Our Lady of the Blue Highways

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

Friday, November 30, 2012


The trip to Chico was uneventful, once I got the fuel filter replaced.

I made it as far as Twin Falls, ID the first day.  I could have gone farther, but the next stop would have been 140 miles  down the road, and I figured that was just too far.   I’m very happy I stopped when I did.  

We stayed at a pet friendly motel.   While walking Tucker around the perimeter of the parking lot, I noticed a pit bull in the neighboring yard just about the same time Tucker saw him and he saw Tucker – That dog charged the fence, putting his considerable weight behind the leap.  Tucker who had been barking at the interloper, switched ends and ran between my feet and scrabbled to climb my legs – he’d had enough of sociability.

This was the first time Tucker had stayed in a motel -  and every time the dog across the parking lot barked it set Tucker off – and every time a car door shut, and so on and so on.   Finally in a state of half-sleep – about midnite – I captured Tucker and held on to him for dear life to keep him quiet so I could get some sleep as well as everyone else in the adjoining rooms.   Luckily no one complained – so maybe we didn’t disturb anyone else after all.

We left Twin Falls at about 6:30 a.m. -  and thought we were lost for a while as I drove down this very dark and lonely road, headed for Wells Nevada.  As the sun came up, the road continued to be lonely, but the sunrise was beautiful, and on one particular hill, the sun brought out the bright read of the clay – by the time I got to a turn off – the light had changed, but at least I had seen it.

Shortly after leaving Twin Falls, we were driving on sage brush flats -   but at considerable altitude – rising and descending between 5000 – 6400’    (I love the altimeter on the GPS)

As we were approaching Jackpot, NV I wondered how it had been affected by the legalized gambling in Montana.   I know a lot of Montanans would drive down for a weekend of gambling.  My memory of Jackpot is of bright lights and gaiety.   Not so much anymore.

South of Jackpot, we descended through a red rock canyon, and a little further I could see fog off to the east – then noticed the sagebrush – it was touched with frost which the early morning sunlight turned to diamonds sparkling on each branch – breath taking!

At one point and for more than 20 miles, I pulled the “caboose” end of a caravan consisting of a RV towing a car, followed by three vehicles, all with trailers, then me.   It was rather slow going – but finally we were able to get around – about 20 miles from Hwy 80.

Once on the highway – we cruised right along -  I passed the California Trail Interpretive Center, but I was early and it wasn’t open yet -  I would have liked to stop there.   I was driving  along the Humbolt River bed – or at least the wide, wide level area between the mountains – and imagining what it must have been like for the pioneer families who passed this way 150 years ago.  I had been over this road once before – about 1970.  I hadn’t remembered it.   Too many

Western movies in between -   I don’t see how anybody in that vast flatland could sneak up on a wagon train.   

We got to Reno about 3 in the afternoon, so I decided to push on the last 160 miles to Chico.  I took a “short-cut” through the mountains.   It was a beautiful ride.    At one point, I saw we were going to drive through some wispy fog.   After entering the fog, I wondered…… Opened the window, and nope, not fig – smoke!   I looked up and the smoke at the top of the mountain was blazing red, and smoke was extremely strong smelling.  Nobody else driving along the road seemed at all concerned, so I just kept peddling along.

I had to stop a couple places to take photos.   One of the Feather River with Fall Foliage – beautiful -  just barely past it’s peak of color.   The other photo was of two iron bridges – at angles to each other – one for the road, one for the railroad – very interesting!

Within about 5 minutes of taking the photos, it was dark – and I still  had 40 miles of twisting, turning mountain road to get through before I arrived in Chico   It was not very much fun in the dark, but obviously  we made it ok.  

 The next day, it started raining, and it rained, and it rained, and it’s suppose to rain for the next 3 days at least.   We did get a break one morning, and Tucker and I walked over to the park and along the trail a ways.  Brings back memories of my last visit. 

I took Tucker out to attend to business, he walked to the end of the lead and kept right on walking.   That did it!   First stop – PetCo where I got a good, well fitting harness which he cannot get out of – cause the snaps and fasteners are up on his back.   I feel safer for him at any rate.

 Once this storm ends, we’ll be going to Lake Almador where Carol and Ken are remodeling a second home.  

I can’t get connected to Carol’s internet server, so we’re headed to the library today so I can post this and check my e-mails.

 Until next time,
Bear Hugs

Luv ‘n Boots and Tucker, Too
And Don’t forget Little Bear

She believed she could do it, and so she did!







Monday, November 26, 2012


It’s time for me to get on the road again.   I’m leaving this morning for Chico, CA.
The time spent here in Montana and with Diane has been a very healing time.   I
Think I am totally de-stressed!  

I’ve written a lot about the big skies of Montana – every time we drove into Great Falls,
I was awed by the vista.   Now that the fires are all out, and the smoke has left the area, we can see beyond the 90 miles to the cabin,  - northward for miles along the Rocky Mountain front.
It’s hard to believe you can see so far!

We enjoyed a deliciously wonderful Thanksgiving with Diane’s son and his family – unfortunately her daughter and other son were unable to join us.   It was a very cold
Day – 23 degrees on the thermometer, but the wind chill brought it down quite a bit.

I had most everything packed by Tuesday, and still had Friday to finish up – I had to get a new tail light cover -  I asked Mark if he could help me put it on -   it obviously just “clicks” in place – but we couldn’t get the old one off – so instead of waiting til Saturday to get my oil change,

I made a trip into town on Friday to get the tail light cover put on, oil change, gas up and stop at a grocery store – got to pick up some Cream of the West, and hopefully some Gold Leaf iced tea –

Then it was back to Diane’s to do laundry, put everything else I can into the truck, and enjoy left over turkey sandwiches!!!

 Diane did her Christmas decorating on Friday so I could see it before I leave – took her all of 15 minutes.   It was just the perfect touch – not too much  nor too little.  

I’m spending tonight and Sunday night in Helena – with my friend Barb, then its on through Idaho and Nevada and into California.  I hope to make it in two long days driving -   I don’t like to drive after dark, and the days are short – but I’m going to push for 450 miles a day -   with the higher highway speeds out here, I should be able to do it -  Hoping for Twin Falls the first

Night and Reno the second – then it’s only about 100 miles more, but I don’t want to take on that particular road at night, after a full day of driving.  I just remember the 500 miles drives to upstate NY to see Angie -  took me 12-13 hours -   I’ll just have to shorten pit-stops and keep up the speed.  (course before Brooke moved to VA – I’d take the eastern shore route – not an interstate, lots of little towns and took forever)   Once she moved to VA and then to MD – I’d drive the 160 miles to her place, spend the night and leave for NY in the a.m. which helped a lot.

 Post script:   I pre-wrote the above so I could post this early Saturday – but then, I had an adventure on Friday.    I stopped to fill up with gas, first - $$   Then I got an oil change $$$

Then – I decided to stop at the ATM and get travel cash -   OOPS   The ATM as much as said “you can’t get blood out of a turnip!”   Most distressing – my check had been direct deposited on Wednesday, and I hadn’t bought a thing since – so into the bank I sallied – full of righteous

Indignation.   Imagine my chagrin when I realized my check was not posted Wednesday because it’s not due til NEXT Wednesday.    OOPS.   I quickly transferred funds to cover the gas and oil change, then remembered  the check** I wrote at the Vet’s for Tucker’s heart worm medicine.

Well, now, this all put my travelling in a different perspective.   I packed up turkey sandwiches and froze them so I’d have them when I left Helena.  Didn’t pick up anything but some ice tea and a jug of water at the store.   So, anyway, once I simmered down and checked out my funds and realized I was ok –  trip was back on track!

** About the check for the vet – when is the last time you’ve been able to do this?   The Vet didn’t accept plastic -  I told her that I had checks, but……    they are out of state,  the address is wrong, the phone # is wrong and the bank has changed.    She shrugged and said – well, that’s ok!  And……   she didn’t even ask for an ID!!!!     Ah, living in the West!!!

It’s now Sunday, and I’m in Helena.   I checked the road cam for Monida Pass – and it is snowing.  Not good!   But – the road is clear and snow is due to stop this evening.   Monida Pass is about 7000’ – but it’s not a mountain pass – there are mountains around it, of course – but the pass itself is high prairie.

 I’m also having trouble getting and staying on the internet – so I’m not quite sure when I’ll get this posted -  I’ll keep trying today, though!

 Well, we started out from Helena bright and early – about 6 a.m.    I had noticed a little roughness  while driving the day before – this morning it really got bad!   I finally figured out that I had let the truck sit for a month, and it probably had condensation in the gas tank  - which turned out to be the problemI had a bit of the additive left and it helped, but then it got worse again – I limped into Dillon, MT – got some more additive and filled the gas tank – got back on the high way and……..  I couldn’t get Luv to go over 40 mph.   I swung back into Dillon, stopped at a repair shop and ended with a new fuel filter.  All is fixed.

 I ended up making it to Twin Falls – and stopped for the night.   I wanted to go farther, but the next stop would have been 164 miles and I felt that was too far.   So early up tomorrow and hopefully Reno or even Chico tomorrow!!!

Until next time,
Bear Hugs

 Luv ‘n Boots and Tucker, too
And Little Bear, of course

She believed she could do it and so she did!







Saturday, November 17, 2012


Brutus has come and gone, he left behind moderate piles of snow – at least here in Belt – in other areas, he brought a lot more snow.  

Snow kept us housebound for 4-5 days – didn’t bother me -   Then one day, we felt the shift in the wind and the Chinook was on its way!   Temperatures soared into the 40’s   Snow started to disappear, Tucker could finally find his facilities.    The reason we were housebound is that Diane’s house is half-way down a hill – which means she has to fight through the snow to get back up the hill.   Her son came over one day with his 4-wheel drive truck and drove up and down the driveway to break it open.

I spent a couple hours shaking snow off items I had stored on the porch -  hauled boxes and bags in and set them in the bathtub until dry.  

The day it hit 40 before 9 a.m., I resumed packing the truck -   I have it nearly done – and hour or so, will leave just my immediate clothing and bedding to pack. 

We’ve been busy cooking up holiday goodies this week -  bunches of fudge, some almond roca and almond bark – starting on the chocolates today.   I successfully made fondant – a first!   And burnt a pan of goo that was supposed to end up as hard candy.  

I found I will have to learn to make candy all over again, due to the high altitude and dry climate.   My almond roca was done 20 degrees before it should have been.  Fudge has to be wrapped up asap to keep it from drying out.   And I remembered why I didn’t like sugar cookies while I was growing up – they turned rock hard!!!  

I’m busy tying up loose ends as I’ll be leaving here a week from today - I got a cover for my broken tail light – but can’t figure out how to put it on.   Have to find heart worm medicine for Tucker,   need to renew my driver’s license – I think I can do it on-line – if not, don’t know exactly what I’ll do.  Have to get an oil change – and mail a mountain of packages!

I guess I did make progress this week, after all!!!

We’re still watching old movies in the evenings – this week we’ve focused on Fred Astaire -  Tonight, I think it will be Doris Day.

Holly asked me what I’ve been reading -   Mostly James Mitchner -  The Source, Processional, Mexico,  and Chesapeake.   Edward Rutherford:  Old Sarum,  and some mystery stories – oh yeah, when I first got here, some Agatha Christie books.

We are going to have a houseful for Thanksgiving – and dinner with all the trimmings.   I wish you all a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Until next time,
Bear Hugs

 Luv ‘n Boots and Tucker, too
And don’t forget Little Bear

She believed she could do it and so she did!





Friday, November 9, 2012


Last week I spent a few days at my niece’s home.  While I was away, Diane heard a noise out
her front door.  Thinking it was her friends delivering the rest of her wood, she opened the door and was taken back by the sight of a half dozen cops running across her yard with rifles at the ready!!!!   Now, that could really curdle your morning coffee!    Along the county road were 7 police cars with red lights flashing.   

 A bit later, an officer came to tell her that they had caught the fugitive, but she needed to evacuate until the bomb squad cleared his vehicle.

Back Story:    The fugitive was the Virginian who, a couple days before, bestowed bombs on the home of an ex-girlfriend and some others who had offended him, then took off on a dead run for Montana.

A local observed,   “These people think they can come to Montana and disappear in the vast nothingness....”   (Personally, I would use the word Beauty in place of Nothingness!!!!)

Police had picked up his trail somewhere along the way, and decided Belt was a good place to finish the business.   They set up barricades at the Armington Junction – a mile down the road, and locked down the school and other businesses  (of which there are very few).  In any event, they captured the bomber in the woods below Diane’s house.

In the evening, Diane received a call saying they had called in another bomb squad – from Missoula 200 miles away and she would have to stay away over night.

The next day when we had both returned to Diane’s, we were discussing the coincidence of this fellow coming from Virginia and ending up at the very place I was staying.  Then I had a thought -   what if I had been there – parked in the drive with my Virginia plates!!!!!   How would I have explained that???!!!

The next morning, we headed for Bozeman to visit Diane’s daughter, Shelley and to pick up some deer hides a friend was giving Diane.  

Shelley lives out a bit from town – in fact, it is a 1 mile walk to her mailbox.   Shelley walks it every morning with her dog, Booger,  a big laborador who has become a best friend to Tucker.  Booger is  older, and more laid back than Tucker – they get along fine -  Tucker even gets along with Itty Bit – the cat   (Full name – Itty Bitty Stinky Kitty – she was found as a tiny kitten in a ditch, abandoned and smelly)

 Well, of course we had to join them on the daily walk -  Tucker was allowed off lease for this and he loved it.   The second day – I thought I’d not do the walk.   As soon as Booger and Shelley left the house,  Tucker planted himself at my feet and gave me “the Look” – you know the look – the one that says “get your fat ass off the chair and take me for a  walk!”   Well, who could refuse an invitation like that.

Anyway, our first day there, Shelley said we were having Pumpkin pie for dessert that night – then forgot to make it.   The next day we spent the majority of our time running errands in Bozeman and mostly grocery shopping – a store there is cheaper than any in Great Falls so Diane wanted to take advantage.   Lately, I’ve been thinking about coconut pie.   During the course of the day, Shelley mentioned she’d sure like to have a coconut pie!!!  So it was decided.

However, by the time we got home, it was time to put supper in the oven, and we had to wait til after we ate to start the pie – it took awhile, and by the time we got it out of the oven, it was bedtime – So--------- we had coconut pie for breakfast, and, it was delicious!!!!

 Then we packed up and headed back to Belt – winter was in the air, and a major storm was expected the next day, and I needed to get more stuff packed in the truck before the snow began flying.

It is now day 2 of the winter storm “Brutus”    It’s about 20 degrees out this morning – high tomorrow 17 and on Sunday – it’s expected to be a high of 11 -   (I’m leaving here in 2 weeks, hopefully before the really cold weather sets in)

 The major problem I have right now is Tucker.   While he has had just a bit of experience with snow from last month, he is not at all prepared for this!!!!   We haven’t gotten a great deal of snow yet – but still it’s enough to reach his belly,  and the wind is blowing and as I said, it’s Cold!!!     He just doesn’t know what to do when he gets outside – he can’t find his “bathroom” because it is buried in the snow so he wonders around in confusion for a very few minutes, “sprinkles” a bit and heads hell bent for Texas to the door.    I guess desperation will win out in the end – in the meantime, if there are accident – thank goodness Diane has concrete (heated) floors,  rather than white carpet!!!

 I’m still trying to finish a sewing project which is not cooperating, and today we are going to make fruitcake – well Diane is, I’m going to use the same basic recipe, but instead of fruit I’ll pack it full of toasted nuts!!!

Diane’s house is built so tight – the fire eventually went out last night, it’s now 8 a.m., and we haven’t started a fresh one yet – but the little bit of heat from the floor is enough to keep it warm enough to sit around – with a sweatshirt for a little extra warmth.

 While we are storm bound this weekend, I’ll also start making Christmas goodies so they are ready to mail the day after Thanksgiving.

Until next time
Bear Hugs
Luv ‘n Boots and Tucker, too
Don’t forget Little Bear, he’s still with me, also

She believed she could do it and so she did!







Thursday, November 8, 2012


Winter has arrived and plans to stay around awhile. It’s 25 degrees right now – expecting a high of about 37 today – fresh snow last night – not a lot, just enough to show through the grass.

(Originally written 10/27/2012 -  Today – Nov 8, 2012 – we are expecting a real winter storm – 12 – 18 inches of snow and winds making it true blizzard conditions – we are checking the pantry to make sure we have the necessities – like maybe matches to keep the fire going? – I told Diane – well we’ve got Cheetos and Coca Cola – we’re set!!!)

There has not been a lot going on since we returned from our camping trips a month ago. 

A month ago!!!???   Good grief how time flies.

We’ve settled into regular routines.   First thing in the morning, I check Facebook to see what Brooke and Angie are up to -   (Brooke is horse camping this weekend – temp yesterday in her neck of the woods was nearly 70 -   Angie is starting a new job.)  and then I check my e-mail.

After that – a few hands of solitaire, or some other game – Diane is doing the same.    When we can pull ourselves away from the computers, we have breakfast and settle down for more of the same.

I’m working on some sewing projects, so at some point during the day I spend time at the sewing machine.  

I re-joined Netflix so every evening after supper, we watch an old movie – Last night it was “His Gal Friday” with Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant – circa 1940.

Then a few more computer games and off to bed.   Sometimes, I even manage to get dressed during the day –

We usually go to town twice a week – for church and to run errands.   That’s about it!

Before this latest cold snap, I started loading the truck – all the camping gear is installed.  It’s suppose to warm up to the 50’s this week, and I’ll have my sewing projects finished, so I can load up all that stuff, too.   It’s only a matter of 3-4 weeks before I leave here, so I need to take advantage of the weather – don’t want to be trying to pack in knee deep snow. 

I’m not going to try to camp while on the road this time.   I’ll just stay at KOA cabins or pet loving motels.  

 I’ve decided to take Hwy 15 and drop down to Hwy 80 and across to Reno – then weather depending, I’ll either head north from Reno to Susanville, CA or south to Sacramento – then North to Chico.   I’ll be going over the Monida pass in Montana -  which is not mountainous, just high prairie so I’m not worried about that – but the Donner Pass between Reno and Sacramento – well, that’s another story.    I think they require you to have chains for the Donner Pass – I have to check that out – another unexpected expense – which if I don’t use on this trip, I’m not likely to ever need   (Are these famous last words????)

Diane and I had a “Girls night out” last night.   We went to the Cattlemen’s Cut for top grade, grain fed beef!   It’s been forever since I had prime rib – it was well worth the wait!

Last night, Tucker stole the blankets – how can a less than 3# furball steal blankets???? 

His newest trick is to walk across the keyboard while I’m “working” on the computer, or even just curl up and nap on it.   Silly Pup!    The other thing he does now – I now have the computer sitting on the coffee table, I sit on the sofa – Tucker jumps up and naps on my shoulders.   I swear he is part cat!

 Wal-Mart has become my favorite store on my travels -   Tucker is welcome there!   I just put him in his carry bag and off we go – and he attracts attention everywhere we go.   It’s illegal here to leave a pet alone in a vehicle -  If I have to go to Sam’s – for instance,  I have to leave him in the car – so I have to take my chances.

 Well, I smell breakfast cooking,

Until next time,
Bear Hugs
Luv ‘n Boots & Tucker, too
Don’t forget Little Bear

She believed she could do it, and so she did!!!