‘Old School Rodeo’ – Go Steers Go!


or – 95th Inter-Tribal Ceremonial – Day 2

Oops – turns out that Saturday night is the end of the Ceremonial – everyone except the Cowboys have packed up and gone home. So there’s nothing to watch but an ‘Old School’ Rodeo. Which – given that we came to Gallop to see Cowboys and Indians (sorry – so not PC) – isn’t really such a bad thing. So we find our shade sharing friends (whew) and settle in to watch day 2 of the Rodeo.

Actually – this is really day 5 – but we didn’t know that. So most of the top performers have gone home with the Indians. We are left with kids, clowns, and some teams that just won’t quit. But given our knowledge of Rodeo, and given that we were cheering for the Bulls yesterday – this will still work for us!

First up – kids riding wild sheep. Ok – I know you are thinking – really? But it’s true. The little kids (we’re talking top age of maybe 8) get to ‘wild ride’ a sheep. And trust me, the sheep are really not much more interested in having a rider than the broncos – but the broncos buck – sheep just stop and stare at the crowd. Never mind – the kids are a delight to watch – they hold up their free hand in an adorable replica of the way their Dads did yesterday – and one very brave kid tries to ‘spur’ the sheep on. To which insult the sheep reacts by immediately throwing him.

Then there’s the ‘Rescue’. One member of the team stands on a barrel while the other member of the team rides across the ring, hoists them onto the horse, and then gallops madly back to the ‘finish’ line. The top team was a father/daughter combo – the kid was maybe 8 – and small – and the dad just hoisted her up, swung her over the back of his saddle and then rode madly across the finish line with one arm wrapped around her for safety. Sophie was wild about this event, and wanted to know if Grandpa would try it with her.

Sadly – no.

Another super fun to watch event challenged teams of 3 cowboys to saddle and ride a wild horse around a barrel at the far end of the ring. This is a LOT harder than you can imagine. The horses want nothing to do with someone putting a saddle on their backs, so the cowboys have to start by getting the horses to lie down. There’s not a lot of time for being nice either – this is a drag out contest between 3 cowboys and a very mad horse! Only two teams manage to get the saddle on their assigned horse – and of those, one horse managed to throw the rider. So 1 winner, 4 losers – and life goes on!

Highlight you ask? The one-armed bandit. This is a cowboy with – tada – one arm – who has trained his long horn steers to – on command – run up onto the top of a trailer truck! Seriously – how do you think he managed to do that? His horse was also fabulously trained – he not only jumped to the top of the trailer – he allowed the ‘bandit’ to stand up on the saddle and fire his gun! With the steers mildly looking on as if to say – happens every day! He was so good that Victor had to tell him how much he enjoyed his performance when we ran into later that evening.

Other events included trying to ride a Bison, Cowgirl barrel racing, and team steer roping. More often than not – the winners were the Bison, the barrels and the steers! But a good time was had by almost everyone – I’m not sure that the cowboy that got thrown off the Bison – hard – had the best day ever.

We ended the day trying – once again – to eat dinner in Gallop. Turns out that all the Mexican restaurants close on Sunday night – leaving us with limited choices. So we checked out the El Rancho Hotel and Restaurant. It’s rated #5 in Gallop – which gives you a really good idea of how inspiring the food in this town has turned out to be. The El Rancho is old – seriously old – it’s been sitting on Route 66, living on it’s oh so famous history from 50 years ago for – well 50 years. I think some of the trip advisor reviews might date from back then. But it was open – and willing to feed us – and there weren’t that many options.

I spent some time looking around the hotel – which would profit greatly from a visit from the crew of Hotel Impossible, and then ate dinner in the restaurant. Too much food, served fairly quickly by an impatient wait staff pretty much sums it up. I can’t really recommend the food – except to say it solved the dinner problem, and I didn’t get sick.

We headed out towards Route 264 – which is pretty much a straight shot thru Navajo and Hopi Territory – ending at Tuba City. Our goal was the oh so beautiful Moenkopi Legacy Hotel. Why? It had a pool – and Sophie had been promised a pool morning. We knew we’d be arriving late – but our plan was just to hang the next morning – and then head on out to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

We’d be changing time zones madly. New Mexico does Day Light Savings – so we left Gallop at 7:00 PM. A few minutes later, we crossed into Arizona, which does not do Day Light Savings – it became 6:15 PM. Then we hit Navajo territory – it’s 7:30 PM. About an hour later, we hit Hopi Territory – and it was also 7:30 PM. Finally we arrived at our hotel – and we were back in Navajo territory – and back in Day Light savings time.

Other than time zone changes – there’s nothing exciting to report on this part of our trip. The road was beautifully maintained, the sky was filled with an almost full moon – and we simply drove in tandam thru miles and miles and miles of barely inhabited country. One of my friends had given me several books and tape – and they made the drive pass by quickly. Soon enough we were at the Moenkopi – bedded down for the night.

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Gallop, New Mexico – a Train runs thru it!


Why are we in Gallop. Excellent question. High on my Must-Do list was Mesa Verde – and so we routed ourselves thru there. Read all about it in another blog. High on my hubby’s Must-Do list were cowboys and Indians – and on the weekend just after our visit to Mesa Verde – in Gallop – is the 95th Inter-Tribe Cerimonial, a gathering of all the tribes in the Four Corners area. And on the activities list were daily Rodeos! Clearly this was a Must-Visit opportunity.

All of which found us heading south past 4 Corners (yes I lay down on the 4 corners with my hands in 2 states and my legs in 2 states and my butt on the center – shoot me), past Shiprock – which is a huge weather blasted mountain that looks like – a ship on a rock – and is also a town that has an OK restaurant – we tried it out) on our way to Gallop. If there’s a city that is less appealing, but with more beautiful surroundings than Gallop – I’ve never been there.

First the scenery. We opted to stay in Red Rock State Park. Our assigned (apparently by random draw) site overlooked the dump station – but the oh-so-friendly campground hostess said that if we didn’t like the site she had picked for us, we were welcome to move to any other vacant site. So after meeting our extremely pleasant neighbors (Brits Alex and Thersa – here to teach High School English and Wood Shop for a year – and living in a campground) – and setting up our shade canopy – I toured the campground.

Score – a perfect site. Electricity and water – And a magnificant view. Honey – can we move? After a bit of negociation – afterall – we’d met the neighbors, and we’d set up the canopy – my desire for a view won out and we carefully moved. Now – our view is of the magnificant red rocks for which the campground is named. Bonus – there’s a huge family of Prairie Dogs that also call this home – they are such a hoot to hear and to watch!

A bit about the georgraphy – because it is truly cool. When the water erroded the weaker stone – it left behind what the folks here call fins. Tall (over 500 feet), thin red rocks that from the air must look like fingers reaching out towards the rail road that runs East West straight thru Gallop parral to oh so famous Route 66. We are camped looking at one side of the huge rock. On the other side of the rock – and completely invisible to us – is a huge amphitheater where they are performing the rodeos! Around another fin is the giant tent housing the dancing competitions that are part of the Inter-Tribal Ceremonial.

I admit that we then blew it. Instead of walking to the Ceremonial – we shopped and did Laundry. Now I must admit that we were pretty desperate for a laundry stop. And “The Laundry Basket” has to be one of the nicest laundrymats I’ve ever been in – but still. We missed out on the Friday night Ceremonial to wash clothes. Really?

Anyway – after the grocery store and the laundry – we tried – and I’m not joking – this was a try – to eat dinner at a Sonic. Why a Sonic? The large signs appealed to Sophie, and I didn’t have the smarts to say – nope. And besides, everything else in Gallop closes at 9:00 PM. Seriously. This town apparently rolls up the sidewalks at 8:30PM – sunset – we’re done. Note for future visitors – on Sunday there are no liquor sales – and the grocery stores baricade those aisles so you won’t make the horrid error of picking up a bottle and going to the cash.

Back to our visit – clothes clean, minimum amount of food in tummies – and shopping done – we head back to our RV and crash. Tomorrow is another day – and what a day it turns out to be.

Morning comes fast in the High Southwest. And we are splendidly located to get the full effect. Prairie Dogs run here, there and everywhere – yipping madly at each other at any signs of danger – which includes my lifting my mug to drink my coffee and the dog next door stretching! I try to take a picture – but they are too far away and too small for my iphone camera to take anything decent. Ah well – I shall just have to store the memory in my on-board system.

Breakfast – we’re pretty upscale campers. So French Press Coffee and foamy milk to create a delightful Cafe Aux Lait are de-rigeur. The rest of our breakfast is not so fancy – some fresh fruit (thanks Albertson’s of Gallop) and cereal.

The festivities next door aren’t scheduled to start until noon – so we spend the morning doing math and reading – then head over to check out the Indian events. There’s ‘gourd’ dancing – which is mostly ceremonial and reminds me strongly of religious groups all over the world – the men in the center bouncing on their toes as they chant – the women wearing ‘prayer shawls’ on the outer ring – joining in only after the men have gotten seriously into the grove. We watch for a while, intrigued by the clearly religious nature of the experience, Sophie gets a feather painted on her cheek, and then we head up to the Rodeo area.

The natural amphitheater has been improved with seating – both benches with backs, and ones without. The benches without backs are for folks that brought their own camp chairs – something that all the natives knew to do – and of course we didn’t. Something else the natives knew – there is no shade. And it’s hot. Hot, Hot, Hot. We’re super lucky though – some natives (broad term for both First Americans and folks who are local to Gallop) have set up a huge rectangular shade – too large for their needs – and they invite us to join them under the canopy. Whew – sun stroke averted!

The Rodeo is a fairly low key event, but then what do we know. The annoucer tries hard to get the folks watching to cheer on their favorites – but Sophie and I decide to route for the underdogs – the calves, the bulls, and the bucking broncos. We’re on the right side too – they win more often than the cowboys! We all agree that these are fun events to watch – particularly the barrel racing cowgirls and the bull riding. One bull even does a victory lap after throwing his rider in seconds. Too funny.

I get a lesson on making frybread (the oil has to be hot but not too hot – and you put a hole in the center to make sure that the entire bread turns a golden shade of brown), buy some kettle corn (too yummy – and too much – so I donate 1/2 to my shade sharing new friends), and check out the other offerings. The locals are selling all kinds of trinkets – Sophie scores earings for her sister – but I’m content to just look and see.

When the rodeo ends – we head back to the camper for a quick dinner of fresh boiled corn on the cob – and Sophie and I decide to go back to the Ceremonial. Victor opts to stay at the camper – a mistake! The Indians have finished up the religious portion of their dances – and are now totally decked out with feathers, fancy clothes, bells and chimes! The competition for best dancers has begun – and not only are the dancers in competition – so are the drummers and singers. We watch in amazement as group after group demonstrates their particular dance style. I text Victor to join us – and he arrives in time for the highlight – the teen boys doing freestyle dancing that is a combination of gymnastics and posturing to frighten the spirts. Works for me.

The drummers pound so hard and so loud that the speakers are overwhelmed. It’s incredible. I’m so glad we came to see this. Between groups of competitive dancers – there are free style group dances when everyone – from tiny tots to respected elders get up and join in. These free style dances are a whirl of color and costume – wonderful.

I’m intrigued by the use of feathers – particularly in head dresses and on as tail feathers. A vendor of feathers walks by – a small white feather is $50 – I can’t even begin to imagine the value of some of the costumes I’m seeing. This is living history on a grand scale.

After the dancing – there is the main ceremonial – which features ‘White Buffalo’. We’d assumed that this was a musical group – how wrong we were!

It was a White Buffalo. Huge, Somber, and Greatly Respected – he is welcomed to the arena by an elder who recites an ancient hymn to invite him, and his spirits into the lives of all attending. It’s a highly emotional moment – the folks in the stands are quiet – the sun is setting behind the red rocks – and the fires of the Ceremonial have been lit.

We watch as several groups demonstrate their tradtional dances – a Stomp dance from one Pueblo group, a butterfly dance from another. But it’s been a long day for us – and tomorrow promises to be even longer. So we walk back thru the red rocks to our campsite – admiring the sky, the rocks, and the quiet.

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Arches National Park – August 2016


Several LONG years ago I made a bucket list of all the things that I’d like to do before I die – or become so old and out of shape that I could no longer do stuff. One of my top items was visit all the US National Parks. In a motor Home. Camping. Taking my time to see them if not thoughly, at least as well as I could.

I know – so many problems with this as a bucket list item. First – time! These trips can’t be short – in and out – visits. By definition, if you have a motor home – you are a snail. And lots of the parks make it hard to drive around them in a house on wheels.

2nd – while many of the parks are located quite close together – they aren’t that close. So it not only takes time to see one park – it takes time to get from one park to the next.

And there were problems I hadn’t counted on. The first time we made an attempt to do this – we failed pretty badly. Which really is the subject of a blog all on its own. But this time – we did a lot better.

First – we allocated 3 weeks to just 5 parks. Already – this is a good move. 21 days, 5 parks – 4 days per park. Discount the travelling time – still 3 days per park. Should work, right. Well – here I am on day 7 – having done 3 parks – and I can tell you – you need more time. You need time to STOP. Don’t underestimate the need to stop. I’m wiped out – and as gross as this sounds – I’m really glad I’m in a non-primative campground with water, electricity, shade – and time to just write and think.

2nd – and this is huge – we not only rented a motor home – we rented a car! Yes it means that we are driving 2 vehicles between the parks – but that’s why they have books on tape, right. The advantages are huge. You want to go out for dinner – take the car. You want to drive the rim roads – narrow and winding as they always are in a National Park – leave the motor home safely parked at the visitors center – take the car! Huge advantage.

3rd – we knew that organization was key. You can’t do this and leave stuff here one minute and there the next. You will never, ever find it. Things need to have assigned places – and that’s where they will live for 3 weeks. Trust me – misplace your glasses – and you’ll be sorry for days!

So – on to Arches.

Important things to note – it’s August, it’s hot. And it rains. Don’t let them fool you – 100 degrees is hot. Hot, Hot, Hot. And you are going to need to drink water before you need to drink water. That’s the real challenge with walking Arches. You don’t feel thirsty – so you think – later. Then when you do feel thirsty – it’s a bit late.

As one guide quipped – the first sign of dehydration is grumpiness – Some people have been dehydrated most of their lives…

Another note – in August, in Arches – it’s crowded. Really mobbed. So avoid the major hikes, the major views, the major ‘highlights’. They are no fun shared with 500 of your best friends. The memorable moments here have been the ones we’ve done in our small group.

Best unknown hike – Brokern Arch and Tapesty Arch. Easy walks from the Devils Garden Campground – lots of parking – and no people! And no rules. You can climb up under the arch, take photos without limits – and probably not see another person. The begining of the hike is easy – if you don’t mind deep sand. You follow cairns (rock piles) from bend to bend until suddenly the arch appears out of nowhere. There are options for the return – you can retrace your steps – or you can opt for the more difficult and longer hike back thru the arch. We didn’t realize that the 2nd part would be longer and harder – but it was well worth doing – we scrambled thru fins of tall rock walls, climbed up stone steps, and generally were alone with the lizards. Such fun.

Best known hike – Fiery Furnace. You have to either sign up for the ranger led version months earlier – or pay a fortune to be guided thru the ‘Furnace’ by a commercial (but much more private) guide. It’s not a hike for the casual hiker – but it is fun! We learned to duck walk – one foot on either side of a carvass – to use both hands and feet to naviagate narrow passes – and had the option of doing a crawl thru. It was a hoot. And glorious beyond belief. If you have the time, have no fear of heights, and are in good shape – take a chance – take this hike. Oh – one more caution – you’ll need to be relatively thin. There are two narrow sections that just won’t work for wider folks – and you absolutely need good hiking shoes with grippy soles. And a hat, water, and suntan lotion.

Best ranger talk – We went to 2 of the ranger talks – and the best one was a total surprise. Called the Voices of Arches – it was a history of the 4 guys that did the most to protect and perserve Arches as a National Park that could be visited by thousands of folks in a single day. Well presented, and so interesting. Loved it.

Where to stay? We spent 3 nights in the National Park Campground right in the Park – 45 minutes driving distance from the Visitor Center. It was a relatively primitive campsite – no electricity or water hook-up, but it did have lovely flush toilets a short walk away, a picnic table, and magnificant views. One evening – the only clear one we’ve had so far – my 9 year old grand daughter and I just sat outside and admired the sky. The Milky Way arched over our heads, we could easily spot the jet liners criss-crossing out section of the world on their way to somewhere else – and we even saw several falling stars. This evening was well worth the price of admission. The red rocks were behind us, around us – and so close that you could reach out and touch them from the picnic table. That’s breakfast deluxe in my world. Sophie climbed and explored, and watched the lizard family next door go about their business of raising the kids. Rabbit sightings and Mule deer sighting were other highlights. Well worth the lack of showers, although the lack of AC was a challenge. It’s hot hot hot until the sun goes down, and it doesn’t really cool off till after midnight. And then of course it gets cold. But still – it was awesome.

So – one down – so many more to go!

Signing off to visit another National Park – The Soup Lady

Miami in a Nutshell – Spring 2016


I’m not a fan of Miami – what is my problem?

In theory – it would seem that I’d really like Miami – at least the Miami Beach part of Miami. And I’ve had some good times there.

We just spent one of the best days ever – just hanging at the beach under an umbrella, reading a good book and ignoring the world. There were even Beach Boys if I’d wanted to order something silly in a plastic cup – say with Rum in it. And certainly the water was beautiful, and the beach was deep rich sand – and the sun was warm, the breezes soft, the feelings mellow.

What possibly could be my problem?

I can’t fault the hotel – we stayed in the Grand Beach Hotel in Surfside. It’s an up and coming area of Miami – north of the ‘strip’, but sharing most of the amenities – white sand, warm water, and very fancy hotels. The Grand Beach was very cool, very modern, very contempory. Nothing says money like people pulling up to valet parking driving Lamberginis, Porches, and Audis. The lobby was stunning in it’s starkness – although the faux library really turned me off. An entire section of the lobby area – over 3 floors high – was fashioned like a library – except the books were all spray-painted beige to go with the mellow color pallet – and were clearly not meant to be books – they were ‘art’.

The hotel offered two pool areas – the main pool area that ‘overlooked’ the beach, although you couldn’t actually see the beach because inbetween the double pools and double hot tubs was an area of landscaped palms and sand paths, leading to the ‘Surfside’ walking/biking/jogging path. This was at the lowest point – it was ‘uphill’ from there to get to the beach itself. The other pool was on the roof – and was surrounded by tall glass panels to keep out the breezes – which I’m guessing might be cool most of high season. Since we were here in May – they were warm and pleasant, but still it was nice to have some protection since we were up over 12 stories high.

My favorite part – aside from our room – was the restaurant. Simply called “The Restaurant” it offered – for Miami Beach – reasonably priced meal options. The reason for my clear enjoyment of this location – the split nature of the restaurant. About 2/3 of the seating was inside – and 1/3 was outside – either on a covered patio, or nestled among the palm trees on sand. Winner – a clear winner. And the staff was wonderfully pleasant as well.

Our room was a corner room – and featured windows (that didn’t open) on 2 sides. Our view was the next building from most of the windows, but our view from the wrap around balcony was actually really nice. To the West (Sunset), we overlooked the town of Surfside – an older communitity that is yet to be fully gentrified. So the buildings were low, the streets narrow, and the roof tops intriguing. We spent some time just sitting on the balcony – watching Surfside slowly – very slowly – settle down for the night.

The room was set-up quite differently from any other hotel room I’ve ever been in. Like most hotel rooms – it was long and thin, but instead of two beds – it had a king bed near the sliding glass doors to the balcony, then a huge full sized bathroom with a giant walk-in shower, then a sofa facing a huge TV (there were 2 TVs in the room – one to watch while in bed, one to watch sitting on the sofa. And here’s the oddest part – a 2nd bathroom. The 2nd bathroom featured a nice sized shower (glass walled of course), a toilet, and one of the smallest sinks I’ve ever seen. Before you start thinking we had a suite – we didn’t! This was a standard sized room. We didn’t get to peak into a suite – but I did look into other rooms – and they were similar – although some of the balconies I could see had not only 2 or 3 chairs and a table – but also a hot tub and a palm tree.

The number of staff was simply inspiring. There was staff – lots of staff – everywhere. And they were very friendly. Not fake friendly either – there was a delightful honesty to everyone I talked to – from the grand-mother making the waffles, to the young man from the Ukranie who served us breakfast. These were nice people.

So why don’t I like Miami?

For starters – I’m not a fan of the weather. Generally it’s either unseasonably cold, unbareably hot, or incredibly muggy. And the AC is always, always too cold. Setting a room temp to 65 when outside it is 90 is just insane.

2nd – it’s insanely expensive in the nice places, and kinda ratty in the not so nice places. I tend to have trouble finding the inbetween stuff – if it’s been gentrified, it’s astronomically expensive, and if its not gentrified, it’s scary.

There seems less and less middle ground every time I come to this area of the world.

Using our GPS – we drove around several different sections of the city – either on our way to the airport, to a restaurant, or to the hotel. We saw massive brand new hotels being built with 4 floor high water walls, and we passed trailer parks with trailer crowded so tightly together that there was barely space to walk between them. There were signs of the times – “We buy your home – no matter the condition”, “Been hit – call us first”, “Try your hand a shooting a machine gun at Lock and Load gun range”, or “Lottery – 135 Million”. At the beach, there were toned and shaped bodies in string bikinis – and religious women swimming in the ocean while dressed from head to toe. Miami is certainly a mixed bag – and that never makes me feel comfortable. I’m much happier in places where everyone seems to share the good times – not hog them.

But it’s hard to deny that it’s fun to just mellow out on a beach.

So – that’s Miami from me in a nutshell. Signing off – The Soup Lady