Category Archives: Travel

Rabbit Doesn’t Run, She Just Drives Fast

Packed and ready to roll. 8:20 and sunshine!

Day the first of the epic adventure. The one featuring 3 women (for part of it, two for the rest) 1 Mini Cooper, and 3 weeks camping and carousing through parts of 8 states.

 I will rendevous with the rest of what has been tagged the Prairie Dog Posse on Friday after an epic solo drive to Salt Lake City. I’m presenting at one of my favorite conferences, UASLA, wall to wall campus based lending professionals and me.

I spent the two nights previous to launch running around like a crazy woman. What would I forget/lose/neglect? So far just my binocular which somehow got left in the garage. Rats. My jittery nerves took most of the day to settle into road mode, but 500 miles in one day will either un-jitter you or ruin you for life. I’m relaxing in the Ontario Inn, in Ontario, Oregon. $49.95 with my senior discount. (crap, at least getting old is good for something.)

I stopped at the Bonneville dam and hatchery to stretch my legs and wander around in the sunshine. This is the first Sign of the Day!

This damned town is confusing. There are cross streets with the same name. How can you be at the intersection of 4th Ave SW and 4th Ave SW? Ditto, 1st, 2nd, etc. No wonder it took me thirty cranky minutes to find this place. Which reminds me of the signs. This was a day featuring signs.

Power! How perfect is this? Its a sign!

It also featured going fast and sunshine. Two things I like a lot. I’m posting this going to bed and Hoping I can find coffee in the morning, another long drive ahead of me, all the way to Salt Lake City. The adventure is underway!

Peace. I like this one a lot too.

This little guy gave me my own wonderful concert!

I love spring, May brings irises like these I found at Bonneville

 

"That's a tur-bin, not a tur bine, and it has flat fins that don't hurt fish. It's not a blender." I cracked up and walked away from a frazzled ranger and large pack of little kids on a tour.

The non blender tur BAN and the ranger and pack of visitors.

My favorite thing I saw today was a windmill blade on a semi trailer, so big it had outriders clearing the way. To get an idea of how big the blades are picture three semi trucks up there instead of windmill blades. yep, HUGE!

 

The best signs were in a gift store. Messages that seemed sent to me directly!

The best sign of all. Me and bug splattered Mini smiling because the day is OVER!

Psst! Hey P-Doggs! This one's for you and Tori, who had heart surgery today.

Mantis, the Not So Roaming Gnome

This peculiar story was caused indirectly by a wonderful random voyage of exploration the hubs and I  took to Utah last summer. Being a featured conference speaker was the perfect reason to get in the car and escape for a couple of weeks, driving is so much more fun than flying any time you can pull it off. 

Barbie, my ghost writing buddy

Terry and I loaded up the Mushka, the Portable Shi Tzu, and our suitcases and some camping gear and headed down the spine of Washington state, I-5. We stayed on I-5 all the way to the bottom of Oregon where we stopped to hoist a few beers and hang with Flamingo Pam for a day in Medford, Oregon. Medford was also the place I realized I had forgotten my muse, my lucky charm, my fellow traveler, Barbie Barista.

I met  my three inch tall plastic hipster friend when I was headed to France a few years ago. She’s pocket perfect and a pithy commentator to boot.We went everywhere together and wrote about it. (Here is the link to the delightful Barbie blog for the curious, its sort of just sitting out there in space lately, sigh. I can’t remember the password to update it, so it has sadly become a blog monument to travel fabulousity  http://barbiebarista.blogspot.com/2006/01/we-attend-spam-fest.html )

I couldn’t find where I had stashed Barbie before the trip so the local all purpose we-sell-everything store in Medford was my last hope for an inert yet sparkling traveling companion. A visit to their toy section provided nothing on par with my missing Barbie. Wolverine, Superman and Tinky Wink were just not ringing the bell for me. I was ready to put a dress on a wooden spoon and call it a supermodel when I tried the garden shop, and after a short search I found a box of short gnomes languishing on the bottom shelf of the  garden tschotske row. Yes, I know the roaming gnome has been snatched up, but I was desperate, so I chose a seated gnome who appeared to be praying. My German style Saint Christopher gnome of the road, pray for me, I can use the help. We hit the road for points east-car, dog, hubs, me and the  praying gnome.

"I'm praying your driving improves." That would be Mt Shasta behind the prayerful dude

Gnome at the Hat Creek overview

We did fine through northern California, stopping to view Shasta, Mt Rainier’s cousin, take in the wild fire devastation from the Hat Creek Fire of the previous year and then we found  this gigantic gaudily painted statue in the middle of freaking nowhere. I mean really, who expects to see a giant lumberjack/tire sales guy/whatever giant figures are used for in the middle of a wide spot in the road. The owners had even built a little shelter with information and a guest book to sign! The complete experience. The gnome had his picture taken with the cowboy and we headed onwards, jumping off to ghost towns and adventures down Highway 50 outside Carson City, Nevada.

Highway 50 has the moniker “loneliest  road in the USA”, but I think that might have been a few years back. Its pretty empty but the locals drive through there at 300 mph in their pickups, shortcut to where?? We actually saw lots of cars and people on our trek. We also saw some very cool things along the way including the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge near Fallon, Nevada. I could have stayed there for days and just listened to all the birds in the lakes and marshes, we could see very few of them but you could hear them making an enormous racket. Oh for a kayak, but I must remember we were driving a Mini Cooper that was pretty darned loaded as it was.

Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge

Past Fallon, things got strange. The Black Rock Desert is where Burning Man is held each year and except for those few days annually the place is EMPTY. Alkali and salt flats for miles and miles.

Singing Sand Dune, Sand Mountain is an off road park these days

Sand Mountain, a singing dune, was wayyyy off in the distance being run over by off road vehicles, seriously. But close to the road, nada. Except for the rocks where there should not be rocks. This is a link to a howlingly funny article on the drive through this desert.

http://www.roadtripamerica.com/OnTheRoad/On-the-Loneliest-Road-in-America-with-James-Teitelbaum.htm

I started seeing messages spelled out on the desert along the highway’s shoulders with black rocks. Brick sized rocks, not boulders. To participate in this sport/event/what ever it is, people  have to gather rocks and cart them to the desert in boxes and baskets, park on the side of the road and then lug the rocks out onto the flats to spell out arcane messages, like all the of  the “I love (fill in the blank)” and even a “will you marry me?” Lots of names and peculiar sentences, all hard to read without stopping so we stopped to do some light reading. I got Mantis the gnome out, by now he had a name, to pose for a picture. It was chilly and windy so I jumped quickly back in the car and we drove off.

Chon? interesting....

Uh oh. Resounding clunk is heard. What the hell was that?  Praying Mantis! I went back and found him laying  in the road with a few chips out of his hat, intact, except for the missing leg. We never found the leg. I wonder what the people carrying boxes of rocks to spell out  messages thought when they came across his  little brown booted leg in the road in the middle of nowhere? Can you imagine being so hard up for fun on a Saturday night  that you drive 50 miles to write a message with rocks on a salt flat in the middle of nowhere? It boggles the mind….

Losing a leg was the end of the gnome’s photo star days. Sadly, I couldn’t bring myself to take pictures of a one-legged gnome who had a real reason to pray for a miracle, like please don’t let this woman put me on another roof and forget me. He came home with us and retired to live in the birdcage by the front gate. He seemed to like it, smiling and blessing everyone who came up the steps, but that missing leg haunted me until my friend El Goldilocks, said to me, “You’re an artist you moron, fix the poor guy’s leg and put him back to work!”

Mantis had surgery last week and came through with flying colors thanks to a barbecue skewer and a button. He now has a nice pegleg leg and I must say, we both look happier.

Arizona Redux

Arizona has been in the news for a lot of bad reasons this week  and I was thinking about Arizona today and wishing people knew more than Phoenix and Barry Goldwater. The latest shooting tragedy will now be permanently tied to Arizona as well so I decided to share one of my Arizona memories and the photos are below the story.

 A few years back before my life turned upside down and sideways, I was visiting a long string of Arizona schools in the course of working life. I love Arizona and go there every chance I get. I am continually appalled at the the notion by latecomers (Phoenix residents this means most of you) that if you water the desert you change its nature–as in with golfcourses and other green things that don’t belong in a desert. Put Palm Springs in the same boat. That water is evaporating off those wasteful acres of grass faster than you can believe, and I would bet a lot of money that in the future the state will have drained its aquifers and turned lots of land saline in the quest for a great golf course. 

Which is why I head immediately away from the biggest cities. I love exploring the back country and some of the funky old towns that abound in the west. Jerome, although heavily turista is still very cool perched way up on hill sides well above Sedona. Sedona is gorgeous, weirdly populated with rich newage hip types and German tourists, but outside the town? Stunning.

And there is today’s subject: Get out on Highway 79 out of Tuscon, around Oracle and Florence and you are in the middle of beautiful emptiness. Its called the Tom Mix memorial highway after the cowboy film star from silent movies. He crashed his car and died there in 1940, and there is a roadside memorial to him in the middle of nowhere. Hint: don’t go visit it in the summer. Hotness aboundness. Spring is gorgeous, winter is lovely and fall is nice. Summer? Nope.

I stopped in Florence, curious after seeing signs everywhere outside town that said “don’t stop, don’t pick up hitchhikers”! Hmmm…turns out Pinal County, of which Florence is the county seat has NINE prisons and jails. Talk about a cottage industry! That tally includes two federal pens and three private pens, the state’s death row and execution chamber.

All the creepy stuff being said, its still a historic town with some spots that are truly beautiful. The old courthouse is very photogenic, and the day I was prowling around, the courthouse cat was napping on the back steps. I talked to the park ranger for the historic area and the rangers actually feed and watch over the cats around the courthouse, which is very cool.

I surprised another cat about a block over in the rubble of an old hotel. Just the beautiful facade was standing with pigeons perched on the second story brick roof line. Down in the weeds, a scrawny mama cat overcame her shyness and just had to have a look at me. Luckily I had my camera ready and the picture I got of her is one of my all time favorites. She scampered off and watched me from the old basement opening, all I could see of her was glowing eyes.

The town was founded in 1866, one of Arizona’s oldest and Florence is the county seat still. They get less than ten inches of rain a year, the average summer temperature is holy cow! 104 degrees! The winter it gets down to as low as 10 degrees. Why on earth would people move here? I still don’t know and the town while tidy is pretty empty.

That may change with good old Del Webb putting up another one of his Anthem communities about six miles down the road. I want to go back and see who is living in those houses. Prison employees, retirees? Yeah, I need to go back. my favorite Florence photos follow.

Rabbit Rides: Back in the Work Saddle Again

Back in the saddle again. The sun is gone and I am home after my epic runaway weekend in Oregon. The studio and the Great Big Painting await me. I'm always about half afraid to go back and look at a mostly finished piece a few days later. What if it isn't as good as I think it is? Yes, that has happened along with a bout of what was I thinking!

I have about 300 photos to edit. I'm not sure whether to curse or bless digital imaging. It wears out my eyes but it sure does save on the developing in both time and control–let alone cost! I like having the control over editing my pix. Seldom is there a photo that cannot be improved by judicious cropping and balancing the color, and of course there is artistic license too.

Barbfoot

 Why so many photos? If you paint or draw its wonderful to have an archive of your own work as photo reference for starters. No one will sue you for stealing their image if it belongs to you in the first place. Another piece of advice for casual photographers: invest in a hard drive that is separate from your computer and stash your pictures there. Number one pictures eat space on you hard drive and number two, if your computer crashes your photos of Aunt Stella and your cousin Fred at the forest fire will be nice and safe.

The most exciting thing I've done recently was not  a road trip it was getting back from one in time to make my first metalsmithing class. I am thrilled to the soles of my shoes. Excellent instructor and venue in Tacoma, WA. I learned so much last night and I have a lot of the tools already and use them in my current work. I've been feeling frustrated and like I'm ready for the next bump up to a new level. I've been jonesing for metal classes and Eureka! I have found them!  In October I'm going to a day of lampworking for beads, something I have been dying to do since I visited Moon Marble in Kansas a few years back.

So, saddle up rabbit we have miles to paint before we sleep.