Tuesday, October 23, 2012


My walking buddy says she met a man who called himself a Possibilitarian.  When it comes to the divine, no one can prove or disprove anything, so anything is possible, he said.  I like the thought of that, believing in the possibilities. 

My husband Carl has always believed in the existence of the divine.  He believes that many chance occurrences in his life are evidence of the guiding hand of the divine.  As for myself, I have always considered good things in my life evidence that I am lucky.  True, much of what I consider luck could be the result of trying to do the right thing.  But how can I not believe in luck when I was born female in an age and a country where a woman could actually get somewhere by doing the right thing?  A Buddhist would say this is my karma ripening from the spiritual work of a previous life.  Who really knows?  After all, anything is possible. 

I believe it is possible that Carl’s Dad Fred came to see him right before his back surgery to tell him everything would be all right.  Why not?  Fred certainly was correct that things were going to be okay.  Things that have bothered Carl for years are cured.  Carl even calls it miraculous. 

This much I know to be true:  angels have been watching over Daisy lately.  During the days before surgery when Carl was in pain, he got an urge to take Daisy to the blessing of the animals on St. Francis Day.  We’ve never done this, so I don’t know why it was so important this year.  Maybe Fred was working on him again.  Fred dearly loved St. Francis’ prayer.  But an outing that day proved to be too much for Carl and the day passed without a blessing for Daisy.

Then two little miracles happened.  One, Girl Scout friend Rebecca volunteered to take Daisy home for a slumber party the night of Carl’s surgery.  I knew Daisy was loved and taken care of, and this was a gift.  Then, a few days ago, a letter came from Rebecca’s Mom in New Hampshire.  It read:

“I thought you’d enjoy seeing that I used a nice picture of Daisy from our Christmas visit in an ad I prepared for St. Andrew’s Blessing of the Animals.  Although Daisy wasn’t present for the event, I think you can consider her well blessed. “

Yes, Daisy has been blessed, and so have we.  With a little faith and many good people doing the right thing, anything is possible.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How the Medical Center is like Paris

Today I would be touring Versailles if not for the very necessary lumbar surgery that came up for Carl.  His nerves are so restricted that he can’t walk and today is fix it day.  A friend suggested we not cancel the trip and just take a side trip to Lourdes for a miracle in lieu of surgery, but before we could have gotten to Lourdes, god the Neurosurgeon is at work.

Carl came home from our summer of 250 miles of bike riding at elevation in Colorado to find he couldn't shift his standard Corvette.  Things deteriorated from that point to unbearable pain, lots of falls and total loss of his left leg. We met god the Neurosurgeon after a steroid pack, five steroid infusions and a steroid epidural failed to get Carl back to normal, these accompanied by three MRI's and a CT scan.   His neurologist made the referral and said that the surgeon had god status in the medical center.  I've chosen little g, and big N.  god the Neurosurgeon says he's pretty sure he can fix him. I'm counting on it.

I am struck by the beauty of the medical center not three miles from my home.  It has its own arch de triumph and fountains, le Metro, and The Sorbonne on Main just across the street.  Not Paris, but majestic in its own right.

After Carl gets wheeled into pre-op I take a walk on the Rice campus (the Sorbonne on Main) and just like an old timer marvel at the changes in the last 40 years.  Almost no open spaces remain.  I wander by the new Weiss College, on to Tudor Field house (didn't that used to be called just ‘the gym’?) and across to the Turrell sky-space installation.  From there it is an easy stroll to the RMC, where I could have stopped in the coffee house, the convenience store, or at the fresh Chinese food stand.  Instead I stroll into Sammy’s where Droubi’s Mediterranean serves a pretty decent hummus with fresh pita.  

I take my time wandering toward Main Street and pass an amazing temporary pavilion being erected for the 100th anniversary homecoming in the space in front of Lovett Hall.   After being temporarily distracted with this faux structure, I head toward my nostalgia stop, Brown Commons, to find it converted into a student health center.  The new commons is an architectural marvel, a three forked dining facility for Brown, Jones and Martel, separate dining halls all sharing a central self serve cafeteria.  Fresh fruit salad on the salad bar, can you imagine that?  Probably tastes the same in a week, but it looks more appealing than the one entrée food service of my past.  I enter the commons by tailgating on the kindness of a student.  Keys and pass cards are required for entry into the residential areas.  No more wide open doors.  Oh to have attended Rice in the coed era.  Guys and gals eating and sharing friendship is such a fine idea.

After a two hour walk, I settle back into the family waiting area looking at the Mediterranean Sea pasted over the windows, glimmering with back-lighting   I'm not supposed to get to the Mediterranean on my France trip till sometime next week.

If I don’t get any news soon, I’ll take a stroll down to the lobby of Methodist, which rivals most fine hotels.  Maybe someone will be playing the grand piano like they were the other day when we came for a myelogram. 

I’m struck by the tradition of the family waiting room.  Some patients bring an entire village along to wait.  I’m sitting by Chester’s contingent from Orange holding bibles and wearing Texas Temples windbreakers, and I can’t help overhearing their lawnmower discussion.   Somebody’s in the market for a new one and Chester’s brother, the only male with four women,  is recommending a trailer that works great for his riding lawnmower.  The lady chewing Nicorette listens intently to his advice while Grandma is looking as uncomfortable in the Methodist loaner wheelchair as Carl did the other day when I wheeled him all over for his pre-op visit.   They say Chester is here for colon cancer surgery and the surgeon got it all, but he’s having trouble waking up so they can talk to him.   Chester’s a lucky guy to have all these people cheering for him.

Sitting in the waiting room is a bit like taking an overseas flight.  We were required to check in three hours before boarding and were told there would be a delay of undetermined length.  Finally we boarded pre-op three hours and forty minutes later.
I’ve been on this flight seven hours now and feel like surely it is time to land.  I’m definitely feeling jet lagged.  Why we continue this waiting room ritual in the age of cell phones is beyond me.  Maybe the surgeons like the walk of triumph, strolling in to inform the family that the loved one is just fine and they fixed everything.    I think texting would be fine in the case of a successful outcome.  On occasion the news is not so assuring, but I have not witnessed one of those events today, thank goodness.  I can remember my mother reporting such news about a distant relative:  “They got in there and when they saw how bad it was they just closed him right back up and sent him home.”

I have a very strong urge to press a call button and scream, but that would wipe out all the merit I have accumulated being patient.  Only so much being still that I can take.  Instead of pressing panic,  I wander over to the coffee maker and select the flavor named Eiffel Power.   Then I check in at the desk and the concierge calls OR for me.   Some surgeons mind a phone call, some don’t.   Our god the Neurosurgeon is not on her no call list. The word is they are still working on Carl and he is fine.  Wow.  Long procedure.  The female anesthesiologist from Uruguay has a big job today keeping Carl just below the surface.  And I can see how there’s little pleasantry left for office visits at the end of a day like today.  Don’t care if the surgeon has no touchy feely in him.  Just give him good hands and eyes and stamina.
Eight and a half hours after our check-in, god the Neurosurgeon says he is finished.  Lots of work done on three lumbar to open up the space for the nerves.  The technical explanation with details does not follow.  Man of few words.

Carl will be in recovery about an hour.  Guess I’ll take that lobby stroll now and soon enough I will know if his leg works or doesn’t.  

POST SCRIPT:  god the Neurosurgeon was right; Carl is fixed.  Amen. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Unintended Consequences with Epilogue

A year or so ago, the city had a sale on rain barrels, only $55 for 55 gallons. It seemed very green to get a rain barrel.    I put it right where the valley in the roof pours rain onto the patio.  It is a big beige detraction smack in the middle of things, large as a pony but not as cute.

Collecting rain is no problem.   With only .1 inch of rain, the barrel overflows. Using the rain, that's another issue.

Last summer when I got a huge water bill I calculated how much a gallon of water costs and how much the rain barrel could save me.  When I did the math on the rain barrel, I broke even on buying it after I turned the water over 100 times.  I was definitely not using the water enough.

So I bought a $40 battery operated timer and about $20 in drip plumbing so the rain barrel would water all my patio pots automatically.  I was making progress on the turnovers. After a rain, my system would run for a couple of weeks before the barrel was dry. But with the extra investment, I now needed to turn the water over 200 times to break even.  That would be 400 weeks, not counting the extra investment in batteries for the timer.

Then it quit raining and I was preparing to leave town on a long trip.  What to do?  If the barrel emptied my plants would die.  So I bought another timer that fills the barrel from a faucet automatically.  Of course that timer won't know if it rains and I don't need water, but it seemed logical at the time.  It wasn't the only reason I bought that timer, and the extra valve for the rain barrel was only $15 more.

You see where I am going, yes?  I am never going to break even.   I am not sure the barrel will last that long since it already had a leak that Carl repaired. (Add $6 for a can of car undercoating he sprayed  inside to seal the barrel better).

For ecology's sake, I can live with the cost benefit futility of the rain barrel, but now it is causing me moral dilemmas. 

I noticed recently that the barrel was swarming with mosquitoes.  I could see hundreds of larvae in the water.  I pondered the situation.  I could drain it.  I could use it only in the winter when there's no mosquitoes and I don't need the water anyway.  I could poison them, but I don't like killing and pesticides.  Besides, I would be poisoning my dog and other creatures in my habitat who like to drink out of the saucers under the plants.   None of these solutions worked for me.

There was only one answer.  I bought a goldfish.  Only 13 cents.  But since the water in the barrel was being replenished with tap water, I needed de-clorinator also.  $6.00 for the small bottle. 

I put Mr. Goldfish in one night.  By the next morning, that guy had eaten 100% of the larvae.  What a super achiever!

But what would he eat between mosquitoes?  Suppose the word spread and the pests quit laying their eggs in the rain barrel?  Would I have to hire a fish sitter for the summer?

Back at the pet store, I found some vacation feeding cakes.  I bought about $20 worth that should last all summer unless he is gluttonous.   And I created a pulley system to bring the feeder up from the bottom of the barrel to refill when needed.  My wonderful housekeeper Rosa has promised to check his feeder and add de-clorinating drops.  No extra, she says.

I am not going to add to the break even analysis.  Seems pointless.  All that is left is to wrestle with my conscience over the death of thousands of mosquito larvae who would never have been hatched if I hadn't bought a rain barrel, nor dying before their first bite if I hadn't bought a goldfish.

And that is what is keeping me awake at night.

Epilogue:  On my return from vacation I found a missing fish and a very upset Rosa.  One day when she checked on him, he was gone.  It broke her heart that the fish walked away on her watch.  I can only surmise that with all the rain he swam out the overflow.  Probably right into the mouth of the neighbor's cat who took up residence in the yard while Daisy was gone.

And the rain barrel is leaking again. Won't hold water.  This time, no repairs for me.  I'm done with green rain barrels, mosquitos and fish.  And sleeping soundly.

Anyone need a six month supply of fish food?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Rules of the Road

Rule Number One:  If the map says gravel, it means washboard.  The map should also read NO RV's!!!

Most Coloradoans will be flying down the washboard road  in their four wheel drive vehicle, but for Teragram, max speed is 7 mph.  Even then, the entire cabin will be shaking and rattling like a jackhammer.  The 33 miles from Cripple Creek to Florence took close to four hours.  The scenery of Phantom Canyon is beyond description, with the road following an old rail line to the gold camps, complete with tunnels and shelf road turns without guardrails. (first time I understood what shelf road means: it's a tiny shelf on the end of a moutain).  For the passenger, the trip is either sheer pleasure or torture.  Depends on the tolerance for the feeling of falling over the cliff.  For me, more torture than pleasure.  I love amusement park rides, but they last 30 seconds, not three hours.

At the end of this drive, I made the not so brilliant plan to drive two more hours to Villa Grove Hotsprings, reachable by a 7 mile washboard road.  In the morning, Carl said he was about to drive his last washboard out of there.  He said that while I was clinging to the armrest for my life, he was visualizing all the repairs he was going to have to make from the shaking and rattling.

Rule Number Two:    Don't listen to the weather report.  It will freak you out.  If you are driving across Kansas and listen to reports of twisters, you still won't be any wiser.  Do you know what county you are driving through anyway?

When I listen to weather reports while traveling, I cannot wrap my head around the phenomena.  Hearing that a mudslide closed a highway I just traveled, or that there are rocks on the road somewhere just jingles my peace of mind without providing an alternative plan of action.  We drove through Cache la Poudre Wilderness right after it opened when the High Park wildfire was finally contained.  Two days later it rained and the burn scar turned into a black coal mud slide bigger than the ashes of all the chimneys in the Midwest the morning after Christmas.   Try driving into that.  I'd rather have a hurricane any day.  With a hurricane, I know it is coming for a week.  There's no surprise attack of a flash flood or flash fire with a hurricane.

Worrying about something over which we have no control is pointless. The best solution to the weather is to get up early and do what we want to do.  If it doesn't rain in the afternoon, we have a bonus time to do something else.  Like drive into a sandstorm.

Rule Number Three:  Easy is relative

When a hike is marked easy, my Texas mind thinks strolling in flipflops.  Not so in Colorado.  Easy means hiking boots and poles.  Easy means boulders in the path are no more than 24 inches high.  Easy means I will change elevation, at least 600 feet, during the hike.  Easy means being prepared to spend the night if necessary.  Moderate means I will have to chin up to get past a waterfall.  Strenuous, I'm not sure, since I would never ever consider strenuous.  Handicapped accessible is still universal.  Except at 10,000 feet, even handicapped is relative. 

But I can't go wrong if I prepare to the max and enjoy the views.  Colorado hikes are built for looks, not for speed.

Rule Number Four:  No middle ground.  Colorado is either a thrill ride or a mind numbing.

Most days I am gripping the door handle as Teragram careens around the mountain roads.  Occasionally, it is the opposite, talking Carl into staying awake through the San Luis Valley, akin to driving the San Joaquin Valley in California, sans artichokes.  

The draw to this valley includes three hot springs, The Great Sand Dunes, and a bike ride we flatlanders crave.  At the Sand Dunes is a ride advertised as flat and without traffic, stretching from the Visitor Center to the San Luis Wildlife refuge.  26 miles if we do the whole ride.  Flat, like Katy  rides with elevation.

With this view, there is nothing to do but pedal and count.  3 cattle guards.  17 passenger vehicles.  3 Rv's.  1 cattle trailer.  18 material haulers, all of them blowing me off the road and only the 18th one feeling the need to honk at me (I think the rider who said no traffic rode on a weekend without the material haulers).

Zero wildlife.

I recorded my best bike speed ever.  The ride gained about 400 feet over 8 miles, and on the return it was slightly downhill.  My speed averaged over 12 mph for the first time in my life.   Flatlander at 7500 feet, bring it on! I have grown lungs!

Rule Number Five:  put the cheap bike in the back.

Luckily, this is where Carl put the bike I am riding, which is worth about 10% of the value of his bike.  When he backed into the utility box, it bent the frame of my bike beyond repair but only totaled one of his rims.  His frame is fine.  Which is a good thing, considering how hard it is to find a titanium bike repair facility.  When he bent it a year ago he shipped it to Portland, where the shop seemed to be out of business when the bike go there, so he had to ship it back home. Then we took it to Chattanooga.  It's not an easy bike to fix and it is too valuable to throw away.

Carl is bummed.  I'm bummed that I wasn't spotting for him.  But in the end, it's just a bike.  I was considering getting my own bike that fit me this fall anyway.   My tour de France training has ended for the season, however.  

Rule Number Six:  depend on the kindness of strangers.

In five years as nomads, we have never had a mechanical breakdown till 60 miles into Poudre Canyon.  A belt shredded and took out the transmission coolant line with it.  We were disabled miles from nowhere.  Cache la Poudre  is a designated wilderness.  What a canyon. Within the depth of the canyon walls, there's no cell service.  

A good Samaritan fisherman stopped to help.  He took me to a call box down the canyon and waited for me to call AAA.   I considered calling AA too, but realized I really would want a drink when this was over and this was no time for abstinence.

Dave, I hope you are reading out there.  Thank you for your random act of kindness.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thoughts of an underprepared Girl Scout

If a trail is marked hikers only, horses are not allowed.  Seemed like a good idea to avoid the horse patties on the trail when I took the hikers only Bierstadt Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Rookie mistake.  I soon learned that if a trail is not good enough for horses, it's not good enough for me.  That rocky hike measured 3.6 miles on the map but 5.4 miles on my pedometer.  Tiny, slow, careful steps all the way, one rock at a time.  I whimpered a lot.

One  thing about a trail like this is nobody else wants to hike it.  I had it all to myself.  For three hours and twenty minutes.  And that gave me lots of time to think.

Like, what about bears?  Did the sign back at the ranger station say "stand your ground" or "step slowly backwards"?  I think I am supposed to stand my ground. That's a better plan anyway since I cannot outrun even a toothless old bear on this terrain.   And noise, I am supposed to make noise.  Don't have any pots and pans to bang.   What else can I do?  I remember that like a true scout, I have a whistle clipped to my fanny pack.  Good, I will blow the whistle at the bear.  Hopefully I won't see one so I never find out whether a whistle scares or just irritates a bear.

Times like this, I wonder how prepared I really am.  My boot sticks in a rock crack for a minute and I wonder if the National Geographic knife in my pack is sharp enough to amputate my foot to set it free.  If a giant thunderstorm hits, will my dry cleaning thickness plastic poncho keep me warm?  I really should get a space blanket, and next time I am in a camping store, I'll pick up those waterproof matches.  If I had started sooner, I wouldn't be wondering about afternoon storms.  Next time I'll get up earlier. I've gone through my peanut butter sandwich and a bottle of water, but I still have two power bars and another full water bottle.  Not enough to last for days, but surely I can live till the rangers find me and free my foot. Hope my power bars don't attract a bear.......

Luckily  my foot is caught for only a moment and I won't have to amputate after all.  Good to go through the thought process, just in case. 

These rocks are really slippery.  I could fall and break my leg if I lose concentration.  My years in scouting calm me as my mind rambles. I remind myself how prepared I am for emergencies.   I am positive I could splint my leg improvising with my hiking poles and maybe the bungee laces on my pack.  Back in my scout backpacking days, I fashioned a hiking stick from PVC.  Thank goodness I eventually upgraded to my shock absorbing Komperdells.  No way I could navigate these rock piles without them and they will definitely be easier to splint with than a tree branch.

I could use my bandana for splinting.  Every scout has a bandana, and I always carry mine.  How many of the 101 things to do with a bandana do I remember?  Hopefully all the survival ones.  I wish I had brought the bandana with all the first aid hints printed on it instead of the one with the trail markers. I don't need the trail markers because this trail is rocky, but it does have blazes on the trees.  They are about 12 feet off the ground, I suppose for snow shoe or cross country hikers.  This trail would be way less rocky under 12 feet of snow.  Wow, I hope I get out of here before the snow comes.  I did not bring any extra layers. 

I find comfort in remembering that I have my first aid kit, although I am a little fuzzy about what is in it.  Awfully small kit.  Probably no splint materials.  Bandaids and antibiotic ointment, probably.  Next time I should put some Prozac in the kit.  

I realize while hiking alone that I didn't bring the most important thing of all.  In scouting, we always take a BUDDY.   A buddy would sing with me as we hike. It's no fun doing hiking call songs with no one to answer me.  A buddy would make so much noise a bear wouldn't even dream of coming close.   A buddy would take my picture, so I wouldn't have poses like this:

Without a buddy on the trail,  the best alternative is to take the equestrian friendly trails.  Everybody likes to hike on those trails.  Families.  Dogs.  Seniors.  Lots of noise to scare away the bears. And I can hand my camera to a kid named Alex at the top of the hike to Lake Isabella, and he can take my picture.  Like this:

Here's my new buddy, Alex.

On the equestrian friendly trails to Emerald Lake, I might  meet Ranger Billy, who will also take my picture, like this:

My new buddy Ranger Billy:

See you on the trail, new buddies, wherever you are!

Friday, June 29, 2012

How I burned my nose

Ever since I got an iphone, I am on the grid all the time.    This summer the iphone just got better.  I downloaded an altimeter ap and now I know just how high we are driving, biking, or hiking.  I don't even even need GPS or cell service to know why I am huffing and puffing.  This ap works in ASTER mode (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection) when GPS signals are too weak.  This very minute I am typing at 7,592 feet above sea level, ASTER mode says. 

I love technology.  I know how far I have hiked from my pedometer, which measures accurately to a tenth of a mile over two miles.  Not only do I know exactly how far I have hiked, I can download my hiking data to my computer and create all manner of charts and graphs.  

When I bike, I wear a heart rate monitor that tells me my low, high and average heart rate for the ride.  It confirms that when I am only moving 5 mph in Lo Lo gear going uphill  that my heart is about to beat right out of my chest.  The heart rate monitor justifies getting off the bike and walking to the top of the hill.  Good tool to have.

The other day I was hiking uphill for two miles, which is not much by Colorado standards, but to me it is monumental.  I moved over for three people to meet me on the path.  One of them got out his phone and said to his buddy, "Put your finger on the camera eye."  He had a heart rate ap that measured his pulse by resting his finger on the camera lens!  I whipped out my altimeter and shared our elevation.  And I need that heart rate ap!

This spring my trusty camera died, and I bemoaned its passing.  Such a familiar friend.  Now I can't even remember it, so enthralled am I with the next generation point and shoot.  I haven't even watched the informational cd that came with it.  I just turned it on and let it take over.  The automatic function switches from macro to landscape to portrait without any prompting.  It is so SMART.  And the panorama function eliminated the need to load five photos into photoshop and stitch them together. Maybe I could take better pictures if I watched the tutorial, but I doubt I'll ever be smarter than automatic.

Many times when an old friend dies, like the camera, things get better.  I am glad my old laptop died.  This new one weighs maybe three pounds.  Lighter is better.  And when Carl left his Garmain out in rain,  he replaced it with the next generation.  Illustrations point to the correct lane as you approach intersections.  It warns us of upcoming construction zones and suggests alternate routes around trouble spots to save time.  It tells us if we are speeding.  Or driving on water.

This spring my left eye cataract reduced my vision to a blur.  Boy was this ever a good thing!  Now I have a multi-focal lens in my left eye, and the only time I use glasses is to work on my computer.  A few years ago I would not have had the multi-focal upgrade option.   I LOVE my bionic eye. It has taken over completely for my less than perfect right eye. 

So, with all this technology available, how did I burn my nose? It happened when I went off the grid.  Strawberry Park Hot Springs, north of Steamboat a few miles, is located in a canyon off the grid.  There's no electricity in the entire canyon except that produced by generators or solar power.  The pools are heated by 140 degree water coming out of springs on the hillside, water the Ute Indians bathed in long before a man developed the springs to their current level in the early 80's.  The owner kept them quite natural, with stone dams capturing hot water, and cool water from the creek mixing in to create temperatures ranging from frigid trout habitat to 108 degrees.

I was in one of the hotter pools, feeling like I was about to boil inside, and I made my way to the creek water spilling over a small dam to catch some cool.  I could feel the cool at the edges as I approached and plunged my face into it.  Ouch!  The edges were cool, the center was boiling hot.  A dam is not a mixer tap.

My nose is peeling like a sunburn, and in a few days, when it is no longer tender, I might get a high tech facial to finish peeling off the layers.  I stand humbled in the face of low technology.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Finally, after two weeks, I am breathing normally.  I can walk, bike and chew gum without gasping for air.  Since that first Colorado bike ride where five miles took 45 minutes, I now can't wait for my next ride.  I've ridden at Leadville, 10,600 feet, Buena Vista, 8,400 feet, Steamboat, 6,700 feet, Glenwood Springs 7500 feet, Denver 5200 feet.  I'm not much on hills, but I can do a little rise or two.  Bike paths are still my choice.  I'm not crazy about getting out on the highway like all the Coloradans do.

The Leadville ride deserves bragging rights.  It's the highest bike path in the nation.  Like Rocky Mountain National Park bragging about the highest paved road in the nation. The Leadville ride was uphill for the first five miles.  I walked a lot of it.

I feel really healthy.  Like an everyday Coloradan.  Normal is not easy.   I finally reached the high end of  normal body mass index after 35 years of BMI's that are considered borderline obese.  It took 17 months and lots of exercise.  But since I am finally high end of NORMAL, I think I can do things I would never have considered.   Tomorrow I'm going to try an uphill hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.  With all the normal people.  Can't wait!

Colorado's Burning

A new fire pops up every few days on the front range since we have been here.  Two of them are huge.  The area west of Fort Collins has been burning since we arrived, over 80,000 acres, and now Colorado Springs is overshadowing that one.  It has moved into populated areas and over 32,000 are evacuated, hundreds losing their homes.  A few days ago Estes Park had a fire (now extinguished) and eyes are on Boulder, the lastest fire.  We saw a fire one night in Leadville, luckily contained the next day.

A small inconvenience to our vacation planning, a huge loss to the people of Colorado.  

Maintenance Log 2012

Carl does something every day for maintenance.  I decided he deserved his own blog entry to keep track of this.

Our first maintenance happened before the trip started.  No refrigerator.   At first he looked at alternate causes, as in parking not level, but with those eliminated, I started calling repair shops.  Jill in Conroe was the only one who could take us sooner than a week.  I loved Jill.  In the end the source of the problem was a power converter.  Who knew we had one of those?  110 to 12 volt.  So glad this happened in the comfort of our home.

Last night Carl repaired a crack in the windshield.  Hopefully it will not spread.

This morning he removed the battery from my laptop that would not start up.

He has replaced the screw holds in the air conditioner cover with anchors since the original screw holds were stripped.

The windshield washer fluid dispenser tube came undone.  He clamped that back on.

A bolt fell out of the ladder.  He replaced both of them.

The window shade went flacid.  He fixed that so it raises and lowers.

The shade on the door has to be rewound all the time.  He did it once, needs it again.  My solution has always been a sign that says "DO NOT raise or lower this shade."  Carl prefers that it works.

When I put a movie in to play I discovered the remote didn't work.  The batteries had corroded.  Carl ordered a new one sent to our house for next season.  I just used the play button on the DVD itself until one night I really needed an enter button to choose english over french.   That's the night Carl used aluminum foil to jump start the remote.  A wonder!

Then another night the movie skipped to the end.  I inserted the cleaner disk without reading the directions.  Nothing happened.  Carl read the directions, and then cleaned the DVD player, and then the movie went smoothly.

Probably because of the refrigerator repair, the cover for the light bulb came off.  Carl put it back and it fell again.  Next the bulb fell out.  He ordered a new holder for the bulb, to be waiting for us when we get home.  No light in frig for now, but it's nice and cool in there.

I plan to ask him tonight to make the light over my bed work.  I am sure there will be something else tomorrow.  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Adults Only

Here in Olathe, Colorado, (need help with  Pronunciation?  ) the highest rated RV park in town is listed Adult Only.  I took my chances that everyone would be naked because Uncompaghre River Adult RV Park had the highest rated bathrooms in the area.

When we arrived we saw a crowd of fully clothed adults gathered under the pavilion.  The owner left the group to help us and explained it was 4:30 tea time.  Bring a beverage of your choice and join the group.  She also has coffee at 9:30 am.  Come on over.  And anyone can work on the jigsaw puzzle in the rec room.  She further explained that most of the population of the park summers here and winters in Arizona.  Adult means Senior.

I like Senior Parks.  The shower doesn't have sand it in from children playing barefoot.  The campgrounds don't have bits of chicken bones and powdered donuts for Daisy to find and be sick over later, nor cigarette butts in the fire circle.  I'd be willing to get naked for these perks.

By morning Ann the owner and I were family, just like all the other folks in the coffee club.  I complemented her on the gardens.  She said everyone works in them.  They come for six months and each takes a plot and keeps it up.  They need something to do, she says.  I asked if they grew corn in the gardens, this being Olathe.  She said No, no need.  There's so much corn in the area, they just buy a bunch and have a big roast.

I love Olathe corn.  When August rolls around, I'm in Kroger three times a week buying it.   I asked if it was time yet for Olathe corn.  Not yet, Ann explained.  Ron comes into town July 10.  He makes the ice to ship the corn.  Then about a week later, everyone starts shipping corn.  I'm assuming Ron stays at the Uncompahgre River Adult RV Park with the rest of the family during corn time.

In future years, when I buy my Olathe corn, I'll remember Ann and Ron and the family at the Adults Only Park.  I think it will taste even sweeter.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Scenic driving

So much gorgeous stuff here in Colorado!
The Blue Mesa Resevoir

Maroon Bells near Aspen, 14,000 footers, with a lake at the base.  Yummy little hike to a waterfall.
Glenwood Canyon from the bike path along the Colorado
Grand Mesa Scenic Byway
Cormorant rookery, City Park, Denver

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fear of falling

I can't start talking about this summer's adventures without telling you that I started riding with CLIPS!  I have been thinking of riding with clips for at least two years.  It's very efficient, since you push and pull with each stroke and your foot stays aligned correctly.

However, it is also VERY SCARY.  My foot is attached to the bike.  What if I have to stop suddenly and can't get unclipped?   Every one I know who rides with clips will tell a story of the time they forgot they were clipped in and fell over, causing a domino line of other riders to go down. The thought paralyzed me from moving forward to clipping.

Finally, I decided to try an old pair of Carl's clip shoes. I wouldn't have a big investment in case things didn't work out, and I chose spin class for my training ground.  If I couldn't unclip, then at least I couldn't possibly fall over.

After a few classes and lots of stupid moments, I finally had the hang of it.  But I was still terrified of hitting the street clipped in.   One morning Carl explained that if it was that hard, 14,000 riders on the MS 150 wouldn't be out there clipped in.  When he put it that way, it put the mountain I was making into molehill perspective.  So I asked to borrow his bike with clip pedals already on it and prepared to make my maiden voyage.

Carl  also suggested maybe I needed something on my knees.  If I fell, most likely I would scrape them.  I found my old self defense class knee pads and elbow pads and put them on. Dorky, but prepared.   

And I was off.  The power.  The smoothness.  The ecstasy!   I didn't fall that day, and so far, I have not taken the first fall.  I will, I know, some day when I forget what I am doing.  But until then, I am soaring!

I kept Carl's bike for my own. ( It was his hybrid backup, and who knows where I am going with this biking thing.  Too soon to go buy a bike fit for me.)  This move alone increased my speed by two miles per hour.  I'm not pushing the weight of my Auntie Em bike around anymore.  Carl is still faster than me, but at least we arrive at our destination within the same day. (I think he likes resting while he waits for me to catch up.)

Now that I have laid the groundwork for my new passion, let me tell you about my first bike ride at 6,000 feet above sea level.  Yikes!   I live at 50 feet above sea level and everything is flat, flat, flat.   When we got to Golden, Colorado, I looked up all the amazing bike paths in the area and found we could ride several staring two blocks away.

We took off on our chosen path, about three miles long. I intended to take it easy my first day at altitude. Should be able to out and back that one, right?  WRONG.   Check out the scenery and I shouldn't have to explain  further.

I made great time going downhill. As a matter of fact, I braked all the way down.  I'm a flatlander who might hit 15 mph down an overpass and my bike wants to go 40 mph.  I'm a freakin' clip newbie attached to a bike that could crash!  Brakes!!!

But uphill?  I huffed and puffed and downshifted.  When I slowed to 5 mph in LoLo and my pulse hit 160,  I got off and walked.  It took close to an hour to go five miles.  Silver lining?  No wind whatsoever.

Coloradans must have lungs the size of big helium birthday balloons.  Yesterday we drove up Lookout Mountain.  At the end of a workday, the biking community was out climbing to the top of the 7,500 foot mountain.   There must have been 100 bicyclists out for their evening iron man experience. The cyclists rode faster than we drove.

I stand humbled and hopeful, looking toward the Rockies and dreaming of the day I have big lungs too.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hot, gusting to 30

Monday morning I woke up to this view: Kansas prairie.  Elevation around 2000 feet. 
I walked Daisy on the Russell, Kansas flatland that morning.   Without scenery to distract me, I was free to wonder why the street names were Amy, Bruce, Barbara, Cecil, Edward.  Not quite alphabetical. Does that bother you too?

The temp was a bit warmish, but the 20-30 mph wind gusts kept me from feeling it.  Little House on the Prairie settlers, I take my hat off to you.  What an environment.  As a security guard at the Eisenhower Memorial said.  "Bright, hot and windy, that's Kansas summer".

You might be wondering how, with that climate,  Kansas attracted any people?  The railroad.

Abilene was the first of many Kansas cities to come into being as a railroad cowtown.  Just after the Civil War one of the early residents  promoted Abilene as a destination for cattle driven from Texas on the Chisolm Trail.  Cows were shipped east for food and west to start new herds in Wyoming and Montana. Abilene and then other towns on the railroad boomed.  In 1871 the largest cattle drive in the history of Abilene recorded 600,000 cattle driven up from Texas. I have a personal connection to this slice of history.  My great great grandfather is enshrined in the Texas Trail Drivers Hall of Fame in San Antonio.   I probably parked the RV overnight where he would have grazed the herds on the prairies south of Abilene before driving on to the auction and the train.  Wonder how he got any sleep with that wind blowing all night?

Winter wheat came to the area in the late 1800's by way of German Russian Mennonites.  Winter wheat is sowed in the fall and sprouts before the freeze.  Then it goes dormant until spring and is harvested the following summer.  The crop 's success pitted cowboys against sodbusters and changed Kansas from Cowtown into the breadbasket of the nation.

Think about that when you look at your sandwich at lunch today.  You might be eating Kansas Hard Winter Wheat.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Grass Roots Art

OMG!  What a town!   Lucas Kansas is beyond funky.  The photo above is their new public toilet, with a tank for the building and a seat out front.  Off to the side is a roll of concrete toilet paper.  This is a most fitting toilet for a town that is the grassroots art capital of the world.  The town only has 400 residents, but most of them do something artsy.  Almost all the artists began creating their work at retirement.

Grassroots art is not our grandma's water colors, but if she could create something with a little concrete, some spare car parts and a welding torch, she'd fit right in in Lucas.  Created by people with no formal art training, grassroots art uses ordinary objects and materials in unique ways.
Samuel Dinsmoor is the grandfather of the movement.  A civil war veteran who was a farmer and wildly progressive thinker, he started building this retirement home in town at the age of 64.  But the time of his death at age 89 he had not only finished this limestone log house but a city block of concrete figures called the Garden of Eden, his own mausoleum (where you can still look at his mummy) and a tourist attraction that has 7000 visitors a year.

The Grassroots Arts Center has works from over 30 artists on display, including this lifesize pull tab car. 

By the time I finished my tour of this little town, I was scratching my head.  What would I do to make my mark in the grassroots movement?  I have reached the age where my talents should be developed.  I just need to decide my medium.  Concrete?  Broken plates? Chewing gum?  Buttons?  Old tools?  Plastic bottles?  Barbie doll heads?  Trash from the river?    So many choices.  Can't believe I spent all that money on water colors when the medium of my future art is right there in my discards.

Presidential junkie

I adore past presidents, well, most of them, and especially ones like Ike.  My first presidential memory is I Like Ike buttons.  Does anyone else from Yoakum remember that they were pasted on the sidewalks?  I was six, so I could be wrong.

And Mamie.  Everyone loved Mamie.

It was worth a fifty mile detour to visit Abilene Kansas to find out more about Ike at his birthplace and resting place.  Above is the house he grew up in with six brothers.  His father worked at the creamery and then the gas company.  Ike too worked at the creamery for two years to help his older brother finish college.  They were working class folks from the poor side of the tracks.

When it was his turn for college, he got an appointment to West Point, giving up the dream of Annapolis because by then he was too old.

Ike came back from WWII a reluctant hero.  He never considered running for President, but he was sought out by so many grass roots campaign groups from both parties that he finally accepted the Republican party nomination. The museum has a movie on Ike that says several times that he never sought his careers, that the job always found the man.

As president, he was concerned with the large military industry that was growing at the expense of other needs of the American people, and he advocated for peaceful solutions.

Once again I left a Presidential Library impressed with the common man who rises to greatness and lives a life of duty.

Get your Q in Cushing

Cushing, OK is the Pipeline Capital of the world, so when they decide to have a cookoff, they PIPE the heat from a central fie tank.  What other way?  Welcome to BBQ and Blues at Cushing.  That's the Sunoco tanker smoker at the top.

Anyone in Oil and Gas knows that you also look to Cushing for the price of West Texas Intermediate.  The surplus or scarcity at Cushing drives price.  Not only are there pipelines, but acres of storage tanks.

But the real fame of Cushing is that it is the residence of my cousin Katy.  Thanks for a good time, Katy!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Waiting to chill

You can park your RV on the hill like this for a while, but leave it too long and the refrigerator will stop working.  That's what masked the refrigerator malfunction that has postponed our plans for Colorado Kool.   We thought we caused it by parking the RV on the slant  for several days.  Carl reset the frig and it started working again.

A few days later it stopped working again, and shame on us, we were three bubbles off plumb that time too.  Once more a reset did the trick.

The following day, when I started loading for our trek, we were dead level.  And the frig was dead, dead, dead.

I found seven service dealers for Norcold frigerators listed in Houston.  The most popular one could see us in 23 days.  Only one, an hour away in Conroe, would take us in the next day.  The manager's name ?  Jill. 

I felt an affinity for Jill when I talked to her on the phone.  Then I watched her skillful handling of Carl's engineering questions and was really impressed.  The girl knows her stuff, and she knows how to handle customers too.  She tells us what is happening about every four hours.  Turns out that diagnosing an ailing RV fridge is a process of bypassing one system at a time and waiting for the frig to run overnight or fail.  Translation:  several days.

Right now the unit seems to be cooling if they bypass all the power supplies and temperature controls and overrides supplied by the RV.  Maybe it's one of those things.  Jill's not saying till she knows.

Meanwhile, all the stops we planned in the next week have been told we are on HOLD.  I definitely don't want to drink warm milk all summer or spend a week at a dealership with Daisy while they run diagnostics. 

I'm comfy here at home with all my possessions packed in piles ready to load.  Looks like an episode of Horders.  We turned internet and cable back on for a few days and will hang till things are chilling again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This year's toilets

This year our Christmas gift to each other is to level the house.  Not as much fun as a new front sidewalk from last year, or a great window in the dining room the year before, or even the amazing super flush toilets that started this tradition.

But long after I replace the tile, replant the bushes, fill the sink holes that will remain when the dirt around the 18 new piers settles, I will enjoy the doors that open and close and lock, and the cessation of widening cracks in the wall, tile coming off the walls........A stranger walking in will not know the difference....but I will.

Till that time, my spring activity is set:  restore the landscape, tile the patio, patch the cracks, repaint the walls......take hot baths.......dream of a massage......

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What took me so long?

I spent five years on sabbatical from Girl Scout volunteering.  Guess I needed to cure my wanderlust when I retired, and I didn't want to commit to be in town for very long at all.  Then last year I decided to try my hand at being a Gold Award Advisor. 

The process hasn't changed much since Troop 2010 members worked on their Gold projects, just the names of programs. I have a job descripton, but I am not in charge of making anything happen. I wait to be contacted by girls in high school who are ready to start their Gold award. It's like the Eagle award, but bigger and better, I think.

So many reasons to do this:
  • To believe in the future
  • To mentor girls who WILL be making a difference right now and for the rest of their lives
  • To smile, laugh, and dream with girls on the verge of womanhood and life 
After a few months of hem-hawing about when to take the plunge, I got a Google phone number. I chose an email to use just for Gold award business. I finally put my name on the list.  And nothing happened for a while.
Then one night while I was watching TV reading my iphone messages I opened one from a stranger.

My first gold award candidate. 

What a keeper she is.  Mature.  Polite.  Social skills.  Passionate about her cause.  A true joy to work with.  I think the universe is rewarding me in advance for all the girls to come who might not be so mature, and that's a good thing for someone getting back in the saddle again. 

Here's a link to her blog.  Enjoy!

PS  Yes, technology is a wondrous thing.  Before we met, she googled me.