Monday, September 8, 2014

A Hero


She was christened Christine, but preferred Chris. 

She grew up when women were told their purpose was to make babies and serve their man.

Chris tried that, getting married and having 3 kids right out of high school. But, her husband's employment was uneven leaving her family perpetually broke.

That is when I met Chris.

She was a youth leader at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Oakland CA.

I was a confused teen. I never related well to kids of my own age. Chris took the time to listen to me and my dreams of becoming an architect.

She assured me I could go as far in life as my dreams could take me.

Chris became my closest friend.

And, when I listened to her, I came to realize she also had big dreams. Her dream was to become a teacher.

But, first, she had to learn to drive.

Enter Francois, a hand-me-down, crap-clutch, 1940 something Chrysler she inherited. It was a one-of-a-kind with its screw-in bistro table in the backseat and pedal-operated Bombay bell.

She drove that car with verve.

Then, between child rearing, church and stepping in to provide a refuge for a homeless teen, she carved out time to attend a community college.

Chris went on to win a full scholarship to Oakland's prestigious Mill's College. She earned a B'Ed degree with honors. Maya Angelou spoke at her commencement.

Days don't get much better than that.

Chris then put her kids in her "seen better days" station wagon and drove them on a one-way "visit" to Coeur d'Alene Idaho. With very little money and no real place to live, that station wagon morphed into a temporary "home".  

But, Chris landed a teaching job and later went on to earn a Masters in Special Education from the University of Idaho. She loved teaching right up to her retirement in 2008.

Her 3 kids grew up bright, strong, safe and healthy.

She was very proud of them and the 5 grandkids and 3 great grandkids they created. 

On August 29th Chris Korbel's spirit passed from this world into the ether where all human spirit comes from and to which all human spirit eventually returns.

We live in a nation that has always produced heroes.

Some wear uniforms and fight fires or go to war,

Some wear scrubs and fight illness 

Some become teachers......

like Chris.

Roadboy's Travels © 2014

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Losing A Friend

Good-Bye Mate

About 15 years ago my family fell in love with a pound puppy. He was so small and all alone in his big cage. He was a curious mix of Australian Cattle Dog and Shepherd. You could also see a little dingo in there if you squinted. 

We loved him immediately. My son gave him a perfect name - Rocket! 

Every night when I returned from the office I'd see his face at the kitchen door waiting for me. And when we'd return from longer family vacations he would be over the moon to see us.

He was loyal and strong. Sometimes he was a little too protective. I'd have to tell little kids on a walk that they couldn't pet him. Either way, our little mid-city Phoenix ranch house never suffered a burglary with Rocket on duty. 

But arthritis and cancer can exact a mean toll on dogs too. And they wore down even tough old Rocket. After a good fight he passed from the tangible world to the spirit world about 9:00 am this morning. But, no spirit that strong ever truly dies.


I once saw a bumper sticker that said "Help Me Be The Person My Dog Thinks I Am". 

I'll keep trying Rocket, but I know I'll never measure up.

Roadboy's Travels © 2014

Roadboy's New Mexico

Labor Day Weekend in New Mexico

I happen to love the land and people of New Mexico.  So the chance to spend a few days exploring a few of its treasures was welcome.

The trip began with a drive from Phoenix through Arizona's mining towns of Superior, Globe and Miami to Las Cruces NM. The trip was timed to allow for a dinner in the wonderful little town of Mesilla. The history of Mesilla predates the Gadsden Purchase giving it the distinction of once being part of Mexico. Billy the Kid frequented the bars in Mesilla and Mesilla in 1881 is where he was eventually tried and sentenced to hang.

Today Mesilla's plaza is framed by the lovely Basilica of San Albino and a series of restaurants and homes. The largest of the homes is now the sumptuous Double Eagle Restaurant. Besides good food the Double Eagle is home to the teenaged ghosts Inez and Armando (two lovers killed in a rage in Armando's bedroom by his mother.) His mother then fled to Mexico. 

Basilica of San Albino
Mesilla, NM

Inez' Chair

Over the years the two matching chairs in the Armando's bedroom (the Ghost Room) were repeatedly reupholstered. And although almost no one ever sits in them, the chairs almost immediately begin to show wear in the armrests, back and cushion. Staff and visitors repeatedly report hearing voices, feeling cold air blow from a bricked in window, seeing lights switched on and off and an occasional glass slide across a table.  

The Double Eagle "Ghost Room" 
(Viewed From a Mirror Reflection)

My dinner at the Double Eagle included a wonderful brisket taco, cheese enchilada and big chile relleno. The dinner was a perfect end to the day.

Saturday morning we set out for the 3-1/2 hour drive via El Paso to Carlsbad Caverns. The highlight of the mornings drive was the view of El Capitan and Guadalupe Peak (at 8,749' Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas).

El Capitan

Upon arrival at Carlsbad Caverns we decided to enter using the natural cave entry. 

My last visit to the Caves was when I was about 8 years old. In those days nearly every visitor had to enter the cave using the elevators from the visitor center. I remember getting on an the elevator, then descending endlessly. And then, when the doors opened, we were in a huge modern cafeteria (that just happened to be in a cave). Years later I remember hearing how they now allowed guided tours to use the natural entry to visitors. 

Today anyone in decent shape can enter the cave from the natural entry. Just be aware there is a 1-1/4 mile of switchbacks and you will descend 749'. 

The natural entry eases you into the increasingly cool and dark world of the cave. Then you join the elevator visitors all gawking at the sights of the "Big Room" self-guided tour. All in all the visit (even for a jaded 58 year old guy) was as wonderful as I remember as a kid.

The Bat Flight Amphitheater And Natural Cave Entry 

Descending Into Carlsbad

Once in the cave the scenery changes constantly, from the "Boneyard" to "Fairyland" to the "Bottomless Pit". There are huge stalactites and stalagmites all housed in the Big Room (that encompasses the equivalent of 14 football fields). 

The Boneyard

Views Into A Grotto

Take care in planning the logistics of a visit to Carlsbad Caverns. The lack of lodging in the vicinity and in nearby Carlsbad allows the local Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express to extract nearly $300 / Nt. 

The crazy rates have not gone unnoticed (there were three very large hotels under construction in Carlsbad).

The Only Close-By Motel to the Caverns 
Has Been Closed For Some Time 

Knowing the local hotel situation we had anticipated making a long drive to Santa Fe after our cave tour. We arrived at our Santa Fe hotel about 10:00 pm. 

After breakfast Sunday morning we made a quick trip into Santa Fe to view the Loretto Chapel and once again puzzle over its amazing staircase.

At the time Loretto was built only men sang in church choirs. So choir lofts were accessed by ladders (saving precious pew space). When the Loretto sisters realized their chapel failed to include a stairway they prayed that somehow a remedy would emerge.  

Strangely enough an old carpenter soon appeared who agreed to build a staircase. Once complete he disappeared as quickly as he appeared. He built the stairs out of a species of wood no one had ever seen before and somehow got the double helix affair to actually support itself. Engineers and architects to this day cannot agree how the stairs (without internal steel) support themselves.

The Original Stairs 
(Prior to the Addition of Handrails)

The Stairs Today

After the visit to the chapel we made the obligatory visit to the Plaza, dipping into the Luchese Boot store. While I am certainly not in the market for a pair of $3,000 boots, I enjoy the rich smell of fine leather. 

Lunch was taken in the Creperie in the La Fonda Hotel. Cash Only.

After that we drove north to the shrine and Sanctuary at Chimayo. This little church has become a magnet for those seeking healing. Pilgrims first pray, then scoop up some dirt from the side chapel (to apply to afflicted areas). There are hundreds of abandoned crutches and seemingly every tree has a message inscribed beseeching health and safety.

The Sanctuary at Chimayo

The Garden Walls Chimayo

The Creek and Garden Walls

An Offering 
Garden Walls

After visiting Chimayo we were off to Albuquerque for a last dinner of various green chile entrees. Then it was off to bed.

Monday (Labor Day) was spent on the drive back home. Along the way we diverted off of I-40 into the El Milpais National Monument. El Milpais was filled with lava fields, sandstone cliffs and the huge La Ventana Natural Arch.

La Ventana Arch

El Milpais Sandstone Cliffs

A perfect Labor Day weekend in The Land of Enchantment. An au revoir to summer 2014.

Roadboy's Travel © 2014