep my feet firmly planted, put my hips into it, concentrate and don’t let the hoop slow down, there’ll be no damage to me or the trailer.”

“That has to be one of the most stupid things you’ve ever done.”

“Thanks!” Who, after all, wants to be predictable?

“You’ve already injured yourself once.”

That was my leg. I can’t hurt my leg. The table’s in the way.”

“I still think it’s stupid if you’re risking hurting your back.” He’s trying to insult me or frighten me into stopping. It isn’t working.

Exercise is an issue in our confined quarters. We walk when we can, I swim when there’s a pool on the campsite and we both do sit ups about every six months. Even with constant tweaks to our diet to reduce calories and improve nutrition, our waistlines are expanding.

I worry about the blood pressure and obesity implications of eating a big meal then taking one step to the couch to have dessert and vegetate in front of the telly for the rest of the evening.

With Jimmy away for two weeks I had contemplated our lifestyle and found it lacking. In the midst of doing what I wanted, when I wanted to (instead of falling into step with the tour director/camp commandant) I exercised frequently and cleaned up my diet between bouts of reading trashy magazines and watching trashy TV.

“Guess what I had for lunch today?” I had asked Jimmy during one of our international phone calls.

“Please don’t tell me.”

“Sautéed spinach with Parmesan cheese slivers on top.”

“Oh God help me.”

“It was yummy.”

“The thought of it makes me feel sick.”

“Tonight I’m having jumbo shrimp braised with garlic, onion, ginger, Jalapeños courgettes and spinach.”

“I won’t come home.”

“Tomorrow I’m having a crab cake.” Jimmy doesn’t like seafood, shellfish in particular, so I gave him all the details because there’s an unruly streak in me.

Back to the exercise matter, it is only four steps from our dining “room,” or living “room” or “bedroom” to our toilet. We joke about going upstairs to bed. It’s one step up. My pedometer registered just 151 steps from late afternoon to bedtime.

Where’s that hula hoop? And my magazine padding?

How do you include exercise in your daily routine?

Can you imagine me hula-hooping in this same space? It wasn't a great success.
Can you imagine me hula-hooping in this same space? It wasn’t a great success.

Photo Challenge: Between

Between two  . . . . . ?

Giant sequoias, Sequoia National Park

 Giant sequoias. Or are they giant elephant’s feet?

Giant sequoias, Sequoia National Park

No trees! Definitely trees!

Giant sequoias, Sequoia National Park

Come to think of it there is a lot of daylight between my knees!
Why am I posting this? Click here:

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Photos taken at Sequoia National Park. Awesome place!

A Pox on California Roads . . . and Hula Hoops #2

Mt. Shasta, California
As if we didn’t have enough trouble already, I just had to stand in the middle of the road to take a photo of Mt. Shasta. Himself was having kittens.

California roads had put us in a predicament and would be our complete undoing without an on-the-spot repair to our trailer.

We were halfway to a campsite in northern California about to enter the wilderness of the Siskiyou Mountains. Our water tanks were empty-ish in preparation for mountain climbing and our batteries were big dead weights barely capable of lighting one light. Our only company for miles and miles and miles was trees.

Our bed slide was out, the runner was broken and the slide wouldn’t go back in.

As the California sun shone down on our tin box house we grew hotter and hotter trying to affect a makeshift repair. Our hearts were hammering and we were gasping and shaking with exhaustion.

It had occurred to me that we could be stranded for days with no electricity or water while help was summoned and parts ordered from Hoboken or Timbuktu though that thought was not articulated.

Nor did Jimmy share his bleak thoughts with me. We’d pulled the slide out possibly for the last time ever.

With the slide pulled out we couldn’t tow the trailer. If we pushed it back in the runner would break causing more damage.

We took the only option open to us.

We let bloody-mindedness take over.

The decision was reached by mutual unspoken assent.

We tried again and again and again. We just needed to unscrew one screw from the ceiling and put a washer on it.

Again. Gasp. Gasp. Gasp.

“Take a break,” I begged Jimmy. He was bright red in the face. I was probably the same but we each think we are invincible and don’t easily accept our limitations.

We tried again. Pull runner, engage screwdriver, grunt.

And again. And again.

“It moved!” Was I hallucinating? “Try it again!” I said excitedly, holding the screwdriver in place ready for Jimmy to put some muscle into it. The screw head moved a miniscule amount.

“Again!”

Each monumental effort, with both of us poised awkwardly and straining produced only about and eighth of a turn before the screwdriver would jump out and skitter across the runner. The screw head was acquiring a nice polished sheen and losing its sharp cross threads.

Seeing me shaking with exhaustion, heat and anxiety Jimmy called the next break and I sat quietly with my head and arms flopping down at rest.

“I took the screw out of the other runner last week. Do you want to know how long it is?” Without raising my head I let my eyes swivel round to his hand where he held his thumb and forefinger four inches apart. Needing eight colossal attempts from both of us to turn the screw one revolution, I wasn’t sure we’d survive the repair.

We let despair replace any stabs at conversation or conjecture and stared vacantly until the panting slowed, then resumed battle.

As long as the screw moved a tiny amount we were motivated to keep trying. The sight of a whole inch of screw poking from the ceiling turned the tide of the war and we got a second wind. The next inch was easier and I twiddled the screw out the last two inches with my fingers.

It only remained to put the washer on and screw the runner back to the ceiling. Flush with triumph, Jimmy decided to take the next screw out and put a washer on it as well. So pumped up with success was he that he put three washers on it.

It was a good idea, in theory, until we tried to push the slide in but the extra washers blocked the slide. It wouldn’t go in.

A cartoon of my expression is appropriate at this point:

Awooga.
Nooooooo! (Photo credit: Profound Whatever)

It was a minor blip as it happened and easily remedied. Victory was ours.

Our reward for perseverance was Sequoia National Park and among other BIG trees the General Sherman Tree – the largest tree in the world – not the tallest or the widest but the largest in volume.

The top of the General Sherman Tree:

sequoia 111

And here’s General Sherman’s bottom:

sequoia 110

See the little people above for perspective.

If you’re worried about us we had the runner replaced. And after a few more bruises I gave the hula hoop to Goodwill and took up yoga.

A Pox on California Roads . . . and Hula Hoops

Oh no, I hear you say. What’s wrong with these people?

As disasters go, it wasn’t our most terrifying ordeal, but still:

“That doesn’t look right.”

“What?”

“The runner. Look. It’s cracked.”

After a lunch time stop at a rest area, Jimmy made one of his routine equipment checks. Our rear slide/bed-in-a-drawer rolls into the body of our trailer when we’re bouncing along much like a drawer hung on wheels with two metal runners screwed to the ceiling.

The weight of the bed had ripped the runner off the ceiling. It was bent and cracked but the screw was still firmly in the ceiling, achieving nothing, a bit like us standing there staring at it with our hands on our hips.

If the runner broke the bed would drop onto the dinette and sofa rendering all three unusable. Our already bijou living space would be reduced to a galley kitchen big enough for one and a quarter people, a closet bathroom and one bed, with all our vital paperwork, including passports, and half our pantry supplies trapped under the immovable slide.

To make matters worse the vital screw was in at an angle and the rigid runner was bent just enough so the screw head was not visible.

In other words, instead of the runner, we were screwed.

With limited headroom and the screw playing peek-a-boo under the runner Jimmy stood on the dinette seat and bent over backwards while my arms threaded through his to pull on the runner.  We looked like a vertical game of Twister. I had visions of his foot going through the flimsy fiberboard under the cushion and breaking his ankle on the toaster in the drawer underneath.

The idea was to put a washer on the screw and screw the runner back to the ceiling, thus taking the strain off the crack. Easy. Except . . .

“I can’t see it!”

Eventually I am kneeling on the kitchen counter with my head forced over by the ceiling and my neck at snapping point. I can pull the runner across, see the damn screw, engage the screwdriver in the screw head, it’s in! and hand over to  Jimmy to grunt and twist the screwdriver with all his might.

But the screw wouldn’t turn.

He took a big breath and “erghhhhhhh!” The screw still wouldn’t turn.

Another big breath and “ERGHHHHHHHH!!!!” The screwdriver popped out of the still stationary screw head stripping the vital cross head a little. My advice to push up on the screwdriver was rewarded with one of his oh so withering looks.

After half a dozen attempts to turn the screw, Jimmy was gasping, drenched in sweat and shaking with the effort and bloody awkwardness of it all.

“What were you grunting for?” he accused me between gasps of breath.

“You try kneeling on the counter with your back arched and your neck breaking and face smashed on the ceiling while pulling with all your might and see if you don’t grunt!” I snarled back at him.

This graceless exchange seemed not to give offense to either party, simply vented a little frustration.

I had also knelt painfully on a varicose vein which I had suddenly developed the week before while playing with my new hula hoop.

After a few successful twizzles ‘round my waist I thought I was twelve years old again and tried to hoop around my knees. It immediately dropped below my knees, twirled on a perfectly sound piece of leg, upset a vein, which then popped up angrily to complain at my stupidity.

The purple lumpy mass looked ready to explode and scared me half to death. I spent the next two days with my leg raised and a cold gel pack on it to sooth the vein back down. Idiot.

Reduced to a bruise on my leg the vein didn’t appreciate my kneeling on it so I half knelt, half lifted myself on the other leg, arched my back, squashed my face on the ceiling, pulled the runner to line it up with the screw and grunted. Who wouldn’t?

We tried again. And again. Several more times. The screw wouldn’t budge.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere.”

“Yeah.”

“These rough California roads have caused the problem.”

“I know.”

“You know we can’t push the slide back in now.”

“Yes.”

“The runner will break.”

“I know.”

”And we can’t travel with the slide out.”

“I know.”

“And there isn’t much water in the tank and the batteries are knackered.”

“I KNOW.”

What now?

. . . . to be continued . . . no, not for weeks and weeks like Airport Gestapo, just one more episode. I’m only thinking of you. I don’t want you to get eye strain.

Bed slide on travel trailer
See that thing sticking out the back? No! Not him! That’s Jimmy sweeping acorns off the roof. I mean see the bed slide previous to the cracked runner incident. He pushed it in with ease that time. Happy days!”

Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra

Whoever thought prairie dogs were this big? Or are the Park rangers confused? Or have the bison nominated themselves as guardians of the prairie dogs’ diet?

The juxtaposition of the sign with the bison was worthy of a photograph. What I didn’t realize until I downloaded the photo was that a prairie dog was in the picture as well.

Can you see him?

Who is the extra? The prairie dog or the bison?

Bison at Teddy Roosevelt National Park
Bison (and one prairie dog) at Teddy Roosevelt National Park

To see other Extra, Extra Photo Challenges or to take part click the big W below:

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Truth or Fiction?

Palm Springs“Do you want to see something really cool?” Raven Longbow, Indian Guide, had crept up on us making us jump just like an Indian should while we’d been admiring the view of Palm Springs from the Andreas Canyon lookout point at Indian Canyons.

“Many years ago, a young Indian had his heart broken, so he came out to these hills . . . ,” he said, indicating, “Oh! I’m not even pointing in the right direction. Don’t believe what you hear about Indians’ sense of direction and never getting lost.” He turned 180 degrees, as did we, pointed at a far mountain and continued, “. . . and laid down to sleep to wait for his love to come back to him. Do you see his nose? And there is his chin. You can see the curve of his mouth.”

Indian profile in mountain
Can you see the broken-hearted Indian? I pretended I could.

“I’m not with you,” I had to admit. I really wanted to ‘see.’

“There are his hands folded on his chest.”

“Ah! Yes! I can see his knuckles,” I said excitedly with more imagination than clear vision of the peaks in the distance. As I nodded knowingly he smiled, satisfied.

“Of course you have to take all Indian stories with a pinch of salt and a pound of sugar.”

As I admired his spikey, fearsome Mohawk-type hair, with the sides of his head shaved and long pigtail down to his waist I asked, “What tribe are you?”

“Apache. I grew up in Arizona where that means ‘filthy enemy’ in Mexican.” His friendly granddad’s face did not match this description.

“Raven Longbow (as displayed on his badge) is a great name,” I said.

“No. My brothers got the cool names – Grey Wolf and Great Hawk. Raven was okay in Arizona but when we moved to California it was a girl’s name. You try growing up with a girl’s name. Apache names are always macho, never ‘short fat bald man.’ I coped with it until I got put in girl’s PE because of my name. Still, I’m glad my mother wasn’t drunk when she named me. She would have called me Chickenshit.”

Without further explanation Raven continued, “Do you want to see something else?” He was in his stride now. We weren’t sure how much, if anything, to believe but he was entertaining. “Look at that rock.” A plinth of jagged rock jutted out above us. “Does it remind you of anything?” It did. I wasn’t sure what but yes seemed the right answer to perpetuate his commentary. “It’s the Lion King rock. A Hollywood producer visited our canyon and decided to use our rock for that famous scene.”

“Oh, yes. It is, isn’t it?”

Is it? I took the obligatory photograph which came in handy for comparison purposes. Depending on who you ask, that rock is in Chile, Norway, New Zealand, The Serengeti, Appalachia, some woman’s back yard in Austin, Texas or right there just a few miles from Palm Springs.

The Lion King rock in Indian Canyon, Palm Springs
Can you see the Lion King perched up here?

Before I could cast doubt on his last story he carried on, “Do you see those holes in the rock?” Smooth, perfectly round depressions in the boulders, rock mortars the size of a cereal bowl and others as large as a mixing bowl were used for grinding food and medicine we were told.Ancient Indian mortar in rock

“The recipes for medicines are handed down through the female line in our tribe but I used to hang out with my grandmother and she taught me everything she knew so I am the medicine man for our family. We hardly ever go to the doctor.” Now you’re talking, I thought.

“What ingredients do you use?”

Raven gave me the Apache version of an inscrutable look and that ended our conversation.

Either I’d crossed a line or he’d run out of stories.

Photo Challenge: Room

 

Bandolier National Monument, NM
Rent a room here Madam? Sir?

 

Bandolier National Monument, NM
A whole cliff-side of rooms to chose from!

 

Bandolier National Monument, NM
Would you like some help carrying your suitcases up there?

 

Bandolier National Monument, NM
A room with a view.

 

Bandolier National Monument, NM
This view!

 

You’ve just taken a quick trip to Bandolier National Monument that provided rooms for the Ancestral Pueblo people centuries ago.

To see more photo challenges click here:

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How to Render Your Husband Speechless, Again

Originally posted in WWN101 in 2012 this salacious tale seems worth repeating at this stage of our . . . . . our what? Confusion? Clarity? Travels? Decision to settle? Whatever.

After returning from the doctor’s office himself said to me, “The nurse told the doctor, ‘They’ve been right down to Key West and back. I wish I could do that,’ so I said to her you should change places with my wife.”

He sees this as proof enough that we should continue to travel, not settle down.

Of course she’d like to take a road trip to Key West. She’s working full time in wet Washington State.

I’ll bet he didn’t qualify the dream with the drawbacks. Would you give up your home, family and friends and emigrate to another country to satisfy your travel lust?  Would you give up free health care?  Could you survive in a tin box with your other half for years without coming to blows or calling a divorce lawyer?  Would you mind looking like a ragamuffin because your best clothes (probably moldy now) are in storage?

I appreciate the fact that I’ve seen 47 of the 50 states, something most Americans will never do. Of course I feel privileged to have seen most of the top National Parks.

And I hope himself has read this far before he’s blown a gasket and called me an ungrateful cow.

Just to confirm how right he is and how wrong I am – always worth a victory lap in his book – we had a memorable moment with Courtney in the course of our travels. As we approached a gaily decked out espresso hut the NASCAR bunting made me smile at the thought of our day at the Daytona 500.

Jimmy’s big day at the Daytona 500

Better still, after hearing, “I’ll be with you guys in a second,” a dark-haired leggy lovely appeared, dressed – I use that term loosely – in skimpy – that’s being generous – stop-light-yellow shorts and a NASCAR-emblazoned yellow top that had more fabric in the sleeves than the whole of the rest of the outfit.

As my mouth dropped open, she smiled brightly. “What can I get you guys?” I dared not look at Jimmy’s expression. Rather than place our order, what came out of my mouth was, “I like your outfit.”

“Oh, thanks. We were losing business to the bikini baristas so we thought we needed to make a change, but to something tasteful.” I really daren’t look at Jimmy then.  Her navel piercing and cleavage were particularly eye catching. I managed some sort of coffee order for myself, Jimmy stuttered out his tea order and whaddayaknow! the tea bags were on the bottom shelf.  Did I mention that her shorts were very brief?

“I like you guys’ accents. Where are you from?” I gave the concise Baltimore/England answer. “Awesome! Are you guys traveling?” I explained we’d been all around the country. “Awesome! Do you have family here?” I informed her that my brother lived up the road. “Awesome!” And a brother in Tennessee. “Cool!”  And children and grandchildren in England. And a brother-in-law in Wales.  “That is so cool!” And a daughter in Sydney. “That is an awesome excuse to travel.”

Score several points to Jimmy. Although I have to tell you he wasn’t counting points right at that moment.

“What’s with the NASCAR theme?” I asked.

“There’s a racetrack down the road. We thought it would bring in some business.”  Jimmy remained mute despite the motor racing reference, usually a favorite topic.

“Have you ever been to a NASCAR race?” I enquired, as the only one of her two customers capable of conversation.

“No. I’m from a little town called Elma. I’ve never traveled.”

“We went to the Daytona 500 in February.”

“AWESOME!” Well, I just had to agree with her. Had he been capable of the power of speech Jimmy would have agreed with anybody about anything right then.

You can stop looking for a picture of Courtney now. Sorry guys, there isn’t one.

More excitingly, Courtney had a cousin, equally skimpily dressed. We encountered her after our trailer wheel caught fire:

“Yer wus a fur!”

“What?” Jimmy bellowed.

“Yer wus a fur!”

“OUR WHEEL’S ON FIRE!!” I shrieked.

Read more of this post . . . 

 

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Photo Challenge: Split-Second Story, Take #2

Which photo tells the better story? This one?

Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Cornwall, ENGLAND

Or this one?

Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Cornwall, ENGLAND

Please ignore the tourist in the bottom left showing utter disregard for my dying scene.

Photos taken at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall.

This extraordinary theater was carved into a rocky seaside cliff almost single-handedly by Rowena Cade. Dragging shipwreck timbers up from the beach for building materials and converting a World War II gun post into a ticket booth she worked on her project on a piece of Cornish coastline bought for £100 in the 1920’s until she was well into her 80’s. It is still the venue for Shakespearean plays today. As you can see.

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