Hale Sweet Hale

The best thing about Hale Reed is the Hanalei Bay location; the worst is the mosquitos at ground level. It’s not bad for me, because I have Steve at my side, and mozzies regard him as a movable feast. We both spray on mosquito repellent, and I don’t get one bite, but we might have to get Steve a transfusion before we go back to SoCal. 🙂 His blood is apparently the mosquito equivalent of St. Regis Princeville mai tais. (Now I know what a mai tai is supposed to taste like; it’s supposed to taste like $16 each. Fabulous, but $16 each.)


St. Regis flower arrangements look as good as their mai tais taste

The Hawaiian trio playing in the lounge bar sounded beautiful, and the sunset viewed from the balcony was lovely, but $495 a night for a St. Regis entry-level room? Yikes! We enjoyed our evening, but left feeling grateful for the rental home just steps from the sandy beach.


This culprit is raising the next generation of Kaua’i alarm clocks

Roosters are everywhere, serenading the dawn. We can barely hear them where we’re staying; instead, we have lovely chirping birds in the garden outside our window, and it’s a nice way to wake up. After breakfast, we figure out which north shore beach we’re going to hit in the morning, before finishing the day with a walk along OUR bay. 🙂

We pack the beach towels and head west, toward the end of the road at Ke’e where the impassable-by-car Na Pali coast begins. You can see it from the air in a helicopter, or go on a boat tour; you can even hike in on the Kalalau Trail if you don’t mind struggling through one of the ten most dangerous trails in the world (according to a poll taken by Backpacker magazine). I did the first mile or so twenty years ago, announced that I wasn’t crazy enough to go further, and that was that. Anyhow, the beaches are lovely and not nearly as much work. (Yes, hikers, riptides can kill you too, but I’ll pay attention and take my chances). Ha’ena is nice. You can park the car and hike back towards Tunnels Beach, do some snorkeling, come back and get a shave ice from the truck in the parking lot. My priorities are straight—there is no shave ice on the Kalalau Trail. 🙂

One more photo before I leave for the day:


Too bad about the crowds, eh? 🙂




Hanalei Bay

So here we are in Kaua’i, walking toward the pier, then on to Pavilion Park; hang a left, walk across Weke Road, and we’re in our temporary home. Sadly, no truck and camper for this trip. (Wouldn’t that have been great?) Ah, well, we’re making do. 🙂

A small surprise

This is no big deal, but I wanted to share it with you.

When Steve and I were at Swami’s Beach in Encinitas, we headed down Pacific Coast Highway to get some lunch. As we walked, I spotted this (look to Steve’s left):

This incredibly determined ground cover crawled inside a cable-sheathing PVC pipe and burst into the sunlight about nine feet above its starting point. I had to laugh, but I admired its dogged relentlessness enough to take its photo. The photo will serve as a good reminder that when I slow down and really SEE what I’m looking at, I run across unexpected things that sometimes make me smile.

Just traveling down memory lane today, folks…

Shut your eyes the next time you smell freshly-cut grass — shut them and let that scent take you back in time and space. Where does your memory take you?

As for me — there I was, pushing the rusty old lawnmower through the ankle-high grass on a warm, humid summer’s day in Detroit. We didn’t own the fancy kind with an engine. Who would waste good money on an expensive thing like that when there was a healthy twelve year old girl to push the old one? It was my job to mow the lawn, and I (sometimes) liked it. The front lawn was pretty basic, just two patches of grass flanking the front walkway to the stoop, but the garage-less back yard was a different thing entirely. I’d push the mower down the skinny walkway alongside the house and enter a world of scent and color.

I had to be careful not to mow too close to the border of lilies of the valley, so aromatic, their waxy creamy blossoms arching over the edge too near my whirring blades. I’d mow around the sun-dappled Rose of Sharon tree just as carefully; I didn’t want to bump into it and disturb the bees humming deep in the pinky-purple trumpet-shaped flowers. There was a patch of wild violets hiding in a hollow next to the Rose of Sharon, beautiful tiny visitors my grandmother forced me to evict from the premises (I’d asked for special dispensation for them, but the judge said no). Further back, the snowball bush was in full bloom too; each snowball was comprised of hundreds of tiny white flowers, and every snowball was bigger than my fist. The bush had been there so long, it wasn’t a bush any more. It was gigantic, so big you could barely see past it to the lilac bush in the corner. 

The lilac bush was old too, and huge — it had become a lilac tree. The dowager lilac tree draped her purple robes over the rickety wood-and-wire fence that separated the yard from the alley and hid the telephone pole that secretly propped her up. The individual blossoms were every color from almost blue to lavender pink to deepest purple, and the scent of the lilacs in bloom was so strong it could make you woozy. I’d cut the grass around her, then come back with shears, and fill one aromatic vase that would scent our entire small house.

I was thinking of those lilacs when I looked up the old house on Google. Detroit’s bankruptcy is big news at the moment — a million people have left, and so has hope. They say one picture is worth a thousand words:


I wonder if the ghosts of flowers haunt the ghetto?  Do the gangbangers and block bosses ever lift up their heads and sniff the air, confused by the scent of lilacs?

I’ll Be Back…

…not a threat, a promise.  🙂  I’ve been busy finishing a degree, pumping up my freelance business,  working on the house, and now…time to dig out the tax paperwork!  Whoo-hoo!  Nothing but thrills here, folks!

Actually, Steve and I did find time for the BEST day at Disneyland.  That’s right — my inner five-year-old child had fun!   Maybe soon your eyes will glaze over with boredom at my photos of Disneyana you’ve seen a million times before, but not today.  I hear the siren call of Form 1099…

I’ll be talking to you soon.

Susie C.

(And an aside to Inspector Gadget — wherever you may be, best of luck to you and yours).

A Sad Post.

We all know how dog stories end.  I’ll just copy my post from Tasty Sauce.

Appointment In Fountain Valley

“Hand me that file on Sweet Pea,” said Death.  “I want to read something to you that you wrote when you filled out her medical history forms at the animal dermatologist.”  He shuffled through the papers, found one and cleared his throat.

“‘Sweet Pea is a rescue dog who lived in a urine-soaked, maggot-infested truck camper.  Her diet was mostly white rice, bread, baked goods, a little meat and cheap dog food.  She was in misery with continuous scratching.  She had an ear infection, bacterial, fungal and yeast skin infections, inflamed paw pads, severe hair loss, skin thickening and oozing, and she smelled like death.'”  He stopped a moment, cocked an eyebrow and smiled.  “I find that offensive, but I’ll let it pass.  To continue: ‘After six months of veterinary care, good food and medicated shampoos, her symptoms have abated; but in less than a month off antibiotics, she starts itching and scratching again, and her belly skin starts feeling moist and it starts darkening again.  I took corn and wheat out of her diet, and she seems to tolerate sweet potatoes and potatoes, but rice might be a trigger too.  Sometimes she scratches after we go to the park — grass allergy? (heavy sigh).’”

Death set the papers down and leaned back in the chair.  “Do you remember all that?  You need to understand that Sweet Pea was on our schedule in May 2011.  You swooped in, all love and concern and cubic dollars, and scooped her up.  That’s fine with us — no problem there, the absolutely final day for a dog isn’t necessarily carved in stone — but everybody eventually has to make that appointment in Samarra.  I mean everybody and everything that lives must die.  People.  Dogs.  Snails.  Corn and wheat and peas and presidents and cats.  Fish don’t get off the hook, if you’ll pardon the pun.”  He shrugged.  “It’s nothing personal.  Come on, you remember The Lion King, the circle of life and all that? You called Sweet Pea your baby and your little girl, but she was twelve and then some, which made her a rather elderly cattle dog.  Just think about what you did for her!  Instead of being put down at the shelter after the worst time of her life, she lived an extra fifteen months with you.  That’s like, what, eight or nine human years?  Medicine, food, water, treats, walks, nonstop petting — doggie heaven on earth, right?”

I nodded, still too choked up to speak, the box of tissues close at hand.  I’d asked him here to get some answers, and I couldn’t even manage to ask the questions.

“People would stop you in the park and say, ‘What a beautiful dog!  What gorgeous fur!  How old is she, six, seven?  TWELVE?  You’re kidding!’  Did people not do this all the time?“

“Yes,” I whispered.

“And this isn’t the first time you’ve done this for an animal, you know.  Your Sheba — come on, what dog her size lives thirteen years?  Remember what your friend Clara said when she came to visit, and Sheba walked over, turned around, sat on your feet and waited for her massage?  She said, ‘Haven’t you noticed when Sheba comes to you, she’s stiff and her arthritis hurts her, and when she walks away she’s walking normally?  Your hands glow when you pet her.  They shine.  The love just pours out of your hands and makes her feel better.’  You remember that?”

“I do,” I said.  “Clara sees auras.”

“Yes.  And what did you see when the vet showed you Sweet Pea’s x-rays and ultrasound?”

“Two massive tumors in her abdomen.  I just thought she was getting fat from all the treats and her metabolism slowing down.”  I got teary again.

“That’s right.  Cancer never crossed your mind.  Why?  Because she had no pain.  Because every morning she came to you, rolled over, and you rubbed her belly and sang, ‘Oh, you beautiful dog, you great big beautiful dog…’”

I laughed, embarassed.  “You know about that?”

“Please.  I get a kick out of you.  We all do.”  He looked thoughtful.  “That very morning, didn’t she do that thing where she practically stands on her head and looks at you upside down to get you to rub her butt above her tail?  Didn’t she bound into the kitchen and gobble her breakfast?   Sure, by the time you got home that afternoon she felt too crappy to move from the hallway, but come on!  Give yourself a break!  The dog didn’t even have twenty-four hours of pain.  How long did it take your next-door neighbor to die of brain cancer?”

“I get your point,” I said, “but it still stabbed me in the heart when she turned her face away from the Thai green bean Steve put in front of her.”

“Yeah, Sweet Pea and her Thai beans.”  He smiled and nodded.  “But you didn’t just let that pass.  You got her to the vet.  You got the exams.  You saw the tumors and the pool of blood inside the big one.  You said your goodbyes, and she was gone in, what, five seconds?  Even though I’m Death, I don’t get any pleasure from the suffering of any creature.  But everybody’s got to go eventually, and let’s be honest — you’d pretty much run out the clock to the maximum on Sweet Pea.  Good call on the shot — it was going to get really ugly, really quickly.”

“So, explain something to me.”  I leaned in, looking him in the eye.  “I know it was the right thing to do, a choice that almost made itself when I saw the exam results.  Why do I feel as if I let her down?”

He sighed.  “The simple answer is, you’re half-nuts.  Most people are, or they make themselves that way eventually.” He shook his head.  “Let me point out that interspecies relationships are a two-way street.  On the one hand, you were Sweet Pea’s mommy; on the other hand, you were the alpha leader of your little pack.  This is not news to you.”  He waited; I nodded.  “The alpha has to decide what’s good for the pack and make the hard choices.  You did your job.  So don’t do your usual human bullshit with the shoulda woulda coulda.  It’s a waste of time, and it’s not a news flash that there’s more time behind you than in front.”

“Thanks for the reminder.  So, how much time do I have left?”

“That’s classified.  If I told you…” He smiled and waited for me to deliver the punchline.

“You’d have to kill me.”

“There it is.”

****** Rest In Peace, Sweet Pea, 2000 — 2012 ******

Good trips, good times — good dog.

Just thought I’d say hi to those of you who’ve kept me on your “follow” list.  The truck wheels stopped turning while I returned to college, so I haven’t posted for a while.  Anyhow, although I haven’t anything new to report on the traveling front, I did write something inspired by my studies, posted at http://tastysauce.blogspot.com/2012/07/algebra.html.  

Oh, never mind, I’ll post it here, too:


 (with my deepest apologies to Joyce Kilmer)

I think that I shall never be
A fan of x times y plus z.

Within parentheses they nest,
With pi and log and all the rest;

I sort the segment from the ray,
And disentangle i from j,

And graph parabolas with care;
I plot the points, come up for air,

And know the true source of my pain:
I’ll never use this stuff again.

The textbook’s size amazes me —
For this we sacrificed a tree!

Susan Cameron, copyright 2012


Thanks for stopping by!

We’ll talk later…  🙂







I was so involved cramming for a mathematics placement test, I forgot to post my photos of Death Valley’s Harmony Borax Works ruins.  Better late than never…

In 1883,  Chinese laborers were recruited from San Francisco and hauled out to the middle of scorching nowhere to the Harmony Borax Works, seduced by $1.30 a day wages (minus food and lodging, such as it was).  I can’t help wondering how much money the men actually cleared.

The work was straightforward and physically grueling:  scrape borax-containing “cottonball” off the desert floor, haul ore carts full of it up an incline, dump the contents into huge vats of boiling spring water, add the carbonated soda that would separate the suspended borax solution from the crud, pour the borax water into cooling tanks filled with metal rods, and chop the crystallized borax off the rods into bags.  These would be loaded and hauled off by twenty-mule teams across 165 miles of desert.  Work stopped when the desert air temperature reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  (Not for worker safety, of course; borax refuses to crystallize at those temperatures).

I think these brake pads are layers of canvas

Hmmm…dumping borax ore into boiling water in broiling desert heat.                                        Still think your job’s tough? 🙂

More money was made from borax in Death Valley than gold,
but Harmony Borax Works only lasted five years


Furnace Creek

There are a few places in hot, dry Death Valley that have water.  For example, Stovepipe Wells got its name from the “stovepipe well” nearby; sections of stovepipe had been pounded into the ground long ago to shore up the sides of a nearby well and to mark its location.  Scotty’s Castle was built because of a natural creek flowing downhill toward its location.  And here’s another spring-fed oasis:

Thanks to water provided by Furnace Creek, The Inn has been in business since 1927

You walk through a tunnel and through a magic door…    🙂

…what lies beyond?…

…and…surprise!  Lily ponds in the desert!

The music of cascading streams is soothing

Walking paths meander down the hill past streambeds, little waterfalls and lily ponds, surrounded by palms and punctuated with bougainvillea.  Tucked into flowery corners and nooks are seating areas, and the spring-fed pool is nearby:

Panamint Mountains view, and the arid desert on the other side of the trees

Hmm…an upscale resort nestled at the foot of the Funeral Mountains, south of Hells Gate, northwest of Coffin Peak, Deadman Pass and Badwater Basin, in a place called Death Valley…you’d think it would be a tough sell, wouldn’t you?  But no!

In fact, Death Valley is packed all summer with European tourists who want to see for themselves just how hot, hot can get.  Air temperatures hit 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, and ground temps can top 200 degrees.  Americans vanish in the summer like the surface water at Badwater, and leave the place to German and French travelers who want to find out if the soles of rubber-soled shoes really will melt as they walk through Death Valley.

The architects borrowed from the California Mission style -- good choice

Ubehebe Crater

Death Valley looks peaceful and unchanging, and is anything but!

This is Ubehebe Crater, near Scotty’s Castle.  Its estimated age ranges from a few hundred to 2,000 years — just an eyeblink in geologic time.

The volcano blew and left this behind

This is the biggest crater in the volcanic field at the north end of the park.  Magma crawled through fault lines and hit an underground water supply, and the superheated steam blasted this crater and smaller ones nearby.

The layers of rock are a time capsule:

Geologists can read the layers like a history book

There’s a pathway to nearby Little Hebe Crater, another down to the bottom of Ubehebe, and a trail that winds around the rim.  Volcanic activity, earthquakes, flash floods, and extremes of hot and cold all shape and reshape this land.

Trail to Little Hebe Crater

Gusts of wind at the top of the crater can just about knock you off your feet, so care is needed on the trails.

Weird thought — this view could vanish in the next explosion…