About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Crack a Champagne Bottle Across My Bow - I'm Sailing

The time had come to leave for Mother Badger's home. She was expecting me. I'd already sent the e-mail to say what time I would leave. She can do arithmetic. She'd know approximately when I'd arrive. Cesar had helped me feel confident about my car. I'd made checklists and cross-referenced information that really shouldn't matter. It's not like there aren't stores down there if I forgot something. The car was fueled up and my things packed inside it. I'd walked a brisk 10 miles, showered, dressed comfortably for a long ride. And that's when I began to fiddle fart around. Uh-oh. What was going on here? This is a trip I very much wanted to take. So why . . . . ? I'm not telling how many times I drove across the street to the convenience store and back home. It is embarrassing. There I bought junk food that I never ate. It went into the trash at Mother Badger's. I'm not telling what the junk food was, either. I left home and headed toward the beltway. Using streets I know do not go through to the major boulevard. I've lived in the same neighborhood for more than 7 years. Why was I purposely avoiding the beltway? I drove in circles for miles. What the heezy?

I stopped living a few years ago. Some events in my life had broken me just a little and I slowed nearly to a halt. Then the headlines began to scream about national financial ruin and I closed down a little more. To the amusement of the homes, I took steps to prevent my decline and potential homelessness. I had my car insurance policy analyzed and tweaked it and, after charting what and how much TV I watch, I reduced my cable TV service. I cut the high-speed internet to moderately high-speed internet. Hey, I don't download large files or play computer games! I began to sell unwanted, unneeded things on eBay and I hunkered down, waiting for the pain. I stopped doing many things I've done all of my adult life. Like a little shopping for pleasure and traveling a little and buying quirky (inexpensive) things to decorate my home and my office. Like reading, a most beloved pastime since the age of 4. Like the annual trip to the beach in July. Like volunteering to help organizations that support causes I embrace. Like being a political activist. Where did I go? I know why I went, but I don't know where I went. I was lost and my world shrunk. If it wasn't about walking, working, haircut, doctor, dentist, it wasn't happening any more. With the exception of the very rare camping trip or cycling race weekend, I literally did not go away. For far too long. I now know that didn't do anything good for me. I didn't get a badge for being the most stalwart shut-in.

I couldn't avoid the on-ramp any longer. If I didn't set out now, I'd arrive later than expected and I don't do late. I merged into traffic and I was agog. I, the decades-long freeway warrior, had dropped into a world I no longer recognized. Commute traffic, and lots of it! I asked myself, "I wonder why I never hear the homes bitch about traffic? This is hideous!" But that didn't last long. Within minutes my old treachery on the blacktop had returned and I was sailing smoothly in the next-to-fastest lane. As my comfort level on the road returned to me, so did many other things. It proved to be a journey of reminders and affirmations, five hours alone with myself, my music, my car, the road, my desert and my confidence. No one accidentally chirped me and I didn't once chirp any one of them. I soaked up sunshine through the windshield and I did not feel pressured or hurried whatsoever. I took a break and did it well.

Although I would rather have a MapQuest printout that tells me specifically to go from Highway 93 South for 132 miles to Highway 40 East for 79 miles, I had a stretch of journey I'd have to manage by eyeballing. The construction delays on the $240 million Hoover Dam bypass are notorious, and I didn't intend to sit for an hour or more roasting in my own juices. There is an alternate route that adds about 23 miles and half-an-hour to the trip, and that suited me. The trouble is, I'd only taken that route once, and in the opposite direction. Some of the highway numbers were not known, and one has to watch for a couple of turnoffs that are easily missed. Mother Badger had reminded me, "One can easily end up in Needles, CA, by missing that turnoff!" Needles is hours out of the way. Comfort and confidence settled around my shoulders, warm like a shawl. I passed through Searchlight and thought of it as Senator Harry Reid's childhood home and a mark along the road to where we camp at Paiute Gorge. I spotted the sign announcing Cal-Nev-Ari in 9 miles, right near where the three state boundaries meet. I was musing about the community established by Nancy and Slim Kidwell in the 1960s, its 400 residents, casino, motel, RV park, mobile home park, convenience store and airport . . . airport? Yep. FAA designated. As I spied the marker for my turnoff, I was reminded I am good at observing signs and landmarks. I have a good head for maps and I'm logical. I know how to get around. And I knew precisely where I was located on the map.

Soon I was descending through the sharp, craggy red and caramel sandstone to the Colorado River gorge where Laughlin lies. No more merry e-mailing on the BlackBerry from behind the wheel, as the road took a sharp downhill grade and there were switchbacks to be dealt with. Now I pulled over, rather than driving while intexticated. I was reminded how much I love my Mojave Desert (and the Sonoran, where I would soon arrive) and how, if one doesn't have the privilege of going to the desert, one can derive much pleasure from driving through it. I crossed the bridge over the Colorado River and into Arizona, which always thrills me. Where I live, one sees more dry washes and sandy creekbeds than rushing rivers. It's exciting! I drove up out of the gorge through Bullhead City and crossed the preposterously named Golden Valley. I call it Arizona's armpit. When I spotted the wide vista of badlands, I knew Kingman was nearing. Kingman was about half-way to my destination, and after Kingman I had MapQuest directions right to Mother Badger's door. I know Kingman well. I know not to get myself trapped on the main drag where the highway dumps all travelers who then converge upon the many gas stations and convenience stores. I know to drive through the long place and stop at the very last truck stop which is never as congested. Although I didn't actually need gas, I knew how far away were the next services. One doesn't take chances. I bought a large coffee and walked through the aisles filled with ceramic roadrunners and resin coiled rattlesnake figurines. One wonders how much "authentic" southwestern merchandise is actually sold by these establishments, because they all have huge inventories of such items. Back in the car, I cranked up the custom music mix delivered to me the previous day, sipped at my coffee and drove out of Kingman. Some miles ahead, I turned onto another highway and it soon became apparent I was no longer in the Mojave and no longer in the transition between the Mojave and the Sonoran. I was there - in the Sonoran Desert!

After one turns onto the highway, there is not much "civilization" until one arrives at the Phoenix suburbs. There are long, long stretches of desert to enjoy and its personality begins to change quite suddenly. I climbed into the high, rocky reaches and was treated to my first view of a jungle of bear grass, green and bushy at the ground, with high, reedy fans standing ten feet tall. Photographing the bear grass has always been a goal of the man with the camera, preferably at a time of day when the sun shines golden through the fan. Alas, unfathomable to me, the desert here is fenced for miles and miles and miles. Pictures could only be taken from a distance, through fence material. Please don't fence in the desert! Finally, I saw the first iconic saguaro - indisputable evidence that one is in the Sonoran. There are some saguaros in Las Vegas, but they are not native in the Mojave. In the winter they must wear a burlap jacket, and they are not easily cultivated here. But they thrive in their home in the Sonoran, clustering into forests of the tall, many-armed cacti. If one steps onto this bus often, it may be remembered that I am starved for the sight of cactus flowers this year. And now I was in for a treat, for the saguaro were blooming in profusion! Saguaros can live more than 150 years and grow from 15 to 50 feet in height. It takes up to 75 years for them to develop a side arm. The state of Arizona takes saguaro conservation very seriously and it is common to see them supported by upright angled boards with soft pads protecting the cactus' flesh from the wood. Often large segments break off of the main plant and some very odd shapes are attained.

Early in my love of the desert, I was terribly misled by a gorgeous Jack Dykinga photo of a saguaro in bloom. I saw that the flower of the saguaro was as huge and showy as the cactus itself, and said so. This brought a laugh, for saguaro flowers are as tiny as the saguaro is huge! The esteemed Dykinga had been fortunate to find a downed saguaro arm and get right in on the bloom with a macro shot that made it look enormous, I was told. Today I know that the flowers are tiny, but can be abundant as they pop out on the very tips of the cactus' arms. Driving along observing the cactus, I got playful. I wanted to see the flowers up close and personal. As I am a woman who will not ascend a step-stool, it is unlikely I will ever be perched in any way at the top of a 50 foot cactus, there to inspect its blooms. However, as I whizzed past a particular saguaro, I saw that its flowers weren't terribly high in the air, and maybe if I made a U-turn at one of the infrequent highway crossovers . . . . It was about a 12-mile detour. I remembered that sometimes I've enjoyed aiming a point-and-shoot camera at something that charms me and sharing the results with others. The reader wants to understand I have no urge and I do not need to make fine photographs. I'm perfectly happy getting a crude likeness of the reality and saying, "Look what I saw!" And so, here it is: look what I saw. Later in my trip I managed some fairly credible pictures, but this was for fun. I remembered that I once liked to go away and see the sights and have some fun. I jumped back into the car and made my way past Snoopys (plural - Snoopies?) on the rocketship in Wikieup (don't ask me, I don't know why!) ~ "Hey, Snoopys!"

The highways almost completely bypass Wickenburg now, rather than go straight through the middle of town. I'd been warned about the two roundabouts I'd need to navigate, but I did that well. I have roundabouts in Summerlin, near home, and I've driven them in the U.K. They don't disturb me. And then it was the long, last, straight, full-of-road-construction 30 miles. Although I have visited many times, I've never learned the layout of the streets in MB's community. For one thing, the streets all curve and change names. For another, I was never the driver. But I learned that both MapQuest and MB had served me well. I pulled into the driveway, took in a very deep breath, popped the code into the alarm system and stepped to the back door. "I knew you were here! I saw the sun shine through Alfie's cat door when you opened the garage door!" Hugs were exchanged and each of us exclaimed about the other's hair. I'd never seen her beautiful silver mane cropped very much like my own, though a little longer. She'd never seen mine since Christine was put in charge of its maintenance. We chatted a little and she told me to take my things to my familiar room. Though I recently commiserated with my friend on e-mail about the stresses of traveling, as I brought my things inside and arranged them, I remembered that travel doesn't stress me. I'm organized and careful. I keep lists and check them. I don't leave things back or lose them. I remembered I'm pretty good at this traveling and visiting thing. I sent the promised e-mails to those who insisted I let them know I'd arrived. It was going to be a lovely few days! I knew it immediately.

In my ears right now: The finger-snappingest, most dance-inspiring hit of 1997, by three children. Amber loved it. I liked it, too. One heard it in the streets and the stores. I confess that I had a little difficulty re-entering my world this week. I was a little down. It's taken a few days, but I'm feeling pretty Mmm Bop right now! I defy the reader to play this tune and not want to dance around. In fact . . . . excuse me for just a moment, please.

Something that charmed me: The arrival of that 23rd follower charmed me. Please note that all followers charm me, but there's a story. For number 23 is Willy, likely the best girlfriend I have ever had, and since 1986. Oh, yes, he is a man, to be sure. And no, not gay. Not at all. But what we have is a deep, understanding, girlfriends kind of thing and I'm pleased he has popped on my bus.

One photo credit: J. D. Morehouse (Snoopys at Wikieup)


  1. What a wonderful trip! I'm so glad you rediscovered a part of yourself that was lost. I can only imagine that your time with MB was like one long, cozy, comfortable hug. I miss having a grandma-person in my life who thinks I'm the cats meow. Oh and the saguaro flowers are beautiful! (So what's next? What's the next step in rediscovering yourself??) :-)

    WV: Sermea
    Sermea up some of what Lime's having!

  2. I absolutely adore traveling alone. It's nice to see people when I get someplace, though.

    This was such a nice ride with you. I'm hoping we get to here more about what you did or talked about with Mother Badger.

  3. Another fine ride on the bus. Wv - ruclmba out of the funk after this nice trip?

  4. Oh I loved that ....it took my to exotic places .....thanks .....x

  5. Sounds like a great trip. I've never seen the Southwest other than in movies and the like, but it certainly looks beautiful.

    Now that I've dispensed with the pleasantries, I have to say, it looks like that one cactus is giving me the finger!

  6. Did you see any sagebrush? I'm reading Annie Proulx and she bangs on about it...wondered if it was another name for the puny flowered cacti?

    I love roundablouts - no one in NZ knows how to use them - which is great for me...sheee and I'm away...they're great for avoiding traffic queues..when two lanes are available and everyone else is in the left waiting patiently for a gap to go left, I slip up the right, whizz round and have neatly jumped the queue! Or, when at a junction joining a very busy road and needing to pull across traffic to go right, I take the left road instead and zoom along to the roundabout, scoot round and am home in a jiffy without having to cross busy lanes. Super invention - there should be more, and they're such fun to drive around...I sometimes do a couple circuits just for fun...not the tiny weeny ones though...they are just for laughs..

    This was a lovely trip - thank you..I look forward to hearing about your time with MB :)

  7. @ All the Commenters ~ Well, I stepped away from the computer for a few days - purposely - thereby proving I am capable of doing that. I thank everyone for your nice comment, and will do my best to comment back decently. I will be honest and say that I needed a little blogging break. I will be honest and say when one pops back on, if there are comments waiting, one loses step just a little. Better to read or to write?

  8. @ Doozyanner ~ It was the loveliest trip I've taken in forever, and I'm going to be straight and say I had a little difficulty with re-entry. Hmmm . . . the next steps in rediscovering myself . . baby step, wobble, write about it, next baby step.

  9. @ Kass ~ I love travel, too, and I'd forgotten that. I won't neglect myself so badly in the near future. Of course, you're going to hear more about our visit and also have a look at a few credible pictures I took. I'm slow writing just now as I ease back into the clutch of the iron fist in a velvet glove.

  10. @ Tag ~ Ruclmba home and took a little downward spiral, I'm sorry to tell, friend. But I was smiling today and returned to the blogs. I'll do well very soon.

  11. @ artymess ~ Lorna, you made me giggle. I recently read your post about your trip to Wales and it made me tear up it was so exotic and wonderful. I love my desert, obviously, but I don't think of it as exotic. It's just what we have here. I need to open my eyes wider and view it as a stranger would. I'm surely happy you've popped onto my bus!

  12. @ Kirk ~ it is a wonderful place to live, Kirk. Some people can't see the beauty. It is harsh and extreme. And I love it. However, I'd berate a saguaro that flipped you off. And speaking of cacti that give the finger, Mother Badger has sent me a forward I need to share. So many subjects, so little time to write.

  13. @ Rachel ~ Annie Proulx is wonderful! And you have a treat in store, Rachel. Sagebrush is Nevada's official state flower! It is not a glorious, attractive plant, but more ubiquitous and tough and scrubby. It has to be, to make it as the Nevada state flower. Based on other times you've written about the time you spend behind the wheel, I think we could tear up some asphalt together! You see, I'll also purposely do another round or two in the roundabout, just for the fun of it. I'll soon be back at my writing, and "roundablouts" is good enough for me.

  14. Take your time - good to have you back but I appreciate and "get" the need to have breaks!

    Just realised all my left rightness will be t'other way round for you, too, doh! Just reverse what I said...read it backwards...oh, no don't do that...actually, do, it's fun...it sounds Norwegianesque!