Out of Eden Postponed

I was practicing my daily self-torture by reviewing the numbers out of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. I realized that as of the time of this writing, there have been more than 1,900,000 reported deaths worldwide. That’s an horrific number, made even worse by the fact that it’s probably on the low side.

Suddenly I sat up straight in my chair, thinking, “My god. Where is Paul Salopek?”

I’ve blogged about Mr. Salopek a few times before. He’s the guy being sponsored by National Geographic to do the Out of Eden walk, and write dispatches along the way for our reading pleasure. His path follows the migratory route of humanity, and started in January, 2013.

He began his walk in Ethiopia, where humans first evolved. From there he went to Djibouti and crossed the Red Sea. That took 5 months. From there he spent 14 months walking through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the West Bank, and Israel. It took him a further 20 months to make his way through Cyprus, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. From there he crossed the Caspian Sea and traveled along the Silk Road, through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. That took him 22 months. From Pakistan he went to India, and into Myanmar. That was a further 23 months, and then (insert sound of record scratch) he was stopped cold by the pandemic in March, 2020.

He’s been in Myanmar ever since. I was glad to see that he’s alive and well. At the time I wrote this, his latest dispatch was only a few days old. He’s passing the time by writing a book.

Salopek must be the world’s most patient man. Personally, as much as I adore travel, after about 12 days, I want to go home. For him, it’s been nearly 8 years, and he still has a long way to go. The entire journey was only supposed to have taken him 7 years.

His plan, from here, is to go up through Asia, across to Alaska, down the west coast of the United States, into Mexico and Central America, and then all along the West coast of South America, ending in Tierra del Fuego. But first he has to wait out this pandemic.

What must it be like, being away from loved ones that long, and only having the friends you meet along the road as you’re passing through? What must it be like to live with only what you can carry on your back? What happens to your concept of stability and permanence and home?

That, and his feet must be killing him.

Just as with the rest of us, I’m sure this pandemic took Salopek by surprise. But he seems to be coping with it. In the meantime, he has a lot of fascinating stories to share. I highly recommend that you check out the Out of Eden website and enjoy his journey vicariously just as I have done.

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A Hateful, Clueless Meme

You may have seen this disgusting meme floating around on social media. A friend (Hi, Jen!) pointed it out to me, and I was instantly repulsed. The message it seems to be trying to get across is, don’t follow the mask-wearing sheep of the world. Resist. Do what you want. As if not wearing a mask makes you some kind of hero.

This meme seems to be quite popular amongst the foolish people who think that by not wearing a mask, they’re exercising a constitutional right. That is patently absurd. None of us have the right to put the lives of everyone we come in contact with at risk. We all have a responsibility to maintain public health. If that weren’t the case, we’d be pooping on the public sidewalks with impunity. Because holding it doesn’t feel good.

There are certain standards that have to be maintained in order to have a healthy society. You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it. Selfishness does not pair well with being a member of a community.

But even more offensive is the fact that this historical photograph has been appropriated to make an ignorant, hyper-conservative meme with its own agenda, when the man in the photograph was anything but a poster child for that ideology.

Let’s start with the one indisputable fact about this photograph. It was taken in 1936, during the launch of a German military training ship called the Horst Wessel. All the witnesses to the launch are giving the Nazi salute except for this one man, who defiantly keeps his arms crossed. That must have taken a great deal of courage.

Historians now think that this is a photograph of either Gustav Wegert or August Landmesser. More and more people are starting to believe it was Wegert, as there’s more evidence that he was working at the time at the shipyard. Alas, if it is Wegert, it isn’t as compelling a story. Wegert never experienced Nazi persecution. He wasn’t imprisoned. He survived the war. He was simply against the Nazi salute because he was a devout Christian. This is admirable, but not particularly exciting.

If this is a photograph of Landmesser, on the other hand, it makes for a fascinating tale. Landmesser did join the Nazi party in the hope of gaining employment, but he was later kicked out of it when it came to light that he was engaged to a Jewish woman, Irma Eckler. They were married, but the union wasn’t recognized under the Nuremburg Laws. They had two daughters. He was thrown in jail for “dishonoring the race.”

He was released from jail in May, 1938 for lack of evidence, as they argued that nobody was sure that his wife was fully Jewish. But two months later he was imprisoned again, and sent to a concentration camp. His wife was also sent to prison, and in fact gave birth to their second daughter there. She was then sent from one concentration camp to another until she finally died in 1942.

Landmesser was released from his concentration camp in 1941, but in 1944 he was drafted into a penal battalion and forced to fight. He finally died in battle in Croatia eight months later. He was 34 years old. His daughters grew up in an orphanage, and later in foster care. His oldest daughter published a book about the family’s persecution for “racial disgrace”.

Whether the defiant man in the photograph is Wegert or Landmesser is irrelevant to the message, as far as I am concerned. It is evidence that somebody was willing to stand up for their principles at a time when a lot of people were being brainwashed and following blindly or acquiescing due to fear. This photograph gives me hope. But when I look away from him and at all the others, it makes me despair. That’s why the photo is so powerful to me. It shows me that I can hold both feelings at once.

The very idea that this picture has been twisted around to make doing the wrong thing, the selfish thing, the life threatening thing seem heroic is disgusting and outrageous, and insults the memory of the man, whoever he may have been, who was brave enough to be on the right side of history.

If you created this meme, shame on you. I added the x to the meme so it couldn’t be copied and used. Not from this blog, anyway. Not today.

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All I Wanted

 I ripped my jeans today. 
 The kind of dry rotting rip that can’t be patched.
 And unless you have a slammin’ body, 
 you can’t buy jeans online. 
 You have to try them on. 
 You have to be able to see how your butt looks in the mirror.

 Even worse, these were work jeans. 
 I refuse to pay retail for work jeans 
that will only get greasy right off.

 So I went to the thrift store.
 Do you understand?
 I went to a thrift store, 
 Full of screaming, snotty children.
 In the midst of a pandemic.

 I found three possible pairs. 
 Not the ripped up kind that the young ‘uns wear.
 But not Mom jeans, either.

 Only to discover that the fitting rooms were closed.
 Due to COVID-19.
 I had risked my life for a pair of jeans.
 Now I couldn’t try them on.

 I hung them on the nearest rack (of shirts), 
 and walked out.
 I got in my car. 
 I drove home.

 En route, I thought about how everything 
 is just so damned hard now.
 You can’t eat out.
 You can’t hug.
 You can’t go to the movies.
 You can’t breathe freely.
 You can’t count on the government.
 You can’t go anywhere or do anything.

 We live in it daily,
 but sometimes it sneaks up.

 I sat in my driveway and cried.
 One of those hard, cleansing, chest-heaving cries
 that confuse and irritate men.

 Now I’m exhausted.

 And the pandemic still rages on, 
 grinding us all down without remorse.
 Leaving casualties in its wake.
 Things will never be the same.

 I’m scared.

 Still sniffling, I went inside.
 And then someone drove up to our garage 
 and stole some tools.
 Looked me square in the eye
 he drove away
 In his 60k, brand new SUV.
 Just like that.

 And all I wanted 
 was a stinkin’ pair of jeans. 

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The Side Effects of Spreading Joy

I’ve often thought that if I had to stay in an emergency shelter due to some natural disaster, I’d volunteer at that shelter. It would sure beat sitting there, feeling terrified or in shock or completely and utterly helpless. What can I do? Scrub toilets? Do paperwork? Read to children? Pass out toothpaste? Anything?

I’m now even more convinced that I’d want to do that. I created a project for myself recently, and it was even more satisfying than I anticipated. I learned so much from it. Much of what I learned I wasn’t expecting.

It occurred to me that due to the pandemic, a lot of people would be struggling to give gifts this holiday season. Having identified a problem in my mind, I set about trying to think of ways to solve it. Gazing out the window at my little free library (I do that more than I care to admit), it occurred to me that books make great gifts. But I’d want people to be able to give brand new books, and they aren’t cheap.

Okay, first I needed to obtain the books. So I set up a Gofundme campaign, asking for donations. I set a goal of $500. It started off slow, because folks were more focused on the election and all the stress that was causing. But once that was behind us, people really became generous.

When I got 550 dollars, I was thrilled! I started doing research as to where I could get the biggest bang for my buck. I asked people on the Little Free Library Stewards Facebook group, and got a lot of great suggestions about bulk sellers and scholastic type organizations. There are dozens of publishers out there if you search.

Finally, I settled on Usborne Books, because Jordan, their independent consultant, contacted me and said that for every dollar I spent, they’d give me an additional 50 cents worth of books! So my 550 dollars turned into 825 dollars just like that! Woo hoo! And I have to say that the quality of the books I received was outstanding. (Here’s Jordan’s webpage, if you’re interested in working with her.)

With Jordan’s expertise, I was able to focus mainly on book collections where the individual books could stand alone. I didn’t want books that required reading book one before you could move on to book two. But book collections are much more affordable per unit than individual books are. After I placed the order, two big boxes of books arrived at my door in no time flat. They were for a variety of age groups. I was so excited!

And then, after that, another 50 dollars rolled in. What to do? Get more books, of course, but where in this short timeframe? I went to the dollar store and got a bunch there. Then I happened to look at the books at Costco, and found some collections there. Not as cheap as I’d like, but not bad. So I threw in a collection of Dr. Seuss books and a collection of Newberry Award books, such as Charlotte’s Web. I received a few donations of new books as well.

I went home and piled all the books on the dining room table. 180 books in all. Holy cow. That’s a lot of books. The pictures below are only a few of those.

I knew I didn’t want to gift wrap the books in advance, because every child, every person, is different. I also knew that parents would prefer looking at the books to make sure they were appropriate to their values and their child’s interests and reading level. But the theme of this whole project was that books make good gifts, so I decided to cut some Costco wrapping paper to the proper size for each book, and put that wrapping paper inside the book. Once the gift was chosen, they would then have the wrapping paper to wrap it with.

Speaking of the appropriateness of this project, I wanted to appeal to the widest audience possible, so I made sure that none of the books were religious or political. And I also used neutral, or, at the very least, winter-themed wrapping paper. These books don’t have to be Christmas presents. They could be for Hannukah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Festivus, Birthdays, whatever. That was very important to me.

Not for nothing, cutting wrapping paper for 180 books is quite the undertaking. Yes, I watched Netflix as I worked. Even so, thank goodness Dear Husband lent a hand, or I’d probably still be sitting there, aching back and all.

Here’s the part of the project where I started to panic. How would I get these books into the hands of people who needed them the most? This was more of a challenge than I first thought.

Not even in my wildest dreams would 180 books leave my little free library within a month, unless I really advertised. Unfortunately, if I spread the word on community forums, I would also risk attracting book resellers. These resellers have been known to steal the entire contents of little free libraries, and then sell the books on Amazon. That would defeat my purpose of getting these books to people who couldn’t afford to buy books. All my work would have been for naught. So I would need to get creative.

Where would I find families in need? Hmm… my first thought was the local women’s shelter. And then after listening to a heartbreaking story on NPR, I also thought of the food bank. I contacted both agencies, and they were quite happy with my idea. So I divided the books into 3 piles: 60 books for the women’s shelter, 70 for the food bank, and 50 for my little free library.

The women’s shelter was easy. I simply dropped off the box of books with the director. They were very happy to have them. Done.

The food bank turned out to be a lot of fun. We were allowed to set up a table, outside, next to the food bank line, and we could talk to people as they came in. “Would you like to give someone a book? It’s free.”

There was a bit of a feeding frenzy at first. Some people took more books than they had children. I had to put a stop to that. I wanted to spread the love. Some people were really shy, and had to be encouraged to take one for each child. Others thought they’d have to pay for them.

A great deal of the people in line at the food bank barely spoke English, and were thrilled to get books so their children could assimilate into the culture in advance of going to school. And reading those books to the children would help them practice the language, too. I could just imagine a mother sitting with her toddler, saying, “See? In English, a dog says ‘woof’.”

In about 2 hours time, the food bank books were gone, and I had a silly smile on my face. Now I was left with just the 50 books for the little free library. I didn’t want to put them out all at once, because of book resellers. I decided to put out about 8 at a time and replenish as needed.

Unfortunately, they weren’t moving. I even did a big sidewalk chalk sign that said, “Books make great gifts!”. Still nothing. Sigh.

Finally, I decided to post information about it on my little free library’s Facebook group page and hope for the best. After chatting with a few of the regular patrons, they asked for some books for families they were trying to help out. They gave me the ages of the children in question, and I put together packages for them to pick up. It was fun, choosing the books for each child. I felt like Santa’s helper.

I also reached out to a few local educators that I know, and asked them to spread the word among parents. I have about 30 books left, and that’s a workable number for my little free library. It’s amazing. I’ve given out 150 books so far!

As I said, this project has taught me much. First of all, I’m getting back just as much joy as I’m giving out. This has been a truly gratifying experience. Second, I’ve met a lot of amazing, generous, and hardworking people that I would never have talked to otherwise, and that has been a thrill during all this isolation.

That leads me to the biggest lesson of all. I’ve been spending a lot of time, just like everyone else, stressing out about the pandemic, the social unrest, the political unrest, and the environment. I have been in a very dark place, as have we all. But while I worked on this project, I didn’t focus on any of that. I didn’t think of Trump even once. I just poured everything I had into this positive act, and I can’t begin to describe how good it felt.

So my recipe for getting out of a dark place is to shine a light. If you do that, it will come back to you. And there’s nothing like it. Those who are obsessed with greed and hate have no idea what they’re missing.

Happy holidays, dear reader.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

An Horrific Insight

There are actually three versions of this story. The first version was my initial, gut reaction. The second was my instant reaction after obtaining more information. The third was my conclusion after some calm, pragmatic thought. Be sure and read to the very end if you want to see how quickly your point of view can be altered!

Version One:

It was your typical Pacific Northwest November night: raw, wet, cold, and basically gloomy. But I was inside, warm and safe and dry, beside a crackling fire, watching Netflix. All was right with the world, even though I was totally taking it for granted.

And then came the knock on my door. I nearly jumped out of my fuzzy pajamas. We almost never get visitors unannounced, especially in times of pandemic. Our house is relatively isolated and not close to the main street, so it takes some effort to get here. Here’s the perfect litmus test for that: There have been no Halloween trick or treaters on this front porch in decades.

It was a young man, asking for food. Not begging. Not giving an explanation or an excuse. He was just hungry and in need. He looked wet and disheveled and had nothing with him but a backpack.

My husband had him wait on the porch (safety first), and went in and made him a big sandwich. He threw an apple, a Pepsi, and a tuna snack for later into the mix. He then sent him on his way.

A wave of sadness washed over me. It was the sadness of knowing that we’d be seeing a lot more of this in the coming months. Desperate people. Cold, wet, desperate people, everywhere. And there would always be this feeling of not having done enough. There are just so many of them, and only one of me.

There’s also this sense of survivor’s guilt. I’m considered an essential worker, although I have no idea why. So my income hasn’t decreased in this pandemic. I’ve managed to stay relatively isolated and healthy, and I still have my health insurance. I suspect I’ll stay warm and dry throughout the winter. Even my dogs will get to stay warm and dry. I’m not at all accustomed to being one of the haves.

I wonder where that young man slept that night. I wonder where he’ll sleep tonight. For me, he is the leading edge of a wall of hundreds of thousands of people out there, just trying to survive. This is the wall that has been built, and it’s an ugly thing to behold.

I can’t shake the feeling that this is only the beginning. How privileged so many of us have been, secure in the knowledge that survival was likely. Now everything seems much more fragile. And a heck of a lot more scary.

Version Two:

The next day, without us even having broached the subject, some friends from 1/2 mile down the street said that the same guy came to their door that night. That time he was turned away and the theory that he was casing the neighborhood, seeing which houses don’t have men and/or dogs, for later burglary, was posited.

I was instantly furious. Had we been used? Are we now unsafe? He could see our TV through the window. I hate being taken advantage of! People suck!

Version Three:

After I had a chance to calm down and climb out from under my massive pile of righteous indignation, I realized that in both versions above, I was drawing conclusions from facts not in evidence. I will never know what that young man’s motivations were.

Was he a saint or a sinner? My most pragmatic self assumes that, like most of us, he is something in between. From that concept, a new theory has emerged for me.

It was a wet, raw, miserable night, and most criminals are lazy. If he had been casing the neighborhood, I suspect he’d have waited for better weather to do so. No one would be out in that weather without a good reason. So I suspect he was, indeed, in need.

But I also now suspect that like most panhandlers, he was hoping that if he asked for food, what he’d really get was money. Money is a much more flexible commodity. With it you can buy food you actually like. Or you can pay the rent. Or you can buy drugs or alcohol. Or you can take care of a sick child.

He did stand out on the porch and wait for the food. If he had been casing the neighborhood, that would have slowed him down. If he was hoping for money, maybe once he realized that my husband was actually fixing him food, he hoped that some actual cash would also be slipped into the bag.

The money theory makes me sad, because I feel mildly manipulated. But at least there was still a need there, whatever it may have been, and we did our best to help. I hope drugs or alcohol was not a factor. There’s no way to know.

But what’s the point of speculating, really? Our motivations were pure. If his motivations were not, that’s on him. I just hate that we live in a world where we feel the need to question and theorize. I hate that this might taint our desire to help our fellow man in the future. The bottom line is that we’ll never know the whole story.

What do you think, dear reader?

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Things to Be Thankful for in 2020

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving. This is my favorite holiday. Good food, no pressure to give gifts, and, if this were a normal year, an opportunity to see loved ones.

I realize that most of us are not getting to celebrate it in the manner in which we are accustomed, but maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. We can all focus more, if we choose to, on the many things we have to be thankful for. And we get to avoid all those awkward political conversations that would surely be happening right now if this were a non-pandemic year. Maybe we should view this as the time and space this country needs to heal its rifts.

Here are the things I’m thankful for in this crazy year:

  • My loved ones value my health enough to stay away, and are staying safe themselves, even if it’s hard.
  • Everyone I know personally that I have crossed paths with since March has had the decency and the sense to wear a mask, and because of that, so far, I am COVID-free.
  • I am quick enough on my feet to back away from the maskless strangers that I encounter, thus protecting myself and my husband.
  • I’ve had the opportunity to spend even more time with my dogs than usual.
  • I have a renewed sense of how important people are to me, and how precious life is.
  • I take nature even less for granted than I did before.
  • I am more focused on exercising than I ever have been in my entire life. (It’s a great way to work off COVID stress.)
  • I am constantly reminded of the importance of patience. It is a lesson that I have always struggled with, but I’m definitely getting more practice this year.
  • It is very easy to tell who cares about others and who only cares about themselves these days, and that information comes in handy.
  • I’m feeling very patriotic because I’m doing my part to maintain public health.
  • I’m also proud of the fact that so many of us voted for the first time, and I’m proud that no evidence of election fraud has been presented, and that just saying does not make it so.
  • I’m glad that this year is almost over.
  • I’m touched by the amount of generosity I’ve seen. Times have been tough on everybody, but they’ve been even worse for some, and I’m glad that people are stepping up and helping out at a time when the government is not.
  • I’m grateful to still have a job.
  • I’m looking forward to hate being something that is less acceptable and comfortable in this country again.
  • I value all that this year has taught me.
  • I’m grateful for all the front line workers who have seen so much horror and done so much this year, and yet still keep showing up for all of us.
  • I am grateful, most of all, for those of us who have managed to survive thus far. It’s taking a village, but we can do this.

This has been a long, exhausting year, and we’re all on the ragged edge. No doubt about it. But I hope that you, too, can still dig deep and find things to be thankful for. Post some of those in the comments, if the spirit moves you, dear reader, and know that I am thankful for you, too.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

For the Frontline Workers

Here are firsthand accounts of what frontline workers are going through right now.

Some of them have worked 250 days straight without a break.

Many have inadequate personal protective equipment, and are forced to wear one N95 mask for a 12 hour shift. They’re supposed to be discarded after each use. This is not safe for them or for the patients they serve.

Bags of personal possessions of the deceased are stacking up like cordwood in many hospitals, as no one has time to distribute them to loved ones, and those possessions were, of course, exposed to the virus.

Many workers have had to hold the cell phone so loved ones can watch as patients flatline, and there’s inadequate mental health support for these workers who do this multiple times a day as people wail over the phone.

Administrators are forced to turn patients away as they are already well above capacity, and currently 200,000 Americans are falling sick every single day. And then they’re forced to order freezer trucks to store the increasing number of dead.

El Paso, Texas has more COVID patients than many states do. How would you like to work in a hospital there?

After a 12 hour shift of dealing with this horror, if a frontline worker even has the opportunity to go home, he or she can’t hug family members, because without adequate personal protective equipment, they are having to self-quarantine so as not to put family members in danger. So they don’t even have that comfort to look forward to.

And then they get to watch so many of us declare this pandemic to be a hoax. They see people refusing to wear masks under the mistaken idea that it’s their constitutional right to make this mess so much worse. They get to see us stubbornly turn mask wearing into a political thing when it’s actually a public health thing. People are dying.

And yet the frontline workers keep showing up, day after day after miserable day, for us. I don’t know how they do it. I don’t think I could. I think I’d have fallen apart long ago. I already feel like I’m falling apart, and I don’t face ANYTHING compared to these amazing people.

I don’t feel like I’m doing enough for them. Whenever I work swing shift, I blow my bridge horn for them for 15 seconds at 8 pm as a thank you. And I’ve been told that the neighborhood appreciates it. It makes me feel like I’m doing something, at least, and I derive comfort from that.

But not everyone appreciates it, it seems. The other night, after I had blown the horn, a man got on the marine radio and said, “I don’t think anybody even knows why you’re doing that anymore. Stop it.”

At the moment, all my nerves are at the surface of my skin. I’m on the ragged edge. So this made me cry.

I started second-guessing myself. Maybe I shouldn’t do it. Maybe it’s stupid. Maybe it’s an irritant.

But after I calmed down, I got angry. Am I going to let one cranky man taint this gesture? He can’t handle 15 seconds a day of noise when these people are sacrificing so much all day, every day, and their situation is about to get a thousand times worse?

No! I’m not going to stop as long as this pandemic is still raging. I refuse. He may call and complain to my superiors, and then I’d be forced to stop, because bureaucracies react to the squeaky wheel. But I genuinely believe that people appreciate it. So until I’m forced to do so, I’ll continue to send out my lonely thank you whistle to all within earshot.

If you know anyone who is serving on the front line of this life and death battle, in any capacity at all, please share this blog with them. They probably won’t have the time or energy to read it, but I want them to know how grateful we are for every single thing that they do.

And if, by some miracle, Mr. Crankypants happens to read my blog, I have a message for him: F*** you, you selfish jerk.

Sedona Back to Vegas

Leaving Sedona on day 6 of my trip was the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time. And I’ve recently had a root canal. No joke.

I longed to stay in this town, explore each of its shops and enjoy all of its restaurants. I wanted to hike its trails. Mostly, though, I just wanted to sit and take in the view. I would like to let Sedona wash over me like a cool blast of air conditioning on a hot day.

There’s just never enough time, is there?

I did make the time to visit the Church of the Red Rocks, thinking it was the iconic, must-see church in Sedona, but I was wrong (and besides, it was closed due to the pandemic). The must-see church is the very unique Chapel of the Holy Cross. I didn’t realize that until I was already out of town. But I’ll take any excuse to go back.

I did stop in and visit Son Silver West. I was drawn in by its unique metal sculptures, Western-themed art and vintage signs. It’s one of those eclectic stores that you can visit every day and encounter something new. I’ll include a few pictures below so you can get the idea, but this store definitely deserves a post all its own.

On the way back to Vegas, I tried to see Hoover Dam again. Not only was it closed, but also there were a number of grim-faced men, dressed in black, who were more than happy to make sure you got the message and turned around. No explanation given. I’m pretty sure they would have wrestled me to the ground if I had tried to get past them. Later I discovered that the president was visiting Vegas, so it probably had something to do with that. I was disappointed, but I’m sure I’ll be in the area again someday. I did enjoy seeing Lake Mead.

I also crossed over Peacock Wash and Rattlesnake Wash, and mused about people’s need for such things. I mean, save your money and wash your rattlesnake at home, I say. Then I crossed over Frees Wash. Okay, maybe I would let someone else do it in that case. 😊

I picked up some food at an In-n-Out Burger. I’d never eaten at one before. It was pretty good for fast food. I’d recommend them, but I learned that they tend to sneak religious quotes into their packaging. There’s nothing I hate more than being proselytized, especially by a for profit company.

Entering Vegas by day is a completely different vibe. It’s every bit as overwhelming and crowded, but it doesn’t have the excitement factor without all the lights piercing the darkness. But I was excited nonetheless, because that night I was scheduled to go zoom-lining at Slotzilla on Fremont Street! Zoom-lining is a lot like ziplining, except you’re flying through the air like superman. I had been wanting to do this for ages.

Just for you, dear reader, I had my adventure recorded on a Go Pro. What do you think? Would you do it? I wasn’t nervous until they strapped me down and opened the doors and I got my first look at what 110 feet in the air was going to be like. (My apologies for the “Oh, F***” that you hear me utter at the beginning. I think I had a valid excuse. And no, I do not have a mullet. They required that you put on a glasses strap, and I stupidly didn’t pull my hair over the top of it.)

But I have to say, what a rush! Zooming 5 blocks, beneath a lighted, psychedelic canopy, and above the massive crowd as they took pictures and cheered, was amazing. I’d do it again and again if given the chance!

The downside, of course, was that I had to walk the 5 blocks back, through that massive crowd of people. Most wore masks, but the whole social distancing concept was impossible. People were rubbing shoulders with me whether I wanted to or not. It felt like the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done, and I started wondering if this little caper was worth my life, and berated myself for being so stupid. I wanted to boil myself in bleach.

But during that walk, I’m fairly certain that I locked eyes with Chaz Bono. He looked right at me, and then quickly looked away when he saw recognition. I didn’t bother him. He clearly did not want to be bothered.

I stopped at a store and picked up a frozen pizza, and when I got back to the room I changed clothes, showered, and practically washed my hands raw. I don’t think Vegas will be on my radar again until there’s a reliable vaccine. But I have to say, zoom-lining is AWESOME!!!

Enjoy our random pictures of my day!

There are a lot more tales to tell about this trip, but I’ll try not to post them daily, so as not to put off those who aren’t interested in travel blogs. So brace yourself for a good month of every other day adventures! I’ll try to link them together, so that you can start at the beginning if you find yourself in the middle and want to read the whole saga. Here’s a link to the first post in the series. And here’s a link to my next day’s adventure!

I’m proud to say that my book is available in paperback, kindle, and deluxe color edition! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Sun Valley to Vegas

It was time to leave the beautiful Sun Valley and continue on our journey. The leaving part of travel is always bittersweet for me, because there’s so much of this world to explore that I rarely get a chance to do repeat visits. But Sun Valley, Idaho is a lovely place. I knew I’d miss it.

But we were on our way to Las Vegas, to stay at the Venetian! We figured, since our trip to Italy was cancelled in May, why not splurge on one night in virtual Venice on our way to our next stop? So off we went.

En route, we crossed the immense Snake River Canyon. If you’re at least my age, you may remember that Evel Knievel attempted to jump this canyon in a rocket in 1974. (You can check out the youtube video here.) The man was an expert at publicity, I’ll say that. But standing there and seeing how unbelievably wide this canyon is, I could have told him that of COURSE he wasn’t going to make it. I’d have said it was foolish to try. But I remember watching at the time with bated breath. What can I say? It was the 70’s. You had to be there.

The ramp is still there. We could see it in the distance. A monument to foolishness.

Onward. We went through Shoshone, Idaho, and passed a mountain of potatoes that must have been 20 feet high. I wish I had gotten a picture, but it kind of snuck up on me, and then I was too busy picking my jaw up off the ground to think of my camera. That’s a lot of French fries right there.

Our trip on this day was 580 miles, and much of that was farmland. We saw lots and lots and lots of corn fields. And it was a really windy day, so the corn was dancing, just for us.

We were driving the length of Eastern Nevada, and when we entered that state, we made a quick stop at Cactus Pete’s Casino in the town of Jackpot. Gambling really isn’t my bag, but it was my husband’s vacation, too. And seeing all the colorful flashing lights was kind of cool.

On the highway south of Jackpot, we saw a sign that said, “Report shooting from highway. Operation Game Thief.” Oh, joy.

And as we entered the great basin, a desert area that looks devoid of life, we saw a rusted old water tank in the middle of nowhere, and painted on the side of it were the words, “Everything has a price.” Again, I didn’t have time for a picture. But it made me think.

We also went through Rock Canyon, which was cool and unexpected. It’s amazing how many varieties of rock are out there. It’s astounding how quickly the terrain can change. Nature is fascinating.

The sun went down, and I was grateful, because it had been in my eyes for hours. And then suddenly, there it was. Las Vegas. The entire valley lit up like Christmas on steroids. It was beautiful and otherworldly.

I’ve always found it a bit ironic that Las Vegas has this particular name, because in Spanish, Vega means fertile lowlands. Vegas is far from fertile, in my opinion. It’s a dry, sun-blasted desert, and this city is completely dependent on water from elsewhere, for all its extravagant use thereof. It’s a city that thrives on being wasteful, and we were about to plunge into it headfirst.

We drove the strip. I hadn’t been there in at least 25 years, and it has quadrupled in size. It was a festival of lights, indeed. You can’t help but be impressed with how much man is capable of creating, if you can get past the fact that none of it is natural.

Can you tell that I have a love/hate relationship with this city? My late sister and my late mother haunt me here. They lived here when my sister was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base. I came to visit a few times, and it was here that I witnessed my mother begin her long, hard, brutal battle with cancer. The BRCA1 genetic anomaly is a rot in the heart of my family tree, and it took them both. Fortunately I do not have it.

It’s strange to think I’m the only one left of the three of us. Life is so precious and fleeting. But that’s not Vegas’ fault.

These are weird times in this weird city. It was less crowded than usual, and yet it was still very crowded by any other city’s standards. And a lot of the people on the street were not wearing face masks, except, oddly, for the people standing in a block-long line for food from a taco stand.

This was to be, by far, the most people I’ve been around since March, and it felt really strange. Vegas, a city that thrives on risk, was taking a lot of precautions. Every casino was doing temperature checks before you could enter. There was Purell everywhere. There was plexiglass between each seat at the tables. Every other slot machine was off, and every other chair was missing. The number of people allowed on elevators was limited. More people were mask compliant indoors than out on the street, but there were some diehard smokers and gamblers who didn’t care about themselves any more than they cared about anyone else. I washed my hands a lot. A whole lot.

We checked into the Venetian, and I have to say the suite was luxurious. I felt like a queen.

We then went out to explore. We decided to have dinner at Yardbird Southern Food, right on site, mainly because the Italian restaurant we had planned to eat at was closing, but it turned out to be a good choice, because we had Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, and it nearly made me swoon. They even knew how to cook collard greens properly, which is something I haven’t experienced since living in Florida. What a treat.

Then we window shopped, and watched people riding the gondolas. I’d rather wait for the real thing. I’m bound and determined that we’ll go to Venice one of these days.

It was hot. 90 degrees, after dark. I don’t miss that. It’s really hard to wear a mask when the heat is already making you feel like you’re suffocating. But we soldiered on.

Then we went back to the suite, because I had spotted my biggest weakness: A bathtub that I could actually lie flat in. So I had a nice long introverted soak, trying not to feel guilty about wasting water in the desert, while my extroverted husband got his Vegas on. Everybody happy, that’s the goal! We slept like royalty, looking forward to the following day.

Here are some of our pictures from this leg of the trip. Enjoy!

There are a lot more tales to tell about this trip, but I’ll try not to post them daily, so as not to put off those who aren’t interested in travel blogs. So brace yourself for a good month of every other day adventures! I’ll try to link them together, so that you can start at the beginning if you find yourself in the middle and want to read the whole saga. Here’s a link to the first post in the series. And here’s a link to the next day’s adventure!

Like this quirky little blog? Then you’ll love this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

The Great Western Ramble

I had two weeks of vacation to use or lose. But what to do, where to go, in the time of COVID-19? Our trip to Italy got cancelled in May, and this country is handling this pandemic so irresponsibly that most countries don’t welcome Americans anymore. Heck, you can’t even go to Hawaii unless you quarantine for two weeks first. And I certainly don’t want to marinate in a flying metal tube of contaminated air for hours, even for a domestic flight. This narrowed down our choices immensely.

But in truth, I have long believed that those of us infected with the travel bug have a tendency to neglect our own countries. Why is that? If you’re going to see someplace new, why is it somehow less desirable if it doesn’t require a passport?

With this in mind, my husband and I set about exploring this amazing country of ours by car. We were gone for 13 days, visited five states besides our own, and, when all was said and done, we put 4,200 miles on the rental car. I am fairly certain that this was the longest road trip I’ve ever taken.

What an adventure!

We chose to rent a car rather than use our own because we consulted a wear and tear calculator on the web, and determined that we’d actually save about a thousand bucks by renting. I’m so glad we did. We put some hard miles on that car. During the course of the journey, we went from almost 10,000 feet of altitude to 280 feet below sea level, and that was by no means a smooth incline or decline. I would hazard a guess that we went around at least 1,000 hairpin turns. We avoided interstates as much as we could. Thank goodness my husband likes to drive.

I’m also grateful that our friend Herb likes to dog and house sit, and actually enjoys the company of my cranky dachshund. Apparently they had quite the bromance going on, to the point where Quagmire bit me when we came back home. I’ll try not to take it personally, because I love the little sh**, but jeez.

So away we go!

On day one, we drove 11 hours from just outside Seattle, Washington via the Northeastern corner of Oregon to Sun Valley, Idaho. What a beautiful country we live in. I said that pretty much daily on this journey. You don’t realize how massive it is, and how much of it is devoid of humans, and how much of it is farm and ranch land, until you drive around the West. It’s stunning.

We passed numerous solar and wind farms along the way. Given the vast open country, and our need to stop being slaves to fossil fuel if we want our children to have any decent quality of life at all, I was kind of shocked we didn’t see more of these farms. We’ve got the room. We’ve got the knowhow. And people certainly could use the work.

We also enjoyed the fall colors. It’s not like the gorgeous autumn one experiences on much of the East coast, with its oranges and maroons and reds. But it’ll do nicely. The golds and yellows reminded me why this is my favorite season. And it was awesome to put off experiencing the crappy, rainy winter weather that besets Seattle in October. We got two weeks less of that, and it was a treat.

We listened to a lot of podcasts along the way. I got to introduce my husband to Welcome to Night Vale, and now he’s as hooked as I am. We also listened to the Moth Radio Hour, which is a storytelling podcast, as well as NPR’s Radiolab, and two podcasts from the History Channel that were a lot more fascinating than I expected. The first one was Blind Spot: The road to 9/11. The second was Timber Wars. Those podcasts made the miles pass by quickly.

Our goal was to reduce human contact as much as we could, due to the pandemic. We tried to only eat restaurant food once a day, if that. We brought a lot of picnic food along. (More about that in a future post.)

We passed the nerve gas dump in Umatilla, which was kind of creepy and deserves a post all its own. (Bear with me!) And I also got to see Boise for the first time. Let’s just say that that box is officially ticked. But we did have some amazing Chinese takeout there, so there’s that.

We were shocked by the major differences in gas prices along our route. Anywhere from $2.10 at a Costco somewhere or other, to $4.50 a gallon in California. Yikes. And I’ll never get used to the fact that you can’t pump your own gas in Oregon. What is this, 1950?

We also saw a lot of fire devastation on the entire trip. On this day, it was the Evans Creek Fire in Ellensburg, and the mountains were all charred near Yakima. It was heartbreaking to witness.

On every day of the trip, my husband, who is a realtor, worked anywhere from 1 to 4 hours. Isn’t technology awesome? I think he was surprised that this didn’t irritate me. But it’s nice to see someone doing something that they absolutely love, and I might seem biased, but I truly believe he’s really good at it, too, in case you’re ever looking to buy or sell a home in Western Washington. It was impressive to witness.

We drove up something called the Pendleton Grade, where the mountains looked like they were covered in greenish brown felt and seemed like they would be soft, even though you knew instinctively that they weren’t, really. We also went through the Blue Mountains.

We reached Sun Valley well after dark, so I had no real idea how gorgeous it is until the next day, but I had to wait for the next “episode”, and so will you. I will say, though, that just as we were about to put the key in the lock of our first timeshare, all the lights went out in the entire valley, and were not to turn back on again until 6 a.m. This is not typical. We just were lucky enough to be there on the day they were doing some sort of trunk line repairs.

I’ve never gone to sleep in a place without having any idea of what it looked like before. We used our cell phones as flashlights, but that doesn’t give you a true sense of place. It’s rather surreal. But all that darkness meant we got to stand outside and see about a million stars, including the Milky Way, so every power outage has its silver lining, and all’s well that ends well.

What follows are some of the pictures we took on this day’s journey. Enjoy!

There are a lot more tales to tell about this trip, but I’ll try not to post them daily, so as not to put off those who aren’t interested in travel blogs. So brace yourself for a good month of every other day adventures! I’ll try to link them together, so that you can start at the beginning (this one) if you find yourself in the middle and want to read the whole saga. And here’s a link to the next day’s adventure!

Hey! Look what I wrote! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5