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The Faustian Bargain

We all know we are going to die. We just forget sometimes that by being alive, we have already entered into what I have been calling The Faustian Bargain. It will all be over someday.

We got the word last night that one of our very dear friends has died. Randy Dalton was a giant among men, along with his partner Michael. They were the love of each others’ lives for 34 years, through a tumultuous time when their arrangement was not popular or widely accepted.

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Michael and Randy in the bus in 2014

We met Michael and Randy in 2002 in Xcalak, Mexico. We were guests at a very small resort there and became lifelong friends with them and several others by the time our visit was over. We continued to see them in Mexico and after we started going around in the bus, we were fortunate enough to have visited them twice at their art-filled house and garden, some of the very best bus parking we have had, not to mention the good conversation, meals and comfort and love of like-minded friends.

I remember talking to Randy on the phone when I was in the grocery store one time and he said, “We’re all going to die! Come and see us!” And we did. You can see our 2013 visit here. And our last visit where we ended up parked there for three weeks, flying back to Kansas City for Jim’s mom’s funeral while they took care of the cats and took us back and forth to the airport. Their house and garden is filled with art and interesting things at every turn.

Randy was one of a kind. A member of Philadelphia’s underground art scene, he was one of The Dumpster Divers, making art from found objects. He was the driving force behind Do Blue and the amazing Blue Grotto. If you are in West Philly, it is a must-see at the CEC. He just opened a show at a local gallery and was constantly brimming with plans for new projects, most involving blue lights and found objects.

Randy personified passion, kindness, humor and curiosity. He and Michael walked the walk, balancing human spirit, art, beauty in home and garden, intelligent conversation and pure appreciation of life. Just being around them made you feel more alive and infused with the wonder of the world.

Our hearts are heavy. We are really going to miss him. Hug harder, live life to the very brink of fullness, like Michael and Randy did. That is our part of The Faustian Bargain.

A bright blue light has gone out.

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Astoria, Oregon

A Year of Headers: 2015

We went to a lot of great places last year! Now we just need to figure out where we will go this year! Ideas?

Updating the blog header is a little graphic design puzzle that is fun to solve. Here are all the headers from 2015 in order. A little progressive snapshot of the year. Ha!

Many more pictures from the year:

2015 in Pictures: The End! Finally!

2015 in Pictures: Part Six

2015 in Pictures: Part Five

2015 in Pictures: Part Four

2015 in Pictures: Part Three

2015 in Pictures: Part Two

2015 in Pictures: Part One

Lake Mineral Wells, Texas

2015 in Pictures: The End! Finally!

2015 is finally over! Here is Part Seven, wrapping up 2015 in photos.

After leaving Astoria, we headed toward Idaho and Colorado. We had some friends to see, some trails to ride and cool weather to stay ahead of.

The Weiser River Trail in Idaho was a scenic treat, if not the greatest trail out there. Then we headed south toward Grand Junction and Denver, getting some snow along the way. Back through Lake Mineral Wells, Texas to ride our last trail before heading to the Rio Grande Valley for the winter. And yes, lots of sky pictures but what can I say? It continued to be spectacular!

What a great year we had! We are so very grateful for each other, our good fortune, good health and kitties. Full focus on 2016…Onward!

 

Row River Trail Oregon

2015 in Pictures: Part Six

Part Six: Yes, I plan on having this done before 2016 is over…

How can you do California without Los Angeles?

We had a great visit there with friends before moving on up the coast.

After we left Eureka, it was on to Oregon.

We got the bus serviced in Roseburg, then rode a couple of bike trails near Springfield and worked our way over to Florence on the Oregon coast.

On the way to Lincoln we had a bit of a mishap but all ended well.

We headed to Astoria since we hadn’t eaten nearly enough seafood yet and wanted to see the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean convergence there. Our first impressions of the city were great. We planned to stay a couple of days then head for Spokane and Idaho to ride some longer trails.  It’s good to have a plan.

And then this happened. Much more Astoria coming soon.

2015 in Pictures: Part Five

2015 in Pictures: Part Four

2015 in Pictures: Part Three

2015 in Pictures: Part Two

2015 in Pictures: Part One

 

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2015 in Pictures: Part Five

After White Sands, we motored through New Mexico and Arizona, visiting friends in Tucson and keeping an eye on the sky all the way to California. Some highlights. And yes, more sky pictures. What can I say?

Stopped at Lake Mead in Nevada, then visited good friends in Las Vegas.

Once we got to California, everything got bigger; the heat, the sky, the trees, everything.

More Eureka here. Lots more. 

Hollister sunset. Fooling around with double exposures. Like being in the darkroom again. See the single exposures here.

2015 in Pictures: Part Four

2015 in Pictures: Part Three

2015 in Pictures: Part Two

2015 in Pictures: Part One

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2015 in Pictures: More Skies

Part Four

Once we got out of Texas, the rain let up, but just a little. So the skies stole the show throughout New Mexico starting at Lake Caballo State Park. I know, enough with the sky already, but look…

A few flowers and rainbows too.

From there we headed toward Alamagordo  and White Sands National Monument. More skies.

From our spot at the Elks Lodge in Alamagordo.

And White Sands is bright!

2015 in Pictures: Part Three

2015 in Pictures: Part Two

2015 in Pictures: Part One

Turkey, Texas

2015 in Pictures: Texas Skies

Part Three

Stormy skies followed us all through Texas. From Bob Wills Day in Turkey, through Lockhart to Caprock Canyon we managed to stay out of the worst of it.

Once we left Texas, the skies were a prominent photo subject all summer long.

2015 in Pictures: Part Two

2015 in Pictures: Part One

Progresso, Mexico

2015: The Year in Pictures

Part One

I have been meaning to do a year-end roundup of 2015 in pictures. The weather is going to be rainy and cool for a few days so here’s a start.

So many pictures! So little time…

More coming soon. Happy New Year!

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Hug Your Kitty Extra Tonight

Jim’s dad is a remarkable guy, 93 years young. Since he moved to an apartment in an independent living center, he has taken his own advice and found ways to occupy himself. One of those is learning to create stained glass pieces. He has kept Jim posted on his progress and seems to be enjoying himself.

A few days before Christmas he asked for our winter address in Texas and said he wanted to send us something he had made. We gave it to him and a few days later we received this most elegant and thoughtful gift.

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Perfect. Dad knows we are in the bus with not much room for “stuff.” He knows what is important to us and lovingly put together this small, simply designed stained glass window for the bus. Yes, I cried.

The three darker blocks you see in the top orange panels are printed labels with each kitty’s name on it, in order: Tikita (white), Carmella and Astrid. And of course he got the names right. We feel blessed to have this enduring token of all the love flowing around. How lucky are we?

It is no big secret that we love our kitties. They are our family, our traveling companions, our playmates and lap snugglers. They continue to amaze us with how they have adapted to the bus and we look forward to taking them outside to explore when we reach a new destination. We have been fortunate that they travel well and are healthy and happy. Of course, why wouldn’t they be? We worship them constantly, give them tons of attention, love, food, catnip and toys. We have had friends say that if they are reincarnated, they want to come back as one of our cats.

Now that we are parked for the winter, we have daily outings when the weather permits, which is almost always. We are right across from the dog park where the dogs (and cats) can be off leash. Tikita and Carmella have taken to “going to the park” as we call it. They run around after the birds and chase each other. Carmella runs up the trees. Astrid goes outside but mostly sticks to the site since she knows she has to have her string on if she goes too far afield. She is getting used to the string slowly which is not surprising because, well… Astrid.

Astrid was the $10 kitty. When I went to the shelter to adopt Carmella, Astrid kept jumping on my lap as if to say, “Pick me! Pick me!” So I did and she has been my lap kitty ever since. It was the best thing ever to get two small kittens and have them grow up together.

Astrid did plenty of things to make up for her discount price tag. When we had only had her for a few days, she was on the second floor of the house trying to play with our big male cat through the stair railing–from the wrong side. We watched from our bed and I said “There goes my new vase” about five seconds before Astrid fell backward off the railing and crashed to the table below with a flower arrangement in my new Blenko vase. She was OK but the vase was not. She quickly became the $150 kitty.

She had plenty of other mishaps including getting caught under the net of our outdoor fishpond and ending up in the water, not once, not twice, but three times. Through the years she made her way to the veterinarian often enough. An abscess on the base of her tail required up close and personal treatment involving keeping the wound open and dabbing medicine into it to heal the infection. That was fun.

In 2010, right before Jim retired, he took one of his last weeklong business trips. I was looking forward to making the most of this last trip, mainly by eating whenever I wanted, enjoying the time alone and reading with Astrid on my lap. But something was very wrong with Astrid. She was languid and feverish and we ended up at the vet again. They didn’t know what was wrong with her and gave her the usual cortisone shot. It perked her up overnight but the next day she was worse. I took her in again and they kept her overnight to hydrate her. They warned me that it was touch and go and she might not make it through the night.

The cats were still going outside at that point and Astrid was an avid and relentless hunter. She was basically on the “Vole a Day” program where she sniffed out and ate a vole. Every day. All I could figure was that this time she got a bad one, diseased or something.

She made it through the night and came home but she was weak and it took her a very long time to recover. Not to mention the several hundred dollars I shelled out. I remember telling her that if she came through this, whenever she jumped on my lap I would give her my full and total attention; no reading, iPad drawing, just love and attention for Astrid. And I have pretty much stuck with it, although she does like to rub her face on the iPad.

I reminisce because I got the sad news yesterday that a friend’s little dog died suddenly while having his teeth cleaned at the vet. Just like that, your close buddy is gone. His name was Hobbes and they called him The Grand Companion and indeed he was. A small black dynamo with a windmill for a tail, he was a truly happy and sweet dog. I cried many tears when I heard the news, knowing that my friends are beside themselves with grief. I still weep when I think of my former pets that I have had to part with, some sudden, some not. They take a grip on your heart and don’t let go, even when they are gone. So sorry for Hobbes and his people.

When Astrid jumped on my lap last night, several times, it was like she knew something had happened; I was so sad about Hobbes. I renewed my promise to give her my full attention, knowing there will be a time when we won’t be together. I want to soak every minute up and make it last. I don’t know how many lives this cat has left but I want to be fully present when she gives me the gift of her love. That, along with a stained glass window from Dad is priceless.