Sunday, August 31, 2008

Little Big Man

Sorry I have not posted much lately. I just have not been feelin' very blog chatty. We have left Billy's family and moved out an hour or so west to my friend Brook's ranch. Brook was my best friend when I was a little kid. She lived next door and we had sleep overs almost every weekend, collected stickers together and did the usual basic dumb kid stuff together. When we got a little older (meaning around the 7th and 8th grade) we started sneaking out at night with other kids from the neighborhood and we would all creep around in the woods feeling like we were getting away with murder for being out in the wee hours of the night. It was good times. I have a lot of fun memories from those days.

Brook and I had not seen each other in twenty years (groan.... we are getting OLD) and we have been looking forward to hooking up once Billy and I arrived in California. So here we are. She and her husband Mike and their two girls Riley and Taylor live on a huge cattle ranch near Napa Valley. It's just beautiful. We are spending the week with them before heading to the coast.

Last night Billy, Rudy and I walked the ranch in the late afternoon. I think it's like 300 acres of land and obviously there is a herd of cattle roaming around on it. We had an escort for a good portion of the walk which you can see represented in the new banner up top. That is a picture of me screaming at Rudy to leave the cows alone. He was right in their face barking like a mad man. They pretty much did nothing about it but I was worried one of them would turn around and give him a good solid kick to the face. So there I am yelling my head off and all three animals are standing there quietly regarding me as though I were nuts. Nice. Maybe I am nuts. Rudy seems to think he is quite capable of taking on these animals which are 42 times his size and weight. Like he is the bad ass cowboy who just rode in on the ranch.

Rudy is having a blast here so far. There are two other dogs... Buddy and Presley. Presley is a working cattle dog and Buddy is a giant old goofball. Rudy and Buddy made instant friends in such a way that it was just plain stupid to watch. I will try to grab a few pictures of them today to share on here so you can see what I mean. Mostly they chase each other around in circles, around a car or the yard or the sofa or around you or me or anyone or thing that is near them. Buddy has a long beard sort of in the style of an old Chinese wise man. Dogs are funny.

Billy is really stoked to paint the landscape here. He is starting work on a scene today. This is the California stuff he has been wanting to paint for years. I am so glad to have the chance to visit with my oldest friend (not that she is old... it's that we have known each other so long... duh.) It should be a great week. I will try to post lots of pics. I hope y'all are having a fun three day weekend here in the states.

Friday, August 22, 2008


So we have been in Cali for a week or so now. We have been talking about getting out here for so many months that I am thrilled to finally just be here. We drove in through Reno and down out of the mountains in to the Sacramento area where we are staying with family for a few weeks before we go settle in at Big Sur for the winter.

This area of California is where they grow everything! EVERYTHING! I bet you did not know that everything came from one place... but it does and it is all right here. It's called the delta region and it runs along the banks of The Sacramento River all they way out to the bay area near San Francisco. The roads are all built on top of levees and for as far as you can see it is pear orchards or safflower fields or something else edible. It is still quite hot here during the day (90's and sometimes over 100) but at night it dips nicely down in to the low 60's with a great breeze.

We have the peanut parked in the drive at Billy's Dad's new place and we have a pretty good amount of shade for most of the day so that helps keep the heat at bay until late in the afternoon.

We have had more emergency vet visits with Rudy while here and these have been pricey ones including x-rays and probes and pills. While staying at the Dude Ranch in Utah Rudy sustained a few injuries... a fox tail in his paw which became infected and he sort of blew out his back left knee from playing too vigorously for three solid days. So we have had to deal with this...

They actually told us to keep him on crate rest for one whole week. Yeah. Crate rest. For a week. Because Rudy will so gladly be zipped up tight in his hot little crate and lay still for a whole week. So that part has been difficult. I took him back to the vet yesterday for a re-check and the guy said we could ease off the cone and see how he does with leaving his paw alone. So far he is doing OK. We also have to give him pills twice a day and it has become increasingly impossible to do. No matter how you try to disguise those pills he knows they are there and will not eat them. We have tried cheese, sausage, chicken, rice... finally the only thing that works is to glob them up in a wad of peanut butter and stick it to the roof of his mouth. But even that trick is beginning to fail as he has developed an expert way of mashing that wad of PB right out of his mouth. Sounds pleasant eh?

OK. I will leave you with some pics. We went to the Sacramento farmer's market on Wednesday and it kicked ass. We bought a ton of stuff and it was all so wonderfully delicious. I will even go so far as to say it was... magically delicious. We got a peach that was 13 inches in circumference. Ridiculous!

Here's a couple of shots of Billy with his little sisters Coco (Caroline) and Lauren shootin' some hoops out in the drive way from the other night.

And here is what Rudy was doing while they were playing B-ball. He felt very left out and sulky. He literally sat down with his back to them and shot the occasional sad look back over his shoulder. Poor little Tootis.

Anyway... we are having a great time visiting with the girls. Coco is so funny she gets me laughing so hard that I make the ugly cry face. It's weird to see them now as teenagers as they were just little kids (around 6 and 8) when I first met them. Lauren will be driving before the year is out so watch out America.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We Are Still Alive Out Here. I have pictures to prove it.

Hi all... sorry I have been absent from posting pics and stories for a stretch here. We have been so busy hiking and doing stuff and then I am so tired at night I just have not had the gumption to write a post.

Here is a quick run down of where we have been... we left Monument Valley and went up for a two nighter in Kanab, UT. Not much to say about Kanab.... it's a weird little place. If you ever happen through there eat at the Rewind Diner. It's legit. The surrounding landscape is really pretty it's just a real simple, small town. After Kanab we drove the short distance up in to Zion National Park. Now THAT is a place you have got to see. It's amazing. We spent five days there. Rudy stayed at a place called "The Doggie Dude Ranch" over the weekend so we could get some real long hikes in (no dogs allowed in the park or on the trails.) My only complaint about our time in Utah so far is this... CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TURN OFF THE HEAT???? And by SOMEONE I think we all know who I mean....

Good grief, people. How can you even live here? It's like some kind of human torture device this place called UTAH. 100 degrees every ding dong day. I am starting to freak out for a day that stays below 95. Anyway... we stopped off at a state park called Coral Pink Sand Dunes and that was supah dupah cool. Here are some pics from the walk we took....

It had just been raining so I think the dunes are a bit darker in hue than they would normally be. But what a cool place, no? It was fun. Rudy had a blast running loose and digging in the sand to his heart's content.

Here are a million (or so) shots from Zion. And NO... I am not sporting a record breaking sunburn. It just looks like it in every single picture because of the reflection off the red rocks.

This next series is from an ASS WHIPPING hike we did up to Observation Point. It was one of the best hikes we have ever accomplished but people... if you are gonna do it wait til a day that is not 98 degrees. It's 8 miles round trip with a 2100 foot gain in elevation via 4 solid miles of switch backs. Bleh. But the views are ever changing and mind blowing the entire way.

Nothing is more reassuring than huge rocks having fallen right down on the trail.

Look closely and you will see the zig zag of the trail cut through the scene... this is only a small portion of the lower trail taken on max zoom on my camera from the top.

Lower trail view...

These pics are going to be totally out of order here but I am too lazy to fix it so... This is a view from up top on the plateau approaching the look out point.

This is the inner canyon portion of the trail, getting higher up...

And this is the inner canyon... not visible unless you come up about 2 miles on this particular trail...

There I go disappearing around a corner...

Cool trees in an inner hanging canyon...

Almost to the top! The sky was beautiful really adding to the scene...

Billy at the point where you can go no further unless you fling your junk off the cliff.

The western rim above the Virgin River...

And me at the end of the line... whew! Not too shabby of a view. It was worth it.

Another neat thing that happened was that we both ran out of water up on top of the plateau with a 4 mile hike in full mid day sun left ahead of us to get back down. 98 degrees... no water, 4 miles of trail sloping down before you. Good times! That is something I never hope to experience again. By the time we hit the bottom I was like a zombie who just wanted water instead of the more traditional refreshment, brains. It wasn't pretty. We got on the shuttle bus (the only way to get around this part of the park) and seriously... every fool on that bus had a big, full, icy cold bottle of water. It was torture. It's the closest I have ever come to attacking a total stranger and stealing from them. I wanted their water but we had to wait on a steamy, hot, stinky bus, through 4 stops until we hit the visitor center. The water I drank there was the best I have ever had in my whole life. End of story.

One last tid bit. Zion is hoppin' with some creepy crawlies come sun down. On our last night without Rudy we strapped on our head lamps and set out to see what we could see. We were not let down. Here are the people we saw along the way... and a few groovy night exposure shots of the Watchman area of the park.

OK! That's a crapload of pictures eh??! Holy mackerel. Hope you enjoyed it. We have a two night trip across northern Nevada and then we will be in California which is where we will be for quite awhile. At least through the winter anyway. I will post again once we get settled in there. Adios.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Wild West

So! We jumped out of bed on my birthday, had breakfast and decided to go on a back country driving tour (of our own made up planning based on nothing real or factual) of Navajo lands west of Monument Valley. We drove off down a dirt road that we knew would eventually meet up with some other dirt road somewhere and so on and so forth. We have a GPS system so we just program the campground in as home base and we know we can always find our way back. This can be a really fun way to spend the day... just driving at random all over the back roads seeing what you can see. Yeah! It can be really fun! Exceptions to this "really fun" situation can be listed off as follows... 1. It's 103 degrees outside. 2. The dirt road quickly turns to soft sand. 3. Your 4 x 4 truck which is built for these sort of conditions GETS STUCK IN THE REALLY SOFT, DEEP SAND. 4. You are in the middle of nowhere. 5. Rudy is with you. 6. Several people in trucks drive by over the course of an hour and ignore you even though you are trying to flag them down. Here are some visual aids....

This one here is the oooold Navajo technique of using a Rubbermaid bin lid and dry old sticks to try to get your tire out of the sand.

This situation pretty well sucked. We tried everything to get out but it was futile. It seemed like everything we did wedged the back right tire deeper into the pit it was in. At one point we decided I should walk out and try for help or to get to an area where I could get cell signal and call for a tow truck or something. So I started walking. I got about two blocks down and decided I was scared of dogs. We had passed 3 or 4 homes on the way in and if I have ever seen places where loose dogs that may bite you would live these places were it. So I rejected the walking out plan. We could not really all walk out together because the fragile flower that is Rudy would have died in the heat before we got to the bend in the road. We tried digging the tires out with our bare hands. That was neat. Billy burned his hand on the exhaust pipe and I started to feel distinctly like I was going to puke from the heat. I was also continuously spouting off comments like.. "We are never gonna get this truck out of here without help. That will never work. This is pointless. No one is going to help us. The buzzards are starting to circle." These are the moments when I am sure Billy loves me most.

Eventually another truck was coming down the way so I set myself on fire and laid down in the middle of the road to keep them from driving by. After a few minutes of silent, stoic observation of our situation (and me hopping up and down like an idiot beside the drivers window begging for help) it was decided that the man would go home and get chains and his son and come back to get us out. After almost an hour they returned armed with shovels and chains and knowledge of these sort of situations that we ourselves do not possess. Within ten minutes we were out. The guy told us how to get back down the road and what areas to avoid so as not to get stuck again. As it turns out there was a two track bypass that most people choose to drive on in the spot where we got stuck. We just did not see or know that it was there.

This is one of the dudes who helped us....

We went back to the trailer totally covered in sand and red dirt and sick from the heat. We took showers and then laid around for a few hours. It was a real kicker of a way to spend the first part of the day.

In the late afternoon we headed over to the tribal park (Monument Valley) to do the loop drive. It was a zoo over there compared to how quiet it was the last time we were here. We did the drive and were as awe struck as before. It is a bone jarring drive... really bumpy and full of pot holes and rocks, so by the time we finished and came back home we felt like we had been in a train wreck. I went to bed with my hair so full of red dirt and sand it felt seriously creepy. I did not even care. I just wanted to sleep!

Here are some pics from the drive...

Thanks to everyone who sent Birthday wishes. Year number 36 is off to a grand start. Tomorrow we leave for Kanab. The drive from here to there is really pretty and only about 200 miles. We are going to hang out there a couple of days and check out the Coral Dunes State Park.

I leave you with a photo of my new jewelry purchases from the peeps selling in the tribal park. Good stuff! The necklace that hangs the lowest is made from petrified wood! It's my new favorite.