Southwest Tea – Party for Four?


Why begin with a fire hydrant?
Cause that’s “street furniture” to Patricia,
and anyone who could get so excited
about a fire hydrant, well,
you feel obligated to get that shot in there.

English aren’t eccentric for nothin’ . . .


We fly the sometimes-friendly skies to our base point – Denver…

No artist dreams such mix of solar strokes and. . . air pollution, yah, I said it

At the airport, Patricia and Eileen listen raptly to my tales
of desert geila monsters and geikos that will eat them whole
if they disregard sensible walking shoes,
or imprudently trespass on said creatures’ water reserves.
Respect mother nature is what I’m saying.
Or maybe I’m just complaining about my bunion, I forget which

Our road trip begins – in Colorado – where we meet the by-now-legendary . . .

. . . Jill . . . spirited, adventurous, indefatigable, author,
world-class mountain climber, and nowadays, amongst other things,
lecturer to green climbers from her adopted hometown of Boulder, Colorado.
Remove her from the mountains and you might as well deprive her of oxygen. . .

Before we set off for our insanely-scheduled trip, Jill housed our unskilled sorry asses
in her cozy home at the foot of Boulder’s mountains. . .  We enjoyed our hikes with her and Millie
and her sharing and caring hospitality so much we had to be slapped into remembering
we had 1,257 miles and miles and miles to, you know, go. . . And, of course,
Choice Hotel route schedules to keep!  [thanks Kayla!]

We visit Jilly’s other not-so-humble chapeau [renovation-in-progress]
in Denver’s outer limits…

It’s a beaut . . .  And comes with bucolic house pet . . .
the awesome Millie !!! . .

Wine, women and doggie – what else do ya need?
oh yeah, the occasional chocolate. . .

Finally, Patricia, Eileen, Helen and I reluctantly wean ourselves
from Jill’s ridiculously homey stopover. . .
While leaving the beauty that is Colorado. . .

. . .curious natives interrupt our drive. . .
clearly no enforcement of  jaywalking laws out heah. . .

One minute you’re in the dense green rolling mountains of Colorado,
in the next you’ve crossed into New Mexico and the terrain magically converts
to scrub brush and painted deserts and clay-molded homesteads. . .
A real jolt of the geological switch

Inside some of these unassuming adobes were sprawling
Southwest dream homes. . . with built-in kiva fireplaces, single-level luxury,
and authentic local Southwest Indian pottery to swoon over. . .
Tourists are happy patsies out here

A stop at Sunset Crater Volcano and the Lava Flow Trail,
simply flabbergasting preternatural scenery.
Crazy neon pink flowers poke their pretty little heads
out of carbonized ground – how’d they do that?

Eileen and Pat on volcanic ground

Ancient etchings enthralled Patricia and Eileen…  Having suffered recent
local graffiiti attacks in our neighborhood, my sis and I
cast a more jaundiced eye on such humanoid scribbly-bibblies. . .

The shimmering desert

Little visitor stops by for a how-do-you-do

Patricia notes, “In the desert
the flies drive you totally demented. . .

Grand Canyon – proof of millions of years, eh??  No?
One of them Creationists are ye?

Generic Canyon beauty –  it gets old after a while –
after one stops weeping that is…

As Canyon steps entice, you realize with a hair-raising chill,
you follow ancient footfalls

When you first get a peek at the canyon. . .

. .the expression – taking your breath away – gets a whole new meaning

The indefinable colors of the earth’s crust – o what tales have ye to tell!

The southern rim offered a new-view-every-moment-kind-of-thing

And yes, the first thing you lose is your facility with descriptive language

Kootenai Mum and Laughing Bebe

– Sob –

Patricia – vertigo notwithstanding –
a true ruddy-cheeked English hiker –
Dickensian cane and all

Familiar landmark?  A scene from 3:10 to Yuma . . .
sans Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. . .?
Helen checks for forensic clues

Hawks or turkey vultures?  Other hikers argue
Condors it is, my dear Watson

My sis spots a good shot, or rather, an exceptional shot,
or rather, where isn’t there an exceptional shot?
And shouldn’t I just shut up and enjoy the view. . .

Eileen thought I was so brave planting myself here on the edge . . .
But clearly my butt was planted on the correct down low

A little help on Bright Angel Trail. . .

It was wonderful to share our first views of the Canyon
with our first-time continental visitors from across the Pond –
as well as our other thousands of close personal friends .  .

On the right, Patricia’s entrepreneurial spirit ponders the perplexing possibilities
of the peerless view before her. . .  A fish and chip shop at the base perhaps??
No?  Mayhaps a local co-op providing sunrise mojitos and
Dr. Shoal’s inserts for parched and weary hikers?

Somewhere around here, we stopped for a spot of tea,
not an easy thing with two persnickety Brits,
as apparently Americans west of the Rockies
are incapable of achieving the proper temp for
boiling water !  In any case, we met this little
adventurous green-eyed mascot in the cafe/shop. . .

. . .who we discovered had an ornithological interest
in all things birdie . . .  such as this pretty little guy

The ladies, in a picturesque tableau. . .

Meanwhile, that evening, while Patricia and Eileen were chillin’
back in the hotel. . .  Helen and I decided to venture out
across the road to a beckoning touristy hotspot. . .

Namely a nicely-ambienced dining and dancing arena
populated by talented Native locals. . .

We ran into a wee bit of a problem later . . .

when we were woken up in the cruel early hours of the morn
by a ear-jarring phone ring (I mean I was awoken –
my sister slept like a rock with her industrial ear plugs)

on the other end  – Holy Hillbillies  –  it was the Canyon’s  Officers of the Law. . .

who also showed up simultaneously at our hotel door
banging and demanding entrez vous tout suite!

While my sister calmly snoozed away in la-la land, I was fielding pre-dawn phone calls and hosting pistol-packing cops at our hotel door in my jam-jams who demanded identification, interrogated me on whether a certain Helen B had eaten and partaken of the colorful  native dancing earlier in the evening at the So and So Restaurant just across the road??   Why yes, I innocently dazedly answered. .  Only to hear:  Well you all ran off without paying your bill !

This is the tree I climbed to escape from the police. . . But seriously,
Helen snoozed through the whole episode !  It was phenomenal since her bed
was closest to the door and the phone had screeched like three times
next to her tympanium for creein’ out loud!

Anyhoo, I explained to the coppers it was a strange mixup cause we thought we had paid !  Our waiter had disappeared and left us to enjoy the dancing as well as what we thought was a bill to sign, but apparently Helen signed something else, and anyway, if we were trying to get away with anything, why would Helen have signed her name on some slip so that the cops could trace us to the Red Riot Hotel across the street in the first place??  Duh?  That fresh canyon air must mess with the local po-po’s if you ask me. . .  no, they were very nice, but kind of gruff and accusatory on the phone and. . .    Yes, Helen had a nice nappy through the whole thing, while next door Patricia and Eileen woke from all the next-door commotion. . . but didn’t hear the grisly story till a more godly hour. . .

Needless to say, we didn’t want to leave any unnecessary posters of ourselves
behind, so we kept our noses squeaky clean as we tiptoed around town. . .

Um, on our way to Utah,
we noticed Butch and Sundance must have
forgotten to pay some bills too
cause the bar we visited still had them
on a ‘Wanted’ list. . .   Some people just can’t let go . . .

PS  We had a rare terrible meal stop in a Utah railroad junction town,
forcing some in our party to blame it on the Mormons. . .
And did I mention the other-worldly salt-marsh region we drove through
for hours and hours with nothing but a chalky white
surreal interplanetary landscape surrounding us??  It was so odd,
this country’s topography so bizarre, particularly in this region
where it looks like the earth threw up and deposited random
geographical anomalies in seemingly inexplicable areas.
Yes I know, “threw up” may not be the technical term

Utah’s interplanetary Arches National Park

Fascinating faces populate the rocks

Having escaped the Canyon cops’ clutches, Helen and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Yet more perils were ahead as we zoomed our way into some pretty
desolate dead-heat territory – I’m talkin’ a bona fide desert,
absolutely nothing painted, and very little alive in there Mister !

Nothing like stopping in “Death Valley” for a holy-hell-is-that-a-carcass-in-the-distance-lunch spot.   .   .

Enjoying ol’ redwoods that Reagan memorably commented on,
“You see one tree, you’ve seen ’em all. . .”

Apparently Mr. Reagan’s neighborhood
must’ve sprouted a lot of gi-normous trees. . .

Yosemite . . . Patricia and Eileen were so happy to see Ansel Adam’s inspiration – they pronounced the park their favorite (even over the Canyon we asked?  They hesitated. . .  Couldn’t compare, wouldn’t compare) but did I mention Patricia had an initial scare over the size of toilet seats once we hit the true western US??  Yes, unbeknownst to me and Helen, apparently the toilet seats get proportionally larger the further West one goes. . .  Coincidence?  Relativity factors?  I have no idea, best not to think about it     Patricia had enough nightmares for all of us  before she finally, shakily confided her fears to us one lone night at one evening’s restaurant stop at a charming roadside diner, somewhere inside Cali-4-Nye-Aye country   Eileen, of course, remaining stoic as always, it takes more than a monster toilet seat to intimidate this one !

After recovering from our laughing fits, we gave her a break, things after all are relatively teeny tiny in England. . .  And ahem, even from Midwest standards, mebbe those toilet seats were a tad largeish. . . [we love u Patricia!]

Scenes of El Capitan were about to assail us. . .

Helen, busy claiming a peak for herself, and conveniently forgetting
prior explorers had notched the spot for their own aggrandisement

It was so crazy pretty here,
we felt like we were walking around virtual postcard(s)

Some kind stranger snaps a group shot,
capturing the bliss of travelers in paradise

We were plenty hungry too. . . for some good fish and such. . .
nature doesn’t just hand you a plate of food people!

Some fellow travelers were roughing it . . .

I didn’t want to be ungrateful and say it out loud, but Yosemite’s floor did not appeal as much –
it was actually muggy and skeet-filled and peppered with scads of co-travelers
who were much more visible on the flat plane of the park. . .

We split up on our trails and met up later at the car park
where this wild fella was lurking about. . .

The French Basque restaurant in Winnemucca where
H, P and E could not stop marveling about their previous evening’s experience
the fantastic ethnic food, the wonderful dinner mates, the fabulous blahbitty, blah blah
Yah, I missed the whole thing
So what was my more interesting choice?
I wanted to check out the local grocery store… I so kid u not

At Mimi’s in Utah
Has tea service improved?
Well, check out Eileen’s grin. . .
Actually, she’s just mistaken butter for cream cheese. . .
And when told it’s “whipped butter,” she pauses to ask suspiciously,
“What have they done to the cows then?”

Southwest respite. . .

Salut Citoyens !

Next:  San Franciskee here we come !!

*      *      *

“Up North” with those Zany English Gals

Two innocents, before the trauma…

In an attempt to celebrate Patricia’s birthday, we thought bringing her
to one of our favorite Grand Marais local haunts would be a sure-fire hit
Things began to go downhill right from the git-go when
the tepid tea served Eileen nearly sent her into apoplectic windmills
And did I mention the “Autumnal Fare” we all innocently ordered?
With the biscuit bites Helen swallowed before realizing the centers were raw?
or the snatched-from-her-mid-sipping squash soup Patricia barely enjoyed. . .
Or the terrible stomach cramps poor Helen endured that night. . .
Or the missing courses within that “Autumnal fare”
Or that loop-de-loop waitress – O Madre de Dios !

Luckily, P and E woke up the next morning,
still on speaking terms with us . . .

Eileen on the previous night’s events:   “It was like Fawlty Towers.”

*     *     *

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