Monday, November 24, 2008

on playing dress up

It seems as though all I've done for the past month is play dress up. I last left you with the spooky proof of my undead-ness. Somehow I revived myself just in time to accompany my favorite little cowboy to two Halloween parties. Em and I joined the ranks of the cow pokes to chaperone Gavin the Kid. He's quick with the lariat, and relentless in his temper. I think he had a blast gathering candy from strangers (though he didn't eat any of it).

Later on in the night, I switch my cowboy hat for elf ears, and Charles and I went out on the town. We went to a costume party at a club nearby. We were the first ones on the dance floor, and I preceded to rock out. Within half an hour, the floor was so crowded we couldn't move. It was fun nonetheless.

Next up, (the morning after Halloween), we celebrated Samhain, the Celtic New Year by attending the wonderful bagpipe-filled festival nearby. I was in heaven as the pipers piped. I can't explain how much I love that sound. Also, I found a wicked nifty hair thing. :)

Dia de los Muertos coincides with both of the aforementioned holidays. In fact, the modern versions of all three are sort of piled into one holiday for me. Their origins are based on the same ideas, only modern commercialism has infiltrated them. However, Tucson is the best place ever for sifting through the corruption and learning to appreciate the meaning behind it all. I did my own little altar for Dia de los Muertos, and then we joined up with the All Soul's Procession. My pictures don't do it justice, so you should all read about it and see the pictures at It attracted thousands of people. It was amazing. The finale was the burning of the huge community urn and a performance by Flam Chen.

All told, I had a wonderful time. Next up, I'll be cooking for Thanksgiving and then heading out to San Diego for a little vacation.

PS- I'm thankful for all of you. :)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

on being alive and being dead

Much has (of course) happened in the past month (ish).  While none of it actually involves going out of town, I still consider all of it to involve some tame adventure.  

Much of the month's excitement has revolved around Gavin turning 1.  He's quite the joy, and probably the cutest, smartest, sweetest, and most handsome little boy EVER (not that I'm bias or anything).  He made the Tucson paper, headlining the Foothills section, with his sweet little face playing some maracas in music class.  
I'm really lucky to spend so much time with Gavin. He teaches me incredible things.

His first birthday party coincided with Rhonda's visit to the serene Sonoran.  She flew in on a Friday afternoon, from good ol' dixie land.  That night we went out for a delicious dinner at our favorite bistro (which, by the way, is SO good that you ALL must eat there if EVER you are in Tucson).  Saturday we checked out the Tanque Verde Swap meet, where I found lots of stuff for very little green.  We shopped for Lindsay later on 4th Ave, and had enough time to wander around Sabino before the party.  

Gavin was a rockstar, loved all his new toys and books, and dove face first into his chocolate cake (we have a lot in common).  

Sunday we took her up to Mt. Lemmon for the delicious views and to see the Oktoberfest celebration. There were a bunch of old guys in lederhosen jiggin' out!  It was awesome.  I really really really really hope I'm that spritely when I'm that old. They did this dance where they lifted a bench and beat on it and jumped up on top of it and spun around. It was crazy cool.  Even better, I got to learn one of their dances and perform it with them and other spectators! It was a blast.

Monday she and Charles went to the Desert Museum and then we all went to dinner at Guadelajara.  Anyway, it was lovely having her out here, and I'm glad she got to meet my little sushine.

In other news, I finished Halloween costumes for Gavin (a cowboy), and two of his little buddies (a punk rocker and a clown). They are really cute, and I will post pics as soon as I get them.  I went on a day trip to the zoo* with them (the above mentioned cuties) and I loved it.  Being around lots of kids at once is my favorite. Luckily, come February, Em will have baby Isabella, so I will have 2 kids at all times.  :D Happy, happy, joy, joy. (*the kids were too young to notice, but the zebras were definitely in the process of mating, and it was really funny to watch the parents of older kids act all embarrassed when asked what was happening).

So, I've been loving living.  But then there's the other half of this blog, last night we became UNDEAD. 
A horde of zombies invaded Tucson and tramped through the downtown streets. I was attacked and all of the sudden all I could think about was how hungry I was for BRAINS...  GRRRR.  

I joined the mass of the undead as we terrorized Tucsonians for the evening.  Don't worry, though, other than a little hangover from too much brain, I'm all better today..... Or am I???   Muahahahahaha.

Monday, September 29, 2008

over the river and through the woods...

Realizing tonight that I have neglected this blog since the beginning of August, I find myself unable to even recall all the adventures I've had since then (almost two entire months of mischief).  I am certain that a few days in San Diego was well cherished, a trip to Sedona with my favorite baby exhausted me, a weekend camping in the cool climes of Mt. Lemmon restored my calm, and finally a weekend of Salt River tubing and desert camping with my favorite cowgirl was well met.  I have been alive and well and living the desert life. 

A trip to San Diego gave me the great pleasure of seeing one of Christa's dance performances, and having the luxury of seeing a whole day's worth of dancing at a really sweet park.  It also gave me some down time on the beach. Oh yum.

I went to Sedona for work, and it is still my favorite city in this part of the country.  I got to show to Gavin for the first time. :)

Charles and I discovered Mt. Lemmon (the town there called Summerhaven is aptly named) in all its glory: so much cooler than the city over which it towers (Tucson) and yet so close (half an hour drive up). It's quite the respite from the still hot heat of the Sonoran. Here it is almost October and we are "cooling off" to 95 degrees.  Anyway, we've been up the mountain twice, camping one of those times for a couple days.   

Camping out in Mesa was wicked hot but wicked fun. Christa and I did some improve moves on the sandy ground, got a couple of cactus spines in our sandals, and listened to the beautiful song of coyotes on the hunt in the middle of the night with our boys.  This was all after spending the day floating down the river under the Phoenician sun.  

Life is good. All our plants are growing well, and I got to eat the first peppers to fully grow. Yum. No trips planned in the very near future, as I am well occupied with the 1st birthdays of two of the coolest babies ever, and the making of halloween costumes for them and the coolest 2 year old.  

Here are some pics:

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

on following the rising sun, for a change

Whenever someone asks me where I'm from, I never know what to say. Do I tell them where I grew up? Where I currently reside? Where I'd call home? It doesn't seem like a difficult question, but it is. I feel most at home when I have no physical address; when everything I own is in my car, and I'm on the road to who knows where. But if I had to pick a place to call home, it would be hard. Growing up in Tennessee, and having my family there gives me obvious strong ties, but I'd say in the year that I lived in Massachusetts, I built more intense and meaningful relationships with more amazing people than I have every before in my life. So, when I visit there, and everyone says, "it's great to have you home," I don't even think to correct them. If home is where the heart is, though, then I guess my home spans the world. Even so, it was great to have yet another visit to my other home.

I left on Friday afternoon, and unfortunately, the journey east is a long one. I arrived just past midnight, and was picked up by Nick and Beth. Since I'd spent all of my flights sleeping, I wasn't very tired, but it being nearly 3 a.m. eastern time by the time we were home, I had to go ahead and crash. It was both weird and comfortable sleeping in my old room.

Saturday I got to spend the entire day with my favorite preschooler (not that I had favorites, I mean come on, I was a professional...). He grows so fast, but is always super excited to see me. He keeps me busy too. We spent most of the day playing some sort of ball or frisbee and making up games that involved both the ball and the frisbee, or even intricate sidewalk chalk scoring. At one point I had a ga-zillion points! It was awesome. For lunch we all took a little trip into Vermont, to his dad's store, where they were grilling out. He also has the coolest dad ever, so it was great seeing all of them. Later that evening (after more ball, of course, and plenty of snuggles), everyone came over for pizza. We sat in the front yard, pulled the truck up to the fold out chairs to get some music, and looked completely like white trash. It was wicked fun.

Later that night, we got all dolled up and rolled in to Diva's. I always feel wicked comfortable going back there, and as always, it's amazing to get to dance with Juan again. We rocked the stage, and even got loads of video footage for a couple videos he's pulling together. We discovered this cool new move as well. I'll have to post pictures later because they're all on Beth's camera. Anyway, it was wicked fun until the end where some drama broke out. It always sucks to get hated on, but I suppose it's inevitable. All in all though, I enjoyed myself.

Sunday, Dusty came to pick me up and our plan was to spend all day on his lake sailing. Well, it wasn't exactly hot and sunny, so we watched a wicked pretty thunderstorm for a while.

Finally, it stopped storming enough to set sail, and the ducks I had been feeding on shore followed us all around the lake. I wonder if they liked the tortilla chips or the olives I'd been feeding them better?

Anyway, we spent a while sailing, and then we built a fire (yes, it was that cold) and chilled around the lakehouse. Later Dusty made like the best dinner ever, and I even ate stuffed clams.

Monday I got to spend with my beautiful James, whom I have missed SO much. Oh my gosh has he grown!! But he's still the same perfect James. His drawing skills have increased a thousandfold, and now he draws a million times better than I do. We spent the afternoon building a castle with blocks, and even setting up a treasure island. We also played pirates on his cool new playset outside, where we had to fight evil smooshed up wizards and find a way to defeat the sorry sisters so we could rescue our favorite knights from the saxon war. All said, we were very successful, and we found the treasure just in time for dinner! I got to eat dinner with James and his parents, and after reading him a bedtime story, catch up with his folks.
They set me up for the night, and so I got to spend the morning playing with James as well. He showed me his mad new swimming skills, and we went on many more adventures. Jane took us to lunch and then had to drop me off at my old preschool. James was so very upset he couldn't even say bye to me. It broke my heart. He was sobbing as they drove away, and so I did too. I miss him so much, but I'm so glad I got to see him.

I spent the afternoon catching up with my former preschoolers (or those that are left), and almost all of them are heading off to kindergarten at the end of this month. They grow so very fast, but I'm lucky because they still remember me, and love to see me. Needless to say I got some mad snuggles that afternoon.

Tuesday night was the Renaissance Faire at Haven, which I had been anxiously awaiting. Actually, I made my costume with the new sewing machine mom gave me. It looked incredible. If only the night had been equally as good... Besides the dj playing some pentaphobe and beats antique beats, the night was no good. At least I looked good, though. Ha!
Wednesday I spent some more time at the preschool, and then Emily and I went for a swim in the Connecticut River. At this point I was fully aware of why I live in Tucson. It was cold and cloudy. But still fun, of course. Later that night we all got together for a fire and some drinks, and I got to catch up with beautiful old friends.

Wednesday morning Beth, Nick, Emily, and I left for Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Laura (my friend from TN was getting married there). So we spent the day driving, and stopped at a couple of shops. By the time we got there, we had just enough time to do a little exploring and then get all dolled up. Emily was my date. Beth and Nick dropped us off, and we proceeded to enjoy ourselves greatly.I'm not a seafood fan, and I've only had lobster (in small bits) twice before in my life. This, however is what was served up at the wedding feast:
I'm very proud of myself because I managed to eat it. I tried mussels for the first time (and liked them), and with the help of a glass or two of wine, I was able to eat the lobster claws sans problem. It was super yummy. But come time for the tail, I tried to rip it off, and then I saw all the little legs, and I totally freaked out. Thank god they hadn't served it to me head facing forward. Emily saved me, and got the meat out for me so I didn't have to think about what I was eating. I ate it all, and it was delicious, regardless of the drama of eating something that still looks like it did when it was alive.

After dinner, I danced myself insane, and then caught a moment with the beautiful bride.

Not ready for the evening to end, several of the bridal party and Emily and I went out to the ONLY bar in Boothbay, and proceeded to rock out till the mornin' light. I had a super blast.

Friday, Em and I rode the free trolley all around town and realized that there is nothing to do if you have little money. Sounds like sailing, kayaking, and whale watching would have been fun, but otherwise this is not a place I'd ever come back to. We did end up a little out of the way at an Alpaca farm, for some fuzzy entertainment.
I had hoped to get to hang out with Laura and everyone from Tennessee sometime on Friday. Otherwise, I don't think I'd have stayed the extra day. Needless to say , I was super bummed and upset when it didn't happen. I hate that I was in such close proximity to someone I never get to see, and I still didn't get to see her. Anyway, we didn't do much of anything the rest of the day, except ogle the cloudy view. The boats were pretty though.... I like boats.
Saturday was 5 hours in the car back to Mass, a brief hello at Priya's birthday party, another hour or so to the airport, and then 8 hours of travel time back to Tucson. Can you say I was tired of sitting? My legs were cramping, but it was all worth it.

I got to see ALMOST everyone I wanted to out there, and I loved it. Did I mention that I have the most beautiful and amazing friends? It's true.

And I think that's it for my summer travels. Next up: who knows. But I intend to rock Tucson in the meantime. :)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

on mom and the desert

Finally, after all the people who have been incessantly visiting me in Tucson, my mom made it out! My ideal world would consist of all my family and friends moving here because it is absolutely wonderful, but if all I can get is a visit, I'll take it. (I seem to have failed to blog about my weekend in San Diego, Ashley's visit to Tucson, and Christa's visit to Tucson all involving dancing, street fairs, hikes, great restaurants, river tubing, and more).

So, I got to show my mom all the cool places I've been blogging about. She arrived on Wednesday afternoon, and I had to send Charles to fetch her on the bus since I was working. So I got home to my mom! How lovely! That night we chowed some beans and rice, and I took her to Sabino Canyon for some beautiful desert views and sunset walking. We even got to go down to the raging (for the desert) river that was completely dry only a couple months ago. I love monsoon season.

The next day I had Gavin, but luckily I was able to take mom with us to babytime at the library and then swimming and then to the park. She got to meet Gavin and see firsthand what I do every day. It was really cool. I think Gavin took a liking to her. :) After work, she took me to get a manicure and pedicure (of which I've had one each EVER in my life). I felt awkward, but at least the lady was artistic and put some really cool flowers on my nails. By now of course, my nails are demolished, but shhh.... don't tell mom ;) That night was dinner at my favorite restaurant ever, Las Candelas with amazing food prepared by the talented Chris.

And then the adventure began. We decided to tube down the Salt River because I'd told mom about taking Ashley there and she said it sounded like fun. I made fun of her the whole time because she asked if we need life jackets for tubing. Turns out we spent 8 hours on the river (when it's only supposed to take 4 or 5) and by the time we got back, the people said they had been worried about us. Ooops! The drive back to Tucson was rockin' because there was a huge thunderhead with some incredible lightning. Quite the show the whole way home. Have I mentioned I love monsoon season?
The next day we did some grocery shopping and some cooking for the little fiesta we were invited to. Between swimming and errand running, we managed to get everything together and have a ball with my friends that night. Mom was a hit for sure.

Oh, and did I mention that she bought me a sewing machine!?!?!? It was a huge surprise and I was oblivious for a while, but turns out it's an early birthday present, and I'm so psyched. I've been wanting one forever. So we spent most of Sunday afternoon/evening in a struggle because I decided to make a renaissance costume for Haven, and my idea is to just cut up some stuff and stitch it together without really preparing it, but mom likes to use silly things like measurements and patterns and do it all right ;) Anyway, she supervised my initial corset cutting, ripped out a few of my stitches, and showed me some spiffy tricks. I finished the whole costume last night, and it rocks by the way. You'll see pictures in a future blog.
So, all in all it was a wonderful few days with mom. I hadn't seen her since Christmas, so it was super awesome having her here and getting to show her my life.

Next up, I depart tomorrow for a week in Massachusetts and Maine. So until next time, party hardy.

Monday, June 30, 2008

on another adventure

Better late than never. Two weekends ago I spent on the road of another random adventure: the quest for ghost towns. I'd heard of this highway somewhere in New Mexico that was supposed to be home to a whole bevy of ghost towns. After seeing some uber-touristy ones that charged admission (come one, people, it's supposed to be a ghost town), I was anxious to see a genuine deserted town. So, the dread pirate and I set out to see what could be seen. We left Tucson heading on some scenic highways east into New Mexico. The drive was absolutely gorgeous the entire way, and after spending the majority of the day on the road, we actually made it to 12, the legendary ghost town road. By this time it was rapidly approaching dusk, so we decided to try and find a campsite. We see a sign directing us off the highway to get to a lake. We assume there will be camping here, so we head off the road. We are now on an unpaved road, with the knowledge that the lake should be like 10 miles away. My car isn't exactly four-wheel drive, but she handles pretty well. We are the only people on the road, and suddenly we are climbing up this mountain. The dirt road is rough in spots, and sometimes it feels like we're about to bottom out, but oh my life is it beautiful. Funny thing is we have no freaking idea what road we are on, or where exactly we are, and we also have no cell phone service. BUT it's beautiful. And that is that.
After several miles, we come across a group of elk. They are right on the road, and then they scurry up the mountain face through this sort of canyon. They are absolutely majestic. We continue to see loads of wildlife, and the scenery only gets more beautiful as we get deeper into the middle of nowhere. At one point (well past the point where the lake should have been), we come to a fork in the road, and one direction is too rough to drive on while the other has a bad vibe. Thus, we turn around and decide to try and find a place to camp along the road. We get to drive back through all the amazingness we just saw, and finally pull off to the perfect little spot (except for the swarms of bugs). The stars out there were so clear, so we sat on top of the ridiculously dusty car to watch them shine. It was lovely.

After a relatively uncomfortable sleep on the knotted ground, we awoke to sunshine and hit the road again. Stopping at a general store in the middle of nowhere (one of those 'we don't take kindly to strangers 'round these parts' kind of general stores), we inquire about the ghost towns. Everyone we ask claims they've never heard of such a thing, that they've lived here all their lives and never saw one. On the other hand, they claim, this could be a ghost town. Hm. This road is famed for the ghost towns. Even google says so. So now we think we are in the twilight zone. or that we've just met some ghosts. Anyway, we drive the whole length of the highway, and nothing. Or what we think is nothing. As it turns out we assume that all the random clusters of 2 or 3 rotting buildings are probably in fact ghost towns. Kind of cool. Finally we make it to a larger gas station and buy a local map. They give us some tips. First stop: Magdalena. An old mining town. We eat at a little cafe that serves the worst enchilada I've ever encountered, and then head up to the mine to have a look. Turns out they'll arrest you if you don't have a pass, so we proceed to Jim's Rock Shop where the passes are sold, only to find them closed. Oh well. Who wants to pay 10 bucks to look at an old mine shaft anyway?

Now it's on some real back roads to the creme de la creme of ghost towns: Mogollon. This is one of those towns that was actually a pretty decent town, only it was abandoned, except for a couple of creepy people who still shack up there. As someone said, "It's like Providence, with eyes peering out the windows as you drive by." Only to get there, we took the most scenic route possible. I'm talking dirt roads, trail roads, that were meant for four wheel off road vehicles. Thel held up pretty well. There were many parts where I thought we'd get stuck, but we drove the entire afternoon on roads like this and it all worked out. We were utterly alone in the middle of New Mexico, on dirt roads, and able to see some beautiful and probably rarely seen wildlife and landscapes. It was wonderful.

We even found this off-the-path state park, and some dude who'd been there for 10 days. There was only one way in because the other road was completely washed out. It would be the perfect escape. Finally, we roll through Mogollon and it is everything we'd heard. Creepy as all get-up. It was super cool, though. We ogled it for a while, and then the sun started setting. We drove down into Silver City, got a hotel room, and headed over to teh Drifter's Lounge in hopes for dinner. Too bad, they didn't serve food, but the completely wasted hostess kept begging us to order a pizza so she could eat some. It was insane. Then we met this crazy character who wouldn't leave us alone, giving us life advice: "Write everything down. Write it down first. At least then you can erase it." Turns out his name is Arcturus (the brightest star in the night sky). Oh, irony. That's not even the best part. This old drunk cowboy taught me how to two-step! It was wicked awesome. He kept asking me to dance, telling me I was a beautiful dancer, and then saying "God Bless you!!" It was hilarious. And he was a good dancer. So now I know the two-step!! Rock!

The next morning we hit the road on the way to Shakespeare, yet another ghost town. We got the tour of the place, and it was kind of cool, and really hot. We watched this blacksmith working his magic at the forge, and that's always awesome. From there, it was down into Bisbee where we chilled at a country bar and attracted a lot of attention (being the strangers that we were). From there, a stop in Tombstone to walk through the streets of the wild west just before sunset. Finally we roll into Tucson just in time to catch the second half of Shakespeare under the Stars production of the Merry Wives of Windsor.

All in all, it rocked. And now I have a newfound desire to spend a weekend down in Bisbee and Tombstone. And to find even more ghost towns.

Otherwise, this past weekend was spent in San Diego yet again, which I will write about soon. Excuse the rambling as I'm running on about 12 hours of sleep in the past 4 days.

Love from the desert!

p.s. As far as pictures go, I can't get any to load up to blogger. So I'll keep trying.

Monday, June 16, 2008

on the road (again) but also in tucson

Well folks, it looks like this blog will be text only. I'll have to post a photo addendum. Actually, that might be kind of fun. You're going to have to work to get the full Fifel goes West experience this time. Haha.

You'll have to forgive me. I feel like I have lived 10 years in the past 2.5 weeks. If that doesn't speak to you, well just know that I have had one of the most amazing times of my life [and that's kind of intense considering how incredibly amazing my life has been ;)].

Two weeks ago today, Lindsay flew into Tucson late in the evening. I haven't seriously chilled with this girl since I moved away from Tennessee, and it just so happened that she had vacation funds and I had 2 weeks off work. These are the workings of wonderful things. So, she hopped the plane from Nashville and landed in the Wild Wild West where I promptly carried her off into the desert night on my white horse (I actually do have a white car, so ha!) That night we spent sort of re-acquainting ourselves with one another and our separate (but somehow strangely similarly evolving) lives. We enjoyed the late night hot tub under the desert palms, and some pretty loud bellydance beats complete with my best efforts at turning Lindsay into a bellydancer (not a hard task) so she can join my troupe and we can all travel the world together performing. Well anyway, after about 3 hours of sleep, we packed up the car and hit the road.

Our destination was north, and we thought we had planned accordingly. We hopped on the highway (me trying to show Lindsay what little of Tucson I could before we headed out of the Sonoran) and hit Phoenix just in time for rush hour! Lucky us! It could have been much worse though. We trotted through, though, to our first stop, the magical mystical red rock haven Sedona. Now, I've been here a million times (which you can read about in past posts) and every time it seems to impress me more. It's just another world entirely. We hopped on the trail at Bell Rock and took a nice easy hike up to the formation and a little ways up the side to sit and stare at the vast beauty of the Sedona horizon. It was very peaceful. Then we drove through into the touristy uptown area where we strolled through the shops, and ate lunch at this little Thai Cafe where I chanced upon the most delicious sandwich I have ever devoured. By far. Hands down. It was the raw veggie sandwich. Pumpkin seed bread stacked with raw carrots, onions, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, apples, sprouts, and all topped with herb mayonnaise. I swear this thing was to die for. I could never recreate it. As if that is not wonderful enough, we got to eat it all outside while gazing at the red rock.

Bellies full, we trudged forward (north actually) to the Grand Canyon. South rim, south entrance. We made it with plenty of time to pitch our tent before sunset. In fact, we had time to stop at the convenient store, purchase hot dogs, s'more makings, a bottle of wine, and still register for the camp site and set up camp with plenty of daylight left. We set up our tent and spread out our feast on the picnic table. Lindsay whittled some twigs into sharp points to cook our dinner on. Except it is completely illegal to gather firewood anywhere in the Grand Canyon. How crazy is that? So, we had to drive to the general store to BUY firewood for $7. We also bought some fire starters that were guaranteed to get our wood burning. On the way to the store, I somehow managed to back my car over the wooden campsite marker and into a boulder. Not that that's anything new. My car has some battle scars. It didn't hurt anything except the would. Only we drew a lot of attention to ourselves. Our neighbors looked like they had constructed a little village on their site, complete with kitchen, shower, RV, separate sleeping and changing tents, etc. etc. They came racing over to make a big deal out of the incident. Then after we got back with our firewood, they gawked at us from behind their propane stove the whole time we tried to get our fire going. I don't know if it was luck, or the wind, or the fact that the wood wasn't dry enough, but we had the hardest time starting a campfire. It would start for a minute and then die out. We were frantically scrambling for leaves and twigs to try to feed it, but we only got to roast our hot dogs for a minute. And they were still cold. And then our fire died out completely and we had no more starters. So Lindsay went to ask this French guy on the other side of us (with his big RV and bag of charcoal) if we could borrow some lighter fluid. In thickly accented English, he informed her that he "could, but it is not sound advice." The whole time the can of lighter fluid is right in front of him, but he won't let us use it because he is convinced we will blow ourselves up. Instead, he offers her some of his charcoal, so she accepts and he hands her the bag. Later when we try to use it, we open it only to find that it is completely empty. We were absolutely the laughing stock of the whole campground. The story doesn't stop there, though.

By this time, it is getting dark, and we are determined to go watch the sunset over this most magnificent of canyons. We take the shuttle from the campground to the Yu.....something....i Point just in time to see the sun sinking it's head behind the foggy shadows of rock. The whole thing just seems surreal. I swear it's all made of water color. It was gorgeous. After that, we make our way to the the Star Talk that is being held at another of the overlooks. The star guide tries to use a laser pointer to point out constellations (come on, dude. It's the sky. Not a whiteboard). Regardless, it was pretty amazing because (of course) there is very little light pollution over GC. So we listen and gaze at the vast expanse above us while feeling the vast expanse below us. It makes you feel so incredibly small, you know. Well, anyway, of course by the time we leave it is pitch black. We hop the shuttle only to find out that it won't take us all the way to the campground. It pretty much kicks us off and points the direction we need to walk. All we have is one of those flashlights that you shake to get power, and it is so weak we can't even see outside the 1 inch radius where it shines. So here we are in the Grand Canyon in the pitch black of night with no good flashlight. We have no idea where the campground is, so we are wandering along the road, hoping we don't fall into the canyon or something. At one point a car passes by and we try to get out of the way and end up tripping over each other. We felt like we were in the Blair Witch Project. It was insane!!! We had to go right up to the front of the signs and shine the light on just to read them. We finally got back. French guy had his nice cozy fire going, and we were wishing we had just poured water on his wood when he was gone. Hmph. Oh well. We completely crashed and spent an uncomfortable adn tormented night on the rock hard ground, freezing (because of course we didn't pack warmly enough. It's June, right? WRONG). And the ravens had a bacchanal all night long outside the tent. So, laughing in the morning at our misfortune, and scarfing down some peanut butter and banana tortillas, we spent the morning wandering along the rim trying to take in all the beauty.

We hit the road around noon, intending to hit up Bryce Canyon next. By the time we were even close, it was pouring rain. And cold. Oh my life, was it cold. And it was June!! What?!?! We even drove through this huge dust storm that made no sense because it was raining and dust storming at the same time. I thought the rain would wet the dust making it too heavy for the wind to carry. Apparently not. So rather than fight the chill, we high-tailed it to Ogden. This made for a rather long and tedious drive. We stopped for coffee somewhere in Southern Utah, only to discover what a rarity it is there! The first place we stopped was complete podunk town. The teenage boy running the desk at the "gas station" informed us, "if ya'll go on up ta freemont, i heard there's a maverick up there that's got a coffee pot." Haha. So, up we go. Apparently there's a lot of talk about this one place that finally got a coffee pot. Anyway, there's no coffee when we get tehre, so we wait for her to brew us some, and it's back on the road.

We roll into Ogden around 10 that night, and head straight to Mandy's. It was so good to see her and the little dogs again. I miss them so!!! I met the lady who lives in my old room as well. That's always weird. After catching up for a minute, we pretty much crashed. It was a long day. And it felt SO good to sleep in a bed after the rocks at the canyon. We showered too (this is a very important part of the story, so keep it in mind.... day 3- a shower). The next morning I showed Lindsay around Ogden. We ate some yummy breakfast, played in Union Station, walked the main street, and even chilled at the River right outside the canyon. Then we met up with Lexi. It was amazing to see her too!! Jay (my former boss) took us all out to dinner that night. He's such a character. Then it was back to Lexi's to chill in the hot tub. It was a little chilly in Ogden. I've really been spoiled by this desert heat. Then that night we hit up Salt Lake City. We went clubbing at AREA 51, and I really don't think they knew what hit them. It was out of hand. We had such a blast.

The original plan was to wake up and hit Yellowstone. This has been one of my dreams for a while now. We looked at the forecast, however, and the whole weekend predicted a high of 50 degrees with snow showers and thunderstorms alternately. Considering we were already freezing (having each brought 1 pair of jeans, one long sleeved shirt, and ten thousand skirts, tank tops, dresses, and pairs of shorts), we opted to head south instead. So, we high tailed it to San Diego. I've never driven 15 from SLC to SD, so I was really excited. We went straight through Vegas. The whole 12 hour drive was pretty much all vast expanse. I love that about the West. You can drive FOREVER and never hit civilization. It is all so incredibly beautiful.

Toward the end of the drive, we come upon this huge gang of motorcycles. They are driving incredibly aggressively and it is absolutely crazy. I'm right beside them for a long time, and there are trucks with them who keep riding up on them and forcing them to get so close to the other traffic. Lindsay and I are looking at them like they are insane (because they are), and I know I gave them some dirty looks. It got really out of hand, and I was finally able to lay off and back up. Later we see them ALL on the side of the road being arrested. I mean 15 cop cars pulling over 50 bikers. It was hilarious. Only later do we find out from the newspaper that the Mongols (what their jackets all said) are a violent biker gang and there were warnings issued to everyone in the area to steer clear of them because they are out for violence. Ha!! What are the odds!! That could have been bad.

Anyway, we arrive in SD around 10 or so, and get a cheap motel room (cheap for San Diego, that is). Christa meets us and we all go out to Kadan. I love this place. There's a bellydance troupe performing whom we quickly befriend, and spend all night dancing to our heart's content. We get back to the room wicked late (us and Christa and her friends), and we are sitting there when we get a knock on the door. It's maybe 3 a.m. at this point. There are about 7 thugged out people standing outside our door. They say they didn't mean to knock on our door, but who knows. We end up talking to them for a while, and it's all chill, until suddenly they start accusing us of hating on them. Of being prejudice. This is absurd!!! There is no grounds for anything, but you can tell they were just looking for trouble. At first they refused to leave, but Christa got in their faces and finally they split. It was completely absurd.

The next morning Lindsay gets approached by a lady escort who wants to recruit her to a job in the escort service. Apparently the stereotype about cheap motels is absolutely true. :)

We checked out (happily) and spent all day on the beach. Ocean Beach. My favorite SD beach. It was cold for the beach, and also overcast, but we somehow managed to get sunburned anyway. We did a little shopping, adn then went to pitch our tent in Christa's mom's back yard (no more motels, thanks) before heading out to party again for the night. This time we went to check out the Industrial scene first (great music but slow and really awesome bartender) and then this other hip pop club (where we stayed until it closed). Again, we danced and rocked out and had a blast. It was amazing have Christa and Lindsay together adn dancing with me. My two girls who have never met one another but who are the most important to me. It was wonderful! After the night out, we decide to get some food. This is fine, but what were we thinking going to a cheap Mexican fast food place? I got a carne asada quesadilla that had SO much grease. It was delicious at hte time, but we all paid for that later.

Anyway, the next day we spent on the beach yet again. It was overcast and cold. Of course. But we enjoyed it. We ate lunch on the pier, and then later Christa took us to Seal Beach and then to watch the sunset at an overlook. There wasn't really much of a sunset, but the whole place is extremely beautiful. That night we had to rest. It's hard to go out till the crack of dawn three nights in a row.

The next morning, we packed up and hit the road. It was back to Tucson. I wanted to be able to show Lindsay around before she had to fly back. We stopped to play in the sand dunes in Yuma on the way.

We got into Tucson in the early afternoon, relishing the heat and blaring sun. We headed straight for the pool. Very shortly thereafter, Lindsay's mom (Rhonda)'s friend, Charles , stopped as he was passing through Tucson. We all chilled by the pool and exchanged adventure stories (as he was having one of his own as well). Later that night we decided to go to 4th Ave where we did a lot of hopping around, dancing, laughing, and general debauchery. Arriving home at 3 a.m., we had decided we hadn't had quite enough fun, so the party continued. There was more laughing, swimming, and a very failed attempt at a motorcycle ride. But oh boy was it fun.

The next day brought an early morning motorcycle tour (one I very much enjoyed) courtesy of Charles. I didn't realize how much I missed all those days of bike rides in Mass. Oh boy do I miss it. We spent lots of time in the sun at the pool, and later ate an amazing Italian meal that made me feel like I was in Europe because it took more than 3 hours to eat. What a life! That night brought more good times, funny stories, and utter exhaustion.

Wednesday morning we awoke early to join Daniel for a little adventure to the San Xavier del Bac Mission just a little south of here. I've been wanting to go, but hadn't had the chance. It was pretty cool. We spent a while just taking all that in. After getting back, we chanced upon this antique gun shop where Lindsay and I found some cheap jewelry treasures. And later that day we dined like gods on some yummy Indian cuisine, and then headed over to Saguaro Naitonal Park to see the sunset. I love it there. We stayed long past sunset and laid on the concrete overlook to gaze at the stars. I love being in immense places with immense people. These two people are certainly immense, and I consider myself eternally grateful to have gotten to share things like this with them.

Thursday morning it was up early to go hiking in Sabino Canyon. It was already pretty hot by 8 a.m., but we saw a ton of wildlife. Up next was a little cowpoke adventure through Old Tucson where we were witness to the cancan show, the gunfight, and our own insanity. We even rode the train all around the little town. It's so cute there. That night was back to the Surly Wench where (on the last night we'd all spend together), we certainly went out with a bang. It was a blast.

Friday brought goodbyes as the wonderful cowboy who had ridden through town continued his journey and the beautiful cowgirl who had adventured with me continued hers. It was hard to know that I couldn't just spend the rest of my life on a vacation like this.

I headed straight to Phoenix after dropping Lindsay off at the airport, to meet up with my other Charles. I spent the weekend there and drove the Apache Trail (breathtaking), and even got to see Goldfield, an old ghost town along the way. We had many an adventure, and I feel like a different person.

In fact, my entire life stretches around me and all I know is that the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual events of the past 2.5 weeks have left me beautifully and unalterably and profoundly dumbfounded. So much beauty!!! So much adventure. These are the things I live for.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for being a fan. It means a lot to me.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

on Mars!!

So. This afternoon around 3:50 Pacific time, the Phoenix Mars Lander successfully landed on Mars (which is great because it would have been said for something named Mars Lander to have failed to land on Mars). The mission is guided by U of A on behalf of NASA. This means that I got to go to the celebration for the whole thing. They held festivities all afternoon in the Space Science buildings on campus. At the time the festivities started, the Lander was still thousands of miles away from touchdown, but it's important to realize that it was traveling at a speed of around 60,000 mph relative to Mars. That's pretty unfathomable if you ask me.

Anyway, I got there in time to catch some info about the cameras installed on the Phoenix, check out the university's Visual Imaging Center, check out some amazing prints with 3D glasses, and hold a piece of Mars in my hand!!! I also got a ton of free stuff: stickers, a poster, 8 x 10 prints of the surface of Venus. Oh, and punch! And I checked out the cool stuff on display at the Planetarium. This is me with the moon:
Around 3:30 we headed into the main building to watch the live feed from NASA while some grad students who were working on the mission translated the geekspeak and answered questions. It was so incredibly exciting to be in the middle of this event! The ground control mission is actually at the U of A, so when I say in the middle, I mean it!! This thing has been on its way to Mars since August of 07, so imagine how incredibly anxious the people working on it must have been! Every time something went right, the smiles on their faces got so big they looked painful. Since the cameras onboard the Phoenix couldn't deploy until landing (obviously, since we're talking heat and speed), there weren't any live shots of the landing or anything like that (sorry no News Channel 2, though I wish I were a news anchor sent to Mars to cover an event). Instead, they had digital simulations, shots of the control rooms, and of course the countdown. The crazy thing is that it takes 15 minutes for information to be transmitted all the way from Mars to Earth. So, the Phoenix had landed already only we had no idea what had happened because the information hadn't made it to Earth yet. So as we were anxiously receiving the data, the entire thing had already happened. Luckily it all went incredibly smoothly. In fact, they had more problems during testing than during the actual landing. Here are some shots I got of the crowd and the screen:
And we have touchdown!!!!!!!!
Everyone was so excited. Cheers and hugs all around. It's actually on Mars! No problems! How amazing!!

It then took several hours for the Phoenix to get its bearings and whatnot. Also the other 3 orbiters were lining up to beam back stats on the Lander. But after a couple hours the first images started arriving:
The Martian horizon as seen TODAY from the Phoenix Mars Lander. This takes my breath away. It's really unfathomable and amazing that we can see this so clearly. If you want to check out more about the mission and the other images the Phoenix is getting (eventually we'll get color images too), then you can keep up with it all here or here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

on the beach

So, I spent the weekend in San Diego with Christa (who just recently moved back there). It is about a 6 hour drive from here, and a very beautiful one at that. Also, I was in dire need of some open road.

I left Friday after work, to follow the setting sun (of course). I got stopped at all three Border Patrol checks that were open. There must be something about my car that screams smuggler because every single time I've been through a border check, they've had me stop, pull over, and pop the trunk. For those of you who don't know, this isn't routine. Usually you pause or maybe even exchange a few words, but rarely do they actually search your car. Well, this time, they even put the dogs on it. By this point, I'm hoping they have a party. I almost want to fill my trunk with something really weird so they'll at least get a kick out of it. Can't be fresh produce, but what if I just fill it with bouncy balls so that they roll out when the trunk is opened? They would think I was so weird. And I would be rolling in laughter. Well, needless to say, they found nothing. But it did give me a great idea for a story: 24 year old American girl is the leading Colombian Drug Lord. How unsuspecting, right?

Anyway, I got to drive through Saguaro National Monument, and through Yuma, and through the rocky area east of SD, and then the mountains. It's probably my favorite 6 hour drive. I rolled in to SD around 7:30, just in time to to get ready for a night on the town. We opted for the casually elegant look, complete with sneakers and rocking socks:
First we stopped into this bar called Katan (I think that's how it's spelled). This place has a medieval theme with coats of arms and swords on the walls, so I was geeking out a little. Even better, they were hosting this Puertorican drum group. SO, there's a dance floor, AND live drums. Can life get any better than this? It's questionable. We rocked out for a while, and then four of Christa's friends got there. It was great to meet one of the girls I've only heard about in stories. Anyway, they weren't really digging the world fusion as much as we were, so we all hopped across the street to a place called Air Conditioned (which it wasn't) where this dj was spinning 80's dance grooves. It was pretty crowded inside. And wicked hot. 80's music is great and all, but I can only dance to it for so long before I'm bored. Being with Christa though, we had loads of fun and the boredom didn't come till much later. Two of her friends left, and then Christa and I decided to hop back to the first place. We did, and the dj was on top of the world grooves. It was incredible. We danced and danced. Some guy even taught me some new latin moves. I had quite a blast. In fact we were having so much fun that before we knew it, the place was closing. So, we headed back to the car and then got home a little after 4 a.m. (I'd also like to add that I was freaking cold. I'm so used to desert life, that Cali seemed crazy cold. Which is odd to me).

Next morning we awoke around 10 to hit the beach. Actually, first we made a scrumptious breakfast of eggs and salsa, vegetarian sausage, toast, and pear. It was really yummy. Okay, so then we hit the beach. We cruised down to Sunset Cliffs, which is like the most beautiful place in SD (I blogged about it from last time I was there, in case you missed it). There's one particular beach that is Christa's favorite, so we decide to hit that. Only, it's down the cliffs. When she used to live there, there was a rope. Well, not anymore. It rotted. Or something. So we really want to get down there but it's a wicked steep jagged rock slope. I'm completely game because I really want to get to that beach, so I start down crab style on my hands and feet. Then mostly I'm on my butt trying to slide. It was crazy precarious, and I had to drop to the rocks below. And I was barefoot. And I threw my stuff down in front of me. I had quite the adrenaline rush. BUT. We made it down, and it was so beautiful and so worth it.
We explored the whole beach, and even found a dead crab who was quite beautiful.
Then we lounged around in the sun, and kept moving our belongings back as the tide came in.

Enter: problem . We got there by sliding down a rock face with no rope. Hm. And now we want to get back. Hm. No rope. Well then. There are some steep stairs at the very far end of the cliffs. Only the tide is coming in. So the rocks you would walk on to get there... are covered in ocean.If you look closely at this above photo, you can see the stairs. And imagine those rocks covered, and the cliff face is to the left. We spent what seemed like forever taking one rock at a time, at the moments between one wave crashing against the cliff face and the next. You couldn't see where you were stepping except at that exact moment. So, slowly but surely. But the tide was strong. At one point it knocked me into the cliff and back into Christa. We and all of our belongings were soaked, but we finally made it, exhausted, to the stairs. Where we then had to climb four flights. :) It was awesome.

Next we changed clothes and hit up Newport Ave for some shopping and a yummy Mexican dinner at a chill little place with optimal people watching. Among the things we saw were two 4 year olds with mohawks, a dog with sunglasses, and a guy running down the street with a half empty handle of whiskey and another guy chasing him. :) After that, we headed to this little suspension bridge she wanted to show me that hung over this lush canyon. It was wonderful to see so much green in one place.
Then it was up to the top of Mount Helix for the sunset. The place had a great view, only the sky was wicked smoggy.
There was a huge cross on top of the hill, too, because it is owned by a church.
And the sunset started, and was mediocre because of the fog, but then suddenly the sun just kind of dropped behind the smog, and the sky turned gray, and that was that. I can honestly say it was the ugliest sunset I ever saw (and I don't think sunsets are ugly). At least we got a kick out of it.
And on the way down, we got a great view of this crazy house on top of that mountain. Flying Saucer anyone?
Then we headed home, exhausted, to get ready for another night out. We had to jack up on the coffee, but off we went. First to this place that was hosting a night called One Nation Under Groove. The club seemed awesome. An amazing environment, big dance floor, etc, etc. Only, someone needs to look up the word groove in the dictionary. This was more like One Nation Under Bad Excuse for Dance Music. We tried to goof off and have fun anyway, but like the 80's, that only lasts for so long. Some of Christa's other friends showed up, so I got to meet them, but then we split for this other club (I don't recall the names of these). We were kind of iffy about paying another cover fee for the night, but we stood outside to listen, and it sounded tight. Then, the bouncer let us in for free (woot!) It pays to be a pretty girl sometimes. ;) This place was pretty crowded too, but the music was hiphoppy and good. Lots of people were dancing. So we rocked for a while. Then the dj started some weird experimenting with some not so flowy tunes, and we kept loosing our groove. Finally we decided to call it a night (we were extremely exhausted anyway). So it was home to bed by 2 or so.

Sunday morning, we woke up, ate some Mexican leftovers (enchiladas for breakfast are my favorite), and went out for coffee. We went to this Egyptian Teahouse which was really cool. We even lined up a possible dance performance with the owner (score for us). Then it was back to pack and hit the road again. Which I did. The drive was just as beautiful heading back. There was only 1 border check this time, too. Which would have made my trip shorter, except I stopped in Yuma to play in the dunes. There's one little road going through miles of sand dunes, so I parked Thel and hiked up. You can see a little of its amazingness here. If you want more, check my older blogs. I love Yuma.
So, I rolled into Tucson just after sunset, to crash and get ready for work Monday morning. I'm still recovering, but it was amazing. I had a blast. And the road felt so good. Next up: north to Utah. Over and out.

-Desert Belle