Thursday, March 26, 2009

This isn't looking good.

Judging by my occasional sneezing and coughing, and especially by the fact that I can't even put two thoughts together tonight in order to write, I have a feeling I'm catching my husband's cold. I suppose that's inevitable, but the timing is awful. Plus, when I have a cold, it's not one of those charming Austenesque affairs where I lie there looking pretty and a little pinker than usual, sniffing daintily from time to time and fluttering a lacy handkerchief. No, it's more like Marjorie Main as Ma Kettle, or - oh, never mind. Suffice it to say, it's not a thing of beauty. I'm not a thing of beauty. And I know my husband will feel guilty and worry about me and try to be helpful, but when I'm sick, I would like to be flown to a desert island and left there, surrounded by books and with a tea kettle at hand, thank you.

I am going to give ColdFX a try. I went to the pharmacy today and asked about it. The pharmacist thought I wanted to know whether I needed the real brand or a generic. I interrupted her to say that actually, I wanted to know whether it was snake oil. She told me that she didn't think so, because her daughter swears by it. I know a couple of other people who praise it, as well, so here goes.

I shall retire now to my bed of pain. Think of me, from time to time. ;>)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Help! I've been tagged!

And just this once, I'm going to give aid and comfort to the meme. That's mostly because I feel guilty at having inadvertently copied Fellowette's idea for a blog entry. Never mind, I say. You can't say Happy Birthday to Ferlinghetti too often, right?

So anyway, Fellowette tagged me to fill out a questionnaire, and I have duly answered most of the questions, in the spirit of openness and because this one was actually fun!

1) What author do you own the most books by? Steinbeck
2) What book do you own the most copies of? To Kill a Mockingbird
3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? Nope.
4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with? Edward Rochester
4a) What fictional character would you most like to be? Mrs. Madrigal. ( Really? Who knew?)
4b) What fictional character do you think most resembles you? Bridget Jones and her mother.
5) What book have you read the most times in your life? Jane Eyre
6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old? Heh, Jane Eyre.
7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year? I don't read books that I don't like. Life is too short.
8) What is the best book you've read in the past year? Juniper Tree Burning.
9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be? Rohinton Mistry's 'A Fine Balance'.
10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for literature? Khaled Hosseini.
11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie? Tales of the City (I know. It's already been a tv series. I want a blockbuster.) OTOH, 'The Life of Pi' might be interesting, too.
12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie? Remembrance of Things Past?
13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character. Sorry. Drawing a blank, here.
14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult? No idea. Oh, wait. Thorn Birds, maybe. It was so lowbrow, the pages fell out, one by one, as I read the book.
15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
My university statistics textbook.
16)What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
Haven't seen any obscure Shakespeare plays. Only a couple of hits.
17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians? For what?
18) Roth or Updike? Maupin.
19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers? Who? Oh (checking Wiki), this seems like an appropriate time to put in a plug for Stuart McLean, whose show The Vinyl Cafe, broadcast Saturdays on CBC radio, is one of the highlights of my week. Stuart's Dave and Morley stories leave me crying happy, crying sad. Great stuff.
20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer? Shakespeare.
21) Austen or Eliot? Austen – no, wait – Eliot – no, wait – Austen.
22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading? I cannot begin to answer this question. My reading is a huge gap, punctuated by the odd book.
23) What is your favorite novel?
A Fine Balance
24) Play? No Exit
25) Poem? Adrienne Rich - Vertigo
26) Essay? Any of those in Barbara Kingsolver's 'Small Wonder'
27) Short story? Heh. All that comes to mind is 'The Rocking Horse Winner'. LOL! Surely I've read a short story since then!
28) Work of non-fiction? At the moment, 'The Audacity of Hope', maybe because I'm reading it at the moment.
29) Who is your favorite writer? What day is this?
30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today? Decline to answer.
31) What is your desert island book? Jane Eyre
32) And ... what are you reading right now? See #28. Also Alex Sokoloff's 'The Price' – and starting a biography of Amelia Earhart.

Shall I go all the way, and tag somebody else? Naaaaah - but anybody who reads this is more than welcome to join in.

Happy birthday, Lawrence Ferlinghetti!

I'm a few hours late, I'm afraid - (sorry, Lawrence) but that's what I get for not staying up all night, tracking Tweets. I checked first thing this morning. Fellow-ette had announced that it was Ferlinghetti's birthday. That reminded me of City Lights Books, and of San Francisco, the only city I've ever loved. And it reminded me of the day I first visited It was this poem that I went to see. I bookmarked the site, and forever after, when I click there, this is the poem that greets me:

Don't let that horse

Don't let that horse
eat that violin
cried Chagall's mother

But he
kept right on

And became famous

And kept on painting
The Horse With Violin In Mouth
And when he finally finished it
he jumped up upon the horse
and rode away
waving the violin

And then with a low bow gave it
to the first naked nude he ran across

And there were no strings

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I'm glad that I bookmarked that particular page.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This, too, is a beautiful place.

After writing about trips to the United States, Mexico, England, France, and Spain, I figure it's time to pay a little attention to my home base. That's Nanaimo, B.C., on Vancouver Island, which attracts tourists from, well, all over Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, Europe - and Asia, too. Sometimes I wonder why we bother to leave (generally, I think that way when it's warm and sunny).

This morning, Robin and I went for a walk along the Queen Elizabeth II walkway, which hugs the shore from downtown to the Nanaimo Shipyard. It wasn't warm and sunny today, but it was comfortably cool, and the tide was low, so the air smelled of the sea. Gulls flew overhead, dropping mussels on the walkway. Crows argued from fenceposts. The sky was full of rather scary-looking clouds, but none of them rained on us. We walked from Maffeo Sutton

Park, which is a huge construction site at the moment, to the shipyard, where this boat , the Columbia III was up on the hoist, getting a scrub.

The Columbia III is a beautiful, classic boat. We had to stop for a few minutes to admire her lines and speculate about her history. Thank goodness for Google. The link above has lots of answers.

On our way out, we grumbled about all the construction work, because we thought that the dreaded condo development we had heard about had gotten underway, and from the looks of things, there wouldn't be much left of the park, once it was in. But as we returned to the park, we were delighted to see a sign describing what is really happening down there. It seems we don't ever hang around long enough to get our stories straight. I'm not sure where the dreaded condo development is going, but it's not going to take our park. What's being built now is something called Spirit Square. It will be public space -"a venue for events and a community gathering place", according to the article. That's a good thing. The Civic Arena used to be there. That was ripped out a couple of years ago. The City built a new hockey rink, west of downtown, but there's more to life than hockey, I say, and I'm very pleased to see that we'll have a community centre again.

So that's today's news - but wait! There's more! Last night, I finally signed up for Twitter - against some sage advice - because my curiosity got the better of me. I went looking for the few people I know there, and clicked to follow them (Hi, Kat!). I also elected to follow Barack Obama and Al Gore, because Why Not? - and of course, I'm following Rachel Maddow. She must have been wondering when I'd finally join up.

Much to my surprise, I discovered this morning that I was in turn being followed by several people who, to the best of my knowledge, are complete strangers. Why? So far, in answer to Twitter's one question, "What are you doing?" I've posted such brilliant responses as "Checking out Twitter". Now, That's a Follower Magnet.

Now, I see that John has posted about Arthur Godfrey over at Robert Frost's Banjo, and I didn't have time this morning to properly enjoy reading it - so off I go.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Rainy Day, with Headache

Quite a combination, that, and now that I think about it, perhaps there's a causal relationship. I thought I would brighten a dismal day by going to see "Coraline" in 3D. Robin and I drove to the far end of town, only to find that

I hadn't read the schedule right -
There was no matinee,
And so we window shopped
In order not
To waste a rainy day.

We did our window shopping in the mall. I figured I might as well get some exercise, and I certainly wasn't going to try walking outside. The raindrops were - and are - just short of turning into little hunks of ice. I checked out the shoe stores, the dollar store, the stationery department at Wal-Mart - the latter was best, because I could stand there, looking at the display of Post-it notes in exciting colours. I could picture them up on my office wall, labeled "Opening scene"; "Introduce main character"; "Climax" etc. Just what I needed to get my novel organized. When I remembered that I already own a sizeable collection of Post-it notes - and index cards, too - we came home, and I posted my bit of doggerel on Facebook. That was when I discovered that Facebook is no respecter of line breaks. The nerve of them.

There was one more stop on our window shopping trip. We went to Chapters, our big bookstore. I hadn't been there in four months. It had changed. I walked up to one of the new search terminals, typed in a book title, then Enter. I wanted to do a further search, so I tried to put the cursor back up in the window - but I couldn't find the mouse. Finally, frustrated, I set out on foot, looking for books of/on poetry. As I passed by another terminal, I saw a staff member. "What have you done with the mice?" I demanded. (Remember, I had a headache. I was grumpy.)

I was conscious, even as I spoke, that a few years ago, that would have been a very strange question. This time, the young man didn't even blink. "It's a touch screen, ma'am," he said, and he smiled.

I could hear the secret voice in his mind, though. It was not a smiley voice. I think that too many grumpy people had already asked him what he'd done with the mice. (In fairness to all us grumpy people, it should be noticed that Chapters' old search terminals did have mice.)

I was so embarrassed, I let him go without asking him where he had hidden the Poetry section. I just set off on foot again, in the direction of Literature. That seemed like a logical place to find poetry. When I got there, I saw another staff member. I asked her what she had done with the poetry.

(No, I didn't. I asked politely for help in finding the poetry section. She pointed to the farthest corner of the store, behind the storeroom door. )

That was, in fact, the best part of the window shopping trip. I saw books of poetry by Charles Bukowski and Maya Angelou, Walt Whitman and William Butler Yeats. They were nestled in there among the "Poems to Warm the Cockles of Your Heart" collections. There weren't any books on poetry, but I could order those in.

Meanwhile, I found this at

We Ain't Got No Money, Honey, But We Got Rain

call it the greenhouse effect or whatever

Charles Bukowski

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Walk in the Country

After I read Robert Frost's Banjo this morning, I could hardly wait to go out for a walk. I suggested that we go to farm country, but Robin wanted to cycle around the lake, and that turned out to be a wonderful suggestion. I took the video camera along, and several times on the four-mile walk, I stopped to take a still picture for the blog. When I got home, I tried to upload the photos, but unfortunately, I still can't make it happen, even on the laptop to which I used to upload all my photos. I'm beginning to suspect a problem with the camera itself - or the cord. That would be good.

At both ends of the lake, there was some snow on the ground beside the path, and there were a few muddy places, but by and large the walking was easy - that is, until it was almost over. The circuit is 6.1 kilometers long. At 5 kilometers, suddenly there's a 9o-degree hill. Okay, it's not really 90 degrees, but it looks that way as you approach it, and it certainly feels like 90 degrees. I stopped twice on the way up, to catch my breath. Robin, pushing his bicycle, lagged behind - but once we got to the top of the hill, he climbed back onto his bike and left me in the dust - er, mud. As we walked, we commented that it must be ten years since the last time we took that particular walk. The path has been greatly widened, and there aren't nearly so many roots to trip over as I remembered. On the other hand, I don't remember that hill. I have a feeling that that's because I was, oh, ten years younger the last time I walked around the lake. The hill would have been much less steep. ;>)

There were lots of people out today, families with children, older people like us, all sorts of people walking their dogs. There was also an idiot on a dirt bike, but only one, and he disappeared quickly in a cloud of exhaust fumes. I think that before you can buy one of those things, you must have to prove that you can't read a sign - like the one prohibiting motorized vehicles on the path. (I promised Debra Schubert this morning that I would henceforth call 'em as I see 'em. I'm practising.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I made a decision. This is the blog that's won my heart. I tried to bring over my posts from Turtle Tracks and Turtle Afloat, but that didn't work because I couldn't get them to stay where I put them. They kept pushing to the front of the line. I'll just have to wait patiently for some technological miracle that will s-l-i-d-e them on over to their appropriate places in the chronology of Amazing Voyages of the Turtle. Meanwhile, I know where they are.

This afternoon, I rented and watched Milk. I rather wish I had seen it in a theatre, with other people around me, because it made me want to reach out and take someone's hand - some complete stranger's hand. We need more movies like that. Even watching it on my own was good, though. Sean Penn was stunning as Harvey Milk. How many stars? All of them.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Write or Die: Prodding the Reluctant Muse

I love going to my favourite blogs and perusing their bloglists. Yesterday, from*** Tender Graces,*** I followed a link to Mike's Writing Workshop and Newsletter. Mike, in turn, mentioned a site that made my heart go pitter-pat. It was something from Online, called 100 Free Lectures That Will Make You a Better Writer. I want to listen to every single lecture. What a great resource! So far, I've heard just the introductory lecture in the Modern Poetry course. The next one will be on Robert Frost's poetry.

Later, while Robin was watching the movie "Australia", (a little too epic for my taste) I decided to challenge myself to a little speed writing. I went to Write or Die, Dr. Wicked's Writing Lab, and I wrote two hundred words in five minutes. That was easy. I didn't write anything memorable, but I kept my fingers hopping over the keys. I erased that effort and started again, and - voila!

Again, I didn't produce art, but I kept typing. I was a little put off when I thought I had been typing for ten minutes and I had produced only 250 words, but then I realized that the meter was counting down, not up, and I really had been typing for only five minutes or so. Phew. For a moment there, I thought I had had myself a fugue. I've used that technique before, after reading Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, but then I wrote by hand, not on my laptop, and the idea was simply to keep the pen moving. Somehow, there wasn't as much pressure when I wrote by hand - maybe because there wasn't the threat of a loud and obnoxious buzzer going off, in the event that I stopped writing. Apparently, that will happen if you slow down too much when you're typing at Dr. Wicked's site - but when you reach your goal, you get a trumpet fanfare. By the time I got to the end of the exercise, I had actually started playing with an idea for a poem. Now, I had better go jot it down somewhere.

By the way, those asterisks by the title Tender Graces are a reminder that Kathryn Magendie's book by the same name is due for release very soon. I've pre-ordered my copy. Kat is so excited, I can hear her giggling all the way up here in Canada. ;>) The thing is, I'm excited, too.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Anais Nin

Officer, that quotation is following me. Not that I mind. It's beautiful. It's touching. I saw it first at mouse medicine , then at The Truth as I Know It, which I just visited for the first time. I am particularly drawn to the quote because I'm old, and I'm just now finally coming out of the closet where I've kept my pen and ink all these years. Not that I've done anything so brave as to submit my poems to anybody, but I'm getting there, and in the meantime, I'm engaging in this extended TMI exercise online. For me, that's more than half the battle.

When I reported that I had followed Alexandra Sokoloff's advice and imagined famous actors in the roles I wanted to fill, Willow made an intriguing suggestion. She said "You can match the zodiac sign of the actor up with the personality of your character!" It was great advice, and I am grateful, but I laughed when I read it, because I knew it was Way Too Late. I had already lost control.

I had brought in my dream team of actors, settled them comfortably all in a row, on the very long casting couch in my head, and assigned them their parts. As I said the other day, that seemed to be a great solution to the problem of creating characters. But there was more to it than that. What Alexandra hadn't told me (and in fairness, I hadn't thought to ask) was that as soon as the actors put on their name tags, they would use the force of their, well, their characters, to affect - nay, to control the behaviour of the people they were meant to portray.

Take Hugh, for example. My central character is a woman named Bridget, and Hugh is Bridget's husband. He is supposed to be a hell of a nice guy, but rather weak, ineffectual, and not very supportive. In a fit of sentimentality, I cast John Cusack in the role. I like John Cusack, and I cast him because I wanted "a hell of a nice guy". Wrong decision. No sooner had I pasted a picture of John above my description of Hugh, than I imagined a scene in which Bridget went a bit postal, and instead of falling to pieces, Hugh (John) put his arms around her, waited patiently while her breathing slowed, and then said softly, "It's okay, Bridget. Everything will be fine. We'll get through this together," or something equally comforting.


"John, John, John," I protested. " I mean, Hugh, Hugh, Hugh. You're not supposed to be strong and dependable, just nice, and kind of namby-pamby. This is when you remember that you have an important meeting, and you flee the scene, because you can't deal with Bridget's drama."

"Ah, Sandra," he replied, gazing soulfully into my eyes, "If you didn't want me to be me, why did you cast me? I think you're a little conflicted. Maybe we should talk this out."

So now I'm on the horns of a dilemma. Do I fire John for insubordination, which he richly deserves, or do I rethink Hugh, who isn't nearly as attractive? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, I'll write "He should have been a Pisces!" in huge red letters on my whiteboard, as a reminder for the next time.
I've spent my day in silence.

It's an experiment. Most of the time, if I'm on my own, I listen to music. I turn on the CBC - or I would have, before they changed their format and pissed me off - but that's another story. I somehow fill the house or the car with music, usually classical, preferably violin concertos. I love violin concertos.

On the other hand, if I'm truly stressed out, which I often am, I'll turn the tv on and let it provide background chatter. That way, the voices in my head are kept at bay - the ones that make sure I don't forget to worry about this, or panic about that, or bemoan my failure at something else. Of course, all the other voices are silenced as well - the creative ones, the ones trying out new poems, or ideas for that novel I will never get around to writing because I'm too busy worrying and/or listening to television chatter....

When winter arrives and we board the Turtle to go adventuring, I am thrown into another environment entirely. First of all, I'm seldom alone, and I don't always feel free to impose my music of choice on my husband, whose musical taste is quite different from mine. Much of the time, I don't have access to television at all. If I do, what I can bring in is either in Spanish or - amazingly often - a 24/7 dog and pony show of last year's celebrity "news" rehashed, alternating with right-wing rants, which make me more tense than ever. So. I develop the habit of not watching television. I read. I surf the net. I blog. I go for walks on the beach. I write poems. I meditate. More often than not, I sleep right through the night.

On our return to Life as Usual, it takes almost no time to re-establish old patterns. Before long, it's natural to flip the tv on in the morning, to check the weather and find out what new disasters have occurred during the night. "Normal" comes to imply the presence of noise around me, the muffling of thought. Silence becomes a threat.

Yesterday, Debbie posted a fascinating confession at Suburb Sanity, It was called "You can hear a pin drop", and it concerned her aversion to noise. I responded to her post, saying "I waffle. Sometimes silence makes me nervous. Other times, it feels like velvet. Always, though, I'm sensitive to little noises - like chewing, the popping of gum, slurping. Any of those will cause me to run away - or turn on the nearest source of Big Noise. Full Blast." That set me to thinking about how I use noise to escape, and how that isn't necessarily a good idea. I decided that this time, I wasn't going to fall into the trap of drowning out my voices. I would listen to them - the creative ones, at least - and stop wasting all those precious hours. So that's what I've been doing.

So far - I've spent hours thinking about my novel. I've surfed the net. I've read. I've walked to Starbucks, where I sat and thought about my novel some more, and then came up with an opening scene idea that I really like. So far, the silence has felt like velvet.

Now - as long as nobody pops any gum.....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

All the stars have hung their carnival chains of light for me. (Adrienne Rich)

Yes, they have. And today, my vision is still a little blurry. I spent last evening taking Alexandra Sokoloff's advice, casting the actors of my choice to play the characters in my novel-to-be. Alexandra says "I’ve talked before about writing a character for a specific actor. And as authors, we can use this technique even more easily than screenwriters can - because we don’t have to go out and get the actor to play the part (and then compromise later with the ninth choice on our wish list)."

Wow. It was like Christmas morning. You mean I can have Liam Neeson? Meryl Streep? Nicole Kidman? And omigod, Robert Downey Jr.? He's perfect!

Now I actually have faces and voices to go with my hitherto amorphous characters. It is just so cool. The best part is, I'm not limited by the age of the actors at this moment - I could have a young Sean Connery, if I liked - though I won't, because I think he improved greatly with age, and besides, my story is set in Philadelphia and New York. I can even use actors that are no longer living. Hmmmm. Paul Newman - or Shelly Winters - might fit into my story.

While I was shopping for actors, I also established birthdates for most of my characters, and I started looking for incidents in the wider world that would influence the course of their lives. I found some, too.

This is the fun part, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Help! I need somebody~

I'm feeling a little lost. I know exactly where I am, of course. I'm at home. Today, for a change, I'm not going to pack up and move - except to walk to the supermarket and back, for my step count. My home, the one that doesn't have wheels, is going to stay right here. So why am I lost? Well, it's weird. For three and a half months, I sat over there -----> to write my posts, and there was always something to write about. I was visiting some places I'd never seen before, having little adventures - not big adventures, thank goodness, but little ones - and I wanted to share them. Now, it's back to Life as Usual - at least until the next trip. But - but I'm not ready to stop. It's become important to me that I come here and share my day, and that I share your days, too. First thing this morning, I checked to make sure that Kat Magendie had arrived safely at her home - and I started catching up on my other favourite bloggers - for the advice and inspiration they provide, and also because somehow our lives are intertwined now. That sounds pretentious, but I can't think of a better way to put it. I care what's going on in John's life, and Katrina's - (how could I get by without seeing those lovely hats?). I want to get my dose of good cheer from Angie - hmmm. Today, I can learn to make a bayou punch!

Well, you get the idea. Just look at my bloglist. I seem to have moved into Blogland, and I don't want to leave. So what should I do? This is supposed to be a travel journal. I'm not traveling. Shall I change the leader and make this a stay-at-home blog? Shall I go back to Turtle Tracks? If I do, will anybody come with me? I need some advice!

Meanwhile, I'm in this beautiful place, waiting for the dogwoods to bloom again. Every year, I look forward to getting home in time to watch the buds, wait for them to open. There. That's a good reason for getting home while it's still cold - I know I haven't missed the first dogwood blossom! While I wait, there are the snowdrops - and then will come the crocuses, the daffodils. In the words of Roseanne Roseannadanna, "If it isn't one thing - it's another."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Home last. We got home yesterday - but as we had arrived early, our cable was not connected. That didn't happen until about three hours ago. So we had television. Well, that was a start. For the next hour and a half, I watched nervously as the little lights on my modem flashed. They aren't supposed to flash. I unplugged and replugged the power cords - eight times - then gave up and called the cable company. I'm glad I did, because the problem wasn't at my end. They had to fix something in their office - but finally, I am online.

Beware the Ides of March. After driving over Grants Pass and the Siskiyou in both directions, after driving the length and breadth of Mexico - to elevations in excess of 7,000 feet - we finally encountered snow yesterday in West Vancouver, on our way to the ferry. We had to do some unpacking last night, and we did it in a mixed rain/snow storm. I remember now why we go south for the winter.

I almost forgot - yesterday, I was on the ferry when I remembered the walking challenge, so I went up on deck, walked around and around and around until it got too cold and windy to stay up there. Then I went down to the passenger deck and walked around and around and around until my pedometer read 3,500 steps (my goal for the day). About 2,000 steps along, I realized that my pedometer wasn't working right. It was recording 180 steps to do the full circle, but when I counted my steps, I counted approximately 330. I wanted to make sure I did my full quota, though, so I kept going. The rest of yesterday's steps were from motorhome to house to motorhome to house.........

It feels good to be home, though. My bed here is so low, I can just sit down on the edge - not climb five feet in the air to get into it!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Burnaby, B.C.

Yes, B.C. Canada. What happened to Washington? I thought we would be staying somewhere in Washington tonight, but I guess not!

We left Sutherlin, Oregon at about 9:30 this morning. The sky was grey and cloudy, and by the time we got to Portland, it was raining so hard that I considered getting out the kayak paddles. The rain continued, with varying degrees of strength, all the way through Washington State and across the border. We went to the ferry terminal to catch the ferry to Vancouver Island, but we had missed the last boat. So - one quick phone call, and we're spending the night with the grandbabies. We kept them up way past their bedtime, but they've gone to sleep now, and we're sitting around, drinking tea and recounting our travel adventures.

It was a long, long day. By the time we got settled here, it was nearly 9:30. That makes twelve hours of traveling. I'm actually glad we missed the boat, because it's a two-hour sailing, then half an hour's drive to get home to a house that's been empty for months. I think I'd rather face that by daylight, and preferably when I'm not exhausted.

This morning, I discovered that Willow and Leslie had challenged each other to walk, in order to combat Blogger's Bum - and they were inviting the rest of us to participate. (See the links over in the sidebar) So I went for a walk this morning, before we left Sutherlin. There was a time, not too long ago, when I aimed for 10,000 steps a day. This morning, I did just over 2,000 steps, and that felt like enough. It's just as well we're going home. I just wasn't getting enough exercise down in the heat. Tonight, my pedometer reads 2,864 steps, and it tells me that that is 1.34 miles. It's probably more like a mile, because I haven't programmed the pedometer according to my own (short) stride. No wonder I'm getting fat(ter). Never mind. Tomorrow, 3,500 steps....

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sutherlin, Oregon

We've been here before. We like staying at Hi-Way Haven RV Park. It's tidy and well designed, and it used to be a drive-in movie. This is the first time we've been here when the park was actually showing a movie on the old screen. I'm told they will be screening Braveheart tonight. We can get the sound on our car radio, if we want to see the movie. I'm not much of a Mel Gibson fan, though. Maybe I'll ask them to show Pride and Prejudice instead. I could lend them the DVD!

This morning, we woke up at 8:00 - late, for us - and both sat around drinking coffee, playing on our respective computers, until Robin said, "Oh, no - it's 10 o'clock!" Whereupon we scurried around, dressing and packing. It was nearly 11 o'clock before we got going, and we didn't drive as far as we had planned, but when we saw that we were approaching Sutherlin, we knew what our destination for the day was. I think maybe we're clinging to the last few days of holiday now. We have made this journey often enough that we have our favourite places all along the route. We're savouring them. Yesterday, there was The Olive Pit in Corning, California, where we have to stop to buy olives stuffed with garlic. I've never had better olives than the ones at The Olive Pit. And today, of course, there's Sutherlin.

We did travel far enough to get over both the mountain passes that always cause us concern - the Siskiyou Pass and Grants Pass, just north of the Oregon border. There are certainly higher points on our journey, but the weather on these two passes can be frightful. Last year, in fact, we altered our southbound journey because both of them were closed due to snow. This time, they were both open and dry. Piece of cake. I see that it's expected to rain here tomorrow, but we've done the difficult bit, so we should be fine.

This morning, I started creating an outline for my novel. I've also started giving my characters names, checking to see that the names are appropriate for the period and location. Don't you just love the internet? Only one of my characters came with a name. He's not the main character, but he's the first one that walked up and introduced himself. His name is Billy Mitchell. I don't know why, but I guess I'll find out in due course.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Weed, California

I woke up during the night. My right hip was complaining bitterly. 'Hey, old woman', it grumbled. 'What are you doing back in Cold and Damp Land? You know I don't like it here!' At the same time, the rest of my body was shivering and trying to tunnel farther under the covers. Several times, I talked myself down. I told myself that if I just pulled the sleeping bag over me, I would be fine. (My covers consist of a flannel sheet, a blanket lovingly crocheted by my daughter, and a sleeping bag - the latter for Really Cold Nights.) Finally, I woke up thoroughly enough to realize that I already had all three covers over me, and I was still cold. Without bothering to put on glasses or even turn on a light, I stumbled to the thermostat and cranked it. A few minutes later, the heat kicked in and my bodily ills subsided.

We're not in Mexico anymore.

We are now in California, which ought to be a warm place, no? At least Lodi should have been. Weed - not so much. We are at 3,500 feet, surrounded by trees, and I can see patches of snow on the ground outside the RV park. Even if the climate isn't warm, our welcome here was - which is only fitting, as we are staying at the Friendly RV Park. This will go on our list of Parks to Remember, because of the friendly welcome, and also because it is in a very convenient place.

Remembering it will be made easier by the fact that Maggie is feeling much better now. She went on the fritz in Arizona, if I remember correctly, on the way down to Mexico, and no amount of resetting, turning off and on, or cajoling would convince her to work. She kept telling us we were in central California, heading north. Sheesh. We put Maggie (who is really an It, a Magellan GPS device) away for the duration. We don't have the software for Mexico anyway, so we planned on having Maggie repaired when we got back to Canada. Today, on a whim, I pulled her out of the cupboard, plugged her in, and hit the Reset button for the twentieth time. At first, she thought we were near Tijuana, heading south, but within a minute or so she got her bearings, and she's been fine ever since. We feel much better, too, because we had missed hearing her say "At the first opportunity, make a LEGAL u-turn..." whenever we pulled off the road to go to the supermarket or check out an RV park. I noticed that we both talk to her as if there were a tiny woman hidden inside that plastic case. "It's okay, Maggie. Never mind." So tonight I will ask Maggie to mark this park as a Favourite, for future reference.

Tomorrow: Oregon

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lodi, California

When we arrived at the Stockton/Lodi RV Park, I posted a note on Facebook to that effect, and one of my friends sent me this. I had forgotten the song, but at the same time, I had never thought of Lodi as someplace I'd go on purpose. Now I know why.

We are actually five miles from the I-5, which is the route we are following, and a mile from Hwy.99. I'm not sure where Lodi is, exactly, but I don't think we're in it! We were aiming for something near Sacramento, but when we found ourselves in the middle of rush hour traffic (when will we learn?), and we saw the "Camping" sign at the Stockton exit, we took the hint. If we had known that the park was five miles down the road, we might have kept going, but I'm glad we came in. It is quiet here, and we are both tired.

Driving up the highway today, I noticed that the hills to the west of us (foothills of the Coast Range) looked almost as if they had been fashioned from Plaster of Paris and painted with tempera. The sky, on the other hand, had a decidedly watercolour look. A mixed media view of California, it was. There were trees in blossom on much of the route. I say they were almond trees. Robin disagrees, but he isn't sure what they really are. Almonds.

I have another Found Poem up. I found it in a blog written by Timothy Green - he to whom I submit found poems. I didn't realize it was Tim's blog I was mining until I'd been working on the poem for a while. When I noticed what I was doing, I stopped. I sent the poem to Tim with a note saying 'for your amusement'. A couple of days went by, and I didn't hear from Tim, who is usually responds very promptly. Uh-oh, I thought. I've offended him. No, he just hadn't gone into that particular e-mail account for a couple of days, and he wanted to go ahead and publish the poem. Cool.

The rest stops on the I-5 seem to be about sixty miles apart, which works out perfectly for our routine. (We drive one-hour shifts.) I have been listening to the Isabel Allende audio book, Portrait in Sepia, that I bought a day or two ago, so my shifts have been whizzing by. When I'm not listening to the book, I'm thinking about the fact that I really did register for NaNoWriMo, and now I have to get busy and think up characters and a plot and locations and oh, boy, what have I done? I may not sleep until next December.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bakersfield, California

No, not Barstow. Bakersfield. When it came down to the actual driving, Barstow was a pretty lame goal for the day. We left Bullhead City at 9:15 this morning, after a farewell coffee with Jane and Franco, and by 2:00 o'clock this afternoon, we had already gone through Barstow. So we aimed for Bakersfield, and when we got here, we found a great place called Bakersfield Travel Park. We are only a block from the freeway, but somehow we are comfortable, and the noise level isn't too bad. The cable TV works, the internet connection is okay, the manager is friendly - landed on our feet, we did. One reason we are so pleased is our memory of how hard it was to find River Run RV Park, where we stayed on our last visit to Bakersfield.

There were no official Sights on our route today, but there was one sight that surprised me. I had forgotten about Tejon Ranch, the fabulous landscape that fascinated me on the outward trip. This time, I didn't see the Tejon Ranch sign, I just saw the place itself, near Tehachapi, and recognized it immediately. A few minutes later, the gentle hills and trees of the ranch gave way to more hills, these covered with green grass and wildflowers the orange of California poppies. It's the wrong season for the poppies, so I don't know what these blossoms were - or for that matter, what the blue flowers that followed were. It's hard to identify flora at 60 miles an hour! I do know that they were beautiful, and that the burst of colour after months in the desert was intoxicating.

Upon arrival in Bakersfield, we set up house for the night, and I dove into the computer while Robin went for a bike ride. He got some exercise, but I got an idea - or an idea got me. It's an idea that has been niggling at my head for months now, and the time has come to put my mouth where my head is. So: I hereby declare my intention to participate in NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month event this coming November. There. I've said it. Now I have to go register. Scary.
Bullhead City, Arizona

It has been wonderful to see Jane and Franco. This has never happened before on our trips, and would never have been possible without the internet. I had an e-mail the day before yesterday - Franco saying "I see you are in Arizona. We're in Bullhead City", to which I replied "Hey, we're in Kingman - we're only an hour away!" When I saw them, it was as if I had come home.

We arrived in Bullhead City just after 10:00 yesterday morning for our reunion . There ensued a full day of catching up on each other's holidays, gambling at the casinos in Laughlin, Nevada - just across the Colorado River - and walking the riverside path. Jane and I went shopping at a little outlet mall and bought jewellery. That is to say, we bought beaded magnetic bracelets and, in my case, a stretchy bracelet made from a very pretty reddish orange stone. Then we met the men over at the Colorado Belle for dinner.

We needed to walk that dinner off, so we set off down the path, stopping along the way to gamble, mostly on the penny slots. Franco did play some craps and blackjack, and later in the evening he sat down at a table hosted by an on-screen automated dealer that appeared to have had breast augmentation surgery. Jane and Robin and I stood watching, fascinated by the brown-haired dealer, giggling in delight as, every few minutes, she looked over to her left, then to her right, then straight into her cleavage. She also had a 'come-hither' look that she used on occasion.

When things started to turn sour at that table, we moved to the next one, where the robo-dealer was a blonde in a teddy. The whole experience was hilarious. Well, it was hilarious for us. Franco lost, so it wasn't quite so amusing for him, though he took it well. In all, my evening's gambling and observing entertainment cost me $3, and even my jewellery binge only came to $8, so I consider myself officially a Cheap Date.

One of the things we discussed last night was the weather back home. Franco and Jane have been getting reports of 1/2 meter of snow, and we've had e-mails from Victoria and from Northern Washington that paint a similar picture. It appears that this winter is never going to end.

Accordingly, we are heading for Barstow this morning, via Needles. We will go straight up the I-5 in California, in an attempt to put off the winter travel as long as possible. Jane and Franco are headed to Lake Havasu. They will put off their return until around Easter, hoping that Spring will have arrived by then.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Kingman, Arizona - Elevation 3,300 feet - much better!

We were models of efficiency today. First of all, we didn't have to set our clocks forward, because we had moved into Arizona, where they don't do Daylight Savings Time. So we woke up all chipper and ready to face the day. We left the park in Springerville at 8:15, stopped at a bank machine, noticed a Safeway up the street.

This calls for a special paragraph. We went to the Safeway. I ordered half a pound each of turkey and ham from the deli. They were on sale for $4.99/lb. We also bought eggs, milk, bread, and a couple of other items and proceeded to the checkout counter. Now, for the last several expeditions, we've been limited to shopping in mega-stores. At the last one, I was actually tempted to have a word with the clerk about changing jobs while she's still young enough to do it. Anyway. At the Safeway, I was greeted by a friendly, smiling young woman. She began putting my purchases through. Suddenly, she stopped. "I'm not even going to scan this," she said. ???? "What's the matter?" She showed me the bag of sliced ham. The price was $107.41. Oh my goodness. She suggested she just charge me the same amount for the ham as for the turkey. Okay. Problem solved. Robin took the groceries out to the RV while I paid the bill. I was getting the money out when the clerk said "Wait. I think I have a couple of coupons." She fished through her newspapers and came up with a further $2 saving for me. "There," she said as she handed me my receipt. "You saved $7.24 today." I'm still smiling about that encounter. The young lady, whose name I foolishly did not get, didn't have to be so helpful. Granted, she had to do something about the $100+ overcharge, because even I would have noticed that something was wrong, but she certainly didn't have to go hunting for other ways to save me money. Thank you again, nameless young lady with the lovely smile.

We made one more stop, for fuel, and by 9:15 we were on the road. At 10:30, just in time for brunch, we arrived at Petrified Forest National Park. We parked near the Visitors' Centre, had something to eat, and then checked out the Crystal Forest, where I walked the .8 mile paved path and admired the scattered logs. Along the 28-mile park road (part of the old Route 66, I believe), there were various viewing points. My favourite was Lacey Point, which provided a spectacular view of the Painted Desert. This link includes a video that takes in what we saw today, and more. We did get to see the petroglyphs that are featured.

The park road came out on Interstate 40, and that brought us here to Kingman, where I opened my e-mail and discovered that dear friends from back home in Canada, who are traveling in their RV as well, are in Bullhead City, only 37 miles away - so tomorrow, I'll celebrate International Women's Day by giving another International Woman a big hug. We're BFF, you see, and we haven't seen each other since December 4, when Robin and I left for Mexico.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Springerville, Arizona, Elev. 7,000 ft.
And now for something completely different: Having complained about the heat in southern Mexico, I'm now ready to complain about the cold in Arizona. We are camped in an RV park, but we haven't hooked up to the water supply, because it's expected to freeze tonight, and the hose would likely split. We're running the little electric heater, and the central (propane) heating is set at 60F, in case the electric heater can't keep up.

So we left Alamogordo this morning, stopping first at a Kwik-Lube for an overdue oil change. That didn't take long, and we then headed for White Sands.

I posted a link to White Sands last night, didn't I? Well, that's not actually where we were going. We did stop there, but the wind was still blowing fiercely, carrying great quantities of sand with it. A visit to that park involves driving around in the middle of the sand dunes, which sounded pretty suicidal, under the circumstances - so we went on to the White Sands that Robin wanted to visit, which was this one. Oh, I said. A missile range and museum. Well, you have a good time, and I'll read my new book. So we drove to the museum parking lot, and Robin went to check things out. He came back a minute later to say that the museum isn't open on Saturdays, but they were going to let him look at the missiles sitting around outside (the ones on the website, I think). He went to look at missiles while I cooked breakfast.

Once we had eaten, we set out in earnest. We didn't get much over 50 mph most of the day, because of the wind. Oh, by the way, when we turned on the news last night, we heard that six people had been killed in a wind-related accident in the same area of New Mexico, at about 4:00 p.m., which is when we had just cleared the really windy area and were in the mountains.

So... At 50 mph, we made our way across the rest of New Mexico and into Arizona, climbed to 8,500 feet at Alpine, then slid down to 7,000. After this, the RV park situation gets pretty patchy for a while, so we thought it best to stop. It was supper time anyway.

Our itinerary keeps changing with the wind, the snow, whatever else is getting in our way. At this point it's looking as if we'll head straight over Hwy 40 to California before we turn north.

Meanwhile, my niece has kindly forwarded some pictures of our gliding adventure. I'll only show you a picture of me in the glider (proof!) and one of the glider landing - with me in it, I think
- as I forgot to ask permission to show anybody else. Tsk. That's Bill the pilot in the seat behind me.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Alamogordo, New Mexico

I did it. While Robin stayed in the RV and had a leisurely breakfast, I went back into the Big Room and walked all the way through. My timing was pretty good. Last night, one of the rangers told me that they were expecting a group of, I think, 97 school children to arrive this morning. Aargh. We got to the caverns at about 9:00 a.m., and I didn't see any school buses. I went in, and there were six other tourists in the room, plus a few rangers, who appeared to be checking for falling stalactites. Four of the half-dozen tourists were the chatty type. They were talking in loud voices and hollering to check out the echo. Charming. Then a ranger shone a flashlight in their direction and said "Lower your voices, please." Yes! I rushed through the first part of the cave, to get away from the noisies, and for most of the walk, I was alone. Then, as I was approaching the exit, I saw an army of people coming in. There must have been at least fifty people - and these still weren't the expected children. I breathed a sigh of relief and left while I could still hear the silence.

When Robin went in yesterday, he asked me (softly) what piece of music the park should play in the cavern, were they to do such a thing, and I said "The Albinoni Adagio". Today, I stand by my decision, but in truth, what kept going through my head this morning was Paul Simon's You Can Call Me Al, because the man in the song sees angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity, and he says "Amen! Hallelujah!" Yep. That's Carlsbad Caverns in a nutshell.

At 10:30, I finished my walk and drove the motor home down the hill to White's City (a clump of shops and a hotel at the bottom of the hill). Robin decided to ride his bike down, so I met him there. We drove back through Carlsbad and on to Alamogordo, which involved a climb to well over 8,000 feet. Robin did most of that climb while I took a nap. It's just as well that I was asleep during the first part of his drive. The wind was so strong, he thinks he was up on two wheels at one point.

Now, we're sitting in a very pleasant park at 4000-odd feet, breathing much better, watching the approach of what the local people sincerely hope is a rainstorm. If that does happen, we may be here for another night, but if not, we'll be going to White Sands National Monument in the morning, then heading west.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

In the course of today's drive, I made a discovery about myself. Robin had been driving for an hour on Highway 20 in western Texas. The landscape was virtually featureless. I thirsted for a cactus, a hill, a tree – anything more than knee high and preferably some colour other than yellow or greenish-brown.

We stopped alongside the road to eat lunch and change drivers. I sat in the captain's chair, just behind the cab. Robin said “Are you okay?” I wasn't, really. I sat there, chin on chest, leaning against the passenger seat, staring out the window. Now that we had stopped, I could see that the yellow grass beside the road was blowing in the wind. That comforted me. Still, I found it difficult even to raise my head. I tried to explain to Robin how I was feeling, but the words wouldn't come.

It occurred to me that I need edges, definition. Stranded in the desert – at least this desert – I might just sit down and die. The emptiness around me refused to stay outside. It crept into my mind and pressed downward. I suspect I would feel the same way if I were far out at sea, out of the sight of land. It looked as if, no matter how far we drove, we would never come to the end of the desolation.

It was my turn to drive, and I did, though I really just wanted to curl up in a ball. Soon, the landscape began to change. There was the occasional yucca to break up the monotony of the foreground, and in the distance there was what looked like an enormous escarpment. Glaciers? Here?

The sight of a genuine feature on the landscape gave me new hope, and I drove more eagerly than before. After another hour, Robin took over driving, and I was able to enjoy the change of scenery even more. We turned north on Hwy 285, then west on 652, which took us closer and closer to what turned out to be the Guadalupe Mountains. Not only were we heading for the mountains, we were heading for Carlsbad Caverns. Oh, bliss. When we came to Hwy 62/180, we turned north again and drove to the caverns. It was after three o'clock, so we had only enough time to do the abbreviated tour of the Big Room. Robin didn't want to do any more walking than that, anyway, so that was okay.

We took the elevator 750 feet down - or so said the Truly Obnoxious Elevator Operator - to the Big Room. I said I needed edges and definition, features on the landscape, didn't I? Well, if I have a problem with the vast desolation that is the Chihuahuan Desert, I can say with confidence that I have no trouble at all with being in a cave. We walked down a narrow corridor to an enormous cavern, the Big Room, where we were surrounded by huge stalagmites and stalactites. As soon as we walked into the Big Room, tears came to my eyes. While I stumbled along the dimly lit walkway, my mind was dancing and skipping. I saw a huge congregation of stone people who stand eternally in the Hall of Giants, waiting for the giants to speak - or perhaps, listening when they do. There is something called the Chinese Theatre, an area in which the stalagmites look like pagodas. In places, I seemed to look at forests stretching off into the distance. Pools of water looked like deep canyons, but really the water just reflects the cave's ceiling. When we had been walking for ten or fifteen minutes, a ranger came along and said we would have to take the shortcut to the exit, because they would soon be closing the cave. Then and there, I decided that I will be going back in tomorrow. If we had kept walking, we would have come to The Bottomless Pit. Who could resist checking out the Bottomless Pit? There are other activities available, all of them more strenuous than the Big Room self-tour, and I may get adventurous, but for sure, I'm going back to see The Bottomless Pit!

Robin dragged me out of the cavern, and we drove to the Carlsbad RV Park, about 15 miles north. We have real television here, so I'm watching "House" with half an eye while I type. I can hardly wait to go back to the caverns.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Midland, Texas - Second post of the day

Yesterday, I read John Hayes's blog, Robert Frost's Banjo. The post was written by John's wife, Eberle, and it is part of a fascinating series about the history of women in literature. Well. Not only was the post itself wonderful, but it had links. Lots of great links. That's where the trouble started. I followed the link referring to Sojourner Truth and found myself in a Wikipedia article that just had to be mined for a Found Poem. I dug the poem out and submitted it to The Found Poetry Project. Tim Green liked it, and he published it today, as I found out after I had posted this morning's quick note. Thank you, Tim.

So here I was, barreling down the road in Texas, trying to get settled for the night so I could come here and acknowledge John and Eberle, but when I opened my blog, I found that John had already been here, complimenting me on the poem. John, I am so sorry. I was thinking too much about the end of my family reunion, and got my signals crossed. And now I see that you have put a link to the poem (and here) in your own blog. You are a true gentleman.


Meanwhile, we headed for San Angelo this morning, but it was only 2:15 p.m. when we got there, so we kept going to Midland. I'm not sure the decision was a good one. When we got to Midland, we found the RV park - finally - and discovered that it looks a lot better on paper than in person. It also had one spot left for us, so we might well have ended up sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot (they don't have wi-fi, you know). Never mind. We're here, and it's only for one night. Robin is watching television, and, well, you know what I'm doing.
On the Road Again

We crowned our visit with a family dinner at my niece's house last night - spaghetti, Caesar salad, and the dessert that my sister had made - all delicious. When we got home, everybody else headed off to bed, but my sister and I stayed up until 1:00 again. We didn't want to give up a single minute.

At 5:10, the alarm clock set us in motion, and I got one last hug. Now Robin and I are packing up, heading off toward San Angelo in just a few minutes. I am feeling torn, not to mention tired.

I see that the RV park in San Angelo has wi-fi, so I'll post properly later today, presuming we do stop there and not keep going to eat up miles. This is the part of the trip where Robin gets the bit between his teeth and wants to drive and drive and drive, and I keep telling him that there's no hurry.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Hello again. My Austin visit is drawing quickly to a close - we have tomorrow here, and then on Wednesday we will start wandering back to Canada via the roads least likely to have snow on them. Meanwhile, we are trying to pack in as much family time as we can. I think we will all have to sleep for a week when the visit is over, to make up for all this burning of the midnight oil. My sister and her husband had to go back to work today, bleary-eyed as they were.

When I arrived, I found that my prize book had arrived first. Over at Stone Soup, I had won a signed copy of Jamie Ford’s novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I had asked Katrina to send the book to my sister's address, so that I could get my hands on it all the sooner. Of course, I haven't had a chance to read a single page, with all that's going on here - but I have it, and when we're on the road again, I shall devote my evenings to reading.

We all went to the Alamo Drafthouse the other night, to see Slumdog Millionaire. We were going to go back later that same night to see The Reader, but we got too busy talking, so we never did make it. We've gone to San Antonio to meet an online acquaintance, now an in-person friend. That meeting came with the bonus of a wonderful Thai meal at Asia Kitchen , where my new friend is a long-time customer. I also got to meet my newborn great-niece, who is as adorable as her photos suggested.

Yesterday, we drove out to the field where the Fault Line Flyers have their clubhouse. We expected to be able to watch some gliders flying, but as soon as we got there, somebody said "So - are you flying today?" and we ended up spending the day. Five of the six of us went up in the glider, which was piloted by Bill, a very experienced pilot. It was my first gliding experience, and I almost didn't go. After Robin went up, he suggested that I might want to skip it, because there was a fair amount of turbulence above 2,000 feet, and I am notorious for becoming motion sick (You may recall that I got seasick on a boogie board a few weeks ago). As the day progressed, though, the air calmed down, and I was the last of the group to go up. I was a bit queasy, but not enough to ruin the flight. I'm glad I did it. That's a check mark on my bucket list. My niece and her husband had such a good time, they're considering joining the flying club.

So. While I've been playing hookey, life in the blogosphere has gone on, and I've missed it - so it's time for me to go visit my favourite bloggers.

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