Saturday, May 31, 2014

Blue Ridge Parkway

Yesterday, I made a special trip out of my way from Charlotte, NC to Richmond, VA all the way west to Roanoke, VA so that I could spend today cruising along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I woke up early and gassed up. It was easy to follow signs in Roanoke to the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a special road around which the natural beauty has been carefully maintained. The speed limit is usually 45 MPH or less to encourage cruising and gawking. There were also viewpoint turnouts every few hundred feet and lots of people were biking or hiking along the road, giving it all a very casual atmosphere.
Our first stop was at a place over looking a railroad track. And as luck would have it, a train was going by just as we pulled up, so I let River watch it before we got out to play.

I left this video without much narration because I wanted to capture a bit of the peacefulness that this drive offered. It was the dictionary definition of bucolic splendor.

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I didn't make it all the way through to the other end, because it was going to get me into Richmond too late. I like to try to avoid rush hour traffic. And to be honest, after two hours, I felt like I got the gist of this roadway, so I switched to the major highways the rest of the way in. :) I know I probably missed a lot of really cool stuff, but maybe I can come back and see more of the northern end some time.

I got into Richmond and checked into the motel with enough time to eat and rest and get to bed early for a class, early in the morning.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Little More North Carolina

This was gig added at a later date and not on the original plan. But my friend and colleague, Kate Finlayson found out I was coming through her town and asked if I could fit in a gig at Joy of Movement studio in Pittsboro, NC.

I had originally had a class set up at a fitness facility that later had second thoughts about allowing River in. So we cancelled that date. It worked out perfectly because I was able to give it to Kate.

River and I stopped to play in a park on the way out of Rock Hill, South Carolina.

I miscalculated how long it would take, with traffic to get to the motel. I was again afraid I was going to be late to class. I'm usually good at not getting myself into these jams, but for some reason, I've been caught off guard by ridiculous traffic conditions lately.

I got to the motel and quickly took the fastest shower I could, shaved, and put in my contacts and got immediately back in the car and headed to the studio.

Turns out I made it in plenty of time. The studio was beautiful and the class was wonderful. We had 13 shimmering brilliant artists sharing their art.


After class a bunch of us went out to dinner at Roadhouse and I had a salad with some fried pork belly and pickled watermelon rind, and some traditional North Carolina pulled pork and slaw, and pecan pie for dessert.

River made friends all over the place, as he tends to do.

River at Roadhouse in Pittsboro, NC


The next morning, I finally left the Carolinas. But not before passing through some serious bible country on my way out. I didn't get as far as Asheland, which I hear is supposed to be really nice and i might have to do on another trip to this area. But I went as far as Winston-Salem before heading north into Virginia.

I checked into a motel in Roanoke so I could rest up. I caught up on my blogging and will do some laundry and go to bed early. Tomorrow I hope to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway.

South and North Carolinas

I woke up in Tucker and was shocked when I took River out for his morning walk and saw Georgia in the parking lot. It looked like a totally different color. I thought I saw it as green; almost like slate. In the dark of the night before it looked very dark grey.

It was going to be another epic day. My third in a row.

This day was all orchestrated by Sherrie Flack. She rented a gorgeous ballroom in Fort Mill, South Carolina and attracted a shimmering group that really got into the wearing of the metallic clothes.

The class was brilliant and we all had a blast.



Then many of us caravanned over to Gail Coplin's house for a pot luck lunch. After lunch, I led a two hour 8BC barring workshop for seven ladies. I felt really good about the progress we made; it seemed like everyone left with a lot more clarity on the practice. And then, I had about three hours until teaching another class at a yoga studio in North Carolina. I went back to my room and napped for about twenty minutes and then showered and headed for the studio.

I hit some horrendous traffic on the way through Charlotte and ended up cutting my arrival very close. I had to break a few traffic laws to be able to walk into the studio at five minutes before the scheduled class starting time. It's amazing what can be accomplished in short amount of time when we really focus on it. I put up River's crate, set up my music and changed into my costume and started the class.

It was a lot of people in a small room and we had so much vibration of radiance going on that the room was going to burst.




Sherrie was a fan of taking pictures before class. And they do come out lovely, There's a sense of anticipation and mystery about them. But I prefer the feelings that come from a picture taken after class, when everyone is sweaty and glowing and shining from the experience.

After class, I met Mary Martin, a student from the morning's class, at a pizza place and we had a pizza and salad together and chatted; mostly about Nia and dogs and traveling.

Unbeknownst to us, tonight was a benefit night for the local humane society so every table had a dog at it and there was a group of about five dogs all gathering in front, either getting ready to leave or arriving. River was interested, but didn't display anything untoward, so I was proud of him.

Toward the end of the evening, a stranger came up to River and intended to step over him to get to an opening in the patio enclosure. He tripped over River's leash and spooked River, who responded by barking at him and then running to me. No harm was done, but I couldn't believe the man would attempt to crawl over a strange dog.

Once again it was pretty late before I got back to the room and into bed.

Thumper and Georgia

It had been on my mind for a while. I was unhappy with the moon roof in Thumper. It was glass and didn't block the sun from beating down on my head. There was no relief from relentless UV rays on the top of my head. After a couple of hours of midday driving, I could feel a burning sensation on my exposed skin.

So I knew I was going to trade it in for a new one, or get it fixed with a decal. I wasn't fond of the decal idea because then I have a defaced moon roof. I thought it made more sense to just get a hard top.

Once I set my mind on something I like to act. I don't like to wait. I had all day to go just about three hours to my next destination and no classes to teach until the following morning. So I stopped into the local Mini dealership to inquire about what my situation would be and my options on inventory and leasing over buying, etc.

To make a long story short, I traded cars.
Thumper (on the left) staying in Altanta.
Georgia (on the right) is coming with me.

River hopped right in before I was even ready to go.

River seemed to be having a great day at Mini of Atlanta

I'll miss some things about Thumper. He had keyless entry and automatic locking and tinted windows. I loved the unique color and the contrast with the white stripes.

I'm surprised at how differently the two cars handle and feel. It took some getting used to when I first got into the new car. I decided I wanted to name the car after the experience of buying it. (Technically I'm leasing it) Because it felt so much more delicate and than Thumper, I thought that I might give it a girl's name. I was joking with Ric, the Mini dealer, that I might name it Julie. But it didn't actually feel right.

It came to me that I could name the car after the experience of buying it and give it a girls name by naming it after the state I bought it in. Georgia.

She's a 2014 Countryman S with the John Cooper Trim. In Royal Grey with two black stripes on the bonnet. The interior is all black and the roof is a soft plush material, so it has a cozy feel. The big difference for me is the navigation system. Georgia didn't come with factory navigation, so I had to get dealer add-on navigation. At first I thought I was disappointed in it, but the more I started working with it, the more I think I might actually like it better. I just wish it wasn't installed right behind the steering wheel, so I could see the whole screen at once and punch numbers in without twisting up my arms.

Ironically, as I was driving away, safe from the beating down afternoon sun, it was late in the afternoon and the sun was hitting me in the back of the head through Georgia's untinted windows. I hadn't thought to consider how much I liked having the windows tinted. It will have to be something I take care of soon.


Georgia

This is actually still the same day as Alabama, but a different state, so I made it a new post. I drove right from the class in Cullman, to the guy who didn't have any soap and from there on to Decatur, Georgia.

I lost an hour crossing over from Central to Eastern Time and barely made it to the Decatur Recreation Center in enough time to walk River in the park and eat some cashews and strawberries before class started. The traffic going through Atlanta was so incredibly slow, that I had to scrap my original plan of going to the motel room and showering and eating before class. Instead I drove directly from one class to the next.

Although I had rinsed my costume in the sink in Alabama, I didn't use soap (still hadn't found any) They were dry by the time I was putting them back on in the Decatur Rec Center restroom as I had laid them flat on the back platform in the car under the rear window. They dry quickly from the sun and the wind. But as I put them on, I was aware that they hadn't been washed. I put some essential oils on those puppies and went in smelling like a champ.


This was a seasoned group of Niaficionados under the long-time guidance of Sandy Bramlett, who has been teaching Nia longer than I have.

There was an interesting mirrored wall in this gorgeous, modern art type studio. It was many many small squares of mirrors with space in between them. Enough space between, but enough glass so that you could simultaneously see a reflection of the class and the activity in the street and in front of the library across the street. We did our class as the sun set in our eyes, adding to the wonderful brilliant fantasy of our crystal shimmering genius artistry.

It was very late by the time I finally checked into the motel room in Tucker, GA. An aptly named town for me to rest after this two-city, two-class day.

Alabama

The sign, welcoming us to Alabama says, "Alabama the Beautiful."

And my first impression was that it was indeed beautiful, and it was also very humid and hot.

It is very peaceful, too. I feel a calmness in the air that slows me down a bit; it's nice. Even the speed limits on the streets and highways seem slower than average.

I found a farmers market and got some turnip greens and some tomatoes and cucumbers and strawberries. The greens farmer was talking my ear off about the nutrional value of the stems of the greens and various vegetables, and how his son grew the biggest pumpkin in the county this year. All the while with turnip greens in his teeth.

River got lots of loving attention at the market, and after shopping with me, I let him sniff around in the weeds behind the market before we took off for class.

Ann Caretti was the producer for my Goldfinger class at the Cullman Recreational Center, in Cullman Alabama, and her students were so lovely and came dressed in their day-glowiest neon outfits and introduced themselves by name in their Alabama drawl that I have a soft spot for. It was such fun to play with these women who hadn't ever really had much masculine energy in their Nia experience.   Ann remarked afterward that the class experience reminded her that she needed to add some of the masculine energy back into her classes.

After class a bunch of us all went to a local cafe for lunch. and coffee It was all very nice and peaceful and friendly. And none too rushed.

And it was hot. Even River, who until today had always pulled his head immediately in the window of the car once I reached above 35 mph. But I was going over 65 mph today and River was sitting up, next to the open window and taking in the 65 mph in small gulps. And then, once in a while, he'd really stick his head out there and try to take the air, but could never last very long out there and came back in a bit befuddled by the whole experience. 

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I was out of my Dr. Bronner's soap and was on the lookout for opportunities to get some more. On the way out of Alabama, I saw a sign saying Health and Wellness, so I thought I'd give it a shot. As I was pulling into a parking lot in front of the store, the proprieter walks out his door and calls out to me, "Hi, Come in!"

We ended up chatting for a while. He likes the stuff but can't afford to sell it because all his profits are eaten up by the high shipping charges. He did reassure me that he didn't think around here anyone would notice that I wasn't using soap. We had a laugh and I drove off.

Mississippi

Leaving New Orleans, in the morning, we headed out of state, bound for Atlanta, Georgia. I was planning on giving Mississippi a miss, but mid-Mississippi, Thumper needed to refuel and River needed to (ahem) "stretch his legs". So we pulled over in ...
I enjoyed our quick stop in MS because when I walked into the store to pay for my gas, I got to hear the clerk, with her head in the hotdog machine, saying, without irony, "Gaggumit. Ah! Dagnabbit"

The drive through the south was surprisingly lush. I didn't know it, but I must have I had this mental image of the south being more barren. I was surprised that there is a decent amount of greenery and a lot of trees.

And there is certainly no shortage of bugs.





Sunday, May 18, 2014

New Orleans

New Orleans was a day off for me. I couldn't get anything going here so it's just a break from driving to my next gig, which is just outside Birmingham, Alabama.

It was fun driving into Louisiana and going over all the bridges and looking down at the swamp land below. I never saw any gators. 

As soon as we crossed the state line, we stopped at a Rest Area called Bienvenu Lake.




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We arrived at the motel in just enough time to eat and go outside to play on the lawn before the sun went down. And I spent the rest of my evening eating the food that Georgia cooked for me, and catching up on my blogging.

Houston

I don't know what it is about Houston or Mini Nav, but they don't get along. As far as Thumper is concerned, NiaMoves does not exist, nor does the entire street that it's on. Also, the street that the Motel 6 was on is not an option in my Mini Nav. Fortunately I had Siri and I can use my iPhone to get around Houston.

The Motel 6 had a giant lawn area that River loved to explore. I let him run around out there as long as he wanted to. And eventually he led us out to the parking lot. I remembered that it was the last time we were in Houston that we discovered the very sharp burrs that are in Texas wild grass, so I steered him back to the big lawn. He seemed over the lawn, so I guided him to the other side of the
building where our room was.

I got up early for an 8am class that was a great way to start the day. We had maybe 20 people in class And three of them were fairly new, so I'm glad it all went well and people seemed to be enjoying it.



The highlight of my day was my friend, Georgia Lister, presenting me with a cooler full of food that she lovingly made in her kitchen. She kept in mind the preference I have for wholesome foods and gave me some delicious sweet potato sausage hash, some thai curry slaw, some orange chicken and some cashew bread! I went back to my motel room to shower and immediately threw some of that sweet potato hash into the microwave. And for dinner tonight, I'll have orange chicken.

Texas is big, y'all! I spent a week here and didn't even touch the west. When I think about Amarillo to Corpus Christi and from El Paso to Beaumont, it's staggering. It's as big as four normal states. During my travels through the state, near La Vernia, I reached 4000 miles on this trip. Now, leaving Houston it looks like it will get me just short of rolling over to 5000 already. It won't happen in Texas, but it looks like it'll happen just as I'm leaving New Orleans tomorrow.

Here's what we've done so far this trip:



Corpus Christi

The ride into Corpus Christi took longer than expected. I started off avoiding highways, just for fun but quickly realized that even using the highways, it was going to be four hours, so I was in for about five hours of driving through much of the same type of surroundings as I'd seen for the past three days.

To break things up, I like to take frequent stops and just run or stretch or explore the area on foot.

I was irritated because my calf or my foot, or both, were in spasm and I couldn't get comfortable. And in hindsite I guess that's why River was acting strange that day and didn't want to get back into the car when we made our first stop and stretch break.

I won't force him or order him to get back into the car. I have a suggestion tone and a command tone and I use the suggestion tone around the car hoping to keep it pleasant for him; and usually he's cool with it when it's time to go. But today he said "no".

I hung out with him for a long time. Finally he got back in and we continued on.

Being near the gulf was refreshing after being in the desert for so long. I gave myself an extra day here on purpose. I remembered the last time I was here, I really loved the feel of being so close to the water and didn't want to leave so quickly.

We stayed at the home of Manny and Bill and their three dogs Coco, Pippin and Gigi. It was a full house and I'm so grateful to them for putting up with us.

River is fine with small dogs. He even let's himself get attacked by them in the face and is entirely nonplussed. It's odd and interesting that his behavior is so different based on size of dog. I wonder if he feels more threatened by the ones that he's afraid might be able to 'take him'.

When these little dogs have unprovoked barking tantrums at River's face, he kinda skulks away and walks toward me, or just looks up at me if he's lying down.

Manny and I took River to Malaquite Beach on Padre Island. The three of us ran a bit and River and I played push and tug and chase in short spurts.


You can see an enormous pile of seaweed just at the shore. But that's about a twentieth of the size of the incredible pile of dead seaweed that separated the shore from the white sand. It was just beyond that fresh small mountain of seaweed you can see in the picture, but this was phenomenally big and black. A mountain range of dead seaweed that had to be navigated to find the driest and most solid spot and then crossed quickly like a fire walk of rotting seaweed and flies.

River was favoring his troublesome right rear leg by the end of the day. Hopefully just a minor irritation and not a setback. I'll give him the meds I have left from his surgery.

The next morning was Goldfinger! This class was extra special to me because Corpus Christi is a town without Nia. I wasn't walking into an established class or community, but a gathering of open minded people who were curious about moving their bodies. I felt so proud to be wearing my First Degree Black Belt and presenting the Nia Promise to them without the luxury of the language. It was a wonderful experience that sharpened my understanding of what's going on in this routine as a whole entity. By the end, the glow from them was palpable. It inspired a local teacher/trainer to spontaneously announce that based on today's attendance and enthusiasm, Nia classes begin two weeks from today!

San Antonio

The drive from Austin to San Antonio is a short one if the most direct route is taken. And I had nothing to do this day, so I set my navigation to take me on back roads and avoid highways. We took a nice, long drive with lots of stops.
Welcome to San Antonio

Getting into San Antonio I was struck by how historic the town is; like a classic mission town, steeped in its Mexican history. I felt like I was entering Mexico with all the taco stands and the billboards in Spanish. Whereas yesterday, in Austin, I woke up to the smell of bacon, here in San Antonio is was taquitos filling the morning air.

And in the middle of all of this pastiche was a place called The Pearl. A post-modern retail development with an industrial look that houses a culinary school and a restaurant, many office spaces and the Synergy Studio, where I brought my Goldfinger routine. I wish I had thought to take a picture of it. What impressed me was how nondescript everything was. There was no signage or words of any kind. It felt like standing among giant corrugated steel barrels. It was one of the coolest business parks I've ever seen.

I didn't count bodies, but it felt like a good number. Let's say 13 crystal geniuses were in class. What I did feel was the vibration we created. I asked these Nia lovers to shimmer and radiate and boy did they! They sparkled with such brilliance that could feel the energy moving me; they were exciting me.


After class, Adelle Brewer took Joanie Brooks and River and me to a yummy breakfast in The Pearl.

After breakfast, the women went on their way and River and I stuck around The Pearl and explored the San Antonio River.


Finally, we got into the car and intended to take off for Corpus Christi. My navigation was still set to avoid highways so I thought I'd take the 'alternate route'. I like it because it takes me through towns and has more turns and intersections than the super highway. I love to feel like I'm participating in the drive, rather than just setting in motion and rolling straight away all day.

But then, before I could make it out, I ran into some construction detours that confused MiniNav and got me kinda lost in San Antonio. Serendipitously, it caused us to drive by a small park that caught both of our attention. We just had to stop and check it out.


I think I see the San Antonio River down there!!
that thing just poked me, act cool.

Austin


The plan was to drive from Dallas and arrive in Austin to teach class late that same night. There were no weather abnormalities nor anything to upset the drive, which was quite simple and straight-forward.
Arrived in Austin

Thanks to Donn's Bar-B-Q across the parking lot, the whole motel smelled like bacon the next morning.

I arrived in Austin with enough spare time to meet with a massage client. Someone answered my ad and requested a very gentle massage. I set him up with a time, but he called fifteen minutes late and was confused about the address. I gave it to him again and apologized for not knowing the lay of the land better, to help him find it. (I actually didn't have any trouble finding the place, myself.)

Another twenty minutes goes by and he's called three times, trying to hone in on the motel. He was very apologetic and said his biggest concern was that if he couldn't make it in time that I wouldn't get my funds, and he wanted to make sure I got paid. I told him not to worry about the time. I did have to leave at a certain time to make it to class on time, but I would go for as long as I could.

"We can focus on quality over quantity," I told him. He liked that.

So he finally made it and as I was working on him, he started telling me his incredible story. He was a very successful, hard-core type A executive at a computer company and was sitting near a fountain in a resort hotel on a business trip. Unbeknownst to him, the fountain was infected with legionnaires disease, so the pleasant spray he was sitting in nearly killed him.

He was originally diagnosed with severe pneumonia, but wasn't responding to treatment because it was actually legionnaires disease. In the meantime, his brain was swelling. It swelled so much that it was being compressed by his skull and suffered permanent damage.

He survived the ordeal, obviously, but not with his brain fully intact. His left brain was damaged so that he had a very hard time with lists and order and task initiation, but his right brain left him feeling blissful and happy, dispite the fact that he was in constant pain in every joint and felt immense pressure in his eyes and forehead.

He claims to be a completely different man than he was before "the trip" began. He was so appreciative to be alive, that he cherished every single thing and every moment. He was especially excited by bright colors. It was so much fun to be with him because he didn't seem able to criticize and was always being positive.

He ended up really enjoying the short session we had together even though much of that time was spent just squeezing down on his eyes. That was difficult for me at first. It seemed very counter-intuitive to squeeze someone's eyes. But he demonstrated it and explained how he does it to himself all the time and that it feels wonderful. So I did it. He paid me for the full time, even though he only got about a third of it. He gave me a $40 tip and invited me to come to his apartment after my class so he could make me dinner.

Class was wonderful. The crystal genius theme I've been using seemed especially poignant to me after meeting my new friend with the blissed out left brain. His zeal for life and childlike love for colors really embodied the crystal genius model.

So after class, River and I went to his apartment in downtown Austin. It's a very modern city. I guess it had resisted growth for many years, but finally began to succumb to it in recent decades, so everything downtown seems shiny and new.

His apartment was a giant loft with a view of what he told me was Austin's "Central Park." He clearly had plenty of money, but he didn't work any more. His next goal, he told me, was to buy a yacht so he could take it out a couple of times a year and then rent it out for parties the rest of the year. 

He made me a big steak for dinner, but it was very difficult to get the evening to progress. He tended to blather on and not make with the cooking. At one point he even told me that I would probably have to prod him along more than once. The one drawback of "the trip" was that he lost the initiative to get things started.

He told me about how he had recently gotten into the elevator to go outside, but stood in the car for twenty minutes without pushing the button. He said it was a weird sensation of knowing that he was supposed to do something but simply not doing it. Fortunately he lives in a building with lots of closed circuit monitoring and the concierge could see him in the elevator. They all know his condition and take good care of him.

I enjoyed being with Don, but many of his old friends don't recognize him. It's too bad he had to have a near-fatal accident to introduce him to the pleasure centers in his brain. We ended up staying up way too late.

The next morning, before heading out, I needed to buy more coffee beans. I didn't want to get non-organic beans, and I didn't want to support Whole Foods, so it took a bit of sleuthing, but I finally found Texas Coffee Traders in Austin. They roast the beans on site and had a nice, dark Italian roast that was organic and fair-trade.  In this video I say that the beans are "locally grown" but of course I misspoke. They are grown all over the world but roasted and packaged here in Austin.
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Dallas


Amarillo was extremely windy the morning we left. I had heard that Dallas was experiencing some weird weather, but it seemed like it was going to be moving out just as I was getting there.

But the closer I got to Dallas, the more grey the sky got. By the time I was in Dallas, the rain was coming down so hard that it was flooding all the street corners and making it hard to see. The windshield wipers were having a hard time keeping up with the volume of rain pouring down on us.

People on the street were getting routinely soaked by cars driving through the accumulated floodles at each corner. That's a word I made up to mean very large puddles that quickly formed due to massive and sudden amounts of rain.

And then the lightning started. It was really impressive, bolt lightning. At one moment I saw a bolt hit what looked like a cell phone or electrical relay tower. And it lingered and seemed to be striking repeatedly. I'd never seen lightning behave like that before.

I had just enough time to check into the motel room, shower, eat and prepare for class before heading out to the studio. But a wrench was thrown in the works when I arrived at the motel. River and I ran from the car to the front door of the lobby and were soaked in fifteen seconds. But the clerk at the desk told us that we couldn't check in because they had lost power and were only running on a generator to power the lobby and essentials. I was stunned for a while and didn't know what to do, and wasn't looking forward to going back out into the torrential downpour.

I wondered if the power outage had anything to do with that tower I saw get repeatedly struck by lightning.

I consulted the Motel 6 app and found another location fairly nearby and made my way through the treacherous, zero-visibility rainstorm to the address. When I got there,  the address was inside a business park, but there was no Motel 6. I drove around a couple of times, but couldn't see it.

I was beginning to realize that there was no way I would find and check into a room and get ready for class in time. I knew that I had to just simply go teach class and worry about accommodations afterward. So I drove to MoveStudio and waited for class to start.

While I waited, Shannon, one of the instructors I was teaching for in Dallas, said River and I could sleep at her home. I was relieved to have the option, even though she had dogs and lived about half an hour away.

Class went well. There weren't many students in the room, which wasn't surprising considering what was going on outside. I wouldn't go to class tonight if I weren't the teacher! But the good thing is that those who did show up, REALLY WANTED to be there and to have a good time. So we had a blast, just the five or six of us.

After class I called the Motel I had a reservation at, thinking maybe that the power had come back on and I could drive over and check in. But no. No answer. A recording saying they were having power problems.

Then I finally found a motel six that was nearby, had power and did exist! It was late before I checked in and fell asleep right after eating dinner.

The next day, the storms had stopped. I was teaching another class in Dallas so we headed back to the studio. There were a lot more people in this class, but the energy and excitement level was similar to the smaller group the night before.

It's so much fun to present this work.  Some of the student remembered River from the ROCKIN class I taught there last fall. And River, likewise, seemed to remember them. After class, we piled back in the car and took off for Austin.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Amarillo




I took the scenic route from Santa Fe to Amarillo by directing my navigation to Las Vegas, NM. first, and then catching 287 through Childress. It’s not like it was an unpaved residential road, but it was a far cry from the major I-40. I think it only added about half an hour to the trip, but it took me through small towns of 122 population and took a lot more interesting twists and turns than the big highway. It was a fun drive. 

Amarillo was dry and windy. I was happy to stay indoors and do nothing. I had plenty of food and no responsibilities, so I just relaxed.

By placing an ad in Craigs List, I connected with a man who was a teacher in the psychiatric prison. He offered to bring some hair-clippers over to my room and supervise my cutting my hair so I didn’t miss any spots in the back. And then he took River and I to what is probably Amarillo’s second biggest claim to fame, Cadillac Ranch. (I’d think the Route 66 song was its biggest.)

The sculpture has been painted so many times that it is inches thick in parts. It has been officially painted many times; different colors for different occasions. In addition, it is tacitly implied that visitors should contribute some paint whenever they visit. There were a few spray cans going around, so I grabbed a couple and did my part.


This was an auspicious occasion for River because it was the first time I’d really let him run around free since his surgery eight weeks ago. And it was in such a wide open area, he took that opportunity and ran with it. He jumped and ran and quickly changed direction and did it all over again. And he gleefully stopped what he was doing when I called him to COME. He couldn’t get to me fast enough, and sat there panting as I reattached his leash so we could leave.


Before we returned to the room, we managed to see one other sculpture funded by the same man who is responsible for Cadillac Ranch and many other public art installations around Amarillo. This one is called Colossal and it was two giant, disembodied legs. It was nearly dark by the time we saw this sculpture so I didn’t get a picture of it. At one point, someone painted sport socks on the legs. But they were long covered up with new paint before I saw them.

The name, Colossal comes from a poem that was on a plaque in front of the sculpture. As we drove by, my friend was anguished to discover the plaque was missing. Read about it, here.



New Mexico

Driving into New Mexico was thrilling, as we drove through major, zero-visibility dust storms and were pelted relentlessly by tumbleweeds. At first I was swerving to try to avoid them, but after hitting one, I realize that they disintegrate upon impact. The only ones that I was still leery of were the ones that moved very slowly. They seemed thick. But fortunately, were easily avoided.

We stopped in Albuquerque to teach a class. I arrived well over an hour early so we stopped and played for a while in a nearby park.

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Class was full and we had an awesome time. The last time we were at this studio, River wasn’t allowed in. He was sequestered outside, but a student took pity on him and quickly drove him to her house to be out of the heat while we were in class. This time, River was allowed in. I was about to pass by Albuquerque without teaching Goldfinger, but after a chat with Ashley, the manager of Studio Sway, we came to an agreement that River could be inside with us.

After class, I headed to Santa Fe where I was going to stay at a friend’s house. This friend had actually come to Albuquerque to take my class, but left right afterward and was going to meet me at the house. It is a lovely, big house in a new development. It was a very brown neighborhood, with rock lawns and clay colored home. It looked like a neighborhood in Bedrock.

The following day I woke up and taught Goldfinger at Studio Nia Santa Fe to another large, enthusiastic group of Niaficionados.
 I stayed afterward for a while to work with Mark putting together the playlist for the Men of Nia Jam happening the following day. 



After showering, I left River with my hosts and took a trip to the Natural Grocer where I was able to stock up on organic veggies, beans, nuts and humanely raised meats. This grocery turned me on to a brilliant ahead-of-the-curve idea. Instead of bagging my groceries, he asked “Do you want a box?” I said yes, and he retrieved one from a stack of boxes that they got their wholesale deliveries in. Rather than break them down and send that cardboard to the recycling plant, they send them home with customers’ purchases inside. The boxes are brilliant because it’s easy to carry what would probably have taken three or four bags all in one box. And there is zero rolling around in the car. I love the idea and will be carrying this box for my groceries for as long as I can.

That night I had a nice discussion with my friend, Michael, who was once a Buddhist monk. I thought I was going to start a deep conversation by asking if he considered Facebook relationships ‘real’. He told that “real” is a very specific Buddhist concept but then proceeded to answer the question I had asked. But I was intrigued by his comment and asked him to elaborate. It turned into a wonderful lesson that left me feeling so full of spirit and joy. I enjoy learning about Buddha’s teachings.

The following day I spent in the kitchen. I cooked kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes, chick peas, acorn squash, zucchini, pork chops, sausage and beef top sirloin steaks. I divided everything up into about ten meals and included some nuts and seeds in each meal, as well. As long as I maintain my cooler with fresh ice, I should be all set for healthy and easy food for about six days! I’m psyched!

That evening, we had the Men of Nia jam. It was so much fun celebrating male Nia teacher energy! The Santa Fe community was clearly ready for this, which was the first Men of Nia in Santa Fe. I look forward to more.

After class Mark took me out to Back Door Pizza and we enjoyed a “Santa Fe” style pizza, which included chicken and green chili. It was delicious; like an enchilada pizza, almost. 



The weather on this day was all over the place. One moment it was nice and sunny, and River and I were playing in the back yard. And then it was cold and dark from clouds. Someone said it was snowing at one point, and at another point it was hailing. video
 Outside of these strange weather events, the air had been painfully dry, leaving my sinuses cracking and bleeding. It helped to use my neti pot and also to eat and topically apply coconut oil. I was also drinking water like a fiend.

The next morning, I woke up and did laundry. Then I had just enough time to catch Mark’s Nia class. It was nice to be able to relax and receive a class. Immediately after, we got back on the road. Next stop, Texas.

As we rolled out of New Mexico, the mileage for this trip, since we left Seattle the day after Easter, is 3000.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Out of Arizona

I started out the morning by calling Flagstaff Athletic Club once more to see if my hoodie showed up. And surprisingly, it was there! So I headed over to pick it up before getting on the road toward Albuquerque.

In Navaho Country, I stopped to get gas and was approached by a woman named "Cheyenne"; a name she said she got in prison. She had crooked teeth and smelled of alcohol and was asking me for some money for McDonald's. I told her not to eat that crap, but that I'd give her an apple. This touched her and inspired her to come close to me, grab my arm and with eyes full of tears, tell me I should call my mother and that I should apologize to my brother because I was in the wrong. I had a feeling she would have loved to stand and chat at the gas pump for hours, but I extracted myself and drove off.

A few more miles down the road, I saw a sign and decided we had enough time to investigate what I thought sounded like an interesting state park. It was not.

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We didn't stay there long.

We got back on the road and on the way to Albuquerque were swallowed by some zero-visibility dust storms and pelted relentlessly by high velocity tumbleweeds.

My sinuses are totally dried out.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Arizona: Sedona and Flagstaff

I slept in a surprisingly comfortable recliner chair last night and River slept the night in his crate. He’s becoming so mature. This is the second time on our many travels that he’s slept in his crate all night. He always does at home, but in foreign places, he wants to crawl in bed with me.

Alba had set up a french press, a kettle filled with water on the stove and a grinder full of ground coffee for me in the kitchen. So I woke up with the sun and went into the kitchen to make my coffee.

I took River for a walk and was surprised at how cold it was. My whole life, every time I’d ever been in Arizona it was always blistering hot, so it was odd for me to feel this 55ยบ weather this morning.

A couple hours later, Alba came by with a glass of homemade kefir. She took such good care of me. She also boiled me some eggs and gave me an apple and some almonds so I wouldn’t be hungry on the road. And she filled my water bottle with filtered water.

I packed up the car and Alba, her husband Fitz, and River and I went to eat lunch at India Gardens Cafe. I got a pulled pork sandwich and River got a peanut butter sandwich with a side of  banana. It came with a side of honey. I let him have the banana and just a few bites of his PB sammy, but I took the honey for myself.

Alba and Fitz are delightful people and we had a long chat in the garden cafe until Alba had to go for a massage client.

So River and I took off back over route 17 and through some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen. A place called Rock Slide is worth investigating. It’s definitely on my “to return to” list; as is Sedona in general.

It was a short drive to Flagstaff. Those are nice once in a while.

A weird thing is that there are two Motel 6s within a few blocks of each other. One has an enormous sign and is directly off the highway and the other is around the block. I turned off my navigation once I saw the Motel 6 sign. But when I tried to check in and they couldn’t find my name, the clerk asked, “Did you reserve at Benson or Lucky Lane?” When I told him I had reserved at Lucky Lane he gave me directions to get there. “But” he said, “we have renovated rooms and I have one ready for you now if you want to stay here.” I asked if it was the same price and he said that it would be a little cheaper over there at Lucky Lane, but admitted he was trying to tempt me to stay there. I thanked him and told him I was on a budget and headed for Lucky Lane.

I brought all my luggage into the room and took a quick shower before heading off to the gym to teach my Nia class. Many of the students there were also there when I taught ROCKIN last June. They remembered me and were excited to see what I was bringing this time with GOLDFINGER.  As a group they really didn't go for the whole "wear something shiny" concept. But we had a great time with the moves and I was impressed at how quickly they picked up my crazy 5, 9 and 13 count choreography.

I accidentally left my favorite hoodie in the bathroom when I changed before class and when I went back for it later, it was gone. So on my drive back to the motel room, I was cursing a pox on the entire town of Flagstaff. But I asked a friend via Facebook to talk me down and soon I felt much better.

For dinner I had the rest of the beef jerky I got at Gus’ as well as some of the pickled vegetables and dried cranberries. I also threw in a handful of pumpkin seeds and it was delicious. Then, for dessert I had one of the flax muffins that Alba had given me. (they’re better than they sound).

River is not putting much weight on his right rear leg tonight. I can’t figure when he might have done too much, but I suppose it could be anything. I gave him a pain killer and fed him his dinner and now he’s konked out in his crate. He looks so comfortable.  I think I'll follow suit and hit the hay as well.

Beautiful Sedona

The window in the Las Vegas Motel 6 room was not the kind that opened. I thought it was creepy that one could not open a window and get fresh air. Las Vegas is not the place to go for appreciation of nature, that’s for sure. Well, I need fresh air when I sleep, and I’m certainly not going to breathe the air that has traveled through the unclean filters of the in-room air conditioning system. Anytime I’ve actually turned one on, within moments I can feel the back of my throat protesting.

So I connected the latch on the door, which allows it to be left ajar and yet secure and was able to sleep with access to real air. I’m glad we weren’t in mosquito country.

We took a walk all around the motel grounds first thing in the morning. I was amazed at how different Las Vegas is in the morning compared to the night before. Without all the glitzy flashing lights, it’s really a drab, barren place.

We got in the car and got the heck out of there.

Driving through this arid desert part of the country, there’s no moisture, no shade, very little evidence of life at all,.. when I come across a large region of undeveloped land, I imagine the first people who came here and saw this, and I wonder what made them think, “Hey, we should build a city here!” 

It wasn’t long after leaving Las Vegas that we crossed into Arizona. And almost immediate the terrain changed to look like I was on the set of the Coyote and Road Runner cartoons.
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We stopped a vista point overlooking Lake Mead (I think). I remember that we had stopped at this same vista point last summer, during a long, excruciating heat wave and the pavement was so blistering hot that we couldn’t enjoy the view without burning River’s feet. This time we got to enjoy it a bit more.

Along the highway, I noticed signs for Gus's Jerky advertising fresh jerky from Buffalo, Elk and Cow. I gave only perfunctory notice to the first one. The second one reminded me of it. The third one made my mouth start watering and by the time I actually approached Gus's Jerky, I had to stop. I got some teriyaki beef jerky and some pickled vegetables and some dried cranberries. Lunch!



We had to get back on the highway and drive for a little while longer before finding a spot that was appropriate enough to pull off and eat. We ended up at a truck stop and sat inside the car to eat as a dust storm raged outside the windows.

We got to Flagstaff and my jaw dropped on the ride from there to Sedona! I felt like I was driving through a painting; like it couldn’t actually be real. People had told me to prepare for some gorgeous scenery, and I had seen pictures, but as usual, pictures don’t actually capture the experience. I think the depth of field is important for appreciating the grand scale of these artistic sculptures. And it was so nice to see green trees mixed in with the pink/orange rock formations.


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We arrived at the home of Alba in Sedona. She had contacted me out of the blue a couple of months ago because she was interested in getting Nia started in Sedona and discovered that I was doing this trip and was planning to be nearby in Flagstaff and Phoenix.  We worked together to put together a nice Intro to Nia in Sedona presentation and she also offered to put River and I up for the night.

She took such good care of us. She fed me breakfast, lunch and dinner. Healthy stuff, too, like probiotic sauerkraut, homemade kefir, fresh avocado on delicious bread and an omelette. She explained how she believed that guests in the home were the presence of God and it was an honor to respect and cater to them as divine.
Here we are, making ourselves at home in Sedona
Before heading off to the studio, I put on my contact lenses. And they were taking a long time to settle in. Sometimes, when I put them in, my vision will be blurred while they find their place on my eyeball, but half an hour later, they were still not improving my eyesight, but in fact, making it worse.

When we got to the studio, I visiting the restroom and took them out, inspected them, reinserted them making sure to carefully place them right, but still terrible vision. I mean, I’m not legally blind or anything, but I like to see the expression on the faces of my students, even in the back row, but today I couldn’t even see the first row. 

I couldn’t see the clock and I couldn’t see the words on my iPhone display. I had to ask Siri to play my playlist and Alba had to help me locate certain tracks. And my 15 minute talk to start off the event, ended up being closer to 40 minutes as I got lost in the subject and couldn’t see the clock.

But we did have a great time, once we started moving. I taught a song from Soul (using Native American music), Alba taught a groovy song called Calling and then I taught a rock and roll song. We wanted to demonstrate how much variety there was in Nia, since I was about to present a themed class and didn’t want people leaving the Intro to Nia thinking “Oh, Nia is all about James Bond music.”

To compensate for my over-talking, I removed a few songs from my Goldfinger routine and we were able to end on time. Based on the exciting talk-back after the routine, I’m confident that Sedona will soon have a flourishing Nia class and community.

Such a stark contrast to Las Vegas last night, it gets so dark here. The sky was full of stars. It is such a gorgeous, natural place. I’m grateful to Alba for contacting me, working patiently with me as we formulated our plan, and for being such a generous host and producer. 

She fell in love with the Goldfinger routine, and hired me to teach it to her, so I’m so excited that this routine will find life in the Mountain Time Zone.