2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XI South Carolina to North Carolina

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume XI South Carolina to North Carolina

We are knocking off all these states here in the South like nothing. State borders are so small here. We are running on I-85 North. We've nice cloud cover this morning so far and light traffic on the 2-lane highway. 

So far lots of tranquil lakes with boat docks. *yawn*

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume X Georgia to South Carolina

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume X Georgia to South Carolina

It's 10 pm local time. It's dark. We made miles today. We plowed through 5 states: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and now Georgia. Mr. J.S. did an awesome job behind the wheel today. The truck stop in La Grange, Georgia was packed solid so we went across the street to an overfill empty parking lot for truckers and camped out for the night there. The cool air was a nice change and we didn't turn on the air con all night- a first this trip! 

We watched "3 Days to Kill" with Kevin Costner as a CIA hitman.  I didn't think he could pull it off, but it was a pretty entertaining flick. I have a feeling that the movie was a plug for chicks to join the CIA because Amber Heard was a badass CIA hit woman who was always dressed up in slick S & M couture... 

10:30 am and just drove through Atlanta ("Hotlanta"), Georgia. Again, lots of trees surrounding the city and much prettier than I had thought it would be. 

I don't know if it is across America, but there is a $1200 fine for littering (throwing trash out of your car) on the highway in Georgia. I know fines are heavy throughout the US, but exact numbers I'm not sure of.  This is awesome.  I have hardly seen any trash, plastic bags, etc. Bahrain and a Turkey should take note... Highway construction in America - talk about safety rules! All construction is clearly marked MILES ahead, consent ructions cones start way before construction area starts, construction signs are an electric orange color, etc. Cars speeding in an active construction zone pay DOUBLE the fine... These laws are set, and obeyed. The traffic cops here are working. They are more than happy to give out tickets to offenders. 

I secretly chuckle every time I hear mr. J. S. bitch and moan about cars doing stupid things because everything I've seen so far, to me, is child's play compared to what I witness drivers do in Bahrain.  Everyday I am behind the wheel in Bahrain I am cussing to myself at the shit the majority of drivers are doing there. Seriously. I firmly believe that driving in Bahrain has prepared me for driving ANYWHERE... 

Now let's talk about construction workers... I can't tell you how many hot guys in hard hats are working on the roads here... Sure there are loads of ogres too. And there are a lot of female construction workers too.  Why not? Great paying job, insurance, other benefits, etc. 

Talking on cell phones is illegal while driving in every state. Although I have seen this throughout the trip- but it is the exception more so than the rule... 

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume IX Alabama to Georgia.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume IX Alabama to Georgia. 

Heading for Mobile, Alabama on I-10. The motto here is, "Alabama the Beautiful." We shall see. So far it looks just like Mississippi, which looked just like Louisiana... I realize I'm being overly general about this though...

Mobile, Alabama. Same old shit as the rest of the scenery on America's highways through cities: motels, strip malls, car dealerships, fast food, churches (southern Baptists here), ugly billboards... 

Neat bridge over Little Lizard Creek giving a neat view over the 'savannah.' The Mobile, Alabama River Delta is huge. Just passed a Confederate memorial battlefield. Getting into some intense American history here now.  Lots of riding law mowers on the side of the roads. We have left the Gulf and traversing southwest to northeast through the state on I-65 North. The landscape is drier now and there are more pine tees. Elevation-wise, there are more rolling hills. It is a slow, steady rise to the Appalachian Mountains from here on in I think.    

My driver wishes to stop st a casino here for a mandatory break... I can turn that into a pee break and a nap. The landscape today is so interesting, and the fact that I've never driven through these parts of the US has prevented me from taking my mid-day nap. Maybe the casino will have some cool swag though... 

We are entering the Creek Indian Reservation- hence the casino. Yep, exit 57, the a Creek Gaming Center, WindCreek Casino and Hotel in Monroeville, Alabama. 

I won $28 on a Wheel of Fortune slot machine!  I think, for me, the lure of the casino is really just to people watch. This one was smokey. I've noticed that I've seen more people smoking in Alabama than anywhere else so far. Guess it's the influence of the tobacco industry here in the South. 

Burnt Corn Creek

We are now heading for Montgomery, Alabama. It's close to 6:30 pm and will stay light until 8 maybe. We plan on making a run for the Georgia border by quitting time tonight. 

Murder Creek

Lots of deer grazing near the highway at sunset and beyond. Some dead raccoons on the road. Apparently there are black bears all around who are becoming a little too comfortable living among Homo Sapiens. Said Homo Sapiens round them up and bring them back out into the deep woods. Why would bears even want to come close to us. We are pretty vile creatures - comparatively... 

Montgomery, Alabama seems like a sweet, small city. Just outside the city proper new freeway under/overpasses are being built. The city must be expanding. They are also widening the highway. When I think about it, ever since we hit Texas there has been steady roadwork, more or less. 

The temperature feels nice right now. It wasn't too humid of a day today. I opted to walk back to Truck from the casino instead of take the shuttle. The inactivity of truck life is kinda the deal breaker with this whole gig. I mean you can walk around the truck stop at night and in surrounding areas, but is it safe enough? The truck stops seem fine perhaps, but a chick will definitely get some unwanted attention. I don't know that I would want to chance it. Just getting up in the middle of the night and walking to the bathrooms inside can be daunting enough. Truckers are fine and harmless, but tweekers tend to hang at truck stops. This is just a generalization of course, but...

We are in the Tuskegee National Forest. One of the road signs mentioned the site of the famous Tuskegee Airmen. They were a squadron of African-American pilots during World War II. They assisted/escorted fighter pilots in North Africa and Europe. They never lost a plane apparently, and became one of the most decorated squadrons. The story (told by mr. J. S.) reminds me of the 442 Battalion (Japanese-Americans from Hawaii)  sent to fight on the front lines in Germany, etc. 

I think we are close to the Georgia border now. It is 8:30 pm. It's been another good, long haul today.  

10:00 pm Georgia border

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume VIII Mississippi to Alabama

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume VIII Mississippi to Alabama. 

As far as I can tell from I-10, Mississippi looks the same, geologically, as Louisiana. We're nearing Biloxi, which is a port city. Lots of billboards advertising playing slot machines here.  

3:20 pm...And that was Mississippi...

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume VII Louisiana to Mississippi.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume VII Louisiana to Mississippi.

The sides of the highway look like they will swallow you whole if you stop and step out of your vehicle... These puddles look more like ponds. No wonder cemeteries around here house their inhabitants above the ground as all the land looks to be below sea level. 

I first went to Louisiana in 2011 (TESOL Convention) and decided that I really liked New Orleans. I was 'couchsurfing' on this guys couch. He is a local boy and a high school teacher. He lived in a "Shotgun" house (an architectural style in the area where it is a narrow one story home where the front door is straight in line of sight with the back door. This way, you can shoot a shotgun straight through from front to back) on this island right across from downtown in the French Quarter. I remember it was like a 10-minute ferry ride across the Mississippi River and BAM you are in the French Quarter, ready to party it up. 

I didn't see much of the conference, but I played pool, ate a lot of bar food and had good fun. It was the end of Mardi Gras so the town was already filled with a festive nature which, I suspect, is actually year-round. I can't think of his name on hand, but he had this super cool old jeep. I think an International Scout. It was topless with a roll bar, and it had a killer sound system. We cruised town and some other areas that I'm guessing don't tend to see a white girl like me much. We walked into one bar (I think his cousin was bar tending there) and I swear everyone stopped what they were doing and just stared... at me. I looked around and yep, sure enough, I was the only whitey in there... I'm no porcelain-doll looking type either, but man it was an interesting feeling to be a specimen for a brief moment. In the end, no one gave a shit after raising an initial eyebrow. He had a commending presence with ultra long flowing dreadlocks. Everybody knew this dude. It was a great time. I drank a lot of vodka/grapefruits with him at various famous watering holes throughout some amazing neighborhoods. 

Here is a plug for couchsurfing.com :) as it is a great way to visit an area when you don't have any money for accommodation. It is safe as the website is self-policed in that you write a summary of your experience with that 'couch surfer' that can't be erased by them and vice versa. 

The local Native Americans here are a called 'Couchata.' They made these flat canoes with a keel (flat bottom). They would stand in them and used a pole to push off the bottom of the bayou. 

Local crops include: sugarcane , beets, tobacco, cotton and rice, etc. 

A flock of pink flamingoes. Buoys defining Crawfish ponds. Yep we are in Louisiana! 

We've just entered Lafayette Parish (county). 

Now we are coming into Atchafalaya Wetlands and Basin. The roadside Black Oak trees got bigger right here. Henderson Swamp is full of Cyprus Tree stumps and moss so electric green. Lake Bigeaux has some boats fishing on it right now. It looks like some fishing shacks are on the lake as well. Bet there is a lot of gators in those waters. Gators mean gator hunters...

I-10 Highway here is a 24-mile long bridge through this huge swamp and lake waterway. This is so cool. We just crossed over Whiskey Bay. Now Bayou Des Glacies. This area must be a huge bird sanctuary. 

Pee break at Grosse Tete, Louisiana. Tony the Tiger lives in a cage there.  Kinda sad, but he is certainly a big attraction for tourists stopping along I-10 East. 

Entering Baton Rouge and crossing over the great Mississippi River. This is Southern Baptist (church) country down here in these parts. 

2pm Mississippi border...


2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume VI Laredo, Texas to Louisiana border.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume VI Laredo, Texas to Louisiana border.

We are stocked up on food and drink and ready to rock and roll down the highway. Off we go!  Stay tuned y'all because I'll be coming in live and direct from Dixieland in no time :)

Sign spotted nearing San Antonio from the south: "Littering is unlAWFUL". I thought that was pretty neat for obvious reasons. That should be a road sign campaign in a both Turkey and the Middle East... Pisses me off to see people just throw shit from their cars. I mean, it happens here in Amerika too, but if the police see you do it, it's a major fine- MAJOR fine. That's what it takes to make dense people stop doing shirty things- major fines... Nuff said...

Looks like a thunderstorm brewing from the northwest. We're heading for Houston, Texas now, and Beaumont after that (border with Louisiana). 

There's a saying when entering/leaving Texas: "Texas- come on vacation, leave on probation." I wonder why they say that actually.  

Shit Mr. J.S. says on the road:
Every time we pass by a dilapidated old house, barn, etc, "I can fix that up"
Every time we see something weird going on, "you just can't make this shit up"

Shit Holly says on the road:
Every time we wonder about some landmass, fact, etc: " I can look that up" For example, when I get some wifi next stop I'm going to look up:

* The saying "Jimmy crack corn and I don't care." 

* What is the difference between a "recreational vehicle" (RV) and a Mobile Hone? There must be a difference in something to do about the legality of the vehicle and moving it, etc. 

* What does the Fleur d'leis symbolize for Louisiana?

* What class of species do turtles belong to? Reptiles?

* Ask my mom how my father acquired a taste for pickled Pigs Feet. 

Just passed "Woman Hollering Creek" in Cibolo, Texas. Very descriptive. I can look that up...

Passing rain squall

There's a graveyard of blown-out truck tires on the highways in Texas ("Alligator Skins"). Lots of road kill too.  Driving a bit hairy between San Antonio and Houston. It seemed like every 10 mile intervals traffic turned to shit with cars speeding and braking, etc. It reminded me of driving in Bahrain... I'm not joking. It looks like we will hit Houston just after rush hour. This is good. 

So we are carrying a load of Hershey's Chocolate to Pennsylvania. Twenty-one tons of chocolate candy bars to be exact. Peppermint Patties are among them- prolly my favorite brand of shitty chocolate bars... 

8am Wednesday 
Going through Lake Charles industrial area. The sun is rising and wispy clouds smother the sky. The air is moist and heating up the atmosphere. The place looks like a swamp- a beautiful, green humid swamp that is alive with weird, wild life, as well as potential deadly wildlife: alligators, Water Moccasins (snakes), etc... This place is a spunge that soaks up tears from the sky. 

Just passed Bland Cemetery. Billboards advertise lawyers that deal with accidents with semi-trucks, riverboat casinos in Louisiana and factory outfits for western wear and cowboy boots. Car dealerships literally litter Texas. Can't believe how many of them are in every town- even here in east Texas, which certainly doesn't seem to benefit from oil wealth like the rest of Texas.

Blue Elbow Swamp is on my right and BINGO! Folks we just hit the Louisiana state line :)

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume V Kansas drop and head back down to Texas (Laredo this time) via Oklahoma again.

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume V Kansas drop and head back down to Texas (Laredo this time) via Oklahoma again. 

Kansas... We made a bunch of small kine errors to get here... Just passed through buttermilk, Kansas. It is Sunday morning (noon actually so we are late for our Dodge City drop at noon), so it's been a pretty quiet morning all around. Everybody entered to church in these here parts and that's about it. I am hoping that after this drop that we will fix this window as the noise is deafening and the wind blowing in my ear is driving me mad. Not to mention the wasps and yellow jackets that have been flying inside the cab... 

All these small towns that we have been going through this morning are like out of a 50s picture book. The highway will run right through the downtown center of whatever little town that dots the map. 

Back at the RiverWind Casino- where we were last night... The day ended on a high note after pretty much sucking- haha. Let's see, the window wouldn't roll up for a few hundred miles, the right blinker wouldn't work, we took a few missed turns, uninvited wasps and various insects flying at high speeds into the cab, and at one point the engine wouldn't turn over... It was like waking up in a parallel universe today where everything set out to destroy us. We prevailed though and suddenly everything came together. 

The shuttle driver from the semi-truck parking lot to the casino was another interesting sort. He was talking to me about immigrants coming into Ellis Island back in the day. He said I needed to go to the East Coast to do my interviewing of truckers- where the "real" stories were. He thought I would have a hard time figuring out if the stories I would hear are real or not. 

2:30 pm Monday somewhere in central Texas off of 35 south. 
Just passed through Austin, Texas. Looked like a cool city, and very green with full growth trees, etc.  San Antonio is next up and then Laredo. In between? Just a bunch of flatlands. 

People are definitely talkative and friendly here. Men open doors for me and I'm still 5-10 seconds away from the entrance. And then they take a little mini-like bow. The cashier lady just called me "mama", "that's $1.49 mama."  Heh heh. 

Laredo, Texas 
W're right on the border with Mexico again. What an interestingly strange town. Everywhere you look, it's a sea of Kiawe (Mesquite) trees. I mean a seriously impenetrable FOREST of Kiawe Trees. The landscape of Central to south Texas is flat. You can see forever. A pale blue sky with swirling clouds that follows you around. 

We stayed in the TA Truck Stop. It's the Wild West out her folks.  I mean, long, hungry eyes followed me around everywhere... Prolly wasn't the best nig to be wearing my "hippy" pants- although a young, hip Mexican-American woman complimented them in the bathroom as I was brushing my teeth :) she complimented my ass as well... Heh heh. What does one do but blush when encountered with this? 

Back at Truck we ran into some major (minor) functional logistics problems- a small fuel leak that prevented us from running the air conditioner. Imma just say that it was sweltering hot inside the rig. My eyeballs were roasting. Because Laredo is a trucker hub, it was packed full and so we were out on a waiting list for mechanics to take a look at the problem. Our estimated time for inspection was 2am. It was 7pm... 

The top bunk was mercilessly hot. It was hot outside with a slight breeze though. The rain gods/goddesses were not complying with my whining, whimsy-ass requests... Mr. J.S. figured out it was an easy fix though and once the crescent wrench twisted everything back into a tight fix, we were ready to rock with full, frosty air-con. Feeling like King Fudd, he sat back in his lower bunk in Regal fashion and turned on the tv. It was about 10 pm and we were giddy. Seriously, I'm usually freezing and all bundled up in Truck, but I was so happy and shivering in the arctic zone that I was ready for some frostbite! 

We watched "Ender's Game" first. Great sci-fi movie and I'm sure the book series is even better. I gave a thumbs up on that one. Next up was "Barefoot." Thumbs down from me on just that one. I hate rom-comes, generally speaking. Last up was a classic: "The Big Liebowsky." You can never tire of that movie. 

Noon Tuesday. We just got a run into Palmyra, Pennsylvania so we head out now into the South! We are headed straight for the "Heart of Dixie", which makes me swoon. I've never traveled through the South so I'm excited to soak in the scenery- and tell you guys about it. I'm thinking it will take us all day to get through East Texas and hit the Louisiana border tonight. 

Once again I'll say that people are souk nice, gracious and friendly that I encounter on this trip. As well, Mexican-American folks are beautiful people with large hearts- as big as Texas actually. I had to turn back around upon laying my eyes on more than a few men here... It's always nice when they turn back around as well :) I got to brush up on my Spanish a bit here in these parts as well. 

Every truck stop had these huge Mexican siesta/fiesta hats that Mariachi band members wear. I wanted one so badly... I'm still on the hunt for a cowboy hat... As well as more Mexican silver and turquoise jewelry :) 


2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume IV Oklahoma to Kansas

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume IV Oklahoma to Kansas

Just crossed the North Texas border into Oklahoma on 35- Chickasaw (Native American) country. What's the first thing to see across the Oklahoma border? Win Star Casino! This is not any ordinary casino, no sir. This is the largest casino in the world!  We stopped on for a break and got me a Player's Card (my stack is getting bigger and bigger as we cross the country :) and played some slots. Of course Mr. J.S. got lucky his second spin... BAM just like that. Don't know how he continues to do it, but I just sit back amused as always and smile. I have no Lady Luck as bad luck would have it...

NOTE: we are officially in 'Tornado Alley.'

One thing I notice ( a few things actually) about people in casinos. Women love to wear bling here! I mean, I still have my love affair going with my newfound lust for bling that I only acquired since moving to the Middle East so I put on my dowry jewels along with my new Bahraini bling sandals I got at A'ali Mall with Sister Sherry. So, I know the desire to bling with the best and so do huge chicks that come to casinos. Not all, of course, as many were just in slippahas, shorts and tank tops.  I did catch more than enough sightings though of seriously blinged-out chicks. Dandies too. I mean dudes too. I saw more than enough mustachioed dudes with tank tops perfectly tucked into their tight jeans with huge belt buckles. Damn I love people-watching throughout the world! 

Passing into Oklahoma, the landscape seems to change immediately- making it a noticeable difference from Texas. Maybe it's just me, but the grass is greener, there are more trees and they are closer together and greener. It seems more mellow too. Lots of farm tractors, etc on the sides of the highway parked at houses spaciously spaced apart (did that make sense?). 

The area we are traveling through is known as the Chickasaw National secretion Area. It is further defined as the "peaceful valley of rippling waters." How beautiful is that? It's comprised of Eastern deciduous forest and the mixed-grass prairie. 

Oklahoma is home to many Indian nations. It seems many of them got ran out of their lands and came into Oklahoma to settle. It surprised me last year how beautiful Oklahoma was. 

I think we're coming upon another casino up ahead. Mr. J.S. has 'casino radar' as strong as steer manure. 

We just hit up Treasure Valley Casino here in Treasure Valley, Oklahoma. I won $20 on a .30 cent bet. This shit is fun I admit. Extra bonus was 2 pee breaks! Pretty good for a 1/2 hour break :) this is a small, quaint, manageable casino. That last one was acres and acres and acres and you needed a map. GPS would of helped to triangulate as well... 

...And we are currently at the 3rd casino of the day! Still in Oklahoma, but this time at the Chickasaw Nation's "Riverwind Casino" in Norman, Oklahoma. Mr. J. S. is playing poker and I've retired to Truck to chill out and do some writing and hopefully get over this cold. 

Casino culture continues to fascinate me. Everybody is nice. Everybody has a story- many of the hard-luck variety. It is a viable slice of America from what I can see. 

Sunday 13th
Oklahoma City TA Truck Stop 7:30 am
Old Catfish was behind the counter. Dude had a fish hook on his TA cap and just looked confused as shit. The young kid with a large earring sitting next to him must have been on a break as he did nothing. Poor old Catfish didn't know how to fix the computerized shower ticket system thing so had to do it by hand. He was all kinds a grumpy. And slow. Imma call him 'Grumpy Old Catfish' now. He talked slow and with a drawl too. He sounded like Woody Harrelson when he plays a Southern character...

Anyway, now we're holed up at another TA just down the road so we can get some shit done- namely closing the passenger (my) window... It don't seem to wanna close back up... That ain't no good now, is it? No ma'am.  Certainly not for me trying to get over this cold. Additionally, I see all the dead bugs in the mirror next to window and it is a scene of slaughter for sure. That's what imma feel like if this window doesn't close. 

Anyway mr. J.S. Is mad as a nest of hornets getting their nest smoked out. Poor Old Catfish didn't help out either. He was just slow pokin' around the cash register with a line of peeps waiting. 

Just went through Cheyenne/Arapahoe territory. We seem to be I. Cherokee Nation territory now as all signs say something about Cherokee: Cherokee 7-11 ahead, Cherokee Trading Post ahead, etc. 

North of Oklahoma City the landscape seems to be characterized by orangish-red dirt- and a lot of it! The soil looks so rich in minerals, and is a beautiful contrast with the electric green shades of grasslands that meet up with a pale blue sky on the  horizon. 

We just went through Geary, Oklahoma. Apparently there are some big problems with meth here. Not much here but farmland. I guess I can see that the kids are looking for cheap thrills... Suddenly they're hooked and building meth labs in their bedrooms...  

Seiling, Oklahoma. I think it is a prerequisite to have a junk car or 2, or 5, to live in Seiling, Oklahoma :) damn it's beautiful though. Green, green, green and then some black dots (cows) congregated around a tree here and three enjoying the shade. Lots of creeks (pronounced 'crik')  alongside the roadway. Always there is a 'cemetery road' with an arrow pointing. I can't tell you how many Cemetery Road signs I've seen since entering Oklahoma. 

Definitely looks like cow-tipping country here :) as well as cow pies, which means mushroom spores too. I'll say it again, it is beautiful here. This is the place to meet a cool dude and shack up for a bit- in summertime of course... Yea, I could become a cowgirl for a while here. 

We are entering the "panhandle" of Oklahoma heading towards Woodward. From there we head north on 183 to Sitka, Kansas. Suddenly the scenery changes again. The area now seems a bit drier and not so many trees. 


2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume III El Paso, Texas to Oklahoma

2014: Rolling thru Amerika on 18 Wheels. Volume III El Paso, Texas to Oklahoma

Woke up with a slight cold. Don't feel too bad actually, so Mr. J.S. got some coffee, I got some tomatoe juice and we hit the road. We are following I-10 East, alongside the Rio Grande River valley. It is a green oasis in a sea of scrubland desert. Some towering mountain ranges to the southeast, Mexico, rise up out of the earth looking rather majestic. 

This mountain range we are following (I can't find on the map as they don't go into detail for Mexico) is located in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, and started, I think, just outside of Ciudad Juarez (opposite El Paso, across the border). It seems so familiar as I have memories of driving through Mexico at various times in my life. 

There was always something about Mexico that intrigued me. Spending my 'wonder years' in Southern California, I had Mexican friends and, of course, there were many Mexican kids in elementary and middle school with me- as with many other ethnicities. California is, after all, a melting pot- as is America. You know, I always say, when asked, that I'm from Hawaii because I don't have a lot of memories of my time in California. Additionally, I haven't been back in Southern California, in my old neighborhoods, since that time. I am only in contact with one friend from back then as there wasn't any internet access, etc. back then. So I really have no connection to California, and it feels foreign to say that I do honestly. I have spent half of my life in Hawaii and so it feels like home. In short, it is home...

But these mountains, they bring back something from my past that I revisit. It's nice, and interesting to feel some sort of connection just by seeing a mountain range in Mexico while driving through West Texas. Life can be surprising, and these are the gold nuggets that we search for. 

We're heading for a pass at Sierra Blanco Mountain now. This is our first climb in Texas as El Paso seemed pretty flat. 

We just finished driving, and we are still in Texas! Texas is a long-ass state to be sure. I guess it's as they say, "Everything's bigger in Texas." As well, there are so many rolling hills and grasslands and scrub brush and then pine trees, etc. It's like we went through so many different climates. One thing there isn't is any mountains- as far as I know anyway. 

Today I was also pretty much sick all day too. As I type, after a hot shower here at the TA Truck Stop in Tyrell, Texas, I feel a bit better, but being sick is never a good thing- especially when in a semi-truck... Hopefully a long night's sleep will put me back in working order for the morning run. We are dumping a load (the baby kale) early in the morning (4am) and then heading to somewhere in Kansas to drop off an empty trailer, and then back down to Laredo, Texas to drop off another empty container. After that, I believe we are heading east through Louisiana, Georgia, etc!

In essence, it will be a good day tomorrow to be sick as it's heading up to Kansas... I think we go through Oklahoma to get to Kansas, and I do remember really liking Oklahoma last year (all the Indian Reservations and casinos!) 

I'm listening to 2 different conversations, and it can't understand either one of them. One is in Spanish, but the dialect I can't follow, and he is talking really fast. The other is English, but definitely southern. Heh heh. 

People here in the here parts of the States still say, "maam"- like in the Middle East. It still seems weird to me- even here in America. People are really friendly in Texas I have noticed. Everybody makes conversation with you- cashiers, waitpersons, etc. 

Every time I ride passenger in the cab, I think how cool it would be to do my PhD on ethnographies of truckers.  I would want to focus on oral histories and storytelling. These guys, and gals, young and old, have stories to tell. They see so much on the road. Even their individual stories of where they come from, their routes, weirdest things experienced on the road, etc, would be of interest to many I'm sure. It can't just be me that thinks this is so interesting. There are also so many of ethnicities of truck drivers. This further entails more stories- culturally relevant. The area of err search seems so rich and... wide open.  I guess I need to do some research to see if this has been done before. To me it sounds unique, but perhaps someone already 'beat me to the punchline' as we say :)

Here's a story from the road yesterday. We were somewhere in Arizona. We were eating at a truck stop. A young Native American lady (I assume a Hopi as she mentioned she was born and raised in the immediate area) had a jewelry stand set up inside near the entrance toe truck stop restaurant. I was looking at her things (all silver, copper and turquoise, and all beautiful) and saw some dolls.  I asked about them as I have a girlfriend that is pregnant and I thought the handmade Indian dolls were really cool and would be a neat gift for her unborn daughter. She said they were "Kachina Dolls." It is a tradition of the Hopi Indians to make these dolls. She mentioned that the Navajo also started making them, but it is tar additional for only the Hopi. Also, she mentioned that it was a dying tradition to make these dolls. Because we were hungry I set one aside to purchase later, after eating, and left to eat. Besides, I wanted to take some more time to look at the jewelry! 

Back at the table I learned from Mr. J.S. that the Hopi traditionally made these for their own and that they were very sacred and that we foreigners were not supposed to handle them, etc. I sat and thought about it, not necessarily agreeing, but listing to the argument presented. Him being part Native American himself, I had to take this into consideration. To sum up, I didn't agree that an outsider shouldn't have one, but I respected his opinion and decided that I wouldn't buy one and lug it around in truck for the rest of our journey. 

After eating, I found the girl again and told her a short summary of why I wasn't going to be able to purchase the doll. She was okay with this decision, but said she hadn't hard this before (again, it is likely an old tradition, and the younger generations are breaking away from tradition generally - due to just the modern world pushing forward as well as other issues I'm sure). Her daughter came up to her at this point, as well as Mr. J.S. so we all started talking. The woman had 5 children (she looked so young herself, as well as very small and fit)! It just turned into a really cool situation and ex stayed a while and bought some jewels:)  that is it- the story. Nothing monumental, but just talk story. I really dig that shit.  That is what is so appealing of driving across America in a semi-truck!

Not sure what time it's, or even what day or date... Must be on vacation. We are in Denton, Texas en route to Dodge City, Kansas to drop off an empty trailer. Yesterday was pretty much a blur. Definitely shitty to be sick while riding in a semi-truck. Speaking of which, I could never do this for a living as I need to go pee way too much... 

Here's a little tidbit that explains Texas, perhaps. Late last night I went inside the truck stop to go pee (we were parked a wee bit too far from the truck stop last night I might add). Anyway, as I was coming out I noticed a sign saying, "hair color and perms available." Truck stops here in America can be petty luxurious now- I'm being totally serious.  There are tv rooms, laundromats, game rooms, different restaurants, etc. There are also hair salons sometimes. I haven't seen a hair salon advertising for perms in many, many years!  This cracked me up at 2 am for sure. 

Just saw a sign for the Chickasaw a Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma. Another sign for Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies. Damn this IS the land of open grasslands, trees and billboard signs. 


Rolling thru Amerika on 18 wheels. Volume II - 2014 Yuma, Arizona to El Paso, Texas

Rolling thru Amerika on 18 wheels.   Volume II - 2014 Yuma, Arizona to El Paso, Texas

Thursday am
Just went through border patrol in Yuma, Arizona. Stopped at Love'sTruck Stop and got some pretty decent coffee. Now we're cruising through some really beautiful territory in Dome Valley. We just passed through an area called "Coyote Wash." 

Mr. J.S. is re-living his casino experience last night. We're plotting out the next stopover. No casinos tonight as they are all up on I-40. We are on I-8- which meanders alongside the Mexican border, which is border less here (no fence). I'm sure there are drones taking care of business here...

 We should make it to the Texas border tonight. We have all day to pass through Arizona and New Mexico, and the scenery is very easy on there eyes. Gazing out my window I see homesteads intermixed with PaloVerde, Ironwood and KiaweTrees with a smattering of Ocotillo cactus, which the Native Americans here used for medicine (the entire scene is one big medicine cabinet for them I imagine). 

The houses, so far, all seem to be single-story "California Ranch" style houses. I haven't seen any Adobe style houses here in these parts yet. The yards are typically barren. Maybe a few scrubby- looking trees, some purple or white Sage bushes, etc. Many cars, in various stages of decay, line the 'compound'.  It's so interesting to witness these little slices of life (I call them 'scenes') while driving through. A snapshot of existence. 

Just passed Dateland, Arizona. It's a little pitstop of a place with an oasis of Date Palm Trees- Duh...

Heading for Phoenix, but first need to go through pass over the Superstition Mountains. It's 8:30 am and the 2-lane highway is quiet. The sky is dramatic with clouds hovering around the mountains. I love the names here: Sand Tank Wash we just passed. Very descriptive. Butterfield Trail- wonder who Butterfield was... Gila Bend now so I'm thinking the area is known for Gila Monsters :)

Just passed through a forest of Cholla ("Teddy Bear") cactus. Apparently they 'hug' you when you pass by too close and their thorns stick on you... All these cacti here look deadly honestly. I'm going to look up Apache and Commanche Indians to see what lore/oral histories there are with them using cacti. 

Just saw a tree loaded down with Mistletoe. I've never seen so much on a tree before. Now a forest of Saguaro Cacti. So cool looking. They are so stout and tall, rising above the low scrub brush desert flooring. 

Just passed a border control (Mexico) truck at an Arroyo (Wadi). The "Coyotes" (smugglers) bring in the illegals through these areas so the border patrol agents hang out in the wadis (lower elevation) and then pounce on them- I guess. 

We have about 35 more miles to go until Casa Grande, Arizona - where we'll stop and grab some breakfast. Smooth morning on the road :) 

Just passed through the Papago Indian Reservation. From the road all I could see were mobile homes. Their homesteads just be well camouflaged. I see a fair bit of mobile homes, piles of old tires, rusty tractors, shipping containers, etc. 

Arizona is an "open-carry" state meaning that ordinary citizens can carry pistols, or any type of guns. I guess there are many dangers her: rattlesnakes, bandits, etc... I think I might possibly freak out to walk into a store and see someone toting a rifle... Maybe not though. I might also think it was kinda hot... 

Okay relief in sight. I have spotted the Petro truck stop- which means BATHROOM :). We'll have breakfast at The Iron Skillet...

Santa Rosa Wash ( a "wash" is a dried-up riverbed) had a little trickle of water coming through. The landforms here in the Sonoran Desert is beautiful.  This area gets a monsoon season actually. Out in the distance is Picacho Peak - which is a famous Tuscon, Arizona landmark. It's on the I-10. 

The deserts here in America are "living" deserts meaning that there is all sorts of animal life, trees, cacti, etc.  You could survive here for a while, as opposed to "real" deserts like in the Middle East. You can find shade here. You can cut open cactus and get gallons of water. You can catch small animals and eat them. Birds are cruising. Flowers are sprouting from cacti, etc. Of course I'm sure Bedouin can survive in Middle Eastern/North African deserts too. I obviously don't have an eye for how to survive in those deserts as all I've ever seen was sand in them...

I'm having a traditional southern breakfast I guess with eggs over biscuits and gravy. Why not?  Funny to see Mr. J. S. Purchase a newspaper and proceed to read over it over breakfast. So old-fashioned in my mind I guess. Perhaps it's that newspapers where I live are generally in Arabic, and I don't go out to eat breakfast much...

A lone Copelote (vulture) in the sky against the backdrop of Picacho Peak. 

Entering West Tuscon, Arizona now. 

Texas Canyon rest stop has these really cool balancing rocks - some are HUGE and just seem to defy gravity. Ah, America the beautiful. As we head out of east Arizona and get closer to the New Mexico border, the air is drier and the scenery more dramatic in terms of contrast of desert scrublands and intense blue sky with large, puffy white cotton-ball clouds. Chiracahua national monument is coming up. The Chiracahua are an Apache tribe. They were feared, fierce warriors. 
Chief Cochise was their last great fighter. His hideout is somewhere in these mountains (Chiracahua Mountains?) looks like Mexico is getting a thunderstorm over to the east now. Damn, the cloud formations here are amazing. Big, puffy Thunderhead clouds leave huge swaths of shade spots on the ground and the contrast is to interesting to take notice of: hot, dry, sunny land masses broken up with clouds casting soothing shadows 

New work I learned: Lot lizards
Lot Lizards are hookers that frequent the truck stops. They go up to the trucks at night and knock on the doors to see if the dudes need any comfort. Must be interesting when they knock on hyena female truckers doors... There are a lot of single, female truckers I've seen out on the road the past few days. Also there are a lot of couples that live the trucker life. Two people mean 2 incomes and 22 hours a day of driving time- if they wish. Little dogs are also frequent co-pilots in the cab.

 I don't know what Johnny does when driving alone. I mean, he talks a lot. He is storyteller. He knows all the secrets that these mountains hold. All this information that I'm relating to you guys, it's all from him. 

Century plans line the highway in these parts. Some of their white flowers are towering over the desert scrub brush. The colors of the land here are beautiful. It's a gradation of beiges, reds, pinks, browns, etc. The greens are super electric and vibrant. It's like a hallucination so beautiful and alive when you get a glimpse of them. Railroad lines absolutely litter the scenery everywhere. Picturesque trains chug along all day and night. The American flag is always in the caboose, and the individual boxcars are full of unique graffiti. 

Dust Devils are whipping up right now. We are near the New Mexico area. Now a grove of Pecan trees. They sure look luscious against this rocky landscape. On the other side of the highway are Pistachio trees. 

2014: rolling thru Amerika on 18 wheels.    Volume III New Mexico. 

New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment. Upon entering the state, you see the sign and there are a pair of red and green chili peppers on hue be sign- enchanting, right? The white, puffy clouds seem so heavy, like they are falling down to the ground underneath their weight. Many different layers of cloud formations too. It's 2 pm and it's hot. 

Here we are in El Paso, Texas at the Petro Truck Stop. The famous Rio Grande river runs the distance and separates Mexico from the US here at El Paso, and the entire length of the Texas/Mexico border. 

Time for a shower, dinner and sleep. I think I'm catching a cold. 


2014: rolling thru Amerika on 18 wheels

2014: rolling thru Amerika on 18 wheels

Volume I: California

Sitting here in "Cafe 50's" ('cash only')  in Venice Beach with Mr. Johnny Stack, independent trucker.  Our 2014 semi-truck tour begins here. It all started at LAX on Monday morning, July 7th. I haven't cruised LA in a few years (last was with EdV when en route to snowboard in South America).  Additionally, I haven't been in Venice Beach in eons. Wow. Nothing has changed. Staying with phamily of Johnny's (and now mine :) and I'm in awe. I mean, Venice Beach has not changed. All the old time signage is still up. Houses are quaint and nestled into each other in different architectural styles reminiscent of Santa Cruz back in the day when I was living in various beach bungalows there. 

I guess I thought this area would be all glitzed up, but much to my surprise, no! The place is still so charming and livable. Driving around yesterday, eating at diners and an awesome Mexican food joint for dinner... I'm a happy camper. I've my eye on this vintage clothing store (American Replay) right across the street from the diner we are in right now. I can totally see me getting my shop on faster breakfast.  

Speaking of shopping... Somehow I managed to forget to take my underwear that I had packed back on Maui. I was a bit surprised this morning upon excavating my backpack and not seeing my care package! My first thought was that the airlines went through my bag and somehow that package didn't get put back in... As I sift through my internal hard drive (brain) though, it's likely that I left them back on Maui. I generally don't do absent-minded things as such, but I was in a heightened state of consciousness back on Maui so... Oh well, I imagine there is a Target so ethereal nearby. 

Our hosts here are Claire-bear (the 2nd, as the 1st resides in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan with her husband and adorable twins), Robert, and super-daughter Johnene. What a cool beach bungalow they have. It's like a museum of California life and lore from the past up to the present. I mean every moment ... 

Time to eat...

Wednesday morning in Colton, California at the truck stop watching Johnny eat a heartily breakfast full of meat (protein). Talked to Simone on the phone as she is in Cali says well (San Diego).  Feels good to be back in America... 

One way this 'feel goodness' is being manifested by me: wearing Daisy Dukes and tank tops and not caring about what is showing, knowing that no one else cares what is showing, and just feeling good about being nonchalant and normal in general. This is what I miss most about America perhaps: the ability to realize that my body is just my body. It is not something that needs to be covered up, and is not considered to be 'sexualized' in such a way that needs to be hidden. I'm not making any judgments, but it just feels good to not wonder on a daily basis if I'm exposing too much skin- above elbow, or above knee, or cleavage.  I am, of course, respectful when living abroad, but not a day goes by when I think, and re-think, my attire. Here I am inside a truck-stop diner just letting it hang naturally, and no one pays attention in any overt way :) That's all.

9 am
Hanging out in my (top) bunk catching up on some news while Johnny figures out logistics of our route, etc. Heading to get Truck washed and then to pick up the trailer and onward to pick up our load by noon.

10 pm
Just back to truck from Quechan (Native American) casino on the California/Arizona border at Yuma.  Ended up coming back with $50 & played the slots for a good, long time so definitely got entertainment value.  Mr. J. S. was playing poker (update: he won- as always). Seriously, every slot machine he touched, he cashed in on. I got myself a new player card from a new casino, so all is well from my camp as far as I am concerned. My slot machine names generally consisted of Greek gods or Egyptian pharaohs. I consider these my 'lady luck' slots...

Our run today was from Colton to Yuma (Cali/Arizona border). We followed the Mexico/USA border for the last hour of the journey, which consisted of a massive, rusty, solid-looking fence following the path of low sand dunes intertwined with scrub brush. So that is about a 250 mile run on a 1250 mile run to dump off the Baby Kale in Texas that Truck is carrying. An easy day today and wins at the casino, not to mention a steak dinner. Heh heh. 

We are parked in the casino parking lot for semi-trucks so no amenities, which means getting creative when needing to pee, which means I'm considering the parking lot fair game until sunrise... Fortunately it's the middle of the week and not many other trucks here. 

Time to kick it and chill on my top bunk and check out "Burn Notice" season 2. In summary, it's nice to be back on the road again rolling on through Amerika on 18 wheels and watching the moving picture show go by. I'm stoked beyond measure that these simple things make me so happy and grateful. 


Maui- roger that...

Home alone- the Maui diary: chapter 1. "Slow and Steads Wins the Race"

Kula. Fresh air. Rarified air. Night sounds. Animal noises. Earth quivers. Hawaii. Yea, sweet sounds Maui makes at night. Daytime too, but there is something extra special about the night. There always is. Especially on Maui. It's somewhere between taking the time to stop and listen and hear,  and to just produce this behavior naturally, without a thought that you are actually 'doing it' but already engaged. That. That's IT.

My commentary this evening is from Kula HQ at ... Well you know her as I've described that she still has a check book register :). She thinks I amuse myself way too much with that one, but she should know the immense lesson that is for me- keep to a pattern that works. Slow and steady wins the race. That's right, I'm totally katie-girl's #1 fan girl. She's preggers if you don't know!  Yes, I love watching this one evolve in this world. 

I just spotted the Biracik Hand towel I gave her (last year after I went to Biracik, on the Euphrates in SE Turkey) in her kitchen. Also, the Amethyst - encrusted hand mirror in her bathroom :) my old, wicker file cabinet baskets are proudly  displayed in the dining room in a splendid state of decay.  Ahhh I've filed many a good piece of paper in those drawers of old *sigh*. But thats IT. I secretly must love tradition because  these little things make me smile in life when at Katie-girl's. And it is that tradition I find in her house that makes me keep up my tradition of leaving "tiny messages" as I call them rough out her house in odd places!!! Like little surprise presides that her and Jamil happen upon whenever. 
And then I see instances where she has broke tradition: on the absence of the water filter in fridge, that shower cleaner thing that was in her shower for years and years is gone. It was strange. She got it at a garage sale I think. She was happy. She loved that thing. When I would visit, I would use it (after you showered, you would press a magic button and this thing would rotate and spray and clean shower. It  just made me smile every time I used it.  I love useful magic. Katie-girl excels at useful magic. 

It's noon in Bahrain- the next day. Have no idea the rime here really. Time. Yea, time travel trips me out. Those 50's sci-fi series. They were good for the imagination, and have relevance for the present. Watching old Star Trek series and seeing Dr. Spock & crew re-combining in their little particle re-combiner contraption, this always amazed me.  Today, as I was on my last day of a 2 solid day flight journey, I visualized this. I visualized myself- without knowing it initially. Our bodies are doing just that from the inside, but we just don't see it because of our protective layering ((skin & psyche). 

BREAKING NEWS: I'm heading into the tent...

Night sounds surround me. Exactly what I need. I need my mind blown- Maui style. Maui does not disappoint ever. I feel really lucky to always return. Ahhh Maui and it's moisture and nurishment from the mountains and the far reaching clouds that look for somewhere throughout their march across  the Pacific Ocean to unleash their rainy fury. As I type underneath the li'l camp light, I hear melodic sounds.  Insects - they sound so exotic at night. In daylight hours one usually wants to smash them dead. Oh the dichotomy of contemplating insects... 

"Tent" is a 'pup-tent'. Hopefully the rain-fly becomes of use tonight :) The tropical coolness in the air envelops my skin. Like it knows my skin is craving rain. Craving moisture. Craving Maui. How can Maui know a thing like that? 

I , of course, did my centipede check. Always a good idea. Always. By the way, I have hot-peppered beef jerky and chocolate in Tent with me... I went and visited Oppo (Katie-girl's Chinchilla). Oppo, old man,   And myself- having intra-species communications of the mind. Oh Star Trek... 

I mean, I have just been transported- back in time. Back in Maui psyche mode. Back to the space I am most comfortable in. I thought about exactly that as I stepped outside Tent to pee. Peeing in nature. All animals do it. We Hope Sapiens can still do it too- especially at night when no one is around and you're sleeping underneath the stars. Anyway, great feeling.  'Too much information' you're thinking? Well, I'm thinking that's why you read blogs- because you want more information!  Anyway, I try not to disappoint readers so... There ya have it. 

Okay moving on to another subject... I guess I can bombard you with more information. I now hear bigg-ish raindrops spaced quite a few seconds apart. No downpour- yet!!! Wouldn't THAT be something? 

One thing to mention for those of is that travel long distances frequently is that air travel used to be so great. Now, it's just lines, taking laptops outta computer bags for security checks, retaking shoes off (only in America still do I seem to do this at airports) going through security mazes, walking down too narrow of aisles, not getting enough sleep, eating shit food, etc. It all sucks. What feels good? First class. This is an experience I rarely experience, but today I saw my angel in the form of a Hawaiian girl at the United Airlines counter at LAX. I had a window seat and wanted to change to aisle, and I had a 5 hour layover at LAX so I walked up.. She did the computer magic thing and saw my route for the past 2 days and looked at me and said, "Oh, you're getting upgraded to First Class'". Man, local style!  I get me some 'wasta' back home in Hawaii ( "wasta" or 'Baksheesh' is kinda like 'privilege' maybe is a decent word to use to describe a synonym). 

Anyway, as I mentioned in my last blog entry, I tend to get sat next to kinda hunky guys on airplanes. This time too. We managed to have a fantastic conversation right from the start. Then, I woke up 5 hours later when the airline attendant came on and said that we would be landing soon... Yea. That's what First Class does to one. It let's you sleep- even through having a conversation with a kinda hunky guy :)

I wonder what time it is. *Kerplunk*

Ps  didn't spell check... Don't need to because Maui is IN my mind. It was like an instant blood transfusion of Vitamin M for Maui... Yea folks it's all that. Oh yes, da kine got me and got me good. No let go da reins :)


Ready...Set...Go: From Middle East to Western Pacific Ocean

Am I ready?  Yea, I'm ready to rock outta here in  my rocket-ship (ahem... Lufthansa Airlines). So folks, it looks like this is my last communique from my A`ali HQ for a few months. I'm deserting the desert for my Western Pacific island.  Desert Dweller to Island Kine. Let me tell you, it's not a journey for the faint of heart; stuck in economy class for 30 hours or so, eating kibble I wouldn't feed my kitties, breathing recirculated air while trying not to listen in on conversations... Wait. Back-up. No one has conversations anymore... Even on planes we're reduced to clutching at our lifelines- if not to call someone, but to stare at the screen playing games or watching movies.  Yea, I'll be watching movies as well and likely not talking to anyone.  Well, honestly I've been pretty fortunate in the 'cool neighbor on airplane' department.  As a single gal flying around the world and only sitting on aisle seats, I've somehow always managed to be placed next to a... single, handsome male flying around the world sitting in the 'mush-pot' as my dad would always say... Enough on that and let's just hope for the best :)

Speaking of dad, I've been thinking about him lately.  Thinking about his wisdom and wise-sayings.  What was he thinking when he traveled all around the world- albeit inside a submarine... I would love to ask him what I need to know, what I really need to know, about grant-writing.  I feel like I write with my heart on my sleeve, or fingers extending onto the computer screen so as it happens...

Upon doing some research on what teaching Fellows/Fulbrights have options to do after their terms are up, I've discovered there is a wealth of grants to apply for to conduct research in your specialized area.  Well folks, I've ran it through in my mind (dad, were you following?) and am plotting... I won't divulge now, but just know that something is in the works for me in the future. Honestly though, the first step is to become an alumni, and I'm not there yet- thankfully!  Yea, if you don't already know, my mission has been extended and so I'll be returning to Bahrain in September to carry on with another 10 months of teaching in residence.  So what does that mean?  It means another 10 months of plotting for my future, it means data collection- which means a plan... It means thinking about culture, landscape, archaeology, history, story-telling. It means narrowing down to a specific region I want to focus on.  Yea, I'm stoked when I think about the future.  Just need to take that first step...

To help me sort out all this in my mind, I've decided to take on another cross-country Amerika journey on 18 wheels.  I think you all know this already, but I'm just so excited that  I squeal with delight when I think about it!  To prepare for the southern route I've done some background research.  What form you ask?  Well, for starters I watched seasons 1 and 2 of Duck Dynasty... That's about as far as I've gotten so far... Any more ideas from you guys is greatly appreciated.

Back to this morning though.  Here in my host desert kingdom:  It's my last morning with coffee in bed for a while.  I'm glued to the air conditioner. I've made a make-shift 'fort' (pillows and a sarong) for the kitties on the bed so they are playing Indians and Indians :)  Yea, no cowboys to be seen here at Fort Formolo- just Shaika "long black spot" and Sami "scalpel"... For some reason Sami Bey likes to creep up on me while sleeping and start pawing at my hair, and then pulling it... Kinda creepy honestly.  I think to myself, "Gosh, what if I don't wake up for a while and when I do, I see a pile of hair on the bed and I rub a bald spot... Eek.

Ramadan has started and it is a festive atmosphere here. Yesterday I fasted all day- just by default as I was at work and didn't bring anything to eat, and of course there is nothing there to eat at this time.  I didn't eat or drink until 5pm when I was finished with my day.  You know what, it wasn't too bad.  Yes, I say this for only 1 day of fasting- and it wasn't even long enough as with daylight long right now, fasting is approximately for 15 hours. So, while you're fasting, I suppose that you do things to distract yourself from this endeavor.  So I decided to trot off after work to a 'house of henna'- Rachna's Henna Salon.  I spent the afternoon with a bunch of lovely ladies all enjoying a brief respite from the heat and chatting about whatever with each other. I suppose not surprisingly I noticed a few ladies glued to their cell phones- even when their friends were right there with them!  I guess this still trips me out. Are we really all about this tiny screen and tapping?  I guess so and it's here to stay until we all become big losers and get Google Glasses... Ugh.

Another thing I noticed since Saturday (Ramadan was set to start Saturday, but then Saudi Arabia didn't spot the crescent moon (with naked eye) at the proper time, so it was set back to start Sunday.  So, this gave everyone an extra day to EAT and DRINK!!! The supermarkets were crowded.  I mean super crowded.  As well, yesterday afternoon Alosra Sar parking lot was really crowded.  People like buying food during Ramadan!  Why?  Because they make splendid meals for Iftar (the daily breaking of the fast at sundown and after prayers). I mean, these are some serious spreads.  Food galore.  I remember friends in Turkey telling me they actually gain weight during Ramazan!  So yes, people stay up all night and eat and socialize.  It is a time of family gathering and purifying.  It is really so beautiful.

This year is particularly interesting here for Ramadan because also late at night is... wait for it... THE WORLD CUP games being aired!  Because of the time difference between South America and the Middle East, the games are aired late at night!  So, of course everybody is eating and watching the games!  And boy what a game last night between Algeria (I think everybody's favorite) and Germany.  Germany won, but Algeria won our hearts!  Damn those men are handsome too :)  That's another thing about the Middle East- there is no shortage of handsome men, and beautiful women incidentally. I've yet to check out Qatar (I'm flying there tonight), but so far Oman is tops for beautiful men category :) I can say honestly though that everybody here has beautiful hearts.  I can also say that driving is scary... All who know me know that I'm 'slowpoke'- mostly because I always had "Maui Cruiser" cars (old beaters) that would generally shimmy and shake at 55MPH...

To sum up, Ramadan Mubarak, or Ramadan Kareem to all reading this that partake!!!

It's time to rise and shine and get this day done and hop on a rocket-ship and cruise the galaxy (okay, airplane traveling through the stratosphere).  Upon arrival (48 hours travel time without time differences to account for, so less with), I'll be sleeping underneath the Maui sky in a tent in a Kula backyard!!! How cool is that??? What a way to break myself back into island living!  Yes, I'm keeping it real.  No air conditioners for me for the next few months thankfully.  Just good, clean Maui air to keep me cool, calm and relaxed.  Yea, and Da Kine :)

Arabian Sea

Western Pacific Ocean


countdown to Maui IS ON!!!

Saturday morning lounging in bed (7am) while it's already fully blazing-hot outside. The heat is trying to creep in, but I protest by having 2 layers of curtains in bedroom cave.  The kitties are frolicking around- probably wondering why it is still so dark in here while everywhere else is dripping in brightness...  I do like my cave.

Summer is here!  Well, it's been here for about 2 months already in terms of the heat index... There are exactly 2 more work days and then I'm on the next plane outta here headed back home to my "rock" in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!  The kitties will be transported to their summer villa in Sar where they will be in great company with an Animal Planet of sort of household!  They are going to the vet this morning to get micro-chipped!  I expect them to be mad at me, briefly, for the remainder of the day...

I still have so many adventures that I have not talked about from this past 10 months here in this desert kingdom, as well as travels to other desert kingdoms. 

 This is Muscat, Oman.  So far in my Middle Eastern travels, I have found Oman to be the best place for beach activity... I was in heaven and on the beach as much as I could possibly fit it during my trip.
Oman is very picturesque

Beachfront crab castles

Oman is a very orderly place where traffic is concerned.  Everything is logical here...

 I was really impressed with Oman's roads, traffic system and just driving in general.  It seems here that people can actually incur traffic infractions... As a bonus (if that wasn't already enough to make me squeal with delight), the roadways are pretty!  There are loads of areas to stop off of and just have a picnic.  Everything is groomed along the roadsides and there seem to be 'rest areas' everywhere (no facilities as far as I could telll) where you could just stop off and stretch out a bit, or chat on cell phone instead of driving while chatting- which is prevalent everywhere...
Oman has a lot of forts with breathtaking views

 The architecture is very modern and stylish and tasteful and just seems to fit in with the natural environment.  Again, this kingdom is organized and quite strikingly beautiful.  The sultan had a vision and it is beautifully played out everywhere you look.
Just another roadside attraction...

 Some palace... Of course Oman, as with all Middle Eastern countries, has a lot of palaces for various usages.
Architecture here is aesthetically pleasing

 I'm loving these cobalt blue accents

So Oman is my top choice to visit, or live, so far in the Middle East.  Of course I haven't been to Yemen yet...

Back on the rock known as the Kingdom of Bahrain... there is still a lot to do, but without the orderly roads and polite driving, and the beautiful beaches... Okay, there is plenty that is beautiful here as well though and I tend to check it out on the weekends.

 One of my favorite spots to haunt is the Qalat al Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) and when they host outdoor music events it's just a bonus!  We got a group together and all made delicious dishes and had a picnic while listening to the music.  It was perfect
Sara and her tribe were in attendance!
Afterwards we trekked inside the fort in search of the new Frenchy
art installation.

You can't see exactly, but this 'room' was very cool- like a spider web

 Part of the Frenchy art installation.  It looked like gold nuggets were encased underneath the flooring.  Or, primordial fires blazing.
An alien-like green glow emanating from somewhere deep inside the chamber that the gold nuggets were leading to.  

 The outside area of the Qalat al Bahrain.  Nice building with modern lines and an endless blue sky cascading down into the Arabian Gulf.
Sunset hour is amazing here.

 Of course, the Bahrain Financial Center in downtown Manama has magnificent architectural delights to feast your eyes on.  This is one of many.  Too bad the 'wind turbines' don't actually make/store energy...
Shaika Spot- bookworm...

I guess I never really discussed shopping here in the kingdom, mostly because I never really find an occasion to go shopping or "shop till you drop".  That all ended though with Sherry Santo's visit...
The kitties were in full play mode- as always...

 For summer solstice an archaeologist friend of mine has a yearly talk/walk-about at the Sar Temple.  We await sunset (which now sets behind the ghost-buildings of Marina West) and hope for some sort of divine intervention.  Well, we had a lovely sunset among other intrepid travelers and history buffs alike.  Later on we got down to some serious picnicking as the last vestiges of light were falling from the sky. 

For those of you that live here, this temple is amazing.  I had never been there before. It's an incredible accomplishment of the ancient Dilmun civilization. 
awaiting divine intervention...

Okay so we'll just eat, drink and be merry instead!

This is my favorite 'mall': Al Ali mall in Seef area.  What's so interesting is that no haole go here (foreigners).  Sherry Santo and myself were the only foreigners as far as I could tell- outside of the shopkeeps.  At any rate, this hidden gem is just that.  We shopped until we dropped, and then came back for more the next day!!! 

Well, this ends my commentary for now as I need to get myself outta bed and dressed to get to the veterinary clinic.  So more later on my departure from this desert kingdom...