Monday, October 29, 2012

Thank God It's Monday!

Hey Friends,
  I thought weekends were about R & R.  Not THIS weekend apparently!  Here's how it went;

  Saturday morning was the 4th annual OkC Mah Jongg Tournament.  Mah Jongg is a game of skill & luck originally from China & imported to the US in the early part of the last century.  You can read about it here;  I've been playing with a group here for a little over ten years now.  This was my year to host the tournament along with my co-host Trent.  Up to Saturday that just meant securing the space, purchasing prizes & sending some emails.  Trent is "techie" so he took care of graphic design & talking me down off the roof when I would get panicked about the details :).  Our players provided an amazing pot-luck lunch. We held the event @ the IAO Gallery 

   So, early Saturday Trent, Rod (the original organizer of the event & local Mah Jong GURU!!!) & I arrived at 8:30 to set up.  At 10:00 our players began trickling in for check in & to bring their yummy dishes.  Most of the entrants came out of two of the groups I play in on Mondays.  A few I had only communicated with via email or phone so it was nice to have a face to go with a name.  Ernesto was on hand to substitute in the event we needed an extra player.  You should have seen the look on his face when he was told he wasn't playing.  It was the same look I've seen when he gets hooked on a slot machine in Vegas!

   Play began at 10:30 and there were two rounds then we broke for lunch.  After lunch, one more round then it was time for the awards; beautiful hand made glass plates designed by Tracey Bewley, a local artist.  So a big shout out to our winners (for those who value their privacy I use first names only)  Norma from Edmond took first place, our own Marcy (who is coincidentally remodeling her kitchen so won't that plate look nice in her new space?) won second & Norma's daughter Debbie got third.  An honorable mention goes out to Bryan who actually tied for third & the winner was decided by a roll of the dice.  Laura got the coveted "golf award" for the lowest score & won a handy new Mah Jongg bag in which to store her winnings.

  It was a fun day & we walked out the door about 4:30.

Ernesto & some of the cutthroat competition!

  I then went home to lie down for about an hour before getting in costume to march in the Gazette's Halloween Parade.  This is also an annual event locally & one of my favorites!!  This was our second year to march & we were with the Dead Center Film Festival group this year.  Their theme was Fairy Tales gone wrong & we went with a Mexican themed Day of the Dead Catrina look.  I didn't carry a phone or camera :( so here's our only image. (Thank You Bryan!)

  We were running late so just had time to find a parking space, locate the parade route & hop in place.  Everyone looked so great both in the parade & the spectators.  Everyone out in their spooky best!!  The most gratifying thing was the look of recognition & appreciative comments from the many Latinos in the crowd.  Afterwards we tucked in the Iguana Lounge for some food to match our costumes.  We actually made it home by 10:30 but it was the end of a LONG DAY.

 But our weekend wasn't over yet!  Sunday evening we invited a group of friends for what is ALSO an annual event; Pumpkin Carving in The Wayback.  This is usually our last harrah of the year.  Once it gets cold we aren't back out there again until Spring.  We fixed a big ole vat of soup, some cider then let the creativity begin...  

  So here it is Monday & I for one am ready for the rest!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tour de Trees, A Win/Win Weekend!!

Hey Friends,
  This weekend has been on my calendar for a bit. Two of my FAVORITE activities combined for Tour de Trees, the bicycling/camping weekend put on by the Oklahoma Bicycling Society.  I met some of the lovely OBS members this summer on Freewheel & have been on some weekend rides here in OkC.  Most notably the Donut and Pre-Donut Rides from Will Rogers Park.  I've loved getting to know people & finding riders who go my pace.  Ernesto is kind enough to scale it back to ride with me but I know it has to kill him as my comfortable pace is about 14 mph.   Ernesto rides anywhere from 18-22 comfortably so it is a testament to his chivalry that he"ll hang with me.  

  Anyhoo, once I joined the group I read about Tour de Trees & knew it was right up our alley.  About 60 or so riders from all over the state gathered at Lake Eufaula State Park for the event.  We loaded up the T@B and Lucy Friday evening & headed out.  It was past dark when we arrived but we had no trouble finding a great spot under a canopy of Oak trees that had full hook-ups & the bonus of being just a few steps from the bathroom.  We got situated in no time & had a hearty dinner of sausages, rice, salad & of course.......QUESADILLAS!!!  
   We turned in & I read some out of "Wild-From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail"  by Cheryl Strayed.  The book details her coming to terms with her life after her mother's death from cancer, a failed marriage & a relationship that led to heroin use. She sets off on an 1100 mile solo hike to regroup. Soon I couldn't hold my eyes open.  It was pretty chilly but we don't really like to use the heater in the T@B, it gets too stuffy.  The perfect solution has been a dual zoned electric blanket.  My side was set on High & Ernesto's Low.  Perfect until I was roasting @ about 4 AM.  But there's nothing like it for taking the chill off!!  I re-set to Low & drifted back off.

  Saturday morning we woke up around 7 & did the coffee routine plus some instant oatmeal.  Then we readied ourselves & the bikes for a 42 mile tour of the area.  We got a baby cart & modified it for Lucy to ride in & to say she is not a fan is putting it mildly.  If you were to come up on Ernesto while he's pulling her you might think he had a wheel in need of some WD-40.  Lucy has a unique squeaky whine that doesn't let up until she is out of the stroller & in your arms.  We keep hoping she'll adapt...  One benefit (at least that's how I see it, Ernesto may feel differently) is the cart plus Lucy adds at least 20 pounds to Ernesto's bike.  This levels the field, so-to-speak in terms of him keeping his pace at my speed :D

Lucy's Cart

  The day turned out gorgeous.  We had a little bit of wind but the ride was lovely.  We made a big loop & wound up in Checotah (hometown of Carrie Underwood) for lunch @ the Katy Cafe.  I had the BLT & Ernesto got a chicken sandwich with some YUMMY sweet potato fries.  We sat on a bench out front w/Lucy & chatted with our fellow riders as they came & went.  The thing I love so much about bike trips is all the interesting folks you meet.   Some of these people were on Freewheel with us & some we were meeting for the first time.  After lunch we hopped on the bikes for the 15 mile ride back to camp.

   We arrived at our site around 1:30 & spent the rest of the afternoon chillaxing & chatting with everyone who stopped by to see the T@B.  In addition to Lucy it is a real magnet for conversation!!  Our neighbors were a retirement age couple who live full time in their RV & travel around state parks designing the park brochures with advertising for area businesses.  I'm going to guess they are in their 70s.  And I was super impressed with their technical skills.  They meet with their contacts & upload everything to the internet & even have a mobile office in their RV.  The brochures are produced annually & they spend about 3 weeks in each area.  Their stay is free as part of their fee.  Pretty sweet way to spend retirement!!  They have been "full timers since 2003.

   In the evening a pot-luck dinner was planned for 6:00.  I had prepared a white chicken chili at home & had it ready to heat in the crock-pot.  The amount of food was obscene!!  Everything looked so good, it was hard to pick just a few things but I get full really quick so I tried to be conservative. Ernesto zeroed in on some jalapeno/venison sausage.  And the desserts....OMG!!!!
The Pot-Luck Smogasbord
   After dinner a group loaded up in a truck to head to the "Haunted Barn" that is open on weekends in October.  I HATE the idea of people jumping out to scare me so I passed.  Ernesto & I returned to our campsite & built a fire.  It was pitch black & the stars were magnificent.  Ernesto looked at me & said, "It's only 7:30."  I could have died!!  I was sure it was at least 9:00 & I was ready to turn in, LOL!!  So we fought the urge & sat & enjoyed the fire.  A little later some of the brave souls who went to the Haunted Barn returned to tell us of their adventure.  We visited some more & were able to hold out until 9:30 before turning in.

Can We Go To Bed Yet?

  Sunday morning there was a 32 mile ride planned.  When we woke up I just couldn't motivate myself to leave our comfy set-up.  If you followed us this summer on our adventure in the Grand Canyon you know my favorite part of the day is coffee in the morning.  We decided to just hang around camp leisurely & enjoy the weather that was absolute perfection!!  I'm going to guess low 70s & a slightly overcast sky.  We had the windows open & there was a heavenly breeze.  We lingered as long as we wanted then loaded up to head for home.  What a delightful weekend!!!

Looks Like We Won't Be Riding Today.

Monday, September 24, 2012

One Step Closer to Living the Dream

It began with a sketch (not to scale!!!)  We made some changes on site but this is basically what we built.  & when I say "we"  I mean Ernesto!!!
Hey Friends, it's been a while.  Thank you for following us on our odyssey out West.  As much as I love to get away, it seems like when we return it takes a bit to get back up to speed at home.  We returned to 110 plus degree temps so it was a huge effort just to keep things alive in the garden til the cool down.  About a month ago we decided to undertake the first of a couple of structures we are planning for the Wayback.  I give you Papi's Cantina;

Here is what we started with, our storage unit with a big blank spot beside it & adjacent to the pool.

Setting posts
Posts set

Site inspector

Roof going on


Corrogated metal roof & we clad the storage unit to match

A little bit of heaven!!!
We still have much to do but I can already tell Papi's Cantina is going to be one of our favorite hang-outs.  When we remodelled our kitchen a few years ago we saved our old cabinets & countertops.  Our good friend Alain @ La Baguette is redoing some cabinets there & passed on a countertop too.  So when that's all installed I'll post an update.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day 9 - Home

Well, our little journey has come to an end.  Today's drive is gruelling!  Every hour we travel East the temperature rises about 5 degrees.  We cross into Oklahoma & the car registers 114.  The engine struggles against the load & the heat.  We vow here & now to start looking for a truck for future trips.  At the end of the road it's good to be home!!  Thanks for following along and I appreciate all the positive feedback.  Until next time.....

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Day 8 - Santa Fe Shopping - Tosca

  Last night the sky was amazing.  There is no other light in the campground & the moon is getting fuller by the minute.  I didn't even need a flashlight to go to the bathroom.  This morning the temp is the lowest it's been this entire trip, probably low 60s.  Thank God for my Grand Canyon blankie!!  We meet some of the neighbors.  Next door is a family traveling cross-country with their two young children in a Travel-Lite trailer.  It's bigger than ours but still on the small side as RVs go.  They are pulling it with their SUV same as us & had similar trouble getting up here yesterday.  They took a wrong turn, got stuck & had to have a ranger pull them out. Pretty embarrassing the guy said.  They are moving from North Carolina to Portland & are taking about 6 weeks to get there, nice!

   Also, there is a mad woman roaming the grounds.  She seems normal enough at first, striking up a friendly conversation,  but then she wanders off mid-rant to the next campers & I suspect she may just move from campground to campground.  We decide to take extra precautions & really lock everything up tight before heading to town this morning.

   We get to town about 10:30 & our first stop is to the French Pastry Shop @ La Fonda Hotel.  I order my favorite; the Croque Monsieur.  We run into Mom & Suzy & agree on a time & place to meet later.  After breakfast we checked out a jewelry place across the street; Long John Silver's.  They have old & new pieces & I settle on a beautiful turquoise & silver cuff made in the 20s.  LJS is a mom & son operated establishment & we learn that the patriarch of the family has just passed away this month.  I really admire how they are soldiering on.  We also pick up a few trinkets for the folks back home taking care of business.  Bryon & our friends Chris & Julia stop by to say, "Hi."

   From there we head up to Canyon Road to spend the next couple of hours wandering in & out of the galleries.  Santa Fe is the third largest art market in the country after New York & Los Angeles so the variety & quality is outstanding.  A day really isn't enough time to devote but we get here a couple of times a year so mainly we get a feel for what's new.  And I get the sense things have really picked up since December.  As we head back to the town center we stop in at an Italian place for a cold drink & notice that they rent Vespas by the hour.  That sounds like a lot of fun for a future trip.

   Soon it's time to meet up with Mom & Suzy to prepare for tonight's outing; Tosca @ the Santa Fe Opera.  There is a tradition of tailgating for this so we make another Whole Foods run for grilled salmon, chicken, cold salads, olive bread & strawberry shortcakes.  At the Italian place earlier I have discovered Pamplemo San Pellegrino (delicious!!!) sodas and I grab a bunch of these to chill.  We make the short drive to the Opera parking lot which is situated in the hills on the outskirts of town.  We luckily find a spot that is beginning to be in the shade & set up our al fresco "dining room."  We have allowed about an hour & a half so we have plenty of time to relax, enjoy conversation & dine before it's time to enter.  Just as we are finishing Chris & Bryon stop by on their way in to the show.  Once it gets a little closer to curtain we pack up & head in.


    We have excellent seats & as the sun begins to set Tosca begins.  I don't consider myself to be any kind of opera expert but I have definitely enjoyed the few that I've attended.  And it just so happens that this is the one I've seen the most (this will be my third production.)  The sets are a kind of cubist version of a cupola & cathedral jutting out at weird angles, almost giving a sense of vertigo.  The lighting is subtly highlighting different architectural features onstage but it pales in comparison to the serene beauty of the surrounding landscape.  SFO is open air & you can see the gorgeous colors of the fading light in the desert & mountains beyond the stage.  I've been here when thunderstorms were approaching, man you talk about dramatic!!

    It's really hot.  I guess the same factors that contribute to the excellent acoustics also prevent the air from moving.  I have a fan in my purse but I don't want to distract my neighbors by flapping so I slip my shoes off & put my feet on the the cold concrete floor. If I get any hotter I'm going to hike my skirt up!!  I wish I could understand the Italian.  The libretto is conveniently displayed on the seat back in front of me but I find it distracting.  However it's impossible to resist reading along to follow the story to its tragic conclusion.

   As we are filing out afterward, we run into our friend Chris & his son Blake from OkC.  We are happy to learn of our mutual appreciation for opera & agree to get together in OkC.  Chris has an apartment in New York & regularly attends productions at the Metropolitan Opera.  We talk about coordinating taking in a production there!!

  It's late & time to take the girls back to their hotel & for us to head up for our last night on the mountain.  I wish I could say I am ready to go home.  What I'm really ready for is to grab our dogs, turn around & come right back here!!  But, I think this is the best way to end a vacation...wanting more!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Day 7 - The Petrified Forest - 10,000 Waves - Santa Fe, NM

   This morning we make our hasty getaway from Meteor Crater.  Less than an hour down the road is the Petrified Forest, a national park on our route into Santa Fe.  I've been here a couple of times & although I wouldn't consider it a destination in & of itself, it's a great place to stop on a long haul.  Our first stop is in the visitor's center to collect another stamp for our passports!

   Then Bryon & I walk on one of the trails as Ernesto checks out something mechanical on the T@B.  In case you are wondering why we are so antsy about our trailer, in October we had to have it towed in Arkansas due to broken wheel bearings.  Anyway he gets everything fixed how he wants it & we roll on through the park.

   Petrified Forest is primarily a drive through experience.   225 million years ago it was a steamy, swampy equatorial climate.  Giant Redwoods fell into the silty soil and fast forward millions of years & now this is one of the largest petrified wood deposits in the world.  We pass through pretty quickly, stopping occasionally & I think we may have missed some of the more dramatic turnouts.  Anyway our final destination today is Santa Fe so we head on down the road.

View through the telescope of Newspaper Rock

   This is an unexpectedly grueling drive today.  Everything just takes so much longer to get to than I think it will.  We finally arrive in the Santa Fe city limit & decide to make a stop @ Whole Foods before heading up to our campsite in the Hyde Park Memorial Campground.  I grab a light snack for us.  We don't want to eat too much because this evening we have appointments @ Ten Thousand Waves, the world renowned Japanese style spa on the mountain. (

   As we make our way up, the Volvo is really struggling with the 8% incline & begins making a "throbbing" noise we've never heard before.  We need to pull over frequently to allow impatient drivers to go around us.  There are many camping areas to tuck into here but we have a reservation in the area with hook-ups.  We find our space, back in, turn off the car & open the hood to allow the engine to cool.  The fan is blowing with an alarming ferocity.  We set up camp in what is our last home before home :(

   Sometimes when I am on a vacation that's more than a long weekend I'll start counting the days until I can go back home.  This isn't one of those times.  Everywhere we've been I've wished we could've stayed longer.  And Santa Fe is one of the places in the world I would own a vacation home if I had the money.  Actually, having the camper is the next best thing!!  Now we just need to figure out how to be here from about July 5 through some time in September when things cool off at home!  This week the OkC temps are the highest they've been since record keeping began.  Here it is a delicious 72 degrees.

   I love this mountain.  Five miles up is the Santa Fe ski area where Ernesto learned to ski just a few years ago.  In a few more weeks the aspen will start blanketing the mountain in brilliant, shimmering gold.  We love the hiking here in the summer.  Five miles in the other direction is the spa where we have a reservation in about 30 minutes so it's time to head back down.

   My mother & aunt arrived in Santa Fe yesterday. They have played a round of golf today & are joining us.  No trip to Santa Fe is complete without coming here.  This is where I came in lieu of a bachelorette party when Ernesto & I married in Santa Fe 10 years ago.   Sadly, this is also where my original wedding ring was lifted off the bathroom counter a few years later.  As a result I now remove all jewelry & lock it in the glove box before entering.

   Mom & Aunt Suzy are there to meet us in the lobby & we hug & kiss. We are given kimonos & ushered to the locker room to shower befor our sessions begin.  First we have an hour in the Waterfall Tub.  There are a series of hot tubs scattered all over the property behind Shoji screens.  There are public (clothing optional in daytime)  & private tubs available.  The Waterfall Tub (our favorite) is more of a small pool surrounded with rocks that has a lovely view of the scrubby hillside.  There is also a cold plunge (although after the Colorado River the 85 degree water feels anything but cold) & a sauna.  We have an hour here before going off to our massages.  It is great to catch up.  We visit & take pictures & enjoy the yummy spa water provided.

Mom & Suzy enjoying a foot soak

I hate that this is so blurry but it's the only shot of E @ the Waves

   Pretty soon a voice comes over the intercom to tell us it's time to come in for our services.  We say good-bye to Bryon who is meeting up with some other OkC friends here & going to finish out his stay with them.

   We girls have all signed up for Nose to Toes, an hour & 20 minutes of pure heaven.  Christina leads me to a private room that is the perfect temperature.  Soothing "chillax" music drifts through the space.  The massage begins face down.  Christina applies firm, slow pressure to different parts of my neck & back to get an idea of any areas of tension.  Then my back is exfoliated with a scrubby textured mitt.  This is followed with an excellent full body massage and stretching.  Then I'm turned over for more of the same on my front side.  Warm oil is drizzled on my scalp followed by concentrated attention there & on my neck & shoulders.  Finally my feet are thoroughly worked over.  I am wrapped up in a sheet & helped to a sitting position then dressed in a fresh dry kimono.  I stagger back upstairs in a daze to join my family.

   The shopping is good here too.  They have incense, spa products (we love the Hinoke & stock up),  books, tee shirts & some lovely vintage kimonos.  They also have a small assortment of food options.  We pick up some sandwiches & hummus to eat back @ camp.  We say goodnight & head home for a blissful night's sleep.