Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Javelina are not pigs

Even with no sleeping bags to pack away and a dishwasher for breakfast dishes, we struggle to get out the door early. Today we managed to make our way to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum shortly after their 8:30 opening. On the road, we've bypassed a dozen zoos and a series of museums highlighted in our travel books, budgeting instead for the essentials- food, Disneyland, a transmission... Having hiked, camped, driven and played in the desert, we'd have skipped the museum, satisfied with our Sonora experience. If it weren't for the insistence of EVERYONE we've talked to in Tucson, "Oh, you really have to go..." we'd have missed the javelinas.

In the gift shop at Joshua Tree, Aslin took a seat on the floor, getting comfortable in front of the book shelf. From the counter, the staff watched. We left before the binding broke and before she finished the story. Today, after meeting a couple javelina families, she finished Don't Call Me Pig.

"Javelina aren't pigs. They're more closely related to rodents. They are herbivores and can eat prickly-pear without scraping off the thorns. If anything threatens them they make a loud noise and show their sharp teeth. They stick together and stand their ground. The grown-ups weigh 30-40 pounds. Today they were sleeping in the shade. When they woke up, they made sounds like donkeys." -Aslin

The humming birds, maybe 15 types, were amazing but too fast for our little camera. (A Blue Throat's heart beats 1260/minute!) The barn own in the raptor flight exhibit was trained to model. Or bribed by the dead mouse the trainer held by the tail.

The fox rests while the coyotes pace and studies the horizon. (The people rubberneck and make kissy sounds to call them either way.) Their habitats are not nearly as smelly as the bob cat's. Should we need to reestablish our campaign to drive the squirrels from the attic, I'll be in touch with the museum for a donation of used soil.

Models of volcanic activity, fossil replicas, the age of shallow seas. Time capsules of every era are displayed. A very english docent talked us through the early human inhabitants of the area including a hands on lesson of their tools for the hunt. A good-size reproduction of the desert caves opens to a mock mine. Splinters of raw malachite, azurite and pyrite are among the treasures we're encouraged to sift from the "mine-dump" site.

Down the road from the museum, the service at Benny's was lousy. The grilled cheese and onions rings not bad. The new friends who invited us over for travel stories and tether ball, great.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Quote Archive


February 21
"I talk half the time to find out my own thoughts, as a school-boy turns his pockets inside out to see what is in them. One brings to light all sorts of personal property he had forgotten in his inventory."

--Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

The Poets at the Breakfast Table

February 9
"We must move past indecision to action... If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight."

--Martin Luther King, Jr.,


January 21
"Sometimes we talk about why we're importing so many people in our workforce. It might be for the last 35 years, we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce.."

Mike dangerous pig-headed Huckabee

January 2
"Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech."

Martin Farquhar Tupper

December 2
"Let me tell you, if you suspect a ghost is sitting next to your pillow, the ghost will always be there; if you imagine a god, a god will look after you from above."

Mrs. Lu
House Fire by Yiyun Li

November 13
"For the record, I'm not a communist...There's nothing left to do but get dressed and get the Hey out of here."

Dawn, HC. Our new neighbor.

September 25
If you give in to intimidation, you'll go on being intimidated.

Aung San Suu Kyi

September 6
"By idolizing those whom we honor, we do a disservice both to them and to ourselves...We fail to recognize that we could go and do likewise."

Charles V. Willie

August 12
"...Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade....where I choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself, and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty."
Chief Joseph,
Nez Perce

August 3
"With the advent of industrial farming and the green revolution, organic farming was relegated to the status of "quaint" or "old-fashioned" - something practiced by hippies on communes, certainly not by serious farmers."
David Suzuki

July 24
"Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform."
Susan B Anthony

July 9
“The trouble with life isn't that there is no answer, it's that there are so many answers"
Ruth Benedict

June 23
"I said to myself, I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me - shapes and ideas so near to me - so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn't occurred to me to put them down. I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught."
Georgia O'Keeffe

June 10
"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." -
Lao Tzu

May 24
“But with dogs, we do have “bad dog.” Bad dog exists. “Bad dog! Bad dog! Stole a biscuit, bad dog!” The dog is saying, “Who are you to judge me? You human beings who’ve had genocide, war against people of different creeds, colors, religions, and I stole a biscuit?! Is that a crime? People of the world!”

“Well, if you put it that way, I think you’ve got a point. Have another biscuit, sorry.” - Eddie Izzard

May 14
"Not only should you have known, congressmen, congresswomen and senators. You could have known.

If you had done your homework, you would have known that many of the real experts in the government... had grave doubts about this part or that part of the administration's case for war."
John Walcott, February, 2007

May 6
Carmen Mills- "It takes serious effort to stop trying to do anything. My current goal is to unitask: If I read, or I walk, that's all I do..."
Little House on a Small Planet, by Shay Salomon

April 24
"Well, I shan't go at any rate," said Alice, "besides, that's not a regular rule: you invented it just now." "It's the oldest rule int he book," said the King.
Alice in Wonderland; Lewis Carroll

April 11
"But why? Why do you need prophets to tell you how you ought to live? Why do you need anyone to tell you how you ought to live?"
Daniel Quinn, Ishmael

March 27
"How we live our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." Annie Dillard

March 1
"U.S. elections are run by marketing professionals, the same people who sell toothpaste and cars." Noam Chomskey, 2005

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Chaos, Ukiah wore shoes

Flat, not too difficult. That's how I explained it to the kids.

After nearly a mile and a half, it seemed odd that we were approaching houses. The trail book told all about Old Tucson Movie Studios that we could expect to see to the north. (Columbia Pictures has been filming westerns in the shadows of Golden Gate Mountain for nearly 60 years. Gunfight at the OK Corral, Rio Bravo, Three Amigos. The Tucson Mountains are television territory too. Gunsmoke, Young Riders, Bonanza.) The Tucson Hiking Guide made no mention of any housing subdivisions.

It was early, plenty of time to recover from our wrong turn. We'd just retrace our steps and find the "well constructed easy to follow path." The book says there's essentially no change in elevation along the trail, but we were already off track and three of us saw a trail "up there". We climbed a 60 degree incline a quater-mile to our first mirage. No path.

Back at the trail head we double-check the sign. David Yetman, Golden Gate Mountain, Golden Gate Loop. We found it, a tiny little path, hardly what I'd call "lined with rocks". A steady breeze took the edge off the noonday sun. We could still do the 6.6 mile loop.

Sand. Grapefruit-size rocks. The trail surface alternates as we we cross shallow basins. Rocks crumble underfoot. Their broad tops reaching just beyond knee high we repeatedly interrupt the instinct to reach out, steady ourselves on the fish hook barrel cactus.

The mountains here are falling down. Dry peaks crumble, spilling fragments of another era to the floor. It's a state of decay the geologists call "chaos". The huge boulders are archives and notably, "the first place the trail become confusing." Confirming directions, we headed west, hoping to recognize Kitt Peak or Mt Washington to the south.

The saguaro need 7 years to complete their process of death. In under 5 hours we learned enough of the gradual decline the desert can bring. In heavy sand, with jokes no longer funny, some of the region's majesty may have been lost on us that final mile.

Could have been worse. Ukiah could have insisted on wearing flip-flops. Again.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Aid, not crime

Blue is not a color found naturally in the dessert. That’s why members of Humane Borders paint their water stations blue. Each station, a 55 gal. barrel of water, is announced with a 30 ft. high blue flag. They are designed to save the lives of immigrants attempting to cross the U.S./Mexico border into Arizona. So says Paul, a resident of the co-housing community that has taken us in (thanks David, Chris, and Griff!). With a 350 gal water tank trailer, Paul and other volunteer members make periodic trips into the dessert to refill the water stations.

Crossing the border illegally into Arizona is an extremely dangerous operation. While illegal border crossing remains a misdemeanor, summer ground temperatures here can reach 140 deg. In the past three years, some 900 people died while trying to cross the desert. If caught, most would-be immigrants are released on the Mexican side of the border the next day, often with no money, food, or place to stay. It is likely they will try again. Humane Borders mission is not in helping Mexicans cross the border, but ensuring those choosing to cross don’t die in the desert. “Humanitarian aid is never a crime.” Their message is repeated from yards and windows across the city.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Pima Canyon

Their habitat in the Santa Catalina Mountains has been protected for over ten years now, but our hike into Pima Canyon didn't introduce us to any bighorn sheep. Maybe if we'd done the full 14 mile round trip or climbed above 4,000 ft. Or maybe not. It is Rodeo Week and with the "rodeo days" holiday, the trail is hopping. Plenty of families and groups of adventuring teens are connecting with nature.

Suguaro, prickly pear, barrel cacti, ocotillo, mesquite. Across a dry creek, I thought I heard water. I stopped short, heard birds. No water. A few steps and I pause again. Ah, it's the water bottle on my back.

July and August bring monsoons to the Sonoran Desert. A few miles in, Mexican blue oaks edge the low areas, drawing the shallow remains of last year's rains.

Our hiking book identifies this as the ancestral home of the Hohokam people. A thousand years later, the smooth depressions of their bedrock mortars bring history, its genius and distress, to walk with us.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Atrocious grocery find of the day

Fry's Food Mart (A Kroger Co.)
1st & Roger, Tucson

"Kid's Doughnut"
A glazed doughnut topped with gumi bears, m&ms and heavy stripes of orange icing
2 for $1; Baked fresh daily

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What are the chances

that you can drive a Volkswagen 1,300 miles with no radiator fan? 5,000 miles? Through the Rockies?

Well that's what the mechanic tells us. No fuse for the fan. Likely because it was shot- only running on high. Which can be problematic and may be why the fuse was removed.

Sounds a little crazy to me. Suspicious even. We now have a working fuse and fan switch. We don't have sufficient evidence to solve this mystery.

Monday, February 19, 2007

In honor of the holiday

The lunar new year. Not president's day.

Blue Mt Biodynamic Farm, Carstairs, Alberta
August 2006

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A bit of a situation

Yesterday I made a confession.
We're in Tucson (lovely) and it's been ages since I've enjoyed the luxury of both a working cell phone and reliable internet at the same time. In taking advantage of these communication wonders, I caught up on a series of emails and phone calls. Tucked in to extended stories about Joshua Tree and time share presentations, somewhere between checking in about friends' health, work, loves and housing, I mentioned that we'll be continuing east. New Mexico, Texas and Brad's hope of Louisiana.

To my credit, I did say that the van has been running like a champ. I also disclosed some apprehension about her abilities. Before the day was over, she died in traffic.

Thanks to the man who left his fast food to cross the street and help us push. Thanks to the Carmen Ghia driver stuck behind us, who didn't honk. Thanks to Buttercup for resting, starting again and getting us home. Thanks to Kamillia, a women we have yet to meet, for sharing her house, giving us a "home" base for a few days. Thanks to the VW wizards and lovers at the Samba who took no time in returning a virtual diagnosis, fuel pump.

Today we'll be studying our Bentley manual, trying to clean a particular fuel pump screen, and seriously considering finding temporary employment.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Joshua Tree, the better half

Before the icy nights, before we caught colds, before the mouse took up residence in the van, we were loving Joshua Tree. We camped in the Mojave (high, western) half of the park and only explored a little of the Colorado Desert eastern side.

Jackrabbits and owls and gigantic rock formations in every direction, yee haw!

It's a remarkable horizon. (Even with no bathing facilities in sight.)

With vascular bundles spaced troughout their fibrous trunks, mature Joshua Trees and Mojave Palms often survive fires. This chared oak seems not to have been so lucky.

The visitor's center tells us that ten-of-thousands of climbers visit the park each year. Without gear or experience, we couldn't make it up Big Hunk, Poodles are People too or Sticher Quits. Instead, we scrambled a dozen unnamed granite forms to fantastic vantage points and the occasional resting area.

A bit of trivia- Legend has it that Joshua Trees were named in the mid 19th century by Mormon settlers who were reminded of the biblical Joshua, guiding them westward.

Skull rock can be seen from the road. We searched a couple miles of trail beyond it, no skeleton.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love is an empty mouse trap

(all times are approximate)

5:30p The sun sets, the temperature drops
6:30 Barley vegetable soup for dinner, too cold for dishes tonight
8:45 Wrapped in blankets, we finish reading aloud ch. 12 of The Westing Game
9:00 Long sleeve shirts tucked into pants tucked into socks. Wearing hats, tucked in sleeping bag liners, tucked in sleeping bags, topped with every blanket and towel available. Tissues nearby as we all have colds.
2:15a Flashlight on, Ukiah up to use the bathroom
2:35 Ukiah, "Guys, did you hear that?"
2:45 Flashlight again. Ukiah, "I hear something, scratching... There it is! It's one of those little Pica things! By the front seat."
2:50 I'm up, van doors open, using empty water bottle to bat into darkness
3:10 No luck, back to bed
3:15 Sounds from inside dashboard
3:30 More sounds, Brad up and moving all food to tent
3:45 Ukaih, "Ahhhh, something ran by my face!"
3:46 Lights on, all up. Gather jackets, sweaters build nest-bed for kids in tent.
4:00 Tuck kids in again
4:10 Small sounds at back window
4:30 I think I feel something on my head. What if it tries to burrow into my sleeping bag?
5:00 Coyotes howl, I'm already awake
5:15 Kids talking, laughing in tent. A sign they're not frozen.
5:20 Coyotes, much closer/louder
6:00 I don't want to pull my head from the sleeping bag, so I can't tell if it's light yet.
6:30 Up making coffee
7:30 Almost getting warm
8:00 Find frost on backpack left out overnight
8:30 Pulling everything out of van, sorting and shaking as we go
9:00 Second cup of tea, ch. 13 of Westing Game
10:00 Monty Python inspired re-enactment of hilarious events of last night
10:30 Discovery of critter hiding in heater compartment under back seat
10:31 STRESS
10:33 It's not a ground squirrel, a mouse
10:35 Find sticks to push it out
10:45 Mouse moves to pocket between seat and van wall and returns to hiding under heater
11:00 Duct tape over all visible holes
11:10 Start car, turn on rear heater, hope mouse will not be hurt
11:12 Consider taking heater apart
11:15 Repeat above steps for a half-hour
11:45 Try peanut butter bribe
11:55 Face to face with trembling mouse, I realize it's more scared than me, talk to it, encougare it to find a new home, still try to prod it out with a stick
12:05p Mouse runs up seatbelt, trough crack in seat, out? No one saw the exit.
12:15 Semi-confident mouse has vacated
12:20 Heavy clouds overhead, rush to take tent down, pack
12:21 Aslin, "Is that snow?! Oh wait, it's just hail..."
12:40 Van packed in record time
3:30 Check into tiny, stinky, overpriced hotel in Blythe, CA. Empty van, check under heater
6:00 Go to store for mouse traps, discover oreo yogurt, worry about fate of humanity and planet
7:00 Set two peanutbutter mouse traps in empty van
9:00 Sleep, cough, sneeze...
7:30a Continental breakfast- frozen waffles and raisin bran
8:30 Find courage to check traps.
8:31 Rejoice in untouched traps, feel 95% sure we left the little critter back at Joshua Tree

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The mention of tumbleweeds...

brings thoughts of the desert; arid land, barren to my pacific northwest eyes.

Driving east out of LA, a pink smog mutes the sky. Towards the town of Desert Hot Springs, the plants grew shorter, more browns and grays- flowering black tire treads, green soda bottles and seeding plastic and cardboard of every color.

While time in Joshua Tree revealed a land far from desolate, trash nesting in the creosote bushes beyond the park illustrates a most depressing emptiness.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Disneyland Remembered

UPDATE, 3/22 - As we were coming to terms with enjoying Disneyland, the Empire was taking legal steps to hijack all of Anaheim. In short, if you're interested in a one-night-stand, Disney is definitely game. If you're looking for a long term relationship, considering moving in... well, that would really cramp Disney's style.

One day at Disneyland is enough to cover most of the rides. Assuming it’s rainy and off-season. Two days let us repeat some favorites and investigate some other attractions. Day three we hoped over to California Adventure for a whole new set of rides, but far fewer character encounters. The fourth day was split between the two parks and dedicated to the “best” rides, character autographs and the quest for pressed pennies. At 10+ hours/day, we put in a full work-week at the parks.

Ukiah- My first pressed penny was Tigger. I had a lot of fun hunting and collecting the pennies in both parks, 19 total.
I felt kind of weird at first, being in a wheelchair, just getting rolled to rides I didn’t know anything about. I never knew I was a roller coaster person, but it turns out they’re a lot of fun, even California Screamin’ which has a loop. Thunder Mountain is one of my favorites. The Sun Wheel at CA was freaky, not good for anybody who is a little scared of heights.
It was also a lot of fun having our pictures taken with the Disney characters. Jack Sparrow was going on break just as we were waiting to meet him, but we met another pirate.
I’m really glad we brought our own food because all they really have is McDonalds disguised to match different areas of the park.
I liked the way music was being played everywhere. It was from all the Disney movies; I never get tired of the music from Pooh. The Indiana Jones music is pretty catchy too. Which reminds me, that’s a pretty cool ride.
For some reason, no matter how hard you look, you won’t find any Owl-related merchandise, and only a tiny mention of him on the Winnie-the-Pooh ride. Kind of disappointing.

Aslin- I loved Space Mountain, that the hills are not straight down, but curved. I also really like Thunder Mountain; it has good scenery- all kinds of animals- snakes, turtles, the goat with the dynamite. I liked the Matterhorn too. I guess I liked all the mountains, but we didn’t get to try Splash Mountain because it was closed. I didn’t like Alice in Wonderland because it was so jerky. And I get annoyed on the rides when people just scream for no reason, when nothing is happening.
The castled was kind of a bummer because you can’t really go in it, it’s just shops. Plus, at night it turns pink, which isn’t so good for a castle.
I liked being with the characters and collecting pennies. I was glad to meet Stitch and really surprised to meet Rafiki. I wanted to meet Jack, but he had to go have his break.

Can I admit to being impressed and having a good time without giving up my concerns over Disney’s sexism, racism, sweatshop garment production, promotion of unchecked consumerism…?

A day at Disneyland is a bit like being involved in a full day, live theatre production. The characters are engaging, most of the employees are helpful and seem happy, and I LOVE the Mali-boomer. Given company politics, it’s hard for me to swallow the “Happiest Place on Earth” bit, but it was surprisingly fantastic. Hollywood Tower is not to be missed.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Promotional Deals

To say that our Disneyland trip was subsidized by two “vacation ownership” clubs, would fail to recognize the effort Brad and I put forth. After all, we subjected ourselves to the challenge of two sales pitches in exchange for six hotel nights and four Disney tickets. TrendWest and Shell Vacation Club have similar products and each banks on the logic of ownership over renting. Motel 6 was named for its room rates, both clubs tell us, playing on our fears of inflation.

TrendWest has a friendly staff, lively music. The staff at Shell seem stressed and offer us Subway sandwiches, ham or turkey.

After hearing our preference for camping and “alternative” travel options, The TredWest team offers to bring us into the world of “guaranteed” vacations at luxury resorts for around $6,000. The Shell family points out that our $70,000 investment would give us more vacation than we would know what to do with.

What’s to think about, really? If we’re going to continue to vacation, if we’d rather be in a 1,000+ sq ft condo than a tiny room, if we believe prices are going to continue to rise…The clubs bring the same pressure to the close of the presentation. These real estate bargains are good at the time of our meetings only. Sure, we can buy later, but we won’t have the same benefits. We forfeit our free house keeping and matching club points and a few other bonuses I can’t remember.

Through the gate for our second day at Disneyland, I was much relieved that rejecting such fine vacation opportunities hadn’t voided our Disney passes. If fact, with the help of our Black Gold Cooperative library cards, we were able to upgrade them to annual passes. The very limited, never go on a weekend or at holiday time, SoCal Select passes. Just in case we make it back this way sometime in the next year… Or maybe you'd like to borrow them...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Some People Love LA...

the rest of us pray we don't hit traffic, then curse when we do.

From Anaheim to the Getty Museum, I-5, I-10 and 405 were bad. The horendous 2 1/2 hour return trip required the use of hazard lights and a little time-out on the side of the freeway. A situation made all the more uncomfortable by my raging case of poison oak.

Thanks to the father/son team we followed from a strip mall parking lot at Trinity and Washington, to Ukiah and Aslin for knowing when to avoid sibling disputes and to Buttercup for not overheating- we made it back to the Disney neighborhood.

The park opens at 9:00 tomorrow. We've placed our bets on the small-crowd potential of SuperBowl Sunday; could go either way. If we're lucky, "It's a Small World" will have resumed uniting all the peoples of the planet. We're also crossing our fingers for a meeting with Eeyore.