On the Road – Four Great Days in Idaho

Tango and our van on Idaho Rt. 33.

Today Tango and I turned the van eastward and began our journey home. The magnificent Western mountain ranges that have filled my windshield for nearly four weeks — the Rockies, Sierra Nevadas, Cascades, Pioneers — are sadly becoming relegated to my rearview mirror, growing smaller with each mile.

Our weekend was spent in Hailey, a charming town located in the Sun Valley of Idaho. My nephew and his family–four decidedly South Californians (Michael, his wife Stacy and children Evan and Brenann)–moved to Hailey last summer.  Unusual?  Not at all. Californians appear to be moving to Idaho in droves. Michael explained it is a topic that often came up when they would get together with friends in Fallbrook but it was always a “some day” conversation.  For the Fallbrook O’Learys that “some day” was last July.

Idaho is beautiful.  Not being a winter person I can’t say that I would want to live there year-round.  This past winter gave my nephew’s family a baptism by snow.  All records were shattered. In Ketchum, just a few miles up the road from Hailey, they recorded 112″ of snow. For the math-challenged readers, that’s just 8 inches shy of 10 feet.  TEN FEET OF SNOW!  But at the present time it is gorgeous with mild temperatures and long days.

I had not seen my nephew in fifteen years. A shocking admission in today’s age I suppose but there has been a continent between us for all those years. As I drove today I reflected on communicating with far-flung family. I passed Goodale’s Cutoff, a place where emigrants drove their wagons across the high desert, trying to get around the massive lava flows that now make up the Craters of the Moon N.P.  For those hearty souls there was little hope that they would ever hear from the loved ones left behind, much less have a visit.  As I cruise along in my well-appointed van my mind often drifts to those extraordinary people who risked it all to find a better life.  Much has changed in the intervening 150 years but the quest for a better life remains and leads some to Hailey. I think they have the right idea and I wish them well. ❧

Brenann, Evan, Mike, Alice and Stacy..the O’Learys in Hailey.

On the Road – Memories and Magic

Jack, Josh and Janet Andrews. Cannabis helped Josh beat cancer when he was a toddler.

Faithful readers know I am on a cross-country trip with my canine companion Tango. Some of those faithful readers, but not all, know that I have a long history with the medical cannabis issue (to learn more please visit aliceolearyrandall.com). I have kept medical cannabis out of my Alice’s WanderLand blog for various reasons but primarily because I am not a 24/7 cannabis person. There is so much more to life than cannabis (aka, marijuana).  Alice’s WanderLand is my touchstone with the wonders and beauty of life…either through pictures or words.

But medical cannabis is often wondrous and beautiful. That statement was brought home vividly today in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where I finally met a family who, 37 years ago, were battling the unimaginable — their three year-old had cancer.

Things were very bad. Young Josh couldn’t eat and if he did manage to eat the chemotherapy made him vomit. When you’re 3 years-old you don’t have a lot to lose in terms of body weight. Janet and Jack realized they must do something. They were watching their child die.

It was 1980 and medical cannabis wasn’t the national issue that it is today. Still, there was plenty of information out there about cancer chemotherapy patients having good success with using marijuana to quell the nausea and vomiting associated with their treatments. A friend sent Janet a magazine article about the topic. Janet immediately made some calls to friends who could help her get marijuana. Then she brewed the cannabis into tea and baked it in to brownies.

Josh, who was readily compliant with other medications, balked at the odd tasting tea and didn’t much care for the peculiar brownies. But he ingested them and the results were “miraculous.”  While other children on the cancer ward vomited into buckets, Josh would ride his tricycle up and down the halls.

Janet called NORML looking for help and I was working there at the time, heading up the Medical Reclassification Project. Later Janet would help Robert and I when we formed the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics in 1981. She provided testimony in the historic DEA Rescheduling hearings before Judge Frances Young in the late 1980s. The judge was clearly moved by their story and extensively quoted Janet’s affidavit in his decision that cannabis should be re-scheduled.

After Josh beat his cancer, Jack and Janet returned to their lives and we lost touch. In the intervening years I found myself wondering what happened to Josh. Facebook helped me track down both he and his mother.  While Coeur d’Alene wasn’t exactly on my route, the detour seemed a small inconvenience given the chance to meet a family that had given much to an important issue. The medical cannabis issue is far from being solved but things are so much better, in part because of Janet and Jack Andrews, who had the courage and love to fight for their son, Josh. ❧

 

On the Road – What a Difference A Day Makes

Dashboard thermometer from 5/22/2017

Ah dear readers, what a difference a day makes.  Yesterday Tango and I navigated California’s hot and crowded Interstate 5.  Today we traveled secondary roads in Oregon and life was much better.

We started early and headed for Crater Lake National Park, an hour up the road from Klamath Falls. The day was perfect. Bright blue sky and mild temperatures.  There was just one problem.  Snow ….and lots of it.

Crater Lake, it seems, naturally has one of the highest snowfalls in the U.S. According to the park brochure:

The average annual snowfall at Park Headquarters is 43 feet! The greatest cumulative snowfall for one season was 879 inches (73 feet) the winter of 1932-33. The greatest depth on the ground at one time was 258 inches (21½ feet) the winter of 1983. Most of the snow usually melts by the beginning of August, although after particularly heavy seasons, there are drifts that fail to melt before the snows return again in the fall. (emphasis mine)

This year, according to a quick Google search, was a banner year. In January a massive snowstorm hit the area which already had received 134% of its normal snowfall. So here is what we found at Crater Lake.

 

 

For a while I wondered if we would even see the Lake! All around us were mountains and walls of snow.  The roads were beautifully cleared but how to see the Lake?

Well, the U.S. Park Service is among the unheralded of our government agencies. From the pleasant young man who was at the gate before 8 a.m., to the men working to clear the roads, and the fresh young faces at the visitor center there was nothing but pride and an obvious desire to help and answer questions. We found a bit of beautifully cleared road and one magnificent vista. Oh how I love this country. ❧

On the Road – Time for Fun

A very warm Tango (it was 96 degrees) with Mt. Shasta peaking over his head.

Today Tango and I set off from Berkeley after spending four days at the Doubletree Hotel at the Berkeley Marina.  It was a wonderful place to stay, with a gorgeous park just across the street where Tango could run free in some tall grass and sniff every varmint hole on the acreage.  He was a happy boy.

We were in Berkeley for the Patients Out of Time Conference which was excellent, but very tiring. It was my third conference in four weeks and by the end of the day on Saturday I was nearly ecstatic to know there are no more conferences in the near future.  Tango and I spent Sunday engaged in R&R&R-rest, relaxation and re-organization.  The van was a minor disaster area so things came out and went back in more neatly.  The business clothes have all been moved to the bottom suitcase and the next two weeks should be just fun.

Tonight we are in Klamath Falls, Oregon, on our way to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  We were on the road for close to eight hours, often inching our way up the middle of California on Interstate 5.  There were many delays and the horrible California traffic that I thought was an urban problem seems to pervade the State.

And such a State it is. There has been talk for decades about splitting California in two, always along some median that would run east to west. Some have even gone so far as to declare the north part of California should secede and join with part of southern Oregon into a new state called Jefferson.  There are many reasons but invariably it comes down to people in the north are different from those in the south.  But as I drove today I was struck (once again) with California’s enormous central valley and its vast agriculture bounty. It occurred to me that it might make more sense to split the state length-wise, separating the agricultural eastern section from the coastal west.  The people I saw working the fields, driving the tractors and collecting in neighborly groups in small towns were incredibly different than those I left behind in Berkeley.  Once again I wondered how this country holds together.  We are wonderfully and remarkably tolerant although one wonders how that can last in the current political climate.

But those are problems for another day. Today we started the homeward leg with stops in Idaho and North Dakota. We drove through northern California and for many, many miles  we could see Mount Shasta with a bright, white topping of snow.  It was in stark contrast to the upper 90-degree weather outside our van which was markedly different from the air-conditioned city called Berkeley.  Such an incredible place, the State of California. ❧

 

 

On the Road – God Bless the U.S.A.

Map for blog

Alice & Tango’s route so far – 4/23 to 5/14

I am just shy of three weeks on the road, about halfway through the trip. It has been great fun.  I think everyone should leave the safety of their home cocoon and get out in the world.  Despite the rather spooky presence of nearly identical shopping malls in every fair–sized hamlet, you can still catch the regional flavors that make this land a wonderful smorgasbord of ideas, ambitions, and realities.  How have we ever managed to hold it together for all these years?  Will we manage to keep it together in this current time?

Here in California you frequently hear a joking reference to seceding from the Union. With the seventh largest economy in the world, it could certainly survive on its own. No doubt the comments are similar to those uttered in the South 150 years ago, remarks  that ultimately led to the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi where Tango and I stopped just a few weeks ago.

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Oklahoma City Memorial

And in Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh so hated the federation of the United States that he was willing to destroy hundreds of innocent lives in the name of some warped concept of a “white only” world that would rise up in answer to his atrocious act.

Make no mistake, there are problems in the U.S. of A.  Big ones. Poverty, both economic and spiritual, tops the list.  You can see the poverty, especially in the South. And even though our poorest souls have much more than many in the world at large they are still suffering. Telling them to give up their cell phones to buy health insurance really isn’t the answer.  And to be told that “no one dies from not having health insurance” is insulting. People will tolerate such treatment for only so long.

We have entered one of those phases in history where the people must guide the democracy because, obviously, there is no leadership at the top.  The corruption is mammoth in scale and must be removed.  It is our job, as citizens, to set the ship of state right again. And from what I have seen on this trip and in the news, the people are ready. ❧

On the Road, Day 5 -Windy West

 

Tango, I have decided, does not really like the constant wind of the Western plains.  My theory is that it simply overwhelms his senses, which, as we know, are so much more acute than our own.  Who knows what multitude of odors are carried by a constant 15-30 mph wind.  Too much to process.  His hearing is excellent but the wind just deafens hims, kind of like a constantly blowing hair dryer.  So, he jumps out of the van, does his job and looks at me woefully when I try to encourage him to walk with me. But he is enjoying the trip and jumps around like a puppy sometimes, mainly in the hotel rooms.  There is a major weather front moving through tomorrow and tomorrow night. Snow is forecast! Perhaps when that is event is over things will quiet down for Tango.

On the Road – Day 4

Grace2One of my favorite TV series is “Saving Grace.” (It originally aired on TNT 2007-2010 and is now available on Netflix.)  Holly Hunter plays an Oklahoma City detective named Grace who is visited by Earl, a lovable angel.  Grace is a nice twist on the prostitute with a heart of gold.  She sleeps around, drinks too much, and is a wicked jokester but she’s also ethical and a good cop.

A major story line is the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. Grace’s sister died in the blast but it should have been Grace, who was too hung-over to go down to the Social Security Office and apply for her nephew’s card. Now Grace is helping to raise the nephew and they have frequent talks about the bombing.  And they visit the memorial park that was constructed on the site of the bombing.

And that is what led me to Oklahoma City today.

The bombing happened on April 19, 1995. It was horrific, killing 168 people and ripping apart an enormous building in the heart of OKC. But, practically speaking, I missed all of it.  April 1995 was not a good time for me. My husband was six months into his diagnosis of AIDS.  In early April he nearly died when his gallbladder became inflamed and then went necrotic. Surgery saved him but rendered him, as he said, “weak as a kitten.”  We had already decided to move back to Florida, to be near family for support, and wheels were in motion that were threatening to run me down. Movers had been contracted, boxes were getting packed and deadlines loomed. I recall buying something at a store and asking the clerk about the ribbon she was wearing. She looked at me as if I was an alien. “It’s for the bombing victims,” she declared with just a hint of “you idiot.”

Twelve years later “Saving Grace” came on the air and its interwoven theme reminded me of those times.  Odd as it may seem, I felt badly that I hadn’t felt badly in 1995. So today I stopped by to pay my respects.

Earl must have been on my shoulder because I managed to get a parking space directly across the street. It was a raw, cold day so it was little wonder that there were no crowds. And the memorial, like the building that once stood there, is literally in the middle of the city. It is amazing that more buildings didn’t collapse.

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Side view of the Oklahoma City bombing museum

I should have visited the museum but I didn’t. It is housed in an original part of the Murrah Building that survived the blast, the scars of that terrible day are very evident.  I’m sure it is excellent but I worried about leaving Tango in the van for too long and, truth to tell, I am not the best museum browser.

So I made the quick walk to the memorial sculpture/garden and as I gazed at it across a beautiful reflection pool I was surprised at the tears that gathered in my eyes. The design is so personal and so simple–168 chairs in nine rows reflecting the nine floors of the Murrah Building.   The placement of the chair corresponds with the floor on which the person would have been at the time of the blast. The smaller chairs represent the children that died. Five chairs set away from the others represent those that were outside the building.  Each chair has a glass foundation with a name engraved.  It reminded me of  “Our Town,” the Thornton Wilder play in which the dead occupy chairs and reflect on life and eternity.  Certainly in that quiet park, that was once so horribly torn asunder, it is easy to do the same.

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The Oklahoma City National Memorial

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Perhaps Wilder captured the essence of why I visited the Memorial when the main character speaks these lines:

“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”