Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sequoia National Park

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

After booking a week with more than 4,700 miles, we were ready for some downtime. Our Friday morning delivery took us to Porterville, California, well within striking distance to the Sequoia National Park. Perfect!

The road in from the Southern end of the park is a very narrow two-lane that doubles back and hairpins up 3,500 feet into the mountains. Vehicles over 22 feet are not advised - but we'd rented a car and left the truck back in the valley, anyway. 

The mountains are steep and wooded, with large outcroppings of granite. The streams in the narrow canyons and valleys below are strewn with enormous boulders smoothed by spring floods for millennia. This time of year meant perfect weather - crisp air, warm sun, cool breeze - and very light traffic. Just the ride into the interior of the park was a treat.

The first park feature we encountered was Moro Rock (which we'll see more of later):

After what seemed like many miles of climbing steep, curving roads, we glimpsed our first sequoia. It was breathtaking.

Standing guard over the Giant Forest Museum is the Sentinel tree:

Further into the park, we parked the car and hiked about 1/2 mile into the forest:

And at the bottom of the trail sat the General Sherman tree, the largest Sequoia and among the largest trees in the world by many measures:

The Buttress tree was 2,300 years old and 270 feet tall. This sequoia fell without warning in June of 1959, on a clear day with no wind. Simply put, she lost her balance, an event known to happen when their shallow roots are weakened by fire, erosion, or wet soil:

Remember Moro Rock? Here's the East side of the Rock, where over 300 steps have been poured and carved so intrepid hikers can climb to the top and take in breathtaking views. We did NOT attempt the climb.

A tunnel was carved through a downed sequoia in 1937, and cars are still allowed to drive through it: 

On our way back down to the valley, we snapped a couple of pics of the mountains to the West of the park:

But the pic we missed was of an adult black bear we encountered on our way back - unfortunately, she (he?) trundled back into the woods before we could take a picture.

Our visit was very memorable, and we're determined to return when we have more time in retirement!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

¿Dónde está el dentista de animales más cercano?

Paisan has been under the weather lately. No dramatic changes, just less playful and interactive. I've kept a careful watch, but with no fever and no apparent pain, observing was all I could do.

Yesterday, as I dusted and swept the sleeper, Paisan bonked my shins to remind me it was snackie time. I obliged, putting a half-dozen crunchy treats on her food mat. I heard her crunch through one, then she let out a very loud hiss and a yowl and scampered up the dinette cushion to her "upstairs loft" - an overhead cabinet that belongs exclusively to her.

Uh oh. Houston, we found the problem.

Procuring medical treatment while on the road is one of those vastly frustrating and often near-impossible tasks with which all hot freight contractors have to deal. Between loads, we never know how long we'll be in our current spot, let alone where we'll be the next day. The best scenario is to be dispatched on a load with enough time built into the delivery schedule to accommodate an appointment along the route.

At that particular moment of enlightenment, we weren't yet dispatched. Do I try to get an evening appointment with a vet there in Laredo? We could be offered a load any minute that would require rolling immediately. It didn't seem fair to the vet to make an emergency appointment and then have to cancel.

I analyzed. The cat had not lost weight and had been eating regularly up until the Hiss-n-Dash manuever. We had plenty of canned food available, so she wouldn't have to risk more pain by gumming down Chicken and Trout in Savory Gravy for a few days. I decided to wait it out.

Within an hour, we were offered a load that didn't pick up until late the next day. I set about finding a vet with Saturday hours that would take a walk-in and settled on Laredo Animal Clinic. Paisan eventually emerged from her loft and ate her dinner, then snuggled most of the evening with Mom.

The clinic was very busy the next morning, but the staff remained pleasant and the clients were all patient and friendly. In only an hour, they called us in to the exam room. After the vitals were taken (Mom and Dad aren't the only ones with "Seat Creep" - she gained a full 1/2 pound since January), the vet had me open her mouth (chicken!) and there they were - two premolars, one on each side, grey with tartar and surrounded by swollen red gums.

"We can clean off the tartar and perhaps save them," the vet said. "But more than likely, they'll have to be extracted. Can you bring her back on Tuesday?"

Here we go. "I don't know. We drive truck and never know where we'll be day to day."

"How about Thursday?"

Sigh. "How much advanced notice would you need?"

"Hmmm....three or four days."

"Great. I'll call as soon as we can get her in. Is there anything we can do for her in the meantime?"

"Oh, yes, I'll give you some oral antibiotic for the infection and flare-up."

I managed to talk her into giving me 3 weeks of medicine, which I hope will tide Paisan over until I can schedule extractions.

I can't wait to start the twice-daily medication struggle, but I do hope it fixes her up for now. Poor kitty.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Disconcerting, Baby!

I can't imagine there's anything on the Cracker Barrel menu that would elicit such an expression of deep alarm on that baby's face, but I have to wonder what in hell happened a hundred years ago when the photo was taken?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Apple Crisp

Annually upon the advent of autumn, our tastebuds begin to clamor for apples - crunchy, juicy Macs; sweet Jonagolds; tart, white Paula Reds; and my favorite for cooking, the 20 Ounce.  

Steve bought several apples a week through September, but after a while his enthusiasm waned. One day I gazed at two good-sized apples that had traveled a few miles too far, and thought: Apple Crisp!

Our sleeper has a microwave, but let's face it - nuking Apple Crisp results in semi-poached, partially steamed, Soggy Apple Stuff. If that's your goal, great! But Soggy Apple Stuff is not tender wedges of peeled apples in a naturally reduced syrup, topped with lightly browned, crispy, sweetened oats lightly dusted with cinnamon. Sometimes, our cravings are quite specific and demand satisfaction.

We may not have a super-sized luxury sleeper complete with RV-sized oven and stovetop, but we do have a secret weapon:  the George Foreman Evolve Grill.  

I love this thing. Beyond grilling anything imaginable, it will also roast, braise, stir-fry, and even bake, although my experience baking with it was limited to savory herb & cheese biscuits made for an occasional breakfast. But even if the attempt was a flop, we would still have Soggy Apple Stuff.

I sharpened the paring knife and set to work... 


 Apple Crisp!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Always Listen to the Tanker Driver

One recent Saturday, we were predispatched on a job that didn't pick up until the next day, giving us a whole 24 hours or so to whilst away as we wished. Since I'd been peering cockeyed through my badly scratched glasses for quite some time, the first agenda item was an eye exam and new specs.

In the waiting room, I sat next to a friendly guy who turned out to be a regional tanker driver. After sharing gripes about bad auto drivers, HOS rule changes, and union dock workers, he laughed and blurted: "Just don't eat Crystal."

 Crystal? "Crystal hot sauce. Dirty operation. Really bad. The other stuff is fine - Tabasco and some other local brands. Not Crystal, though." He laughed again.

I'd never heard of it, so I wasn't too concerned.

And then, just a few days later, we stopped at a roadside restaurant in a small town in Alabama. Lo and behold, Crystal:

We did not partake of the Crystal. Not even a touch of it to satisfy powerful curiosity. Because you never, ever doubt the tanker driver.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Time Off

A relaxing round of golf in late July, at Hickory Hill in Clay. The weather was positively gorgeous! I predict I'm going to gaze upon this picture often in the coming six months.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Freight is a Capricious Mistress

During our first few years on the road, our most frequent destinations were in a large sweet spot roughly framed by the mid-Atlantic, the Deep South, Texas, and the Upper Midwest. Rarely were we offered loads to Florida or California - and when they did come our way, we carefully weighed all the variables before accepting because there were even rarer loads back out.

So far this year we've been to both Florida and California several times and have been promptly dispatched back out, providing some beautiful new scenery: 

Monterey Bay, California

All Aboard!


Likewise, we made so many trips to Laredo between mid-2010 and the end of 2012 that at one time we seriously considered renting an apartment there. But those loads mysteriously dried up for us this year. Although we made plenty of runs to the DFW area and every conceivable borderside dock between Houston and El Paso, Laredo eluded us. Until last month. Now we're there on a nearly weekly basis. Go figure.   

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Links to Previous Posts

Previous posts from Evernote, for those who want to catch up...
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Dianne & Floyd: Working Tourists - pictures of, and commentary on, our travels thus far.

Foodie Notes - pics and descriptions of unusual eateries we've encountered, and an occasional post about something we've cooked up in the truck.

Salads & Soups - a collection of soup and salad recipes that we're tweaking or have perfected.

Spices, Dressings, & Flavors - recipes and notes about concoctions used to add interest or extra oomph to our usual fare.

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