24 May 2021, Chandler, AZ to Henderson, NV

I set the alarm for 05:30 AM but couldn’t sleep past 03:30. I don’t feel wired for this next leg of my trip, but I do feel focused.

04:30 AM. I have been dithering about the route to take. There are three ways I’ve considered but now, at this sitting, I’ve decided on the shortest, most direct route even though I am unsure of the road conditions.

I will take the route in bold blue, the light blue route being obviously more complicated and longer. The original route I had fixed on was to get first to Flagstaff, then head due west to Kingman. I have just calculated this to be around 450 miles, which now seems ridiculous, given I can use ‘bold blue’ and travel only 289 miles.

That’s it. I’ve settled on it.

At 09:30 AM, Andrea will follow me in her car as I return the rental car to a local retail outlet, then deposit me and my goods at the Phoenix airport (PHX) where I’ll pick up the next rental car, which is a one-way rental. I’ll return this car to the San Jose airport (SJC) no more than a week later.


Last evening, I once again had a delightful time at the home of granddaughter Sabrina, her husband Chris and their three-year-old force of nature, Quinn. Andrea was there too, of course.

Chris had been preparing the main dinner item for several hours, marinating and cooking pork ribs. As I told Chris at the dinner table, while my hands were covered with pork fat, words cannot convey the actual experience of the animal joy in eating cooked pork just waiting to drop off the bone with the slightest touch. There was corn on the cob and salad, as well, the latter prepared by Andrea. We had, as dessert, the last of the Quinn’s birthday cupcakes.

Here is Chris’s cooker, the Traeger Pro 780:

I will forward this picture to Eva’s son Simon who, as a dedicated outdoor griller, will be envious, I reckon. I hope this doesn’t get me in trouble with his wonderful wife Josefine.


Here’s the view from the hotel room:

I arrived around 5:30 PM after leaving Phoenix around 12:00 Noon. I stopped once, briefly for a cup of coffee to go at McDonald’s.

The highlight of the trip was to see, at certain elevation levels (I think between 2000 and 3000 feet), many square miles of Joshua trees and saguaro cactus. There were some large and fantastic blooms on other plants I couldn’t identify. This and my earlier experiences tell me that May is the time to see the desert.

The highway, US 11, seems to be new one, bypassing and replacing US 93, which you can see below. As it passes over the Colorado River on Hoover Dam, all one can see is concrete—no views.

The practical values of the dam are water supply and electricity. The electricity part is evidenced by a forest of electrical towers and transformers as one approaches the dam from the Arizona side of the border.

When Las Vegas comes into sight from the heights above it and Henderson, the larger hotel/casinos seem to jut ingloriously from the desert, which is now covered with urban sprawl. And, everywhere, we are surrounded by mountains, including during the major portion of this trip.

There were few sights similar those I saw in northern and eastern Arizona; that is, the rock and landscape formations and colors. The colors seen from this highway are mostly black and grey and dull brown. Other than the aforementioned plants and chaparral, the vegetation seems to have a difficult time to find suitable rooting opportunities.

The hotel is a palace, but almost all the guests are casually dressed. I did not feel out of place as I approached the front desk in my rumpled cargo shorts and sandals, with my shirt untucked (but buttoned, of course). The hotel is proud of being the home of the Raiders football team headquarters, so Raiders imagery and paraphernalia dominate portions of the hotel and integrated casino.

The room, despite I paid the same as for a motel room through a third-party service, is (I’m writing from it now) too grand. Two king-size beds, a glass-enclosed area containing a shower, a separate bathing tub, a sink with two bowls, an ‘electric mirror’ with a control wand (I have no idea), and more.

I needed to eat. In my tired state I chose the nearest restaurant adjacent to the hotel lobby. It was expensive. I chose the least expensive but appealing item on the menu which could constitute a meal: seafood louie. It was unusual but was an excellent meal, with crustaceans, molluscs, avocado and finely chopped vegetables contained by a cordon of thinly sliced cucumbers,  all in a circular pile. There was other stuff in it too; I’m not a foodie.

I made notes on the trip before the food arrived. My final note was that it didn’t feel right that Eva was not with me.


I did my gambling pretty much as had planned, but there was no Caribbean stud poker. Instead, I played ‘heads-up hold’em poker.’ It is a variation on the game I hadn’t played before; it was entertaining, and enjoyable because of two other players who were pleasantly sociable. I think I broke even in my betting. I had already played at the roulette table, in the manner described in a previous journal entry, and I was able to walk away with at least half the money I had allocated for the game. Then the poker machines and one-armed bandits (which no longer have arms) gave me no joy, and I walked away before they reached too deeply into my pocket.

I got to sleep at 10 PM, but couldn’t sleep past 3:30 AM, hence my finishing up this journal entry at close to 5:00 AM, on May 25.

Next: breakfast in the hotel, then on to Ojai (after I pay the valet parking attendant). I will stay in a motel in Oakview which is around 5 miles farther down the road toward Ventura, and cheaper than those in Ojai.

The following day I will have dinner with son Alex, whom I haven’t seen in two years.

PS: the rental car I used when based in Chandler showed I put 1,864 miles on it.

Stay tuned.

For the next journal entry: GO HERE

22 May 2021, Chandler, AZ

After the long trip through three states and back, it’s time to stay put, recover, and visit with family.

I’ll resume my journey two days from now, with overnight stays in Henderson, Nevada and Oakview, California, near Ojai, which town is my objective. My former wife Mary and lived there with our three children, and we all still love the place. See here about it.

I also had a job there, as chief executive of the community hospital, thirty years ago. I am hopeful I will be able to visit the current executive to see what we may have to say to each other. I am among the small percentage of people who like hospitals; I especially like the people who work in them.

Then I’ll move on to visit my son Alex in Santa Barbara.

While Andrea has been working at her job, I’ve been doing a few chores for her. Everything requires car travel here, unless one lives next to one of the many large strip malls and shopping centers. This gives her more time at home, and more time for us to be together. One of the delightful things about this visit is to sit with her on her little patio in the morning, to chat or just be.

This picture was taken at mid-afternoon, so the morning birds are avoiding the high sun. They are all over the place in the early morning, offering us a pleasant racket as background.

I didn’t get all of skooter, the cat, in the lower left. He doesn’t bother the birds, but they may bother him.

One early chore was to get some things at the local pharmacy.

Returning home the short distance, I saw some youngsters waving CAR WASH signs for the church near Andrea’s home. I was not in a hurry, it was not yet hot, and the young people were engaging, so I laid out a mere $5 for a splendid car wash. I brushed off the feeling that I was supporting slave labor; there were so many people attending my car, in fits and starts, I felt that there were more person-hours than $5 should buy. But of course, they were volunteering for their church. I felt good about it.

Another chore today entailed a visit to a large, upscale shopping center in a nearby city. I arrived around noon, so I thought I’d take lunch with myself there. There were many places to eat, around the central area containing the boutiques and department stores. I chose one because the menu offered sushi, even though it offered mainly beef steaks and the like, as well. And, it was close by where I had to perform the chore.

It has been said before in rants, ironic jokes, and in despair: there is no quiet establishment which serves the general public, especially if it serves food and drink.

Three masked young women greeted me at the entrance counter of a fancy-looking (but ersatz, by my taste) restaurant/bar. One of the women greeted me rapidly in a high-pitched, girlish voice, through her COVID mask.

“I’m old, I don’t hear well, please slow down and speak more distinctly.”

I guess she tried, but I have found that the less experienced service worker is so programmed that an unusual request is not computable. I still couldn’t get what she said to me.

The tallest of the girls lowered her mask and said in a deeper voice and less rapidly, “bar or dining area?” I got it and explained to the three that high-pitched voices usually defeat me, and I could better understand the lower-pitched voice of the other girl/woman. The latter smiled nicely, and someone led me to a table after I thanked them all for their patience with me.

At the table: audible content from the sports bar 50 feet away; thumpity-thump music overhead; voices of other diners, mostly high-pitched and female, bouncing off the hard surfaces everywhere; the occasional outcry from an infant.

The female waiter listened better and did respond accordingly as we tried to understand each other. (Notice what I did there? I did not call her a waitress, which I would have done without any self-consciousness ten or twenty years ago).

Once the waiter and I locked onto each other we both repeated my order three times to be sure there was no misunderstanding.

There were a few minor missteps not worth mentioning, because the waiter was pleasant and trying her best. Upon receiving the bill, I was astounded at the price of the meal. The menu was printed on a computer printer, both sides, and had been shrunk to fit. I don’t remember seeing any prices but assumed it would be similar to other places at which I had eaten. No! I am not easily off-put, but I am still growling to myself about it. (I did leave a standard percentage tip).

Now, you must be thinking I’m some kind of curmudgeon, and you are right. Former wife Mary, 40 years ago, gave me a T-shirt to wear which had the legend “Curm” on it. I wore it, occasionally (certainly not at work), until I felt I had done my penance.

I am thinking nostalgically of the old-fashion café I visited in Cortez, Colorado. No piped-in music, quiet conversations, sound-absorbing wooden walls and fixtures, lots of support beams, vertical and horizontal to break up the sound. Order takers who spoke clearly and directly and listened well.

Here’s a little fiction I wrote on this subject two years ago: Curmudgeon

Next Journal entry will be from M Resort at Henderson, Nevada (I got a cheap room).

20 May 2021, Chandler, AZ

New territory in Arizona, and a long ride back

Yesterday, I drove around 500 miles from Durango, Colorado to Chandler, Arizona, the major portion of which was at altitudes between 5000 and 7000 feet.

Upon reaching Chandler I took a shower, had a 90-minute massage by Anna at ‘Yo Yo Foot Reflexology & Body Massage’, and ate a sushi dinner, topped off with a pint of ice cream—“Death by Chocolate”.

Other than to experience the scenery which I will discuss below, I had two major accomplishments: I had a breakfast in a good old-fashion American café, and I was able to satisfy my normal human needs for waste elimination despite there being long stretches of road where opportunities for this were nil—at least in private.

My original plan was to drive to Flagstaff, Arizona and stay overnight before returning to my daughter’s home in Chandler, Arizona, a distance of 170 miles. I imagined I would be too tuckered out to continue my trip from Durango, Colorado, around 320 miles, not counting the extra mileage from tooling around trying to find things and places in town. I discovered I wasn’t tuckered when I reached Flagstaff at around Noon. The lady at the desk of Green Tree Inn, Flagstaff was completely accommodating when I told her, in person, that I wanted to cancel my reservation. I ate lunch further on down the highway at a real drive-in restaurant, like the old days, Sonic Drive-in, Camp Verde, Arizona: A Sonic cheeseburger without the cheese, and an iced, sweet raspberry tea. (They had a toilet, also).

The first part of the return trip was on the same road I traveled the day before, US Highway 160 to Teec Nos Pos.

(That’s Durango at the upper right—the dark blue line is the road I traveled).

I wanted to have breakfast in a locally owned café, not a chain outlet, but I couldn’t find one in Durango, so I took my chances, hoping to find one in Cortez, 45 miles on US Highway 160, back toward Arizona.

The drive started in the very early morning, the sun just over the peaks to the east. One always sees thing returning on a road one didn’t see the first time: the sun slanting off snow-tipped mountains, the green of the trees, the passes curving down into broad valleys with rivers and creeks with water in them, unlike those in Arizona and New Mexico.

I found a café in Cortez on the highway, Pippo’s Café, 101 West Main Street. Right away I knew I had found the right place: there was no YOU MUST WEAR A MASK sign at the entrance. And, sure enough, no one in the small eating area was wearing one, nor were the servers. Wooden tables and chairs, décor so familiar I didn’t even notice it, humorous sayings tacked to the wall and support columns, no canned music. I had oatmeal with rye toast and coffee. One sign bragged about the coffee, and the sign was true. It was the best cup, and refill, I’ve had in years. They had a toilet.

It was only 45 miles to Teec Nos Pos, located at the junction of two highways. I would continue, now, on a new road for me, the continuation of Highway 160. I had reached this junction the day before on Highway 64 from Shiprock.

Along the way to Tee Noc Pos I saw the great Ute Mountains in full, in the morning sun. I can see why the Ute Tribe reveres them.

I traveled on highway 160/491, my eyes unable not to gaze, as much as safety allowed, on the north side of the mountain ridge, all in green (two shades), above. I was like another planet, a place where no one could live, but would want to visit.

I passed by the Casino and Four Corners, where I left Colorado and entered Arizona, and then quickly on to Tee Noc Pos.

From this point westward on Highway 160, the greens of the landscape faded away and the reds and dark browns, greys and blacks dominated.

Another planet, again, with the land tending toward red colors, more intensely as I went deeper into the territory. Sometimes I would round a tight bend in the road and come across gullies and canyons and tortured-looking shapes that had no seeming connection to the landscape on the previous side of the bend.  Although vegetation was sparse and sporadic, some places would be black with no vegetation, nor any promise of it.

The whole of the landscape, in all its varieties, seemed shaped by the weather, primarily water. But where was the water? It had to be the sporadic large downfall which quickly drained off and evaporated, over uncountable millions of years. This is the most vivid impression of my experience in this part of Arizona—unimaginable lengths of time, great upheavals from inside the earth and possibly from outside, as in meteorites and, certainly, the constant wind.

When there were broad vistas, the distant mountains and ridges to the north and west often had the peculiar shapes I saw in other parts of Arizona and in New Mexico. The distant ridges were often mesas, like this one I saw nearby at the settlement of Red Mesa:

I was anticipating my arrival at the next larger settlement, a town, where I could possibly have a toilet break. This was Kayenta. There was a Burger King. Mask on, enter, go to the toilet, order a cup of coffee, and off to the road again.

Soon after leaving Kayenta, rocks and formations such as there appeared to my left:

(Credit: Sea of Blush)

Yet another planet.

Seventy-five miles later I was in Tuba City, but I didn’t stop to tour the many shops advertising their Navajo and Hopi wares. I could see now that if I kept on going  I could be in Flagstaff by noon and could cancel my reservation.

The landscape continued to fascinate me; no picture or words can recreate it. This is why I traveled here. I will carry these images with me.

Highway 160 ends shortly after Tuba City where I turned due south on Highway 89 toward Flagstaff. The notable aspect of the landscape was San Francisco Peaks, covered with snow. The pass over this ridge was at 7286 feet, and then to Flagstaff.

On 24 May I plan to go back to Flagstaff, but then turn westward toward California and another adventure.

See you then.

Now to celebrate my daughter’s 58th birthday with her daughter’s family, including her precious granddaughter Quinn—at Benihana’s, a new experience for Quinn.

To see the next journal entry, GO HERE.

 

 

18 May 2021, Durango, Colorado

An addendum, three states, four corners, Nature’s monuments, elevations, and luck at the Ute Mountain Casino

An addendum to 17 May 2021, Gallup, New Mexico.

In my emails to Eva, I often include information I haven’t put into this journal, for one reason or another. She suggested I include the following:
Gallup is the town that time forgot (at least the old town). The new town is an abomination of large and huge (Walmart ‘Supercenter’) retail outlets and tourist accommodations. There used to be ‘Route 66‘ that went from Chicago to Santa Monica (Los Angeles County, at the beach). A great and popular song was written about it: Get Your Kicks on Route 66.

The lyrics read as a mini-travelogue about the major stops along the route, listing several cities and towns through which Route 66 passes: St. Louis; Joplin, Missouri; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Amarillo, Texas; Gallup, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Arizona; Winona, Arizona; Kingman, Arizona; Barstow, California; and San Bernardino, California.” (Wikipedia)

Route 66 was replaced by the modern freeway, US Highway 40, which bypassed all the towns that were nourished by the traffic on Route 66 and thereby consigned them to the dust heap. A book was written about this phenomenon, Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon by William Least Heat Moon (yes!) Gallup’s old town is fading away, ingloriously and not attractive in any way.


I was up very early, performed some communication via Internet, then set out for breakfast in ‘new’ Gallup. The info on my ‘machine’ (that’s what I call my mobilfone) told me that breakfasts in Gallup happen at chain fast food places. So I said to myself, “Pav, you have eaten Egg McMuffin with sausage upon occasion; don’t be grumpy and get on down there.” So, I did, but the main dining area wasn’t yet open (I assumed), just the drive in/takeout. I wanted to sit down, so I went a little further up into the big strip mall, to Denny’s. I tried to get in, but the front door was locked. A sign read: “We are now open at 6AM”. Good, I thought, noting the time was 5:55 AM. So, I waited. Waited. Nobody unlocked the door. I went up to the front door and peered in: “We serve takeouts only”. Aha! That’s why McD’s is taking drive-in orders only. The COVID. So, I got my egg and sausage sandwich and coffee, which I ate while parked in the parking lot. I didn’t spill any food or coffee in the car.

Before I take us on the day’s journey, I will show you the elevations of the places I have been and passed through so you can understand (which I didn’t, until late in today’s journey) why I felt tired and sluggish, especially when out of the car walking to somewhere close by.

Place Elevation, feet
Chandler, AZ 1 214
Flagstaff, AZ 6 909
Gallup, NM 6 467
Shiprock, NM 4 892
Beclabito, NM 5 574
Teec Nos Pos, AZ 5 210
Four Corners Monument Entrance, NM ~5 000
Ute Mountain Casino, CO 6 007
Cortez, CO 6 191
Mancos, CO 7 028
Durango, CO 6 522

The name “Shiprock” easily conjures a picture in one’s head. I was prepared to spot the “rock” after which, I assumed, the town toward which I was first headed, was named. “There it is, on the left!”

Uh, no–sorry Pav. This strange peak was not close enough to the town, and as I, much further down the road, saw the real thing there was no way to stop and take an image of it.  I turned left onto state highway 64 and, as the real rock kept to my leftward view, I finally had a chance to pull over on the right and take pic:

This road was like a washboard all the way to the Arizona border (I was going west again) where it immediately improved. I wish I had had the chance to safely pull over to take pix of the amazing rock walls of huge gullies the road bridged over. Once in Arizona territory it was a relatively quick trip, into New Mexico again, and to the entrance of Four Corners Monument (not “National” monument which I had mistakenly reported earlier–and thereby hangs the next tale):

The Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department had closed it due to COVID.

There was another tourist at the entrance, looking at a map spread out on his car’s hood. I walked up to him and commiserated at this turn of events, although not deeply. I could see the spot where the four corners of the four states lay together, approximately, so I counted this as having achieved the objective. Andy and I had a nice chat, I gave him my card so that he might read that I had named him here, and we went on our separate ways.

US route 160, east, immediately enters Colorado from the entrance to Four Corners. Southern Colorado is beautiful. The scenery is exactly what I was hopeful of. Here are Nature’s monuments, spread into the far distance beyond the high plains. No camera can match the experience. I felt full and peaceful, but I still had to drive at high speeds or be run over by the occasional truck. I was able to pull over to view a marvelous ridge of mountains:

Further on, I saw what I believe to be one of the sacred mountains of the Ute Tribe, some of whom still live here:

I had seen signs along the way advertising the Ute Mountain Casino, and as I approached it I could see that it was of significant size and quality. I stopped to rest and play a while. Masks, of course, were mandatory. The COVID had shut down the roulette and 21 tables, but the slot machines were many. I played a while and after having increased my fortune by $60, I decided to quit and have lunch in the dining room.  Good casinos typically underprice their food and it is often quite good. I had steak and eggs. Good–more than I should have eaten. I huffed and puffed a little bit as I, slower than usual, walked 150 steps back the car. I attributed this my full stomach and, possible, being tired. I later saw (above) that the elevation was 6007 feet, the same elevation as at Lake Tahoe in California which, when I visited there, took me a day to adjust to.

It was only 15 minutes to Cortez, after which the highway took a roundabout below the end of a ridge of snow-topped mountains into a luscious green landscape, so different from Arizona and New Mexico. It was almost breath-taking after being surrounded by and immersed in the desert.

I found my lodging in Durango, the Holiday Inn, with comfortable accommodations. It was a welcome change. I haven’t explored Durango but from what I saw, it seemed as a large and bustling city. But, Wikipedia has it at a population of around 19,000! (Source)

After checking in. I immediately set up my IdeaPad to begin the day’s journal. I couldn’t get into the Hotel’s internet for an obscure reason. After trying everything I knew how to try (which is not inconsiderable, because I been computing since the early 1980s) I asked for help. The manager of the Hotel, with the wonderful name of Phoebe Ogden, personally visited my laptop, in my room, and solved my problem. And now you are reading all about it.

For Rebecca and Stefan: Here’s beer I had at dinner:

Tomorrow: Back to Flagstaff.

Go Here: for the next journal entry.

 

 

17 May 2021, Gallup, New Mexico

From Chandler, AZ to Flagstaff, AZ to Gallup, NM

The trip took around 6 hours, including a brief stop for a snack at Taco Bell, in Flagstaff (where I experienced a brief hailstorm), and some wandering around in Gallup, 190 miles later, before I found Red Roof Inn.

After checking in and unloading my stuff to the room, I went looking for a place to have a cup of coffee and write some notes for the journal. I ignorantly went in the wrong direction on the highway/freeway and found I couldn’t turn back until I had traveled 24 miles and had reached Lupton, in Apache County, Arizona, just over the border from New Mexico, a place I had already zipped by at 75 MPH, around an hour earlier.

So, add another 48 miles to the ~300 I had already traveled.

But, there was a place to have a cup of coffee—Speedy’s Truck Stop. Speedy’s serves Lupton’s few locals (Pop. 25) and the many truckers (and lost souls such as I) who travel US Highway 40.

It is a restaurant and a food, drinks and snacks store, with Indian-looking faux artifacts and children’s gewgaws for the occasional tourist, plus small tools and supplies for truckers and other motorists. And toilets, and fuel.

The large interior is very neat and well-tended. It appears to have once been a small plane hangar, or an industrial plant of some sort which needed a very high ceiling and lots of open space.

Below, a view from Speedy’s. Those are loaded railroad cars you see. Gallup seems to be a hub for many, very long trains going both east and west. [If you right-click on any image, and then click on ‘open image in new tab’, you will get a larger, more detailed view]

I assume all the staff are Navajo, or at least Native American—they appeared to be so. I had a heavy, deep-fried beef and bean burrito with my coffee. Another view from Speedy’s. We are at 6000 feet elevation here.

Earlier, in approaching Flagstaff from the south, I was reminded of the last time I took this route. It was in July 1995. I was just out of a job and a marriage. To clear my mind and soul to prepare for the next iteration of my life, I decided to travel in Arizona, the northern part I had not yet seen. A friend had a friend in suburb of Flagstaff. She set me up with that friend so I could have a place to stay on my way through. I was a beautiful setting, the balcony overlooking a thick forest (the elevation is between 6,000 and 7,000 feet around Flagstaff).

As I relaxed into the view and the sounds of the forest, I began to ponder my life’s path. I perceived recurring patterns. Try as I might, to go in direction A or B, I seemed always to revert to C. And, after some thought-less viewing of the forest, I found myself at peace and wrote this:

Words to describe my path:

To let go; to not-cling
To accept; things are as they are
To be open; to learn about the universe/my “self”

To live simply
To nourish loving relationships
To create and maintain a private space
To contribute to useful processes
To avoid negative people and processes.

Twenty-six years later, these phrases are still true for me.

Go here for the next journal entry

 

14 May 2021, A trip to Green Valley

Yes, in the desert of Arizona, near the Mexican border at Nogales.

Green Valley is twenty miles south of Tucson and 40 miles north of Nogales, Mexico. Green Valley is an unincorporated retirement community composed of 59 Homeowner Associations. (Source)

Why was I there?

No, it isn’t because Green Valley is home to the Titan Missile Museum, America’s largest nuclear weapons museum. (Source).

It is because a friend, whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years, lives there. Here is about her, in my ‘Being Old’ blog: “From Nanci Thomas.” She wrote this memoir for my blog five years before she moved to Green Valley. She has a brother here.

(Note— the first journal entry, “About”, contains this item: “I will reminisce as I travel routes to and through familiar places, and will record many of these memories to the journal.” Today’s entry contains some soulful, sometimes sad, reminiscences.)

Mary, my former wife, and I met Nanci and her husband Dave Thomas in Anchorage, Alaska where I then lived and worked. We were social and did things together. Dave had been a military officer in the Vietnam War. It had affected him deeply.

Both families left Alaska around the same time, met up again, briefly in California, then lost track of each other. Later, I was working as the chief executive of a general hospital in Ventura County, California. Dave walked into my office seeking help for a medical condition, and I gave him an appropriate referral. I learned that Dave and Nanci were living in Santa Barbara, less than an hour’s drive from Ventura. Shortly after Dave’s visit, Nanci informed me by telephone that Dave had died, and there would be a memorial service at the beach in Santa Barbara. Here is what I offered.

“Dear Dave,

You will remain with me as a singular man: highly charged, a carrier of great secrets, imbued with ancient codes of honor, duty, loyalty and, perhaps, some with no name.

Your presence was stimulating, sometimes compelling and always interesting.

Your spirit is now released, and I rejoice in your having found peace.

Farewell, friend.”

Nanci and I have stayed in touch since then.

(Note: David Thomas is not the only man I have known who was damaged by his being active in the Vietnam War. I was lucky to be too young for the action in Korea, although I served during the official period of it, and too old and otherwise ineligible for the conflict in Vietnam.)

Nanci is an artist. She has shared many of her paintings with me via the Internet. Being in Phoenix, only 140 miles north of Green Valley, accessible by well maintained freeways, I had the opportunity to see her, and I did.

I had traveled through this country 62 years ago when on a trip with my first wife, Patricia, on a sort of a honeymoon. (My father had given me a 1952 Ford sedan upon my leaving the Navy in 1958. I returned to live with the family while I attended a local  college.) Patricia and I had eloped to Reno to marry in February, 1959 during the academic year of our respective colleges in San Francisco. We immediately returned to continue our classes; we were then both living with my parents. We each had people we wanted to visit after the Spring semester ended, to present ourselves as a married couple. She wanted to visit her father in Ephraim, Utah; she hadn’t been with him since he left her and her mother when she was age 6. We necessarily had to pass through Salt Lake City, so Patricia decided to visit her father’s relatives there. We were not given a warm welcome.

We drove south to Ephraim, around 120 miles, and found her father living near the railroad tracks with his third wife, the only Catholic in a small Mormon town.

It was a not a pleasant visit. There was nothing to talk about, and Patricia’s father had no affection for his daughter. Her father’s wife was essential a blank for us. We escaped the next morning to travel to El Paso, Texas to visit one of my Navy buddies, living there with his pregnant wife and one child.

Across the Rio Grande from El Paso is the Mexican city of Juarez which, at the time, was as accessible as any neighboring USA city. Patrick took us on a tour of Juarez, a dim memory now except that we brought back to El Paso a bottle of Añejo Rum. Patrick and I drank it. We went back for more. Back again at his home, Patrick got violent, and we had to leave the next morning under a cloud of disappointment and unhappiness.

Our next objective was to visit my relatives, two aunts and an uncle, in Newport Beach, California. We traveled US Highway 10, which, in Arizona, connects Tucson and Phoenix. We entered Tucson at 2PM in June. It was so hot we couldn’t continue in a car that had no air cooling, so we went to an air-conditioned movie house. Upon leaving the movie, I remember the word ‘blast furnace’ entering my brain and leaving my lips. Nothing has changed since then, regarding temperatures in June. (PS: we had a good visit with my relatives, before traveling back to San Francisco. If you want to read a memoir about Patricia’s life, go here).

Yesterday, I left Phoenix around 8:30 AM when the temperature was in the 80s (the rental car politely tells me the outside temperature at all times). By the time I had gone 100 miles it was in the 90s, and when I arrived at Naci’s it was near 100 and climbing.

The landscape is strange. The desert is flat, with such close-by features as defined fields with and without fences, ditches, small settlements, and cactus and other desert flora. In the near distance, on any side, are strangely shaped, irregular mountains, extending over brief ranges.

There were also hills, shaped general like the image, above, closer by the highway. I imagined two things about these: They were former mountains and ranges which either: 1) were overcome by the rising elevation of the desert as it accumulated the eroded soil of all other mountains, over many millions of years; or, simply, had just eroded away from the high winds and occasional downpour, which sometimes is a monsoon. It seemed odd to have what appeared to be the top of a mountain, only a few hundred feet high, sticking out of the flat desert floor nearby.

In the far distance, always somewhere on the horizon, are large mountain ranges, with peaks and ridges similarly shaped as the above.

The speed limit is most often 75 miles per hour, or 120 Km/hr. I left US Highway 10 shortly after leaving Tucson to take US Highway 19 which ends at Nogales, Mexico.

Nanci’s house was easy to find. We hugged a greeting, stayed a short while in her house where I viewed some of her paintings and those of her brother in England, and their father’s, as well.

We set out in her car to travel further south to the town of Tubac, an artistic community.

It was too hot to see all there was to see, but we did enjoy a gallery of art by the Navajo artist R.C. Gorman, now dead. His father, Carl N. Norman. had been one of the “code talkers” in the Second World War. Here is a sculpture by R.C. Norman to honor his father.

We visited several stores that featured Native American art. I bought ceramic bowl, with lid, that has a beautiful western scene with horses etched lightly on its exterior. I also bought a cover for a couch pillow for our deep emerald green couch which needs some brightening (Eva agrees, but I don’t yet know whether this will meet her artistic standards.)

The heat finally stopped us from further exploration. So, we headed back to her place. It was soon time anyway for me to leave in order to avoid the rush hour in Greater Phoenix. It was good visit. She asked me to send her greetings to Mary when I (plan to) visit her next month in Berkeley; and also to Eva, fellow artist and wife of her friend, me.

In closing I offer an image of a great metal sculpture standing outside the gallery where I bought the ceramic bowl:

Stay tuned.

Go Here: for the next journal entry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 May 2021, Maricopa County, Arizona

A short trip for shoes, blooming cactus and a Mexican dinner

I have learned that one’s footwear has an important effect on one’s general health, including the psyche. Before beginning this journey, I became aware of a brand of shoes, engineered in Switzerland and manufactured in Germany and Italy, that promised me the best experience in this realm, to-date. I therefore planned a trip to the nearest retail store that carries the brand, in Scottsdale, a 35-minute mostly-freeway road trip north of Chandler, the Phoenix suburb where my daughter lives.

Look to the bottom of this Google Earth screenshot to locate Chandler. You can spot Scottsdale to the north, connected by a straight vertical line which is state highway 101. The political jurisdictions between Chandler and Scottsdale are, going north, Tempe, Mesa, and Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community. The names of some of the freeway offramps give us some flavor of area’s history:

Scottsdale Road. Named in 1894 after Winfield Scott, a retired U.S. Army chaplain.
Hayden Road. Arizona became the 48th state on February 14, 1912. Five days later Carl Hayden became the state’s first U.S. Representative.
Pima Road. The Pima or Akimel O’odham, “River People”, are a group of Native Americans living in an area consisting of what is now central and southern Arizona.
Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard. Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959) was an American architect, designer, writer, and educator. He designed more than 1,000 structures over a creative period of 70 years. “Taliesin West” was architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school in the desert. It is located in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Thunderbird Road. In American Indian mythology, Thunderbird is a powerful spirit in the form of a bird. By its work the earth was watered and vegetation grew. Lightning flashes from its beak and the beating of its wings represents the rolling of thunder.
Pima–Maricopa Indian Community
Via de Ventura. Road of Luck, Spanish.
Talking Stick Way. The talking stick is used by many tribes. It may be passed around a group, as multiple people speak in turn, or used only by leaders as a symbol of their authority and right to speak in public.
Chaparral Road. Chaparral is a shrubland plant system that occurs in central Arizona. The name comes from the Spanish word for place of the scrub oak, chaparro.
Indian School Road.
Rio Salado Parkway. Salty River, Spanish.
Superstition Freeway. The Superstition Mountains is a range of mountains located to the east of the Phoenix metropolitan area. They are anchored by Superstition Mountain.
Guadalupe Road. Our Lady of Guadalupe holds a special place in the religious life of Mexico and is one of the most popular religious devotions. Her image has played an important role as a national symbol of Mexico.

The drive north from Chandler was the usual freeway experience, although with a distinct Arizona flavor via the symbols and art etched in the concrete walls, overpasses and other structures.

Just as I crossed the border into the Scottsdale jurisdiction, the vastness of the desert and surrounding mountains was revealed. I sensed the eons of earth in the distant, craggy and oddly shaped mountains and ridges.

Greater Phoenix is at the bottom of the picture.

On view everywhere was blooming saguaro cactus.

I bought my shoes in Scottsdale then headed back to Chandler. As I foretold, Andrea and I were invited to a grand Mexican dinner by Christine and Mike, Quinn’s grandparents on her father’s side. I had had a number of pleasant conversations with Christine over the years at family gatherings, especially at the wedding of Quinn’s parents, but I hadn’t had a conversation with Mike. We discovered we had a lot in common:

  • He was born in Brooklyn; I lived in Brooklyn not far from where he had lived.
  • He was in the US Navy; I was in the US Navy.
  • His rating was electronics technician; mine was also.
  • After the Navy he lived and worked in and around Silicon Valley; me too, for a lot of my life.

The pinnacle of the day was the food. Christine had bought and prepared the ‘flat iron steak’ strips at a Mexican market (not in Mexico, you must understand) and marinated them for three days. Mike cut them into strips and grilled them. These became the main ingredient for the meal in which we made our own tacos and tostadas. There also was deep-fried fish to make fish tacos. Avocado, salsa, various sliced vegetables and condiments—all hard to remember at this sitting, all delicious. I made three corn tortilla tacos (wheat tortillas were available too).

After completely filling available space in mi estomigo, I was faced with the pleasant task of further expanding it with the dessert: Empanadas, soft fruit-filled turnovers. Ice cream and other accompaniments were offered, as well.

Thanks again, Christine and Mike.

Note: Present also were Quinn and her parents.


Tomorrow: A trip to Green Valley, Arizona, south of Tucson, to visit an old friend.