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Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year's Greetings

Warning:  this blog is a bit long but you can always bookmark it and read more later. 

It's very quiet in our neighborhood. Most of our neighbors seem to have traveled afar for their Christmas holiday and are not returning until the last possible moment. This is the one time of year when I do not stray and enjoy living in Washington. In 2002, when we first moved to DC from Oregon, we began new family holiday traditions. Katy was attending high school in North Carolina and Margaret (not yet known as Maggie) was living with us, attending a community college that gave her credit at South Eugene High to finish her senior year. We lived just a couple of blocks from our current home, renting an apartment on 6th St. Miraculously, we could see the stoop of the only people we knew in the entire city, cousins of close friends in Eugene. It was chance, you could say. Perhaps fate, that our landlord was a really great guy and I am now teaching his 7-yr-old, who was born while we lived in the apartment. Totally random that the next door neighbor visits often and helped remodel our dining room. I just ran into two other neighbors from that block and we hugged and carried on and will be getting together in the new year. Add to this the neighbors surrounding me on 5th St, two blocks away and where we have lived for 7 years, and you may understand that I am very happy here on Capitol Hill, often called a small town within the urban landscape.

                                                        Harper's Ferry - 2005

 I mentioned new traditions when we moved to Washington. They included going to the latest Lord of the Rings movie on Christmas Day at a nice, old theater with only one screen (then, Harry Potter at an IMax) and taking a family vacation as we returned Katy to North Carolina around New Year's. We visited Chinquoteague, Harper's Ferry, Charlottesville for First Night and the Outer Banks. It was the only time of year that the four of us were together after Margaret went to college in Montana so we always did some kind of family photo. I have been looking through those pictures plus ones from Eugene, where the girls grew up and I have created an album you could look at - There you will see that food has been the center of our celebrations, that there was usually a decorated tree, presents in a pile, candles burning and lights twinkling. Typical activites of the non-religious family in this Christmas-hyped society. Typical activities in some form since ancient times and it is Solstice that I honor.


Now in our 10th incarnation of "Christmas in Washington," the traditions change once again. Maggie has moved to Santa Monica and is attending UCLA. She did not come home for the holiday. She and Brian walked the dogs on the beach in the sun. Katy and I flew out for Thanksgiving and recreated the "meal" in her apartment which lacked almost all useful kitchen equipment including measuring cups and spoons, knives and bowls, but we ate very well and the girls did most of the cooking. I had brought the traditional orange bread with me on the plane.

Not having Maggie coming home truly affected my winter solstice spirit and I pretty much opted out of the usual holiday activities:  no tree, no presents, no cards. I did mail kitchen supplies to Maggie and the bench that I had envisioned last summer to Bill's sister in Tahoe.  After I mailed the package to Maggie, I started crying right there in Union Station but Katy's birthday gave me purpose and I managed to get her a package by the 15th with a newly knitted scarf and mint chocolate brownies. She has a great job in the West Village with a post-production film company and we will be going up to see her dance on Jan. 8th. We are very proud of both of our daughters.

                                                             Winter Recital in the studio

I did hang garlands with lights for my annual piano recitals and baked cookies and nutbreads. Cleaned house, too. Gradually the Solstice spirit snuck in. Naturally, I would never give up cooking and Bill and I have been eating very well all month. Katy arrived on Christmas Eve and we had oyster stew just like my mother used to do. We had mimosas with brunch and I cooked a full turkey dinner the next day, sharing with our best-friend neighbors. There just weren't any presents and that was fine.  Katy and I did a little shopping the next day while Bill visited a new pub downtown that has an excellent beer tap. We also viewed these incredible Gothic tapestries depicting Portugal attacking Morocco in the 1400's at the National Gallery. Katy caught a bus back to New York that evening and we returned to our quiet house where I have been relaxing ever since; knitting, reading, playing Haydn piano sonatas and basically ignoring any and all to-do lists.

                                                post-Christmas at Nat'l Gallery of Art

Just one thing hasn't felt right with my new take on the holiday - not sending cards. Today, December 30th, it's too late to get New Year's greetings in the mail and most cards just don't come off very well in mid-January. I have a few boxes of those cards, bought  at 50% off with the best intentions that next year I would send them. They will go back down to the basement and I can only hope that I connect with my friends and family through this blog and the photo albums on Google. Some of you sent me cards and I have them all out and I enjoyed everyone's letters. OK, New Year's resolution.... I will call my wonderful friends and family members on the phone some time this year. It doesn't matter what season. The love is always there.

Happy New Year from Janet

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Palisades Motel - a November travel tale

I think of myself as a seasoned traveler and one who does not need upscale accommodations. I have stayed in cheap motels across the country. I have camped in the rain. I am comfortable on my husband's 1947 sailboat (as long as I don't sit straight up in the berth and bash my noggin). I can eat cold beans out of a can. I have driven myself in and out of risky neighborhoods and gotten along fine with bikers, dopers, homeless hobos, truckers and hitchers who are off their meds, but I thought I had finally met my match when I checked into the Palisades Motel in Santa Monica, CA on Saturday.

This place seemed like a real dump but it was only a few blocks from my daughter's apartment.
There certainly weren't any other motels close by. When I saw my room my heart really dropped. I had never seen one smaller or less inviting. Margaret was with me and kind of shrugged and offered to let me sleep on her couch. Well, yes, that was the cheapest route but so right-in-the- face of her and her boyfriend. I preferred my own little nest rather than the couch in the living room with two dogs, so I paid for two nights and moved in.

Oh, it was such a tiny room with only a ceiling light. No comfy reading spot, no rug, no shampoo or pens. The medicine cabinet was a rusted out wreck and the tile floor was really cold. Thank goodness I brought thick slippers and a really heavy robe that I was delivering to Maggie. There was a TV but no remote. I unpacked a bit and tried to find some way to make it more hospitable.I got my docking station out and started up iTunes: Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach - haunting and romantic. Finally, I fled to Maggie's apartment where she cooked me a delicious fish dinner. When I returned to the motel, later that evening, there were no lights on in any of the rooms. I knew that the night manager was up front but it still felt eerie. My room was icy and I wore my pj's and my nightgown and a robe to bed. I was starting to hear the words "Bates Motel" sounding in my mind.

 The next day I met the owner, Sid, who showed me how to run the heating unit that was so high up on the wall I hadn't really realized that I could control it. I had to get on the bed on my tiptoes and I could just barely reach the controls.  Warmth turned everything around, but I still needed those slippers. How was I to know that it was going to be one of the coldest days of the year in LA and they would get 2 inches of rain? Sid gave me a rug for the floor by the front door. Maggie and I drove to Laguna Niguel in the rain to visit my sister and nephew. I left that heater on all day... on low.  It was toasty when I returned.

Two nights went by and I had to move or stay put. Bill had found a couple of places for rent near the beach through Craig's List but they either weren't available or were more expensive. Other motels were far away and more money.  Sid gave me a deal I couldn't refuse and I settled in for the rest of the visit. I still seemed to be the only tenant. The third night, a couple came in around 9:00 pm and checked into a room across the patio. Within 15 minutes they moved right back out with a bit of an argument with the night manager that I couldn't understand. Quiet reigned once again. I think I started feeling a bit smug about being able to handle this place. I had my knitting and I found an old Masterpiece Theater drama on the TV (after standing in front of it pushing buttons for 10 minutes). I also had a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale and some chips. I am so glad that I did not think about ghosts until just now.

The rest of the week was sunny and warm unless you were in the shade. I walked the beach, I walked the bluff, I walked the Promenade, I walked the dogs. I took the bus to UCLA and saw where Maggie works in the music library. I did the Thanksgiving shopping, including at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, which was incredible. I found a morning spot to have coffee and sit in a sunny patio. I never left Santa Monica. Each morning I visited with Sid and marveled at how he could come to this run-down little motel every day. I learned that it had been built in 1948, that he and I were the same age, that our children were all involved in the arts and that he was hoping to make a few renovations soon. It would take a lot. But, by golly, I will probably rent a room again the next time that I come to visit.


Maggie at her research library at UCLA

     Katy making the pumpkin pie custard

If you ever find yourself in Santa Monica, I can guide you to the absolute cheapest lodgings available. Just tell Sid I sent you and bring cash.  Palisades Motel - Ocean Park Blvd

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I am back at home, warm and cozy and looking forward to the holiday season. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Howdy

                                                                    Halloween  2007

I am about to become a ramblin', gamblin' man heading for East Capitol where merriment abounds. I was looking at photos from various Halloweens here in DC and came across the pumpkins Maggie and Bill carved a few years back.  Made me lonesome for her. She is living in Santa Monica and taking graduate courses at UCLA in library science. She's working at the music library on campus and just loving the whole deal.

I have tried a few times to post a blog since I returned from my summer traveling. Each time I had such technical glitches I cannot even tell you about it. Sometimes to do with photos, sometimes to do with the entire post disappearing at a keystroke never to be seen again. Last year I didn't keep the blog up because I had gotten a new laptop and that was a series of headaches and then I doubled my workload and never looked up until I was driving West.

Here is where I have spent most of my time since returning to DC.  This is the front hall and my studio. I just have to add a piece that will help me make some recordings and I'll have it. The laptop finally settled down and I got that cute little rolling table that holds a printer and I was in business.  Before this set-up, the computer was upstairs so I did all of my notation work up there. I still keep all of my music in the basement but it has eliminated one set of stairs to have to go up and down during a lesson.

If you turn directly around from looking at the piano in the hall, you will be looking into the living room, where my students and families hang out before (and after sometimes) lessons. It's a great room for live music and is where The Gliders rehearse a lot. There are two sets of glass doors that can close it off. Bill can be in there listening to music and I can be in the hall playing the piano (softly).  My work studio is both rooms if I am working on my own projects. Friday night the guys in the band came over for a casual jam session with me included and we had a blast. My summer practicing paid off.

I make the occasional trip downtown. Today I went to visit my gynecologist. Second year I have been seeing him. He is wonderful. I bit the bullet and went to a practice downtown. I tried for years to have a place that I could walk to in the neighborhood. It was a laughable series of strange places and doctors. An old Chinese guy in a basement on East Capitol - he retired or moved or something. There was a really old, black lady on Florida near No Capitol. She had all of this green equipment from the 50's. I saw a Hispanic doctor at a clinic in the Chinatown area that might have been a front for something else, couldn't tell. Finally, I found  Jeevan Mathura on Maryland. He was only there one day a week but he was very nice. He quit altogether a few years back, hence I have gone downtown. Here's Mathura's building on Maryland Avenue.

OK. If this post actually gets online, I think that I am back in business.  It takes time, though.  I have got to go get a candle for the jack-o-lantern and glue my handlebar moustache on. Happy Halloween everyone. I have more travels up ahead to report on.  Bill and I are heading up to New York to see Katy on Veteran's Day. We have rented an apartment in Harlem. The next weekend I am flying to Los Angeles to have Thanksgiving with Maggie. We both can't wait.

                                                                                     Love, Janet

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricanes, earthquakes and such

Isabela from my living room

I have to admit that I am wishing I was home to experience Irene. We had just moved to DC when Isabela hit. We volunteered to help hand out supplies of some kind and then headed home to wait it out. Isabela went right over so we took a walk during the eye. There were parties going on all over the place on peoples' stoops. It was all quite exotic to me at the time, having only experienced some small typhoons on the West Coast. Typhoon - Hurricane..... now, what is the difference? 
While Katy and I were in Tahoe, the earthquake hit the East. Now that is something I have experienced many times. Such an eerie feeling as the earth quivers and your house lets you know just how it was constructed. Bill was in the Interior Building, which was built in the 1920's and held up like a rock. He told me it was nothing, not to worry. It wasn't until much later that I talked to Maggie and Brian and they both had very different stories to tell. Shaking walls, books falling off of the library shelves, Maggie under a desk. Imagine if it had been just a bit stronger.   I know that the Washington Monument suffered some cracks but what I want to know is, what happened at Monticello and Charlottesville? They were right at the epicenter but no one mentions it on the news. I hope that Thomas Jefferson's treasures weren't harmed.

There was an earthquake in Colorado, too. That is where I am now but wasn't when the quake happened. I just cruise along with beautiful weather, incredible scenery, mostly good food and drink and wonderful get togethers with old friends. Should I feel guilty? No way. These road trips are the greatest things ever.

I am currently in Salida, CO after having stayed in Glenwood Springs last night (my absolutely cheapest motel room at 44.00) and driven through Aspen and over Independence Pass this afternoon. I looked on both sides of the Great Divide at 12,00 feet this afternoon and was quite impressed. Hwy 82 is not for the faint of heart. I knew I was in Aspen when I could not count the Lear jets at the airport. I made a quick getaway. Salida I really like. I am staying at a hostel run by friends of Maggie. Tomorrow I am going to swim in the Arkansas River, hike up to an aspen grove and soak in a hot springs pool. Guilty? Not a bit.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Last Photo

wild azaleas - the final shot

I spent my last afternoon in Del Norte County hanging out where our family cabin was at the forks of the Smith. It had been built in the 30's and my father bought it from Harold Neilson when I was 3 yrs old. In 1964 the mountain slid into the river and took The Morning Star with it. It had probably been raining steady for at least a month. Tragedy. I was 15 and thought I would live there forever. Since it was a mining claim, the Forest Service reclaimed it some years later. They burned any cabins that survived, including some very substantial houses. I suppose it was a blessing that our cabin was already gone. Now, that site is a put-in for kayaking and the road is paved all the way down so I can get right to the spot where I learned to swim.
my old swimming hole

I finally got myself to leave this beatiful spot and drove about 10 miles up river to visit with an old high school teacher and dear friend, Rick Bennett, who lives up on the North Fork. By the time I got back on the road it  was late afternoon and I stopped on more time on the river to check out another swimming spot I had been told about. When I got my camera out I had a very bad surprise: the lens would not open. What the? It was not batteries so I gave up, drove on and figured I'd solve it in Eugene the next day. Dotson's Camera Shop gave me the bad news that it would take $250 to repair.  End of an era. Time to buy a new camera, which I did the next afternoon at The Shutterbug.... a place I used to have film developed in 1983.  I am now the owner of a new Nikon and my next post will show off a great visit in Eugene, Oregon with my Katy girl.

As for the azalea shot.... they are the sweetest smelling flowers ever and I always swim across the river to a spot where I can pick a few and have them if my car for a day or two of nirvana. 

I am posting this from South Lake Tahoe, where Katy and I arrived on Friday after spending one night with friends in Shasta Lake, CA.  We depart on Wednesday and I will be heading East somewhat reluctantly. There is another travel adventure in front of me and I will be heading for hearth and home (ie: Sweet William) but I cannot hide my love, my loyalty, my need for the West. Everywhere I have gone I have wanted to stay longer. Many places I have gone to I could live forever. Where will I land? That chapter has not been written yet.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Home in the redwoods

Avenue of the Giants - Humboldt County

Today I am driving north to Eugene but not before I spend a few more hours on the Smith River in Del Norte County. They say that home is where your heart is and that goes in spades for me and these beautiful redwoods and this emerald green river. We spent summers iin a cabin on the river, maybe 12 miles from town, and I had planned to live in that cabin forever but it was destroyed in the 1964 floods. Every summer I return to that very spot, which is now owned by the parks, and pay homage to my childhood dreams. 

Maggie Thielen at a secret hole on the South Fork

Everywhere I go out West the weather is about a month behind so I have run into a lot of fog in the morning but it burns out at Hiouchi by noon and is glorious well into the night. I have been enjoying the moon shining down the river canyon from my tent site along North Bank Road on the main fork towards Smith River. Had to swim across the river to get the deep water and diving rocks and the water is definitely cold this year, but I am a new woman, reenergized for another year from that baptism. 

OK.... it's noon and the sun is starting to break open this fog. Off with the sweatshirt and down the road to the swimming hole I go.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

from my iTouch

Experiencing the yin-yang of returning to the spot where you grew up, where you couldn't wait to be gone from at 18, where you returned never wanting to leave again only to meet up with one Willy Gilmore who swept you off on various adventures for the next three decades. The way he tells it, he saved me from nowheresville. 35 years later I still miss it but .... I have had an exceptional life with Bill. Yes, the weather is lousy most of the time: if it's sunny, it's windy; if it's raining, it never stops; if it's summer, it's foggy.

Yes, foggy. I am camped by the Smith River in the redwoods going to bed with no stars, waking up to gray,gray,gray. Sweatshirts, fleece, socks, jackets are all out of my suitcase for the first time. Usually you can find sun inland along the river but even Gasquet was socked in yesterday. However, I drove up higher on the South Fork towards Big Flat and was blessed with sun and the discovery of a new swimming hole by way of an old friend. Good rocks to dive from, waterfalls, deep and cold water. We basked on the rocks but shivered a bit on the way home.

I'm having breakfast at the Hiouchi Cafe and the waitress thinks this is an awfully long text. Have to report that the espresso cart is gone from the Hiouchi Market. It's 9:30 and I again await the burn. Going to take a hike out by Lake Earl and the Tolowa Dunes, near Pt St George. Can see Oregon from there. My sun hat lies dormant until I return to the Oklahoma plains once again.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

30 days - 5,000 miles - 850 photos

 SoCal beach with sister Nancy

Many miles have gone by since Taos.... my last post. I hightailed it to Laguna Niguel to visit my sister and nephew, staying one night at Flagstaff and then a fantastic drive on I-40 stopping at Williams, Kingman and Needles (hot hot hot) and then driving across the Mojave Desert to Barstow. It was my first time on that route and I found the desert powerful, stark and extremely warm. I stopped by a BLM Visitor Center in Needles to see how the Desert Plan was going. Bill tells me the tortoises are having problems with the wind generators. Silly me, I thought it was the hawks. I accidentally got some windshield cleaner on the hood of the car and it immediately sizzled and dried up into an ugly mess. Probably could have fried an egg.

 Huevos at the Pine Tree Cafe in Williams, AZ

I'm not much for shopping and I basically detest the fashions of the day that are foisted upon us by the corporate powers that be Macy's, but I had a stroke of luck in Williams. Cowboy boots in my size! And one of those cute, little hipster hats for Katy in straw. Then I had my second, delicious plate of huevos rancheros at the ___________?  You can take a train from Williams up to the Grand Canyon. That might be a beautiful way to go.

I once worked for a highway paving company when Bill and I lived in Bishop, CA and we paved between Bishop and Victorville. I guess that would have been 1978 or so. This was the first time I'd been back in that area since. It is still desert between the two towns but, once you hit Victorville, you are in LA Land. What a shock it was from the emptiness of the desert. I just sort of kept up with the flow and made my way to my nephew's house. Whew.

My arrival in California signaled the end of the vacation and the beginning of touching base with family and friends all over the state. It also signaled the end of having time to write this blog up until now. I'm in Eureka, CA at the moment taking a big breath. I dropped Bill at the SF airport this morning after spending a week with him from Tahoe to Sacramento to Brisbane where we stayed on a friend's boat for two nights. Bill packs it in. We sailed both on Lake Tahoe and SF Bay, hiked into a very lush meadow near Hwy 88 plus visited a big wildlife refuge on the south bay - Don Edwards - and went up to Santa Cruz to see Katy who is working at an arts summer camp. Poor boy is back in DC and not looking forward to going back to work.

 Santa Barbara digs

Did I mention Santa Barbara? What great weather I hit. My friends found me a cute, 1950's motel right near the beach with a good pool. I ended up attending a clarinet master class at a very prestigious summer music academy up in the hills where the ritzy stuff is. It was such a contrast from the Guthrie Festival and it was extremely exhilarating. I also stayed with a friend in Santa Ynez and enjoyed the beauty of the wine country.

 Santa Ynez

All of these places and these wonderful friends deserve a full blog on their own and maybe I'll be able to go back and tell some tales but, for now, I am bringing you up to date on my travels. Today I drove north from San Francisco. Hot and sunny along the Russian and the Eel rivers. The woods were fragrant as I drove the old, scenic highway. Hit fog around Rio Dell. That will be my dual experience for the next week - foggy in town, hot at the river. I love it! I am home.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Clayton and Taos

I gained another hour as I drove into New Mexico so, even though I took all day getting to Clayton, I was still in time for dinner in the Eklund's beautiful dining room. This is a 100-yr old hotel that has had just enough updates to make it pleasant to stay in (like bathrooms in your room) but has so much old charm. A family that has local roots has just bought it and they had been open for two months. Such nice people and they had great plans ahead. First I met Jeanette at the front desk and later I met her husband and her brother at the huge, old bar in the saloon. They were serving wines from New Mexico which were "interesting" shall we say. This was after dinner and I discovered a piano which I immediately sat down and played. Most of the dinner guests were gone but, when I got done with the song, the entire staff from around the hotel came in and started clapping.  They ended up comping my meal and offering me a gig next summer. REVELATION! I could be an itinerant musician and maybe even pay for some of my traveling. My little set list suddenly took on new meaning.

The next morning Jeannette printed out some Google maps showing me all kinds of scenic routes and side roads on my way to Taos and then on down to Gallup. First stop, Springer, NM where I had fabulous huevos rancheros at the Brown Hotel, another really old edifice from the West. They had fantastic photos of the local cowboys on the wall and a cute little lunch counter and dining room.  That meal lasted me all day.

The next stop was Miami but I would not have even known I was there except I saw the Miami Fire Dept sign.  It was right at the edge of the plains and the mountains were on the horizon. It's not on a main highway but I could tell there was an active community, especially when a kid on a motorcycle came out on the road. Abandoned homesteads and a store that didn't look like it was operating. That was about it. Around the bend was Miami Lake, which was basically a watering hole for the cattle. Then I started to climb up into the Cimarron Range, part of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains which are the lowest part of the Rockies.

                                                       Cimarron Pass, Palisades

Now, here was a place that I could have done a little research on before I arrived and where I could have stayed for a few days exploring. I was driving on the old Santa Fe Trail route and the town of Cimarron had all kinds of history with outlaws and such. One of the Phillips brothers (Phillips Oil) had a huge estate there with an incredible adobe villa. He had donated a huge amount of land to the Boy Scouts and they had a camping/hiking center there that sees up to 22,000 scouts every summer. The St. James was another historic hotel, bigger and finer than the two I had just visited. But, I can't do everything, so I drove on to Taos over Cimarron Pass down to Eagles Nest Lake then a took a loop up to Red River, a ski area, and then back down into Taos, another area I knew little about. What I did know was that I probably couldn't afford to stay there or buy the art from the many galleries lining the little streets.

I'm not big on tourist meccas and my first drive through Taos confirmed that. Lots of folks walking around, no parking, fancy motels with beautiful grounds. I just kept on driving but was pretty tired so I thought I'd just plug in some place nearby on my GPS when I drove by the cutest little motel you've ever seen.... I turned the car around and drove right in. The Inn On the Rio (I did not know that I had been driving by the Rio Grande river) was a restored motel from the 50's - Route 66 era and I ended up staying there two nights, spending most of a day at the pool. Incredible breakfasts, wonderful people and a comfy room.

                                                 Inn On the Rio -  Taos, New Mexico

In the evenings I went into the downtown area, which turned out to be very small and quaint and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Taos is basically like every other Western mountain ski town. I bought sage and juniper sticks for the car and headed south the next day. Not before I met Tim, from northern Wisconsin, who had a 1967 Chevelle with a 515 and talked me into driving it! I could barely see over the steering wheel but I could reach the clutch and run the gears and had a gas driving it to the edge of town and back. What a lot of noise! It's for sale if you are interested.

One never knows what will happen on a roadtrip!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Heading to New Mexico

                                                     Western Oklahoma red dirt

Woody Fest was exhausting, mostly because there was music playing all night long outside my tent and at dawn the sewer truck would come through and do its thing and then the morning crowd would rise and shine and start playing music. I left Okemah around 3:30 and made it as far as Oklahoma City, about one hour, before I started nodding off in the driver's seat.  I checked into a cheap interstate motel and fell into a coma.

The next day I drove north towards the panhandle and was really taken with the wide-open landscape of farms and ranches and all of that red dirt they were singing about at the festival (Red Dirt Rangers were very popular). I stopped for lunch in Woodward, just a classic old West town and later, my sister told me we have cousins there. How about that. I'll have to go back again. What I did do was drive out to the Boiling Springs State Park and hang out in a shaded picnic area for a few hours. Got out my uke and sang to the trees. There weren't any folks around and it was quite pleasant.
                           Boiling Springs State Park, Woodward, OK

I met a great musician at Woody Fest named Don Conoscenti who is from Taos and he gave me some tips on where I might stay on my way into New Mexico.  I had originally planned to camp at a state park in the Panhandle but 1) no one I met could understand why I would want to go there and they had never been there and 2) it was too friggin hot. Instead, I booked a room at a 100+-yr-old hotel in Clayton, NM. Way out in the middle of nowhere I think you could say. Dry, hot, flat, rugged. These parts have not had rain in forever and most of Oklahoma has had over 100 temps for several weeks in a row. But they are the nicest people.

                                             Dog-Cat-Rat Man near Guyman, NM

I ran into this character on the road to Guyman, OK. He was heading for South Dakota. I had to stop and take his picture. What a character. You can Google him. I guess he hangs in the little house, too, but I tell you, it stank to high heaven from the animals. That's the engine in the back. It was all very bizarre. But then....

This sunlit cloud was right above me as I was leaving Oklahoma. I did have a wonderful time and developed an appreciation for its rugged landscape. So wide and open. The clouds followed me everywhere. Pretty sure that I will be back.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Woody Fest

I loved the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival! It was great fun to drive into an event not knowing one soul or even much about the performers and the venues. I had been listening to Jimmie LaFave for years and had seen his Ribbon of Highway tribute show to Woody twice and I knew that Jimmie had been with the festival since the beginning. I knew that the Guthrie family was involved and that there would be grandchildren of Woody performing. I knew that it might be hot.

I was most nervous about the camping spot. It was out at the rodeo grounds and there were already a lot of tents and RV's when I arrived Thursday afternoon. I pretty much randomly stopped the car to walk around and ended up finding a spot with shade and next to good people. Bruce, who had a pop-up trailer, moved his car so I could get my tent as close to the trees as possible. P.C. helped me stake my tent when the wind started up and offered me a cold one right away. Rebecca had her guitar out and sang like an angel. We did not find out that we were both music teachers until later. In short, serendipity kissed me once again.

I almost passed out from the heat after I got the tent up, though. I managed to get the cot up and find my chairs and then I just sat for quite a long time. Maybe it was 107 that day. It was 108 the next two. I probably would have heard a lot more music if it had been cooler. The daytime venues were in town, one on the main street and one 4 blocks up the hill at the middle school. The walk between could wipe you out. There was also an open mike in the patio behind the saloon on the same street but, the second day, when I went to check it out, I discovered that the AC in the bar itself felt so good that I would just hang there for an hour and visit with the locals.
                                          Butch Hancock performing at Pastures of Plenty stage

The evening stage area is called Pastures of Plenty. I needed a sun umbrella for the first set or two but, once the sun went down, it was so pleasant. What surprised me about Woody Fest is that there are not big crowds. The campground never felt crowded.  Everyone was so friendly - the performers, the concert goers, the locals. And the music was really, really excellent. That was the best part, getting to know a whole new group of performers. One of my favorites was John Fulbright, who grew up in Okemah. Another was Don Conoscenti from Taos. And the Burn Sisters.... they seemed to be able to pull 3-part harmony out of a hat.

                                 Don Conoscenti and the Burn Sisters at Middle School Auditorium

Impossible to tell all. I'm posting albums on Google but it's just the tip of the iceberg. If I run into you I could regale you for hours with stories and photos of this trip. My last day at the festival I was up at dawn to pack up before the heat beat me. Then I went to Woody's Hoot, which was a fundraiser for Huntington's and featured any performers who were still around. Woody's sister-in-law was in the house. One of Arlo's boys played. It was the icing on the cake. Then I drove around Okemah and walked a little bit to take pictures of some of the beautiful, old houses in the neighborhoods.  I will be coming back next year, for sure.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Joplin, MO

I was not prepared for the devastation I saw today in Joplin, Missouri. I had spent the previous night in Springfield and two different people made a point of giving me directions and advising me to go into the city and take a look. I felt like a catastrophe tourist and wasn't sure if it was right, but my friend, Alice, said just don't put a label on it... go.

It started with downed limbs and trees on the outskirts of the city and then, as I got off of the freeway, a few businesses closed down or with obvious recent repairs and signs that said BACK OPEN. But then I turned a corner and saw the swath of destruction that ripped through this town. I had to stop and catch my breath. It was like a horrible monster from one of those old Japanese sci-fi films had raged through about 6 or 8 blocks across. I took a few photos but felt so intrusive. Then I drove across, all the way to the hospital and parked up on top of the hill where nothing was left. Down below there were a lot of houses that were toppled, maybe never to be rebuilt but, up here, there was just nothing. There were flowers and photos and flags marking where family members had died. The hospital windows were all blown out. I was weeping and called Bill at work just to talk to someone. Wow. My little thunderstorm on the bay story didn't sound quite so tough now. I imagined the sound of the wind, the fierceness of it. Across the town I could see nothing but green trees and knew that there was a pretty town to be seen but I just got in my car and drove out of there.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cain's Ballroom

 The only set piece in my trip West this summer was the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, OK (his birthplace). I had passed through Okemah last summer one week before the festival and vowed that I would return. The first event this year was a fundraiser in Tulsa featuring Crosby/Nash and I had bought my ticket a few months back. I had also booked a room at a B&B that was just a few blocks away. I really didn't know much about either the music venue or the mansion but it ended up that I had given myself a real treat. This will be the crowning point, I think, of the first leg of the journey.
 My room was lovely, the home is enchanting and I was the only guest. Francoise, the hostess makes the croissants herself and gave me a menu to choose from for breakfast. Yum.  I immediately headed for the garden pool and swam off the pain and the angst both of driving and from my visit to Joplin. I will go back to those memories but tonight is special.
 Just a few blocks down the hill a whole different world (old, old part of town) was revealed and I eagerly parked the VW and looked for a place to get a bite. There was already a long line of folks waiting for the doors to open but it was over an hour away so I walked on and found The Hunt Club - Pub and Grub, strollewd and at sat at the bar and immediately started meeting people who were going to the festival tomorrow or who were native Tulsans and going to the show and they were all so friendly. I had a local brew - Marshall's - enjoyed the social atmosphere (I was thirsty!) and then headed back to the concert. I didn't realize that my ticket was general admission so now I knew why all those people had been waiting in line. I also did not realize that I was going to an historic ballroom where Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys held court along with all kinds of oldtime stars, including Hank but on into the decades. All night long people told me their stories of who they had seen there.
Well, I saw Crosby/Nash doing an acoustic show with David's son as the only other band member. Have you read David's biographies? The story of him meeting his son is rich. He added a third vocal that blended like fine wine to David and Graham. Half of the songs had the audience singing along and we wept and cheered at the sentiments of their anti-war, anti-fascist government lyrics from 40 years ago that seem oh, so relevant today. David is still angry. David is still mellow and both David and Graham sang like angels.

The hall was wonderful. I saw Jimmie LeFave in the audience and he told me I had hit the heart of Oklahoma. Hey, that's what he told me about Texas when I saw him at Greune Hall outside of Austin. I think I've got a little lucky thing going on. It was a wonderful night. I pub crawled a bit with the "mayor," on the folks I sat with and then headed back to the mansion. I had my own balcony, although it was still pretty hot at 1:00 am.

Now I am heading out to Okemah and I will not be online or blogging for several days. I will be sweating a lot and drinking lots of water. Afternoon concerts are inside, evening concerts out. Some of the music happens in a honky tonk of some sort. From what I hear, some of the best music will be right in my campground. And, you know I'll be taking part a little bit myself. Too much fun.

Adios, amigas and amigos.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Best Laid Plans

Now, isn't that just the cutest little cabin? It's at Babcock State Park above the New River in West Virginia. I had originally planned to pitch a tent at this park but the torrents of rain that just didn't quit talked me into a cabin instead. I sat inside the screened porch and enjoyed my dinner while the showers continued. I played my uke while the showers continued and when I tucked myself in to the bottom double-bed bunk and the showers were still continuing, I let go of the idea that I was a camping wimp.

My rule about camping is: I don't put up a tent unless I'm staying at least two nights. It's too much work. Of course, I only use a tent that I can stand up in and I like a few accoutrements like a cot and a chair and a table. I basically set up house. It's fun, it's comfy. Hence, I did not stay at Babcock State Park for two nights as was listed in my well-planned itinerary and now was a day ahead. A great reason to take back country roads instead of the interstate to get to my next camping destination, which I hoped would be Mammoth Caves Natl Park. Well, 9 hrs later and 100 miles farther than I thought it was, I made it but was completely exhausted.

Why, do you ask, didn't I just find a camping spot sooner? That thought occurred to me in mid-afternoon and I had stopped in London for a wi-fi check-in at the local Starbucks. As I was looking up Kentucky State Parks info, two Forest Service employees came in and I asked them where a good spot might be. They informed me that I had just left the national forest area behind me.They described Kentucky state campsites as a lot of RV's lined up in rows and they said it would be a "social" experience. Yuk. Couldn't I just go back to that little cabin in West Virginia? Well, I drove on, already really tired and decided that I'd get close to Mammoth Caves, stay in a motel and then I could go in early the next day and get a site. My first motel at a freeway interchange - you know what they look like.

9 hours of driving had its toll and the next morning I had the worst lower back pain I've ever experienced and it just got worse... meaning spasms everytime I used the clutch. Kentucky just wasn't working for me. Could I park the car and get a flight to California? Would Missouri be any better? Could someone please point me to a decent restaurant (culinary experiences to come in a later post)? I bit the bullet, got in the car and moved down the road a bit farther. It was Sunday, the roads were quiet and I had been curious about Paducah, KY. Unfortunately, an 18-wheeler flipped somewhere up ahead and stopped traffic cold for well over an hour and I was low on fuel because the last place I stopped for diesel the night before had an over-sized nozzle plus I really needed to pee. Things were not going well. Why would someone drive across the country by herself, anyway? But, I was still one day ahead of my itinerary.

I made it to Paducah following umpteen signs about their historic river district only to miss it and end up in the worst of freeway interchange strip malls. I am in pain, I am hot, I am hungry and all thoughts of a quaint inn along the Ohio River disappear as I check into the Thrifty Inn and then have dinner at a Texas Roadhouse (a rather new entry into the Olive Garden - Red Lobster - Chevy's - Buffalo Wings "upscale" dining experiences available across America). It was not a good meal. Is this post too long?

OK.... a good night's rest, swimming and stretching made me a new girl by the next morning. I only drove 145 miles today and am in yet another motel at an interchange strip mall. This one had a happy hour, however, with 3 free glasses of wine. I really am feeling better. I have crossed the Mississippi and have torn up my itinerary. I have no idea what I am doing tomorrow but I'm pretty sure I am still one day ahead of schedule.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Shelter from the Technology

I tried all day to get the photos from the thunderstorm that I have already uploaded to Google, just like I did all of the others that I have previously put on my slideshow for this blog, but, no.... that particular album just will not appear. If you would like to see the photos go to my Google link ( or checkout my Facebook page.

What is on the slideshow right now is my sailing trip with Bill from two years ago. No thunderstorms occurred. 

Once again I am sucked in, spending way too much time at my computer, but, yes, I will blog the summer sojourn.

A Chesapeake Farewell

This is my 9th summer on the East Coast and I am once again escaping. Yes, you true-blue readers from last year, I am driving across the USA for the second time, departing this Friday morning with camping on my mind. For my final voyage on the Rainbow with Willy until September, I was given a spectacular farewell by Mother Nature in the form of a magnificent thunderstorm. The slideshow tells the story better than I but do let me tell.

We have gotten a lot of sailing in this season and recently enjoyed a 5-day excursion south crossing back and forth from the Choptank to the Patuxent rivers. We had an idyllic respite on a creek off of the Patuxent with swimming, rowing, reading and a bit of painting and sail repair worked in between meals and naps. There was a rainstorm but nothing to cause alarm.

So, when July 4th came around we stayed in town until Sunday afternoon knowing that the wind was low and the crowds were high (Hey, so what if it costs $400 to fill the tank - let's party!).  Willy had been suffering from some kind of virus that actually caused him to use a blanket for the first time in weeks and when we hit the docks around 3:00 and he felt the breeze, he was glad to be back on the water.  We knew thunderstorms were in the forecast and that there had a been a big one the night before, but like he says - most of the time it doesn't hit right where you are and it's over before you can put on your slicker. He knows to get the sails down and ride it out and we have done just that a few time before. We headed out with good wind and no plan as to anchoring out or coming back in. On the way to Bloody Point, with excellent wind for that tack, we decided to anchor at Poplar Island for the night. Best decision we made all day.  As we were nearing the entrance from Eastern Bay the weather report racheted up to alarming. Sails went down, motor went up and we hoped we could beat the storm. (Note:  this is the second time that we have run in to Poplar to ride out a storm.)  Fortunately, we had just enough time. The anchor was set, the gray, canvas rain tarp was up and that approaching hulk of a cloud was above us with all the mighty wind that it could produce. The water roiled, the boat rocked, the rain tarp flapped but there was no rain so I stayed in the cockpit and took photos as the tarp sides rose up, straining the bungee cords to their max and lifting the sandbags up above the rim of the boat. It was over soon and calm descended, sunshine through the clouds, all is well.

The rest of the night was filled with fireworks, Mother Nature's and every community on both sides of the bay. I have to say, Mother Nature took first prize in strength, color and variety.  We kept the tarp up but I pulled my sleeping bag out for the fresher air and that's when the storm with the water hit. I was soaked with the first wave.

All was peaceful when we arrived back at the dock on Monday evening. Martinis on the lawn with our live-aboard friends, good music and conversation. We were lucky enough to be driving into DC just as it became a DMZ zone, not the first time that has happened. You get some good views of the national fireworks from up on Bladensburg Road but the stuff happening in the 'hood is where it's at.

I am checking off my travel lists and going all out for three more meals here at home before I head West. Let the blogging begin.