As part of our September vacation, Bill’s brother, John, bought tickets for all of us to take a scenic train ride. It left from Leadville, Colorado, which is the highest city in the U.S. at an elevation of 10,430 feet and also the home of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. The two and a half hour trip traveled up the side of Prospect Mountain, through the San Isabel National Forest, and back down again. Leaving the station, the locomotive pushed the cars backwards up the mountain, chugging towards Mount Arkansas and 11,000 feet above sea level.
It was really beautiful; the Aspens were turning and the pine trees rose straight and true toward the sky, serving as a lush green backdrop to the golden Aspen leaves. One side of the train hugged the uphill slope and the other skimmed past the downhill cliffside that descended into the Arkansas River Valley. Once we reached 11,000 feet, the train reversed itself so that the locomotive was pulling the cars the nine and a half miles back to the depot.
The mountains were thick with trees and outcroppings of huge boulders. An occasional tiny waterfall splashed down a leaf-laden hillside into a small stream that burbled along the side of the tracks like dolphin in a boat wake.
As the train made its way down the mountain, Bill moved with the swaying of the car, back and forth from one side to the other, taking picture after picture with our digital camera. John and Terry were sitting quietly, holding hands. I think John might have been dozing. I stood by an open window on the uphill side, watching as the pristine forest slipped by.
Suddenly, the youngest of three brothers, who were part of a family of five that had been in the same car with us during the entire trip, jumped up and grabbed the open windowsill. He was maybe five or six. “Bigfoot!” he yelled, pointing out the open window and into the pine and Aspen woods. “Dad, it’s Bigfoot. Bigfoot!” he continued screaming. “Lookit, lookit! There he is!”
Dad stood and gently put his hands on his young son’s shoulders as he stared up the mountain side. “Nope, sorry Brian. I don’t see Bigfoot.”
“He’s there! Honest. Look. Right there by that big rock. Its… “
“Maybe a dead tree trunk?” his father asked softly.
“Maybe,” sighed young Brian. “But it could have been Bigfoot.”
“Yup, it sure could have. In fact, he’s probably watching us right now from behind a pine tree way up the hill.”
“Do you think so?” Brian asked looking hopefully into his father’s eyes.
“I do, son. In fact I’m pretty sure I saw him peeking around a big old tree trunk way up the slope.”
Brian sat back down next to his older brothers. His big grin said it all. He’d had an adventure he could tell his friends about and his dad would back him up. Because he was lucky enough to have the best dad ever!
We checked into our Cottonwood motel Wednesday afternoon, unpacked for our two night stay and Bill started perusing online menus for local restaurants. We commented about the size of the motel, which had three separate buildings: one for the lobby, the room to get the free breakfast in a bag, and other amenities, and two more buildings that comprised around 48 rooms each. Our room was on the first floor at the back corner of the second building and no other cars were around yet. That lasted about 30 minutes, when an SUV pulled into the spot next to us.
As we watched out the window, the front and back doors swung opened and a cloud of smoke billowed out, followed by a family of five plus two little yappy dogs. The first to exit was the driver, who we figured out later was the daughter-in-law. Her husband stepped out of the back seat behind her, followed by their teenage daughter who hooked leashes to the two little dogs and walked them across the parking lot to a grassy area where she lit a cigarette while she waited for them to do their business. Gramps exited the front passenger seat and immediately lit up as he wandered over toward his granddaughter. The husband reached in and helped Granny out of the back seat and, as soon as her feet hit the cement, she pushed him aside and joined Gramps to have her own smoke. Dad began lugging all the suitcases into the room while his wife joined everyone across the parking lot and lit up as well.
Once the smoke fest was over and the dogs had peed and pooped in the grass and on the parking lot cement, they all joined Dad in the room and slammed the door shut. Our room had an adjoining door to their’s, which someone on the other side discovered when they rattled the door handle, trying to open it.
“Git away from there, Bittie Mae,” someone hissed. “That ain’t a closet; it goes next door.”
Drawers slammed, suitcases thumped onto the floor and the TV was turned on and the volume turned up for Judge Judy. And it didn’t take long for the bickering and bitching to commence. A woman’s gravelly voice declared loudly, “I ain’t sleepin’ on no couch. You sleep on it Darryl.”
A mumbling reply was followed by, “Hell, no. I didn’t come all the way here with you buncha a**holes to sleep on a f***ing couch.
A female voice exclaimed, “Keep your voice down. Darryl, make your mother shut up.”
“Mumble, mumble, mumble, mom, please,” was the reply.
“Screw that,” Granny bellowed. “I’ll talk as loud as I damn well want. And I’ll sleep wherever I damn well want. And it ain’t on no f***ing couch!”
At this point, Darryl’s wife abruptly left the room, slamming the door in her wake. She got into the SUV, quickly reversed out of the parking spot and drove away. We thought maybe she’d run out of cigarettes. Or patience.
“So, the b***h just leaves us here? Now we can’t go nowhere,” Granny shrieked as she walked out into the parking lot, lit a cigarette and yelled, “F*** this!”
Right about then the little dogs joined in the ruckus and started barking up a storm, which caused everyone in the room to shout, “Shut up! Quiet! Knock it off!”
I looked at Bill and said, “Drink?”
“How about an early dinner and several drinks?”
“Even better. Maybe they’ll have settled down by the time we get back.”
“Or killed each other off,” he quipped.
When we returned a couple of hours later they were still at it, the dogs were still barking and the SUV was nowhere to be seen. We could hear Granny talking into the speaker of her cell phone and distinctly heard her say, “We’ll be home Friday.” Since they had Arizona plates, we guessed that meant they were here for one more night. “I’m thinking we need to go home tomorrow,” I said to Bill who nodded in agreement.
The next morning we were awakened at 6:15 by the SUV’s car alarm going off. This caused the dogs to start barking, Granny to start yelling, and Mom go out to the parking lot, get in the SUV and leave again. We immediately began packing our suitcase. After coffee and a shower, we left the room, loaded up the car and planned on searching for a restaurant that was open for breakfast on Thanksgiving.
Granny and Gramps were sitting in the SUV, which had returned sometime during the morning and parked next to our car. They were each having a morning smoke as they sat in the front seat with the heater on and the windows down. Granny gave me a toothless grin and exclaimed in a gravely smokers rasp, “Happy Thanksgiving!”
“Same to you,” I said without much enthusiasm in my voice as I slammed the passenger door shut.
“Let’s see,” I began as we drove away from the office after checking out, “for our Colorado trip, the condo was a mess so we couldn’t stay there our first night and I had to argue with them to pay for a hotel room. Our Flagstaff stay at the Courtyard had no maid service, no restaurant, no pool, but they charged the same rates and also made us pay for parking. And now this. A Redneck Thanksgiving! I think what we need to do is buy an RV so we can find a quiet spot in the woods somewhere and we don’t have to deal with anyone but each other.”
“How about a beanbag chair in the coat closet? It’s quiet and no one would bother you.”
“Okay, but it’s got to have a little frig. You know, for snacks and beverages and stuff.”
“You got it sweetie!”
For Thanksgiving this year, we celebrated at a campground in Cottonwood, which is about an hour and a half north of Phoenix. Ryan and Jamie got a campsite at Dead Horse Ranch State Park for the long holiday weekend. We made a reservation at a hotel in Cottonwood for two nights and checked in Wednesday afternoon.
Ryan’s original plan was to camp and have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner Thursday night at a local restaurant. But, after calling several establishments in Cottonwood to try to make a reservation for six people, he discovered they would all be closed. Apparently, spending time with their own families took priority.
So he initiated Plan B and decided to do a camp-out Thanksgiving. We had a customary Thanksgiving dinner of surf and turf. Ryan got the filets and Bill got lobster tails. I contributed one legitimate Thanksgiving treat – pecan pie with whipped cream.
We played Charades, explored the park, we painted rocks, and the girls made leaf piles to jump into. And dinner was great. The filets were grilled to perfection and Morgan kept exclaiming, “This is the best Thanksgiving ever! Steak is my most favorite food.” And the girls discovered the wonderfulness of pecan pie, which I couldn’t believe they never had. When they asked me “what’s the soft stuff in the middle,” I said “Yummyness.”
Because of our obnoxious motel neighbors, we didn’t stay a second night at the motel. Instead, we drove home right after dinner. We spent Friday and Saturday making sausage stuffing and homemade raspberry-pineapple-cranberry sauce and a green bean casserole with mushroom soup and fried onion rings. Then, Bill grilled a turkey breast and we had a real, traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday because, after all, you can’t make a turkey sandwich with leftover steak!
Bill and I went out to dinner Sunday night because we had grout repair work done on our kitchen floor and the furniture from the kitchen was in the living room. We settled into our booth at Bubba’s, ripped off our masks and ordered a beverage from our very nice young waiter, Daniel. He gave us a few minutes to enjoy our icy cold beers then returned to the table to take our orders. “Have you folks decided what you’d like? Maybe start out with an appetizer?”
“No appetizer,” I replied with a smile. “I’ll have the Southern fried chicken breast. Please put the gravy on the side.”
“Would you like something besides mashed potatoes? You get two sides with that. Fries, Cole Slaw, Tots…”
“Mmmm, yum, Tater Tots please. And a side salad with Ranch dressing.”
Daniel glanced at Bill and, I assumed, he smiled. Hard to tell with a mask on, but his cheeks puffed out and his eyes twinkled. “And you, sir?”
“Chicken strips, fries and a side salad with Ranch.”
“And would you like a dipping sauce with that?”
“Maybe I will,” Bill answered. “What do you have?”
“Ranch, mild barbeque or hot barbeque sauce.”
“I’ll take the hot barbeque sauce.”
Daniels eyes got big and he asked, somewhat incredulously, “Hot? Are you sure, sir?”
I looked up at this nice young man, smiled and wiggled my eyebrows as I said softly, “Yes, Daniel, hot. Because he likes his sauce like he likes his women.”
He tried hard not to laugh. It didn’t work. And I’m pretty sure the kitchen staff got an earful when he put in our order.
I mentioned earlier that Bill and I went on a vacation to the Colorado mountains in late September. Unlike Phoenix, the air was clear of smoke from the west coast fires, the temperature was in the mid-70’s, and the Aspen leaves were turning the mountainsides into gold.
Our first morning in Frisco, Colorado we checked out of our hotel room where we had to stay because our condo hadn’t been cleaned from the previous visitors and wasn’t ready for us to move in the day before (see The Condo from Hell). We strolled along Main Street, had some breakfast, wandered into a shop here and there, bought the requisite tee-shirt, and generally tried to kill time before we could re-check into the condo at 10 a.m.
At one point, we sat together on a bench and just watched the tourists and locals stroll by or roll by on bikes and skateboards. The street had been closed off to vehicle traffic for several blocks to allow for increased outdoor dining, so folks were wandering along the sidewalks and the road in equal numbers.
Suddenly, a 30-something woman came by. She wore a knit shawl draped over her 60’s flowered granny dress. Her feet were adored with scuffed up hiking boots and her head with a floppy rasa cap that barely covered her wild tangle of brown curls. She vigorously raised each knee in concert with a tuneless hum as she proceeded to merrily skip like a carefree 8-year-old down the middle of Main Street, her granny gown billowing out with each hop.
I glanced over at Bill, who seemed transfixed with her progress, and nudged him gently with my elbow. “She’s skipping like a little kid,” I commented. “Why do you suppose she’s doing that?”
Bill shrugged and replied, “Because marijuana’s legal here, that’s why.”
Feeding the backyard rabbits is a nightly ritual for me and for them. If I don’t show up by five o’clock or so to lay out the buffet, a couple of them come to the patio door, sit on the mat and stare inside, watching for the lady with the plastic bag of goodies to appear.
During the winter, when the temperatures are hovering around seventy instead of a hundred and ten, we sit outside on the patio and sip some sort of beverage, sometimes adult, sometimes kid-friendly, and watch the critters jostle for the best chunks veggies. Carrots always go first, followed by lettuce and finally the celery. It’s still amazing to us how the little cottontails gang up on the big jacks and don’t let them dominate the pile of food. They will actually stand up on their hind legs and ‘punch’ a jack in the face to chase them away. And the jacks always cave and run.
Another nightly phenomena that always manages to make us laugh is the random panic and scatter ritual. The crowd will be calmly eating and occasionally jumping straight up in the air in a show of bunny dominance when all of a sudden the whole herd will scatter. Some hide in the Oleander hedge and others just freeze because they seem to think that not moving makes them invisible. This happens when a bird, usually a dove or grackle or even a couple of hummingbirds, passes overhead. The whole crowd of rabbits bolt. Then, ten seconds later, the bravest of the group will return to the buffet and start munching again, which seems to calm the rest of them and they all meander back to finish dinner.
Bill and I will laugh and ask them what’s up. They never answer. But if they could, I think they might say, “Well, you know, it maybe could have been a hawk.”
Rabbits are stupid. But then again, Bill and I are the ones talking to them.
Bill and I always wear our seatbelts. And, up until my double mastectomy, I never really gave it a second thought. Get in the car, snap on the seatbelt, drive, park, unsnap the seatbelt, put on our masks, get out of the car, and go into wherever we were going, usually the grocery store. We go to the grocery store a lot. I don’t know why, but if the Zombie Apocalypse ever happens, we’re stocked up to our eyebrows.
Anyway, I digress. Nowadays, after I take off my seatbelt I now have an additional step: move my left boob back into position on my chest, not nestled somewhere in the vicinity of my armpit. You see, if you don’t have a plastic surgeon put in implants and you wear prosthetics instead, the belt that’s strapped across your chest sort of pushes the fake boob to the side.
I discovered this phenomena the first – or maybe the second – time we went to the store after I got my first pair of prosthetics. We were in the produce section, picking out, of all things, cantaloupe because they were on sale. As I stood at the display, gently pressing the stem dimple for softness, I noticed Bill staring at me with a curious look.
“What? Don’t the melons look good to you?” I asked.
With that, he smiled, snorted and covered his mouth to control the laughter that was about to explode out of him. “No, no, the melons look fine,” he squeaked out. “Yours look a little, umm, off, though.”
“My what? My melons?” I asked, glancing down at my newly purchased boobies. “What do you mean… oh! Oops,” I exclaimed softly, as I tried to discreetly grab the lump of silicone that was nestled against my left arm and pull it front and center where it belongs. “Better?” I asked him as I stealthily completed the maneuver.
“Yes, better,” he snickered. “But next time you should let me do it for you. Nothing like two senior citizens getting randy in the produce department to raise an eyebrow or two!”
Well, here it is, the day after the apocalypse… er, I mean the Presidential election. And surprise we’re all still here – the sky hasn’t fallen, the seas haven’t risen and the world hasn’t ended. But, based on all the craziness that preceded today, it still may happen.
We still don’t know who our next president will be because some states are continuing to tally all of their mail-in ballots. So we wait.
The stock market will see-saw from the uncertainty; the pundits will make prediction after prediction based on the left or right leaning of their network; the pandemic will remain in the forefront of the news; and Christmas advertising will dominate the airwaves now that all the political ads are gone.
So, instead of being subjected to the fantasies and fallacies spewed across the airwaves by political opponents, we will now have to watch ridiculous, narcissistic, artsy-fartsy perfume and cologne ads that were made by major Hollywood celebrities when they were at least a decade or two younger. Every Christmas, we are subjected to the same supercilious commercials starring Charlize or Natalie or Jennifer, or Johnny. They are shown flowing sensuously through pools of water or jumping with ballet-grace off a pier or looking sultry and mysterious while fondling dirt. It certainly makes me want to smell like them… NOT!
But, once the holiday season ends, two things will happen. The stink of Christmas cologne ads will end and be replace by the stink of our government at work.