50 Days to 50 Years, Day 09: Santa Fe Foodie Excursion and an evening with Evan O’Connell

23 07 2016

Day 2 of the Santa Fe Foodie Excursion started with this gorgeous view outside our condo. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to that every morning? Well, at least we have one more morning to enjoy it.

Even though downtown Santa Fe was a mere four blocks downhill, the thought of walking uphill with full bellies was not something either Lynn or I wanted to look forward to; so like the Angeleans that we are, we drove, and paid for parking. You can take the O’Connells out of Los Angeles….

And our bellies were definitely filled to the brim! Carlos of Food Tour New Mexico was our guide for the day’s excursion. He did a great job of mixing the love of food with the love of culture, along with a sprinkling of New Mexico history.

Our first stop on the tour was San Francisco Bar and Grill, in the heart of the Santa Fe Plaza.The Plaza is the central part of the city, hosting Indian and Spanish markets, along with community gatherings and cultural events, so it was a short walk from the center of the Plaza to the restaurant. They served us an awesome Chicken Enchiladas with Chimao Red and Hatch Chiles, commonly known as “Christmas” style.

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Stop #2, and my personal favorite,  was to Thunderbird Bar and Grill, which boasts over 100 different tequila varieties, extensive wine and beer offerings, and other spirits. The Green Chile Pork Soup with Acedero (a Mexican form of Mozzarella) was simply divine. Carlos offered a little foodie tip: To increase the flavor of meats boiled in liquid, allow the meat to cool in the liquid. You could definitely taste the infusion of richness in the pork. I could have had another bowl, but it was on to the next leg of the tour.

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To cleanse our palates, Stop #3 was to The Original Santa Fe Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Company. Carlos made us a “Birthday Cake” combination of Pineapple Balsamic Vinegar and Avocado Lemon Olive Oil. You could have it over ice and drink it, it was that scrumptious!

In between stops we were treated to some historical wonders and spectacular views from the La Fonda rooftop, the rooftop of the 5th Floor Presidential Suite of the Inn and Spa at Loretto, the Rosary Tree, and the Miraculous Staircase at the Chapel Loretto.

We also continued to meet some fun people. A couple of the participants in the Johnny Vee cooking class were there, along with some new faces. Three friends in particular captured my writer’s interest: Brittany, Julie, and Katie decided to take a mini-respite to Santa Fe, so Brittany and Katie drove up from Midland, Texas, and Julie flew in from Florida to meet up. I just love stories, and friendships like that. Katie also won the award for most fashionable, with a great dress and hat combination.

Since we had adequately walked off the burrito and the soup, we headed to Stop #4: Upper Crust Pizza for a New Mexico specialty: Hatch Green Chile Pizza.

Upper Crust Pizza is in an historical building in the oldest part of town. The crust is unique to this region; can’t be replicated anywhere else… kind of like Chicago Deep Dish! I was sold—both the Hatch Green Chile and the Red Chile pizzas were well worth the wait; and I was happy we had walked off the earlier fare so I could scarf down three slices!

And, of course, what would a foodie tour be without dessert! Stop #5 was to Senor Murphy Candymaker, which has been serving Santa Fe for 71 years. We sampled a quartet of treats including Bolitos and Pinon Fudge. The shop specializes in Pinon treats (“Pine Nuts” to the rest of the U.S.) which is a nut found exclusively in the state of New Mexico.

This leg of the excursion ended at Senior Murphy’s, and Lynn and I did a little bit of exploring the open air market, looking at the historical spots along old Route 66, and admiring some of the unique artistic endeavors that characterize Santa Fe before heading back to our condo to meet up with Evan.

One of the nice bonuses of marriage is that you get an extended family. I love Lynn’s brothers and sisters and their kids, and often wished they lived closer; but then, we wouldn’t have an excuse to visit if they did! Albuquerque is an hour south of Santa Fe, so Lynn’s nephew Evan wanted to drive up to see us this trip—so very sweet of him!

Evan met us at the condo, and we drove back into downtown Santa Fe, and stopped at a French restaurant for dessert. L’Olivier (how apropos) had a lovely patio, the manager played Getz/Gilberto in the background, and to add to the magical, Franco atmosphere, it rained!

One of the best features was a quote painted on the inside wall of the restaurant:

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Evan is an exceptionally talented artist, and through his studies, is getting well-versed in architecture. We walked around the Plaza at night, talking about the church structures and unique features of some of the monasteries in the West.

All-in-all, a pleasurable ending to our second day in Santa Fe.

 





50 Days to 50 Years, Day 10: Santa Fe, NM with Chef Johnny Vee

22 07 2016

“Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon
or not at all.” — Harriet Van Horne, Vogue 10/1956

We left Flagstaff in the early AM, and arrived in Santa Fe by late afternoon. Just in time enough to check into our condominium, get settled, and then head back into Downtown Santa Fe for our cooking class!

Back in March, I found a deal with Epitourean, a vacation touring company that specializes in foodie excursions! The packages are all-inclusive with lodging, a cooking class with a local chef, a food tour of the best area restaurants, and dinner at a 5-Star restaurant. I love Southwestern Food, so Santa Fe seemed an inspired choice.

Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School is a Santa Fe institution, and Chef Johnny Vollertsen (“Johnny Vee”) has done classes there for almost 20 years. He has opened restaurants and run kitchens, so he organized the 12 of us with humor and precision to make a “New Mexico Combination Plate” of Chile con Queso with fresh homemade Corn Tortillas; Blue Corn Chile Relleno and New Mexico Red Chile Sauce; Carne Adovado; Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas; Pork Tamales, Green Rice, and Drunken Pintos; Sopaipillas; and Frozen Ancho Peanut Butter Pie.

We met a lovely variety of people, from a lady from Michigan, to a mother-daughter duo from Wisconsin, to two friends from Colorado, and even one woman visiting from New Zealand! Most of the ingredients were already set up for each dish, so this added to the magic of being able to quickly get up to speed. Lynn and I did some sous chef work of chopping Green Chiles and onions for the Chile con Queso, then whipped all the ingredients together for a delicious appetizer. We then helped the others with their dish assignments, along with nibbling on the selections that were already completed.

I also helped to whip up the frozen Ancho Peanut Butter Pie (which I didn’t get a picture of—darn it!) While I learned a ton about Red and Green Chiles and their different varieties, after tasting this dish, and what a difference a bit of Ancho Powder made to the dessert, well, I had an overwhelming need to buy it. It’s still on the agenda, as we didn’t have much time to shop over the weekend.

We all participated in smashing the movable feast, with plenty of leftovers to take home.

And for icing on the cake, we all got a copy of the recipes we made, along with a signed cookbook! I can’t wait to get a place with a better kitchen so that I can play around with these new favorites.

The Chile con Queso and Homemade Corn Tortillas will be first on the menu.

 

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 11, A CAAN surprise and a Road Trip!

21 07 2016

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” — William Feather

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Day 11 of 50 Days to 50 Years started with dropping off my Nissan X-Terra to Pep Boys for some servicing in the early AM. You see, the first BIG adventure of my 50 Years is a Food Excursion to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and we are heading out today; so I had to make sure the car was in good shape to go the over 800 miles through the deserts of California and Arizona, and mountains of Arizona and New Mexico.

The temperature index in Los Angeles is expected to reach 100 degrees, and at 7:30 a.m. it was already 71. So I trundled from Pep Boys down to the local McDonald’s, got a Caramel McCafe, and enjoyed the A/C until the service desk called me to say my car was ready.

And they completed the service in just the right amount of time to keep my 10:00 a.m. appointment with Miriam Smith, Columbia College Chicago’s Executive Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving. I have the distinct pleasure of working with Miriam on the CAAN Alumni Board, where she does incredible work and inspires us as we seek to do more for the alumni. I was honored that on her visit to Los Angeles, she wanted to make sure she touched based with me. And even more happy that I had a window of time before we headed out of town.

We went to one of my favorite breakfast spots, The Village Bakery and Cafe on Los Feliz Boulevard. I was actually a few minutes early, and so was Miriam! So that worked out well.

Miriam had the Atwater Village Special, and I had the Village Scramble, both delicious and filling. We had a good talk about my time on the board, and how I’d like to contribute in this next year as the new Southwest Regional Representative! It was a very lovely start to what I was looking forward to being a lovely weekend. We finished breakfast, and Miriam had to jet off to her next meeting. We hugged and looked forward to seeing each other at the CAAN Board retreat in September.

Then it was off home to complete our packing, put it all in the car, and hit the 210 Freeway to the I-15! I do love road trips, and love them even more when someone else is driving. Lynn seems to prefer doing that, so I bow to his road warrior. It is just great to get out of your world, and right now our world is a mixed bag of delight and depression; so for me, getting away from it all has taken on pronounced importance of late.

We got underway around 12:30 p.m., fueled up, and away we went! Save for a rest area or two in between, we made it into Kingman, Arizona around 6:30 p.m., and had our last “official” California meal for the weekend at the quintessential California stop: In-N-Out Burger.

Four hours later, we arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona, where we were set to repair for the night. Motel 6 is our inexpensive go-to place on road trips, usually because we have the Bubbas and Bubbette with us, and Motel 6 is not only pet-friendly, but FREE for all pets; no deposit required. But Motel 6 has also been good to us on our little excursions that have spanned, with a few years’ interruption, over the past five years. In terms of brands, if you are good to me, I am often loyal to a fault; so Motel 6 continues to get our loyalty.

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They did indeed leave the light on for us! We are checked in, and look forward to a good night’s sleep before taking the additional 430 miles to New Mexico tomorrow.

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 42, Captain America and Japanese Buffet with Sarah Lucy Beach

20 06 2016

“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden).” — C.S. Lewis

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Sarah Lucy Beach is another longtime friend since the early 1990s. We met in an entertainment industry fellowship called Premise, and immediately struck up a bond over our love of writing, movies, and conversation. That bond was assisted by the fact that I did not own a car my first 10 years in Los Angeles, so Sarah was often my constant chauffeur to and from Premise meetings and other places and events. Like many of my Los Angeles’ friends, she has spent more than a few Thanksgivings and Christmases with me—we even spent one Christmas Eve at Disneyland, which was quite a treat! No lines or crowds, and a fireworks display that was the perfect entree into Christmas Day.

We also took a road trip together from Los Angeles to Colorado, with some stops in between. Unfortunately, Sarah’s car had troubles along the way, and it started out stressful, but ended up being a beautiful trip. We look back on that time now and laugh, but it wasn’t quite a laughing matter then; our friendship weathered it and we have some fond memories and pictures to look back on.

My early years in Los Angeles were chaotic, and I was often in financial and logistical straits. Sarah was always there for me, whether with assistance for a meal, an escape from a toxic living situation, or a movie. After hearing about one precarious situation with yet another bad roommate, she said, “If you are facing the street, then you are welcome to my couch.” I took her up on it, and stayed on her couch for six months.

Sarah has recently gone through some hard trials of her own the last few years. Because Lynn and I were fresh off some hardships of our own, we were not able to offer a couch, but we could give our prayers and whatever practical help was available.

I am thankful that Sarah’s life is on the upswing from those dark years, and that she was available to help me ring in my “50 Days to 50 Years”. We had a great time catching up, and as is indicative of our times together, we took in a movie: Captain America: Civil War, then had lunch at Hopkaido Japanese buffet. Thanks to the record-breaking Los Angeles heat (111 degrees where we were), we were quite content to marinate in conversation and enjoy Hopkaido’s air conditioning long after we had finished eating.

But then, as lifelong friends, we never need an excuse to do that….

 

 

 





Hello, yeah… it’s been a while

11 09 2009

Walking Shoes--Avon Walk Blog (9-2009)I have had quite a busy two months.  In mid-July, me, Lynn, Panda my sister Joan, and my niece Nyoki took a road trip up the California Coast.  The first leg of the trip was in memoriam.  We spread our sister June’s ashes at Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur. It was a good point of closure for all of us, especially for Joan, June’s twin.  Big Sur is still as glorious as ever, and the drive up presented the breathtaking views of cliffs and sea spray that I remembered from previous trips this way.  Even though Lynn was born and raised in California, he had never driven the Highway 1 Route, so it was a treat for him, too.  We all bonded with each other and got reacquainted, as we experienced beauty and fun at a casual pace–it was a much needed vacation for us all!

From Big Sur, we headed into Carmel to have a few days of R and R.  We played tourist in Monterey, then moved on to San Francisco, and finally, Napa, to visit my dear friends Shawna and Nasha.  Shawna played tour guide, driving us through the Redwood forest and Bodega Bay, location shoot for Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Birds.  We took the less than scenic route home, along Interstate 5, then it was back to Los Angeles and “real life.”

For me, that was writing more articles for Examiner.com, and setting up more interviews.  I also had two opportunities to speak: at a job clinic, and at our church–I didn’t realize how much of my time this would entail.  It was a blessing, but aside from my birthday and anniversary celebrations in early August, the month simply whooshed by without a break; before I knew it, September was here…

Real life also meant more intensive training!  Each week, I tacked on two miles of increase to my Griffith Park walk, and a week ago I completed 20 miles!  This, amidst record L.A. heat (107 some days) and smoke and ash from the Station fire in the San Gabriel Mountains.  I’m a crazy type of committed person–once I determine to do something, I find a way, no matter what the circumstances.  Or maybe that’s just what commitment is supposed to be, and we’ve moved far away from it in our society.  But that’s a topic for another day…

So here we are, at September 11, 2009, eight years after the horrific terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon.  Normally I am watching all the remembrances, and trying in my own way to identify with those who truly lost.  Lynn and I prayed this morning for our country, and for the families who are still dealing with grief like an open sore.  But aside from lifting today to the ultimate source, I will not turn on the television or the radio.  You see, today is also the eve of the AVON Walk, so I must prepare to head off to Long Beach, get registered, and then tomorrow, I WALK.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed funds, prayers, encouragement, and clothing!  To see people be so generous, especially in these scary and tough economic times, blesses me to no end.  Americans truly are a charitable people, and that generous spirit is exhibited and felt in so many ways.  I am glad I pursued this walk, not only to slow down and get reacquainted with the world around me, but to get reacquainted with how kind and magnanimous people can be.

I have reached the minimum goal of $1,800, but still would like to reach my desired goal of $2,500.  It’s not too late to participate in a good cause–I know it’s made a difference in my world, and to someone else who is battling with Breast Cancer.

WALKING, in Service to the Cause…

My Avon Walk Page

, as well as a time of bonding.




The Road to Pahrump is paved with…

27 03 2009
The Road to Pahrump is paved with...

The Road to Pahrump is paved with...

A few weekends ago, Lynn and I made our annual trek to Pahrump, Nevada, to help man Stage 12 for the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay. Baker to Vegas is a Relay race involving law enforcement officers and personnel, including judges, probation officers, district attorneys, US Attorneys and full-time civilian police personnel. According to its creators, it’s the most “positive” event offered to law enforcement officers today, because it gives them a reason to maintain a physical fitness program so they can better perform their duties.  I grew up in Chicago, town of Al Capone and the fat cop.  Their police officer’s MO is to shoot you in the hip, rather than chase you down.  So it’s refreshing to watch the physically fit law officers do their thing–if the participants can complete this relay, then they can chase down a perp, easy!

The Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay celebrated its 25th year, with close to 255 teams in attendance. So where did we come in? Well, since Lynn and I are amateur radio—Ham—operators (his call is KG6DNY, mine is KI6OIL), we assisted in radio communications between the stages. There are 20 stages that stretch from the 15/127 in Baker, California, all the way to Las Vegas, Nevada, so lots of Hams are needed.

This Relay race is particularly popular with the local Hams, although we come from all over. The race itself attracts law enforcement teams from Germany and the UK, so I’m sure the communications response is probably equally far flung! It’s a lot of fun, you get to meet some great people, and polish your radio communication skills. We did the event for the first time last year, and thoroughly enjoyed it. We were stationed at Stage 12, and Gene Sweich, WB9COY (call signs are literally your calling card in the Ham world) asked us to do the Early Warning (EW) station.  This station involves sitting in a car one mile from the stage, and using your radio, broadcast each runners’ Bib number and time back to the stage, so that the other team runner can be in place to take the baton and start running to the next stage. Pretty straightforward, and we made a good team doing it.  So we looked forward to repeating the role for this year.

We did the 300 or so mile drive from our North Hollywood home, up Interstate 15, through Las Vegas, to Highway 160 West for the last leg to Pahrump. Pahrump is a sleepy suburb, that’s only on the map because of this race (and they love it), and the housing boomlet that unfortunately, is now pretty much defunct. I’ll leave the subtext up to you, dear readers.

Like any good Ham (and my husband is a good one), we came equipped. Our main radio was what is called a 2-meter radio (a Radio Shack HTX212), and we brought our twin handy-talkies—similar to walkie-talkies, but with a bit more technology (Icom IC V8) and a hand-held 440 meter radio that Lynn brought in case we needed to broadcast on that band (Yaesu VX5). We left NoHo about 11:30 a.m. and after grabbing breakfast at Jack-in-the-Box (cause it was cheap), we hit the road, hopping on the 134 to the 210, and the taking the 210 to the 15, and then to Highway 160, until we reached our stage.

We arrived around 4:30 p.m., only to discover that Gene had thrown out his back, and wasn’t able to make the trip up from San Diego. What a bummer, as he and his wife had an RV and a slew of antennas that helped to enhance the communications. Joy Matlack, KD6FJV, is the race’s Communications Director, and has been for over 20 years, cause she’s just that good. She, of course, was already on it, and pulled the lead from Stage 11 to handle the action at Stage 12. There seemed to be a lot of that going around, as Lynn and I heard via our ARES Net the Monday after the race, that some of the Hams on the earlier stages ended up going to the later stages to assist. We introduced ourselves to the new Stage Lead (also named Gene), and told him where we had worked last year, and that we were willing to do it again. He was amenable to this, and gave us the paperwork, then let us know that the race was actually running early. He recommended we head out to the EW Mile spot by 5:45 p.m.

After grabbing a bite to eat, and Lynn a quick nap, we headed to the EW Mile marker, and sat, watching the road, and watching the sunset. It was quiet, and our buddy Steve Wardlaw (KN6Y), who was our point of contact at the stage, thought it was too quiet. He kept checking in on the radio to make sure we were okay and still able to reach the stage. This lasted till about 7:15 p.m., when the first runner was spotted in the distance. Each team has lead vehicles that follow the runner to ensure they’re okay, are equipped with water, or to transport an injured runner to get medical help. So when we spotted the flashing lights coming along Highway 160, we knew the first runner was headed our way.

By 7:45 p.m., runners were trickling in at a steady pace, and by 8:00 p.m., we were nonstop, with me looking for Bibs and writing down times, and Lynn calling them in to the stage. This lasted a good hour and forty-five minutes, to the point that we had to just relay only the Bib numbers in order to keep up. Once we got another lull, which wasn’t until about 10:00 p.m., we relayed the rest of the information to Stage 12, to ensure all the records were accurate.

It was a dark, moonless night, and we had to use our headlights in order to see the runners. Some of the lead vehicles that followed the runners didn’t appreciate it, but what could we do? Between that, and the non-stop communications for close to two hours, our car battery died, so Steve drove up from the Stage to give us a jump. We also had some technical troubles in the form of another Ham (not part of the B2V Event) on a nearby frequency who was using too much power, which disrupted our communications to Stage 12. A bit frustrating, but we worked around it.

At 2:30 a.m. (yes, AM—we’re crazy that way), the last runner trickled past our EW spot, and Dave Greenhut, N6HD (he relieved Steve after working an earlier stage), radioed that we were free to return to the Stage, and so we did: feeling exhausted, but that our mission had been accomplished.

I love being a Ham, not only because you get to play with cool electronic toys and gadgets, but you’re a part of a supportive community that’s commited to service and excellence.  Whether it’s on a Net—an organized communication forum to practice your programming and radio skills—or during a communication event, everyone is always helpful, clear and encouraging.

It’s the type of positive reinforcement that I need these days!





An Accident, A Road Trip to Vegas, A Wedding… and a New Car!

13 12 2006

No, I didn’t play The Price is Right. This title is a short rendition of my life for the past two months.

It all started with my car being broadsided. A young girl in a Honda Civic was coming off of the 134 Freeway near Griffith Park, and failed to see me. Neither of us sustained any injuries, but the driver’s side of my car was beat up pretty badly. This being the second accident I’d had this year, I was feeling none too happy about the prospects of claims, body shops and rental cars. But, I recited the mantra that accidents happen (especially in L.A.), and this is why I pay an insurance premium.

That next week, I took my car into my insurance company’s assessment center, and was given news I didn’t expect to hear. To repair the damage would be more than the car was worth, so the adjuster was going to recommend to the company that the car be deemed a total loss. For me, it was equivalent to being told a close friend had just died.

Those who know me know how attached I was to my little Nissan Sentra. It was a fulfillment of mobility after a long, ten-year drought of riding public transportation and begging for rides from others. In Southern California, that is no easy feat, but I managed until I could get the car I wanted, and thankfully, I did. So I was rather bonded to Silvie (the name I gave the car), and had a ten-year plan to keep it running before attempting to purchase a new one. The decision to total my car shot all those plans to hell, and threw me into emotional and financial chaos. Lynn and I also had plans to drive Silvie to Las Vegas for my friend Carol’s wedding—now that was up in the air!

The insurance company would pay for a rental car for two weeks only. Two weeks! As if that’s enough time to get things together in order to purchase a car. But, at least one dilemma was resolved—we could take the rental car to Vegas—after all, there was no way I was going to miss this wedding.

I’ve known Dr. Carol Amici Matthews for over fifteen years, when she was just “Carol,” and before she attained the lofty Ph.D. Throughout our friendship, we talked about the man-thing a lot, particularly as we entered our 40s. Both of us have more than our share of brains, and we could empathize with each other over our the struggle to find that spiritual, physical and psychic connection with the opposite sex. Now she had finally found Robert, and they were boldly going where other couples had gone before—the covenant of marriage. Of course, Robert was a Trekkie, so it had to be a wedding like no other. None of that traditional crap for them—they were not only getting married in Vegas, but on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise! They booked the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, with a reception at Quark’s Bar—a wedding only a Star Trek fan could fully appreciate!

I so needed to get the heck outta Dodge, so along with Lynn, I gladly burned rubber in the rental Grand Am and headed North. We left Friday afternoon of October 27 and headed toward St. George, Utah (about an hour and a half outside of Vegas), in order to squeeze in a visit with Lynn’s Aunt Lucia (a real sweetheart) her partner Hildegard (a stellar woman), and my friends, Glenn and Barbara Kirkpatrick (they’re peaches). We arrived in St. George, Utah before 6:00 pm that evening and met up with Aunt Lucia, who took us to dinner and even booked a hotel room for us! I do love the way Lynn’s family is so supportive of him, and welcoming to me—every member has embraced me with open arms. After a tight night’s sleep (we were in a double bed), we arose early Saturday and headed to Kirk and Barbara’s house for breakfast. It was a treat seeing these old friends who escaped L.A. for the serenity of Utah. It was equally a treat introducing them to the person who has been the fulfillment of their prayers for me. They had a commitment at church that day, but they carved out time that morning just for us; so, it was very special. After breakfast with the Kirkpatrick’s we paid one more visit to Aunt Lucia and Hildegard, before heading back to Vegas for THE WEDDING. The ceremony was on Sunday the 29th, so we had all of Saturday evening to explore. We arrived at our hotel, checked in, took a little nap (on a king-sized bed—now we’re talkin’!) and then hit the Strip!

I had never actually stayed in Vegas, and Lynn had never been to Utah, so we both had fresh experiences to share with each other. Lynn got to see the Southern Arizona landscape and enjoy the varying colors of the desert, and how these colors looked different for each state. The sage green and browns of the California desert changed to the tawny beige and misty reds of the Nevada desert, then moved to the dusty blues, grays and greens of the Arizona desert. He also got to see the beautiful Virgin River Gorge, which connects Arizona to Utah. We drove through just as the sun was setting, and the shadows and twilight on the rocks was simply breathtaking!

I enjoyed my Vegas experience, and got to finally see what all the “whoop” was about. I have found that people either love the place, or hate it, feeling it is the best entertainment bastion around, or the best example of our debauched culture. I would say it’s a little bit of both.

Detractors and gambling addicts notwithstanding, I actually liked Vegas, and feel it serves a purpose in our culture. Not all of it is debauched, and much of it has become family friendly. I especially enjoyed the few museums and exhibits we were able to hit over the two days—if your town hosts Bodies, the Exhibition (http://www.bodiestheexhibition.com/), go see it—it’s a tremendously educational and jaw-dropping experience!

Another plus in the Vegas column is that it doesn’t contribute to our nation’s (or the state’s for that matter) unemployment rate. There’s a place for everyone and everyone has a place. The frenetic, fast 24-7 pace is not an environment I would want to live or work in—but for others, it offers them a source of provision, as well as a source of community. Despite the negatives about Vegas, the positive aspects far outweighed them, so I can’t condemn the place outright. Which is good, because we both plan to visit again. There is always something to do and see there, so that’s another plus in the column.

Sunday afternoon arrived and we headed to the Hilton in order to be a part of the Matthews-Shelton nuptials and partake of the Star Trek Experience. One of the things I loved about the wedding (besides its uniqueness) was that both Carol and Robert were all giggles and smiles. I’m all for weepy weddings, but the laughter and merriment was more apropos for them because Carol and Robert have both had a pretty shitty year. Carol’s dad died, then her aunt died, then her favorite cat Dusty died! Robert had some difficulty with his board examination (he’s a psychologist, just like Carol), and then learned that his job was coming to an end due to a shortage of funding. So they were both due for some life and joy, and it was good to see these reflected all over their faces as they said their vows. The reception was great fun, and we received Tribbles as the reception favor! They had extras, so I was able to take two home: a baby brown one, and a bigger tan one. I’ve remembered not to feed them.

We stayed another night in Vegas, so that we wouldn’t have to crawl back to L.A. on the I-15 with the rest of the weekend revelers. We left the next morning in order to hit the road and get a head start in order to beat L.A. rush hour.

But I was still left with the dilemma of how to acquire new wheels. The rental car company was quick to remind me that my insurance company would only pay for the car for another week, and despite the payout on my car (about $5,000) my bank account and current financial status reflected no indication that I could pull this off. But more often than we expect, God works miracles, and he worked several for me.

My credit union works with a car-buying service called Autoland, and I decided to give them a try to see what they could do in finding me a car that I not only could live with, but that would be the tremendous blessing and provision my last one was. I also went the traditional route of a regular dealership, but that turned out to be as demoralizing and counterproductive as I knew it would be—lesson learned. On to the blessing.

To bring an end to this long tome, Aaron Bridges, the consultant at Autoland, located a silver 2006 Nissan X-Terra S-series (the model above the base), and with the payout from the Sentra, a loan from my credit union and a little help from my friend and love Lynn, I was in a car that next week, and the exact same day that I needed to return the rental!

I learned much through this experience. “You have not, because you ask not,” would be the biggest one. That’s old King James-speak, but the New Living Translation puts it just as succinctly, “the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it.”

So, despite what I felt my state was, I asked—of God, my credit union, and other people—and I received more than I imagined I would get! I also relearned a lesson that I used to have posted on my wall: “Don’t Postpone Joy.” Crisis should not define my life and shut me down, and I’m thankful that I didn’t allow this crisis to do that. Otherwise, I would have missed out on precious time with my love, family, and friends and the blessing it brought to them to have us there. But more importantly, I would have missed out on the freedom of the open road and new destinations. My chosen car company’s best ad slogan was “Enjoy the Ride,” and for the first time in a long time, I did.

And now, I have a shiny new Nissan X-terra in order to continue to do just that! Thanks God, you rock!