Her Ladyship

Notes from the gutter.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Yellowstone, part deux

Part the first. So, a loaded Corona. We spent quite a lot of time at Strozzi's, a magnificent place that had pizza on one side and a bar on the other. The pizza was terrific- on par with this place in my hometown that unfathomably went out of business maybe a decade ago and which my family still mourns. Plus, if you were sitting at the bar, they'd bring the pizza to you.

While awaiting our second, or possibly third pizza (seriously, we even bought a pizza for the road. It made it as far as Albuquerque), we were admiring the bar's beer collection. For such a small bar, they had a really good collection of microbrews and international beers. I asked the bartender what her favorite was, and she let me in on a very fabulous drink. You take a Corona, gulp down a big swig of it, then pour in a shot of Absolut Citron. Shake it around a bit, being sure that your thumb is covering the top entirely (hard to do a few Coronas in - I speak from experience), and you got yourself a refreshing summer drink. She sternly warned us that it had to be Corona, and she's right. It just doesn't taste right otherwise. Enjoy!

Part the second: The trail ride. Oh, the trail ride. We'd decided back when we were first planning this trip that a horse ride through Yellowstone would be fun, since we've been taking lessons and are reasonably comfortable on horses now. I did some research and found out that there are very few companies licensed to take people on horseback through Yellowstone (which makes sense, you don't want them clomping all over everywhere), and that even fewer companies were open in early June. Apparently the season doesn't start until mid-June, largely because the park is still defrosting from the winter. So choosing a company was fairly easy.

We had the choice between a four- and an eight-hour ride. Thank [insert deity of choice here] we did the four-hour ride, because I think I would've lost my already feeble grasp of sanity if I'd done the eight.

It started off okay. We met up with our trailguides - all women, which was pretty cool - with the other riders. Five out of eight had never been on the back of a horse before, three of us had taken a few lessons. All of us were green - the horses included, unfortunately. They had just started their trail rides a week before and the horses I think were still working through all the bad habits they'd picked up in the off-season.

I was given the alpha horse for the entire pack, a black horse named Widow who liked to rear up on his hind legs if you pulled back on his reins too hard. Perfect for a newbie rider, right? But I figured that they were used to dealing with the public and of course wouldn't send people out on horses that weren't placid. Ha. Hahaha. Ahem. Allow me to say this: when I first heard my horse's name, I thought, "Widowmaker? What kind of name of a horse is that?" Then I thought, "Don't project, he's probably a lovely horse." He was not - he was determined to do what he wanted to do, including trotting downhill (trailhorses are supposed to walk the whole time and allow you to focus on appreciating the scenery, not remaining on the horse). And one of the guides slipped up and called him "Widowmaker." I was all, a-HA! The Texan wasn't much better off - his was Diego, but should've been called Diablo.

The fours hours were interminable. My ass went numb about half-way through and never got better. I was so pissed and frustrated, I was tempted to get off the horse and walk back, but my legs were cramping and I wasn't sure I could make it. The nadir was right at the very end. I could see the beginning of the trailhead and was so close I could taste it. Then Widowmaker trotted down a hill, and went faster...and faster...and faster. Finally, I screamed, "JESUS CHRIST THIS GODDAMNED FUCKING HORSE WILL NOT STOP RUNNING!" Unfortunately, that was right when a family of hikers was passing by. In four hours, we only saw two groups of hikers, and that was one of them. Oh well, guess Yellowstone turned out to be more educational than the parents had anticipated.


With that, I'll be signing off for a week. The Texan and I are heading out to Berlin. I had to go there for work, and since he's on summer break, he was able to come too. I am very excited, as I've never been to Germany, much less Berlin. Auf weidersehn! (sp, I know. I never took German)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I would have liked to have seen Montana...

...is no longer something I can say, as I've been there! (Brownie points to anyone not related to me who can identify which movie that quote was taken from.)

The Texan, our dog Che, and I set off over a week ago for a road trip to/from Yellowstone. 3800 miles and eight states later, we are still talking to each other, so I guess it was a success.

I'd never done a really long road-trip before, but The Texan used to do them all the time. So he was in charge of setting up the logistics: drive for four hours, stop for gas and bathroom visit (or, as he vividly puts it, "pump and dump,"), then switch drivers and move on. We took three days to get there and two to get back. We had set up hotel rooms ahead of time because of the dog, so it gave us definite stopping points, which is best, because I could have imagined us tired and bickering as we drove through a strange city, trying to find a hotel that would accept dogs.

We stopped in Pueblo, Colo., on the first night. It was a pretty dull drive to there. We spent most of it going through dust storms in West Texas. Man, was that depressing and dreary - rundown towns with buildings falling over and boarded up, covered with dirty. Colorado was much prettier, especially when we got into the higher elevations (at one point, we were at 10,000 feet) and there was snow. Che is a Texas dog and had never seen snow before. We stopped to let him play, but as it turns out, he's about as fond of snow as I am. Which is to say, happy to see it, loath to go out in it.

The second night, we stayed at the Holiday Inn in Rock Springs, Wyoming. This was by far our favorite hotel, and not just because they gave us a free round of drinks at their bar. It had the most comfortable bed I've slept on outside the one we have now, and was really funkily decorated (kinda 60s modern).

Once we were in Wyoming, we started to see elk, which were exciting at first. Then we drove through Yellowstone on our way to our final destination (West Yellowstone, a good location if you like looking at geysers, and who doesn't like looking at geysters?). And experienced our first of many incidents where buffalo calmly walking up the road caused a traffic jam. I have a lovely image of my armpit being reflected in the rearview mirror as I leaned out to take a picture of a buffalo moving no more than a yard away. The dog wanted to go out and play with them. Which isn't unexpected, since he's a cattle dog, but we figured it probably wasn't the best of ideas.

While there, we met up with my sister and brother-in-law, Dust Bunny and Road Runner, who drove up from Vegas to hang out with us. I'm sure our parents were delighted that my sister and I actually went on vacation together, as when we were little, we fought so much I think they were certain that only one of us would make it out to adulthood.

We spent the next couple of days driving around Yellowstone, looking at geysers, smoking holes in the ground, and mudpots. We also saw tons of buffalo, elk, a few wolves, a bear, a bald eagle, and even a few moose (the latter were in Grand Teton). At first, any time we saw people pulled off to the side of the road, we'd do the same, figuring that there was some animal there worth photographing. Then it got to the point where yet another picture of a buffalo wasn't quite the thrill it had been, and we started cursing out all the people who had to stop every. time. they saw. a buffalo. Old Faithful? Not so faithful these days; thanks to a few earthquakes recently, it spouts off sporadically, so you basically have to plunk yourself down in front of it and just wait. It's one of those things you feel you have to see if you're there, but I am happy never to have to see it again. I still think the smoking holes in the ground of geothermal activity are cool.

Yellowstone damn near burned to the ground 20 years ago. I vaguely remembered seeing TV pictures about the fire, but I had no idea to the extent of the damage. According to Yellowstone's webpage, only 36% of the park was affected by the fire, but it seemed like a lot more than that had been burned down. I had figured that it would have mostly come back. It has...sort of. What you see are tall, scraggly tree trunks that survived the fire (but had all their leaves and branches burned off) standing in groves where there are lots and lots of smaller trees crowding each other out. The really interesting thing is that the Park Service didn't reseed anything - it's all happening naturally.

Tomorrow: what in the world is a loaded Corona? And the four-hour trail ride from HELL.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Because that whole stand-off with the kids being taken away from their parents at the religious compound took place a little outside of SA, our local paper has been chronicaling it pretty assiduously. It's been a sometimes heartbreaking story to follow. While I am all about protecting young kids from predators, and there are certainly some issues that they need to look into with this group, CPS totally screwed the pooch on this. The government over the past seven years has little by little been taking away our civil liberties and this swooping in and just taking children willy-nilly with zero evidence to prove that the kids were at danger was just another step in that direction. I was really happy to read that the kids were being reunited with their parents.

But one thing puzzles me. Along with the nearly-daily stories in the paper, they've been running tons of pictures of the mothers. That's partially due to the fact that the women are begging for their kids back, but also, let's face it, their olden-tyme clothes are wild. It's really jarring to see these Little House on the Prairie outfits, complete with Gibson Girl hairstyles, on people who live in our current times.

What I don't get, though, is that I've also seen the women wearing Ray-bans and Crocs. How do they make the decision that those are acceptable but things like, say, denim pants, are not?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Slightly overcooked

The Texan, the dog, and I went to our usual beach north of Corpus Christi on Saturday. I have been antsy to go lately, largely because The Texan (who is a student) is on his summer break and spending what feels like a tauntingly large number of hours at a friend's pool. This would be my chance to sit in the sun.

As this was my first beach trip this year, I made a special effort to constantly reapply sunblock. I was rewarded with an absolutely wicked sunburn, to the point where I had to switch into soft, seamless clothing when I got home Saturday night. This is beyond irritating, and alas completely my fault. Despite being in my early- okay, FINE, mid-30s, and having literally decades of experience of applying sunblock, I still cannot manage to find that happy combination of exposure and sun lotion that will allow me to be some color between fishbelly white and an uncomfortably vivid red sunburn.

To boot, I did absolutely everything possible wrong. Too-old sunblock? Check. Out between 10AM and 3PM, the peak hours? Check. Spraying sunblock in a windy environment and not making sure that it had dried before going in the water? Double check. It was as if it were Do The Opposite of What Common Sense and Your Dermatologist Tells You Day.

The only silver lining was that I met up with some friends at brunch yesterday and one of them arrived with a lovely palette of red all over her upper body. Her complaint? Decades of experience and yet she still cannot reliably put sunblock on. I am not alone.