7 June 2021: Earthquake country, the Great Central Valley and Berserkely.

The neologism in the heading was created by Herb Caen, the late and still revered chronicler of the social scene of San Francisco, including its underbelly. Tales from other parts of the Bay Area, especially Berkeley, a city that amused him, were offered as well.

Before I visited the people located at the places listed in the heading, I traveled to the gravesite of my pal of 63 years, Fred Pape, in the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery.

Frederic Buchanan Pape, 1937 – 2015: A Memoir and a Eulogy

Here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral:

Fred was a civilized man. He was an honorable man. He was a curious man who collected information, processed it carefully, used it, and shared it with others, but never officiously. He was a teacher. He observed the proper forms of society without subordinating the self-directed ways which were peculiarly his. He was his own man. He listened to others and chose to learn from them when he found them interesting. He did not judge others. He loved music. The rear window of his work truck showed a sign declaring: “I Hafta Hear Haydn.” To those who would share his interests he offered friendship. He was my friend. Goodbye Fred, “and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

As I stood for a short while contemplating Fred’s plaque among the many that were tightly placed in the well-tended lawn, I noted the infinity symbol at the top of it. I recalled in a letter he sent me, perhaps five years before he died, that he intended this symbol be displayed, rather than a religious or family symbol typically shown.

Then on to Earthquake Country, around 70 miles away in Hollister.

Hollister is well known among geologists because it portrays one of the best examples of aseismic creep anywhere in the world. The Calaveras Fault (a branch of the San Andreas Fault system) bisects the city north and south, roughly along Locust Ave. and Powell St. The streets running east/west across the fault have significant visible offsets. The fault runs directly under several houses. [Source].

Living in Hollister is my daughter Andrea’s best friend from Los Gatos High School, Nancy, with her husband John. I befriended Nancy in 1995 when I moved to San Jose, not far from Los Gatos. She and John recently move to Hollister where Nancy has exercised her green thumb:

Nancy is standing by one of the several planting boxes she tends, in addition to many rose and other flowering bushes.

Nancy took me on a tour of the only other major settlement in San Benito County, San Juan Bautista, named after the Roman Catholic mission founded there in 1797 by the Franciscan order.

Hollister is in a relatively small valley adjacent and to the east of the great and fertile Salinas Valley, of John Steinbeck fame.

The bounty of Hollister can be seen from the Mission’s grounds:

Hollister achieved some notoriety, then fame by having been the setting for the movie “The Wild One”, starring Marlon Branco and Lee Marvin, the fictional leaders (in their roles) of two motorcycle gangs. The basis, or inspiration, for this fiction can be seen here:

Throughout the 1930s, Hollister, California hosted an annual Fourth of July gypsy tour event. Gypsy tours were American Motorcyclist Association-sanctioned racing events that took place all over America and were considered to be the best place for motorcyclists to converge… (T)he rally became a major event in its yearly life as well as an important part of the town’s economy… Source].

With some exceptions, the town has continued to host these rallies, annually.

After an overnight stay with Nancy and John, I went on to Modesto to visit my cousin Anna Pagonis-Pitts and her husband Bard Pitts (not ‘Pitt’). We hadn’t been together since Eva’s and my wedding in Los Gatos, 2002. Here is Anna at the wedding party with her mother Sophie Pagonis, my Uncle Harry’s widow, and Brad behind the camera.

Aunt Sophie has recently passed away at age 92.

Anna and Brad have a beautiful house with fine appointments, including this area of the ‘back yard’:

After a fine dinner at the Del Rio Country Club, we returned to their home for much soulful conversation about our individual lives and our family.

The next morning at breakfast, we were visited by Anna’s older sister, Helen, and her husband Larry Alexander. It had been 45 years since I had seen this couple, and we had some catching up to do.

Then on to a lunch date with my former wife, Mary Pavellas, in Berkeley. It had been around two years since we last met, so there was a good deal of family information to interchange. I don’t like to drive at dusk or at night, so I stayed until 5PM, promising another visit before I leave for my next leg of this journey.

I returned to my temporary lodging with Ken Slosarik, my son-in-law, feeling well-fulfilled by the events of these three days.

The next journal entry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 June 2021: Two days, two friends, one person

I and my friend and former colleague from Merritt Hospital days did not, in fact, discuss “healthcare.” (The reference for this statement is found in the last paragraph of the previous journal entry).

Tim, I learned through our rapid and extensive conversation, was a history major for his undergraduate degree. I avoided history until after I retired, then dived deeply into selected parts of world history.

Much of the discussion touched on world conflicts and we seemed to agree that we are in ‘world war three’ now, one that is not localized but distributed in many places around the world, and not confined solely to armed warfare. On another front, we do agree that Mother Nature will win humanity’s assault upon the earth. I referred Tim to a relevant book I am carrying with me, containing many marginal notes, exclamations and under-linings: Straw Dogs, by John Gray.

I always have a stimulating conversation with Tim McMurdo. I asserted to him we need to meet once per year to charge my batteries.

That was yesterday. Today I visited a friend I first encountered in July 1995, Bernal Hill, part of Santa Teresa County Park in San Jose (Santa Clara County).

I haven’t performed any exercise for too long, certainly since early May this year when I left Sweden for this long visit to the USA. Before that, long walks with Eva and some mild gardening chores were the extent of my physical exertions. The Gym I visited regularly, until Covid appeared, I haven’t visited since then.

So, it was with mild trepidation that I addressed the three short but steep inclines of the 1.6-mile path to the summit, going slowly with two walking sticks I borrowed from Ken.

The first incline is the steepest (and harder to descend than to ascend):

Looking up from the trail head—Looking back—Looking down. Really steep.

After the first grade, the path winds around a stand of trees and bushes, giving a brief respite from the hot sun. I saw evidence that California scrub-jays still live here.

The flowers were not profuse, but were everywhere: poppies, a purple flower I can’t identify, wild mustard, white morning glories, dandelion and false dandelion, and others.

The larger picture:

After negotiating the three steep parts, with the noise of the city finally out of range of hearing, my objective came into view, the Blue Oaks circling the summit:

I reckon my pace from the beginning was just about one stride per second, but around only 18” per step. As I continued the last, brief uphill, under the shade of the oaks, even this pace seemed a bit rapid, but I made it, and it was all downhill afterward.

In the distance is Coyote peak which I have visited uncountable times. It was my morning exercise several times per week before going to work. I will visit the peak at least once before I move on to the next leg of my journey.

These hills nourished me at a time when I needed such nourishment. I wrote about it:

Days in the hills

I will be absent here for a few days while I travel and visit in the Great Central Valley, and in Berkeley.

Foe the next journal entry: GO HERE

Stay tuned.

28 May 2021, from Santa Barbara to San Jose

… seeing familiar places and names.

The Dinner meeting on 26 May with son Alex and his lady, Lauren, was a smashing success from my point of view, even if the restaurant was too noisy. Alex and I caught up on things in our lives and in those of others. He continues to be successful at his day job with Campus Learning Assistance Services at UC Santa Barbara. And his musical group Killer Kaya, in which he is the bass guitar player, is wrapping up its next album.

I learned that Lauren loves to read science fiction and is writing something in that realm. She consented to look at my long-pending SciFi novel to advise me where it could be a more exciting page-turner.

Earlier in the day, after I checked out of the motel in Oak View, I had lunch in Ventura with a friend I hadn’t see in over 30 years. I invited her to write something for my Being Old blog. I hope she does. She has had an interesting life.

The traffic back to Ojai by Highway 33 was essentially stalled; there was one lane for two-way traffic on a busy highway, thus making it impractical to give myself a brief tour of Ojai. I was not disappointed, for I was tired and needed a nap before I met with Alex and Lauren. Just being in the environs of Ojai gave me the memory refresher I was looking for.

I checked into a justifiably cheap motel just off highway 101 in Goleta, north of Santa Barbara.

I was on the road very early next morning, without the benefit of coffee or breakfast. It wasn’t until I reached Los Alamos, 50 miles further that I, once again, found the perfect place for breakfast: Bob’s Well-Bread Bakery.

After great coffee and a filling breakfast, I was on my way. The gas tank gauge showed near empty, so I veered of the highway as soon as I saw the signage for a station ahead: Nipomo. Perhaps the gas station is the main business in town?

From Santa Barbara to San Jose, I was familiar with every name attached to towns and cities and river crossings and turnoffs at junctions. This is one reason why I am showing small pieces of the trip, so the names are more apparent. I have been on this piece of highway 101 perhaps 100 times, or more.

I didn’t stop again, not even at Paso Robles where I could have, as in the past, eaten an early lunch. I zipped on through knowing I would have to wait until King City to eat. Not far beyond Pas Robles in a town I have never visited: San Miguel. I thought there might be a place to eat. No. But the entrance to the town was picture-worthy:

Readers of this journal who are from, or who have lived in California will be familiar with the establishment of 21 Catholic Missions during the Spanish era.

King City was a bust. I was looking for iced tea and apple pie, at a place I have stopped many times. It had changed owners and apple pie was not on the menu. I took the iced tea to go.

Next target, Gilroy, the Garlic Capital of the World. I got off the highway here, wanting to travel to the home of Ken, my son-in-law, by the back roads which are full of hills and agriculture.

The roads roughly parallel highway 101 to the west.

I made it!

I was tired, but I stayed up until 10PM with Ken and his two daughters, my granddaughters, Sydney and Sonya. We had a grand time eating Ken’s excellent cooking, talking and looking at family photos I had brought along on a thumb drive.

I’m going to settle in for around two weeks (thanks Ken!) and create the details of my further travels to visit many friends and family. First stop, the burial place of my old pal Fred Pape.

Stay Tuned!

For the next journal entry: GO HERE

26 May 2021, Traveling the Breadth of California

… and most of it through desert.

I released myself from the hotel/casino palace at 7AM, after a breakfast of fruit cup (which included some nice berries) and coffee, purchased from a small konditori adjacent to the hotel lobby. No other eating places were open. There was a half-loaf of formerly fresh, seeded bread and a banana in the car, left over from the day before.

The hotel is located near the entrance to US 15 South, so I was quickly on my way to Southern California, but not so far south as Los Angeles—I pray I never to have to be there again.

The plan was, first, to take US15 to Victorville, California—the area outlined in red at the bottom left:

Highway 15 goes mostly through desert until it reaches Victorville. Two oases, shown along the route as dots in the map, are the cities of Baker and Barstow (affectionately known as ‘Barstool’ to aficionados).

The prospect of being in Baker intrigued me because I have a California-born friend in Sweden with that last name. I wondered what I might find there to tease him with. In addition, there were many roadside advertisements for a restaurant in Baker named “The Mad Greek’s” beginning at least 50 miles ahead of it. (Note: three of my grandparents were born in Greece).

A few miles before I reached the border of the town, I saw a sign that read: “Welcome to Baker, Gateway to Area 51” which, if examined closely, is not strictly true, since Area 51 is in an area north of Las Vegas (click the link, above). Nonetheless, it seems that the town, or some people in it, have adopted Area 51 as their own, including the putative aliens (who were captured along with their flying saucer) that the U.S. Air Force is allegedly holding there for the CIA to allegedly examine them. Here is an effigy of one of the aliens which greet the traveler from the east:

Also, the Mad Greek is advertising his gyros in the background.

I stopped to examine the alien. It was advertising “Alien Fresh Jerky” at this establishment:

Another advertisement at the roadside, by the parking lot:

Upon parking the car, I heard strange, irregularly intermittent squawking sounds. Could these be the aliens? Or was the sound transmitted by a hidden speaker? Finally, the source, no doubt guarding the parking lot:

I have seen many ravens at high desert altitudes in Arizona and California, at ~3000 feet of elevation. Their wingspread is surprisingly wide when first seen in full.

The Mad Greek’s was a disappointment. It was ‘temporarily closed’. It was a small place with garish, Greek-themed decorations and colors—not at all inviting.

Heading into Barstow, new and intriguing signs regularly appeared “Peggy Sue’s 50’s café”. I was ready for another old-fashion café. “Peggy Sue” was a popular song by Buddy Holly in 1957:

If you knew Peggy Sue
Then you’d know why I feel blue
Without Peggy, my Peggy Sue
Oh well I love you gal, yes, I love you Peggy Sue

It was not a disappointment. I was greeted in the parking lot by the café’s wandering tortoise:

Here’s the history of the place on the back of the extensive menu:

In addition to being a popular café, evident from the many customer almost filling the large place, it is a museum of artefacts of cartoon characters and effigies and photos of movie stars and the roles they played. And, like the cafes I remember from my youth, the was a tall, refrigerated glass cabinet filled with lemon meringue and apple pies.

I had scrambled eggs with rye toast and tomato juice.

The next leg of my journey was from Barstow to Palmdale where I would turn south on highway 14 toward Santa Clarita at bottom left):

For no reason that I can remember, I turned left at Elizabeth Lake Road where Highway 138 turns eastward from its coterminous path with Highway 14, instead of continuing south on Highway 14, and it was a serendipitous error.

I realized something was not quite right when this ‘Elizabeth Lake Road’ started winding its way deeper into the hills. Finally, I came to an intersection where I had to make a decision. Did I want to go to north toward Lake Hughes, or did I want to go, apparently, southwest on San Francisquito Canyon Road toward Green Valley? I knew I was ‘lost’, but I didn’t feel lost. I was headed in the right direction and the countryside was inviting. Green Valley seemed like a place to travel through, so I did. It was a lovely ride, with light traffic so I could travel below the speed limit to enjoy the farms and fields and green hills.

San Francisquito Canyon road, from where I entered it, is a descending mountain road roughly paralleling the route of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the huge, white pipes of which I could crawling over the mountain ridges visible from the road. I turned a corner, and there they were, all three together, descending at 45˚ down a slope I was about turn toward:

Los Angeles takes water from many other places, north and east and from underground, and these pipes deliver it. When in Arizona, I wrote a short article for my Pavellas Perspective blog on the subject: In the Great Sonoran Desert.

To shorten this story, for I am about to leave Santa Barbara early morning 27 May, San Francisquito Canyon Road connects with Copper Hill Drive which connect with Newhall Ranch Road which crosses US Highway 5 at Castaic Junction where I entered the intended road toward Ventura–State Highway 126. Here’s the maze at Castaic Junction:

From Ventura I would drive the familiar Route 33 to Oak View and the Oakridge Inn, a few miles south of Ojai.

The remainder of this day’s trip, a visit with a friend I hadn’t seen in 30 years, and later with my son and his lady in Santa Barbara, will begin the next journal entry.

Stay tuned.

For the next journal entry: GO HERE

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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10 May 2021, Phoenix

Getting back in synch, the food situation and travel plans

This is the beginning day 4 of my stay in Phoenix, with my daughter Andrea. I still wake up too early, even if I stay up to near-normal (for me) bedtime. At home in Stockholm, I often take a nap during the day, but not here, purposefully.

Personal things like this are not very interesting in a journal, so I’ll drift over to…

Food.

I am not a foodie. I am fortunate  in having a wife who prepares dinners for both of us. My part of the deal is to clean up afterward, which I’m good at. Some of my credentials include having been a janitor, part-time for a year, for a janitorial service while attending San Francisco City College.

I don’t expect Andrea, who has a day/evening job, to emulate Eva in the meal prep department. I have, therefore, reverted to bachelor mode.

When I have lived alone, I had a simple regimen which served me well. Here is a generic example:

Breakfast: Oatmeal (or buckwheat or barley) porridge, with a large dollop of yogurt (Greek-style, to be sure) and some berries, preferably blue. And because I tend toward hypochondria, I now add a tablespoon of granulated or powdered lecithin from sunflower seeds. (Note: before breakfast is a period of around 30 minutes when I savor my coffee, currently drinking Peet’s ‘Major Dickerson’s Blend’.)

Lunch: Usually a scavenger hunt for protein and fresh vegetables. There is often leftover animal protein, or a package of lunch meat in the fridge, and I make sure there is a fresh, crunchy vegetable to accompany it: bell pepper, celery, or carrot for example.

Dinner: a good piece of meat, grilled or roasted, plus whole grain rice and a steamed vegetable, almost always broccoli. I served this dish up for Andrea after she returned from work around 7:30 PM last evening. Then we sat in front of the TV to watch the first episode of “The Outlander” which she thinks I will enjoy. I did.

Today, granddaughter Samantha will visit us during her lunch break. She’s currently staying with her sister Sabrina, and working/telecommuting from her home.

The afternoon is unscheduled, unless Andrea has some chores she like help with. One chore I’ll volunteer for is to transport her online purchase returns to the UPS retail store around 2 miles away in a large strip mall centered around a huge grocery market chain store. It’s a pleasure to drive the rental car, a new VW Passat I don’t know what ‘passat’ means or metaphorically implies, but it’s comfortable and has good air cooling. While in this area I’ll probably do some grocery shopping. A little further down the road is a ‘Trader Joe’s’ which is a favorite store for Eva and me—from our experiences in San Jose, California.

I will visit a friend in the Tucson area on Thursday, 3 days from now. We have been in touch only by correspondence for the last 30 years. More on this connection, later.

In a video chat yesterday with son Greg in Lake Charles, Louisiana, we speculated about a trip I may take to the Four Corners area of the USA.  He suggested I stay in Cortez, Colorado, a place he’s familiar with.

If I do this, it would make sense to stay overnight in Flagstaff, then overnight in Cortez to give me time to explore an area I have dreamed about for a long time.

Stay tuned.

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