<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Postcards Library 4
Little Log


Stephanie is one of those persons who is always mailing postcards back to family and friends. Somehow, by writing in very small scribble, and filling not only the intended message area, but with sideways writing, arrows, and otherwise using virtually every available area on the postcard, she can get an awful lot of information onto a very small space. She'll be reporting in here from time to time on our travels, experiences, impressions and general state of mind.

March 1 - 5, 1997

Postcard: Meandering Home; The End of the Season

March marks a turning point for the snowbirds. One by one, winter friends leave winter friends: each heading to his summertime retreat. RV parks which, in February, often resemble RV storage lots, begin to show telltale spaces, and the "No" is gone from the No Vacancy signs.

Even though we are technically headed home, we are in no hurry to actually GET there. Instead, we are meandering lazily through the desert, visiting our favorite haunts for one last time before making the fateful northern turn. After two days in Phoenix with unseasonable rains, wind and even hail (an interesting experience in an RV), we wandered off to Ajo, where we stretched a one day stay into two, playing golf and enjoying the sun. Now we are off for Borrego Springs to see if we can stock up on more sun and some of its delicious grapefruit. Plans call for this to be a one day stop also, but we shall see what tomorrow brings.

Again, we extended our Borrego stay. It was just too nice to head for home. We played more golf, found our favorite grapefruit and juice oranges, and took a desert hike to a promontory where we could look over the entire town and Anza Borrego Valley. But now we are facing the inevitable. Tomorrow we must head back, through the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys and into what the forecasters say is typical Pacific Northwest weather - rain and clouds. It will probably not take us long to plan our next adventure; in fact, I would bet we have a new traveling itinerary by the time we get home.

Until then....

February 17, 1997

Nature Walks and Ranger Talks: A Postcard from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

When we were here in early November, we learned of some of the service cutbacks that the National Park Service was instituting to save money. No longer would there be the large cadre of volunteers to check in the campers, or to share their desert expertise with them. I envisioned a drastic curtailment of guided hikes and the informative 1/2 hour programs at the nature center. I am addicted to Nature Walks and Ranger Talks, and am absolutely delighted to learn that I was wrong. A changing of the Ranger personnel has brought a series of new talks to Organ Pipe.

We drove down from Ajo (35 miles) this morning and by the time we were set up it was time for the first talk. The story of a Saguaro cactus, how it happens to grow in the comforting shade of a Palo Verde Tree; how Gila Woodpeckers and Gilded Flickers make multiple holes in it in their search for "just the right" apartment. How other birds live in these holes and small rodents find shelter among its roots. This encourages the predators, owls and hawks nest in the cactus and foxes and coyotes use it as a grocery store.

The ranger showed a cross section of the Saguaro and we were able to see the pulpy area where all available water is stored. We also saw a Saguaro "boot". When a bird makes a hole in the cactus, the plant "bleeds" water and sap. Its protection from infection from this "wound" is to form a hard coating all around the hole. The deeper the hole, the larger the coating. The one today was about 14 inches long and several inches wide. Good for the cactus; nice firm nest wall for the birds.

This afternoon's Nature walk was only about one mile, but with stops to examine the desert, the walk took more than an hour. The official desert temperature is taken at a distance of four feet above the surface of the ground and in the shade. Therefore, if the paper says it was 102 at Organ Pipe, you can only guess how hot it is for the plants and animals who live here.

Plants adapt by shedding leaves, or as in the case of the Saguaro, storing whatever water they get inside themselves. In years with little rain they shrink; in years with much, they get fatter. Some of the reptiles have ingenious ways of cooling off. The fringe toed lizard can run on his hind legs and using his wedge shaped head as a shovel, literally dive into the sand, wriggling down to find a cooler area. The spade foot toad stays underground until there is rain enough to make puddles, even if this takes more than a year!

New walks and new talks. I wonder what I'll learn tomorrow!

February 15, 1997

The O'Odham Tash - A Cultural Kaleidoscope

During the third weekend in February, the town of Casa Grande is host to O'odham Tash (Tash meaning days), an Indian festival to appreciate the tribes which surround this community, the Tohono O'odham, Ak-Chin, Gila and Salt River. But this is far more than just an Indian festival. The Tash includes Hispanic Americans, and Black Americans. The Phoenix shriners come. There are bands from several high schools, Indian and non-Indian. It is a fascinating show.

The parade is the place to get an overview of the festival. The Shriners come in midget cars, so small you wonder where these grown men could possibly put their legs. The Shriners come on mini motorbikes, on Harley Davidsons, or on spangled motorcycles with rear passenger cars capable of long, loud and rapid wheelies, much to the delight of the young (and not so young) men in the audience. The clowns come with balloons and cotton candy; all the regular parade business.

In a whirligig of color, come the Indian princesses, their courts, junior princesses and princesses in waiting, all atop cars carpeted in magnificent bankets and displaying beautiful baskets. There are Black and Hispanic princesses as well, all with their royal retinues. They will be competing to be Queen of the Tash.

And then come the dancers. In preparation for the ceremonial dances and the nightly powwow , the competitors strut their pre-competetition "stuff". The San Carlos Apache Dancers in yellow and black "skirts" whirl down the street, their upper bodies painted white with black symbols and each face blinded by black cloth . With their wooden headresses of sunbursts and crosses they make a striking sight.

The "Fancy Dancers". Two men and two small children twist and spin, shaking their feather costumes, rattling their gourds, and rhythmically stamp their bell encrusted feet. These dancers wear costumes of greens, reds, blacks and browns and every other fancy color . One dancer holds eagle feathers. If one of these feathers should happen to fall to the ground, the dance will be halted, the feather reverently retrieved, blessed and only then will the dance continue.

Women play no small role. Beautifully garbed in crimson, pink and white, the Zuni Olla Dancers walk very slowly and carefully down the street, heads held high and unmoving. And no wonder! Atop each head is a beautiful and fragile pot. The Hea Ced O'odham Dancers wear long tunics of pink, red, blue and purple and carry baskets on their heads. Their dance is a stately one involving intricate footwork. The Ballet Folklorico from Santa Teresita provides a colorful Hispanic touch. Young girls in gaily colored dresses swirl down the street to "La Cucaracha". It is all very beautiful; your eye jumps from one group to the next; a true kaleidoscope of American culture.

There are other activities during the Tash. There is a two day rodeo, ceremonial dances and a nightly Powwow, when all the dancers compete for prizes. There are multiple frybread booths scattered around town, all doing a brisk business. (Frybread is a popover type bread with toppings which range from simple sugar to the hottest chili.) Beautiful silver and turquoise jewellery from the Hopi and Navajo tribes is on sale. You can buy Apache pottery or O'odham grass baskets. I was very tempted by sand painted Christmas ornaments.

But the parade represents the spirit of the O'odham Tash. All races are represented, all join to make this festival something special. Next year, we'll be back.  

February 7, 1997

A Usery Mountain Weekend

Hidden only 7 miles from the city of Apache Junction is one of this area's jewels, Usery Mountain Recreation Area and Park. We had heard enthusiastic reports of it, and had even drove around one afternoon, but this was our first experience camping here. It surely will not be our last!

As is the case with other county parks, you cannot make a reservation, but must depend on luck to find an available site. Of course,if you decide to try on a Friday night, your luck will probably not be as good as if you approached the entrance kiosk at, say, 9:30 am on a Tuesday morning. We were lucky, however. As if signaling a wonderful stay, we got the last site. This on a Saturday morning!

All the campsites here are level and smoothly graveled, with picnic tables, barbeques and fire pits. The desert stretches out 50 yards or more between sites, and the natural landscape of saguaro, prickly pear and barrel cactus make you feel you are the only one here in the desert. Finches, thrushes and wrens serenade from the palo verde trees, and the quail scuttle in and out of the creosote bushes. Although you are only a few miles from the bustle and sprawl of Apache Junction and Mesa, there is no city noise and few city lights to detract from a clear desert evening.

Hiking trails here range from a campsite nature trail 1/2 mile long to the 7.1 mile Pass Mountain trail. Most of the trails are interconnected and clearly marked; we took one trail for a while and then joined another; a do-it-yourself desert walk with wonderful views of the Superstition Mountains. We saw several horses on the trails; this is great country for a desert ride.

As an added bonus this weekend, an Interstate competition of bowhunters was being held in the archery portion of the recreation area. Professionals as well as amateurs were practicing for the two day event when we arrived. It was fascinating to watch the archers, standing statue still, with bows unwavering and arrows released with incredible precision. The children's competition drew kids of all ages; these budding Robin Hoods were almost as intense as their parents. No "kidding" around here.

Hiking, biking, riding, shooting, there is a something for everyone here. And at evening, there is time to enjoy the unspoiled, undeveloped Arizona desert, with gorgeous sunsets and about ten zillion stars. We will return here again, soon.

January 29, 1997

Exploring San Antonio

What a wonderful afternoon! I wish I could take all the credit for this adventure. The fact is, though, that I just happened to be in front of the tour office at just the right time.

I had decided to begin my half day at the Alamo, and then spend some time in the shops along the Riverwalk (on the banks of the San Antonio River in the center of town). However, as I approached the Alamo, someone cried, "All Aboard". The guides from the San Antonio City Tours "Texas Trolley" were about to start a half day trip. Perfect.

There are two separate tours, the historical and the cultural. The first tour visits three missions, the Institute of Texas cultures, the "old" town, Mexican marketplace and several churches. The other tours the botanical and zoological gardens, three museums, the oldest and wealthiest part of San Antonio, and Fort Sam Houston. For one price you stay on the Trolley as it goes from spot to spot; for an extra $2, you can get off at any or all stops and catch the next trolley, which comes every 30 minutes. I took the historical tour, and plan on taking the cultural tour next time.

The tour guides were excellent. In addition to the scheduled stops, they pointed out other amenities of the city, such as the basketball arena, golf courses and good restaurants. One guide stopped at a mission, got out of the Trolley and picked some leaves from a tree on the grounds, giving everyone a leaf to feel. These leaves, from the Anqua tree, were used by the early Indians as sandpaper. Even at this time of year, when the leaves are brittle, they are incredibly rough.

The first stop was at the Institute of Texas cultures. The Institute showcases the various cultures that have influenced Texas - the Indians, Mexicans, Spanish, French, and colonists at the time of theTexas Republic.

Mission San Jose was the largest of the San Antonio Missions. These missions were established to convert the native peoples, as well as to protect the area from the raiding Comanche and Apache tribes. The Franciscan Fathers found willing converts among the nomadic South Texas Indians, the Coahuiltecan, who had never before had such an abundance of food or such protection from their enemies. Unfortunately, their conversions were largely superficial; in times of stress they were apt to revert to their old religions, which included the liberal use of the narcotic Metzcal bean. And the protection of the Franciscans did not extend to diseases; within a few years 70% of the South Texas tribes had died of such diseases as smallpox.

The mission has an excellent slide show depicting these years, after which you can stroll the grounds and see the remains of graineries, Indian living quarters, etc. An interesting diorama depicts a typical day in the life of a padre. Another shows the spread of the missions through the South Texas area.

My next stop was the Market Square. Exploring this area, you might think you were in Mexico; everything, from ceramics to serapes, is sold here. There are several good restaurants, and some very inviting art galleries.

I had to keep track of the time, however, as I was meeting Tom for the trip back to Kerrville and did not want to be too late. And there were other interesting places to see, including my original stop, the Alamo. So I had to bypass the San Fernando Cathedral (anno 1738), the Plaza de Armas (home of the original Spanish Presidio and governor's palace), and the oldest artist colony in the city in favor of a more prompt return. I did get to take a quick walk through the Alamo to see the shrine, barracks and museum. And then, all too soon, my day in San Antonio was over.

It was an interesting and informative trip. I know more about this pretty city than ever before, and can hardly wait for another free afternoon.

January 27, 1997

Hill Country Travels

The Texas Hill country doesn't invite exploration, it demands it. The narrow country lanes, with names like Mogford, Old San Antonio, Grapetown, Cain City and Luckenback, beg you to take a look. Add a lovely day, and you get a few more miles on the truck.

We based our travels out of Fredericksburg, a delightful town with obvious German roots. It is a wonderful place for browsing, both in the antiques stores and in the Western and Texas based shops. They have several excellent restaurants, and we enjoyed taste testing some of the sausage made right in town.

From the Fredricksburg KOA, we took the Cain City road to find Cain City and the Grapetown road to find Grapetown. It appears, however, that there is no Cain City, only a small group of homes and one beautifuly painted house with a sign which reads, "Cain City Guest House". We had no better luck finding anyplace named Grapetown. But we did find Luckenback

Luckenback, Texas. Made "famous" by such country western stars as Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker, and the place where large summer outdoor concerts are held is however, not an easy place to find.

I completely passed it the first time, and almost missed on a repeat try. You have to find the long entrance driveway to get to the old barn-like structure in need of repair, a very small store, a very small bar and a fairly large, empty pasture. You can buy hats or T-shirts in the store, or a beer in the bar. You can also rent the whole town for a party.

Entering the store, I noticed a large rock on the counter. On it were painted the words, "Turn me over". Totally convinced that there was going to be something that would jump out at me, or startle me in some other unimagined way, and trying not to put my fingers under the rock in any way, I VERY gingerly turned up the other side -- and read the words, "Thank you"!!

Having found Luckenback, we decided to see some more of this area. The narrow hill country roads crest the hills and descend into dips, over, sometimes through, streams. This is farm country, but not always your usual farm animals. You will see the usual sheep, cattle, horses, or goats; but you can also find exotic animals such as cashmere goats, small zoo like deer with extremely long, twisted antlers, ostriches and emus.

This is possum and armadillo country, and we saw some of these as well, but unfortunately only those which had met with serious road accidents.

The homes here that are visible from the road tend to be quite modest, with more attention paid to the acreage and the livestock than to the house decor. But here and there are gated stone walls lining sweeping drives extending well out of eyesight.

Tomorrow we will travel to Kerrville to the Guadeloupe River RV Resort to leave the 5th wheel and the dog for a daywhile we enjoy the city of San Antonio. Tom will attend hismeetings and I am going exploring.

More later...

Postcard: Driving West Texas

January 26, 1997

How do the Gonsers get to San Antonio, TX for a two hour meeting? We drive, of course. After traversing a bit of Arizona, and a slice of New Mexico, today we are driving the 548 Interstate miles of West Texas. With an area of approximately 132,200 square miles (in just west Texas), you could fit all the New England states into West Texas, and have more than enough room for Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

We started our West Texas trip in El Paso. Located just across the Rio Grande river from Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, it stands in dramatic contrast to the Mexican city. Looking from one side of the car, you see small Mexican cottages, perilously perched on hilltops and hillsides, with paved street access, and looking ready to slide at the slightest provocation. From the other side of the car you see El Paso; malls, the University of Texas, El Paso campus, and prosperous housing developments.

The wide open spaces begin just east of the city. The houses and stores disappear and the Texas plains surround you. There is nothing in any direction for miles and miles. No buildings, no animals, just sagebrush, creosote bush and dramatic desert hills. Around one o'clock that afternoon , we saw a billboard advertising an RV Park. It didn't appear to have a name, just the words "RV Park" inside a circle with a line across it. The distance to this park was just 332 miles! This must not be considered too far for West Texans! When we found this park, (the next morning), we realized that we had been seeing a brand -- such as cattle wear, and that it was the "Circle - Bar" RV park!

We spent the night in a very nice KOA in Fort Stockton, and headed east in the morning looking for breakfast. We figured, (incorrectly), that there would be a truck stop or some sort of restaurant within a very few miles. When one did not materialize, we resigned ourselves to a 100 mile drive to Ozona, TX. Surely this town would have a restaurant.

Ozona has some lovely old homes located in the center of this small town. Beautiful homes, but no breakfast! However, just after we reentered the freeway, there was our truck stop.

From El Paso to Sonora, some 375 miles, the road is straight and mostly flat, good for cruise control and lengthy discussions. Then you begin the very gentle climb to the famed Texas "Hill Country". Here the mesquite and creosote bushes gradually give way to oaks, which get taller as you travel east. The flat sagebrush country becomes rockier; cattle, deer and birds become more noticeable, and instead of an occasional dirt road leading to an invisible ranch or farm, there are mailboxes. Towns appear.

Our destination tonight is Fredericksburg, about 70 miles from San Antonio. We plan on leaving the 5th wheel in one of the hill country RV parks, (there are many in this area) and the dog in a kennel for the day, and driving the truck into San Antonio on Wednesday. Two days to explore!

Picture Postcard: Mulege

January 8, 1997

It is good to be back! The 600+ miles from the border can be slow driving, with narrow roads, curves and the several Ensenada -- La Paz buses. These buses seem to take up more than their fair share of the narrow road and seem to travel at whatever speed they can achieve.But when the road straightens and follows the Gulf for the last 40 miles, you sense you are nearing a destination you'll really enjoy.

The small village of Mulege has not changed very much in the last 10 years. The streets are still narrow and picturesque. The locals are still pleasant and friendly. Many of the tourists here come every year prepared to stay for weeks or months. Some lease or own homes or "pads with palapas" in the area.

We are staying at the Orchards RV Park, camping among the palms, bougainvillea and hummingbirds. The RV sites are located right behind several homes, also part of the park, fronting the Mulege River. Many have thatched roofs and are open to the elements.

Mulege elements, though, are friendly ones; soft warm breezes and long sunny days. The park is a short 1/4 mile walk to town where you can get groceries, (or persuade your "other" that dinner out is a better option here).

The birding is wonderful. Great blue herons, little blue herons, and yellow crowned night herons join the gulls feeding on the river banks. Ospreys circle overhead. (For that matter, so do vultures). I saw northern and hooded orioles and several scarlet tanagers. And there are hummingbirds everywhere. Tom has a cap with a bright red visor; he was the object of several hummer "attacks"!

We spent the first afternoon at Punta Chivato, a beach located 12 miles north and 12 miles east of town. This was an extremely windy day; the wind surfers were skimming the waves, the shell seekers were out on what is, quite simply, the premier shell beach in Mexico.

The hotel was just being built when we were here in 1987; it has changed very little. But there are now a dozen or so homes surrounding it which were not here then, some of them quite large. But you can still camp on the beach or gather shells, or sit in the sun, boondocking to your heart's content. Changes in attitudes...

We will only be able to stay in this idyllic spot for another day, as we have commitments stateside which we need to keep. But we can't help feeling it's been much too short a stay. We are promising ourselves at least a week on our next jaunt. And we will not wait another 10 years to return to Mulege again. Having done the rest of the trip through La Paz, and on to Cabo San Lucas last time, Mulege is still our favorite destination in all of Baja.

Postcard: The Great Diesel Dilemma -- And How it Turned Out

January 7, 1997

Changes in latitudes....

Heading south from Estero Beach (just below Ensenada, Mexico), towing, makes for a fairly slow drive. The town of Catavina, some 230 miles south, is the perfect stopping point for the first night. In fact, its location between San Quintin and Guerrero Negro (another 145 miles to the south) may well be the only reason for the town's existence. There is an RV park, one of the "La Pinta" hotels (with, incidentally, a delightful restaurant), and a very few houses. The RV park used to have water (though never for drinking), and electricity for a few hours an afternoon. Now it is dry camping only. The hotel is located across from a what used to be a functioning gas/diesel Pemex station. But the Pemex station is now deserted.

This came as an unpleasant surprise to us as the newest AAA Baja map, which claims to be "up to date", still reports that Pemex station as being open for business, with both gas and diesel. If we had needed gasoline, all would have been well, as there is one gas pump at the hotel itself. But no diesel. We knew we didn't have sufficient fuel to make it (towing) the 145 distance to Guerrero Negro to the south. The only viable option appeared to be to leave our fifth wheel here, drive back 125 miles to San Quintin, fill up there, and return. The options didn't appear attractive. It was time for some creative initiatives -- Baja style.

Tom asked the two shy and giggling girls who came to collect our $4.00 camping fee if, for a commission on top of the fuel price, they could find us some diesel, somewhere in town. At the conclusion of an excellent dinner at the hotel, Tom made a similar suggestion to Benjamin, our friendly waiter. And lo and behold...

The waiter had him drive around behind the hotel to the hotel's generator -- which of course is its own sole source of power. In no time he had siphoned some 12 gallons directly out of the tank which was feeding the hotel's generator. We didn't notice whether the hotel continued to have lights later that night. But at least now it looked like we could confidently drive forward, instead of having to turn back.

We thought that was the happy end to our dilemma. It wasn't. About 30 minutes after we had gone to bed in the completely darkened RV park, there was a knock at the door. Syliva and Blanca, our resourceful giggling fee collectors, had apparently flagged down a passing truck, and had persuaded the driver to sell them 15 gallons of diesel in a container so big they could not lift it. We were barely able to fit this last contribution to our fuel supply in the tank -- but happily we did.

We realized that the AAA had actually been right along -- there really IS diesel in Catavina!

Picture Postcard: Estero Beach Resort, Ensenada

January 4, 1997

This was one of our favorite stopping spots 10 years ago when we "drove the Baja". We were delighted to find little change. The hotel sits on the shore of the Bahia de Todos Santos, 6 miles (not kilometers) south of Ensenada. The RV park has nicely landscaped, level sites right on a lagoon brimming with shorebirds. Whimbrels, willits, and sanderlings probe the mud flats for their daily delicacies; and the pelican armada sails overhead, ready to dive any minute. Herons and egrets pace sedately looking for small frogs or an unwary minnow. Gulls and ducks are everywhere.

The hotel has added a most interesting museum of Baja California archeological artifacts. A sign at the entry says that everything is a copy, but this does not make it any less interesting. Garishly painted masks stare down from one entire wall. There are examples of weaving, Mexican pottery, and paintings - all very attractive and beautifully displayed.

There are two stores attached to the hotel. We arrived late and could only explore one. This is an unusually attractive tourist store, with many ceramic owls, ducks, turtles, etc. They also sell pottery and various wood carvings.

The hotel has an attractive dining room, and this was our first opportunity to sample the taste treats of Baja. But one of the things we remembered about Baja is the always present option for dining out. Even at the nicest restaurants we've found the food quite inexpensive, and usually very good. During our stateside travels, I wash a lot of dishes, barbeques, etc., and this type of travel is a treat.

Ensenada, the city, has grown a lot. Now there are bi-weekly tour boats of the Princess Cruises size docking at the downtown wharf. If the bustle of the city, with duty free shopping, etc., is what you want, Ensenada certainly fills the bill. But at Estero Beach, 1997 is pretty much the same as 1987, our last trip.

Tomorrow we are off down the Baja. With changes in latitudes come changes in attitudes. Soon we will see if the rest of the peninsula has stayed quite the same.

Postcard: Winter Weather

January 3, 1997

We grew very tired of the sleet and the snow
Of the days when the sun hid its face
With 5th wheel in tow, we were ready to go
To a warmer and sunnier place

But first we had to pass winter's test. And it was quite an exam!

Two days before Christmas, we left our San Juan Island with a skiff of snow on the ground, and a 35 mph wind blowing, making the ferry ride quite exciting. Tame, however, in comparison to what awaited us over the next several days.

Anacortes, located only 20 some miles from our house (most of which are over water), seemed in a totally different climatic zone. Here there was already a foot of snow on the ground -- and the white stuff kept coming all night. Beautiful, if one doesn't have to travel in it, and we were going to log about 1,000 miles on our circuitous route to California.

The next morning it warmed a bit, and we encountered rain over Snoqualmie Pass; ice and snow as we headed to eastern Washington and the town of Yakima for Christmas. Here the Interstate was closed -- clogged apparently by snow -- and we were forced to drive the Yakima (river) Canyon. The Canyon road was clearly marked: "chains required -- all vehicles". Since our 4WD truck isn't equipped with chains, we drove around the cars parked at the side of the road for chaining up, and kept on trucking. This is a lovely spring , summer or fall drive. But it can be quite different with winter snow and ice on the ground. The road winds for 29 miles right along the river, except when climbing or descending. These grades are short, but very steep, making this a slow speed travelogue. When we reached the Yakima end of the road, we heard on our CB that the Canyon road had just closed -- too many cars had slid off the roadway, and it was now completely blocked.

The next portion of the test came the following day. Satus Pass, our route to the Columbia River gorge, was thankfully not closed (yet), although the unplowed portion was getting so deep that it must have been on the "watch list" for closure. What would normally have taken an hour or so, took three hours of postcard driving, and then we crawled down to the Columbia River Gorge.

In summer, this scenic area is famous for its winds, and is a world class destination for windsurfers. In winter, it is equally famous for its wind, and noted for its ice. We were part of a long line of one lane traffic skating on sheet ice for 40 miles en route to Portland. And of course, every so often, some jerk who believed 4 wheel drive will allow him to go anywhere, anytime, passed at an unnerving speed.

We were lucky on this leg of the trip. We slid through, and were headed south on I-5, when the road once again closed behind us. A major power transmission line had fallen across the Interstate. Whew!

Now we had a reprieve. There was only rain, buckets of it, which followed us all the way to our Napa Valley destination near St. Helena. Here the combination of warm rain falling on a huge amount of Sierra snow, had swelled the rivers to flood stage. Again, Lady Luck took over. Only two days before we were due to travel, the roads in and out of St. Helena had flooded and were impassible. The vineyards resembled immense lakes with well spaced stakes poking out of the waters. In 48 hours, however, the waters receded to the point where the roads were all open again.

This morning we are crossing through the Los Angeles labyrinth of freeways, heading south. The sun is peeking at us from behind some broken clouds. The roads are dry. We are thinking about wearing shorts and singing beach songs. We will be in Baja California for about 10 days, "soakin' up rays", and remembering the challenges of getting here.

More from Mexico upon our return!