Monday, January 28, 2008

This is what I came home for??

This is what I came home for??

Or, perhaps it's this . . .

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Map of our Travels

We made up this little map to show our intinerary and were, ourselves, somewhat surprised by how closely we had stuck to the boundaries of our country -- to Canada, to the Atlantic, to the Gulf, to Mexico, to the Pacific -- and how far we had actually travelled. So where do we go next year??

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How many kitchens was that skillet in?

How many kitchens was that skillet in? Or, what are the trip statistics? [For those of you not into statistics, please remember that I'm a mathematician . . . ]

We're now back home, as of 01/11/08 about 6:30 p.m., having been out on the road since 09/01/07 – a total of 133 days, 132 nights.

During those 133 days, we traveled 12,921 miles passing through 33 states, the District of Columbia, the province of Ontario in Canada and the state of Baja California del Norte in Mexico. That gave us a trip essentially around the perimeter of our country – for the most part we were within 50-75 miles of either the border or an ocean or gulf.

For those 12,921 miles we used just over 784 gallons of gasoline at a weighted average price of $2.956 per gallon and just under 16.5 miles per gallon, for an average price of just under 18¢ per mile driven for gasoline.

Of those 132 nights, we spent 68 of them in 48 different campgrounds at an average nightly cost of $19.17; we spent 58 of them at 14 different friends' homes; we spent 6 nights in motels at an average of $51.24/night. [Motel nights were generally due to bad weather – rain, cold, wind, etc., although the first one was due to a mouse in the house!]

The only problems we had with the camper were with "peripherals" – the refrigerator quit working on propane until I blew the soot out of the burner box/thermocouple area, three drawers came unglued and had to be reglued, and one drawer latch broke and had to be replaced.

Along the way we managed to leave at least eight items in various places – a pair of sheets and a pair of pajamas in a campground laundry, a rolling barking dog toy, two kitchen knives, two jackets, a pair of shoes – but as a partial consolation we picked up an extra Tupperware dish/tray.

As for the number of kitchens that "the skillet" was in, the answer is obvious – fourteen! Due to dietary restrictions and just general fussiness, I cook my own breakfast (see photos) and carry the skillet and makins' in whenever we're at someone's home! Don't worry – that green in the one picture is a Habanero hot sauce, not mold . . .

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Exotic Brunches

We also spent some time with Clara's younger sister Dotty and her husband Bud. It is their habit, on Saturday and Sunday mornings, to take the morning paper and a cup of coffee or tea back to bed. This first picture, which I choose to call "Reflections on Domestic Tranquility" shows that scenario --

the "reflections" part comes from the fact that, due to the dimensions of their room, I had to shoot into the mirror on the closet door in order to get them into the picture . . .
The second picture shows part of the offerings at the second most elaborate brunch I have ever encountered. On Saturday morning, after the newspaper reading, etc., we all went out to the Pechanga Indian Casino on the south side of Temecula for their Saturday brunch. I was contentedly enjoying my made-to-order omelet with a slab of rare prime rib when Clara came along with this plate --

shrimp nopales salad, crawfish salad and raw Ahi tuna (no doubt marinated in lime juice for a ceviche effect) -- way beyond anything I have ever encountered in a casino before (with the exception of the $50 a head Sunday brunch at Bally's in Vegas where they serve name-brand French champagne . . . )
The third picture shows a delight of a slightly different sort -- perhaps the area's largest omelet

(I suspect they whip the egg whites in order to get a very puffy omelet . . . ) -- this on Sunday morning . . . of course, after the usual coffee/tea/morning paper routine . . .

On Crossing the Border

To get from San Felipe, Baja back into the States, one has to cross the border at Mexicali, Baja/Calexico, CA. Knowing it would be a bit of a problem we scheduled ourselves to arrive at what we thought would be a slow time -- about 2:30 p.m. on a mid-week day.

Boy, were we wrong! You can see in this first picture that the lines were long, and in the second you can see that it was just about dark, right around 5 p.m. when we got to the border crossing itself.

What you see in the third picture is what the "border security" patrol was most interested in -- not one single question were we asked about guns or bombs or whatever -- not even any about liquor -- but these apples, clearly labeled as from the state of Washington, and some eggs in our refrigerator -- you'd have thought we were Al Capone and wife!! The guard confiscated those apples and eggs, smiled and waved us on . . .

For this we're spending two and a half hours in line, paying billions for "border security" and walking around scared silly . . .

Christmas in San Felipe, Baja California del Norte, MX

Clara's twin sister has a ton of friends in the San Felipe area and we saw nearly all of them in our few days in Baja -- some at a Christmas Eve dinner, some more at a Christmas morning brunch, still more at Christmas dinner at Ruthe's house, yet again (but more of the same) at a taco stand in San Felipe the day after Christmas, and, yes, yet again at a quaint little market that doubled as a restaurant (actually "tripled" since it was also the proprietor's residence) with excellent chiles rellenos. Do you get the idea that we focused quite heavily on eating?

Our time at San Felipe began quietly with a view of moon rise over the Sea of Cortez (picture #1). That's Mars as an evening star that you see in the picture.

Then Clara got out her birthday present to her twin -- a framed photo of the two of them as babies surrounded by seventy gold dollar coins (John Adams) in an antiquish frame. (picture #2)

Picture #3 shows the twins in front of the Christmas tree showing their Christmas colors and looking more like twins than I have ever seen, while #4 shows them looking at Clara's home-made Christmas present to Ruthe.

On Visiting Friends

We set off on this trip for the announced purposes of seeing the fall colors in New England and the memorials in D. C., and, in that sense, it has been a rousing success -- seeing sights we had never seen before has been both interesting and exciting.

But sights of physical phenomena pale alongside the other opportunities we have had on this trip [it had occurred to us in our trip planning that we would, of course, try to drop in on friends if we passed in their direction, but the list below of stops along the way is lengthy, to say the least]:

1) Visiting a good Unitarian friend now in New Jersey but originally from Texarkana, TX, where Unitarians are a variant of "Yankee," than which nothing is more despised in that area . . .
2) Visiting a college room-mate that we haven't seen for almost fifty years and renewing old acquaintances, taking up politics, science versus religion (AKA ID vs evolution) and other such topics virtually non-stop for two days and evenings, most of the time sipping wine or scotch or some such, almost like in college days (except for the wine and scotch) . . .
3) Visiting three cousins (and in-laws) in the old original family stomping grounds, and learning some new (old) family secrets . . .
4) Getting to the SouthWest (where we have spent most of our adult lives) so that we can continue the visiting-old-friends phase of our journey
a) Carlsbad, NM – Jim and Sally – met in McIntosh, NM in 1979 and knocked around with until 1989, including a hike down into the Grand Canyon in 1986, and an unforgettable hike across the Sandias, also in 1986
b) Sierra Vista, AZ – Jim and Linda – met in Albuquerque, NM in 1979 and socialized, camped, hung out until 1989, have traded visits since – in Arizona along the Colorado River and in the Phoenix area
c) Corona de Tucson, AZ – Jim and Judy – met in Tucson, AZ in 1967 (my God, can it be that long ago?) and socialized, hung out, discussed how to raise kids, until 1976, have traded visits since – in the picture, that's Judy profiled in front of one of her paintings
d) Tucson, AZ – J.D. and Margot – also met in Tucson, AZ in 1967 (my God, can it be that long ago?) and socialized, hung out, discussed how to raise kids, until 1976, traded visits often since then, had Margot up in Las Vegas (in 1996) to help the UU group focus on getting a building, saw J.D. in Seattle just last winter for a conference, and all three (including Athena) in April for the Big O's party
e) Las Vegas, NV -- Jerry and Linda – the relative newbies of the old friends category, only since 1994, were in Seattle in April for the Big O's, camped up and down Vancouver Island together this past July, house-sat, drank good wine together, argued politics and investments . . .
f) Las Vegas, NV – Ed and Sheral – more relative newbies met at the UU group in Las Vegas back in '94, Clara's "crafty friend," telephone-chatting buddy and assistant chef for Big O's
g) Lancaster, CA – Kim Monette – a Las Vegas friend who has (twice) moved on since then, but still a dear friend, together with her new partner Cathy, and Kim's son Randy, wife Michelle, and sons Zack and Nicholas
h) Bakersfield, CA – Opal Ratzlaff, Clara's 95-yr old aunt, the only surviving member of her mother's immediate family (of seven sisters and a brother), surprisingly spry and energetic despite a recent stroke
i) Walnut Creek, CA – Ron Ellis, recently deposed as our most long-time friend [see 2) above] – we met Ron and his wife Darcy (sadly no longer with us) when the erstwhile tax assessor came to our apartment (fancy name for the middle section of an old Army barracks) in Lincoln, NE in 1962, or thereabouts. He has since then fallen on hard times, having had to turn to work as a psychologist . . .
j) Rossmoor, CA – Arnie and Ellie Gilbert, our second visit with old friends from Texarkana days [see 1) above], met them in the context of the Texarkana "rebels" group – those who didn't fit in with the local Church of Christ/Southern Baptist culture – they took us to a "discussion group" where we were by far the youngest in attendance but the discussion of the Democratic Presidential candidates was lively and loud, to say the least . . .

This trip then has constituted a mixture of sights never before seen, educational experiences on our history and heritage, and social interactions with new friends met along the way and, as noted at length above, much time spent with old and treasured friends, also note from the pictures that Clara slipped in some extra time for some new four-legged friends. You could say, if you were wont to think in those terms, that our trip has constituted both a metaphor for, and a microcosm of, life itself. As that great philosopher of the Far North has said "Lutherans have as their anthem the hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God!" while Unitarians, who speak reverently of life as a journey, have as their anthem "A Mighty RV Is Our God!"

On Being Sick in Las Vegas

Those of you following this long and curious series of e-mails have probably been wondering what has happened . . . well, the truth is relatively simple and uninteresting, but I'll tell you anyway . . .
1) On arriving in Las Vegas, I came down with the nastiest and most debilitating cold/virus infection that I've had in a long time. You can see in the picture what I spent my time doing – all of my creative faculties went down the drain . . .
2) Visiting friends, while greatly satisfying and exciting, is neither particularly photogenic nor conducive to time alone writing e-mails and sorting through pictures . . .