The Two Gringas Do It Again!

Posted By: MissLena

The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 01/30/04 05:50 PM

The Two Gringas Do It Again!

Day 0 -- Wednesday 28 January 2004 -- Vashon Island, Washington

"Packing early is for wooses!"

Before every trip, it's right about at this point -- mid- to late-afternoon the day before departure -- that I no longer want to go. With sorted piles and partially sorted piles of stuff and more stuff occupying every horizontal surface, chair and bed in three rooms, five pages of checklist, and nothing yet in the bags, it all just seems like more trouble than it's worth.

The phone rings. It's Laurie.

"Lena, don't forget that the washer is being delivered this evening between 5 and 7."

Ugh, I'd completely spaced it...

"I need that installed before you leave."

Right, no problem.

I go back to what I was doing -- not actually packing, but making a last-minute fix to a leaky window gasket on the old 1978 Ford F350 Camper Special factory-built 2-ton pick-up which Laurie inherited from her late father, and which will be our ride from Seattle to Belize this trip. Nice truck; well maintained, beefy, only 204,000 original miles...

The window's almost finished, the packing yet to begin, the washer long forgotten. Again.

. . .

I had started out the morning with yet another call to our medical insurance provider (between the insurance restrictions and my pharmacist's apparent inability to calculate out beyond 30 days, getting a 3-month supply of the necessaries turned into a bit of a battle. Fortunately we have a *very* service-oriented administrator at out medical plan, and she fixed everything at the eleventh hour. And no, I'm not saying that just because she is also a reader... ;-)

Then there was a re-check of the weather forecast for Siskiyou Pass in southern Oregon (highest point on I-5) and -- whoops -- the snow level is now predicted to drop below 4000 feet providing 6 to 11 inches of the slippery stuff on the highway. Aaarrghh! It had looked like we would get away without buying truck chains, but now there is the panicked call to the auto parts store: the warehouse was emptied out by the recent snow in Seattle *but* our monster truck tires are such a weird size that they still have a couple sets at the warehouse and I'm 45 minutes ahead of the order deadline so they will arrive this afternoon. <Gasp.>

Then there is the trip to the post office to check our PO box to see if the new truck title (you read me right: the truck title, without which we cannot bring the vehicle into either Mexico or Belize) has arrived, which it has not, just as it has not arrived daily for the past week and more. So now there is the trip to the local licensing bureau, staffed by a nice lady who can't help, but gives me the number of the State Dept. of Licensing, which I rush home to call.

So I wade through the auto-attendant menu until I get to the recording that states very clearly that new vehicle title issues now require SIX TO EIGHT WEEKS instead of the 3 to 4 we were told. My heart stops. The trip's dead. The machine voice says I can stay on the line to talk to a human. I am so stunned I don't know what else to do anyway. Then I'm talking to the *nicest* woman at the DOL (first the HMO, now the DOL... I feel disoriented, confused; Alyson Lala Land...) who taps on her computer and cheerfully informs me that the title has already been processed and went out in *today's* mail.

There is still hope! I jump on the USPS website, the FedEx website, write out instructions for Laurie to get the title to us in Texas: if it arrives Thursday, do this ($12); if Friday, do that ($32), if Saturday, send one of the staff over to the FedEx depot and... ($hundreds). In France they say "if you have no head, you still have feet", meaning that if you're not sufficiently on the ball, you'll get to go back and do/get it again. The American equivalent would have to be "if you don't have brains, you still have a wallet."

So now off to the parts store to get the chains ($heavy$truck$type$) some of this and that (for some reason 25-year-old trucks seem to need a lot of thises and thatses). Back home in the pouring rain and I'm lying down in the mud putting chains on one huge rear wheel to make sure they fit (NOT something you trust to!) and they do, so now I'm ready to pack, right?

Oh, but my feet hurt and I'm soaked and I need to sit and have a coffee, so while I do I check my email and there's an email from Denise who says I should re-check the Siskiyou forecast and I do and now the projected snow level is up to 5500 feet and the 4300 foot pass is going to be bare and wet. Aaarrghh!

It is at this point -- right about at the point when I think that I no longer really want to go on this trip -- that Laurie calls to remind me about the washer delivery this evening. Ugh, I'd completely spaced it...

. . .

OK, so I've pretty much got my piles all sorted and I'm actually beginning to consider the notion of beginning to pack when the bell rings. It's spot-on seven o'clock PM. The washer! Oh no, I still have to get the old one out, and...

Aw, it doesn't really matter anyway -- I don't have to get up till 4:30 AM -- and packing early is for wooses.

[Linked Image]

MissLena is Galena Alyson Canada
Her email is themisslena gmail com
Her blog is at
Posted By: dbdoberman

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 01/31/04 05:21 PM

I admire your continued spirit of adventure, thanks again! smile

BTW, did the washer get installed? haha
Posted By: MissLena

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 01/31/04 06:36 PM

> BTW, did the washer get installed?

Yes, in fact it did. Installed, running, and doing laundry! ;-)

And I even got to bed about midnight...

'Lena (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz)
Posted By: MissLena

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 02/01/04 09:38 PM

The Two Gringas Do It Again!

Day 1 -- Thursday 29 January 2004 -- Washington - Oregon - California

"We gotta get out of this place..."

Mile 0 - Vashon Island, Washington

It's like deja-vu all over again: it's Thursday morning, I've had about 4 hours' sleep, I'm waiting bleary-eyed to drive onto the 5:20 ferry from Vashon to Seattle to pick up Denise at her condominium, and yes, it's pouring down rain.

The only apparent difference from that other Thursday morning just over three months ago is that, instead of being crammed into a seriously over-packed 1992 2-door Toyota Tercel (the "Belize Bomber" of previous 2 Gringas fame), I am sprawled on the bench seat of a 1978 Ford F-350 "Camper Special" 2-ton pick-up truck with over-sized everything (including the 460 cubic inch / 7.1 liter gas-guzzling V8) and a factory-rated gross vehicle weight of 9900 pounds.

In addition to going through this monster** doing routine checks and maintenance and making minor repairs, we have added an after-market air conditioning system (just as we did on the Tercel -- -- highly recommended), a 150 amp dual battery system connected to a 1000w 120v AC inverter (same as house current, and enough to run my computer and coffee maker! ;-), a cheap canopy (like a low-profile camper shell) to cover the truck's bed, and -- believe it or not -- a plywood platform in the pick-up bed with a new queen-sized mattress (all made up with new sheets and blankets and pillows! :-) on top, and a pull-out 4 x 6 foot "drawer" under it for "the stuff"!

Hopefully the extra amenities will at least partially offset the discomfort of the ride; in fact, this over-sprung beast has the ride of an adolescent mule that's just stepped in a hornets' nest. A speed bump at 3 MPH feels like falling out of bed. I can hardly wait for my first tope...

. . .

Denise's condo is in a secured building; to get in you have to ring the correct buzzer, there's no directory and I can't remember the her unit number. But I know which one it is, so I'm out in the back alley at six AM in the rain, pitching pebbles at her windows. Takes me about a dozen tries before I score a hit accurately enough to get her attention.

We are loaded and halfway to the freeway when Denise discovers she has left her watch behind. She is, by her own admission, "particular" -- Denise will have her watch. We turn about and head back to her condo. The backtrack adds almost exactly three miles to our journey, or an increase of 0.07%. I give her a hard time.

. . .
[Marty -- can you insert Portland rain picture here?]
. . .

Mile 311 - Eugene, Oregon

We meet up with Marty Casado, creator and M.C. of, at his office in Eugene, Oregon. Great guy, nice lunch (thanks Marty! ;-), energetic and full of ideas and constantly busy, but I've utterly no clue as to how he earns a living at what he does... Oh well, he's obviously intensely involved in what he does and, who knows, maybe he's a kept man... ;-)

. . .

Mile 497 - Siskiyou Summit, Oregon

After the alarming weather report yesterday, the rush to buy chains, etc., Siskiyou Pass -- the highest point on I-5 -- was a non-event. It wasn't even wet, just bare and dry. The consensus is that, without the chains on-board, we'd now be buried in a ditch. We're not superstitious... ;-)

[Marty -- can you insert Siskiyou Pass picture here? Is that too many pix?]
. . .

Mile 681 - Corning, CA

We stop for gas for the third time today. The oversized truck has oversized fuel storage -- dual 20 gallon tanks -- but not, apparently, oversized enough.

Readers of // will recall that we'd added a 32 gallon auxiliary fuel tank to the Tercel used on that trip, for a total load of 43 gallons -- and thus the name "The Belizean Bomber". This allowed us to fuel up about every three days or 1500 miles and yielding about 40+ MPG.

By way of contrast this truck, with nearly the same capacity, was filled once in West Seattle, WA, again in Creswell, OR (just south of Eugene) and now a third time in Corning, CA, a road stop off I-5 in California's Sacramento Valley south of Red Bluff. That's about every 350 miles yielding about 10+ MPG.

Whenever we open the rear sliding window to ventilate the truck cab, the wind passing over the gap between the cab and the rear canopy makes a sucking sound. A really big sucking sound -- like liquid being pulled into a vortex, spiraling down a giant bathtub drain. We believe that what we are hearing is the 7.1 liter engine pulling fuel from the tanks...

. . .

Mile 739 - Williams, CA

Just a typical motel along a typical freeway in a typical place.


== End of Day 1, Mile 739, Williams, CA ==

** The monster truck needs a name. Please see the "Name the 2 Gringas' Truck" posting at //;f=8;t=000243 to see a picture and submit your suggestions -- a.s.a.p.!

MissLena is Galena Alyson Canada
Her email is themisslena gmail com
Her blog is at
Posted By: Pedro1

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 02/01/04 09:50 PM

The"Mayan Slug"
Posted By: jerce

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 02/01/04 11:23 PM

Yikes........a far cry from a Toyota Tercel to a Ford F350 as far as gas mileage is concerned but it sounds like you are finding that out.
A friend was driving a truck down to Belize several years ago and someplace in Mexico, the battery was stolen!
You gals are so adventurous.
Be 'ever watchful' and good luck on your trip.
Love reading your posts!
Posted By: MissLena

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 02/03/04 05:50 AM

The Two Gringas Do It Again!

Day 2 -- Friday 30 January 2004 -- California

"Just a place separating here from there."

Mile 739 - Williams, California

Once upon a time, several major-life-changes ago, I lived in the Central Valley of California, and it makes it very hard to say anything interesting about it -- or, indeed, to find anything interesting in it.

This is a place in which I once accidentally found myself, spent a few years, then left at the earliest meaningful opportunity. It changed my life, and I left as soon as I could.

[Marty - Please insert "Central Valley highway" photo here. Thx, 'L]

Previously, and subsequently, I have -- like most others -- driven across and back across and up and down this Valley (this one-time inland sea with its Gibraltar at The Golden Gate), going from where I lived to where I visited and back, or even from where I had lived to where I would live, as we are doing on this day.

Much has been said about this place, by everyone from Mark Twain to John Steinbeck, but not by me. Like a desert to an old-time pioneer, all I feel is the need to get across...

== End of Day 2, Mile 1369, Needles, CA ==

MissLena is Galena Alyson Canada
Her email is themisslena gmail com
Her blog is at
Posted By: MissLena

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 02/03/04 05:59 PM

The Two Gringas Do It Again!

Day 3 -- Saturday 31 January 2004 -- California - Arizona

"The Missing Desert"

Mile 1369 - Needles, California

This is the country of my Father, who was born in a copper town called Bizbee, Arizona, escaped to Phoenix, got a degree and a family, met my Mother in Tucson, and eloped to San Francisco, leaving his first wife and two children behind.

Today's route actually follows a road trip I took as a child, during the mid-sixties, with my father and step-mother (wife #3 -- I guess he wasn't real good at maintaining relationships -- or responsibilities).

But what I see today seems to have little relationship to those childhood memories -- I guess forty years is a long time in the economic boom region of the Southwest. The old 2-lane highways with their dusty little service towns (highway one side, railway the other) have been replaced by 4-lane freeway; and the few towns large enough to merit a ramp have blossomed into huge bouquets of lighted signs boasting the usual gas, motel, and fast-food chains, while the majority of the old towns have died, decomposed, and blown away.

And the vast expanses of rocky desert -- these too are gone! The most extreme example must be Lake Havasu -- formerly the Colorado River. As on that trip nearly forty years ago, we decided to enter Arizona on Hwy. 40 via Needles, CA, then cut south on 95 along Lake Havasu to Parker and a connection with Hwy. 10 east to Phoenix and, eventually, San Antonio, TX. Though more time consuming than making the connection in California, I recalled this route as being especially beautiful -- volcanic towers rising from a painted desert and dipping their feet in the "lake" now formed of the Colorado River by Parker Dam -- a scenic opinion with which Rand McNally still agrees.

But I no longer agree. Oh, the basalt towers are still there, but they are topped with cell phone antennae and satellite and microwave dishes, and their feet are encrusted with brand-new cookie-cutter "southwest-style" stuccoed frame houses, literally in their thousands. The road is being rebuilt in 4- and 6-lane concrete majesty all along the lake, everywhere huge sewers are being newly laid, and at the fringes newly paved cul-de-sacs serve empty lots with pipes and wires sprouting like weeds from the bare, regraded earth.

[Insert Lake Havasu City sewer pipe photo here.]

Never have I seen development on such a scale, in so short a span. I don't think we saw a structure more than two or three years old. Wal Marts and Home Depots open with not-quite-finished parking lots the size of farms, out in the middle of nowhere, but in the direct path of the cul-de-sac pavers. The "lake" edge is a continuous strip of condominiums on fake beach with boat houses and palm trees that seem shocked by their alien environment.

If I try really hard to bring that child's memory back into focus -- somehow superimpose it over what I see today, use mental CGI software by Industrial Light & Magic to digitally erase the incredible thousands upon thousands of brand new structures marching from the lakeshore up and down the valley and lapping up the sides of the bluffs and towers -- somehow I can almost see a desolate dry basalt mars-scape with its peculiar ribbon of water and the silly little spot of a "planned retirement community" mis-named Lake Havasu City.

But I can't keep a hold of the image -- it's been paved over. They are recreating Pasadena in the Colorado River desert of Arizona. Why, I just can't imagine. Do they really think they can bury it under "development" and still have it? I don't mean the builders -- they're just making money. I mean the buyers, the retirees, on whom this entire economic mushroom is based. What're they thinking?

. . .

I am actually relieved when we get clear of the "scenic" stretch of 95 at Parker and leave the Colorado and the condos behind. The desert returns. I shan't pass this way again.

. . .

We actually find a little of the old Hwy 95 at Quartzite -- just before joining the freeway that is US 10 -- in a funky rundown bit of a coffee shop called The Breakfast Corner (breakfast served till 1). This anachronism was being operated by a couple elderly women (not the owners) for whom retirement was clearly not an option. The one who's nametag said "Lee" greeted us with a pleasant-but-weary smile.

"Hon, you look tired," sez I.

"Yes, yes I am. But I'll do my best to spoil you just the same. Sit where you like. Coffee?"

We are past the morning rush, and the other lady -- "Carol" by her tag -- sits at a nearby table sorting the morning's tickets.

Lee lives up to her advertising, and we have a lovely breakfast, including entertainment provided by the banter between Lee and Carol and the cook. They've obviously been doing this for a long, long time.

As we get ready to leave, I ask permission to take their picture. Everybody, meet Lee and Carol of Quartzite, Arizona.

[Insert Lee & Carol pic here.]

. . .

We join US 10 eastbound via Phoenix to Tucson, Arizona, past thousands of acres of retirement condos and 3000+ square foot "modern living" homes, punctuated by stretches of the remaining desert. In Tucson we find ourselves in the midst of a "rock & gem" convention and pay double the usual rate for lodging. We are not in the best of moods.

Good night.

== End of Day 3, Mile 1774, Tucson, AZ ==

[Insert "Desert Godshine" pic here.]

MissLena is Galena Alyson Canada
Her email is themisslena gmail com
Her blog is at
Posted By: MissLena

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 02/03/04 06:09 PM

We are entering Mexico this morning.

If things go as last time, we may be out of touch for a couple days.

Posted By: Oranges

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 02/03/04 06:54 PM

"Gypsy Wagon" cause after you're on the road a few days, that's what you feel like.
Posted By: Barbara K

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 02/03/04 11:41 PM

Marty - she's talking about you!!! eek laugh
Posted By: MissLena

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 02/09/04 04:04 AM

We finally made it in yesterday.
Got delayed by a couple "adventures".
Denise flew back this morning.
I spent the day sleeping...

Will write in a coupla days.

Posted By: dbdoberman

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 02/09/04 01:46 PM

Glad you ladies made it safe and sound, and I cannot wait to hear about the "adventures"!
Posted By: SP Daily

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 02/29/04 08:12 PM

Posted By: MissLena

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 02/29/04 08:49 PM

I'm so sorry Jesse and y'all. I've just been buried with getting this company up and running (something about bleeding money seems to keep my attention pretty focussed... ;-).

But no, I have not forgotten you, dear readers. The adventures will go on! (Real soon now... ;-)

Posted By: MissLena

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 03/09/04 03:04 AM

The Two Gringas Do It Again!

Day 4 -- Sunday 1 February 2004 -- Arizona - New Mexico - Texas

"How the Gringas Get Their Groove Back"

Mile 1774 - Tucson, Arizona

Maybe it was the unremitting pressure of preparing for this trip (and the impending business startup at the other end), maybe it was all the overtime Denise had to put in at her day job to get free for the drive, maybe it was vague expectations based on last October's (more scenic and care-free) drive down, maybe it was the "loss" of the much-anticipated scenic stretch down the Colorado River/Lake Havasu, or maybe it was being forced to pay $100 for a $50 room, and maybe it was all of the above, but in any case Denise and I arrived in our somewhat shabby rooms last night in the foulest of moods.

But Denise is no dummy.

In fifteen years she has learned to know both herself and me and how we are together -- so she wisely forked out double the double-price and got separate rooms for the night. Something about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure...

. . .

As we had planned a slack-day into the schedule, we decided to use part of it to recover this morning: Denise went to visit a friend in the west Tucson suburbs, and I slept in.

By the time we reconvened late-morning, both of us were feeling better. In fact, when the daily "mail call" to Seattle revealed that the truck title still had not arrived, it was almost a relief: we would cruise on down to the tip of Texas and wait, and things would happen as they happened...

. . .

Hwy. 10, a straight shot east: gas in Bowie, AZ; across the Continental Divide near the Pyramid and Cedar Mountains in western New Mexico (interesting formations); a right-turn at Las Cruses as we head south to El Paso where darkness catches up with us and, sadly, we follow the Rio Grand along the edge of Texas with no view beyond the orb of the headlights, turning east with Hwy. 10, away from the river, at Esperanza ("Hope") and make tracks through the evening to Van Horn, where we bed down for the night.

Texas has brought us back into the groove. Tomorrow will find us bunked at the border.

== End of Day 4, Mile 2227, Van Horn, TX ==

[Photos are: 1. The Continental Divide, New Mexico; 2. Heading for Texas.]

MissLena is Galena Alyson Canada
Her email is themisslena gmail com
Her blog is at
Posted By: MissLena

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 03/09/04 11:10 PM

The Two Gringas Do It Again!

Day 5 -- Monday 2 February 2004 -- Texas

"Texas Breathes"

Mile 2227 - Van Horn, Texas

There is a kind of Zen to driving through the undulating scrubland of west Texas.

Unlike the infinite flatness of northwest Texas ("Where Dirt Comes to Die" in the //, Hwy. 10 through southwest Texas has a hypnotic rhythm to it, a gentle up and down of live oaks, prickly pear, even water in the washes during wintertime. You begin to appreciate the engineering of the road cuts, the design and placement of the guard rails, the varying textures of pavement. The lines and signs lose their meaning -- like a word repeated over and over until its just a sound, a presence, like breathing. Speed and distance lose their meaning, your existence becomes a kind of bubble of metaphysical stasis, around which flows the undulating scrubland like water over a smooth stone -- just driving...always have been, always will be...destinationless.

. . .

I imagine myself spending my life photographing the wasting flesh and bleaching bones of the old route 10 highway towns; writing down the tattered, half-remembered chapters of the lives of those few relics who yet remain in residence, despite the freeway, which diverted the life-sustaining flow of traffic away from their futures...

. . .

Weird gas-pump numerology: filled 33.7 gallons at Van Horn, having driven 337 miles since the previous fill-up; then filled 32.4 gallons at Junction, TX, after driving exactly 324 miles...ooooh...

. . .

A brief surge of modernity intrudes, as we tunnel under the multilayered interchanges of San Antonio, then are spit out southward, first on 37, then on 281, and it's back to endless scrubland as we fade into a south Texas sunset...

== End of Day 5, Mile 2907, Pharr, TX ==

[Photos are: 1. Undulating west Texas, 2. Tunneling under San Antonio, 3. South Texas Sunset.]

MissLena is Galena Alyson Canada
Her email is themisslena gmail com
Her blog is at
Posted By: Barbara K

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 03/10/04 12:40 AM

No great loss not seeing the Rio Grande here in El Paso. Has been BONE DRY for about 5 months! I can walk to it from my house. We took our annual family Christmas card photo standing in the dry riverbed!
Posted By: MissLena

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 03/10/04 06:12 PM

Bone dry, huh? Boy, THAT can't be good... 'L
Posted By: MerMeg

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 03/19/04 07:50 AM

Hello Miss Lena, do hope you had time to stop by Granzella's in Williams to pick up some of the best damn olives this side of the mediterranean! Do you ever pick up hitch hikers? Woodland is not too far from Williams...
Posted By: indygal

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 03/28/04 04:56 PM

Miss Lena, Please the rest of the story.
Posted By: klcman

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 04/07/04 02:11 AM

Hey Barb -

Got water wings? You OK?
Posted By: MissLena

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 07/01/05 11:08 PM

March 2004> Miss Lena, Please the rest of the story.

Yes, believe it or not I still intend to finish the story -- only 1-1/2 years late but hey, Belize Time, you know?

July 2005
Posted By: indygal

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 07/02/05 04:11 PM

Yes we know Beize time, and all things in good time. Looking forward to the rest of the story. Indygal
Posted By: Now Danny

Re: The Two Gringas Do It Again! - 07/02/05 08:01 PM

MissLena, go steal Denny and take him on the trip of his life. Put a smile on an old man's face. Just funnin, bye for now. smile
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