Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

January 30, 2008

Still Goal Oriented

Can someone please tell me where January went? One minute I was enjoying my "pajama vacation" and now the month is over!!

Brian's downstairs watching "The Unforgiven". It's not really my cuppa tea, so I thought I'd write a blog entry. Let's face it, I like my cowboys minty-fresh and these historically accurate period pieces make my stomach churn. I absolutely cannot watch "Deadwood" because of the filth.

I'm still going to the gym a couple of days a week, except for this week because of the snow. I usually try to go on Mondays and Wednesdays, for about 40 minutes. Because I've been doing the thorough cleaning of my house, that substitutes as my weekend workout for now, since I'm up and down the stairs and step ladder, washing walls, pulling furniture out, etc. Once the cleaning is done, I'll increase my gym visits to include a weekend day.

And speaking of cleaning, I'm still meeting those goals as well, and the back room, den, downstairs bathroom, laundry room and hall are sparkling. We had a snow day on Monday so I got those last 3 rooms done. Next, I will work my way upstairs. I can't believe how icky the walls are. I'm saving the worst room for last: the family room. We spend all our time down there, as do Beanie and Teacup, so it's pretty grody.

It didn't snow much on Monday, but it was enough to make early morning driving very treacherous. Usually when it snows at my house, it doesn't snow down below, but this time the snow was at sea level so it was bad all over. When I heard that Hwy. 410 in Bonney Lake was closed b/c of the compact snow and ice, I called work and said "see ya tomorrow". It's the first time since I've lived here that 410 was closed for the weather, although "old timers" tell me that was the case many years ago when it was still just a small 2 lane road. Yeah, I could have gone in to work at lunch b/c everything was melted, but screw it. I-90, one of the main east/west routes through the Cascades, was closed all day Tuesday because crews couldn't keep up with the snow removal and avalanche control. Traffic ground to a halt; trucks were lined up for 3-4 miles waiting for the pass to reopen today, crippling an already fragile local economy. They just get Snoqualmie Pass open today only to have another avalanche come across the roadway, and cover 2 occupied and moving vehicles. Fortunately no one was hurt. So the pass is closed again because they are expecting about 2 FEET of snow, per day, through the weekend.

Here's a WSDOT camera picture of I-90 today....see the cars buried in the avalanche? "MP50" means "Mile Post 50", and I-90 starts in Seattle with Mile 1, so this location is 50 miles east of Seattle.

This economy situation has me pretty concerned. I cannot believe the rate of foreclosures on all those bogus loans that were made a few years ago. I read a wicked sad story in the paper tonight that people are just abandoning their homes when they can't pay.....and leaving the family pet behind. Starving animals are found inside the houses or found dumped along the roadsides. People make me sick. How can you do that to an animal? Soulless bastards. At least new building & development has sort of ground to a halt, but not before the damage has been done. Have you noticed how expensive groceries are? I can't get out of Safeway under $100 a week anymore, and we do not buy that much food. But all the staple items like cereal, cheese, bread, butter, peanut butter, etc. are so expensive! The price of meat is insane. No wonder Americans are getting fat. The only thing many people can afford are the 10 boxes of Mac-n-Cheese for $1. Gasoline is fluctuating between $3.19 down to $2.99 a gallon; I heard it could reach $4 by summer, although Brian doesn't think that'll happen in an election year.

I'd like to say thanks to all of you who listened to Brian's show on Sunday, either live or on the archives. As of tonite, he has 1556 archive listeners, which are huge numbers. It was a pretty crazy show! I was proud of him for keeping his cool for as long as he did. I was listening downstairs on the laptop, horrified at the psychotic ramblings of Shirley Phelps Roper. We're talkin', Wack Job City, USA.

Work's been pretty insane, but we're getting by. I'm trying desperately to talk Steve out of having this attorney friend of his come to work in our office. At first, I was kind of on board, like this time last year, when I was terrified I was going to lose my job if we didn't get a second attorney to come into the office when Robyn left. But I've never liked this particular person, despite his being a good friend of my boss. I find him obnoxious, arrogant, inappropriate and abusive. Deb and I have been discussing what a mistake we think this will be, but despite her working for him over 30 years, she can't or won't speak up and tell him how she feels. So, being the big mouth that I am, it's fallen to me to work on Steve every chance I get, telling him to trust me.

He's told me so many times in the past that he'd wished he'd listened to me when I tried to warn him about clients, so I reminded him of that. Then he admits that he's been getting cold feet too and needs to call the guy and tell him no. But Steve hates confrontation. He's the kind of person who will stick his head in the sand, and when things finally do implode, he gets upset and says he should have listened to his gut, his wife, me, Deb, whoever! Well DUH. I told him, never go into business with friends. I told him I have a bad feeling about it and that the guy won't be a good fit. I already don't like the man, I don't respect him and if he does come to work there, I will not take his shit either. I just don't see the point of adding to our collective stress and emotional fragility by bringing this person into our office.

On a positive note, this weekend is the Antique Show at the Puyallup Fairgrounds. I go each winter and I have such a great time looking at all the old stuff. It's like being in a museum without having to pay admission. Sometimes I spend a lot, sometimes I don't. But with 450 vendors in the huge Showplex Building, there's something for everyone. Nice clean restrooms, a snack bar, and sometimes they'll even sell the delicious Fisher Scones, which is something you can usually only get at the Puyallup Fair in the fall. They're predicting snow at sea level possibly, but I don't care. If I have to hitch Beans and Teacup to a sled and mush them down to Puyallup, I will!! I'll be sure to do a blog post when I get back from the show.

January 28, 2008

Holy Crap, We're Here

On our last day of travel, to say that I was apprehensive, nervous & nauseous would be an understatement. We were about 4 hours away from San Francisco now. We were out of country, the highway ends at the Pacific Ocean, the road trip vacation was coming to an end and PLEASE can't we go back in time to, say, Illinois and do it again? I was trying to do whatever I could to stall our arrival because I was really, truly scared shitless. Sort of that "Oh my god what did I just do? We have no jobs, no contacts, no place to live and everything we own is in this truck" pit of your stomach feeling. So, when I saw that we were near Donner Memorial State Park, I begged Brian to pull off so that we could see it. We'd been making some pretty sick jokes about the Donner Party, whilst coming across the country. We joked that we should set up a souvenir stand in one of the rest areas and sell bumperstickers that said, "I ate my wife in Donner Pass". Oh boy we had quite a few yuks over that, lemme tell ya.

However, once we got there, and realized just exactly what those poor pioneers endured that winter, suddenly those bumperstickers didn't seem so amusing. If you can find the book called "Ordeal By Hunger", I highly recommend it. Did the Donner Party turn to cannabalism? Yes. But extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. They were dying. It became all about the basic human instinct of survival. That's Donner Lake, where some of the party camped.

This is a massive memorial; as you can see 6'4" Brian is dwarfed by it. The winter that the Donner Party was trapped, I think 1847 or 1848, the snow was as high as the platform on which the statues are placed. They'd stripped all the trees that were sticking up through the snow, so some of the tree tops still look a bit odd.

We left Donner State Park mid-morning, and the closer we got to Sacramento, the quieter I got. I was afraid if I opened my mouth, I'd vomit. Soon we were traveling through Vallejo and things were starting to look very familiar to me, from my 3 years of vacations in the Bay Area. Next thing I know, we were bombing down I-80 in Emeryville heading towards Oakland, and I could see San Francisco across the water. I put the window of the truck down and was hit by a blast of chilly air. After traveling through the USA in high summer, this cool air was quite a surprise.

We went through the toll plaza at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and began to cross. When we came out of the tunnel at Yerba Buena Island, and up on the suspension part of the bridge, my heart was pounding in my throat. My stomach was doing flip eyes filled with tears of joy....

....there is is. My beautiful City by the Bay. I was finally home. After 24 years of feeling like a duck out of water on the east coast, I was finally in the west. See the fog bank behind downtown?
We stayed at a really great hotel in Millbrae, which is in the South SF area, near the airport. It was afternoon, and we wanted to get a newspaper so that we could start looking for apartments. I'd done over a year's worth of research and fact finding, so I knew exactly what areas in which to live. However, I couldn't wait to get into the City and start showing Brian around, so I offloaded the car and we went up into town.

I took him to Twin Peaks so that I could give him the lay of the land. That wide strip of green in the middle which tapers to a thinner strip of green is the eastern end of Golden Gate Park and the tree lined Panhandle. The neighborhood between Golden Gate Park and that other patch of hilly green is the Richmond District, which is where we ended up living.

View of SF & Angel Island from Twin Peaks.

I also took him to 710 Ashbury, where the Dead lived for a few short months in 1967 but which has become part of Deadhead lore, and every Deadhead has to make a pilgrimmage to 710. The owners of this gorgeous Victorian home were always so gracious and patient. But if you buy a house in Haight Ashbury where the Dead once lived, you kind of have to expect Deadheads to be showing up all the time. The sign says, "Hi Jef, wish you were here, Love Jo & Brian".

And another legendary hippie home is located at 2400 Fulton Street, aka The Jefferson Airplane House, although in their day the building was painted black. The apartment we finally found, was not too far from the Airplane House.

It took us less than 2 days to find a place to live. The first full day in town, we started calling and visiting places. By 5 pm we both had splitting headaches and were exhausted and frustrated. We'd copied down another phone number on a "for rent" sign we saw in the Sunset District and Brian called, and found out that the apartment was in the Richmond District, so we went over.

We wanted this place, BAD. The rent was reasonable for a 2 bedroom - $800, including water, off street parking and washer/dryer in the building. We didn't have jobs yet and that was a huge stumbling block. However, Brian schmoozed the landlord, Bruce, who was a really nice guy. He took a chance that Bruce was into the 49ers, and since the Niners had just won the Superbowl, Brian said, "How about those Niners?!" After about a half hour of chit chatting, we left and went back to the hotel. Brian stayed in the room and I went to get some take out. When I pulled into the parking lot, Brian was waiting for me outside. Bruce called, the apartment was ours. To this day we still exchange holiday cards with our former landlords!!
Next day we stormed up to SF to sign the lease. We showed them our certified bank check which we would be using to open our bank accounts, and it was at least 4-5 months' worth of rent, so they handed us the keys and we unloaded the car. The following day we unloaded the truck and returned it to the UHaul downtown.
When you opened the door to our apartment on 20th Avenue, there was this long hallway with a skylight.
Which hall opened up into this light and airy apartment. The fireplace didn't work but that was fine. We had 2 bedrooms, one bathroom w/ a skylight, and the kitchen had a skylight too. It was in the back of the building, so it was extremely quiet.

And that's how we ended up in San Francisco. We were both working within 2 months and we were well on our way to our new lives on the west coast. Laissez Les Bon Temps Roule!!

Thanks for indulging me with my trip down memory lane, of that fantastic odyssey nearly 19 years ago. Someday, we will take another cross country trip, but this time it will be on old Route 66.

January 27, 2008

Desert Storm

Only 1 more state to go before arriving in California, and we were now officially on west coast time. Nevada is very, very arid and desolate so there wasn't much to take pictures of. We saw several "dust devils", which are small dust tornadoes that don't do any damage, but just swirl the dust around in a funnel. But the thing that we found really amusing was that along the highway, there'd be these little casinos at all the truck stops. Not a house for miles and miles, but always a casino at a gas station. We had a fairly decent payout from one of the quarter slots, enough for us to do laundry when we got to SF. We stopped for the night at Wells, in Eastern Nevada, and we were treated to 2 storms that day. The first swept across from the southwest.

We stood in the hotel parking lot and watched the rain come towards us.

See the sunlight behind the squall?

After dinner though, a much larger storm moved in across the desert, behind our hotel which I believe was east/northeast. I set up my tripod on the second floor balcony and aimed my camera in the direction of the storm, and left the shutter open with the hopes of catching some good lightning shots. It was actually dark out when these next few were taken, but I left the shutter open for so long that the sky looks light blue, but it was really night time.

This is one of my prized photos. Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a good picture of lightning when you don't know where it's going to strike?????

The next day was clear and hot, and we continued on through Nevada till we reached the small town of Verdi, which is a few miles west of Reno. We stopped at the Boomtown Hotel and Casino for the night. Although we lived in a motel in South SF for a few days before moving into our apartment, this was our last night on the road. Those green mountains you see are the east slopes of the Sierra Nevadas.

This was a really cute casino, and in fact we went back there on Memorial Day weekend in 1994. Of course my reasons for wanting to stay at this particular casino were two-fold. One, there was a kid's show that aired in the Boston area when I was little, called "Boomtown" with Rex Trailer and Sgt. Billy. I loved that show. The other reason was that I am a huge fan of the Boomtown Rats.

Next: Bound for Glory

January 25, 2008

Wyoming and Utah

The weather improved significantly for the last few days of our trip west. We left Denver, but because we didn't want to have to drive the truck and car transport over the Rockies, and because I-80 terminates at the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, we took Highway 25 north from Denver to Wyoming to pick up I-80. That way we would limit our mountain driving to just the Wasatch Range in Eastern Utah and the Sierras in California.
Our first stop along the way was to see Tree Rock. This is a photo of it taken in the 1800's, along with the story below, which I got off google.
Lincoln Highway at the Tree in the Rock
"In the spring of 1868 when the Union Pacific was being constructed west of Cheyenne, the surveyors came across this struggling small tree growing out of a solid boulder of 1.43 billion year old pink Sherman granite. The railroad was relocated so as to preserve the tree. Locomotive engineers would stop to water the tree. In 1902, the railroad was relocated so as to avoid the steep grade at Sherman Hill and the necessity of double-heading the locomotives up the grade from Laramie. The old rail grade continued to be used as a wagon road. With the opening of the Lincon Highway, the old grade continued along the same location. Today, I-80 continues along the same route with the tree in a wayside park located in the median."

I've no idea what that red spot is on the photo; it's on the negative too.

I did not take this next photo, I found it on google images. I didn't have my camera ready when we passed this same sign on I-80 in Wyoming and we never saw another one. But it came as a real surprise to Brian and I that we were at 6,930 feet, crossing the Continental Divide, and, as you can see, there isn't a mountain in sight. My only frame of reference at that point in my life was Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, which is the highest point & mountain in New England, at 6,200 feet. I went to the summit of Mt. Washington once and the view was amazing - we could see all the way into Maine. Yet here we were, 730 feet higher than Mt. Washington's summit, on flat prairie land.
Of all the states we passed through, I would very much like to go back to Wyoming and spend some time traveling in the western part of the state. The buttes and mountains are unreal. If I had known how amazing Wyoming was, I would have planned to stay a day extra and explored.

We finally stopped for the day in Green River, WY, about 3/4 of the way across the state. This butte is called The Citadel and it was right behind our hotel.

I admit to having a really overactive imagination. I think anyone who was brought up as an only child learned to live in their head a lot, so I find it extremely easy to look at things like this butte see and what it was like before "Manifest Destiny" ruined the west, see the Lakota and Cheyenne's peaceful villages before Custer and the rest slaughtered them and the buffalo (but that's a rant for another day and time). I could have stared at this butte for hours and hours and let the visions of those bygone days entertain me.

I found this photo online of Green River in around 1865 as the railroad was being built.

The next day, we were on the road and had planned to stop in Salt Lake City. But first we had to slog up the east side of the Wasatch Mountains and that was reallllllly slow going in the truck. I don't think Brian was able to get the truck past 35 mph. It was a beautiful area though.

This was our first San Francisco sign. I was both elated and scared shitless. Uh oh, we're nearly there......we're not just on a road trip, we're running out of country fast and we have A LOT of work to do at the other end..... On the other hand, I was beaming because I was getting close to home!!
When we dropped down out of the mountains into the Salt Lake area, there were just too many highways zig zagging all around us and the city didn't look all that impressive, so we decided to bag getting off the highway. It had the potential for disaster with all those on and off ramps, so we kept going west and decided to stop at the Great Salt Lake instead.

I am not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't this. It ain't no Lake Tahoe, that's for sure. And lemme sum up the Great Salt Lake for you: P-U. Stinky. Smelly. Briney. It just reeks of sulphur. We met up with a VW bus of Deadheads at that rest stop. We were comparing '89 Summer Tour notes and set lists, when the girl surprised all of us and waded in to the lake to dunk her head. Her travel mates, Brian and I were like, "ewwwww!" But she laughed and said that she had to do it to say that she'd done it.

Desolate. Depressing. Oh and did I mention that it smells bad too?

What I found far more interesting was the Great Salt Desert. Just this flat, bright white plain of salt on both sides of the highway for about 80 miles. The other thing that was cool, was that other travelers had stopped and made designs or wrote stuff with rocks placed on the hard salt plain. There were peace signs, hearts, initials, the occasional swear word, etc. At least it gave me something to look at because it was pretty monotonous. The famous Bonneville Salt Flats are located in this area and a lot of car commercials film there as well.

Next: Crossing into the Pacific Time Zone

January 24, 2008

The Old Barn and on to Colorado

On the way to Gorham from Russell, we passed this old barn along the side of the road. I wish I'd had black & white film at the time, but I did the best I could with the colour film.

The next day, we got up pretty early so that we could hit the road and get to Denver. This is the sunrise behind our hotel in Kansas.

Oddly, I found Eastern Colorado to be much flatter than Kansas.

Denver is known as the Mile High City. Brian was under the impression that we would be able to see "the lights of Denver" from the Kansas prairie. The night before we left, we took another drive out into the pitch dark night. We got eaten alive by mosquitos, but alas, we didn't see "the lights of Denver" way in the distance. Nevermind the fact that we were about 450 miles away and the earth is round.....

But anyways, what we didn't realize is that, yes, the elevation of Denver is 1 mile above sea level, but it's such a gradual incline that you don't really notice it. It's not like Denver is located one mile in the sky above the plains. The Rockies were still quite far to the west of the city and because the weather was so crappy, we couldn't even see the mountains once we got to Denver.
We stayed in Colorado for a couple of days. Laundry needed to be done and we were pretty tired. And I was sick. Back when I was much younger and didn't eat the high fibre diet I do now, my, erm, "plumbing" would get a bit stopped up every time I traveled. I was in agony by the time we got to the midwest. So, at a truck stop, I bought some Feenamint, which was supposed to be a "gentle" laxative. Maybe it is....but not when you cram your mouth full of them in the hopes of blasting things loose. And blast loose they did in Denver. It's not often that I'm 100% confined to bed, but that was one of the few times I stayed in bed, unless I was dashing to the can.

Denver is not that impressive of a city, so we did absolutely no sightseeing there, other than driving past Mile High Stadium. The following day I was much better so we bopped on down to Colorado Springs. Of course the weather couldn't cooperate. I was not a happy camper. It was damn hot though, in the high 90's, but completely overcast.

First thing we did was find our way to the Pike's Peak Auto Road and start heading up. I was driving. Remember, we were able to offload the car so of course we didn't take the UHaul up the mountain!!!

Once you get to a certain elevation, they actually have a place where they check your brakes to make sure they aren't burning up. At that point, the road becomes gravel all the way to the summit. I am not sure if it was a blessing or a curse that the clouds were so low on the mountain. On the one hand, I was really pissed off that we had no view from the summit whatsoever. On the other hand, had it been a clear day, and since the road has no guardrails, I might have completely freaked out if there had been a view. As it was, I couldn't see 5' in front of the car and I was terrified I was going to miss a curve and drive off the edge.

So we FINALLY get to the summit after a long, arduous drive, and get out of the car. Imagine our shock to find it 36 degrees and sleeting, when it was extremely hot down below. Luckily I had clothes in the trunk of the car and I was able to change out of my shorts.

Note to Julie: Does it count as bagging a 14'er if you drive to the summit instead of climb?

Of course we brought Mooey with us for a Kodak Moment.

My poor car was just trashed from the trip up, and vapor locked on the summit. We were stuck up there nearly 2 hours. I was extremely uncomfortable in that altitude. I thought I was either going to be crushed alive or pass out. The only place we could keep warm was the gift shop, so we hung around in there for a long time, and attempted to eat some lunch. We finally walked over to the ranger's building and asked for help but all they could do was suggest we pour water on the engine and hope that the car came back to life. Luckily it did and we headed back down to see more of Colorado Springs.

See the train trestle?

Then we went to this place called Garden of the Gods, which had all these cool red rock formations. Colorado has a lot of red stone. There's an amphitheatre in Morrison, near Boulder, called "Red Rocks" too.

There's Mooey in a little cave.

After we were done in Colorado Springs, we decided to drive to Cripple Creek, since it's one of our fave songs by The Band. It's not the same Cripple Creek in the song, of course, as that song takes place in Louisiana, but still, we liked the name so we decided to drive down there. It was "only 30 miles". We figured it'd take 30 minutes. Wrong. We forgot that we were still in the mountains, so that 30 miles took us about 90 minutes, one way. By the time we got to town at around 5:00 pm, everything was closing for the evening.
I call this picture "A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one", which is a line from the song.

Downtown Cripple Creek, your quintessential Rocky Mountain mining town. Too bad all the shops were closed. Because it is, after all, all about the shopping.
Next: Wyoming, or, Crossing the Continental Divide with Not a Mountain In Sight