Saturday, April 30, 2011

Typical Saturday in Ocotillo

This morning George came over to my new friend Jimmy's house. He asked how it was going.

I told him that after three months, "I can't find anything hot enough to eat or fast enough to drive."

He got out one of his quads for me to run in the desert. I ran out Jimmy's yard and out onto the trail that a couple weeks ago I wrote about. You know, the one where I got in a little over my head. Well, lets just say the learning curve has improved a little (I ran 091 at 50mph two nights ago).

Anyway, quads ROCK! Crazy cool. Like riding a go-cart on a roller coaster. I am beginning to understand why people come out to the desert to run their quads and dirt bikes.

Then at noon, I ran over to the Lazy Lizard to be a guest VIP judge at the Roadkill Stew Cook Off. A fundraiser for the Optimist Club.

There were 11 stews put up for the competition: Calamity Chowder, Freeway Possum, Crushed on 98, Fouled Up, and several that I can't mention. Plus one that was called Gas Station Stew, a venison dish named because the cook got the recipe as a "prize" for filling her tank during a "gas war" before the energy crisis of the 1970s.

My favorite was the Calamity Chowder, a clam chowder potato soup that was very smooth on the pallet but with a hot aftertaste. The winner, however, was Crushed on 98, a tomato-based stew with sweet potatoes, pineapple, bell peppers, and hot Italian sausage meatballs. This stew released a variety of flavors and textures with each bite.

I sent a message to Deneen and she replied that, "You know you're a redneck when you are the VIP judge at a Roadkill Stew Cook Off."

For me, it's just a typical Saturday in Ocotillo.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Never Stops Being Funny...

I have met a couple really good guys here. My cultural mediators. They have been going out of their way to integrate me into the community and have been introducing me to the contacts that I need to make. Much like my friends in Columbus, they never cease giving me a hard time. And just like me friends in Columbus, it's usually a real hard time. Today, one of them sent me an email to ask if I had seen the paper...

Now the rest of the story.

On Thursday, I was in El Centro for Rotary and a couple meetings. About 3:00 I got a call to ask if I wanted to attend the Young Professionals Organization Award Banquet at 5:30 and sit at the Rotary table. I told him that all I had was the jeans, tennis shoes and t-shirt that I had on. I did have a jacket in the car. He said I would be fine. I went and had a good time. Dinner was good. I met a few new people.

The newspaper article that covered the event included this photo with my jeans and big old tennis shoes right in the center of the picture. My new friends want to know what in the world I was thinking about showing up in jeans. They think I am trying too hard to fit in with the "young" professionals.

They have no idea...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday, 2011

Today was Easter Sunday. I went to church at Fresno First Baptist where my brother is Pastor of Worship. He was reminding me that he has been here 11 years and I had never seen his house or church. But he has seen everywhere I have lived including Grand Turk and Ocotillo. Two not-so-easy places to get to. I may have been cantankerous about having to drive all the way up here, but I am very happy I came. It has made me feel more connected here than I thought it would. I enjoy Bryan's family. And I like getting to see Mom.

I think we should make plans for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving used to be a big family holiday for us. Then after 9/11 we started traveling every Thanksgiving. Easter used to be a big family holiday. Every year it was Sunrise service, breakfast at church, Easter service, then a big family dinner. I think my Mom started going out to California to visit Bryan for Easter and in Columbus, Easter changed.

We still had Easter Sunday dinner, but it was always something very different. My favorite Easter dinner story was the year when we had a lobster and crab bake. Steve could not stop complaining the entire time. I think he thought we were trying to ruin Easter. All I could think about was how anyone could complain about a lobster and crab bake.

In 1994 I attended the Easter service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. That was cool. I have a great sketch of that in one of my travel notebooks.

Deneen spent Easter once at St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. That must have been really cool.

In 2008 we spent our first Easter on Grand Turk. There is a picture on this blog of the family standing outside of the Baptist Church. Everyone looks really young. We spent Easter 2009 in Montreal, Canada, while Lucas was at Lake Placid. Last Easter Dave Horn came to visit in Grand Turk and we attended the Easter service at the Lighthouse church. The Valentine family, missionaries who had become good friends, had just completed re-building the church after the hurricane. I talked to Jessica last night. She spent Easter last year with Dave and me, where I evidently "made" her go to the church service. This year she was in Australia. She was telling me about her Easter the day before my Easter happened. My son Martin spent Easter by himself at Judson University outside of Chicago.

Are holidays changing for everyone? Or are we just at the age when families change? I was just looking through this blog to see what we have done on Easter over the last few years. Its a lot of travel. Maybe that should be the new Easter story. Jesus took a trip down the Via Dolorosa, saw family for three days, then came back. I'm just sayin...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Friday Night Drive to FresNowhere

This weekend I saw something that I never thought I would ever see...


On Friday my brother Bryan sent me a text saying that I should come up to Fresno and surprise mom, who flew in last week.

"Its far." said I. I was planning on just sitting in Ocotillo alone and working all weekend.

"Come on," he said. "Its no big deal, just like driving to Chicago."

On Friday evening I got in the car and drove the 8 hours north. Eight hours. From Columbus, Ohio, in eight hours you can be in Washington, D.C., Nashville, almost New York City, Charlotte, or Chicago. The problem here is had I driven to Chicago, I would be in Chicago.

I drove eight hours and I am basically in the same place.

But when I got up on Saturday and surprised Mom at breakfast she cried, so i guess Bryan was right. It was worth the drive.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fries, Flights, and Fights

Deneen, Lucas, and Davis flew out of San Diego this week.

On Wednesday we drove into Ocean Beach. All Deneen wanted to do was go to the beach. But as sunny as it was in the Imperial Valley, it was as equally dreary and rainy at the beach. Everyone keeps talking about how nice the weather is in California. I have been here for three months and have experiences 2 types of weather: its either 2 cold, 2 windy, 2 hot, or 2 rainy.

We went in to Ocean Beach to eat at a place called Hodads. It is a dive that boasts the "Worlds Best Hamburgers". Several months ago it was featured on the Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It got a couple of write up in the San Diego paper after this. We went at 2:00pm but there was a line all the way down the block. The newspaper article talked about how much their business has increased since the show was on the Food Network. There is evidently a whole group of people who travel around the country eating at the restaurants featured on the show. One couple interviewed in the paper had flown from New York to San Diego, just to eat at Hodads.

I don't know about that, but we came back at four and got seated quickly. A single hamburger with a basket of fries was $7.95. The burger came with a stack of lettuce, tomato, and onions tucked between the patty and the bottom bun. It was good, but I don't know if it was best burger in the world good.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lunch on the Rocks

So, this is my informal hiking club eating lunch.

This about 30 feet up the rock face in Devil's Canyon. It was 102 degrees today. We drove out into the canyon both yesterday and today to free climb. Lucas, Davis, and I had great climbs of 60 to 80 feet.

The pictures do not do justice at all to the reality of the climbs. But on our second climb today we were up and over the first ridge of large boulders at about 80 feet. At the second ridge I looked back over to the first ridge and look who I saw! what a trooper. Maybe she climbed up just to to yell at us that it was too hot in the car and there was not enough shade. But I will give her a shout out for being up to the challenge of our new crazy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Deneen and the boys are in the House, OK, Trailer

This week Deneen, Lucas, and Davis came out to visit El Centro. We spent the night at the Crown Plaza in San Diego. I thought it would have been a nice break from the 40 degree, rainy weather that has enveloped Columbus for the last few weeks.

But she looked out the balcony of our pool-side room and stated, "Well, its no Nikki Beach. All those people down there probably think their on some great vacation."

Alas, this week released its top 25 beaches in the United States and its ten best beaches of the world. Though San Diego placed number 11 in the US, the Turks and Caicos Islands has the number one beach in the world. That is a little hard to top. In fact, I guess its impossible to top. So now she's spoiled.

Just wait until she sees the trailer were going to stay in all week in Ocotillo!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bryan Hitch in the House

This weekend, Bryan and Terry, my older brother and sister-in-law, visited me in Ocotillo. The first family or friend to visit, as he pointed out.

They were staying up in Palm Desert, a couple hours from here. They came down, toured the museum, met my new friend Jimmy, and went to dinner. The visit was all too short. I did not even get to drive them out into the desert.

It was good to see them, and they have a much better appreciation when they read the blog.

Terry said that we seem to be finding interesting places to live, but she thought Ocotillo looked like the type of place that the bus would have broken down when we were on the road with the Hitches.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Full Court Press

Today, the front page article of the Imperial Valley Press was about the Desert Museum and its new director.

I am always amazed at how what you say to a reporter is heard, and then quoted. I thought the article was going to be about how the museum has hired a new, dynamic director who is moving the institution forward into the future with community engaging programs. But the media train we want to start pushing down hill has a bunch of baggage on board.

The headline was not flattering. But the pictures I took came out amazingly well.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Eating Al Fresco just South of Ocotillo

Its funny cause its true. Get it. Eating al fresco implies an upscale, pretentious outside dining establishment. And I am suggesting that there is a new hip place to eat south of the small town of Ocotillo...But really its eating on a blanket in the shade of an actual ocotillo cactus (which by the way was the only shade we found the whole day). See, its funny cause its true.

On Sunday I got an invite to accompany a small informal hiking club on a 3 1/2 hike into the Jucumba Wilderness. This was an interesting small group of mostly professors. They have an organized hike once a month.

As a hiking club they hike into one of the desert recreational areas. They have a have a pleasant lunch. Then they take a nap. Or a siesta as they liked to call it. Still, I am pretty sure it was a nap.

Kind of funny. I did not catch the lunch or nap part of the invite and was totally unprepared. But in the end, I pulled out my ipod, laid back on the floor of the desert, felt the sun on my face, and had quite a nice experience.

I was thinking...I have packed some pretty mean lunches into some extremely interesting places before. Deneen and I had a whole "extreme" picnic set up prior to having children. Next time I get an invite, they are going to be just a little surprised with what I am going to bring.