Monthly Archives: June 2015

Living History

I can’t even describe with words the beauty of the country that I have seen on this trip.  I wonder why so many people choose to live in the cramped dirty cities after taking in so much of this beautiful country. I loved the deserts for a long time, as my escape from the city.  I loved their rocky, dry moonscape and I loved to trek in them as much as I could.  After enjoying the many States we came through I can see where they all have something to offer.  I really liked Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota especially.  Although Idaho, Utah and Nevada all were beautiful in their own ways.  The rolling green hills and the fertile land make these other states favorites.  We saw so much wildlife, it was incredible.

I’ve read about so much of the western life throughout my life – its my favorite genre, and here I was in a front seat.  I’ve gotten a few calls from friends in Los Angeles, but I’m trying to stay disconnected and enjoy the trip.  I can worry about all the small details when I get to the farm.  After getting some great sleep in a hotel in Billings, we headed out to the Greasy Grass River, or as the white men call it, the Little Bighorn River.  I’ve always wanted to go there and I’ve read so many books about the whole area.  I know all the places from the stories, as if I have been there before.

I cannot keep from wondering why we as Americans cannot look at it as a huge victory for the Native Americans rather than a massacre of Lt. Col. Custer and his Command.  LT Col. Custer had already caused these people a lot of heartache.  He brought miners into their sacred land, the Black Hills.  He massacred innocent people at the Washita River.  He really thought he was attacking a village that did not know he was coming. Driving out from Billings I could see how on horseback it would be hard to see very far. There were so many draws and gulches.  Lt. Col Cust had scouts and they told him there were many Natives at Greasy Grass, but he still thought he would stun them and overrun them.  Wrong! These were well armed warriors who wanted to fight for their land.  All the Plains Indians had decided to come together at that specific point, and had the largest gathering of Indians in North America’s history: over 7,000 of them were there.  Sitting Bull had a vision that the “blue coats” were going to fall into his camp “upside down” (dead).  They were all ready when Custer decided to charge them with 276 men.

Once we made it to the battle ground it seemed fitting that I was there 139 years to the day and time of the Native victory: June 25, 1876.  I walked Last Stand Hill, Calhoun’s Hill, Medicine Tail Coulee and then Reno’s Spot.  It was impressive and a beautiful clear day with puffy white clouds overhead.  I could have spent much more time walking and taking it all in.  We made our way to see the old Bozeman and I could feel all those that came before me.

What a great trip!  We were off to a cabin in Bear Country, Wyoming and then it would be on to Deadwood!

In Wyoming we took a wrong turn just before dusk after seeing Devil’s Tower.   In the rolling green pastures as the sun was setting we saw a man on his horse with a small white dog following beside.  The Cowboy started moving a herd of cattle back towards another pasture.  A few calves could broke free and the dog shot off after them.  They turned back and fall into line.  I felt like I was in a time machine and I was thrust back into the 1870’s. It’s great to see people, cowboys, who still make their living working the land.

We have been driving, reading and driving. We have so much stuff packed in our little car, because we forgot to put a lot of it on the moving truck before it left.   We have to unload a lot of it at every stop to prevent someone from breaking into the car.  Traveling with our dog presents some interesting issues, as most national parks don’t allow her out of the car, but all in all it’s a great trip.

Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming

The drive to Utah was hot!  It was up to 115 through most of Nevada.  Once we got into Utah it was much of the same until we got into the higher country. The country started to turn from barren rock to rolling grass and pine trees.

When we rolled into Idaho and first saw the Snake River, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young came on the radio playing Southern Cross.  It was so fitting.  The setting sun was hitting the water.  There were men in the river fly fishing.  This is real America.  The country was so immense, and we were so small,  it was overwhelming.

We spent that night in a wooden floor TeePee next to the Snake River.  I was nudged awake every hour or so. If I heard a noise I would look over to where our dog was keeping watch near the door flap.  She looked like she was frightened out of her skin!  We went on a different vacation a couple years ago, and we had parked our RV at Calico Ghost Town.  We were the only people staying there that night and it was desolate.  During the night our RV was rocked a few times and we heard footsteps crunching in the gravel around the RV.  I went outside each time to check and saw nothing.  It was the ghosts of Calico.  Our dog spent that night cowering under the table with her eyes bugging out of her head.  The minute we pulled out of the campsite, she fell asleep and slept all day.  The Snake River TeePee was the same for her.

After the night on Snake River, it was on to Yellowstone National Park.  It had so many wonders to offer.  We were really excited about seeing Old Faithful.  We read about it before we got there.  Once we were there it was like Disneyland!  It was so packed with no parking and only one place to eat that had a line around the building.  We watched it steam and start to erupt from a distance and left.  There were many more off the path geysers and bubbling hot pools, all unique.  We found a number that I was able to get close to and get some great pictures.  That was awesome.

I really wanted to see a bear.   As we wound through the park, we slowed down for some road work and watched as a bear lumbered across the road in front of us.

We had been driving through Yellowstone for a long time before we finally saw some Bison in a grass field pretty far away.  I figured that was it, we got out the binoculars and saw them grazing.  I told my wife I really wanted to see one up close.  All the cars suddenly slowed again, and we waited, thinking it was more construction.  As we inched forward, three cars ahead of us on the side of the road stood a huge male Bison.  It was bigger than our car and it stopped eating to look directly at the cars which edged slowly by.  When it came time for our turn to go by (he was less than a foot away) my wife was upset.  I rolled the window down and snapped two quick pictures.  I have to admit, my heart was pounding.  He could easily ram through the thin glass window if he wanted.

A few miles down, another herd of bison was grazing beside the road. Babies, moms and males, just a few feet away.  My wife was so upset but there was no turning around, and nowhere else to go.  I slowly started to edge past when I heard a low growl from the backseat! Our dog decided she didn’t like these huge beasts next to the car.  I told her to hush and not draw attention, and we made it past!

I’ve learned a lot on this trip. Things about myself and my words. I’ve learned that I can be too quick to be negative.  Its tough traveling all day in a small car, but it also is fun and it’s important to keep a positive attitude to make the day a good one.

Last Week in LA

The last week of LA life was a blur!  Our final Friday in town we attended a formal garden party with a few close friends.  The next night, Saturday, Fortune Gym on Sunset where I have trained people and taught classes for the last few years, threw us a going away party.  The party was a great success!  I had no idea that so many people would show up, but they came and packed the place.  There was a full bar, music, grilled burgers and sausages, and Tamara had planned some fun games for us including a “heavy bag” pinata filled with plastic farm animals and gas money for the road trip.  It made me feel good and sad at the same time.  I have developed a bond with a lot of the people who came, and leaving made me really think about my life.  Sunday we attended a courtyard concert at our church with family.  It was a great weekend of activities to close out our time in Los Angeles.

Monday I went to the gym and trained a couple of the regular people.  Tuesday was my last day teaching classes and training people. It was strange opening up the gym, knowing I may never be back. We all took pictures and had a great time.

I was invited to visit the set of the TV show “Kingdom.”  Kingdom is a show set in the world of an MMA Gym.  The set reminded me of the many places I’ve trained around the world. I hung out and watch a scene.  I saw a couple of friends and then it was home to pack!  We started packing weeks ago, but there was still so much to go.  Friends gave us boxes, but we ended up needing even more!  Where did all the stuff come from?  We gave away so much!

Once we decided to get out of Los Angeles it was our single goal.  We had to sell our cars and find a new one.  Mini Coopers don’t fare so well on gravel roads in Midwest Winters.  They would barely make it out of the driveway without getting stuck.  We needed our two cars to work both our jobs until the last weekend, and we managed to list and sell them and find a new (heavier) car all on the same day we sold them.  We’re now proud owners of an electric vehicle – the Chevy Volt.

We woke up everyday last week at 4am and packed.  Wednesday afternoon the Pod came and we started filling it.  Thursday the big stuff went in – fridge, washer, dryer, bed.  We finished loading it Friday before noon, but we were not done!   We still had so much to pack for our road trip and then clean the empty house.

I couldn’t sleep last night and I was awake at my normal 4am.  I walked my four legged pal and we went by some places that we might not ever see again.  I took a long look up at Mount Wilson where we have hiked up the summit so many weekends.  I could see lights at the top and a couple fires on the flats.  Then dawn came and I knew it was time to load the car.

We hit the road at about 8am, and as we headed out of town there was no traffic.  There was plenty of traffic going into town.

We hit the 15 and headed toward las Vegas.  We hit Barstow and I thought of the time when I was a kid we went with my mother to meet my Grandmother and Aunts who were on a sightseeing tour.

Passing Calico Ghost town I thought of the ghostly night my wife and the dog camped there a couple of years ago.

As we sped along in the Mojave, Zzyzx Road exit came into view and I thought of the hundreds of times I had passed it and wondered the story behind it.  We read about it last year on a road trip. Its a great story involving a fraudulent radio evangelist who took out a “mining claim” on public land and instead of mining, he built a resort and touted it “the last name in health.” The “healing hot springs” were heated by a hidden boiler, and he recruited skid row bums to build his resort, which included a landing strip and castle.  It was popular destination for senior citizens in the 60s.  He ended up getting arrested years later and put in jail for his FDA violations and false medical claims.  The ruins of the resort are now overrun by scorpions and remain only as a ghost town.

Las Vegas is a one trick pony built on sand.  A major downturn in the economy and its over.

We left Nevada, made our way through a corner of Arizona and then were on to Utah!

Closing out LA Life

We have been busy packing and getting ready to move.  I’ve cleaned up and packed, but my wife has dealt with setting up the movers, listing things on Craigslist and turning off our utilities.  That is her story.

My story is more about the life and the people I will leave.  Reign Training Center, the MMA gym where I trained for years in Orange County closed down at the end of April.  I went down to say goodbye to all the fighters I had trained with a long time. It was a fitting end for my time in Southern California.  It felt funny because I was sad.  I had that empty feeling inside, even though I had been training and teaching at another gym for the last few years.

Then it came time for me to let everyone at my new gym know that I would be leaving.  Anyone who knows me knew that I wanted to move out of Los Angeles and into open country.  Those that didn’t know me well were shocked. I was not expecting some of the people to even care that I was leaving, and I was touched that they did.  Me? I am ready to go!

We went to the Greek Theatre to see Jason Bonham and the Led Zeppelin Experience. My wife planned it as one of my birthday presents.  It was a great show, and the Greek was an amazing outdoor setting for a warm spring night in Hollywood.  The songs brought me back to earlier days in California, it was a kind of soundtrack of my life.  It was “hell week” and I was on the field suited up for Pop Warner Football and one of the guys older brothers was blasting music out of his truck, when they broke the radio music with the news John Bonham passed away.  That was September 1980. The concert brought all those memories back.  Funny how music can trigger memories. When we were leaving I ran into a man I’ve known 30 years but hadn’t seen in a few years, which was another fitting way to close out my LA life.

Monday, June 1st was my birthday and I had lunch at Cecconi’s West Hollywood with some friends and then headed to Sony Studios for a meeting.  When I walked on the studio lot I thought for a second about whether I would miss this kind of stuff. Then I thought of the wide open country and those thoughts were soon part of my past.

I was on time for my meeting, but like everyone in Hollywood, I was waiting in the waiting area reading a magazine. A studio executive was walking out telling a writer to go ahead and write a script but that all the bad guys had to be white Republicans or Hillary Clinton supporters.  They got on the elevator and I just shook my head.  Will I miss Hollywood? Lunches at SoHo House? Meetings at studios?  I don’t think so.

A Desert Adventure (by Dog)

I’ve seen a lot in the last week. A huge poodle, the three cats and a skunk out my picture window. I’ve also been watching my owners closely and more stuff has been disappearing. They took bags of clothes out of the spare room closet.  Then two chairs and a small table thing I used to hide my squeaky toys under was the next to go.

I’ve been kind of lazy because the weather has been cold (under 70 degrees!) and hazy.  Unless the sun is shining warm, I like to lounge on the couch.  Its a real treat when they turn on the heater box in the bedroom, and I curl up as close as I can get without burning my fur.

All last weekend these two stayed home and tore apart the house.  I don’t like it when they make messes, that is usually my job when they are not home.  I like them around to feed me, hike me and tickle me, but not ALL day for three days.

Last Monday started off real strange. My owner woke up and his regular 4am time and sat in front of his computer.  I was watching him, waiting for my hike.  Then, instead of putting on his hiking boots, he started cooking my breakfast.  I was like, “Hold on there!  Aren’t we forgetting my long hike?” Then my other owner started making their breakfast and they watched the news, both things that we normally do after our hike.  He put my food in front of the tv, where I like it, but no way was I going to eat that – I need my hike!  I just sat on the couch and watched them.  Then she started tickling me and dropped some banana on my breakfast.  Hey I can’t let that yummy goodness go to waste!  Oh it was good and the rest was warm and smelled good so I ate it after all.

Then he puts his boots on, grabs his machine that beeps and heads out the door without me. I watched him through the window and then he came back.  He got my leash and we went in the car.  The ride was long, but hey, after that big meal I needed a nap.  When we got to where we were going he opened the door and it was the desert.  What a great surprise!  I love it!  Full of dirt and bugs.  Lots of rocks to hop on.  So my owner connected my leash to me so I could lead him to the digging spots.  I was extra alert so he wouldn’t get lost, but I saw a couple of the those dessert rabbits with big ears and I wanted to follow them.

Once we hiked for a couple of miles with the nice hot sun coming up, he stopped so I could relax and warm myself. He went off with his machine beeping and a small shovel.  I was snoozing but I kept my eyes on him so he wouldn’t get lost.  Every so often he would get out of my sight, and I had to get up and bark until he came back.  We had great fun.  After all that hiking and sunning he needed me to lead him back to the car.  We took a few pictures.  Once home, I needed dinner but my other owner grabbed me and put me in the tub!  I’m a Lab and I like water, but not that kind!