Thursday, June 19, 2014

Closing a chapter

"I will complete the difficult tasks as quickly as possible...The impossible may take a little longer."

When I arrived at Aunt Louise's gate to her property a road runner stood in the driveway and greeted me.  (You have to look very closely, he moves so fast this was the best picture I could get.)

June is the tail end of the wildflower season but there was still a beautiful carpet of color all the same.  Under that tree above are irises that are the descendants of those brought in the covered wagon by our great great grandmother.  It has been years since I have arrived early enough to see them bloom but I have a few I transplanted in my yard in Tucson.

The 4th of July is the official mowing date--Aunt Louise likes to let the wildflowers go to seed before mowing.  And she was still mowing her own 5 acres until last summer.  (Lest you did not know--she will be 94 in October.)

Besides the wildflowers, Aunt Louise's yard is home to countless birds, armadillos, deer, raccoons and a multitude of bugs, beetles, spiders, lizards and snakes.  
When I park the RV back behind the house and in the shade of some very old oak trees I cannot see a neighbor or hear anything except the birds and the wind in the trees.

Which leads me to this miserable (yep! that's the right word) occurrence.  (Warning: 'Too much information is about to follow')  The grass and weeds were so high between the RV and her back door that I needed to clear a pathway, hence use of the weed-eater that first morning while I was still in my pajamas.  The spots you see on the pants above are stickers from the weeds.  What you don't see are the mass of chigger bites on my legs and buttocks that I developed from clearing that pathway.  I hate Texas in the summertime--not because of the weather but because of the chiggers.  I develop huge welts and they itch like fire.  To cure them I have to paint them with clear nail polish but as soon as I kill off one batch, another dozen or so appear.  It directly affects my mood so If I appear a little short tempered and unreasonable it's probably because my butt and legs are on fire.

So now you know, that lovely park-like setting is not the idyllic spot it first appears.  I bet the Chamber of Commerce never mentions chiggers in their ads.

Aunt Louise built her home in the early 60's when she was working as an engineer for General Dynamics.  It is a large ranch-style brick home with 5 bedrooms, a den, formal living room, dining room--in other words fairly large--and full of antiques.

She has collections of dolls, butter molds, furniture (some dating clear back to that great great grandmother), books, vintage clothes, china, and memorabilia.... 

plus the first car she ever owned.  I am told the above under all that stuff is a 1947 Pontiac.
And of course, the dilemma is, 'what to do with all of this if we move Aunt Louise to someplace easier for her to manage.'  
And naturally, she does not like the idea of leaving her home in the country with its amazing nature, privacy, and all of her things.  

To be continued.....

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tucson to Ft. Worth

This last week I  received some very sad news that my Uncle Joe in Louisiana, after a very long illness, had died.  I am so very grateful that I was able to visit with him and Aunt Doris those few days two years ago.  It was a nostalgic afternoon as we sat on his back porch while he reminisced about my childhood visits,  his persistent courting of Aunt Doris some 60 years earlier, and the pride he felt for his children and grandchildren. Once again I have the reminder that the freedom to travel and the leisure to spend time with people I care about is a great privilege that I truly appreciate.  Uncle Joe, I will miss you. 

Before leaving Tucson for Ft. Worth I had a final dinner-and-bridge with good friends Nancy and Suzie (friend Bill is taking the picture.)  

Aunt Louise has experienced another minor fall and, even though nothing was broken, she is back in the rehab center where the doctors are running tests, etc. 
      I quickly put the house in order as best I could, turned it over to the real estate broker to continue his efforts, had the RV serviced,  spent two days doing a thorough cleaning of my little rolling home, and finally repacked everything I thought I might need for the next few months. When I pulled out of town the temperature was over 100 degrees and climbing.

I made it as far as Deming, New Mexico where I spent the night in the parking lot of the New Mexico Information Center.  I had been running the air conditioner in the cab full blast the whole way and by mid-afternoon started the generator so I could simultaneously run the air conditioner in the cabin as well but the temperature in the RV continued to climb.  Sigh Me was panting like a dog and managed to throw up on every reachable surface--each of the newly cleaned rugs, my New Mexico map, two pairs of shoes, and her bed. I love my cat but sometimes--not so much.  

 Morning dawned already oven-warm, and I feared I was in for another bad day.  Back in Tucson and before I had received news of Aunt Louise's distress I had been shopping and had filled my freezer at home with meat, fish, berries, etc.   When I restarted the fridge in the RV, I packed the freezer to the max with frozen food then gave away all that would not fit.  I knew I would be lucky if I made it to Ft. Worth without losing anything.  But when I opened the fridge that first morning on the road I knew everything was warmer than it should be.  
Sigh Me ate a good breakfast but two hours later that meal made a reappearance.  When I passed a bank sign in El Paso about 11 am the temperature displayed on the sign read 107!  I am sure the pavement we were driving on was at least ten degrees warmer.

We reached Van Horn, Texas at 2 pm and I pulled into the parking lot of a tiny motel that touted "Air conditioning", parked the RV in a semi-shaded spot, and checked in. After cranking the AC down as low as we could stand, Sigh Me and I climbed into bed, pulled the blankets up and slept blissfully until 10 pm.  
I drove through the rest of the night and finally reached Aunt Louise's house by early afternoon.  Everything in the freezer was thawed out beyond rescue, and my laundry pile of rugs and misc. bed coverings was huge. 

Did I ever tell you how much I hate driving through West Texas?  I took the above picture because there were clouds in the sky--a rare sight during the previous 3 days.

I finally made it to the Rehab Center to find Aunt Louise in good spirits and having a good time with two of her friends.  (Aunt Louise, friend Carolyn, and Carolyn's Mom).  

More to come...

Stay tuned to find out what those mysterious spots are on my pants legs.

BTW, Thank you, Ron, for posting about Norway.  I loved the pictures and seeing the distant cousins.  The quaint little towns look wonderful  and I hope to get there someday.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Goodbye Norway

Ron here. The last post from Norway.

After spending the night at Asborg and Palmer's house in Guapne, I had to drive back to Bergen to catch my flight back to England and back to work. This trip was way to short.

I had to cross the Sogneforjd in a ferry again. It was very nice. I got to watch the sun come up over the eastern mountains and light up the fjord. It was breath takingly beautiful.

The drive to Bergen was about 5 hours. About a third of drive was underground, through tunnels. The tunnels all over Norway are amazing. One was over 15 miles long! At a couple of points in this tunnel it opens up as cave, and it is light up like you are in the middle of a glacier.

I am going to finish with this picture. I love it. I took on Asborg and Palmer's front porch on Easter morning. It is looking over the town of Gaupne, with the fjord behind it. I think it is nice way to end this trip.

Gaupne, Norway

Another part of the Norway series of posts.

Asborg and Palmer live in Gaupne, which is near Leirdal. Just upstream of the farm is the new glacial lake Turnsbergdalsvatn. That drains into the Jostedøla river, which is the deep gorge just east of Leirdal. That river flows down the gorge and to tip of Gaupnefjord, one of Norway's beautiful fjords.
They made a wonderful lunch!
Gaupne is a small town where the Jostedøla river empties into Gaupnefjord. That is a branch of Lustrafjord, which in turn is a branch of Sognefjord, Norway's largest fjord. From Gaupne there are ferries to other towns along the Sognefjord, and even to Bergen.

Their home is very pretty, tucked up along the steep cliffs of the gorge. There are waterfalls coming down the cliffs in their back yard.

In Gaupne is the Old Gaupne Church, built in the mid 1600's. Buried here are many of the Norwegian relatives of grandma Ruth Larson. Their surnames here in Luster, Norway is Lierdal, not Larson. The name Larson literally means "Son of Lars", which is a first name. In this case, Lars Erickson, who was Christen's father. And since they were from Leirdal, that is sort of the family name.

We went down to the old church to check out the grave markers there.

The grave marker of my Grandmother's Grandparents. Their son, Christen, was the one who moved to Minnesota as a young man.

A bit of trivia. Asborg and Palmer told me that this house is where the ancestors of singer Jackson Browne are from.

Fort Worth, TX

Ron here again. Mom is at Aunt Louise's in Ft. Worth. She will post after she gets settled in and can get on line.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tunsbergdalsvatn Hydro Power Plant, Norway

The man made lake behind the Leirdal farm is named Tunsbergdalsvatn. That lake feeds a small hydropower plant buried deep in the mountains just outside of Guapne. Palmer works for Statkraft, a hydropower company. The Leirdal dam and lake feed one of Statkraft's generators.

Here is an illustration from their website that illustrates how this is set up.

This is lake Tunsbergdalsvatn that feeds the turbine. Covered with ice in mid April. Behind the dam is a small building that houses the values that control the dam, including feeding water down the tunnel that was drilled through the mountain to the turbine.
Lake Tunsbergdalsvatn 

The dam control building
Near sea level there is a larger service tunnel, about 1/4 mile long, that big enough to drive a small truck in. This tunnel leads to a huge cavern they dug out to house the turbine, the generator, and all of the auxiliary systems. We drive the van into this tunnel to the cavern.

Enter the service tunnel

And descend into the tunnel

Which leads us to the generator

This lake feeds one turbine, which drives on generator.

The water hits the turbine at high speed thanks to gravity, After that, it is send down another tunnel where it drains into the fjord below sea level. They do this to prevent the tunnel from freezing which would block the drainage and shut down the generator.

This chamber deep in this mountain used to have a second purpose. It also served as a small NATO bunker at the end of the Cold War, a safe place to put some equipment and staff. Not any more though.

Thank you so much Palmer. It was very interesting and I really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

El Paso, Texas

Ron here. Mom called me today. She is east of El Paso right now, headed to Fort Worth. She said it is very, very hot. Like 107f hot. She said that the A/C is barely able making a dent.

Climbing the steep grades of western Texas with that heat is making for slow going. Since the RV is so heavy, she has to turn off the A/C on climbs, and drive slow. She said she is going to rest for a while and resume the drive at night when it is cooler.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Deb's Ranch

One lovely afternoon my friend, Nancy, invited me to join her on a visit to Deb's Ranch.  It was pure Arizona....

The long entrance had a colony of  prairie dogs standing at attention to welcome us as we drove in.

I sure hope you can see this fellow, he was too adorable to be classified a 'rodent'.

Directly ahead is the ranch manager's house.  Behind and to the right were the bunkhouse, tack room, corrals and some chickens.

Some chicks....Deb and Nancy in front of the classic ranch house.

And, just as a reminder that this is a working ranch, here is the coat rack right inside the front door.

The view from every direction is classic western.  Any minute Clint Eastwood will walk through that gate.

Water is, of course, the single most cherished resource in the desert and just to look at it gives some relief from the dry heat.  

This is the chicken coop.  

And the bunkhouse which is the very favorite hangout for all the grandkids.  What lovely memories those kids will have.

The Tack Room.

And Deb with one of her friends. 

The screen that covers the horse's face is to keep the incessant flies away away from their eyes.

The mask is a screen so the horse can see through it; it is only necessary through the summer months when it provides a great deal of relief.

Thanks for the lovely visit, Deb.

UPDATE:  Ron has been trying to post the final photos on his Norway trip but he is having some computer problems so just stay tuned.  He will get them posted eventually.

And Most important.... Aunt Louise has had some difficulties lately with high blood pressure and falling (she fell a month ago and broke her left arm and then fell again last week though did not break anything that time.)  So she is in a rehab facility right now and is waiting for me to arrive
 to 'spring her'. 

 Sigh Me and I are leaving tomorrow morning for Fort Worth, Tx and we should arrive by Wed or Thurs. I don't know how long we will be there but I suspect it will be for several months or more.  
My house is still for sale and will stay on the market; the real estate agent will continue to show it.  A teenage neighbor girl will do some houseplant watering and I have my fingers crossed that everything   survives while I am gone.  But here is another reminder that things like houses and furniture and 'stuff' can dictate our lives, even in a crisis. I am more than ready to disentangle, simplify my life, 'go with the flow', and enjoy the people in my life while I still can.
I will update the blog along the way and especially keep everyone posted on the health and happenings with Aunt Louise.