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I drove straight across Texas. I didn’t stop for much, but I was traveling along minor roads and it was fun to pass through towns with populations of 200-300 people.

I stayed overnight in Hope, Arkansas. Anticlimactic, yes, but I did get stopped just before the Arkansas border for not having a light on my camper plate. Geez. 20 questions later, and I got a warning and my freedom.

The next day I drove straight across Tennessee. I really like Tennessee. First Memphis, then Nashville, and I stayed the night in Knoxville. I stopped in Hurricane Mills to visit Loretta Lynn’s Ranch and Kitchen.




Kitchen first, I was hungry. I had a hickory smoked pork sandwich with fries and turnip greens. Delish. I got some crap at the gift store and then I drove out to the ranch.

NOW, I love Loretta Lynn, but what is going on here?! The museum is completely weird and has more clothes and costumes of her friends on display (Roseanne Barr’s apron? – I remember the episode) than there is of her stuff. There is an entire wall devoted to her family photos – nieces, nephews, grandkids – sweet, but… AND an entire wall devoted to Bush/Cheney – Yowza.

Photos are not allowed in the museum. I went to the gift shop and weirder than weird – it appeared that there were random items purchased at a flea market (?) that were all signed by Miss Loretta Lynn herself. The barefoot sales clerk assured me that everything was authentic. I’m talking strange unrelated items like old salt and pepper shakers. My favorite, and I’m really kicking myself for not buying it (or at least sneaking a picture), was a John Deere tractor butter dish signed “Love You, Loretta Lynn”.

I left with only one item – a Crystal Gayle tour t-shirt


I drove through the rest before ending back in Boston. I stayed my last night in the camper (for a little while, at least) in Allentown, PA.

Thanks, everyone, for all the enthusiasm and support for this project! It’s turned out to be an incredible experience. Stay tuned for more handyman projects and adventures. In the very near future, I’ll be documenting my Boston loft renovation. Down South this winter!


I left San Francisco (sadly, without Sophie) and meandered down the coast.  I stopped in on friends in Laguna Beach and spent a relaxing weekend before I started my journey back East.  I made a quick stop in Phoenix, AZ to visit an old Boston friend – it’s really been a few years?!

Next stop, Marfa, TX.

Marfa is a town in the high desert of far west Texas.  I’ve been dying to visit, especially after my friend, Anthony, returned from his adventure with rave reviews.  I’m staying at El Cosmico – a fabulous RV park and camp site.  You can rent one of their amazing RVs, pitch a tent, or squat in your own camper on the premises.

Taco and my trusty steed

I’ve been riding my bike everywhere.  There are tons of little galleries, shops and restaurants and I’ve had a blast just tooling around.  The population is a great mix of old and young, native and transplant.  Frama for coffee in the morning and then I took a drive out to Balmorhea State Park (about an hour east of Marfa). It’s located on the San Solomon Spring and there is a fantastic spring fed pool that is the perfect respite for 95 degree heat!

After taking a dip at the park, I drove through Fort Davis and got a delicious sandwich at a farm stand, some beers for Taco (and me) and some local organic coffee.  I was also randomly asked to join a roller derby team (no, I was not on skates).   Then I picked this up at a thrift store for $1 !   Double album with one of my favorite Burt Bacharach tunes!!

I returned to camp for a siesta and then headed to Padre’s for some home cooked gumbo and a margarita.  This place used to be a funeral home!

After dark, I headed to the Marfa Mystery Lights Lookout.  The sky is soooo big and clear, every star is visible.  The mystery lights are theorized to occur for different reasons:  car headlight reflections, camp fires, swamp gas, static electricity – I like to think they’re aliens.

I had booked a tour for the following day at the Chinati Foundation – a modern art museum, founded by Donald Judd in 1979.  It was once the site of Fort D.A. Russell.  Most of the art here is on permanent display.  It originally was designed to house the art of Donald Judd, John Chamberlain, and Dan FlavinCarl Andre, Ingólfur Arnarsson, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov, Richard Long, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, David Rabinowitch, and John Wesley now join the ranks as well as a handful of artists in residence.

I met up with 3 guys who were staying at El Cosmico with me – we were unintentionally rendezvousing at the same places and decided to tour around together.  We’re all headed in opposite directions.  Happy Trails, boys!

Donald Judd

Donald Judd

Carl Andre

Dan Flavin

Dan Flavin

Dan Flavin

Claes Oldenberg and Coosje Van Bruggen

John Chamberlain in the old Marfa Wool and Mohair building

John Chamberlain

After the tour, we stopped at Food Shark for lunch and a crazy, torrential downpour!

Back to camp for an outdoor shower and siesta and then I biked down to a new restaurant, The Miniature Rooster.  So delicious! I had shrimp and grits with a poached egg plopped right in the middle.  They’re famous for chicken and waffles, but it looked like an entire chicken atop a pile of waffles and Taco doesn’t like leftovers.

After dinner, I HAD to have a drink at El Paisano Hotel bar.  The cast and crew of “Giant” (Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean) made this their headquarters in the summer of 1955.  The hotel opened in 1930.

Goodbye, Marfa – I’ll be back!  Onward and Eastward…

I approached San Francisco at rush hour – ugh. I made it through the mountain passes between Reno and the California border with little struggle. Once I made it off the highway to my exit, I experienced the thrill of the San Francisco hills with Taco in tow. Thank heaven (and Noel Sr) for those new shocks!

I parked by Golden Gate Park. You can kinda, sorta do that around here. Hippie vans and campers litter the streets – the cops have their work cut out for them. I’m in the Sunset section of San Francisco visiting an old friend from high school. Heather and her partner, Wendy, are expecting a baby and I’m building a desk for Wendy so that she can move her office out of the new nursery.

The girls cooked a fabulous meal upon my arrival and we caught up on the last 20 years late into the night. The next morning, I moved my camper out in front of their house to the delight(?) of the neighbors 😉 thanks!

The previous night, Sophie scoped out her new digs and I have yet to find her. I had steeled myself for the worst before we set out on this journey. Sophie is getting on in years and her health has been slowly declining. I figured she would be happiest with me and maybe selfishly thought she would enjoy the adventure in her golden years. She loved Boise and was the happiest I had seen her in some time. I can only hope that she found some peace. I moved my truck back to the park with some food and her belongings and Heather, Murphy (the dog), and I continue to scout in the hope of finding her. I’m missing my best friend of 14 years – she’s seen me through a lot. I love and miss you, Sophie…


I worked the next few days on the new office. I visited with friends and checked out some of the local shops. Devil’s Teeth Baking Company was a notable stop. The Pittsburg Pub was a fun little watering hole. Macbeath Lumber turned out to be a gem of a find. I was looking for just the right veneer to match some existing wood in the office. Macbeath had it and more – A one stop lumber yard.

Best of all, Heather and I got to hang and reminisce about high school and growing up. Some very difficult times that sure are hilarious when you look back on them!


I hope Wendy will be happy with the finished piece! She took off to Boston on business, a couple days after I arrived. I enjoyed my stay in San Francisco. I hope to come back soon. Thanks  Heather and Wendy!  You completely spoiled me!


I left Boise by noon and with all systems in good working order. I stopped in Winnemucca, NV for dinner and a little rest. The Martin Hotel in Winnemucca was established in 1898 and is listed in the register of historic places. It was once a stopping place for area cattle ranchers and sheep herders. They specialize in Spanish food – there is a large Basque population out in these parts.



I sat at the bar flanked by construction workers and Ruth Rockillina (Rockillina is her middle name). Ruth’s long time boyfriend is the head chef, so I asked her what her favorite dish is. She replied, without hesitation, that the King’s Ribeye is the best by far – so tender that you don’t even need teeth (she showed me her toothless gums to prove it).

I couldn’t argue with that testimonial. My teeth and I ordered the “Ribeye Lite”. Lori, the bartender, asked “Are you sure, hon?”.

First course: Soup AND a salad AND baked beans.

Second course: a chorizo and hominy dish (so good), carrots and mashed potatoes.

A ribeye the size of my face appeared before me with a platter of fries.

I got about a quarter of the way through the steak when I sheepishly asked for a take-away bag. I wasn’t even aware that bread pudding was part of this deal. The steak was as good as Ruth promised and I look forward to eating it for the next several meals.

I chatted with the guys at the bar. They all wanted to know who I was and what brought me to Winnemucca. I told them what I was up to and we talked a little shop. I was then pronounced owner of the biggest set of balls in the room and beers would have kept coming my way had I not graciously declined and hopped back into the truck. Martin Hotel = rad.



Earlier that day, I reserved a lot at Chism RV Park in Reno. This park opened in 1927 and is purported to be Reno’s oldest. I arrived after dark and fell promptly asleep.

The next day, I took some time to repack the camper and tidy up. The facilities at Chism Park are pretty nice and I even did some laundry. I left Reno at noon.

California, here I come!

I’m back in Boise to finish the projects I started – a wall of bookcases for Noel Sr’s studio, and a pantry/laundry/work space for Noel Jr. The cabinets are assembled – it was time to mill the hardwoods for the doors, drawer fronts and face frames. The bookcase is entirely maple. The pantry is mahogany, with maple interiors.

I’ve been using the CNC router at the shop more and more and I like it. I was around to spy on and sometimes assist with jobs in production – from signs to wine racks, concept to finish. The sweetest application for this machine has been to cut out little dinosaur party favors for Alisdair’s 4th birthday party.

Alisdair’s mom, Julianna owns and manages a shop with business partner, Chelsea. Bricolage is a boutique full of inspiration and fabulous gifts – and it’s in the process of moving to the Webers’ studio compound in August. Also part of this conglomerate is Boise Art Glass. Great things are happening and the crew is gearing up for First Thursday – a gallery walk for the public to check out and support local artisans.


Later in the week, I assisted Noel with work at a new restaurant.




I love Boise. There are lots of great shops and restaurants. The Flying M Coffee House is one of my favorite stops. I think Noel and I spent a little too much time at Red Feather and Bitter Creek, and I adore the Modern Hotel and Lounge. People are fantastic, the sun is out until 10PM, and retreats into nature are just minutes away. We worked day and night – we broke production for Boise’s finest.

It’s challenging to work with my portable tools and produce fine carpentry – I don’t have the systems and controls that I have at my shop. I make it work and I like the challenge. I was counting on Noel to fill some voids in my portable arsenal. A tool neither of us has is a jointer! This machine planes rough lumber on two sides at a right angle. Having two sides at a perfect 90 degrees allows you to cut the other two sides to form square/rectangular pieces. I planed the faces of each plank and used the CNC router to true up the edges so that I could make doors and glue up pieces for drawer fronts.


While I was milling lumber, Noel was making a form to cast a concrete sink surround for a cast iron, enameled work sink.


The maple slabs were cut to fit around the concrete slab. All wood surfaces were hand rubbed with boiled linseed oil.





Noel Sr. also has a rough maple slab as a countertop, but his had a big split at one end and it was just a few inches too short. To lengthen the board, to attempt to keep the board from splitting further, and to give the open end of the built-in the natural edge that the rest of the piece has, I came up with this and I hope for the best. You just can’t control how a giant slab of solid maple will behave over time. Give it room to move.



Both guys need to get glass for their doors. Noel Jr plans to sand blast his. I’m looking forward to seeing both projects completely finished and put to use.

I spent the fourth of July in Boise – Noel and I caught the parade after a delicious brunch. Then we biked around to a few celebrations. Lawn explosives!




I’m sad to leave, but I must keep truckin’. I had a blast in Boise. Thanks Noel, Noel & Lucy for a wonderful stay! Noel Sr made an appointment for my old truck to replace the squeaky serpentine belt and put new shocks on her rear end. Now I don’t look like I’m about to take off into the galaxy! Thanks again!

Now, off to San Francisco. I might stay in Reno along the way…


I left Taco in Boise to meet Kelly in Seattle over the weekend.

One of Kelly’s besties, Shena, lives there and girlfriend, Lizzie, was sweet enough to put us up… Seattle is my kinda town, if it weren’t for the dreary skies. Flowers and fruits are to die for, good coffee abounds, and everyone is super chill. There is a tight little queer community here, though only one lesbian bar. We were staying in Capitol Hill just before Pride 🙂

We did some gay things over the weekend – caught “Pride American Idol” and bar hopped a bit before finishing the night at the “Wild Rose“.

Since everyone was working Monday, Kelly and I took the opportunity to do touristy things.


Pike Place Market


Space Needle


Fremont Troll

We stayed only 2 days in Seattle before heading back to Boise – lots of distractions along the way.

First stop gas and a burger

Then gas and a winery! Goose Ridge Wineries is one of the best places to get sidetracked.



I had reservations at the Miracle Hot Springs of Buhl, ID in exchange for helping Noel on a job in Twin Falls. Some LEDs needed to be adjusted in a series of donor wall installations at St. Luke’s Hospital and veneers needed to be applied to the sides of each. Easy job, good deal!



We stayed in Twin Falls for dinner. Canyon Crest had unbelievable views, fantastic service, and the food was pretty good, too.



The Miracle Hot Springs are amazing. We pulled in to our little RV plot with hookups (this time, I took Taco). We had 2 hours in our own hot spring “hot tub” followed by two massages. Very cool, very relaxing.


The next day, Noel threw a pizza party for my birthday. The perfect finale to year 35!






I decided to drive straight through and arrived in Boise, Idaho, before dark. I’m visiting my friend, Noel, and helping with some cool projects around the house and at the family owned shop, “Classic Design Studios“. The Webers make signs and will fabricate just about anything you send their way – they have the tools and ingenuity to do it.

I arrived just in time for the weekend! Noel had a trip planned for Saturday morning in the foothills of Idaho City. He and dad were foraging for morel mushrooms and invited me along.

I hate mushrooms.

That’s harsh… I will eat anything and have the appetite to back it all up, but I’ve never been a fan of the fungi. I love gathering my own food and I loved morel mushrooms (especially in a butter bath).


Noel and I spent the next few days bopping around town and planning the built-in pantry he had been envisioning since my impending visit, 6 months ago. He salvaged some gorgeous slabs of 2 inch (+) thick, hard maple – aged for over 2 years and milled flat for countertops. So exciting!



Noel’s shop has a computer numerical control (CNC) machine. These machines read computer drawings and operate tools to exact replicas in the desired material. This machine moves on x, y and z axis. I’m an old-fashioned gal with an arsenal of dead hobbyist’s tools of the 50s and 60’s. I was the last person to use email. I had my doubts.

We had about a dozen sheets of plywood that needed to be cut down and machined for the assembly of pantry cabinets in Noel Jr’s house and a wall of bookcases for the parents’ (Noel’s and Lucy’s) house. We started by mapping out all of the pieces on the computer to get the best yield on the sheet goods.


Normally, I draw a bunch of cartoons with my measurements and drop it off at my lumber yard for them to cut everything down for me. 50 cents a cut saves my back and my nerves. It’s a real pain getting large materials into my basement shop. Once I have the parts cut, I can machine them for assembly. With Noel’s fancy machine, you barely have to touch the material – technology does it all.




My lasting impression of this tool is that it is completely awesome if you are doing lots of intricate machining (signs) or if you have multiples of a single pattern to machine. For this job, I could have done it faster and with equal precision, but I’m getting old and tired 😉 I bow to the mighty machine.

Here are some photos of the project from start to middle. I’m taking a brief vacation to meet Kelly in Seattle, WA. She’s returning to Boise with me and will fly back to Boston after we spend some time at the Miracle Hot Springs of Buhl, ID. I need to rejuvenate before completing my work in Boise and continuing on with my west coast tour…





The drive through the rest of Nebraska was swell – When I crossed into Wyoming, however, the highway narrowed to 2 lanes and the speed limit increased to 75 mph. The traffic around me (including the big rigs) was going at least 80. The terrain is absolutely gorgeous, though I wasn’t able to fully appreciate it all as I was busy digesting the heart that I inadvertently swallowed. The winds were terrific and nearly swept me off my feet when I got out at a pull-off to check everything and take a breather. My truck, with Taco in tow, struggles to do 40 on inclines – good thing she’s cute.

I arrived in Laramie late in the day. I gained an hour with the changing time zone, but I was exhausted and hit the hay soon after I pulled into yet another Walmart parking lot.



Laramie is internationally known for the murder of gay student, Matthew Shepard, back in 1998. I usually get a handful of messages from members of the LGBT community as I pass through each location. I didn’t get a single one in Laramie.

I awoke before dawn hoping to get an early start on the next leg of my journey. There was a severe weather alert for later that afternoon – winds at 55 mph and flooding of the Laramie River.

I went to start my truck and got chugging instead of revving – Good grief. I called AAA again. Within 30 minutes, I got a tow to a garage. Again, my rescuer was super nice and friendly, even though I roused him out of bed. I always expect people to admonish me for my tiny truck with livelihood in tow. Instead, most people are respectful and even show some admiration. My rescuer related that he lived in his truck 2 years before moving in with his new lady friend. Everyone has a story.

I waited for the prognosis. Bad news… Rich Avery, the manager at Laramie GM Auto Center, called and regretfully informed me that another part had to be ordered for my truck. A part that would take 2 days to arrive! What in the world was I going to do?! I was stuck at the Walmart parking lot for two more days!

Rich asked if there was anything he could do to make life easier for me, sounding more dismayed than I was at that point! They have a shuttle that runs all over from the shop. Rich’s wife, Cindy, drives the shuttle a few days a week in addition to running her business, Piper Green Valley Ranch (100 head of cattle). I asked if they wouldn’t mind charging my power inverter. I was using power faster than my solar panel could provide. Without my car battery as backup (I charge as I drive) my phone battery was dying and that was causing me to panic a little.

Cindy pulled up in the shuttle, took one look at me and said, “I’ll be back with my truck in a few hours. I’ll hitch you up and you’ll stay at my place. Tomorrow, we play.”

I had dinner with the family that night. Daughters, Kendahl and Christa, are home for the summer. After dinner, I retired to my camper.

The next day was AMAZING! I accompanied Cindy to the vet with the 3 dogs. Two of them needed minor surgery. We came back to the house and did a few chores.




Then the real fun began! Cindy and Kendahl saddled up two horses – Rebel and Mickey. We loaded an off-road, 4 wheeler with tools and fencing equipment, and I drove behind those two on horseback, into the pastures. Cindy restretched wire fencing in places and worked on a gate while Kendahl and I stapled and secured the wire to the posts. When we were done with the fence, it was my turn to ride Mickey and try my hand at cattle herding. It was fantastic!







That night, we had some delicious sirloin steaks from one of the herd, “Ribeye”.

The next morning, Cindy was getting calls that some of the cows escaped. We scouted the area and found them where they were supposed to be – false alarm! While we were out, Cindy noticed an electric fence that needed fixing, or the cows soon would be roaming. Fence repair became our first task of the day.



Next task was to straighten out some of the irrigation lines that Cindy had installed across the land, fix some parts, and make sure that the watering holes were filling properly for the cattle.


After that was fixed, Cindy gave me a lesson in how to break a horse. “Freedom”, a new mare, needed breaking in so she may eventually be saddled and ridden.



You have to be the boss while simultaneously earning their trust. Cindy handed boss duties over to me while she started cleaning the corral. I think I need a little more breaking in!



Then I got to ride “Handsome”. He’s already been broken.


Then, my turn to clean the corral.



By this time, my truck was just about ready. I think we were all hoping they would find something else wrong with it! They had me stay for dinner again and I would set out early the next morning.

Things I got from this experience:

– a terrible tan/wind burn line across my forehead where my bandana was.

– debunking of the myth of “cow tipping”. Can’t happen. Anyone who says they’ve done it is a big old liar.

– the desire to come back for a visit every year for a little “Ranch Therapy”, visit my new friends, and start my career in the rodeo 😉

Rich, Cindy and the girls were the best adoptive family a Walmart orphan could hope for and I can’t thank them enough for their kindness and generosity, for the adventure, and for the opportunity to further restore my faith in humanity.

You guys are the best!


Thank you, thank you, thank you!

On the morn of my departure, Cindy knocked on my camper door with breakfast, food for the road, suckers for the road, and her pocket knife. I nearly cried.

Salt Lake City, Utah next? Unless I can high-tail it to Boise, Idaho.

Another dreamy drive…

The Midwest has lots of wind turbines

Looks like I’m staying at another Walmart. I’m exceptionally pleased with the whole Walmart experience. You can say whatever you want about the place – I say the security is great and the employees are incredibly friendly, helpful, and don’t even bat an eye when they see me come in and out to use the facilities – and it’s FREE.

Have I mentioned how much I love my portable toilet? The Fiamma bi pot 30 is super compact, easy to use, and beautifully designed for effortless disposal and cleaning. It saves me from late night trips to public restrooms.

Well then…

My friend, Bob, grew up in Omaha and had some great suggestions for bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, many of them were closed on Sunday. After dinner (pale in comparison to Marge’s cooking), I biked out to Brother’s Lounge… and back. Next time! It has great reviews and is a well respected establishment in the area. Nearly 10 miles for an Aquafina – I needed the excercise!

Special thanks to Diane, of Lincoln, for the kind words and encouragement. She contacted me just as I was leaving Nebraska. I’ll give you a shout next time I’m rolling through. I would love to help your mom out with any projects she has!

Next stop – Laramie, Wyoming!

Camanche lies on the Mississippi River, just a few hours from Chicago. The drive was great – flat and boring! Miles and miles of farm land for long stretches at a time. I was there to visit my friend Audrey’s family… I’ve been threatening to visit for months.

I arrived in the afternoon, took another much needed shower and jumped in the car with Marge and Larry to get a tour of the area. First stop, Nutrition Plus, in Clinton – Ron and Carey own this fantastic health store. I got my chlorophyl supplement, a tour of the store and a peek at all the improvements Ron and sons, Austin and Wade, were making. Smoothie bar with wifi, gym, and batting cages – If I lived in Clinton, I’d be there every day! Next stop, Eagle Point Park. There are gorgeous views of the Mississippi, 5 miles wide, and I got to see the lock where the barges pass. Pretty amazing. Yummy Italian at Rastrelli’s in Clinton.

Next day, Marge made bacon and eggs 🙂 and then I drove out to meet Ron at Clinton Church of Christ to see if I could lend a hand with the garage roof replacement. It was HOT and thunderstorms were in the forecast. The guys started at 6AM, hoping to beat the rains.

While we were working, these lovely ladies were fixin lunch –

After a delicious lunch, I went to Blain’s Farm & Fleet to get an oil change and a new pair of work pants! I literally spent two hours in here (while I waited for my truck) and enjoyed every minute. You can find just about anything at this place. Loved it!

Back to Marge and Larry’s for another fabulous home cooked meal followed by a visit to Natalie and Kent’s beautiful home. Thanks for such a warm welcome and giving me a taste of home.

Thanks Marge and Larry for putting me up! Biscuits and gravy in the morning and then Omaha, Nebraska!