Monday, August 23, 2010

Brilliance in Patches

A question had been quietly lingering in the back of my mind since our first family camping trip to Unicoi State Park back in March. The question became considerably louder and more urgent when we returned from our Tour of America a couple of weeks ago. “What to do with the patches?”

When we took our first camping trip with KitMama and family, Papa Bear observed that they have a backpack onto which they sew patches collected from places they have camped. “Ah,” says Papa Bear, “something else I can collect!” No, make that, “Ah, we should collect patches, too, as a way of remembering all of the great places we camped at!” “Okay,” I say. All the while thinking, what am I supposed to sew those patches onto so we can keep them for all eternity?

A backpack? No, we haven’t had one last us more than a few years. Our tent? No, we don’t use it, really. Popper? No, eventually we’ll be trading it in for a larger model. One of Papa Bear’s field jackets from his AF days? No, that’s not quite right, either.

So, I stuck our first patches in my sewing drawer, and put the question on the back burner.

Till we got home. And I opened up my travel bag and found about two dozen patches. Hmmmm. What am I going to do with all these patches? It took me a couple of days of simmering, and then it came to me in the wee hours of the morning.

A quilt! And, not just any quilt, but a denim quilt made from cut-off jeans. Brilliant! No other fabric says “camping” like denim, especially broken-in denim. And, we can take it with us when we camp or travel.

Of course, it’s going to take several years to finish, but I got a good start by attacking some of BooBoo’s too-short jeans, as well as one of my maternity overalls, all of which are now shorts. That yielded enough squares to affix almost all of our recent trip patches, so I started sewing.

I left two squares vacant under the “Georgia State Park Camper” master patch so we can collect and affix each State Park patch-lett as we collect them. I dated each patch with a Sharpie pen, because I’m too lazy to embroider dates. I zig-zagged all the seams and raw ends so it should put up with some handling and light use for the next dozen years or so until it will be finished (if ever?).

Some day, Papa Bear and I will be snuggled up together under our Travel Quilt in front of the fireplace, fondly remembering each of our family’s journeys. Won’t that be sweet?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why We're Walking

Because I can’t bear to hear T-Bear ask one more time, “When will the cure come?”

I’m not a big participator in large events, and I’m certainly no fundraiser. But, this year our family is participating in JDRF’s Walk To Cure Diabetes, and I am our Team Captain. I put on my Big Girl Panties, got us registered, and have begun sending out invitations to friends to join our Team, as well as pleas for sponsors. So, “Rah, rah, rah!”

If you’ve been following our family’s blog since T-Bear’s diagnosis over a year ago, I don’t have to tell you why we need a cure for Juvenile Type 1 Diabetes. I don’t have to tell you why I’ve shoved myself way out of my comfort zone to build a Team for the Walk and to collect donations for JDRF. You’ve all been there with our family as we’ve gone through the roller coaster ride that is caring for a child with Type 1 Diabetes. But, if you’d like a gentle reminder, or are a newer visitor who hasn’t yet heard the tale, our Diagnosis Story is here. And, here’s what a typical day with Diabetes looks like for an active family.

Our family would deeply and genuinely appreciate your donation of any size, just as we deeply and genuinely appreciate all of the love and support we have received over the past year-plus. Researchers all over the world are working tirelessly to find a cure, and it’s up to us to support them in their work.

So, one day, when T-Bear asks me one more time, “When will the cure come?”, I can tell him “It’s here now.”

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tour of America - Day Twenty Six

I wish I could say I had a good night’s sleep as most nights had been on this trip, but the wee hours found me wide awake fretting over wacked-out BG numbers…stupid highs that didn’t respond to corrections, followed by afternoon/evening freak-out low (in the 40’s). But, as the sun rose I shook it off, and we met my Dad and stepmom for breakfast at the buggiest restaurant I've ever been to. Then, on to Tombstone, Arizona for the day.

Papa Bear had appropriately prepared the Cubs before we left home by watching “Tombstone” with them, so they were amped up and ready to see the town. Our first stop…

...where we saw one of the most famous grave markers in the history of the West...

The markers and graves have obviously been restored and maintained, and we later found out it had been “condensed” to its present land-efficient layout. The overwhelming majority of occupants died in 1881 and 1882, the years that fires destroyed half, and then almost all, of Tombstone. There were also a lot of occupants shot, stabbed, or otherwise killed during those years, including...

...Marshal Fred White, whose death was depicted in the movie “Tombstone”.

Then, into the old town itself. It takes a little doing to get past the tourist trap aspect, with all the shops selling cheap chotchkies, and the shops selling expensive chotchkies, and the corny reenactments…but, once you know where to look, you’ll find some interesting history. We enjoyed the stage coach ride during which the driver gave a brief history of the town at its height.
The stagecoach we rode in for our history lesson.
Not the coach we rode in..don't think we'd have fit.

We had lunch at the Crystal Palace, where T-Bear gave our waitress (who was in period saloon costume) a hug because “This food is so good!” Then, off to the infamous Bird Cage Theater, the only original building surviving in Tombstone, which has been turned into a museum of sorts.

"Should we go in?"

The building is a unique piece of history because when it shut down in 1889 much of the furnishings and everyday objects remained locked inside until the building was re-opened decades later.

Lamps and unopened barrels still containing whisky located in the cellar.

The original bar and mirror are still there (complete with bullet holes), as well as a painting of the infamous Fatima (also with a bullet hole) which has hung in the same spot since 1881, and a very impressive collection of law books from the period (no bullet holes that I noticed). Through a door and into the theater where there is a collection of period-era articles, everything from coffee grinders to dishes to medical tools and curiosities. If you’ve seen the movie “Tombstone”…

...according to the owners of the museum, "This is the original faro table where Doc Holliday played and dealt faro over 118 years ago. Doc Holiday and Johnny Ringo had there (original spelling) famous duel between the faro table and….

…the grand piano.”

The theater featured “bird cages” along two walls where customers could watch the show while being…ummmm…entertained by the ladies working there.

This is "the" stage (don't fall off!) with the piano just below...

…where Wyatt Earps’ love interest, Josephine, played. She also did other things in the downstairs bordello…
Original furnishings for entertaining customers.

This is the original business license issued to “Sadie Jo” to operate a “House of Ill Fame” in 1881, signed by Wyatt Earp as Deputy Marshall. They kind of glossed over that part in the movie. There's also a nice nearly-nude photo of her, which they touched on in the movie.

At its height, it is estimated there may have been up to 20,000 residents of Tombstone, 190 saloons, and as many as 1,000 licensed prostitutes. Not exactly a family-friendly place, and definitely a dangerous place considering how many drunken cowboys were walking around on a nightly basis. Also now housed in the Bird Cage Theater is the “Black Mariah”, the horse-drawn hearse which delivered all but five of the residents of the Boot Hill Graveyard.

Okay, enough of that...

Just in time to enjoy a light rainstorm we headed across town and took in a reenactment at the Six Shots. Actors play out six of the most famous shoot-outs that occurred in Tombstone, including the shooting of Marshal White by Curly Bill (grave marker above). We learned the origin of the term “shot” in reference to measuring hard liquor. Originally liquor was measured out in a “dram”, which in Tombstone in the 1880’s cost about 18 cents. Since workers were generally paid only once a month and were often mostly broke, barkeepers began accepting one bullet as payment for one dram of whiskey…thus, the “shot”. At least, that's what the actor told us :)
The last reenactment included some audience participation in which Brother Bear was accused of shooting the Marshall’s pet parrot.

"He did it!"
Yes, the kids did break into “The Dead Parrot Sketch” after the show.

We drove back to camp in awe of a huge thunderstorm that was dumping rain in various spots throughout the valley…

…and found Popper’s awning sprawled on top of her roof. Oops, should have put the awning down before we left. Also should not have left the kids bathing gear and towels out to dry; our campground host was kind enough to gather them all up and wash and dry them for us. Very nice. Then, off to dinner at Dad's place in the sleepy little community of Dragoon, where BroBear and the rest of the Cubs fell in love with another visitor…

Brother Bear and Sassy.
….and we enjoyed some of the best BBQ we’ve had in quite a while, along with some locally grown organic peaches. And another ghastly low (43).

After saying goodnight, returning to camp and tucking into bed, we were treated to a spectacular thunder and lightning storm at around 3:00 am. Thanks to the cooling effect of the afternoon and evening storms, we did not have to run the air conditioner. Some aspects of the desert I really love.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tour of America - Day Twenty Five

I know you all have heard this before….we pulled up stakes and headed out.

Coming up on Flagstaff we hit a complete backup…construction on the highway had stopped traffic cold. After about an hour of creeping along with a thousand other vehicles, we decided to take a bit of a detour and ended up driving through Coconino State Park. It was a beautiful detour along a small, winding road…

....that took us direct into Sedona.

Layers of color.

Red rocks and pillars.

Red pillars and rocks.
Bell Rock.

More rocks.
I was driving, so didn’t get as many pictures as I’d have liked (snort). You really have to go to Sedona to appreciate the brilliant red rock formations and cliffs. However, if you do go to Sedona, I have a few tips.
First, bring a lot of money if you plan to “dine” and shop in the very cute little tourist trap downtown (we pretty much passed right on through to the other side of town).
Second, don’t pull a trailer or drive an RV, because this is definitely a town built for small cars. It took us about 20 minutes to find a place for lunch that had suitable parking, which was actually across the highway from the restaurant in a retail center. But, it was worth it, because it was a great little spot.
Which brings me to “third”…have lunch at the Blue Moon CafĂ© if you get the chance.
And, finally, fourth, I’ve never seen a town as small as Sedona, with as many traffic circles. They’re everywhere (I swear we went through 20 of them), so prepare yourself.
From Sedona, the next city we passed through was Phoenix...

At 4:00 pm it was...


Past Picachu Peak, then into Benson where, thankfully, it was cooler thanks to a distant thunder storm...

...which gave us a beautiful partial rainbow...

...and a spectacular desert sunset...

But, can I also say, BUGS! Everywhere. Of all kinds. Except in the ladies' comfort station at the KOA, which was painted a pleasant peach color and had classical music playing. Go figure.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tour of America - Day Twenty Four

Grand Canyon. Not what I expected, but mostly in a good way. First, I expected to be in the middle of the desert. Nope. We’re talking high country here - trees and scrub and spectacular sky.

Entrance to the Park.

Our first stop was the visitor’s center which was…well…modest considering this is one of the hottest tourist destinations in the country. There were some interesting displays, though…

Model depicting layers of the canyon.

Original boat used to explore Colorado River and Canyon circa 1910's.

Heading over to the Canyon by foot there was some construction going on, so we had to walk a temporary gravel path to get to the temporary main vista, which was partially blocked by trees. We had to venture off the paved path and a bit closer to the precipice than this Mama Bear was comfortable with, but we did manage to get a spectacular view.

No railing...straight down.

Overhanging rock.

Papa Bear soaks it all in.

Clouds and cliffs.

Cliff...straight down.

Enjoying the view.

More trees and clouds and spectacular blue sky...
cause you haven't seen enough of those yet.

I drove us back to camp, but before even getting out of the park we enjoyed a deluge…a short, localized storm that dumped buckets of rain and some pea-sized hail on us. Visibility dropped to a few feet in a matter of minutes. If there had been any shoulder at all I would have pulled over, but as there wasn’t, I had to simply creep along at a snail’s pace until the sky cleared a bit. In the meantime, Papa Bear decided to roll down the window to check out the hail…and promptly got pelted. A yelp, and up the window went, quick as a flash.

Back at camp we had a simple dinner and a short (again) swim, and a lovely sunset. Nope, not the sunset you’d typically expect looking west, but the setting sun illuminating the clouds to the east. Still spectacular!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tour of America - Day Twenty Three

After a relaxed morning of blogging, packing up, Papa Bear’s monthly conference call and roasting coffee, we left Grandma Jojo’s and headed out (after a quick stop for insulin, gas, and sandwiches).

Mesas on the way to Kingman.

Boulders after Kingman
After a fairly long day of driving, we pulled into the KOA, and Papa and I set up camp while the kids played and swam. Well, they only swam for a short time, because a thunderstorm rolled in and the pool was closed down.

Storm clouds moving in

Clouds up close

Layers of cloud and light

I spent half an hour photographing the clouds as they changed and moved. Not much rain, but we sure had a beautiful light show to lull us to sleep. And I discovered a new obsession ;)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tour of America - Day Twenty Two

A busy day! After packing up the rooms we headed to Corona where I visited with a dear friend recovering from surgery, while the rest of the gang met up with friends at the Silver Dollar Pancake House for breakfast.

The Breakfast Club.

A quick drive by the old homestead...

The Cubs' first home (sniff)

...then, off toward Arizona.

Heading out of Riverside County.

Up and over Cajon Pass into the High Desert

But, we couldn't leave California without first having lunch at another California icon...In-N-Out Burger.

Ahhhhh....the best burgers, fries and shakes to be had.
Yes, I'm a California Girl, through and through!

Enjoying lunch at the busiest In-N-Out on the planet...Barstow, California.

A bit more California desert...
...then across the Colorado into Arizona...

...and more desert...

A threat of thunderstorms brought only a lovely light display...

...just as we pulled into Lake Havasu City.

Yes, someone did move it from London. The actual bridge (not depicted). The whole bridge, piece by piece. Go figure.
After settling into Grandma Jojo's place, we were treated to a beautiful desert sunset...

...and brilliantly lit clouds.

A peaceful good night...