Archives for category: west

It was cool hiking some small trails yesterday but today was the BOMB! I just  LOVE driving through the park. As a rock hound, I’m in total hog heaven. The  rock formations are remarkable combinations from billions of years ago with that  many years of rain, wind, sand and Lord only knows what else attacking the  surface to expose what we see today. There are layers and layers of frozen-in-time  waves of red mud thrown in several different directions all frozen in a moment in  time.

Zion from West entrance before climb

Zion's form of barrier to keep you from going over ... what... that 10,000 foot cliff?

The red is the same red of Georgia clay used for making old bricks for 200 years  ago. Add to that red, splashes of very white, chalky looking rock and lots of dark  green pion pine needles and reddish-brown bark, light green cacti with yellow  or sometimes bright pink blooms. Sprinkled across this landscape are tiny  lavender bell-shaped wild flowers along the side of the road or bright red flowers  creeping out of the rock formations. We drove about 15 MPH and took over two  hours driving about 40 miles. Normally, I’d do that in 30 minutes! Tells it all,  don’t it!

Great caves carved out of the rock from billions of years of nature's tantrums

Cactus flowers along side of road

After driving up the mountain you reach the part where you go through the mile long tunnel. It’s so cool but the jerk kid in front of us threw out a cherry bomb in the tunnel and scared the crap outta’ us. Needless to say, when we exited said tunnel, I reported it complete with truck description and license tag number to the Forest Ranger holding the oncoming traffic as only one lane is open at a time. Saw the truck pulled over with a Ranger looking for the culprits. Like that!

mile long tunnel

Now we’re on our way back out of the park exiting to the east so that we can end up at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, hopefully, before too late so we can get a place to stay.

Can you find Ava?

This is where we stopped because we saw a waterfall, such as it is. The only one during the whole trip.

Waterfall desert style

This next picture was so amazing because of the rock formations but if you look closely at the very top of the white mountain, there are rocks stacked on top of each other.

Can you see the rocks stacked on top of the white mountain?

Here’s a better picture of the stacked rocks on top of that white mountain with my zoom.

Now can you see them?

So, after all this excitement, we realized that we needed to hustle up to get a place  to stay. As Ava wanted to hike down into the Canyon and stay at Phantom  Ranch tomorrow and hike back out the South Rim the following day, we needed  a place near the North Rim. We were hoping against hope that there would be  room in the park. No such luck. They book a year out.

We found a place 43 miles from the North Rim. It is officially called Kaibab  Campgrounds at Jacob Lake (or a similar name) which we now call Rip Off  Campground. We’re so mad for so many reasons but first the cool part.

We set up camp around 5:30 PM and drove immediately to the North Rim so Ava  could find out specific details about her hike for the next day. We were confident  that the only challenge after returning to camp was to not be excited in  anticipation of her adventure… that apple don’t fall far from the tree. I walked a  different path (vertigo, ya’ know) while she headed toward the Lodge and  inquired as to availability for dinner. They had just had a cancellation so we could get a table on the RIM eating fine food, drinking fine wine while watching the sunset go down over the North Rim. Ava looked at me and said seriously, “Ya’ know this is the only place you can see the sunset over the Grand Canyon.” I believed her. And it was.

Now back to the rip off campground. First of all they charge me with my little pop-up $37.00 plus tax which is the same as they do for huge 40 foot RV’s! No discounts. This has been a thorn in my side for the last three trips but now that these places are going up every year, it’s really ticking me off. The worst part? They have the NERVE to charge me $2.25 (in quarters only) to take a FIVE minute shower in a 2’x2′ shower stall! My little pop-up uses almost no electricity  and we certainly don’t have toilets or running water like the RV’s.

When I get home, I’m writing every congressman and woman about the  problems with the cost of camping. How can it cost as much as a Motel 6 for crying out loud! There, at least I get a warm bed and a shower for about the same price! There’s some gouging going on and I’m either upgrading my pop-up to include toilet, shower and big screen TV or selling it and going back to Motel 6 like I had to do in 2009.

What’s wrong with this state of the union when camping use to be affordable? I worked 45 years to live this dream of camping my way across this country. It’s been my dream, darn-it.

Up early to take Ava back to the North Rim to hike while I tear down camp and drive to some new unknown campground at the South Rim Friday! The challenge is that neither of our cell phone service providers have great service here but I don’t doubt that she’ll find me!

Happy trails.

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We stayed up so late last night trying to get ready to leave town that we couldn’t  get up. What do you do? You embrace it. I figured we’d get to a campground early  enough anyway to see some of Zion and I was right (Thanks God). You just  have to get in before 4:00 and we barely made it with time change and driving  but we did and that’s all that counts.

Zion at dusk

Unfortunately, Zion isn’t all that pet friendly. There’s only one trail where dogs are allowed so I hiked that with Montana while  my daughter took the shuttle up to the stop for hiking Emerald Pool. She says it’s gorgeous. I hope to find out tomorrow while she dog sits Montana. Right now, all I want to do tomorrow is take the Shuttle all the way to the top and back just for kicks and giggles.

More Zion

Our facilities are expensive at Zion Canyon Campground RV Resort at  $35.00/night seeing as how it’s we’re renting is the dirt and a little power. They  charge the pop-up campers the same as the huge RV’s. That ain’t right. I don’t  even have water hook-up here. The internet connection is lousy. To top it all off,  the overhead lights in the pop-up decided not to work tonight. The good news is  the Virgin River is roaring outside and will lull us to sleep.

Now this is what I call a room with a view!

The other good news is that there is an amazing view outside our pop-up. Wow.  I can’t wait to drive over the mountain to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon  tomorrow.

Zion at dusk

So, more installments tomorrow from the North Rim. I’m so excited. I’ve never  been there before and it’s all back scenic roads getting there. Oh boy!

Happy trails!

The last item on my Vegas-Baby to-do list before leaving to go camping was to  visit  the Bellagio and their Gallery of Fine Art. I get to the Bellagio alright, I just  never  seem to get there at the right time… like when they’re open. So, I made a  plan to  just do it.

The Bellagio is my favorite casino/hotel facility in Vegas-Baby. It has real  uptown  class and it has Chihuly… lots and lots of Chihuly! Who is Chihuly, you  say? Dale  Chihuly is a master of blown glass in art form of world renown. He  takes glass,  adds color and design and makes it art… a poppy field hanging  from a ceiling or  an arrangement in a vase or items floating in water or items  holding water. He has  a remarkable talent.

Here is the poppy field hanging from the ceiling of the Bellagio Hotel lobby.

Poppy field hanging fromBellagio Lobby ceiling

Closer view:

Up close and personal

Closer...

really close

Or maybe you’d like the bouquet of Chihuly:

Huge Chihuly Bouquet

Now for the class part. How’s this for a swimming pool? Oops. Can’t see the  pool for the trees? Don’t worry. It’s there and BIG!

Really... there's a pool back there behind all the trees and landscaping.

The Bellagio also has one of the finest atriums ever that they decorate with  different themes representing a holiday, season or event. So far, I’ve seen  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Year of the whatever 2010 was in the Chinese  calendar and whatever this month’s that looked somewhat Americana 1890’s.  It’s more fun to me not really knowing the theme and deciding for myself. You  try it. What do you think?

Ferris Wheel with American Flags hanging everywhere

and the carousel…

see the carousel behind these people gawking at water?

Those people are watching the water jump up out of the pool and slap back  down. I’d rather look at the ferris wheel myself.

I paid my Senior rate to get into the Art Gallery that I’d heard so much about and  was pretty disappointed for my $12.oo fee. They only had 30 pieces of art  ranging from some really good Impressionists to some less impressive “art”.

I’m just sayin’ I get more bang for my buck at real museums that don’t empty into  the photo gallery of a local famous photographer. It’s like they get you “high” on  the more valuable Monet, Chagall art so this photographer’s prices don’t look so  bad. I’m not saying he’s not a good photographer. He is. And, if you fly me  around the world with the equipment he has, i could probably make some pretty  good pictures. Actually, me and my little Canon make darn good pictures going  80 MPH through the windshield, don’t you think? I need to sell some of my  stuffs too!

Tomorrow is packing day. It’s going to be short of a miracle to get my  daughter outta’ town Tuesday morning. Everyone is wanting her to drop by a  party or to see her before she goes and she hasn’t even packed yet and she has to  pack for camping, for Atlanta and for Austria! Oh, did I tell you she’ll be gone  for three months?

Tomorrow should be fun!

Happy Trails!

As a person who likes to move… correction… must move… it’s been quite the test to be still for the last two weeks when I have so much I want to do and see while out west but you know why I’ve been docile… a recalcitrant docile, but docile nonetheless. So, it was a necessity for me to take the day off and break out of the house and the city.

As my only rule is to go to new places, I remembered that I hadn’t every gone to the old Vegas on Fremont Street, to Boulder City near Hoover Dam nor to the Gallery at the Bellagio. It was my intentions to go to all three but I had so much fun in Boulder City that number 3 will have to wait until tomorrow.

Montana and I weren’t too impressed with Fremont Street after we’d driven the length of it and figured we’d come back this way after Boulder City just to see if we just weren’t paying attention. We did notice some kind of pavilion area where some older places still remained but it looked under construction, it was hot and I couldn’t leave Montana in the truck. After all, I had to bring her ’cause she was getting a little stir crazy all the cats jumping around taunting her, poor baby… so many cats to keep up with for one little dog.

My daughter told me when she first moved to Las Vegas that she’d driven around that area and had fallen in love with the small, quaint town with its “dog friendly” residents. So, off to Boulder City near the Hoover Dam we went.

It seems that my body alerts me when nearing high voltage lines and it didn’t fail me today. I started getting that funky mini-panic feeling and pulled over on the side of the road to check my map. Yep. I was getting way too close to the Hoover Dam area instead of in the town of Boulder City. Right when I’d pulled over, I saw Lake Mead. It was absolutely beautiful with the mountain and sky backdrop but was also painful to also see how low the water levels still are. We need some of the water in Louisiana and Mississippi shipped to Lake Mead! Hey! Just build a cross-country pipe to send excess water in the south out west! Oops. I digress.

Lake Mead-white line on opposite bank shows old water line

Lake Mead - See the old water lines on spit of land to the right?

The first time I saw Lake Mead, I was told it was down SIXTY FEET! Now it’s “only” down about 27 feet from full pool. It’s only dropped this low three times since it was built 80-odd years ago. Like I said, pipe it in from the Mississippi River!

Feeling my way away from Hoover Dam so as to not get any closer than I must to take good pictures of the lake, I move in the opposite direction and stumble into this adorable 1950’s town, park Silver and get Montana out to stretch our legs. I don’t know who was happier to get outta’ the truck at this point!

First place we stopped on our walk was a rock shop, of course, called Nature’s Art & Gifts (www.NaturesArtAndGifts.com). It’s widely known that I’m a rock junky and have a wide assortment of rocks from all over the world that my dad collected and gave to me. I also have a rock garden where I “grow” them when the weeds don’t choke them out. Actually, they’re rocks my son and mother collected on their annual trip west when he was between the ages of  5 and 10. I can’t tell you how precious they are to me.

As Montana and I stood drooling over the outdoor display, Judy, who worked inside, came out and invited both of us in! You coulda’ knocked me over with a feather. Judy and I instantly became best friends. I told her that I write about my travels and, as I was talking, Judy recognized the parched voice of an easterner’s dry throat and promptly handed a cup of water to me and a bowl for Montana.

Then, I was telling my new best friend, Judy, about my daughter’s journey to Austria to study at an intensive opera workshop and Judy remembered my daughter coming to see her three years before! Sure enough, my girl went to the same store, made friends with Judy and told her she had just moved to Las Vegas to study at UNLV! I couldn’t believe it so I whipped out my handy dandy photo of Ava and sure ‘nuf, Judy said that was the same young lady. How ’bout that, folks. There was no way I wasn’t gonna’ buy something from Judy at this point!

Judy then tells me about this rock that’s good for the throat Chakra and I’m sold. I spend the loveliest time in that shop digging for treasures and Judy helped me find all the rocks Ava needs to take with her to Austria to help her with Chakra kinda’ thangs.

Boulder City central-Nature's Art & Gifts on left past Ace Hardware

Montana and I crossed the street aiming for more “shiny” objects to get distracted by when Montana saw a cow! She got so excited that I just had to stop and take her picture with it.

"Is that cow still looking at me?

Then we came across a gypsy who could tell our fortunes.

Local psychic

Then we came across a lovely little sidewalk cafe called Milo’s Cellar (www.MilosCellar.com) which also has an inn (www.MilosInn.com). I wasn’t sure Montana would be welcome but shoulda’ known I was in a good place. The waitress signaled to me to come on over to a table and promptly and without solicitation brought Montana a cool bowl of water.

Milo's Cellar Sidewalk Cafe

I recommend the fresh brewed tea, “Tuscany” sandwich with potato salad. It was all very fresh and the view wasn’t too bad either. The guy sitting across the sidewalk from me looked like Paul Newman AND his cowboy boots were dirty (yeah baby) AND he was drinking wine with his lunch! Too cool.

can you see Paul Newman?

Montana had complained about having to be good while I ate so we had to get movin’ on down the road. We talked it over and we decided to give Freemont Street another chance and I’m glad we did. It’s funny how you see things differently… going vs. coming.

Vegas-Baby circa 1950's

Yippee! Looks like Roy Rogers and Trigger!

Talk about a big stiletto!

Talk about a B-I-G Stiletto!

What strange looking show girl

As I approached Las Vegas Boulevard, I’d realized that I’d never driven the length of it so that was our next and last phase of our day adventure… driving in traffic for miles through areas I wasn’t sure I should be in with the windows down to the magnificence of the current “strip”. It was still early enough in the day to not be in the bumper car fiasco that often happens at night in this area and also to be able to clearly see the buildings around me and not have them get lost in all the bright lights.

One set of buildings stood out… Encore:

Encore!

So, I leave it all with you tonight… my whole day adventure. Tomorrow I’m going to the Bellagio to see the Gallery. That’s another thing I never quite make happen when I’m here and it’s happening tomorrow!

Happy Trails!

Today is going to be a very difficult day. Ava and I hobnobbing with her in- famous friends. It’ll be one Memorial Day party after another all day. It’s a  tough job but somebody has to do it and we’re the girls for the job! We’re rested  and ready for the events de jour.

Yesterday was the warm up. Ava and I bounced between errands and planned  Sunday events all day long. We finally landed at a barbecue birthday party  attended by professional humorists, hypnotists and singers… and me.

We’re also out and about putting up flyers for Ava’s next performance at a  fundraiser her friend, Cheryl, is giving at her home this coming Wednesday,  June 1st from 6:30 P.M. to 10:30 P.M. to help with Ava’s expenses for the  intensive opera program Ava will be attending in Graz, Austria for seven weeks  this summer.

fundraiser

There will be silent auctions for: two Cirque du Soleil tickets ANYWHERE IN  THE WORLD with 24 hours notice; also two tickets to the Vegas-Baby  “Phantom of the Opera” production which includes an autographed poster and  backstage passes with a photo with the cast.

Raffle tickets are $5.00 each. Prizes include: $100.00 gift certificate to Tao  Restaurant in Vegas-Baby, H&M Gift Certificate, original works of art  (paintings by Cheryl Parker and Vital Germaine) and more to come.

The action will include an OPEN BAR,  hor d’oeuvres and performances by Ava.  Also performing are:

7:00 Carmen’s tribute to Jazz

7:30 Penny Wiggin’s act

7:45 Jenni’s french horn songs

8:00 Ava sing’s opera and art songs

8:30 Heather and Rachel’s fire act

8:45 intermission

9:00 Anastasia’s show (I’ve got you under my skin)

9:15 Irish Kevin songs

Knowing some of you can’t attend but would like to contribute toward this  fabulous opportunity for our own starving artist, there’s a site below where you  can make a difference in a very talented lady’s life. All donations are graciously  accepted and will go directly toward her $2000 plane ticket and food expenses.  All other fees have been paid through scholarship awards.   http://www.cherylparkergallery.com/page3.php

As an entrepreneur and artist, and through Ava’s experience as performer, my  awareness has been heightened for the need to network across all artistic  genres for each other. It’s the passionate artist that stuns the world with their  music or painting into remembering our humanity. It’s the writer or ballerina  who touches just the right spot in our soul that triggers the desire to do good for  the less fortunate. What would the world be like without the collective artistic  “us”? I, personally, think it would be more cold, harsh, painful and warlike.

I’m just sayin’…

Poster for Ava's Fundraiser event 6/1/2010

My body doesn’t take well to chemicals. If you take 1 pill, I take 1/4th. If you drink “leaded” coffee, I drink un-leaded and get cracked out for the whole day. A motion  sickness pill that won’t have any drowsy effect on my 40 pound dog puts my fanny  in the bed for 4 days! No kidding! I think it’s from being raised on a farm with well  water and  natural foods.

So, I’m not kidding when I say I had to get cracked out on caffeine (TWO 15 oz.  cups of Diet Coke) to counter the drugged  feeling I had this morning from the  “less drowsy”  version of motion sickness meds for vertigo before I even  felt like  venturing out of the house. I haven’t felt safe to drive knowing how dizzy I get  just turning my head to look over  my  shoulder. It was a desperate need to see  people, maybe  even converse with  people, that  pushed me to take such drastic  measures.

I’d recently heard of a local outdoor flea market called Broadacres, in North Las  Vegas. It’s one of my favorite  things to do on Saturdays.  While my daughter  slept, I planned my mini-adventure. I successfully found it on the internet and  took off. It was easy to find. I found it without using my crutch (TomTom), got a  parking spot in the shade (something a southerner learns early) and only had  to pay $1.00 to enter.  Great start, wouldn’t you say? And, to top it all off, the  place was appropriately  named… broad acres.  This was going to  be yummy  except for the fact that it took me two hours to wake up enough to  even drive  which meant the heat was  going to beat me down  if I didn’t  drink  lots of  water and walk in the shade.

As I arrived, I thought of my theory about east coast flea markets: the really  good,  inexpensive treasures are on the periphery. So, it was with great  enthusiasm  to prove it a national theory as well that I proceeded. And, I kinda’  did and kinda’ didn’t. This was an adventure all of its  own.

First impression was that I’d been transported to a 21st century Mexican  marketplace.  There was a lot of Spanish foods, music, customers,  products and  atmosphere.  I was sure I’d find some kind of cool Frida Kahlo treasure to buy;  even a book of  photos or earrings. By the way, Frida Kahlo was an amazing  Mexican artist in the early 1900’s who was wonderfully portrayed by Selma  Hyak in the movie, “Frida”. It’s a must see.

I briskly walked toward the back portion of this huge asphalt paved, fenced  arena of tent canopies abutting each other as far as you could see. There were  the occasional permanent buildings remnant of a past life but not many.

The place was packed but not as bad as an amusement park on a hot day, thank  goodness. You could still walk around without getting run over by strollers or  people. But, after the first hour, it was lookin’ pretty bleak. I’d only purchased  some Lucky Bamboo and a bottle of water and the heat was starting to get to  me. My next purchase had to be some kind of hat.

I kept my eye out for something with holes in the top with a wide brim. I had  several of these at home I’d failed to pack so I didn’t want to spend much and  there were plenty to choose from of all varieties. I needed an extra small one  and I knew that would be a trick. Got it and for $5.00. Now I had to secure it to  my head because the wind gusts were in the 40-50 MPH range (no kidding)  and get back to my Frida quest.

The second hour only served up large portions of penny arcade-type purchases,  brightly colored stilettos and stuff I wasn’t even slightly interested in  purchasing. There were jeans to be purchased for $5.00 and other items I’m  sure worthy of their price tag as well, just not what I wanted. I wanted a  treasure… a Frida treasure.

By the end of that second hour, I was burned up and out. I headed straight for  Silver and we drove back home with an adventure and a deeper tan.

Check it out the next time you’re out this way. Who knows. You might just find your own Frida treasure there.

http://www.broadacresmec.com

It was being vigilant in keeping my head firmly fixed straight ahead from the  allergy/vertigo attack of this week which forced me  into being still long enough  to remember a gift from a friend.  Little did my friend know that her wonderful gift arrived in the middle of a  hurricane-like event.  I was in the cross-hairs of a broken 16 year love affair;  neither one of us knew exactly how to end it. And, in true Donna fashion, I got  mad and made the cut… clean and swift.

It wasn’t until I got to Vegas-Baby and became virtually bed or chair ridden  before I  even realized the gift from a friend was packed.  The gift: Pat Conroy’s  new book, My Reading Life. It has served as a resuscitation of my writing soul.

As a dyed-in-the-wool southern girl raised on a family farm, born of  two well-educated, resourceful parents with generations of delicious family  history to  entice a fanciful, writer-to-be into a lifetime of love of history, it was  only  natural for me to become an avid reader. First, it was my sister’s timely  introduction to me of the Classics Section of the Buckhead Library  (specifically, Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy) that spurned me  onward to bigger-than-life European history such as that of Catherine the Great  and,  eventually, to racier biographies of famous and infamous people like those  in The Nympho and Other Maniacs. It was their stories that made my  ancestors’  journeys burst with life… resuscitating them to breathe again  through me.  Their struggles for religious freedom or desire to invent a  bicycle brake or to be the best American Impressionist was the cause and effect of my destiny to fall in love with a Southern autobiographical writer with a sprinkling of historical fiction.

It’s in my genetic structure. My paternal grandmother was a published writer of  the little known grubbers of the west… the real people who clawed the dirt aside  to only discover more dirt. The men and women she wrote about did everything  to keep the lifestyle they desired alive and would not settle. I like reading about that  kind of character. It pushes me forward in a way nothing else can. True stories  about real people struggling at all cost to make their dream come true.

Back in the mid 1960’s, as I struggled to become a published writer  of  poetry, I,  instead, found myself a single mom. At the age of 18, I was thrown head  first  into  sleepless newborn nights and forty hour work weeks. It didn’t stop my  drive to  read or write, however. It brought me to my knees in such a way that I  joined no less than five book clubs to get the variety of exposure for which I  longed. I couldn’t get enough knowledge. I went to college after work so I could  realize my dream.

My son, Carl, was both my inspiration and my albatross. After he’d go to bed, I’d  read. As life dealt its traumas, I’d write. Oh, I wrote happy things too but not in  the prolific manner as the mortified moaning of lost love which exploded from  my  soul.

The first signs of my devoted love of Pat Conroy’s writing came with the reading  of The Great Santini sometime in the early 1980’s during a nasty divorce. It was  only natural. We shared the same father. Although my  father didn’t fly  Corsairs, he did fly during WWII and had enough of that “Patton”   disciplinarian in him to make  us all (including Mom) stand at attention with  the greatest of fear seasoned  with  a healthy dose of Dad’s demanded respect.  Yep. Conroy and I were cut from the  same southern cloth distributed with the  cattle feed… coarse outer  surface and smooth inside, stiff to look at, sturdy yet  easily destroyed with the  wrong cut.

My reading of Conroy’s painful parental expose’ was followed by The Lords of  Discipline. This book painfully exposed what southern gentile thought was the  right  way to bring up a gentle man… military school… break ’em hard school of  hazing and harassment. Fortunately, my family couldn’t afford that kind of  expense for  my biological brothers but that didn’t exempt them from early  military  service  that served the same purpose.

I guess we girls were lucky in some strange mind-bending way of logic because  we were “only” subjected to one ogre’s demands… of all kinds.

But, it was within those wonderfully torturous pages of  The Prince of  Tides where Conroy spilled his southern guts that held me tightly in his talent. I  studied each page with highlighter and crimped corners knowing the suffering  this author endured to expose this story. Conroy grips the reader to expose the  truth about many Baby Boomers in the Deep  South. Yep. We were a secret  society of abused, tortured souls forced into silence  from domineering  patriarchs. And, from one who instantly recognized the  “road less traveled” in  action, I saw truth.

Therapy teaches you that truth can only be revealed through exposure to a bright, shining halogen light on the darkest corners of a tortured soul. For that, one must have a  deep, burning desire to exorcise those real and imagined nightmares from the  soul. Conroy bravely, humbly and willingly thrust his whole being into that process and I will love, admire and respect him for a lifetime. I also applaud and thank him from the bottom of my heart as I have used his example in his book to help free loved ones from their prisons of darkness.

Interestingly enough, Conroy is actually a generation ahead of his time, to my  way of thinking, because writing with full disclosure is right in line with  Generation “X” group  thinking… at least the ones with whom I have had the  greatest exposure and  connection. My thirty-something nieces (daughters from  anotha’ motha’) and daughter all have been seekers of the bright light. It’s  taken them years to understand where to aim it and what to do with the  information it reveals, but it was their desire to speak of the unthinkable, do the  unthinkable  and express it in new ways that lead me to my own acceptance of  the concept. It was the “X” factor that raged from  every walk of life from artist to  lawyers to musicians to therapists who joined in  Conroy’s quest. So, was Conroy the catalyst or was his work a process of synergistic thinking from the universe. Hmmm. Delicious thinking.

See what I’m tawkin’ ’bout? Word.

Yesterday, I joined Maya (dear friend and confidant) to have lunch at “our”  Mexican restaurant, Agave, in Summerlin, NV north of Vegas-Baby. It’s what  we  do first when I’m in town. Their ambiance is a superb example of up-scale  interior design complete with colored glass mosaics at the open kitchen counter-front, beautiful tile work throughout and topped off with authentic old world Mexican doors and hardware even in  the bathrooms. The sink in the bathroom is the coolest. It’s a long, flat, slightly slanted surface adorned with brightly colored green and deep blue tiles with hidden drain  system. Worth taking a trip just to look at the place. But, to top it all off, the food  is the BOMB! It’s all fresh and delicious. Prices are appropriate for a nice  restaurant but not outrageous (http://agaverestaurant.com). It’s a big thumbs up if you’re out this way and  won’t mind an amazing view of Red Rock, but  that’s another story.

Second, we go to Costco. We had to buy the caffeine free coffee drink my mom loves not  sold in any of their Atlanta stores called Caffe D’Vita. Yep, I drive 3000 miles to  buy this for my mom. Wouldn’t you? Last October, I bought her 12 cans and this  year I got 24. We don’t want Mama running out!

Next, we were off to the stables to play with Moose and Jessie. Well, at least for me it was play. For Maya, she worked her tail off shoveling the horses’ by-products! I brushed Moose and did whatever Maya directed me to do, within reason, took pictures and stood in awe of her energy and enthusiasm doing hard labor even of love.

Maya and Jessie

Moose is loose!

Tac attack.

When I was a kid, we had horses. We never worked hard with our horses,  but,  then again, I wasn’t the parent and we had pastures for them to run in. We  didn’t have dried poop-filled arenas that needed daily cleaning-up to ward off  hoof problems. Because grass is expensive and downright impossible  here in  Vegas-Baby, the locals who want horses take the horse by-product, dry  it and  re-surface the arenas and open stalls with it. The wind stirs it around  constantly making the air not only full of dust but horse poop. Makes having  horses in the desert less attractive to me but I’ve known differently and wouldn’t  do it this way. Nope. When I live out west, I won’t have horses. I’ll rent one if I  get a hankerin’ to ride.

As with people, there are so many more health issues with our animals, big and  small alike. For example, just last week, I heard of a herpes outbreak with some  horses in Utah at a rodeo type event. As there’s no cure and, because it  attacks their neurological system, they all had to be destroyed and the state is in  quarantine.

We  rarely called a vet or blacksmith. We just “had horses”. We didn’t have to  labor  over any of it. I fed the horses and jumped on their backs when I wanted a  ride around the pasture. And, after being reminded yesterday of Maya’s hot, backbreaking daily tasks with  even these extraordinary animals, I wouldn’t do it. Nope. Even loving  horses as  much as I do, it ain’t happening. Plus, I woke up this morning with a  horrible  spinning in my head from an allergic reaction to all the poop in the  wind. I’m  basically incapacitated even with two daily anti-histamines. Any  fast  movement of my head sends the room spinning until I sit still again. Now,   those of you who know me well, know I don’t do well sitting still.

The funny part? Jessie. When Maya scratches just in the right place, Jessie  extends his upper lip like something I’ve never seen. He moves it like an  Aardvark snout in hunt for tasty ants! Maya administered just the right  scratching needed for Jessie to show his “Dopies” while I clicked away. Look at  this crazy horse.

Jessie “Dopies”. Can you see how far out he extended his upper lip from his lower one?

I’ll keep trying to download the video. It’s absolutely hilarious!

I’m in R&R right now and, an integral part of that is doing what I love to do when I finally get to Vegas-Baby: eat at Lucille’s, listen to my girl sing, sleep in my room at Ava’s and hang out with my girl.

So, here’s the scoop on Lucille’s. It’ one of the finest places out of the south that serves good, authentic, down home barbecue and veggies. Lucille’s is in a shopping center near Green Valley (I think) off the 215. Here’s a visual for you:

LUCILLE'S

And ambiance from the 1950’s circa “The Christmas Story”:

FRAH-GEE-LEE ("Fragile" written on the shipping box in the move.. remember?)

And, finally, the order:

Ready to order beef ribs for me!

Now, dig in!

DIG IN!

I’m just sayin’! Nighty night!

It’s been so much fun staying off the Interstates (when possible) and keeping to  the  back roads to get in touch with the towns like I remember doing when I’d  travel  Georgia with my father as a child in the 1950’s. He was the Public  Relations Photographer for the numerous Governors for the State of Georgia over 25 years. When  the current Governor told Dad to cover a specific  event, Dad went and, when possible, I went with him. I sat on the laps of  Governors and knew many important State Legislators; that’s how it was  being his daughter. But, the most   impressionable part of it all to me was traveling those  country roads. I’d sit quietly in his car, imagining what the life was like in the  house we’d just passed where the people were sitting on the porch next to the  old wringer washing machine; the lights inside  barely glowed and looked more like candlelight than like Edison’s invention.

It was  all mystical and alluring but unsettling all at the same time to this little  girl  who was as young as 5  on her first great adventure with her dad. Who were   these people? Where did they work so far away from civilization? Did they play  Checkers? What did those children do during those long, hot, South Georgia  summers? Did they have a swimming hole like we did or a lake?  A million and  one questions raced through my young mind formulating stories, lives yet all the while trying to keep a very low profile so my dad wouldn’t quiz me with words to spell  in rapid fire fashion. Not only was I supposed to know how to spell words at 5  like “kudzu” but also remember the history of it in our state, etc. Needless to say,  I wandered off into their world to avoid answering his questions wrong!

Yep, it was then that I fell in love with country roads and their stories. And, I  guess, it was the hope that the ambiance of the small town still existed almost  60 years later that sent me on the first Great Adventure in 2009. I’m happy to tell you all that it does exist. The rapid rate of technological advancement has NOT deleted this wonderful attribute of our country. Thank you, God!

It’s the back roads I take, the Mom and Pop places where I sleep at night, fill up my truck and buy my food that keep me feeling alive. No big chain stores for me… except for the Truck Stops  (aka Welcome Centers) when the Interstate can get me where I  really want to be mo’ faster so I can spend more time off ’em!

As the weather has been unpredictable with high winds, rain and snow, I really haven’t even been able to pop-up the pop-up as yet. You just can’t fold up a wet pop-up without ruining your bedding and probably the particle board underneath. So, it’s been motel-ville for me. Not what I wanted, but as a friend of mine reminded me, “It’s what’s NOT planned that’s the most fun!” Thanks Big Ed-2 (not to be confused with Big Ed-1, my bro).

So, it was the Mom and Pop in Chugwater, WY and the Mom and Pop near Bryce  Canyon that tell the stories of how families stick together for the greater good of  all. Nice stuff.

At Buffalo Lodge and Grill in Chugwater known to serve the famous “Chugwater  Chili” (307-422-3463), the owner of the facility had become too sick to run the  place so the family stepped up to the plate… not just immediate blood-type  family but in-laws and out-laws alike doing the cooking, cleaning, managing  and baby sitting for those working. There was the cutest little 4-year-old girl  chirping around the small lodge. She ran back and forth between her grandma  in the restaurant to her mom/or aunt behind the desk. I really liked seeing that  part of Americana that appears to be lost in the big cities like Atlanta.

At Harold’s Place (435-676-2350) near Bryce Canyon (at the junction of Hwy.   89 and 12), I met Christy (sp?/Kristi/Christie), the daughter of the Mom and Pop   establishment. She rattled off her duties in rapid fire succession… manager,   landscaper, gardener, security, cook, waitress, bottle washer and overall get ‘er   done lady. When a Brit came into the restaurant and asked her what they   served, she replied, “Food” in the driest of British humor that totally went over   the Brit’s head! It was all I could do to keep from throwing out one of my   spontaneous, turrets like guffaws at her wonderful, Utahns British dry humor.   Thanks, Christy/Kristi/Christie! And, also, a special shout out to  Marty/Mardi (again sp?)  who had recently been hired to help with the hotel part of Harold’s. She’s   following along with me on this Great Adventure. Christy/Kristi/Christie   doesn’t touch computers and doesn’t even want to because they lock up, freeze  up or just go crazy when she touches them. She leaves all that to her dad   (harold@color-country.net).

And, as in the past few days, I woke up to more snow! So, off I went from   Harold’s to explore Bryce Canyon. Boy, was I glad I’d gotten my Senior Lifetime   National Park Pass in Georgia for a whopping $10.o0! It saved me the $25.00   fee to see the small but impressive park.

It snowed all the way through yet another aptly named “Red Canyon” (this one  in Dixie National Forest) to get to an overcast, snowy Bryce. Here’s what it  looked like going through Red Canyon on the way to Bryce.

going through Red Canyon to Bryce

more Red Canyon

Now, finally, at the famous Bryce Canyon:

Bryce

Natural (?) Bridge

At Bryce Peak

coming back out of Bryce

coming out of Bryce 2

Now it was onto Zion National Park going west on Hwy. 9. I had no way of  knowing the magnificent views and white-knuckle driving waiting me around  the bend.

Entering Zion

no stopping for pix... this is on-the-go photo ops

right before the white knuckle driving started & battery in camera ran dry

Ava and I will be driving through Zion (going east this time) to camp there (if  space is available) on our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Four  Corners and other points east on our way back to Atlanta. Even with bad weather, I saw lots of tents and bicyclers in Zion. They must all be young!

As for now, I’m settled in at Ava’s home for the next couple of weeks in Vegas- Baby. I will keep you posted on our adventures here and photos when they can be  published! Just kidding. We’re not all that rowdy any more! Really. Why don’t  you believe me?

See you all soon and thanks, again, for joining me on this Great Adventure. I am  so truly blessed to have this opportunity of combining the three things I love  most in life: my daughter, writing and travel.

Happy trails!