Monday, December 07, 2009

Before I Forget I Was Ever Out of Town

I was going to write two more blog entries about our trip to Chile, one for Santiago, and a short one for the plane trip home, but it's been a week that we've been back, now, and the memory, it ain't what it used to be. And, in fact, before I forget, here and here are links to a bunch more pics.

One of the benefits, of course, of waiting a week to write a journal entry is that the entry will take much less time to write than initially planned. In fact, I think I'll sum up the remainder of our trip in a bullet-pointed list. Maybe a numbered list instead.

  1. Santiago was described to me by a friend who happened to have stayed there recently as "pretty First World," or words to that effect. I found it to be very First World, with clean, efficient subways, an honest taxi driver, tidy streets and neighborhoods, department stores and supermarkets, and expensive dining. On the other hand, it has a fantastic, giant market with veggies and fruits and meats of the land in one endless building (possibly several buildings), and meats of the sea in another giant structure. Also, there tend to be bars and gates and security fencing around the nicer houses. And the power did go off in our hotel the one morning we were there, which didn't affect us very much, except it made the coffee cold, and we couldn't grill our breakfast sandwich on the sandwich maker and had to eat it cold, alas. The one part of Santiago that is still decidedly not First World, in my book, is that the river rushing through the center of town is FILTHY and STINKS. But then again, that's true of many a city in a First World country, and so, overall, Well Done Santiago.
  2. Things in Chile cost either the same as what they cost here: $140 for a hotel room with attached bath but no electricity; Two-thirds what they cost here: $136 for a gourmet meal with cocktails, soup, side, mains, wine and dessert; or nothing at all like what they cost here: $0.90 for a one-hour bus ride to four towns up the coast.
  3. Our water was out for several hours one night while we were in Valpo. While I'd like to think that Chile is more First World than not, losing two utilities in two hotels in one week seems to imply that it's a more regular occurrence than not. Oh, also, one of Ian's colleagues from a different part of town also lost water for several hours, on a different day. To be fair, our outage had been planned (although the friend's hadn't been), and the city delivered huge cubic water tanks to local restaurants before the shutoff, so that they could at least continue working.
  4. My quiche is aromatizing the house right now and I'm losing my train of thought, so I'll just skip to the flight home. First of all, when we checked in, the clerk looked at our IDs and then started to do a lot of typing. We couldn't imagine what the problem was, and then he said to me "Mrs Taylor, did you leave an iPod?" And I said, with some degree of shock, "Why yes, I did!" "We have it at the gate for you," the man said. Sure enough, just before we boarded, I was paged to the podium and there was my iPod, tired and sunburned after its days away, ready to clip onto my purse and ride home. Its battery was, of course, dead, which saved me from using it and losing it again. When Ian and I handed our boarding passes to the checker at the gate, she looked at my name, then suddenly looked up and signaled to the security guard. "It's her!" she seemed to be saying, "with the iPod!" He nodded and motioned that I'd already picked it up. And then, the dinner that they served us was from Chile, and we got the beef, and it was not only fantastic compared to most airplane food I've ever had; it was FANTASTIC full stop. The beef was medium rare, tender, flavorful (a woman behind us returned hers for being "underdone"). The salad dressing was not just the same creamy Italian, and even the roll was somehow much moister than usual—you could rip hunks off of it and the rest didn't age 40 years before you got back to it. And the butter was butter. And the dessert, the flan, was also FANTASTIC. I could've eaten it forever.

Full stop.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Our Next Trip, Planned

This morning I was shocked awake at 7:20am by the phone ringing. Any time before 9:30am it must be an emergency, because anyone who knows me (or has known me for the past couple years when my arising time changed from 7 to 9), knows that I am in bed. Ian, who gets up around 7:30, was also still in bed, and also jarred awake. Being me, though, or being female and thus able to change states of being more rapidly, I was the one who leapt out of bed to run to the phone. Alas, I didn't make it, but the caller was TACV, Cabo Verdean Airlines.

Ian and I are planning a long-awaited trip to Cabo Verde in January, a set of formerly Portuguese islands off the coast of West Africa, about the same latitude as where Senegal and the Gambia are. We are flying British Airways to Lisbon (using airline miles), then TAP Air Portugal to Cabo Verde (because we're flying over large stretches of ocean and we weren't sure about TACV for such a lengthy journey), and then TACV internally in Cabo Verde.

TACV has a website, and at first glance it appears to be quite first-world and comprehensive. Dig just below the surface, however, and you see that it is not, in fact, helpful in any material way. Click on "buy here" and you get a list of options. Click on any of the options and you get a definition of that option, such as "E-Ticket: The E-ticket service makes it easier to prepare a trip, buy a ticket and speeds up check-in formalities." Below this is a link to, where e-tickets may be purchased. Clicking this link returns you to this place.

The website also does not seem to include a phone number. Fortunately, our Lonely Planet guide (or rather, the chapter on Cabo Verde from LP's new Africa book which we were able to buy and download separately—cool service, by the way) did list phone numbers—one in Cabo Verde, and the other at the TACV office in Boston. I had also happened to see an ad in the New York Times for a deal TACV was offering, and their Boston number.

Flying is really the only consistent way between islands in the Cabo Verdean archipelago, and yet the only company on which to fly is TACV. Lonely Planet says that flights are frequently overbooked, and thus it is necessary to reconfirm, and reconfirm again, and show up early at the airport, and insist that you board the flight that you've booked and paid for. And yet, they are remarkably vague on when you need to purchase tickets. Before going? Once you arrive? Can you be overbooked at the last minute and still get on? Should you plan ahead and overbook early? At any rate, this all has given trip planning a flavor of exoticism that I've missed a little when traveling in Europe and even, as we just discovered, in at least one South American country.

There are some ferries, but the islands are far from each other, and right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where the seas and winds are often perilous on longer trips. At least one ferry ride, which is the only way to get to one of the smaller islands, is only scheduled to be weekly, but is cancelled as often as not. We're not going there. Our ultimate destination, Santo Antão, is a ferry ride away from São Vicente, where we are flying to on TACV, but the ferry is regular and daily and we feel at least a meager confidence that we will be able to accomplish our goal: to hike in the hinterlands of an otherworldly place for five days, and make it home successfully.

Anyway. After being shocked awake this morning, I immediately called TACV back, since I knew they were in the office. I again got the voice mail, and I left a message asking them to call back later—like, noon their time—or I would call back later. I had no confidence that this message would be collected or followed, though, so I brought the phone and my paperwork into the bedroom and got back into bed. Sure enough, about ten minutes later, another call.

I was able to book our flights, from Praia to São Vicente and back, allowing a full day in Praia each direction. It was necessary in one direction; only one flight going. In the other direction, it was deemed, by the sales agent, unsafe to take the evening flight back to Praia, just in case we were to miss our TAP to Lisbon, and so we'll be having another day in the big city.

When it came time to pay, I could've sworn Carlos said "We accept MasterCard, and all other major credit cards."

I said "Can I give you a VISA number right now over the phone?"

He said "No, I'm sorry, we only accept American Express. I have to give you the TACV bank account number, and you deposit the amount in our bank account."

"Oh, okay. I can do that."

He gave me the account number and the name on the account, and asked that I deposit the money, then fax them the deposit slip, with my email address on it, so that they can send me our e-tickets. I'll be doing that this afternoon.

I am bemused, and charmed, and eager to go.

This is where we are going. Spectacular, no?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

Before we left for Chile, I was expecting to spend much of my week in Valparaíso horseback riding while Ian was in class. I mean, who doesn't want to spend the bulk of her life on a horse? But the playful, wacky charms of the city and its people sucked me in immediately and I ended up only going for one ride, last Friday, our last full day in Valpo.

I actually had work to do, too, while we were there: my mother has finished her third memoir and I am the editor. We are hoping to get it out by Christmas, which meant I had something to occupy myself with when I began to miss Ian too much, as well as an excuse to rest my legs from all the non-ascensored hills. Nevertheless, there is a large horse culture in Chile that I wanted to sample, and I signed up for a half-day ride amongst the dunes and along the shore at Ritoque Beach, about an hour north of Valparaíso by bus.

I had gone down to the street where I was supposed to catch my bus (#206), a regular urban/suburban route, on Thursday morning after dropping Ian at work, to make sure that I could catch one the next day, to arrive in Concón (the town nearest Ritoque) at 11:00am. After about 10 minutes waiting at the bus stop, I saw a #206 approaching. I smiled and nodded a very slight nod, pleased that everything so far was working out . . . and the bus stopped right in front of me. I hadn't thought the driver could see me, but I was wrong. Oh, well—I could make sure of my destination. I approached the open door, and called up to the driver:

"Á Concón?" I asked, probably in Portuguese. He nodded, and looked expectant. "Mañana," I said, which is Spanish. He smiled, closed the door, and sped away from the curb.

The next day I caught my bus, paid my 90 cents, and enjoyed a long, slow slog through Viña del Mar, the awful, awful tourist town just north of Valpo, and a breathtaking race along the open roads north of that. I failed to inform the driver of my stop but it was, fortunately, the end of the line, and so I was able to get to my destination: the COPCO gas station by the rotonda in Concón, only a little after my 11:00am expected arrival. There was to be a man there to pick me up and take me the 5 minutes farther up the road, but I couldn't see any sign of him. Fortunately, Ian and I had switched out our cell phone SIM cards our first day in town and I was able to call—I was picked up within minutes. I was a bit worried about being late—the last time I had a horseriding adventure where I was picked up, it was in Greece, and if you weren't at the pick up at exactly the right time, you weren't riding. Of course, the woman running the riding was Austrian.

When I arrived at the ranch, there was a large party already there, a group of about 15 people from a local office, getting ready to celebrate their Christmas party with an annual trail ride and lunch. I was to join this group for the first part of the ride, then peel off with an English-speaking guide when they turned back for their food. I had been dropped off at a stable and a man tacking up a horse had gone silently into a shed and come out with some half chaps for me to wear (I was already wearing my usual riding boots). I assumed everyone else must already have them, but it turns out only I got them. I felt proud.

The Chilean Horses that we were riding are very short—only about 14 hands high, which is 56 inches at the withers, or where the neck meets the back. The horse that I rode today in my lesson, for comparison, is about 17 hands, or a whole foot taller. They're incredibly sturdy, though, and were quite happy carting around a bunch of full-sized adults. The adults were also quite happy; one portly man in particular kept trotting and galloping around the group, back and forth, arms and legs waving wildly. We were not given helmets, but then, we weren't very far from the ground. I think I did have to sign some sort of release, but I honestly can't remember. My brain was working so intensively the whole time I was in Chile, trying to understand the language (which I stood a chance to do, which made it harder to simply tune out), take in all the sights, adjust to a different season, etc, that certain things just fell by the wayside.

Anyway, we eventually all set out in a mob across a shallow river. My saddle was small, and my stirrups definitely short, but I felt like I could handle it okay. Once across the first river we all had a gallop, and I got my first inkling of just how fast these horses could go. It was very smooth, for legs so short (hers, not mine). We then crossed the river another time, and suddenly there was a shout and a commotion, and I turned to look and one of the horses was lying on its side in the water, its female rider lying in the river beside it. One of the guides raced over to help the woman up; it turns out that the horse hadn't stumbled; it had simply been hot, and chosen to lie down for a little cool-off (my own horse, Snappy, did this to me once in a creek near my mom's house. Lay down in the middle, saddle and all. I managed to jump off and land on my feet, but the level of the stream was higher than the tops of my boots). The woman good-naturedly got back on, but then Sebastian, the guide, decided that my saddle really was too small for comfort, since I was going to be going much farther (there was discussion with my solo guide about this, and also about the small back pack I was wearing; wouldn't I be more comfortable if they put the things in saddle bags instead? I assured them I was fine . . .) and he quickly exchanged his saddle for mine while the rest of the group disappeared around a bend up ahead. I remounted while he put my saddle on his horse and waited, remembering King taking off and Sikem having a cow in Idaho in September; Sebastian seated himself, nodded to me, and we took off at a gallop.

No, gallop doesn't begin to describe it. These horses were flying. Like jets fly. I could barely even feel her feet touch the ground, my speedy little pony. It was like she had a jet pack harnessed to her rump. I have never, in my life, been on a faster horse, or been more surprised about the speed. Sikem can put on the gas, and Shadow is remarkably smooth, but they would've been left in the dust. It was AWESOME.

Anyway, soon after we rejoined the group, they split off and my guide, Ignacio, and I headed into the dunes. And here is where it got surreal. Along the coastline at Ritoque is a wide swath of glittering white sand dunes. I'm not sure that my estimates of the dune heights are very good, but a couple of them seemed to be miles high. Well, okay, I'm sure that's not true, but they were probably 100-200 feet high. The horses would gallop up one side and reach the top and suddenly I was looking over a knife-edge summit at a long, cliff-like slope heading down. My horse, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, would step over the top and head pretty much straight down the hill in the blinding glare, each step sinking into the hillside, sometimes so far that my feet, in my stirrups, dragged in the sand. It was like riding a camel (or, like how riding a camel looks)—undulating, slow. Sandy. It felt like we were the last creatures on earth, and as if we weren't really going anywhere, just marching in place in front of an endlessly looping picture. A picture with the bright turned up way too high.

Ignacio took my pic, right as we reached the end of the dunes. Note the stirrups, which seem to have highly carved wooden clogs hooked onto them. I don't know why. The tack, also, was all tied on with leather thongs. No buckles for these folks. The reins were also different--a round, braided leather rope, which really chafed at my delicate hands by the time we made it back to camp.

We were going somewhere, however, and we eventually came upon a little oasis in a cleft of the dunes where some scrub trees had grown up (enough for quite a fine piddlery), and there was some grass for the horses to nibble on. Ignacio had been waxing poetic earlier about a particular restaurant on Ritoque Beach that you ride horses to; it's only open in the summer, but has spectacular empanadas.

"You know empanadas?" Ignacio asked me.

"Of course," I said. "I have one in my back pack."

"In your back pack?!?" he asked, incredulously. "I think you don't know empanadas."

"Yes," I said, "Empanada de carne. I brought it to have it for lunch!"

After we'd tied the horses, Ignacio pulled out some cookies to share and I pulled out my cold, but tasty, empanada filled with ground beef and onion. I was starving after my hours in transit and on horseback and in this brilliant, windy, alternate reality, and the snack really hit the spot.

Almost at the beach!

Soon after, we reached the beach, and had another several glorious long racing gallops on virtually unmarked sand. After my initial gallop through the surf, I stayed out of the water; it's late spring in Chile right now, but IT. WAS. COLD. And water spray did not help. The cold is perhaps why I didn't notice that the backs of my hands were burning to a crisp at the end of my long-sleeved shirt. They've changed to brown now, and if I'm wearing winter-in-Seattle clothes, one could assume I got a full-body tan.

An endless (and windy, and cold) racetrack.

After about 3 hours we arrived back home at the end of a huge loop, and my horse started whinnying and whinnying. It's funny to sit on a horse when she's whinnying—her whole barrel shakes and vibrates. Ignacio laughed and said "home!", and then "She has a little boy—what do you call him?"

"A colt?" I asked. "She has a colt?"

"Yes, a colt. She is calling him," he said. Then, "Oh, now, he is calling her! Look, here he comes!"

There wasn't a fence along the sea side of the pasture where the herd of horses was grazing at the ranch, just seaside, and suddenly out of the bundle appeared a fuzzy little baby with knobbly knees, galumphing (not very quickly yet) to meet us.

"Oh my gosh!" I cried. "How old is he?"

"About 2 ½ months," said Ignacio. "Still little."

The little colt fell into step with us, butting against my leg, trying to get his mother to stop so he could nurse. We paused during our last crossing of the river for her to drink; he was right there behind my calf, drinking himself. He didn't seem shy, so I reached down and patted his forelock; he looked up at me, offended, and backed just out of reach. I think he hadn't even noticed me until that point.

Anyway, it was a fantastic experience. I arrived back in Valpo just as Ian's class let out for the last time, and we went to the house of one of his colleagues for assada, Chilean traditional barbeque. The food was mostly meat, the beverage mostly (after a traditional Peruvian Pisco Sour, which all Chileans present agreed was far superior to the Chilean style) delicious red Chilean wines.

The perfect end to the perfect week.

Cute fuzzy baby!

Mama and baby, reunited.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Strange Days

Just a quick note to say that Ian and I arrived home safely this morning after about 20 hours of travel. Sorry I haven't posted in the last couple days--it turns out that Ian is a big time suck when he's not working. Starting Friday afternoon, all he wanted to do was eat fine barbecue with friends, or visit interesting and creative boutiques, or walk around the city that I'd already walked around, or the new city we'd just arrived at. He wanted to see parks and bookstores, music stores and churros vendors on the street. He wanted to sample sodas like "Pap" and "Kem" and "Bilz" (as tasty as they sound). He wanted to embrace spring in a new country, and he wanted me to join him. And so, writing fell by the wayside. Well, Thank Heavens, Ian's back at work already this afternoon, and will be for the rest of the week.

Anyway, I realized today that, because of the peculiarities of Daylight Savings Time and Standard Time, and the geographical positioning of Seattle and Valparaiso vis a vis each other and their particular time zones and the Earth, sunset today is pretty much the exact same time in both cities, meaning that, right now, 4:55pm here and 9:55pm in Valpo, there is pretty much the same amount of light in the sky. Valpo maybe really got dark about 30 minutes ago, but still, isn't that kind of crazy? No wonder people get jet-lagged.

This is a great map of daylight across the world.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Note: the entrance to Ascensor Concepción. Can you see it?

One of the things that I love, love, about Valparaíso are the elevators, or ascensores, which carry people up and down parts of the hills all over the city. The first one, Ascensor Concepción (and one of the three most convenient to us), was built in 1883. The most recent came on the scene in 1915. I'm not sure that they're all still in use, but certainly most of them are. So far we've used five of the 15.

This is Ascensor Concepción, in creaking, juddering action.

It costs between 20 cents and 60 cents to ride them, either up or down, and I tell you, the thrill is well worth the expenditure. The slightly reckless, thrilled feeling is a lot like the one you get driving on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. None of these structures is completely vertical; they're all built clinging to steep cliffsides. For some reason, this makes them feel much more precarious than a real elevator that's just hanging. They offer tremendous views over the city and harbor, if you duck a little to be able to see out of the low windows. They are not cog railways—they are definitely being pulled on cables. The cars each have a wooden bench (sometimes only big enough for one person to sit on), and they act in pairs, counterbalancing each other up and down the tracks, although there is also a motor. The cars themselves seem to be as old as the system; they're rickety and clacking, and there are small gaps between the floorboards and occasionally missing window panes. There are usually cats napping somewhere in the ascensor channel. I'm not sure what the opening hours are, but they're always going when I want to use them. I've gotten lazy in my stay here—I usually take an ascensor up now and walk down (although I did opt to climb a long staircase today instead. Can't let my ass get lazy.)

If you don't know where to look for them, they are easily missed, because lots of the buildings on the flat part of the city in front of the hills—El Plan, it's called (which, like much of Seattle, is landfill)—were built long after the elevators. Since the elevators are, necessarily, right up against the hills, they're often hidden down long, creepily narrow alleys, or strange dark hallways, built into the growing city.

This is the entrance to Ascensor Concepción, viewed from a different angle.

One of the ones convenient for us is missing part of its sign, so it just says El Peral, not even ascensor. It's one that's down a long, scary hallway in a building next to the courts or the Navy or something, so you're already a little on edge.

The third one that's convenient to us, Reina Victoria, is my favorite, because of a captivating quirk up at the top. It leads up to (and slightly over) a hill that's not quite as high as the destination; there's a short wooden bridge leading to the higher hill. In case you wanted the lower hill, though, there are two sets of stairs angling down about 1 ½ stories from the bridge. And in case you wanted the lower hill in a big hurry, there's a long metal slide with an exhilarating curve at the bottom.

Today I rode the slide twice, even though I didn't ride the ascensor, and even though it took me out of my way. I, in fact, wanted the higher hill that I was already on.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

UNESCO Got It Right

I am loving Valparaíso, or Valpo as it's often called. I have never been anywhere like it, and it's kind of kicking my ass. Literally. The city of a quarter million is built on 40-some hills—steep hills—and I have been spending several hours each day, while Ian's slaving away in a basement classroom, meandering around, looking at the sights and marching myself into and out of steep ravines and up and down precipitous hills. My feet are tired and a bit blistered, but they mostly recover overnight. My hip flexors and my glutes, though, are killing me. It's awesome.

Each of the hilltops and ravines seems to be an individual small town, with a couple restaurants or cafés, a mini-mart, some business or other, and lots of homes. It's kind of like Seattle in that way, except the contrast (in this case in elevation instead of color) is turned way up. Some of the neighborhoods are pretty dodgy; others are quite posh. So far, I haven't been hassled by a single person. Or a group of people for that matter.

Ian and I are having a devil of a time getting our cardinal bearings, however. Valpo is a city on the west coast of a continent on the Pacific—not much different than Seattle. But it's south of the equator and it's late spring now; the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest. Not only that, the bay is actually protected on the south by a giant spit of land (good for making a safe harbor), and the city is built facing pretty much north. I happen to have brought a compass with me and we were able to point North yesterday evening on one of the many promenades; we're both convinced the compass doesn't work in our hotel room, though. We're both generally good with direction, so this has been very strange. Wait a minute here—I think I'm figuring something out. The sun, right now, is NOT rising and setting in the north—it is, in fact, rising and setting in the SOUTH (well, southeast and southwest), because it is almost summer here. Okay, that's been our problem. Ooh—I can't wait to see Ian this evening and tell him! Yes, in Seattle we like to face south because then we get good light in the winter; here they like to face north for the same reason—good light in the winter, but it's summer now and so they're getting light from all around the sky. Okay, moving on.

There are some unattractive things about Valpo; namely, dogs are quite numerous here, and really seem to be enjoying a whole alternate culture to ours. In Seattle, dogs are very much an aspect of people culture; not so here. They roam the city at all hours of the day and night, occasionally battling, obviously reproducing, scavenging in garbage (none of them looks thin, although they are dirty and many have dodgy legs), and treating us to echoing choruses of barks at all hours of the day and night. Also, they shit everywhere. Garbage pick-up and street cleaning seems to be pretty good here—otherwise the city would be buried under a pile of dog do. But aside from the inopportune barking times (I've been reminded of the fighting roosters living near our friends R&K when they were in Thailand for a couple years) and the shit, the dogs are, for the most part, an entertaining part of the city to observe. We watched one the other evening ride an elevator, by itself, up from the metro track. An employee met the elevator at the top to grab the dog but the dog evaded him, raced for the stairs to the train in the opposite direction, ran down, and jumped on the train just as the doors were closing. Clearly, he knew what he was doing.

Okay, I'm going to head off on an adventure now—taking the new metro all the way to the end, to a rural town called Limache. It's not in our guide book, but is supposed to have wine and other pastoral joys.

NOTE: Ian thought the dog had come down from street level in the elevator, not ridden it up, although either one of us could've been right, because all we saw was the dog exiting (although I have a memory of an employee of the metro running upstairs, thus leading me to think he was following the dog). We are both equally mystified as to how the dog got into the elevator and got it to move without human assistance, however. And he was clearly in the elevator alone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

First Day in Valpo

Home Sweet Home--the Hostal Morgan. This morning's breakfast was a huge bowl of fresh fruit, toast with butter and cheese, a mini muffin and two jams, and a large cup of good coffee.

A hint of the steepness of the many hills, and some of the many, many dogs.

And, so the dogs don't take over the world, kitties abound to keep them in line.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009


Ian and I arrived in Santiago this morning around 10am local time, which is currently 5 hours later than Pacific Standard Time. For about two weeks each spring and fall, the two countries are four hours apart, and in the northern summer we are three hours apart, but then we fell back and they sprang forward and here we are. We paid our $260 "Reciprocity Fee" to enter the country (because that's what we charge the Chileans—they only charge an entry fee to citizens of countries who charge them, which are Australia, Canada, Mexico, the US, and, strangely, Albania.). We were met at the airport by the colleague of Ian's who set up this teaching gig and he very kindly took us to the bus station. So far, it's easy to get around here, and my knowledge of Portuguese is getting us by pretty well, but we appreciated the friendly face greeting us anyway.

The flights were relatively uneventful except that somewhere over Central America my iPod decided to skip out on me, because it certainly wasn't anywhere in our bags when we got to the hotel. It's possible that it was just punishing me for being a whiny, stuck-up airplane snob, but it had been slowly sidling away for awhile now (I was getting about 4 hours of playing time on a fully charged battery last time we met). Which is not to say that I am not a whiny, stuck-up airplane snob.

Since I had brought some knitting on the plane (American Airlines 767), I had a tape measure and so we measured the space between the front of my seatback and the back of the one in front of me when both were upright: 24 inches. The seats went back maybe 4 inches. My knees touched the seat in front of me. MY knees. I am pretty average in height, and my legs are short. And they charged $6.00 for a drink. And there was none of British Airways' "Wellbeing in the Air" literature, where you get to learn all about the dangers of Deep Vein Thrombosis. And the video screens were small and inconvenient for most would-be viewers. And where, I ask you, was my complementary toothbrush and eyemask? Yes, even in coach on BA.

Anyway, I eventually took a Tylenol PM and slept about 3 hours in Alexander Technique erectness. And we are earning lots of airline miles to apply to our next trip on BA.

And now I am utterly exhausted, and although I am going to try and keep my eyes open for the next 20 minutes, until the relatively less unforgivable bedtime of 8:00pm, I'm not sure I'm going to make it. Pics tomorrow.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


For those of you who are not familiar with horses, a bit of information about their hooves and their shoes. Horses' hooves are basically heavy, tough fingernails—the middle finger, in fact, which evolved over thousands and thousands of years to be the only finger, or toe, left on the horse (with the exception of tiny bits of horn midway up each of their legs, which are vestigial bits of other toes). As nails, they are constantly growing. In the wild, horses wear off their feet naturally on rough ground (occasionally injuring themselves with chips and cracks). When they're domesticated and wearing iron shoes, however, the rough ground doesn't wear on their feet. Their feet grow at a rate of probably a little less than half an inch per month, and two months is really about the longest that shoes should stay on, because the length of the hoof starts to change the angle of the horse's leg. Anyway, Shadow was definitely stumbling yesterday, and we've called the farrier to see if we can get her and Sikem's shoes pulled as soon as possible. They were kept on in case we had to walk on gravel roads, but we've gotten pretty good over the years at avoiding the real rough patches, so in the future we'll definitely plug for shorter feet.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Not Broken

My friend MS and I have been here at Jerome Creek for two nights now. She's staying tonight as well, and then tomorrow heading for home on the flight from Moscow/Pullman, which we know is an oasis of civility in the maelstrom of modern air travel (i.e. short necessary check-in time and, more importantly, a lovely free glass of wine in the air). My goal, which I set when I was here back in July, was for us to take a long ride up to the top of East Gold Hill, packing a lunch and spending five or six hours. I have done a lot of obsessive mulling of trail choices and directions, and worried over the question of water, and where to leave the two middle-aged labs, who would not be joining us, for such a long period of time.

Yesterday, she and I and the four dogs drove partway up Gold Hill for a recon mission and discovered a massive downed tree blocking our first choice in paths. It seemed that we would be able to find another way, though, and so we determined to do it. Snickers, after recovering from her cystic stone bruise of earlier in the summer, has lost a lot of her physical fitness and so we decided to not, after all, take her.

But then, yesterday evening as we were returning to home, just across the road from the gate, Sikem (who I was riding) lost his footing in the gloaming and went down on his knees in the gravel road, skinning them both. He immediately stood up, and I immediately jumped off and checked to make sure he had not been seriously injured. He was not limping, and seemed to be fine, although he had some not-insignificant scrapes. MS dismounted too, and we all walked the last ½ mile home. I sponged Sikem's knees and slathered them in Bag Balm for the night, and this morning he definitely looked better.

Nevertheless, both Shadow and Sikem's feet are very long at the moment, because the shoes that they got more than two months ago are still on. I thought they were going to be off by now, but they're not, and so they have been over-stepping, back feet kicking front feet when they stride up hills (actually, Sikem frequently does this even when his feet are shorter, but Shadow doesn't). I was a little concerned that the extra-long hooves might be hard on the horses for a long day, the first half of it steeply uphill.

I fell asleep last night worrying over what to do about the labs, which is perhaps why Spackle, just after 1 am, fell off the bed with a loud bang. It scared me awake, and it really scared Hoover and Sadie, who were both on the floor. I turned on the light and Sadie leapt into my arms to be comforted. I got her and Hoover situated again on their dog beds on the floor, and lifted Spackle back up on the bed with me (he showed no inclination to stay on the floor, somewhat surprisingly), where I allowed him to stretch out horizontally across the middle, as he is generally wont to do (for good reason, it turns out).

Anyway, I had been jolted out of the wrong cycle of sleep and couldn't find it again until after 3am, but in my tossings and turnings I decided that the best idea about today's ride was to take it relatively easy, with the two mares, and save my really ambitious ride for another day. MS is happy being here at all, and has no complaints about a 2 ½-hour ride through wilderness.

And so, I listened to the Universe, and I think dogs and horses are all going to be better for it.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Our intrepid Trail Boss

Sikem, belying his noodlies.
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Weekend Away

I have been remiss in my postings this last week, because I went on a whirlwind trip to Idaho during Labor Day Weekend, and I have completely failed to find time to write about it.

First of all, I flew, on Horizon Air, to Pullman/Moscow National Airport, which is about 45 minutes from K&A's house, so I didn't have any dogs with me. Even if the plane had been a normal size one and not the turbo prop, neither one of them would fit under the seat in front of me, and I think they'd both be traumatized by an experience in the luggage compartment, even if it were only a 50-minute flight. I know I would be.

Second, K&A were there, so I didn't have endless hours of alone time to either study maps or write pithy summaries of my activities.

Third, even though I arrived back in Seattle long before bedtime last Tuesday, Spackle had just developed a red, weepy eye issue (he currently looks like he has basset hound eyes) and so we ran off to the emergency vet, which seems, from the patient's point of view, to be equally efficient to the human ER. I made it home just past midnight, and just too late to text my friend C and my cousin T birthday wishes on the 8th, their actual shared birthday. Since then, blah blah blah, I've been busy.

The trip was great, though. I went specifically to join the fundraiser trail ride that they've been organizing for years, which formerly involved playing cards and was called the Poker Ride, but which currently just involved K&A leading trail rides in the morning and afternoon. I stayed two nights, but the flight from Seattle arrives at 11am, which offered plenty of time for the three of us to take a trail ride on Sunday afternoon. I rode Shadow, of course, but I used a Western saddle for the first time in about 20 years, and it really felt like there was NO WAY I could fall out. It felt practically like I was strapped into a carnival ride, compared to perching on top an English saddle. This is in no way meant to ridicule people who do fall out of Western saddles—it's just clear that they are meant for roping and herding and all sorts of things that English saddles aren't. A rode Sikem and he acted like an untrained, prancy noodlehead—which I'd actually never seen before, but which I guess is the behavior that their daughter W doesn't like. Naturally. K rode Snickers, who had had a stone bruise earlier, but she seemed to be back to being perfectly sound.

Sikem had never been a noodlehead like that for me, though, (much to all our surprises—misbehaving for his mom, I guess) so the next day on the trail rides, I said I would take him.

The morning ride, about two hours long, went very well. I really don't understand how other people can hold it so well in the morning, but I had to take myself up an unused spur trail and piddle about one hour out. Sikem stood there and let me—all the horses are used to this strange behavior from me. The only issue when we were actually underway on the ride was that he wanted to be by his mares—not mixed in with the trucked-in riff-raff, but he has a slow walking pace, and so he went at a slow western jog the whole time, meaning I was basically doing the sitting trot for two hours. A had said the day before that trail riding doesn't really give you the core workout that you get in arena riding, but two hours of sitting trot sure does.

It sprinkled a little over lunch, back at the ranch, and then we went out for our afternoon ride, which was planned to be 3 or 4 hours. A stayed behind to tidy up and prepare for dinner (lunch had been potluck and dinner would be lasagna). Everyone else took what raingear they had (mine was a high-tech lightweight shell, of course, being the city girl that I still am, which meant that my lap was not covered at all and got very, very wet) and headed out. Much to the surprise of K and me, a new fence had been built right across one of our trails, within 15 minutes of starting the ride. I was surprised because I'd been there a little over a month before, and disappointed, because that way led to a perfect canter spot—gentle, uphill slope, grassy, wide with no overhanging trees—for people (i.e. my inlaws) who want to canter but don't get to ride very often. Rather than retrace and go toward our destination on a different trail, K led us up and over several peoples' pastures and through several barbed-wire gates. At each, he dismounted and handed me Shadow's reins, and she, pretending she was just giving Sikem a sniff, would nip him in the neck. He did not like this, and once when someone unknown (on a horse) got a bit too close behind him, he kicked (but missed).

Just as we arrived back on track, after 40 minutes longer than the original trail would've taken, the storm that had been brewing hit, with frozen drops as big as jelly beans. K was on the ground, I was riding Sikem and holding Shadow, and the sudden downpour freaked everyone out. "Run for the trees!" yelled K, but there weren't a lot of them right there, for 10 horses. Sikem started dancing and noodleheading, and I was still holding Shadow, who started to prance, and I dropped her reins, into which she immediately stepped.

"Whoa, girl," said me and several other voices, and Shadow stopped dead. I leapt off and ran over, dragging my circus horse, and met K to get the reins undone. He then went off to check everyone else and I sheltered for a minute with my two charges.

The rain slowed marginally, and K came back and mounted, and rode off. Well, this did not appeal to Sikem at all, and he danced around and danced around, tall, wet and whinnying, and would not stand still for me to remount until someone yelled at K to stop. He did, Sikem stopped for 10 seconds, and I got up. At that point in the storm, of course, sitting back into my saddle was like sitting onto a sponge. I.e. really uncomfortable.

Sikem then really noodleheaded, sidestepping and cantering slowly in place on the slick, muddy ground, petulant that I wasn't letting him just run to Shadow, his protector. "He thinks he's a Lipizzaner!" someone called out, which would've been fine if not for the risk of him slipping and falling on me. "K, HOLD ON UNTIL I GET UP THERE!" I finally yelled, Sikem resumed his place, nose to Shadow's tail, the rain lifted, and we went on.

K took a vote and people decided that 25 minutes would be better than 5, since it had cleared, and so we continued on our way for a while, nevertheless falling far short of our intended destination (and getting stuck in another squall). Back at the ranch, most people decided to load up and head home to warm showers and dry clothes instead of staying to dinner, and a couple hours later after we'd dried off and dried off the clothes of close friends from far away who were staying, seven of us enjoyed the lasagna.

On Tuesday, A and I rode again—me on Snickers for the first time ever and her on Sikem, to see if he was still noodleheading the third day in a row of being ridden, and aside from a bit of a stiff back from requiring about 4 hours of sitting trot out of me the day before, he seemed to be back to his normal self. On high alert, but not being an idiot.

We enjoyed a glass of wine and some prosciutto in Moscow on the way to the airport (and ran into friends of K&A), and they dropped me off 25 minutes before the plane was due to take off. There were three of us left to board when we arrived (one of whom knew K&A, of course), and I heard someone murmur to her husband as I walked down the aisle "these must be the locals!" As much as possible! I thought.

I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a complimentary glass of wine—how civilized!—as we flew west across the darkening state, and I determined I would definitely do this trip, in this way, again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Ian and I just took a whirlwind trip to Mexico, to attend the wedding of one of his oldest friends, T, (and by oldest, of course I mean they've been friends over 20 years. T is probably about 34, like Ian is). The event was held at the Iberostar Tucan and the Iberostar Quetzal Hotels on the Riviera Maya near Cancún, which are sister all-inclusive resorts (really, they're one resort for all practical purposes) on the beach. We only stayed for the minimum 3 nights—leaving last Thursday at 4:00am and arriving back at home Monday morning around 1:00am—because a Mexican beach in August is not really our kind of travel, but we definitely wanted to attend this wedding.

And let me say, before I go any further, that the wedding itself was beautiful and sweet, and the DJ at the reception was A W E S O M E. Meaning, he played all the songs I danced to in high school, which are all the good dance songs in the world, plus a medley from Grease. Also, the first dance between bride and groom ROCKED. E, huge props to you for getting T to do that choreography. It wasn't Tiny Bubbles like we had, but it was pretty good. Also, the bride and groom chartered a motor/sail catamaran to take a four hour tour including an hour of snorkeling and lunch on Friday and invited all the guests; I think 30 of us went, and that trip, out in the sun on clear, warm, turquoise water, was fantastic, too. I had covered myself in 15 SPF sunscreen before the boat ride and wore a lycra swim cap and a long-sleeved T-shirt while I was snorkeling and the result, even though I laid out in only my swim suit (and normal hat) on the huge web at the front of the boat for our 1 ½ hour motor back to port, was that I did not get any color at all, except for two little red streaks on my ass where my bikini bottom shifted after I lotioned up. That led me to pretty much eschewing sunscreen for, instead, the option of filtered sun on the beach for several hours the next day (except my face, which had 30 SPF) . . . and led, with the assistance of several limonata-and-vodka cocktails . . . to a bit more sunburn than just those thin strips on my ass. It wasn't awful though, because I really did have a pretty good base tan, and now I simply look like a spent some time in a lower latitude than the 47th. And naked I look like I'm wearing a startlingly white bikini.

Yeah, but, in a lot of ways, the resort itself was like a beautiful, beautiful prison.

First of all, I'm assuming that time and materials are relatively cheap in Mexico, and that safe, tasty food and clean water is a bit harder to come by. Therefore, the buildings and the pool looked like a 5-star setting, complete with mini-jungle teeming with lizard, rodent and monkey life . . . but the execution of the whole thing was 2-star at best. Even though we never left our door open longer than it took to go through it, we had mosquitoes in the room every night. I think they were coming out of the drains in the bathroom. Our TV worked, and our toilet never backed up, but that was not true of many of our friends. One couple, after the third backing up, was asked "Well, are you putting the paper in the toilet? Stop doing that." Now, in Greece, it's pretty standard to have a little, lidded bin next to the toilet where you place your used tissue. There are signs everywhere, and they tell you about it when you check in to hotels and inns, and it's because there's little water, and the pipes are, like, 4,000 years old. These bins are emptied every day, and the whole system works well once you grow used to it. And I grew used to it easily, having spent six months in Kenya, where occasionally just squatting in the bush is much tidier that your "toilet" options. At the Sofitel Athens, however, which looks as posh as the Iberostar, you can just dump your paper in the bowl. Anyway, pipes at the Iberostar? Evidently the equivalent of 4,000 years old, and yet there were no signs requesting you not to flush your paper, and the trash bins were open-topped.

Also, even though the rooms were air conditioned, there was some sort of motion detector (a possibly logical money-saving device) which caused all power in the rooms—including the AC and the beer fridges—to go off after a period of time. Outside it was in the 90s and humid. Inside it was frequently in the 80s and humid. We made our in-room coffee the first morning and it was never replaced, but it wasn't very good and so complaining about it smacks of "Airplane food is awful and there's not enough of it!"

There was food—or maybe sustenance is a more appropriate noun—available 24 hours a day, which was very, very nice. The availability, that is. I had a wizened hotdog and some chips with cheese sauce all by myself at the midnight food place the first night we were in there, after a gender-divided trip to bars in town. Much appreciated salty, fatty, convenience. But mostly the food was mediocre and uninspired, and not very Mexican. I had been hoping for taco or burrito bars and tropical fruits, but no luck. Aside from tortillas, bland guacamole, one inferno of a jalapeño and the ubiquitous viscous cheese sauce, you could've been eating anywhere in the world. Which I expect appeals to a lot of people. We had the rehearsal dinner meal in one of the "reservation only" restaurants, a steak house. My tenderloin was actually excellent, but many of the other steaks were unappetizing, and the "vegetarian option" that had been inquired after and confirmed before the meal began ended up being simply the sides—corn, rice, and baked potato with a crust (yes, crust) of sour cream on it. I enjoyed my meat and pretty much avoided my vegetables. The biggest complaint I heard about the steak restaurant was again like that old joke about airplane food—it was too hard to get reservations for the reservation-only restaurants. The few guests at the wedding who were not initially on the reservation for the steak dinner were almost not served, even though the restaurant had about 20 empty tables in it while we were eating. My feeling is that the reservation wasn't for a seat, but for a meat—and the meat was expensive and so they didn't want to supply it.

The ocean was clear blue and the beach glowing and golden, and it was pretty awesome to swim, even at night, until the second night when two of our friends were badly stung by an invisible jellyfish which put an end to the midnight capers. Alcohol was available all day from the beachside bar, or from servers who came right to the umbrellas and chaises, and it certainly worked for me, although some in our party felt it was watered down (they weren't taking alcohol-interactive Keppra, though). There was also a self-serve soda fountain, and a guy dishing out small ice cream cones. I had Oreo. Beach or pool towels were included and could be exchanged at any time from 9 to 6, but boy were they worried about them! At check-in each person was issued a "towel card", and if you didn't hand it in at checkout, having returned your towel to the kiosk, you were charged $10. It was not allowed to check out by merely leaving your keys and towels cards in your room: before your airport transportation could take you away, you had to give your checkout slip to the bellman.

There was even an adults-only swim-up bar, in a separate pool near the main pool, and the water was decidedly murkier. I heard once that a lot of people, instead of finding a restroom, routinely pee where they're sitting at swim-up bars—more need, from the alcohol, and less inhibition. We did not go in.

Possibly the most annoying part for me was the bracelet. At check in, we were each tagged around the wrist with a vinyl strap that we were required to keep on for the duration of our stay, so that employees in the hotel could tell at a glance that we belonged there. When coming back from town the first night with the other girls, we had to hold up our wrists from the back seat of the taxi so that the security guard would let the taxi driver through the gate. The vinyl felt uncannily like a hospital bracelet, and I found it triggered responses that were not really what I was after in a tropical vacation.

Finally, we were completely separated from anything and everything that could possibly be considered Mexican. The hotel was in a large, fenced and gated community of other hotels and vacation homes. There was not a grocery store anywhere, let alone a taco stand. The best meal we had was some tacos and fajitas at the airport on our way out.

BUT—as I said, the wedding was beautiful, and we really enjoyed hanging out with our friends. We're already planning the next tropical trip—to a house where we can cook, a real town that we can walk to, and the beach, the water, and the booze (of course!).

Monday, July 27, 2009

His Name

This "silver fox" if you will, in the middle, is Robert Redford, not Long John Silver, whom I'm pretty sure is a pirate.
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Back in Seattle

Spackle seems to be perfectly comfortable back here at home, but Hoover and I are having some difficulty readjusting. I was telling Ian last night, as I walked around the yard in the dusk, watering some things, and Hoover was grrrrring and rrrrrowfing at the people passing by less than 3 meters away from him, that Hoover was definitely a country dog living a city dog life. I paused, and sighed, and Ian said "Poor Sweetie-pie! You are a country girl living a city girl life."

It's true, I am. And for all the things I do love about the city (and there are many), the quiet, restful, natural independence of the country is definitely more to my taste.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Winding Down

Everyone is tired now. Mom and I went back up the mountain today for our walk with the dogs, and saw several people doing various things. There were some people camping, with a tent and an RV, up near a trail we were considering walking down. A young boy, maybe 12, came over from the camp (we hadn't gone too close), and we asked him some questions about rumored log house ruins in the area, and the state of the trails. Turns out that what he knew about was farther than we wanted to walk, plus it was all downhill going, and all uphill coming back. So we drove to our second choice, which was a lovely, relatively wide and grassy trail. On the way to the trail we saw a couple guys with 4-wheelers and trailers that they had some sort of hounds in—K&A say that they were out treeing bears with their dogs, which doesn't seem very nice for the bears, but keeps the bears afraid of dogs, which is good for those of us who walk and ride with them. We also saw another moose (well, Mom's first), a young bull. We think there must be more wildlife around this year because there's no logging. Have I said that before? Well, I still believe it.

The trail that we ended up on was just our speed for the day—relatively wide, sun-dappled but not dark, relatively level. I kept kicking sticks into the toes of my sandals, which really pissed me off—two bits of evidence that I was tired. Some cows had evidently found this lovely place just moments before we did, and Spackle rolled energetically in a green cowpie so soupy that when he shook, from five feet away, cowshit landed on my foot. This also pissed me off, which I think didn't have so much to do with the fact that I am tired.

Although there were several small rills of water that we passed, none of them offered a deep enough pool to do us any good as far as cleaning. I managed to keep Spackle out of the pie on the way back, and the heat and dry air had dried him enough that he just looked like he'd had his hair spiked with green hairspray. He (and the other dogs) did a lot of pond fetching when we got back, and then he had his second bath of the trip (and possibly the year), although this one used a cold water hose outside.

This afternoon I got to have a ride on Shadow, who not only survived carrying people almost 80 miles in 5 days; she seems to have thrived on it. I rode her bareback, which I usually do . . . but it's been about 3 years since that last happened, and my legs were really aware of it. Shadow loves to be out, and she loves to go fast—she wanted to gallop, not just canter, practically the whole time we were out this afternoon. Hoover and Sadie, also winding down, came along, but pretty much followed the path of the horse the whole time. No gallivanting off into the woods looking for wild turkeys or ground squirrels, or racing after fast-retreating deer. Hoover looked like someone had hit his face with a powder puff after an hour on Shadow's galloping heels.

Mom and I are going to hit the road late tomorrow morning, and I have to say, I think part of my fatigue today is simply the impending return to all the noise and static and light of the city. This is a singular place, and I am lucky to be able to be here.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Now that I've developed a real sense of where I'm going around here, I am obsessed with mapping my moves and my trails. Completely obsessed. I mean, I can't get to sleep at night because I'm trying to figure out which trails will connect up for me to do the big, long ride I'm interested in doing when I'm back in September. And then, when I do get to sleep, Gold Hill (I think it's not actually called Mountain, after all) figures in my dreams. Coupled with Spackle taking over 2/3 of the bed and Sadie continuing to protect us by barking at 1am (although not for as long as when she was down on the porch), I am not actually getting a lot of sleep. Keppra is supposed to make me drowsy? Not so much.

Anyway, in September when I come back, another riding friend will be with me, and we're going to take a trip that might take five hours and will include lunch (I mean, we'll pack a lunch and take a break to eat it). I am very excited, and have many of the legs already worked out in my mind, both from rides I've taken and walks with the dogs. Today, with Mom added to my posse of dogs, another leg was achieved by car and on foot—and lo and behold, our destination today was a place I'd been to, years ago, very accidentally. I've always wondered just what it was, and now I know—the summit of East Gold Hill. At the time, I was staying here alone and rode that day (possibly bareback) a sweet mare named Toby who is now the elderly horse to an elderly woman. I just kept following a trail up and up, and it kept going up, and suddenly we were very high and everything was level and there was a fire ring and the sun was starting to set.

There was still light by the time we found a gravel road, and Toby seemed pretty confident that it was a road that would take us home, and it did. By the time it was completely dark.

Anyway, it was exciting to find the place again today and, once and for all, set the destination for my ride in September with MS.

K has several Forest Service maps of the surrounding areas, complete with FS trails and roads identified, and topography. They're from maybe the mid-70s, so there are a few details that I'm finding are no longer correct—such as the trail we were on today does not actually connect, on the map, with the East Gold Hill summit. To make my obsession easier, when I was in Moscow the other day getting Mom (and a cowboy hat—I'll have to post a picture), I had some enlargements made of the maps of the Jerome Creek Road and Gold Hill and environs. I've been poring over those maps, drawing in my jaunts, reveling in the satellite feature of google maps (although the pictures, some of them, are very out of date. There are new clearcuts as well as older growth that are both misrepresented), and really, REALLY dorking out on the cartography. I've even taking to carrying a compass.


Having Mom here has been charming. I've enjoyed getting to show someone all my explorations, and she's been very good at entertaining herself when I'm off horsing. She took me to dinner at the Hoo Doo last night where I had the gravy-smothered Hot Meatloaf Sandwich with mashed potatoes and a Bud. I've been mostly eating salads and fish and organic beef, which I've enjoyed a lot, but the gravy-smothering was a nice change.

And, sighted today, no bears, but a big coyote, stalking across the path a couple hundred yards in front of me. Sikem, Sadie and Hoover didn't see him.

Everyone just arrived from their ride, and the dogs are going crazy (it's 11:30pm), so I'm going to sign off.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Before My Peace Is Shattered

My mother arrives in Moscow today on the 11:15 commuter plane from Seattle. I know that part of the impetus for her coming is to ride back to Seattle with me in the car (or at least to her house in Maple Valley), because, logical or not, she is worried about the dopiness associated with recently beginning Keppra again. She wasn't available to come with me when I drove out, when it might have mattered, but she's coming now. Frankly, even though I really did feel in perfect control of the vehicle—and I'm not protesting too much here, remember, my drive was uneventful—I would rather ride with me on the return leg, too.

I love my mother very much, and I am excited that she's coming. I didn't, in fact, get my cowboy hat when I went in to town on Monday, as I really didn't feel like doing anything but the grocery shopping. Tri-State, Idaho's Most Interesting Store, is on the way from the airport, though, so I'll take her with me and we'll see what we see.

Anyway, what will change is that there will be someone likely wanting breakfast before 11, shorter walks than two hours, lunch before 3, and dinner long before 10:00pm, when I finally sat down at the table last night (I didn't get back from my ride until 8, then I had to clean up and put away the horse, then water the lawns, then chase a cow out of the yard—it all just added up.). And tomorrow night, since the three who are on the Chief Joseph Ride will be arriving late, late in the night and wanting their own beds, she'll be sharing mine. We actually share pretty well—both of us tend to sleep practically without moving all night long, and she's not much of a snorer—but Spackle will be sad. He's not such a good sharer, and there is absolutely no room on the queen-size bed for three of us.

But mostly I wanted to remember just a few more events before they are banished completely from my mind by the need to be a hostess.

First of all, on the drive home from our hike yesterday, almost at the bottom of the mountain, we came upon two moose! (mooses? meese?). They were a mother and a baby, and were, unfortunately, out of the road and up into the trees long before I could get my camera out. Even though it's digital and I wouldn't be wasting film, there didn't seem much point in a photo of russet hide through thick underbrush. The baby looked to be about Great Dane size, and had a very nobbley and eary head. The first time we were here, almost 8 years ago, we saw a young bull moose, but they're pretty solitary creatures. It was very exciting.

Second, Sikem does not come when I call him to go for a ride. K seems to think the horses come when called; I have never found this to be true. And so I begin every outing dragging myself up the hot, steep, western-facing hill. He at least doesn't run when I finally get to him, and he did allow me to make rudimentary reins out of my lead rope, jump on bareback, and ride him down. No, I was not wearing my helmet. He has also learned to stand, more or less still, next to the newspaper box so that I can collect the paper without getting off, on our way back home. He does not like the rustling of the paper or the fact that my hand disappears and then appears with something in it. He was actually quite good at letting me do this leaning off to the left, which I have done with him in the past; leaning off to the right was an entirely new experience, however, and one that he has not been keen on. He really is a chickenshit.

Third, after the ride, Sadie got Hoover to chase her around the yard in some sort of agility test. He is as fast as her, I think, with no obstacles, and I think she figured that out as well, because she started leading him under fences and through the horse pens. She is just enough shorter than him that she doesn't have to squeeze quite so much, and therefore doesn't have to slow down quite so much. After a couple minutes at top speed, never quite able to pass her (they were neck and tail, mostly), Hoover started to cry out his distress, making these plaintive mini-howls as he galloped: "Eee! Arr! Eee! Ooo!". Spackle then, either fed up with the shenanigans, or annoyed that this little upstart was messing with his family, interposed himself in front of Sadie as she flew by and growled. She immediately stopped and flung herself to the ground at his feet, on her back, in total submission.

I tell you, these creatures. Never a dull moment.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Photos July 22, Midday Walk and Evening Ride

Our walk up on the mountain today was only about 1 1/2 hours, but it was hot, and there was a lot of climbing. Back home, looking at the topographical map, it appears that we only climbed about 800 feet in elevation--that seems low to me. I'm sure it was more like 10,000 feet. Here, the dogs are cooling off in one of the many springs.

This is definitely a fire ring. It's fun to come upon something like this in the middle of nowhere. Is someone camping here, or going to? What is this for???

After our walk, I drove up to the top of the mountain on a different road, and took this picture, looking east over K&A's riding grounds. I think the clearcut slightly to the left of every other pale part is where I got lost with my inlaws several years ago. Shadow got us home, though.

Here is another clearcut, from somewhere up on Gold Mountain (or Gold Hill?).

And here is the same clearcut, from my evening ride. I am finally, finally, beginning to understand the layout of this place. After riding here, mostly cluelessly, for the last six years.

They Are Good For Something, After All

I was just on the phone with Marsh, at 9:00pm for my evening "I've returned safely from my ride" call. I'm supposed to call them by 9, and I tried several times, but Mom was talking to my brother. Real worried about me, I guess. So Marsh took over the worrying and called me from his cell phone. I told him I'd fallen and broken my leg and was stranded in the woods far from home. He gave only a feeble laugh to my joke.

Anyway, in the middle of the call, Tessa, who I had noticed did not seem to be in the house, barked. I went to the door and called out to her, and then saw, dimly because it's night time here on the east side of the time zone, what looked like the outline of a cow in the yard. There are a lot of range cattle in the area right now, and the same gate that keeps K&A's horses in the yard keeps unwanted grazers out. When, that is, the gate is closed. Which it was not, because I remembered to water the new grass this evening after my ride instead of remembering to close the gate.

I quickly hung up with Marsh, borrowed a pair of rubber boots from the mud room (I'm still wearing my riding clothes and socks and all I have downstairs are flip flops), called the dogs (each by name, like Santa Claus), and ran outside as fast as I could. The cow was, fortunately, not too far into the yard, and she hauled ass back across the creek and through the open gate when she saw, and heard, the five of us, screeching like banshees.

In honor of their contributions to the functioning of this exclusive health spa, as I've been thinking of it (in the context, primarily, of "whoever's in charge of trail maintenance at this health spa has not done a very good job of clearing all of my favorite trails"), I have given each of the dogs a matching rawhide bone. Spackle, true to form, is sleeping with his, untouched, tucked in the crook of his tail. The other three are very much going to town.

Update on the Sea Man

Ian said that a couple of the details were not quite as he remembered them (he's very diplomatic, even to me), such as, he was sick on Friday, not Thursday, but for the most part I got it right. He says the boat is maybe 60 feet long, so not huge (compared to yachts in Roche Harbor on San Juan Island). And the first sailor, the one who simply didn't show up, was also in jail (that's what they do to you if you break into the Coast Guard station . . . although how do you do that?), just not in Morro Bay. Somehow, he'd gotten further afield. There is no alcohol allowed on board the boats.

Ian also wanted to point out that it wasn't so intuitive to simply call 20 minutes apart, but that he had been out of cell phone range for almost 5 days, and I hadn't known (indeed, he hadn't known) when he was going to be back in range. And so for me to guess, from mountain Idaho, that he was close, was pretty cool. While we were on the phone at 10pm last night I heard coyotes and he saw a skate swim by, on the surface of the water (the guys decided not to swim after dark, when they had finished counting all their fish. Which, incidentally, includes cutting them open to see if they're male or female and cutting their heads open to remove their otoliths, or ear bones, which show yearly ridges similar to a tree's rings. And then they had fish and rice for dinner.). We are in very different environments at the moment.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


When we were on Sucia, I kept saying "can we just go down this trail? How about this one? Just a little way?" Ian finally said that, if there was one thing he'd learned about me in the last 8 years, it's that I always want to see what's around the next bend. This is certainly true out here, where the woods and usta-woods are criss-crossed with trails. I like to see what's around the next bend on foot, and I like to see what's around the next bend on horseback. I choose to believe that it's never going to be a bear around the next bend.

Today, the dogs and I tried something new, which paid off beautifully. I remembered seeing a numbered Forest Service road somewhere up Gold Hill along the (state? county?) Jerome Creek road, and so we all piled into the car and drove up to it, where we left the car parked off on the side of the road and set out on foot. We walked for about 2 hours, passing woods and springs. We saw what I believe was a firepit, or at least a ring of stones where a firepit might have been (come to think of it, there was no evidence of ash, but then, the stones were no longer quite a ring). We also located what I believe to be a connector route for a long horseback ride, later on when I'm here in September with other riders. And most importantly, I finally made a successful complete circuit of the JC road, and discovered many other Forest Service roads that will need to be explored in the upcoming days. Never time to be bored here!

The possible connector trail . . .

Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I chose both of them, and got very tired.

Even this pristine wilderness isn't pristine. It's far worse than litter in the city, because there are maybe only 20 people who travel this way in a year. Shame on you.

Back at the car.
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The Three Beeves

I think this one must be Butch Cassidy, showing off his tasty flanks.

And these are clearly the Sundance Kid on the right, and maybe Long John Silver on the left? I'll have to ask . . .
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Notes on the Man at Sea

Just got a phone call from Ian—in the way of spousal intuition I had left him a message a scant 20 minutes before, just as he was coming into cell phone range. He's currently off the coast of San Diego (there's a dim gray line along the eastern horizon that is claimed to be land), and the sea is glassy calm. This was not true on Thursday, his first day out, when he felt, unfortunately, a little vomity. He wondered a bit why, in fact, he came on one of these boats again, but then the fun part of sorting a plethora of dead fish returned and he remembered. I guess it's about 80 degrees today, and the people on the boat are talking of throwing a ladder over the edge and going for a swim. Presumably no sharks have been sighted.

There are two boats participating in the survey at the moment, and each lost a sailor (as opposed to a biologist, as Ian is) in their last port, Morro Bay. In the salty, tarry, rummy tradition of seafarers, these sailors got very drunk and disorderly. One maybe just failed to return to ship the morning they were supposed to sail (and was replaced by an extra crew member already on board for some reason); the other spent the night defacing businesses in Morro Bay, then somehow broke into the Coast Guard station and tried to steal a dinghy. He was replaced by a random sailor down on the docks, unaffiliated with the boat, who had participated in one of these surveys about 8 years ago, for the same reason.

The survey has had a couple problems—on one of their net settings, they evidently caught something too large for the boat to pull in (giant squid? Gray whale? Russian submarine?), and spent quite a while hoping it would dislodge, because a net large enough to go down 1500 fathoms (9000 feet) is expensive to replace. Eventually the thing fell out and they brought in the net, but it set them back a little. There may not be, after all, time for an afternoon on Catalina.

And that's all I know!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Walks and Rides July 20th

Today we mostly took it easy--a stroll around the 80+ acres in search of cows (or steers, more specifically)--no luck. This was a pretty flower, though.

At one point, we lost the path and walked through this. I didn't think too much about poisonous spiders or snakes (thank you, Sonja) as I clambered through the undergrowth in my Keen sandals.

Some trees that I helped plant a couple years ago.

Four dogs in Northern Idaho.

More dogs in Northern Idaho.

Gratuitous Northern Idaho shot just for Joel.

The gate . . . to nowhere.

Northern Idaho shots attempted through my sunroof as I drove down 95 to Moscow.

My entire pack. Since we'd had a relatively easy morning walk, and I planned a relatively easy evening ride, all the dogs came, and they loved it. I have occasionally wondered how Sikem would respond to an injured dog lashed to his saddle.

An arty shot of myself. Note the averted gaze and the oblique angle. Mom, note the helmet.

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