Route 66: The Mother Road, The Road of Dreams

This entry is part 7 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66

painted Route 66 icon on cracked pavement into horizonRoute 66 was the first transcontinental highway, opened in 1926. Depending on the year and route you chose to travel, it was somewhere between 2,200 and 2,500 miles to run from Chicago to Los Angeles. It became (in)famous during the migrations from the Dustbowl, when over 200,000 left their failing farms and headed west looking for other work. (Most returned within a few months; some found farm or highway or other work, but generally California wasn’t hospitable to the refugees.)

The coming of the interstate did unkind things to the road towns, many of which depended on serving travelers (shippers, migrants, tourists) for their livelihoods. Route 66 was finally de-certified in 1985, and the road was thought dead.

It wasn’t. Continue reading

Highway 1 and Elephant Seals

This entry is part 6 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66

I picked up my husband at the San Jose airport, and we headed south. And because this trip is about the journey, not about getting there — wherever “there” is — in a hurry, we of course took Highway 1.

Pacific surf crashing against sand at the base of cliffs

a typical high view of Highway 1 coast

Highway 1’s most famous stretch is of course the rocky cliffs and surf between Santa Cruz and Los Angeles. It’s all tight turns and steep climbs and drops along rocky beautiful Pacific coast.

I’d totally forgotten we’d pass San Simeon and Hurst Castle; we didn’t stop because it really deserves a full day, not a quick drive-by. Another time.

Apainted sign offering avocados, 7 for $1nd I was flabbergasted — yes, flabbergasted — by this roadside stand’s prices for produce. Because at home, I get all giddy when avocados go on sale for $1 each, which is an usually great deal. Oh California dwellers, how can you stand this avocado bounty? Are you properly appreciative?

But the highlight of our drive was the accidental discovery of the elephant seals. Continue reading

Art of the Ukiyo, the Floating World

This entry is part 5 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66

Living only for the moment, turning our full attention to the pleasures of the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms, and the maple leaves; singing songs, drinking wine, diverting ourselves in just floating, floating… refusing to be disheartened, like a guard floating along with the river current: this is what we call the floating world. Asai Ryoi, Tales of the Floating World, approx. 1666

Once “the floating world” referred to the Buddhist concept of detachment, but by the 17th century it had come to mean a hedonistic approach to life’s pleasures.

“In the Buddhist context, ‘ukiyo’ was written with characters that meant ‘suffering world,’ which is the concept that desire leads to suffering and that’s the root of all the problems in the world,” according to Laura W. Allen, the Asian Art Museum‘s curator of Japanese art. “In the 17th century, that term was turned on its head and the term ‘ukiyo’ was written with new characters to mean ‘floating world.’ The concept of the floating world was ignoring the problems that might have existed in a very strictly regulated society and abandoning yourself, bobbing along on the current of pleasure.” A creative boom developed in the “pleasure district” of the yoshiwara in Edo (today Tokyo), amid the tea houses and the theaters and the brothels.

looking up at the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge

It is an impressive bridge.

The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco has a special exhibit on ukiyo-e, images of the floating world, so after a brisk walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, just to say I did, I made a visit. And I took pictures.

Continue reading

Hiking the Redwoods

This entry is part 4 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66

In an attempt to distract myself after returning Mindy, I used the next day to go over training homework and then I took myself hiking. And I made sure to find some sequoias, because we don’t have those at home.

two tiny lumberjacks beside enormous chestnut trees

the American Chestnut tree was typically enormous and grand

We used to have amazing trees in the Midwest, too. Accounts remain of nuts lying too thickly to reach through to the ground, and we have photos of trees with diameters of 12 and 15 feet. But we logged many of them before the lumbermen ever got to California. (The rest died when we imported non-native species, releasing the disastrous chestnut blight.)

Laura in hat before redwood bark, in selfie mode

My arm is just not long enough for a selfie with a redwood.

Midwestern conditions allowed our trees to reach incredible size in just a couple hundred years. The redwoods are much longer lived, though, a full four digits of years, which demands another level of respect. Continue reading

Goodbye to Mindy

This entry is part 3 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66

sign: "Guide Dogs for the Blind National Headquarters"Today was the day. I delivered Mindy to Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Mindy had done several kennel stays locally in the last two months, where I paid for extra playtime and stuffed Kongs and all the good things that would make her love staying in kennels, and indeed she was excited to enter the kennel lobby and trotted happily away with staff without ever looking back. This was important to me because I didn’t want her worrying about being left at GDB.

black Labrador Mindy smiling at camera

Just before turn-in.

It worked: today she sat for the GDB kennel worker to put on her leash, and then she went straight away with her, walking nicely, ears and tail up, sitting on cue. It was about as painless and stress-free as possible for her. (Me? I was doing fine until the GPS countdown hit single digits. Not gonna lie, I cried. But to be fair, I did more prep work for Mindy.) Continue reading

“I Can Only Do This Once”

This entry is part 2 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66
Portrait of a male tabby cat

Portrait of a male tabby cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I checked into my Winnemucca, NV motel last night, I asked if a service dog in training could stay for free like a working service dog, instead of me paying the pet fee. (She could.) Upon learning that I’m a professional trainer, the desk clerk realized that I obviously needed an education in what service animals do. (But if I’m a trainer there with a service dog in training, wouldn’t I probably already know what service animals…. Never mind.) It included this exchange:

Clerk: “And there are even service cats! And do you know what they do? When a person is dying, a service cat is trained to get up on their chest and die with them.”

Me: “Um. /awkward blinky moment/ But they can only do that once.”

Clerk: “Right. But it happens.”

Continue reading

Road Trip! the First Part

This entry is part 1 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66
Would you get hip to this kindly tip And go ta...

Get your kicks… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I’m off on the Great American Road Trip.

The purpose is to return Mindy to Guide Dogs for the Blind, and as I couldn’t get anyone at any airline to confirm that she’d be able to fly in the cabin with me, I had to drive her across the country. Trying to make the best of it, I planned an iconic journey for the return, tracing old Route 66 for as much of the old pavement that remains. Continue reading

Toilet Poetry

So on the final stop of my trip home, I went into the women’s restroom at the train station in Indianapolis. I found this on the wall.

handwritten text on a bathroom wall

He told me he was afraid of commitment with 13 tattoos on his body.

I confronted him.

He said:

“but I don’t have to worry about these tattoos leaving my body.”

/snap snap snap snap snap/ Rock on, restroom poet. Rock on.

Amtrak Cascades & The Empire Builder

Red road sign: "Warning: vultures may cause damage to vehicles."

This photo has nothing to do with this particular trip — it was taken on New Year’s Day at Lake Monroe, IN — but I couldn’t not share it.

My gift to myself for surviving December and January was to take the Empire Builder back home from Portland.

January was a crazy month: I taught workshops in Michigan and New Jersey. While in Michigan, I was rear-ended at a stop light during a hard snow, and my car had to be towed. (It’s fine now.) Then I flew to Portland to speak at Clicker Expo, a training and behavior conference (and one of my favorite times of year). There my brand-new computer decided to overturn its discouragingly predictable existence by freezing up and dying during my presentation. Twice.

So I was glad I’d planned ahead and booked the Empire Builder home. The Empire Builder is Amtrak’s premier passenger line, a run all the way to Chicago. I had a sleeping compartment, one of the small roomettes. Continue reading

The Proposed USFS Photo Ban?!

Ansel Adams landscapeIt’s about to become enforced policy: it’s illegal to take photos in national parks and on federal lands without a $1500 permit. The fine for taking unauthorized pics will be $1000/photo. Even in the /cough/ Ansel Adams Wilderness area.

USFS says it’s to protect the forests. Sure, our parks have been under a lot of stress — illegal logging, water pollution, drifting air pollution, human-started fires have all taken a high toll. You know what’s not damaging parks? Digital and film recordings. Photography doesn’t ACTUALLY steal the soul, you know. Continue reading