Saturday

Look What I Got For Mother's Day

Most mothers get flowers, candy and cards. Some even get treated to a meal they did not have to cook. Me? I went for the big kahuna and wrangled my way onto this baby to chase whales. Then it started raining. But the folks at Stagnaro Charter Boats assured us that if it wasn't safe, they would be home in bed.

We saw these guys on our way out of the harbor. They didn't seem too worried about the weather. So neither was I. After all, I was wearing layers. Many, many layers.

Of course RD came with me. What Mother's Day would be complete without your favorite mother maker? He may have been thinking of the last time I got him on a boat to chase whales. Who knew seasick pills make you pass out when you take them on an empty stomach? Not me. I'm wiser now. No pills on this trip. Maybe he's thinking big thoughts. Ocean air, rocking horse waves and sunshine. Yep, definitely conducive to big thoughts.

I'm not having big thoughts here. This is my, "I can't believe you let me talk you into this after the last disaster on a whale watching boat. By the way. Did you know how much I love you right now?" Look! Is that a whale?

I admit to getting prematurely excited. It's not everyday I see a red buoy with a sea lion necklace. Apparently, it's not every day they see a skinny woman, wearing every thing she owns.

I really wanted to see a whale up close. My whale picture from the last trip looks like a half eaten worm on a fishing line. I wanted a better picture. I wanted to see a whale eyeball to eyeball. Then a humpback whale came up right beside the boat. What was I thinking? They're bigger than elephants! I don't weigh 150 lbs if I'm wet and in multiple layers. They swim. I don't. They're hungry. Lord, please tell me I don't look like a rubber worm right now!

And he just kept coming. I don't know why I say "he." This could just as easily be a "she." The thing is, I'd done research on humpback whales and this was just his/her back. There was a heck of a lot more whale under water. My mind flashed back to the buoy of sea lions. Was I smarter than a sea lion? Were they trying to tell me something by clinging to a buoy 8 miles back? Nah....

Then we saw this. Let me explain in my best scientific jargon. This is a humpback whale swimming towards our boat. He/she is blowing air out of his/her blowhole while propelling itself through the water with it's tail. Suddenly it smelled like 20 dogs, passing wind all at the same time. A few of us on board may have looked around to see who was dying. The Captain chuckled. Then introduced us to "whale breath."

Then the Captain said that his equipment showed the whales were under our boat. I had an odd emotional moment as I started thinking of such a big animal underneath our boat. I'd just watched them diving, tail slapping, blowing, but hadn't seen any eyes yet. Were they able to see well? Could they, for example, see a boat load of people floating over them, as they surfaced? Were they playful? What would that mean, running into a playful humpback in the wild? I looked at RD. He was scanning the water around the boat. So was everyone else. I was calculating how many miles I had to dog paddle back to shore. That's when I saw this.

Good bye you big wonderful he/she whale. Happy Mother's Day to you! And in case you didn't know this, I live here now. I'll be back for more photos later. And maybe, one day, I'll see you eyeball to eyeball and you won't think I look like a rubber worm.

Monday

I Thought This Was An Insane Asylum


I am a fiend for going somewhere I’ve never been before, especially if the place has anything to do with history. When RD decided to take a day trip in preparation for our upcoming “Iron Butt 48 States in 10 Days” ride, I thought it would be fun. We sat hunkered over the Oklahoma map and he started reading potential destinations. When he said Fort Supply, my heart did a little jump.

I spent 10 years writing a novel about an Oklahoma murder trial in 1907. At one point in my research,Fort Supply was a potential trip that never panned out. The old fort was the first State Insane Asylum established in 1908. RD is not as curious about odd destinations as I am. I would save the whole history for later.
As we headed north on Hwy 281, I fretted about telling him the historical significance of our destination. I may have given him the idea that Fort Supply was as cool as Ft. Smith in Arkansas, where we got a tour of Judge Parker's gallows. Our itinerary took us North on 281, West on Hwy 33, North on 51A, heading towards Hwy 58 in Watonga. We missed the Hwy 58 turn, but found it again in Okeene after a nice buffet lunch of homemade pizza and salad. I tried to tell him about the asylum over lunch, but he was pretty interested in Bedlam Basketball playing on TV.
It's not like I wanted to go INTO the asylum. Maybe just touch it. Or take pictures to say I was there. The last time I spent the night in an asylum, I was with friends, looking for ghosts. Wasn't as much fun as I thought it was going to be. The hotel was a hundred years old. It sounded exactly like an old building on top of a mountain. All night long!
The point of this trip was training. It was a gorgeous day. Traffic was mild. After lunch the wind changed, coming out of the North. The temperature dropped, but we were protected in armor and linings. All was good.
Once we found the fort, my adrenalin pumped volumes. Unfortunately, the museum closed at four. We had all of 2 minutes. Not to worry. RD decided to take a chance and continued into the compound. At the visitor center, we stopped the attendant as he got in his car. We begged for enough time to take a few quick pictures. What a horrible time to find out the battery in my camera was dead. RD seemed a little perturbed. I was nervous. This trip was not going well.
We all jumped when a truck screeched to a halt in front of the building, blocking our entrance. Very quickly I realized Google needed to be updated. Not only was the site a historic fort, it was also a State Correctional Facility. The prison guard wanted to know how we got on the grounds.
It crossed my mind that her impatience was a little over dramatic. Say we were there to snatch a convict via our motorcycle. RD was in front. I ride pillion. Where would the convict sit? Even if the convict was a dwarf with extreme double joints, our saddlebags barely held tennis shoes. Suddenly, Mother Nature called my name. I was desperate to see my asylum among other things. I had no more time for apologies or etiquette. "I thought this place was an insane asylum!" I blurted.
The three adults in front of me froze. I had delivered a jaw dropper. I'm used to the "you are the weirdest woman on the planet" look from my husband, but when you get it from a guard with a gun, it's cause for alarm. I had no time for alarm.
Luckily, the museum attendant was used to weirdness. He pointed to a multi-storied red brick building about 100 yards away. "That's it," he said. The whole group followed his point. "But it's a drug rehab center today."
My spirit sank. In my present condition, it was entirely too far away for a touch and thanks to my dead battery, not even available for a picture.
"Thanks" I said.
RD and the guard were still in jaw drop. The volunteer came to my rescue again. "You can take a quick look at the barracks."
I thought how cool it was to relieve myself in a historical restroom. So what if I didn't get to touch the asylum? I was in a 100-year-old guardhouse. I didn't dare ask for anything else. I signed the guest register, while RD made several apologies to our group.
As we headed home, I mused over our little trip. Life had once again delivered a unique adventure. I imagined telling stories to my grandchildren. "One day, your Grandmother rode a motorcycle 400 miles to use the bathroom at an old cavalry fort in a state prison next door to an insane asylum." Yeah, that works.

Friday

"Where The Red Fern Grows" in the Ozarks.


Hey, wanna take a ride?” As usual RD chose the perfect line to make my heart go pitter-patter while I dropped everything to “go see.” Within the hour I was on a road trip to Oklahoma’s Lake Tenkiller in the northeast part of our state.
A visit to the Ozarks of Oklahoma is like driving back in time. Curving tree lined roads reach out to grab your imagination. Suddenly the trees clear and you see the Lower Illinois River snaking back and forth through rolling hills. Nature spreads out, hiding small valleys and meadows. It’s quiet except for the occasional hawk or screaming Blue Jay. Forget the sounds of highway traffic or noisy neighbors. The Ozarks refuse to be tamed.

Our destination was to help our friend, Bob Rice, with his BMW motorcycle. He spends weekends at the lake to ride. I noticed several hummingbird feeders on his cabin porch, but I've never seen so many hummingbirds at once! Those tiny little flying clothespins are fierce. They yell at each other, fighting over the sugar water at 400 mph.
Bob not only entertained us with his birds, he took us to one of the most unique restaurants in the Ozarks. We drove to Keys, Oklahoma - a small town off Hwy 82. At Qualls Road we swung south and followed seven miles of forest that occasionally cleared to frame a house. Then the trees swallowed us up again, stopping at the two lane paved road as if they were thinking of jumping on us, but hadn't quite made the move.
When the paved road stopped, we were at Jincy's Kitchen and the general store location for the 1974 movie "Where The Red Fern Grows." Jincy Powell Lane built the Qualls Mercantile in 1935. It stayed open until 1965. It was used as a setting for the movie before being re-opened by Rena Mae Rucker and her daughter Debbie. I love history. I love traveling to see history. But I especially love it when history comes with good home cooking.
This small "A" frame building with a tin roof and bench lined front porch has served anyone willing to drive the distance for decades. When you walk in the door you notice there are only two tables. But they are long ones, running down each side of the room. The café is lined with ceiling to floor shelving from its days as a general store. In the middle of the room is a wood burning stove and an old box ice chest. Jincy's is decorated with products and momentos from simpler times. Old coke bottles in their crates and kitchen tools I wouldn't even know how to use whispered to me as soon as I sat down.
Rena Mae, grand-daughter to Jincy, made me feel so at home, I just had to investigate her history on the shelves around me. I excused myself from the table to snoop. While I was looking, an old man dressed in faded coveralls walked in the door and sat at the counter separating the kitchen area from the tables. By then I was on the other side of the room, reading an old framed newspaper article. It was about a WWII veteran that had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for service in the Pacific. I about had a heart attack when I realized the gentleman in the article was the same one sitting at the counter.
I walked up to him and introduced myself. Told him I'd come from Oklahoma City because I heard his wife's fried chicken was pretty darn good. "What's the matter," he said, "don't you have chickens in Oklahoma City?" I fell in love at first comment. Jack, Rena Mae's husband, chatted with us like we were family.
Jincy's is not the place to eat if you want fast food. They cook in iron skillets, the old fashioned way. It's also not the place to eat if you don't have time to sit and enjoy a little live music. But it is absolutely the place to eat if you like fried chicken, chicken fried steak, brisket and ribs. I dove into the fried okra and cucumber salad. The ladies are very generous with their portions. That includes their fresh baked pies and cobbler.
These days they are only open on the weekends. When you go outside, you may have to scoot a dog or two off the porch. After a meal like these ladies cook, you may decide to sit for a spell and listen to the locust. As for myself, I'm going back to look for the red ferns and listen for hounds chasing raccoons in the woods. And see if I can't wrangle a few war stories out of Jack.
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Thursday

Dog Surfing in Santa Cruz



I'm starting my local travels with a trip to the beach. People ask us if we're going to surf. No. There are big things in the ocean that eat small things like me. So imagine our surprise when our little Border Collie started herding the waves! This works much better if you imagine a good guitar rift as you watch these. Next week? Whale watching on Mother's Day.