Category Archives: Blue Ride

All about my experiences on and with motorcycles and convertibles–Blue skies and me!

5 prairie house

Road Photos

I kind of love taking pictures that are informal and catch the feeling of a trip, like old photos you see in a junk store and wonder who took them and why? I just got back from a trip home to Colorado from Washington State, racking up over 3000 miles through what I fondly refer to as the Great Wide Open, thank you Tom Petty.

1 dog is my copilot

Dog is my copilot

A lot of people think the high sky empty spaces of Eastern Oregon, Southern Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Montana and basically all the western states, are empty and boring. Kind of like having to fly over the desert to get to Oz, aka the West coast, something to get past as fast as you can.

Into the great wide open

Into the great wide open

As a child visiting Indiana every summer to see my grandparents, getting through the Mojave desert from our Southern California home was kind of like that. Hot, terrifying and it was the DESERT. This was in the days when cars went slower and didn’t have air conditioning. We usually traveled at night those first few days, and it was mysterious and scary and included swimming at midnight in a Phoenix motel pool where the water was as warm as bath water.

Leaving Oz

Leaving Oz

Travel is so different now, you don’t see overheated cars on top of passes or cars in the desert with those canvas camel bags draped over the radiator. Now travelling through the empty is a pleasure and it isn’t empty either.

Eastern Oregon wind turbines

Eastern Oregon wind turbines

These places have tall skies and room to breathe and they are fascinating and filled with patterns and people if you know how to look. Growing up in my own version of the empty bright spaces in Southern California, I learned to love the arid almost desert east of Los Angeles and west of Palm Springs. I learned early to admire the shapes of the earth, the way brown hills look like giant paws and plowed fields look like quilting blocks. I’ve never lost my love of landscape.4 oregon wind

I finally decided to do it differently. I wanted to see the world as a road tripper not a photographer and catch the ephemeral out of the window of my truck as we went flying by or pulled over on a highway shoulder with cars whizzing by, or just cruising down two lane black top back roads where I found all these fantastical wind turbines.

Somewhere in Eastern Colorado

Somewhere in Eastern Colorado

10 wyoming snow fence

Wyoming Drift Fence

I started looking at a lot of the pictures I ‘snapped’ and the commonality was that I was looking for juxtaposition between man made and aggressive nature. These are places you have to be tough and fight to live, too much snow, too much heat, too much wind and so much beauty.

Stop for Wyoming

Stop for Wyoming

I have lots of other shots of more pastoral places but I think these dreamy post cards shots and old photo treatments are perfect to express the idea that we can only borrow the land, its not ours to keep.

Maggie, dog of the West

Maggie, dog of the West

What I did on my summer vacation.

Bonneville Dam, on the mighty Columbia, that's Terry and a turbine screw. Firefly is in the background.

okay, who handles fish?
fish hatchery architecture

fish hatcher architecture

The annual voyage of the good vehicle whose name is Firefly is underway. I love traveling in a Mini Cooper Convertible. It goes fast, it handles well and you wouldn’t believe how much I can shove into this car along with two people. Its a scientific wonder, I have packed everything to spend two weeks camping–comfortably–in the Mini. My exposure to camping with the hubs and his buds on our motorcycles opened my eyes to what misery in a sleeping bag means. I choose to go the other way, Miniature does not mean miserable.

This year the dogs are home with our house sitter, who is also excavating a chunk of my yard for a new terrace. We are out in the world for two weeks which includes my conference speaking engagement in Salt Lake City at an educational conference and then on to Colorado for a few days with my son and his fabulous family. As always I am carrying a giant camera and a few lenses and I am sure I will take way too many photos before its all over.

A rainbow trout, aka looks like dinner in a pond at the Bonneville park, its a beautiful place to stop, wander and stretch your legs on the way down the dry valley.

I have decided this year to replicate those wonderful vacation photos from the 60s that are supersaturated and seem completely random in what they caught, but I love them. So this is Installment One of what I did on my summer vacation.

Three modes of transport, water, train and car. One shot, cool, no?

From the car, windmills and a barge way up the river.


Summr Sunshine, the name of a rose and my state of mind.


How perfect is the tag on this rose? I had to go play the song on my Ipod immediately.


You start seeing mills and silos as the land gets flatter and more farm friendly. this one is near Pendleton,OR.


I love windmills.very weird and wonderful from a moving car.


peekaboo windmills


farm country. I am crazy about the hard metal juxtaposition with the organic landscape.

More shiny metal things

like these a lot

falling down farm

Installment number one done.

Down A Mississppi Rabbit Hole


I loved the hands I saw, the one clasping a wreath on a stone

This post is about a visit to a very bad rabbit hole which left me feeling like Alice. Perplexed, confused, mad, upset, and helplessly along for the ride.  It’s also about me processing the toxic leftovers of being robbed at gunpoint in Jackson, Mississippi. I thought had forgiven the two thuglets who changed my worldview, but I think that will take more time and work. Right now, I would happily shoot them both if I had a gun, which fixes nothing and takes me to their playing field. I choose not to go there.

So many beautiful stone portraits in the Greenwood Cemetery

Jackson, Mississippi, it turns out is a crime-ridden festering wound of a city, facts which are not bruited about in the guidebooks touting the history of the place. Eudora Welty is probably sadly spinning in her grave in the Greenwood cemetery. It is a city of have everythings and have nothings.

I have never seen another sleeping angel, loved this

I landed up in Jackson as a result of wanting to see something of the area before I got down to the ‘bidness’ of grantwriting instruction in West Monroe, Louisiana which is about 80 miles away. Vicksburg is about 30 miles from Jackson and the whole of Mississippi is full of sad southern history. The South has most definitely not risen again in this part of Mississippi.  I started my Sunday hoping to find a few second hand stores and some curious vintage, but I discovered everything but restaurants is closed on Sunday in this part of the country. Buffets full of  fat men and pick ups everywhere I looked.

400 unknown confederate soldiers graves are lined up in rows in the center of the Greenwood cemetery

The people I met on my visit were unfailingly kind and nice with the exception of the two well-dressed in gangster duds wannabees who collided with my world. It took two of the scumlets to have enough courage to rob a woman alone in a cemetery on a Sunday morning at gunpoint. That to me, is the definition of cowardice, I find them rather like hyenas who only hunt in vicious packs. Yes, I understand they are economically oppressed, terribly poor, living in substandard housing, etc. etc. etc. Hurting and terrifying others is not the answer.

Greenwood cemetery and the little house where I found the dropped key

Why is America sending billions and billions to other countries to help their people and here we do nothing. I get these two guys have no opportunities, no education and no future. They were between 18 and 22 and probably each one has fathered children, the ubitiquous baby daddy. Their single girlfriends will be raising the next generation of thugs and hyenas alone and crying when their boys get shot in the streets or go to prison.  Wake up America, you can’t turn your backs and expect things to get better.

I thought these were hilarious, no nonsense headstones, probably a whole family of middle class merchants

That being said, it is still really unpleasant to become the target of two black thugs in a very white historic cemetery on a Sunday morning when the entire state of Mississippi is in church. You could go bowling on the empty streets of Jackson on a Sunday. I had made my pilgrimage to Eudora Welty’s home in Belhaven, very nice upscale older residential area, and I knew she was buried in the historic Greenwood Cemetery.

The cemetery is right smack downtown, a stone’s throw from the state capital and the supreme court. I felt safe, I was on my guard. I even drove all the way around the cemetery before I went in to check it out. There were rolls of barbed wire on the top of the fence and only one way in. My assumption, wrong, it turns out, was that this was to discourage vandals because the cemetery is old, historic and pristine. More cemetery angels intact than I have ever seen in one place.  Sunday morning, empty streets, historic cemetery, another couple on a motorcycle in the cemetery on a sunny morning. I decided to go in and look around. I parked, got out my camera and began happily snapping pictures.

Martha Eliza and Laura Louisa Mims, twins? Odd headstones.

I noticed the hyenas, one in an orange hoody and one in a red hoody, just kind of standing around and talking to each other. I wasn’t comfortable so I started slowly back to my car. I have to believe God was on my side because I reached in my pocket for the car key and it was gone. Just remembering that moment makes my heart pound all over again. I started retracing my steps and there is a little wooden house in the middle of the cemetery. The key was on the front porch in plain sight where it had fallen from my pocket. I truly think if I had not been able to give them the key and the car they were after, they would have gunned me down without a second thought.

The Harper family has a Harper angel

I was shaking when I got to the car, I opened it with the remote button and I thought, “I’m safe, I made it.” I sat down  in the car and had not even swung my legs in, when suddenly I heard footsteps running my way, the heavy set thug had run up and I could see his boots. Expensive, suede work boots, untied, white socks. I looked up and saw the gun. A matte black pistol, probably a 38. “Get out da cah”.  He grabbed my camera and my car key and waved the gun at me, “Walk away”. I did, I started up a small hill, fully expecting to be shot in the back. The second thug, a thinner punk in a red hoodie, said, “What’s in yo pocket?”  I said, “My phone.” “Give it here” , he held out his hand impatiently and grabbed the phone, again telling me to “Walk away, walk faster.” As soon as I heard the car start and get put in gear, I turned around to see them backing out of the cemetery at a high rate of speed to turn right and race away.

General Barksdale was shot on horseback leading a charge in the battle of Gettysburg, he died two days later in a Union Hospital.

My purse with my i.d., credit cards and cash was in the trunk with my jewelry. I was a good tourist, I put everything out of sight, I kept it safe. My i.d. was gone, my phone was gone, my money and credit cards were gone and I was forty miles from my hotel room.  My beloved camera was gone but my phone I missed the most. Iphones seem to gather up your life and carry it around for you. Photos, contacts, messages, internet. Amazing how dependent we become and how fast.

Barksdale, "Tell my wife and family I am killed" were his last words.

Jeff Rudis and David McCarty were in the cemetery the same time and day I was. David was driving a white car parked about a football field from me, and Jeff was walking his dog Chase on the other side of the cemetery. In your dreams you cannot call out for help, but in real life I had no problem at all hollering “Help” at the top of my lungs while walking towards where I had seen the two guys.

They both came running, blessings on them, and both had cell phones. We waited about 15 minutes, no cop, so David went to hunt for them, the officer had managed to miss the cemetery entrance. He finally arrived, a young black officer who was very to the point and probably used to this sort of thing in his sordid city-although hopefully not female tourists in cemeteries on Sunday mornings.

I am so glad I did not lose this little shot of a nest on top of a tombstone

He was a bit clueless though. I told him the stolen car was a rental. A black Dodge Avenger with Ohio plates.  He wanted to see the rental agreement and know the license number.  Really Officer? Really? It’s a RENTAL. David helped me get hold of Alamo National car rental and get the plates and the VIN. The officer said, “We will get the car back, maybe not this week, but we will get it back.” He took a very short statement, gave me a case number and left me in the cemetery where I had been robbed. No offer of transport or help in Jackson. You get robbed at gunpoint here and you are on your own.

This Goddess was amazing, in fanastic shape, so beautiful

Jeff Rudis stepped up and offered to take me back to his apartment and let me use his computer and telephone to shut off my credit cards and let people know what had happened. We walked to his house with Chase, his big white dog. The thuglets had approached Jeff and asked him if Chase bit, when he told them sometimes, they backed off.  Hint: carry a loaded dog in Jackson. It seemed so normal, people talking on the curb outside a place that is revitalizing the neighborhood, nice houses and apartments, all just a few blocks from the cemetery and behind it a burned out ghetto. Jeff had moved to Jackson from Hattiesburg to take a job promotion just a few weeks before so this was a nasty introduction to his new hometown. His girlfriend was moving to Jackson too, and I think all this probably helped them choose a safer neighborhood for her new apartment. I cannot thank Jeff enough, he handed me a beer because he thought I needed one, he offered hospitality and help, and he gave me a ride home when we figured out the rental company was not going to help me out. Actually, I have been told they will be coming after me for their lost car. The icing on the cake.

I have never seen so many cemetery angels. I would like to go back--with a bodyguard--and take more pictures.

I got back to Vicksburg and Jeff insisted on coming in to make sure I was safe and hand me over to the hotel staff before he made the long drive back home. I hope he shows his girl friend this post and she understands he is a really great guy if she doesn’t already know that. The hotel staff were wonderful and comforting, they had spoken to my friend Corky who had flown me in for the consult in Louisiana, and they fronted me forty dollars for food until he got there the next day.  Even the maid knocked on the door to check up on me. I had about twenty four hours alone to process all that had happened and in retrospect I am glad about that. I never cried or fell apart but I didn’t sleep well for days. Flashbacks  to the sound of  the boots the gun and what if?

Even the borken pieces were all gathered up and carefully kept with the graves. I found that amazing

Terry sent my passport so I got home at the end of the week after a rough travel day and I spent the next days  getting my life back, Iphone, i.d., and credit cards. On Sunday my family came over because they had been without electricity for five days. They all had long hot showers, played on the computers, charged their phones and ate the ham and potato soup I made. Here’s the thing. When I was making that soup with my left over ham bone and chopping up potatoes in my warm kitchen I knew I was the lucky one. I was not in some roach infested rotting old tenement wondering where my next meal was coming from. I got everything back and I’m fine. They are not, they never will be. Their lives are already over. Its just a matter of time, they are walking dead men one way or another.

Two of tthese little angels flanked a gigantically tall capital with a southern gent on the top. Only birds could touch him.

The tragedy is not the carjacking and robbery, that’s a scary irritation, the tragedy is in the human lives that are being wasted every day. Christians fight like crazy against abortion but do little to save the people that are already here in the worst parts of this country. Why don’t we care for each other more and better?

Broken urn

The final illumination and grace note to this whole thing was getting my Iphone back. The pictures I shot with my Iphone were stored in the I cloud. Bless you Steve Jobs, wherever you are. These beautiful angels are the ironic illustrations to this long story which ends with me safe and whole and home.

Angel head, so pretty and so intact, I loved seeing these



The Limo Driver

The Limo Driver
written in 2007, still lovely to remember today.

It’s a travel day. Up early, scrambling to pack the last things scattered around the hotel room, run to catch the limo to the airport and then five hours in the air losing three going west. How odd to arrive almost before you leave.

In my road warrior travel scramble life I seldom experience the life of the first class traveler. I’m usually loaded down like a really small camel on a really big expedition. This time my boss put “his girls” in first class and arranged limo pick up at each end of the trip. I could get used to this—a big strapping guy with our names on a card met our flight and ushered us to the baggage carousel. We pointed out our suitcases and he strong-armed the crowd and wrestled the luggage to the ground for us. He ushered us and our mound of bags to the Lincoln town car and tucked us in for the ride home.

Five o’clock traffic in L.A. had us crawling along and our driver, who introduced himself as Gary, asked if he could regale us with some limo stories. I am always so curious about my fellow humans that it took me only about 5 minutes of conversation before he started telling us tales to find out Gary is in the “industry” –as are about half of the residents of this part of the world. His wife is an executive producer who is gone on shoots about half the time, his kids are grown and his other job is as a sports and celebrity photographer. He shoots boat races and football games along with movie stars. He grew up in Bob Hope’s neighborhood and went to school with his kids and hung out at their house. Gary is 62 now, tanned and fit enjoying life, and this man can tell a story.

One day a couple of years ago, his boss told him he would be driving a Nobel Prize winner around on appointments for a day. “There was a nurse with him and he was about 88 years old,” he said. Gary described the client as ill and frail and dying of cancer. “I got to the house and he came out with his nurse. He was using a walker and moving very slowly. He looked sick and exhausted and shaky when he got in the car. I drove them to their first appointment at a doctor’s office, he came out and he was looking even worse.

The nurse gave me the address of the next appointment, another doctor, and I didn’t know if the guy could even get out of the car. I went around the side and asked him very politely if I could help him out. I told him if he would swing his legs to the side I could help him get out of the car and it would be easier for him. He told me yes, and thanked me. I helped him out of the car he went slowly off, leaning on his walker with his nurse at his side.

This time when he came back he looked so exhausted and ill I didn’t even know if he would make it home. I heard the nurse tell him that the next place they had to go she could go in and deliver all the paperwork that needed to be dropped off. She said she would also drop off his prescriptions and he could just rest in the car. We got to the medical complex and I helped the nurse out of the car and got back in front.

A few minutes went by, and I turned and asked Dr Green if he would mind if I asked him about his Nobel Prize. He told me he wouldn’t mind talking about it and he smiled a little. I asked him what his prize was in and he told me it was for his work in genetic engineering in 1991. “Could I ask you one more question? How do they tell you that you have won? " I watched as he pulled himself a bit more upright and some color started to come back in his face. He said that someone on the committee had called him in March and told him he had been nominated. They asked if he won would he accept it? I wondered who wouldn’t accept it? He told me some third world countries won’t let an individual win the prize because it comes with such a large sum of money. The last winners got 1.3 million. He got $750,000 and he gave it to Cal Tech for scholarships because he didn’t need the money.

The person on the phone said someone from the committee will call you in August and tell you if you have won or if you have not won. Either way you will receive a call. Dr Green said he would be in Switzerland then celebrating his 50th anniversary with his wife at the hotel where they had met 50 years before. “Just make sure we have the hotel’s number and we will contact you.” The man said to him.

In August they went on their vacation as planned. Friends met them and they celebrated their long and happy marriage. One sunny Swiss day the doctor asked the concierge if there was spot that would be easy to get to for a picnic. The concierge said, “Come outside with me and I will show you.” He walked them out front far enough away from the hotel entrance to see a wide path to one side of the grounds. “This path is easy and goes up there to a place that we call table rock. The path goes back and forth easily and takes you up quite high where you will have a lovely view.”

They got their picnic basket complete with a bottle of wine and a blanket and headed up the path. Sure enough, it was gentle and smooth enough even for the old couple to hold hands and stroll up to Table Rock for their picnic. They spread their blanket, got out their cheese and bread and sausage, opened the wine and enjoyed the view of the hotel beneath them, the Alps in the distance and the beautiful meadows and river behind the hotel. “A man in a suit came running out of the hotel, and the way he was running we thought someone must be chasing him. He disappeared from our view and we returned to our picnic wondering what was causing a man so dressed to run in that manner. We soon found out when he burst into view below our Table Rock. Panting heavily, he climbed up to us to wheeze out the news that the hotel had just the past few minutes received a call from the Nobel Committee telling Doctor Green that he had won the Nobel Prize. So that is how I got the news.” His eyes twinkled and he smiled when he told me they had quite an afternoon celebrating on that rock.

Mrs. Green was dying of cancer at that time, and he told me he was so happy that she lived to go to Stockholm with him to see him accept the prize,  enjoying all that came with it. The nurse returned to the car then, bustling with paper bags of pills and a folio of papers. I helped her into the car and drove them home.

When I helped him out of the car that last time, he was standing straighter, his cheeks were pink and his eyes were sparkling. He shook my hand and held it in both of his and told me, “I am so pleased you asked me about the Nobel Prize. I haven’t talked about it in a long time and it makes me happy to remember it.” Gary said, “I watched him go into the house with the nurse and went on to my next job. Two weeks later I saw his obituary in the L.A. Times, “Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Green Dies at Age 88”. I was the last person who heard his story and it will always be something special to me.”

I sat in the back seat of the limo with tears in my eyes. The symmetry of the story was lovely and as long as someone else tells the story of Dr. Green and the Nobel Prize; the story isn’t over is it? I want it to go on to live in the world and so I am telling you.