Doing My Part For the Cause

Most of my blog friends confess to having lost their mojo during this time of sequestration, as if their inspiration to write comes from the stimulation of interaction with others. Since my life has changed very little, I have no such excuse. I’ve just become a crotchety old lady, bereft of humor.

Like many, I’ve tackled long-procrastinated tasks, like divvying up Mum’s cremains. Each of her nieces have requested a piece of her, so it’s up to me to get a scoop of grandma shipped to them.

This is a selfie of Mum and me. I miss her every day but I’m grateful that she is not here to weather this crisis. She would have not been able to process the information she saw on Fox News (not that I can!) and she would have been in a constant turmoil.

This is her urn, a carved piece of juniper driftwood that I picked up in the San Juan Islands, several years ago. It’s cedar so it smells lovely.

Thankfully, mountain biking and hiking are still permitted in our neck of the woods, though the trails closest to parking lots are more populated than normal. Sadie and I don’t have any trouble escaping the madding crowd.

Sadie catches her breath before we begin the descent of Roller Coaster…
an E-ticket ride, for sure.

My sister Babs has been forced to take up cooking again which gives us something to commiserate about. Menu planning for “mates” who have polar opposite tastes to our own is challenging. I made this gorgeous lentil soup that included coriander seeds and cumin seeds which Mike immediately deemed too exotic for his taste. I ate it for a week and never tired of it.

Chunks of butternut squash, Rotelle tomatoes, and spinach add texture and color to a pot of yellow lentils.

The only excitement (if you can call it that) was a hike my favorite niece (MFN) Tara enticed me into doing one afternoon. She called around 3:00 to tell me she was going to hike up Morton Peak at 4:00, did I want to go? No-brainer! I loaded up my hydration pack, snapped ID on the dogs, and leapt at the chance to spend time with MFN. Morton Peak is a fire road (that’s a dirt road to those of you who live in more humid climates) that ascends about 2,000 feet to a now defunct fire lookout tower in about three miles.

Tara, 13 years my junior with long legs, scampered up the trail at a pace that had me unable to hold up my end of the conversation. Knowing that it was a short hike, I pushed the pace to keep up. At the top, Tara bemoaned the fact that we were too early to observe the sunset that promised to be spectacular in the stormy sky. In a moment of insanity, I suggested that we could descend via the single track that ended six miles below. We had two hours of daylight remaining, so we called my sister to arrange for a shuttle back to my car, and set off down the trail.

The trail had suffered some damage from the heavy rains. It was rutted, rocky, and badly overgrown, all of which slowed our descent. Still a couple of miles from the bottom, the shadows grew long and the light began to fade.

By the time we reached the dirt road at the end of the single track, it was all but dark and we still had a mile to go to reach the paved road where my sister waited. Coyotes began their evening chorus; we were serenaded from several directions so I leashed Sadie just to make sure she wasn’t tempted to go native. Eagerly, she preceded me down the final descent, a steep, gnarly motorcycle track, barely visible in the dark, as Tara called encouragement from below. I had to remind Sadie that her assistance on the downhill was NOT appreciated.

Then the real danger began…we, my sister, my niece and me, failed to practice good social distancing and all rode in the same car back to pick up my car, which, much to our relief had not been vandalized in the dark.

Girls Gone Mild Again

The previous trip only whetted my appetite for another Lone Pine adventure, so two weeks later I persuaded Sally and her daughter Jordan to join me in a four-day Girls Gone Mild adventure. I re-packed the trailer, replenishing my wine supply with TWO bottles this time.

The girls and I hit the road bright and early, feeling rather optimistic as the car was outfitted with new brakes and shocks and the trailer had new tires. Sally and Jordan would follow later in the day when they finished their work day. We encountered a detour, got stuck behind a slow-moving truck, and came upon an accident that required a change of course on a dirt road, but otherwise had clear sailing.

About an hour from our destination I saw a sign saying, “Fossil Falls” which piqued my interest. But being eager to find a good campsite in Lone Pine, I vowed to check it out on the return trip.

The Lone Pine Campground was technically closed for the season but there were a few first-come-first-served sites available and they were free of charge as all of the water faucets were shut off to prevent freezing. Thankfully the pit toilets were open. I selected a site and prepared to back the trailer in when the man camping in the next site walked over to greet me. He kindly offered to guide me into my spot which I gratefully accepted. I’m not exactly proficient at backing and it usually takes me a few tries to get the trailer exactly where I want it. Once I was where I wanted to be, he went back to his own site while I set up the Wanderlust.

Dusk in Lone Pine Campground

Evening falls early in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and by the time I had the trailer level, the refrigerator turned on, and my camp set up, it was growing cool. My new neighbor (Jeff), seeing that I was unaccompanied (other than the dogs) came over and invited me to join him for dinner. He was making pork loin and grilled asparagus. I paused for the briefest moment before accepting his invitation. I offered to contribute salad and wine but he assured me he had it all covered. I had time to take the girls for a short walk before dinner would be served.

Moonrise over the Alabama Hills

By the time we returned, Jeff had his picnic table set for two though I had offered to bring my own plate and flatware. Dishwashing isn’t my favorite task when camping so I didn’t expect him to provide the meal AND do the dishes but he explained that he was a sea kayaking guide by profession and was quite practiced at feeding groups from his camp stove. And sure enough, he effortlessly laid out a four course meal fit for royalty. I offered to do the dishes but he waved me off and by the time I’d gone to my trailer and slipped into something more comfortable (polar fleece pants, a down jacket, and hat), he had everything washed and stowed away in the bear box. He built a fire and offered me dessert, a pudding cup, but I declined.

By 7:30 we were in bed…he in his tent, me and my dogs in my trailer. I couldn’t help but wonder at how different things would have gone forty years ago when we would have lingered around the fire until we had finished a bottle of wine. But now even a man eight years younger than I was no temptation.

Sally and Jordy pulled in around 10:00 by which time the girls and I were ready to make a restroom run. They decided it was too much trouble to set up a tent in the dark, besides it was really COLD; so, they folded the back seat down in the SUV and slept in the car.

Sunrise on Mt. Whitney

For the next two days we explored the area around our campground, beginning with breakfast at the Alabama Hills Cafe, a favorite with the locals and tourists alike.

Jordy examines a cactus in the Alabama Hills
Sadie the Wonder Dog

We invited Jeff to join us for a dinner of spaghetti and salad which he accepted. We ate inside the trailer because the breeze was cold and the trailer was snug and almost warm.

Tea and Story time

The Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail begins at the campground in scrub brush and ascends through several climate zones in just four miles.

Owens Valley Overlook
Looking up the Whitney Portal
Crossing Meysan Creek

By the end of the day the dogs were ready for bed.

As always, it was time to head home long before we were tired of exploring. It helped that we had one more place to stop on the way home. Fossil Falls is a former river bed that once flowed through the volcanic rock at the southern end of the Owens Valley. The river has long ago changed course but the channel carved by it remains.

I found this in my drafts file and figured I might as well post it as I just received a notice from Valley of Fire that my campsite reservation for next week has been cancelled due to the threat of Covid-19.

Toilet Paper Hoarding – A National Pandemic

Several months ago, I read David Quammen’s book Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. So, I wasn’t exactly taken by surprise when Covid-19 began making its way around the globe. What did surprise me was that toilet paper suddenly became an American obsession. Had one of the symptoms of the virus been loose bowels, it would have made some sense, but it’s a respiratory infection and, ironically, there’s been no run on facial tissue. Americans appear to have a fixation on cleanly-wiped back sides.

My concession to the panic has been to plan my grocery shopping so that I need shop only once a week, rather than three times. We eat a ton of fresh vegetables and fruits, so this is a bigger sacrifice than one might think. I usually make a trip to Costco only when I need gas which is about every three weeks. Today was the day.

My sister agreed to join me even though she didn’t need anything, and we spent our time together discussing our response to the viral threat. She said she wasn’t going to modify her routine and I pointed out that anything she brought home she brought home to her daughters and me as well. That was sobering. At any rate, our risky immersion in the Costco cauldron of humanity was averted by the fact that we couldn’t get near the place. A half mile from the parking lot, traffic was backed up in gridlock from every direction. Evidently word had gotten out that Costco had toilet paper, though they were limiting it to two packages of 24 rolls per customer.

Assuming that toilet paper production will continue into the foreseeable future, we aborted our mission and steered a course for the local paint store. Disposable neoprene gloves do seem like a reasonable response to a pandemic, so I figured that the paint store would likely have a supply even though the local CVS big box drug store was sold out. I was correct and the lonely clerk even offered me masks. In retrospect, I probably should have purchased a box.

I feel like we were living in interesting times before this pandemic and now things are getting truly fascinating. Personally, I wouldn’t look to the government to manage this for us as politicians have a conflict of interest when it comes to our well being. The best we can do is tailor our behavior to the best benefit of our family, our community and society. If contagion is inevitable, do everything in your power to forestall its spread to give our health care system time to prepare. Stay home when advised to do so. Weigh the risks of every outing; remember the slogan adopted during World War II, “Is this trip necessary?” When someone you know is stricken, take care of them at home using sensible hygiene and isolation practices. Don’t panic. And don’t hoard toilet paper. We’re all in this together and we ALL need clean bottoms.

Boating in Mentone Beach

Ever since I learned that David Sedaris spends up to 8 hours in day picking up trash along the roadside, I’ve dared to go public with my habit. I’m not as obsessive as David is but I figure that since I’m out walking my dogs anyway, I might as well carry a trash bag with me. The dogs are more than happy to stop to smell the news along the way while I clean up after people who are, let’s say, less fastidious than I am.

During the week I fill my bags and set them along the trail, and then on the weekend I ride my bike with the kiddie trailer in tow and pick them up. David either makes up stuff that makes for good stories about what he finds, or he has much more interesting neighbors than I do. My pickings are primarily beverage containers and fast-food packaging, but then there are things like an ice machine, a kid’s plastic tricycle, a spoiler from a car, a jet ski, and recently there was a boat, complete with trailer. Seriously! I’m not making this up.

This was too big for my bike trailer.

As I pick up trash, I wonder about what kind of person tosses his/her trash along the road. Jaime, the security guard at the complex at the end of the road tells me they’re just normal people. He sees them drive to the end of the road and shove their household furnishings off the back of the truck, or pull down their pants and squat to pee (or worse), or climb into the back seat for a quick tryst, or simply park and consume a six-pack and listen to the radio. This leads me to speculate on what their home life must be like if it’s preferable to do these things at the end of my street. I can conjure up whole back stories of these common folks and how they came to litter my hiking trail.

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Another activity that goes on in the dark of night, or at least when I’m not there, is spinning a vehicle in circles. Evidence indicates that the gist of the game is that one circle an object, here it’s a derelict tire, churning up gravel and dirt, at a high rate of speed. I can’t really appreciate the allure of putting unnecessary wear and tear on a vehicle, but my great-nephew explained that “burning” is great fun. He explained that he had purchased five extra wheels just to put spare tires on them so that when one set was burned out, they could be instantly replaced with another set. The look on my face when he explained this to me must have conveyed my utter lack of comprehension because he quickly returned to working on his car.

I’ve made it my job to keep Opal Avenue trash free from the highway to the Santa Ana River, which is about 1 1/2 miles. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s proving to be a Sisyphean task, much like painting the San Francisco Bay bridge. Before I get to the end of the road, the part I’ve cleaned is a mess again. Whatever happened to the ditty, “Please, please don’t be a litter bug…cuz every litter bit hurts”?

Image result for Sisyphean task graphics"

Survey Says…

The questions below are copied from muriopsis’ latest post which was from smlret’s “My Blog – Just another site” who took it from lifelessons, who copied them from another blogger. She suggested a simple cut and paste to a new post, adjusting answers to each question, and adding a link to the comments in her post A Different Perspective . I’m not normally fond of these “questionnaires,” but I’m playing along and would love to read your answers!

1. Do you like mustard? “Do you have any Grey Poop on?”
2. Choice of carbonated drink? Like Muri, I don’t drink carbonated beverages but back in the day it would have been Coke or Pepsi,especially with Mexican food!
3. Do you own a gun? Nope. I rely on my ever-ready, vegetarian-induced, eye-watering supply of flatulence…and my winning personality. I also have a Kunming Wolfdog who looks rather formidable and a Border Collie who is.

4. Whiskey, Tequilla, Rum or Vodka? Yo prefieroTequila! The more I drink, the more I become convinced that I speak Spanish.
5. Hot dogs or Cheeseburgers? No thank you.
6. Favorite Type Of Food? Whatever you’re cooking.
7. Do you believe in ghosts? Only long enough to enjoy a good movie. Truly, Madly, Deeply is my favorite ghost story.

8. What do you drink in the mornings? Cafe con leche, cafe au lait, coffee rich and aromatic with whole milk…or oat milk if I’m being good.
9. Can you do a 100 Pushups? Is there a time limit? Say a week?
10. Summer, Winter, Spring or Fall?? Yes! Spring, fall, winter!!! Summer not so much.
11. Favorite hobby? Well, that’s a no brainer. Mountain biking followed by lunch.
12. Tattoos? Do scars count?
13. Do you wear glasses? Yes, protective glasses, gloves, helmet, and knee and elbow guards.
14. Phobias? Nope.
15. Nickname? MFN calls me Jud to my face; heaven knows what they call me when I’m not around.
16. Three drinks you drink? Water, coffee, Milk, wine.
17. Biggest Downfall? I never learned to curse effectively. (I stole this from Muri)
18. Rain or Snow? Oh, it’s so hard to choose…
19. Piercings? I got my ears pierced at 16. I developed a metal allergy at 40. Currently my ears have closed so the current answer is no. (again, Muri’s answer)
21. Kids? Only the four-legged varieties and my husband.
22. Favorite color? Depends on the season but spring should always be green.
23. Favorite age? 40 – 50.
24. Can you whistle? Far better than I can sing, but that’s not saying much.
25. Where were you born? Holland, MI
26. Brothers or Sisters? 1 older sister. I’ve never outgrown idolizing her.
28. Surgeries? One, unless you count Lasic, then it’s three and oral would make it four.
29. Shower or Bath? Showering outside is an unparalleled pleasure but a languorous soak has its pleasures after a hard ride.
30. Like gambling? Depends on the risk/benefit ratio. If the risk is falling down the side of a steep hill, it’s worth the risk; if the risk is falling into a concrete channel, it’s only worth it if there’s an impressionable audience. Half the fun of mountain biking is taking acceptable risks.

32. Broken bones? None to date…despite the risks taken.
33. How many tv’s in your house? 1 but I don’t know how to operate it.
34. Worst pain in your life? I don’t dare divulge it here because it sounds too trivial.
35. Do you like to dance? Yes, I WOULD like to but others would watch and laugh…or cry.

36. Are your parents still alive? Both died in 2019. They were 95.
37. Do you like to go camping? I’m a fair weather camper. I like good weather and a comfortable bed in a secluded campsite, with a canopy of a million stars and only coyotes barking.

Please join in! These are fun to do and fun to read and remind me of when I used to blog on xanga. All you have to do is copy (CTRL+c), paste (CTRL+v), and change the answers to reflect your experiences!

Is it Okay To…

In this era of instant and seemingly perpetual communication, many people of my generation have questions about the propriety of actions that were formerly impossible. For you youngsters, “propriety” is an archaic term for socially acceptable or polite, neither of which seems very important in high society or low these days. I mean seriously, when a Supreme Court Justice has to admonish the highest elected officials in the land to behave civilly, clearly the lines of decent behavior have been blurred.

So, I’m dedicating this post to the rules of cell phone civility. Some of these could be considered rules while others are simply guidelines determined by the situation. For instance, is it ever appropriate to defecate in the bushes of the First Christian Reformed Church yard? The obvious answer would be a resounding “NO”. However, as the famous Emily Post once said, “What is necessary, is correct.” Sometimes nature’s calls are inopportune and a three-mile walk home with a drawer full can hardly be considered an option.

On to the burning questions that plague us on a more routine basis. Is it okay to use the toilet while speaking on the phone? If you’re talking with a member of your family who, without hesitation, barges in to brush his teeth, it’s a no brainer. It does get a little more complicated when the person on the other end is a stranger or your boss, especially when your boss is a Reverend as mine is! Generally speaking, I would suggest that you postpone your ablutions until there’s no risk of questionable sounds being broadcast. However, if the entity at the other end of the line has kept you on hold for such a long time that ANY normal person would be expected to have to relieve herself, the unfortunate customer service rep is probably inured to the sounds of “plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is”. Again you youngsters may not remember that was the ill-considered slogan of Alka-Seltzer back in the day.

Okay, enough of the scatological etiquette. I think there has been sufficient discussion of where and when texting or speaking on the phone is proper; and those who continue to jeopardize their own lives and yours, neglect their relationships, and give unconscionable amounts of their precious time to their devices, are unconcerned with good manners.

So, consider this: Is it appropriate to bore your victims, err I mean charm your friends, with images of your grandkids, dogs, trip to the buffet on the cruise you took to nowhere (yes, there are cruises that make no pretense of taking you to a destination, the buffet table IS the destination) and your weekly Fitbit report? Again, it’s situational but in general you should share no more than what used to fit inside a wallet, or about six. Now IF your audience shows genuine interest (superficial interest is common but genuine not so much) and pleads to see more, you might ask to see some of their collection before happily scrolling through your entire Google Photos account searching for that really cute shot of your cat playing bocci ball with a gopher.

On that same note, selfies present a quagmire of potential faux pas. It may come as a surprise to some of you that it is now a common practice for men to send photos of their genitalia to women with whom they disagree. I think I can safely say that it is NEVER polite to send an image of a penis in its relaxed state to ANYONE! Men, if you are intending to intimidate a woman, there is nothing less intimidating than your limp weenie. Having once been a young, adventuresome woman, I can conceive of a situation where you might think your member, in an interested state, would be welcome, but do remember the life span (far longer than your carnal interest in the recipient) of an image and its portability.

There are plenty of wonderful uses for cell phones but all of them come with the simple constraint that they not impinge on the senses of others. I forget who said, “Your freedom ends where another’s space begins,” or something to that effect.

Wagging Tails

A happy dog’s perspective of the world

I stumbled, half awake, to the bathroom this morning, trying to keep my eyes closed and my brain stilled so I could crawl back into my still-warm down comforter and pick up my imaginary wanderings.

Morning dreams are only remembered for the briefest moment though, as I’m immediately brought to full consciousness by two warm noses nudging me and two tails fanning the chill morning air through my diaphanous silk long-underwear. I wonder at the evident joy with which Molly and Sadie greet me every single morning.

Their greeting conveys that they expect only good things of the day to come. And indeed, their lives are filled with doggie delights: breakfast (oh boy, my favorite thing!); a trip out to the yard to smell who’s passed through during the night (how interesting!); a walk in the wash with exotic aromas of chasable creatures (mostly unseen but nonetheless exciting); a dog biscuit from dad who rewards us just for being so adorable; a nap, filled with dreams of chasing, barking, and eating; a ride in the car; another nap; dinner (same thing as breakfast but even MORE delicious than ever before); yet another nap while Mom clatters away on her keyboard; and then bedtime, perhaps the best of all as our peeps are all safely ensconced just feet away from our ever-vigilant (albeit sleeping) watch.

When I come home from work, I’m greeted as if I’ve been gone for days rather than hours. Though if you think of it in dog years, I have been gone for 2.04 days. I try to explain this concept to young, working people who contemplate getting a puppy. The modern idea is that you simply store the little guy in a crate and give him a bowl of kibble when you get home from work. Maybe he gets a walk around the block or maybe you’re too tired, busy, bored, or preoccupied to even indulge the mutt in what is the single most wonderful activity in his life.


Deprived of socialization, exercise, and proper pack leadership, dogs become the opposite of what is expected of man’s best friend. I could go on for decades about how to be the person your dog thinks you are, but this particular post wasn’t intended to be about responsible pet husbandry. Rather it was to point out how a dog’s perspective on life could teach us how to be content. They focus intently on the good, praising it with wagging tails and quite literally $#!+-eating grins on their faces and sleep through the boring parts…dreaming of the good parts.