Thursday, August 30, 2007

Beyond Rushmore

After the numerous breaks in the travelogue, at last I am returning to it. I believe that we left off at the departure from Rushmore. But first, a little back track on how Mt. Rushmore got its name. Direct from the National Park Service website:

“It’s never had any but it has now-we’ll call the damn thing Rushmore,” the guide, William Challis replied.

In the 1880’s Keystone (Mt. Rushmore is located just beyond Keystone) was a booming mining town. James Wilson was a New York mining promoter examining mining claims in the area. Wilson hired Charles E. Rushmore, a young New York attorney, to check on mining titles. Mr. Rushmore arrived in the area in 1885 representing the Harney Peak Consolidated Tin Company, LTD. , located at Pine Camp just north of an “unnamed” mountain. Out traveling to examine claims, Rushmore passed by the unnamed mountain. He asked his guide, William Challis, “What is the name of that mountain?” Challis jestingly replied in his now famous quote.

Later, Charles Rushmore donated $5,000 toward the sculpting of “Mount Rushmore.” In June, 1930 the United States Board of Geographic Names officially recognized Mount Rushmore.

After Rushmore, the first order of business was to try and get a battery for my camera. We headed into Rapid City to the WalMart. WalMart did not carry the battery but pointed us towards Ritz Camera. At Ritz Camera, the girl working the counter was astute enough to tell me that a battery would do me no good since it would not be charged either. What I really needed was a car charger so that I could charge the existing battery (I had only a home charger). The car charger was rather inexpensive and she knew just which one I needed so I bought it and we were off again on our journey with the battery happily charging away in the car.

Our next stop was the Minutemen Missile site, just outside Badlands National Park. After the cold war, the majority of the Minutemen II Missile Silos in the South Dakota area were removed, the underground control centers filled in and the land reverted to private ownership. This site was preserved as a National Monument. It has not been open for many years and the tours are still a bit rough which made it all the more interesting to me. Only 6 people can go on a tour at a time due to the small size of the control room. We gathered at NPS headquarters and headed out to the control center. On the surface, it looks like a 60/70s style low-one story building like many others in the landscape. Pretty uninteresting. We went in and saw the living quarters and heard the stories about how meals were prepared, having to put in a separate shower for women once they started operating at the centers and daily activities. There was a tv and vcr with numerous movies. Decor was in the oranges and browns and other colors of the seventies. From the living quarters, we took an elevator down to the underground control center where only 2 military personnel at a time were allowed and working. Inside the control center were banks of computers, 2 chairs, a bunk for sleeping and a toilet. And, of course, the infamous 2 key system that could launch the missiles and end the world as we know it. Our guide was one of those former military people that had worked in the control room and was full of humorous and semi-humorous tales of life there. One fascinating detail was that, not only could the 10 missiles attached to that site be launched from there, but also all other missiles in the system. The other item of note is that there are still enough missiles (Minuteman III?), live and active and being controlled by other underground control rooms, and scattered throughout Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and Northern South Dakota, to destroy the world many times over. A very scary thought.

From the control center, we went out the the missile site where a large plexiglass has been installed over the ground above the missile silo. We were looking directly down on the missile as it stood in its silo in the ground. A huge and daunting sight. It was very hot and the commentary seemed like it was starting to go on a bit - after a 2 hour tour - and we were getting anxious to head off to our next destination.

Finally, it was over and we headed off to the town of Wall, home of Wall Drug. Wall Drug was actually a real place at one time - a drug store and soda fountain without much business from the interstate until the owner and his wife got the idea to serve free water to passersby. This brought folks in and the kitschy, tourist trap that is now Wall Drug was born. It is rooms and rooms (a whole block of conjoined buildings) of tourist "junk" - post cards, stuffed toys, t-shirts - 1/2 of a whole room dedicated to t-shirts for the Sturgis motorcycle rally coming up in August, statues, statuettes, etc., etc., etc. We found the room where the cafeteria was and had some food since we had heard that there wasn't any food available in the Badlands. We took some photos with the lifesize miner, card player, cowboy statues and had a look at the Black Hills gold jewelry (I have seen better pieces here in California) and then we were on our way - happy to leave the kitschy, noisy place behind us.

We entered Badlands parks and were immediately transported to another world. The land is very bare and deserty. The whole area was once under water and then carved out by glaciers, rivers and the wind leaving a landscape of deep canyons, multi-colored, striped and flat-topped buttes. I could only imagine the wagon trains trying to get through this landscape and understood why it was called the badlands. There is a drive that goes around the northern part of the park and has a number of points where you can park, get out and walk on paths for short hikes. All along the way, you are warned to watch for rattlesnakes and cactus spines. The whole place had a quietness and beauty to it and we were happy to have made the journey to see it.

After traveling the loop of the Badlands, we headed back to Rushmore. This time, we turned off just at the edge of Rapid City and headed south to take one of the other approaches in to Rushmore. We arrived in time for the lighting ceremony as planned. The parking structure that had been so empty that morning was full. We finally found a place and headed in. The amphitheatre was packed and there were many people standing around. I headed back out to the walkway to try and get a few more photos of the heads in the twilight before losing to much of the light. We found a seat on a wall and settled in for the ceremony. The first part was very long and drawn out since we had already made the walk around the monument and seen the museum. Most of that was repeated and went on and on for about an hour I think. The only thing that kept us there was the lure of seeing the Monument lit at night. At last, the talking ended and we were shown a movie which was pretty good and finally the lighting. It was very anti-climatic. Nothing dramatic at all and not even very well lit but then, we were tired after a long day and really hoping for more for our efforts. After the lighting, 'America the Beautiful' was sung by the crowd. As usual, it choked me up. I do have a great appreciation and love for this country - even more so after having spent so many years overseas.

Following the lighting, all of the active service personnel were called to the stage. There were so many of them and an incredible number were women. Each one began giving a brief introduction. At that point, we were very tired (It was about 10PM) and, not wanting to get caught in the traffic jam getting out of the parking structure, we left.

The drive back to Hot Springs was about 1 1/2 hours. We were tired and I was hungry but we couldn't seem to find any place to eat. After awhile, the tiredness just took over and I forgot the hunger and just wanted to sleep. At this time, I was driving and trying to take it at a fairly moderate pace since I knew there were Bison in the area and really didn't want to have a collision. We were the only car on the road for a lot of the journey. At some point, another car (truck) appeared behind us and started riding my tail. It was a 2 lane road so there was really no need for the tailgating. I sped up a little and the person sped up. I was now doing about 70. I decided to try another tactic. I slowed down gradually, ever so gradually, just kept slowing down, gradually, gradually, gradually until I was going about 30, plenty of opportunity for the person to pass me. But......the person did not pass. Just slowed down while still tailgating me. At first, I thought it might be a policeman but it didn't seem that way and I could tell that it was a truck. I started to get really frightened. After all, we were just two girls out in the middle of nowhere - no cars, no towns - with some stranger playing a wierd game with us.

I sped back up to 60 and the stranger did also. This went on for a while. Finally, a sign came up and I could see a small town just off the highway. All dark but I thought there might be an opportunity here. I kept going 60 and just as I reached the exit, I swerved onto it. The truck overshot and went on by. Now we were on a strange road, dark and going who knows where but the truck was past. I started to pull in to turn around and head back out onto the road when I saw the truck stop, back up and come right onto the offramp after us. Now, I was really scared. There were some buildings up ahead and I headed toward them. They were dark but I thought someone might be around. I could also see that the road curved around at that point and back onto the highway which had the juncture where we needed to turn off to get onto the highway for our way back to Hot Springs. I guess that the idea of the buildings and maybe getting caught finally scared off the person in the truck and he/she finally turned off and left us alone. I breathed a deep sigh of relief. I don't even think Lorraine had realized how scared I was since she wasn't driving and so hadn't seen in the rear view mirror all of the antics going on until I was to a point where I was scared and mentioned it (about the point where I took the quick exit).

The last 1/2 hour of the journey was pretty uneventful and, at last, we arrived back at the hotel and were happy to drift off to sleep.

Coming Next - Horseback Rides, Crazy Horse, Mammoths and Caves..........

Movies, movies, movies

This weekend (and the last couple of days) I tried to catch up a little on my movie watching so went to the video store and rented 6 dvds. Yellow, The Break Up, Lonely Hearts, Charlotte's Web, Breach and Because I Said So. Of all the movies, I would say that only Charlotte's Web was worth seeing. It was cute and well done, entertaining even though it was about a spider (sorry Susan) and a pretty ugly-looking spider at that. It even gave me the creeps. However, I did find the movie charming in an old Disney kind of way. Breach was somewhat fascinating - about the take down of a long term mole in the CIA (can't remember his name but believe he was exposed in the 80's) just days before his retirement. Not a great movie though.

Yellow was about a Puerto Rican ballet dancer who comes to NY and has to perform as a stripper until she gets her chance to be a dancer in a Broadway show. Sorry, despite the name, not a movie for Sam. Because I Said So and The Break Up were the standard cutesy movies. Entertaining enough but forgettable. Lonely Hearts was a gorey true story of a couple who lured women from lonely hearts ads and then took their money and killed them. Very dark and hard to follow.

And, that's that. If anyone has suggestions for good movies, please let me know.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And what about the rest of the weekend?

Aside from the nice day spent getting the bone scan, I was my usual busy bee self. On Friday eve, my brother came over to continue the tile work on the shower. It really is looking beautiful. Saturday was spent working in the garden, doing some more weeding and pruning (or over-pruning as my gardener would say).

The evening found me at a book signing for a friend of mine who had written a book. The book is called Happy About Working To Stay Young (HAWTSY) by Jackie Hood. It is interesting with a number of anecdotes from mature working individuals. Jackie is a strong proponent of not retiring and continuing to work far into old age. Not my philosophy at all. I would rather be Happy About Playing To Stay Young but supported her none-the-less. It is really admirable that she actually had the discipline to sit down and write a whole book. I can't imagine myself ever doing that.

From the book signing, I went on to the beauty salon for a visit with Angie. She is truly wonderful as she pampers, plucks, waxes and hydrates my face and body. A little neck, shoulder, arm and hand massage thrown in tops it all off. 70 minutes later, I am truly feeling wonderfully relaxed and beautiful. I just found out that her birthday is the same day as mine also!

I ended the evening with a trip to the video store and some good movie watching complete with popcorn. Wish it would have been complete with my significant other/lover/date/etc. but that is another story.

On Sunday, I arose early to attend yoga. My body was still sore and tired from the gardening the day before and my balance seemed to be non-existant. I was fatigued and fell a lot. Just couldn't seem to hold the postures. Even so, I finished relaxed and happy.

After yoga, I made my usual foray into the farmer's market - buying cheese, eggs, vegetables, fruit and chocolate. I got some good Indian food to take home for lunch. A trip to the grocery store topped off the morning.

As I walked in, my brother was calling to say that he was on his way over. He came and completed the cutting and laying of the tile. It is beautiful and the shower is now more updated. Just the grouting and sealing left to do and then re-hanging the shower doors and changing the shower fixtures. I am very hopeful that I will have a working shower within the next 2 weeks (after 21 months of not having one). Woohoo! Big smile. giggle.

I helped him with the shower for a while and then headed off to my Reiki healer for a nice healing session. My body as I mentioned in my last entry has been abnormally achy and fatigued. The lower back pain and pain in my legs, hips and butt are just unbearable. I was so tired that I fell asleep during the session and didn't even realize she had left the room. I left feeling happy, relaxed and on the road to healing and recovery.

Back at home, I cooked dinner for myself and my brother and we had a nice meal together before he headed off home, promising to return the next week. I then settled in for some crossword puzzle and tv action.

Monday morning started with me welcoming the gardener at 9:15. I was excited that he would be doing some more work on the backyard. At first, I thought there wouldn't be much for him to do, especially since I had already been working back there on Saturday but it seemed there was more than I anticipated. I left him pulling and digging out weeds at 11:00 and headed off to the hospital to get my infusion of radioactive isotope. The poor technician had to search and search to find a semi-good vein and then held her breath while she tried to get the butterfly in. She did it on the first try and with little pain to me. We both let out our breath! ahhhhh.......... She gave me the injection and I headed off home.

On the way, I stopped by Bed, Bath and Beyond to pick up a new papertowel holder for under my kitchen counter since my brother had a battle with the other one and the papertowel holder lost. While I was there, I also picked up a new rug and toilet lid cover for my bathroom. I thought the new tile called for a fresh new lid and rug set. And, then, I saw a teak shower rack that was just too cool to pass up. I gotta love that store. It never fails to suck me in. There are just so many things there that you can't find anywhere else - at least not all in the same place or all very easily. And, they take all coupons - no matter how old and you can use multiples so I had one 20% off coupon for each item I purchased and they were dated from 2006!

I headed back home where I found the gardener still diligently pulling/digging weeds although he had stopped to do a little pruning and cleaning out around the plants. He took off for lunch and I had my own lunch. By the time he got back, it was 2:00 and time for me to head back to the hospital for my scan - having properly metabolized the radioactive isotope through my system. I arrived back and laid under the scanners while they slowly moved up my body creating an image of the front and back of my skeleton. I could see the sideways curvature of my spine which seemed to have gotten worse since my last scan - or maybe it was just the crooked way I was laying. I could see the ends of my bones where new cells were being built which showed up as bright spots of light. I could see the space between my hip bones about where my bladder would be that glowed particularly bright. I didn't see any other bright spots - which is good news - bright spots mean metabolization as in cancer cells busy replicating themselves- but then I didn't get a really good look and I am not a doctor or a radiologist. At the end, the technician with his usual poker face said good bye and let me go. It is so frustrating not to just hear the words, "you are fine" and have to wait to hear back from the doctor - ugh!

I headed back home and made another stop at BB and B although I got out without a purchase this time. My next stop was Orchard Supply to buy a blue-glazed garden hose pot. It is a nice looking pot with a hole in the bottom for the garden hose to feed through. You can then coil the hose in the pot instead of it laying on the ground or hanging on the wall. A nice alternative that blends nicely with the plants in the garden. I also bought a paint scraper since I have set a goal of scraping and painting the wood areas on the side yard so that area can gradually start to look less like a dump and more like a mediterranean/tropical fairyland. After a stop at Starbuck's (I think I deserved a mocha by this time), I returned home to find that the gardener had done a nice job of moving my Irises back into their bed after they had been marching themselves toward the water and on to the walkway for the last couple of years. He had also pruned one rose beautifully and done a whole lot more weeding.

We headed off to Summerwinds to buy plants and benderboard. He recommended another garden supply store that I will have to try in the future. Sounded like a wonderful place. We returned and he started putting in the benderboard while I planted the plants including purple fountain grass and a white, yes white, lavender - not blooming at the moment but should be interesting when it does. By then, it was dark and late. He hadn't finished all of the tasks I had given him but he had worked hard for 10 1/2 hours and I had put in my share of work for the day, too. He took off and I went inside to eat dinner and relax before heading off to bed.

The one good epilogue to this story is that I woke up on Tuesday with a migraine (probably dehydration) but not the usual aches and pains I had been experiencing. Even today, my body is feeling much better and no residual from the hard work of the weekend. That Reiki works wonders and I have to thank the Divine and all of the participating Saints and Ascended Masters for their great healing work.

Lets hope that my good health and strong body continue.........

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cancer - the gift that keeps on giving

So, it is all over, or so everyone thinks. I have survived the surgeries, chemo, radiation, biological therapies and moved on. However, it is not over. There are still the oncologist and surgeon visits (1 each) every six months, full day mammogram, ultrasound, mri every year, gynecologist every year, radiation oncologist every year, general practioner every year, dermatologist every year. At least 8 doctors appts. and one full day of testing per year for the rest of my life just to make sure that the cancer can't sneak back in undetected. And I still have my port in which needs to be flushed once every six weeks. Need to make an appt. to have it out but that is another full day off of work since I will have some anesthetic and can't drive myself.

As if that isn't all enough, there is the continued fatigue which comes at the least expected times, is never welcome and doesn't know when to go home. Days or weeks can go by in which I get nothing done more than going to work, coming home, cooking my dinner and collapsing on the couch.

And now, something new (will the gifts never stop?). The pain - aching in my joints, aching of my muscles, aching of every part of my body except my nose. The Herceptin did a number on my muscles, particularly the large muscle groups of the quads (thighs) and glutes (butt). The slightest bit of exertion - walking casually, gardening, etc. causes aches and pains as if I have been working out for 4 hours. It takes me about 5 - 6 days to recover. Just not normal! And the lower back pain. I have never had that in my whole life and find it very difficult to deal with.

And just when I thought that I had escaped the worst of it and recovered so well after the numerous batterings my body had taken! Will this never be gone?!?!

Needless to say, there has been some concern over these new events from my huge doctor support team. The first step was blood tests which came back good. I am not anemic and all of my blood levels are normal.

The next step was to run a bone scan which should show up any "hot" spots in my bones. This is my third one. The last two showed nothing except that the chemo had caused an additional 13% bone loss putting me on the edge of osteoporosis (thanks for that gift also). So.....yesterday, I had to take yet another day off of work (how do people ever lead normal lives with this), a day that I would have rather used going to the beach, on a trip, vacation or even just enjoying myself rather than making yet another trip to the hospital. The bone scan takes the better part of the day since you have to first go in and get an infusion of radioactive isotope, then go away for 3 hours while it processes and then go back to lay under the machine for another 40 minutes or so while it "reads" the results of the isotope moving through your bones.

I am assuming that "nothing" was found since I haven't heard back from my doctor yet but guess that I won't completely relax until I get the results.

And that is just another day in the life of a cancer "survivor". Yes, thankful that I am a survivor but still and forever living with the gift that keeps on giving...........

Thursday, August 23, 2007

South Dakota

We arose early on our first full day in South Dakota with a very aggressive itenerary planned. Would we be able to see it all? We thought we would just play it by ear.

After an early breakfast at the cafe down the street - burrito for Lorraine and again I forgot what I ate (maybe because I was looking at hers and only eating mine) - we headed off for our first stop, Mt. Rushmore. The drive was to be about 1 hour and the excitement started right away. As we were driving down the highway, I saw some Bison off in the distance and then, closer and closer and........closer and, suddenly, the Bison was right in the road. The cars ahead slowed down, as did we and I snapped a picture. As we were driving away, I turned to see more Bison running out into the road and blocking the way of the cars behind us. I wondered how long it would be before the Bison moved and let them through.

Then came the groundhogs (prairie dogs) - just the darned cutest little things with all of their posturing and chirping. Lorraine pulled over and I got out to take photos. That just drove the prairie dogs crazy and they chirped away like mad in warning. There were mothers with babies racing for holes and general commotion all around. I did manage to get a few shots off. They reminded me so much of the meerkats on Meerkat Manor.

At last, we were on our way again. There was a little coffee stand at the junction to Custer and I got a nice Mocha to start the day. We traveled on through the roads and at last arrived at Mt. Rushmore. It is up in the mountains, not along the prairies as I thought. You drive up an up to get to it. Once you arrived, there is a huge parking structure. It was nearly empty when we arrived and we parked right up on the top for a nice walk into Rushmore. We had shorts on and it was not yet really warm and, in fact, just a little cool. It warmed up soon enough though.

And, wouldn't you know, the new camera I bought for the trip chose just that time for the battery to die so I was out of luck in the photo dept. We headed into the gift shop but they didn't have the batteries I needed. Lorraine bought a disposable and off we went. The park is free and there is only a small fee ($5?) for parking. We rented audioguides and started off on the walk around the monument.

As you walk up, you are walking down a long walkway. There are 4-sided pillars to the left and right with flags on them. Each pillar side lists one state and the date of entry into the Union. We found California and Colorado on the same pillar, early in the walk. The two states had been admitted into the union very close to each other.

We could see Rushmore beyond the flags. It looked so small. Of course, it was big and looked big but small compared to the expectations you get when you see photos of it.

There is a large amphitheatre in the front along with elevators that take you down to a museum below. We started the tour walk around the monument. It was fascinating hearing about the workers and viewing the monument from its many different sides. The walk meandered around in front of the monument so that you were positioned to look first at one face and then another - Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and, at last, Lincoln. The walk took about 2 hours and a little longer if you were to listen to every part of the audio tour (which of course, I am driven to do). I heard most of it and only missed small portions. The museum had a smaller scale model which was still much taller than me (maybe 10 or 12 feet tall). It showed the monument as it was originally designed to be. Instead of just the heads, the 4 Presidents' hands and shirt tops were also showing. Time and money ran out so the monument is as we see it today.

There was also an explanation as to why it was named Mt. Rushmore but that story totally escapes my mind at the moment.

Next installment: Beyond Mt Rushmore - Missiles, kitschy shops and giant missiles.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

South Dakota

I think that I left off on my vacation installments just at the point that we had left 3 Sisters and were crossing into South Dakota.

South Dakota seemed like such a crowded place after Wyoming. Towns actually had over a thousand people in population. The roadsides were loaded with historical markers. We had already had a long drive and were anxious to arrive at our destination but finally I succumbed to my curiousity and pulled over to read one of the markers. It was memorializing an old settlement along the railroad trestles I believe.

At last, we arrived at our hotel in Hot Springs. It was fairly deserted but the room was spacious and nice with 2 large beds. The spa had a hot tub, Korean sand room and Korean marble room as well as a full time masseuse who happened to be one of the owners' 15 children. After making ourselves comfortable, we headed off for a walk around town. We were staying in the historical district which was comprised of red/pink sandstone buildings of vintage about the mid-1800s (if I remember correctly). We headed down to Evans Plunge which is the largest indoor natural hot spring in the world. It had been built over many years before so that it could be made into a recreation spot. We headed upstairs for an overhead view. The pool is built right over the spring and the river rocks are still in place as the warm water continues to seep between them. There are water slides, volleyball, hanging rings and other forms of entertainment all through the huge pool. It looked like a great place for the town to hang out. I would have liked to give it a try but hunger was driving us to look for something to eat. We took a look at all of the restaurants on the short street and settled on a steak house. We were in SD after all.

The restaurant, as with the rest of the town, was quiet and nearly deserted. Our waitress was a high school student - very sweet, quiet and willing to please. Lorraine had a beautiful flat iron steak and I had something equally good which I can't remember at the moment. I also had onion rings which were wonderfully prepared. The owner and cook came out to talk with us and he definitely was very passionate about his hotel/restaurant. He had trained in California in the Berkeley area and brought much of the adventuressness to his restaurant cooking in South Dakota. He had made a couple of wonderful fruit tarts for dessert and talked us into trying them out which we did. Yummy! I ate far too much, as did Lorraine and I think we rolled down the street back to the hotel. I had a nice hot tub before bed and we discussed the next days activities. Needless to say, we were both exhausted and slept well.

The next installment: Mt. Rushmore, buffalo (Bison) and more.......

Dragon Boat Racing

So Saturday, Aug 18th was the Paddle for Life Dragon Boat event at Leo Ryan Park in Foster City. Team Paddle Past Cancer (our team) was there with a full complement of 20 paddlers thanks to the folks who came out for their first time or just to help out. We paddled in the second heat and lost but we finished! Yeah! As it turned out, we did lose our heat but beat enough other boats overall to paddle in the Repercharge (consolation round?) We geared up one more time and did our best and beat our first time by 12 seconds! Pretty good in a 2 1/2 minute race. We were excited and could definitely feel the difference - more of that surge forward motion and much less of the rocking side to side motion. I paddled in row 7 - just past the middle - a spot I was not used to since I am usually in the stroke or lead position. It is a lot different being that far back. For one thing, you have paddlers ahead of and behind you and they are not always paddling together. The paddler behind me kept hitting me and my paddle with hers because she was not following and even caused me to splash water up on the paddler in front of me. I struggled to keep on going but did manage to do it. Now, I am not a perfect paddler by any means but I do know the golden rule - always follow the paddler in front of you. If the whole team did that, it would make a big difference. The amazing thing was how many people don't know that even though the coach says it every time we are in the boat - and many times over. Nonetheless, it was great fun and the team is great fun and we are looking forward to Treasure Island in September.

Friday, August 17, 2007

2nd Amazon Sale

After my initial sale of a book (collectible) on Amazon in March, there were no more sales to follow. My listings expired last week and I almost didn't list again but then I figured, what the heck, it doesn't cost me anything and it is pretty easy to re-list. Just push a couple of buttons. So I relisted my remaining 36 or so books and, on Wednesday, I sold another one.

This was another collectible which I sold for $10. It was an old copy of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers from my college days. The book was even old when I got it since it was published in 1968 and still had the original 95cent price on the cover. Imagine that! I have no idea what I paid for it and it is beat up and water stained but had managed to avoid the usual scribblings in the pages that college students make. Anyway, 39 years later, the book has sold for $10, which after Amazon's commissions netted me $5.52. Not making me rich but amazing to me to make anything off of something that the used bookstores wouldn't purchase, not to mention quite a mark-up over the original price.

And I did notice that Oprah has this on her book club selection so there are a lot of new printings out there now.

Guess I will keep listing on Amazon.

My Birthday!!!!!

We'll take a little break from the trip now to report on a very important event, my birthday! But first, a little side note.

Having visited my sister's house last weekend, I noticed that her puppy was drinking water out of a "doggie bistro". It looks like a sparklett's cooler for dogs. A little water bottle sits upside down on a special bowl and dispenses water for the dogs as they need it. I thought this was a great idea since my two dogs drink a lot of water and I am constantly filling their bowl and worrying that they may not have water in the daytime so I went out and bought the large, 5 gallon version for them.

After filling the bottle with water, turning it over and only spilling it a little as I tried to get it situated in the bowl, it was ready to go. The dogs, however, weren't so ready. They didn't know what to make of it, especially when it let out its loud "burps" as the air moved through the water and the water re-settled. After a few hours, they were convinced to try it out. Although still not thrilled with it, they are using it since there is nothing else for them to drink from.

Now, on to the birthday. Yesterday was my birthday - a day that I share with both Madonna's birth and Elvis' death. The day actually started the weekend before with a lovely note and little handblown glass vase (purple and yellow) from Lorraine. I was on my way. Next came a doggie card and singing e-greetings from my friend, Kathy. And, on the eve, a visit from Dad with a card and gift and flowers from him and Mom.

I decided to work this year on my birthday although I usually take it off. But first, checking e-mail saw a Happy Birthday message from my sil. At work, I received my first phone call, from my brother, wishing me Happy Birthday. My cell phone happened to ring while I was standing in the bosses cube (boss for this assignment) and I answered it since she was fiddling on the computer at the time. Afterword, I apologized, letting her know that it was my birthday and that was why I got the call. She immediately came alert and said, "no way. show me your driver's license. are you joking?" and other such phrases. I was confused and asked her if there was something wrong with me having my birthday yesterday. She looked at me and told me that it was her birthday! What a surprise! We were even born 12 years apart and are both year of the Dog!

3 of our co-workers took us out for a nice sushi lunch and then it was back to work for the afternoon. Another e-mail came in from my other sil as well as another e-greeting from my same girlfriend - a singing cowboy - hilarious! I would have sworn that she read my installment on Wyoming but she didn't and doesn't even know the story.

By 5:15, I had had enough of work and headed home. Got a real kick out of the vm my sister left on the phone singing happy birthday! The girls declined to join her so she was left doing it alone. It still brings a smile to my face.

My friend Diane met me after work and we went for a quick drink at Medio de Bodeguita (I think) - a hopping bar with some really cute guys hanging around. She had a mojito and I had my tequila and grapefruit (with a nod to Lorraine for introducing me to this unique combination years ago). Then, we were off to Bistro Elan for the yummiest of dinners. I had flatiron steak with heirloom tomatoes and the crispiest of french fries. The bread was delicious, too. Diane had a yummy Duck confit. We topped it off with a half bottle of Pinot Noir from the Arroyo Grande area of California that was wonderful. It was even served in the correctly large Pinot Noir glasses. For dessert, we split 3 tiny beignets with a flavored heavy cream and dark chocolate - so yummy that I was regretting the decision to split it. The maitre d' even brought it himself with a lit candle stuck in one of the beignets! A yummy dinner which I would highly recommend. Over my protests, Diane paid - my birthday treat! Thanks Diane!

I headed home to my good doggies - content with my low-key but happy birthday.

Today, I am off to the surgeon's for my semi-yearly check up and then back to work. The next post will bring us back to South Dakota for the next installment of the vacation trip.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Aspen to Wyoming - Do we need our passports

Aspen was fun and relaxing. I even finally started to adjust to the altitude and stopped gasping so much as I walked down the street. Yoga on the mountain top was fun and the hike at 11,000 ft (that's right -more than 2 miles folks) was exhilarating and exhausting. If I ever figure out the camera thing, you will get photos.

The last evening in Aspen, we thought we would rest and pack for our upcoming road trip. However, we ran into some friends of Lorraine's at the restaurant and ended up talking the night away. Nonetheless, we were up and ready to go early the next morning. It was to be a 9 hour journey that turned into 11 but what a journey.

Off we went. First stop, the kennel to drop Sydney for her stay while we were gone. Then we headed off to Starbuck's for a pick me up and, at last, were on the road for real. I was reading the map and navigating - as well as looking out the window and taking photos - while Lorraine had the chore of motoring our vehicle.

Up and over the Continental Divide we went, past Vail, Denver and some Ft (Collins?). The scenery was incredible and the day a beautiful sunny blue. We finally hit the border at Colorado/Wyoming and suddenly were in another country. The land stretched out for miles around us. We stopped in Cheyenne, the state capital, for lunch. A small town for a state capital. We found a little hole-in-the-wall diner where we could get a sufficiently greasy burger, fries and iced tea. The waitress didn't have the perfect teeth, body or botoxed face that we have all become so accustomed to seeing. None-the-less, she smiled her crooked toothed grin and was one of the most helpful and happy people I have ever met.

After lunch, we walked around a little looking at the historical old buildings and then headed off on our journey. More flat prairie lands. I really, really wanted to see a cowboy. We were in Wyoming after all. But, alas, no cowboys to be seen. No one to be seen except all of the truckers and other folks passing through on the interstate. We passed Chugwalla - home to the famous Chugwalla Chili - or so the billboard said. On our return journey, we tried to get us some of that chili but there was none to be found. Apparently the billboard led to nowhere. We found Chugwalla but no Chili!

On and on, through small town after small town. The smallest was a town called Lost Springs - Population 1. I do not kid you. It was 1 as in one as in 1 yes 1! It had a church and a house. We tried to imagine what it would be like to live in a town of 1. Do you have to confess sins to yourself in church? If you die, who crosses out the one and writes zero on the sign? The next sign of houses or civilization was 30 miles away at 3 Sisters Truck Stop.

We stopped for gas and, sure enough, there were 3 women inside manning (womanning?) the store, soda shop and restaurant. I asked if they were the 3 Sisters and they said no but that there really were 3 sisters (in a state made up primarily of men, they must have been popular). However, the 3 sisters no longer owned 3 Sisters Truck Stop. They had sold it. I asked to who and they didn't know. Jokingly I said, "to 1Brother?"They laughed and said that was probably right. The truck stop was one of those you only see in old movies. Dusty, one type of gas at one pump, the wind blowing and you could imagine tumbleweeds. Needless to say, it was not a place we wanted to stay for long.

The next town was a bit bigger - maybe 700+ residents. Thoughts of inbreeding passed through my mind. How else did these folks ever get married? There just weren't many people around.

And back to the passport thing..... When we got into Cheyenne, there were signs that kept saying Port Authority. And check in at Port Authority. We never did discover why.

At last, we crossed over into South Dakota and that is the next chapter.