Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 in Retrospect

The final countdown of the year always make me think about what happened over the course of the past 365 days.

Each year seems to have a theme, or a certain quality. 2005 was a very difficult year, for example. My mother died in March and we had a serious accident with our first Airstream trailer on July 4th. (Our "big boom!")

2006 wasn't as difficult. We spent the summer touring Canada with the show (better then than in winter!), and unfortunately had to put down our dear cat Mary while at our first stop, in Vancouver. She had been ailing for several months.

2007 has been a very eventful year, with many changes.

A year ago today, James and I left Bisbee by car to go back on the road with Phantom. Our destination was Toledo, Ohio. Our first overnight stop was Albuquerque. It had just snowed a record 22 inches, and I-40 was closed. We were stuck at a Motel 6 for three days!

We barely made it to my first rehearsal for the show (2000 miles away), two days later.

In January, my 90-year-old father contracted pneumonia and went into the hospital. He was in and out of various facilities for the next six weeks, and died on February 17th.

My final show with Phantom was the next day!

James and I came home to Bisbee and experienced a "crash course" in small-town politics and small-town mindsets. We must have been wearing blinders for the past five years!

Our house was filmed for national television (HGTV) on April 9th, because of James' wonderful artwork inside and out. What an experience that was!

On May 15th (the day after James' birthday) we decided to move to Northern California. The first of several trips took place a few days later.

On June 9th, my brother Buzz hosted a wonderful Memorial for my parents at the family house in Sacramento. Many friends and relatives attended, and we shared many special moments which I'll treasure always.

We went back to Bisbee a few days later and started packing. Then we realized that we needed to prepare the California place better to accomodate all our stuff! So we went back to CA on July 6th to clean out the barn.

We didn't return to Bisbee until past the middle of August. We packed up the rest of our stuff and rented a small truck to haul it to our new home.

It's hard to believe that we haven't been in Bisbee since the end of summer!

We've been fixing up the place here In The Woods, and have come a long way since late Spring. And an even longer way to go! ;)

I have been pleased to get some horn work in Sacramento and San Jose since October. My most recent stint was playing the Nutcracker in San Jose. It had been eleven years since I had performed this wonderful holiday music, and it really put me in the mood!

So it has been an excellent year, taken all around. James and I are very happy in our "little piece of heaven" (as our Florida friend Arlene just termed it).

May 2008 bring each and every one of you happiness and prosperity!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mixed Emotions

I just received word this morning that a former musician colleague of mine was killed in a motorcycle accident on Tuesday night.

He was riding his motorcycle down a two-lane highway and hit someone in a pickup truck turning into the roadway. Mark was immediately killed while the lone occupant of the truck was uninjured.

How tragic. Mark leaves a wife and three teenaged children behind.

I feel a combination of sadness and guilt. The first is totally understandable. The second is a bit more difficult to process.

You see, Mark was not well-liked in one of the orchestras I played in. He was Personnel Manager for a number of years and did some things which were definitely not supportive of the musicians, whom he was supposed to represent.

He was also a bridge between musicians and orchestra Management. This is a very difficult position for someone who was also a member of the orchestra. One foot in each camp, so to speak. Which way was the wind going to blow?

I think that it's best to hire a Personnel Manager who's not a musician in the orchestra, but this does not often happen.

Some orchestra personnel managers lean more towards the musicians, while others favor Management. The former sometimes lose or quit their jobs, so it is no wonder that the latter wants to "play it safe".

In late 1990, Mark went out of his way to disenfranchise one of the musicians in the orchestra.

The musician in question took one sick day a year, during the run of Nutcracker ballets in December. He took off for a matinee and was back in time to play the evening performance. It was sort of a long-standing "tradition", understood by musicians and even the conductor that this person would take off in order to go skiing. A sub was always notified in advance.

This was no big deal, although it wasn't strictly "kosher". This particular musician did not abuse sick-leave at any other time during the nine-month orchestra season, unlike many of his colleagues (including Mark).

But Mark and another musician who had a bone to pick with this person, decided to take matters into their own hands.

They followed the "sick" musician up to the ski resort in the Sierras with a video-camera, and documented his activities away from the orchestra.

This resulted in a suspension of the musician for an entire month. No pay.

You can see why I have mixed emotions about this. One can say that Mark was just doing his job. But most members of the orchestra were horrified at this Gestapo-like behavior, going to such lengths to discredit this musician.

Also, this event came at the worst possible moment, because the musicians were then embroiled in contract negotiations with Management. (I was on the Orchestra Committee, in the thick of all this.)

The organization had just hired a new Executive Director, who needed to flex his muscles and show the musicians "who was boss".

Mark chose to align himself with the Executive Director rather than with the musicians, who were fighting pay cuts and new restrictive work rules proposed by Management. Together, they undermined the musicians' position.

This video-taping event ripped the orchestra apart. It was the beginning of a very long, agonizing, lingering demise of the organization. It wasn't the cause of its eventual death in 1996, but it was the first nail in the coffin.

There were many hard feelings. The other musician who had participated in the videotaping made a public apology, but was never quite forgiven over the next six years of the orchestra's existence.

Mark held fast to his beliefs that the "sick" musician was in the wrong.

Technically Mark was correct. But the lengths he went to to discredit this musician seemed overly harsh, especially at such a vulnerable time for the musicians at the bargaining table. It had devastating effects on the orchestra, and ultimately on the entire community when the organization declared bankruptcy six years later.

A few months following this incident, Mark stepped down as Personnel Manager. Shortly thereafter, he resigned from the orchestra.

Sigh. I do feel sad that Mark was killed. It is very tragic, and my heart goes out to his wife, children, family and friends who have lost him so suddenly.

I had not intended to go on so long about this, or even write about it at all. But I do feel that I've released something in the process.

Rest in peace, Mark.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Late Sunday night, the patter of rain on our tin roof changed to the sizzle and plop of snow, as we had hoped.

James threw one last log on the fire in the Franklin stove as we went to bed, burrowing under the layers of quilts and blankets, greeting the immediate warmth of flannel sheets.

A few hours later, the snow had accumulated an inch. It was a light storm at this relatively low elevation of 2600 feet, with higher accumulations further up the Sierras, just a few miles away.

There was another inch by the time we got out of bed at 8:30 Monday morning.

I stayed snuggled in the warm bed while James went out with the camera to capture the beauty of the snow on the trees near our barn compound.

After I got out of bed, I took a picture of the view from my computer chair, looking out the windows:

Then I brought out the video camera to capture our cat Rupert's first experience with snow here. He might have seen it in his previous incarnation in Vancouver, but we will never know for sure.

We'd like to think that this was Rupert's first time. For the sake of dramatic license.

I spent several hours on the video yesterday. After editing, I added original music and subtitles.

It's the first time I've ever tried setting music to video; something I've always wanted to do. In a parallel universe, I would have liked to become a movie soundtrack composer.

After several fits and starts, I managed to post Rupert's video on his blog. Please check it out, and Rupert welcomes your comments!

The Adventures of Rupert

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Same Blog in two different places

I started with Blogger a couple of years ago, then switched to WordPress because I liked its overall lay-out better.

But today I have decided to revive my (renamed) blog here on Blogger because it is javascript-enabled, which means that I can use the syndication service BlogRush. Hopefully my blog will get more traffic as a result.

I will continue to post in my WordPress blog of the same name.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Ray of Hope?

A few days ago, I hesitated to post my earlier entry about my Dad being on his deathbed, because now several days later, he "ain't gone YET!"

I just now spoke on the phone with my brother Buzz, who said that Dad was transferred to the hospital yesterday after being in a "skilled nurse facility", and is actually hanging in there. The doctors have stabilized Dad's heart (apparently he'd had a heart attack somewhere in the past several days!) and are now getting a grip on his ongoing pneumonia infection.

Buzz and my oldest brother Chris conferred with the doctors today, who suggested that there's an option of a more "aggressive" treatment of IVs that could be tried.

My brothers don't want this to happen, and I absolutely agree; this should NOT be done. Dad is ninety years old and has already suffered so much in the past few weeks; he doesn't need more needles stuck in him now! The doctors are already pursuing a reasonable, non-invasive course of treatment.

The next 24 to 48 hours will be the determining factor, which way Dad's condition will go. If it deteriorates, my brothers and I agree that there should be no more "feeding tubes". We all know that Dad would not want this. Let the man die with dignity if he chooses to check out!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hooters byline on their website: "Delightfully tacky, YET UNREFINED"

I don't believe it -- James, Ricklen and I just went to HOOTERS for lunch!

This could have been an episode from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy".

None of us had ever been to this Bastion Of Straightdom before, and James and I always been curious "what the big deal" is about this chain of advertised buxom, revealing smorgasbord of delights.

Now we KNOW. There IS no big deal -- at least at this far-flung Hooters location in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Hopefully it's more cloying in more exotic locations, for you straight guys. Here, they weren't very responsive, interested, or stimulated by the female employees in the Breadbasket of Amurrrika.

The food was definitely below-average, and the waitresses were attractive enough -- but they sure didn't look like the strippers as I had expected from the advertising.

What fun is that? These young women just looked freezing cold in their scanty short pants and low-cut blouses. Oh well, I guess a girl's gotta make a living!

Our waitress was a slim mulatto girl with frizzy, burnt reddish hair. She introduced herself as "Tyke". (As little kid?)

She seductively smoothled down a post-it note with "Tyke" and a happy face on our table after our drink order, to make sure we'd remember her.

Mission accomplished!

It was two o'clock on a Monday afternoon so the place wasn't very crowded. However, there was a boisterous table behind us with two guys and a gal, busily playing a video machine which involved firing with a gun. They were whoopin' and hollerin' at top volume during most of our lunch. Woo-hoo!

Then there were the four guys at a neighboring table, subconsciously begging for makeovers. (If they only knew. Hey guy, please lose the Bill Cosby multi-colored, bulky sweater and beige chinos!)

Our waitress "Tyke" sat herself down companionably at our table (is this a Hooter-ism? Anyway it was a "first") and breathily asked what we'd like to drink. I glanced at her low-cut blouse, when she gently wagged her chest back and forth as she stared soulfully into my eyes, huskily whispering the drink menu.

Again...a girl's gotta make a living. I bet she has some interesting stories to tell about this job!

The menu did not include Vodka, or any hard alcohol. Just beer and wine. But we could "walk on the wild side" with sangria. (UH-oh! Were we detected??)

I went for a wheat beer on tap. Ricklen had a half-bottle of white whine. James had a Pepsi.

When the four guys arrived at the next table, I couldn't stop thinking about that show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" who might/could work wonders with them. There was LOTS of material to work with: bad haircuts all around; rumpled shirts which didn't even remotely go with the pants, the Bill Cosby multi-colored reminded me of kids at their first day of Kindergarten, dressed haphazardly without their mommy paying attention.

Sorry guys....there's nothing really wrong with your was just sort of a shock to be jolted into this emphatically straight world.

This was wake-up call to Mainstream America, which James and I usually don't participate in. I appreciate it, actually -- it provides a perspective.

Wow -- I guess we're really weird. And that's okay.

At the end of our visit, to wrap it all up, "Tyke" sat back down at our table and asked if everything was okay. Yes, my dear, it was fine. Thanks for joining us.

What a different world. Fascinating and informative.

But not to be repeated anytime soon.

Oooohhhh...I can hardly wait to GO HOME!!!!

Friday, February 09, 2007

My dad is "checking out"

I just got a call from my brother Buzz who said that my dad is getting quite a bit weaker, and isn't expected to live long. He's been in the rehab facility for a couple of weeks, and his body systems are shutting down -- he's not eating or drinking, and hasn't spoken in several days. Apparently he can still hear. Buzz and my other brother Chris are talking to him a lot.

Dad hasn't been able to recover after his bout with pneumonia last month, which is not surprising for a ninety-year-old person.

Buzz is now having a meeting with the doctors, and hopes that Dad can spend his last moments at home -- maybe rent a hospital bed. I sure hope that this can happen, so Dad can be in a warm, familiar environment, surrounded by his family. Except for me, of course....

I'm struggling with this situation, wondering if I should fly home now.

But basically Dad & I don't have any unfinished business. The last time I spoke with him on the phone a few weeks ago (while I was in Toledo), I told him how much I love him, and he said, "I love you too, Cam".

I don't know if my presence would make much of a difference at this point, for Dad or for the rest of the family. Is this weird of me to think?

I've always been the odd man out, and am on a different wavelength than the rest of my family. I don't know if they could accept the kind of comfort and perspectives that I could offer now, anyway.

It's is suggesting that I come home. They know I'm on the road with Phantom. When my mother died nearly two years ago, I was in Boston playing the show. As a theatre person herself, Mom wouldn't have wanted me to "make a fuss" and come home as she was dying. I can hear her in my mind's eye: "Cam, you have a job to do. So DO it!"

I'm thinking that my dad understands this, too, and that his pragmatic side would agree that there would be no point for me to come home now. He's "checking out", no question. My coming home won't change that, and although my presence wouldn't be unwelcome, I'm thinking now that it wouldn't make much difference.

Such a dilemma.

So now I await updates on Dad's condition.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I am SOOO tired of being cold!

This frigid weather is ridiculous. I've never been as cold as I have been here in Des Moines for the past two weeks. In my entire life!

The temperature has not once risen above 14 degrees, and it's dropped as low as -11. I'd say that the thermometer has stayed in the 5-degree range pretty much the whole time.

A small blessing: it has been mostly sunny, and our hotel window faces southwest, so we're getting decent light.

My body is not only rebelling against this bitter cold, it is also reacting adversely to all the chemicals and salt thrown on the roads to de-ice them. I'm coughing and my chest feels congested, but it's not really a cold. I really believe that it's because of the road chemicals.

James and I have visited the nearby shopping mall a few times to get some exercise, "doing our laps" around and around both bottom and top floors. Other people have the same idea. It's just too cold for us, at least, to exercise outdoors.

I have a blogging friend who jogs in this kind of weather (you know who you are!) and I admire her for being able to cope with it. But I cannot. Being a native Californian, it's just not in my blood. I've never been able to get used to really cold weather.

Good thing I live in Arizona, and will be going back there soon!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fun at the Grocery Store

This afternoon, James and I went to the Kroger grocery store we've visited several times in suburban Toledo and had a rather amusing experience at the check-out counter.

Our groceries are mostly fresh vegetables, which have item numbers that the clerk needs to enter. The pleasant-faced, middle-aged woman clerk was apparently new to the job, because it took her a long time to find each item number for the veggies. She asked the help of a much younger, sort of punk big gal with darkly-dyed magenta hair and sporting a nose-ring (who must have been an experienced Kroger clerk, maybe even a manager) for the item numbers. Miz Punk barked them out while glaring at the clerk along with James and me, because we were engaging the clerk in conversation and possibly distracting her.

The fortyish sour-faced woman behind us in line had only a few items, mostly cosmetics and what used to be called "sundries" -- oh, how old-fashioned this makes me sound! -- and she became more and more impatient for the clerk to finish ringing up our groceries. Her face became increasingly sour as our transaction proceeded to lengthen into a full-fledged "visit", as James chatted up this clerk.

Meanwhile, I went to my usual "post" at the foot of the counter with my own canvas bags, to stow the groceries myself. This in itself is considered "weird" in most stores. I usually encounter resistance from the baggers, and at the very least, surprise. Sometimes it's fun to tweak them and other times it's tiring to deal with their hostility.

Miz Punk shot me an exasperated look when I said, "You really know your vegetables!" as the new clerk asked her for yet another item number.

I don't think that these clerks are used to "socializing", as James and I always try to do with such people. He tries to lighten things up and add a bit of personal interaction to an otherwise robotic, frantic world.

I guess we're really weird.

This new clerk was clearly taken with us, asking the usual question if we were twins or at least related. "No", we told her, although sometimes we lie and say "Yes, how nice of you to notice".

She made the observation that we looked "fashionable and unusual, like movie stars from Beverly Hills!" and James told her that we tour with Phantom.

Then James told her the story of being in a grocery check-out line at Straub's in St. Louis, when (another) black clerk asked the same twin/brother question, and James quipped, "No, we're not, but you know we white guys all look alike!" Everyone within earshot had cracked up.

But today in Toledo, the sour-faced woman behind us flinched after hearing this story, and shifted one impatient foot to the other.

The clerk seemed to find it faintly amusing, but she didn't know quite how to react. Miz Punk manager, however, did not find it funny at all.

As the veggies made their leisurely way down the conveyor belt and I put them carefully into the two canvas bags, I made a point of smiling at the impatient woman as well as Miz Punk. James also included them in his witty repartee, which served only to irritate them further.

This in turn amused me all the more; the whole thing began to assume truly comical proportions as well as surreal ones.

James apologized to the woman behind us for taking so long, and her glare imperceptibly softened, but only for a fleeting instant. She stubbornly held onto her impatience and irritation.

Oh, what a cold world we have become! Most of us are in such a HURRY these days, getting bent out of shape at the least delay. People forget to breathe.

And heaven forbid that one should try to engage them in any personal interaction! I'd say that at least half the store clerks don't know how to respond to our pleasantries.

I almost burst out laughing when the clerk messed up James' credit card transaction and had to begin again. I flashed a smile at the woman behind him, shrugging my shoulders. Her glare deepened.

As we finally took our leave, I said to the woman, "Thank you for your patience" and she nodded her head curtly, while the clerk looked rather surprised.

At least we brought a little joy and entertainment to this new clerk on the job, and diffused whatever "angst" that may have existed in the situation of fumbling for item numbers. Perhaps she felt pressured by the manager who was standing impatiently at her elbow. And the woman in line behind us was NOT amused, but that was her issue, and her choice.

As James and I pulled out of the parking lot in our (equally weird) Scion XB, I waved at the impatient woman who had just emerged from the store, while James smiled at her.

This little scenario makes me yearn for the relative grace and laid-back atmosphere of our beloved town of Bisbee, Arizona, where folks are not such in a hurry and are more friendly. It won't be long before we're back home, thank God!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

In Northwestern Ohio, at last

Quoting part of my previous entry: "We will be driving, and hope to avoid the interesting weather we've been 'enjoying' in the West lately."

No such luck.

James and I left Bisbee on Saturday, December 30th just before noon, and all was smooth until we reached Albuquerque at 7:30 p.m.

We had first noticed the snow, dusted along I-25 just past Socorro, 75 miles south of Albuquerque. It was just a trace at first. As we headed further northward, the snow upgraded from "dusting" to "blanket". Bigger mounds of the white stuff were piled along the road's edges.

By the time we arrived in Albuquerque, it was obvious that a major snow event had taken place in the past few hours.

James' usual prescience kicked in when he suggested that we stop at a Motel 6 south of town for the night, rather than brave I-40 in the dark. We would face it in the morning.

We got our first inkling at the magnitude of this storm when we noticed the foot-high stack of snow atop the low, umbrella-shaped bushes flanking the Motel 6 lobby. It must have come down in a WHOOOSH, in a very few short hours.

"Yes, indeed", the motel clerk told us at the front desk. The area had received eight inches of accumulation during the previous week's storm (the one which socked in the Denver airport for two days before Christmas) but then on the 30th, over SIXTEEN more inches fell that afternoon, only several hours before our arrival.

We were lucky to get a motel room. Most of the guests had been stuck there for an extra day. We got the second-to-last room available.

I turned on the TV for the local news, which announced that I-40 was closed from the Tramway exit north of town all the way eastward to Tucumcari, not far from the Texas border. This is a distance of 175 miles! Police were not able to say when this major highway would be open.

Road crews were in the process of de-icing the very treacherous roads and there were hundreds of travelers stranded along the highway, especially in the Clines Corners area, 60 miles east of Albuquerque. Efforts were being made to escort them to nearby shelters. But many ended up spending that long, cold night in their vehicles.

Had James and I not stopped for the night, WE would have been among them. This would have driven me absolutely bonkers.

Those poor people.

I-40 was closed all day Sunday, the final day of 2006, and through the night. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The highway was finally re-opened on Monday morning, January 1st, but with warnings to drive slowly and carefully because of the widespread ice.

We left Albuquerque shortly before 10 a.m.

The highway was indeed treacherous in spots. Traffic was often backed up for miles as the endless string of boxy trucks snaked into the distance. The left lane was often crusted with ice, from the banks of snow trickling down from the divider, which meant that traffic had to go in the right lane.

Stop and go. We inched slowly forward, off and on for several hours.

There had been thick fog overnight, which froze in the frigid temperatures. It coated all the trees along the highway with a filligree of sparkling crystal, which was indeed beautiful but added to the ice danger on the road.

The snow was indeed thicker at Cline's Corners, and my heart went out to all those hapless travelers who had been stranded there for 24 hours. What a mess that must have been!

Luckily the sun was shining and the temperatures crept above freezing as Monday progressed, and so we finally reached Tucumcari in early afternoon.

I suggested that we stop at Denny's for lunch, which turned out to be an unfortunate decision, as everyone else on the highway had the same idea. As we parked our Scion in the icy lot, several groups of people queued into the building and there were groups of people walking up quickly behind us.

This Denny's location in Tucumcari was half-asleep with minimal staff on New Year's Day; there were only two cooks and two waitresses who couldn't handle this sudden influx of people. James and I stood in line for several minutes before deciding to leave, and grab lunch further down the road.

It was definitely "group think" that day, with so many travelers who had been delayed for many hours.

We stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Amarillo, Texas at about 3:30 p.m., nearly two hours later.

There was even more traffic backed up coming from the opposite direction (westward bound) with miles and miles of mostly trucks, off and on all the way from Amarillo. So I guess we were lucky, in a way, and I tried to count my blessings during this stressful, long trip.

Since our three-day allotment of time to get from Bisbee to Toledo was now compressed into only two, we really had to haul ass to get there. We decided to try to drive all through the night if possible.

Through the Texas panhandle...into Oklahoma...horrible roads just before Oklahoma City...then northeast on the turnpike heading for Tulsa.

We stopped for dinner at a Denny's in Tulsa at 11 p.m. The ugliest fake, barely-decorated Christmas tree I've ever seen greeted us just inside the front door.

It was interesting to see the large number of Hispanics as employees and customers -- who would have thought? But this is farm country, after all. The Land of Opportunity.

From the plate glass window of our booth, we watched a couple of police cars with flashing lights pull over a driver on the frontage road and administer the young man a sobriety test.

Stomachs full, we hit the road again. 113 miles later found us just over the Missouri border near Joplin. I was behind the wheel for one of my rare occasions (James drives us practically everywhere; I'm a habitual passenger) and noticed a highway patrol car parked along the side of the road. I passed him with a vague sense of foreboding, although both James and I always drive the speed limit. The cruise control held steady at 70 mph.

It was 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday (Jan. 2) and I-44, heading northeast towards St. Louis, was pretty much deserted.

Then I saw headlights in my rear-view mirror, which stayed the same discreet distance behind our vehicle for about five minutes. I couldn't shake that strange feeling, though.

Sure enough! Suddenly those headlights were right behind my car, and the blue and red lights started flashing.

Gosh...I hadn't been stopped since my birthday in 1998, when I was speeding from Virginia Beach to Raleigh, NC. It felt weird -- and sort of a violation -- to be pulled over when I certainly wasn't speeding this time (and haven't in over eight years since that ticket).

I stopped and a young cop came to the passenger side, which we hadn't expected. Startled, James rolled down his window. The cop asked to see my license and said that although I wasn't speeding, he claimed that I was "weaving slightly" and he was concerned that I was falling asleep at the wheel. I assured him that I was wide-awake (pointing to my can of Coca-Cola).

The cop said that he wasn't going to issue a ticket but that he would like to check my license, so I was asked to accompany him to his cruiser. He gestured for me to slip into the passenger seat as he punched up my license on his laptop computer. I was tempted to make small-talk about his "cool computer" but refrained.

Of course everything checked out fine, and I was free to go, with an admonition to "stay awake".

As I got back behind the wheel and we continued on our way, I felt a mixture of gratitude that the cop was actually doing his job, and appeared concerned that I might be sleepy. But on the other hand, this young trooper did seem a bit over-zealous, as though he was just using the situation "for experience".

James surprised me by saying that I actually do weave a bit sometimes, which he attributes to my "lazy left eye". I admitted to him that my current nighttime vision with the soft contacts is not 100%. The "monovision" concept of using the same prescription for both eyes is not totally optimal for nighttime driving, in particular. But I really didn't think that I was actually weaving.

Perhaps I should wear my regular glasses for night driving.

This whole thing made me realize just how seldom I do actually drive; James and I rarely go anywhere separately and he's almost always the one behind the wheel. Have I gotten a bit rusty from many years of not driving? This kind of shocked me; I've certainly never been accused of "weaving" before! (I still think the cop was being a bit too zealous.)

Oh well.

We stopped for gas and then James drove another 100 miles to Lebanon, Missouri, where we finally pulled into a Holiday Inn Express hotel for much-needed sleep. It was already 3:30 a.m.!

I've always been curious about this hotel chain. It turned out to be a lot more expensive than Motel 6, and not really worth the value to me; who cares about labels on the pillows "soft" and "firm", or extra shampoo and soap in the cluttered bathroom, or the "designer" curved shower-rod, or extra-fancy bedspreads? And they demanded an extra $25 for our cat. (Why not make it a refundable deposit if the cat incurred no damage to the room?)

A few short hours later found us back on the road again at 9 a.m. Although exhausted and somewhat stressed, James and I were both psyched to get to Toledo by the end of Tuesday.

It was 163 miles to St. Louis, which we passed through around 1 p.m.; then 242 miles to Indianapolis, at about 6 p.m. Another similar chunk of miles to Toledo, where we finally arrived at our StudioPlus corporate apartment at midnight.

As I read back over this entry, it is interesting to note that we often stopped after driving for 250 miles at a stretch, which roughly corresponds to the Scion's gas capacity (usually get 300 miles to the 10-gallon tank). We're thankful that our car gets reasonably good mileage for a "non-hybrid".

For future reference, laughs and/or sobs: gas averaged about $2.46/gallon on this trip. The total journey from Bisbee to Toledo was nearly two thousand miles.

* * * * * * * * * *

I was almost completely exhausted for my first day back at work with "The Phantom of the Opera" on Wednesday, January 3rd, but I somehow survived.

It's taken nearly a week to regain some semblance of "normalcy" (thanks, Warren G. Harding, for that word!) after this unusually stressful, long trip. But James and I are both glad that our next stop, Des Moines, is "only" 550 miles from Maumee, Ohio, which will take place in three weeks.

By the way, here's Another pic of our Bisbee House

It always amazes me how there are new pictures of our place posted by strangers on the Internet almost on a daily basis. But I suppose that judging from James' imaginative, fun and funky decor on the outside of what would be an otherwise ugly building, it shouldn't be such a surprise after all!

It's become a very popular Bisbee tourist attraction. Maybe we should put out a donation box! ;-)