Sunday, March 23, 2014

When I was a little girl...

When I was a little girl I fell in love with horses of every size and every colour. I yearned for the life of a cowboy from the time I could walk; spent hours riding my imaginary, fiery, black stallion (to and from school most days.. left him outside, tied to a sturdy post); even had a wheeled sawhorse mount complete with mane, tail, stirrups and reins for shorter rides around the backyard.

Then, finally, for my eighth birthday, I actually got to not only sit upon but also ride out on a real, live, chestnut mare... along with mom, dad and a few friends.  The stables were named Silver something and my future as an equestrian was born.  I hounded mom and dad relentlessly after that and, by the time I was ten, I was taking riding lessons at the Vancouver Pony Club, down on 'the flats' of Vancouver... a six-block square patch of city sandwiched between the Fraser River and West 49th Avenue and housing about a dozen horsey real estates, the largest being the Southlands Riding and Polo Club.

At first I just took the Saturday morning lessons.  Mom would drop me off with a bagged lunch and clad in my, often leaky but ever so practical, gum boots, and my awesome brown fringed 'cowboy' jacket,  I learned to ride under the tutelage of Miss. Barbara Baker.  She was a fearsome instructor with an imposing yell and a very stern demeanor.  Round and round we'd go, posting on command ("up down, up down, knees in, up down") circling the riding ring in one direction against the rails and then, after a cleverly executed cross-ring change of lead, the other.

As my skills slowly grew I worked my way through the teachings of Dixie, a large and loving, slow moving pinto mare; Friar Tuck, a dashing black pony quite well mannered but fairly energetic; Bandit, truly a skew-balled pinto with a screw loose in his head.. seeing as he'd been a chuck wagon pony in the Calgary Stampede; Little Fellow, an aggressive pony with long flowing mane and tail, whose specialty was bucking kids off if they were 'heavy in the hands' or even dared to touch his mane; and finally Traveller, a beautiful bay coloured pony, larger than the rest, with a mind of his own, a flare to his nostrils and a glint in his eye.  Although I rode Little Fellow steadily (learning to sit a buck very well as he honed my 'hands' and balance), it was Traveller with whom I was paired for future shows and, ultimately, competition in the PNE several years later.

Just going to the PNE in those days was a pretty big deal for a young kid, but in the early years, to actually be asked to go for several days and help care for the horses from Mrs. Sutherland's Vancouver Pony Club... well that was 'over the moon' and an opportunity that even Black Bart (yet another story) would never turn down.  And so it was, on the eve of my care-giving debut and with what felt like the most important morning of my life just hours away.. I was startled awake with the shocking realization I had forgotten to bring my bag of brushes (for grooming) home from the stables, and... I was supposed to be ready to leave for the PNE right after breakfast!  The horror of that moment, the recognition of my failure, lives with me today;  I remember it well.

Now, here's the thing.  In those days (we're talking late '50's and early '60's) we lived on Pine Crescent just north of 36th Avenue.  To get down to the stables on the flats I would walk up to 41st Avenue, catch the bus and ride as far as Blenheim St.  Then I'd walk down Blenheim, cross 49th and continue walking to the stables on W. 61st.. This was not a short jaunt by any means.

On that fateful night, when I awoke in the early hours and realized I'd forgotten my kit, I had only one choice. Of course I had to go and get those brushes... and I had to get there and back before it was time to leave. Without a thought for my safety, or anything else really, I dressed, scribbled a note (just in case I never got back) and snuck quietly out of the house.  Not walking, but running, I pushed my skinny little frame to its limits and made it to 41st Avenue in record time.  It was dark, very dark, and for a young kid like myself quite terrifying. So you can imagine the sinking in my pounding heart when I realized to my horror that there were no buses running at that hour.  Again, there was only one choice.  Off I trotted, down through Kerrisdale and along the only route I knew.  I ran all the way from home to the Stables... well ran and walked, jogged and walked... it's a wonder my ragged panting and the songs I sang to keep my spirits up didn't wake each house as I passed.

Arriving at the stables, after what seemed like hours, revealed the next challenge.  It was dark on the street and it was dark in the barn... pitch black.  I found my way to the tack room (quietly so as not to disturb the horses) and  I found my tack box (a beautiful wood box with brass coloured trim and handles that dad had made for me). That was about when I realized there wasn't a light (that I knew of anyway) in the tack room.  By day it was a gloomy, small room where we kept the tack (saddles and bridles) and our tack boxes, wherein we stored our grooming supplies of brushes, hoof picks, saddle soap and other paraphernalia.  On this night of nights, in this blackest of black, dark room... and to my increasing alarm and disappointment I discovered I had dutifully LOCKED my tack box (as I was supposed to) at the end of my last 'tour of duty'.

Mom had been pretty smart when she'd bought that lock.  Knowing kids lose things and the likelihood of my losing any kind of key (we kept the house key on a nail under the back porch in those days... same reason) she had cleverly decided my tack box should be secured using a combination lock with no key to lose.  Now, don't get me wrong, combination locks are great... three simple numbers to remember and a couple of spins, and you're in.  There was only one problem this night.  I couldn't see the numbers to open the lock!

I tried everything. I tried listening to the clicks and counting them as I turned.  I tried 'feeling' the clicks. I tried pulling as hard as I could.  I even groped around looking for a tool I could use to pry the lid off the box. Finally, with no other option, and sobbing with exhaustion and frustration, I dragged my, too heavy to carry, (did I mention I was a skinny little kid?) out of the tack room, down the aisle in front of the box stalls, out into the back yard of the barn, through the back gates, out onto the road, and then down the road to the pale light of an old street lamp (the only one working in that block).  I was there, fumbling with the combination lock, when my mom and dad turned the corner in the family car... scared to death for me and very glad to see me... all at the same time. I received quite a lecture as you can imagine, but the relief for all of us was palpable, and with the entire tack box secured in the car and the barn gate closed and latched, my pre-arranged ride to the PNE began, from a slightly different address and with a little less sleep than had been originally intended.

I did well at my fledgling assignment to the Agradome that summer.  As I write this first story, many others flood my mind.. like the grey mare that near bit my ear off while I was feeding her... and having only enough money for a scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy, once each day... but they're for a different day, a different telling.  For now, I'm content to let this yarn stand alone, as testament to the lengths a skinny little kid will go to in realizing their dreams.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Home at long last...

Yup, we're home.... finally.  And, glad to be.  Don't even mind the rain and clouds, interspersed with brilliant blue sky and bright sunshine... usual BC weather.

We had a very interesting drive home; learned a lot about Lucy (the trailer) and remain in awe of Chuck (the truck) who just kept on a pullin'.  Even the Princess was doin' her part... she'd sleep sure, but then she'd be up and interested in where we were going and what we were doing.  She just loved the places with grass (sandy dirt lots... not so much, but grass... you bet!). And, while she couldn't see any Dolphins in the mighty Columbia river when we camped beside it, she did catch a glimpse of some very large sea lions fishing not far from shore.

For those of you who are interested, the places we stopped along our route are as follows.  The Orange Grove RV Resort, Bakersfield, CA (sandy, barren sites... but dozens of (U-pick) orange trees sprinkled throughout and the oranges are delicious). This is a good stop for a night; Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, CA (a beautiful resort on the side of a river, with outdoor fire pits (on every night and large enough for a dozen people to sit around), two large fountains, manicured lawns and landscaped gardens, oh and nice washrooms.  It's near to the highway but very beautiful, and Red Bluff sports at least two great Chinese restaurants. This is a good place to stop along the route; Eddo's Harbor and RV Park, Rio Vista, CA (the road in was like an amusement park ride, the lower sites (where we were assigned) were over-grown grass with a view of some derelict cars and a field, the water came out of the tap brown, the owners were nice... but we only stayed the one night.  Had we been offered an 'upper' site.... just backed in off the road, at least we would have had a view of some boats on the slough... but we still would have probably just stayed the one night.  Not sure we'd go back; Seven Feathers RV Campground, Canyonville, OR (very nice resort with pool and hot tub, great staff, landscaped grounds, and great facilities).  And, there's a free shuttle to the Casino five minutes away... if you're a gambler.  This is a good stop along the route; and lastly the Columbia Riverfront RV Resort, Vancouver, WA (situated right on the banks of the Columbia river, with over three acres of grass lawns for puppies to romp on, fire pits with bench seats along the shoreline, nice staff, small but acceptable facilities and, it's right across the river from Portland, OR.... a great place to shop).  We liked this stop and would certainly come back. From Vancouver, WA we pushed hard to make it home before the rains started again... and we did.

We left early and got to the border about 1330ish.  We were treated well by the Customs folks (we had to import the trailer as well as declare our purchases) and we actually got out of there in time to make a run for Tswassen and the 1515 hrs. ferry to Duke Point.  We made it in plenty of time (thanks to the new Hwy 17 that avoids all the tunnel congestion). I can say though that at $170 for truck, trailer and crew to board the ferry, Lucy won't be seeing a whole lot of the mainland.. at least for short trips anyway.

So, here we are at home... giving some time for the dust to settle and our life to find it's way back to a semblance of order.  We've been away (on and off) since October and we've been travelling in some fashion or another for most of that time.  During the first half of our 'winter' we prepared dear Shannon for her new life and searched for a replacement yacht (unsuccessfully).  During the second half of the season we did a significant amount of road travel... driving first from Mazatlan to Yuma, then to San Diego and the southern coast of the US, then north and finally home (to unload Chuck and then turn around and return to the warmer southern states of the US).

We had a chance to visit with friends Lynn & Debbie (SV Dolphin Tales), Ron & Fran (SV Calliope), Marty & Murray (SV Ponga), Grant (SV Endeavour), Gene & Barb (SV Chalet Mer), and many many others.... while we were in Mazatlan (and Tom & Jeanne, SV Eagle, and Rob & Kim, SV Keetya La Paz). During our road trips in the US, we had some great visits and stays in Yuma (with Susan & George and visiting with Lane & Kathy, Alison & Craig and MJ & Leona); in La Quinta (visiting Jake); in Cathedral City... twice... (first with Marg M., in a rented fifth wheel, and then again with Lucy (the trailer) in her own sites, and both times with the great company of Ron & Dal who have their own place there (in The Outdoor Resort). And.... we looked at dozens of boats and stayed in numerous hotels (of differing qualities :-)... Thank goodness we have Lucy now and can stop paying the high hotel prices all the while worried about the clientele and the room cleanliness and the safety of the neighbourhood.  Kathy has joined "Passport America" which is an RVing organization that offers great discounts (like 50% off) on many of the RV parks and resorts.  As a result, if we are in the right place and have time to do the research... we can be camping in nice resorts for as little as $18 or $20 a night and cooking our own meals.  That's much better than the, at least, $65 fee for a questionable hotel room every night with meals on top of that.  It's also easier to keep the beer cold when you're not having to buy ice for the little cooler in the back of the truck :-)

Okay, enough about the travel.  WE ARE HOME...  and we've missed our friends and family even more this year than most; and we're looking forward to reconnecting.  Little Mojo is still bobbing at the MBYC dock (waiting patiently for a little summer adventure)... and we have lots to do here to keep us out of mischief.

So, thanks for following along with our travels.  Sorry we haven't a new yacht to introduce you to... yet. Stay tuned.  For those of you who will be leaving soon to drive home... please be safe on those roads....  there are some very crazy drivers out there.   For those of you who have stayed home and braved the winter weather...  good on ya...  hang in there cuz spring is just around the corner (we have crocuses in our front garden...).

To all of you, from all of us, stay safe and enjoy the heck out of your life.... 'till next time... CJ.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Missin’ the grapefruits already…

Who knew that waking up in the morning, wandering outside, and plucking a grapefruit off a tree only a few feet from your trailer… could be so refreshing?  Well it is… er… was.  We were really spoiled in both Yuma and Cathedral City with fruit trees only steps from our doors… and now, alas, we are on the road … dare I say?…. heading…. ugh…. north.  Not to say we’re not looking forward to being home and seeing our families and friends…. but, really!! My sister just wrote to say it was going UP to 10….  Ten what?  I say….  we’re already shivering in the mid 70’s.  Surely she is just playing with our goose-bump meters….

I digress… about the grapefruits…  my mom used to love grapefruit (juice) and my dad tried hard to eat one every morning… me?  I thought they were the sourest fruit in the store,,,  ‘cept maybe the oranges.  Seems I missed a step in the process…  appears that grapefruits grown on trees (not sprouting from boxes and onto shelves) … and plucked fresh in the morning (while the coffee is brewing) well… they’re just plain old fantastic.. and not sour.. They don’t even need a coating of sugar to be palatable.  Now…  if only I could find some of those marvellous “grapefruit spoons” we used to have growing up.  You know the ones.. curved in the middle so you could scoop out each segment without having to spend half your morning… cutting and slicing both sides of each little sinewy wall.. separating each of the little segments…. takes the fun out of it after a while…. but they’re still GOOOD>>>>  and I miss them. Guess it’s a good thing I did a little “harvesting” before we left this morning.. I think we have enough to get us to Seattle at least !!  :-)

Now then.. back to what’s happening… We tore ourselves away from The Outdoors Resort (Cathedral City) and, after returning our golf cart to it’s owner…and the key to the tennis court… and the.. well you get it… seems we’d moved right in and settled.  But.. once we got over the fact we were leaving.. it was okay.. and we started to look forward to new adventures..

So, here we are in Bakersfield, CA, at the Orange Grove RV Park, after an fairly uneventful drive north.  I say “fairly uneventful” because we did have a couple of mishaps.  Nothing we can’t deal with.. but… well, these things can happen…  First, we realized not too far out, that the battery was dead.  Not dying… but dead.  No problem.. we can run the fridge under the power from the truck (run through the umbilical cord) and we plan to be “plugging in” at RV parks all the way home anyway.  Well, then there was mishap #2.  Seems the umbilical cord has a mind of it’s own and was determined to do itself in while we travelled.  Thank goodness for one vehicle (only one mind you… of the hundred or so that passed us while we discussed why that one vehicle might have been beeping his horn and pointing at us as he passed…  ).  It’s amazing how many reasons you can dream up about why someone is pointing at you as you drive blindly on.. procrastinating about interrupting the northerly flow of motion… but, okay, we did.  Pulled off, stopped, and did a walk about… OOPS, aforementioned umbilical cord had decided to disengage from the connector, and then drag itself to an untimely death… upon the highway… double OOPS… We were in no place suitable for stopping and fixing such a situation (as if we could :-).  And so, we continued…. and got ourselves to the Orange Grove RV Park just like we’d planned….

So here we are, 7 plump oranges in the larder, a pizza just arriving, Sophie fed, watered and hunkered down under her pink ‘bink’… and Kathy setting up a movie for us to watch… Oh, and the “guy” is coming tomorrow to fix the connector.. and we’ll research what kind of battery to buy when we get home… (Kathy’s lovin’ all this research… :-)

Not sure where we’re headed tomorrow.  Depends how long the repairs take… but we’ll head somewhere north for sure…  ‘till then.. take good care.. talk to you soon…. CJ, K and PS.