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Posts Tagged ‘Travels with a dog’

It was after dark when we finally arrived in Las Vegas. We enter town on a freeway I know nothing about, five or six lanes of rush hour traffic at 65 miles per hour. I have the mistaken idea that I can spot a hotel or there will be a sign for one. I will be able to pull off and check in.  I am quickly relieved of that ridiculous idea as the traffic worsens. I gradually inch our way to the right lane and take the first exit I come to. I obstruct traffic for seven or eight blocks looking for a place to pull off the street. I spot a parking lot and pull into it. Whitey, Charlize and I are all still whole, amazing! The hometown drivers continue to curse my out-of-state license plates and are, no doubt, glad to see me get the hell out of their way.

This time my new GPS comes through. I am less than a mile and a half way from a pet friendly La Quinta Inn. I follow the spoken directions and the map to the front door. I thank the device. I don’t know how I would have coped without it as tired and frazzled as I am.

I know for certain I am getting “long in the tooth” (that’s how one gestimates the age of older horses). A long drive and two nights in 50’s motels with less than comfortable beds and my shoulders and back are aching. The spacious La Quinta room includes modern plumbing that functions as intended and a comfortable king-sized bed. I’m living large. The folks at the front desk recommend a close by restaurant. After a nice steak and a long hot shower I catch up with the Winter Olympics. Charlize wolfs down the steak scraps that I mix in with her kibble. The Las Vegas room cost less than either of the previous night’s motels.

We are up early and on the road again by 7:30. I am anxious to visit old, familiar places in Arizona. We arrive in Boulder City Nevada and follow the signs to Hoover Dam. It will always be Boulder Dam to me. We stop to gawk, along with a surprising number of tourists. Lake Mead reflects the drought conditions of the southwest the water level significantly lower than I can remember. Charlize does her thing making friends with two young couples.

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I say hello and they answer, very friendly but speaking what I surmised to be a Balkan language. They have a few words of English but my zero words in their language make it impossible for me to find out what I am certain is an interesting story. I do understand when they ask for the dog’s name but I just leave it at “Charlie” too difficult to explain more.

Since Charlize doesn’t read she was unable to follow the directions stenciled onto the wall she jumped onto.

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Just above Charlize’s rump two lines are visible on the dam. The top line is the high water mark for Lake Mead. I can’t come close to guessing how much water is gone from this reservoir.

Next on the agenda is Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona. The sun is out and the outside temperature gauge in Whitey reads seventy degrees, this is my Arizona in February. In the late 1940’s my family used to go camping in the Oak Creek Canyon. Sedona consisted of a gas station and a general store. There might have been a dozen or so rustic cabins sprinkled along the canyon. Progress and population evoke change. The canyon now seems full of Inns and restaurants and summer homes all crowding in on the remaining campgrounds. Sedona is a huge tourist mall, crowded with cars, RV’s and people. I take Charlize for a walk. One of the places we pass advertises: “The history of Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona”. We did not go in so I have no idea what they were selling, maybe just providing free information, but my impression of Sedona is that not much is given away free. There I go again, complaining about “progress”. But I urge you to imagine what Sedona looked like before this photo. Note the landscape, the red rock formations poking over the clutter.

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Charlize and I are driving through southeastern Oregon and into California. The winter landscape is much like eastern Washington; rolling hills, windmill farms generating electricity, creeks and washes home to cottonwood trees bare and stark silhouettes in the winter sky. We drive past cultivated fallow fields but the rows cut with the slope, up and down rather than terraced, perpendicular to the slope to conserve the soil.

“Why do they cultivate like this?” I ask Charlize.

She doesn’t respond but I see her perk up her ears in the rearview mirror. We slow to twenty-five miles per hour through Moro, Oregon. Proudly emblazoned on the tall outside of the high school gym is an announcement that both boy’s and girl’s teams have won state championships. Even at twenty-five miles per hour we pass too quickly to note which sports or when the students accomplished those historic achievements.

Moro is obviously an agricultural community, the supply center for a region. Outside of town are sprinkler irrigated fields, the rolling wheels and attached sections idle, resting for the spring and summer workload of providing essential water to the dark soil. I see no indication of what is grown.

At mile marker 231, still following highway 97 south, the evergreen trees on either side of the highway show the scars of a forest fire. The charred, blackened trunks of the surviving trees bear witness to the conflagration but I spot only an occasional skeleton tree, stark against the sky. Judging by the size of the new growth trees the fire must have happened eight or ten years ago. Piles of logs not far from the road indicate logging activity but it is not clear to me if the scarred logs are being harvested for lumber or firewood and there is nobody around to ask. We are still about forty miles north of Klamath Falls.

We stop in Klamath Falls. Charlize has her walkabout and I opt for a slice of apple pie and two cups of coffee. The waitress is unable to shed any light on the mystery of the piles of logs we passed. I was getting tired. I presume, correctly, that the coffee and sugar fix will keep me going for another two or three hours.

It is almost six in the evening when we stop at the “Last Resort Inn” in Adin, California. It is another motel directly out of the 1950’s. The young, female clerk who shows us to our room welcomes Charlize. She seems anxious to engage me in conversation but my answers to her questions are dismissive and she gives up. I’m too tired to relate my story or listen to hers.

There is only one place to eat in Adin. The limited menu is displayed on the wall above the counter where I place my order for an “Ortega” burger, onion rings and a diet Pepsi. As I supposed the “Ortega” burger features a slice of canned poblano chili pepper wedged between the hamburger meat and the other accouterments, enough said.

Before we leave, early the following morning, I take this photo while Charlize takes care of her post-prandial business.

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On the road early again anticipating a long drive to Las Vegas. We motor through the Modoc forest with intermittent showers, gray, dark skies, mist and low hanging clouds hugging the trees before us. The empty highway twists and turns but before too long we are in Nevada, long, empty high desert valleys separating mountain ranges as we gradually progress south and east. As we climb up from the desert valley, devoid of interesting vegetation, we reach elevations above six thousand feet and observe Joshua trees scattered occasionally amongst non-descript, ground-hugging brush.

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The photo was taken through the driver’s side window while whizzing past at 65 miles per hour, amazing and this from Rosalie’s five or six year old, small digital camera.

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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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