Moving too fast

7. Moving too fast

I accidentally looked at the calendar and realized that somehow the summer is flying by. My response to this dilemma has been to move. I drove from the Olympic Peninsula of Washington to Idaho to spend three great days with great friends, Bill and Jan, but in route I again drove too far in one day. For me 420 miles pulling, up and over the Cascades, is too much when I leave after lunch and get in after dark.

I met Bill 15 years ago at a sky diving boogie in Montana, and we’ve been close friends since. Bill and Jan live in an enormous motorhome (45 feet = enormous) and pull a 22 foot cargo trailer. I would not want to drive something that long, but Bill handles it with ease and actually backs the cargo trailer with the motorhome. Me, on the other hand, well, I feel smug when I successfully back my truck and mere 29 foot trailer into a spot. Bill and Jan don’t have a car; their two trikes ride in the big cargo trailer that Jan jazzed up with some of her art work. Bill rides a triked Goldwing (motorcycle with two wheels on the rear); Jan rides a Spyker (two wheels in the front, one on the rear). They use the trikes for everything – shopping for groceries, tools, clothes, etc. You’d be amazed at the amount of storage space they have. And then because their home is on wheels, they don’t stay where it’s too hot, cold, wet, or windy for the trikes. Obviously, I had to ride both trikes. I was surprised — I liked the Goldwing a lot (I’ve harbored a prejudice against them, as the old folks’ toy that isn’t really a bike. In fact, it handled well and was fun. Another prejudice bites the dust.) I was surprised at the way the Spyder handled; it too was fun but would take longer for me to get use to the feel of the front end, the automatic transmission, and only one brake. Jan was seriously injured on her motorcycle several years ago; her response to that was to buy a bike identical to the one that had been totaled (and almost totaled her) and to begin riding again the moment the doctor cleared her. But after facing down that dragon for many miles and months, Jan and Bill decided to go with trikes. And I have to admit, it’s pretty cool not having to worry about tipping over.

On our morning walks, Jan and I enjoyed watching a herd of goats that had been hired to clean up a surrounding meadow. The goats came with two very focused Border Collies (who insured the goats did not get close to the highway or anything else the collies considered off limits), two labs (whose job it was to keep people from getting close to the goats), and a herder who meandered with the flock.

And because of that time-flying thing, I left after only three days. Then I did the too-many-miles thing, again and again. I drove across what was left of Idaho, then Montana and Wyoming, to finally sit down (briefly) just north of Denver. When I’m traveling from point A to point B, I often will spend the night in the parking lot of a WalMart. WalMart includes RV’ers in their marketing strategy; we are welcomed (at most) to park on the outer edges, they provide 24-hour security and then sell groceries and all sorts of stuff to the gypsies. I was one of 14 RV’s in the Missoula, MT, WalMart parking lot. And then I did it again and again – pulling too many miles in too few days. No one ever said I use common sense on a daily basis. Especially when I begin to feel that summer is moving too fast.

So after a few days visiting special friends in Colorado, I’ll go down to New Mexico before heading back to Florida.

Jan and Bill on their trikes

Jan and Bill on their trikes

Goats at work

Goats at work

Idaho - another beautiful place

Idaho – another beautiful place

Big Sky of Montana

Big Sky of Montana

WalMart in Missoula, Montana

WalMart in Missoula, Montana

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fleeting glimpses of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington

Fleeting glimpses of the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington

The Olympic Peninsula looks something like a big thumb stuck off the west coast of Washington, separated from the big city life of Seattle by a series of bridges and ferries that cross a network of waterways. Life on the peninsula even at its harried best is not city. The Pacific on the west coast dumps copious amounts of water there; the Hoh Rain Forest receives ten to twelve FEET of rain a year. But the Olympic Mountains wring the water from the sky, and the further east you go, the dryer the weather. Port Townsend averages only 19 inches of rain a year, thanks to Mt. Olympus who takes the brunt with an average of 220 inches/year (18.33 feet)

I’ve been at this RV Park near Port Townsend, WA for two weeks; I’ll pull out soon, heading to Idaho to meet my friends, Bill & Jan. I met Bill 15 years ago skydiving at the Lost Prairie Boogie in Montana. We became close friends immediately; time and distance have not diminished the relationship. I’ve not seen them since they made the effort and trip to see my new house three years ago.

So what have I been up to? Well, I’ve rested, taken lots of photos, written several poems, and put many miles on my bike. One of my favorite rides was up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park. OMG! Twisties, sweepers, incredible views. But my enthusiasm and speed were tapped down a bit by lots of deer. On the ride up I saw five deer in less than five miles, each standing less than five feet from the road. I hit a deer on my Yamaha FJR north of Durango a few years ago – totaled the bike but was lucky enough to walk away with just enough road rash scars to prove it happened and a gimpy shoulder. The park brochures tout the presence of deer as a good, touristy thing, but one deer-totaled bike is all I really want to experience. I stayed on hyper-alert, kept my speed down, and relished the ride.

Hwy 101 makes a big loop around the Olympic Peninsula. Big as is a 320 mile loop. Obviously I had to ride it and decided on clockwise so the wind and sun would be to my back on the last lap. I headed south on Hwy 101 along the Hood Canal, then west to Aberdeen. By Aberdeen, the ocean winds were blowing the trees, and there was a heavy mist everywhere. I was glad to finally turn north and get out of the traffic and onto the kind of road I’d hoped for. Hwy 101 north from Aberdeen moves alternately through forest and along the Pacific coast line.

One of the joys of being on a motorcycle is that you ride through a kaleidoscope of smells. The smell of the mud flats along the Hood Canal are not the same as those found at low tide in the swamps in the Deep South; this mud is salty; the tidal surge is greater and with the water flush the bottoms, though muddy, seemed fresher, cleaner. Riding through the Hoh Rain Forest, the smell of old growth cedar and spruce was thicker than the ocean mist along the coast.

Another favorite thing about traveling on a bike is I get to feel all of the nuances of the weather. Aberdeen sits on Gray Harbor, which opens to the Pacific. The temperature dropped fast but the bumper-to-bumper traffic didn’t allow the luxury of stopping. As soon as I got out of the bedlam, I pulled over and added a long sleeve shirt and windbreaker under my cordura riding jacket. From there, I ducked in and out of weather – from almost too cold to comfortable as the road wove along the coast line and through forest. There are very few places to stop for gas or food on the west leg of Hwy 101, but the ride is excellent. I added the 30 mile loop into the Hoh Rain Forest – worth every moment, though I was beginning to get concerned about my time. I didn’t get back to the rig until 10:00 pm, which wasn’t a problem; it doesn’t get dark here until about 10:20.

There are many things on the “must-see list” for the Olympic Peninsula – more than I could get done, but I gave it a good try. For example, I went to the Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge, one of the world’s longest sand spits, located on the northern lip of the Olympic Peninsula. The spit is a narrow stretch of beach within sight of Victoria, Canada, and it reaches out five miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Sand eroded from steep bluffs on the mainland adds about 13 feet a year to the length of the spit and an array of driftwood helps secure the narrow coast line. The pictures give a glimmer of the magnitude and majesty of the drift wood. I’ll add it was also very windy and cold. There’s a five mile one-way hike out to the lighthouse, but you can’t start it at low tide. It was low tide and 5 pm when I got there; I was cold and not disappointed when the Ranger explained I couldn’t make the hike that day.

A fellow RV’er gave me directions to a Troll Town between Port Townsend and Sequim. What a magical delight created by an artist with a child’s heart. Dozens and dozens of fence posts carved into various trolls, an enormous dragon or two, a metal Kokopelli that stood at least 15 feet tall.

Port Townsend is a Victorian sea port on the northeastern lip of the Olympic Peninsula – an eclectic place with a long history and modern focus on the arts while scorning big box stores. A ferry runs every 30 minutes between Port Townsend and Whidbey Island – I rode over twice to visit a friend. I was a bit daunted at first with the motorcycle on that metal deck moving through open water, but it was wonderful! Whidbey Island is home to Deception Pass – another must-see place.

KPTZ 91.9 is a local radio station in Port Townsend, one that is as diverse as the community it serves. Marcia Perlstein interviewed me with a focus on my book, Footprints on my Soul – Journal of a Circuit Court Judge. The interview will be edited and then available by both stream and podcast. I’ll let you know the release dates.

One of my greatest treasures from this time on the Olympic Peninsula is a new friendship with an incredible woman named Nancianna, who is a resident at a local nursing home. The Port Townsend Friends (Quaker Meeting) holds a mid-week Meeting in Nancianna’s room, and that’s where we met. Nancianna is only 54 years old but is now a quadriplegic as the result of MS. In her earlier years, she was a professional dancer and dance instructor; now she is Tinkerbell, caught in a cruel jar, unable to even lift her finger to push the call button. Somehow, while living day to day a horrifically unfair life, her eyes remain clear and her mind bright. Her poetry, like her life, doesn’t reek of cocktail talk. I wrote a poem for Nancianna, in a meager attempt to describe/honor her. Let me know at Comments or by email if you’d like to read it. More information about Nancianna is available at http://www.friendsofnancianna.com/ Marcia with KPTZ is going to schedule an interview Nancianna; based on my conversations with Nancianna, the interview will be everything – funny, deep, playful, with lots of straight-in-your-eye reality.

Hurricane Ridge Road in the Olympic Peninsula NP

Hurricane Ridge Road in the Olympic Peninsula NP

everyone else thought the deer on Hurricane Ridge road were cute

everyone else thought the deer on Hurricane Ridge road were cute

On Hwy 101 on the western edge of the Peninsula, with the Pacific in the background

On Hwy 101 on the western edge of the Peninsula, with the Pacific in the background

the Hoh rain forest on the west/wet side of the Peninsula

the Hoh rain forest on the west/wet side of the Peninsula

the Dungeness spit

the Dungeness spit

a growing land line held together by drift wood

a growing land line held together by drift wood

erosion moves sand from cliffs on the mainland to the spit

erosion moves sand from cliffs on the mainland to the spit

the magic of an imagination

the magic of an imagination

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ferry that runs between Pt. Townsend and Whidbey Island

ferry that runs between Pt. Townsend and Whidbey Island

seals sunning on a dock in Pt. Townsend

seals sunning on a dock in Pt. Townsend

enough of that - time to eat

enough of that – time to eat

I didn't know lavender came in white

I didn’t know lavender came in white

Nancianna stuck her tongue out at me - because she could ;-)

Nancianna stuck her tongue out at me – because she could ;-)

Nancianna and I, cutting up like two giggly eight-year olds.

Nancianna and I, cutting up like two giggly eight-year olds.

bridge at Deception Pass on Whidbey Island

bridge at Deception Pass on Whidbey Island

from end of bridge at Deception Pass, Whidbey Island

from end of bridge at Deception Pass, Whidbey Island

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3,000 miles from NW Florida – strangers who become friends

3,000 miles from NW Florida – strangers who become friends

On a Sunday afternoon, I left Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, on another mission – drive my heavily leaden truck to a small town just north of Tacoma, Washington, to pick up my new-to-me travel trailer. I pushed hard – something I seem to do, even when the energy level gets low – and arrived before dark on Tuesday with 1,500 miles more on the truck.

Arctic Fox is a brand of trailers manufactured in Oregon and not readily available in the East; it’s something like the Subaru of RV trailers – incredible quality without the flash in the pan found in many that offer less quality. I lived in a 30U Arctic Fox for three years, so when I found exactly what I was looking for, the fact that it was located in Washington didn’t seem a problem. I love the Northwest and I’d be in New Mexico anyway. So I finalized the purchase, after a pre-purchase inspection and a delightful “walk through” via FaceTime – without actually seeing the rig. I bought the rig from a couple, Barb and Gunther, about whom I can’t say enough good things. They stored the travel trailer on their property for me; when I drove in late on that Tuesday, I unloaded the truck to spend the night right there. The next morning, Gunther knocked on my screen door and handed me a travel mug of coffee, and explained Barb would have breakfast ready soon. Gunther is a retired engineer with Boeing; skills he would soon need.

On Wednesday, Gunther made minute adjustments so the fancy hitch would match the exact angle of my particular truck while I fluffed my nest. The RV is comfortable, pleasant, and easy to call Home. He drove me to several stores so I could buy a few needed items (water and sewer hoses, etc.); I took them to dinner and spent a second night on their property.

Thursday, I asked Gunther if he would stand by while I unloaded motorcycle using the new motorcycle lift, the one that came without any written instructions. An engineer at heart, he was intrigued. Turns out the day was not a good one. First the tire chock caught on the front fender of the bike when it came down on ever-so-slightly uneven ground; not a pretty sight. Without getting upset (I was the only one who cussed), Gunther analyzed the problem and figured out how to correct it (a fix the included taking his dremel to about two inches of broken fender). Then the winch cable wrapped itself around the housing, down deep in a hole – so deep that Gunther had to cut the cable to free it. So we went to another store, bought what he needed, and returned. But Gunther didn’t have the massive tool needed to swedge (sp?) the cable loop; and as we soon learned, repeatedly hammering it wasn’t enough. Using the electronic winch, I brought the bike up again into the truck. As it reached the cab, the cable broke and the bike was catapulted off the truck. My reaction was to freak and say more four-letter words; Gunther had positioned himself to deal with such possibilities and actually managed to catch the bike – safely – as it came by him. Another trip to the store, more parts, and finally the bike went up into the truck with no drama. I spent my third night on their property.

Friday, after yet another breakfast, I left my new friends – motorcycle safely in the truck with earlier issues resolved, detailed written instructions in hand and with my new travel trailer following behind. It had been three years since I pulled a trailer of this size, but it was not a problem, even in the crawling traffic, lining up for the U.S. Open that weekend. I pulled a short distance to the Olympic Peninsula to an RV park I knew from years past.

And I just sat down. I’ve been pushing hard for too long, and the problems with the motorcycle lift took the air out of my balloon. But two days later, I asked a neighbor at the RV park if he’d like to see how my motorcycle lift worked, and offered to show him – provided he promised to stand to the side and do NOTHING if the bike got squirrelly. I unloaded with NO problem and have ridden many a mile since.

I’ve begun a new FB page, gypsyjudge, and invite you to check that out. https://www.facebook.com/AGypsyjudge?ref=bookmarks   I still haven’t figured out how to create a hyper-link!

the people standing in this arch look tiny

the people standing in this arch look tiny

incredible red cliffs of Utah

incredible red cliffs of Utah

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Changing titles, changing roles – from Florida to New Mexico, again

Changing titles, changing roles – from to Florida to New Mexico – again

I retired from the Bench in 2000 and last taught in the judicial ed program in Florida in 2001. Going back to the Advanced Judicial Studies’ (AJS) week-long program as an instructor was many things. For one thing, as the photos show, the hotel accommodations were not the same as the (very comfortable) housing at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico.
As with many professions, judges must complete a certain number of continuing education hours during a specific time. While continuing judicial ed hours are available in the much larger venues of the annual conferences, attendance at the Advanced Judicial Studies is sought after by many judges because of the small class size and variety of topics. For the same reasons, instructors particularly enjoy working at AJS.
Over lunch and breaks, I saw some familiar though older faces. Which raised again the question – how did it happen? That we got old? Knowing intellectually that I’m now 68 years old doesn’t change the fact that – most of the time – I don’t feel the change. Nor do the facts regarding my year of birth justify what is certainly just failing eye sight on the part of others. With coffee in-hand, I walked over and spoke to a judge I last saw 15 years ago. He looked puzzled, read my name tag, and said, “Oh, yes. Laura. I recognized your voice.” Seems he thinks everything else has changed.
I was one of a three-person panel for a day-and-half presentation, working with Rob Atkinson, a law professor at Florida State, and James Sheehan, retired attorney, law professor and author of several books including The Mayor of Lexington Avenue, a novel focused on the wrongful execution of an innocent defendant.
There were 25 judges in our class, titled “Law, Justice, and Morality through the lens of literature;” most were Circuit Judges, some County Judges, and a few Magistrates. They sat throughout Florida in Civil, Criminal, Family, and/or Juvenile. After a day and a half of spirited and open discussion, I left Orlando with a sense of pride for our judiciary. These judges bring integrity, focus, hard work and dedication every day to a job assignment the enormity of which few can imagine.
I knew when I wrote my book that the title, Public Secrets and Justice – journal of a Circuit Court Judge, wasn’t quite right, but it was the best I could do. Several months ago I was explaining to a friend my motivation for writing the book. As I described the enormous impact the children I met in Court have had on me, I said, “They’ve left their footprints on my soul.” He smiled and said, “That’s the title of your book.”
So I’ve tweaked the story ever so slightly, changed a few quotes, and the book is fresh off the press with a title that better captures the importance of the children’s stories – Footprints on My Soul, Journal of a Circuit Court Judge. There are hoops to jump through but it will soon be available under its new title through Amazon and Kindle, and I’ve launched a Facebook page, Footprints on My Soul. It remains available as Public Secrets and Justice.
I had proofs of the new book shipped to me in Orlando without giving any thought to how I’d get them back to Albuquerque. But suddenly the class was over, it was noon on Friday, and I was facing the kind of organizational detail that I don’t handle well, especially not when – as it were – the game was over, I was tired and simply wanted to leave. The staff at Court Admin recognized my deer-in-the-headlights look, provided adult supervision along with a few bad jokes, and we managed to get the books into my roller board and everything else into a pink striped beach bag from the hotel’s boutique. Later in the day, as I began to hoist my much-heavier roller board into the overhead bin on the airplane, a woman in her 40’s said in a concerned voice, “May I help you, ma’am?”
What’s going on? People recognize my voice after 15 years but not my face, staff rallies to help me, and a kind woman is concerned I can’t lift my own suitcase. Did I get old? How did that happen?
I spent Friday night in Albuquerque and drove back to Ghost Ranch on Saturday for the last two days of Intermountain Yearly Meeting (IMYM), where 300+ Quakers from various mountain states gather each summer for wide-ranging programs. I’m particularly drawn to the high desert and red cliffs of Ghost Ranch, a Presbyterian conference center in the area in which Georgia O’Keefe lived and painted; her house is on adjoining property. It was important to spend time with my Quaker Friends in that magical space, enjoying the light and scenery that has held O’Keefe and many others spell bound.
Quakers are uniquely difficult to pigeon-hole; one of the best explanations I’ve read is at the web site for the Port Townsend, Washington Friends Meeting – http://ptquaker.org/what-is-a-pt-quaker. It is significant to me that Quakers have a long history of providing “silent assistance from the nameless to the nameless”, “working among friends and former enemies” to simply, quietly help those in need. Quakers were very active in the Underground Railroad and remain active today in a variety of social concerns. The Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 for their work after World War II, helping whoever needed a meal without regard to politics or country alliance; the award ceremony speech provides further insight into Quakers in action. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1947/press.html
More information about Quakers is available at http://www.quaker.org/ Information about Ghost Ranch and its programs can be found at www.ghostranch.org/  And for some reason, I can’t create hyper-links here.  But I tried 😉

the comfortable accommodations at Ghost Ranch are not condo-styled

the comfortable accommodations at Ghost Ranch are not condo-styled

red cliffs at Ghost Ranch

red cliffs at Ghost Ranch

After lunch on Sunday, I pointed my over-stuffed truck towards Washington. Another 1,500 miles to go, and I need to be there by Wednesday.

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Running around and around – ’cause that’s what gypsies do

June 11, 2015  Orlando, FL

Running around and around – ‘cause that’s what gypsies do
I left NW Florida on June 4 in my new-to-me truck – a VERY big truck – the kind that makes a man proud. It’s a Chev. 3500 diesel, crew cab, eight foot bed, 4 wheel drive dually with a specially designed motorcycle lift on which my bike rides. I packed/crammed into the cab everything I think I’ll need for the next two or three months; I’m not sure a snake could have joined me by the time I slammed the last door.
I drove up to Ghost Ranch (1,500 miles away and northwest of Santa Fe, NM) for a week-long Quaker gathering that began on Jun 7. Ghost Ranch is one of my favorite places in the universe, and Quakers are an amazingly diverse and kind group of people. How-some-ever, to quote Br’er Rabbit, my life is seldom simple; my only two commitments for the summer (again) fell in the same week. So Tuesday, Jun 9, I drove down to Albuquerque, NM, to catch a 6 AM flight on Wednesday to Orlando (yes – the exact same Florida I left on Thursday of last week to drive 1,500 miles). Today (Thursday, Jun 11) we completed day one of a one-and-a-half day seminar, Law, Justice and Morality. It’s great being back with old friends from the Bench and challenging to teach again. After lunch tomorrow, I fly back to Albuquerque, then drive back up to Ghost Ranch Saturday morning. When that conference ends at lunch on Sunday, Jun 14, I’ll head towards Tacoma, WA, to pick up a new-to-me RV on Wednesday, June 17. Makes me tired just typing it.
Tonight, in this very fancy hotel in Orlando, I do not have access to my big camera, so I’ll just post a couple of pictures from my phone.
Now that I’m officially back on the road for the summer, I look forward to writing more. Right after I catch up with myself and get some sleep.
the desert in SE New Mexico

The desert in SE New Mexico

my truck and red cliffs near Ghost Ranch, NM

my truck and red cliffs near Ghost Ranch, NM

two days later, I'm with a Bird of Paradise in Orlando

two days later, I’m with a Bird of Paradise in Orlando

The motel in Orlando is a bit fancier than my truck

The motel in Orlando is a bit fancier than my truck

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March, 2015 Is it Spring yet?

March 7, 2015 Is it Spring yet?
I’m back in Northwest Florida where Spring is dancing with Winter. The red buds are beginning to bloom, and the azaleas are considering it. The lawn grass hasn’t gotten into the green yet but will soon. Mother Nature hasn’t made up her mind; it’s warm then cold (temperatures changing from the 70’s to the 40’s and then back again); wet/dry (relative terms but it knows how to rain here, unlike Arizona and New Mexico); days may be windy or calm (winds labeled here as “high” are called “breezy” in the desert.)
On March 6, I was at the Author’s Event at Page and Palette, an Independent Book Store in Fairhope, Alabama, in conjunction with Fairhope’s 1st Friday Art Walk. I love independent book stores, and Page & Palette is a reason why. It was a delight to talk with friends – old and new. Plus there was free wine 😉
I speak at the Unitarian Church of Mobile on April 12 and am part of a three-person panel presenting a day and half class at the Advanced Judicial College in Orlando in June. Our class is Law & Literature – law, justice, and morality; the class will be all judges, so there is great potential for divergent conversations there.

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Jan 5, 2015 from the desert

Jan 5, 2015 from the desert
The desert is a good place — to end one year and begin another. I realize that not everyone is attracted to this stark beauty but I feel the draw it has held for many throughout the ages – mystics, artists, eccentrics, loners, outlaws, naturalists, those who are well-grounded, and those who are not. The desert may be a bit like skydiving and riding a motorcycle – if I need to explain it to you, you wouldn’t understand.
These are some pictures of a fascinating rock arrangement someone set up out in the desert within walking distance of where we parked with other boondockers west of Yuma. Art – unannounced, unmarked, not explained. Just there. Like the cacti, the sand, the sunrise …

art in the desert

art in the desert

We also rode over to watch the dune buggies go crazy on the sand at the Imperial Sand Dunes. It looks like fun, but I’m sure all that sand would play havoc with my lungs.
But we needed to come back to Tucson for an appointment, so we drove the truck camper to town and moved back into the 40 foot motorhome parked at the Air Force Base in what they call “over-flow” – meaning there are no hookups (no electricity, water, or plumbing), but that’s Doug’s preference. He has enough solar power for half of Tucson and enormous holding tanks for the other essentials. His solar powers the coffee grinder, coffee pot, tea pot, microwave/convection, and computers, so it’s not like we’re roughing it. The RV park on base is particularly comfortable – the lots are large and the area is quiet. Not the wide open spaces of the desert, but a good compromise when you need to be in town.
Early this week, I woke to snow on the palm trees. Apparently that is as remarkable as snow in NW Florida.

snow on the palm trees

snow on the palm trees

We’ve begun a culinary study of chile rellenos – one that could take a long time, especially since the study requires a parallel review of margaritas.
To insure we leave few stones unturned, we went to Saguaro National Park West, having been to the sister East park several weeks ago. SNP West has more dirt roads than SNP East, but both are beautiful and worth a trip.

a dirt road in Saguaro NP West

a dirt road in Saguaro NP West

Today we rode up to the ski lift on top of Mount Lemmon – this ski resort is in the Arizona desert, at just over 8,000 feet, so it’s not Vale or Steam Boat Springs. But for someone from Florida, it was impressive. This was the first time I watched snowboarders – what a blast my grandkids would have!

There were a number of bikers heading up Mt. Lemmon

There were a number of bikers heading up Mt. Lemmon

the 1st time I've watched snowboarders - not much of that in Florida

the 1st time I’ve watched snowboarders – not much of that in Florida

As we drove down the mountain, we stopped at several overlooks, each with an ordinary stone retaining wall, yet there was one which is anything but ordinary! It was hard to capture with the camera something of the soul that went into the stone work, hard to catch a glimpse of this art through the lens. But what a gift that stranger left, for strangers to enjoy.

a work of art, in stone

a work of art, in stone

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December 28, 2014 after Christmas in the desert

Dec 28, 2014 After Christmas in the desert

in Mexico you can find a pinata for every occasion

in Mexico you can find a pinata for every occasion

my new friends enjoyed their photos

my new friends enjoyed their photos

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so many smiling faces

so many smiling faces

On December 26, we crossed the border into Mexico at Algodones and met some boon docking friends. After I picked up my new glasses, we had lunch (margaritas and chile rellenos) and then I went back to find my new friend, the crippled street vendor/grandmother. She said, in Spanish, that she had told her granddaughters on Christmas Day that I would be back “manana.” As before there were children playing all around her. I brought her copies of the pictures I had taken of them, and then Doug took pictures of us all. I hope you can see something of the joy of life in her eyes and the eyes of the children. Too soon, it was time to leave. She asked when I would return, and I explained I live in Florida and simply didn’t know. She replied with a smile, “I’ll be here waiting for you.”
For years I’d heard about Quartzsite, AZ, a sleepy town off of I-10, 22 miles east of the California border and 100 miles north of Mexico. This non-descript spot in the desert is surrounded by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and sustains a population of maybe 3,000 during the brutal heat of the summer. However, in the winter Quartzsite becomes an RV’ers mecca. As many as 500,000 RV’s come in from all over the country to park in private RV parks and the open Bureau of Land Management property. It’s still a bit early in the season, but the snowbirds are migrating in, gathering for the annual RV swap meet in January. It sounded like the RV version of Sturgis and Daytona, and I’ve skipped both of those big motorcycle rallies because I don’t like crowds.
But then Doug casually mentioned the naked man who runs a bookstore in Quartzsite who when it’s cold, wears three socks. I googled “naked man, bookstore, Quartzsite” and quickly decided the crowds wouldn’t be that bad. Among the things I learned from Google about Paul Winer is that his daughter, Celia, died at the age of 8; he and his wife set up Celia’s Rainbow Garden as a memorial and the town as well as RV’ers actively support it. The garden continues to grow as a memorial to various loved ones.IMG_3632 (1024x683)IMG_3618
It was in the 50’s, unusually cold; as Doug and I bundled up, we made bad jokes about what a naked man wears in the desert in this kind of weather. It was about 80 miles from our boon docking site to Quartzsite, and once in town we headed straight to the Reader’s Oasis Books. It’s a bit unusual – ahem – and has an incredible variety of used and vintage books. After we’d been browsing the stacks for a few minutes, I saw a man hurry by in a coat, cowboy hat, and bare brown legs. I recognized that face from my computer research, so I walked over and introduced myself to Paul Winer and asked what he had by Herman Hess; he responded quickly, “Nothing. I had Siddhartha, but I sold it. It was right here.” When he walked away, I saw a totally bare behind that looked like sagging leather, or maybe like a very skinny elephant butt. I looked at more books and then began another conversation with Paul. He’s articulate, fascinating, and very intelligent. He stocks over 180,000 titles. He does not own a computer, has no website or email address; he doesn’t own a smart phone. If you want to contact him, you call him on the phone at the bookstore. I asked if I could have my picture taken with him; when he took off his coat, I swallowed hard. His strategically-placed sock had two little turquoise stones sewn into the top lip; the sock/pouch was tied around his waist with nylon fishing line; the sock stones matched the turquoise necklace he was wearing. While I was checking all of this out, I couldn’t help but notice that he shaves his pubic hairs. I gave him a copy of my book, Public Secrets and Justice, and he invited me to participate in his Author’s Fair in January/February. Paul is an accomplished musician, playing boogie blues on the piano; he keeps a baby grand piano in the middle of the bookstore. Paul has many tales to tell, including long legal battles to be able to perform as Sweet-Pie, in the nude. He also explained that in the 1970’s his sing-along boogie anthem contained the phrase “fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke” – a line that was picked up later  by Bette Midler. While Paul is out-there, literally and figuratively, he is also compassionate, quick-witted, well-read, and someone with whom I could spend much time talking.IMG_3619

no caption is necessary

no caption is necessary

Paul at work

Paul at work

cauliflower plants just after harvest

cauliflower plants just after harvest

cauliflower too small to harvest

cauliflower too small to harvest

lettuce

lettuce

and more lettuce

and more lettuce

On Sunday we rode over to Yuma – what an amazing variety of crops are grown here! Acres and acres of – cauliflower, lettuce, and beets; groves of lemon trees and Medjool dates.
Monday, we head back to Tucson. Soon I’ll head back to Florida.

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Dec 25, 2014 Feliz Navidad from the windy desert

FELIZ NAVIDAD

Best wishes from the deserts of eastern California! Doug and I are in his truck camper, parked on open land owned by BLM (Bureau of Land Management). There are maybe 30 RV’s scattered across two miles of this rocky desert. We came to this particular spot to spend Christmas with a small group of Boondockers, ; there are 10 rigs parked here and yon with a fire pit as “home base.” There’s no water, sewer, or electricity provided by the desert, so the RV’ers bring their own. Boondockers pride themselves in the myriad of ways they can use solar and skimp on water; it’s also part of the game to park for free. Most of the Boondockers live full-time in their RV’s and some have gone for years without plugging into an electric pole or paying for an RV spot; they simply migrate with the weather. The type of RV’s range from $300,000 motorhomes to truck campers; all of the rigs are tricked out with fancy/expensive solar panels. Doug has $6,000 worth on solar on both his 40 foot motorhome and his truck camper. Boondockers refer to themselves as affluent homeless; they have money, they just don’t want to spend it on “stick houses.”
Last week we took the car down to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, to visit Bones and Ruth, two friends I made on my motorcycle trip around the perimeter of the US. They’ve lived in Mexico for years and took us to many out-of- the-way places, including a couple of their favorite food push carts. I found many opportunities to brush up on my Spanish – my pronunciation is still pretty good but my vocabulary is very limited. We visited an orphanage, Esperanza para los Ninos (hope for the children). The cinder block buildings were clean, the playground well used, the kitchen bustled, and children were scattered around, enjoying the holidays. Abraham, a shy 4 year old, said his best friend’s name is Carlos; the Director explained that Carlos is Abraham’s 6 year old brother. Abraham and Carlos are the youngest residents at the orphanage; their father brought them two years ago. When I asked of the possibility of the brothers returning to family, the Director just shrugged and said their father brought them because he needed help (“ayuda”) She explained about half of their 30 children were voluntarily placed by family and the others are there at the direction of the “gobierno” (Government) — interesting that she did not say “la corte” (Court). My time and Spanish were too limited to go into the process used in Mexico to remove children from their family involuntarily because of neglect or abuse. But my head and my heart were glad to see a place so clearly meeting the needs of “the least of these, my children.” Email contact for the orphanage is esperanza631@hotmail.com
“Puerto Penasco” is Spanish for port of rocks, and from Puerto Penasco an array of boats harvest shrimp, clams, oysters, and a variety of fish. They sell fresh sea food locally and export vast quantities to other countries. The pictures show something of their 15-plus feet tidal surge.
Many people shy away from trips into Mexico, afraid of being caught up in the violence between the drug cartels. Puerto Penasco is only an hour south of the border, on the eastern edge of the Sea of Cortez. Known as the Arizona Beach, at one time it enjoyed a great deal of Gringo tourism but less today because of fear. I felt comfortable there; Bones has lived in Mexico for 10 years. I’ll go again – the seafood is incredible and the people are diverse and engaging.
After four days with Bones and Ruth, we crossed the border back into the States. The Border Patrol doesn’t want to talk to two gray-haired, white faced gringos, so we didn’t even have to slow down.
We stopped for Chinese and got back to the motorhome in Tucson on Saturday night; I went to a Quaker Meeting on Sunday and then washed clothes. We packed up the truck camper and left again on Monday morning, heading towards Yuma to do some boondocking. Once we were set up here in the desert, we headed south to cross the border for the day at Los Algodones where we got our teeth cleaned and did a bit of shopping – with chile rellenos and margaritas for lunch, of course. I got to talk with a woman only slightly younger than I – she’s a crippled street vendor who is raising three granddaughters. This picture includes a couple of extra friends and big smiles. Though her English is very good, I preferred to speak in Spanish which she closely monitored, with gentle corrections. I am very conscious that I have not “earned” my life history – born an American to caring, well-educated parents, good health, good education, great job opportunities – and that this kind lady did nothing “wrong”; to the contrary, she is doing everything right, to offer stability and a better life to three young girls.
We had planned an outside Christmas dinner in the desert with the other boondockers, but a wind storm changed those plans to an indoor Chinese buffet in Yuma. We’re back in the camper now; the wind is howling and rocking the rig. Tomorrow we’ll go back to Algadones to pick up my new eye glasses – and have margaritas and chile rellenos.

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fishermen time their lives to the tides at Puerto Penasco

fishermen time their lives to the tides at Puerto Penasco

boondockers scattered across the desert

boondockers scattered across the desert

a few RVs, seen from the back of the pickup camper

a few RVs, seen from the back of the pickup camper

a fascinating contraption used to move boats in and out of the water, regardless of the water level

a fascinating contraption used to move boats in and out of the water, regardless of the water level

hauling a boat out at Puerto Penasco

hauling a boat out at Puerto Penasco

Ruth and Bones

Ruth and Bones

fishermen at the dock

fishermen at the dock

Bones and Ruth's home

Bones and Ruth’s home

they covered the restaurant floor with sea shells - not peanut shells

they covered the restaurant floor with sea shells – not peanut shells

it costs 5 pesos to use the women's bathroom, if you're not a customer.  No charge for non-customers in the men's room

it costs 5 pesos to use the women’s bathroom, if you’re not a customer. No charge for non-customers in the men’s room

a grandmother who supports her three granddaughters and has a big enough lap and heart for more.

a grandmother who supports her three granddaughters and has a big enough lap and heart for more.

a health food store

a health food store

the sign at Mexican border  says you have to stay 100 feet away, but I might have been a bit closer

the sign at Mexican border says you have to stay 100 feet away, but I might have been a bit closer

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December 16, 2014 Ancestors

December 16, 2014 – Ancestors
102 years ago today, my dad, Judge Woodrow M. Melvin, was born in in the house his father built at 306 Berryhill Street, Milton, Fl. My grandmother, Laura Melvin, gave birth to six boys in the same bedroom of the house; Dad was #2 A generation later, my parents made their home in that house, and my mother, Juanita Weeks Melvin, gave birth to one son and two daughters — in the same bedroom. Mom would have been 100 this past July 13. There is a Melvin family plot in the Milton Cemetery where most of my recent ancestors are buried.

Fort Bowie - 130 years later

Fort Bowie – 130 years later

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The flag marks the old parade grounds at Ft. Bowie

The flag marks the old parade grounds at Ft. Bowie

southern Arizona

southern Arizona

lonesome cow

lonesome cow

a little cold there in the Chiricahua Mountains

a little cold there in the Chiricahua Mountains

a few of the rocks at Chiricahua National Monument

a few of the rocks at Chiricahua National Monument

talk about bumpy roads!

talk about bumpy roads!

San Xavier Mission

San Xavier Mission

San Xavier Mission

San Xavier Mission

On Monday, Doug and I rode down yet another dirt road in the deserts of SE Arizona; we crossed Apache Pass and other places documented in the westward advancement of the White Man. We walked the 1 ½ miles into the ruins of Fort Bowie, a walk which took us through beautiful land and past Apache Springs; the water bubbles out of the ground, runs in a small stream, and then disappears. It was the water that attracted wild game and humans. The location of those springs set the location of the Fort.
The only sounds we heard were the occasional bird and the steady crunch of our shoes on the rocky ground. The trail was scattered with numerous markers describing various battle sites and the myriad of ways the White Man conquered the Indian. I was intrigued was one plaque beside a mock-up of a teepee; it explained the Indian diet which included fresh game and a large variety of nuts and vegetation. At the Fort, a very different sign explained the rough life of the soldiers and their very limited diet.
There is a Fort cemetery, outlined by an adobe wall. Another plaque explains that after the Fort was abandoned (because the Indians had been eradicated after the surrender of Geronimo), the Government moved the bodies of all the officers and most of the enlisted to a National Cemetery in California, leaving the civilians and a couple of Indians. Today there are wooden headstones marked “In Memoriam” to those left behind in this quiet, beautiful corner of Arizona. One tells the story of a six year old boy who was crushed by a wagon wheel; his claim to fame, there amongst the cacti and rolling hills, is that he was the first child buried at the Fort. My grandparents lost a child; he is buried with them at the Milton Cemetery; I think broken hearts look the same, across time and cultures.
At the Visitor’s Center we met an Apache who lives on the Reservation near Gallup, NM; he had come to this site of his Apache ancestors with a different perspective than most tourists. He explained his house on the Reservation has all the modern conveniences and that he has several Aunts who live in hogans with dirt floors and continue to carry water. He spoke with pride of his 4 year old nephew who is the 4th generation descendant of Geronimo. We understood from the pamphlet that Geronimo had surrendered in 1886 and was brought to Fort Bowie, before being shipped by rail to Pensacola, Fl. Pensacola is about 30 miles from my old family home and the Milton cemetery; my grandparents were young adults when Geronimo was locked up at Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island. Our new friend, this modern Apache, showed us a picture of his ancestor, Geronimo – standing on the parade grounds with his hands on his hips.
On Saturday we rode up to the Chiricahua National Monument – a place much colder than the low-lands around Tucson. In fact, I thought I’d freeze to death. The rock formations are the stunning result of 27 million years of erosion which followed the eruption of Turkey Creek Volcano.
We also visited the San Xavier Cathedral – a white adobe structure that reflects the desert sun.
Tomorrow, Dec 17, we’re heading to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, to visit a couple I met three years ago on my four-corners motorcycle ride. Sixteen years ago I spent a week skydiving onto the beaches at Puerto Penasco. It’s a small world, full of adventure.

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