Burt and I helped some friends tile their tub surround yesterday. It went pretty smoothly. We had to do some fancy narrow cuts to finish the unorthodox edge but it all worked out fine with the new saw.
Elvis is fine. His lump is responding to treatment and nearly undetectable. Glad we only spent $420 versus the $920. Really makes me wonder why the vet pushed for a full work up. We also wonder if we should have just waited a few days. But it was Friday and Friday is the day before Saturday and Saturday emergencies always cost more.
Below you will see my latest contribution the the success of the Gypsy Carpenter building empire. Our off-site clients asked for a drawing of the deck we proposed for the front of their house. Laugh away. It lacks a certain degree of modern professionalism and I am both embarrassed and delighted by it. My delight stems from the fact that the clients liked the drawing and the project is a go.
Yesterday was a long day of stressful decisions and worries. On Thursday Elvis and Olive and I joined the Portal Rodeo hiking club for a wander up the South Fork of Cave Creek. This is a pretty flat stroll and since I haven’t hiked much in 6 months it sounded like a good one to start on. I could turn around whenever I had enough. Every Thursday this group meets and heads somewhere to hike and every week they commemorate the hike with a group photo and a trip report.
This week’s trip photo was taken by Jonathon. Elvis did not cooperate in a traditional manner. You can see his artistic interpretation below. One gentle attempt to convince him to sit with the group resulted in yelps of pain. Poor Linda. I told her Elvis was a wimp and not to give his wail a second thought. This is the dog that could not walk because a blade of grass was caught in his fur.
Then yesterday morning I reached off the bed and grazed Elvis’s jaw. He yelped in pain again. Further probing revealed a golf ball sized mass on his jaw just below the ear. The mass was hard. The trials of living on the road reared their head again. What to do in a vet emergency? With no phone? Medical care as a wanderer is tough. I hit Facebook and asked for help. Helen, a local Portalite, called a vet for me but he was unavailable. While she was calling around and advising we decided to head to Willcox, AZ about an hour and a half away. There is a full service vet there. At the highway I called ahead and they said they could probably fit us in. Probably was good enough for me. Meanwhile I texted and emailed clients letting them know we were not showing up today.
As we drove I pushed thoughts of malignant tumors and deadly snake bites out of my head. We arrived in Willcox to find a normal rural western veterinarian in a house with a taco wagon out front and a yard full of ducks and chickens. The vet had a nice demeanor but Elvis immediately resented the probing and got the muzzle. He was really going to bite the guy. Thanks, Elvis, that’s another $200 on the tab for sedation. The vet thought it was a lymph node gone haywire for any number of reasons. So he proposed aspiration of the lump followed by blood tests. We said, sure that sounds good. He said, let me get you an estimate of the price. I was thinking $300. He came back with an estimate of $920. No lumpectomy, no treatment, just aspiration and blood work to check for cancer and a list of infectious diseases. Burt and I were stunned. Elvis had no symptoms of another diseases. We discussed. We said, look if it’s cancer we’re not going to undergo expensive treatment and if it’s these other diseases there are other symptoms we’d be seeing…can we cut this down? For $420 we got an aspiration and drainage of the lump and meds to treat it as if it was just a bite or some other mild infection. Steep. We decided to cut and run. The vet said when he shaved the area he found a scar that indicated Elvis might have been bitten. Since Elvis is always sticking his nose under logs and rocks looking for lizards this is an easy story to believe.
Today Elvis seems to tolerate palpation of the lump. He’s wild with thirst from the prednisone and had to pee twice last night. Otherwise he’s his normal anxiety ridden super dog. Time will tell if there is a more serious problem. We’ll follow up elsewhere if this first step fails. We have the names and numbers of more reasonably priced practices that are further away.
While we waited for Elvis to undergo his procedure we headed out to run errands in Willcox. At the Safeway I spotted the sign below. It coincided with the penultimate Friday of my 40s. I was not tempted. The discounts of senior-landia await.
Here we and our fleas are back in the USA. First day here I was enjoying some basic pleasures I am denied in Mexico: drinking dark beer and doing my own laundry. Re-entry into the states also has a skin crawling tradition every year, the flea eradication program. Despite the application of all conventional and even some unconventional weaponry we cannot completely eliminate the fleas in Mexico. The fleas live all around and jump from dog to dog all day long. Olive’s brand of flea seems immune to all drops, dips, baths, sprays and mechanical devices. It’s not really that Olive has so many (which she does) it’s that she can’t stand the bite of a single flea and so chews herself raw unless we have complete control. Lucky for her we live in flea free zones in the US and we just have to kill the ones we have living in the gNash and on her and her companions. Another stroke of luck is that she doesn’t have allergic dermatitis (yet) but the lesser hypersensitivity to the bite. Elvis and Mimi are quite blase about their own populations of fleas. A little scratch here and there is all they do.
Every winter starts out with me faithfully applying flea repellant to the dogs and cat. Every winter it seems that the Advantix, Revolution, baths or combs or whatever else we try is working. And every winter a few months in the fleas start getting the upper hand. They find a nook to hide in or they evolve a resistance to the pesticide of choice. Or they just out number us. No amount of cleaning and laundry helps for more than a day or two. I think our sandy lot is harboring millions of fleas just waiting for a dog or cat to walk by. Around March I give up. I look at Olive and say, “Sorry, kid, you’re on your own.”
So we cross the border every April carrying a full load of gross and head to a laundromat and pet supply store and start over again. This year we’re using the new ‘miracle’ flea collars. For $41 plus tax each of our pets is sporting a new Seresto 8-month flea collar. All rugs and bedding have been washed on hot. New dog beds were purchased and the old beds sent to the landfill. I spent hours yesterday using a flea comb and mechanically removing the dead and dying fleas from their coats. I hope it’s enough. The only redeeming fact is that the fleas rarely come near me or Burt. They still prefer their natural hosts. In fact they probably are cat fleas and prefer cats. Combing Mimi revealed a greater density of fleas (despite less itching) than the dogs. I have this theory that the fleas are going to adapt to feeding on humans if we keep up the chemical assault. I hope I am wrong.
As for next year in Mexico I have some new ideas. First, I’m bringing down some beneficial nematodes to apply to our soil. These nematode-y things eat fleas and flea larva in soil. Second, I’m hoping the collars work as advertised. Third, no dogs in the trailer. Elvis has already volunteered to spend his nights outside so we just have to convince Olive it’s the place for her, too.
My bike is broken. Four years riding on the back of a trailer and it disintegrated. It was new when we left. Burt’s bike, pushing 25 years old, still runs fine. I was kind of bummed because I was really getting into hoping on it in the morning and arriving at yoga in 12 minutes. The car takes 8. Two weeks ago when I made the turn to head up hill I did an poorly timed gear change and the stress snapped the chain. The local repair shop looked at it and offered to fix it but said it was likely to break again because it was thoroughly rusted. For $10 bucks they fixed the chain. It broke again two days later. There’s no chain the right size here and, as I understood it, there is not point in getting a new chain anyway. Wear and tear and corrosion have created a situation requiring an overhaul; new gears, new derailer, new chain. The bike pretty much isn’t worth the investment. Maybe. It has a good, comfortable frame and shocks. I don’t know what to do. Haul it to the US and try to fix it or dump it here? And Burt’s bike is fine. It makes me think I bought a lemon.
So without a bike I’m back on foot. Walking is a high risk sport in Mexico. Sandy sidewalks undulate and a rife with ankle breaking holes. Eyes must be glued to the ground at all times. New holes open up hourly. My daily commute has stretched to 26 minutes more or less. More if the dogs in town decide I’m trouble and I have to negotiate passage. Less if they sleep while I pass and nobody else tries to talk to me. A few years ago I did this walk every day as I walked to the bus station to catch a ride to Spanish class in Todos Santos. Dogs were a problem then, too. At 7:15 AM there is a new annoyance. Men working or waiting for their rides to work. Without women around to moderate their catcalls it’s open season on the gringa. The dogs I deal with by using my mean voice and stooping down to pick up a rock to toss. This is the universal sign in Mexico and scares almost every dog. Sometimes I wait too long to stoop and the dogs are too close and I feel uncomfortable lowering my neck to their level. I stop, face the dog, kick (only one kick this year, today) and yell, GIT. That wakes the homeowners and their neighbors and the dogs turn away. The barking men I ignore. The first few early morning works had me reconsidering the car, global warming, the cost of fuel and my growing waistline. Maybe I should throw rocks at the men, too. I realized after a few daily passes the men gave up and stopped hooting and whistling. The dogs are less predictable. Today I was swarmed twice. It gets the adrenaline going. Friends have told me they’ve all but given up after bring bitten. It scares me, too, but then I remembered in all my years walking in Montana I was bitten twice and neither dog barked first. I never saw either of them coming. They lunged from their hiding place and took their flesh toll (no skin broken either time) without a warning. I was bitten one other time by a dog at Burt’s work site. Rocky, the bulldog. He was a neighborhood terror. Once he broke into a neighbor’s house and assaulted the little dog that lived there. One time he took a mighty chomp of my thigh and left a bruise that lasted weeks. I got away by hiding in the bathroom. I was trapped there for twenty minutes. Burt was off working on the second floor somewhere and couldn’t here my screams for help until he came downstairs. That dog snarled at the door the until Burt dragged him away.
For now I’m going to keep walking with my eyes peeled and my NO voice ready. I think the adrenaline rush might increase the calories burned. And for a little color consider the nicknames I have given the dogs I routinely see: Beagle/boston terrier cross with tongue permanently hanging out, Ugly Elvis, Olive/Elvis Cross or Ugly Elvis II, Twiggy II, Two Deaf to Hear Me, Two Tired to Move, Sleep in the Street Dog, Dog-Magi-Might-Have-to-Adopt, Hungry puppy 1-8, Is that a dog? and lastly, Why won’t you leave me alone?
Sometimes you wish you remembered the origin of an idea so you had someone to blame. Burt and I and Al and Rachele hatched an idea to hike someday. That idea morphed into a non-hikey excursion when corporeal issues precluded strenuous hiking. Someone, it might have been me, thought let’s go see the hot springs on the other side. We can take a drive, see something new and have a fun day.
Hey, and this was my idea, let’s bring the dogs. Dogs love spending 7 hours cooped in a car doing nothing almost as much as we do.
Yesterday the plan was put into action. We drove south to Al and Rachele’s at Elias Calles. Perusal of maps revealed it was a shorter drive around to the other side from Cabo. Five humans packed into an SUV with two dogs in the hatch. Remind me I am too old for three across in a backseat for any drive greater than a mile. Burt forgot his map. Al only had one of the cartoon like tourist maps. Oh well, we’ll ask for directions when we get closer.
Olive rode the first 2 1/2 hours with her paws up on the back seat whimpering and panting on Rachele’s sister’s neck. What was worse: the whimpering and panting or me ‘disciplining’ Olive to get her to back off? Patty was tolerant. Olive was tenacious. I gave up trying to stop her. Clear of the convolutions of Cabo we headed north up towards Milaflores and San Antonio. Now this crayon map was not much help. We headed into Miraflores, as lovely a small town as you can find in Baja, and went in the general direction Burt thought we should go. A collective stop was called when we saw an official outside the Sierra de La Laguna Biosphere Preserve offices. This guy was named Silvestre (WILD in Spanish). Burt and he exchanged sentences out of earshot while the four of us watched. We headed down a road that Burt thought was recommended. It rutted out into a rancho yard. I guess Silvestre doesn’t know his way around. Or maybe it was another incident of a preposition being lost in translation. Maybe he said If you go that way you’ll have trouble NOT it is not trouble to go that way. We’ll never know. We turned around. We met a ranchero with an equally packed truck cab and he gave all of us directions. Mutli-layered directions. Choices. Collectively we opted for what consensus concluded was, “Go back to the highway, go to Santiago, 12 km to the left.” There was debate about the alternate route and a schoolhouse landmark. Consensus was we stick to the highway. No more dirt. Olive and Elvis breath too hard on dirt roads and the ladies cheek to jowl in the backseat did not like riding the corrugated gravel.
In Santiago we sought out an update to the previous advice. This man on the street alarmed us when he responded, “the hot springs were very, very far away.” His face was contorted in dismay. Like 12 km he sadly informed us. All of 8 miles. We had driven 2 1/2 hours. He was speaking English and we were speaking Spanish so maybe he mixed up his near and far. We’ll never know. We dug deep to find the endurance to cover the remaining 8 miles. Past the zoo. The well known zoo of Baja. Nobody I know has gone in. We are all much too scared of what we might see in a zoo. So, past the zoo, through the arroyo, and past some tidy houses to a guarded gate. Twenty pesos a person n we were in. Now to soak and recover from the arduous drive.
The east cape of Baja is much warmer than our side of the peninsula. I felt my leaden muscles move from stiff to limp. A bald sun beat down on a tight, hot canyon. The pools of El Chorro (the stream) are algae and fish filled and small. They are also tepid. It was hot so tepid wasn’t much of a problem but it made me wonder, when is a tepid hot spring enjoyable? Too cold out and you can’t get in. Too hot out and you don’t want to get in. Green and small and unappetizing were the problems. Road weary and hungry we crouched under a thorny bush and enjoyed our lunch. Canadians of the great plains can be quiet people. There wasn’t much to say about our underwhelming feelings at reaching the hot springs. No false praise to be found amongst this lot of don’t say anything if you can’t say something nice at all people. Myself included in that remark. Eye rolling and nose scrunching was about all that needed to be said. Even Burt didn’t have much to be jolly about.
Fortified with victuals we ambled about to see if we were wrong in our first impressions. Maybe we were too hungry to see the secret beauties of the soaking pools. A German woman was in the one person pool behind the dam. She exclaimed that the fish were exfoliating her skin. There was only room for her and the fish so we continued on. Upstream Burt spotted a precarious boulder with a blue and orange Virgin of Guadalupe on the face of it. She cast her protective gaze down upon the canyon and it’s fetid, tepid water. I was thankful that she was worth seeing. The dogs found the shallowly buried poop of humans. That makes for healthy neck drooling on the ride back. I’d seen enough it was time to go.
Rumors of lovely swimming holes further up the canyon will have to remain rumors. We left. I picked up a bottle of local honey on the way out. Al took us back by an alternate route and everyone but Al switched seats so we could wear out different parts of our anatomy on the drive home. Burt sat on the middle hump. We thumb wrestled. He won. Numbed by disappointment and car time we didn’t stop in El Triunfo or anywhere else. The dogs slept.
All in all it wasn’t as bad as I make it out to be here. I realized it was just too far for 5 people and 2 dogs. A camp out might have made it more enjoyable. Time to go up canyon in the early morning would have been fun. I hope Al and Rachele still like us after we shared a lame adventure with them.
My resting heart rate remains elevated after two days of rest. I think I might have over exerted myself. Today I hung out with my friend Rima and we prepared for a mini-gig next week. Rima owns Bistro Mágico in Todos Santos and is a great singer. It’s just us two gals. Her singing and me strumming. Four songs. Blink and it will be over. I’m working hard to get ready. I can usually laze around while Burt does the work of keeping a song going but not this time. I was hired to be a side man and my friend Todd said my job is to, come prepared with a smile on your face. I can do that. If you’re curious about our sound you can hear us Saturday mid-afternoon at the Bistro.
We’re still hoping to head to the mainland of Mexico for a cultural extravaganza but have had no takers on our offer of our trailer and two dogs for a week of free accommodations. As Burt likes to joke, “The dogs are ruining our lives.” It’s a dog’s world.
Our second day in the Sierra de la Laguna dawned cold. I’d been in our tent for 13 hours and I still didn’t want to leave my down bag. Our tent was in the shade. Burt was out there somewhere laughing with Esteban, drinking coffee and soaking up sunshine. Time to get dressed and see what the day will bring.
Our camp area had a roofed outdoor kitchen, an outhouse with a wonky door I couldn’t properly close and two bedrooms. There wasn’t a bench, chair, couch, or stool to sit on. Some wobbly rounds of tree trunk made for terrible seating so I opted for the edge of the buildings slab. The lack of seating is my only complaint about the accommodations. Even the outhouse door didn’t bother me. But sitting in a crouch just above the dirt gets old. I’d rather lie in my tent than get a butt ache on a 6′ high slab reading.
Food on this trip was you feed you and I’ll feed me. I tried to convince Esteban that he could feed us but he wouldn’t so Burt opted for easy backpacking fare. Granola, cheese, tortillas, beans, spaghetti. It was boring but quick and easy. Esteban ate in his quarters so we wouldn’t drool over his Mexican mountain fare. He also ate at typical Mexican hours. Late breakfast, never saw lunch and late dinner. We were mostly gone when he was eating. I think the cultural differences are greater in scheduling than the actual food.
Esteban asked what we wanted to do on day two. Our choices were to explore the area to La Cascada (the waterfall) or climb Picacho. Picacho looms over the area like a ship’s prow breaking through sea waves. It juts straight up from the valley floor. The name Picacho means peak. That’s not very interesting in English. The Spanish name is more fun: El Picacho. After much discussion where we said nothing but,” sounds good, okay, we’ll follow you, uh huh, yes, okay….” it was decided that we would go see the waterfall. Our time for departure was malleable, too. We’ll leave soon. We’ll leave when my friends get here, we’ll leave now. We left abruptly, friends never seen, and Esteban mounted his mule and led us across the valley to the start of the drainage of the waterfall. At the creek’s head he said, “Have fun. I’ll see you later.” and turned his mule and rode away. He wanted us to enjoy the water in private. He suggested we swim and bathe. My kind of guide. No hand holding. No lurking. No babysitting. We had no idea how far we had to scramble to get to the waterfall but we decided to see what we would see. There was no way to get lost but a body could get hurt. This was a boulder choked gnarly stream bed.
Water is where the action is. Birds, frogs, and insects abounded. Spring was here. Catkins on the willows buzzed with bees. Frogs croaked until they heard us. We climbed and hiked up and around and through massive rocky detritus. Once in a while I’d spot a small ripple and ask Burt if he thought it was La Cascada. It never was. The pools made lovely reflection photos. I got bored with the closed in creek and hiked up to the rim to get a view. Maybe I could see the Sea of Cortez or the waterfall from up high. All I saw was another rim blocking my view. Burt came up and we had lunch while a group of young Mexican men passed by below. We shimmied back down over slippery oak leaves and tried to get to the waterfall. We found ice. We wondered if we were too tired to make it. The previous day’s journey had sapped us. Should we have sex? Frogs croaked, bees, buzzed, yellow-eyed juncos visited. We heard distant frolicking. La Cascada was in earshot. One more steep hands and feet slog up and over a mucky cliff and we would be there. Even Elvis needed help getting through. I was glad I had left my skirt at home. Burt and I reached the lip and looked over. That was close enough for us. It was 2:00 and we’d been out for 3 1/2 hours. It was uphill home but we likely wouldn’t dawdle. The boys left and we took advantage of the solitude. Then we headed back. It was a strenuous 1 1/2 hours up through rocky stones and slippery creek crossings. Esteban was waiting at the start. He almost looked like he was thinking about worrying about us. When we told him we had made it to La Cascada he was happy and maybe a bit surprised. It’s tough persevering through boulders when you don’t know how far you have to go. We might not have made it if we hadn’t heard the boys having fun. It was their laughter that carried us over the last messy climb.
So we made it back to camp. Esteban went for a siesta. We read. Burt made us an early dinner. Pasta bows, tomato puree, powdered milk, butter, onions and parmesan cheese. It was really good. Everything is good when you are cold, tired and hungry but this was good. As we cleaned up a man walked up with Esteban’s mule, a dead pig on Camila’s back. I woke Esteban. Cochi, cochi, chochi. This means pig here and means a lady’s personal bits elsewhere so be careful where you sling your Spanish. This pig was promptly skinned and butchered by Alejandro while Esteban stoked the fire and got pans and more fire wood. It was party time. As soon as all the work was done three more guys walked in with the two dogs that had done the killing. These 35 pound mutts were scrawny and submissive but they knew how to kill a hog. The deal is (are you listening Elvis?) you have to get it by the neck and hang on until it bleeds out. Our hog hunting dreams had just come true. People we were with had gotten a hog and were having a party. Time passed. The moon came up. It got dark. It got cold. There was no place to sit. I was a woman. I went to bed. So did Burt. These guys had a peaceful quiet party with lots of chortling. They had hiked the long way in and had a successful pig hunt. We fell asleep long before it was over.
While we slept Elvis sneaked out of the tent (HOW?) and joined the festivities. We were awoken to the gentle gnawing of a happy dog just outside our tent. We both presumed it to be one of the successful hunters not our dog (HOW?). Gristle and bristle and bone were lovingly chewed for a very long time. We fell asleep. Burt woke up and discovered Elvis was not in the tent. He called for Elvis and Elvis slunk in. Then the night’s party really began. Raw pig offal puked in a tent is the worst bodily excrement smell I have yet endured. I played dead. Burt persevered through 3 vomits of pig guts in the vacant slot between his head and the tent wall. He despaired of having enough spare clothing to clean the messes up. By our calculation Elvis had nabbed over 10 pound of leftovers. We quaked in our bags hoping he had only scored garbage and not an actual leg or rib cage.
In the morning Elvis could barely move. Burt got up and faced the music. No harm, no foul. Elvis was stealing parts deemed unfit for humans. Tails, toes, hide. The vomitus was laden with brushy bristles, shards of bone and pink goo. As I waited for the day to warm Elvis vomited for me. I gave up my bandana. I got up and dragged Elvis outside with me. He demanded breakfast. I gave him 10 kibbles. He promptly threw up two more times for a total of 6 witnessed events. We wondered if Elvis would survive his love of pig but we had a big day ahead of us and his indiscretion was not going to get in our way.