Friday, July 31, 2009

hooray for monterey

As much as I'd love to spend half the day writing in my trailer, leaving the beach and my family to fend for themselves, I'm going to just do a quick catch-up here, mostly in pictures. There will be time for words later. Trust me when I tell you we're having a fabulous time, and I never want to leave the coast of California again... until I get tired of it and feel the tug back to the desert, or the mountains, or any number of other places that might whisper an invitation to me. For now, this is perfection.

Backing up a few days, back in Reno, I had a lovely visit with my Aunt Donna. I don't get to see her often, and this was the first time I ever having her to myself for a whole afternoon. I enjoyed every minute of it. We got silly with iPhoto, but here's a nice picture Rick took for us.

The drive from Reno to Monterey was longer than expected, and pretty cramped. Kelsey and Chelsea had Heidi in their laps, which is not a big deal, but she does expect a fair amount of pampering. Lucy rode in the trailer, which is legal and safe in a fifth wheel, but in Sacramento, I thought it was too hot for her back there, so I brought her up to sit at my feet. We were all a little crazy by the time we got to the coast, after seven hours on the road. Once again, way past my road tolerance level.

We took Linda to dinner our first night here, to celebrate her big five-oh. The light wasn't right for a picture, but you can see how beautiful she is. We're lucky to swim in a pretty gene pool in this family, but I think Linda got an extra splash.

Yesterday morning was spent walking the dogs and hanging out here at the RV park with the little cluster of us who are staying here instead of the hotel. Here I am with David and Robin. David is my Dad's brother. Aunt Camy is their sister. Robin is David's wife. Aunt Donna was his first wife, and they are the parents of my super-talented cousin Mitzi, who isn't here at all this weekend, but I thought I'd fill you in on the family tree a little bit. Got all that?

Later we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with my friend Karen, who was kind enough to offer us the use of her passes, saving us a bucket of money. We had a great time, and a good visit. The aquarium is incredible. I could have spent hours there. Days even. I was hypnotized by swimming things. Thanks Karen!

After we'd had our fill of the aquarium, we went poking around town. Monterey is a darling place. If you get a chance to come here, better do it. It will make you happy on so many levels.

Today my kids arrive. Dad got here last night, and Susan and Nick are here from Gardnerville. The party is growing and morphing into something wild and organic and out of our control. I'm having a terrific time. Better get away from this computer and go kayaking! Yeah, baby!

More photos on Facebook.

Monday, July 27, 2009

hope for lucy

We went down to my old stomping grounds in Gardnerville to see my pal Susan and her family. Susan and I have been friends since junior high school... a long time. We don't see each other often now. My fault. I keep moving around. But when we do get together, it's always like always. Fun. We had a great visit, catching up with Susan and Chuck, and their two gorgeous grown-up kids, Nick (my godson), and Kayla.

Susan and Chuck

Nick and me - isn't he the cutest thing?

Nick and Kayla - I think they should both be models.

While we all chattered like monkeys, the dogs - ours and theirs, all five of them - sniffed and scuffled and with a little coaxing from the humans, formed something of a congenial pack. Little Heidi was a bit overwhelmed by all the big dogs, but she did fine. Lucy, of course, was the real concern, but after she and Guinness (the boxer) came to an understanding it all went pretty well.

Lucy and Woody make friends easily. I think she has a little crush on him.

The dog thing was so astonishing and encouraging, we decided to take them all out to the Hope Valley the next day, to play in the river. I'm not sure who had more fun - the dogs or the humans. It's such a gorgeous place, and nobody around but us, so the pets could go off-leash and really enjoy themselves.

Lucy's not much of a swimmer, but she wanted to keep up with the boys.

Lucy tried all day to get Woody to play with her, but he was totally focused on the minnows in the stream. My Dad had German Shorthairs when we were kids. He would have enjoyed watching Woody "hunt" so intently.

Even Miss Heidi ventured in, and managed some good deep-water swimming, with a little help from Susan and me. She might be a Sorority Girl, but she's sea-worthy.

We were all exhausted by the end of the day, and hopeful for the first time about our strange Lucy-girl. Seems she has the capacity to learn how to be a proper dog if she's given the chance. The Hope Valley was a fitting place for all this to happen. Huge thanks to Susan and Chuck, and their dogs Woody, Guinness, and Duke, for their patience and faith in Lucy. Maybe she's not such a bad dog after all.

Old friends, turning into old ladies... somewhat gracefully I think.

More pictures on Facebook.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

lunch with aunt camy

We had the wonderful pleasure of having lunch with my dear Aunt Camy yesterday - and her new boyfriend! She and Don met recently, and according to Camy, it was fireworks from the start. I'm so happy for her. For them. To find someone new to make your heart sing so late in the game seems to make it worth sticking around to play as long as possible. I love seeing my auntie act like a giddy love-struck teenager. There's a lovely lilt in her voice now, a twinkle in her eyes, and a ready giggle that burbles over quite often. It makes my heart sing to see her so happy. Don is a sweetie. Calm and gentle, intelligent, funny, easy to talk with. He's blind, but jokes about taking his turn driving when we all go to Monterey next week. And he assumes that we're all beautiful, which works for us!

I asked Camy and Don's permission to post this here. Wouldn't want to embarrass them in any way. I find them most inspiring, and very brave, to stand up to any possible opposition from family, and show up together at the Big Family Party next week. Three cheers to Camy and Don!

Here we are at the Olive Garden - Don, Camy, Linda, Me, and Hank, an old friend who was able to meet us for lunch.

Don and Camy at Sheels, with the Ferris Wheel.

Sipping lemonade.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

dog days

It's too hot here in Reno to do very much. I've spent all week making beads, and now I need a little rest time. Even the dogs are feeling it. Little Ohso was so funny in her swimming pool. I think she even has a smile on her face here...

Lucy continues to be a challenge. I'm not sure what we're going to do about her. She's great with us, but she doesn't trust other people, even when she's known them for a while. As a result, we can't trust her not to snap at people, so we have to keep a close eye on her, and keep her away from everyone else as much as we can. It's pretty stressful. I wish, wish, wish that Cesar Milan would call me up and ask if he can take her into his pack. I think she'd be a tough case even for him. What to do, what to do... Keep wishing and keep working with our Lucy. There aren't a lot of other good options.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

gas station angel

On the way up to Tahoe yesterday, we stopped for diesel at the Chevron station in the very nice neighborhood of Thomas Creek, on the Mount Rose Highway. There was a bronze statue of Mark Twain sitting on the bench outside the front door, and soothing piano music drifted through both indoor and outdoor speakers. I went inside to buy some bottled water, and found myself absolutely charmed by this gas station. I've never seen one like it, so clean and welcoming and filled with lovely things to buy for one's trip to the lake. I nearly bought a hat, but restrained myself and set my water bottles on the counter. The man at the register was friendly and sweet, and maybe just a little bit odd. He stood there in his clean white polo shirt, commenting on the lovely coolness of my water, and as I took my change and thanked him, he said, "We're always here for you". I think he was an angel. Really. Glimpses of the Divine come through in the strangest ways sometimes.

I'd had a difficult day to that point. I made beads in the trailer, parked in my sister's driveway. We're not quite level, which throws me off a bit, and it was hot and windy too. My studio swayed and rattled around me until I called it quits around 2:00, and started throwing things together for a trip up to the lake, to meet Linda at Sand Harbor, where she works in the rangers' office. I remembered most things, but forgot my camera, dang it. I kicked myself halfway up the mountain, until Rick pulled into that Chevron station. Things started to get better after that.

Linda was off work when we got there, later than we'd planned, so we met some her friendly co-workers, got something to eat at the Harbor House (Veggie wraps, garlic fries, and cold white wine. Oh yeah...), and then walked through the park and along the beach. There's not a prettier spot on the planet, and all that water was very good medicine. We decided to stay for the music happening on the Shakespeare stage later, so after a little more beach walking, we gathered our blankets and ice chest, and headed for the gorgeous outdoor stage that has Lake Tahoe as a backdrop. Ricardo Lemvo and his awesome orchestra played until after sunset, and it was so much fun. (watch a video here.) We danced in the sand until the very last note was played, and then wound our way back down the mountain to Reno.

What a day, and no pictures... yet. Linda had her camera along, so I'll add some pics here when I get them from her. Meanwhile, check the links and see for yourself. Lake Tahoe is a little bit of paradise, and Sand Harbor is the most beautiful gem in the whole area.

And look for those angels in strange places. You never know where you'll find one, or where one will find you. "We're always here for you"...

Update! Pictures!

Monday, July 20, 2009

fly nevada

There are nice parts of Nevada. We're in one now. My sister and her family live in the Washoe Valley, between Carson City and Reno, with a beautiful view from the back yard of the Sierras and Washoe Lake. Quail and rabbits run through the yard, and the dogs are happy to have a back yard and lawn to romp on. If you remember back a couple of Christmases, when a bunch of my family joined us in Taos, Cooper and Ohso were the giant black Newfoundland and the little Manchester Terrier who kept Lucy and Heidi entertained. The four dogs are back together, but on Cooper's turf, Lucy is struggling for dominance, and ole Coop won't hear of it. We had a few dog-scuffles last night, and will try again today to ease them in to getting along together. Lucy's a tough one. I keep threatening to give her to the gypsies, but then I remember we are the gypsies, so I guess we just have to keep working with her.

Anyway, if the Nevada Bureau of Tourism has successfully done its job, and you're considering a visit here, remember one thing - fly. Go to Vegas. Go to Tahoe. Go hiking in the Sierras. Heck, go to Burning Man, out in the middle of nowhere. But whatever you do, don't make it a road trip. Like I said, Nevada has its tasty bits, but the long stretches of wasteland in between do not make for a pleasant day on the road. People are industrious here, always have been, but as in so many other rural places across the country, weather, lack of water, bad luck, and any number of other rotten conditions have left endless pockets of deserted homes, mines, businesses, even whole towns, easing their way back into the earth like grave markers for abandoned dreams.

Others are still trying. I have to admire their courage, but I sure wouldn't want to be them...

And Walker Lake, outside of Hawthorne, a surly little military town, surrounded by miles and miles of underground ammo bunkers, was a nice sight to see. The first moisture in two days.

Taking the back way into Carson City, things begin to look a little more prosperous, a little more familiar. The whore houses are the same as ever. More expensive now, I hear, but still housed in funky mobile homes on the outskirts of Carson, with the same names they've had for years and years - the Kit Kat Ranch, Moonlight Ranch, and Mustang Ranch all appear to be thriving, even in a bad economy. And my favorite landmark, the giant spider, made out of a Volkswagon, still stands proudly on the side of the road. I think I remember it living in another part of town, but I'm glad it's still a visible part of the countryside.

I lived in Nevada for about 13 years, way back when, and have had relatives here for as long as I can remember. This part of the state, and up to Lake Tahoe, are familiar old stomping grounds for me. Rick and I met in Gardnerville, when I was living there in a tiny condo, ready to give up on men, and hunker down to raise my kids and make a living the best I could. I was in danger of letting my life become another one of those abandoned dreams by the side of the road. I sure didn't see any of what was soon to happen coming. Rick for starters, and the move to Seattle, the pizza shop, learning to make beads, moving to Taos, and now this trip, making friends with the road, and all that comes with it. None of it ever would have happened if not for a start in Nevada. I have good feelings about this particular part of the state. I stepped outside this morning, and the air smelled just like honey. I can't explain it. Maybe someone's raising bees nearby. Maybe it's a reminder that life is sweet. Sure is sweet from where I sit right now. Yes, I think I can recommend a visit to Nevada. But I repeat - fly.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Saturday, July 18 - Tonopah, NV

After a final sticky, sleepless night in Zion, I was awakened before sunrise by the sound of a puking dog. Heidi is a delicate creature, and I think the heat and excitement got to her. I took her outside to finish her little doggy cleansing, and magically, unexpectedly, there it was, the most beautiful morning I think I've ever seen. The sliver-moon was just coming up over the rock cliffs, tailed by a super bright star - or planet - maybe Venus. The sky was turning that impossible Maxfield Parrish blue, and the sun, still not visible, but following the moon in its path, was beginning to light up the opposite rock wall, 1,000 feet high. I looked around me, and said to myself, this is the best part of this day.

We spent most of the day driving through Nevada, and as much as I want to show you the beauty of this country as we travel through it, I have to be honest. It isn't always pretty, folks. In contrast to the areas we've just been in, much of Nevada is, well, gray. Gray and dry and rocky, with the exception of our brief side trip to the Valley of Fire state park. It's a rather small, but beautiful park, the oldest state part in Nevada, filled with deep red swirling piles of rock. Nothing like the Grand Canyon or Zion, but it was worth the stop. It's about 40 miles from Las Vegas, and seems to be a popular wedding site. There was a wedding there today, in fact, cozied up alongside a big bus full of Chinese tourists, all sharing the blistering Nevada heat.

We skirted Las Vegas, and caught a glimpse of the strip through the heavy smog. Nothing about Vegas appeals to us, unless we were to find ourselves with tickets to Cirque de Soleil. We'd probably go to that. But today we were intent on getting closer to Reno, so we aimed ourselves at the small town of Beatty, since there was a decent sounding RV park listed there in "the Woodall's" guide. We got to Beatty without any trouble, and found the RV park. It was basically a wide spot in the road with RV hook-ups, gray dirt, no trees... We said in unison, "We're not staying here", and drove on.

The next town listing RV sites was Tonopah. We've been through Tonopah before, and weren't very impressed, but we figured it would have an OK place to spend the night, even if it was in the local casino parking lot. We glanced at that option as we drove through, but decided to go to the Joy-Land RV Park at the other end of town, five minutes away. Remember when I said the morning was the best part of the day? Well, yes, it certainly was...

As we pulled into Joy-Land, a huge dust storm blew in, flinging dirt in our teeth and making me feel like Dorothy in the approaching tornado. Our camp host, Larry, showed up after a few minutes of ringing the buzzer on the office door, and told us that the place used to be called the Twister Inn. Mm Hmm... Funny. We looked arond the place, and even though it's way beyond funky, we decided to stay. It's only one night, and they offer 50 amp electric hook-ups, which we thought we needed for our air conditioner. We paid our $18 (by check - Larry doesn't take credit cards) for a pull-through site, and were then sent down to the end of the road, to Lot 3. Home sweet home for the night is, yep, grey dirt, hunks of old concrete, and a neighborhood of falling-down mobile homes, trash, barking dogs, and noisy local four-wheelers. Larry, with his deep blue eyes, twitchy manner, and toothless smile, informed us that he would not drink the water here, that the Mexican place in town is expensive at $5 for two tacos, but it'll fill you up, the electric is only 30 amp, but it's all we need, and the cable TV works, probably. If we can get channel three, we're good to go. It feels like we're stuck in a David Lynch movie.

We didn't want to leave the trailer, or the dogs, unattended, so Rick drove in to town to pick up some supplies. Drinking water, beer, wine, lettuce, cheese. Always start with the liquids and go from there. I stayed behind with the dogs and the Myotron, but wasn't bothered by anything worse than flies. There are horses nearby too, so flies are also part of the deal at Joy-Land.

I can't begin to imagine a worse place to stay, but here we are, too tired to drive any farther, and trying to make the best of it. No doubt we'll stay in as bad or worse places as we go, and you can be sure I'll tell you about them. This is so awful it's funny. And yes, those few minutes before sunrise this morning were indeed the best part of the day... so far. But hey, as I write this, off line, because there's no internet unless I want to sit on Larry's front porch (I do not), it's not over yet.