Wednesday, September 30, 2009


A rainy morning in Newport, Oregon, following a rainy night. It's the Oregon coast for goodnessakes. What did I expect? Well... sunshine, actually. I always expect sunshine. And when I don't get it, I move on. Growing up in California, I guess I associate sunshine with happiness, goodness, and all things wonderful. Light is the key ingredient. It lightens the psychic load and tends to make us feel happy. Most of us anyway. Not that I mind the rain. We need it. I know that. I even enjoy the occasional sleepy day spent indoors by the fire, reading, knitting, eating and drinking whatever comforts me and makes me feel warm... and sunny. But for the most part, actual sunshine is what I want and expect from life.

Similarly, and not surprisingly, light is also what I want and expect from people. I surround myself with people who radiate that little light from within. Why on earth would I want to hang out with whiny, bummer, black hole people? Here comes October, and it's time to be extra wary of vampires. Black hole people are energy vampires. Run away! Run away! Or better yet, shine some light on them and watch them transform.

I have a little game I play, when I'm at my best and most "awake". I wander around in public places with the tiniest smile on my face. Sort of a Mona Lisa thing more than an out and out grin, which can look kind of manic and overmedicated. I don't want to scare people. The goal is to get them to smile back. I'm convinced that putting out happy energy brings it out of other people, which infects even more people as the day and the grin goes on, passed around like some kind of friendly virus. Poof! Before you know it, you've gone and made a whole bunch of people feel just a little bit better, and I just know that it somehow radiates like sunshine, making the world a better place. I know. Yuck. That sounds so goodie-goodie, and trust me, I'm no goodie-goodie. I have my dark side. But come on... isn't better... just better?

Try it. It's easy. Forget about your face and just smile from your eyes. The rest will arrange itself accordingly. Then walk around the mall or the grocery store and see what happens. Nine out of ten, I can get the most pickle-faced vampire to beam like a light house. Rick plays the game too, but he mostly likes watching me do it. We walk along, chatting and doing whatever we're doing, and he'll stop and say, "Good one! You got her!". Big fun in a small package.

Looking out the window as I finish up here, there's a big break in the clouds and the sun is peeping through. Coincidence? I think not. And I hope this is something of an antidote to yesterday's post, for those of you who need it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

dealing with your own...

WARNING! I am about to use a Bad Word here. I intend to use it many times in the course of this entry. If you are a delicate creature who does not tolerate profanity well, or have children you wish to protect from the realities of life on planet earth, consider yourself duly advised...

The word is shit. Not the worst of cuss words, but one of my favorites because it covers so much territory and has so many subtle meanings, aside from the obvious literal definition. I've been meaning to talk about this since we set out on this trip. It's been almost three months on the road now, and I think I can speak with some authority, on a practical as well as spiritual level, when I tell you will all earnestness, We all have to deal with our own shit.

Practically speaking, living in a trailer means we need to be in constant awareness of things like fresh water, gray water, black water, and storage tanks in various stages of being filled and emptied. We didn't give all this a lot of thought before we set out, feeling secure and comforted by the term self-contained. What we failed to consider was that we might not always stay in RV parks with full hook-ups, which are wonderfully convenient, but expensive and not always the kind of atmosphere we prefer. Spending the month of September in Ken & Vicki's back yard in Bellevue, just a hop across the lake to Seattle, we had to be super vigilant about the state of our black water tank. Gray water could be emptied into the garden, since we're careful to use only organic, biodegradable soaps and things. But with no sewer hook-up, we needed to be extra careful about how much we, uh, used the bathroom, and found ourselves dashing across the yard to use the one in the house in the daylight hours, saving our precious holding tank space for after dark.

We've adopted a new favorite movie line, from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Cousin Eddie, played by Randy Quaid, is standing outside his hideously ramshackle motor home, a generic beer in one hand, and a sewer hose in the other, emptying his black water tank into the storm sewer. When Clark (Chevy Chase) questions this, Eddie just grins and says, "Shitter's full." Shitter's full........ these are words we say often in jest, but dread having to say in seriousness. Few things in a gypsy life are worse than a full shitter and no place to empty it. We've been forced to make several side excursions just for the purpose of tracking down a dump station, and friends, let me tell you, that's not quite how I'd imagined us traveling backroads in search of amusing roadside attractions.

Then there's the category of shit more commonly known as clutter. We suspected, and we were right, that clutter in a small living space would be intolerable for us - most particularly for me. I'll see three things left randomly on the kitchen counter and proclaim it a "total mess" in here, dashing around to put all stray stuff back in its rightful place. We're very careful about what we bring in here, because there's just no room to collect things, much as we'd like to sometimes. We have enough of everything. We have clothes and dishes and cookware. We have books to pass on when we finish them and want new ones. I have slightly more than enough yarn to keep me knitting happily for the next month or two. And we have all the tools and equipment required for this little mobile life. So more and more we discover, and remember, just how little we actually need. I splurged the other day, on a trip to the gigantic Goodwill Store in Portland with Jim. I was dazzled by a ballerina pink chiffon scarf. They sell everything there by weight, so I paid a whopping two cents for it. When I got it home, I wondered what in the heck I was going to do with my crazy impulse buy. Turns out, it looks very sweet tied in a fluffy bow on Heidi's neck. As long as it has a place and a purpose, I can keep it... We do buy food of course, in small amounts because storage is tight. We can justify food, and we like good food. We cook it, we eat it, and then, yes friends, it goes away... in you-know-what form. There's an amazing circle of life sort of theme beginning to appear here.

There's one other form of shit that sooner or later, we all have to deal with, and it seems even more imperative when traveling and living in close quarters the way we are. I'm talking about the interior, mental shit we each drag around like a big plastic poop bag at the dog park. Everybody has one. And sometimes we become overly fond of our poop bags, for reasons that make little sense, and we forget to toss them in the trash can and walk away from them. Things that no longer serve us, like old beliefs, excuses, and justifications, are best left behind. Hauling them around makes it very hard to move forward. It seems I'm frequently, if not constantly reminded to let go of all sorts of old crap I've dragged around for years. What freedom to toss these bits of nonsense one by one into the universal trash bin. They get so heavy, and so very stinky if we keep them too long. My advice, which you can take or leave, of course, Let it go, my friends. Toss that baggie and leave that old shit behind! Taking too close a look at it can quickly become wallowing, like the baby who learns to take off her diaper, but then decides to dance in her own little shitty mess. That's wallowing. It's not useful, and it's certainly not pretty.

By now you're either feeling totally cleansed, or possibly, and more likely, like you need a shower. My apologies to the more delicate of you. If you've read this far, you're not as delicate as you think. I really felt this was a topic worth discussing, something most people are afraid to talk about. But I'm here to be real with you. And I know there are a lot of people considering doing something along the lines of what we're doing. It wouldn't be right to let you believe it's all sunny days at the beach and champagne beneath the full moon. There's plenty of that, sure, but a small, portable life is a magnified version of a "regular" life. If you're going to do it, you need to be ready to see every little bit under a microscope, and you need to be willing to get rid of everything that isn't truly useful. In more ways than you can imagine, and more ways than I've talked about here, you really have to be ready to deal with your own shit. Having said that, three months into this adventure, and learning new things daily, I heartily invite you to join us out here. The messes may not be fun, but they're easily identified, and not too bad to clean up, once you get the hang of it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

start again

Sometimes I'm traveling, and sometimes I'm thinking deep thoughts - at least for me. Today I'm doing a little bit of both. We're camped in Jim & Lani's driveway, next to their wonderful purple house. The place is happy and chaotic and welcoming, and it's clear that creatively generous people live here. We all went to see the movie Julie & Julia last night, which I've been looking forward to for weeks. And while I loved it as much as I expected to, at some point I began to find it sort of... discouraging. The little green envy demon crept into my head and started whispering, Where's my publisher/agent/book deal/movie? Hmm? Haven't I been working hard at this? Don't I write some pretty good stuff sometimes? Don't all faithful bloggers deserve to hit the big time and reap fat rewards for their efforts? Well, obviously not, same as not all musicians or painters or actors or singers or baseball players will go to their prospective big leagues, even though there are loads of greatly talented people in the world.

This morning, a big shot of vodka and a good sleep later, I'm over it. Wallowing isn't pretty or productive. I'm over it, and also adopting a new plan of attack for this little, small world blog. If I'm going to write it, I think I should write it like it really counts. Even like I'm getting paid to do it. After all, I know I have 108 readers out there, and that's not nothing. That's something. Something good. So for you, and for me, here we go again, with a fresh eye, from yet another Day One. Some days just sharing experiences, and other days sifting through the compost that enriches all of our lives, if we only take the time to dig in and get our hands dirty. Today we're enjoying time and friends in Portland, Oregon. And tomorrow... I might just have something stinky in store...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

lunch with sally

What could be better than a couple of hours on the beach with a dear, long-time friend, followed by a three-hour lunch in a shady garden restaurant, tended to by darling Italian waiters? Sure, I "should" have been working, but it would have been just another work day, a few more dollars (maybe - no guarantees), and I would have missed a really, really good time. Life is short, the road is long. Whatever that means, more and more I know that it's important to do as much of the fun stuff as we can.

I had planned to ride the ferry over to Bainbridge Island with Rick today, to meet up with his own dear friend, Lance. I've been looking forward to a ferry ride for weeks, and somehow it just isn't happening for me. The roadblock this time is our little Miss Heidi, who seems to have developed some serious abandonment issues. While we were out yesterday, and she was home in the trailer like she's done many times before, she freaked out and shredded one of the window screens. So, rather than risk sending her even further over the edge of doggie reason, I decided to forego the ferry, and stay home with the dogs. It's probably better that Rick and Lance have some time to themselves anyway.

I'll spend the day here in the "Silver Lounge", as I fondly call my new, abbreviated studio space, where I'm working solely on beautiful fine silver. What about beads?, you might ask. Well, beads are still a possibility, but silver interests me more right now, Back to the Life Is Short theory, why do so many of us spend our days doing things we don't love doing? I think this is a question worth answering for ourselves. I've been making beads for just about thirteen years now, and frankly, I'm a little tired of it. I'm not saying I'm quitting, but I'm not ruling that out either. I'll just wait for "further instructions", as always, and play with my shiny hammers in the Silver Lounge until I know what to do next.

Tomorrow we'll leave Seattle and go to Portland for a few days, to see our pals Jim and Lani, and check out BeadFest, as well as a fiber arts show. Busy, busy. Life is good.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

kayaking on lake union

Lauren took me out kayaking today. My first time ever, and I'm in love. We had a little lunch first, and then hopped in our rented kayaks and paddled around in Lake Union, looking at the big boats, bridges, and sparkling water, on this unusually hot and sunny first day of autumn. Oh man, what a treat. Right this minute, I wish I could buy a houseboat on the lake, so I could live right there on the crazy urban waterfront and kayak every day. More realistically, I want to look into a cheap beginner kayak, so I can paddle at my leisure wherever I find some nice calm water as we travel.

I do not have the photos to prove I did this, although I do have beginner blisters on my thumbs. I took my very small, very old Canon Elph camera along, thinking it would not be the end of the world if it went for a swim, since it was about to die anyway. I forgot to specify to it that it should not die until after I took some nice pictures while kayaking. I didn't get a single shot. The poor dear just plain old gave up and stopped working. RIP little Canon. You were very good to me. Here is someone else's picture, lifted from Google Images. This is what I saw from my tippy little perch. I probably would not opt for this particular hat however.

Monday, September 21, 2009

more seattle fun

I've let this get away from me. Too much fun going on to sit and write about it. Besides, it's all family stuff, so not that interesting to most of you anyway. In a nutshell, we're having a great time in Seattle, but it's clear as the big blue sky overhead (at the moment) that this is not Home. We did the city thing before, and it really doesn't suit us. We already knew that though. Still, when we wander through the different neighborhoods, I find myself trying them on for size. If I had to live in Seattle, I think I'd choose Fremont. It's quirky and hip and always entertaining. There's the ever popular Fremont Market - which is where I first started selling beads, way back when - loads of restaurants, cafes, and pubs, water and boats, a very nice draw bridge, a troll under another bridge (really), and a great tattoo place, for those days when a girl just needs a little more embellishment. If I lived here, I'd want to live in this building...

... which is a far fling from living in a trailer, or from the little brick house we once lived in with our three kids...

What a funny thing, this image of Home we keep redefining. I really can't guess anymore what the next one will look like.
Anyway, moving on, I've posted other pictures on Facebook, so as not to make you look at them unless you really want to. And I'll leave you here with a nice shot of the magnificently ghost-like Mount Rainier, from one of the floating bridges that cross Lake Washington. A few more days here, and we'll move to on to Oregon!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

a seattle evening

We had dinner with the kids last night, which is always nice, and it's rare to have all five of us together. Not a lot to say about family time like that, except that we really do enjoy each other, and it's good to see them all doing so well. What lovely adults our children have become.

It was a good, but inexpensive, dinner at a Seattle classic, Ivar's, which has a terrific view of Lake Union, and also happens to be right next door to Dale Chihuly's studio. No Dale sightings though. My lotus bead necklace was the only art glass around, which was good, because his is way cooler...

Later we went to Danny's favorite German beer place, "The Stube". Yes, those Germans do make a superior brew.

Dropping the kids back at their apartment, we went downstairs to see Danny's famous (in the NW Volvo world at least) Volvo wagon. It's really very adorable.

And last stop, up to the roof. What a view. I do enjoy a good view. I don't want to live in Seattle again. Did that already, you know. But it's really nice spending some time here again. Really nice. Two things I'd like to do while we're here are to go to the zoo, which I think we can fit in, and to go see "Wicked", which I'm sure we can't afford. Maybe I'll just read the book again. If I had this deck on my rooftop, I'd read it up there.

Monday, September 14, 2009

matt & megan

Weddings... some people hate them. I happen to love them. Heck, I've had two of my own... We went to Wenatchee, Washington for the weekend, to attend Matt and Megan's wedding, and this, my friends, was one great celebration. Most of Rick's family was there, and while there aren't a lot of us, we take up extra space with our happy, buoyant energy. Megan's family is quite a bit larger, so the seats were filled from end to end with lovely folks from far and wide, I think just over 100 of us in all. Those of us with trailers camped at Confluence State Park, which is where the Columbia and Wenatchee rivers meet. Beautiful spot. And the campground is ideal, with wide open sites and green, green lawn covering the place like carpet.

Rick and I were enlisted to help with the rehearsal dinner on Friday night. It was a lot of fun, and we were happy to make ourselves useful. (Matt looks about twelve here, but he's actually 34 - old enough to know what he wants, and he picked a great girl!)

The actual ceremony was on Saturday, at 5:30 in the evening, so we had all day to lounge around and make ourselves pretty. I proclaimed Saturday morning Personal Spa Time, and stayed in the trailer smoothing out all my rough edges. "Not Camping" for two and a half months has taken its toll, but I still clean up pretty well, and by the time we headed out that afternoon, I think we were a pretty good looking couple.

The wedding was held at the shady, forested Ohme Gardens, on a hill above Wenatchee. It was all things a wedding should be; short and sweet, with blue skies, well put together words, just the right amount of happy tears, and one perfect butterfly that drifted over the happy couple's heads, right on que.

The reception was at a local winery, and it was a most excellent party. Good enough that some of us needed most of yesterday to recover... And, it also happened to be Rick's birthday that day. What a great birthday party!

So, here we are, back in Seattle, back to work, but still going over happy memories that we'll all be talking about for years to come. Here's to you, Matt & Megan! We all wish you a long and happy life together!

Want all the pictures? Here's a nice little slideshow below, or click for the album on Facebook!


Friday, September 11, 2009


Wonder what's going on. I don't feel much like writing, or making beads - two things which normally make my heart sing. I'm waiting for new inspiration, and I know it will come, because it always does. I just don't know when or what. That part is not my job to figure out. I'm enjoying Seattle, and the sun is coming out often enough that I'm not mad at the weather yet. I'm most enjoying having all this time with my kids. We really do need to live closer to them, and we will. It's fun hanging out with grown up kids. I don't have to keep track of them, and we can go out for a beer now instead of to Chuck E Cheese... Well, the Chuck E Cheese years were fun too, but I'm happy to be where we all are now...

Wandering away from beads this week, I pulled out some fine silver wire and started banging on it. I love hammers, and they don't work particularly well with glass, so it's a good thing I know a little bit about playing with metal too. Maybe I'll do this for a while and give the beads a break... so to speak...

Anyway, no time for any of that now. We're off to Wenatchee for Matt and Megan's wedding. WooHoo! This is just so darn wonderful. Not sure if we'll have internet for the next few days, but I'll be back when I'm back. Like inspiration, I always come back, don't I?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

a fine wet weekend

Lauren took me shopping on Sunday, for something to wear to the wedding. It was a bit of a rough start, finding little that either of us liked. We persisted though, and eventually found a terrific dress at Banana Republic, which surprised us both. Now I need to make a necklace to go with - quick! That night Rick and I went to Charlie and Mary's for dinner. Charlie is the elder brother of the family, and he and Mary are not only great cooks, but also knowledgeable wine enthusiasts. We had amazing homemade pasta with a killer mushroom ragout, and some of the best wine I've had in a long time, being on the Poor Artist's Budget for a few years now. Joni was there too, and brought along the most adorable tiny cupcakes for dessert. I ate entirely too much, and am a little bit worried about the dress situation...

The weather on Monday left Lauren and I uninspired to go to Bumbershoot, which is an outdoor music festival. It probably wasn't the best weekend ever for the craft vendors, and I almost went just for them, having been in their damp shoes many times before, and knowing how dismal it can get. But instead we decided to think only of ourselves and go downtown to do a little shopping and grab some lunch at Westlake Center. The rainy sky made us sleepy, so before long we headed back to the ranch for naps and a little jewelry making. What can you do? Argue with the weather? I've tried it before - it doesn't really work.

Meanwhile, Danny and Rick were up in Bremerton on the autocross track. Danny, being a Volvo Guy, has turned his safe and humble family car into red hot racer. Rick came home bubbling over about all the fun they had, zipping around the orange cones on the retired air strip, with a congenial group of fellow drivers, all there just for the fun of it. It was Danny's birthday gift to Rick, and a damn good one too. Want to "be there"? Here's a short video, taken from the driver's seat:

So today is still rainy, but we're all looking forward to going over to Wenatchee for Matt and Megan's wedding this weekend. It will be sunny there, to suit the happy occasion. Till then, I'd better get some work done. HiHoHiHo...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

settling in for a while

I'm not so blabby when I'm sitting still. Things don't happen as fast as they do when we're flying down the road to a new place every other day, but at the moment, thats OK. We're in Seattle now, or more accurately, Bellevue, which is across Lake Washington from Seattle, and we've only made the hop across once. So far, everyone is coming to us, which pleases me in a queenly sort of way. I refuse to drive here. Good thing I have Rick as my personal chauffeur, but I prefer to stay off the roads all together. It's crazy here. Traffic was one of the things that ran us off eight years ago, and now it seems to be twice as bad as it was back then. I've got myself settled into my little barn studio, and it's a good place to spend the days. It's surprising how little I need, and nice to be able to spread it all out and leave it this way for a while. The only thing I thought I might be missing was music, and I do need some entertainment/inspiration/company while I work. Then I remembered Pandora Radio, and poof!, I now have everything I need, including a wonderful view, and two days worth of work to add silver to and post in the BeadShop.

The main reason we're here when we're here is for Rick's nephew's wedding. Matt and Megan (Mee-gan, not May-gan), the happy couple came for dinner last night, along with other family members. The wedding is on the 12th, but it's not too soon the let the celebration begin!

Matt, Suzie (his mom), Megan, Joni (Matt's sister), and Jonas (Joni's husband).

Ken, Vicki (Rick's sister), Kali, and Gandolf, who are so generously sharing their home with us vagabonds.

Brianna, Ken and Vicki's other daughter. This is all we saw of her last night. Total teenager. In a good way.

My beautiful son, Danny, and Rick in the background.

My beautiful daughter, Lauren, and my friend Sally's beautiful daughter, Tressa.

I was here too, of course, but behind the camera, which is always my preference. Lauren is coming to get me this morning, to take me shopping for something to wear to the wedding. She's not only my backup driver, but a terrific personal fashion consultant. It will cost me lunch, at the very least, but it'll be worth it. I need the help, and I love spending time with her. So, even though it's raining, with no sign of sun till maybe next July, things are looking pretty bright in my little world. Small and quiet. Not much to say. But you know I'll be around.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

back in seattle again

We listened to La Traviata yesterday, as we drove across central Washington. It was perfect. The golden fields, waiting for their winter wheat crops to be planted, the rolling green alfalfa fields and gentle yellow acres of mustard, the farm houses, barns, streams, and ponds, all looked that much more beautiful set to the opera. I never considered classical music or opera to be good road companions. But now, while I'm no expert, I'm certainly a believer.

We stopped at the Columbia River overlook for a little break. It's a pretty spectacular river, and only one of so many we've seen these last few days. I'm always trying to get Rick to allow himself the time to do some fishing, but now I think maybe I'm really talking to myself here. I'm thinking of taking up fly fishing. Not because I want the fish. I'd probably let them go. But spending some good chunks of time in a sexy pair of waders, learning to cast that line and land that little hand-tied fly just so, seems so appealing to me now. Funny, it never really did before. My Grampa Herman used to tie his own flies, and took my boy cousins fishing. My Dad fished some when we were younger too, and taught us a bit. But my Mom was the real fisherwoman in the family. She preferred bait and worms to fly fishing, but still, she was amazing. Maybe fishing is something that lies dormant in a person until they have the time and concentration to understand the zen of it. I might be getting there. Or it might go the way of so many other of my great ideas, drifting down the stream, forgotten... we'll see...

We didn't linger long on any of our stops. Just popped in for a fuel stop once, and later bought a big box of peaches at a nice fruit stand. Oh hallelujah for fresh peaches! Then we drove on through the Cascade Mountains, which is always a favorite part of this trip to western Washington.

We arrived at Ken & Vicki's place in Bellevue, WA well before cocktail time, and settled in to our "home" for most of the month of September. Rick's sister and her family have this amazing little "farm" here, right next to the freeway, and smack in the heart of Microsoft Land. It's wonderful, and fairly easy to pretend the freeway noise is actually a rushing river. We have chickens and turkeys out back, and the neighbor's beautiful garden to look at from our window. And maybe best of all, there's room in a corner office in the big barn for me to set up my bead studio. I haven't been thrilled with the temporary setup I've been using in the trailer. Not sure what to do about that bit of dissatisfaction, but for now I can ignore it, and work from a semi-permanent space for a while. Nice. I'm happy to be here.

Danny and Lauren came over last night from their place across the lake in Seattle. We had dinner from the garden, and planned some things to do this weekend. They took Daisy, Lauren's cat, home with them too, which is a big relief for me. Traveling with a cat was just too much. Now he's home with his kids, where he can just keep getting old, and lounge around with no dogs to bother him.

So now we'll settle into some sort of routine... maybe... if we can still remember how to do that.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

yellowstone... for days

My apologies for this rather long "cluster post". When we asked where the closest internet could be found, thinking we could tap into a good WiFi signal at one of the Yellowstone lodges, the friendly woman at the gift counter giggled and said, "Cody", which meant nowhere near here. This is wilderness, and they like it that way. So here's the entire Yellowstone entry collection, sent to you from somewhere near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. It's been a three-state day - Wyoming, Montana, Idaho - and we're spitting distance from Washington. More when we get settled in Seattle...

(For all the pictures, visit Facebook: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 )

Aug.30, 2009

We are in Yellowstone now, and I'm writing, of course, off line. If this does happen to get posted today, it will be because I found a lodge with WiFi somewhere here in the park. No matter, really. We'll catch up when we catch up.

We left Dubois yesterday morning, and made the pretty drive to Grand Teton National Park. There was a lot of road construction along the way, so I amused myself by taking pictures of the big Volvo earth movers for Danny, my kid the Volvo Technician. I didn't knit a single stitch yesterday, which is saying a lot. It was one of those days that was just non-stop interesting.

We stopped for a dog walk just as we were beginning to see the Tetons. It's astonishingly beautiful country, and I wished it could be more than just a stop-over for us on this trip. I'd like to go back sometime, and who says we can't?

We've heard that all the beautiful scenery aside, the wildlife in this area is the real reason to come here. Our first glimpse at this was the herd of buffalo that crossed the road in front of us. These animals are so huge and beautiful. They literally brought tears to my eyes.

Another stop at the Snake River Overlook was well worth the effort of wrangling the truck-n-trailer into a parking space. It's easy to skip some very cool things, just because the parking thing is not easy. But we've committed ourselves to not being lazy about these things, and Rick is getting really good at maneuvering all this metal we're dragging around behind us. He was even able to help an RV Newbie park his Prowler in a tight space here at the camp ground last night. Now he just needs to teach me how to do it...

There were some good informational signs at the overlook, which we dutifully walked along and read, furthering our knowledge of the Tetons. I always want to know how places get their names, and I wasn't disappointed this time. Here's my favorite sign...

From there we drove the 20 miles or so into Yellowstone National Park. We've now come out ahead on the cost of our annual parks pass, having visited Grand Canyon, Zion, Grand Teton, and now Yellowstone. Yay us, thrifty travelers! Looking over the park map, I was humbled by what I did not know about the place. It's much bigger than I'd ever imagined, and is packed to the edges with great things to see. We drove along the shore of Yellowstone Lake (which I'm embarrassed to say I'd never even heard of before), to West Thumb, and our first look at some incredible "hydrothermal features". This relatively small area next to the huge lake is filled with gorgeously colored steaming and bubbling pools, which can be viewed from the wooden boardwalk that loops all the way around the area. Of course I was impressed by the grandeur of it all, but my artist-eye was focused on the way the colors and textures bumped into each other. There might be some beads in this somewhere. I need to let it all percolate a while.

As we left West Thumb to make our way to the Fishing Bridge Campground, we stopped to watch a young elk and its mama make their own way through the pack of tourists, paying little mind to all the cameras and multi-lingual greetings. Later, tucked into our camp site for two nights - or maybe three - we took care to put away all our food and trash, and lock things up tight to discourage bears. We haven't seen a bear here yet, but there's a good chance we will. Today we'll load up in the truck and explore as far as we can, heading first for Old Faithful. Here we go!

August 31, 2009

It's hard to sleep in this amazing place. Maybe because of late arriving campers, clanging folding chairs and hollering back-in encouragement at all hours. Or maybe because of our restless old cat, who makes the delicate wiener dog nervous, while Lucy, the surprise angel in all this, ignores everyone and snores softly in her bunk. It could be noise or cold or sudden rain. It could be an unconscious fear of marauding bears who never arrive. But deep down, literally, I don't think it's any of these things. I think it's what's going on under us here, deep beneath the surface, that's keeping me awake.

Yellowstone is actively volcanic, with signs of life showing up everywhere from Old Faithful, to colorful bubbling pots of steam and stench. They're beyond beautiful, and they're caused by enormous amounts of heat and pressure, that threaten to burst the very seams of the place at any time. Don't get me wrong. I love it here. But it comes as no surprise that it's hard to sleep with that kind of power swirling just barely below us.

Our first destination yesterday was Old Faithful, which turned out to be much more wonderful than I'd imagined. I was so excited to finally see it for myself, after a lifetime of associating it with Bugs Bunny cartoons. Hundreds of people gathered at the predicted eruption time, which these days is about ninety minutes apart, give or take five or ten minutes. No, you can't set your watch by it, but the anticipation is part of the fun. We stayed to watch it twice.

I got a good cell phone signal there, so I called my Dad, just to say, Hi from Old Faithful. Sort of an audio postcard. Later, while we waited to see it again, Lauren called me. I told her what we were doing, and promised to call her back in a few minutes. When I did, I said something like, Wow, this is really cool, and she said, I know. I just watched it too. She'd gone online and found the live webcam, and was able to watch the exact same thing we were seeing, at the same time we saw it. Amazing. Try it. I won't be there, but you'll be fine without me.

The area around Old Faithful is packed with things to do. There's a visitor center, hiking trails, food, gift shops, and the grand old lodge that, thankfully, seems to be in every national park. We weren't allowed to climb up to the crow's nest, but somebody was. I wonder who you have to know to get up there.

We drove around some more, stopping at various places to stroll the boardwalks and marvel over the steaming pools of color. The whole thing seems impossible, but here it is. I'd love to see it in the winter too.

If you really want to take the tour in style, hop one of these vintage busses, just returned to the park in 2007. There used to be hundreds of them. Now there are seven, fully restored and pretty darned adorable.

The last stop of the day was the Lake Lodge, where everyone we met told us to be sure to stop and look at the scale model of the lodge, just completed last week. We did just that, and they were right to be so proud of it. It's really impressive, and the detail is amazing. We met Victor Sawyer, who manages the lodge, and built the model. He told us that it's made mostly from things found here, and the shingles on the roof are actually made from shingles on the lodge itself. There's tiny furniture, glowing lights, and even pay phones on the wall. It's amazing. I have his email address. Let me know if you want a model built of your lodge and I'll hook you up.

I don't have a picture of the real lodge, because there were a couple of buffalo out front as we tried to leave. The porch was crammed with people and cameras, and one poor security guy, trying to keep us all from putting ourselves in harm's way. Apparently, quite a few people are gored by buffalo each year. They're wild, after all, and they're cranky too. We waited until they wandered off, and then hopped in the truck and headed back to camp. These long days make an explorer tired and hungry. This is nothing like the Taos Party Days. We head for bed early here, and sleep or no sleep, I'm ready to take a different road today, and see some new things in beautiful Yellowstone, the first of all the U.S. National Parks.

Sept. 1, 2009

There are names on RVs, like Prowler, Coachmen, Winnebago, Lakota. Ours is a Sprinter, which is sort of nice. Next door to us is a Daybreak. I once saw one called an Intruder, which I would never want to own, but which sadly, is the mentality of many RVers. The mobile lifestyle is not seen the same way by all participants. While most people are lovely and respectful of the other folks in any given temporary neighborhood, it seems there's always some big buffoon, usually with a large group of buffoon friends and family, who thinks the whole park is theirs alone, and anyone else who might have strayed in is deaf. Two nights ago it was the late arrivals who hollered at each other at 2AM. Last night it was a group of very loud French people, whooping it up outside, hours past the designated "quiet hour" of 10PM. I lay there steaming like a Yellowstone geyser, trying to conjure up enough high school French to politely tell them to shut their traps and go to bed. Finally around 3:00, the ranger on duty must have made his rounds and conveyed the message for me. They got suddenly quiet, but I was still so mad I didn't fall back to sleep for hours. And even though they were the rude ones, the resulting problem was mine, all mine. If this life experiment is going to work at all, I need to be the one who can let the buffoons slide on by, into the past where they belong. These are instant and frequent lessons in "being in the Now", and the lessons are for me. So...

Right now, right this moment, it's bright and early on a beautiful Yellowstone day. I'm drinking tea, looking out the window, and the sun is slowly lighting up the side of the Daybreak RV next door. Rick is on the couch drinking coffee and reading, the pets are all still asleep, and the cosy little electric fireplace is taking the chill off the morning air. There's absolutely nothing wrong. Deep breath... onward!

But first a quick look back at yesterdays sights. We drove to the mud pots, which were intolerably stinky. I couldn't stand the sulphur stench, but as I scurried back to the truck to make my escape, I saw a Japanese woman from a tour bus standing over a steaming vent in the parking lot, wafting the stinky stuff into her face. I looked at her puzzled and held my nose, tilting my head in question. She held her nose and nodded back, and went right on wafting as we both laughed, and I made a run for it. Japanese women are on the cutting edge as far as beauty treatments. Maybe she was onto something there, but it sure wasn't my idea of a day spa.

We spent the rest of the day touring the waterfalls, which smelled fresh and clean, and were wild and beautiful up there at over 8,000 feet in elevation, surrounded by lodgepole pine forests. There's also what they call the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which is a deep, impressive river canyon that's actually a yellowish color. It was a day of dramatic, refreshing scenery, topped off with a relaxing early evening at the old Lake Yellowstone Lodge, where we sat by huge windows in the solarium, sipping merlot, reading, watching the lake lap on the shore, and listening to live piano music.

Back in our own little house later, I realized I'm very happy with our minimal space. I don't wish for anything bigger, at least not yet, but I do like to borrow a large space now and then. This morning we'll load up and hit the dusty trail again, destination, Spokane, Washington, and then Seattle, but mindful all the while, to quote the late Dan Eldon, that "the journey is the destination".