We departed Fresno after seeing Liz off at the airport, and headed east. During the trip across the Mojave Desert, we saw this odd sight, three tall towers with thousands of mirrors in circular arrays reflecting sunlight at huge solar panels (that are actually boilers). It was a dazzling sight, like something from a Star Wars movie. It is the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, the largest solar thermal power station in the world. Costing $2.2 billion, it has a 392 megawatt capacity, but has only achieved half of that output due to “clouds, contrails and weather.” (Gee, isn’t California in a drought??? That was a meteorological question, not a political barb…)
Just across the Nevada state line, I was appalled to note this garish marquee for a casino, named after one of my heroes…
William F. Cody (1846-1917), also known as Buffalo Bill, was an Army scout, a ranch hand, Pony Express rider, wagon train driver, buffalo hunter, fur trapper and showman. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action at Platte River in 1873. His Wild West Show played across the US and Europe, and brought Native Americans/Indians front and center, employing many in his shows. Seen here with Oglala Sioux chief Sitting Bull, he described them as “the former foe, present friend, the American”. As a result of his Wild West Shows, Buffalo Bill Cody was asserted to be the most recognizable celebrity on earth. Cody also was a supporter of equal rights and pay for women, and was an early conservationist, pushing for establishment of hunting seasons. I never read that he was into gambling, and that industry is mostly run by wise guys from Jersey and Vegas, not Medal of Honor winners…
Shortly after passing that casino, we needed fuel. My Lovely Bride had an interesting conversation with the clerk at a Pilot truck stop. She had gone in to pay in cash (cheaper price for diesel) and said, “I’d like to put $150 on Number 17. Oh, I’m not in Vegas yet…” The smiling young male cashier said, “Ma’am, you have about as good a chance of keeping that $150. This is private, I presume?” “What, I don’t look like a trucker?” “You’d be surprised what I’ve seen in here today. I had a man in full women’s clothing come in, and he was a trucker.” When Suzanne related this tale, my non-PC comment was, “Hey, it doubles your chances of getting a date…”
Then on to Las Vegas, where we were to meet a Pentagon colleague of Suzanne’s and her husband. Col Jill Chambers, US Army (Ret), had worked with Suzanne on the staff of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), and was the emcee at Suzanne’s retirement ceremony. I remembered her as a pixie-ish blonde dynamo with unbelievable energy and enthusiasm – much like My Lovely Bride, except for the hair color. Jill had sent Suzanne an email saying something like, “Gee, your life has changed since the Pentagon!” Jill was recently inducted into the US Army Women’s Hall of Fame for her work with This Able Vet, a non-profit which she founded, that helps veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She was also recognized as a “Next Maker” by AOL and PBS as a Trailblazer whose intellectual, physical and emotional strength have opened doors, opened minds and inspired change. We were looking forward to seeing Jill again and meeting her husband, country and western singer Michael Peterson. They live in a beautiful home on the northwest side of Las Vegas. Their wall decorations are a bit different than most people’s; that’s Michael’s Gold Record “From Here to Eternity”, which hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs in 1997; he has 5 Top 40 Hits in that genre.
Michael has also made a mark with the military by touring with the USO, and performing in Iraq, Afghanistan, and aboard deployed Navy ships. He was gracious enough to sing several songs for us that evening, and we were impressed both by his voice, lyrics and guitar skills…. (he has a room full of guitars, by the way).
Jill has one unfortunate affliction… she suffers from the “Imelda Marcos Syndrome”, although instead of stilettos and pumps, Jill collects “Chuck Taylor” sneakers… I had to Google them to find out that they are cult sneakers for women. Seems she has a pair to match any possible color outfit. (Side note: while in college, I worked for a while as a shoe salesman in an upscale department store; my boss told me that the best way to sell shoes to women was to gently rub the back of their calves as you placed the shoes on their feet. I initially thought he was nuts, but after two weeks of mediocre results with traditional sales techniques, I tried following his suggestion and my shoe sales skyrocketed, with nary a single complaint. I occasionally wonder what life might have been like had I continued in that line of work…)
After that delightful evening with Jill and Michael, I dropped Suzanne off at the Las Vegas airport for her next commitment, as keynote speaker at the Aspects of Consciousness Conference in Chapel Hill, NC, sponsored by the Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies. Her first presentation, “Getting Out of the Box… Redefining What is Real”, received a standing ovation. She also presented her “Awakened Living 301” talk and held a Sanaya session. Quite a few of her friends attended, including Beth and Mike Pasakarnis (Wolf’s parents), Scott and Robin Brown, and Bev Garlipp. Suzanne especially enjoyed being with so many kindred spirits and colleagues such as Dr. Gary and Rhonda Schwartz and famed energy worker Donna Eden. From all accounts, it was a great week.
After Suzanne departed, I broke camp and drove the coach from Las Vegas to Flagstaff, Arizona, for several days of hiking. The drive was long, but it really helped to have Rudy and Gretchen help with the driving. I was initially concerned about their legs not reaching the pedals, but with some adjustments, they did just fine, although Gretchen has a tendency to bark loudly at drivers who cut in too close in front of her. Rudy, like his Dog-Dad, prefers to use the air horn; I guess it’s a guy thing…
Flagstaff was a great place to hang out for a few days. There are dozens of hiking trails nearby, and I chose one of the hardest for my first venture: Elden Mountain Lookout trail in Coconino National Forest climbs about 2,600 feet in 2.8 miles, but the first part is relatively flat, making the middle and third sections very steep. This is the trail elevation profile… it was probably the steepest trail I’ve ever hiked.
As I was ascending, I met a young trail runner headed back down. Mark Harker is from Alloa, Scotland, and is spending his summer holiday driving across the USA. His car had broken down, so while it was being repaired, he decided to do some hiking. He was moving at a very fast pace downhill, but warned that the trail got pretty steep up ahead. Oh, to be in my 20s or 30s again…
Mark and I discussed the relative merits of Scotland’s principal contribution to haute cuisine, haggis. He was somewhat surprised to find that I actually liked haggis, which for the uninitiated is sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs), mixed with onions, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, and baked in a sheep’s stomach. (It tastes better than it sounds). Served with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), haggis is also traditionally accompanied by a wee nip of Scotch whiskey, especially on Burns Night, the birthday of Robert Burns. Mark, I hope the rest of your trip goes well and that you continue to enjoy America.
I had to take a selfie at the top to prove that I had completed the hike, and wasn’t at some girlie bar by the college. The temp here was 52F, but having worked up a sweat on the way up, it was actually quite pleasant. Until it started raining. (But, being a former Boy Scout, I was prepared; my Marmot rain jacket came in handy just after this photo was shot).
Flagstaff would prove to be a pleasant, although lonely, stopping place for five days until we met up with Suzanne in Albuquerque, another 330 miles to the east. The only disappointment was my inability to find haggis on the menu of any restaurant in town. Guess I’ll have to go back to Scotland for that culinary delight!