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Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Erik Larson Does it Again--Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the LusitaniaDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just as in all his books, Erik Larson does his research and spins a tale of non-fiction as engrossing and interesting as any novel. His main character in this one is the elegant, stream-lined, grayhound of the seas, HMS Lusitania. She is a tragic figure, populated with the rich and influential, traveling to England for varied reasons from reunion with family to making business deals likely to make them richer and more influential. There are also the more modest passengers, enjoying a bit of opulence as they travel to Europe.
Here, too,is the Captain--Turner, who has worked his way through the ranks of the Cunard company to command this fastest ocean liner. All of these people are entering an area around Ireland that Germany has declared a war zone. Indeed, the German government has taken out an ad in the New York papers warning that any ship in the zone, neutral or otherwise, is fair game for her U-Boats, patrolling the area.
Nevertheless, the ship heads out of New York Harbor, planning on running up a US flag on its mast when in the war zone and docking safely in Liverpool, most likely escorted by British naval vessels for protection.
Larson takes us through the New York preparations of the ship, through the boarding of passengers, to the embarkation and across the Atlantic. We meet several of the passengers and learn of their sea water baths, their lavish dining, the quiet strolls along the decks, the laughter of children, and evening entertainments. As we travel with her, he also takes us to the claustrophobic atmosphere of a German U-boat, captained by a leader every bit as experienced and capable as Captain Turner, Walther Schwieger. Here we learn of the dangers and tribulations of life on a torpedo laden dweller of the deep, blind to its surrounding when submerged and open to detection when it is not.

The closer the two ships come to each other, the greater the tension that builds until Turner shifts the angle of the Lusitania along the Irish coast and Schwieger lines up the torpedo he will loose into her bow. As it finds its mark under the disbelieving gaze of several of its passengers, U-20 after one last glance at the devastation, makes its way to the open sea and the Lusitania begins its journey to the bottom of the ocean, where it will come to rest within 15-20 minutes.
And during those final minutes, Larson again takes us among her passengers until at last, the living are rescued and the dead are laid to rest.

I would suggest if you wish to know more about some of these people that you read another book--Lusitania by Greg King and Penny Wilson. Between the two books, the full story of the ship and her human mates arises from the mists of over 100 years.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Oklahoma's in the Rear View Mirror--Hello, Mo!

Very tired this morning but still got on the road by 930. Pretty uneventful day--sunny, cool in the 40's and narrow two lane roads, east, north, south, east, north, east. Just couldn't get a straight east-west road before Novato when we picked up 10 to Miami. Not sure what was in the open spaces on the map other than huge open range with lots of evidence of burn. Went from one Indian Nation into another--Kaw Nation to Osage Nation to others we never heard of. But in Miami we returned to the land of Interstates as we took I 44 into Missouri and left it shortly afterwards in Joplin, where we are staying in a Sleep Inn that they haven't yet redone. I love the orginal art deco decor of the Sleep Inns but gradually they have been homogenized into the same uniformity of all the other motels in American chains. It is snowing in St Louis, but we aren't going that way. Still, as the day wore on and we headed north and east the cloud cover thickened. Early day--here by 2pm--and only covered 175 +/- miles but that is fine. Tomorrow we'll go over to Carthage to see if our junk shop is still there before we continue east to Poplar Bluffs. Moving ever closer to Kentucky. Since the Frankoma Pottery has closed I guess I'll have to try to replace my broken red bowl from eBay. :( I'd hoped to visit it again and pick up a couple more pieces of their unique designs. Oh, well. Until tomorrow, The Valley Vagabonds KandB o

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lazy Day in Punca City, Oklahoma

The motel is full of BNSF men who must be working on the tracks nearby. At 145 this morning one of the crews, perky and awake, gathered, laughing and joking around the coffee outside our door and then headed out the side door which abuts our room. For a half hour of joviality, I lay and listen to them going off to work like the Seven Dwarves! When dark morning silence returned I was good and awake listening to Bill's snoring! Meditated for a half hour to get back to sleep and managed to until about 7. Got up and had a quiet relaxed breakfast in the deserted dining room. Bill joined me eventually and then he returned to bed while I read. Both of us were rather lazy but, in time, we decided we would only build up our strength by getting out for awhile. We drove down to the Pioneer Women Museum, which is really quite small, though interesting. At first, since the front door is damaged for some reason, we weren't sure if it were open or not. But, indeed it was and inside we found a nice young man, a transplant from outside Atlantic City, who is an historian and regaled us with interesting info on the use of the loom and its parts, with stories of the women who were highlighted as famous and important Oklahoma pioneer women. There was also an exhibit on Oklahoman women who have been successful in journalism, both print and radio/TV. Lastly, there was a small exhibit on patent medicines of the early 20th century. It was interesting to see the magnetic nerve stimulator, one of which Bill has and which is in pretty good condition.Besides that, I remember Carter's Little Liver Pills that were still being made when I was in my 20's!. While the museum is interesting the most wonderful aspect of it is the beautiful Pioneer Woman Statue,17 feet tall and, according to the motel book, the third largest bronze statue in the world. Really? Maybe, but it is stunning whatever its standing. We had also tooled up Monument Rd to the Italian Palace on the Prairie. Didn't take the tour but the neighborhood is so built up that the " on the Prairie" part is quite diminished. It is a lovely home and was modeled after the Davanzati Palace in Florence. Oh, what oil money can buy--lol By the end of our tour we were tired and hungry so back to Cobb's. I ordered a roast beef sandwich. I think you all know what I expected--deli sliced roast beef slices, toast, mayo, tomato and lettuce. Well, sort of--Texas toast, with very little mayo, nice slice of ripe tomato and fresh bright green crisp leaf lettuce. AND a huge thick slab of stringy, cold, pot roast beef. Tasted okay but, omg, too much food and so dry--hard to eat. Managed half and some cole slaw and two huge glasses of coke. Bill had a beautiful, thick, grilled ham steak with pineapple. The food is definitely not fancy--it is home cooked and you won't leave starving. Good, inexpensive and filling. Brought a piece of chocolate pie home for tonight's dinner. The museum did not have the book Ruth told me about but I picked up Pioneer Women by Joanna L. Stratton. Hopefully, the writing will not be deadly. One never knows with historical books. Still, it is my plan to begin reading it--since I suspect tonight will once more be bb everywhere. LOL 4PM and today's adventures are over. Probably headed to Missouri tomorrow. Would love to spend time walking Standing Bear Park tomorrow but don't want to push it--need to get home without relapse, so must pace ourselves no matter what. Hear it is freezing at home--nice here today-sunny with puffy beautiful clouds and 60ish. Wind picked up in later afternoon. So, will let you know where we are tomorrow--for now, enjoy your week-end or what's left of it. Bye from the Valley Vagabonds KandB

Friday, March 18, 2016

News From the Rip van Winkle Twins!

Cannot believe it possible but we both slept almost 12 hours last night! Of course, Bill went to bed at his usual 8pm and I, at 10:30, but we slept like logs. He had to wake me up at 9:30 or I would have slept longer. He is still using his inhaler and is quite congested sounding but we seem to be past those horribly exhausting choking-coughing fits. I took no meds last night other than my last prednisone and took a Musinex D this morning just in case, since there is still some stuff there. We have been traveling surprisinly uniform mileage; 258 mi two days ago, 258 mi yesterday and 259.3 mi today. Could not have managed planning that if we tried. Just seemed to work out that way as we've picked our next destination, but it is good, because it is pretty much Bill's limit before he is dead tired again. Today was overcast and in the mid 30's all day. We traveled right along the Kansas border on roads in the West that were as straight and level as any in Kansas or Nebraska. Leaving Guymon on 54 headed toward Liberal, Ks we turned eastward on 64 in Hooker and just drove straight ahead toward Blackwell. Lots of small towns, cattle and historical signs along the way. At Hodges site just couldn't resist taking a shot of the dirt track running next to the sign. Guess you could still run some buffalo hides up to Dodge or some ammo back down to the Texas Panhandle on it--if it is what remains of the trail--lol Continuing eastward the land started to get more interesting with rolling hills and nice comforting convolutions --reassuring should there be a tornado on the horizon. All the advisories tell you to get low to the ground in a gulley etc and cover your head. Well, before Forgan, there is no low anything--the earth is as level as the road is straight--but here there are at least deep dips and hills --not that I ever want to see a tornado anywhere near me. A favorite town was Gate--maybe a block long with several artificial facades drawn on delapidated buildings. I imagined the town fathers saying we've got to find something for these kids to do--no TV reception, no cell service, no movies, no video games--my God they'll be fornicating in the back of the pick-up---let's get them painting those buildings with murals. Afterwards we can all gather in Laurie's Cafe--the best cafe in town--that's what it said--of course, I didn't see any other cafe in town. That's Gate--a small town with a great sense of humor. Making the buildings pretty in case folks from Vt happen to pass through! Our next historical markers should be viewed when traveling from East to West, since, rather than entering Old No Man's Land we were leaving. Continued through Buffalo which still is and Charleston, which is not. It is always interesting to cross paths with someone like Nathan Boone, whose path we crossed in Texas when he was on this same mission but since he was traveling North and we were traveling West, we never have seen exactly how he went --but every so often, there's a sign that he passed this way--lol Eventually, we arrived at Alva. This was our western most point on the trip when we lost the Cobalt in Tulsa. It was somewhere along the road from Blackwell to Alva that we received the call from the insurance company telling us the Cobalt was a total loss. Haven't been back to this part of Oklahoma since then. It is in this area that route 64's layout was handed over to a drunken sailor--I've never seen a route number do such strange things as this one. Fortunately, if one continued straight--just straight--11 continues straight, straight to Blackwell, so let 64 go staggering wherever it wants to go--we are headed for Blackwell. It is in this area that the Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman pix about tornado chases was made. Just outside Alva there is an interesting wildlife refuge along the Salt Branch of the Arkansas River--large salt flats all along the roadside. Bill was beginning to flag and Blackwell was still an hour away so I didn't ask to linger but I'd sure love to explore this area some time. Very unique looking. All day the sky looked like pearly gray and opal above either dry yellow stretches of prairie or emerald green pasture land. In its own eerie, atmospheric way, very beautiful. After Blackwell, a quick turn south on 77 leads to 14th st in Ponca City and our home away from home for the next two nights. There is a Prairie Woman Museum I'd like to explore--thank you, Ruth, for the name of the book--going to look for it here or one like it. I'll tell you, I'd go mad today in this isolated place--how ANY of those women retained their sanity is beyond me. It probably helped to have 12 kids--kept one busy and gave you someone to talk to. By the time you fell exhausted into bed, sleep must have come easily. We were going to head to a steakhouse several miles down the road but looking at Bill I suggested we go straight across the street to Cobb's--and I mean it is right across the street--if you rolled out the front door of the motel and across the road, you'd roll right into Cobb's front door--no deviation! This is the first time I have eaten out in a restaurant since Taos--before we went to Gloria and Bud's! A pork chop, tater tots, cole slaw, corn and coke. Stomach is not sure what to do with it! Came back to find we have no cell service and I'd told Charlie to call us tonight! Texted him but don't know if he got it. Barb--if you are reading this--let him know--I'll call him from town tomorrow. I know he's wanted to chat but we've been too sick to want to --was hoping to catch up with him tonight. So, now, with nothing but exciting bb on TV tonight I think I'll read the paper, do the puzzle and maybe read one of the NM mags I have with me. Tomorrow we get to sleep as late as we'd like--the museum opens at 10 and if the weather is nice there is a park downtown dedicated to Ponca Chief Standing Bear where we might be able to get some fresh air and exercise. Sounds like a good down day for easy exploration and nice rest. Until then, we wish you all good evening. The Valley Vagabonds KandB

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Out of Beloved New Mexico at Last!

Well, decided to forego any meds at bedtime last night and so was awake at 315 with a stuffed throat and cough. Lay in bed until 5am when I finally gave up, took a Mucinex and answered emails and sent out yesterday's pix. Bill got up around 630 and we packed, ate breakfast leisurely and were on the road by 815. The temperature was a brisk 29 degrees and Douglas Bristlecone wore a cap of frost on his head. I, dressed for St Patrick's Day, as was Douglas took a pix of my Kelly green nails and new turquoise ring. Again, the terrain changed so drastically as we moved north toward Springer, where we took an eastern turn toward Clayton, NM, leaving Colorado and the snow capped Rockies in our rear view mirror. One of the pix has a huge flock of geese flying in formation against the snowy backdrop. I have to crop that shot to bring them into clearer relief. There are so many places in New Mexico that I really like and this north eastern corner is a favorite, though so open and desolate that I would not want to live there. Just imagining short dark days with howling winds far from the nearest neighbors makes me almost mad, even though it isn't my reality. There is a book about the madness of some pioneer women--Ruth, help me out here--what book is it that I'm thinking of? Seems you and I have discussed it before though I haven't read it. Around Wagon Wheel while we were still in I 25 we saw the first herds of early morning grazing antelopes. They are always along the route that leads us to Clayton--it goes through the Kiowa National grasslands and several years I've gotten some terrific shots. As we passed through Springer saw that the historical building for sale is still for sale. Heading into Clayton we passed a huge herd of long horn black steer some of which were congregated around the old watering hole. Stopped and chatted awhile and few of the guys posed graciously for the crazy lady talking to them like pets. A bit farther down the road we were almost in a collision with a herd of antelope crossing and then not crossing in front of us. Made a Uey to get some shots and wound up inadvertently herding antelope. They had left the range along which they were running and could not find a way back onto it. They kept stopping short and trying to find an gap in the fence--they cannot jump them. They would get far enough ahead of us and come into the road but a car would come the other way and they would run back. We got ahead of them because they were obviously getting very stressed and irratic. Sooner or later one was going to come out and get hit. The road cleared and we made another Uey --as we headed east once more, it was a relief to see they had made it across the road safely and were happily running over the range away from the road. Whew--but beautiful On into Clayton and out again, a bit more farmland and we left New Mexico behind--vaya con Dios--and entered Oklahoma, period. In the distance we saw a formation like a large dinosaur--turned out to be two trees along the roadside. We soon arrived at the first of our destinations for the day, No Man's Land Beef Jerky. Seven years ago when we first stopped there we met the man who started it. He'd been a teacher who went backrupt and so decided to start a Jerky business. We've stopped several years since, including last year, on a Sunday afternoon, when they'd closed for the day. We bought the jerky from the local grocery store that day. This year the lady working the store said that the company has sold to three nice " Christian" men who are going to expand their preparation operation and put it across the border in Texas. It is in the contract that this small plant and little store will remain. However, the company will now have the capability of expanding into other areas of the country and she gave us a toll free number to give to any local store we think might have an interest in carrying their product. Will share with Baker's and maybe Dan and Whit's. Would be great to have it available locally. Pricey but then all jerky is but not all is this good. As we continued on toward Guymon, I dozed periodically , waking to look at the green fields and the ammonia tanks that were being injected into the fields not planted. Won't be long before planting will be going full blast. Didn't see the camel this year as we entered town though I thought I could a glimpse of him off behind a rolling hilly area of the prairie. We lost an hour and it is now CST and we are only an hour out from home. Yet, we were early enough that we carried on a few errands--Bill got a sherbet cone at Braun's--they only had orange---yuck, picked up some more water at Carter's Market--wanted to go in and walk around but still having trouble not coughing violently when walking very much. Then we went to the ATM and finally to check on our second destination-Eddie's Steakhouse. When we were there last year we knew Eddie was dying and trying to sell the place. He has two kids one of whom is a large animal vet in Texas if I remember correctly and the other is also a professional living away from here. Neither want to try running the place or having a manager do it from long distance point of view. Well, Eddie died this past Fall. Somebody is trying to open it--don't know who--but they aimed for Feb but the plumbing and wiring were found to be out of code so they are getting that fixed and are now shooting for Apr 1. I hope if they are successful that they live up to Eddie's dedication to excellent steak that he ordered especially from a place in Texas and to the service that made you feel at home and a personal friend. We've met people from all over the country eating there, who make it a regular stop on their travels. Last year we ate with a fellow who has a winter place in Yuma and lives in Minnesota. He stops on the way down and the way back every year for steak at Eddie's . We, too, have detoured to have steak at Eddie's. I only hope that will be available to us again. AND I hope they leave the room as is--the bar in a cage with the dining room outside looking in. Also the little locked cabinets in the hall behind the bar that go back to the days that this was a private drinking/smoking club with the members each having a humidor and liquor locker that they opened when they came to dine. So unique! By the time we had done all the little things we checked into our room. Bill went next door to eat a steak sandwich--I'm content with some cheese, crackers, meat sticks, V-8 and some mandarin oranges. Plus, I'm eating the comfort of the room without having to wait to be served and sit at a formal table. Just too tired and not that hungry. Bets called--St Pat's is her fav holiday. Mine is Christmas but I've always loved St Pat's too--Irish Grandmother and Dad. She is wearing a green necklace of mine that she's loved since she was little. LOL And so another beautiful sunny day, cloudless and crisp comes to an end. Cross word puzzles, a little TV and off to the land of Nod. Tomorrow following the Oklahoma panhandle toward Missouri but not that far. It may snow!!! Good grief! Take care all--the trees are in bloom here and it is almost Spring! Palm Sunday this week. Can Easter be far behind? the Valley Vagabonds KandB

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Less Sick in Las Vegas, New Mexico

Thank you all for your emails --we feel better but not great. I tried walking a bit along the park in Las Vegas' Historic Plaza and got about four car lengths along the sidewalk and was wheezing like I was on the top of Everest. Got back to the car, probably looking intoxicated, collapsed and coughed. Bill didn't even get out of the car. We covered about 250 miles. He's not hacking as much but is tired so we covered the right distance. Had incredibly beautiful weather and traffic wasn't bad. It just felt good to be out. And it is nice to be in a new room. It was here one year that the lobby was filled with college boys sprawled on the couches in their sweats watching March Madness. They were from a small Christian college and right in the middle of everything, their chaperone? coach? teacher? came out and gathered them into a conference room for evening assemby. LOl Before leaving Gallup, I called the pharmacist and relayed the assortment of meds I've got and asked if I could use Musinex D safely to rid the passages of the residual mucus. Got the go ahead so took a prednisone, and inhaler. Two hours later I took one MusinexD and then an hour later I took my last zpac med. All done by 1pm and it is now 5. Feel much better and have had only one mild coughing attack. I think I've turned a corner. Bill still is very congested but says he feels good, just really tired. Methinks, By God, the Gringoes are going to make it! Bets says my blog was very scary--sorry--but it WAS scary. lol In response to some emails---OH< Cinda--it is a DATE!!! I don't care how but next year hell or high water, we shall meet in California!!!ho Barb--Not sure what you meant by this comment:The flower arrangements and displays there were better. But I've wanted to go to the Philly show for so long it is sad to hear it was disappointing. Love Longwood. Lilac Festival in Roch sounds terrific. Do you remember going to Newark for the roses when we were kids? Ceil--thank you--it is helping already--better than the meds. We are going to take our time and spend some exploring time in places we haven't been in years. It is sad to be headed home without getting to Az or Ca but Ok is calling and maybe Neb and Missouri Lastly, Sally--guess you and Bets thought we were going to Nevada--but I hate " Vegas" See no attraction at all. Love Tahoe though. Las Vegas, NM is northeast of Santa Fe headed toward Colorado, but we will make a right turn and head into Oklahoma panhandle out of NM. So far, Bill is doing fine. We are pacing ourselves. So, the pizza has arrived. Smells awful--Domino's --i like Pizza Hut--but neigher of us felt like sitting in a restaurant. Saving our strength for Eddies in Guymon if it hasn't closed. That's all she wrote folks, until tomorrow. The Valley Vagabonds bid you good night. KandB

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kill the Gringo Disease Returns

Latest news from the Gallup sick room--Bill came back from the doctor's on the 9th with four prescriptions and a diagnosis of pneumonia. This time he got a nebulizer treatment, an inhaler, a codeine cough syrup, prednisone and a z-pac. God, I have never taken that many prescription meds in my life!!! Well, needless to say, my turn came on Monday the 14th. Same meds, no nebulizer treatment. Not pneumonia, thank goodness though I'm not sure how much healthier I've been. We both had fevers of 103 that aspirin wouldn't touch. I've had colds and bronchitis but this is a horse of a different color. Haven't been this sick since I gave up smoking 16 years ago because of a bout of bronchitis that had me so unable to breath I thought I was dying. Anyhow, to make a long story short we've been in this Gallup motel room now for a week--today is actually day 8--and we've been sick the whole time. Bill wants to leave today but I need to wash my hair--haven't had the strength to stand in the shower long enough to do it. Also organize the stuff in this room and pack up. I think I need to rest after that. I slept from midnight to 3 am very well but woke to go to the bathroom and have been coughing and hacking until 530 when I threw in the towel and got up. Bill slept well last night, I think though he is now up also hacking. The walls are so thin here I feel sorry for anyone who has had the misfortune of being housed next to our room. I doubt they've slept well this week. I'd suggested we go see the wolves and then stay in Grants which is only about 75 miles but Bill wants to push to Las Vegas. I see a forced march in our future--makes me real comfortable with him hacking away and taking cough syrup. He returned to the Doctor's yesterday since his meds were gone except for a bit of syrup and his inhaler. Doc sent him to the hospital for an xray and said he might have to put Bill on the heavy stuff. Xray came back clear! So, no new meds--just continue with inhaler and wait. This is what keeps happening--we don't beat this thing--it takes a rest and then comes back like gangbusters. I'm well aware of the dangers of overdoing antibiotics and God knows I DO NOT take meds--my aspirin is outdated by three YEARS and there are meds in the medicine cabinet probably older than Betsy--for God's sake. BTW,Sally, she really loved her singing birthday wish--even though she'll probably never get around to calling you and thanking you--I don't know how I failed to train her well in that regard. :( Anyhow, I'm now wearing Depends so I don't destroy everything I lie or sit on while hacking. Oh, happy day! On a happier note, I've lost five pounds and it ain't all water either, I've drunk enough to fill all five of the Great Lakes and may never drink water again. Wish I had some exciting adventures to write about but I figured it up--we have been sick together or in cycles since Feb 17 on and off and have been in long motel stays during the bouts. We aren't going any farther West---first time since the Cobalt died on the streets of Tulsa that we haven't made it to at least Arizona and most of the time to So. California! Depressing. I'm thinking --depending on the flooding etc we now have to navigate--that we'll be home before our Apr 1 plan. In some ways, this is the first year I'm looking forward to going home. I really don't like it there but I miss Betsy and the cats and I want to see Jessie, our regular doctor. She may not do anything differently but there is the trust and comfort factor there. Well, I look out the window beside me at the lights of the businesses surrounding the empty parking lot. The roads are empty though the traffic lights change every few minutes nevertheless. It is 630 am and dark. Oh, there goes the first car. Guess the rest of Gallup is waking up. And I hear room doors so early risers are headed to breakfast. I am going back to bed to read and hack some more. Will keep you posted as we make our way back East. So long for now. The Valley Vagabonds KandB

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Belen and Gallup

Hello all! It does not seem possible that I haven't written since Feb 29! Have been pretty busy since then visiting Bud and Gloria in Belen, where we arrived on Tuesday, March 1. We took the Turquoise Trail from Santa Fe to Albuquerque. It wanders snake-like through several mining towns that have been repopulated by Bohemian-type artisans, which I can handle much better than the Santa Fe- Taos nexus. Madrid, which is pronounced MAHDrid, has been named the fourth or sixth most hippie town in the country by some group or another. I wanted to go into Jezebel's to pick up the metal gila monster that I didn't buy two years ago, but the shop was closed at 10 am, so that sleeping-in bohemian missed a sale. Arrived at Chez Comstock-Hill around 1130 and spent much of the day sitting around the table with tea and coffee and caught up since our last visit. One of the things about staying here is that Gloria is a wonderful cook and feeds you like a king. This day was no difference--pork chops and a wonderful cheesy potato casserole--the recipe for which I forgot to get--which even Bill, who does not like cheese, really liked. Of course, we had salad--a Bill fav--though I love it, too. This also was the day I was introduced to Ginger-Honey instant tea crystals. I drank plenty of that during my visit along with sucking Ricola herbal lozenges. My throat was truly sore and my ears hurt so much I thought they would bleed. Unbelievable pain and I took ibuprofen each night in order to sleep. Along with Mucinex D for nasal congestion. Those of you, who know me well, know that this was killing me. I never take medicine and often have to throw out aspirin because they are so old they are useless. Doctors are amazed to find that I'm not taking any regular medication at my age. To have to take OTCs in such quantity drives me nuts. But I was so sick I just gave in for whatever relief I might get. Wednesday Bill and Bud took Douglas Bristlecone to Albuquerque to the Toyota dealer for his 20,000 mile checkup and oil change. He got his first bath,too, and he looks very spiffy. Could be my imagination but I thought I saw him skip into the drive when he came back--I know he gave me a grin and wink, he feels so good. While they were gone, Gloria and I looked over some of our new scrapping tools. Gloria has some stamp/stencil sets that she uses to make incredibly beautiful three dimensional greeting cards and as scrapbook embellishments. I have my collection of Lea France stencils for page layouts and some tri-part papers from Australia to make a book like layout. Then we spent some time being creative. Gloria invited some of her neighbors over for grilled hamburgers and sides for dinner. A couple, Fred and Donna Winters, from the UP. He is a retired middle school history teacher and she is a published author. She brought two of her books over with her, for Gloria and I to read and swap. I started the one about the Erie Canal but just couldn't get into it. The other, Adventures with Vinnie, was a light tale of life with a rescue dog who is quite rambunctious. It was fine. The other guest, Judy, is originally from Minnesota though she left long ago. She taught high school chemistry, is now retired, but teaches a couple days a week at the local Community College. Very enjoyable evening with lively conversation ranging from gun control, to teaching and kids, to politics and Fred's interest in two Vters who aren't feeling the Bern, among other things. After ice cream and home made brownies, the evening ended with a quick recap after the guests went home. Thursday, with still horrible throat and ear pain, got up fairly early. Bud and Bill headed over to Home Depot to pick up some manure and other stuff for gardening. Upon their return Bill tackled the two philodendrons that have become quite thick with lengthy stems. He repotted and trimmed them back. Then he planted some cactus seeds and created a mini-terrarium around them, checked on the other house plants to determine their needs if any and then got the flower pots in the yard ready for planting. Bud took care of the raised beds. After awhile, Gloria and I went over to Albertson's to pick up some steak and potatoes for dinner. Gloria grilled them and they were wonderful and we all ate almost to bursting. Since Bud and Gloria weren't terribly interested we watched the Republican debate in the guest room. Our original plan was to stay until Friday morning which was one night more than we usually stay. Bill and I hate to overstay our welcome though Bud and Gloria never think that we do and are very welcoming and happy to have us. Still, we are of the after three days fish smell bad philosophy. We extended our plans so that Gloria and I could scrap together which we never manage to do. Gloria convinced us to stay until Saturday morning so that we could all go to the 66 Casino. But, when I woke up Friday, the night before had been so painful and I'd slept so poorly, I asked to go to Urgent Care AGAIN! I was beginning to feel like a hypochondriac and was getting very impatient and frustrated. Dr Phelps told me I wasn't sick. The Z-pac would have taken out any bacteria. I said, fine, but this pain is real and something is NOT right. He said either it was a virus--second time I heard this--or that I had a nasal drip that was building fluid up on the inner side of the ear through the Eustachian tubes. So, more OTCs--God, half of them I've NEVER purchased in my life! Sudafed, or Flonase or Claritin etc Continue the ibuprofen for the pain, gargle with warm salty water and suck cough drops to happiness. So after three hours went back to Chez Comstock-Hill and told them to go to the Casino without me. Gloria and Bud didn't want to hear of it, but I said what are you all going to do while I go to bed? If you won't go without me, then I'm going to go. Finally, they relented. I'm glad, because they had fun and enjoyed the buffet and gambled a little and I slept, spoke to Betsy when she called and woke me, a played a bit with my layouts. We all watched TV and had sandwiches for dinner. Also decided to stay until Monday--lol Saturday had all sorts of things going on and Gloria and I wanted to watch the finale of Downton Abbey together. Saturday was an incredibly busy but fun day. Started out in the Community Building with TGIS coffee and donuts and a presentation by a fellow about cyber security. Very interesting and it was with relief that I knew about most of it. Jon and his wife were lovely, humorous and informative. The time went very quickly. Met some more of the residents here, most of whose names I cannot remember, though Nancy and Dave who moved here from St Louis became fairly familiar. Headed back to the house and got in some more scrapping. Betsy called and said she'd opened her birthday gifts and loved them all--a scarf and Grandmother's Buttons earrings from me and a Farberware steamer from Bill. Home-made chili for late lunch since the evening's gathering would include snacks and a birthday cake for one of the guys. Nancy and Dave were there and Nancy and I got talking about bottle trees. She's been collecting wine bottles, as have I, and wants to make a tree of some sort with them. She had all kinds saved on her phone so we looked them over and discussed how to make them. I said I was trying to get some more blue bottles since they are hard to come by. After the gathering we headed home to watch The Suffragette. Bill excused himself to read. The movie was okay, though I really didn't get the connection between woman's abuse and suppression and the vote. Guess you had to be there. Don't think the majority of women cared and certainly, in the beginning, there wasn't a huge rush to the polls by women. By Sunday, my throat was finally tolerable --just achy and the ears were fine. Continued the Sudafed and salt water and Ricolas but able to forego the ibuprofen. Slept really poorly again but think it was the impending leave taking. We had been here so long that, though we tried to keep most of our things in the guest room, we did have some items throughout the house--stuff in the scrap room, stuff in the fridge, stuff on the counter in the kitchen. I always get antsy when I have to pack up. Sure I'm going to forget something. Since it was our last day, Gloria and I really moved along in the scrapping. I am such a slow learner with spatial things and she must have shown me how to cut out base paper to salvage waste and make the layout less bulky a zillion times before I THINK I finally have it. She also showed me several things on the Cricut. I ordered a embossing -die cut machine like hers--since it is so much simpler than most of them on the market. Just as I was to reciprocate by helping her with the Lea France stencils, Nancy showed up with two bottles of riesling in blue bottles. It is from Deming, New Mexico. I paid her for them though she didn't expect me to. I showed her how to use the stencils but the room is so small it wasn't possible to Gloria to see clearly what I was doing. We moved into the dining room for tea and by the time Nancy left it was too late to show Gloria. Felt badly, but she really wasn't taken with them, since they incorporate five or more pix per page and her focus is on her grandchildren in her albums. She prefers fewer pictures and more story telling on her pages than the stencils allow. Leftovers for dinner and then Downton Abbey. It was satisfying for the most part. All happy endings which was nice. Some characters were left with an open ended situation and I have subsequently seen that Julian Fellowes did that on purpose to leave room for some kind of continuation of the story if there is interest. All of a sudden it was time to pack up and hit the road. Gloria had said at some point when you leave on Tuesday and I said " ON MONDAY!" LOL I think she'd have kept us there until her Aunt arrives on the 19th! Bud gave me a baggy of ibuprofen since I was out and Gloria gave me the last Sudafed, also a loaf of her delicious banana bread. By 9:15 we were back on the road--only as far as Gallup but that is where Perry Null is and also the wolf sactuary isn't far away in Ramah. We stopped and had lunch at El Rancho Hotel. I picked up a couple of cards at Ortegas--one a sympathy card for our neighbor whose Dad has died. Then we got our room and moved things in. Bill watched some of his Fox shows and I read. Hadn't taken ibuprofen for awhile but drank lots of fluids all afternoon--iced tea and water. Bill got Applebee's chicken wings for dinner and we just vegged. Yesterday, lazed around but went over to Perry's and picked up a few Christmas gifts for Betsy and Barb and then the silver beads, known as Navajo pearls, that I've wanted for a number of years. Also a turtle pin-pendant that is quite large 3x4 and is inlaid with Kingman Turquoise. He can be strung on a silver chain either horizontally or vertically. Purchased a simple pair of inlaid studs to go with him. It was so nice to reunite with Angel and Mel, whom we've known for five years now. I am going to go back, because I've decided I really do want the ring I'd tried on and couldn't decide. Headed to Coal street to check out the location of Jerry's where Mel said the food was good. Lunchtime so the place was packed. Headed out to Red Rock Park and was amazed at the beauty of the cliffs which are hidden from the highway. Nothing much going on in the park so we followed the road out into the hills. On the map it shows the road just ending at the boundary of the Navajo Nation. Well, it ends at a locked gate--so no going on the Nation from this direction. The formations and valleys were simply beautiful and we loved the drive on a road new to us in a town where we drive around like natives. Went back to Jerry's but it was still packed so headed out 66 to Virgie's where we've eaten before. I had a single beef burrito because the plate, as described, was huge. Guess what? The burrito was huge and there was lettuce and tomato and rice with it. Bill had green chili and taco and ate half my burrito. The food was delicious and filling. When we got back to the room, Bill said the burrito hadn't set well--I asked if it could have been his chile. Nope. Noticed Bill was clearing his throat quite a bit but thought nothing of it. Hard time sleeping again last night. Bill coughing quite a bit. By the time I was going to get ready to go to the Wolf Sanctuary, he was coughing very hard and had taken daytime Nyquil. Told him we should stay in and he get into bed and rest. He sounds worse than he was back in Santa Rosa. In the meantime, Gloria wrote that she is running a fever, is congested and went to Urgent Care where they gave her a Z-Pac and codeine cough syrup. Bill agreed to stay in but he got progressively worse--cannot lie down he is so congested. So, once more he has gone to the local Clinic. I don't know what this Kill the Gringo disease is but let me tell you, having a bout does not give you the immunity needed to battle the next attack. He has had both the pneumonia and flu shots, too. I didn't get them--shots make me nervous. I'm finally over everything. God, I hope I don't get this next thing. It is crazy how much time we have spent in motel rooms sick. We are seeing and doing lots of things and having fun but in between we get sick and have to hole up to recover. Have never experienced anything like this. I'm airing the room out while he is gone and going to read. Say a prayer it is nothing serious. More news when I have it. Til then --so long from the Gallup sick room. The Valley Vagabonds KandB