Monday, December 21, 2009

Invisible (12/14/09)

The Andalusia Ballet has just finished with this season's edition of The Nutcracker. For the past five years I have been working on ballet performances I began playing music during the last week of rehearsals and  working backstage during the performance, but with the coming of the new sound and light boards to the control booth, I was shifted to the control booth even during performances. Although I like backstage work better, the humorous, "do your best and leave the rest:" atmosphere of the control booth is much more pleasant than the scuffling backstage intensity. Example:
Stage Manager: Wait! Marzipan is BEFORE Gingersnaps?!!
Ballet Mistress: Yes.
Lights and Sound Guy: It's been like that since the 1800's. Except for that year she [the Ballet Mistress] swapped it because of a quick-change.

My role in either position, however has really not been very different. A stage hand should not be seen or heard, in fact, it should be perfectly invisible. If a stage hand is noticed at all, either by presence or absence, then that person has failed. The epitome of perfection is to be absolutely undetectable, except, perhaps, by directors or other stagehands.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Roses are red...

And very hard to grow. The Glory of the Garden, and the triumph of successful gardeners.
In the front garden of our "base camp" we have two kinds of roses. One is a hearty, indigenous variety. It makes cute fluffy little pink roses in the spring and all through the summer. Nothing really hurts it and it is capable of growing about twenty feet in a year. Literally. We know because we tried really hard to get rid of it. We dug it up and dumped it on the dirt bank across the road three years in a row. There are now cute little fluffy roses the entire length of our road, and we still have the mother plant in our front garden.
The other rose plant is much more delicate. We planted it, pruned it, fed it banana peels, carried water to it, coated it with organic bug repellent and generally gave it everything that it might need. We've had a few pretty flowers from it, but more often than not the buds come to grief somehow or other.
Until now. We came home after three months to find a little bud, which has bloomed into a most magnificent rose. I wonder if that indicates anything about our gardening skills?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Fowl Post

Yesterday, after wandering forlornly about the house for a while, walking two miles in the rain to make the dog happy and wishing that town was a nine mile round trip instead of eighteen, I decided to do something about the box of hollow eggshells that has been sitting on a shelf for about two years. The eggshells were waiting to be stuffed full of confetti and painted, so that they could fulfill their mission in life: being busted over some unsuspecting person's head.
I shredded some brightly colored newspaper pages into confetti and picked up an eggshell and laughed a little as I thought, Oh, this one was Andy's. Why did I ever know which of my ducks laid which egg, and why do I remember now, when that duck mysteriously vanished two years ago? I have no idea. 

Andy belonged with a group of fifteen ducklings that my dad bought as an experiment. They were all supposed to be eaten. The eight that lived to adulthood all ended up with names, trained to come when I whistled.
So the Admiral tried again. He brought home two geese. He wisely gave them to my brothers, not me. Haha! they were instantly named: Jack and Fiona. Fiona died of unknown causes. Jack was given to me. I also had, at that time, a chicken and a duckling named Fred and Charlie. Charlie had been the sole duckling to emerge from an incubator full of eggs. I stole Fred from a batch of chicks that were passing through on their way to the livestock sale in town because baby birds can die of loneliness. They also make a lot more noise when they're alone. Though an odd looking trio, Charlie, Fred and Jack all got along tremendously until the tragic deaths of both Charlie and Fred.
 Left to right: Jack, Fred, Charlie.

Alone once again, Jack was moved in with the regular chickens, where he made himself at home. And a nest. And laid some eggs. We took pity on him, and replaced his eggs with good ones. Jack Frost only had kittens,  Jack the goose had ducklings! 
Jack and Flit

And that's where leaving the shells on the shelf for two years gets me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Can't Trees revised and revisited for English class.

I have, quite often lately, neglected blogging for my more strict-about-time Studies. So as proof that I have not been off gallivanting (a pass time I have been accused of indulging in) and as a celebration of my passing the course, I offer a sample of the writing that I have done for my English class.

The only real trail through our forest was made years ago by someone with a bush hog. It is a very crude trail that takes one to the heart of the forest and then dead ends atop a culvert over the largest creek in our forest, abandoning walkers exactly at the miniature clearing that is the home of the Can't Trees. It is a tiny place, just large enough for a ten year old to consider it a clearing. It begins on top of the culvert and land bridge over the creek, and slides down to the creek bank. It smells of rotting wood and leaves, moss, mud and water all woven with the very faint smell of wild animal. In summer, the trees meet overhead in a light filtering canopy that turns the clearing pale green. During the Winter, the trees become skeletons, draped with robes of half inch thick thorn vines that rip at clothes and skin in a vain attempt to dissuade the intruder.
I can remember the first time that I saw the Can't Trees, hidden by wild tree-bushes and blackberry thickets. I stood on top of the grassy culvert bridge and tried to see what my mother was pointing at. It was two trees, water oaks, growing side by side on the creek bank. Once upon a time they were straight, as trees ought to be. The collapse of the creek bank, who knows how long ago, ruined that for them. The trees grow almost horizontally over the creek for about three feet, then turn sharply and continue to grow upward, tall and skinny to the top of the forest roof. The third Can't Tree was added a few days later when I visited the place again. It is a pine, perfectly normal for the bottom two thirds and then bowed and twisted into a large and magnificent loop the loop.

My mother found the Can't Trees. She showed them to any of us who would make the trek down the creek to see. She dragged my dad down there. "If those trees can grow like that," she said, "there isn't anything you can't do." At the time, my dad was working all night, going to school during the day, and paying what attention he could to his six going on seven kids in his spare time. It was a hard time for all of us. The trees provided a bit of encouraging comedic relief. "Just think about the Can't Trees" became a common saying whenever anyone said they could not do something.
My dad and I made the clearing. For him, it was just a necessary step to taming the forest. For me, it was the creation of a special hideaway too far from the house to hear my name being called. It was the place I could go when I needed to pull myself together, or let myself fall apart. Whether I was happy or frightened or furious, the clearing, though it went through phases of growing over and dying back, was always the same. It was simply imperturbably calmed.
I could always find courage in the clearing. I was a dreadfully introverted child, and was always in need of courage. One year I was forced to enter a 4-H public speaking contest and wrote much of my speech sitting in the bend of one of the water oaks. I spent days pacing around the clearing at the base of the pine tree trying to memorize that speech. Before the contest, I went down for a last rehearsal. I was ready to vomit, but there stood the trees, as serene as ever. I came in second place in the contest. My faith in the clearing intensified tenfold.
It was not that I attributed magical or supernatural powers to the Can't Trees or the clearing. I always knew that I had the strength somewhere inside me. The wonder of the clearing was that it helped me find and bring out the courage that I could not find on my own.
I went down to the creek a few months ago, after more than a year of absence. The trail was so over grown that I had to give up my first attempt and return to the barn for a pair of loppers. Deer had crossed the trail in muddy places, leaving tracks that never appeared there when I haunted the place. A bushy tree blown over by some big storm or other lay like a final  wall across the clearing entrance. I cleared it away to enter, and found that my clearing was mine no longer.
One of the Water Oak Can't Trees is rotting. The section over the bend will break off sooner or later. The pine has sprawled out, and is growing into a new loop the loop. It is covered in passion flower vines. The blackberry bushes and the thorn vines are creeping back into and constricting the clearing. Once, I could cartwheel across my clearing. The surrounding trees and I have grown too much for that. I can only just stand without my hair tangling in a branch. The calmness that I associated with the clearing has passed away. It takes effort to recall it. The clearing is still a beautiful place, but it is not the place I knew before.
At first, I did not know whether to blame myself or the clearing. If I had continued my regular visits, would the clearing have retained its allure? I think not. I will always wonder at the trees, and they will continue to inspire me. The tranquility of the clearing is something that I hold dear. The clearing lost nothing. I lost my need for it. It served its purpose.
As children, persons attach special qualities to places and things. Maybe it is a book or a blanket or a special pillowcase, a quiet dreamy window seat or clearing in the forest. A child needs such anchors in a wild and tumultuous world. Such anchors require utter trust in an object or place though, and one ought to move on from that phase of life. A person cannot go through life holding onto a stuffed dog or hiding away in a tiny clearing in the forest. There comes a time when one must stop admiring, leave the clearing and strive to be as remarkable as a Can't Tree.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


We have survived the trip home, and the first couple of days back.
The drive was uneventful enough. We drove until 3:30 AM on Saturday, then navigated some very very tiny roads to the park where we planned to spend the night. At $5.00 a night, the park was a bargain. It also closed at 11:00, so I don't know anything else about it.  We re-navigated the very very tiny streets and slept in the Wal-Mart parking lot.
Sunday we visited with our former pastor, who left us (his parish) for the Benedictines. We also had a tour of the church there, and heard Brother Joseph's tales of the the less somber side of a monk's life. We drove until a little past one in the morning.
The Admiral's phone unexpectedly went off at five.
We reached home Tuesday at 1:00 AM. Because the idea of spending what was left of the night unpacking and sleeping in a house that had been empty for three months was not very appealing, we ended up camping in our own yard.

Once we got home, of course, we had to go to town. Although we had just survived for almost three months without an errand vehicle, we needed the Y.S. immediately.
The Y.S. was not happy that we had left her, however, and threw a temper tantrum. She was trembling with rage as we left the yard. snorting and sputtering we drove on down the road. We had finished at one grocery store and were on our way to the post office, were almost there, when the Y.S. bailed completely. She died in the middle of the road. The Admiral wrangled her into the post office parking lot, where  he gave her a once over while the Commodore and I went in. We returned to a very aggravated Admiral. The engine wasn't getting any gas, and he couldn't figure out why. Perhaps the fuel pump had gone out. It had been sitting for three months after all.
The Commodore made a suggestion.
The Admiral made a phone call.
A friend made the drive over with a gas can.
Turns out the problem has a lot to do with the gas gauge.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Going Home

I've seen a frozen river and fallen into a snowdrift. I've climbed a mountain (a small one) and wrestled with a frozen stiff RV electrical cord. I've seen a sheepdog trial where I learned that there is nothing unusual about my dog at all. I've seen so many antelope that they don't even seem strange anymore. I've also eaten antelope. We've come more than 5542 miles through 12 states.
And now the westerlies have come roaring in to blow us back to Alabama.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Superiority of Southern Buffets Or Why Alabama is the 3rd least healthy State.

Over the weekend, we lost the 2nd Mate to the shore. She flew back to Alabama after the death of a most beloved friend of ours.
We are currently becalmed in Gillette, WY, waiting for the Westerlies that will blow us back east.
Today, after several days of being trapped in a rather dreary campground, we were driven to town by a lack of provisions and severe cases of cabin fever. We decided that after the four mile walk to town, we would reward ourselves with a pizza buffet. We miscalculated our departure time, though, and were forced to reconsider our destination in order to assure ourselves adequate time to enjoy our meal. We chose the Golden Corral, otherwise known as the Golden Pig's trough. Inside, we found a measly three food bars (that count includes the dessert bar and the salad bar) and received puny glasses (a mere 16 oz!) and a single smallish basket of rolls.
However, there was a dish of "Southern Style Cabbage." I do not eat boiled cabbage, but I had to look. What was in that pan was most definitely NOT Southern Style cabbage. The first clue was that it was still recognizable as cabbage. That cabbage would have crunched. And there was absolutely no sign of any pork whatsoever.

Southern Style indeed!

In Alabama, buffets are an art. I have never seen an Alabama Golden Corral with fewer than two food bars not counting the dessert and salad bars. There are no blue plates, and they are not less than eight inch circles. The glasses are generally at least 22oz. The glass size is to benefit waiters and waitresses who lose a dollar off their tip every time the sweet tea runs out. And on the dessert bar, one can be sure that the cheesecake will not be inedible.
    Also, the cabbage will not appear appear to be cabbage at all, but mushy green stuff with ham or bacon in   it. It will not crunch.
Perhaps this clears up the reason that Alabama is 48th on the Most Healthy State list, followed only by Oklahoma and Mississippi.

I offer to the Golden Corral of Gillette, WY (whose cooks are clearly worried about destroying the vitamins in the Cabbage) the words of Mark Lowry "Take a pill and cook the vegetables!"

I bet the buffets in Mississippi are really great.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Marias Pass Revisited.

What goes in must come out again. On our way out of Columbia Falls, MT, we had to go back through the Marias pass, this time during the daytime.Of course, we did have the advantage of having been over this road before, but it looks a little different when you can see what is or isn't on the other side of the guardrail.
Here's an idea of what it looked like from the passenger seat.

We begin with a little bit of a curve.

Then we go for a little slope.

A little more curve.

Back the other way.

Shall we add some fog?

Sure. Let's add some fog.
The Commodore can handle it.

Then came the dark.

Aww, we drove this in the dark already, remember?

The sky looks cool reflected in the road.

Sometimes, you just have to look at the scenery.

The effect is kind of like stepping into one of Bob Ross's paintings.

One last little slope...

A little bit of traffic...

And civilization finally appears.

And then, just when we thought we were safe!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Finally, a challenge!

Yesterday we traveled along the Lewis and Clark trail, through the Marias Pass, and through Glacier National Park. We don't really know what any of it looked like though, because we drove through there at night.
We've seen plenty of RVers come into a park after dark, with icicles hanging off of them and snow piled on their roofs. We've pitied them, wished them well, and wondered whether their resting campsite was really their destination or were they just too tired to go on. Thankfully, we did not have it quite as bad as that, but our experience did teach us how easy it is to miscalculate the time that a journey will take and come to that very situation.

Our trip began in Glasgow, MT and ended in Columbia Falls, MT. Between these two city lie some 403 miles and approximately 18 other towns. The road was good and we had daylight, until we reached Cutbank, MT. Shortly after we passed  through that town, we spotted a truly chilling sight: a frozen pond. After we passed through Browning, things got a little scary. Browning is 84 miles from Columbia Falls. Once begun, the 84 miles must be traversed in their entirety. There really is nowhere to turn around, particularly if it is after nightfall, icy, and you are in a bus. It is kind of like watching a really good scary movie. No matter how much you want to get out of it, you know that you will not be able to rest until you've seen it through to a good solid ending.
In East Glacier Park, 71 miles to go, the road got icy. The signs got scary too. Fortunately, we had no idea, and still have no idea what the scenery looked like, so we were not unnerved by the sheer cliff sides that we were driving along. The several inches of snow up the sides of the mountain appeared to us as sand dunes on the beach road from Gulf Shores to Pensacola. And no, we were not at all cold, because it is not cold in south Alabama right now. The sand that seemed to fill the trees must have been blown there by the tropical storm that just hit. No big deal. Right. One hour down, 40 miles to go.
OK, so, what's that rumbling sound? Avalanche? Crumbling Bridge? Is the rock that the signs have been warning us about finally falling? Oh wait, we're just crossing a bridge over the train tracks and there's a train underneath. Laugh it off. Until the next happy little signs appear.
Ice On Road
Fallen Rock
Watch For Ice On Bridge
Falling Rock
Steep Grades
Sharp Turns
Deer X-ing
Sharp Turns and Steep Grades
Watch For Wildlife On Road
Icy Spots Next 27 Miles

We finally reached West Glacier,at about 7:35 and we finally had enough phone service to call the Admiral, who, had gone on ahead  He assured us that the road got better and the snow went away. It did, after a while and we were all so ecstatic that we had to sing our own version of Jim Croce's Speedball Tucker.  We left Browning at 31 degrees at 5:30 and arrived in Columbia Falls at 41 degrees at 8:15.Speedball alright!

We settled down into the Mountainview RV park, happily oblivious of exactly what we had come through. Then, we woke up this morning, and looked over and shoulders.

Danger? We laugh at Danger!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Corned Beef Chicken, Only at Albertsons!

The Commodore and the Admiral recently returned from a provisioning venture with the following story.

Upon checking out of the marketplace, the Commodore realized that she had been charged rather more than she expected. Upon examining her receipt, she noticed a charge for corned beef. We do not usually eat corned beef, and the Commodore was completely lost for the appearance of this item on her receipt. Interrogation proved that the Admiral was not to blame. Intense investigation revealed the problem. A package of chicken had been marked "Corned Beef."Although the Admiral and the Commodore half expected this problem to result in a bit of consternation, the actual result of the persons in the store was to laugh, knock off the extra charges, and say,
"Corned Beef Chicken, only at Albertsons!"

Monday, November 2, 2009

Room at this Inn

I was talking to the Harbor Master last night and mentioned that the Commodore went down to see her aunt in Minneapolis. Her reply to that was "Mom went DOWN to Minneapolis!??"
That was when it hit me. The Commodore and the Admiral had to go SOUTH to get to Minneapolis.
That should have occurred to me earlier. Perhaps when we arrived and found that nearly all of the campgrounds had been closed for the season. After leaving a park with no water, sewer or bathroom, we landed in a town that appeared to have absolutely no lodging for RVers. Further inspection uncovered a nearby town, Randall, Minnesota where we found the Innsbrook Motel and RV park. Fortunately for us, the closing of the Innsbrook has been delayed by other travelers.
The Innsbrook in the summer is said to be a bustling place, full of RVs and with a common fire every night. It is cold and wet now, so there are not many people here. In fact we are the only people here. The owners have been no less accommodating for that, though. We have not a single complaint to make about this delightful little place. We must offer our profound thanks to these folks. They kept the RV hookups open for us (they are closing  What kind of an adventure doesn't have the characters saved from the cold and the rain and snow by kindly natives in the midst of an endless wilderness.

Tomorrow we leave for North Dakota. I have always wanted to see North Dakota, but now that the moment is upon us, I am a bit apprehensive.
When the owner of the Innsbrook asked where we were going next, I told him, and he replied "Oh, it's cold there."
The info page of a campground website has only the following poem. (after clicking the link, you still have to click on the info button in the side bar of the page that comes up.)

When it's springtime in North Dakota
And the gentle breezes blow,
About seventy miles an hour
And it's fifty-two below.
You can tell you're in North Dakota
'Cause the snow's up to your butt,
And you take a breath of springtime air
And your nose holes both freeze shut.
The weather here is wonderful
So I guess I'll hang around,
I could never leave North Dakota,
My feet are frozen to the ground!

Yes, I am beginning to be rather concerned about this leg of the journey. I guess that's what makes it an adventure.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I love Canada Geese. I very much prefer them over swans. In my perfectly honest opinion, I think that swans look like dinosaurs. Their necks are too long. Canada Geese are so much more practical looking.
And they are smart. Every day, we see scores of these beautiful birds overhead flying south for the winter. Some of them will go as far as Alabama. They will then realize just how nice year round warm weather is. They will crash the Montgomery zoo and stay forever. I've seen it happen.
So if a goose with a brain that is smaller than a bean knows to go south in the winter, can someone please tell me why we are currently north of Minneapolis and heading for North Dakota?

Not that I'm complaining or anything.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Birthday to the 2nd Mate and the 1st AB.
The 2nd Mate.
                                                                                                                  The 1st AB.

Today we are moving to somewhere. We know the general direction but not the exact destination. Adventure.

Yesterday, we went for a walk to look at the snow along the creek that runs all through Manitou Springs. Some of us did not know that snow glitters. We did enjoy looking at the snow, but the highlight of our walk looked like this.


Monday, October 26, 2009

A very long word about Manitou Springs.

The Campground in Pueblo having proven unsatisfactory, we talked the Admiral into moving along to Colorado Springs, Colorado. We actually ended up moving to Manitou Springs, Colorado, which is very close to Colorado Springs, but is entirely separate. With a town motto of "Keep it Weird!" you know you're in for an interesting visit. We arrived on Thursday, and went exploring downtown. The street is lined with delightful little shops including the Maitou Outpost and Gallery, where we were offered free samples of fudge. It is not often that a salesperson calls a group as large as ours back for free samples, so we were obliged to like the place and buy post cards. There is also a glassblower shop, fine dining establishments, arts and crafts places and much more. After we had perused the shops, we halted at the park. One thing that the younger crew members have missed out on whilst the Admiral has not been at home, is having the Admiral at a park. Though his true specialty is tire swings, he manipulated the strange flying disks that the park offered quite well. Then the crew decided to give him a taste of his own medicine. The Admiral has a long and glorious history of riding rides, but the crew pushing the flying saucer really almost did him in. And of course, in true Admiral fashion, the ride emptied his pockets. (Among the more famous "pocket emptying ride" stories is the time that the Admiral went on a "caged" ferris wheel. He rode the Ferris wheel four times, once with each of us girls. On the fourth ride, he finally figured out the perfect formula for rocking the cage. This resulted in the loss of some change among the crowd below.) After his cell phone, the car keys (we had a rental van) and his work truck keys had been dug out of the wood chips, we decided that it was time to move on. The Admiral challenged the 2nd AB to a (small) rock climbing contest, then discovered a strange spinning wheel thingy at the other end of the park and sent the boys for a ride. After that, it really was time to go home. Except that when we reached the van, we discovered that the Admiral did not have the keys. Or his cellphone. We walked back to the park, and were immediately waved down by a youth with the keys. Fortunately, cellphones can be helpful in the process of locating themselves. Particularly when they are buried underneath a hefty layer of fall leaves.

Manitou Springs, Day 2.

After contemplating a drive to the top of Pikes Peak, we looked at the thick layer of snow up there and immediately came to our senses. (Actually, 8 of the 19 miles were closed because of the snow, so driving to the top wasn't even an option.) We changed our path and headed for the Garden of the Gods. Words really cannot do the scenery justice, so I will not even attempt a description. That's why God invented cameras.

Note: This picture was the result of my figuring out the new button I found on my camera.


I will, however, give a description of our visit to this park. Ahhahem!

Lured from the van like bugs to a zapper light, we walked along the cement pathway. So transfixed were we that even the sign reading "Caution Falling Rock! Stay on the Sidewalk!" was not enough to dampen our adventurous spirits. We moved along, stunned by the wondrous pulchritude of the rock formations. Then, we came to a road. The Commodore believed that the visitor center was near. The 2nd AB just really wanted to walk on that road. The Admiral saw, but thought that the others knew where we were going. I was trying to figure out a button I had just found on my camera, so I was only following the others. Like fools we followed the road through the unknown land, naively believing that it would lead us to the Visitor Center, or at least to the van. After about a mile, the Commodore spotted a path that seemed to lead over what would be a mountain in Alabama, but here it is a mere rock. The 1st AB and I volunteered to scout the path. It moved in the right direction to take us to the van. Just as I was about to call down from my lofty height atop the rock, the path dead ended. For an instant only did the 1st AB and I despair. We had come so far, only to be let down. Despair never helped anyone though, and within a few seconds, we had come to appreciate the value of our climb. There are really excellent photo opportunities atop big rocks. We then descended to the others. Rather sensibly, we then turned around the way we had come. After a few hills, one of which might be mistaken for Kanchenjunga if it were moved to Alabama, we found the cement path again. Then the 2nd Mate happened to turn around. She gasped and wordless dismay and pointed to where the road forked behind us, to the road we hadn't taken, to the Visitor Center. Wearily, we made our way back to the van, where we had stashed semi-refreshing drink. Then, we drove to the Visitor Center.
Actually, not. The Visitor Center/Museum was quite interesting, and the younger crew members, in addition to the tasks they already carry, assumed the roles of Junior Rangers, and had their accomplishment announced over the loud speaker. HAHA.
Before they could become Junior Rangers, though they had to answer a question.

Ranger: What was your favorite thing that you learned today?
1st A.B.: Ummm. That Colorado is prettier.
R: Can you give me a comparison? What is it prettier than?
AB: Uhhhhhhh. I know! Alabama.

R: What was your favorite thing that you learned today?
2nd AB: About the Kissing Camels. 
R: Oh! Can you tell me where they are? (the rock is due north, and visible out the window)
2nd AB: East. (He'd read earlier that the rock was on the East Side of the park.)
2nd AB: Uh, West? North?
R: There you go!

R: What was your favorite thing that you learned today?
1st Mate: That Colorado rattlesnakes are small.
R: Hmm? Maybe compared to Alabama snakes...
1st Mate: Yeah. My dad had to kill a six foot rattle snake that got in our backyard.

Maybe we need to work on the conservation conversation! Granted, the ranger did appear more disturbed at the idea of six feet of venomous snake in the backyard than she did about its death.

Manitou Springs, Day 3.
We had noticed flyers around town announcing the race. We had spoken to a fellow in a shop who was going to be in it. We had looked it up online, and we had decided that we could not miss the 15th Annual Emma Crawford Coffin Race.
The story of Emma Crawford is not one for the faint of heart. For those who can stand to hear it chanted, click here.
Basically, it is this.
Emma Crawford came to Colorado in search of the "cure" for tuberculosis. Apparently this was quite common, and those who did were called "lungers." Emma climbed to the top of Red Mountain, and loved it so much that she wished to be buried there. She seemed to recover though, and was to be married to a young man called Hildebrand. A few weeks before her wedding however, she suffered a relapse and died. Twelve pall bearers carried her to the top of the mountain in  a coffin with a silver plate bearing her name (the plate is important.) and she was buried there. Twenty years later though, she was exumed for the purpose of building a railroad. She was moved to another place on the mountain, but apparently didn't like it there, because during a big rainstorm, Emma returned to Manitou Springs, along with the plate with her name, which was her only form of identification. Although Emma was once again buried, this time safely in the city cemetary, where she has remained ever since, a local business owner thought that it would be a shame to let Emma fade away into history. For this reason he instated the Emma Crawford Coffin race.

                                                        The Champions in Motion.
The race was hilarious, and was won by the Crystal Hillbillies for the seventh year in a row. The award for best entourage went to a team dressed as cannibals. They really deserved it too. For the parade, in addition to pushing their coffin, they carried a poor guy tied to a pine tree.

                                       Emma and Hildebrand in the front, Cannibals in the back.
That wraps upthe first three days.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We have once again moved house. This time, we have fled from the icy cold of Northern Wyoming, and taken to the sunny plains of Colorado. We are staying in Pueblo, which is on the edge of the dessert. At the campground we were originally staying at, all of the water had to be trucked in. This was also a KOA, but it fell far below the standard set in Douglas, WY, and so we decided to forgo the convenience of the KOA for a cheaper campground. With all that extra dough, we decided to have some fun. So today we drove two hours to Denver, and spent the day at the Denver Museum of Natural Science. Actually, we did not intend to spend the entire day there. We were a bit surprised when the guy came through, announcing that the museum was closing in twenty minutes. We had a good time, laughed long and hard at the "Life Begins With Lightening" videos and learned a little. Both AB's got to make Mongolian hats, but the 2nd AB was so heartbroken at the sight of a little girl who didn't get one that he handed his over. The 2nd Mate got to play a Morin Khuur or horse head fiddle. She rather enjoyed the experience, I think. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of this, because no photography was allowed in the exhibit. I might have chanced stealing a shot, but there were about five guards standing around us. I got some other pictures though.

The Commodore's favorite, a big carnivorous pig that used to roam Nebraska, back when Nebraska was a forest. You can't tell from the picture, but this thing was the size of a Buffalo.

A mammoth Skull. According to the Commodore, a Volkswagon bug could fit between the tusks.

North American Camels. We thought they look kind of like Pronghorn Antelope. The Museum says that they evolved into lhamas and Alpacas.

The Boys all really enjoyed the Dinosaurs.
The 2nd Mate really liked the mummies. Unfortunately, once again, there are no pictures. This is, once again, entirely my fault. I do not like mummies, therefore, I skipped the ancient Egypt exhibit, and I did not think to give her the camera.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The Admiral has gone North alone. The weather was not inviting to travel, and moving Tallulah in ice and snow seemed unwise. Especially since the trip to Gillette was supposed to be an overnight one, and we are so comfortable here in Douglas. Besides that, the projected temperature was 0 for Gillette, and 16 for Douglas.  Hmmm. That's a hard one.
Nasty RV park with nasty signs all over, 16 fewer degrees, and an icy journey North or a posh KOA with every RVing convenience, and 16 more degrees. The only trouble is that the trip to Gillette has turned out NOT to be overnight, and we are pretty neatly stranded until Thursday. Oh well.

 We actually got quite a bit of snow here anyway. There was eight inches to a foot, with three to four foot mounds, thanks to the snowplow. The ABs and the dog seemed to be happiest about the weather.

 The cold weather that we have been enduring has resulted in a resurgence of knitting and crocheting projects. The entire family (minus the Admiral) learned to knit this year. During the Spring, we knitted extensively, creating hats, scarves (with pockets!) and a sweater.
The Summer heat of Alabama rather curbed the desire to knit, however.
Now a week of sub-freezing temperatures, the reluctance of the 2nd AB to wear socks,  and an unused ball of wool yarn have joined forces to fashion one very cute pair of socks, which the Viking boy will actually wear.

                                                     The 2nd AB shows off his socks.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Antelope Birthday.

The Admiral's birthday was today. Birthday's, of course, require special treatment.
We spent an hour in the gift shop here at the campground looking for a birthday card. We finally decide on two, which were then made over to suit the occasion. The 1st AB remade the envelope of his pick with cut out pictures, the 2nd AB included a poem.
For a birthday dinner, we actually  managed to pull a surprise on the Admiral. (The Admiral has a long history of surprising people, and  unveiling surprises before they are ready.) We procured two antelope shoulders, a mule deer shoulder and an antelope ham from a couple from Alabama who were hunting in Wyoming. Because the weather has been so cold, it was not necessary to stash the meat in the freezer. It was perfectly fine outside in the Ice Guzzler, which made it possible to hide this considerable amount of meat for two days.

The Admiral has wanted to try antelope for some time. It seems that the experience agreed with him.

The 1st AB likes antelope too.

Of course there was cake.But the Admiral had to battle the 2nd AB for the first slice. The 2nd AB got three in a row first

Thursday, October 8, 2009

From Douglas, WY

We pulled into the Douglas KOA on Tuesday solidly frozen and expecting to find ourselves in yet another unpleasant RV park. We'd read reviews that warned against going there with anything longer than 25 Ft. Our options, however, were extremely limited, because the only other open camp in Douglas, WY has no hook-ups and pets are not allowed.
On principle, we usually avoid KOAs. (Kampgrounds of America) The Commodore's father referred to them as "hotels without walls." This is niether an unfair nor inaccurate description. Also against KOAs is the fact that they are expensive. Besides the nightly rate, which covers two persons, they often charge as much as $3 a night for each extra person over the age of 7.With a nice "winter rate" and nowhere else to go however we were lured to this KOA.
In Gillette, WY, we stayed in a park where we had about ten feet between us and the next camper. The water hook-up was on the wrong side, and the park was plastered with threatening "If this doesn't stop..." and "You had better not be caught..." signs. Somehow, such negative signs can have a very negative overall effect.
In Sheridan, we intended to stay in a park that had really great reviews, was totally cool, and included four acres of land for exercising pets (and, simultaneously, boys)  on. Unfortunately, we missed the review that mentioned the owner's dislike of construction (and railroad) workers and we discovered upon arrival that he also dislikes children. So we stayed in the RV section of the Bramble Motel. It was tiny, 30 amp (we have a 50 amp RV) and we were sick, snowed in, and had no way of doing laundry. The owner was nice, the boys built their first really big snowman, and there was a flock of turkeys that came by everyday, but we were not sorry to leave.
Turns out, a hotel without walls was just what we needed. We've given up roughing it and become Kampers for a few days. The people who run the place are the first really nice Wyomingites we've come across. We played miniature golf. There is a  playground with covered wagon monkey bars. There's a laundry room. There is a dog run with carefully tended grass and no sandspurs or cacti to pull out of the dog's feet.

And did I mention that Douglas, WY is the home of the Jackalope?
And snow. Lots of snow.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


I have recovered (mostly) from the triple blow of a head cold, mid-terms, and a stomach virus that has kept me from more pleasant tasks than studying Geography and coughing up my lungs. My sincere apologies.

We are now in Sheridan, WY. "The West at its best." If this is the best though, I'm certainly glad we got here before the place deteriorated any further.
Wyoming has not proven to be the spectacular and pleasant place that we expected. Not that I thought everywhere would measure up to Nebraska's standards, but I did not expect the disparity that we have found. Honestly, a person running a history museum should not say "We don't want any lost little boys. I had three of my own and I didn't even want them." As though we'd leave a crew member behind!
Also, with Winter here, the campground pickings are very slim. It seems that pets or children, but not both are permissible. As we are traveling with children and a pet, finding a place to park has become a little challenging. Particularly annoying are the parks who do not post these restrictions, thus requiring a post arrival change of destination.

But the really big news of the day is...
6 inches of snow.


Hmm. There was grass here yesterday.


We saw a sign here in town that showed the temperature as +40 F. It was the first time I have ever seen one that had to point out the +/-.
Despite the fact that the amount of snow on the ground would have closed Alabama down for a month, the Wyoming weather forecasters insist on calling it a "dusting of snow."
Talk about culture shock.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I've made up a poem about Alabama.
Nice warm days has September
April, May, and November.
All the rest are quite warm too,
except for January, which is sometimes blustery.

Not so in lovely, frozen Gillette, WY. In fact, the forecast is calling for snow tonight. SNOW. In SEPTEMBER.
I think that the following accurately sums up our feelings toward the weather.

Gillette's view almost makes up for its weather. The view goes on so long that one can see the earth curving away under the sky. There are no illusions about a flat world here. The people are not as friendly as those in Nebraska. We did meet a very nice man in Newcastle, Wyoming, but he was from Wisconsin. (He also had a very cool collection of old firetrucks. There was one from 1949 that his father had sold brand new, and another from 1959 that he had sold brand new. Years later, his son bought them, and they drove them to Newcastle. Unfortunately, I somehow came away without the name of the shop, or a picture of the firetrucks.) I have a theory about the Wyomingites lack of friendliness. They just don't have enough oxygen. The air here is too thin. There is a big difference between 338 ft. and 4500 ft. 338 is better. A person can really breathe there.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ten things we've learned here on the Road.

#1. It is wise to stand back a little when opening cabinets after bumpy drives.

#2. The best way to get the Commodore to replace a thing is to allow her to experience the malfunction. This is not because the Commodore is mean or stingy, but she does remember better if she sees the product failure. It is more likely to be fresh on her mind. For instance, if the water hose that I said needed to be replaced flies off the black tank cleaning wand's handle and soaks the Commodore and the bathroom, (Don't worry, it's just hose water, perfectly clean.) I can count on the hose being replaced.

#3.When cleaning the black tank, have someone outside and ready to shut off the water. And prepare for the possibility of getting wet.

#4. Get the Admiral, not the Captain, to check the tire pressure.

#5. Get the Captain, not the Admiral, to put the little cap things back on the tires.

#6. Walking through a small Nebraskan town with a pretty Border Collie creates a reaction among the local ranchers that is similar to walking through a college town with a pretty blond. The difference is that no one honks. That might scare the dog.

#7. When grocery shopping for seven people with no vehicular transportation, carry a cloth bag to put the groceries in. Plastic grocery bags split, (sometimes depositing a jar spaghetti sauce on the roadside, where no one but the grasshoppers can enjoy it) and split grocery bags are no fun at all. Paper bags are either hard to carry or the handles fall off.

#8. Supercilious does not mean something that is very funny. (This was something that the younger crew members learned.)

#9. When in Nebraska, do as the Nebraskans do and eat ice cream. However, when one walks to the store in the cold and drizzling rain to get the ice cream, one should remove one's hat and gloves during purchase. Otherwise, one should be prepared for the ridicule of the cashier.
Also, the best place to get ice cream is Cody Park in North Platte, NE.

#10. The underpasses and bridges over the interstates are high enough, and everyone knows it. Just for fun though, we like to discuss these hazards. The conversations sound like this.
Commodore: 13'11? Can we get under that?
Captain: Yes. We can. We're 12'6. Besides, we went under 13'6 yesterday.
Commodore: That's right. I just like 14'2 so much better.
Commodore: What about the air conditioners?
Captain: That Tractor Trailer Truck just went under. He's taller than us.
Commodore: Oh. Right. Okay.
The underpass is safely navigated, but both the Commodore and the Captain duck.
Commodore: You ducked.
Captain: You ducked.
Commodore: Reflex.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Promotions, Crab Claws and Travels.

Before we left AL, the Boy began a fierce and cheerful campaign to be promoted to Able Seaman. His efforts involved learning to swim under water, doing all things without murmuring or complaining, and hardest of all for our Boy, laughing at himself. His smiles, and "I will gladly do that for you!s" have paid off. The Boy is a Boy no more. He is officially A.B. 2.

The A.B.2 takes a moment to reflect on his years as the Boy.

Then he is overcome by the joy of it.

It has often been noted amongst the crew that we are fed much better when we are "roughing it" out on the road. The Admiral has superior tastes, and when we are traveling with him, we attempt to satiate his delicate appetite. Naturally, most of the crew does not object to this. Sadly, there are times when my tastes do not coincide with the Admiral's, and I have to recourse to Peanut Butter sandwiches and bread and cheese dinners. Which leaves me plenty of time for picture taking.

The Admiral's first home cooked meal last home cooked meal.
A.B. 1 defending his crab claws. The crab claws were requested by the Admiral.

Did I mention that the 1st Mate really loves crab claws?

The Admiral demonstrates proper crab dissecting techniques.

Now on to travels.
We have left Thedford behind and moved our camp on to Alliance, NE, 120 miles down Highway 2. Both Alliance and the drive we made today are familiar to us, but it never gets boring. The Sandhills of Nebraska offer so much to look at. Today, the crew and the Commodore are convinced that a bird we saw was a golden eagle. Maybe it really was an eagle. The Highway-2 Scenic Byway cd narrator claims that it is possible. Maybe it wasn't an eagle. Quite frankly, it doesn't really matter what it was. It might have been a hawk. It was beautiful, and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the beauty. That's all we're really looking for on this journey.

Trees, a rare sight in NE.

Trains. Not a rare sight at all and On and On and On....
the whole reason we are out here.

A.B.2 got this picture of the cows grazing.
And a great shot of the windshield wipers.