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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Windy Colorado

The day broke bright and sunny as we left Cheyenne at around 825 at 27 degrees. Took a picture of the gate and its relationship to our motel window and continued on our way South to the scene of yesterday's accident. The snow on both sides of the road was gouged by multiple tire tracks in every possible direction giving testimony to the scene of skidding vehicles almost into the Northbound lanes and almost through the fence to the service road. It must have been horrific, especially with the full trucks across the lanes of travel. What was left of them was unbelievable. Gratefully, we drove by on wet but not terribly slick roads.

Within a few miles we entered Colorado, the last of the lower 48 for me to travel. The visitors' center lies 31 miles away from the state line in Ft. Collins, which was rated the most desirable American city in which to live several years ago by ? Maybe NatGeo Travel or some such magazine. I do remember that it was rated on excellent schools, cultural activities, employment, cost of living, crime rate, weather etc. Unfortunately, from an interstate it is difficult to even see the physical aspect of the town. We stopped at the center and chatted with the two ladies on duty--both of whom seemed happy to have warm bodies stop by. They said were it summer they would hardly have time to say hello it is so busy. Picked up a Colorado map, which I had not sent for, not expecting to travel this way. I'd had the Nevada packet sent to Betsy in Bozeman and, of course, forgot it. But Nevada is not on the agenda this year after all.

Not much farther along we suddenly noticed that the snow had disappeared--totally and that the mountains running parallel with us on the west side were also pretty clear of snow. A very strong wind was, however, rushing down their leeward slopes and across the flat valley trying very hard to send us Eastward into Kansas! We struggled with this wind the entire trip through Colorado. As a matter of fact, at the Shamrock station where we stopped for drinks, Bill almost could not open his door against it and when he got one leg out had to struggle to prevent it from being crushed by the door.

I-25 is a corridor of subdivisions, a few ranches, lots of business buildings and malls from just south of Ft Collins all the way to Pueblo. Denver, like Boston, extends out to meet you miles before the city center and remains with you miles after you've left it in your rear view mirror. I noticed the tollway loop around the city and perhaps that would have been a better way to go. Never having been this way before I wanted to see the skyline. The mile high city is not a city of high buildings. Perhaps that awful wind has something to do with that. There is a municipal train system that feeds along I-25 into the city from North and South but few people were on the station platforms or on the two trains we saw, rather the populace appears to prefer driving. At Colorado Blvd we were in stop and go traffic for about half an hour --the result of an accident. My neck on the window side felt like something was pinching it or like a pin was jabbing it. I reached up and my hand brushed my metal earring which was very hot to touch--the sun coming through the window had heated it--I've never experienced that before. The temperature was now 50 degrees

Colorado Springs again had subdivisions with houses quite huge pushed together like sardines in a can. I would hate living with no land around my house--where do you garden or sit out in the air on nice days? I would have liked to explore this place--the Air Force Academy, the Professional Rodeo Riders Museum and the home of the NHL. But, though I probably could have asked to arrive a day later to my friend's house in NM, Bill would not consider stopping. By this time the temperature had reached 54 degrees and I was sweltering in my heavy blue sweater. The sun coming through the windshield was burning my arm through the sleeve! Off to the West snow was falling on Pike's Peak to which there was not a reference anywhere except one exit for the highway to take you there. I think it was then that I realized I hadn't seen any billboards in Colorado! Are they banned there as well as in Vermont. I must say whenever they proliferate in other states I am so grateful we don't have them.

Pueblo has ancient industrial sites along the corridor---the installations were unfamiliar to us so we have no idea what industry took place there, whether it is still operable or if , as in so many other places, these grand old brick structures are empty waiting for the vandals. We passed through a very old part of town and a very impoverished part of town. Not what I expected in a town whose name I've always loved--probably because it sounds like pebble to me.

On we went and as we reached the southern end of the state around Trinidad the landscape became more Southwestern and we knew that New Mexico was not far away. I was surprised at the topography of this part of Colorado but Bill said it is considered part of the Plains and it is only Westward as one reaches the Rockies that it truly is the mountainous West.

In Ludlow--well, near what used to be Ludlow--there is a monument commemorating the Ludlow massacre. I don't know how I knew that this was not the site of an Indian altercation but rather a Rockefeller mining town massacre but I did. We didn't pull off there either so I had to look it up --Coal miners in 1914 went on a widespread strike across the board, not only in Ludlow. Here, as in other places, the Rockefeller family and the Harriman family among other rich folk, utilized strong arm men to subdue the strikers. In this case the Colorado National Guard opened fire on a settlement of 1200 miners and their families and killed 19 of them. Can you imagine--a State National Guard at the disposal of millionaire mine owners to subdue their workers and force them back to work? My Dad used to speak of towns that you could not drive through because the mine owners had their own policing forces and they kept outsiders out of the towns--they were posted on the roads, armed and stopped all traffic through the town.

The last county in Colorado through which we passed--Las Animas Co--had several nicely painted semi- trailers parked perpendicular to the highway. The message was in varying ways stated that there was enough land already taken and no more should go. So I looked that up too and it seems the Army which already has a huge tract of land in Pinion Canyon wishes to extend its size. These trailers in lieu of billboards is urging action against this expansion. Going to Pinion Canyon.com I found that there is a community organization urging people to buy an inch of the land to keep it out of the gov't's hands. LOL Wonder how much an inch of Colorado canyonland costs?

Finally, we came to Raton Pass which is 7000+ feet elevation but what does that matter when the towns we have been going through are 6000+ feet? So the climb was really insignificant--the pass is long and in some places open although it is mostly narrow. The winds were gusty in places but not terrible. At the top, where one enters NM, there is a weigh station at the peak on a curve with gusty winds and narrow road. I'd love to meet the idiot that designed that location. But then we were on the downgrade along which there were many elk warning signs and one bear warning sign. I hoped we would not meet any on the road though I would have loved a sighting. Elk are so elegant and bear are just cuddly LOOKING! But no. So off we got at the Raton northern exit and ran through the old town. My camera acted up so I was unable to get a shot of the two little art deco movie theatres side by side. The Schuster and the El Raton--hmmm. The King's Speech and the Justin Bieber movie were playing but, though I really wanted to see TKS, Bill was very tired from battling the winds for almost 325 miles. I satisfied myself reading Death on the Lizard, which I still haven't finished.

The wind is howling outside the motel window and the weather channel is saying a snow storm is moving into NM today around Albuquerque but we are headed there for an overnight visit with my friend Gloria and her husband, Bud. The sun is out now and I'm foregoing boots and heavy sweater today!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cheyenne Layover

As predicted in my post yesterday there were not many pictures to take. I did, however, notice during the morning around 10 that all the traffic seemed to be going North. Angling myself to see the barricade behind the tree I saw that the road had been closed and a line of traffic was exiting the Interstate going South. I wondered why only one way would be closed but felt lucky we'd decided to stay over since it was obvious the weather farther south was treacherous. When the Interstate reopened about two hours later most of the traffic was large trucks. One double trailer pulled over on the ramp to remove their chains. Why do it on the ramp??? ( Later after dark another guy parked there for about 15 minutes!) Anyway, looking at the gunk thrown up into the mudflaps and beyond felt, yet again, we'd decided right.

It wasn't until the 10 o'clock news that I found out how right we were--just about five miles down the road a tractor truck jack-knifed, another plowed into him and yet a smaller truck hit them both. Cars and other trucks went off the road on either side in an effort to avoid each other and the original crash. It looked horrendous on the news but miraculously no one was seriously injured and most were able to drive away. Not the two original trucks, however, both of which were unbelievably damaged.

After a quick peek at Letterman I turned off the light and looked out the window--blowing snow and fog whirled around the street light. I went to sleep hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What's With Wyoming ????

I cannot figure it out--am I going to wind up living in Wyoming? Not an appealing thought at this point but I seem to always get held up when passing through this state--The Equality State. In 2000, in September, the snow kept us fenced in at Meteetse. On the way to Bozeman, this trip, the snow held us up in Buffalo and today, the 25th, finds us planning to spend a second night in Cheyenne because of snow! Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice used to say.

Yesterday started with a good-bye visit to the Ladies at Lunch, who were actually serving the youth of Bozeman their breakfasts. They are wonderful women, all of whom hugged me good-bye and assured me once more that they will watch out for my sweet girl. From left to right, Laura the eldest at 71, Betsy, Sally, the boss, 68 and very outgoing and warm and the youngest, Alison,48. Sally said that Betsy is going to cook them dinner at the new apartment--I said you'll have to play musical stool, since that's all she has--one stool on which to sit. Sally said no problem they'll bring a card table and chairs. Last night when speaking to Bets on the phone I suggested that she do invite the gals over for simple finger foods or a casserole. I really think they'd be thrilled. I hope she does because they are all very fond of her and I do believe take maternal interest in her.

Then off we went, leaving Bozeman around 8:30 with Bridger Peak totally invisible. On into Livingston Pass --a bit snowier than the day we arrived. As we ascended a coal laden train descended into Bozeman. The wind blown snow covered everything including the signs along the way. The ranches in the pass are simply beautiful but I certainly would not like living there--even though it is close to Bozeman, which I really like. It is a town similar to Hanover without the snobbery but is definitely a costly place to live. Although it is a college town it is also a bit Stowe-like with Bridger Bowl in town and Big Sky not too far down the pike. Our motel was filled with people mostly from Minnesota here to ski. The temperature was 2 when we left town with a biting wind that I'm sure provided a sub zero wind chill. I cannot imagine what it was on the mountain--crazy weather for skiing, I think. Frost-bite waiting to happen but I suppose if I'd paid for the trip I'd be up there, too! I lost a love for downhill many years ago.

By the time we reached Livingston on the other side of the 23 mile pass the sun was attempting to break through and looked fabulous back lighting the Absekotas. By the time we passed their flank, however, the snow blown snow won out and the Crazies were totally invisible. :(

As we approached Laurel, where the high kept the steam from the refineries from rising very far into the atmosphere, Bill said the Bear has his mouth closed and isn't baring his teeth today! And so it was, no Bear Tooth mountains to be seen. Nor, as we continued southward into Crow land were we able to see the Big Horns. As a matter of fact visibility was very limited and only became more so the farther south we traveled.

We passed through several areas of forest fire damage, particularly at the northern end of the rez. I like the topography of the rez and there is certainly grazing land for cattle but the poverty in the villages is so sad. Crow Agency has come a long way in the eleven years through which I've seen it change but boy, there are still some unbelievably inhabitable trailers which are, unfortunately, inhabited. Every time I pass through this area I think of the saying I heard somewhere in my travels: The Sioux got the glory, the Cheyenne did the fighting, and the Crow got the land.

Soon we reached Wyoming and I was able to get a shot of the welcome sign--just--as snow obscured as it was. For the most part the only living things we saw were snow covered black cattle ,a few horses and once, anyway, some tiny antelope in the distance who ventured out of cover to graze. And so we continued, backtracking over ground covered several days ago, through Buffalo and into Casper.

We pulled into the motel parking lot next to the Dog Wash!!! The second one I'd seen--up the road had been a big installation with a billboard touting a car wash, a truck wash and a dog wash!!! I cannot imagine. At any rate, it being about 3pm and having driven 428 miles, we were ready to call it a day. In speaking with the Choice Privileges rep, in Bangladesh or somewhere other than the US, ( the other day it was New Zealand!) we were told that there was a minimum stay of three nights in this motel in Casper--actually across the river in Evansville. That seemed strange so Bill went inside and was told that the State Wrestling Championships were on and that everything in Casper was booked. She nicely called ahead, 44 miles, to Douglas only to find that the basketball semis were going on there and they were booked also. With no other options, we gassed up and headed out for Cheyenne, 180 miles away.

Although the highways are lined with huge wind break fences I cannot imagine how much worse it could be without them. As the weather worsened we found that the cattle, when possible, took refuge among the few trees available in places. At each exit there is a sign that says if the lights are flashing exit the road now since it is closed ahead. The closing gates are very serious looking and the area around them highly lit--no way to miss them. The fines for being found on a closed road are significant. I'm not sure where you'd go at some of the exits--the are ranch roads, unplowed and with no ranch visible. Are there pseudo villages of trucks and cars etc lined up along these desolate roads just waiting out the storm? Although I am glad we didn't have to find out, I also cannot imagine how bad the conditions must be before the roads are closed.

Before visibility totally disappeared we were interested in the wind sculpted rock formations south of Casper. Atop one, eerily in a bluish scene , appeared a lone horse rider surveying the highway below him. Another of those one dimensional metal sculptures mounted in unexpected places. In the whiteouts, I never saw the Trail of Tears one mounted near Guernsey--heck, I never saw Guernsey.

At one point we came across a police car with the officer approaching a van and its driver which had left the highway and through the fence. Fortunately, there was a road and not a drop off for the fellow to land on. It was reassuring to know that the Highway Patrol was out here with us --just in case.

It is hard to explain the conditions--a plow would be going in the opposite direction and the snow would cause a whiteout for us. Trucks, cars, pick-ups with traction and four wheel drive would pass in the unplowed passing lane and cause a white out for several seconds while we drove blind hoping to stay in lane and on the road. There would be a wall of blowing snow in front of us and we'd know that a vehicle was hidden within it but how close? Sometimes it would be a plow cum sand truck, sometimes a semi, sometimes another car with flashers going. Some of the worse scenarios were vehicles in both lanes, flashers going on some and icy roads. At one point Bill passed a double trailer truck --it took forever--both vehicles sliding a bit. The truck unable to slow for us without losing traction and us unable to increase speed for the same reason. I think both drivers were working hard on that one. Another time we came suddenly upon a whole lane of cars going slow, slow, slow and had to brake and sliding precariously. Needless to say there was no way to tell what was behind us or how close. Other than the truck passing incident I kept my apprehension pretty well hidden although I'm sure Bill was just as, stressed if not more.

At long last we came to the first Cheyenne exit and a more lit road although not any clearer so far as plowing or sanding was concerned. We crawled along with the rest of weary travelers and were relieved to reach Exit 7, on which the traffic came to a halt. We sat for about five minutes with traffic backing up into the highway behind us. Soon, several cars behind us decided to pass in what we assumed was another lane--and we ventured out there,too. Good thing. We'd probably still be there --THREE unloaded flat bed trucks were simply stopped on the ramp. I guess they couldn't make the grade but not one of them let the rest of us know that. God, where is common sense? Anyway, the motel lay right across the deserted street and so, at 6:39 and 14 degrees we checked into our room. They had already upgraded us to a king suite. We dropped our bags anywhere, stripped off jackets and boots etc and left them where they fell. Opened a bottle of wine and watched the poor fools still out on the highway and those trucks entering it on the ramp outside the window.

I offered up one last Hail Mary--a thank you for her listening to the ones too numerous to count that I'd sent her over at least 200 miles and a last request that she continue to protect those still rolling out into the storm. This time we were wise and reserved the room for two nights, knowing that we could always cancel should the weather be travel conducive today--NOT!

Watched the Mentalist and then into exhausted sleep.

Arose to a window spotted with snow like the pelt of a leopard. Sat leisurely over a breakfast of sausage, OJ, coffee and a danish. Periodically, we look out on the snowy scene and watch the traffic, mostly trucks heading south --not many--and coming into Cheyenne from the south--more. A few are moving at speed, which here is 75 mi/hr, but many are more cautious. The wind is blowing, it is subzero and the road surface icy. I won't have any pix to take today, nor much to blog. Going to start The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and otherwise veg. Not sure what poor Bill will do--not venturing out to a bank--so no new nickels to examine. Perhaps one of the GodFather's or Bourne's will be on TV or God help me, Clint in Italy!! LOL

Hope weather is nicer where you are --although those of you back home aren't having a great day either from what TWC is saying. Take care all. Hopefully, my next missive will be from Southern Colorado--the last of the 48 for me. I'm excited. Hope it is clear enough for me to at least see it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bozeman Sojourn

Called the front desk yesterday morning to reserve our lovely room for another night--should have booked two nights to begin with but Bill didn't want to do that. Sooo we had to move to another room on the first floor. Another upgrade and turned out to be a two room suite--still at $70. For some reason my stomach has been acting up quite a bit since Buffalo--wonder if that Elk didn't sit as well as I thought after all. It certainly was rich and after following a rather veggie, fruit heavy diet it may have been too much. At any rate after breakfast we went to the high school to meet the ladies at lunch as I call the lunch ladies Betsy works with. I will get a picture of them tomorrow morning. They are really nice women and adore Betsy. Each one had something wonderful to say about her and the second in command even told us we'd done a good job raising a very sweet girl. Kind of makes you proud. I complimented Betsy on her blue shirt and she laughed and spun around to show me the back--Bill's old softball shirt from when she was about 2 years old!! What a laugh!

We left and stopped at the co-op where we picked up some massage oil, a huge selection of delicious olives, a yummy baguette for car munching ( though we kind of snacked on it tonight!)and a couple of sandwiches for lunch. Returned to WalMart for some stuff for us--I picked up a yucky bathing suit so I can use some of these pools and maybe hot springs if we get near any. Bill also picked a cast iron frying pan for Betsy's new apartment. I also got some Neutragena Acne cream that I can never find at home. By this time I was really feeling quite tired and dehydrated so we returned to the room and I napped for an hour.

Betsy came by after work and I helped her file her taxes online--funny--she could not believe how long such a simple return took soooo long. But in the end she was pleased since she owes nothing and gets refunds from everyone. We watched some tv together and she gave me the gift she'd told me she'd gotten me when she returned from Christmas.

Then she and Bill went out to dinner and I said to just bring me back something simple and something cold to drink. I always let them go to dinner alone together when we visit because it is important for them to have Dad-Daughter time together. Of course, they didn't tell me they were going to Johnny Carina's or I'd have dragged myself along! LOL But they did bring me back a sausage skilletini. Enough food for three people and actually that's how it got eaten. I had a bit for dinner last night, a bit today for lunch and gave Bill the other half for lunch.

When they returned with my meal Bets asked if I'd tried on my new caftan and I said No. I think she was disappointed and I felt badly. Decided that I would certainly wear it for her to see before we left. She stayed and watched NCIS with us but since she has to be at work at 6am she left soon afterwards.

Today, I felt much better and having called to rebook the two room suite last night, we found that we needed to move once more. This time to the standard room but right next door. Yesterday, since we had to leave early to get to school our luggage was moved for us. The girl at the desk asked if we'd like that again and we said no, we are going to loaf around this am and would move ourselves as soon as the new room was ready.

After lunch we took a spin downtown to find the Montana Gift Corral but I just couldn't seem to locate it, so we window shopped for awhile and then drove out of town a bit to explore the area a bit more. Wilson School is the former high school and the one from which Gary Cooper graduated. Yes, the stoic High Noon marshall was a Bozeman boy born and bred. He returned to the school often for he was very fond of his English teacher and visited her often.

Once more Betsy joined us after work and I told her how I couldn't find my store and she said they have a small outlet in Walmart--I should have remembered that from our last visit. So, once more we went to Wally's world. I picked up a hot roller set for myself and Bets said " I need a hair dryer for my birthday!" What a kid--so Mom said " get it now, for pete's sake"! I know it seems like she always hits me up but in actuality she never asks for money and has never asked for any. She works her tail off and makes her own way. Every so often she appeals to my Mom side and I actually love to spoil her a bit because she asks for so little.

I had given her a silver chain when we arrived and she was thrilled. That's when she said " I have a gift for you, too!" It is such a neat feeling to have this nice young woman as my daughter--at least when we get along--which believe me--is not always!

After this last shopping spree it was off to McKenzie River Pizza for dinner. I had a wonderful spinach salad with cranberries and walnuts and feta. I poured on a tiny bit of vinaigrette. They each had a small pizza both of which looked yummy but I had not a bit of room for even a bite.

When we came back to the room Bill and Bets watched CNN news and then switched to the Reilly Report on Fox --it was fun to hear them discuss Egypt and Libya etc and Betsy asking about the situations and these men and about what was going on in Wisconsin and her opinions and discussion with Bill. I sometimes forget that she is almost 25 and has adult viewpoints and thoughtful opinions. It amazes me at times.

Soon it was time for her to leave but we promised--or at least I did--to stop by school tomorrow to say our real good bye. She said sometime she'll have enough money to come visit at home. Sigh!

So, unless we have heavy snow tomorrow we leave. The snow situation has changed and we've decided we'd rather cross the continental divide farther south so we will not be going to Bend, Oregon. We are thinking of back tracking to Billings and back down I 25 through Buffalo and on to Cheyenne and into Colorado. So my 48th state will have been visited. I 25 will take us into Albequeque where I am hoping we'll be able to visit my friend, Gloria and her husband, Bud, whom I've never met. From there it will be out to Arizona before turning homeward.

Until tomorrow then probably from Casper,Wy I bid you all a very good night!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Smarter Than the Average Roadrunner

Though the weather in Buffalo on our layover day wasn't as awful as we anticipated, the roads WERE quite covered and slick. So our decision was a wise one even though the road remained open. When we arrived at Piney Creek we saw why the gentlemen in the Cowboy warned us about it. We had no problem since the road was fairly dry with minimum drift but it is a long haul up and then curves and more up and then the same thing down. It is one of those deals that if you couldn't keep momentum going up there would be no way you'd make it and one false move on the descent and off you'd go. My cell phone had no bars--as a matter of fact Bets called and the connection dropped in seconds. In addition it is miles between exits--most of which are ranch access roads with the ranch house no where to be seen. All in all, better to just wait til things clear up as we did.

On the rez--well, they plow only one lane and that was still the case! On ramps? Off ramps? Not even touched anywhere along the Interstate. I could not resist taking pictures of the hills --they glistened so and every crevice and indentation was totally delineated by the snowy covering. It is amazingly beautiful country! While I didn't see the herds of antelope we saw in November there were many many of them on Bill's side of the road. I did have one small group to enjoy on my side. We traveled the Tongue River Valley toward Crow Agency and the Big Horns. The road sits right in the large valley clearing in which the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne were gathered when arrogant Custer decided to attack and sacrificed innumerable men against a force much greater than his own in country they could not possibly navigate. Garry Owen is along the road and the museum has a big sign on it--it is the repository of many of Elizabeth Custer's mementos of her husband and their life together as well as correspondence between them and, after his death, her various attempts to defend and glorify him. The owner of the town and these materials had them up for sale several years ago but there were no takers.

As we crested the hill into Billings the odor of petroleum wafted up to us--still several miles out. It is awful and only surpassed by the lovely fragrance of Laurel, its neighbor.To the left were the snow encased Bear Tooths, their heads invisible in the falling snow. Once we passed through them, however, the view I'd been longing for ever since entering Montana was before us. The snow covered Crazy Mountains--far in the distance but never seeming to get closer--until all at once they are larger than life right in the middle of the road and so incredibly beautiful and large that they seem unreal. I've learned that they are famous for the wolverines that inhabit them. The largest, most aggressive of the weasel family.

We eventually passed their flank, with trains in the foreground made small before them. Then we had a laugh at the fellow in the pickup luring his herd off the road and away from the tracks with a bale of hay. Those bovines were all over the place and all going in different directions! Soon we were surrounded by the Absakota range--not as high or snow covered at the Crazies but more of them and closer --fencing us in. And so we continued until the Bozeman Pass ( on this side--but the Livingston Pass on the other) I guess it is named not by where you are but where you are going. At its beginning it is very open with the town lying below. It is here that wind currents are the thing to worry about since tractor trailers have been blown over on their sides. The wind sock has no toe left--totally torn out raggedly by the winds. Today it was tolerably mild.

As one ascends there are two places to install chains on the tires. I've never been over the pass when anyone has been putting them on. When the road is bad enough these areas have troopers in them to pull over anyone without chains or studs and if the driver doesn't have them they are issued to them for a $50 deposit. Refundable on the other side when you return them. The pass is long and narrow and high but it had never been icy for us--thank goodness.

And then on the other side, The Bridgers and Bozeman lying in its high mountain valley. I called Bets as we pulled into the driveway of the motel and she said she'd be over in about ten minutes. We checked in and as I was walking into the motel from the parking lot she called to ask our room number. When we got off the elevator--there she was at our door knocking and wondering where we were. She had called from the lobby and walked to the room --getting there just ahead of us! Huge hugs and kisses--God, she looks so good!

In we went into our beautiful suite--an upgrade--costing only $70. plus tax! Soon Bets said she needed so much for her new apartment so off we went to WalMart and I got to do for her what my Mom had done for me and my sister when we moved to Albany--coffee pot, rug, cutting board and steak knives, can opener, etc, etc,etc--but such fun.

She went off to take her seltzer, goodies from Walmart , Guitar Hero we'd also carted West and her slow cooker I'd gotten her for Christmas and a picture poster from Snapfish. We settled in and then at 6 she returned and we met Neva and her Mom,Janet at Dave's Famous Ribs. Our conversations were so interesting and engrossing--to say nothing of eating ribs etc and sharing five ways a totally decadent fudge brownie with ice cream, whipped cream and hot chocolate sauce that I totally forgot to take any pictures!!! Neva wants to come east to sugar, go on a lobster boat, go to a goat farm and the racetrack! LOL Well, we can do that!

Returned to the room and I turned on Castle but fell asleep sitting up and never saw the ending! So at long last we are in Bozeman!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Nothing exciting to report today. Slept terribly last night--kept the drapes open with a light right outside the window and so each time I woke all the way til daybreak the snow was falling and blowing. By 7, after being told the Crow only plow one lane on the rez to make sure the hospital in Crow Agency is accessible in case of emergency, we decided to hole up today. I read a bit, slept a lot, called Betsy and my sister to let them know that all is well but we hope to start out again tomorrow. I'm disappointed because Bets has tomorrow off and we'd hoped to spend the whole day with her but now we have 6 hours ahead of us, assuming the roads are good--otherwise it will be longer.

Bill went out to get something to eat and met a guy who just came down from Sheridan and he said the roads were dicey--Bets also said it was snowing in Bozeman,too. That fine snow that accumulates quickly --so it looks as though we made the right call. Hope tomorrow is better. The only movement other than the plow and the fellows with snowblower and shovel was a guy walking three pit bulls early this morning. Otherwise, pretty quiet.

Well, It IS February After All!

After Bill went to sleep in North Platte I got the maps out to see how far it was to Billings. For some reason I thought Barbara and I had made it from Bozeman to Scotts Bluff in one day. What was I thinking?????? We'd gotten as far as Buffalo the first day and then to Scotts Bluff. Well, worrying about the fact that it was going to take us an extra day to Bozeman than I'd predicted I slept fitfully to say the least. At 6 am CST I gave up the ghost and got up. As we left the motel in semi-darkness and 22 degree weather we walked out with the night maintenance man. He bemoaned the fact that so many people just rush through this part of Nebraska on the Interstate never stopping to see the historical sites. For example, Bailey Yard is the largest railroad switching yard in the world--I'd love to see it after working Italy Yard in St Albans. He mentioned Buffalo Bill's home --something Roost also and the wonderful museum over I-80. I was pleased that I could tell him that I had been to both of them twice but that they are closed at this time of year. Then he spoke of Ole's Big Game Bar in Paxton--it sort of sounds like Harbor Hideaway in Shelburne--except the decor is all African and Alaskan big game. Seems that there were two ladies of considerable means in the area. One married the manager of Bailey Yard--a man earning a good sum from the railroad and they built a big beautiful house in North Platte. But the other girl married Ole and they used their money to hunt big game and they brought their treasures back and displayed them in their beautiful home, which is now a restaurant and bar. I've starred it on the map--I know Barb and I will check it out on our next trip.

Well,off we went into the dawning day--to our East the sky reddened with the dawn as a lone jet made a contrail across the fresh new sky. And to our West the full moon hung low over the highway bidding us God speed. Wispy clouds cut across its face and huge flocks of birds, like box cars on a long freight train, came one after the other East and North shifting leaders and patterns as they went. What a glorious time of day to travel--no real traffic yet--and coming awake with nature and the day. The clock read 7:15 CST but within a half hour we'd reached Paxton and MST so all of a sudden it was earlier than 7 am.

On we went chasing our own shadow and crossing and criss crossing the Platte and at other times running with it. Through small towns--some nothing more than a grain storage tank and a few houses, some with a Church across the tracks as in Lisco. One claimed to be the goose capital of the world and looking at the multitudes in the corn fields I wouldn't challenge their claim. The Lazy U motel was a splash of rainbow color blurry as we passed. We began to see long push me- pull me trains filled with coal and headed East--at one point two side by side almost challenging each other to a race.

In the distance, Jail and Courthouse Rocks side by side as the buildings after which they were named would be in the county seat. With all the houses scattered along the route and the railroad and the small power plant it is hard now to imagine how the pioneers following the historic trails we were tracing must have felt to see them. Landmarks told about by those who'd gone before and by the guides who led them. And how close they appear though they are a day's walk away.

The hazy telephoto of Chimney Rock captures that sense better though here, too, ranch houses and out buildings sit in the roadbeds of those old trails. I took a series of shots--5 miles away, 3 and then right next to it as we turned away and headed to Scotts Bluff. We covered the ground in maybe ten minutes--they would have trudged on for hours the rock never seeming to get closer. Paul spoke of his respect for these people as he looks out over the expanse of Missouri before him. To think that they left family and friends and in many instances never saw them again. Going to Nepal was nothing in comparison he said. I agreed and said those coming from Europe to America during the great immigrations were the same and it was some of those same people who then continued onward to the West. In these days of computers and cell phones and planes, how could we even really imagine the adventure and courage of these people?

Soon we arrived at the outskirts of Scotts Bluff, 9:15 am, just about the time we usually got on the road and we'd already covered 200+ miles. A sugar plant made me laugh--do we grow sugar cane here? Nope, but we do grow sugar beets. Pulled into the gas station next to the Whiskey Creek where Barb and I ate in 2008 after going down dark warehouse lined streets not having understood the directions to the service road right across from our motel. Don't want to say we were beyond tired! Anyway, what year is that Chevy, Glen?

As we left town the fingers of the storm coming from California started to reach out toward us. We'd known it was coming and hoped to get at least to Sheridan before it caught up with us. We continued through more little towns--Mitchell and its winery in which I bought a wine glass in 2008. Then through the last town in Nebraska--Henry --to the first in Wyoming--Torrington, though I missed the welcome to Wyoming sign. I must have about a dozen I can use in its place--LOL. Remember this welcome to Torrington sign I made you drive back to photograph, Barb, because I never thought I'd come this way again? Big ring-necked pheasant hunting area. Before us loomed the Laramie Mountains around which our road looped to reach Casper. At Guernsey we turned right onto that road, headed north toward Sheridan and ominous skies.

Once more the landscape changed --hilly with deep cuts and valleys making a surface as convoluted as the surface of a human brain. Some of the cuts show clearly the sedimentary history of the area. James Michener in Centennial describes the geologic formation of Colorado quite well and that applies to this part of Wyoming just as well. We stopped at the rest area in the cold wind before making the long uninterrupted trek on I 25. I love the Wyoming flag with its elegant buffalo.

Though for about the fifth time I missed getting a shot of the Trail of Tears cutout that sits on one of the bluffs I was able to capture the Jackalope, sitting and watching passersby from his position on the bluff outside Douglas. We came to a small generating plant in the middle of nowhere or so it would seem but this is an area of huge ranches. Later a Tricoperous--I know I haven't got that right--skedaddled away across the fields. We came across the first wind farm since Pennsylvania. I love them, too--I think they are beautiful. The last thing I remember is seeing the sign for Buffalo 109 miles in the distance and then I dozed off for about 15 minutes.

I woke with a start to find that the ground had been sprinkled with confectionery sugar and the trees had been encased in ice. Winter once more--23 degrees --and increasingly snowy. So knowing that the motel is right off the highway and that Sheridan is much bigger than Buffalo and the motel would require some searching we pulled off at 2:30 having covered 473.7 miles.

Checked in and hoping to eat and get in for the night we stopped at the Cowboy Bar only to find they don't serve food and the Winchester, supposedly the best restaurant in town, did not open til 5. Too long to wait- so we had a brew--chatted with the barmaid from NEW JERSEY! and a couple of locals. Good thing we stopped--Piney Creek hill between here and Sheridan is apparently both difficult to climb and treacherous to descend in slippery conditions like these. Also the Montana roads aren't taken care of very well. So we headed down the road to the Bozeman Trail Cafe where I splurged and paid, you don't want to know how much, to eat elk. Delicious. Especially with Moose Drool on tap to wash it down. Great local game mounted on the walls. Got a Wyoming shot glass for Jeff but it only says Wyoming--also picked up a book on the history of the local whorehouses! They are all gone now--Puritanism having reached the West--mostly in the form of Christian women--wives and sisters--objecting strenuously to this form of male entertainment. And so into the motel by 430 with heavy falling snow almost totally covering our car by 10 when I turned out the light for the night.

Thoughts Backwards and Forwards

Well, February 18 was my friend Norm's birthday, so as usual one of my first thoughts of the day was of him. I wish he were here to follow this trip--I know he'd get a kick out of it. He would especially enjoy the description I'm about to give of the lady in McCorkles back in Cameron, Mo. She had shoulder length wavy white hair but her face was very young and as I sat on the stool next to her she turned with a wide, welcoming if shy smile and said hello. We got chatting and I found she was a local and she asked where we were from and when I said Vermont her eyes opened wide. We continued talking and then with a really shy smile she quietly said " Where is Vermont?" I showed no surprise and using Boston and Maine the locations of which she knew, I was able to get her to Vt! When she heard we bordered Canada her eyes REALLY got big. LOL

It may be that some of you wonder why we sit at the bar to eat in these places. It is not that we are drinking a lot--with my Weight Watchers I have only one beer and Bill has maybe two--but sitting at a table you just don't get the chance to talk to the locals. We try to go to non-chain restaurants, pubs and diners,too. Meeting the people that live in these areas and talking to them is just one of the best parts of these trips. And if I had to vote I think I would say the people of the MidWest are the friendliest and most open of all the parts of this country--right from the get go--no warming up period just flat out welcoming and curious.

As we crossed the Platte in Missouri we started to play around again--a copy cat Platte, a wannabe Platte, a pseudo Platte--NOT the Nebraska Platte of great renown in tales of wagon trains West. For some reason this got us talking about Paul again. He told us how in the cold weather he takes a couple of Bud lights and takes his truck up on the hill and sits watching the sunset and the animals as they come out into the fields to feed and listens to NPR. Bill told him he bundles up and goes out onto the porch and does the same thing with Soot. Paul said oh, in the nice weather, he goes out on the porch,too and has some male bonding--two male dogs, two male cats , two Bud lights and him --just watching the sunset and the birds. Guess these guys are more alike than I thought!

Pretty soon we entered Kansas at St Joe crossing the Missouri River yet again. That brought to mind the Ike Skeleton bridge Paul and Jean told us we'd cross getting to Rte 13 north. We laughed and said oh, yes, Congressional pork. Jean grinned and said we don't like that term--seeing as how they raise hogs! Bill said he wasn't going to be happy until our Congressman gets us a submarine base on the Connecticut.

West of Marysville the road has been widened to four lanes--sort of makes no sense since there doesn't appear to be a need for it and it cuts out some of the little towns Barb and I enjoyed visiting in 2000. But there were still some left to see and rivers to cross such as the Big Blue and the Little Blue which is really bigger than the Big--at least at the points where we crossed them. We came to a town in which the world's oldest Buick resides but no time to stop or I'd have gotten a shot for Glen. As we continued across this incredible farm land I got humming Disney's Colors of the Wind and thinking I just love the colors of the earth!

Along around Alton we took rte 8 north to Nebraska. It seems this is always the area where I either enter Kansas from Nebraska or leave Kansas for Nebraska which explains why I still haven't hit Colorado--the only one of the 48 that I STILL haven't gotten to! Before joining I 80 west we crossed the Platte River for the first of many times we will cross it--North and South Plattes all the way to Casper Wyoming. Around Lexington Nebraska we certainly entered into a major flyway. The sky and the ponds were covered with migrating birds. So on we continued to North Platte and an early dinner at Whiskey Creek where the company wasn't anything special. The place started filling up as we left for the motel.

So, the answer to where the plane went down on 9/11--Shanksville, Pa. Thank you, Ruth! Have to see if we were close or not and will need to stop on another trip. There is an effort to raise money for a memorial at the site.

Today's mysteries--In what Kansas town did In Cold Blood take place? You'd think I'd know --I read the book, saw the movie and saw both movies about Capote a few years back. Also --who is Robert Henri from Cozad? Google here I come!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Adventure Stories

Left Boonville at 9am yesterday morning in 60 degree weather but windy and partially cloudy. Called Bill's friend Paul in Corder to let him know we were on our way but got the answering machine. As we moved westward toward Concordia we saw a flock of ducks on a pond near a flooded area. All heads were submerged eating the succulent new shoots at the bottom. The land here is a bit more hilly than we've encountered for awhile and there is a subtle difference in the appearance of the farms. The contour plowing is so evident now that the snow is gone and with the contours of the hills themselves makes a really pleasant sight. The soil here is very black and as Paul will say later " We have good dirt here in this part of Missouri." Concordia was closer to Boonville than we'd realized and by 945 we had pulled off the side of the road to call Paul once more. My phone which I haven't charged since leaving home was looking a little peaked but lasted for the call which again was picked up by the answering machine. Left a message where we were and off we headed to Corder. Rte 23 to Rte 20 intersection brought us to a BP station --the only thing in sight in all four directions--this is big country with fields that go forever. The BP station had no gas--not that we really were in any trouble that way but thought we'd stop if things were going to be this desolate most of the trip to St Joe. Turned onto Rte 20 and as we came to the intersection for the turn left into Corder and I had my camera ready to take a picture of the sign I realized that I'd seen movement in the lot to my right just as Bill said there's my man. We backed up and here was a guy in farm duds next to a red pickup waving and grinning. And so I had my first look at Paul Gross, a man whose name I've heard for years. We backed into the lot and I rolled down my window and said " Have you just been sitting here waiting for a Vermont car to go by?" He laughed and said " no, but I left you a couple of voice mails!" We shook hands--he saying "Paul" and me replying " Kathy" His eyes searched my face as I know mine searched his. I liked what I saw and I hope he did, too.

Then he and Bill looked at each other and the happiness on their faces was indescribable. These men haven't seen each other in 30 years--Bill said '" You've still got your hair" and as Paul took off his hat he said " and you've got yours--a little farther back than I remember" and I added " And both a bit grayer." And that covered it--now the time was erased. He said his wife was still at work but did we want to come out to the farm and we said sure. He stepped back and looked over the car and said you'll be adding a bit more mud to the sides and we said no problem we're used to mud season. So off we went on alphabet soup roads but some that had names, too.

We were greeted by two getting on in years outdoor dogs--can't remember the black one's name but the little guy is Fred and a kisser! Then we went indoors and met the Queen, a lovely calico who is also getting a bit old now. She's the only animal indoors. We entered through a small mudroom just crammed with ferns and other gigantic plants. Jean used to winter them over in the school she used to work at but the new school won't let her do it. She was planning on putting them in the pig house but they didn't have pigs this year--the supplier had a disease run through his barn. They weren't sure if it was a virus or what but Paul did not want to take any chances and get shut down so no pigs this year. He grows corn for fuel but the pigs are known as crop enhancement. I won't elaborate on this part of the conversation but we did look at the contouring of the land and how it is set up to catch the run off and the soil that goes with it. I knew that it is terracing and Paul said that's exactly what it is.

As we talked I was digging through my computer bag and then the duffel bag to find the phone charger to no avail. Was somewhat upset but not completely because I knew that I'd charged the phone the night before we left on the kitchen counter and that it was on my list to pack. I left nothing on the counter and it was checked off on my list so I knew it was somewhere ( as it turned out--it Was in the computer bag in a zippered compartment I'd forgotten about.) Then there came this awful squealing from the yard--I jumped up to the window thinking one of the dogs was getting hurt. Paul calmly said, no, no Kathy, look up--so I looked up outside and he said No straight up and there on the wall above the window was one of those bird sound clocks and this horrible sound was supposed to be a white breasted nuthatch! We all had a good laugh about that.

Conversation just flowed--getting to know you stuff between me and Paul, catching up stuff between the men and discussion about our girls. Their daughter will be 23 this summer and ours will be 25 in March. He and Jean married in 1983 and we married in 1984, so the last time these guys were together they were still bachelors. They've spoken maybe twice in the intervening years but they are the only two of their PC group that have stayed in touch at all. I know where the guys they were close to went and what they did after Nepal but for the most part that info dried up about 20-25 years ago. One fellow Broughton Coburn has written books and been written about by NatGeo and was in a NatGeo special within the past year. He was really odd and actually left his post in Nepal but because he was developing methane production from ox manure the PC let him stay and eventually he was employed by the Nepali government. Jean bought Paul the most recent book--1995 but he hasn't read it--he wasn't too crazy about BC. Jean says the book is interesting and she lent it to us as we left.

But before Jean came home the three of us hopped into Paul's truck to go over to Dover to pick up some lunch meat that Paul asked them to have ready for us. I asked about the alphabet soup roads and Paul said he never thought about them and has no idea if there is any pattern to them although even numbered roads run east-west and odd numbered north-south. He said the lettered roads can be problematic--Jean's Mom years ago was coming to visit them at the farm. They told her to come out BB and she did but she lived in Lafayette county and they live in Celine County so she was on the wrong BB!! Of course, Paul said, when he was growing up the roads were the red barn road, the road with the church, the road past Gross farm. Then for 911 the roads were numbered but that didn't work too well--no one could remember the numbers. So the roads now have names. For example his farm is on Tabo Rd. Which brought him to the fact that there is a French influence in the area of which all of the German Lutherans are quite proud though to his knowledge there are no French people in the area! Take Tabo Rd--originally it was Terrebeau--meaning as he told me--beautiful land. We Germanized it to Tabo, he laughed. But he continued he was glad they named the road because now his business is known as Tabo Farm Meats and Produce, which he thinks is more appealing than Gross Meats! I just love this man!

After lunch the talk turned to Nepal and their adventures--climbing up to the Anapurna Basin---base camp for the Anapurna ascents. That was as high as Bill went --Paul helped another group of PCV's portage a bit higher. It was raining terribly and a Canadian with them took a closeup picture of Paul---soooo young and sooo far from home. I asked how their parents felt about them going to the other side of the Earth and they looked at each other and said they had no idea--their parents never said anything. The men told them they were going to Nepal and the parents just took it in stride. They laughed about the lack of communication--took a month to hear from home and vice versa. Paul said he was homesick a bit at first but then just forgot about it. The PCV's were the only guys not Nepali in their village--one per village and each a day to a day and a half walking distance from each other. Sometimes being the only white man in a village was an advantage because lighter skin was seen as desirable and being American was a plus but at other times you were made fun of and tricks were pulled on you. Certainly there was no dating or any interaction with the women--who by the way are beautiful and the dresses are to die for--these women look like goddesses. How difficult it must have been for these young men to be surrounded by women like these Paul took many many pictures of them and attributed his doing so to his horniness!

It was wonderful to see pictures--Bill brought none home--his camera had been stolen. The Himalayas are magnificent--Bill says he's never seen a more beautiful place in his life. Every morning these men rose to gaze upon Fishtail--Machapuchari--the home of Sheva. No one climbs it--it is a sacred mountain. The backside is so steep that it is gray most of the time--bare rock--the snow cannot stay. The photos of it are breathtaking. I also saw some of these rounded bamboo foot bridges over raging monsoon swollen rivers. Some of the kids walk two hours each way to school and walk through the river when it isn't swollen but the land is so steep the water is always raging!

How I wished that I had a tape recorder so that our daughters would have a record of these two men telling the stories together that each girl grow up hearing only from their Dad's. The back and forth of questions and filling in the blanks just brought them so to life. Looking at these two men as they spoke the years fell away and I could see them on the Setikhola River in a raft from which they'd lost the oars. In English it is the White River and they said it was White and it was cold. Bill had been an avid kayaker and Paul a canoeist, who had experience in the rafts of the American Green River. The oars in the professional rafts are anchored in their oarlocks--not so on the battered Nepali raft they set out in. Bill didn't remember there was a third fellow with them. At any rate, the oars came out of their locks and within seconds they knew they were in trouble. Bill somehow got a big stick and kept them off the rocks and they eventually shored up on a bit of a sandy spot. Bill jumped to shore on one side and the others got to the opposite shore. They agreed to work their way back apart.As Bill continued down the gorge he found that a few yards down was a 15-20 foot drop off like Niagara Falls. If they'd stayed on the river they would have been goners. I asked if they told their mother's about that adventure and they both laughed and said NOPE.

Anyway more adventures were recalled and Jean arrived home--I felt badly that this conversation hadn't taken place a bit more at the beginning of the visit so that it would not have been the large part of her participation, though we did change the subject to travel comparisons and discussion of her work as a guidance counselor at the local Vocational school and her daughter's graduate school plans. But soon it was 3 o'clock and I suggested we get on the road if we wanted to cover any more ground. Hugs were exchanged and hand shakes. I felt a real bond had been formed and I think we will visit again. We asked that they please try to get East and visit us in Vermont--Jean said she'd love to see our Fall. I hope it happens. We really don't have another 30 years!!

So off we went to Cameron and McCorkle's Pub. We were upgraded to a fabulous room with a jacuzzi and were too tired to use it--makes me sad we wasted it --but oh, what a wonderful day. Aren't they a beautiful couple?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Big Muddy and Wide Missouri Crossings

Getting smarter as we travel--got clothes and jewelry set out last night and so got on the road 15 minutes earlier than usual--not much, maybe--but was able to actually sit down and eat breakfast instead of gulping down a coffee and eating in the car. By 9:20 we were going past the Indianapolis airport on the West side of the city. The temperature had risen from 41 to 46 degrees. The airport was eerie--only one plane--a FedEx transport on the ground and absolutely no air traffic at all. Usually I catch shots of planes landing practically on the car. Just strange.

We eventually came to the Cumberland Road rest area in Illinois where the groundskeepers in heavy jackets were raking leaves off the lawns while the remaining plowed mounds of snow melted around them. The sidewalks were heavily covered with residual salt, recalling the ice that so recently posed hazards for travelers urgently rushing to the rest rooms. I cheerfully greeted another lady who was in shirtsleeves " Isn't it a beautiful day? Look at you in a light weight blouse!" She just as enthusiastically greeted me as her husband said " It's like summer!!!"

As we continued on our way there was a black cloud on the horizon above one of the many farms along the road. When we reached it we saw that it was a huge flock of birds. There were many groups of geese headed North as well, adding to the general glad winter is over for now euphoria.

Eventually, we came to construction on the bridge over the Little Wabash River which is like a trickle in comparison with the Big Wabash which we crossed into Illinois. Somewhere along the line, I'll have to look it up, we also crossed into the Central Time Zone and thus gained an hour. I love traveling East to West! In Effingham, where we've stayed in the past, we recorded the optimistic water tower and the gigantic cross. It was here that Bill asked me " What State is known as the Mother of Presidents?" Answer to follow--but I didn't know! Which led me to ask " Whose is the first Presidential Library?" A question to which I also don't know the answer! Neither did he so I'll have to look it up. Along with the answer as to where the plane went down in Pennsylvania on 9/11.

These random questions pop into our heads as we move along--sometimes they get answered sometimes not. We also try to imagine how some of the names of the towns we pass are pronounced--sometimes our laughter puts us in danger when Bill is trying to drive at the same time. Then there are the towns where we play--where are you from/ Hunka, Pa! etc. See it's not all just Willie's Place and navigation in the Pondmobile!

In Keyesport, Ill , just about to enter St Louis the sky totally changed--the cloudless blue became a total cloud mass without a patch of blue to be seen. It appears there were streams of rain before us and the temperature which had reached a balmy 63 rapidly dropped to 59. Just a few minutes, a few miles had elapsed and it was as though we'd entered an entirely different place. We crossed the Mississippi and when we reached O' Fallon the temperature had climbed to 68, Bill turned on the A/C and we left St Louis and that cloud cover behind us.

Now, we had entered Missouri--home of the alphabet soup roads! More than 26? No problem, just double up. What is the pattern or system or rhyme or reason for assigning the letters? It is undecipherable. A and Z are in the same area; YY and H are at the same exit. Whoooooo knows?

Around 3 we arrived at Boonville and checked into the Comfort Inn which is right next to Russell Stover's and I mean right next door--walking distance. Happily, I have some really good German chocolate with me and have found that following WW I tend to take fruit in place of chocolate and don't have a craving for it so felt no temptation at all. As I was gathering my stuff from the car a long distance truck driver came out of the candy shop with a huge bag. Bill said " Hi, I see you went to Stover's !" The guy laughed and said " Yeah, I didn't make it home for Valentine's Day!"

At 5 we headed out to the Stein House Cafe downtown--the building dates back to the 1800's and was made into a bar during the depression. In 1945 it became a restaurant and bar and continues today. Tony, our young bartender, is a native Boonviller and loves it here--the people, the history , the town. He says it is family and familiar. Full of info about the town and the fact that it is Boonville without an " e " since Daniel never signed his name with one. Interesting, if true. And so our evening ended with Bill able to smoke at the bar--unlike Vermont and with me having the house citrus honey dressing on my salad. Made with honey, mayo, lemon juice and a citrus seasoning made by NIFTA--now I've got to find that on the internet.

In closing, an answer--Ohio. A few thanks--to Gloria who suggested I take a picture of the trunk to show that you can take it ALL with you! I added the back seat, too with the seltzer for Bets and our travel larder. Too bad the stuff for Barb is already gone from the trunk.

To Glen who provides a link for Jean Shepard's I'm Tired of Playing Second Fiddle to Your Old Guitar. On Willie's Place, coincidentally, it was mentioned today that Jean's sister, her best friend, died on Monday.

To the manager of this motel who provided the link for the pictures of I 70 in Boonville taken only two weeks ago. Compare them with my shots just before the Boonville water tower. Talk about changing weather.

So good night for now. Tomorrow a visit with Bill's buddy, another PCV.

The Beautiful Midwestern USA

This is just one of the many beautiful farms found along Interstate 70 in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. This one lies just East of St Louis in Illinois. The whole landscape is like a gigantic tabletop on which a giant child has randomly placed little houses, barns, silos,grain tanks, trees and white picket fences. When the sky is blue like this and the grasses and cut corn still yellow the scene is breathtaking.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Somerset, Pennsylvania to Greenfield, Indiana

The day dawned beautifully with a sun that promised a warmth it really never delivered but which was quite welcome nevertheless. We left Somerset at 9 am in 18F weather and were only 109 miles from the Ohio State line. In the Pittsburgh area there were many billboards extolling the virtues of coal and natural gas--I had remembered them but hadn't had the presence of mind to photograph them last year.

While following the same route through rather monotonous landscapes it can easily become boring but it does afford one the chance to record things missed on prior trips and also brings to mind how much we've learned through our travels. For example, just East of Columbus I noticed a couple of groupings of tanks of various sizes. On past trips I had no idea what they were--but having traveled Texas oil country I realized immediately that they were storage tanks for an oil well and began to look for the wells. There are several--they are few and far between so obviously not a rich enough field to drill extensively but abundant enough to supply a couple of farms. Who ever thinks of Columbus, Ohio and oil in the same breath? But I get ahead of myself....

before reaching Ohio one crosses into West Virginia for a brief sojourn--maybe half an hour.Then we crossed the Monongahela River into Ohio. I love that white bridge and the name of that river--it brings back my geography classes in grade school --St Columba's in NYC--and all the rivers and mountains, states and capitals, counties of NYS and some of its cities and chief products--Gloversville produced WHAT, do you suppose?

The fields all along the route were totally clear of snow but past Columbus the snow cover increased as did the temperature to 38. It was difficult with the sunshine and the cold to keep a comfortable temperature within the car. If we had the heat on even just a bit it soon became stifling but turned off it didn't take long for it to become uncomfortably cold. But, grateful for dry roads and sushine, we happily adjusted and readjusted and sang along with Roger Miller etal at Willie's Place.

Soon after Columbus we entered the National Aviation Heritage Area and it was neat to see a car from North Carolina and its First in Flight plate pass us in this section of the road. It was sad too to see a beautiful red dog lying dead along the side of the highway. I wondered if his family would ever know his fate. Between Columbus and Dayton there were many deer carcasses along the road as well--dessicated and eaten at --been there quite awhile. There were also lots of Highway Patrol officers out and many, many tractor trailer trucks. Soon we left Ohio, but not before I managed to get a picture of the lighthouse, sort of--I forgot it was coming--and of THE CAT!, which I always missed before. I DID forget the beautiful loop highway celebrating aviation and only managed to get part of the decoration--I'll remember where it is next time and be prepared.

Soon we entered Indiana and decided we wanted to get passed Richmond where we stayed last year but not deal with Indianapolis today so we are just outside in Greenfield. We went to O'Charley's for dinner--I did NOT get that hamburg but I did get the bruscetta chicken which was very good, not many calories and only 13 points--not bad for the whole meal.

Returning to the room I looked out the window to see a magnificent golden sunset. A perfect ending to a perfect day, although I'm so tired for some reason that I have dark circles under my eyes--something I don't usually get.

Found that Betsy had called this morning but I had the sound all the way down from last year so never knew she called. I'll call her tomorrow---NCIS starts in 15 minutes! I did speak to her last night and my gift to her from Thymes arrived yesterday--I didn't think it would get there on time. Also my Nevada stuff arrived so I can navigate there, too. Bye for now all--tomorrow Missouri!

Indiana Sunset

After a day of driving that began at 9am in 18 degree weather in Somerset, Pa we arrived in Greenwood, Indiana at 4pm and 38 degrees. After dinner we returned to our room and a beautiful midwest sunset. An unusual color but just heavenly!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Binghamton to Somerset, Pa

Out of the motel at 9 and gas at Valero where there is always a sale on Monday! $3.32/gal as opposed to the usual $3.37 a gallon--such a deal!

How many times have we made this trip following the exact route? This is the FOURTH time! So last night, arriving at Binghamton, we as usual made the wrong turn off I 88 to I 81 but this time we could see the motel and getting off at the next exit we were able to just make a left on Front St and voila--home once more! LOL

So, I should have realized that I could not neglect my navigator role and call my Aunt to let her know that we are traveling once more. I mean look at those signs--how hard could it be to get on I 81 to Scranton?? Well, I saw the sign for 17 to the left and we drove by it, I thought, until I saw a sign for Damascus as I'm talking away and some small part of my brain is saying hmmmm I don't remember that name last year--oh, well, can't remember them all and on I chatted. Until from the pilot's seat I began to hear some strange strangled sounds --so I politely excused myself and inquired if he was dying. ( It was now 9:45) Noooo, but we appear to be on Rte 17! What? We're headed to Suffern and onward to NYC!!! So, I quickly told Aunt Shirl the problem and said I'll call you again sometime and send a postcard, love you, hi to everyone, good-bye. Bill makes a u-ey illegally and back we head while I'm trying to find an alternative to going all the way back to Binghamton.

Found a series of backroads which was really nice --new scenery but you know what?--backroads in the Northeast in Winter is known as touring Frost Heave City!!! We did finally get back to the Interstate ( at 11:05--but at least the road we were on paralleled the interstate) and onward we went--Scranton 10 miles from our rejoining, Wilkes-Barre with bare roadsides and actually snow free fields, Harrisburg and crossing the beautiful Susquehanna again--having crossed it in Susquehanna( 50 degrees and sunny but VERRRRRY Windy )--and finally to the Pennsylvania Pike.

Here where I-81 joins I76 by means of a trip through the streets of Middlesex rather than the normal interchange, unlike last year, we got off at the right exit. Oh, joy--last year we had to backtrack about 30 miles. Doesn't sound like I'm a very good navigator, huh? But my sister will attest that I'm normally pretty good. Of course, Bill's error around Binghamton does support her statement that she has no idea how she's gotten anywhere in the country since I tell her where to go--such power!!!!!

Despite the navigational snafus the day was a joy--Bill gave me a great Valentine's Day card, we listened to Willie's Place on Sirius radio and all the music was love oriented and there were some lovely pieces--Marty Robbins' cover of I'm in the Mood for Love was a revelation--the man had a beautiful voice. Of, course there were a few typical country chestnuts--how could one not love:" I'm tired of playing second fiddle to an old guitar " with several bars of yodeling sung by some nameless girl?

We passed through the series of tunnels that I love since some early Pennsylvanian said lets go through these mountains instead of scaring the daylights out of Kathy Pond by going over or around on a ledge--with the drop-off on her side! I wish I knew who made that decision--I'd hug him hard!

As we passed Breezewood at 2:48 almost an hour later than last year we rejoiced at the fact that the sun was out and the temperature was 44. Last year at 2:00 we left the highway because it was 25 degrees and snowing so hard we couldn't see the exit. Well, we rejoiced too soon for after going through the last, the Alleghany Tunnel the temperature dropped quickly and it began to sleet. So at 4:00 we pulled off in Somerset,Pa, registered and went to dinner at the Pine Grill, a locally owned place with reasonable and delicious food. Trying to do Weight Watchers, I cut my steak in half and sliced one half and got a to go box for it--it will be my lunch on the road tomorrow. Had a dry salad and steamed veggies with it and one Yuegling. I have enough points for a small chocolate tonight and 3 points to spare. If I could give up smoking, I can lose weight sensibly by golly--at least I'm giving it a good try.

Good night until tomorrow. Is Castle on tonight?

Snowless field!!!!!

Oh the joy----having left huge snow banks in our driveway and driven through snow covered terrain, what a lift of spirits to look out over a corn field totally devoid of snow!!! This is near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and even here was rather unique although the southern exposed fields are pretty bare. Once we got on the Pennsylvania turnpike and headed for Pittsburgh the weather got increasingly colder and cloudier until we found we had to stop for the night at Somerset as a result of sleety conditions. Oh, well, nice while it lasted!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vermont to Binghamton

Left home at 930ish and headed to Saratoga and my sister's for brunch. Took a different route through Strafford, Bethel, Pittsfield to Killington. Missed Hartford and Woodstock and their cops that way. They are definitely out there looking for any infraction, large or small, to issue a ticket on. Nicer ride this way. It is funny how many different back roads we know to use to get from here to NYS. I guess you learn those things over a quarter century plus! Totally new pix to take since I haven't been this way in several years. Tozier's is a place Bill's parents used to bring them down to in summers from Montpelier for the fried clams. Asked Bill if he wanted to stop--he said, nah, there's too long a wait! After our traditional visit to Barb's it was basically the same old same old to Binghamton and the same room as we've had many times before. Went to Casey's Pub where Bill usually goes--I normally stay in--but it was neat to chat with Mark, the owner, about his travels and ours. Also the fact that Billy Martin lived just across the river, which I'd forgotten, and that he had been drinking right next door to our motel the night he drove off the road just before his driveway and was killed. He and Mantle and Ford used to drink in Casey's too and Martin was in the process of buying the place when he died. Imagine!

Casey's Pub

Mark, the owner, in the background told us he bought the place in 1995. Billy Martin was, supposedly, going to buy it but died before the deal went through. Martin, Mantle and Ford used to drink here in Binghamton, NY among other places. Imagine!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tuxedo Strawberries

It really is true--it's the little things that count! An early Valentine's surprise from my honey--six adorable strawberries all dressed up and ready to be eaten. So we did and these guys are left for later. I love sweet surprises--don't you?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Almost But Not Quite!

It takes so long to get ready for a trip like this--especially when Christmas gifts( not in the picture ) have to be delivered to my sister in Saratoga and to my daughter in Bozeman. Somewhere in this mess is my New Orleans tote with all my maps and motel directory. All the seltzer goes to the kid--they don't have it in Montana. The big paper bag goes to Sis, too along with the empty pretzel jar for dog food. I'm lending her books and books to get through the rest of the winter--haven't a clue what else is in that bag. My old doctor's bag purse that I loved when I was teaching has become my camera bag--cameras and film and batteries. The pretty pink bag contains all our toiletries. That great straw hat is my southwestern chapeau! The blue file case is new and will collect all the brochures etc that I'll pick up along the way.
I drink water in the car--which I don't usually do during the day at home, but I find I never finish the large bottle so these are 8 oz. I always wake up during the night thirsty so these are handy also. I carry my own wine--I resent paying almost the cost of the bottle for a couple of drinks out. Six bottles --one for each week and it usually works out that way, too. I carry a nice wine glass to drink it!
Sort of like the story my friend used to tell me about the British in Burma during WWII--even in the field the officers had a table set up with linen and silver and china and crystal--war, shmar--gentlemen don't you know. My friend was a US Intelligence officer and was always amused by this behavior. Good food and wine, too, he said.
Oh, but I digress!
What else--ah, yes, the shopping basket --we don't usually stop for lunch in the beginning of the trip--we try to get past the weather as quickly as possible and cover ground before stopping around 4 pm. I like to have some healthy snack food to carry us over. I'll get some cheese and fruit on the road--peanut butter and juices from home, too. Hummus and carrots. All taste good, fill us up and aren't too fattening since we are being rather sedentary as we drive. Seems to work well.
The big suitcase is packed and both of us had plenty of room in it. I just have the small duffel to pack with miscellaneous stuff and I'm done--but tomorrow is another day and it and the final touches on the housework can wait until then. For now--dinner and a movie.
Good night!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tough Decisions

Packing my navigator's bag was fairly simple but, when planning to drive all around the country in Winter, clothing choices are not so easy!

I've managed to make my selections and sort of got them into the suitcase--minus the cat!
But where are hubby's clothes going to go???
I'm worried about Soot--she knows something is up and has been shadowing us both for weeks. Winter is always stressful for her but not having a family member living here for 6 weeks is going to be tough. The first trip in 2008 Sharon stayed with the girls and they eventually warmed to her, but the last two years our daughter has been home with them. They are getting up in age--14 years old this month--and we are leaving them with Sharon--right on the heels of Betsy returning to Montana after Christmas--from which I'm not sure they have yet recovered.
They know Sharon--she visits often --but still, Misty in particular stays hidden when there is company, including Sharon. And since Christmas, Misty comes downstairs to eat and use the litter box and then goes back and holes up in Betsy's room--no more naps on the lap or hopping up on the bed at night. I hope they handle this separation well!
It's been a long day--packing and making lists so off for some chicken soup and a book and maybe some TV. I'm beat!!!

Patience Is Not Usually One of Soot's Virtues

Along with laundering any left over dirty clothes and towels before leaving home we also buy salt for the water softener and a huge bag of Meow Mix. We store the cat food in these empty pretzel jars and Soot, seeing the jars and bag, stationed herself nearby. You see this is a Soot-Dad ritual---Dad pours the cat food from the bag into the jar--some magically falls to the floor and Soot is the clean-up girl. Sooooo Dad, when are we getting started??? She sat there for about 45 minutes--never moved --sat with an occasional pained meow and, as time went by, more frequent importunate, demanding cat sounds. Finally, he was available and the chore was carried out like clockwork--he pouring, she cleaning---such teamwork--- the NY Jets could only wish for.

February 8 Craziness!!!

What an insane day--doing last minute running around to be ready to start packing and organizing before Sunday. Started out driving on slushy, slick, dicey roads to the dentist's office to have a temporary cap put on the broken tooth, then to the hairdresser's to try to make this straight,graying hair look somewhat attractive for strangers to see, over to Penney's to return garments that Omar the Tentmaker created for pup tent users, then to BJ's to lay in enough cat food for the duration and to pick up healthy snacks for the car, on to Walmart's for a file case to hold souvenirs, brochures etc accrued over the six weeks, to Price Chopper for Polar Selzer apparently not available in the wilds of Montana, down to Walgreen's for some toiletries and road trip meds that we hopefully won't need and at last to 7 Barrel for a well earned hamburg and brew. Finding the group at the bar a bit obnoxious moved over to Applebee's and another brew before the trip back home. Not over my cold so tired--exhausted actually--but pleased with ourselves that all errands are complete and now we just pack and organize the house for Sharon to move in.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Check out another book giveaway by KayesPenguin

Here's one set in Maine! Looks pretty interesting--go to Pudgy Penguin Perusals to find Town in A Lobster Stew by B.B. Haywood!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

And the Cold Hangs On ! Groan :(

Felt very Jane Austen like today. Drew my chair and foot stool into a patch of sun and wrapped myself in blankets with tea at hand and books to read. A box of tissues and birds to watch in the snowy trees and on the porch completed the tableau. Even dozed over my book like a Victorian invalid lady---horrible. I'm trying so hard to rest enough to recover--there is so much to do before we embark on our journey next Sunday!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


After a day and a half of gorgeous sunshine, albeit subzero temperatures, I looked up to that the distant fields and hills were obscured once more by heavily falling snow, accumulating fast once more. I retreated to my bed--this cold being worse--my having gone outdoors to enjoy the sparkling wonderland of our yard yesterday. Hot tea, several episodes of Lark Rising to Candleford and continuing snowfall outside the bedroom window. As darkness fell I could see the lights of slowly crawling cars on the road across the fields. Even the plows, which came several times, moved with snail's pace. Eventually, I heard icy tappings on the darkened windows and knew that the soft snow had turned into a wintry dangerous mix. At 9 pm all signs of vehicles had ceased and the snow had stopped. Now I await my husband's return from work--nervous and dry mouthed.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Winter's Artistry

Is there anything more beautiful than the early morning shadows cast by the trees over undulating fields of snow under a cloudless azure sky? What at first appears to be a monochromatic world --shades of white and black--upon further examination proves to be much more. The yellow tinge of the butternut bark and buds, the red of Indian corn, the browns of the last clinging oak leaves, the burgundy of the apple tree and maple buds and the blues and purples of the shadows cast by those trees all celebrate the palette that Mother Nature uses even in -22 F weather to please the eyes and souls of the storm weary housebound. It inspires one to dress and go out, camera in hand, to explore the rest of the Winter Wonderland before the next onslaught again forces one indoors.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sick Day !

When I was teaching we had 10 sick days a year, cumulative to 180. I never managed to accumulate that many but wasn't often out sick, either. If I were teaching now, this would be one of my 10 for 2011. Stuffy nose, sore throat, fever and generally crappy feeling. Some days drinking tea, reading a mindless book and sleeping whenever you doze off is the only way to go. I want some ice cream she simpered wearily. There goes my diet!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Goodbye Tannenbaum--Hello Blizzard

Froggie sat on the porch as the snow came down all night and all day and on into tonight. So far we have about 24 inches and the driveway has been plowed once. The house is warm, since there is no real wind and the temperature has been well above zero--having reached about 15 F at 4 pm.

I am NOT Sally Forth--I am her husband and daughter! I'd leave the tree up til April if I could!

My husband and daughter are the ones who would take it down by the Epiphany.

But since the storm was raging today and we couldn't go anywhere and the tree really was getting very dry--it seemed a good time to put the ornaments in their little boxes and the little boxes in the bigger boxes and the bigger boxes into storage until next December. The room looks naked, and dark and the tree looks so forlorn in the snow but little creatures will use it for shelter now--so it has been repurposed! LOL

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Before and After

Snowing really hard today, February 1st, soft fine snow but the kind that accumulates fast and is slick on the roads. Cancelled eye doctor appt and shopping plans. So the nicely written list already had to have adjustments made. Decided the counter was just too much of a mess--I don't know how these things multiply so fast---so, not wanting to read or watch TV etc, I decided I might as well get a start on organizing the house for Sharon. While I was at it I paid all February's bills---that was on today's list of things to do. Was going to take the tree down but just can't part with it--so it will stay up one more day. Tomorrow, since we are going to have a blizzard supposedly and we've cancelled the appointment to have the windshield replaced, the tree and other decorations WILL come down and get packed away for another year. Sigh :(

Making Plans

January 31--Sharon came for dinner of pan fried chicken, hash brown patties and sweet baby peas. Afterwards, while relaxing with some nicely chilled Viognier, we talked over Sharon's house sitting duties while we are gone. She has taken care of the girls before, in 2008, which was also an incredibly snowy winter in the Northeast. For the first time we had our roof shoveled that year. We went to Montana that year also but took the Canadian route to Sault Ste Marie and then the upper peninsula of Michigan. We are going Stateside this year and traversing Kansas and Nebraska in an effort to stay as far south of lake effect as possible. Not sure that is going to work the way this winter has been so far but we'll take it slow and hole up if needs be. Hopefully, the weather will settle down a bit with the lengthening days and we'll have clear roads!

Check out another book giveaway by KayesPenguin

Head on over to kayespenguinposts.blogspot.com for a new giveaway of a cozy mystery book,Stitch Me Deadly by Amanda Lee. Looks really good--a young woman who owns an embroidery shop in Oregon becomes involved in solving a crime. Check out Kaye's synopsis and enter to win..