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Archive for February, 2013

Charlize and I are back in San Diego, Carlsbad, CA actually. Frog’s refrigerator was no longer functioning. For reasons unknown when I changed LP gas tanks the refrigerator still ran on the battery or direct electrical hook up, but not on gas. So I took her to a guy who repairs appliances on RVs. We’re fortunate to be in a place with many, many RV parks and experienced people to keep them going. Turns out it was just a loose wire to the igniter, which is what I thought the problem was but, of course I had no idea where the igniter was or how to get to it. Now all systems are functional again.

Yesterday, Sunday morning, my son and I took Bentley and Charlize to the Delmar Dog Beach at Delmar, CA, just south of Carlsbad. Charlize surprised me by going into the water without problems. She and Bentley had a great time with all the other dogs. Everyone was, for the most part, well behaved, particularly the dogs.

 

Charlize and her buddy, Bentley, outside looking in, so forlorn

Charlize and her buddy, Bentley, outside looking in, so forlorn

Bentley and Charlize retrieving in the surf.
Bentley and Charlize retrieving in the surf.

 

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On the way over from San Diego to Phoenix I remembered my first time trip to San Diego. I was ten years old, the summer of 1946. The Second World War was over and my Uncle Sol, my Dad’s younger brother, was being mustered out of the Navy. The trip was made in our 1940 Chevy, before the multi-fabric, multi-color upholstery. The Chevy had new tires, but no air conditioning in fact I don’t remember a heater in that car, at least not one that functioned. To beat the summer heat we started after dark and Dad drove all night, no freeways or interstate highways to travel at seventy-five miles an hour. I don’t think Dad ever put that car over fifty. No radio either, not that there would have been a radio station to connect to anywhere in that desert, well, maybe in Yuma.

My brother and sister and I slept in the back seat, but I can remember waking up and listening in on the soft conversation taking place between Mom and Dad. Talking to keep awake, about mundane, every day subjects and their hopes and dreams, mostly concerning us kids. The road frequently dipped down then up through many gullies and washes, no bridges. I was concerned because there were stories about whole families being washed away in their car by a flash flood that originated in the mountains sending a wall of water gushing through those desert washes.

Old Blue, Charlize and I will make that trip to San Diego again soon, during daylight, on the interstate, at seventy-five, the radio tuned to a station playing Jazz, air conditioning if we need it. It will be different, better? Maybe. What’s the rush?

Here is Charlize in my brother’s back yard, and practicing her sit-stay, unhappily, in front of some cholla cactus, both near Cave Creek, AZ.

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The longer I live the more apparent it is to me that people change, not their basic personalities so much, their attitudes or even their belief systems, little things that change them as individuals. Not the least change is they get older, live without shared experiences and they are maybe wiser, maybe not. These changes in yourself and in the people you once knew well make it difficult to go back, to go home. Perhaps more difficult is, at least in this country of untrammeled growth, the place of home changes.

I guess I’ll always think of Phoenix as home. Both Rosalie and I grew up here. We went to grade school here and high school. When we went to high school there were only three high schools in Phoenix, Phoenix Union, North and West. I went to North, Rosalie, a year behind me, went to West. Probably a good think we didn’t know each other then, those inevitable changes. When I graduated from North High in 1954 I suppose there were not more than a hundred thousand people living in Phoenix, maybe fewer.

In 1961 I opened the Paradise Animal Hospital in Paradise Valley, on the corner of 32nd Street and Bell Road. The closest subdivision was a mile or two south, towards Phoenix. There mighty have been a hundred homes scattered in the desert in the ten or so miles between the hospital and Cave Creek. Carefree, AZ was just beginning to build.

We left in 1970 when I went back to school to earn a PhD. There was one freeway, the Black Canyon Highway. I cannot count or keep track of the number of freeways in and around Phoenix now, too many. My old hospital is now a store that sells imported Mexican furniture and that corner is close to being in the middle of the greater Phoenix population. That formerly empty desert is now full of strip malls and homes, all the way to Cave Creek. My brother Joe and his wife even have a home just south of Cave Creek. Nothing is the same, too many people, too much building. All the places I remember fondly are gone and I am uncomfortable with the changes, progress? I’m not so certain.

All these changes force me to dwell on how things were, how they used to be. In the desert summer, one hundred plus degrees, before air conditioning, the temperature dropped ten or more degrees when the water truck went through our neighborhood dampening the dirt road to hold down the dust before all the Dads came home. When it was time for us kids to go to bed Mom gave us wet sheets and we rolled up in them on cots in the back yard. The stars and moon were so bright you could read by them. Dad would carry the three of us into the house before he went to bed.

Here is Charlize in my brother Joe’s backyard, Cave Creek, AZ.

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We arrived in Phoenix but left Frog in San Diego. I will to return to San Diego after my sojourn in Phoenix to visit with my brother, his family and some old friends who are still living here as well as some snowbird friends. After averaging between ten and a half and eleven and a half miles per gallon pulling Frog Old Blue averaged sixteen and a half mpg while traveling seventy-five miles an hour on the freeways between San Diego and Phoenix. With gasoline costing four dollars and twenty cents, or more, per gallon in San Diego I calculated that I saved at least fifty-two dollars on the trip here, anticipate an equal amount on my return. I was also able to drive seventy-five mph instead of the fifty-five mph limit pulling Frog.

My brother and his wife are owned by a Chihuahua mix. She is short on stature and gigantic on attitude like many of her ilk. She is also possessive. When we walked in their front door that little dog let Charlize know whose house it was and that trespassers would be tolerated, at best. Her name is Madeline and Charlize avoids her as much as possible. Whenever Madeline has the opportunity she attacks, nipping at Charlize’s hind legs, going for the Achilles tendon. Charlize cowers and runs away but I’m afraid that at some point, probably when none of us are witnesses, she will turn on Madeline and do serious harm, but thus far she has not made a move to defend herself.

My brother Joe and his wife Carol have a two-plus acre lot filled with well-kept desert vegetation. The landscaping is unique, neat and starkly pretty if you grew up here in the desert and liked it. I did and I do. Charlize ran into a cactus while retrieving for my two grandnieces. She now understands to avoid those denizens of the desert, the cacti, not the nieces.

At four in the morning, my first night here, Naomi, almost four years old, got out of her bed and came into the room where her Daddy had been sleeping prior to my and Charlize’ arrival. Daddy, my nephew Andy, was asleep on a blow-up mattress in the same room with the girls. Little Naomi walked over the mattress with her Dad, came into the room where Charlize and I were behind a closed door, got into the bed where I was asleep on my right side. She was at my back so she crawled over me to get to my front and announced she wanted to snuggle. Charlize, ever watchful for intruders, had helped Naomi up onto the bed, nuzzling her behind. I guess I didn’t feel or snuggle the same as Daddy so Naomi started to fidget.

“I’m your Uncle Dave,” I explained. “Do you want your Daddy to snuggle with you?”

Yes,” she answered.

“He is in your room sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Do you want to go join him?”

“Yes,” she said, and did, apparently nonplussed by the situation.

Andy and the girls live in Germany. The girls are both completely bi-lingual. Andy speaks to them in English and they speak to him in English. Their mother, a native German, speaks to them in German and they speak to her in kind. If in a situation where everyone is speaking German Andy also speaks German. Their mother does the same in English when she is in an English-speaking situation, such as visiting here. Andy tells me that when he first spoke German to them, or their mother spoke English they were confused and a little upset that the parent was not communicating with them properly, but they soon adjusted and no matter which language is being used in the conversation they answer in kind. Oh, to be so fascicle with language.

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We left Monterey, Frog nursing her broken fender, and before long were immersed in the beauty of the California Pacific Coast and eventually Big Sur. About eleven in the morning I decided it was time for a two Splenda latte and before long found a roadside restaurant that advertised Espresso. I pulled into a large area for parking, separated from a front patio area by a low rock wall. The same wide spot in the road housed a grocery store with identical architecture as the restaurant. I didn’t bother to inquire if the whole was the same operation, didn’t really care.

As I went into the restaurant for my latte I noticed a man sitting in the sun at one of a number of outdoor tables, avoiding the shade of the table’s umbrellas. He was eating what appeared to be a breakfast burrito. Our eyes met and he nodded and I returned the nod.  When I came out, coffee in hand, our eyes met again. I walked toward him and he motioned for me to sit down. He commented on Old Blue’s Washington license plates and the unusual nature of Frog. Before long we were trading our life histories and thus passed a very pleasant and illuminating hour and a half.

Jerry, that is his name, another graybeard like myself, lives in his truck, moving from one campground to another as the time limit for occupancy expires. It was a routine broken only by an occasional trip to Monterey to visit his daughter and to pickup his social security check. He is an artist, one of too many to count with talent but no luck and no sponsor. Actually he never said he was an artist, only that he drew pictures, but the life history I extracted from him included an unfinished engineering degree, time spent as a draftsman, until CAD (computer assisted drafting) made that profession obsolete. He had held various positions in the corporate world but nothing that held his interest for long. He then became a set designer and painter, and described a litany of jobs and experiences including more than one wife, several girl friends and at least the one daughter he spoke to me about.

At one point I went to Old Blue to let Charlize out to do her business and give her the opportunity to meet Jerry. Charlize came directly to him and made friends. Most dogs are good judges of character and I’m beginning to trust Charlize’s judgment in this regard.

Jerry was a little deficient in hygiene. I was careful to stay upwind. Most would probably classify him as a bum, at the least homeless, which technically he was, discounting the truck that I never saw. But he was easy to talk to, a terrific listener who quickly found out why I was on the road, how I came to be at that place at that time and what Charlize’s role was in our odyssey. His story was as interesting to me as, to all appearances, mine was to him We were two strangers who sat comfortably in the sun and talked of life and philosophy and politics, both corporate and academic. We solved no problems, came to no decisions, found no solutions, nor even consensus about those problems that we discussed. We parted as friends, only knowing first names, probably to never meet again, but satisfied with the hour and a half we spent together in gainful conversation. At least Charlize and I were.

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I would never have anticipated it. Charlize is probably the friendliest, most calm dog around strangers I have ever been responsible for. When we arrived at my son’s home in San Diego she met their Golden Retriever, Bentley, for the first time. I’ve known Bentley since they got him as a puppy. He’s a lovable lug, typical of the breed, a vacuum cleaner when it comes to food, with a happy go-lucky, what-me-worry, outlook on life. He outweighs Charlize by at least twenty pounds, maybe more.

When we first arrived the two of them dashed madly around the house, narrowly avoiding breakage. We turned them loose in the immaculately planned and executed backyard that mimics a Mediterranean villa garden. They rushed about, banging into each other, tearing up the lawn with their toenails and having a grand time.

After a short while Charlize noticed one of Bentley’s toys, grabbed it, ran off to the corner of the yard and lay down with the toy between her front legs. Bentley stood stock still, not understanding, making no effort to retrieve his toy.

After awhile we all went indoors, including the dogs. Now Charlize had access to a cornucopia of toys and took advantage of the opportunity. She gathered several of Bentley’s chew toys and deposited them on a spot, carefully chosen, on the floor. Bentley went over to retrieve one of them and she rushed over, growling, and chased him away. After she deposited all the toys she could find on her spot she again lay down with the toys between her front legs and dared him to try and take any of them. He didn’t respond to the tease, just stood, cocking his head from side-to-side, trying his best to understand.

Then it was time to feed the dogs. To avoid any confrontations Bentley was given his food in his regular place inside while I fed Charlize outside on the patio. As I said Bentley scarfs up his food like a vacuum cleaner. Charlize is lady-like. She eats slowly, actually chews each mouthful and frequently does a little walkabout then returns for another mouthful or two. She rarely eats everything in her dish, leaving a few kibbles. Her mother must have taught her that proper manners dictated leaving a little food on your plate. As usual she left some food in her dish and asked to come inside so I let Bentley out to cleanup the leftovers. He got within two feet of her dish, his intent obvious, and Charlize rushed in, shouldered him aside with a low growl and swiftly dispatched the remaining kibbles. My mild mannered companion harbors a mean streak.

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The true shake down cruise for Frog started after leaving Oregon. We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce information office in Crescent City, CA. Yet another helpful person at the desk insisted that we must see the Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park. Since I have an unquenchable thirst for anything having to do with the Mountain Man Era (see my book Man Hunt) I decided it was something Charlize and I needed to do.

“You don’t have to go back to the intersection of 101 and 197 to get there. You can take this back road in.” He showed me on a map and I was sold, I hate to backtrack.

“It’s about fifteen miles of gravel but you can make it with your truck, it’s a four-by-four isn’t it?”

“Yeah… sounds good, we’ll give it a try,” I replied.

It was not a gravel road. It was a single lane of mud and dirt, with huge, water-filled potholes and sixteen miles of curves, switchbacks, up and down and around and weaving through massive redwood trees that disdained moving out of our way.

About five miles in a nice lady park ranger sitting in a jeep waved us to a stop.

“There’s a sign back there that says ‘trailers not advised’.

“Whoops,” I responded, “guess I was too busy trying to keep this rig on the road and didn’t see it. Anyplace near where I can turn this outfit around?”

She looked long and hard at Old Blue and Frog, almost forty feet of combined length and shook her head.

“Don’t think so, you best take it slow and easy.”

“If I get stuck or wrecked do I call 911?”

“No use, no cell phone service out here. We’ll find you…eventually.” She smiled sweetly.

“Brilliant… OK…hope I don’t see you again today.”

She smiled again. “Hope not.”

We made it, but everything bounced out of the cabinet above the stove and out of the netted shelf over the sink. All the contents of the drawers were rearranged, but no permanent damage done and all the various systems continue to function.

Inside Frog is efficient, similar to a nice sailboat capable of accommodating a couple of people comfortably. The door is located on the passenger side of Old Blue, in front of the trailer’s wheels. There is a handrail that folds back against the cabin and a pullout stair that enable me to climb in, albeit clumsily.

Through the door, to the immediate right, is an odd sized bed, forty-four inches wide and seventy-two inches long, wider than a twin bed but more narrow than a double. The length fills the entire six feet width of Frog so at a little over six feet two inches I sleep on the diagonal. Originally there were built-in bunk beds with no more than eighteen inches between them. Before I bought Frog I told the dealer I wanted the top bunk removed and they did. The mattress lays directly on a plywood platform, with some rather inaccessible storage underneath. One has to take the mattress out to make the bed. When I get home I’ve got some renovations to do to make the bed and storage under it more accessible and useful.

To the immediate left through the door is the kitchen cabinet. It houses a two-burner LP gas stovetop and a small sink. There are two overhead cabinets, another cabinet under the stove and three drawers under the sink.

Across a two-foot space from the stove top is the head, a very small sink, a shower and a toilet all plastic, all waterproof, all functional but a tight fit for a person as big as me. Across the same small space from the sink there is an eye-level cabinet that houses a combination microwave/convection oven and a lot of Frog’s mechanical equipment; hot-water heater, furnace, clean water tank, etc.

At the back end of the cabin is a U-shaped bench with a small table. The table can be lowered and the back cushions of the bench used to make another odd sized bed for two small people or one normal sized. Charlize is careful to keep clear of me and avoids getting stepped on. It’s cramped but cozy. Our home on the road.

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