Watch For Animals

Our plan was to tour Canyon de Chelly (pronounced canyon de shay) National Park today, but the weather did not coöperate and we left Chinle for Denver. The route took us north through Moab, UT. The Indian reservations between Chinle, and Moab cover some absolutely stunning scenery. Giant monoliths, painted deserts, miles of sandy desert filled with sage, tumble weed, and creosote shrubs.  We unexpectedly lost an hour today because this little section of Arizona is on Daylight Savings Time. That put me back an hour of drive time, and I deliberately avoided taking too many rest and gas stops.

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Along the road between Chinle, Arizona and Moab, Utah. Snow-capped mountains provide the backdrop for a sage filled desert.

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Taken from inside a car doing seventy mph with an iPhone held up to the windscreen.

The drive was relatively uneventful for the first hour then out of nowhere a rusty colored dog appeared in the middle of the road within feet of my bumper. I heard Peggy gasp, and I automatically lifted my foot from the accelerator and began applying brakes. Luckily the wiry dog that blended into the landscape decided to trot off into the desert opposite his home. About ten minutes later I saw what appeared to me a group of large sage bushes along side of the road. These were not sage but a herd of very wooly sheep grazing on the roadside outside their pasture fence. I asked Peg if she had seen any signs to warn of animals ahead, she had not. About five miles further, a cowboy on a horse was moving a large herd of goats along the roadside, most likely to a new pasture. Evidently, Sunday morning is when the animals move, get moved, or feel safe grazing on the edge of the road.

Our average speed for the first two and a half hours was sixty-five miles per hour. Not bad for slow two lane roads with traffic, animals and great scenery.

We gassed up in Moab, and left town headed to Interstate Seventy (I-70). The GPS calculated an 8:00 p.m. arrival time in Wheat Ridge, Colorado where I had reservations at a Holiday Inn Express. We favor this chain because of the travel convenience they offer. They are newer, there are many of them, and we get a buffet breakfast. Not having to find a café, wait for a waitress, read a menu, get the food, eat, and then pay the bill adds at least an extra hour to our drive day.

We reached the I-70 and I breathed easier driving on a beautiful two lane limited access road with a seventy-five mph speed limit. I pushed the Death Star up to seventy-five and set the cruise control and watched the scenery roll by.

The topography changes immediately upon crossing the state line into Colorado. Utah is relatively flat soft green terrain with long ridges of colorful sandstone and pink bluffs. Crossing into Colorado changes to rolling hills and curves dodging the monoliths that tut out of the earth to amazing heights. I kept wondering where all the ski resorts were, but some snow-capped mountains in the foreground gave me a hint, they were yet to come. Moving at the rate we were it didn’t take long to realize that the mountain that appeared so far off was now immediately in front of us and we were beginning to twist and turn between the peaks along a river. The speed limit dropped to sixty-five because the turns were too tight for the higher speed. At the same time we began an ascent to higher elevation.  Then a black hole appeared in the face of the  mountain, we drove through a tunnel with a curve to the left and then curving to the right. We entered the tunnel from a grey sky, we exited the tunnel to a blue sky. The speed changed to fifty-five as the road narrowed and twisted even more sharply along the river which also narrowed. The mountain walls left us in shadows and only the blue sky showed us the sun. The road opened again and the speed resumed to seventy-five. Ranches dot the fresh spring-green valleys and colorful little hamlets some of which even had names like “No Name,” Colorado. I finally spotted a sign naming the river, So many times along the way both Peg and I would ask each other if we knew which river this was. The sign cleared the mystery, Colorado River. “Wow,” I said, “this is the same river that carves its way through the Grand Canyon.”

I spotted an electronic sign with a message, “I-70 Closed, MM 176.” Hmmm, I wondered what that meant, highway-repair work, snow, what? Surely if it is road work they will split the traffic and route us to a single lane, but why would they close the road if they do that. They could detour us to a local road. yes, that’s it we will detour.

Forty minutes later we learned the highway patrol closed the I-70 at Mile Marker 176 in Vail Colorado at the western end of the Vail Pass. There was no detour, there were hundreds of cars trucks, and Rv’s, parked along the local roads heading back into Vail. We drove through the town passing dozens of huge resort condos, hotels, lodges, and motels. All of them looked absolutely deserted and empty. I queried the GPS for lodging and came up with a Holiday Inn at the West end of Vail. Luckily, they had availability so we checked in. In the morning Peggy and I will find a sport shop and rent snow boards for a little fun on the snow-covered slopes above Vail.

We learned that the I-70 closed because of a wreck in the pass. It never dawned on me that an accident could shut the road down. It makes sense to keep traffic out of a narrow limited access road to allow Emergency vehicles, wreckers, and police to get to the scene.

I called the Holiday Inn Express to cancel the reservation I made for this evening. We are exactly ninety-miles from that destination. Oh well, it adds another ninety miles to tomorrow’s drive.

Hug a Cactus

The winter doldrums have certainly set in. Grandma Peggy has the flu, the days are short, the weather is questionable, and I have the blahs. I don’t chose to have the blahs, they just come. When I get this way, I look at my cactus collection. It is not a huge collection, but I’m willing to bet that it is the largest one in Frankfort.

Why do I look at the cactus? For one thing, they are beautiful plants. How can a spiny thing like a stag horn cactus be beautiful? I see all life as beautiful.  Even a blah day has a beauty about it. All I have to do is to switch my mindset to anticipation of a bright sunny day, and life is good. The cacti give me an outlet to vent my frustrations. At times, when I get upset with someone, I tell them to go hug a cactus, and if I get very upset I’ll tell them to go kiss a cactus.

Cacti grow in extremely harsh environments and they are hardy survivors. They live without water for months, sometimes years. A cactus can withstand high temperatures, and suppress predation with their spines. Like all living things, they do succumb.

My cacti are not treated to a life of high temperatures, but do get treated harshly. In the winter, I bring them indoors and place them in a low light environment. Occasionally, I sprinkle them with a few drops of water.  When the temperature outside is above freezing, I move them into the garden.  I place them strategically between the perennials to add interest, and confusion. How confusion? Have you ever walked a perennial garden in the Mid-West to spot a desert plant nestled among the traditional plant life?

During the summer, my cacti are stressed, not by the heat but by the large amount of water they get. In the desert, light, heat, and water add up to procreation by  flowering. Nature compensates the gross stems and the spiny foliage with brilliant beautiful flowers. I have only had luck with one of my plants. It flowers every year, but the others have not. Obviously, my basement and yard do not yield the correct conditions to promote flowering. That is one problem to challenge the blahs.  I look forward to learning what it takes to get them to flower as beautiful as they do in the desert.

Here are some of my critters, and some real desert cactus in bloom.

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Ya Gotta Love Wrinkles!

     Writer’s block is a bunch of crap. I haven’t written a thing in a week because of writer’s block. Like I said, that’s an excuse for laziness. All it takes is to sit in front of the computer and start. Today, I choose to write instead of going out for my healthy three mile walk. I’ll do that a little later. My mind seems to be sharper after a night of rest, and morning is when I write the most.

     Right now, I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my second cup of coffee. Every once in awhile I stare out the sliding glass door to watch the early morning golfers drive by in their carts. Our back yard borders the approach to the third hole at Pebble Brook Golf Course.  This morning the sky is pure blue, and the sun is so bright it is hard on the eyes. The quiet of the desert and the songs of the birds are broken only by an occasional squadron of F-15 jets roaring over head.  Yesterday, during my walk, there were large billowy white clouds scattered all across a deep blue background.  Later in the day, they collected and turned the sky gray. Last night it rained again. This place is like Camelot, It rains at night. A normal rain in the desert is like a drizzle at home. A person can walk in the rain for an hour and not get soaked, only damp.  The way I can tell that it rained is from the water dripping from the edge of the roof. It has taken all morning for the water to run down the pitch of the roof.

     The temperature this morning is fifty-nine degrees. By this afternoon it will warm up to sixty-five.  Yesterday, I talked with a friend who is staying with her son in Fountain Hills. She is ninety-five, and lives near us at home. She asked where we were located relative to her son, I told her just a few miles to the west. She asked, “Is it warmer where you are?” Temperature is relative, or should I say relative humidity is relative. Sixty-five degrees seems warm when it’s fifteen degrees and the wind is blowing over your face. Sixty-five feels cool when you are dressed in light clothes.

     Last Saturday, Peggy and I were at Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes church. We arrived early to secure a seat.  We prayed and meditated while waiting for mass to begin. The church filled quickly with a parade of old timers. All of them looked so much older than us. The servers had gray hair, the ushers needed canes, but the priest was young. We are staying in a fifty-five and over community, I thought.  Most of the homes were built in nineteen seventy-nine through the mid eighties. A retired couple of fifty five who purchased would now be eighty-six. No wonder everyone looks old.  The priest announced that it was a special day because he was honored to bless the marriage of a couple celebrating their sixtieth wedding anniversary.  Back home, in Frankfort, they would have received a standing ovation. Here it seemed like  . . . eh.  

     The attitude of the people here is to have fun.  They emphasize the positive. Wrinkled skin is normal. Everyone has wrinkled skin here. What is out of place is smooth skin, young people, and babies.  Infirmities requiring canes and walkers are just part of the age. They are looked upon as a way to extend the quality of life to the next level. I don’t think I could bring myself to live full time in a community of old people. I miss seeing the youngsters, and the babies around me. Here the parking lot is filled with Lincolns, Buick sedans, and golf-cars. SUV’s and vans, are for young people.

     It occurs to me that the seniors in this community are the pioneers of the “Green” movement, but they don’t get any credit for it.  They drive golf-cars around town on errands, to church, and on the golf course too.  They do it because it is cheaper, and more practical than driving a four thousand pound car around town. Besides, the Lincoln would probably get stuck in the rough, and make grooves in the fairway. Opening the trunk each time to select a club would be a pain in the ass too.

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