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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Looking back on the trip for one, brief moment

Two women have told me how much they enjoy going back and reading my summer blog. I have been so busy that I almost forgot it existed. However, tonight I am changing the slide show to the second leg of the trip: Santa Barbara to Eugene. Just putting together the pictures gave me a great feeling and I was back in the California sun. Or fog.... there wasn't much sun on the Northcoast when I was there. The list of old friends that I was able to visit is rich and I wish I had taken more pictures of them.

I have just finished a list of things to do tomorrow, Monday, Oct 4th. It has 4 sub-headings:  Lesson Plans, Two Rivers (the school I work at), Lennon's 70th  and dinner.  It will take me all day. There are other lists but we won't be looking much at them this week so don't come look at my kitchen floor or the front garden. I feel like I am am in third gear - about ready to hit the 35 mph level of activity here in D.C. By the end of October I will be cruising in 6th gear and, if I keep eating well and getting some sleep at night, I will be enjoying myself very much. I hope that I will have been to Brooklyn to see where Katy is living and enjoy the fall foliage in Central Park. I know that I will be attending the Stewart/Colbert rally on the 30th and the National Symphony Children's Concert at the Kennedy Center on the 31st - I believe it is time to resurrect the Mozart costume.



 There is much to be said for travel, for getting out of one's regular routine and comfort zone and I have to admit to already planning my next summer's adventure, but  now I am immersed in real work. I think there are almost 40 kids coming to my house for music lessons every week and I am dreaming about Middle C and the dominant 7th chord. Not to mention that I am trying very hard to keep my own performance goals up front and center. Next edition..... the song that I wrote on my return. If I have time to post.

Monday, September 6, 2010

to Blog or not to Blog

Chihuly Exhibit at Cheekwood Estates, Nashville
My last blog was August 25th, when I was still en route to DC and enjoying my summer vacation. Since then I have descended into a myriad of activities and tasks here at home and keep trying to get back to this blog. Was it just a whim for the summer? Is there nothing left that's interesting for me to write about? But I have so much more to tell just about these recent travels. I have morphed into another life and can't seem to get back.

However, I have managed to post a slide show of the first leg of the trip, Virginia to California, which I was incapable of doing while traveling for reasons beyond explanation. Let's just say I am technically challenged. I have also realized that you can add captions to the photos that you post. Awesome.

The exciting news from the trip is that I got in contact with the photographer from Nashville's Art Crawl that I posed for for his swimsuit calendar at the Art Crawl on July 3rd downtown at The Arcade. I had read about him in the City Paper while I was having breakfast at Marche, Marche (go there when in Nashville). He likes to do some kind of hi-jinks stuff at every Art Crawl and this month he was putting together a swimsuit calendar from anyone who showed up, ready to pose, in their suit. Sounded fun to me. I put on my new, purple suit and grabbed the uke and drove downtown. Parking is tricky but I found a spot over near the capitol building. Walking through there I witnessed a wedding about to take place that looked very chic.

Nashville Statehouse Building, site of wedding witnessed by Janet Lee

So, anyway, I ended up having a photo shoot with this guy and I sang and played while he snapped away and it was totally like being a model and it was really fun. When I walked back, several hours later, the wedding was still going on and there was a great bluegrass band playing right around that statue in the picture. It was charming. This all happened the same day that I visited the Chihuly exhibit at the botanical gardens in East Nashville which was amazing and captivated me for several hours (see first photo). Now I'm trying to talk Bill into going back in October before it closes. Anyone interested in an overnight to Nashville?

Here in DC we are enjoying cooler, fall weather. Out West the seasons were all backed up and wacky, but here I think they have been uncommonly wonderful and right on time. Winter was awesome, spring was perfect and summer was blazing but, I wasn't around was I? Now I set my sights on apples, squash, turning leaves and John Lennon's 70th birthday - October 9th. I'm dusting off all of the choir arrangements I wrote in Eugene and am inviting Maggies' choir to come do a read through and help me celebrate as a Lennonite expatriate while they do it up back in Eugene. Anyone interested in singing Beatles' arrangements?

Ta ta for now. I am so glad I finally was able to sit down and do this. Perhaps next time I'll post my to-do lists.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Milwaukee

I had the whirlwind car tour of Milwaukee yesterday with my DC neighbor's sister. She covered a lot of ground with just a few stops, but the Milwaukee Art Museum was one of them. It is a stunning building right on Lake Michigan that is meant to resemble a ship at sail. Colleen thinks that the inside space is what heaven would look like. Incredible light and a huge, open space with a Calder at the entrance. I was quite impressed.

Jan and Pat Reed are the next door neighbors you would request in the closing documents if you could. Bill and I consider ourselves quite fortunate. Over the past 5 years, we have come to know their family, most of whom live in Milwaukee, and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting them in their homes and going out to dinner at Jan's favorite pizza place, Balistreri's plus having custard creme at Leon's. Ron and Nancy, Jan's parents live in the quietest neighborhood ever and I slept like a baby. Naturally, I wish that I could stay longer. I am developing a list of places that I need to return to. This was just reconnaissance.

I am tempted to drive into Chicago today, a city I have never visited except for its airport. However, I would like to see Katy before bedtime, so I will get my cash ready for the toll roads and go around. Illinois and Indiana are two more states to add to my list, which may total to 23 or more when I get home. I am going to count DC as a state, folks! My license plate, which reads "No taxation without representation", is good for conversation starters at rest stops.

Speaking of rest stops, I had a really nice visit with a groundskeeper at the Blue Ocean Eastbound Rest Station in Minnesota, just west of Rochester. Lou owns a farm nearby but his sons are running it now so they told him to go get himself a job. He works at the rest station 12 hours a week. After he gave me a peek at the engine of his John Deere, he regaled about farming, weather, nearby cities and more. We briefly touched on Sarah Palin but I was pretty sure he saw her a little differently than I so we moved on to his neighbor's farm.

I have to admit to not listening to the news at all during this trip. I have a vague awareness of what's going on: floods, muslim monuments, Padres ahead of the Giants. I know that I'll get completely filled in on the political spectrum when I get into the car with Mr. Gilmore. I'll start reading the NY Times and listening to NPR. I'll go out for Mexican food with Jan and Pat and their "blue" friends. I'll read Garrett Epp's (Eugene friend now living in DC) informative and erudite postings in The Atlantic and the Register Guard and I'll invite him over for dinner.

OK. I have been at a VW dealer while the Jetta got its 10,000 mile check up. Everything is good to go and I am back on the road, folks.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Leaving the West


I had a faint hint of humidity last night in Mitchell, South Dakota (home of the Corn Palace). I am about to cross that invisible line and dip back into Eastern weather. My friends have all been talking about how hot it's been from Oregon to Montana and I'm , like, well, it feels pretty damn good to me. Today I hope to make another 8+ hour drive and make it to Milwaukee. I did it yesterday from Dayton, WY where I stayed with the oldest, dearest friends Bill and I share together. David McDougall basically introduced us in 1972. Dave has recently moved to Wyoming because he became an avid fly fisherman and fell in love with the Big Horns. His main avocation, however, has always been as an artist and I was fortunate to be able to see a show of his at a local museum. As you can see from this photo, his frames are as interesting as his paintings. Here is a link to the museum - http://www.bradfordbrintonmemorial.com/Images/Mcdougall/Mcdougall.html

The day before, I spent most of my time in Broadus gleaning information about my family and actually found the old homestead, which is a working ranch that has been owned by the same family since my great uncle sold it many years ago. I was awed to stand on the same land as my father must have every summer when he came out to work for Uncle Bud. Besides herding sheep, Dad helped Bud out in the general store he owned in Broadus. The family name is Serruys (Belgian) and I helped correct the spelling with the curator at the museum. I met all the retired men who gather at the local cafe every Friday morning (The Liar's Club) and visited with a retired vet on his ranch, near the old homestead. I learned about the town from the motel clerk and the people at the museum and came away feeling that I had been in a very rich place for history and for community. I would like to take my sister there.
Driving from Wyoming and then through South Dakota on a very hot, windy day I went through dry hills and then flat farmland where there were a lot of sunflower fields, some wheat and corn and lots of very small towns with terrible grocery stores (I just can't find the crackers that I like) and the same cafes serving the same steaks and hamburgers. The beer on tap is Bud Light, period. Better fare in Milwaukee? I think so.
Bill is meeting me in Columbus, where Katy is just packing up to move to NYC. He's going to drive me home on Friday. I've started imagining that I'm in my own bed and that I don't have to haul the frickin' bags in and out and try to keep some clothes wearable and keep the cooler in ice and not use my cell phone until 9:00 pm so I don't go over my minutes. I'm pretty sure I'll be sailing over the weekend. There are not many things about this trip I would go back and change. It's been wonderful but home is starting to look real good.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Daddy's Roots

You are looking at the Crazy Mountains just out of Big Timber. I'm standing on the banks of the Yellowstone River looking north and just over those mountains is where my father grew up in Harlowton, where my grandfather was an engineer for the Milwaukee Railroad. Grandpa Al took his boys hunting and fishing in the Crazies and Dad skied there in the winter. Put The Horse Whisperer on your Netflix queue to see more.
Today I am in Broadus, way out east on the Powder River, where my grandparents and my great uncle homesteaded. I am about to go to the courthouse and the museum to find out more. I drove through the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations and the Custer Battlefield yesterday. This afternoon I am driving down to Sheridan, WY where I think Great Uncle Bud had a general store. In Sheridan there is an amazing collection of tooled leather saddles upstairs above King's Saddlery on Main Street (I think every town in Montana has a Main Street and a Stockman's Bar).
I'll stay the night with friends in Dayton, just down the road from Sheridan, who fell in love with the Big Horn Mountains and fly fishing. Now Dave is a river guide when he is not painting. He has a show at the Bradford Brinton Museum which I am hoping to visit. He actually introduced Willy and me back in 1972.
Yesterday I was feeling very melancholy about not having more time in Montana. I didn't go to my cousin's ranch in Harlow and I looked at all kinds of fantastic mountain ranges that would be heaven to hike around in. I saw campers and trailers and RV's everywhere and wished I owned one. I imagined riding across Montana on horseback, slow enough to really soak up these panoramas. Me, I'm buzzing by at 75 mph on I-90.
Today I am reconciled that I will be back and that I really would like to get home sometime soon. I guess I am already planning my next trip! For now, there are several folks here in Broadus that are curious about what I'll find out in my research so I have to report back to the Stockman Bar for lunch. Good thing that I eat beef.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A quickie from Missoula

I'm taking advantage of having wifi at a great coffee spot in Missoula, Espresso Break, on Higgins down toward the old train station near Taco del Sol, where Maggie used to work. This is just the greatest town and I have enjoyed being here for a couple of days but must be on the move. I am heading for Bozeman so it's only three hours away. A friend from the North Coast is getting her daughter enrolled at Montana State so we are going to meet up. That's where my parents met in the 30's and where I was a student for one year in 1970.
Speaking of 1970, have you heard Marc Cohn's new album? Every song on it was a hit in 1970. I really like the Dead cover of New Speedway Boogie with Jim Lauderdale singing the duet. I had been hearing cuts on The Loft - XM and then saw the album at a Starbucks so I now own it. I have picked up a few CD's here and there on the trip, mostly in Nashville and Memphis, but they have to compete with satellite radio and my iPod. Needless to say, there is not much silence in the Jetta.
Going backwards, I have to tell you what a gorgeous drive I had from the Columbia River Gorge to Missoula on Monday. It's so cool how that river broadens out and the hills are suddenly barren of trees. I left the freeway at Pendleton and drove to Walla Walla, which is a great college town out in nowheresville. Big, rolling hills covered in wheat with all of the patterns from the combines moving up and down and shooting out plumes of dusty gold into the trucks. Red barns and silver silos with shade trees around the farmhouses. So pretty.
I went by the Snake, Clearwater and Lochsa rivers before reaching the Bitterroot Valley. I drove through the Nez Pearce reservation and could imagine Chief Joseph riding over a hill with the cavalry in hot pursuit.
I came over Lolo Pass at night with not much traffic and enjoyed the power and finesse of my Jetta. I do like driving a good mountain road. It would have been nice to stop at one of the lodges along the way and I could almost smell the snow as the pines became more prevalent.
Laundry is done, eggs are boiled (my mainstay on road) and I will now traverse the Rockies and then head out into the plains with Broadus, MT and Dayton, WY my objectives; Powder River country, Custer and all that. Not as green, maybe, but stunning in its own way.
Safe travels, everyone, wherever you are.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Somewhere In the Middle of Montana


Well, I am not in Montana yet but I will be soon if I can get this blog out quick enough. I am in Pomeroy, WA on Hwy 12 en route from Walla Walla to Missoula and have just experienced the most beautiful drive through rolling farm country. I wish I could have a video of some of this trip while I have been driving. I just can't stop and take pictures all of the time. I'd never get anywhere.
My last post was titled Off the Grid but I have been back in the modern, technical world for quite some time. I am feeling great and have been completely immersed in visits with friends in Eugene and in Portland. Goodness sakes, it was impossible to see everyone but the meet-ups that happened were all wonderful. I need another two months just in Oregon! The photo is the Willamette River in downtown Eugene from a bike trail bridge, of which there are many. It was great to have a bike to use where I was staying and to have a hostess who was my bicycle partner (and to have maybe the nicest "hotel" ever). Got to check out the West Eugene Wetlands trail that Bill was very involved in creating both when we lived in Eugene and after we moved to Washington.
Today I drove along the Columbia River and wondered how many times I had been on that highway. We drove to Montana every summer when I was a kid, so I think maybe a whole bunch. I will be in Montana all of this week starting in Missoula, then Bozeman, up to my cousin's ranch (note to self: call Harry) and then down to the Big Horn Mts where our friend is a fly fishing guide out of Dayton, WY. I will definitely be listening to the Merle Haggard song that I am quoting in my title and have set my country music genre on shuffle for the duration. Yee Ha.
When I return to DC, I am going to post some notes on the great restaurants, breweries and coffee shops that I have found along the way. Needless to say, I am eating and drinking well and have lots of recommendations for mini-trips from the areas I have driven through. I will compare notes with my friend who is driving through Nova Scotia and New England in a camper van with her dog. She is my heroine role model.
Wind has been good on the Chesapeake and Bill is mastering the art of laundry. Maggie went to some SE library event and met Stevie Wonder. Katy traveled to Colorado with those percussion boys she hangs out with and they had a good time. She has the day off on Aug 26th so that is my target date for the trip.
Love to you all. Gotta go!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Off the Grid


I am punching myself back in after a number of days of trying to take it very easy after experiencing some rather uncomfortable muscle spasms around my left rib cage. Some of you may recognize this as the area where your heart lies. The spasms started in the shower at Cousin Marc's in Crescent City as I was getting ready to drive to Oregon on Friday. I did not have a clue what was happening and the spasms just got closer and closer. I have never actually experienced labor contractions but it seemed similar except NOT. Long story short, I went to the emergency room at Sutter Coast and got completely checked out, things are good inside and it really was muscle spasms.
Consequently, I stayed in Crescent City one more night and then slowly made my way up the Smith River Canyon over the next two days. No cell phone, no email, etc. but I was in the river as much as possible. Let the healing begin. On Sunday I spent almost the entire day at the spot where I spent my summers at the family cabin. I tramped around the river rock and found where we built forts and hid out in the canyon. I swam across the river twice and had no pain. I also spent one night at Patrick's Creek Lodge up near the border, a place that I have often wished that I owned. I'd put the grand piano back into the dining room.
Monday I drove up to Eugene and checked in to the Ward Hotel - our friends new apartment above their garage. It is probably the nicest place I have ever stayed and I would like to stay forever. I am telling all of my friends in Eugene that if they want to visit they have to come to me. Except, right now I am at Ann's because she has wifi and her husband, Louis, pours me really nice Spanish wines. Katy went to their Green Frog preschool and I became their music teacher in 1990. We are discussing morals and rules while I am blogging. Hey, I didn't make the rules!
It is time for me to face the music and start heading back East. I have a great trip ahead through Washington, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. I will end up with Katy and then a days drive to DC and the very patient hubby. If I could just book a flight and go home for a few days and them come back and resume this sojourn? But, no, I chose to do this and I must perservere.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Grandma Harper's ring


The best part of being in the Humboldt Bay Area is visiting with my cousin Barby, daughter of Aunt Zella, who I have written about earlier. Barby lives up in Westhaven above Trinidad and Moonstone Beach and usually has sun in her yard with the fog drifting down below. This year nobody escapes the gray mist unless they are several miles inland. It is thick and relentless. Yesterday at Pebble, where Zella's son Marc lives and where I grew up living next door, we had about 15 minutes of burn off from the East creating a false sense of summer only to have the fog not creep but blow in from the West to end all hopes of seeing a sunset off Castle Rock.
Anyway, I was at my cousin's and she gifted me with my Grandma Harper's ring that Aunt Zella had worn for many years. It was a rectangular black band with diamonds encrusted and it fit me nicely on my right ring finger. I was delighted to have a family heirloom. Mabel Harper grew up in Eastern Montana and I will be visiting that area later on in the trip.
From Barby's I headed for Crescent City in what I will simply label a Humboldt state of mind. I stopped at Dry Lagoon State Park near Orick because I had never been to that beach before and I have been trying to hit the beach at least once a day while I am on the coast. I pulled on a sweatshirt, grabbed my camera, took off my shoes and headed for the water. It proved to be a nice beach - pebbly, a lot of miner's lettuce which turns out to have a bloom like a petunia and Dry Lagoon was not necessarily dry. I tramped for awhile and then headed back to the car.
Back on Hwy 101 north, I noticed a very nice young man walking whom I had seen earlier before I had turned off so I stopped and offered him a ride which he was most happy to accept. He had a guitar on his back so he couldn't be too bad, eh? Turned out he was going to Crescent City and only a few blocks from my destination, the mother of the family he was visiting worked with my cousin's girlfriend, he was from Richmond, VA and we had a splendid time visiting along the way. Synchronistic, we both thought. Blessed was the word he used for the ride. Not many black men hitch the North Coast.
I was excited to get to 148 Pebble Beach Drive and to tell Marc and Connie about this adventure. However, in the middle of telling them I looked at my right hand and realized that the ring was gone. So gone. Tragedy! I went through all pockets and bags that I might have used, I looked around the car but I knew where the ring was. In the sand at Dry Lagoon, probably as I pulled that sweatshirt on or off. The ring was just loose enough that it fell off and I wasn't used to it being on my hand anyway and I did not notice until it was so too late. I am bereft and still have not told Barby. Did Grandma Harper deem me not worthy?
I am going to chase sun with my friend, Louise, today and see if that will cheer me up. I would rather have lost the key to the car, the iTouch, the phone (but definitely not the camera) than this beautiful ring. Woe is me.

Monday, August 2, 2010



I have just spent three nights in Eureka in a cottage in my friend's backyard. This is the second year I have stayed there and I guess I've been a good tenant because she gave me my own key this time to keep. It's so nice to have a kitchen and I can walk down to Old Town, where I seem to spend a lot of time. Eureka was a bustling lumber town when I was young and it was a very hip place to shop. Those days are gone as are all of the clothes and shoe stores that I haunted. Old Town, however, if full of interesting shops including some great used book and clothing stores. Yesterday I walked down at 9:30 and didn't get back to Vicki's until 4:00. I had halibut cakes and eggs at the Waterfront Grill where there was live jazz. I found a lightweight sweater because I was COLD in the jeans, turtleneck, socks and jacket that I had at the bottom of my suitcase for a month. Of course, as soon as I put the sweater on the fog burned off but it was back a few hours later.
On my way back I stopped at the Morris Graves Art Museum in what used to be the Eureka Public Library, a beautifully restored building up by the Eureka Inn. Morris Graves lived in Humboldt County during his final years. He donated a great deal of art to this organization, some of which was his contemporaries that he collected and some of his own. Two other exhibits were equally interesting and I came away with new list of artists to explore.
Hwy 101 north of Ukiah is a very fun ride: lots of hills and curves and it was probably built for a 75 speed limit originally before the energy crisis and all. The Jetta proved to be a great vehicle up and down and around. It was early evening so it was balmy from the afternoon sun and I had the sun roof open and the music playing. Every mile north I grow happier as I near the Humboldt County Line. I got a call from a friend just as I was coming out of Richardson's Grove so I pulled off at the Benbow Inn to have a good chat. Naturally, I hung out there for awhile to enjoy the surroundings. It has been restored since the 70's, when I might have stopped by before, and I was very impressed.
My first day in Eureka I drove over to Arcata and Trinidad to visit my cousin and stopped at two different beaches, Moonstone and the dunes at Manila. Both times I was in full sun, at least for awhile, and it was glorious. There are 4 dune areas between Eureka and Arcata on the coast that are being preserved. An incredible number of plants thrive there and several were in bloom. When I can't identify a plant I photograph it so Bill and tell me later. He has quite a collection to go through from this trip.
In Eureka I have had some good visits with dear friends and three times have sat down and showed them my pictures, which total almost 1,000 at this point. It has given me a chance to review where I've been, who I've seen, what I've done - I'm at the halfway point of my trip and I can only hope that the second half is as good as the first because this trip has been fantastic so far. In my sights are Eugene, Portland, Seattle, Spokane, Missoula, Harlowton MT (where my father grew up), Dayton and Sheridan WY (near where my grandmother and great uncle homesteaded), Minneapolis (where my mother grew up), Milwaukee and Columbus. And, don't you know, I sometimes wish I was on that last leg home to D.C. except, then I have to go back to work! We'll see if I can wash the road off and get back to it.
My photos are reversed from how I chose them this time. The top picture is at the dunes in Humboldt and you know where the other one is. As soon as I drove across the bridge I was in full sun and got off at Sausalito to explore houseboats and marinas. Bill...... I have a new place to share!

Friday, July 30, 2010

San Francisco Here We Come

.... right back where we started from" My family always sang that song as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. We visited this city a lot as I was growing up and I continued to come to San Francisco on my own. I thought someday I would live here, I suppose. It still thrills me to see a highway sign saying San Francisco and it still thrills me to cross either of the bridges into the city. Yesterday I came in on the Bay Bridge (East Bay freeway traffic does not thrill me) and the sun had burned through the fog, which you could see hugging the coastline. This is very typical weather in the city - warm jackets are always advised.
I began traveling by myself during middle school. I would take the Greyhound down 101 to Santa Rosa, where my sister lived. My parents were very naive about what kind of folks were on buses or in bus depots along the way. I did not clue them in, knowing that they would have stopped those trips altogether. When Nancy moved to Sacramento, I had to change buses in San Francisco and my cousin lived there so I would stay a night or two in SF before going on. My parents were also naive about my cousin's lifestyle and, again, I did not share. Once I got my license, I was driving up and down 101 with ease and my love of the road trip was set for life.
This particular visit to SF was only for one night and I used Priceline to bid blind for a hotel. I was trying to get close to 5th and Mission, where James Graham, a dance partner of Katy's would be performing at the SF Mint. Well, I totally scored. I ended up across the street and can see the Mint from my window! Praise to the universe. It is the Pickwick Hotel, old and charming and a block from the turnaround for the Powell St Cable Car. If I was staying, I would be able to walk to SF MOMA, a really fine art museum.
Travelin Light, the performance that I attended in the Mint, was wonderful. We first went down to the basement and they had the dancers in tableaus in all of these vaults. When the show started, we were taken up to our "area" where there were bleacher seats. I think we moved through 5 areas altogether and so we got to see a lot of the building as we watched the performances. The pieces had a loose theme of wealth and poverty and the dancers were wonderful. Joe Goode is the choreographer and Jay Cloidt the composer. James told me afterwards that the dancers were given a lot of freedom in the creation of the pieces. It really was so very good. Through Katy, I have learned to love modern dance and can appreciate that I was witnessing something very special.
But, I must say goodbye to the city and head up Hwy 101 to Eureka and Crescent City. I have changed the blog slide show to North Coast shots from a few years back. You'll see the house I grew up in on the beach and the river where I learned to swim. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Music On the Road and Kiva Beach, Lake Tahoe


What am I listening to as I travel, you ask? The Jetta came with SiriusXM, I have a 6-CD changer, AM and FM and and an iPod connection that charges it while it plays. Need I say more? The hard part is choosing and the easiest choice is satellite radio. I have 24 presets and I motivate around them a lot, although The Loft is my absolute fave. On that station I kept hearing this new song from Marc Cohn. Well, it's a cover actually, from the Dead.... New Speedway Boogie with Jim Lauderdale, who I am totally a crazy fan for. So then I'm in a Starbucks in Tahoe and there's Cohn's CD..... all of the songs are from 1970 and, naturally, I bought it. Pretty darn good, although Speedway Boogie sort of turned out to be different from everything else and Lauderdale is only on that cut.
In Nashville, I visited Ernest Tubb's Record Shop and picked up some bargain bin oldies of Emmy Lou, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash and John Hartford. I'm pretty sure we don't have them at home but Bill buys so many CD's I may have a double.
In Memphis I got King & Queen, a duet album of Otis Redding and Carla Thomas and some very nice, young ladies gave me free CD's at the Folk Alliance center - to my surprise, a friend from Eugene was on it!
I started out the trip with one CD: Darrell Scott's Crooked Road. I saw him at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville and told him I drove the Crooked Road of SW Virginia listening to The Crooked Road and it was transcendent. He signed my TShirt that I had gotten for Bill when I got Scott's CD but it fit me.
that Buster guy from NYC has a really ecelctic show on The Loft on Sundays and I heard Mahler's Death In Venice and Neil Young's Fork In the Road back to back. I was just driving into a big, black thunderstorm near Flagstaff. Again, transcendent.
Hope all of you are listening to some good sounds. My next post will be from San Francisco, where I am attending Travelin' Light, a dance performance in the SF Mint that one of Katy's friends is performing in. I scored a hotel on Priceline that is right across the street. Sweet.

Monday, July 26, 2010


I'm attaching a photo to this post that should have been with the previous onebut, that's OK, because I'll be at the same spot everyday I'm in Tahoe.

I have come to the point in my annual trip out West where it gets tricky. It takes my being in Tahoe or Crescent City or Eugene for a few days and then I am so wanting to move back. I see cute, little houses for sale (anyone interested here in Tahoe - I've found a really sweet deal) and shop at really great grocery stores that are not Whole Foods. I begin to have a longing that doesn't go away until sometime in October when I am far too busy to think about it and by December I am back to loving my 100-yr-old house on Capitol Hill and all of the friends that I made over the past 8 years. I think it's official that I lead a bi-coastal life and this year I just filled it in a bit.

I talk to Bill every day, maybe twice and exchange messages with lots of friends and all of that LOVE ENERGY just fills up my heart. Now it's time to head to Bill's favorite tacqueria and bring lunch back to Don and Ellen at the house. I'm starting to get into my summer novel: Infinite Jest. Anyone out there read it? I could use a Dummy's Guide. I do have a companion book with an interview with David Foster Wallace that gives me some kind of sense of who this wild man was. It's kind of like reading Proust but sort of sci-fi.

If you are reading this blog, post a comment. I do not wish it to be in vain.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

This house, This home

I am writing from the Alpina Cafe, my coffee shop of choice in South Lake Tahoe for many years since my in-laws have no internet at their home, which is somewhat remote from the tourist bustle of the south shore. We drive over the mountain to Fallen Leaf Lake and hike in to a "secret" beach to swim. Didn't see another soul yesterday. We sit on their deck and watch the thunderheads form over the mountain peaks. It is the hottest I can remember - Don says since 1985. Ah, yes, the summer I was here with baby Maggie.
I think Bill brought me to meet his sister, Ellen, in 1974. We lived in Carson City the summer of '76, when he had a temporary job with BLM. That was the year Ellen laid the foundation for her house. We watched it being built and came often to stay over the years, especially when we lived in Bishop, CA, just down the Sierra skyline. Amazing country that I have grown to love so much; the Sierra Juniper, the granite, the atmosphere of 7,000 feet.
Maggie and Katy grew up coming to that home and Don and Ellen are their second parents. When the house was totally destroyed in the Angora Ridge fire in 2007, we were all emotionally devastated. I came to stay for a few weeks as they moved into a rental nearby and tried to make sense of a life with everything they owned gone. Bill's mother was living down in the Carson Valley at that time.
The next summer I came to help with hospice for Ellenor in the same, rented home but now a new home was rising out of the ashes and the past two summers I have been staying back on the same property looking at a very different landscape but knowing that Don and Ellen are healing and life moves on for us all.
I will be in Tahoe until next Thursday when I am attending a dance performance in San Francisco that one of Katy's friends is a part of and then I am off the the North Coast - the true home - via Hwy 101. I just can't put all of my experiences in the past month into this blog but I am also writing in a travel diary so, somewhere along the way, I will give you the condensed version.
Hope you are all enjoying the full moon wherever you are.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Central Coast



Two years ago I made my first drive south of San Francisco in many, many years. I remember wondering why it had taken me so long, because I was really taken by the beaches just below San Luis Obispo (where I am writing this before I head out for Sacramento and Tahoe). It's really all about family for me in California and, at that time, everyone was up north. My nephew had lived in the Napa Valley or the East Bay of SF for years. My in-laws have been in Tahoe forever and my hometown is so far north you could call it Oregon. Now that Phil has relocated to Orange County (OC to the locals), I am going to be spending a lot of time in the area that I have just been visiting during the last few days - the Central Coast of California.

Spend the day at the beach or do a winery tour. Enjoy some fine dining ( I ate at one the restaurants used in the movie Sideways). A highlight for me was hiking on the Sedgewick Ranch, a 6,000 acre area that has been deeded to UC Santa Barbara for research. Google it. I'm sure that you could also get the lay of the land on horseback. I went into an old feed & grain in Santa Ynez that made it pretty obvious that a lot of folks are into horses and chickens around here. It's all rolling hills and oaks and it can get pretty warm, but the marine flow is nearby and tempers that heat. Take a drive on a curvy, mountain road and watch vistas of the Pacific. It's great!

I'm missing Bill. He knows what I mean about the light. Last evening I was in Santa Barbara at their waterfront with our old friend, Paul Rail, and he and I both felt like we were looking at a scene from a French Impressionist painting. I'm not sure that I captured it on my camera but at least I'll have a memory. We had been at a beach a little farther north for the afternoon watching people hang gliding off of the bluff. Oh, those teen-aged, bikini-clad surfer girls.

Once again, I am spending time on this blog when I should be getting on the road. Today I am driving up to Sacramento where I will stay with Bill's old college roommate and his wife, dear friends that we try to connect with every time we are close. Good cooks, too. Their son, Alex, and our Katy were born a few days apart. I suppose their house was built in the 50's, maybe older, in a typical Sacramento neighborhood with lots of big trees for shade because it is so frigging hot all of the time, although they might poo-p00 that. I can take a day or two of the valley heat and then I need to climb to a higher, cooler altitude and commune with the Sierras. That's where I am heading on Friday and will hang with Bill's sister and her husband for several days. I will read, cook, go to Fallen Leaf Lake for a swim and see the latest work on the landscaping at their new home. I'll share my latest tunes from my iPod and we will dance in the living room. It is my second home and I can already smell the pines.

Monday, July 19, 2010

If I Could Just Get Off Of This LA Freeway


I-5 to 605 to 210 from Laguna Niguel to Pasadena on a Sunday afternoon proved to be somewhat harrowing plus I needed diesel and ice and it's not like being out on the open road where you can see the gas stations well before the exit. My first try proved nil on both counts so I kept driving until my wonderful information unit in my car said that I only had 30 miles to empty and I was trying to keep up with the traffic and starting to maybe worry a little bit when I saw this really faded Mobil sign and I took the exit and got lucky. I don't even know how many towns I went by on that drive but I ended up at my Aunt Zella's sister's house in Altadena and all was good in the world. Yvonne and I are in-law relatives but I have know her since childhood and I have known about her house for almost 50 years. What a pleasure to finally visit this incredibly lush and beautiful place. I am amazed by the succulents in Southern California and Yvonne's were no exception (I took this photo from my bed when I woke up this morning.) If I hadn't just been swimming at my nephew's that morning, I would have jumped into her pool immediately it was that inviting. She cooked a delicious dinner and we played Tile Rummy, which I used to play with Zella, who I grew up next door to. I could write an entire blog on Zella and Yvonne who are icons to me. Let me just say that you would be amazed to find out Yvonne is 90 years old.

This morning I set out for Santa Barbara thinking that it would be straightforward because it was just up the coast aways and I could do it on my own without my GPS lady and I don't even have a map of California except for my road atlas because, hey, I'm a Californian. Oh, man. First I got turned around in Pasadena but that was cool because it is a tremendous old city with the most beautiful architecture and landscaping. I finally found the freeway ramp and I was off... kind of like playing a video game. Fast and furious, lots of lane changing, lots of splitting off to different freeways on the right and the left and I mostly was on the wrong side for where I probably should have gone and then I'm going north on 2 and I'm pretty sure that's wrong so I turn off and then there I am on the Glendale Freeway up on this hill looking down on the San Fernando Valley on one side and the very smoggy skyline of LA on the other and I am like in Los Angeles and I could go to Beverly Hills or Sherman Oaks or all kinds of places just like that. I am driving where Bill grew up. That's when I saw the Ventura Freeway sign and I thought that rang a bell so I took it and then decided to get off and look at my map and call Bill so I took the Forest Lawn exit. Forest Lawn? There was a sign that said Zoo so I turned in to find a parking lot and it was Griffith Park. Amazing! When I got Bill on the phone, he told me he fell out of a tree there when he was a kid and that his grandmother was buried in Forest Lawn. They used to go there on Sundays. He also confirmed that the Ventura Freeway would become Hwy 101 and I would be in Santa Barbara in about 90 minutes.

Oh, yes. Soon I was looking at the coastal mountain savannah of brown grass and oaks that runs all the way up California and a big smile was on my face. When I came around a bend near Oxnard it was suddenly all fog - I was home at last. Farther up the coast there were a lot of surfers out and the scenic beauty just got more and more tremendous. I went to summer school at UCSB in 1966 when I was still in high school and I have not been back since. I had forgotten how lovely a town it is and how stunning the scenery is with those mountains as a backdrop. I also had reunions with two brothers that I went to high school with and I will relate more about that later because I am going to bed now, ladies and gentlemen. I am in Santa Ynez at my friend Jolie's and you will read about this spot, too, in a later edition.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Family Time


I am about to depart, once again, but this time from my sister and her son's family. We have had a wonderful visit and I hate to break the spell. It's been grand to have two little children in my world again, to be singing lullabies and reading them to sleep. They have worn me out in the pool. I want to stay and be their nanny.


Nancy and I took them down to Escondido today to meet another cousin, who has made an oasis with her husband at the top of a hill. Avacado trees and peaches, tortoises and chickens, heirloom tomatoes and eggplant - and special places to sit and rest or meditate. Bill and Debby do a lot of traveling and it is reflected inside their home. It was exquisite. Then it was discovered that Bill brewed beer and that the Stone Brewery was just down the hill and that was that. We were in our cars and gone. What a place.... Simone and Dylan played in a creek by our outside table while folks enjoyed brews at two large bars, inside and out. It was a stunning place and the hops were just right. My duck tacos weren't bad, either.


I guess it's hot everywhere right now. I hope everyone is enjoying the peak of summer. I occasionally have these moments when I realize that I could be listening to the news and plugging in and that I am not going to for the ENTIRE SUMMER. I do know that D.C. had an earthquake that woke Maggie up and that they may have finally plugged that evil oil spill. The Tour de France is on every night here so I am watching the most beautiful scenery one could imagine and there seems to be some kind of golf tournament going on.


Tomorrow I am going to make the journey from Laguna Niguel to Altadena, perhaps a one hour drive, and visit Debby's mother, Yvonne, sister to Aunt Zella, who I grew up living next door to in Crescent City. Zella and Yvonne have been icons to me all my life - beautiful, intelligent, cosmopolitan, active, passionate - it has been two years since Zella died, just after her 90th birthday, and it is still hard for us to reconcile that she is gone. I look forward to soaking up stories and history and, if I know Yvonne, some really good wine.


I spent quite a bit of time this evening organizing photos and I hope to post an album soon so you can see much more than I have shown you so far. Tomorrow is Day 20 and I begin to climb slowly through the state of California.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

SoCal I hardly knew you

It is a fact that I am a native Californian, but one that I have not always wanted to admit. After living in D.C. for 8 years it has become easier to "out" myself but, because my hometown is 20 miles from the Oregon border, I usually say I am from the Pacific Northwest and, since I went to college at OSU and spent most of my adult life in Oregon, I sometimes say I am an Oregonian.

Why such an issue? Because, if you tell most people you are from California they immediately think of all that is not where I am from: Hollywood, movie stars, la la land, freeways and suburban sprawl like you cannot believe, Valley girls and bad actors that become politicians. When I was a freshman in college, a foreign exchange student from Columbia in my dorm complex learned I was from California and immediately thought that I would sleep with him. Common lore puts Santa Barbara in Northern California. I am happy to include San Francisco, but please, Santa Barbara is so not in the north.

So, recently my nephew and his wife relocated to Orange County for employment reasons and we all shrieked and moaned but, hey, they have two beautiful children and so, here I am in Laguna Niguel examining the natives. Most of them wear bikinis or Hawaiian print surf wear. All of the architecture is Spanish looking and there are a lot of palm trees. It is really very lush. We went to the beach yesterday and I was overjoyed to put my feet into the Pacific and the sand felt pretty much like up north, just not as dark. It's very bright.

The housing developments and shopping centers are endless. I am recalling a high school speech tournament where we were given the subject of megalopalis ..... well, here it is. One town stretches into another and there is not a hint of agriculture or even the desert that this all rose from. It's all the same stores that you see all across this country, but somehow they have a different aura: you need to go in, you need to have what everyone else has and maybe first.

Family prevails and I am very happy to stay with them. Simone and Dylan are delightful children and they are keeping me very active. Soon I will drive north and start hitting the landscape that I am more attuned to. Maybe even Santa Barbara will be looking better.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

By the Time I Get To Phoenix


..... I will have driven over 3,000 miles and taken 450 photos
..... I will have seen the hills of Appalachia, met the premier guitar builder in the land (Wayne Henderson) and visited the Carter Family Fold and a great-grandson of Maybelle Carter
..... I will have been to both the Bluebird Cafe and the Ryman Theater, seen the Grand Ol Opry and been in a swimsuit photo shoot at Nashville's Art Crawl in the Arcade AND toured Cheekwood Botanical Gardens during a Chihuly glass exhibit
.... I will have driven through the countryside of Tennessee on a sunny 4th of July Sunday and then landed in downtown Memphis for a whirlwind three days of music - both in museums and in the clubs - and met some very fine, warm people on Beale Street
..... I will have finally seen Fayetteville, Arkansas, a town that has interested me for many years, and the surrounding area in the Boston Mountains, which is very reminiscent of the Blue Ridge
.... I will have watched the hills recede and the plains approach in eastern Oklahoma, visited Woody Guthrie's hometown and been forced off the road in Oklahoma City by torrential rainstorms. That was good. I discovered the Red Cup, an amazing coffee shop with some great, old geezers sitting on the porch.
.... I will have set my eyes on the wide open spaces with grass and cattle and clouds forever in a blue sky and had the best BBQ ever in Amarillo, Texas
..... I will have been moved to tears by the landscapes that inspired Georgia O'Keefe and actually walked by her home plus visited friends who have built a paradise outside of Santa Fe
.... I will have been pulled off of the interstate once again by rain at Flagstaff, Arizona and found the most beautiful roadhouse with a dance floor and stage that makes me want to form a band right now!
..... Still in Flagstaff I met a young girl in line at a very new age coffee house who goes to St John's College in Annapolis and sails and then sat down next to a woman who is going to visit her sister in Laguna Niguel (my destination of sorts with my sister, where my nephew lives). OK. The second woman had just been to a metaphysical conference on earth's energies in Sedona and she has a massage business in Kawai. It was what you would call "trippy."
..... It's 4:30 Mountain Time and I have a 2-hour drive to Nancy's in Phoenix. Had to stay here in Flagstaff to watch the end of the World Cup..... wow.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Road Food


I am sitting in a cheap hotel off of I-40 somewhere in Oklahoma near the Texas border. I am pretty certain that I do not want to eat at any restaurant in town and that's OK because I have my dinner with me. Spinach salad with red pepper, red onion and a grilled chicken breast plus an Australian cabernet. Tomorrow I will snack on whole grain crackers with cheese, hummus and olives. The attached photo is of my breakfast, which was greatly improved by those adorable wine berries (wild raspberries) from the farmer's market in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I also found a great natural food store in Fayetteville where I could restock my cereal and soy milk.
I am more and more grossed out by restaurant fare where fries are the side no matter what the main course is. I'm constantly asking for substitutions and starting to watch what the people around me are eating. It's not pretty.
I love being on the South Beach diet but no potatoes and no white bread has made it very challenging on the road. Last night I ended up at a Denny's at 11:00 as my cooler was almost empty. Bad planning. After reading the menu back to front three times, I chose the "create your own" breakfast: two eggs, turkey bacon, fruit and grits - pretty sure that grits are borderline. I lived and promised my self I would be better prepared in the future.
Nashville and Memphis both proved to be excellent towns for dining experiences without totally busting my budget (it was the hip clothing store going out of business next to the restaurant that proved to be the problem), but having a cooler in the back of the car with my handy-dandy camping box has made eating on the road a lot of fun.
Now, finding the right coffee shop.... that's when the adventure begins.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stuck in Memphis with the Delta Blues, Amen


I have checked out of my hotel, which I thought would get me motivated to drive West but then I was so torn over heading to Little Rock, which is the correct direction, and taking Hwy 61 south to the Crossroads and Clarkston, MS that I just stopped the car in the South Main Arts District so I could contemplate my next move. That was around noon and now it is almost 3:00. I discovered a whole different neighborhood from downtown and Beale Street even though Main Street runs throughout. There is a trolley that runs up and down Main and over to the Bluff, where you can walk on the river.

This neighborhood has the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. King was shot so that was powerful to walk around. I am already torn up over seeing some of the ghetto neighborhoods here in Memphis (where Stax is) so I decided to not go inside the museum. I had lunch at Beignet's, around the corner. Yum.... gator bites, fried green tomatoes and steamed shrimp with green salad. The Bloody Mary just seemed the right thing to do. Hey, people, I am on vacation here!

I leave Memphis this afternoon with a long list of what I did not get to see: the Gibson factory, Mud Island park, walking the Bluffs, Graceland, the Center for Southern Folklore, the Cotton Museum, the Underground Railroad museum, a photo exhibit at the art museum called Who Shot Rock. Here is what I did see:
Rock and Soul Museum - spent over 3 hours inside with an iPod to go along with the exhibits
Stax Museum - was there at least two hours. Isaac Hayes gold cadillac is worth the admission
Sun Recording Studios - more of a guided tour but the collection of instruments was awesome

I also did things like drive across town to a camera shop for some repair work, walk around Overton Park hoping to see the rock photography exhibit but the museum was closed, and, this morning, search for my phone somewhere on Beale Street. Good news is.... I found it!

Beale Street is so much better than the music strips in Nashville or New Orleans. I don't know how many blues muscians live in Memphis but it's got to be in the hundreds. There are bands in all of the clubs every night and most of what I heard was very good. I was told that the really top players won't show up until Thursday or Friday. Everyone thought I should stick around. Everyone being a small group of locals, some being guitar players in a band called Delta Time that I listened to two nights in a row at Rum Boogie. I am now friends with a man whose cousins played on Love and Happiness with Al Green at Hi Recording Studio. Now those are credentials!

I know that my friends in DC are suffering a heat wave, but it isn't exactly cool here. 90 degrees and thunderheads means it is very sticky. Maybe that's a good thing, because if it was cooler I would go walk on the river right now instead of getting in the car and motivating. I'm pretty sure Hwy 61 is out of the question if I want to make Fayetteville by dark.

Oh, yes. I stuck my head in a Folk Alliance non-profit shop and had a delightful conversation with two young women who filled me in on an entirely different music scene here in Memphis plus told me where to get good coffee in Fayetteville. Get this, they gave me a free sampler CD and who should be on it but Chico Schwall.... an old friend from Eugene. Get out of here! He's part of some big festival they have in Memphis in the winter. There is also a big blues congregation in January that sound interesting.

Signing off for now. Oh, yes. Beignet's may be on the food channel for their Mac and Cheese balls. They basically freeze it and then make balls, roll in crumbs and fry them up. Not on my diet but they sounded pretty darn good. Traveling with South Beach is the topic of another blog.

Take care and as absoutely everyone says to me.... be safe.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Technical Difficulties


I'm not sure if it's really technical, although my laptop would not connect to a server in my Nashville hotel, or just me not being technically nerdy, but I have not been able to post to this blog until today, July 6th, a week into my driving trip. My iTouch can't handle Facebook posting so I haven't even done that. Partially, I just would rather be out enjoying myself than sitting at a laptop.

So, this post is just to let you know that I am alive and well and having a really incredible vacation so far. I spent three days in SW Virginia exploring the Crooked Road, a Virginia music heritage trail, and then three days in Nashville, where the music was great but the highlight was a Chihuly glass exhibit at the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. The last two nights I have been in Memphis and I have extended my stay one more night because there is so much to do here and because my hotel pool is really great.

My latest techno bomb is my camera, which is frozen and new batteries are not solving the problem. I just downloaded 240 photos from Virginia, Nashville and the drive to Memphis so you can see that I need my camera! I would rather be walking along the Mississippi River than trying to find a camera shop but so it goes. Bill tells me that that's what vacations are all about - one crisis to the next.

I'll do some backtracking blogs about where I've been because it has been beautiful and stimulating and I have been eating some great food. The photo here is from Columbia, TN. I was driving to Memphis on the 4th and came upon this gathering. I was suddenly a part of America and it really made the holiday right.

Next stop - the Bon Ton Cafe. Oh, my gosh ..... it's 9:30 and I've just spent my morning on a computer!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hot Feet, Cold Feet


COLD FEET: Now that the departure day for my drive across America has arrived, I am suddenly reluctant to leave home. Maybe three nights of full-moon sailing on the Chesapeake with my hubby has something to do with that. Maybe summer break and being able to have lunch with my oldest daughter in the middle of the week is another good reason. I'm looking at an accordion file stuffed with songs from 6 years of teaching at Two Rivers and I could spend the summer organizing that into the songbook of my dreams or I could just sit at the piano and play and sing all day long. Morning Glory will have it's way with my garden and I won't be able to bake pies.

HOT FEET: I have been dreaming of this journey for several years. It is the first of many, I hope, and I am going to relish it. I have a brand new car (thanks, Bill, for doing the research) and more gadgets than I know what to do with: iTouch, Bluetooth, GPS, Satellite radio. But I will also have good, traditional entertainment with my ukulele, books and a knitting project. Ah, yes, and the camera. I just can't help but share the many adventures ahead with friends and family so I hope you will visit my blog from time to time over the summer. My friends out West, here I come but not for a couple of weeks.

Tomorrow I will be in southwest Virginia traveling The Crooked Road, a music heritage trail of the Appalachia, including the Carter Family homestead. I am hoping to hike along the New River and visit an evening jam session at the Stringbean Coffee Shop in Galax, VA. Today I am trying to pack for at least 3 climates and two months of travel. Oh, yes, and create a blog. Gotta go!