Sunday, June 30, 2013

Leaving Las Vegas and Loving Zion

It was already 105 degrees in Las Vegas at 8:00am.

I took a drive back to Yoga For the Soul to pick up my abandoned iPhone. Last night, I couldn’t upload my pictures and videos, I couldn’t make a phone call, I couldn’t check or send emails or even use the phone to call Wendy and ask if she had my phone. The Internet connection was so terrible in the room that I complained at the front desk and they refunded my $3 connection fee.

As we high-tailed it out of Las Vegas, we cut through Arizona to get to Utah. That section of Arizona was fantastic. I found myself taking way too many pictures as I couldn’t actually believe my eyes. I’ll be merciful and only post a few here.

But then, getting into Utah, the scenery got even more spectacular. The reds in the dirt contrasted with some of the green vegetation and some layers of black rock and other layers of white sandstone made for quite an artists palette of colors.

My navigation showed some parks nearby just as I was getting antsy in the car, so we pulled off the road in a town near St. George, Utah and ran around for a very brief time and then rested in the grass for a while.

We got back on the highway and then I took a detour because I wanted to check out Zion National Park. OMG, I’m glad I did. I would probably say it was the second most beautiful and amazing place I’ve ever seen. (The first being the island of Kawai’i.) Again, I probably took way too many pictures, but I’ll post a representative smattering here.

As we got closer to our days destination, Beaver, Utah, the temperature dropped to below 100. It’s a bad sign when I’m relieved to see that it’s “only 95 degrees”. But I was delighted to be able to turn off the air conditioner and open the windows. I don’t know how people can stand air conditioning. I’ve been living in it for about a week now, and I notice that it really irritates my throat and lungs. I’ll turn it off given the slightest opportunity.

The Motel 6 in Beaver Utah wasn’t showing up on my Mini Navigation. And even looking up the address and trying to enter that in manually proved futile as Mini didn’t show any record of that street even existing. Now that I’m here, I get why. It’s really nothing more than a collection of gas stations, restaurants and motels for people needing to stop as they drive I-15 north. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

ROCKIN: From 7000 feet to 115 degrees

Another amazing, incredible day.

I woke up in Flagstaff in the biggest Motel 6 I’ve ever seen. This one had two four story buildings. I had to wake up a little bit earlier than usual to make it to Flagstaff Athletic Club to teach Rockin. It was a rare day of using my alarm to wake me up.

There was a dozen Flagstaffians in class and we had a blast. As I mentioned to them, I’ve changed my playlist every time I taught this routine. I’ve got over 90 minutes of routine, so I keep changing out songs because I love them all, and I’m always playing around with what order they should go in.

Flagstaff is at about 7000 feet elevation, but by now it isn't effecting me at all. I was more disturbed by the extreme air conditioning. It was actually COLD in the middle of class. I know a lot of people like it, but I don't like exercising in the cold.

One of the students remarked to Stephanie Galloway, who is the local Nia teacher and my producer, that I was doing a lot of the same things that she did. I’m glad that the student was able to recognize the consistency of Nia from teacher to teacher.

After class we chatted for a bit, but not for too long because I had a long drive ahead. I was slated to teach in Las Vegas that afternoon.

We drove almost straight through, the whole four hours without many stops. We did stop twice but didn’t stay long because ... well... how can I say this without using it was fucking hot. (oops, well some things require profanity). The thermometer in my car fluctuated between 111 and 119 today. When I rolled down the window, the hot air burned my face as if taking a hair dryer and blasting that on my skin.

River wanted nothing to do with walking around. I stopped once at a place marked ‘historic marker’. I had no idea what that referred to, but it was about time for a break and the sign was brown, so I figured it was probably interesting. I don’t know if I found it, but it wasn’t anything remarkable. We stopped and stretched and I took a bit of video and we ate a little and then got back in the car.

After a while of driving, I stopped again at a place called View Point. The view was incredible and I took more video, but River was burning his feet and panting like crazy, so again, we didn’t stay. Even if River wasn’t with me, it just simply wasn’t comfortable being outside, so I probably wouldn’t have stayed much longer. 

I saw my first cactus today in Kingman, Arizona. Well, I’ve seen cactus before, but not yet on this trip.  And considering all the desert I was driving through, I was surprised I wasn’t seeing any. Maybe they don’t grow in the high desert. But I did see some in Kingman and then I saw some more in Las Vegas.

I pulled into Las Vegas and was astounded. It is incredible. Such decadence and flashiness. If someone was interested in this kind of thing, this would be the place to come. But its not my thing at all. I’m more into mountains, lakes, forests, rock formations, animals and cacti. I took some video as we drove along The Strip to the motel.

The Motel 6 is right in the middle of the action; next to the Tropicana if you know Las Vegas at all. I’m sure it would be interesting people watching, but I have no interest for myself and no intention of subjecting River to the drunken crowds, flashing lights and loud noises.

I had time to shower and eat a little bit before heading to the studio to teach MEGA Rockin, my extended 90 minute routine. The attendance was small in this class. I totally get it; I probably wouldn’t come to class in 115 degree weather either. But the room was cool and there were four of us, so we rocked out. I truncated the routine slightly when I noticed the students beginning to fade and all of my most intense songs were coming up. I just skipped them and went right to the cool down. We ended up doing about 75 minutes. 

Both places I taught today are interested in when I’m able to come back, so that’s a good sign. And one of the students was brand new to Nia, but is now very interested in doing it more.

Everyone in class today was a dog-lover. And River was stretched out on the dance floor when we were about to start class. I was about to put him in the crate, but it was unanimously suggested that I leave him out. I had already explained how he usually sleeps on his bed in the corner of the room when I practice at home and sleeps in the crate all through class when I'm on the road. So for about twenty minutes he remained motionless lying in the middle of room as we danced around him.  I wish we had gotten a picture of that. Then he got up and was sniffing around the door, so we thought maybe he had to pee. I was going to finish out teaching Light My Fire and then, in between songs, put him in his crate so he wouldn't pee in the studio. But before the song ended, he had gone into his crate on his own and spent the rest of the class sleeping in there.

After class, Stacey Hall bought dinner at the Indian restaurant downstairs from the studio for me and the studio owner, Wendy Jar.... River laid on the ground as we ate. The waitstaff kept us well supplied with ice water and the ground had been in the shade most of the day, so it wasn’t hot.

It was almost 10pm by the time I was driving back to the motel, but still it was 105 degrees and uncomfortable driving with the windows down.

I left my iPhone in the studio, so tomorrow before hitting the road for Utah, I’ll have to swing by and get that. So I won’t be uploading the video of the beautiful Arizona desert and the crazy Las Vegas Strip today as it’s in my phone. I’ll add it tomorrow night, along with whatever I take of Utah.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Arizona Heat Wave

Today was a resting day. The plan was to wake up in Holbrook and do some leisurely sightseeing as we made our way 90 miles west to Flagstaff.

Originally I had been looking at seeing the Petrified Forest National Park and Holovani Park. But Arizona has been hit by a massive, record breaking heat wave, and upon closet inspection, neither of those places seemed too inviting. They were both rocky, dirty, wide open, shade-less places that just seemed hot and dry and unpleasant. So, as much as I think I would have enjoyed both of those places, I changed my approach.

I looked for city parks, or parks that were basically grass and trees. I found a little gem in Holbrook called Hunt Park, so when we checked out of the motel, we gassed up and then stopped at the park for about two hours.

We ran a bit, and then we walked around for a bit, and then we sat at the picnic tables and finally, laid a blanket on the grass under a big shady tree and I did some light yoga while River rolled around.

After we’d been there on the blanket for a while, a car pulled up and a woman got out and asked if it would bother my dog if her and her family set up on the other side of that tree. She was especially concerned because they had three little dogs. I said that it was fine.

I didn’t realize how fine it was. River sat watching as they all piled out of the car and tied off the dogs on the tree. River was on his leash, but was putting no tension on it. He clearly wanted to check it out, but was restraining himself. I hadn’t even had to say anything to him at this point.

The kids all had fried junk food, and River could smell it (I could see his nose going), but still he stayed put on our blanket. The woman remarked at how well-behaved my dog was and how her dogs would never be that polite. I was pleased with him.

The dogs would sometimes pull on their leash and try to reach River with a comical growling, but River still sat. He cried. It was obvious that he wanted to engage with the dogs, but I wanted him to stay put. And still, I hadn’t needed to say a word. All I was saying was “Good Boy” whenever something attracted him and he didn’t move. I think he got what I meant.

The kids walked right past us to get to the garbage can and throw away their packages. River sniffed the greasy air as they walked by, but didn’t try anything. I overheard the family talking about River and how obedient and mannerly he was. They wondered if they could ever get their dogs to behave.

The released the poodle, who followed one of the kids on a trip to the garbage can. The poodle seemed shy but interested in River, and River started toward the dog. I finally had to speak to him.  “Leave it!” I said. And he looked away from the dog. “Good Boy!  Come!” I said. And he turned to me and happily approached me and sat down beside me to watch the poodle.

As the family was leaving, the woman asked me if I wanted her to pour the ice water that was left their dog bowl into River’s bowl. I answered “OK, sure!” And immediately River got up and ran over to her. She laughed and said River must have understood what she said. I said “yeah!” but in actuality what had happened was when I said “OK” to her, River heard it as his release word and immediately felt free to do whatever he wanted, which at that moment was to investigate what was in the bowl she was holding.

Finally we got back in the car and headed to Flagstaff.

We stopped at a rest area a bit later to have lunch. I found a picnic table in the shade and brought River and my cooler out there. Once we got there, I realized I had forgotten his bowl and my bag of utensils. So I told him to “Stay!” as I went back to the car. Now picture this: he’s sitting near a picnic table on the other side of a partition, so he can’t see me. He can also hear me opening and closing the car doors. But when I came back around the partition he was sitting exactly where I told him to stay.

As I was eating, a woman walked by with a dog on a leash. The dog was pulling aggressively on the leash toward River and the woman was struggling to get the dog to walk in the direction she was going. But River didn’t react at all. He sat and watched the drama unfolding before us. 

All of these behaviors of self-control are brand new for him. And I attribute them entirely to the three sessions we’ve had with Stephen Walter and his Nitro K-9 School. He had told me that he didn’t think River would need all seven sessions I was asking for, but I didn’t trust him. I wanted to be sure River would be obedient, so I told him I’d still want the seven sessions. Well, I have to admit, Stephen was right. After just three lessons, River is completely changed and he’s now to a point that I’d be satisfied with. I’m curious, though, to see where we can go from here. Stephen speaks with absolute confidence that we’ll soon find that the leash is entirely ornamental and not necessary at all. Of course I never would have believed that, and I just laughed when he said it. But now that I’m seeing this, I am starting to have confidence that he might be right.

We took a little detour on the way to Flagstaff to look at the Meteor Crator National Sight. It is touted as the oldest proven and best preserved meteorite contact with earth. We saw what we could from the car, but when we got to the site, I didn’t want to bother getting out of the air conditioned car again, so we turned around and headed back to the highway. I took some pictures of it, but it’s one of those things that you have to see in person to appreciate.  It was pretty cool, but not awesome.

We got to Flagstaff and checked into the motel by four, although by Arizona’s standards it’s actually only three. They don’t honor Daylight Savings Time, so they’re an hour behind. I’m a bit confused about how that will affect my drive time tomorrow when I drive into Las Vegas, but I have to admit, I barely noticed it when I drove from Santa Fe into Arizona yesterday.

Once we got settled into the room, I realized I had to go back to the front desk to pay for access to the Wi-Fi. I took River with me on his leash. We passed by a room with a screen door and a terribly behaved dog snarling and trying to start something with River. I don’t know why, but this one got River’s goat and I couldn’t stop him with my voice. River pulled on the leash, crossing in front of me to get to the dog and I had to give him a hard correction to get his attention back. I walked him past that dog three times and got the same response. Finally, I gave up because I didn’t want the owners of the dog inside to think I was taunting it. But on our way back by that door after my business in the office, I stopped before turning around the corner and made sure his collar was high on his neck and very clearly told him to “Heel!” We walked by the door and River was making a point to be looking the other way as we passed by. The dog didn’t make any noises from inside, so that helped, but River did seem to be making an effort to ignore him anyway.

I took some video today, but only of River running in the grass and of him not reacting to the dogs on the other side of the shade tree.  The running was was so shaky, I don't think I'm going to post it. And the sitting one was ok, but it was hard to see the other little dogs, so it just looks like River sitting calmly for 45 seconds and isn't terribly interesting.

I also took some pictures of the meteor crater but it didn't look like anything but another mountain, so I'm not going to bother with that.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Arizona Bound

I started out the day with a delicious breakfast. I’m so happy when my cooler is stocked and I don’t have to resort to skipping meals or eating crap. I had a bowl of quinoa with a handful of almonds, a handful of blueberries, lots of cinnamon and a 1/4 cup of coconut milk.

I had planned, many times to cook the stuff that I bought at the store, so I’d have cooked food on the road. But I was being so social that I never got around to it. Today was my very last chance, so I had to decide not to go to the Creating a Sacred Livelihood session of Kelle Rae Oien’s White Belt training.

I did the laundry, cooked up some food and cleaned up the apartment to erase any evidence that I was staying there. I was on perfect time as my last dish came out of the oven, with just enough time to shower while it cooled before putting it in the cooler. 

I was making a few trips to the car with my luggage. On the first trip, I could hear River barking from inside, all the way from the parking lot. So when I came back, I let him know I didn’t approve of his barking. I waiting outside the door until he barked again, and I burst in, mid bark saying “Shhhh! No bark! No bark! Lie down!’ he did. “Good Boy,” I said. Then I told him, ‘Now look, I”m going out to the car again, but I’m going to be right back. So I want no barking or bad behavior. I’ll be right back.” And I took another armful of bags to the car. When I got back, I didn’t hear any barking, but when I reached for the door handle, I learned that I had inadvertently locked the door; with me on the outside and River on the inside. 

I cussed a few times and then I remembered that River could hear me, so I changed my tune to “It’s OK, River. I’m here and you’re OK. Good boy!” He was being quiet. I was silently panicking. Fortunately I had my phone so I called my host, Michael at work to ask if he had a spare key hidden somewhere, but I got his voicemail.

I called Mark at StudioNia, because I was expected to show up for his noon Nia class in fifteen minutes. After talking to him, he calmed me a little bit. He has a naturally calm nature, and it was comforting just to talk to him.

I realized that River was fine inside there. He had air conditioning and a bowl of water and he was familiar with the place. I thought maybe Michael didn’t have his phone with him at work, or had it turned off, and I didn’t want to sit there, helpless, and also miss Mark’s Nia class. I knew that doing a Nia class would be the perfect thing for me to release all of the emotion that was coming up.

I went to the studio and had an emotional roller coaster ride as Mark took us through the Awake routine. I used the martial arts moments to express my anger at myself. I let the sensual movements touch me in ways that released sobs of panic, worry and guilt at not being a responsible human. I even attempted a couple of times to send River a telepathic message that he was fine and I loved him and I would be back as soon as possible. I was laughing, grunting and crying and skipping around singing “La la la la” and receiving messages from the music, from Mark’s pearls and from my own spirit, that I was OK and River was OK. By the end of the class I was in a beautiful, loving, grateful, beginner’s mind. Exactly what I needed.

I checked my phone and found three voicemails and four texts from Michael, who had since made it home and was waiting there with River. I rushed back and felt so bad for making Michael come home from work and for abandoning River. But all was well. Michael doesn’t hold grudges and once River ‘chewed me out’ for a couple of minutes, we were fine. Michael said he didn’t ‘chew him out’ at all, he just sat there and whimpered until I got back.

This ‘chewing out’ I speak of is actually an outcropping of a game we play called Push. I learned this game from a dog trainer. I hold my palm out and he’s allowed to charge into me, pushing his chest into my hand. While he does that, he can snarl and bare his teeth and bark and snap at me as long as he doesn’t put any teeth on my skin. The trainer said it’s a great way for him to release pent up energy. By giving him this safe outlet, he can control it. He is only allowed to play this game with me. Sometimes a real dog-lover will be riling River up and I can see him starting to push, so I have to step in and stop it. Not because of any danger, but because it can be a terrifying game. Even knowing that it’s a game, I’m sometimes a little bit taken by surprise by his ferocity. But I absolutely love the game and especially that at any time I can say STOP and he immediately stops. Sometimes, when something happens out on our walks and he gets really agitated, he needs to push. I can tell by his body language when he’s got a lot of energy he needs to get out, so I’ll give him the sign and he’ll go for it. I sometimes wonder if the neighbors think I’m training him to kill or if I have an out of control dog,

So, today, he needed to Push, but as is sometimes the case after I’ve been gone for a while, his Push takes on a different quality.  I can hear a difference in his growling/snarling as if he’s letting me know he’s upset by what I did. I get the sense that he’s telling me off. If he could speak he’d be saying, “You told me you’d be right back and you were gone for days. I was scared and I didn’t know what to do. Don’t ever do that again. Do you realize how upset you made me? I would never do anything like this to you, and I expect you to take a bit better care of me in the future!” etc.

This is the second day in a row I’ve left River somewhere to go do Nia. While I don’t intend to make a habit of it, it’s nice to know that we can grow from the experience and become stronger; not die from it.

Michael went back to work. I took a quick shower and finished loading the car and we took off for Arizona.

On the trip, the thermometer fluctuated in the range of 101 to 107 degrees all day. We had the windows up and the A/C on.

The landscape was beautiful, colorful, rock formations in the distance and lots and lots of sand with scrubby bushes in it for miles and miles in all directions.

It struck me that I have been in the desert for days now and I’ve not seen a single cactus.
We stopped at Painted Cliff Rest Area, just by the Arizona border. Right before we got out of the car, Billy Idol was playing on the radio. The song “Eyes Without A Face”, that line where he says, “Hanging out by the state line turning holy water into wine,” was running through my head as we hung out by the state line. The last part wasn’t really relevant, but I was really connecting to that first half as we sat in the shade, taking in all the beauty and sweltering in the dry desert heat.

River, finding shade wherever he can

Hanging Out By the State Line

I was really in danger of letting this whole day become a disastrous nightmare, but thanks to Nia, and Pushing, we both made it through just fine. A little sleepy, but fine.

Flagstaff is only about an hour from here, and I sleep there tomorrow but don’t teach until the following morning as I’m heading out to Las Vegas. So tomorrow we can really take our time and explore the region.  So far, from what I can see from here, there isn't much going on.
The view from our Motel 6 room.

Rockin the 'Burque

This morning I got up early to do some laundry and then River and I met Mark Frossard for breakfast at the Santa Fe Baking Co. He is part owner of StudioNia Santa Fe where I taught on Tuesday. He bought me breakfast and we chatted about (what else?) Nia. And as usual, River got lots of attention from passers-by, which he loves.

After breakfast I came back to the house I’m staying at with the intention of cooking up the food I bought at the co-op, but Michael’s house cleaner was there, so I sat and kept River out of her way while she finished cleaning up.

Moments after she finished, Michael came home as per our plan, to ride to Albuquerque together where he had a work-related meeting and I was teaching later that evening. While he was in his meeting, I met up with an old friend of mine from New York who had since moved to the ‘Burque. (that’s what the locals call Albuquerque).

This friend of mine had survived a very aggressive cancer and chemotherapy and so we talked a lot about that over a delicious thali plate on the patio at his favorite Indian restaurant. It was great to catch up with him. And it was very refreshing to hear him say that the experience of near death has given him a new, profound appreciation for life. “Everything is important.” He says. “except those things that aren’t. And they really aren’t”. I’ve never been near death myself, but when both of my parents died within six months of each other, I also adopted this life view. Another thing that he said that I think is very significant and instrumental in his recovery was, “At no time during the experience, did I ever think I was going to die.”  And I remember following the saga as he was hospitalized and treated, and there were a few times when we were told he might not make it through. So I’m glad they didn’t tell him that. I believe that his positive mindset played an important role in his recovery and survival.

After lunch I picked up Michael from his meeting and we both went to Studio Sway where I taught ROCKIN again. In this studio they weren’t going to allow River to come inside, but there was a patio area next to a glass wall so I could set up his cage outside and he could still see me and vice versa. 

I set him up with a water dish and some food and went inside. Some of the students were disturbed that he was outside in 101 degree weather. But in the dry desert heat, when you’re out of the sun and have a breeze, it is remarkably pleasant. River, however, was panting with his tongue hanging out, which he almost never does. 

One student named Didi (I don’t know if I’m spelling it right), who had recently lost her pit bull mix companion of 14 years, took pity on us and offered to take River to her house, where he could rest on the unused dog bed in the air conditioning. I was surprised and delighted at the offer. And much to my surprise, River went gleefully into her car and they drove off. 

Class was a blast and the students were totally into it, screaming and partying like they were at a rock concert, which is exactly the effect I want when teaching this. 

After class, Didi brought River back. She reported that when she left him there to come back to the studio, he was already comfortable on the bed, and when she came back to get him, he had been sleeping in the same spot she left him.

The sight, when she was walking back toward the studio with River at the end of the leash, was so adorable. He was pulling hard to get to us, so I called out to her, “You can let him go!” She did and he sprinted into my arms. He was not only happy to see me, but also went over to greet Michael, who he has gotten to know over the past couple of days, and the other people who were out waiting with me, including Erin, who was my producer.

I didn’t realize that Albuquerque was a bigger town than Santa Fe. Admittedly I didn’t know a lot about New Mexico at all, but I was surprised to learn that the population of Santa Fe was only about 65,000 and Albuquerque is almost a million people.

So then we drove back to Santa Fe, had some dinner and chatted until we went to bed.
Erin Damour, fellow Black Belt and producer of this event at Studio Sway

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

State Parks between Pueblo and Taos

I missed a day of writing because instead of going to Motel 6, I stayed at a friend’s apartment, and we stayed up chatting until we were tired and I went straight to bed. So today I’ll sum up the past two days.

I woke up in Pueblo; refreshed and ready to give it another chance. I got on the highway headed south and at the very next exit, a truck entering the highway came straight into my lane. I wasn’t even in the far right lane. This truck entered the highway and immediately went into the center lane, forcing me to swerve away and slow down. It was the second time since owning my car that I used the horn in a true emergency warning type of way. So it sealed the fate of Pueblo, Colorado. I’m afraid I will always think of it as a driver’s nightmare.

From Pueblo we went to Lathrop State Park. I had no idea what to expect, but I wanted to see something natural and I’ve always had good luck with state parks. Lathrop was an expensive one at $7 for a day use pass. But it was pretty spectacular, and we ended up staying there for over an hour.

I thought I’d go shoeless as we explored this park. After the burns and scabs he got on Union Reservoir, I felt like it would be a good idea to know what sort of ground I was taking him on. If I hadn’t been wearing shoes at Union Reservoir, maybe I would have realized how hot the sand was or how course and gravelly it was, or whatever it was that caused the rawness to his paws.

I was not prepared for how brutal this terrain was. Both of us got nailed with feet full of thorn or thistles or whatever they’re called. Mine were so painful that after about five steps, I was forced to my butt so I could pick them out. They weren’t in far, but there were a lot of them and they were brutally sharp. After removing mine, I took care of River’s. And then I carried him to the lake, navigating on the flagstones and avoiding the brush. We played in the water for a while and then got in the car and drove around the park. It was idyllic desert landscape, which River seemed to really enjoy. He had his head out the car window, looking, smelling and listening to the sounds of the desert. 

When we were in Boulder I overheard someone say that they drove through Taos to Santa Fe because they wanted a scenic drive. I love scenic drives, so I thought I’d do the same thing. I checked the map and found Kit Carson Park in Taos, set my navigation for that and took off. I had to reroute from my original planned highway because of a road closure due to fire, but either way the trip was still going to be three hours. We had already driven an  hour to get to Lathrop, and Taos was still a good hour from our final destination, so it was shaping up to be a long driving day.

Fortunately most of it was quite beautiful, so it didn’t matter that it was a long drive. It was through Carson National Forest, so it was a windy, hilly road surrounded by trees. We stopped at a beautiful spot called Palisades Sill where the cliffs had been carved by the water and River got to play in the Cimarron River.

We finally made it to Taos and it is such a cute little town. It’s all adobes. Every store, every home, every insurance office, even the churches were all in the adobe style. I felt like I was in New Mexico Land at Disneyland.

We found Kit Carson park, but not his grave. I thought I had read that the grave was in the park, but I didn’t see it. We looked around and there was a picnic area and a baseball field and a playground and a community center area, but no headstones. We played chase for a while with River’s boomerang tug toy. I wanted to run around a bit and test out how I felt in the elevation. We were up to about 7000 feet. I didn’t realize that New Mexico was such a high state. But I learned that Santa Fe is the highest U.S. state capitol.

So we left Taos and headed to Santa Fe. It was another very scenic drive. I never get tired of driving through scenic beauty. I don’t even need to play music to stay entertained.

As we pulled into town, my gas tank was nearly empty, and I like to have it full when I stop for the night, so I found a station right around the corner from his apartment and pulled in to fill up. While I was there, in the time it took me to gas up, three different people approached me to dote over River. Quite a friendly first impression of Santa Fe. They were all so impressed with his seat belt harness. A crowd was gathering and people were commenting that they’d never seen one before, asking where I got it and how much it was and saying that they were going to get one for their dog. I also got friendly with a homeless man who loved Seattle and was telling me about all the great things I should do in Santa Fe while I was here.

I went to my friend, Michael’s house and met his roommate, Joseph. As I said, we stayed up way too late, catching up. River made a new friend. Joseph had seen some pretty gruesome things done by pit bulls, so he wasn’t too thrilled about meeting River, and was actually hiding in his room when we first got there. But it didn’t take long for River to charm him and for Joseph to see that he was a loving soul. I’m glad River was able to teach another human that not all pit bulls are bad.

The next day at noon, I taught ROCKIN Nia at StudioNia Santa Fe. I loved this space and the people that danced in it. There were maybe 30 people in the room and we brought the roof down! Mark Frossard and Kelle Rae Oien helped organize my engagement there and I was so thrilled and honored to be in such a vibrant Nia space. Kelle has an adorable French Bulldog named Samba who, unfortunately has been exploring territorialism and aggressiveness lately, so she was sequestered to the office while River and I were in the studio. There were no altercations. River was quite well behaved and he loves all the attention he gets whenever I take him into new studios.

After class, I hung out at the studio for a couple more hours. I talked with Mark about choreography for a while and Kelle asked me to say a few words about doing the 8BCs to her group of White Belt trainees. Fortunately I had my bars with me, so I was able to pass some around the group just before they did their first lesson in the 8BC system.

That evening, after showering and eating at the Santa Fe Baking Co with River sitting under the table, I went back to the house and waited for Michael to get off work. When he got home, I left River with him and made a long overdue trip to the local Co-op and bought a bunch of food to re-stock my cooler. I've been out for about three days now, so have been sampling some of the local cuisine. But when I hit the highway again, I'll have some fresh, organic, local food. It was fun to eat a krautburger and a monte cristo, and pizza and a breakfast burrito, and I feel good about supporting the local family restaurants, but it will be good to have healthy food again for a few days.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rockin and Drivin in Southern Colorado

I had packed most of my stuff into the car last night to ease the pressure of this morning. I woke up at 8, showered, walked River, ate and had my coffee and was on the road by 9. An hour away, I rocked Jasmine Lok’s class while she was in Telluride and had such a great time with ten of her Nia students. Even Ali, co-owner of Mayama Movement Studio stayed and took the class. The students were thrilled to see her in the room as it is a rare treat that she joins in on the Nia classes.

Immediately after class we loaded back into the car and drove to Boulder, where we joined Marty and Jackie Diner as they were in the midst of a White Belt Intensive. We turned it into a rock and roll jam. I guess both them are rock fans but haven’t done a lot of Nia to the good old tunes, so since I was passing through and bringing my rockin Nia, they decided to jump in and rock with me. It was a blast. And Marty chose to put my White Rabbit song at the end of the routine as a cool down instead of how I’d been using it as the warm up. And I liked it. And I may keep it. It’s funny, but so far, every time I’ve taught Rockin, it’s been a little bit different. It’s obviously still tweaking.

After class, the Diner’s bought me lunch and we chatted until the white belt trainees came back from lunch to create space for the afternoon session on Principle #6: The Base of the Body.

So once again, we hit the road. This time driving through Denver to Pueblo to rest for the night.
I stopped at Starbucks and saw this sculpture at the mall

Now... in an earlier post, I made a comment about how I thought that the drivers in Colorado were remarkably considerate and polite. And I’m afraid I’m going to have to respectfully retract that statement. Actually most of today was totally cool, but as soon as I got into Denver, it started getting a little weird, and it never really let up, even as I pulled off the highway to check into the Motel 6 in Pueblo. I’m thinking maybe the polite driving thing is just a northern Colorado custom.

Most of the time, the flow of traffic was about 10 MPH over the posted speed limit. That always confuses me, because I like to drive the speed limit; it relaxes me. But if I did, people would make big demonstrative lane changes around me. I was cut off more than once and for the first time ever since I have owned my Mini Cooper, I had to use my horn. But if I tried to ‘go with the flow’ instead of fighting it, every few minutes, I’d catch up to some joker doing the speed limit. 

I kept trying to tell myself that it wasn’t really happening. That it was me. I was wearing some sort of filter that only let me see and appreciate the negative aspects of my drive, for some reason. But no. No matter how objective I tried to be, or how much I actively sought out the peace and love in the traffic, it just kept proving to me that it wasn’t going to have any of it. 

I saw people changing multiple lanes of traffic while talking on a cell phone and others passing me like I’m standing still when I’m already going 10 MPH over the speed limit. One guy even peeled out, displaying how strong and masculine he was.

I stopped for gas before checking into the room, and while I was pumping it, a man walked up and asked for food for his mother and himself.

River made this video about his first impressions of Pueblo.

We had a long day full of awesomeness so we’re going to hang out in the room tonight and relax. I’ll check around the internet to see what there is of interest to enjoy in Pueblo before we head down to Santa Fe.  Hopefully we will have some fun outing to report on tomorrow’s post.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Day of Rest

Today turned into a day of rest. I had intended to drive east of our location today, just to explore and hopefully find a park or somewhere we could play. But it became pretty clear that neither of us were entirely motivated.

River was licking his paws this morning. I have been constantly aware of what surfaces he’s walking on in this blazing sunshine, and there were a couple of times that I feel like he was standing or walking on burning pavement. Three times, in fact, I picked him up and carried him until we got to a place that was less torturous. One time was a while back when we were on the high plains and I realized we were trekking over thorny brush, and the other two times were in town, when I felt like the sidewalk was burning. Being a barefooter my whole life, I can appreciate how a hot parking lot can take all the fun out the day.

So not only did we both get coconut oil treatments when we got in last night, but this morning, I also pressed cold wet cloths onto the pads of his feet when he was licking them. I checked for cuts and thorns and ticks, but everything was in order. I think maybe  a bit overheated but more perhaps a little bit of abrasion from all the running on sand for an hour and a half yesterday. 

I had the very last of the perishable food I had packed, which was brown rice and vegetable soup, for breakfast, and for lunch we went on a short trip to a place I found while looking for dinner last night. At Schwartz’s Krautburger Kitchen, I picked up an incredibly tasty thing with meat, cabbage, onions, jalapeno and cheese baked inside a homemade bun. It tasted like homemade, old world cooking. 

So from now on, until I can get to a grocery store or farmer’s market, I’m without fresh food. I have a big supply of nuts and seeds, so I won’t starve or even go hungry. But for now, I’m reliant on local restaurants

Today is setting a precedent for all future road trips. It’s mid afternoon as I type this and despite my concerns, I don’t feel bored or like I’m wasting my time in a new town by not doing and seeing everything there is to offer. It actually feels very beneficial to rest. We’ve been on the road and on the go for a week now. This is the eighth day. I think I’ll adopt this as a template and incorporate a ‘nothing’ day once a week. It feels very much like we’re taking care of our health and longevity now. The scenery isn’t going anywhere, and no matter how hard I try I’m never going to ‘see everything’.

And if we were out driving around, we would have missed all the excitement here at Motel 6. It looks like someone is getting baptized or married or something because there is a well dressed gathering of Latinos around the swimming pool. Some of them are carrying bibles and they’re singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic (aka Glory Glory Hallelujah). Shortly after this picture was candidly taken from inside my room, the crowd dispersed and the pool water was moving as if someone had been in it. And they were taking pictures of the men, individually standing with the pool in the background.
Tomorrow I get up early to drive an hour before teaching a 10am class, so I’m going to get everything packed up and ready to load into the car tomorrow and then going to bed early.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Colorful Colorado

The plans that River and I had for today were changed unexpectedly due to a miscommunication between me and someone I thought was a friend. So we were left without a place to sleep or any plans for how to spend the day.

But while my clothes were in the drier, I looked around on the internet and found some pretty fun things to do instead. From Cheyenne, it was about a ninety minute drive to Longmont, where we spent the day.

I was surprised how little I drove before I was in Colorado. It seemed like only five or ten minutes. It was a hazy day. When I was growing up in the San Fernando Valley, we used to use ‘hazy’ as a euphemism for smoggy, but in Santa Barbara, we had a legitimate marine haze in the mornings, so I’m not sure if what I was seeing was smog or some kind of weather effect, but it sort of dampened the splendor. I could still tell that the immense, rolling landscape was a watercolor of green, yellow, orange and red, and the rock formations were awesome in their seeming intricacy. And, unlike the ones in Wyoming that were so far away that I couldn’t see them with my camera lens, the ones I saw off the Colorado highway seemed to come right up to the car.

I was stuck by the politeness and consideration of my fellow drivers as soon as I was in Colorado for a bit. Not that I’d been noticing much impoliteness, except for maybe that impatience issue I was mentioning. I tended to see that in cars from Wyoming and Utah.

Last night in my searches, I discovered a dog-friendly brew pub with a large outdoor patio. The Pumproom makes their own beers, but I didn’t have any. I’m not a big beer drinker--especially at noon. The hostess greeted River who was very calm and clung obediently close to me as we were shown to our seat. She was first going to seat us next to a table that also had a dog, and while the two of them weren’t reacting at the moment, I asked if we could possibly sit with more space between us. She understood and obliged. He lied down under my chair while I ate, and the busboy brought him a bowl of water.

Did I mention, it was 91 degrees? That’s getting into the ‘too hot’ category. But it is very dry. To a fault, it’s dry. I’ve had to give myself two coconut oil massages so far this week because my skin and lips have felt so dried out. Also my eyes and my nostrils are sore, and when I did my neti pot it was particularly productive. I’m not sure if that’s from the dryness or from being pelted by dusty winds for the past two days.

I’m not complaining. I just want to interject that here. I’m describing what’s happening. And sure, maybe I’d prefer if these things weren’t happening, but then again, why go to new places if they’re not different? I’m sure the people that live in Colorado and Wyoming have adapted to the conditions and they’re fine. I’m totally loving being immersed in a new environment.

After leaving the Pumproom, we went to another place in Longmont called the Union Reservoir. This is a beach that has a section designated for dog training. I loved that idea. I tend to avoid ‘dog parks’ and ‘dog beaches’ because it can be a hot bed of bad doggy behavior. And I don’t want River picking up any new tricks or bad habits. And in a frenzied free-for-all, I know River is going to want to play/fight with some of the other males. I’m comfortable with him doing it with me because I know he’s playing, but the other dogs might not know where River’s coming from.

We got there and there were dogs everywhere, but they were all well behaved and all interacting with their owners. Some of the humans knew each other, and their well-socialized dogs were playing all, together. The sight was a lot for River to take in, and at first he pulled on the leash. I wasn’t using the prongs, I was using his shoulder harness. When I switched to his prongs he immediately pulled it together and listened to me. 

I was able to walk him by all of the activity and get him to practice our obedience commands with a very high level of distraction. All things considered, I think he did really well. 

Eventually, I was able to get out his 30 foot lead and he would still obey me as if the prongs were still on his neck.

Today my little guy took his first swim. We’ve been wading in plenty of rivers and he’s walked out into the water up to his neck, but never deeper than his feet could touch. Today he was fetching his rubber boomerangything and I threw it way out into the water. He excitedly ran out there, and I ran along with him and encouraged him when he took to swimming out to grab it. And he actually had to dunk his head under the water to get his mouth around the thing. I feel like a parent who has witnessed his child’s first step. I’m so happy and proud of him. I hope he enjoyed it. He seemed to be having a great time, but he also looked a little panicked. So I guess we’ll find out the next time we’re at a body of water that allows dogs in, whether or not he’s into it.

We spent an hour and a half at the beach and then we were tired and filthy. It’s not the cleanest beach, as you could imagine. I don’t want to think about what’s in the water. La La I can’t hear you La La La!

I had found us a Motel 6 in Evans. And since it is only about ten or fifteen minutes further away from Lyons than Fort Lupton. I decided we could stay here two nights and cancel the Fort Lupton reservation. It’s just as well, because Fort Lupton had the prison style building with indoor corridors, which I don’t like.

As soon as we checked in, River and I washed up and both of us got a little coconut oil rub, and we both ate some, too. He’s now crashed on his blanket at my feet while I type this. It’s time for me to get some food and go to bed early tonight. I was up until three am figuring out what we were going to do today. But after the day we had, it was totally worth it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Crossing Wyoming

Last night over dinner, when I told my new friend Lisa that I was going to drive to Cheyenne, she told me how she used to take the drive from Lyman to Cheyenne a lot, and she found it incredibly boring. I was fascinated by the newness of the beauty of Wyoming from my North/South drive yesterday, but I could see how, seeing it every day, one would get used to it and it could quickly become a long, monotonous ride. I have noticed that the cars with Wyoming plates were the ones that didn’t seem to have any patience with me going the speed limit as I gawked at the scenery.

The terrain today was all flat and pretty uninteresting. There were some of those awesome mountains off in the distance, but Lisa was right, they lose their novelty pretty quickly. You can see in the first section of the video, there’s nothing around. I pulled off the road after about an hour of driving because my body was really protesting being in the C-shaped-spine car seat position. I folded up a blanket and put it against the back of the seat so I could sit in my natural spine position instead of reclining and so the head restraint would no longer force my head into a forward position.

River got out and started to explore while I was doing that, so since there was no one for miles, I let him roam free and I took the opportunity to finish up the job that yesterday’s car wash had started. But it didn’t get any of the dirt out from inside the door jambs. Still, every time I slammed a door, I got another dust cloud. And all of the windshield wipers were also coated in dust that was somehow missed by the big brushes. I was prepared to get a nice mud smear the next time I had to use them. So I took a break to wipe Thumper clean in every spot I could reach.

We drove for a few more hours until, in a town called Elk Mountain, I saw a brown sign that said Public Access. I didn't know what it was referring to, but I’ve learned to respond to the brown signs, because they usually mean cool, naturey things, like state parks or natural points of interest. And considering what we’d been seeing all day, this minor, mosquito infested creek seemed like an oasis.  But once we got up close to the water, it wasn’t as tempting as I had originally thought.

We drove on and on, not really impressed with the region. The difference between driving South along the western edge of the state and driving East along the southern edge is vast. I’d take that western drive again and again, but this East/West drive was B.O.R.I.N.G.

If it weren’t for being high on coffee and singing along to Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow album out the sunroof at the top of my lungs, it would have been a dull day. But instead I had a great time.

I was about to pull off at a Rest Area to give River a pee break, but as I took the highway exit, I noticed that if I turned the opposite way than what was indicated by the Rest Area sign, it would take me into Medicine Bow National Forest. So, it was a no-brainer for me to choose between a parking lot with a public bathroom or a road side turnout in a forest. 

The last part of the video is a quick look at the latest national forest 'marked' by River.

Just as we were about to enter Cheyenne, I saw some pretty incredible rock formations along the side of the road. Did you ever make drip sand castles at the beach?  That’s what these looked like, only giant. I tried to take a picture of them, but they don’t read as impressive on the photos I took with my phone. At the same site, there was a Wyoming landmark; a tree growing out of a rock. I took some video of River there, but it got accidentally deleted. Only this one photo survived.

When we got to the Motel 6 in Cheyenne, our room wasn't ready, so River and I walked around for a while. They said they would call us when the room was ready. I took the opportunity to practice his 'heel' and 'come' and 'stay' all through the outdoor corridors of the motel.  We walked past people and past open room doors. These things, in the past, would have drawn River's attention, but today he stayed right at my side.

In my book River gets a big gold star for this one: A young boy being walked by a dominant Miniature Doberman on a 20 foot leash came around the corner. I told River to stop and sit and he did. Even as the little dog strained to reach us, growling and cajoling River much to the chagrin of the ineffectual kid at the other end of the leash who was resignedly letting the dog really taunt River, who dutifully sat there, perplexed, watching him.

Finally, after I thought River had displayed an impressive amount of restraint, I asked the kid, "Can they say Hi?" but he just looked at me with his mouth open so I realized I had to make the decision myself. I told River, "OK!" He, taking the cue, approached the ferocious doglet. As they did their sniffs, the kid finally opened up to me, saying that his dog was usually too afraid of other dogs to socialize. But I guess because of River's good manners, the little guy wasn't afraid.

Then the dog made a snap at River. I'm not sure if it was 'play' or 'fight' but River kind of looked at him like, "You've got to be kidding me. Do you know that I could kill you and eat you with one bite?" Then he looked at me like, "Get a load of this 'tough guy.'"  So, I rescued him, saying "River, Come!" which he did, and "Heel!" which he did.

As we walked away, I thanked the boy for letting us have that experience. I'm sure he had no idea how important it was to us.

This evening I’ll do my laundry and tomorrow for breakfast, will be finishing up the last of the food I had prepared before I left Seattle. 

From what I’ve seen so far, I don’t see any reason I’d ever come back to Cheyenne.
Next stop: Breckenridge, Colorado.

Western Wyoming-ing

Well, once again words and pictures (even video) cannot even come close to describing the kind of day I had today.

First of all, here are a couple of pictures I took last night after I had published my blog. This is River sitting under the table as we waited for my dinner order, and then my view from the same table. It’s pretty, right? I bet it’s amazing in the winter, too.

Last night, in the motel room, I kept hearing a buzzing coming from the TV. After a while I realized it was a flying bug, not an electronic buzz. And then, I saw it. It was a huge wasp, but it seemed to be content to stay behind the TV console. Every once in a while it would venture up the wall, but then it never flew from there, it was just crawl back down inside and all of the buzzing came from within. It was strange. I decided it wasn’t going to hurt me, so I slept in the room with it, with no incident.

This morning, we woke up in Jackson and I went to get Thumper a bath. After our dirt-road adventure yesterday, she was looking worse for wear. It was so dirty that whenever I closed a door it would create a little dust cloud. After the wash, her copper was brilliant and she sparkled again.

The first leg of today’s trip was along the Hoback River. I had another one of those moments when, as I drove over rolling hills covered with pine trees and as the Hoback shimmered alongside the road, I was filled with gratitude for the opportunity to  be on the earth and to witness such beauty.

A bit further down the road, we stopped at Green River, and I was so thrilled that we had stumbled upon a beach. At first I thought it was just going to be another view and I would be longing to be in the water, (or to climb the trees or mountains or run in the grassy field) but as we got closer I saw the sand and even the shore of the river, so we eventually went in. 

At one point, I noticed that River was hanging out in the shade of a tree rather than joining me on the trek to the water, which made me realize that the sand was probably really hot on his feet. So I picked him up and carried him to the river’s edge. It was also insanely windy, (I almost lost the drivers side door when I first opened it to get out) and it was sandblasting our eyes when we faced into the wind. It was especially bad down at dog level.  If it weren’t for the heinous winds we probably would have stayed in the water longer, but as it is, what you see in the video is just about all we did in the water. But it felt SO good and I’m glad we did it.

Back on the road for a while... and then the terrain changed. The mountains were now rock formations and the rolling grassy hills became flat, brush-covered plains. My first observation was that I always thought those rust colored rock formations were bigger. But the first ones I saw were probably only about ten or fifteen feet high. Of course my first thought was, “I could climb that really fast!”

And I also noticed that instead of the high peaks of the mountains of Montana or the Grand Tetons, the mountains here were all flat on the top. And all at the same level. I imagined someone had come by with a big knife and sliced off all the tops of the mountain range.

I knew I had really arrived in prairie country when instead of chipmunks running across the road, I saw a prairie dog. And then I saw a road runner.

And again I was impressed by the vastness and the infinite feeling of land spreading out far and wide. Its a weird phenomenon, that when I try to take a video of what I’m seeing, the road looks a lot more prominent in the video that what I’m seeing. To me it seems like the road is a tiny, hairline stripe on the expansive high desert plain, but when I look at the video, the road takes over. Maybe it’s a trick my mind plays by erasing the road and emphasizing the surroundings. I don’t know. As I look at the video, I think it has to do with the wider peripheral vision my eyes have over the camera. I can take it more on either side of the road. So, this is why I always pan side to side.

The place I was teaching was only two blocks from the motel, so we just walked. River’s crate never seems heavy until I try to carry it for more than five minutes. But it was either carry the crate for five minutes or drive for 45 seconds. I felt that walking was the only logical thing to do.

When I do these gigs, I never know what I’m getting into. This one is a perfect example. I’ve never met Lisa Bader, who set the whole thing up for us, and I was going to a school auxiliary gym. And none of the people in this town know me or even know OF me, so I wasn’t sure if anyone would come. I had images of me and two other people dancing in a dark, echo-y annex.

I kept hearing a buzzing coming from the TV. After a while I realized it was a flying bug, not an electronic buzz. And then, I saw it. It was a huge wasp, but it seemed to be content to stay behind the TV console. Every once in a while it would venture up the wall, but then it never flew from there, it was just crawl back down inside and all of the buzzing came from within. It was strange. I decided it wasn’t going to hurt me, so I slept in the room with it, with no incident.

But I was delighted to see the room was big, basically clean and had nice-feeling floors. Not wood like a typical gym, but sort of a rubbery material that felt good under my feet. The acoustics were great, so I don't think hearing me was a problem, but the students kept wanting to spread out and fill the space, and I wanted them to all clump together so I didn't have to teach to all four corners of the gymnasium.

We had a dozen students show up and they were ready to rock. I had a great time, and judging by the smiling faces I was seeing, I’d say they enjoyed the class, too. Some pictures were taken, but I don't have them yet. I hope to get copies and will share them if I do.

Afterwards, Lisa, her husband Todd and I ordered food delivered to my motel room. We were originally planning to order take out and eat it at the park, but it was so ridiculously windy. And, in the desert, even if it was 85 degrees that day, it gets cold at night, and all I was wearing were damp Nia clothes. So we opted to eat in the room. We had great conversation over some mediocre food, but all in all I had a great time.  It was my second bison burger in two days. I think they're really into their bison burgers here in Wyoming.

I’d love to teach here again. I hope the community will welcome me back.

Now, I’m exhausted and planning to go to bed early.  Tomorrow, I’m driving east, almost all the way across Wyoming, to Cheyenne.  More to follow.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Slow Road to Jackson

This morning as I looked at the day ahead, I noticed that the road I took to the ghost town was the same one that I could take to go to Jackson. I had seen this sign last night, but I wasn’t sure it was referring to the same Jackson as I was going to. 

So, I didn’t want to redo the same route, and I certainly didn’t want to drive on I-15 the whole way, which was another option. I wanted something scenic and maybe a bit adventurous, so I took off, not knowing which way I was going to go. I saw a highway on the map that I was going to keep a lookout for, and I knew that if I got too lost, I could always ask my Mini Nav to get me back on track.

The reason I wasn’t using Mini Nav from the beginning is because she has a tendency to give me the most direct route, and I wanted to take some detours and hopefully drive through some forests or Yellowstone.

So, I took off driving, and got about fifteen minutes down I-15 before I saw a road that looked intriguing. This one was more of a rocky, dirty version of the field I drove through last night. After driving on it for a while, I had a sneaking feeling I should check which direction it was taking me. I stopped at a beautiful lake and took a bit of video.

Immediately afterwards, I checked the map and decided to turn around and take a different approach. 

Oddly enough, I ended up spending most of the day in Idaho, which is fine with me, but I had thought I would be seeing more of Montana.

After driving for a while on a major highway, I felt like it was again time to check the map and re-triangulate myself.  My road atlas and my Mini Nav were both telling me there was no direct route from here to Yellowstone; that I’d have to drive almost all the way to Jackson and double back. But I investigated both Google Maps and the Apple Maps on my iPhone and the Apple Map showed that the place I pulled off, just happened to be the spot where I could catch a small road that looked like it took a meandering short cut to Yellowstone. I was delighted, thinking, “Now the adventure begins!” as I turned left, and hit the road.

About 400 yards in, the road was no longer paved. It was a gravelly dirt road. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to drive on it, or if it would go through, but I saw cars coming the other direction, so I rolled up the windows and ventured forth.  I also took some video of this road as I couldn't quite believe it was happening and I wanted to have some proof for later.

I couldn’t go faster than 30 MPH and I was kicking up a cloud of dust and rocks behind me. Then, the trucks started coming. I noticed a cloud of dust approaching me from the road ahead. As it got closer, I saw it was a semi truck with a trailer heading my way. It was a two lane road, but without “lines” and I was hoping the truck driver could see me from within his dust plume. He barreled by me, and much to my surprise, didn’t kick any rocks up onto Thumper. Then, as soon as the dust cleared, I noticed another truck was right behind that one. Again, we negotiated the rocky road, and again none of the rocks found my car. Within the next half hour, I counted ten trucks coming the opposite way, and I’m happy to report, not a single rock touched my paint job or windshield.

To make a long story short, I was on that gravel road for about two hours. We passed through the beautiful Targhee National Forest and I saw some rural camping the likes of which I had never seen before.  I would love to go back and really explore this area. 

We did stop along the way to have some food. I found a little ‘driveway’ kind of thing, that I think was basically the ‘back door’ to a huge ranch. River was fascinated by the cows, grazing, as I grazed. I made a lunch out of grated carrots and beets, hummus, pumpkin seeds and potato chips, and finished with a Capitol Hill bar. I ate it out of my pie plate on the bonnet of my car.

Oops, I got the car dirty.
After a couple more hours of driving carefully through the forest, I felt I had had my day’s adventure and was now ready for a more direct route to my destination. Fortunately, I happened upon Idaho 32; a scenic route highway that would take me directly to Jackson. 

I was blown away by this drive. The road winded over grassy hills that stretched out to the horizon. I felt like I should be singing The Sound of Music. And in the background was a magnificent view of the Grand Tetons and a mountain formation called the Sleeping Indian. 

About 45 minutes from Jackson, we stopped at a shopping center parking lot in a small town we were passing through because they had a big patch of grass in front. We got out and rolled around and stretched and drank some water and ran a little and played some fetch and tug-of-war. Then we sat under a shady tree and I fed River some kibble.

I put together the three short videos I took today:

The town of Jackson seems bustling. Although most of what goes on in bustling towns like this, River and I have no interest in. We’d just as soon be at a neighborhood park than go to restaurants, museums, rodeos, shopping, rafting, skiiing or bike riding. We make our own fun whatever town we’re in.

In and Around Dillon, MT

Even though we had a short drive and a lot of time to do it in, we still had to get up and out early due to the early check-out time in Missoula. So we were on the highway by ten am.

We stopped at a few rest areas. Those are always fun. At one, we set up a picnic lunch at the tables, but at most of them, we just run around and play in the grass.I was shooting some video of River enjoying the scenery and I felt something on my toes. Then I looked down and noticed that I was standing in a colony of ants. There were very big ants, and they looked menacing with the combination of red and black. I expected to be bitten, but I wasn't. Right after shooting the video, I felt something on my head, reached up and rubbed it and an ant fell off my head. I imagined them falling out of the trees, crawling out of the dirt and coming from behind the picnic tables. I decided I wanted to be back in the car right away, so we left. I've been trying all night to get the video posted on YouTube but the internet connection here at the motel is free, and worth every penny.  I'll try to post it later.

 At one of the rest areas, we stopped our regular playing to practice some of our new training system. I was delightfully impressed at River's reaction to seeing a dog walk through our playing area.

It was twenty minutes out of the way, but I just had to stop and see Butte, Montana since I was so close. It’s cute. I drove through the old, historic district and all of the brick buildings were quite stunning. 

Butte is one of those towns with a church on every street corner, but I think it’s probably Montana Tech that keeps in on the map. Butte seems to be a mining town and Montana Tech the place to go to study geology and minerals and mining.

The thing about Montana is the mountains, no doubt. Hence the name, Montana, which is basically ‘mountain’ in Spanish. The uniqueness of the landscape was hard for me to put my finger on at first, but now I think it has to do with how the region appears to be very flat, and yet there is a mountain in the background no matter where you look. And even beyond those mountains, are more mountains. The clouds hanging low and the different distances of the mountaintops, really give the sense that the land goes on forever.

We got into Dillon, somehow. The Motel 6 wasn’t showing up on my navigation system, even if I tried to enter the street address manually. So I navigated to a park that I saw was nearby, and eventually found it. Dillon is a trip. It’s like it’s getting ready to become a ghost town. It feels like it’s falling apart and it’s very quiet. 

I’ve never seen such an empty Motel 6 parking lot. But I suppose it’s not so good for business if the address doesn’t show up on navigation systems.

In Butte, I happened to notice the local Motel 6 was the prison-style. That’s what I call the ones that have indoor hallways. I’ll make a point not to stay at that one if I ever return to Butte. And unless I want to get into mining, I don’t see why I would return.

River and I are going to take a drive into ‘town’ and see what else Dillon has to offer.


Well, there was a train stopped on the tracks in Dillon that prevented me from driving into town. I didn’t know how long it was going to be sitting there, so I just turned around and got on the highway instead.

I found this long stretch of highway that felt like I was driving on the only road on the moon. Except for the one, winding road I was driving on, there was nothing but unspoiled, unimproved land stretching off as far as I could see in all directions. I wanted to stop and take a picture of it, but I couldn’t find a place that was appropriate to stop. This was a 70 MPH road, so I didn’t want to pull off unless it was safe and legal. But even if I were able to snap a shot of it, I don’t think I could have captured the feeling on camera. It was expansive and vast and desolate and beautiful.

I was driving on this road for a good twenty minutes. It didn’t seem like I could get any further into nowhere, but then I saw a sign for a state park called Bannack. It said it was a ghost town, four miles down this road.

So I turned off of this isolated lunar highway, onto an even more remote and rural road. Four miles later, I saw the sign, “Bannack State Park” pointing to (of course) a gravelly dirt road. There were two campground near a creek, and one campsite had a teepee and an outhouse. I kept driving and there was a visitor center near a parking lot. I saw on the sign that dogs on leash were welcome in the ghost town, so we went for a tour.

The town had its heyday during the gold rush, and it looked like these same buildings hadn’t been refurbished since then. They were delightfully dilapidated and dripping with history. We walked around for about two hours.
The old Assay Office

Inside the Turner house

Inside the Turner house

Turner's table has seen better days

Outside the city drug store

Inside the saloon, River was afraid of this barber chair

Inspecting the saloon

Skinner, the owner of the saloon, was hanged as a spy.

Rusted mining artifacts

River inside a mining car

Bachelor's Row, now crumbling

River inside the church

School days

On the steps outside Hotel Meade

And here is a video of the inside of the Hotel Meade: