Lizzie on Location

Californication

May 10, 2010
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Near Mount Whitney

My trip to Bull Head City ended in a hangover, which I drove off by way of a trip across the desert to California.  Not like Hollywood or even San Fran.  Nope.  My one and only stop in Cali was the Eastern Sierras.  Bishop to be exact, a small town just south of Mammoth Lakes in the Owens Valley.  This was the first time I had been to California and it was not at all what I expected.

The Inyos, the mountain range that runs east of the Owens Valley

First of all, after having spent what felt like weeks in the desert (in reality it was just barely one week) I was excited to get to Bishop where surely at 4,000 feet in elevation and nestled in the Sierras it would be green.  Well, not exactly.  It was MUCH greener than Phoenix, Bull Head City, Death Valley, and some of the other places I drove through to get there; but it was not a lush forest.  As I climbed north as well as higher in elevation I waited and waited for the tree line.  And then I was in Bishop.  And the tree line never came.

This was to be my first lesson in California topography and landscape.  I literally had no idea that it was an arid climate.  I expected trees everywhere.  I mean my friend works for the forest service and her friends fight wildfires.  It is easy to assume that there is a forest given the little information I was going off of.  Kim must have laughed at me a million times for my astonishment at the reality of Bishop.

As I headed north through the Valley I spotted what looked like salt flats to me.  Now, admittedly I do not nor did I know much about the geography of California; especially the Eastern Sierras.  However, I was pretty sure there were no natural salt flats, and the expanse of this particular one was alarming.  I had to find out more.

Owens Lake... Well what remains of it.

Upon my arrival one of the first questions I had for Kim was if I had indeed seen slat flats and whether they were indeed natural or not.  Kim explained that those salt flats are a huge controversy there in the Owens Valley.  What I had seen was the Owens Lake (Lake Owens?)  Apparently, the county of LA has been buying up property throughout the state for its adjoining water rights.  Long ago (pretty sure within the last 100 years though) they had purchased land (not sure how much) adjacent to the lake and began pumping the water out of the lake to provide drinking water to LA.  No surprise to anyone with some environmental knowledge that soon the lake dried up leaving a toxic salt flat in its place.  LA county continued to move north draining more of the valleys lakes until the local population had had enough and began fighting back.  However, the environmental damage of the draining of Owens Lake has been done and like the rest of the world’s fresh waterways that have dried up from human mismanagement, California is left with a huge disaster that needs to be dealt with.  And yet somehow, even though my degree is directly related to the study of this I had never heard of it. That is the true disaster of the situation, that informed American’s don’t know about this nor is it at the front of our concerns nationally.

Environmental Degradation of the Owens Lake CA

I arrived the Saturday before Easter and was welcomed into California with tickets to see the Banff Film Festival which was touring in Bishop that weekend.  Being that I was born just outside of Banff, it was exciting to see something from the area where I entered the world.  There were a ton of really cool short films, but the one that stuck out the most in my mind was a documentary done by a Brit who rode a tandem bike from the arctic circle in Alaska to the very tip of Argentina.  He chose the tandem bike for the opportunity to make friends while completing the challenge.  It took him 2 years.  I could understand some of the feelings he had experienced during the trek.  Like loneliness for example.  However, I would face like 11 hours of loneliness; he experienced 3 weeks at a time.  Oh and I was driving 10,000 miles and he was biking like 29,000.  But these are minor details.

Kim's Neighborhood in Bishop, CA

Bishop itself is a small town, with just 3,000 people.  But it is one of the cutest little places in the country and has tons of great local shops.  The population is also very passionate about shopping local and supporting local economy.  This was a refreshing change to much of the country where WalMart and big chains are the everyday places to go.  There are tons of great little restaurants that use local products as well as many thriving galleries.  The Owens Valley is so beautiful there are countless opportunities for artists to create beautiful interpretations of the surrounding landscapes.  There is also one of the best used book stores I have ever seen.  It’s reasonably priced and has a HUGE selection.  Oh and in typical style, it snowed while I was in Cali.  Yes, I realize I am probably one of the only people who would go to California not expecting to see snow and then have that happen (remember Atlanta?)

North end of Bishop CA (it had snowed while I was there)

Bishop is also home to cowboys and some major federal land management departments in addition to artists.  The Feds and the cowboys apparently are at opposing ends on the debate over how to properly use and manage land.  One thing they can both agree on though is that developing it or letting LA have their water is a non option.

Picturesque!

While in California I experienced minor dehydration and elevation sickness (probably due to the dehydration.)  I had no idea what was wrong with me.  It felt like I was car sick when I was still and not moving.  It was horrible.  But a little water and some sleep was all I needed to put me back in the game.  This was not the first time I had experienced dehydration while on a major vacation…. There is a running joke between my little brothers girlfriend and him that I always go so hard on vacation that I get deathly ill upon my return.  My sickness came on a day when I had planned to go to the Japanese Internment Camp in the area for a little historical lesson.  Unfortunately I missed out on that trip.

There is SO much to do in the Eastern Sierras between the natural setting and the historical sites that a person could spend years discovering it all.  I had a few days and made the natural hot springs in the area my priority.  I had never been to hot springs and know that many of them are too hot to sit in or have now been funneled into bath houses worldwide.  Kim and her friends took me to the hot springs down the road from them.  It was about 40 degrees out that night and I was under the impression that these springs would be deep like a hot tub and HOT.  In reality they were shallow like a bath tub and fairly warm but not as hot as the temperature I would have had drawn my own bath water to.  And while it sounds like I am complaining, I am not exactly.  It was really cold and windy the night we went and that didn’t help to make me comfortable in reality.  However, I have to say that if it had been 10+ degrees warmer I would have been as happy as a pig in shit there.  It’s amazing.  You drive not far off the main highway and bam, you are in the middle of hot springs that are free and open to the public.  The best thing is there really isn’t any signage so its mainly locals that go.  The backdrop surrounding you is amazing, but the water is diverted during the day to a bath house and you are charged for sitting in hot water that can be freely accessed after dark naturally.

Eastern California is beautiful and has tons to offer any traveller.  Don’t think you will be alone even south of Tahoe and Mammoth.  Bishop has so much to offer that people from all walks of life and interested in all types of activities come to Bishop, if just to stop for lunch on their way north for ski vacations.


Lions Fan’s welcome in Bullhead City

May 5, 2010
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After the Grand Canyon I drove to Bullhead City Arizona.  This little gem on the border of Nevada and Arizona is home to seedy motels, a Home Depot, and the classy “Chilis” restaurant.  More importantly it is the home of O’Leary’s Pub.  More on that later.

So I check in to this “value” motel.  Called the Nevada Club Inn or something to that effect.  I should have turned around and walked away when the front desk worker was an older man with a black eye.  What kind of 50ish year old man gets a black eye?  I suspect he was a victim of domestic abuse.  I should have again turned around and walked away when I asked if I could switch from the non smoking room I had to a smoking room and he gave me an ashtray and said “it’s cool.”  This was obviously not the upstanding place that I originally thought it was (for $50/night hehehe.)  Finally, I asked him if there was a place I could walk to and get a beer and some food because I do not drink and drive.  He replied that there was a Chili’s 1/2 a mile down the road.  I asked about O’Leary’s Pub across the street and his response was “Well Chili’s is a lot classier.”  Classy?  Chili’s?  Bitch Please!!  Should have again turned and walked out the door.  Instead I went to my room….

And here’s the reason I DID turn around and leave this scumbag motel:  I pulled the sheets back and I swear to fucking God…. there was a BIG bug.  Not big like roach big.  But big like beetle big.  Either way it was enough for me to turn around and gather my belongings and demand a refund.  Honestly though, and lets keep it real, is there any size bug that is acceptable?  Not for this girl.

The worst part is, oh and it does get worse, when I approached the domestic case at the front desk about getting a refund because I was not going to stay in this shit hole and when I explained to him the reason he made no argument.  He didn’t even try and comfort me to tell me that was unusual.  WTF!!!???  Moral of the story you ask?  Never go to the Nevada Club Inn in Bull Head City AZ.

I did end up in a gutter motel…. but at least there were no bugs.  For under $50 a night, you don’t get much.

Now, onto the fun part.

O’Leary’s is a darling little hole in the wall establishment is not fine dining.  It really isn’t even nice dining.  But for 7 dollars you get a Miller Lite and a shot of Jameson.  That’s a damn good deal.  Ask around.  People will agree.

I was hesitant to go into this establishment given the amount of meth addicts in the south west.  However, I needed a beer and some food and there was a truck with a Detroit Lions sticker on it in the parking lot.  I figured if there was a Lions fan than it had to be a pretty legit bar and I had happened to wear my Detroit Lions tee shirt that night (mostly because when you tell people you’re from Detroit they get a little scared…. even if you are a white girl and I like to play my strengths.)  I really enjoyed myself and the local population.  The bartender was from the Dee and she looked after me, something I needed given the fact that I was alone drinking in a city where I knew no one for at least 300 miles.

I began to drink with the locals and soon met the owner of the bar.  A dear old man.  He was an old Laguna Beach surfer.  Well before the times of “The Laguna Beach.”  Back when it was shacks and grungy surfers.  He also had grand kids my age so we chatted for awhile and he bought my shots and we tied one on.  I also drank with some other regulars who were quite interested in my travels.  One of them was kind of a dick, and I reveled in telling him so!  He told me I was loud and annoying (like he was the first person to say that.)  I like when people say what’s on their mind though, even if keeping it real can sometimes go wrong.  The other guy was very nice and said I could call him anytime between Cali and Iowa City if I was in trouble and he would come and help me.  Being a good judge of character, I took it as American kindness and not creepy old guyness.  Fortunately I didn’t need to call him.  Or AAA for that matter. 😉

Long story short, do go to O’Learys.  Do not go to Nevada Club Inn.  Bull Head City has a rubber duck regatta in the summer on the Colorado River.  Its a custom tube float and sounds phenomenal.  If I could continue back out west I know I would go. 🙂


Getting Dirty in Phoenix

April 27, 2010
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Phoenix.  The Valley of the Sun.

Sunrise just outside of Phoenix

This desert oasis was much needed after staying in a seedy hotel in west Texas.  On this stop I stayed with family friends whom I have known since childhood (AP, Dylan, and GJ.)  The drive into Phoenix is beautiful.  The red rocks of Tucson are stunning in the sunset.  The only thing to take away from the gorgeous landscape in southern AZ is the amount of police and border patrol that rolls around down there.  I mean there are cops everywhere!  And about every 1-2 miles there is a police car with a camera to catch speeders by film. As I had learned my lesson about mach speeds in the South West, I am sure there were no pics of my car taken!

Sunset 30 miles south of Phoenix

I arrived on Saturday, and my “cousin” as I like to refer to him, was already at the bar in Scottsdale.  Time to rally.

Scottsdale has a pretty impressive bar scene and my cousin and his friends were at least 3 sheets to the wind.  I quickly caught up to pace with the boys (or at least close enough) and started to then become the shot aggressor.  My dirtbag cousin loves Rumplemans.  I mean he loves the shit.  It might be one of the worst shots known to me and all of man kind.  So I suggest I buy him a shot.  He agrees.  So I buy Jameson (of course.) At this point I did not realize that my cousin is blacked out, clearly because there are two things he will not drink; Jameson and Tequila (another something I didn’t know about him.)  He shoots the Jameson.  Looks at me through now clouded over eyes and says “Getting Dirty.” He wipes his mouth with his sleeve and promptly begins the downward spiral into bad decision making.

I tell this story, because the next day we drank our hang overs away by going to his friends pool.  First jump in the pool I disregard the 5 feet deep sign and end up jamming my knee.  Two days later AP went in for knee surgery.  So much of the remainder of my trip was spent laid up on the couch talking shit with AP.  Laughing about our bum knees and our endless childhood stories of mischief.

To be honest, when I jumped in the pool it seemed like a great idea.  and it was.  It was also hilarious to watch.  And while that would be great to have a laugh over it, because I basically flopped into the pool.  No grace.  No poise.  Just me and the pool. It’s not nearly as funny as one could hope because I am pretty sure whenever I get health insurance and go to a doctor, we will find that I need knee surgery.  It just hasn’t felt good since.  But cie la vie!

The best part of the entire week was when AP’s mom came into town.  This woman has known me since I was a baby.  She is my mom’s best friend.  She has recently gone through chemo and has a couple great wigs.  They really look good on her too.  I can’t really remember why the boys thought to put them on, but they did.  And here are some of the best pics you will ever see.  In fact I am putting a “real” pic of them up with the “wig pic” or as I say AP’s senior pic from ’79.

AP in real life

AP's class portrait from '79

GJ in '010

Surfer? Hippie? Or regular old scumbag?

I must say, the biggest influence on my trip that my cousin had was to enter two new phrases into my lexicon.  Not that anyone cares, but it may give some background for future stories and why I said what I did.  AP likes to use the phrases “Getting Dirty” and “Scumbag” or “dirtbag” but mostly scumbag.

These are great phrases, we can all agree to that.  But its how he uses them that makes people confused.  For example, “getting dirty” can be used for anything that you are doing or going to do.  Like in this sentence “Ok, I am leaving for work now.” loosely translated it’s “Going to work.  Getting dirty.”  Or in a question and answer response: “Hey, what are you doing today?”

“Going to work.”

“Oh you’re getting dirty eh?”

See how that can confuse people?  He also uses scumbag a little more loosely than most people do.  But then, most people don’t recognize their own scumminess. lol


About author

To begin with, this is not for baby ears or the weak. By baby ears I mean people with sensitivity issues and the under 18 crowd. I am crass and if you are easily offended by my language and/or opinions and/or comments and/or behavior, you can get the fuck over yourself..... (sorry mom and anyone else who loves me but wishes my mouth was less filthy.)

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