Friday, June 28, 2013

But it’s a dry heat. . .

So’s an oven!

I am starting to feel the effects of being over 70 and driving 2200 miles in 4+ days. In other words, I’m pooped! And Randy, although he won’t admit it, isn’t doing real well either. But tomorrow is our short day, only 225 miles and time to spend the day plus part of another day in Seattle. We think the temp in Seattle will only be in the 90s (and Seattle-ites will really feel that heat!) but it’s way better than if we had stayed in Tucson where it is forecast to be somewhere between 111 (44C) and 113 (45C). and that is better than being in Phoenix where it is forecast to be 117 (48C) or Death Valley, 130 (54C) and possibly a new WORLD record (currently 134 [57C], also in Death Valley) of 135 (58C). By the way, all those C temps are just estimates, I don’t have a conversion calculator handy and all those fractions (F=9/5 C + 32 or something like that) is really not what I can calculate in my head after a martini.

Poor Steve and Donna, they’re coming to Arizona in August (I know, I know, but they’re Aussies and don’t know any better) and they’re fretting—well, STEVE is fretting—about the temperatures. Steve, Steve, Steve. . . it’s ARIZONA and it’s SUMMER. You’ll be hot. Well, maybe really, REALLY hot. But everything but the outside is air conditioned. So, just stay inside!

So, we’re in Kennewick, WA.


Tomorrow we head, on our shortest day—only 224 miles—to Seattle. We’ll get there early and be able to spend most of the next day, Sunday, in the city before heading to Anacortes (my spell check wants to change that to "courtesan") where we will be in position to get the ferry early to Victoria, BC, for Ann’s birthday (I won’t say which one) and Ann and Fred’s anniversary (I won’t say which one), both on the same day because, according to Ann, Fred would not be able to remember two dates.

We know Ann because she was our across-the-street neighbor when I was pregnant with Greg (some 44 years ago) and was going to drive me to the hospital if Randy was off on a trip. We (I) know Fred because I substituted for Ann who worked in a medical clinic for a couple of surgeons (Fred was one of those surgeons). Fred probably doesn’t want to remember the times I screwed up by not knowing where stuff was.

Anyway, Ann and Fred have been married for some 25 years and Ann has been surviving for some 80 years—oh, I wasn’t going to tell, was I?—and they have been good friends for most of that time so we are really looking forward to this next segment of our vacation. The only stressor is going to be the ferry and US/Canadian relations before we can get to Victoria. The last time we crossed the US/Canadian border, the relations were strained and the recipients of that strain were the border-crossing tourists. Our motorhome was absolutely ransacked (but they did put everything [including the smuggled gin] back together) looking for who knows what but it took about two hours out of our time to do that. All because the US had made some problems for the Canadians who wanted to export some beef or something like that. International tit for tat is so much fun!

The absolute weirdest question I have ever been asked by ANY customs agent was a Canadian agent who asked us if we were carrying guns; No. Are you carrying ammo? No. Do you have guns at home in Arizona. HUH? Why on earth does Canadian customs care if we have guns at home, 2000 miles away? And do we dare—I’m talking to you, Randy—make a wisecrack? No, we don’t, RANDY!

So, Seattle and Dale Chihuly glass works, the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and anything else we can fit in tomorrow. And then our vacation REALLY begins: Victoria, Butchart Gardens, parties with Ann & Fred; then the wine and cheese country of Okanogan; then Banff for a week; then Jackson, WY; then Park City, UT; Las Vegas; and home.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What the heck is the Ogallala Aquifer and why do I care?

Branson to Lincoln to Laramie

We are traveling from the land of bibles and the KKK to the spectacular Rocky Mountains. From 95°F and 90% humidity to 70°F and 10% humidity. From overcast to beautiful fair weather Q (fair weather cumulus or it’s-going-to-be-a-wonderful-day clouds!). In one day!

Our first day out of Branson was to Lincoln, NE, a nice, unassuming midwestern town. We headed down to the Haymarket area of town, sort of equivalent to Denver’s Larimer Square, just smaller and hokier. But it had a brewpub—actually it had many brewpubs to choose from and we chose Brewsky’s, not the most inspired moniker, but great beer nonetheless. My beer was a Breckenridge Brewery 471 Double-hopped IPA. Mmmmm, mmmmm, good!

One thing we noticed in Lincoln: tax! The tax on our hotel room was awesomely outrageous: Room, $139; hotel tax, $5.56; room occupancy tax, $7.23; room sales tax, $10.12; a total of 16.5%. Almost makes me think that Wyoming’s tax of “only” 10% is reasonable. It’s so easy to tax people who don’t vote in your elections!

The Ogallala aquifer underlies much of the land over which we were driving. It is a large, shallow aquifer underlying about 80 percent of the High Plains. About 27 percent of the irrigated land in the United States lies on top of this and yields about 30 percent of all ground water used for irrigation in the US. It supplies drinking water to 82 percent of the 2.3 million people who live in the High Plains area. And may run out in as little as 25 years. Maybe. Living in a desert, I really want to know as much as I can about water.

From Lincoln to Laramie is not only a change in climate and topography but in attitude. Laramie is definitely cowboy country. You can see it in the dress, the architecture, and the animals that are alongside the road. No longer are there just cows but now we see lots and lots of horses and even the occasional pronghorn.

It wasn’t a very long day, only 7am to 1:30 pm (stomach-standard time was 7am to 2:30pm) so we were able to go to Centennial, WY (not the same Centennial as James Michener wrote about). Such spectacular scenery. Especially since we have been flatlanders since June 17th!

I have to show you some photos I took of flowers in the mountain around Centennial

Randy and a rest stop on the way to Centennial

Some of these tiny (each blossom is only about 1/2in across) flowers grow so slowly that they are hundreds of years old by the time they get this big.

I think this is an Alpine Forge- me-not

Mirror Lake

Randy at Mirror Lake

Pam at Mirror Lake

A bug and a flower. I can't resist!
 I love flowers, even if I don't always know what they are! These were spectacular, albeit tiny, tiny blossoms. 100 years to grow just a few inches! Life at a high elevation. Over 10,000 feet in the case of these flowers!

More of Mirror Lake

We tried to go further, but even with a Jeep, we couldn't.
I truly enjoyed the scenery from Branson to Lincoln. The transformation from rolling hills to flat, breadbasket scenery was entrancing. But going from the flat, breadbasket scenery to the mountains where there is still snow was so much more interesting. I think I am a mountain gal at heart. I loved seeing miles and miles of corn (“knee high by the 4th of July”) but even more I enjoyed driving to Centennial from Laramie (look up Centennial  on and seeing the wild horses feeding on the miles and miles and miles of native grasses. And the pronghorns. And the mountains with the overhanging cornices of snow (even on June 26, 2013). Plus the roads that are still (on June 26, 2013) blocked by snow. And the temperatures that range from 74°F to 67°F. Ah, bliss!

Had a beer at the Beartree Tavern and met a woman from Encampment, a REALLY small town well past Centennial; my son-in-law’s grandfather was born there. What beautiful country! If it didn’t snow so much and have so many Republicans, I might enjoy living there!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

1 armadillo, 2armadillo, 3 armadillo. . .

We have left Branson, the town at the confluence of the Bible Belt, the KKK, and the NRA! We saw a “ladies dress shop” with a “concealed-carry purse” displayed in the window in old Branson. Yes, there is an Old Branson and a New Branson. The difference seems to be that in new Branson there are shows, shows, shows and in old Branson there are shops, shops, shops.

I forgot to mention a very exciting part of our trip: our visit to the UFO Museum in Roswell, NM. UFOs are the main reason, I think, that Roswell has not dried up and blown away. Conspiracy theorists abound in Roswell and somehow have raised enough money to fund the UFO museum. There you’ll see original accounts from “reliable witnesses” about alien abductions, flying saucer sightings, and how the government has covered up all those abductions and sightings. Especially about Area 51 where, supposedly, all kinds of strange things are going on. THAT I believe! If the spy planes like the SR71 and others were invented over 40 years ago, I can only surmise that many, perhaps unbelievable but nonetheless real, aviation inventions have happened in the military aviation world since then. And a lot of them probably happened in Area 51.

The government has apparently bought up every possible vantage point for taking photographs around Area 51, which, by the way, is not in Roswell but in Nevada. Overflying the area is NOT ALLOWED. In short, it’s a very intriguing place. And you and I will never know what goes on there. And none of it has anything to do with UFOs. Nor does it have anything to do with Roswell, other than the conspiracy theories that seem to go hand in hand with UFOs!

Traveling north from Branson, MO, to Lincoln, NE (our next stop on that long trip to Victoria), has an interesting range of terrain if not climate. Except for a bit of rain that cooled it off some—it’s been in the mid-90s with humidity in the mid-60s)—the only thing that has changed is the rolling hills of Missouri have morphed into the flat plains of the “bread-basket” of America in Iowa and Nebraska. This is why I like to drive through the US: I get to see the changes in the land that are impossible to understand when seen from 35,000 feet. We will eventually leave this breadbasket country and start climbing the Rockies and eventually get to the Pacific Ocean (in four more days). How cool (literally!) will that be! Tomorrow will be Laramie, WY. For me that conjures up images of cowboys and cattle drives and sheep wars and John Wayne and Gary Cooper.

Oh, yes, the title of this chapter of my blog? What is 1 armadillo, 2 armadillo, 3 armadillo. . . Well, I don’t know how there can be any armadillos left we have seen so many dead in the road! Poor things, just trying to cross the road and squished into armadillo pancakes. There’s a wonderful book—I suppose, I haven’t read it, it just has an intriguing title—called Flattened Fauna, all about roadkill. Someday I must read it!