Archive for October, 2007

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Laguna Lounge Lizards

October 29, 2007

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We had breakfast at Johny Rockets after leaving Santa Barbara, its a buzz back into the 60s, with jukeboxes and great decor!

Hi all, we are currently lounging around in Laguna Beach, Pete’s niece Becca has a big renovated beach house she has kindly allowed us to stay in for a break from the road trip. Felix (Bec’s brother) and Liz,his wife came down for the weekend.

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Peter, Becca, Liz and Felix around the dinner table at Laguna Beach.

Wild fires are raging to the north and south of us, fortunately not too close, but Highway[1] just north of LA where we came through last week and all main highways out of LA are cut, so our stay in Laguna Beach has been compulsorily extended. Hell of a place to be stuck! Ironically the fires are being fed to a considerable degree by the extensive eucalypt forests which have been established in California.

There are movies and 900 channels, so I promptly sat on the lounge and watched everything and after three days couldn’t move my neck!! Shoulder pains and an inability to drive made us the ultimate ‘just visiting relies’. We found a caring (expensive) doctor who gave me a shoulder sling, lots of drugs and a referral to the physio. The treatment with hot ultra sound, tingling patches, ice packs and shoulder mobility exercises have all worked and so we are planning to move on soon. I enjoyed my birthday with lovely ozzie style BBQ, and Bec, her brother Felix, his wife Liz and Pete all helping me to celebrate another year younger!!.

Before we got here though we stopped at Cannery Row, Monterey and visited the Aquarium there. Jules also managed to get into Forrest Gumps shoes, sitting on the bench where he made that dull witted statement about a box of chocolates in the worst film ever made..

Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Aquarium was opened in 1984 on Cannery Row, made famous by novelist John Steinbeck. It was founded by the Packard’s (of Hewlett Packard). Their daughter Julie , a marine bioligist, is still the Executive Director. The story goes that David Packard assembled the elite of marine biologists, walked into the meeting and layed a blank cheque on the table. He asked them ‘go away and dream’ and to come back in 12 months with their ideas. When he filled out the cheque it was for $55 million. The dream (an additional $62 million later) showcasing the ecology of Monterey Bay is on display in this magnificent aquarium.

It’s the most amazing aquarium, with breathtaking displays and informative interactive exhibits. The centerpiece is a 10 metre deep tank with schools of local species of fish. Divers descend into the tank several times a day to feed the fish and provide a commentary on the on the ecology and conservation in the bay.
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The hundreds of displays and interactive exhibits are housed in a series of buildings (covering an area of almost 3 hectares) perched on the edge of the bay.

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The day we spent wandering around the Aquarium was one of the highlites of our travels.

Disneyland

We also made our way to Disneyland from Laguna Beach, just a quick run up the 405 freeway (enough to strike terror into the bravest venturer). We just wished the grandchildren grandchildren had been with us, but Pete and I still managed to enjoy ourselves, the photos will make them green with envy!

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Breakfast at Denny’s: An American ritual

October 10, 2007

Dodgy was soon heading east again through the beautiful foothills that surround Seattle, towards Yakima. We reached the meeting spot with Holly half an hour early and decided to treat ourselves to a full Denny’s breakfast (Denny’s is one of the better chain restaurants). The menu looked inviting. We ordered one breakfast between the two of us.

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– Fruit juice, a pancake stack with the butter and maple syrup, a Spanish omelet with bacon and sausages, and a pile of hash browns washed down with a bottomless cup of coffee.

Half an hour later we staggered from the restaurant full to the gills with pancakes and omelets, and carrying the half of the breakfast we could not finish in one of the ubiquitous polystyrene “boxes” that seem to be offered as part of the service. We continue to be astonished by the amount of food in each serve when eating out.

 

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A few comments about ‘on the road’ food and diet seem warranted at this point;

 

 

· Main courses are invariably preceded by a ‘garden’ salad. It seems that most gardens here grow only lettuce, a few onions, single slices of tomato and a peculiarly tasteless type of feta cheese (or it could be a white granulated bug killer that has been rinsed off the lettuce).

 

· We quickly learned to choose ‘Ranch’ dressing, – any other choice ie Italian or French, is likely to be on the back shelf of the restaurant and rancid. We did try asking for ‘Paul Newman’ but from the searching looks we got we think he’s considered a little pink these days.

 

· American Cheese, a bright orange, chewy sliced cheddar, seems to meld its way into most main courses. It serves as a tasteless glue, holding the burger, sandwich, sliced meat or taco together. It also cools and congeals on your teeth, making conversation difficult and leading to facial contortions when you try to remove it. It is actually quite comforting to me, everyone else in the restaurant appears to have Parkinson’s disease and I don’t feel so conspicuous.

 

· The servings are enormous, – Jules and I often order one main course between and sometimes fail to finish it.

 

· The quality of foodstuffs is high, but our general impression is that the diet is overwhelmingly unhealthy. Massive amounts of fatty foods, carbohydrates and sweetened drinks are consumed. All of the supermarket food and bread seems to be sweetened. The ‘diabesity’ epidemic is underway. (I heard a report yesterday that this generation of North Americans will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, the first time in history this has occurred).

 

· A huge pile of French fries (large potato chips) comes with all main courses. If you request potato chips, a packet of thin packet crisps arrive. If you dare to ask not to have either form of chips, the waitress (or waiter) takes two steps backwards, cocks her head to the side, raises her eyebrows and asks quizzically, ‘No fries?’. On being reassured that that was the request, she walks away muttering to herself, shaking her head from side to side. Ten minutes later the meal arrives with a huge pile of fries on the plate.

 

Waiters and waitresses are friendly, helpful and polite. They are poorly paid (I spoke to one waitress who was paid $2.50 per hour) and depend on tips for their income. The custom is to add a 15-20% tip to the bill. Some mobile phones come with an inbuilt calculator for tipping. The result is that the service is generally spectacular.

 

· Food is cheap. Both restaurant and supermarket food is much cheaper than in Oz. Main courses in reasonable restaurants are $15 -$20.

 

· On the road the choice is grilled steak or fried chicken and occasionally battered fish. All come with French fries and ranch dressing.

 

· If you want to eat foreign its Mexican. It doesn’t matter what Mexican you order, burritos, tortillas, nachos, its generally the same pale grey sludge served up in a different wrap, and usually accompanied by heaps of lettuce, a few slices of onion and a sliver of tomato (and ranch dressing). The closer to Mexico you get, the worse it gets. Most Mexicans have moved to California. The other international cuisines we love in Oz don’t seem to get a look in once you are out of the major cities. If we are to believe the Seattle Post, the Vietnamese are out of restaurants and into cultivating Marijuana, the Greeks and Italians seem to be lying low as they look a little middle eastern and the Thai’s don’t seem to be around. The odd Chinese restaurant can be found off the main drag, but having sampled one or two meals, I suspect that they have the same supplier as the Mexican restaurants. Middle eastern food is totally out of the question, even with ranch dressing.

 

· There is a growing movement of young conservationist here, who, bored with hugging trees and recycling bottles and beer cans (and take away food restaurants), descend on the back alleys behind restaurants in groups and feed themselves from the garbage cans. (I’m serious; reports say the movement is spreading across the US). They claim that they are ideologically committed to recycling discarded food. I suspect that the taste of restaurant food improves after a few days in the garbage bin. It’s like the good old days when there was a Chinese restaurant on every corner.

 

· Ironically, the best ‘to go’ foods we have been able to find are the fresh salads offered by McDonalds. Not many people seem to be buying them, but they are healthy and delicious with an array of dressings (including ranch)!

 

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From Yakima to the North West point of Mainland US

October 8, 2007

Pete is resting up after the long haul (and the all night medicine dance), so keep posted for his views and wonderful narrative on our journey. We have been welcomed everywhere and that has been a real emotional and spiritual bonus.

Julie, Pete and our host Julian, otherwise knowns as Chief, are seen here in his short house where they held the Medicine dance at Yakima, his welcome, of home and spirit, gifts and hospitality will be in our hearts forever.

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Next Hollyanna, (tribal name ‘Cougar Tracks’) and Glen who will hopefully have their honeymoon in Australind next year, are shown the morning after the night before.

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She is a medicine woman and taught me so much about her culture and made us so welcome – she is a real inspiration, as a cancer survivor for the third time she remains positive, energetic and focused on educating others about cancer. Words can’t describe my admiration for her and her work. We left Yakima with a real understanding in strength of belief and that family and community support can move mountains. This is shared by most of the Native American groups we have visited.

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We drove around the base of Mount Rainer and on to the coast. I was pleased to finally see the ocean again and smell the salt air. This is the home of the Quinault and Makah tribes, the coastal people I wanted to visit.
We stayed at Ocean Shores where the National Kite Association was holding their annual festival, so we joined in and met a couple from Adelaide – South Australia, we overheard their accent and honed in on them.

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At Tahola, we met some amazing people among the Quinault Nation and I was able to work with the Diabetes educator. They walked us, fed us and wished us well as they packed us smoked salmon which is the best I’ve ever tasted!

After a four hour drive through rain forests and lake country that takes your breath away we found this delightful little rest haven and await for the morrow to visit with people from the Makah tribe to learn about their programs. They are similar in geography and population to the Bunbury Noongas with whom I work. I am considering them for our ‘sister clinic- community exchange’, along with the Quinault tribe.

So now we are sitting in a nice little apartment on Neah Bay facing Canada across the water (looks like about twenty kms – but would hate to have to swim it). Its a busy passage with transport boats heading into Seattle, or Vancouver and out to sea. Pete and I have walked the beach, hiked the trail and been to the most northwest point on the US, so we are quite pleased with ourselves. Today is a public holiday for Columbus Day (!) glad we don’t actually have a Cook day!

The Olympic penninsular is definately a sight for sore eyes after the cross country trip we’ve been on for the last 3 months, don’t really want to leave. Weather is rainy and misty with patches of sun, but not that cold, (thank goodness). Don’t go away we are nearly all caught up with the blog and love hearing from you all. JO

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West to Washington State.

October 7, 2007

We left the Crow reservation and Custer’s ghost in pouring rain and turned off [I]90 at Billings to follow a more scenic route into the mountains of Montana. The landscape changed dramatically as we moved west from the rolling plains into the timbered mountains. Unfortunately the road surface also changed and we were soon traveling on narrow potholed roads that rivaled the worst of the roads in western Queensland. Progress was slow and jarring, and Dodgy groaned his disapproval.

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In the late afternoon we motored into Deer Lodge, a drab little town frequented by trout fishermen and deer hunters, and, as the statue at the entrance to the town proclaimed, home to the Big Sky Draft Horse Expo.

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A small cabin on the edge of the town was home for the night, and, after unwinding from the long drive, we emptied most of our gear from the car onto its front verandah as a prelude to repacking the car. It began to rain again, steadily at first and then came a deluge. We stacked our gear securely against the wall out of the rain and retreated inside into the warmth. The cabin provided refuge from a night of wild weather, but cyclonic winds and horizontal rain drenched everything on the verandah, scattering the lighter items across the campground. In steady rain we gathered our sodden gear, packed as much as we could into plastic bags and made an early start, this time opting for the boring route on [I]5.

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By mid morning we had crossed into the beautiful mountain country of northern Idaho. Dodgy wound his way through the mountains, grunting up the steep climbs and humming with delight on the down slopes, and by late afternoon we reached Spokane, on the eastern boundary of Washington state. Travel weary and yet to hear from our contacts in Seattle, we booked into a cabin on the edge of town for two nights.

We had barely unpacked before the first of many trains roared past the bottom of the camp ground, whistle blaring. Two nights later, having exhausted the attractions and with the sound of train whistles reverberating in our heads we packed and departed Spokane for Seattle, the home of Bill Gates and Microsoft, and Boeing.

 

Washington state has spectacular scenery and we really enjoyed the drive along [I]90. After we had overcome our initial apprehension and confusion on the freeways and streets, we also began to enjoy Seattle.

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Brenda, Julie’s contact offered us a room in the house she shares with her sister and brother in law in Magnolia, a leafy suburb to the north-west of the city. Cassandra, her sister, is the first native American woman to be appointed as President of a University in the US and Joe, Cassandra’s husband had recently resigned from a senior academic position to become an economic analyst with the Wilderness Society in Seattle. It was a gathering of like souls and discussion around the dinner table was lively and relaxed, with lots of laughter. Over the next few days Brenda introduced Julie to a number of local health professionals working with Native Americans. Peter stayed home, settled at the computer for a few days and cooked the evening meals.

 

On our third day in Seattle Julie came home from a meeting with Holly (her Indian name is Cougar Tracks), a medicine woman from the Yakima tribe. She had invited us to visit the Yakima reservation in central Washington as guests at a medicine dance and to participate in a sweat lodge. Julie was excited, a sweat and dancing, both high on her ‘to do’ list. Peter thought back to Phoenix where, with daily temperatures of 112-115F, there had been no ceremony or choice about sweating. Next morning we bundled our goods into Dodgy and navigated our way through the maze of freeways out of Seattle towards the Yakima reservation.

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A visit to Crow Agency and the Little Bighorn battlefield.

October 4, 2007

Sorry for the delay in updating the blog.

 

We’d been on the move for over a month and living out of the car was losing its appeal. A cabin in a campground on the banks of the Yellowstone River provided a few quiet days to catch our breath. Then, right on cue, an email arrived inviting us to visit the Little Bighorn College, on the Crow Indian reservation about 100 km east of Billings, Montana.

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The name Little Bighorn rang a bell, but not a very loud one. We set out not realising that chance had directed us to another of the sites where the disastrous relationship between the US government and Native Americans was forged. It was at Little Bighorn that the 7th Cavalry, under the command of George Armstrong Custer suffered ignoble defeat at the hands of warriors of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes in one of the most famous battles in US history. This defeat provoked a savage reaction by US politicians and soldiers, culminating in the murders of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, the massacre at Wounded Knee and the end to the armed Indian resistance.

 

While Julie met with health providers at the college and hospital I headed for the battlefield, now a National Monument.

 

Julie found workers and programs that echoed her own efforts in Bunbury and came away excited by what was happening in the community (including a new name for her lay educators …. ‘Health Messengers’).

 

I found a monument to an inglorious defeat, where a man possessed of reckless arrogance led his troops to certain death and a sad monument to the Indian victors which called mainly for peace.

In the mid 1870’s large numbers of Native Americans of the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes had moved off their reservations and returned to the rich hunting grounds of their traditional lands.

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The US government, determined to force them back onto the reservations sent thousands of troops in three columns against them. The column approaching from the South was routed in a series of skirmishes with Crazy Horse and his warriors in the battle of the Rosebud. The other two columns, unaware of this defeat continued their march.

 

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Lieutenant-Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his contingent of the 7th cavalry (around 600 men) were ordered to move ahead of their column to approach the Little Bighorn from the south while the main column moved north. On June 25th,1876, they came across a large Indian settlement on the banks of the Little Bighorn River. Custer, with reckless arrogance, decided to attack rather than wait for reinforcements. He split his small band of cavalry into three, and ordered one group, under the command of Major Marcus Reno, to attack the Indian settlement from the south while a group under his command moved along the ridge above the settlement to mount an attack from the north. The third group was sent to scout the bluffs to the south.

 

 

Reno’s attack took the settlement by surprise, but warriors of the Lakota and Cheyenne tribes soon retaliated and forced Reno to retreat back into the hills. The retreat became a rout as the troops struggled to cross the river and ascend the hills to a defensive position.

 

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The warriors then turned their attention to Custer and his band (around 210 men) who were descending down a ravine towards the river to the north of the encampment. Thousands of heavily armed warriors confronted the troops while others swarmed over the ridge of the ravine, attacking their flank.

 

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The battle lasted less than 30 minutes. Custer and all of his troops were killed.

 

In 1881, a memorial was erected on ‘Last Stand hill’ over the mass grave of the soldiers killed in the battle. The grey marble memorial lists the names of men the 7th Cavalry unit and the Indian scouts who met their death at the hands of the warriors. .

 

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I stood looking at the monument. What did it really represent?

 

Was it a monument to a recklessly stupid man whose arrogance led to the certain death of those under his command;

was it a memorial to the courage of the soldiers who died in an un-winnable battle initiated by their foolish commander;

or was it a memorial erected by politicians to glorify the battle and distract attention from the truth?

 

 

 

This monument stood alone above the battlefield for over 100 years. There was no acknowledgement of the Native Americans who died defending their land and culture until 1996, when the US national conscience led to a competition to design a monument to the Native Americans who died in the battle. A monument to the warriors now stands near the crest of the battlefield. It honours both the Native Americans who fought for their land and those who fought as scouts for the US army. The design is beautiful, somehow in harmony with the surroundings. The etchings on the marble plaques that line the walls bear the images and philosophical statements of the warrior chiefs. It speaks more of peace than of war.

 

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My mind drifted back to the Crazy Horse monument. His hand is outstretched reaching to the horizon.

Below the monument are etched his words, “My lands are where my dead lie buried”.