Sunday, December 31, 2017

   My late and much loved Mother used to enjoy telling the story of my mis-colored pumpkin. It seems as how in my kindergarten year, everyone in my grade was given a mimeographed (if you remember those, you're old too!!) outline of a pumpkin to color as a Halloween jack-o-lantern. These were all displayed gallery style on the main hallway wall at the first parents' night that year, which was right around Halloween. As my Mom and Dad strolled down the row of scary and cute orange faces, reading the signatures and looking for mine, my mother noticed something odd down towards the end of the hall. She tried not to stare, she really did, but the further along they went, the more she began to have that feeling. You know the one I mean, where you know that something is just not quite right, and it has to do with your kid! Sure enough; in an endless sea of orange faces, right there above my scrawled name, was a beautiful red and green face leering at my parents. Initially,  Mother was mortified; how
could her baby girl not color her jack-o-lantern orange like all the others? Everyone knew pumpkins were orange! Gradually, of course, she made peace with the fact that I was just going to be a little different. Eventually I think she secretly began to enjoy it, as she told that story for the rest of her long life. So while I often say that I never really learned to color inside the lines, the truth is that I can color inside the lines and often do, but don't be surprised to find that I don't always use the colors you are expecting!

   I was incredibly lucky to find a soul-mate (in that same kindergarten class, I might add) who also likes to live a tad bit outside the box. Joe and I both have a sense of adventure and an incurable case of wanderlust, and so we have chosen to leave our comfort zone to wander in search of flavors other than vanilla. We don't really know what this New Year holds for us, but we know it won't be the same old thing. It will be new and exciting, interesting and terrifying, challenging and spectacular. This year will have a life of it's own in a completely different way than new year's usually do; it will be a defining experience for both of us ...and our little cats, too (add Oz-ish witchy cackling, stage-left)!   

 While we truly look forward to the adventure, there is a part of me that is loathe to leave my little cocoon here at home. Although I wasn't born here in Santa Cruz, CA, it is the only home I remember. I loved growing up here in this beautiful area. We rode our bikes around the
quiet streets and through the open fields throughout the neighborhoods until called in at dusk. We walked to school without fear and were watched over by friends and neighbors as well as our parents. That's not to say we weren't fully versed in being wary of strangers, but back then it was safe to run to a neighbor's door if something or someone scared you. Parents didn't feel the need to be in constant phone contact with their kids (not that it was an option then, anyhow) and in fact enjoyed "getting them out of the house" during the day. It wasn't a Mayberry world by any means, but for us kids it was darned close! So yes, I feel some sense of loss at leaving, but the truth is...that world is long gone anyway. The town I grew up in slowly dissolved over the years as the population grew and the associated problems grew all out of proportion to that growth. I once again live in the house I grew up in and we still have awesome neighbors, but the traffic is hideous and the junkies have taken over. I can't drive more than a couple of blocks without seeing someone living in a box on the sidewalk, and no-one seems to do anything about it. The powers-that-be think enabling is the same thing as compassion, and I don't see any signs that it will get better. Yes, I could volunteer and continue to believe that will help somehow, but the truth is I just don't believe that. I fully support those who do volunteer their time and energy; they are absolute angels. For ourselves, we choose to move on in search of our own future elsewhere, at least for now. Santa Cruz will continue to be home base for us and we will return for doctors appointments and visits, of course. We will miss our friends and family here, but staying in touch is so much easier in this modern communication age than it used to be. When my aunts and uncles did this years ago, we wouldn't know exactly where they were for months at a time. Now we can send e-mails any time we have internet connectivity, and everyone can follow us on Facebook and this blog as well (both at LnJ Photo Nomads).

   Strangely,I find that the people I will miss the most are the ones I see only occasionally and won't keep in touch with; the clerk at an often visited store, the former customers I bump into everywhere (it's still a small town in that way), the folks I don't know but see walking their dogs regularly. Have you ever had that happen, where you pass the same jogger on the way to work every day? Over time you start to nod to each other, then eventually wave and smile, and then one day they are not there; you don't see them again. Did they move, change their schedule, pass away, or just give up jogging? You never really know; they just disappear out of your life, and although you never really knew them it still leaves a hole. That is a little bit how I feel beginning this new adventure.

   I'm sure a few tears will flow as we pull away from the curb, but then the siren song of the open road will drown out any doubts and that giddy feeling of unbridled adventure will kick in and it will all be fine. Each day will be new and exciting again, just like it was for that little girl I used to be. Why did I make a red and green pumpkin, you ask? Probably because I was over anxious for Christmas to arrive, but I prefer to think that even back then my undeveloped child's mind understood that it was my world and I was free to color it any way I chose. We still have that same freedom today, my friends, so choose the bright and exciting colors!

   Happy New Year, My Friends!!          -Lynn, Joe, Amy, Milton and Rose

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
May all your holiday wishes come true!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

  Ghost town aficionados say Ludlow is a town that has died twice, and yet still clings tenaciously to life beside Interstate 40 in the southern California desert. Like many other Mojave Desert communities, the town refuses to lie down and be buried.

Rail lines near Ludlow, CA
 c. Lynn D Steed
   First established in 1882 as a water stop on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, the town (like so many others in the harsher climates throughout the U.S.) really began to boom when a rich gold deposit was uncovered in the nearby Bagdad-Chase mine in 1900. Ironically, the original ore discovery was made during a search for a local water source. Since there was not enough water available nearby to supply a mill, the Ludlow and Southern Railway was established in 1903 to haul unprocessed ore from the mine to the Atlantic and Pacific (a subsidiary of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe) tracks that ran through Ludlow. The ore
was then shipped to Barstow, CA for processing  at a mill owned by the mining company. Later, after the discovery of borax in the area, the Tonopah and Tidewater Railway ran tracks through Ludlow as well, thus bringing a third rail line to the small desert town. All water was hauled in by train from Newberry Springs, over thirty miles away, then transferred to stationary tank cars located in town. Nearby Stedman, a rigid company town located at the mine site, was also a dry town, in more ways than one; not only was water scarce, but no women or liquor were allowed in the town either. Not surprisingly, this made nearby communities very popular on paydays. The two options for weekend entertainment were Ludlow and Ragtown. Only three miles away, Ragtown had saloons and women in plentiful supply but it was only accessible by foot; downhill on the way there, but uphill on the way home at the end of a long night! While farther away, Ludlow was reachable by train; a passenger car was available for paying passengers and flatbed cars for those who had gambled their week's pay away overnight. The travel time was the same, but the lack of physical effort involved made Ludlow the favored destination for off duty miners and railroad men. The train became so crowded on payday that it earned the nickname "The Whiskey Express".

   While most of the town of Ludlow was owned by the Murphy brothers, Thomas and Mike, by far the most colorful and well known business owner was Ma Preston, the legendary "Queen of the Desert". Ma, also known as "Mother" Preston, was born Mathilde Pascaline Vigneron in Oise, France in 1850. She married Gustave Jacques Masquelier (despite the fact that he was reportedly already married) after which they moved to London and then to the United States. The marriage seems to have been less than successful, as Mathilde soon moved to a mining camp and became known as a widow while Gustave referred to himself as a widower.

Despite the fact that Gustave didn't die until 1919, Mathilde married and took the name of a Calico miner, Thomas "T.J." Preston, in 1888. They moved to Ludlow around the turn of the century. At this time, Mathilde was commonly known as "Big Mary", a reference to both her size and personality; she was described in print as "a physical giant", and was known to swipe railroad ties from storage piles and carry them home over her shoulder (seriously folks, you can't make up stuff this good!). While her personality was notoriously bold she was apparently quite camera shy, thus the only verified photo of her is the one attached to her husband's 1920 passport application. It was the first time he had ever been photographed and he chose to do it with his wife at his side (obviously, the rules were looser back then!).

   Some time after their arrival in Ludlow, Big Mary became known as Mother (or "Ma) Preston. While husband TJ ran a small delivery service, Ma's saloon was the couple's real moneymaker; rumors say that Ma Preston had owned a brothel somewhere (thus the "Queen" appellation), but this is hotly contested by several historians. Either way, there is no evidence that she ever ran one in this booming desert community; she did own a saloon, pool room, store, hotel, boarding house, cafe and several houses, all deeded in her name alone. She generously loaned money to those who asked, but did not balk at foreclosing on those who failed to make payments, which is how she acquired the Ludlow Mercantile Company.

   Things went along smoothly for the larger than life Ma Preston until the arrival of the aforementioned Murphy brothers. The colorful Queen of the Desert, who reportedly wore oversize dresses, wide brimmed men's hats, swore like a sailor and was known to pick up unruly revelers by their collar and pants and toss them out the saloon door unassisted, was not a fan of the two newcomers who set up shop next door. She viewed their competing store as a direct affront. They, in turn, wholeheartedly disliked the loud and abrasive force of nature who was firmly established as the reigning monarch of the town of nearly 1000 people. By this time, Ma Preston was also the wealthiest person in town (during WWI she would spend a vast amount of her money purchasing war bonds to support her adopted country) and her word carried a lot of weight.

   The first salvo in a long war was allegedly fired by the Irish brothers. It seems that Ma Preston enjoyed bathing in a water filled barrel in her yard, and one evening a group of exuberant youths tipped the barrel over; out spilled Ma, naked as a jay-bird, to the raucous enjoyment of all within view. Ma immediately placed the blame on the Murphy boys and went to their establishment to call them every vile
name she knew, and I suspect she had quite a versatile vocabulary! History does not record whether she took a moment to run inside and dress; I'll leave that to your imagination. According to the lawsuit later filed by the outraged woman, Mike Murphy lost control of his Irish temper and whipped her with a length of hose in a sensitive area. She was only too happy to further her legal cause by lifting her dress to display the evidence to anyone in town, and since she didn't wear bloomers in summer, her case was evidently quite compelling! She sued for $10,000 but received only a small percentage of that. Some time later, upon hearing that someone had jumped a claim she owned outside of town, the cantankerous entrepreneur vaulted onto a horse and charged out to said claim to confront the interloper. She found a tent with a single occupant inside. Although she later claimed it was an accident and she had tripped over a guy wire, the result was that she landed full bore on top of the man within who (you guessed it) turned out to be Thomas Murphy! His response, according to Ma was to beat her about the head and body with a piece of mining equipment. Once again, Ma filed a lawsuit with the courts; this time for $20,000 to include $10,000 for what she claimed was a permanent injury to her foot. The case appears to have been settled out of court, with unknown results. Since the claimant was in her mid-sixties and Mr. Murphy less than half her age, I would hazard a guess that the result was probably similar to the previous case against brother Mike.

   Sometime in 1920, Ma Preston suddenly announced that she and her husband were going to France to visit relatives. Since she was known to lock TJ in the chicken shed out back if he disagreed with her, her vote carried the day. Ma sold all her holdings for $18,000 (a huge sum back then) and off they went to Europe. In an interesting plot twist, the buyer was her arch rival Thomas Murphy! While Mr. Preston was expecting a limited stay (his passport application requested only one year) he was to be disappointed once again as his indomitable mate overruled him, bought a tobacconist shop and settled in. The couple ran the shop together until TJ's death in 1926. A few months later, at the age of 76, the seemingly invincible Mathilde passed away from heart disease at the American
Hospital in Paris. Her $70,000 legacy was divided among several nieces and nephews. Mathilde had always claimed she would die without her beloved TJ, and while the official cause of death was myocardial infarction, the more romantic among us would say she simply died of a broken heart.

   While Ludlow was prosperous during this era, the good times were destined to end soon. By 1916 the Bagdad-Chase Mine was unable to continue operating at a profit; it closed the operation, taking the Ludlow and Southern Railway down with it. The equipment was parked, but the tracks were maintained to provide a roadbed for the mine caretaker to be able to commute to town by motor-car. After a fire in 1932 destroyed many rail cars, the surviving rolling stock was shipped to the Phillipines in 1935 and sold for use on a sugar plantation there. When General Douglas MacArthur made his famous return to the Islands during WWII, former L&S engine No. 1 was found to be still in operation there.

   During the period of 1927-28 the Borax operation began closing down. Since the 169 mile long Tonopah and Tidewater Railway between Ludlow and Beatty, NV had been established solely for the purpose of shipping borax, in 1933 it too ceased service. By 1943 the tracks had been torn up completely, leaving only one active set of rail lines through the already shrinking community. With the loss of mining and rail income, combined with the Great Depression, people made use of the remaining railroad to leave Ludlow by the hundreds. Saloons, bordellos, restaurants and stores require customers, so shuttered windows and doors became common throughout the small community.

  The advent of Route 66 (completed in 1926 and fully paved by 1938) provided a brief revival of
The leftovers of the mid-century Ludlow Cafe
c. Lynn D Steed
fortunes for Ludlow, and a garage, gas station, cafe and  motor court quickly sprang up to take advantage of the increased automotive traffic. Once again, the town's future looked bright. Sadly, the respite was short lived. Interstate 40, completed in 1973, bypassed Ludlow. Unlike the the National Trails Highway and later the legendary Route 66, the new I-40 was designed for speed and convenience and did not closely follow the railroad tracks. Modern cars could go farther without needing to fill up. Travelers could now drive from Barstow to Needles in two hours, and new towns were born nearby to supply their needs. Many of the old towns along Rt. 66 just faded away, and sadly, Ludlow was one of them.

   The last time we visited this awesome little town, there was a gas station on either side of the highway, a cafe and motel, and a tire shop that may or may not have still been in business; it was closed when we were there, but it was late in the day. Some of the more interesting building remains are located a little ways off of Rt 66, although most are within sight and easily accessible. The thing to keep in mind when exploring Ludlow is that this is all privately owned property, and only available to us because of the kindness of the small band of hardy residents who still live here. Please be respectful when you visit; do not move or remove anything or cause any kind of damage. If asked to leave, please do so...this is not a park or museum. We have never had any issues with quietly roaming around among the deserted buildings.

   While her mortal life ended long ago in the country of her birth, Ma Preston's legend lives on in the crumbling remains of the Ludlow Mercantile building. While the structure itself is merely a skeleton of what it once was, it is still a powerful draw to the 6000 plus people who daily leave I-40 here in search of gas, food or lodging, and find instead a dusty little town full of larger-than-life ghosts.

The Ludlow Mercantile Company building was further
damaged by an earthquake in 2006.
 c. Lynn D Steed

    Make every day an adventure, my friends!                                                         -Lynn

Sunday, December 10, 2017

   My apologies for the long delay between posts, but we have been busy welcoming the newest member of our little band of nomads...Dolly! She is a 1996 National Dolphin 533 Class A wide-body motorhome. Although we loved Alice, our classic GMC motorhome, we sadly made the decision that she just wasn't the best home-on-wheels for us at this point in time. While the GMC Classic is without a doubt the coolest moho ever created, it is just a little too small for the two of us and three insanely active cats, so we sold her to a nice couple just beginning their rv travels and immediately began the process of finding something more appropriate to our current needs. What a whirlwind process that turned out to be!
   We sold Alice within a week of advertising her and headed to So-Cal the next day to look at several prospects we had lined up down there. As it turned out, none of those were quite the right fit and none of the other folks we called while down there even bothered to return our calls, so we headed back home after three days to re-group. Even though it was an unsuccessful trip, it was good to be back on the road again!
   Once home, we contacted a few more people in the southern part of the state (we were trying to primarily go south to avoid the
ghastly fires then burning in the Napa/Sonoma area), but then my brother saw a listing for a nice Dolphin up north in Susanville,CA. We had been trying to avoid the wide-body models due to their 8.5' width, but this one was in such good shape we decided to scrap our previous plans and head north instead. One of the things that attracted us to this coach was the fact that the man selling it was a retired rv service technician who had done several
upgrades and maintained it beautifully. From the moment I first saw the ad I started thinking of her as "Dolly", an obvious but nonetheless fitting name. I was hooked.
   And so, with one eye on the incoming storm and the other on future possibilities, we headed north. The storm was predicted to pass through before we would arrive in Susanville, so we weren't too worried about that. Our main worry was that we would drive 400+ miles and the rig would not be as represented, a problem we had on our southern trip earlier in the week. You wouldn't believe the junk people will try to pass off as "ready to camp in" or "I'd drive this anywhere tomorrow", both of which seem to translate to "Please buy this, as I can't afford to have it towed away!". Buying motorized vehicles can stretch your faith in humanity to the limit if you let it!
   The weather prediction for Susanville turned out to be quite accurate, but no one mentioned the high (6000'+) passes along Hwy 36 in the weather reports; we were blindly hoping for the best. There were the usual (and some unusual) delays the morning we left and the requisite wrong turn delay later in the day, so it was already mid-afternoon when we started up and around the southern base of Mt. Lassen. The sky was getting darker and the windshield wetter as we climbed ever upward, and then it happened; falling snow! Just what we flatlanders needed to make the journey complete (deep sigh and quiet grumbling). Fortunately Joe has driven in snow before, having lived part of a winter in Stowe, VT
    At first it was kind of cool to see the tiny snowflakes drift down, but then the snow started building up on the road where the sun never gets below the canopy of the trees...and then we hit the ice and slush! I wish we hadn't been in such a hurry (and perhaps had snow chains on board, or mud and snow tires on the mini-van) because the one spot we stopped "on the mountain" was absolutely lovely. The snow fell in complete silence; no birds, no animals, no cars anywhere around (because who else would be dumb enough to drive over a mountain in a snow storm except us coastal types?). Everything had a powdery softness to it; even the rocks and highway appeared to blend seamlessly into the landscape. There were no hard edges anywhere. Having had very little experience with falling snow, I was enchanted with the Christmas card scene around me and could have stood there all day, or at least until my fingers and nose turned a cool shade of blue.
   Being as how we needed to be on our way before the "polite" snow storm turned into a full-on blizzard, we didn't linger long in the velvety white wonderland, but moved on to slowly pull out from under the leading edge of the flurries. We stopped in the gorgeous little valley between the passes to make a pit stop at the local restaurant/lodge and the storm caught up to us again, so we zipped back onto the highway and outran it a second time. The scenery along this part of the highway was beautiful, even under cloudy skies and threat of snow. The small town of Chester looked just the way you would expect, with gift shops and diners, A-frame real estate offices and motels with mountainy sounding names like Timberlodge. You know...the road trip towns of our childhood!
   We arrived in Susanville and checked into our motel in the early evening, which left us just enough time to jet up to Dolly's location at Eagle Lake before dark. Of course, the road we chose to take along the west side of the lake was more closely related to a goat trail up and over a ridge, and was of course covered in slushy snow that was already beginning to ice up as the air temperature dropped like a rock and darkness began to descend. Finally we found the right house (after getting completely lost; stupid GPS system) and looked her over. As it was late and we weren't really looking forward to the return trip in the dark, we arranged to come back in the morning for a test drive.
   After a belated anniversary dinner at the mexican restaurant next to our hotel and a well deserved sleep, we headed to the bank and then back up to the lake via Hwy 139 on the east side of the lake, which we had discovered the previous evening (at our host's recommendation) to be a much better route of travel; wider, sunnier and just generally more pleasant. This road still had to climb a long way from the valley floor, but the slope was much more gradual than the first route. Also much more appropriate for bringing a motorhome back on, which we did a few hours later. That's right folks, we couldn't resist adding Dolly to the family. Of course, the long grade was all downhill on the way back to town, but the new rig handled it just fine. Joe declared her much easier to drive than her predecessor despite her larger size. In all fairness to Alice, she did have a missing shock and a broken leveler for most of our trip last July, so the comparison was probably unfair.
   We debated the idea of heading home then but it was already late afternoon and it was predicted to be cold that night, which roughly translates to "watch out for ice on roadway". We knew there would be a long construction delay on Hwy 36 as Cal-Trans was hard at work on pasting the highway back on the side of the mountain near the tiny town of Mineral. This is a long one-way stretch of controlled traffic which has yet to be fully repaved, and has not had the cliff side guard rails re-installed yet. Not a drive we wanted to make with night coming on; it was spooky enough in broad daylight in a mini-van the previous day. So we went to the local Wallmart to buy sheets and paper plates, plastic forks, etc. for dinner later. We briefly debated the idea of overnighting in the parking lot there as several other rigs were doing, but decided against it as we were not really set up for boondocking yet and had not filled the water tank. Joe found Susanville RV Park about a block away and we went there instead. We had to figure out a few things on the rig while it was still light, as it had already been winterized by the previous owner. We ended up being unable to hook up to water, so had to use the case of bottled water in the mini-van for cooking, etc. Because of that and our lack of any pots or pans, we just ran to the store and bought microwavable food for dinner that night (swiss steak in gravy with mashed spuds and veggies... not too bad for a desperation meal). During our years on the road as motorsport photographers there were many times we would have been happy to have a meal this good; we once had to select dinner from the only convenience store in town still open at three a.m.!
   The trip home the following day was long but generally uneventful. It was incredibly foggy going over the first pass on Hwy 36, but having grown up along the coast it didn't bother us too much. The only worrisome part was knowing there were deer unseen in the fog just off the highway on both sides of the road. Following the motorhome in the mini-van, I kept dropping back further and further in case Joe had to hit the brakes suddenly, so it wasn't a big surprise when a young doe sprang across in front of me about halfway between the two vehicles! We even lucked out at the construction site, having just long enough of a wait to use the onboard facilities and then we were off again on the homeward journey. After a brief stop in Red Bluff for burgers we hit the road again on I-5. It was smooth sailing until we hit the usual Bay Area traffic, where an 8.5' wide motorhome became much more of a challenge. At least the roads up there have a lot of lanes to work with, unlike...Hwy 17!
   I think I can safely guarantee that we will never again drive Dolly over Hwy 17, no matter what direction we are headed. Too many drivers want to share your lane with you, despite the fact that you need all of it. Joe was having to hug the right side line because all the speeding idiots were coming into his lane. Apparently most drivers in this area feel the dividing line is merely a suggestion for their consideration! When you combine right line hugging with the natural tilt of a motorhome in turns and add in really tight walls of rock, it is likely to cause the person following you ( for instance, ME ) to come close to having a coronary about 57 times in 20 minutes! I was really expecting to see a puff of rock dust followed by an explosion of fiberglass fragments and mirrors to hit my windshield at any moment. Fortunately Joe has a lot of experience driving large motorhomes and trucks because of his years running his transportation company in Hollywood, so we made it home unscathed.
   And so, a new adventure begins. We are currently in the process of installing solar, and
a new tv antenna. We are modifying an area for the ever difficult process of hiding a kitty litter box in plain sight (if you travel with cats you can feel my pain), and figuring out where to put all the stuff that was specifically purchased to fit the GMC. While this coach has far more storage, it isn't necessarily as perfect a fit for what we currently have. We have already installed new tires, as the old ones were in pretty good shape but past their use by date. We also resealed the roof, but we'll discuss that in detail in a later post.
   Before we can leave we will have to acclimate the cats to their new home, which should be interesting. It seems like most of the travelling cats out there adjusted pretty readily to the changes asked of them so I'm hopeful that we will be as lucky. Then, in early January, we hit the road for good!
Stay tuned for further updates and be blessed, my friends!   -Lynn

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Six months ago I would never have believed I would be typing this, but our beloved Alice has moved on to her next phase of life; she has new owners. We regretfully made the decision that she is just a little bit too small for the two of us to be dodging twelve hairy paws as our three "fur children" cavort around the coach under our feet. We kept thinking that, at eight years of age, our cats would begin to settle down. They had seemed to when Joe and I set out on our three week maiden voyage in our 26' GMC motorhome, and we were delighted with how she performed for just the two of us. We returned home to make a couple of quick repairs and install new air bags and a screen door, eagerly anticipating a re-launch with the kitties in a couple of weeks. By the time we unpacked our bags, the furry little critters had entered their second childhood and showed no sign of slowing down any time soon. They still don't. It's true that they sleep for hours at a time, but then they spend hours running full bore from one end of the house to the other, banking off the backs of the living room recliners, making scrabbling and sliding turns on the kitchen linoleum. Then they repeat it going the other direction. Endlessly. For hours. I just didn't see that working out in Alice, especially since the only chair backs available would be our captains chairs in the cab area. Having a cat with three hundred or so extended claws hit the back of your head while driving could be construed as a distraction by some. Especially some wearing uniforms with wide-brimmed hats, if you follow me.
   So, with much regret and a few silent tears, we listed Alice for sale. She was purchased within a week by a really great couple who appreciate  vintage coaches like we do, and I think the three of them will very happily make many wonderful memories together. Now the hard part begins. We have to find another motorhome that will make us as happy as Alice did (most of the time anyhow...she could be a bit of a diva occasionally). 

 We set out for southern California with high hopes last weekend to look at a beautiful Holiday Rambler at a dealer in Lebec (on the Grapevine). While we loved almost everything about the coach, especially the high build quality found in the HR's, the setup of the dash just didn't work for Joe. Since he does most of the driving, he needs to be able to have better vision from the cockpit. It wasn't that anything was wrong with the coach, it just didn't work for us. We looked at a Fleetwood Bounder there as well, and may return this weekend to look at it again. We looked at several in L.A. as well, but nothing was quite what we were looking for. We tried to look at a bunch more between SoCal and Santa Cruz, but it is amazing how many sellers don't return calls or e-mails. I guess they aren't all that anxious to make money. I certainly would be.
While we were disappointed to return without our next rolling home, we plan to go again tomorrow to look at some coaches that people want to sell enough to actually answer their phones, as well as the previously mentioned Bounder. We still lean strongly in the direction of the Holiday Rambler but nothing is ruled out (yet) at this time. Their are so many flakes selling mis-represented rigs out there (we were briefly sucked in by one yesterday) that it can be a slow process sometimes. We are anxious to hit the road again and it can be an extremely frustrating process, but we are confident that our next perfect home-on-wheels is already waiting for us out there somewhere, and since the journey is what it is really all about...onward we go, with tails held high (a fur-child reference; fur-parents will understand)!

If you happen to see Alice somewhere out there on the highway, blow her a kiss for us. More updates soon...

 Have a wonderful day everyone!     -Lynn


Sunday, October 8, 2017

1977 GMC Eleganza II Clean Inside and Outside.
This Motorhome is mechanically very sound.
The Engine was rebuilt by Applied GMC Motorhomes in Fremont, Ca.
It has new Knuckles and steering parts.
New torque Converter …
Applied GMC also installed a new headliner with insulation and resealed
all windows.
Brakes were rebuilt and replaced.
New Flexible Solar Panels. These panels maintain the clean profile of the
coach without sticking up on posts on your roof
New Radiator.
Following is a list of our additions to the new and rebuilt items above (done by
previous owner: we have receipts):

New House Batteries , six Volt 400 Amp Hours .
100 Watt Flexible Solar Panels with SunPower Solar Cells (300 watts total)
Bogart Engineering Power Controller and Battery Charger
Installed New Suburban Heater. This took many hours of work and engineering to avoid
cutting the cabinets, which is the “quick and dirty” way many choose to do it.
Brand new propane valve.
New Old Stock OEM air bags with five miles on them.
New E-Rated Tires installed one year ago, which now have 4000 miles on them.
New black tank and toilet, and fixed the Macerator so it now works properly.
New wall paneling (with insulation) in living area.
Re-finished cabinet doors throughout the coach.
Replaced fuel lines front to back.
Installed a  brand new 40,000 LB transmission cooler .This kept the transmission temps under 180 F the entire trip, with major hills and all.The transmission fluid is clean and smells good.
New alternator.
New gauges:  water temp , oil pressure, voltage.
New transmission temp gauge.
Rebuilt Leveling Switches for the Air Ride System.

*All in all over 50K has been invested into this motorhome over the past fifteen years.
*We would feel very comfortable in driving this motorhome across the U.S. tomorrow.
*We have tried to update this coach while still keeping the original feel of the coach.
*The original upholstery is in good condition.
*New carpet in cab area and vinyl wood-look flooring in living/kitchen area.
*Paint is in decent condition but not perfect .. It's fine; people compliment it regularly.

We have been very pleased with this motorhome, both in comfort and performance. We just completed a 3000+ mile trip to the southwest during a record heatwave and enjoyed every minute of the trip. The bed is comfy, the AC kept us cool, the coach was easy to drive, and the solar system worked great. All the appliances work. The macerator makes dumping quick and easy. In truth, we are only selling “Alice” because we have three very active cats who will be
travelling with us, and we just need a little more room.

The coach worked really well for the two
of us. If it wasn’t for the “fur children” you couldn’t pry this motorhome out of our hands. We set it up for full-timing and boondocking, and it will go wherever you want it to. As an added bonus, you will get a lot of smiles, waves and “thumbs-up” wherever you go...people love these GMC Classics!

Monday, October 2, 2017

When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair,
and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights,
let us remember that there is a creative force
in this universe,
working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil,
a power that is able to make a way
out of no way
and transform dark yesterdays into
bright tomorrows.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Las Vegas
and their families and friends.
You are not alone.
-Lynn & Joe

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

          He who has experienced solitude shall not easily become a victim of mass persuasion.
                                                                               -A. Einstein

Friday, September 8, 2017

   What, exactly, defines art? I am familiar with the typical definitions of course, but doesn't that define only typical art? Where, for instance, do we draw the line between art and graffiti? Is it graffiti only if it is rendered on something that is owned and treasured by someone else, or does an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere count as well? At what point do we accept graffiti as part of the urban landscape, a viable form of art that deserves a place in our culture? Do we ever welcome it, or is it always a blight on the landscape? If a significant number of people dislike a public piece of art, does that make it graffiti? I once heard music defined as "the poetry of the people"; measured by the same yardstick, is graffiti the artwork of the people?

   All these questions come to mind because I have recently realized that some of my favorite photos, popular among viewers as well, contain an element of graffiti. So, does this mean I am promoting graffiti as an acceptable thing by photographing it? Most of the structures in these photos are far outside of towns and are obviously abandoned, but probably still do technically belong to a property owner somewhere. Is it o.k. as long as it's "artistic" tagging, but not if it is "ugly" tagging? Who is qualified to make that call? Certainly not me, even with years of art training under my belt.

   I think we can all agree that two or three letters scrawled on the side of a city library is graffiti and not to be tolerated, but what if the midnight artist rendered a beautiful portrait of a famous author along with his or her initials? Does that then become public art? What if the powers that be painted a bad piece of art on the same wall to cover the uninvited portrait; does the new painting then become graffiti? If a community mural is altered or covered with new artwork without the consent of the original artist, is that vandalism?

   On a section of old Route 66 between Amboy and Chambless, CA there is an embankment where generations of travelers have left messages written in rocks, sticks, bottle caps and other roadside detritus. S+S proclaim their love from inside a rock edged heart, while Asia says just that; "ASIA". Is it a person or a geographic designation? We'll never know, and for myself, I prefer it that way. The mystery is part of the beauty; so, are all these people vandals tagging the highway with graffiti, or are they artists participating in an interactive highway art installation? Perhaps, you say, it's not graffiti because of it's transitory nature. After all, rocks are a natural element easily removed if desired; but do we really desire their removal? What about the petroglyphs left by early man? Technically that is probably graffiti too, but think how much of our history as a species would be lost without those simple "tags" left by our ancestors.

   I think it is safe to say that art is a constantly changing concept that adapts itself to the times, and what is art today may not be considered as such down the road. Art revolves around symbolism, and the definitions of symbols are constantly changing. What is arguably the most hated symbol in recent history was known in Native American culture as "whirling logs". It was a traditional symbol used in sand painting, rug and basket designs, and in jewelry designs. After it was hijacked by the dark side prior to WWII, the tribes stopped using the design (incidentally leaving us with a pretty good way to date native designs to pre or post c.1940). This is just one of many such examples, but I'm sure you get my point.
   So, will I stop shooting graffiti covered buildings in the interest of preserving art in it's purest form? Not a chance, my friends! Will I make postcards out of hateful messages scrawled on buildings and scratched on windows? Not a chance, my friends! I guess we each have to draw our own line in the desert sand and let others choose whether to step over it or not.

   Peace!         -Lynn

Sunday, September 3, 2017

                                                        Not all who wander are lost!

Friday, September 1, 2017

   I was born in Paradise, a small town in the foothills east of Chico, CA in a house amidst the pines. From there my family moved to another house among giant trees, this time in the tiny mountain community of Zayante, where the trees surrounding us were redwoods instead of pines. One winter of living in a home where the deck pilings were a target for the huge trees wallowing down the rain swollen creek below was enough for Mother, and the following summer we moved down the mountain to the (then) small and sleepy town of Santa Cruz, on the coast of California's Monterey Bay. Although it was my parents' choice to live where we have, I've quite happily spent most of my life either in the mountains or along the seashore, and I love them both. Anywhere I can be outside of four walls most of the year gets my vote; so why is it that I feel so strongly drawn to the desert country?
   Whenever I pick up a U.S. map, my finger goes to the southwest like a divining rod to water; I don't really know why. I know that I feel like I can really breathe there, but I feel that way in the mountains too. I'm not talking about physically breathing, although that is easier in the dry air as well, but more in a spiritual or psychological sense. When my husband Joe and I were photographing late model stock cars for a living, he once commented that their beauty lies in their violence. If you have never had the privilege of seeing these cars race, let me explain what he meant by that. The late models are very powerful, very lightweight cars that make upwards of 1200 horsepower and when they race on a 1/4 mile or 1/3 mile dirt track they are truly a thing of beauty. What Joe was referring to with his comment is how the cars are so powerful that they "stand up", lifting anywhere from one to three wheels in the air as they fly around the oval track, twisting the frame violently in the process. We've seen them do this for almost a full lap at a time, sometimes even longer, so we know that the violent can also be beautiful on occasion. Don't misunderstand me.. I am not an advocate of violence, it's just that some violent things can also have an innate beauty to them. The desert is like that; the contrast of triple digit temperatures in the day and near freezing temperatures at night could be viewed as a type of violence, without adding in the lack of water one minute and flash flooding the next, with nary a cloud in sight.

   The desert is without doubt a harsh and unforgiving environment, but it is not without beauty to temper the violence of it's extreme nature. Even on broiling days, there are the brilliant pinks and golden yellows of cactus flowers. The heat haze paints the distant mountains and sage in soft purple and grey pastels. Distance is deceiving; the faraway snowy peaks seem within walking distance and many a desert visitor has been led to their death by that deception. The desert is tricky as well as fascinating. The landscape seems a barren wasteland to most, but those who look closely see numerous forms of life that have adapted to life in the desert. A wide variety of creatures hide underground and in rocky crevices during the blasting heat of the day, but the place comes alive at sunset.

   Have I mentioned the sunsets? A truly magical thing happens as the sun drops to the distant horizon. Suddenly those dusty grey shapes in the distance become gilded in hues of gold and scarlet and lavender. The sky gradually becomes a luminous blue stairway to the heavens and tiny pinpoints of light appear, singly and then by the thousands; and unlike the light-poisoned metropolitan areas they go all the way down to the horizon where a thin wash of heliotrope still lingers, reluctant to relinquish it's hold on the day.  And it's not just glittering stars that appear in the desert night skies; other strange and wonderful things reveal themselves to those who remember to look up. Comets, falling stars, satellites, military aircraft that "don't exist", and strange lights that can't be categorized all illuminate the magnificent void above us. In the vast unlit areas of the southwest all these magical, mysterious objects suddenly become visible to the eye without additional aid. If you are lucky enough (or plan well enough) to have binoculars or a telescope, you will discover a whole new world splashed across the incredible night sky overhead.

   While you look wonderingly above you, the desert floor  begins to swarm with activity around you. Small rustling sounds in the sage nearby leaves you guessing, while the staccato yips and cries on the night breeze are more recognizable. Coyotes are viewed as dangerous pests in cities, but their chorus is a perfect musical accompaniment to the night out here on their own turf. The light breeze that carries their song is a welcome relief to the overpowering heat of the day, and the temptation to stay up all night is strong.

   Dawn in the desert is cold and sharp, and breathing is as painful as it is exhilarating. Starting from a faint blue-white glow the horizon line slowly takes on a soft golden hue, which then becomes a rose colored wash extending further upward toward the retreating stars with each passing minute. The rose soon morphs into a more vibrant crimson hue which transforms into an orange-red tint, then a liquid tangerine which in turn becomes a searing orange ball of flame as the sun rises above the distant peaks. Another day is born; the mountains far across the valley floor take on the mauve tone they wear in the light of day, the last remaining critters of the night return to hiding, and waves of heat can be seen building before your eyes.

   Daytime in the desert can be temperate in winter and the transitional seasons but is blistering hot during the summer months, and summer lasts longer here than in most geographical areas. Everywhere you look you can see decaying signs of hearty pioneers who took on the harsh conditions in search of a new beginning. Some came to start over, others were running away from something; many were heading west and, for myriad reasons, never
made it any further. Untold numbers followed the siren song of a golden temptress and spent years searching and digging in the dry, scorching hills and valleys; but gold is a fickle mistress and most who came to these arid hills, accompanied only by their complacent burros, left empty handed. Many of them never left at all, finding a lonely resting place somewhere out there under the blazing sun. To this day the amiable descendants of miners' abandoned burros mooch around the gold rush town of Oatman, AZ, and are a tourist favorite.
   Commonly visible throughout the desert country, abandoned cars, cabins, houses, mines, and often entire towns attest to the spirit of the early pioneers. They were a hardy breed who believed they could conquer the hostile climate, and some succeeded. Scotty's Castle in Death Valley is proof of that, but many (perhaps most) fell short of success. The desolate, abandoned ghosts of the silent desert are part of what makes this territory so mysterious and compelling. Within every one of these tottering structures, with windows like blank staring eyes, lies buried a story of someone's hopes and dreams. Was that dream ever fulfilled? Was this just a stop on the road to a better place, or was this dismal shack where the dream ended? Did the dreamer move on, or are they entombed somewhere under a broken cross concealed by decades of shifting sand? In some cases the story is known and a little research will yield an answer; in most cases the closing line of the story will remain forever a mystery, known only to the ghosts of the desert.

   Those of you who have driven this lonesome stretch of old Route 66 have seen the rusting hulks of Model-T's and other vehicles alongside the road; each one is a tribute to the undying American belief that we can make things better if we just take the bit between our teeth and go for it. Some of these early travelers merely exchanged the dust of dying farmland for the dust of the desert, while others passed through to the "land of promise" farther west. Many of us are the descendants of those early pioneers, as is my husband. My family came west later, but over the same inhospitable route as these earlier pioneers. There were roads then but not a lot of bridges, and it was a long, hot, dusty journey punctuated by flash floods and dust storms; I remember my grandmother telling tales of that trip!

   So as I sit here in the sticky, humid, sweltering 105 degree heat of a record smashing coastal heat wave, I still yearn for the desert. So many times I've heard the joke "but it's a dry heat"; those of you who live in an area with lots of moisture in the air know it's true... there is a difference! While I may not fully understand my desire to be in the desert, I do know that a preference for dry heat is not the reason; there is much more to it. I think it is really a combination of things, but mostly my enjoyment of open spaces and untold possibilities. Like those earlier desert dwellers, I see beyond the heat and emptiness to what lies within the heart of the desert; the vast spaces that compel you to venture ever further, seeking you know not what. The mystery and enchantment of fiery colors against pastel hues; the perception that sunrise and sunset are both a beginning; the feeling that no matter how solitary your journey you never walk alone, for the ghosts of those gone before walk with you; these things will continue to draw me back to the enigma that is the Great American Desert until one day I, too, joyously join the spirits on the night wind.

   Be well, my friends, and live the life you deserve!        -Lynn    

Sunday, August 20, 2017

   She was almost a ghost when the Guardian Angel of Route 66 came forward to save her, and it has been quite a ride for both of them ever since.

   Sitting astride the longest remaining stretch of the original US Route 66 lies a town that has, in a secular sense, been reborn. Located on the former site of an early settlement of the Havasupai people, it later became a stage stop on the Mojave Road. The name Prescott Junction was coined when the Arizona Central Railway Co connected it's Prescott feeder line to the
Atchison Topeka &
Santa Fe Railway mainline, which had reached this point in 1882. This information is of particular interest to my husband Joe and myself, as his great great grandfather on his maternal grandfathers side, Col. Henry Clay Nutt (1833-1892) was on the board of directors of the AT&SF Railway. He was also a major player in pushing through the legislation that allowed the southern spur of the railway to be built in the New Mexico Territory. The fact that Joe's ancestor was instrumental in the opening of the southwest territories to settlement is a matter of great pride for both of us. Joe is currently in process of adding Nutt to his surname, as he has always felt a very strong connection to that part of his heritage; perhaps the ever-present call of the desert originates there. Our later travels will take us to Nutt Mountain, which is located a few miles from Nutt, NM. We will also visit the Mt. Nutt Wilderness area in Arizona, which is just about 100 miles from the town which was re-named Seligman in 1886 in honor of Jesse Seligman of the JW Seligman Co. of New York, which had helped to fund the rail lines in this area.

   In 1891 the rail line replaced the inefficient Prescott feeder line and the junction was move northeast to Ash Fork. Seligman became a switching yard and shipping point for local cattle ranchers. The economy was boosted somewhat by the fact that this terminal was used as an overnight stop by the crews as they switched teams between Winslow and Needles, CA. The crew members rented cottages, shopped in local stores and even attended sporting events at the town's school. Some old-timers in the area tell tales of long time friendships forged between locals and railway workers, many of whom
considered themselves residents and became like family.
   In 1926, portions of existing roads between Chicago and Santa Monica were pieced together to form US Route 66, a move designed to make it easier for people to drive across the country uninterrupted. Up until 1933 the original roadway paralleled the railroad tracks through Seligman, but as train travel slowed and auto travel increased the highway was re-routed one block north to its current location.
   Route 66 continued to play an important part in Seligman's growth as an overnight stopping point for travelers chasing the California Dream. From the highway's inception in 1926 until it was bypassed by Interstate 40 in 1978, this section of the Mother Road carried Americans from east to west by the thousands. Refugees from the
devastation of the dust bowl chugged through in Model T Fords with their entire lives strapped to roof and running boards throughout the 1930's. In the early to mid 40's huge military convoys moved soldiers and the trappings of war back and forth across the desert, but it wasn't until after WWII that tourism really took off. Returning veterans flush with cash bought cars and the era of auto tourism and the family road trip vacation began. Many of those same veterans had fond memories of getting off the train here to march up and down the main street of town to stretch their legs as they headed across country prior to shipping out, and that drew them back here in droves. The southwest immediately became a popular destination and the quiet, dusty towns along America's Highway began to boom. Indian trading posts popped up every few miles and every wide spot in the road filled with motor courts, gas stations, cafes, and
enough curio shops to choke a horse. You can still see the sun-bleached remains today.
   Seligman was no different from other small communities in its appetite for growth. In 1966, the decision was made to widen the highway to four lanes to handle the increased flow of traffic. This was quite a project, as some buildings sat directly in the path of the added lanes and had to be demolished and re-built further back. The town continued to prosper until 1978, when the opening of Interstate 40 just two miles away shut off the flow of cars like the closing of a floodgate. When the railroad decided eight years later to discontinue using Seligman as an overnight stop for their crews, the combined drop in income proved disastrous to the small, close-knit community. Businesses began closing doors and shuttering windows along the previously busy main street, but the residents turned out to be a tough and resilient breed; desert dwellers have to be just to survive, let alone prosper in this harsh but beautiful climate.
   The town took another hard hit in 1984 when passenger trains ceased to stop there, leaving only freight and through trains thundering past on their way to enrich other towns. The Seligman community stubbornly refused to give up on their home and fought valiantly for economic survival, but their tenuous hold was slowly slipping away when one man, second generation barber and lifelong resident Angel Delgadillo, stepped up to the plate. Delgadillo's family had emigrated from Mexico in 1917 for his father's work. Angel was
born in Seligman in 1927, and he and his siblings grew up in a house right beside Route 66 near the edge of town. You could say that he grew up with the highway and had a front row seat to the parade of history that passed along it. He still does today; at age 90 he is still active and cutting hair for those lucky enough to have good timing. His barber shop, which was his father's before him, is today filled with old photos and memorabilia and is a popular stop in Seligman. Back in 1987, however, he was just a guy who believed that Route 66 could again be a major tourist destination if people could just be reminded that it hadn't disappeared with the advent of the interstate highway system. With this in mind he organized a meeting with other like-minded folks from other towns along the highway at a local restaurant, the Copper Cart, and the Historic Route 66 Association was formed. Together these creative visionaries planned, pushed and prodded until the State of Arizona dedicated the section of 66 from Seligman in the east to Kingman in the west as "Historic Route 66", a designation today shared by all remaining sections of the original US
Route 66. The plan succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams; when Angel and his wife Vilma first put a few memorabilia knick-knacks for sale in their barber shop, the modern era of Rt. 66 tourism was born. The tourists came, and the towns along the route experienced a revival that continues to this day. For it's part in the restoration of the Mother Road, Seligman today holds the title of "The Birthplace of Route 66".
   When we were there this last time, in July of this year, the town was bustling with tourists and Route 66 aficionados from around the world. I heard more languages spoken that day than one would in the lobby of the United Nations Building. People milled about inside and in front of every building, and selfies were being take
n every two seconds. A band played for an appreciative audience of foot tappers outside the Snow Cap Drive- In. This iconic eatery, built in 1953 (mostly of scrap material from the rail yard) by Angel's late brother Juan Delgadillo (1916-2004), is still owned by his family. Juan's famous sense of humor is reflected in menu items that include "cheeseburgers with cheese" and "dead chicken". The entry door has two knobs; the one on the right is a dummy and the one on the left gains you entry to the counter area,
where hundreds of business cards in a cornucopia of languages from all over the world hang from walls and ceiling (no, I didn't, but I will next time!).
   I was surprised to see that even our 1977 GMC Classic motorhome, parked in front of the "Rt 66 Hippie Cricket", a quirky shop with a bright yellow and orange vintage Volkswagen Beetle with a
toilet on the roof in the front yard, was attracting it's share of "photo ops" from other tourists. Seriously ... a VW Bug with a toilet on the roof ... and people are taking pictures of our motorhome! I love this place! People who come here truly appreciate vintage things. Nostalgia is King!

I'm telling you, this town was really hopping! It was around 104 degrees Fahrenheit that day and the crowd around the soda fountain and gourmet coffee bar was far too thick to navigate (I'm guessing iced coffee was far outselling hot), so we wandered on down the street.  Strolling through the historic buildings brimming with unique shops and cafes, diners and museums, was a wonderful way to fill several hours; truthfully, I could have stayed for days, and in future trips I may do just that. The beauty of this place is that all these businesses are locally owned, and while all are based on nostalgia, each one shows you the specific perspective of it's owner or owners; most all of them are eclectic, quirky, and just plain fun! It is the land of cute sayings on everything from t-shirts to magnets (my favorite was "I'm pretty sure my last words will be 'Hold my beer and watch this!'). There are no big box chain stores here, no every-flavor-as-long-as-it's- vanilla shops. There are a couple of "primary-color" gas stations and a "green-and-yellow" sandwich shop at the I-40 off-ramp and at the edge of town, but not here in town, and that is exactly how I hope it
   The town of Seligman is widely recognized as the inspiration for the mythical "Radiator Springs" in the animated Pixar movie Cars, and cars are indeed the name of the game here. (A less widely known fact is that the scene in "Cars" where the town disappears off the map after the interstate passes it by is based on Angel Delgadillo's description of how the 9000 cars passing through downtown Seligman
daily in 1978 literally stopped overnight when I-40 opened).

   The ever-present reminders of the
American car culture's influence on this stretch of highway includes the neon shrouded retro-style motor courts still functioning in their original capacity today, as well as vintage gas stations and cars of every era and style. Old road signs, oil cans and advertising art pay homage to cars and motorcycles in every shop and on every corner. The town hosts many rallies and car club events and fun runs every year, some drawing over 800 cars each year. Harleys and Indians rumble through town on a daily basis, leather clad riders flashing upside-down peace signs at riders on late model japanese bikes, the universal signal for "it's all good, Bro". International tourists "get their kicks" in vintage corvettes and t-birds rented from boutique rental companies, and everyone makes a pit stop at the Roadkill Cafe, who's motto is "you
kill it, we grill it", for a Splatter Platter or Swirl of Squirrel plate.
   Thanks to Angel Delgadillo, often referred to as "the Guardian Angel of Route 66" or "the Father of the Mother Road", Seligman and other towns along the original highway have survived and prospered as examples of Main Street America as it used to be in a simpler time. These neon-lit meccas of nostalgia have been embraced by new generations of young artists and merchants who bring their own quirky twist to the beloved age of the automobile. Young and old exist side-by-side, linked forever by their love of the Mother Road. Old-timers tell stories of the old days to the young folks, who will one day pass the legacy on to their children and grandchildren, who will in their turn become the keepers of the neon flame; and they will share the love with the tourists who will continue to follow the siren song of the legendary 66. Fortunately for us all, the legend has become too big to be stopped by a six-lane, and we owe it all to one stubborn man and his family and friends, who refused to give up on the towns that they loved and called home. If only there were more "Angels" in the world!

 Be Blessed, my Friends, and let the angels in!             -Lynn

A Mule Strays And A Town Is Born

   The handful of residents remaining in the town of Tumco lie namelessly beneath stone cairns a few hundred yards from the remains of the...

Utah's Escalante