Category: Comments about Life


The open road

In Montana, Wyoming and in Utah and select scenic byways of Colorado, Oregon, Washington and even in California if you dare absorb silence, turn off the radio, turn off the cell phone, stop, walk, listen, notice the elements, the sky, the horizon on a road free of gridlock and dense traffic, a change in perception, a space perhaps freer of urban trappings, may transform you, even if only for a moment. You don’t need to know how long the road is or why you might find yourself on it; you might be alone or in company. Step outside of your vehicle and breathe.

In geological terms, across Montana and Wyoming, you are in the realm of precambrian granulite-facies supracrustal rocks of continental collision, calc-alkaline volcanic and plutonic rocks generated along an Archean continental margin, and mafic dikes emplaced during continental rifting. You see the process of glaciers in hairpin turns; there are moraines, sediment dikes, valleys, lake basins, peaks and mesas. Slow down, let others pass, pull over, look around, sit, walk, ask what’s out there. In Colorado although there is more traffic you find piercing mountains, volcanoes and deserts, rocks over 2.5 billion years old and water frozen in glaciers, snow pack, rain, rivers and lakes.

My dogs are eager and happy for every new place sensing little critters, smells, the different way the air feels. When I’m driving even if I’m exhausted I am somewhere else, there is movement. When the road is empty slow and scenic I can forget sorrows and troubles. Perhaps I could just keep driving.

I want to camp alone where it seems limitless. I have done so easily when I had company, human company.  I don’t watch TV when I travel. My rig has one with cable hookup but in 7 years I’ve used it maybe 3 or 4 times to watch a movie when I was parked tight in big cement lot. It’s kinda funny the fuss some RV parks make to be certain you have your cable hookup. That’s the way some people travel, they are plugged in, TV, Radio, Bright Lights,Headphones, Computer Games, Lots of Noise and so on… it blocks out nature almost completely but they like it.  I check the weather and local road conditions on my phone, sometimes the news. I don’t read much either as I used to.  I will scribble a thought or a random sketch on my refrigerator that I covered with a contact chalkboard paper. I am alone thinking my particular thoughts having my own reaction and moments of transcendence if not fussing with the dogs, singing to them or talking to them then I am just quiet.

Before it got so crowded and we became in such a hurry to get somewhere and around my California that’s often in gridlock, we could take a leisurely drive. Pack a picnic enjoy the day, now it’s just me and my four dogs, it’s difficult to find places where they can run free and I can walk. I love the vast open spaces of my travels. Somewhere there are other solo van dwellers, not the ones at the costly RV camps, nor the ones blasting their presence into the night of stars but those relishing this inner wisdom, I think finding this companionship would be even more blissful.

Many people ask me how I can do what I do. It’s not easy for me and hard for you.  It’s hard for me, maybe more so for me than you. I have physical and financial challenges, I don’t know maybe you do too.  But if you want to be on the road, and you do get there, especially if you are alone you may find out you are enough. You are competent enough, capable enough, you know more than you think you do, you learn and the gaps fill in.

A drive where you see almost no one can be very soothing once you get over being all by yourself and embrace solitude, accept whatever comes around the corner, up or down the mountain or just ahead. You can get back in touch with you. If you are lucky enough to have someone with you I’d suggest you practice times of silence, like a meditation but better (esp for the restless types,) since you are active, vigilant and aware. Find a road that challenges you, not the same kind you do everyday.

Don’t be afraid to turn around, back up or try a side road, something you saw out of the corner of your eye and you want to see what it was. Your mind fills with the land, how’s its made, the geography and geology of its substance; given time and enough miles you can see for yourself how it all works.

Remember to be safe, maintain your vehicle, have a backup plan, observe the weather, slow down for the animals. I think humans were designed with a curiosity and stamina to explore. Maybe you need to build up your stamina. Stop and do things, talk to people even if it’s just a few words. Ask what there is to discover. Your ideas and theirs can be similar or worlds apart. Be generous. You will learn to distinguish innocence from harm, annoyance from time to depart.

You can grow on the road, you can reflect if you’re that sort of person. You can be mesmerized by beauty, you can fly out the windshield and be part of the clouds, the trees, the rivers, the deserts, farmland and industrial land, tiny towns and huge cities. You can think, you can cry, you can scream, you can dream, you can simply feel the power of your vehicles’ wheels rolling, the engine pulling you. This must be why I am able to face uncertainty, I stand taller, walk quicker, the confidence that others see in me, it must be real. I have fear just like everyone else but what is there to do when it’s just you, or I mean just me, and four dogs. I solve problems, I figure things out. With an RV something always needs repairing,  I am proud of keeping my RV running, smiles on my dogs faces. I can get angry at myself or even at my dogs but no one cares and when I’m rolling again and then perched in somewhere beautiful the days are just the right length. I’m never bored, tired at times maybe, sometimes lost, but never regretful.

 

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Olympia, my Queen Lagotto, driving us all in the LT

I’ve been neglecting my Blog here, yet I see I have some new subscribers!  Welcome. I still have my 1996 Dodge Freedom Wide Leisure Travel Van that I sometimes call LT and at other times call Daisy. We have a good relationship now, Daisy and I, it wasn’t always that way! I just returned from a quick jaunt up Hwy 101 from Santa Barbara to Vallejo CA. My Van ran great! There is one little problem that has been going on for a bit. As we climb hills and the fan turns on and we are chugging away …  and it’s already getting noisy, though the front end insulation I had installed last year is amazing …  the belt begins to whine. I assume it’s the large Serpentine belt. I’ve pointed this out to my mechanic several times but he generally feel it’s not something to be concerned about.   However, on this trip the whining was REALLY loud and when I down shifted to make it over the grade, I felt like I would need earplugs and some strong drug to steady my nerves.  The dogs don’t like the racket either as I’m driving stiff and worried, I let off on the accelerator, the van slows just when it needs power to keep up at least a bit of speed and the terrible whining stops. I can play a touch the accelerator gently game to make it over the pass without the noise, and this time I found I had to NOT downshift. This needs to be fixed even if nothing is really wrong. Something is rubbing the wrong way!

Driving California 101

Sweet Daisy handled herself like a champ in the wind, the fog, the rain and even in gridlock. Remind me why I never enjoy the Bay Area any longer! Three hours of gridlock on the 680… yuck! I had to pee, the dogs needed a break, almost there…. almost there…almost there…  nope. It’s not possible to just get off and back on in thick gridlock. No one moves faster than a whopping 5 or 7 mph. If you do get off, good luck ever getting back on. Why has it come to this! For anyone still living in the Bay Area and elsewhere where this is the norm, REALLY! So, yep, I prefer a relaxed gentle flowing road. I don’t blame the crazed motorist all their weird antics just as long as they don’t hit anyone; unfortunately they often do which makes the gridlock even more tight.

Driving CA HWY 101

One other gripe while I’m at it. Please Cal Trans let’s surface the highways and freeways in California. If you see me and other trucks and big campers, RVs in the fast lane it’s because we are trying to not have our brains and bodies and the insides of our homes on wheels shook to death as for some reason if there is a smoother lane of travel it’s invariably the fast lane.  Hey, why not both lanes?

Driving CA Hwy 101

I’ve been traveling around here and there since I last posted with my dogs. I even tried traveling with all four dogs; although three is easier, it’s quite doable, everyone has their place. Sometime later I’ll take a video so you can see the setup.

 

I want to close for now, but first am going to say don’t ever expect me to return to Vallejo!  I wound up staying at a Courtyard Marriott right next to the Fairgrounds where the dog show was being held.  It’s really a dog show hotel at least on Show weeks. It’s not cheap and not particularly friendly, esp not the “surprise welcome” of…no, not a warm chocolate chip cookie, a cup of lemonade, some coffee, no nothing like that you get slammed by a neat $75 extra fee for room CLEANING because you will have a dog in it.  My guess they do not clean the rooms for mere human visits and we all know how messy they can be. The rooms are small, so $75 what do they do for that? It’s entirely unknown as my dogs with their noses discovered the room was not particularly clean when we got there …. hmmmm….  must not have been a dog staying in there for sometime so it didn’t get cleaned???  I plan to boycott Marriott Courtyards in the future, if they insist on these charges along with a lack of hospitality.  For example I asked for a map to my room and the nearest stairs so I could bring up my dogs and was blankly told, we don’t have maps, the desk clerk could not even tell me for sure where to park or which way to go. I get it she never goes up to the rooms, why would she.  Then she asked if I’d eaten yet, this after my almost 10 hrs on the road, so I said no, expecting a nice little treat…  oh no…  it was just a come on for the overpriced hotel restaurant but I could help myself to a piece of empty junk food for a high price. No free breakfast here, but you could buy one, so that was something. This place was kinda spooky, the parking lot security guard was mostly collapsed in an outside corner smoking – really I felt sorry for him out in the cold and then the rain. He did warn me  of a large Great Dane rambling about by itself in the parking lot. Poor pup seemed his Show Handler forgot him?  I do love Dog Show hotels, where everybody knows your name by your breed, just not this one, not this town. Turned out I had distressing memories of this hotel, I stayed there once before right before my father died, had a room facing the big carousel and roller coaster, Dad was interred by his wife in a miserable care center, his path of dying was wrenching, heartbreaking, lots of difficulties with, well everything. Just take my word for it. This was the beginning of the next 8 years of losses and falling aparts for me.  The day I just stayed there was dad’s birthday as well.  I’m on the upswing now. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of that Marriott and away from Vallejo.  I achieved my priority of visiting the traveling show veterinarian…  BVS, then I was out of there!

Driving CA Hwy 101

For our Lagotto Romagnolo National Specialty a month ago we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Del Mar. Wow, was that a difference! Free food, super clean and comfortable, light and bright, no extra charges, tons of dog walking, even a trail to the beach!

I’ll leave you with a few shots taken out the windshield of coastal CA on the 101. I wish California was in better shape. I don’t want to become one of those always lamenting my youth type, but I did sincerely miss the open beauty of this state, the variety of its towns and friendliness of its people. Now the open road is still good but the traffic, lack of care, overcrowding, price gouging, infighting, decaying infrastructure, rules and more rules, fines and harassment spoils my California.

This is an addition to my post so some of you may not see it. As the rain came and I drove and drove and drove, tears just like rain fell out of my eyes. This happens to me. I do not weep. I do not cry. I do not face my sadness as that is behind me like the road traveled. It is only like the rain. It rains inside of me and feeds some thirsty ground. I have no awareness of why these tears fall, are there clouds inside my head that become full and rich? Are there wild things waiting for sustenance? It is okay with me that we all are the same and we all are unique. It is okay with me that change is normal. It is beginning to be okay with me that I am alive and my loves are dead, that people are forever violent and destructive that love is rare and yet everywhere, that no one knows what we are all here for nor how the universe exists. That we do not know simple things, like why or how. I think that everything we see or know is alive, even the road is alive and sometimes parts of whatever is me drifts off and becomes whatever is part of you and so on.   Really there is a lot of time for one to drift as you drive. You can swallow up clouds, sky, landscapes, cars, towns, weather, whatever comes.

After returning to a lower altitude and rehydrating it was time to eat. A good place to do that seemed to be at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, it was on my list. As I was headed there, the sign for Lake Moraine appeared, I’d been advised not miss that either. I was super tired but there it was and there I was and I all I had to do was turn the steering wheel. And keep turning the wheel as the trusty LT’s very loud fan kicked in, up, up and up we went. The road is 22km, definitely seems longer on the way up than the way down! Slow and easy is the key here, it may not be a road for most RVs, but for my little baby no problem. The lake was frozen and the Lodge was closed. Still I was happy to be there. I saw a couple of little dogs with their people having a blast on the ice.

Lake Moraine

Lake Moraine: wonder how crowded this gets during the season?

Lake Moraine

Walking on Water

Walking on Water

Lake Moraine

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, I was so tired by this time that the walk from the parking lot to the Lodge seemed almost more than I could do. When you have an RV you need to be a strong walker. Even a little one like mine goes in the farthest away parking area. How come not even once have I seen that little cars have to park far away or buses or SUVs or motorcycles, why is it always RVs? Guess what, the lake was frozen! There was a bit of a melt going on. I had a root vegetable salad not a lot of food, but just right with a few cold glasses of delicious tasting water sitting outside overlooking the lake in the late afternoon. It was an awkward meal for reasons I’m just not going to mention and I felt very very sad. It seems the spirit in me had left and gone off to find another human who would give it more pleasure.

Lake Louise...  I was feeling a little blurred then too.

Lake Louise

Waiting for the table at the Fairmont

Waiting for the table at the Fairmont Chateau

My intent was to drive to Calgary in what was left of the day but I couldn’t do it. Instead my obligation came to a close and I was on my own. I don’t know if I did everything I could or not to do the best I could, but I was worn out. I found a hotel in Banff, a mountain resort up on the hill. They kindly found room for the LT and I crashed in my sweet comfy king size bed enjoying the whirlpool hot jet bath and the steam shower for a few days, I never turned the TV on or used the pool. A few times I walked down and back up the steep hill to the town of Banff. My resort provided a free bus pass but I walked. The walk was more interesting to me than the town. I had to do it spurts since it was so steep and would make my heart pound all over my body. I didn’t go into even one of the stores or enter any of the sights but I’d stood on the bridge and watched the traffic. I sat somewhere and watched all the people bustling around. Banff was very crowded. People I didn’t know responded with kindness and people I did know too, my mother was my biggest fan, friends sent texts or phone calls, Lee took pictures of my pups. I read the Buddhism books Lee’s husband Craig had lent me, sitting with my laptop, camera, a drink of mixed water and juice and later a bottle of complementary wine, a bit of food, out on my patio, thoughtfully there was an electrical plug, a few chairs, a little table and a peaceful view. Mindfulness and freedom from suffering, kindness and compassion, responsibility and action towards all creatures including rocks and rivers and the balance to do ones best to relive pain but also to let others suffer if they needed to. It was what I needed.  I could have stayed another day, I could have stayed a week or more, but I became annoyed with the cleaning crew at my resort so after a few days I took off. I washed some clothes in the sink before I left and the big thing, I put away all things Alaska, cleared out stuff I no longer needed to see or deal with in the LT; it was time to start over again.

Slipping down the short cut from my resort on the mountain.

Slipping down the short cut from my resort on the mountain.

Still going down the short cut and back up!

Still going down the short cut and back up!

Where The Deer and the Antelope Play!  I found it!!!!

Where The Deer and the Antelope Play! I found it!!!!


Terrace, BS to Prince Rupert is 143 km, is this the best scenery in the world? Certainly on the list for icy mountains and fun driving. I only took a few photos, the vistas are burned into memory.

fog

 

ice

ice2
backdown

It was at Prince Rupert that I locked in my very difficult decision to cancel the Ferry. I haven’t heard yet if I will get any refund. It was not an easy decision and it broke my heart. This trip as planned entailed 8 to 9,000 miles in 5 or 6 weeks time. More time would have been better, if I did it again I’d take the Ferry at Bellingham and Ferry hop then rent an RV and maybe fly home, there are long driving distances in Alaska as well as across Canada. I wouldn’t mind doing another trip to Canada and if I did for some reason drive part of the Alcan again, I’d want to do it all.

I turned around on the same day and headed back on this stunning road, I was trying to be “brave” but I could tell I was sobbing. It was something I couldn’t control. I sobbed for 12 hours and then I couldn’t eat for days.

As much as I wanted to see Alaska, this trip was symbolic, I’d hoped for a renewal of life as there has been so much death and loss in the last 7 or 8 years. I’d hoped for a new sense of direction, I’d hoped my dead loves would be proud of me. Instead I have other challenges, life will provide a different direction, I had… I have other things to learn.

Joyfully Sharing the Merit

It’s unclear to me if we have ever lived before or will ever live again, but I leave open the possibility with the understanding that we are here now and responsible for all we do. I do love this song.

It’s been a little over a year since I’ve traveled in the LT. I think my readers know why. Now that I’m almost ready there is a sense of calm, perhaps it will be different tomorrow or the next day when I start remembering everything I’ve forgotten! I have still much to do…. today is waxing the RV, one last trip to the vet, sorting through clothes and my “to do” list . . . yesterday I cleared and restocked the LT’s pantry, took all the cooking and eating stuff to the kitchen for a washing and dragged everything back fitting it all in place. The floors are clean with new rugs, the cupboards are clean, much of the dog gear is safely in my storage shed ready for the trip after this one.

I added phone service for Canada . . btw if you do this with a cell phone it’s easy as long as you have an International capable phone. I added Canada for $15 a month which I will cancel on my return. There is one catch which I just happened to know from another trip when I was near the border. If you have your cell phone set to global roaming it may well roam on over to the Canada side and start amassing International minutes, I suspect sans notice if you’ve already added Canadian service. To stop that Verizon had me change Global network to LTE/CDMA; I will change it to Global after I cross the border and then back to LTE/CDMA in Alaska, and so on. I don’t want to be surprised by a huge phone bill!

I’m finding so many want to hear of this trip and wish me well, I have quite a list now of folks wanting to be crammed into my luggage….it’s gonna be a tight fit! Maybe some of you can go on the roof?

One of the things I will be looking at will be the effects of the climate on the land, it’s creatures and communities at least that which I can observe from main paths (I’m not prepared with 4-wheel dive, technical instruments or equipment for wilderness exploration…. another time who knows?) When I was a student at UCSB Geography, studying Earth System Sciences we knew that Alaska like the sea floor here in Santa Barbara are key indicators of change. It should be obvious that there are now longer melt seasons, less sea ice, and longer journeys for marine mammals needing food.

I am out of practice of observing what I see, perhaps you too? Do we just accept our environment like watching a movie, a real life drama, something that has little to do with us and our daily lives? Do you remember a time perhaps when you were a child when everything was a great discovery? When you asked the question, why.

polar melt stop

From the web : polar melt stop

 

I will be looking at how the trees lean, how the land slumps, for newly formed pools and lakes of meltwater on one hand and on the other for shrinking wetlands, of course at diminishing glaciers. On the drive up and back, I will be looking at the apparent health of the trees, for signs of dryness and insect attack, for dirty rivers, for towns that are growing or shrinking, for happiness or stress.

Perhaps I will see some effects on the economy or in the numbers of wildlife, fires of course I hope not to see but I may see evidence of large burns, more drought, unpredictable weather, less snow, variable temperatures, unusual winds, an altering of seasons and changes in flora and fauna.

Arctic Fox: from Cool Animals of Alaska

Arctic Fox: from Cool Animals of Alaska

Don’t forget I post links for you guys out there …  just click on them. If you find any that don’t work or you don’t like send me a message.

Video on Alaska Climate Change

Climate Change in Alaska

A more detailed explanation
here is a 50 min. video / lecture from Professor Jack Murphy at Humboldt State University. It’s worth watching, just like a classroom intro lecture.

I read an article about how loneliness kills and I’d wanted to write a post about this as I’ve experienced much personal loss myself and was intrigued by the current studies … rather than restate what I read I’ve copied some of the article. . .  the affliction is incredibly painful, people don’t like to think about it; it’s one of those ailments considered self-induced and therefore not worth talking about.

Never mind that almost all illness can be considered self-induced (especially if you talk to enough different healing practitioners or researchers) or a result of genetic tendencies or childhood experiences; loneliness has no medical cure, nothing in a bottle at least till now.

Judith Shulevitz, writes in the New Republic:  Just as we once knew that infectious diseases killed, but didn’t know that germs spread them, we’ve known intuitively that loneliness hastens death, but haven’t been able to explain how. Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack. They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer—tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.

. . .  Loneliness, she said is the want of intimacy.. .
. . .  Loneliness “is not synonymous with being alone, nor does being with others guarantee protection from feelings of loneliness,” writes John Cacioppo, the leading psychologist on the subject. . . . The lonely get sicker than the non-lonely because they don’t have social support.

Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack. They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer—tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.

In a survey published by the AARP in 2010, slightly more than one out of three adults 45 and over reported being chronically lonely. A decade earlier, only one out of five said that. With baby-boomers reaching retirement age at a rate of 10,000 a day, the number of lonely Americans will surely spike.

Loneliness is made as well as given, and at a very early age. Deprive us of the attention of a loving, reliable parent, and, if nothing happens to make up for that lack, we’ll tend toward loneliness for the rest of our lives. Not only that, but our loneliness will probably make us moody, self-doubting, angry, pessimistic, shy, and hypersensitive to criticism.

Cole can imagine giving people medications to treat loneliness . . .  These could be betablockers, which reduce the physical effects of stress; anti-inflammatory medicine; or even Tylenol.  Since physical and emotional pain overlap, it turns out that Tylenol can reduce the pain of heartbreak.

” Boomers, who grew up using drugs recreationally, have become a generation that lives almost full time in the Valley of the Dolls: bombarded by direct-to-consumer ads, they are happy to self-medicate, and their cost-conscious H.M.O.’s are happy to substitute antidepressants for expensive talk therapy, prescriptions for repeated doctor visits.

. . . drug use has soared. Americans routinely take pills for high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and they also routinely take pills to sleep, pills to focus, pills to chill and pills to perk up, pills for more sex and pills for less stress. Mr. Critser notes that “the average number of prescriptions per person, annually, in 1993 was seven,” but had risen to 11. . . .

So what’s the issue? I notice Tylenol (amphetamine) has emphasized the risk overdosing on their labels…. isn’t it isolation that creates loneliness!  There’s a lot of talk about depression, its also chronic and widespread yet it’s become almost fashionable to be depressed and taking a designer pill to improve mood or some other home-brewed concoction gambling, sex, fast cars, …  you get the idea. Loneliness has not been shown to be improved by antidepressants or the pursuit of thrills. Loneliness is not helped by talking about it either as what happens is stigmatization as if the lonely must be flawed and incapable of social functions, the blame is put on the one who suffers, sometimes with pity but oftentimes with a little sigh of relief that it’s not you…  at least not yet.   Now, didn’t they used to do this with “women’s troubles”….  hysterical, they called it, it’s not real it’s imaginary. Why this pressing need to deny the basic foundations of modern lifestyle?

Isolation causes loneliness; living alone after loved ones have died or left, no children maybe at all, or none nearby or maybe estranged, no family or families that disconnect, married couples that divorce, long time friends that drop away,  compound with encroaching years illness, death, loss of memories, neighbors that don’t like each other or maybe don’t even know each other . . . the days of an open door, borrowing a cup of sugar, stopping by to watch a movie or play a game of cards is rapidly being eradicated from many people’s lives.  In many communities companionship still exists, however in many more it’s rapidly disappearing.

So, no problem now there’s a pill…  good old Tyneol to the rescue! But really!!!! Is the cure, then for loneliness a pill?  What about another PERSON???? Companionship, an intimate caring and inclusion, a wanting to know and be known, a friendly hug, a hand to hold, reaching out and being joyful in doing so. . . .  No?

Okay, then I say we put a person in a bottle and label it,”take one pill once a day or as needed” Problem solved.

Lois Mahalia- Original “GoodBye”