Our Lady of the Blue Highways

Our Lady of the Blue Highways
Portrait in oils by Jackie Poutasse

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Out and About in Maricopa County (Land of the Pink Tents)


1. Niece Michelle
2. Niece Christine
3. Kathy (Kit's Mom) serving wine at Easter Dinner

Maricopa County is where the Sheriff decided not to baby jail inmates. They live in tents, (year ‘round ) have pink and grey prison jumpsuits, have to wear pink socks and underwear, and the only TV they can watch is the weather channel or the Disney channel. HooRah for the Sheriff.

The weather has been getting warmer and warmer – but yesterday, a weather front arrived from California – lowering the temperature, creating a couple of very pleasant days. Although, I’ve been spending comfortable hours in the screen room – when the temp hits 90, I usually call it quits until later in the afternoon.

The last week has been unbelievably busy. None of which activities had anything to do with travelling or seeing new things.

I did visit my cousin Sharon and her husband, Tim, yesterday. And, yes, Judy, I agree – he is a “Teddy Bear”. I actually can’t remember the last time I saw Sharon – many years ago. We did have lots to talk about – parents, grandparents, cousins, places. I’ll see her again before I go – and again at the family reunion in August, and perhaps at their summer home in Pocatello, ID.
Sharon keeps up with my blog and says I should write a book.

Memo to Boots! Write a best selling book!!!!

Oh, I can’t forget!!! My nephew, Freehand Robert, a well known and widely acclaimed tattoo and piercing artist, (and mentor to my grandson Jesse) set a Guinness record last week - 1501 piercings in 4 hours, 27 minutes – all on one man (what was that guy thinking?) It was all done at “Pain for Sale” in Gillette, Wyoming. If you want to know more, follow this link!!!

Kit’s surgery is set for May 3. We won’t know if she will have to have Chemo until after the surgery, but be warned – if she has to shave her head – I will too! So, all fingers are crossed for no Chemo – cause I’m frightened to see myself with a bald head.

Next week, I think I’ll go visit my friend in Benson, AZ for a couple days. I still have to go to the Superstition Mountains – I promised Violet I would. Kit mentioned several other day trips to me this morning – but I have to save some for the next trip out here – next year. (I promised my nieces I’d be here for the Chocolate Festival) (And there’s a quilt shop hop in and around Fredericksburg Texas in April)

I’ve already notified my daughters that when I get back to Virginia, I’m having a giant yard sale, and getting rid of virtually everything I own – except fabric and sewing machines, that is. (I still have those 60 quilts to finish) All the “family” stuff - photos, mementos – of parents and grandparents, as well as Mom’s handmade Christmas ornaments and decorations will be parceled out among friends and family. I’ll have a truckload of that stuff as I travel westward.

I think I’ll wait til I get back out here to get a travel trailer, so I’ll still be tenting it. I saw what I wanted in the local Craig’s list, and the prices were in line – but not yet the time to buy. There are lots of them for good prices here and in Florida.

Gaow is quitting her job at a local Thai Restaurant – She works 5 – 12 hour + shifts a week – no overtime, and all tips are kept by the owners. She is so exhausted, her health is in jeopardy. I’m trying to talk her into leaving here when I do and riding with me to Chico, CA to visit our other Sister-in-Law. She needs a little vacation. She wants to return to Thailand for a month or two this summer – and I’ve told her she could fly out of San Francisco. So, Carol – be forewarned, there might just be two of us landing on your door step.

I have a bag full of books on CD – and Jackie gave me a portable CD player when I left VA – but – I want to listen to the books while I drive, and I won’t drive with ear-buds. I considered getting speakers for the portable player (and still might), but I found this player “eats” batteries. My cassette player can play for weeks on battery – but they are bigger batteries.

So,….. I found a CD/Cassette/AM/FM radio that I thought might work out. Well – it’s going back. The CD goes on the top, the Cassette on the front. The buttons for the CD are on the front, and the buttons for the Cassette are on the top????!!!! Makes no sense to me. In addition there is no way to turn the power off when using batteries. Is that dumb or what?

I’m going to go with speakers for the little one and call it good! I still have one book on cassettes to listen to – The Lord of the Rings. The rest of my books are on CD

The Saga of the Green Napkin!
Several years ago Kit and Ken visited Virginia Beach. Mom and I took them to the Trellis restaurant in Williamsburg (for those not familiar – it was owned by Marcel Desauliers, the creator of “Death by Chocolate”- no slouch place) At some point, Kit and I retired to the ladies room (why do women always travel in pairs?) I was wearing a white pants suit – polyester, I’m sure. We walked all the way across the restaurant, nodding politely to all the smiling patrons. Approaching the ladies room, there was a large, full-sized mirror ---- and sticking statically to my white polyester pants suit was a large green napkin. Over the years I have been teased mightily by Ken about that napkin!

And, the Rest of the Story!!!
Last night, Kit, Ken and I went out to dinner. As I was getting up to leave, a large green napkin fell off my lap. Kit made a point of it, and started to laugh. Then, Kit got up, sure enough, a large green napkin fell off her lap!!!! Ken said, “I can’t take you gals anywhere!” , and headed for the door. About half way there – a LARGE GREEN NAPKIN, fluttered to the floor, landing at his feet. He kept walking – oblivious to the event. By then Kit and I were laughing so hard, we couldn’t speak. We tried to explain to the hostess, but I doubt she understood a word we were saying. Now, if you don’t see the humor in this – well, it’s just one of those “You hada been there moments”.

Kit has a new purse. So, naturally we were comparing conveniences. Mine is olive drab, has all the necessary pockets for cell phone, recorder, business cards, (JoAnn Coupons) etc. on the outside, and several on the inside for all my other plunder. Ken says in it’s former life, my bag held a gas mask that was distributed in 1953 during the Korean War. Yuk, Yuk. I am not amused.

Well folks, I am within 1.2 pounds of breaking another 10# mark. So what does Ken do? He brings home a couple dozen of my second favorite donut. (White cake donuts drenched in chocolate frosting) So – I’ll hit the mark next week instead of this week!

Until next time,
Bear Hugs

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lake Havasu / Benson Bay

Photos in order (I hope)

1. Jumping Cholla - the one that "got" me
2. Wildflowers at Benson Bay
3. London Bridge
4. Gaow setting up the tent at Buckskin Mountain
5. Benson Bay

Sister in law, Gaow, and I took a 2 day trip to Parker, AZ and Lake Havasu. We were a little late leaving, and it seemed to take forever to get there – Through miles and hours of the desert beauty sameness. We were both hungry when we left Phoenix – not realizing there was no where to eat until we actually got to Parker. We had discussed KFC and were looking for it to no avail. We stopped at a burger king, and when we left there – of course – 2 blocks away was the KFC.

The first site of the Colorado River was amazing. The color is a deep teal - tourquoise? more blue than teal. it looks like you might be able to see to the bottom. What intense color.

About half way between Parker and Havasu City, we stopped at Buckskin Mountain State Park, and set up our tent. We had our pick of several spots, and picked the one under a huge shade tree. They had a “cabana” set up for tents – a walled and covered section for each site with a picnic table, and half wall – probably a wind break with shelves on one side – pretty nifty for a tent site. All the tent sites were right on the river – we could look out and watch the water skiers.

It was windy, and Gaow shook out the tarp to lay it down – but the wind wrapped it around her instead. I headed for the camera, but before I could grab it, she had placed rocks to hold it in place. It seemed to take a long time to put the tent up – no grass, just a layer of pebbles over hard dirt.

The hills are covered with wild flowers - a carpet of black-eyed susans, other flowers, pink, yellow purple, white. They are beautiful

Then we drove down to Havasu City and visited London Bridge. The bridge is impressive. It leads to an island. But, the tarted up touristy area built around the land side is tacky, although I was told it is going to be remodeled.

As we were leaving Gaow was stopped by a Psychic, who said she was very sad and had suffered the loss of a loved one. I just turned Gaow away, and told the woman that we didn’t have time, we were just leaving. Gaow is too trusting, she would have gone with her, not quite understanding what was going on. Not that I’m against Psychics, but this just hit me wrong. In retrospect, maybe I should have gone in with Gaow, and let her experience it. (After all, in her childhood, an aunt told her a foreigner would come and take her away from Thailand. My brother said that the moment he set foot in the village, he was a marked man!!!)

We got back to the tent just before dark, and watched a beautiful sunset. We had a pretty good night, but in the middle of the night, Gaow got cold – she is so tiny. I had not brought in my sleeping bag or fleece poncho because we had two big double fleece blankets, and I thought that would be enough. Obviously not - so I dug out more bedding, and she finally settled down and slept the rest of the nite. Warning, Gaow is a blanket thief – big time!!!

The cold of the night gave way to a very, very warm tent by 8 a.m. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and it was just as beautiful out as it was the day before - without the wind! People are already out waterskiing on the river. Last night they had a big bonfire and party at the RV park across the river

In the morning, we packed up and went to the marina near Benson Bay. We planned to get breakfast at the restaurant there, but wouldn’t you know it, the place is closed on Wednesdays.

We got directions to the bay “there are 3 trails, take the funky one” I took my trek sticks with me for the hike and a good thing too. We took the wrong trail, ended up climbing up and down hills – the sticks kept me on my feet going up and coming down. I stopped to take a photo of a cactus flower, and walked away, brushing the plant – remember when I told you about the jumping Cholla? Well, it got me!!!

It’s a pretty little bay – and for those I haven’t told yet, was named for my brother. He spent a couple tours in Parker during his Coast Guard career, and was very involved in Civic work. The land end of the bay is that same beautiful blue - and you can see down to the bottom - but wouldn't you know it - I didn't get a photo of that part of it.

We came down from the hills, and walked around the flat land. Gaow was looking for the “Benson Bay” sign so she could have her photo taken beside it. I learned later that the sign was gone, but Michelle wants to make a sign for it. I told her to contact the Rangers at Cattail State Park, as they told me they maintain the beach at the bay.

After that escapade, we headed home, taking a different road. I dropped Gaow off at my niece’s apartment, visited for awhile, and headed for Kit’s – at about 6pm. I learned there was a 101 Loop (expressway) that would get me there faster than driving up Bell Road. Remember, it is 6 pm – in the middle of rush hour, on a road headed due west. I didn’t know where the road was taking me, and I couldn’t see the signs because of the sun being right in my eyes. It was a hair raising ride. I finally recognized a street name and exited, and made my way safely “home”.

Remember when I said I could find anything around here as long as it was on Bell Road? Well, now I have added Union Hill to my map – so I can make a big circle. Virtually anywhere I want to go, I can find now. Restaurants, stores (including a JoAnn’s super store), gas stations, etc. No need to go further. Union Hill is not as busy as Bell Road, and has far fewer traffic lights.

Gaow went to the DMV to get an ID card, and they gave her a learners permit awhile back. I promised her I’d let her drive. On our trip to Parker, I was totally unfamiliar with the roads, and didn’t know where the big trucks might be, so I promised that on her next day off, I’d take her somewhere to drive.

I had visions of Madame ending up in a ditch. But the day finally arrived. We drove out to New River, AZ where Michelle and Eric live – they weren’t home, but they live way out in the country – on a gravel road. Gaow got behind the wheel. We started on the gravel road – no traffic. She did a good job, so I took her out on the paved road. In all, she drove about an hour, and we actually got up to 40 mph once. Traffic coming from behind made her nervous, so she would pull off, and let them pass, which was ok. Her main problem was that the driving she has done in the past was in Thailand – they drive on the other side of the road. She used to drive a Tuk-Tuk (little open air taxi type thing). My brother bought a PU truck a few years back, but he seldom let her drive. On our ride – whenever she wanted to use the turn signal, she turned on the wipers instead – because they are opposite from the truck in Thailand.

Oh, and Madame did not end up in a ditch. There were no ditches!!!!

Speaking of Michelle and Eric – 6 weeks ago, they had a fire in their power box and have been without electricity for all this time – but hope to have it working early next week. Two different departments of the power company have been wrangling over who does what first, which is why it is taking so long to get fixed. I understand Eric has been having fun figuring out how to do things without power. Michelle is not amused. Think of it! No washer, no dryer, no dish washer, no water (electric pump) no hot showers, no land line phone, and the list goes on and on.

It has taken quite long enough to get this post done. I’m back in the posting mood, so should have another up in the next day or two.

What's in a name:
Sore Finger Road
No Name Street
Terrible's Gas Station

Until next time,
Bear Hugs


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Prayers needed

Please surround Kit with your prayers and white light. The week before I arrived, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She and the family will meet with the surgeon on Thursday, and perhaps as soon as the following Monday will have surgery.

She is keeping a very positive attitude. A couple days ago, she bought a bicycle, and when she got home from work last nite, we went out riding.

I plan to stay here a bit longer, as long as I can be of help.

As you may imagine, my blog writing is a bit stalled right now, but don't worry, I'll be back with a vengance!!!

Until next time,
Bear Hugs

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jerome and Sedona

We have bright, sunny 60 degree weather, and are headed for Jerome (about 100 miles from here) which is an old copper mining town perched on steep hillsides. Once out of the metro area, we travelled north climbing through the desert from 1072’ to about 6,700’. At first we saw saguaro, Cholla cactus - regular, Grampa (bearded), and Jumping Cholla (which, if you bump up against it, will throw it’s spines at you – much like a porcupine. We saw Agave = that wonderful sweet nectared plant. Mesquite and creosote bushes, and Palo Verde trees. In the fall, you can collect beans from the mesquite bushes, when they are all dried out, and put them in your Bar-B-Q for flavoring your steaks.

As we started climbing, we left the cactus behind and saw more and more wild flowers – the yellow of wild mustard, the lavender of Lupine, and even some snapdragons. We moved through Jack Pine country – Short, squat, bushy pines.

Early spring green is dressing the hills. The colors, and shades of greens and wildflowers are awesome.

Now we can see the Mesas. They are buttes in Montana, but Mesa’s here.
There are layers of colors on the mesas – we’re seeing more and more red rocks.

We are on a high desert plateau. All you can see is the tops of the mountains surrounding us. – looks like we’re growing rocks and sagebrush – little else in vegetation.

We’ve just been passed by a Tribal Police car.

OK we’re headed down into the Verde Valley – on a 6% grade. The valley opening up below us is absolutely breathtaking.

We’re just entering Cottonwood, AZ, but I don’t see any Cottonwood trees. The town was founded in 1879, as either a railroad or stagecoach stop. We stopped for lunch at a little Greek restaurant. I had a delicious sandwich – grilled avocado and provolone – it was so good! We also had Baklava because Kit said she didn’t like it - the only time she tried it, it was all dried out. The waitress explained that theirs was made the traditional way – not with honey, but with a simple syrup made with rosewater. It was really good. Kit decided it was good, too.

When we got back on the road, we were talking about my Mom and her ability to pack so neatly and organized, and to use every square inch of space. One year, Mom drove her VW super beetle from California to Montana with Kit and her 4 children – ranging in age from 18 months to 12 years. The little one rode in the lap of whichever adult not driving. Now, just think about that for a minute!!!! 3 pre-teens in the back seat, and not enough room to keep from touching each other as they rode along. But wait,………..wait for the punchline!!! When they arrived in Montana – they picked up my older two – at 14 and 12, and proceeded to drive the 600 miles to Seattle, WA. Kit says whenever they stopped at a gas station, heads would swivel and start counting as children swarmed out of the car. (Remember, this was a VW Beetle!) Not only did she have all the children, but somehow, she managed to pack everything they needed, including food. Trust me, my Mom could pack! And, no, it didn’t rub off on me.
They have Lilacs Here! Oh, I love Lilacs.

We’re traveling down a brand-new road, 89A towards Jerome, and instead of intersections with traffic lights, they have traffic circles which seem very effective at slowing down speeders.

As we are approaching Jerome National Park, we are winding up the mountain side. I feel like I’m on the first upgrade on a Rollercoaster. OMG is it steep. I don’t think Madame would even make it up here. It’s a very winding road, twists and turns everywhere. Buildings are actually built into the hillside, on the upside, and on the downside, the first floor is on street level, and the back of the buildings are on stilts.

Its about 70, with fairly clear skies, - a little haze in the distance, and a slight breeze blowing. At the top, we are at about 6700’ The view is something to write home about. In the distance is a snow capped mountain. And behind the “Jerome” mountain is a not so distant mesa with a dusting of snow. It’s the day before Easter, and looks like a lot of people had the same idea we did. We finally found a parking space, and allowed ourselves just 30 minutes to wander – as we had to get on to Tuzagoot.

Well, we had to stop and see what the “House of Joy” was all about – with the pig on the porch, all dressed up with no where to go. Well, as it’s name implies – it began life as a brothel. Now it is, what shall I call it???? A lot of art – crammed with this and that as well. In the back room are black mesh stockings and sequined and tasseled pasties (Made by a grandmother in the Midwest, we are told).

Lots of art galleries. We wandered in and out of a few before our time was up. I bought 2 postcards – but they were special ones. Prints of local art. They were out of the postcards of the Native American in braids, Stetson and western chaps, straddling a red “Indian” motorcycle.

If we were going to make it to Sedona, we had to get back on that winding road – downhill this time.

Oh, look at the Flamingos! Plastic ones sitting on the fence with flowers on their heads, but no where to pull off for a photo.


The ruins of an ancient pueblo on a ridge in the Verde Valley. Construction began over 1000 years ago, and it was occupied for about 400 years. Speculation is that a very long drought caused the Sinagua people to leave the area seeking better farming land.

There is quite a nice museum in the visitors center. I “paid” our way in with my America the Beautiful pass. We walked up to the ruins – able to look right into some of the rooms. Some have been reconstructed so you can really see how they lived. We climbed up to the very top room. The view, well, it was really something! The dwellings were limestone and mortar, with trunks of cypress and sycamore trees holding up the roofs.

The moment we left the visitors center and headed up the ridge, my camera batteries died. Luckily Kit had her camera and took photos for me.

We left Tuzagoot, and finally saw the cottonwood trees shading the meandering river.

I’m wearing my pedometer today. When I was in San Antonio and we went to New Braunfuls, Sue was wearing a pedometer on her shoe. It was provided by the company she works for, and the employees actually get cash rewards for walking!!! That day, we got in our 10,000 steps.


Oh Gosh, If I thought I was in beautiful country before, we are in red rock country, and the hills are vibrant. Stratas of reds and yellows and other colors.

We are entering Sedona. First thing I spotted, of course, was a quilt store. Wonderful southwest designed fabric, and before leaving I mentioned the Australian quilt I have to make, and by gosh if they didn‘t have quite a large selection of Aboriginal prints. I only bought a piece that will work great in Angie and Amanda’s quilt.

We’re driving through Sedona, taking photos and looking for a fudge shop. “I don’t see any fudge yet, Kit. You promised me fudge!!!”

The town is totally ringed by red rock formations. We parked, and got out and walked around town a bit. I was awestruck. Wouldn’t you love to wake up each morning to the beauty of the mountains surrounding Sedona?

Oh, shoot, I dropped my tape recorder somewhere. Oh, never mind, it’s in my hand. Can you tell how distracted by the natural beauty I was?

When we were finished walking about town, and after we found the fudge shop, stopped for a glass of Chai tea, enjoying the 2nd story view. We then returned to the car to go to the airport. The airport is on top of a mesa, and there is an area where you can watch the sun set over Sedona. We took quite a few photos there, and ended up leaving before full sunset because of the haze – figuring the color would not get much more brilliant.

On the way down the mesa, there was a pulloff for a Vortex, unfortunately, there was no where to part, and traffic was trying to climb through our tail pipe.

On the way out of town, we stopped at the Chapel rock. Awesome! While there, I turned around and took a photo of a beautiful mansion across the road. We later found it belonged to Nicholas Cage. Absolutely fantastic – waterfall in yard, and observatory on roof!

I’m telling you this country is fantastic! The stucco homes are colored to meld right into the landscape – they are traditional tan, taupe, grey, green – all soft colors that fit right in with the mountains. Even commercial buildings take advantage of the natural colorscape.

Whats in a name?

Ghost City Inn
Dead Man’s Draw
Bloody Canyon Road
Horse Thief Basin
Coffee Pot Road
Mountain Shadows Drive
Dead Horse Ranch
Wild Horse Pass
Skull Valley

Until next time,
Bear Hugs,

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sun City, Arizona

I have safely arrived at Kit and Ken’s where I will be staying for the next little while while I explore Arizona

Kit was my best friend through middle and high school. She was also my brother Dick’s first wife, and mother to 4 of his children. We have a lot to catch up on, and I’m getting a kick out of telling Michelle about her Mom’s teenage antics. It’s payback of a sort. We always were up to something, but I always got the blame cause Kit was such a sweet, quiet child. Yet she thought up at least half of our adventures!

I took Madame in to have the tire fixed, and an oil change – 3000 miles already on this trip!!! She has a small oil leak. First since I’ve had her. I’ll have to keep a close watch on that.

I spent an evening with Michelle and Gaow, my brother Dick’s second wife and widow. I had thought she had returned to Thailand, but no, and we had a delicious authentic Thai dinner. White rice, fried rice, stir-fried vegetables, eggplant with pork and vegetables with pork, and also, of course, pic nom pa – hot sauce for the rice. I have never developed a taste for eggplant, so I asked Gaow if that was indeed eggplant, and she replied, “You try!!!!” “yes, Mom” I replied meekly. Gaow is the same age as Michelle, her step-daughter, and my Brooke.

Michelle and Brooke are “nearly identical twins”, born 6 months apart, from different parents!!!, They are so much alike, that watching Michelle talk, I could have been watching Brooke. They are so much alike, in looks, mannerisms, and personalities. True Benson genes.

Michelle teaches high school art. I saw her classroom and met her class, and saw their projects. She really has come up with some clever ideas for projects, and the students interpretations are amazing.

When I was in England, I could find anywhere in London, as long as it was on the “Circle Line”. Well, now, in Phoenix, I can find anywhere as long as it is on Bell Rd. I had errands to run today, I needed embroidery thread, Laundry soap, oil, a phone, and fuses for my car, and I totally succeeded in getting everything without getting lost – thanks to Jack - and nearly all stops on Bell Rd.

When I got home, Ken and I figured out the inverter, then he supervised while I changed fuses. The inverter works great. Ken is very impressed with it - you know, the boys and their toys.

I got the phone to see if it would work with MajicJack. It does, I think the phone I was using was so old, it didn’t know how to work with modern technology. I called Betsy in Virginia Beach, and the sound quality was great. Now, whenever I am connected to the internet, I’ll be able to make free long distance phone calls, and save my cell phone minutes.

It seems like everyone in this area has a golf cart. And why not? They are street legal on any street with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. Kit drives one to and from work. Ken says she drives it at warp speed, too.

Tip for travelers: Do not get a DUI in Arizona. My great niece got one – first offense. $15,000 and 30 days in jail!!!

The “other” members of this household are Zoopa – a Senegal Parrot, who screeches so loud at times, that I always jump., and two talented Shih Tzus, Christi and Zui. Ken plays the piano, and when he plays songs the dogs like, they sing along with him!!! They are so cute – their faces look like models for the Wookies in Star Wars!!!

In the backyard there is a bird feeder hanging on a tree. I watched the pigeons the other day. Some would fly up, grab some seed, then fly back to the ground. One, though, more creative than the others, would fly up to the corner of the feeder and flap his wings – which made the feeder turn round and round. His own private carousel.

We just returned from supper. I was given a choice between Mexican, Steak or Seafood. The Ladies know what I chose…… Mexican. We had fresh, homemade guacamole. How do I know it was fresh and homemade you may ask……. Because it was made right at our table. Wow was it ever good!!!

Travel Tip. I know I told you about the rest areas in Texas being so far apart. In Arizona, from the New Mexico line to Phoenix, about 250 miles, there are 3 rest areas……… BUT – 2 of them are closed. So, no big gulps in Arizona either.

Wild Life: Here in the neighborhood are Jackrabbits, Desert Cottontails and Coyotes. At nite if a siren sounds in the distance you can hear their yipping. They are bold rascals, too. A neighbor pulled into her garage and was carrying groceries into the house, when a coyote came into the garage, jumped into her car through an open window, grabbed her small dog, and made off with it. So, ‘ware the coyotes.

Until Next Time!

Bear Hugs