Friday, April 16, 2010


LOST PART II            
Well, Gaila has done it again. She is such a bad influence on me. We were headed home to Michigan and almost made it out of New Mexico. I mean, we were so close to Oklahoma we could have spit on an Okie and hit two Texans. I just casually mentioned we should turn around and head back across New Mexico and Northern Arizona, then go home by way of Nevada, then California, then up the Oregon and Washington coast and over to Montana. Most women would be more responsible and say, “No, we are going home.” Not Gaila. She said, “Okay!” She is sooooo bad!
It’s not such a crazy idea when you think about it. We are already all the way out here. We could hike in the Grand Canyon, Zion and maybe even parts of Yosemite National Parks. You can’t do that in Michigan. We weighed all the options. Go home and mow the yard or stay out here and hike the Zion Narrows. It was a tough decision but we are tonight camped at Eagle Nest, New Mexico just outside of Taos and headed west again. Another thing that this extended trip will prove is just how accurate the Discover Channel is. I watched that program where they pretend Man is wiped off the planet and nature takes over. They show buildings being eaten by vines and crumbling to ruins. I’m just curious if that will really happen if I don’t mow my lawn for the next seven years. Just kidding. That’s how long we were gone the last time Gaila started this irresponsible behavior. I’m almost sure it won’t get that bad again. 
When you get to be my age you start looking into your bucket list. There are things I have never done yet and this might be the time to do some of them. Also, my wife says I have to have a job before I retire. So I have applied for one. I decided if I was going to be crazy wild, and get a job, I should get a Government Job. They never run out of money as long as they have ink. So I applied to North Cascades National Park as a backcountry ranger. A recent communication from them said I was at the top of the list of qualified applicants. It was kind of a “no-brainer” decision. They want to pay me $21,000.00 to backpack for six months. If it looks like they might give the job to someone else I might have to tell them I will do it for half price. I hope it doesn’t come down to that. With a 20 zillion trillion budget deficit, who’s going to miss a measly twenty-one grand that’s going to a good cause like backpacking. If it doesn’t happen, no big deal. If I die and never have a job, history will show that at least I tried. 
If we do hear from North Cascades we will have to put our foot in the carburetor and head up there. If we do not hear from them, we plan to visit a lot of places we love and places we have never been.  It will give us a chance to spend some more time with Gaila’s family in Arizona and California and Maggie in Washington. We haven’t told the two cats yet. They may mutiny. There are many pluses to this decision. One is that most people have done the responsible thing and gone home to mow. That has left all the great camping places empty and quiet. I think it might even be safe to head back into Arizona next week. 
The toughest part for Gaila was having to give up her On-Call position at Urgent Care. They were kind enough to put it on hold for her this winter. After she hung up, I don’t know if she was crying because she was happy or sad. I don’t ask too many questions when she gets emotional. I find If I hike about five miles it cures her. 
We put hours of thought into this decision. We made a list of reasons to stay out west and reasons to go home. The “stay list” just kept getting longer. Lists are a lot like casino odds, they can be fixed. So maybe we left a few things off the “go home list” but it’s not like we are never going home again. I think who ever said, “You can never go home again” was wrong. We intend to prove it, but not right away.   --Keep Smilin’ Dick   Carpe Diem!
Looking back your greatest regrets will be of things you didn’t do not the things you did do.” 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


We just spent eleven days in and around Santa Fe. Maggie flew in from Washington to join us for six of those days. We had a wonderful time touring and being together again after five months. Dick has written his views about the visit and I just can’t think of anything to add except the three day hunt for the ball gown. Maggie flew to Minneapolis after she left us and attended a Viennese Ball. We looked in every consignment shop in the Sanfa Fe area and saw sides of the town we would have never seen otherwise (and actually wished we hadn't). We would have pictures with this update, but after Maggie downloaded them to her computer they were deleted off my camera. So you can see some of the pictures by reading her Blog at
We are still in New Mexico enjoying spring in some of the Northeast areas. We are having a difficult time pointing the motorhome towards Michigan. 

Dick's Blog below:
We had a great time with Maggie in Santa Fe. Although next year I think we will just get a mannequin to stick in the backseat with earphones in one ear playing scratchy music, a cell phone in the other, and laptop computer. The smartest thing we did was park the motorhome eight miles up the Santa Fe Ski Bowl Canyon out of cell and data coverage area. At about the five mile point we could actually have a conversation with the girl in the backseat that was as wired as the Army Command Center in Arlington, Virginia. It was still cold at night up in the ski bowl but in the morning we would drop down into Santa Fe where the sun was shinning and all of us could work out and take showers at the Ft. Marcy Public Recreation Facility right at the bottom of the mountain. It was a perfect location for camping near Santa Fe. Gaila and I arrived a few days early and explored the whole area for convenient camping. There are several commercial campgrounds, but we seldom do commercial. We like state and federal campgrounds surrounded by nature and trails. We found New Mexico’s Hyde Memorial State Park had seven electric sites that the ranger keeps plowed year-round. There usually would not be enough snow to ski in the Santa Fe National Forest Ski Bowl, but this year is unusually cold and snowy.
We played Skip Bo every night and acted silly and laughed until Gaila would wet her pants. Maggie and I knew our silliness had peaked once we pushed Gaila over the edge and she had to go change her pants. 
After a little wine one night, Gaila said to me, “There are things you do that I love that you haven’t been doing enough of lately.” I said, “Like what?” She said, “Being gone!” Wine is like a truth serum. I think that means I should go hiking more. 
We spent Easter Sunday up in the mountains of Bandelier National Park. Great hiking spot with pueblo ruins built into the canyon walls everywhere. This spectacular, watered canyon was a small utopia for thousands of years to the Native people of this region until the Spanish came along and screwed everything up.
While Maggie was with us, we also met friends from Traverse City who were on spring break in Taos. We met at Ojo Caliente hot springs, the most expensive way to submerge yourself in hot water in New Mexico. We had a great time, but all decided it would have been better to hike to one of the many free hot springs in the nearby mountains. Gregg, Katherine and Emerson then followed us into Santa Fe for dinner on their way to Albuquerque to catch a flight home the next morning. 
On our last day with Magpie we finally made it up to Chimayo to the shrine of the holy dirt, or something like that. She and Gaila had been there the year I did my CDT hike and wanted to go back. The problem was it was Easter weekend and from Good Friday thru Sunday thousands of people are walking and driving to the mission from all over the world to get holy dirt. It’s a carnival atmosphere. It's a pilgrimage of people walking for miles carrying crosses and rosaries to leave near the church. They also drink a lot of beer and soda, eat pinon nuts, burritos and everything else the vendors are peddling. I like to hike, I just don’t like to find 10,000 people already there when I arrive. On Monday we had the whole place to ourselves. No traffic jams, just the aftermath of what looked like a real party. Trash everywhere and fresh holy dirt in the Sanctuario. 
On our last night together we parked the motorhome close to the Albuquerque airport at the Sandia Casino. I am no casino officinado, but this one is really beautiful. With the Sandia Mountains as a backdrop the casino/hotel is designed after a local pueblo and the theme is weaved into the building inside and out. The other great thing is they give you free money. There is all kinds of money but free money has always been my favorite kind. Most casino’s give you a little fake slot machine money to play and you get to keep whatever you can win above and beyond the fake stuff. This was the same way but they also gave each of us twenty bucks in chips. First Maggie and I lost our fake money in the slots immediately. Gaila won forty bucks over her fake money and bailed. On the way out I took all of our sixty bucks in fake chips, went to the roulette table and put them on red. The ball landed on red, I exchanged the fake chips for real ones and we all went to the cashier and turned it into greenbacks. Now that’s my kind of campground. Not only is the camping free but they give you a hundred bucks for stopping in. I married Gaila because I thought she was 100% Cherokee and I was going to get some of that Cherokee Casino money from the Smoky Mountains area. As it turns out she is only a sixteenth which is not enough to even get free fake chips. 
I am writing this is a beautiful canyon carved out by the Rio Pecos. It’s another gorgeous New Mexico State Park. A great place to relax and decompress after spending several days chasing after a Fart in a Whirlwind.  --Keep Smilin’