Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Fall

“Marcia, why are you walking with a cane?”

“Oh, I went on vacation.”

Not every explanation makes sense right away, perhaps especially in tarot readings. When I read for people, I get part of the story. The cards, the person, the moment come together and trigger impressions, sometimes vivid, sometimes vague. The impressions can be in any form. People most often think they are visual because, well, seers see, right? Clairvoyance means “clear sight.” Sometimes it’s called “second sight.” But that’s really only part of the story. Sometimes the impressions are musical with lyrics of some silly song that start running through my own personal Muzak. Sometimes they are smells or sometimes very tactile. Sometimes words seem to just fall out of my mouth.

Of course my husband says this can happen at any time with me, even in my sleep. I don’t think I say anything of great importance when I’m sleeping. For instance, last night he says I uttered very clearly, “You will just have to get used to it,” or words to that effect. I figured I was talking myself through the new reorganization at work. But that’s another story.

Back to the cane and the vacation, naturally there is a story about why I’m limping. And it is connected to our vacation. I fell. It could happen to anyone. But the rest of the story is so much more fun than that, like a vacation all in itself.

I wanted an old-fashioned road trip vacation this year through the Wild West. We live in what is most certainly the Tame West in Northern California. Northern California isn’t exactly the California you see on television, all paved and sunny. That’s Malibu or Santa Barbara or Los Angeles or Orange County. That’s southern California which often seems like a world, or at least a state away. Northern California is cooler, often foggier, with redwoods and cows closer at hand than the crispy brown hills in SoCal. Northern California has the San Francisco Giants who just won their division last night (OK, no more baseball in this one; I just had to get a plug in there). Northern California is often, but not entirely more liberal in its politics, a point of view born out of kindness, love and generosity rather than starry-eyed give-aways. (OK, no more politics, either.) Roses and grapes and children grow well in Northern California, as do cats and dogs and ideas about environmental sustainability. So why would a person ever need a vacation from all that? Well, heck, I just wanted to go somewhere, that’s all.

Unlike my other vacations, this one wasn’t well planned. I had two weeks. I wanted to take my small car so we could share the driving. I just don’t think a road trip vacation is a good time to begin to renew my skills with a manual transmission. And I wanted to take the dog with us. He’s a companion animal and gets anxious when he’s not with us. And finally, since I acquired a new kitten who was just a few weeks old, I determined we had to take Pixie with us. It’s essential bonding time in her development. If we left her at home for two weeks, I was pretty sure I’d come back to a feral indoor kitten with difficult to correct bad habits. OK, so it’s a road trip with a cat and a dog. I wanted to visit my sister in Colorado and see the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park again.

That was the extent of the planning. No reservations, no particular route or itinerary and no other goals. This just isn’t like me. My husband is the spontaneous one, the one likely to go off on a trip without having packed. We made three very deliberate stops before leaving town: the gas station, the library for audio books and AAA for maps and things. And we left town.

We drove east, which for us takes us to the Old West. We stopped for lunch and had patty melts, forbidden fruit, in Lodi. We stopped for the evening in Sonora at a “pets ok” motel. The next day we drove the north road through Yosemite, past the meadows and mountain views, stopped at Mono Lake for a couple of other-worldly photos and pressed on to Candelaria in Esmerelda County, Nevada. I don’t suppose you’ve heard of Candelaria. It’s a ghost town that bloomed and died with a silver strike in the 1870’s, evaporating about 1880 leaving the shells of the mercantile, the bank and a few other buildings. My husband’s great-grandparents were married there and we wanted to see it. I was so excited that we had found it, since ghost towns are so often not well-marked on maps, that I popped out of the car with my camera, ready to take photos of days gone by. I started to step up a small rubbly incline for a better view when I was immediately swept off my feet, landing flat on my back beside my car.

“Where’d you go?” my husband asked, noting my disappearance.

“I’m down here,” I sighed, camera in hand and a battalion of sticky, scratchy things now attached to the back of my knit shirt. I didn’t think much of the fall at the time.

We had a great time poking through the debris in Candelaria, discovering that the road approaching from the west was hardscrabble washboard rough, about an hour’s drive at 10 miles per hour, while just on the other side of “town” the same road was suddenly paved and striped, a convenience not noted on the AAA map. In our reservationless trek, we stayed places not found on Travelocity or AAA, like The Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada, $34.95, pets OK. Bikers welcome. And free secured WiFi. The ice machine was broken but it was otherwise a pleasant stay. I particularly loved the Virgin River Casino and Hotel in Mesquite, Nevada, $24.95 weekday off-season price, again pets OK. We didn’t win big, but they really did have prime rib for $6.99 and the room was sparkling.

One of my favorite AAA maps, which we hear is soon to go out of print, is the Indian Country Map and we made good use of that. We wound through the Carnelian Cliffs through Navajo Country, marveling at the painted ponies and unusual sheep. We stopped for a moment at the Navajo National Monument, snapping photos of the dramatic landscape, and landed at the Ancient Puebloan site of Canyon de Chelly and The Thunderbird Lodge. Pets were OK there too, but the price was considerably more, $150 with the dog. And I slept poorly although the room was spotless and comfortable. We toured the south rim sites, made the acquaintance of several of the Navajo vendors including a 6 year old toothy animal lover named Randy who showed us his beading work and was fascinated with the dog and cat. We pressed on through back roads to Shiprock, New Mexico, and landed at the Tomahawk Motel in Cortez, Colorado. We took a little rest from driving and nosed around Cortez which included fine dining at Nero’s, shopping at the various trading posts and a short trip over to Mancos to view the hot air balloon evening display at the end of their Art and Balloon Festival.

Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park "Genesis Wall"
(c) Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved
 Our Big Events were next. We took an all-day tour of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park, a huge horseshoe shaped reserve that holds not only historical Ute pictographs and remnants Chief Jack’s burned-out home, but also much older Ancient Puebloan petroglyphs, towers, kivas, storage bins and cliff dwellings. This park can be toured only with an approved Ute guide and is full of artifacts of at least two civilizations in nearly-untouched condition, unlike the highly restored and “swept forest floor” look of the adjoining Mesa Verde. With a generous offer to kitten-sit while we took our all-day tour, we set out with guide Marshall Deer and our driver Tommy to visit remote areas of the park where perched in the cliffs are Lion House and Forest House and other structures ca. 1100-1400. My favorite spot is still the “Genesis Wall” an Ancient Puebloan petroglyph wall telling the story of creation starting with the Spider Woman, the Spiral Path, Kokopelli, The Hero Twins, and all the way to the Fourth World where man leapt out of the jumping up places from within the earth.

From Cortez, we drove to my sister’s house on Vallecito Lake near Durango, somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 feet in elevation, just to remind me how out of shape I am. The weather was perfect, sun-splattered and golden-aspened, and we walked the new handicap-accessible trail my sister was instrumental in building. (I am just a bit proud of her, I admit.) We were treated to a Durango stroll with her women’s barbershop group and balcony seats at the Diamond Belle for lunch in the Strater Hotel.

Too soon it was time to head back to California, which had been deathly hot while we had been away, 108 in our town while we guiltily had enjoyed 83 degrees in the desert that day. My husband was treated to one of his favorites, a rip-roaring thunderstorm with a huge dust storm first act in Nevada. The kitten and the dog and I huddled together in the passenger seat while he drove through the dust and lightning with delight.

And then we were home and slept soundly in our own bed, soundly and late. I luxuriated and finally, on getting up, realized my bad knee wanted to bend in all directions again, not just knee-like. The only event was the Candelaria fall almost two weeks earlier. And so I found a cane to use. Our beloved chiropractor Dr Miller says, “Ice.” And I’ll be checking in with my Primary Care Physician.

I love our fall vacations! They give me a chance to pause along the road of my life and rest, to view the long road behind us and look forward to the long road ahead. Like the 9 of Wands, a little reflection of history helps us do better in the future and let us know that we can continue with our journey, even after a tumble or two.

Best wishes.

1 comment: