Friday, May 28, 2010

My Trip To Bountiful

From Texas through Louisiana (the state with the worst roads in the entire country) and Mississippi (where it was hotter than the hinges of hell and where I had much business to attend to - and that's why you haven't heard anything from me in days and days and days) and then on through the little dangly bottom part of Alabama to reach, at last, my Bountiful:

This is truly my Trip to Bountiful. I return to old stomping grounds. To the scene of many old times - both good and bad. But mostly just heart-tuggers now as I look around me and remember.

It began, of course, with first glimpses of scrubby pines

and Spanish moss:

And a sign on the side of a building that reminded me of the Oh-So-Many times my mother dragged me, kicking and screaming, fishing with her when I was too little to be left on my own.

My mother loved to fish. And I hated every stinky, slimy, wiggly, ooey, gooey, wet, dirty minute of it. My mother would wear an old beat-up hat and shirt and pants and worn-out shoes and away we would go. Sometimes the car would get stuck between the paved road and the fishing camp and she would cut branches from trees to stick under the tires in an effort to get going again. These are fond memories - because they are memories. If I had to do it again, I would not be telling the tale so happily. I hate fishing to this day.

One of the great, traditional Florida meals is fried Mullet with hushpuppies, baked beans and grits. YUM! Makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Check out the prices on this sign for smoked mullet we passed on our way heading south through a little town I've been through so many times in my life. With TWO sides? For $7.00 max? I can only shake my head. Some things are still as good as I remember.

Destination reached, at last:

Palm-lined, sun-drenched streets. Bright blue skies with puffy white clouds. Gorgeous Oleanders in evidence everywhere:

The bay, with the beach beyond - to be visited later:

But first, the heartstrings tug to find places not seen in so many years that I wondered if they would still be there. Like the once-home of my modeling mentor and teacher when I was a young girl and under contract to the agency she helped to found:

I knew approximately where this house was located. I held my breath as I traveled down the main road - reading carefully every street sign as we passed. At last there it was! The name I remembered from so long ago. We turned down the street and I knew it the moment I saw it. I remember it as a pink house. It's very strange that, today, the house looks quite modest. But back then it was a fabulous house. Big and lovely on the inside with a large stone planter filled with tropical plants separating the entry from the living area. I often think of the woman I so admired who lived there. The woman who saw my photograph and demanded to know where she could find me for the agency. Strange paths we all travel. Unique and wonderful memories we all have. These are some of mine.

Continuing my time-travels, we next drove past one of the old buildings that used to be a department store on the ground level. I snapped this photo as we waited at the red light:

Above the department store, there were offices of doctors and lawyers and other types of businesses. This brought to mind the story my mother told of taking me to a doctor in this building to have my tonsils removed. According to my mother, once the doctor had removed the tonsils, he refused to let her take me with her until she went away and returned with the money to pay the bill in full. So this became the building in which I was held hostage for ransom.

After passing this building we passed the old courthouse where my grandfather once worked. Then we came to the street on which I grew up. The house I grew up in is very modest and I was pretty glum at seeing what had been done to it over the years. Let's just say it has not been improved. But down and across the street is the house where I played with neighbor kids. And in front of the house was a huge tree we called "Rocky Top":

As you can probably guess, we called it that because we would fearlessly climb to the top and make it swing back and forth as hard as we could. It's a wonder we weren't all killed. But it was a great childhood. We were free back then to run and explore - very much like the children in one of my favorite books: "To Kill A Mockingbird" (and from which book I take my name "AngelMay").

Next, we continued to travel south to the next town where I wanted to see the street on which my great aunt had lived when I was just a little thing. I walked to her house every afternoon when elementary school ended for the day and stayed with her until my mother could come to fetch me when her workday was finished. Alas, my aunt's house is no longer there. But what does remain - and will probably remain long after we are all dead and gone - is the street itself which is made of bricks:

Notice that the curb is made of granite. These are the same bricks, the same granite curb, that have formed this particular street for probably close to 100 years. To my knowledge there has never been a pothole in any of these brick streets and they are not much more worn today than when they were new. Makes me wonder why all streets are not made of brick.

Turning north once again, I had another house on my mind. This one belonged to my art teacher. From her I learned dress design and portrait painting at a very prestigious art center at that time. We drove down streets I thought I recognized, only hoping that something would trigger my memory. And then I saw the street name and I knew immediately I had found it.

And there it was:

Still as wonderful as a young girl of poor means had thought it was. I wonder about this woman too. Is she still living? Where would she be? How would she be? I will never know. But just as I hope for my modeling mentor, I hope that her life was a good one. I will never forget either of them. They both saw something in me of value. Something special. They will never know how I admired them in return.

And then we hit the beach:

Be still my foolish young heart! What wonderful memories here! But first, lunch at the famous restaurant I haven't frequented for years and years. The Beachcomber:

Yum. Can't really show you the wonderful fresh Grouper we had for lunch because we snarfed it all down like we would never eat anything like it again. And, possibly, we will not. That's rather sad, I think. I miss the wonderful Florida seafood.

And then, sated, out to the beach:

If you are wondering how I got this shot, I had rolled my pants legs up and was happily wading up and down in my beautiful, fantastic Gulf of Mexico - camera around my neck like a real tourist. I'd bet real money not a person around had a clue that I was born and grew up there.

Now you have to admit: THIS is a BEACH!
The very thought that it could be contaminated and ruined with gummy black oil is just a heart-breaker. And the wildlife! What of them? I cannot bear to think of it.

I'm so very glad I got the chance to see it again now - while it is still as gorgeous as I remember. Just so very glad.

Oh yes! I forgot to mention that, before I ventured out into the sun, I got myself a hat:

I liked it so much I went back the next day and bought myself a pink one just like it. Every woman deserves a new hat once in a while. Or two.

And this is the story of my Trip to Bountiful...


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In A Pig's Eye! We're Hosed!

Somehow, we managed to get jet-lag. A really bad case of jet-lag even though we have not been flying. Because Arizona does not do daylight savings time, we were thrown very rapidly from Pacific Time to Mountain Time to Central Time. Pow pow pow! Just like that. Amazing what losing two hours will do to you. But, other than being complete zombies for a couple of days, we are having a good time.

Saw Mexican mountains looking across the Rio Grande into Mexico. Very pretty.

Saw farms in West Texas being worked:

Saw wide-open spaces and rolling hills in West Texas. Very nice:

And there we were, driving along enjoying the scenery when - suddenly - SPLAT! SPLAT! SPLAT! We thought we had run into one of those famous Southern gully-washers that come down like gangbusters but quit as quickly as they start. But no! We had, apparently, run into a swarm of bees. You won't believe the mess it made on the windshield. Well...maybe you would. But I refused to take a photo of it out of respect for the dead.

After cleaning the windshield, we saw beautiful wildflowers along the highways and beneath this marvelous oak:

At one stop for the evening, we looked over at another RV that had just pulled in. The door opened and a long ramp was put into place from the door to the ground. Then, out stepped Lucy the Pig for her evening constitutional:

Lucy was quite a hoot. We enjoyed watching her grub around the park and into an adjacent field. She seemed quite at home with it all.

Later we saw a road-runner but he ran so fast I didn't get a chance to take his picture. Goofy bird!

Later, a close encounter with some other animals. This time two beautiful horses that come a runnin' when my good friend whistles for them. We were staying at her home for a day or two along the way and she demonstrated her whistling technique for summoning these two:

Pretty things - and too smart to turn down the carrots they knew were waiting for them.

In my friend's front yard I found this:

It's a blooming prickly pear cactus. Isn't it gorgeous?

No photos for the final story on this day. Best to just tell about it - photos would be a bit much.

As we were leaving our park, we decided to dump the black water tank and clear it out and re-charge it (with a couple of gallons of water) for the trip ahead. In our RV the way you do this is to drain the tank via the usual big sewer hose used by all RVs and then run a garden hose in through the shower window and over to the toilet where you turn it on and run clean water into the tank.

Well, this was all going swimmingly until I decided it was enough water and turned the nozzle off. At least I thought I was turning it off. I turned and turned and it did not turn off. So I turned it in the opposite direction. And turned and turned and - OMG! STOP! TURN THE WATER OFF! HELP! STOP!

The outer part of the nozzle had flown off the thing and down into the black water tank - and now there was no way to turn the water off which was still spewing crazily from the hose.

We finally got the water turned off. Now we need a new nozzle.

I wonder how many RVers are driving around with a hose nozzle in their black water tanks.
Maybe I don't really want to know.

That's my story....


Friday, May 14, 2010

Southwestern Trekking

On leaving Flagstaff for Tucson, we encountered the above scenic vista along the way. I was mightily impressed at the sheer expanse of land in this country that is unused by humans. There were literally miles upon miles of square miles with absolutely no sign of human life, though I'm sure it is teeming with other forms of life. There is an inexplicable beauty to something so untouched by humans.

A little farther down the road we encountered this gentleman:

He appears as though responding to the command: "This is a stick-up!"

Some human habitation is present here:

...but there is so little water in evidence one wonders how they manage.

Here is an example of the beauty we encountered along our way:

What gorgeous blooms! The colors are in-your-face unashamed of their boldness. I love them!

And who would think that a pile of rocks could be so pretty?

Apparently, they mean so much to the state of Arizona that there is a law against defacing them in any way. Can't blame them for that. Quite lovely, really.

Las Cruces, New Mexico as we approached:

I found the scene to be totally awesome.

I must relate one horrifying incident that occurred today. At one point we had spied a grocery store from the Interstate and exited to do some shopping. As I got out of the RV I was attempting to pocket my cell phone when I dropped it onto the asphalt of the parking lot - breaking it apart into several pieces.

At first I just stared at it with my mouth open in disbelief. After all, this is my lifeline to the world! I picked up the pieces as if they were parts of a loved child and gently tried putting them back together again. Lo! The battery slid back into its place. Then the back cover snapped into place over it. Next the front clam-shell flap snapped back into place as well - after a try or two. Finally, I held my breath and turned it on. Voila! I felt it vibrate into life and the audible swish of the AT&T logo was heard. I gave it a try - and all my numbers were still there waiting for me.

I exhaled.

That's my story....


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Hotel Arizona

If you are ever in the Flagstaff area there are things to do and places to see. There is, first of all, that really REALLY big thing, the Grand Canyon:

As I said, it’s a really big thing. And if you should slip while you are looking over the edge, it would be best to have a parachute – just in case:

If you are tired of looking at rocks that form a big hole in the ground, you can drive a short distance south and see some nice rocks that rise up from the ground. These would be the red rocks of Sedona:

Another thing you could do is ride out to Second Mesa. This is a long drive. Straight drive:

With only lovely horses for company:

And some beautiful tiny flowers along the roadside:

But whatever you choose to do, you will have plenty of time to do it because…….

You are now in the Hotel Arizona. And…

You can check out any time you want,

But you can never leave!

We know this because we tried to leave today and encountered:

Horrific wind and dust storm. The wind was so bad the highway patrol closed the highway after we had driven – VERY SLOWLY (and very carefully) – about 28 miles or so. Ambulances and police came flying past us. We could not immediately see the reason. Finally, everything came to a stand-still. Well, except for one poor guy who, apparently, had to go potty so badly he ran from his car to a fence some yards from the road, and, to preserve modesty (but not cleanliness) he broke a cardinal rule and did his whiz facing the wind. Now don’t get all excited, because I felt sorry for him and did not take his photo.

Traffic did not move for about 45 minutes. Then, I called bestest friend in the whole world who looked up information on internet for me and discovered that wind storm was causing the closing of the highway until sometime in the late afternoon or evening. This is the main highway heading east out of Flag for New Mexico. Believe me, there is nothing else out there.

On first chance, we took an exit and circled back towards Flagstaff on the overpass you can just barely see in the photo. We had phoned our RV park to beg for our space back – which was, mercifully, granted.

As we limped back, at about 15 to 20 miles per hour (I do not exaggerate - and sometimes even slower) and absolutely petrified the entire way – to the point of literally screaming in fear – the wind pushed and tossed the RV and finally ripped one of the vent domes completely off the roof. (I’m sitting in an RV repair shop waiting room as I type).

AngelSpouse says at least he learned that I have no problem making decisions under stress because in the middle of my panic I screamed, “I WANT TO GO BACK NOW!”

Here is some of what the wind did:

And this:

There were also a couple of FedEx trucks overturned and a pickup truck pulling a fifth wheel that completely overturned onto its roof - and that I was too paralyzed to photograph.

We finally got back to the RV park and I made another decision: We are staying for another TWO nights. And THEN we will be continuing our journey in another direction – as soon as I can work out a new itinerary. That is…I will if we ever get the roof vent fixed and get out of the RV service garage.

So before you check in to the Hotel Arizona, make sure you have backup contingency plans for making your escape.

After I fully recover from this “experience”, here’s a little something I would love to have:

Isn’t that little guy just the cutest thing sitting up there pretty-as-you-please being royally towed on his own little tiny trailer? I has gots to get me one a them!

And, in closing, my dear bloggy friends, I would like to leave you with AngelMay's new travel tip:

If you are traveling with a GPS, never never program "HOME" into it. If it is stolen, the thief can go directly to your home - and clean your clock since he knows you are not there. So do what AngelMay has done and program "HOME" to take you directly to the police station in your town. (This assumes, of course, that you already know how to find your own home.)

Well, that's my story.....


Saturday, May 8, 2010

No Rest For The Weary

Welcome to Arizona!

And if you think you are going to rest here, think again!

Every rest area we passed was closed. Every single one. This remains a huge mystery to me. Even if the state cannot maintain the restrooms, at least it could let people who are travel-weary pull off into the parking lot to rest for a while before continuing their journey. But not so here. In Arizona, you will just have to keep driving.... and driving.... and driving....

And with all that driving and driving and driving it's a really good thing we waited until we were in Arizona before filling up with gas. Gas prices here were $0.70 per gallon cheaper than in California. That makes a BIG difference when you are gassing up an RV.

Along the way of all the driving and driving and driving... I spotted these jagged peaks peeking above a closer hill:

No cowboys in white hats gonna be ridin' up and down those hunks of rocks, that's for sure. Amazingly stark - and beautiful for all their starkness.

We decided that we needed some supplies and so we saw a Safeway...but missed the exit. So we took the next exit and came face-to-face with:

I couldn't help but think how my daddy would have loved this trip. He always wanted to come "out west" but he never had the chance. And I was reminded of all the "cowboy pictures" he and I went to see together -- and it seems as though Andy Devine was in about 90% of them.

In the Safeway parking lot, a lady approached us as soon as we had parked, asking for a "couple of dollars" so they could go (somewhere I never heard of) and get a shower and some food. They had a truck load full of beautiful dogs with them. I gave her some money and she said, "God bless you." I told her I hoped it would help them. Sigh. When we finished shopping and came back out, they were gone.

At last, we were approaching Flagstaff and the San Francisco Peaks came into view:

This is nature at its loveliest. Is it any wonder I prefer countryside to cities?

Finally, we pulled into our RV park for the next two nights (we need a rest). A bit disappointed because this place is a little on the seedy side and there is absolutely no privacy between the sites as there was at the last park. The RVs are parked too close for my comfort here, too. Well, live and learn.

Sylvie doesn't care how seedy the place is. She's just ecstatic that we have stopped moving and the big truck monsters are no longer trying to kill her.


P.S. I lied (unintentionally) a few days ago when I swore I would never spend one penny in Arizona until they repeal their new and extremely bigoted and racist immigration law they just passed. This was before I realized there was no way we could stand such long driving days and I had to cut the distance down to our size. But I can assure you that I am not happy about it at all. And I hope that someone in this state's government wakes up to just how bigoted and racist their new law actually is.

It would be nice if they would open a few Rest Areas, too.

That's my story - and by golly I'm not kidding. ;o)

Ring! Ring! Help, I'm Lost!

As we were leaving our RV park yesterday morning, AngelSpouse announced that he had lost his wedding band. We looked high and low. No ring.

We drove on. About two and a half hours later, I decided to just call the RV park to see if anyone had found it.

Me: were in space 23 last night and I was just wondering if anyone had found a plain gold wedding band and turned it in.

Nice Lady: Yes! They did! It was in the shower. It looks like a man's gold band.

Me: Yes! It's my husband's.

Nice Lady: It's a good thing you called when you did. I was just getting ready to leave and I didn't want to leave it here, and I didn't want to take it home.

Me: Yes, lucky! I'm so glad someone found it. Could you please mail it to our home address?

Nice Lady: Yes, I will. I'll put it in a box and send it on.

Me: Thank you so much, we really appreciate that.

Me to Spouse who insisted that he didn't take it off in the park: Ha!

Spouse, sheepishly: I guess it came off in the shower. I *have* lost a little weight lately.

Me: Right.


Driving on down the highway and just after we entered the beginning of I-40 here in the West, we saw a road mileage sign that made us both laugh:

Wilmington, N.C.
2,554 Miles

Of course, we passed this sign in the bright daylight. Since AngelSpouse is from North Carolina, this was a real hoot to discover on I-40 in the "badlands" of California.