Friday, June 7, 2019

The first week in the Finger Lakes zooms by

   VALOIS, NY - The summer always flies by in the Finger Lakes for me. But it seems like this first week has been even more packed than normal.
     After arriving last Friday at the cottage, there's been the normal spring cleanup outside and in.
     But added to that was the Bicentennial Celebration in the nearby Village of Burdett, political events, an open house at Hector Handmade, music events every night and some mad dashing around to deal with a broken toe.
At Amanda's in Watkins Glen - ready to zoom to Valois
     Somewhere in there I had thought I would get back to work on the next novel. Maybe over the weekend?
     Summer is trying hard to arrive after a winter and spring that gave the region a helluva a pasting. But the weather prognosticators promise 80 degree temperatures in the next few days.
     More rain on Sunday. But by then I should be dried out.
     In the meantime there's no shortage of column topics for the Finger Lakes Times.
     It sounds like the vacation rentals in Watkins Glen are causing the police headaches again. The homes that were badly damaged in last summer's epic rainstorm are concerned about their tax bills (no income from summer rentals!). And the Geneva City Council is in the middle of a political meltdown.
     But those can wait a few days. I have a lawn to mow.

At home in Valois

First Finger Lakes' meal of the summer - at Village Marina in Watkins

Sunset from the Valois overlook

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Safe landing at Seneca Lake, in the rain, of course

   WATKINS GLEN, NY - After Wednesday's wild ending to the day, it was heartening to see a sort-of sunrise today with scattered thunderclouds here and there in Duncansville, near Altoona, PA.
     And so rather than dawdle, The Red Writer covered the last 200 or so miles to Watkins Glen quickly, knowing that more rainstorms were predicted for late today.
Radar screen shot as this is being written
     As this is being written, two gully washers have just rolled through about 10 minutes apart.
     As soon as the next one (expected very, very soon!), I plan to walk the half block to the El Rancho Mexican restaurant near my amiga Amanda's house. Admiral Fox reminded me today on the telephone that I loved the place last year. I feel a margarita coming on. I missed the ones served at son Dustin Fox's birthday party yesterday in Point Richmond. Reportedly, they were industrial strength.
     The Red Writer is resting comfortably in Amanda's side yard until I move the rig to the family cottage in Valois tomorrow. And, not coincidentally, it is not supposed to rain tomorrow. At all.
    And so the journey that started in Point Richmond May 3 ended on the last day of May 2500+ miles eastward, having touched base in 11 or 12 states. The number is fuzzy because I believe I was in West Virginia briefly Wednesday. Very briefly. Ditto for Maryland.
    Today did bring a real first though. Out in the wild hinterlands of Pennsylvania I drove by a hydrofracking site, the first I have ever seen up really close. It was  even more ugly than any photo I have ever seen.
     I'll try to wash the image away when I have dinner.
     Cripes, it's starting to rain again!

My neighbor last night at the Duncansville, PA RV Park

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Idyllic dinner, smooth travels then a tornado watch

     DUNCANSVILLE, PA  - So what is it with The Red Writer and tornadoes?
     A thunderstorm and rain, sure! It's the East Coast, it's summer. It rains. Often buckets.
     But before landing safely here this afternoon The Red Writer was huddled under a freeway (in the company of a half a dozen cars) seeking shelter from lashing rains, lightning and thunder and a repeated "storm shield" announcement of possible tornadoes.
The Red Hen in downtown Lexington
     None materialized (Gracias, Dios!) and the Duncansville RV park had a nice spot waiting when I arrived.
     I turned down a opportunity to play Texas Hold'em with a group that gets together every night. I burned up my luck driving blindly off the freeway to get out of the rainstorm.
     The day dawned beautiful outside Lexington, VA where I had a hillside campsite overlooking the truck stop. Scenic? Hardly. But it was 5 miles to the center of Lexington where I spent one entire day and evening soaking up the place.
     It has two colleges (Virginia Military Institute and Washington & Lee) so much history it's overwhelming, cool little shops and stores. And food! Great food. Gawd.
     My dinner at the infamous Red Hen was one of the best restaurant meals I have ever had. It's the place where White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave by the owner without Ms. Sanders being served so much as a breadstick.
     I didn't get to meet the owner - she keeps a very low profile. But I did give her staff a copy of The Devil's Pipeline with the inscription to her: "Resistance is Never Futile. Thanks for taking a stand for truth and decency."
     Weather permitting, I'll mosey another 100 or so miles closer to Seneca Lake tomorrow, staying somewhere in this fracked state of Pennsylvania.
     Any chance of tornadoes again and I'm sticking here at this RV park. Maybe play a few hands of cards tomorrow night.

The Red Writer's scenic overlook campsite near Lexington

Downtown Lexington historic hotel

Stonewall Jackson's garden

An older sister to The Red Writer... built in 2008...

Friday, May 24, 2019

Descending the Matterhorn with The Red Writer!

   MARION, Ohio - OK! OK! I didn't actually drive The Red Writer down the real Matterhorn Thursday morning.
     But damn! It sure felt like it for about 20 minutes.
     I did drive down  a mountain road that is, way, way waaaaaaay too curvy and steep for a truck pulling a 16-foot trailer - even as nimble a team as the Tundra and The Red Writer.
     I was coming down off Signal Mountain, Tenn. after a wonderful three-day visit with my friends Brynne and John and their daughter Sofia. All the emotions, conversations and fun of the visit were rolling through my mind when the GPS piped up and told me to take a left turn.
     I took the left, without thinking I was high above the city of Chattanooga and what a cliff-side descent might be like.
    Within moments I found myself in the middle of a hairpin curve so sharp, I had to back the trailer up several times to get the rig around the corner. I managed to snap a small emergency brake cable in that process, I discovered later.
     From the look on the face of the driver who watched in horror as I backed-and-filled, I was pretty sure I had - as the early Apollo astronauts would say - screwed the pooch. As soon as I got rolling again my heart sank, thinking of maybe 20 or 30 more curves too tight for the rig.
     It's a good thing I don't wear a blood pressure monitor because it would have red-lined or possibly exploded into tiny electronic bits.
     But some unearned divine intervention must have straightened things out just enough to let me slide around curves with relative ease.
     At the bottom when the road flattened out, I briefly considered stopping and kissing the pavement.
     Once on flat ground I smoothly sailed to a Southern icon: a Waffle House restaurant. I met high school amigo Jim Nelson for breakfast. He had briefed a couple of the waitresses about where I was and how I was coming down the infamous W Road. When I walked in, one of the waitresses looked at me like I was total madman.
     Not a madman but dumb enough to listen to my GPS when I should have read the road signs.
     How was breakfast? Great actually. And catching up with Jim great, too -  even for just the short time it takes to inhale hash brown potatoes, toast and tea.
     The rest of the day was standard highway ho-hum, with a few interesting stops and eventually landing at the Interstate RV park in Marion, VA thanks to Admiral Fox's on-the-ground, long-distance navigational support.
     The place looks like a housing development because the owner started with a 75+ RV space park that he gradually replaced with mostly small apartments.
The Red Hen in Lexington, VA
It's so peaceful - with just a handful of RV spaces left in the center of the complex - that I decided to catch up on writing several things. Like this blog.
    On to Lexington, VA tomorrow and a visit and meal at The Red Hen restaurant. Yes, that Red Hen, the one that declined to serve Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her group last year.
     At least I hope to eat there... The place is packed all the time and getting a reservation is like winning the lottery.
     But I was clearly lucky driving down the Matterhorn, er, I mean Signal Mountain.
     Maybe I'll be lucky again.

Brynne, John and Sofia's house at the top of Signal Mountain

The welcome sign at you drive in

Brynne, Sofia and Michael

High school amigo Jim Nelson and Michael outside the Waffle House
A 1907 photo of construction of the road The Red Writer careened down...

The Red Writer safely at rest in Marion Virginia...

Monday, May 20, 2019

Tornadoes on my tail, pygmy goats just up ahead

   PARKER'S CROSSROADS, Tennessee - The Red Writer's Tornado Alley adventure in recent days started in Roswell, New Mexico. A longtime local resident warned me about trying to find an RV park in Carlsbad, home of the famous Carlsbad Caverns that I wanted to tour.
     "If you want to park in some overcrowded, oil-roustabout man-camp for $100 or $200 a night, go for it," he said. There was also some commentary about pervasive petroleum odors wafting in the air and fights that broke out among camp residents for no real reason.
A historic service station in Shamrock, Texas
     And so it was I opted to head across New Mexico to the panhandle of Texas, not south.
     There I landed in an RV park close to the historic Route 66 town of Shamrock, Texas. I liked the place and the people running the RV park so much I stayed for nearly three days. One of the other RV campers I met owns a farm in Carlsbad, not far from the caverns. He confirmed that Carlsbad has turned into an boisterous oil 'boom town' - in the worst ways. But he offered me a place to park The Red Writer on my next pass through the Southwest.
     I just love that kind of serendipity.
     No longer after that, another Shamrock RV neighbor came to chat, nervous about the weather forecast for nasty wind and rain predicted for late the next afternoon. After nine months of California living my weather senses have been dulled to near extinction.
    Then he said "tornadoes, thunderstorm and hail the size of golf balls."
    That got my attention.
A fellow RVer fleeing the storms
    The next morning I left shortly after first light, joining a long caravan of RVs on Interstate 40 all headed east trying to get out of the path of the weather system already sweeping in from the south. I made it all the way to the eastern fringe of Oklahoma where my whole summer's cross-country adventure was nearly derailed by a herd of pygmy goats. And - OK - poor navigation on my part.
    If the owner of an RV park tells you "don't trust your GPS, follow my instructions," take their advice.
    I didn't and instead took a wrong turn down (Wait for it!) what was once a road but had devolved into a narrow hodgepodge of crater-sized potholes used as a path for goats.
   To be fair to the goats, there were a few Shetland-sized ponies wandering about, too, all curious what the hell this truck and red vehicle were doing in their pasture.
    It took some serious maneuvering to back The Red Writer up to the highway without:
    A. Going into a ditch or
    B. Running over any of the curious animals
    I really should have turned on my voice recorder to memorialize the moment, though I would have had to bleep out most of my commentary.
    An hour after the goat & pony-path excursion I was happily ensconced at the Sallisaw, Oklahoma Lakeside RV park - which, for the record - is probably miles from any body of water. But I was happy and filling up on wine until an RV neighbor came over to tell me the storm we both were fleeing  was moving our way muy rapido predicted to hit eastern Oklahoma (and our RV park) by afternoon the next day.
    And so it was I got up early the next morning and tore out again, this time with my radio tuned to weather forecasts to see just how #@$^#&^* far I had to go to get away from the tornadoes already wreaking havoc in Texas and states behind me.
    That proved to be Tennessee - central Tennessee in fact where The Red Writer has been parked comfortably for several nights with the storms just a memory. Clear weather and sailing ahead, it seems.
    When I arrived here at the Parker's Crossroads RV Park, one of the local denizens opined that "only fools and Irishmen dare cross Tornado Alley in May."
    Guilty as charged.
     On to Signal Mountain, Tennessee tomorrow!

Texas Route 66 RV Park in Shamrock -  planting trees is on the list of improvements

Parker's Crossroads RV park in Tennessee - no tornadoes or storms in sight
The pool at the RV park in Parker's Crossroads... closed until Memorial Day, darn it...
My new friends in Roswell, NM suggesting destinations for The Red Writer

Monday, May 13, 2019

From Santa Fe to Ruidoso to Roswell, NM - oh my

   ROSWELL, New Mexico - After dropping Admiral Fox off at the Albuquerque Airport Saturday, The Red Writer made a beeline, of sorts, south to Ruidoso, New Mexico where amigo Dave Tomlin and his daughter Lizzie were waiting for the trailer to show up on their ridgetop land.
At the Tomlin ridge-top cabin
     About three hours after our farewell at Albuquerque, The Red Writer pulled into Dave's driveway at his incredibly cool mountaintop getaway.
     No need to even unhook the trailer... And while that might seem like a small thing, well, it isn't.
     We had two great days that included red wine, dinner at a Mexican restaurant, watching 9-year-old Lizzie demonstrate her new-found prowess on roller skates and enough newspaper/journalism industry tale-swapping to file a book.
Deer neighbors in Riudoso
     Wait! There's an idea for a book! Journalism Tales Told Twice.
     After Ruidoso I headed for Roswell, New Mexico, partly to simply check it out and also because I needed to get to some warmer weather. In Ruidoso at night it was about 35 degrees - up to maybe 60 in the daylight.
     But the real reason was to immerse in the city-encouraged alien lore that permeates the town.
     The campground where The Red Writer resides right now has enough alien touristy stuff to make the most ardent E.T. fan salivate.
     Yes, I have my eye on a few pieces.
     As this is written, the sun is going down and everyone is huddled in their RVs, no doubt concerned about the rising wind and whether it portends some close encounter with the third kind.
     After spending a half-hour in a bar waiting for my to-go dinner order, I think there's little reason for concern.
    The space alien-weirdos were all swilling odd-colored drinks and unlikely to fly their saucers.
    I wonder what the legal limit is for green-blooded creatures to launch vessels into the ionosphere?

A rest-stop warning on the way to Riudoso

Farmer's Market in Roswell? Kee-rist, it was a Shur-Fine!

Sunset in Riudoso, New Mexico
The Red Writer at rest in Roswell, New Mexico

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

From Point Richmond to Santa Fe - almost anyway

   FLAGSTAFF, Arizona - The launch Friday May 3 from Point Richmond to head out on our adventures in the Southwest was bumpier than expected. That was all my fault, too many details were left until the morning we were to get on the highway.
Leaving Point Richmond
    The 11 a.m. planned leave-taking ended up to be about 12:30 p.m., including having Admiral Fox run back into the condo to grab things left behind - like the U.S. road atlas. Gawd!

    But from there it was smoother sailing-driving to the first planned stop, the Mountain Valley RV Park in Tehachapi, a place recommended by amigos Anna and Dave Froker who have spent several nights there in their to-and-fro RV camping adventures.
     In the morning the airport runway bordering the campground was busy with tow planes pulling gliders up and releasing them.
     But after watching that show for awhile we headed out, landing the second night in Kingman, Arizona at an RV park just off the main drag of the city. It was a quick overnight stop and by 8 a.m. Sunday we were hightailing it for Clarkdale, Arizona to visit longtime friend Veronica at her house in the woods.
     It's a beautiful spot which Veronica and her husband have made into a welcoming place to visit.
     Our Sunday-Monday visit was too short, but we needed to get to Flagstaff to see longtime friends Beth and Mel Tucker. It was 29 years ago that Sylvia and I were married on their deck.
     They were kind enough to put us up in their spacious B&B. I don't know if I'll be able to get the Admiral back into The Red Writer after the luxury!
     For an anniversary celebration, a few of the guests from that wedding joined Beth and Mel & Sylvia and I for a fabulous dinner and party Tuesday night.
     As this is written the morning after, we are getting geared up for a push Thursday on to Santa Fe, New Mexico for more fun with friends before Sylvia flies out Saturday, back to the Bay Area.
     And then what for The Red Writer?
     It's off to Ruidoso, New Mexico to visit amigo Dave Tomlin, then on to Roswell, New Mexico before tackling the long passage across Texas... I should have said, loooooooooooong passage across Texas.

Unloading outside Veronica's house in the woods

Veronica's studio in Clarkdale

Sylvia on a hike near Cottonwood, AZ

Entering Flagstaff - and yes, that's snow on the peaks

Anniversary soiree at Beth and Mel Tucker's in Flagstaff