Thursday, July 10, 2014

Breakfast in Bed : The Mutual Charade!




At 9:50 my older son comes in the bedroom and dispassionately tosses the Times Union to me on the bed.  I pretend to be waking up and say thanks.  Five minutes later, I run to the bathroom to wash my face.  I am always aware of the surrounding sounds and I fear that I hear footsteps on the stairs.  I run out of the bathroom and enter my bedroom by the north entrance and leap into bed under the covers. False alarm, no one enters but I do hear a solid thud against the door.  Ah - it must be Hunter, the dog, who I then hear whimpering to be let in.  

 Ten minutes later my younger son enters wearing a Jack Sparrow wig, an eye patch and a puffy white shirt as a cape. ( apparently he has raided the dress up box.) He is accompanied by the dog, who is only too happy to jump on the bed.  He addresses me, “Hello dearie” with a crone like accent. Thrown off by his entire appearance, I feign sleepiness and then he is gone but leaves behind the wig, the puffy white cape, the eye patch and the dog.

I’m sure you have guessed by now, that it is mother’s day and am awaiting my annual mother’s day “breakfast in bed.”  Usually, the breakfast in bed recipient rarely sees anyone else before the appointed moment of the rest of the family kicking the door open and singing “Happy Mother’s Day “ or “Father’s Day “ or Happy Birthday.”  Today has been a little different, it is later than usual, I’ve had a number of encounters with my children and I even snuck out of the house earlier to walk the dog, buy the Times and decaf.  Normally the recipient is sequestered in their bedroom and left to wonder what is going on and when.

Shortly, I  hear the familiar multiple steps on the stairs, the clatter of dishes and the requisite whispering and shhhing that precedes the acclaimed entrance. Quickly, I make use of the props that my son left, by trying to put the wig on the dog and donning the eyepatch myself.  I lay down just in time and I am rewarded by the kicking in of the door and my two sons and husband singing “Happy Mother’s Day.”  I never really convinced the dog to wear the wig, but when they see the eye patch I am wearing they are delighted. I was not asleep and they know I was not asleep but I pretend to just wake-up anyway.  It is a mutual charade that we indulge in.

My family has prepared homemade gluten-free blueberry muffins, gluten-free pancakes, bacon, juice and vanilla chai tea.  The tray they have presented is adorned with flowers.  As soon as I view the tray, my younger son starts presenting the gifts.  He is not one to wait.  The next twenty minutes is a delightful chaos of good food, excellent presents, my older son being annoyed by my younger son and all three of us trying to keep my younger son from spilling my breakfast as he scampers around the room.

With a few variations, this is somewhat typical of our family breakfast in bed tradition.  The appearance of my son with the dog and my eye patch was unusual but the false alarms, the lack of stealth on the final approach and pretend slumber are all part of the routine.

Now that the kids are older, they definitely can participate in the preparation of the breakfast.  In earlier days, one parent had all they could do to get up the steps with the kids and tray.  One breakfast in bed for Father’s Day particularly stands out in my head when my youngest son was 19 months and my oldest son was 7.  We lived in our Brooklyn brownstone and their were 20 steps between the ground floor and the bedroom floor where Johnny lay in waiting for his alleged surprise.  I don’t remember two trips, but I do remember a baby on the hip, a tray in one hand and a barely 7 year old carrying all the gifts up the 20 stairs.  The kids understood what was going on but it was more of a challenge to pull it off.  

An updated version, is a 11 year old who loves to cook and a teenager who is woken up at the last minute to join the parade.  Almost everything is left to the morning of including  wrapping the gifts and running out for bacon or gluten free pancake mix if need be at the last minute.  Usually the parent does most of the cooking, younger son wraps packages and does some cooking.  Older teenage son is unpredictable, maybe helping with wrapping or cooking at best and at the very least grumpily arising at the last moment to join the parade that starts five feet down the hall from his door.

 Our dog, Hunter, is happy to participate and joins the fun. He wants to be wherever we are and doing whatever we are doing.  We have tried to attach presents to his collar but with little success.  He usually shakes them off before the entourage enters the room.

 Breakfast in bed is a tradition we carry out for all members of the house including any overnight guests who are spending their birthday with us.  One time Johnny’s dad was in town for his birthday and as we served him breakfast in bed,  he turned the tables on us.  As we presented the breakfast tray, Grandpa Dave pulled down the covers to reveal the sheets tied around his neck like a bib.  He informed us that he already had a napkin. As anything can happen to either the servers or the receivers of breakfast in bed,  it is understandably one of the high lights of my year and a much loved tradition.

Diane Lachtrupp Martinez


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

MORE PRAGMATIC LESS ANGST; CREATING A NEW PIECE




On Saturday (Jan. 4th), Tango Fusion Dance Company had their first rehearsal for a new Salsa piece for the upcoming event Salsa Sunday on January 19th.  Before we get to the rehearsal point, much preparation goes into the piece first.

The time factor.  Sometimes I have a vision for a new piece and then choose the music and on other occasions I hear a dynamic piece of music and think, “I need to choreograph to that.”  In this case, I had a plan for how I wanted the piece to start and I thought that some complicated switching of partners would be fun, would suit the dancers that we were working with and would satisfy another element that was looming over our heads - parenting which translates into - Limited Time.    My husband Johnny and I have two active boys and the other couple that we were performing with had 6 year old twin girls and had just had a baby boy in June, so the precious commodity of time had become a factor as well. 

With fun and limited time driving our decision making process, we choreographed accordingly. Sometimes poetry and love inspire choreography sometimes necessity and time.  The changing of partners within Salsa is called Rueda, or in our situation Mambo Doble (because we had two couples), which can sometimes be easier to memorize because you the patterns have charming names and you can call it out beforehand to the other dancers to let them know what is coming up.  The other couple, Juan and Amy Soler, were accomplished Salsa dancers so intricate Salsa patterns that could be called out, suited their style.

Music Selection.  Choosing the music occurred in the car on the way back from NYC on Friday January 3rd.  Johnny was driving and I was listening to music.  Luckily, the song “Ya Boy” was one of the first songs that I listened to and loved the opening right away. Generally, I am drawn to music that has “hits” or “breaks” that give shape to the music and encourage dramatic choreography. “Ya Boys” opening included some great “hits.”  So there, the music was chosen. 

 Next I listen to the song and start to plan it out asking myself questions like - “How long should the opening be?”  “When would changing partners work well?  “Is there a section that would support lifts and drops? “ Is the music too long and do we need to edit it?”  As it turns out, “Ya Boy” is too long and needed to be edited.

I regard a song as a story, the individual sections as chapters, a section of 8 -8’s as a paragraph, one 8 of music as a sentence and individual notes as words.  With this in mind, choreographing is somewhat like writing a term paper, planning the sections in advance and making sure that some of your previous ideas are included in the piece.

Another method that my husband, Johnny Martinez, and I employ is dividing the piece up.  I was slated to put together the opening 12 -8’s and he was going to choreograph the first partnering section and our plan was to ask Juan to put the shine section together.  Shines are Salsa steps that you do by yourself without touching your partner, hence you are “shining.”

We are prepared with an opening for the first rehearsal and Johnny has choreographed 16 - 8’s of partnership.  Sometimes, I have an idea for a move that needs fleshing out when we try it.  At the end of the opening (which is dramatic) we needed a way to transition into partnership.  Between my idea and Juan’s suggestion, we came up with a fun step.  The first rehearsal ended with a solid beginning and about halfway through the piece.


The second rehearsal, (Jan. 12th) Juan gave us our shines and they were very fast and brand new steps for Johnny and I as well as Amy.  I was dancing in jazz shoes and was trying to imagine doing these fast shines in heels.  Hmmn??  It was decided that we would slow down the music a bit for our debut.  An added difficulty factor was that I needed to change positions during the shine section.  So - in addition to executing new, fast shines in heels, I had to slightly alter them to change positions.  I vow to practice a bit on my own before the next rehearsal.

After the shines, Johnny and I put together a section of partnership including changing partners.  I would say that I dance at least a third of the time with Juan which is fun and adds interest for the audience from both a visual and personality perspective. I have known Juan for about 7 years and we have always enjoyed dancing together.  This is the first time that Johnny and Amy have danced together, so it is fun all around.

To memorize or follow!!  Honestly, I used to really memorize the entire routine and be neurotic regarding the order of steps, but after dancing with my husband/dance partner for over 15 years, I don’t feel the need.  I believe that our routine actually looks and feels better if it is truly lead and follow. My body movement is more committed and full out when I follow as opposed to anticipating a step. Because it is just the four of us, Johnny and Juan are constantly communicating regarding the next step in the Rueda section, so I relax and follow. However,  It certainly does help to know when a lift, drop or multiple spin comes up as that could look hectic if I am caught too off guard.  For the most part, I am able to mix up anxiously being aware of the shine section with relaxing and settling into the partner dance sections.

For the ending, I  decided to go backwards and finish where we started. We had to cut out about three minutes of the song but found a good point to take us to the end which sounds like the beginning, so our choreographic decision works to end it similarly to our beginning.  There is a part in the beginning where we lift the men’s chins up and for the ending, we plant a kiss on our husbands.  It’s fun. 

We do short rehearsals on Thursday the 16th and Saturday the 18th to polish and build stamina.  When a piece has a lot of turns, you have to tune yourself up for that each time and we also need to work out the transitions and we are always working out the shine section.  By Thursday afternoon, we are running the piece quite smoothly.

So this piece had no angst, no suffering, no storyline - just pure fun and complicated patterns and a little spicy ending.  We have decided to name it “Salsa Complicado.”
We manage to pull it off swimmingly on Salsa Sunday and people enjoy the playfulness of the piece. 



Diane Lachtrupp Martinez

Thursday, January 9, 2014

STARTING MY MODERN DANCE CAREER AT 50........ISH!!





(Martha Graham performing a classic)



In November, my husband mentions that the modern dance company that he dances with, Nacre in Saratoga Springs, is looking for a few extra performers to dance with them in the March concert.  Not necessarily professional modern dancers, but people who move well and dance.  My younger son is asked to participate and my seventeen year old will be doing tech for the show so I decide that a family project would be nice and plan on auditioning.  

The e-mail that I receive from Nacre describes the audition as “ for community members who move well.”  Thinking that this casual description requires little preparation, I am still cooking dinner for my family at 6:40 and giving last minute instructions to my husband about the cornbread and walk out of the house at 6:45 for a 7pm audition that is a six minute walk away.  I arrive at 6:51, to a roomful of company members and about a dozen auditionees.  By 7:05, I am seated cross legged on the floor in a full Graham contraction realizing that I will be taking a modern class.  What?  Twenty minutes ago I was slinging hash in my kitchen and in another twenty minutes, I’l be doing triplets across the marley floor.  Not what I anticipated but I am loving it.  

The class continues on with center work, triplets, etc across the floor and a piece of choreography that includes improvisation.  Modern dancer or not, I am relaxed with improvisation and enjoy it.  I struggle a little bit with the order of the center part as some of it is exercises that I am not familiar with.  I feel that I copy the movement well, but need to improve on the transitions.  I enjoy the choreography and am comfortable with the style which I believe is influenced by Limon, Humphrey and Graham.  I will ask to be clear. 

My hips are sore but I leave the audition at 8:30 on a high and hope that they decide to use me.   Outside the dance studio building, another dancer and I joke about  the ad for “community dancers that move well” and gently tease the Nacre director Beth Fecteau, as she passes by, about the understatement of her ad.  She laughs and says she was  happy with the level of dancers that showed up 

 Several weeks later, I hear from Nacre that I will be used in the piece.  The dancing is more challenging than I anticipated, but I would rather be challenged than bored and am up for the experience.   I took some modern classes 25 years ago, the style of jazz that I have studied leans toward modern and I have used modern dance in my own choreography but have never been in a modern dance concert.  And so..... I commence my modern dance career at 50...ish.

More to come..........



Diane Lachtrupp Martinez

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

HOW THE WEST WAS WON -PART II



SATURDAY AUGUST 10th-

Traveling - Actually no traveling today as we had arrived at our Bower family reunion in Stevensville, Montana last night.  Spent the day enjoying their contemporary property on the river complete with inspiring flower and vegetable gardens.  Their home is on the Bitteroot River and we had a great time walking upstream, building rock art as we went and then floating down the strong current towards their spot on the river.  Seven family members took a hike near Bass Creek and then enjoyed a simple lunch back at the house.  Intermittently throughout the day, we play badminton near the garden.  Badminton is particularly fun in the evening as the sprinkler is on and makes its way through the court every two minutes or so.  Added challenge and comedy.
View from Mimi and Len's house down driveway

In the evening, there is an electrical storm which takes out a nearby transformer and takes out electricity as well.  In fact, the whole town is out including the pizza joint that we were going to order from for the evening’s dinner.  With many phone calls and perseverance, my family locates an alternative place not connected to the original pizza joint and we order from there.  The evening concludes with conversation and a game of celebrity.

Family members in attendance are Morrack clan - Hosts - Mimi and Len Sauer, John Morrack, Sue and Ron Schoolcraft; Lachtrupp clan -Ann Lachtrupp, Diane, Johnny, Joey and Lucas Martinez, David, Jeremy, Greg and Cara Lachtrupp; Waterhouse clan - Tommy Waterhouse and Corrinne Hayden, Micahel Waterhouse and Courtney DeNobile.  

HIGH POINT -Floating down the cold river easily, thereby getting today’s shower as well.

LOW POINT - Although I like a good storm, my sons and I were looking forward to the gluten-free pizza promised from the original restaurant.  Although it may seem immature, it is difficult to not be able to eat many of the foods around you and one does look forward to certain opportunities.  To be clear, older son - gluten allergy, younger son- gluten and dairy  and myself - the popular triumvirate of gluten, dairy and soy.


SUNDAY AUGUST 11TH -

Traveling -The day starts with our older son flying back to Saratoga on an 8:15 flight out of Missoula.  My husband and Joey leave the trailer around 6am to head to the airport.  On the way back my husband finds a local church to attend mass.  Admirable.

Other than the airport trip, it is another stay put day as we ready ourselves for the family clambake.  There is cleaning of clams, husking of corn, chopping of chicken, cleaning of potatoes.  This leads up to the wrapping of the chicken and sausage in cheesecloth which then is layered in a large steamer in the following order starting from the bottom with the chicken, large white and sweet potatoes, corn and lastly the clams.  When all items are ready it is taken apart and displayed and the feast begins.  Briny, potent clam juice, from the steamer is available for sipping and dipping.  The sinful condiment of melted butter is also on the table to take the corn and clams to the next level of indulgence.  
Family members who remembered to bring their reunion t-shirt.

The meal is delicious and atmospheric as we dine outside on the lovely deck  within earshot of the  rushing river until we are visited by an interactive atmospheric component - BEES.  Although they are small and seem to only cause small bites, they are numerous and persistent.  I take a relaxed approach to them and am not bitten but understandably some are more disturbed by them and take refuge inside.  The bees are not a deal breaker but merely another memory of a wonderful weekend.

Our late afternoon meal was followed by family movies that included everything from birthday parties, to trips to Wisconsin and of course a clambake.  The evening ended with some of us playing Scattergories and some of the mature relatives retiring to the living room to reminisce.  As we say our good nights, the eighteen relatives retire to a variety of places; three in the house, two in a pup tent near the home, six in motor homes and trailers in and near the driveway, four in a Stevensville B & B, two in a campground nearby and my older son has made it safely back to Saratoga.

HIGH POINT - Seeing my deceased dad in family movies as a child.  My brother David and my Dad certainly resembled each other as children.

LOW POINT - NO LOW POINT - ALL GOOD!!
Family members on clambake day.




MONDAY AUGUST 12TH -

Traveling - The reunion is over and we head out on the open road once again but not before some of our relatives receive an animated tour of our trailer by my younger son.  We know the time has come to part but the transition of the tour delays our good byes and eases our disappointment.  As we drive off, some of my family stand by the road swaying back and forth singing with raised arms to signal our departure.  We are excited about our next adventure, but sad to say farewell.

This time our destination is Glacier National Park tucked into the Northwest corner of Montana.  It is a direct path through beautiful country and we are not doing too bad on schedule until we reach route 486 which goes north on the west side of the park and will lead us to our campsite at Big Creek.  486 is unpaved for ten tortuous miles.  In addition to the dirt and  stones, they seemed to have added a perpetual ribbing that occurred every two inches and made the road unbearable.  I am totally fine with unpaved road and realize that the rough road leads to adventure but the ribbed road shook our trailer to the core and our bodies to the bone.  It sounded like the trailer was coming a part. We could only drive 10 to 12 miles and hour and a fifteen minute ride turned into 45 minutes.  When we finally made to our campsite and opened the door to our trailer, our possessions had been flung all over.
Author and younger son walking along riverside campsite

Anyway - the rough path did lead to adventure as our campsite was directly on a river with a mountain immediately on the other side.  After maneuvering our rig into it’s campsite (with more success than usual) we went down to the river to take a dip.  Glaciers flow into Big Creek and it was chilly.  I was the first one to submerge. I wasn’t going to give up after going through the knee and crotch stage.  I was in it to do it.  AND - it was refreshing.  Our dip was not surprisingly quite brief and after our exit, we picked up pastel smooth stones between the river and our campsite.  

That night we dined by the river and our fire, made smores and slept in the thick darkness of the Big Creek National Forest.

HIGH POINT - Our stunning campsite.

LOW POINT -  Feeling that our 50 foot rig was coming a part on the unpaved, ribbed road.

TUESDAY AUGUST 13TH - 

Traveling - Our goal today is to travel the “Road that Leads to the Sun” that cuts Glacier National Park from east to west.  We manage to avoid the uber bumpy road by taking a right out of our campground and head north a bit and enter Glacier Park from the north. Before we enter the park, we read a sign that says “Canadian border - 34 miles.”  We did not know that we were that close.  Our 15 mile drive down to the Sun Road is uneventful but beautiful.  We head across the road to the Sun which is uneventful at first but soon develops into wild jagged peaks and rugged valleys arranged haphazardly next to each other to form breathtaking and surprising views. We take a break for lunch and pull over by a small pull-off and eat our sandwiches sitting on rocks and taking in the view.  It is peaceful, but we are frequently looking over our shoulders to keep a lookout for traffic coming around the bend.
Pulling over for lunch on the "
Road that leads to the Sun"

Even though we are detached from the 26 foot trailer and are just driving my mom’s 19 foot motorhome, the driving experience becomes hair raising for us, particularly Johnny who is driving. The road ascends quickly with hair pin turns and close to the edge driving.  If we are on the inside, we are uncomfortably close to the cars coming towards us and on the mountain side we are perilously close to the rocks that jut out.  When we are on the outside of the road, we face the same problem with oncoming cars and then to our right is the  sheer drop off with casual and insufficient guard rails.  Johnny rarely experiences fear or concern, but this drive puts him to the test. 

We arrive at our location, Logan Pass, and park the vehicle to take a hike.  The hike to Hidden Lake continues to ascend but there are areas of flat landscapes along the way.  You can feel the difference between starting at the bottom of a mountain and being high up in a flat area and continuing the climb.  It feels like the open fields in the Alps from the opening scene in the “Sound of Music.”  Along the way, we see five waterfalls formed from the snow run-off.  Lucas ran over to the snow patch and actually threw a snow ball in August.  
Lucas poised to throw a snowball in August!!

On the way to hidden lake, I spot a herd of mountain goats fairly nearby and on the way back we see some charming and friendly hoary marmots running around.  There are grizzly nearby but they are chased off by the rangers and we miss the opportunity.

After the hike, we decide not to go back the same treacherous way, but to continue on the long way to the end of the sun road and then head south around the bottom of the park and then back up to our campsite.  We leave the hike around 5pm and arrive home about 9pm.  Much later than we expected, we still enjoy a firelit meal at our campsite by the rushing river.

HIGH POINT - The thrill of the ride and views on “The Road to the Sun.”

LOW POINT - The treacherous on the edge driving on “The Road to the Sun.”


WEDNESDAY AUGUST 14TH  - 

Traveling - We had wanted to go back into Glacier Park to actually see some glaciers, but realize that we cannot do it all - see both the glaciers AND spend time in the Black Hills and Badlands, South Dakota.  So we head out of Glacier by mid-morning, retrace our steps north to the northern entrance to the park, head south through the west side of the park and then go south below it.  Only then, can we begin our long diagonal path towards the Black Hills and Badlands in South Dakota.  Unbelievably  I had imagined that we would somehow reach western South Dakota by nightfall but are not even close.  I have to answer the question,from both adult and child passengers, “When will we get there,” more than once and finally break the news to them that although I am an accurate navigator, I am perhaps too optimistic about time and had not really done the math that sometimes rules my life.  Reality is that we will not reach the Badlands until Thursday afternoon.  Lucas reminds me that Montana is the fourth largest state and I concur.

Meanwhile, we enjoy the Montana landscape that runs the spectrum from sudden mountains, velvety plains to rugged rockscapes.  Our path takes us through several reservations and we take note of each town’s inhabitants as we stop for gas or a snack.  With our upstate New York and New York City sensibilities, we first think Hispanic when viewing some of the townspeople and then a closer look reveals Native American features.  Stunning.

Mid Wednesday afternoon, we turn around to go back to a Dinosaur museum to see the largest dinosaur grouping of bones in existence.  Apparently, Montana is full of them and we spend a pleasant hour in the museum educating ourselves.  We are on a small back road in Montana and were glad we went back to the museum.


After hours of driving, we pull off in the small city of Belgrade and after passing the requisite Little Lil’s casino, we manage to find an excellent southwestern restaurant for dinner.  We travel until 10:30pm after dinner and spend the night in a rest stop.

HIGH POINT - Looking back at Glacier Park and being in awe of its grandeur.

LOW POINT - Breaking the news to my family about my optimistic time table.


WEDNESDAY AUGUST 15TH -

Traveling - We head out early again and continue to move closer to our destination of the Black Hills, South Dakota.  We arrive in the late afternoon and pass through the Black Hills to get into the city of Custer which is near our funky campsite.  Our campsite proves easy to drive into and we hit the pool as showers have been scarce the last couple of days.  After the pool, we head out to dinner in downtown Custer and then drive a short 20 minutes to the Crazy Horse mountain sculpture for the night time laser show, which is disappointing as there is much fog and the view is vague and uninspiring.  We decide to go back to Crazy Horse the next day.

HIGH POINT - Finally arriving in South Dakota

LOW POINT - Not being able to view Crazy Horse during the light show.


THURSDAY AUGUST 16TH - 

Traveling - We head out to Crazy Horse in the morning which is a quick 7 minutes to the north.  In the daylight, it is impressive.  It is the mountain monument of the Lokota tribe leader Crazy Horse who led the Sioux to their victory at Wounded Knee against Custer.  Although only the face is done, and the arm is beginning to be realized, you can see how the rest of Crazy Horse’s body and partial horse will be revealed.  The smaller models are powerful with the action of the horse upon which Crazy Horse sits pointing dynamically to the land where his people are buried.  Did I mention, that he isn’t wearing a shirt and the southern wind blows through his long locks.  It is no cross to bear witnessing the smaller sculpture.  For the most part, the future sculpture looks imaginative, soulful and technically impressive and so we are vexed by the artist’s decision to include a perfectly vertical single inflexible feather upon his blowing in the wind locks.  WHY?  We are hopeful, that when they get to that part, they will reconsider the unsoulful feather.
Lokota Dancer speaking with Crazy Horse in background.  The face is finished and the start of the arm pointing to where his people are buried.

Sculpture aside, the entire set-up surrounding Crazy Horse is impressive.  The project is privately funded by visitors to the project and private donors.  There is so much to take part in.  We saw the movie on the making of Crazy Horse which tells of sculpture Korczak Ziolkowski’s lifelong dedication to the creation of this marvelous wonder.  To give perspective, the four heads of Mount Rushmore fit into the one head of Crazy Horse.  

After the movie, we wander through the museum and go outside to watch a dance demonstration by a local Native American resident.  He is a impassioned, poetic speaker and shares with us some of his perspective and thoughts.  His talk is informative but consistently has the tone of someone who wants to prove that Native Americans are as bright as other cultures and can do well in school.  Are there still people around who would make him think that non-Native Americans think otherwise?  Sadly probably yes. I keep wishing that he could just be himself.  

After the dance exhibition, we have lunch in the cafe and then continue wandering through all the great exhibits from the Korczak’s studio and home to artwork from local Native American artists.  We particularly like one couple's jewelry and I purchase an ivory colored necklace.  My mom and I enjoy a conversation with Oglala Sioux author Ed McGaa, Eagle Man regarding one of his books “Crazy Horse and Chief Red Cloud.”  He is a calm, confident man happy to share his knowledge and perspective.  He inspires me to come back and spend much more time in the area.  

Mount Rushmore is nearby and we drive a mere twenty minutes to reach our destination.  After viewing Crazy Horse, it is difficult to get as psyched about Mount Rushmore.  Although impressive, it is federally funded, not as personal and the sculpture itself lacks subtlety.  A different animal.  What is great about the set-up is that the area and buildings surrounding the monument (with the exception of the flags) blends nicely with the landscape and composite and color.  As far as my younger son Lucas is concerned, the best part was the interactive computer dynamite handle that was available.  You could select a portion of the pre-finished rock on the screen and then watch it blow-up as you pushed down on the dynamite handle.  Fun!!
( but a little disturbing)  We hike around and enjoy viewing some the artist's studio and some of the renditions that were considered for the monument.
Author and family at Mount Rushmore with the mountain monument in the background.

On the way back to the campsite, we drive through Custer Park which is stunning, winding and intimate.  The park features a number of charming cabins and campsites that we would like to come back and explore. Along the way, we run into a bison grazing by the roadside with full concentration and little regard for any motorists.  We decide that we could easily come back here for an entire vacation to further get to know the Black Hills area with its residents, animal life and history.
Custer Park bison enjoying casual roadside dining.

Travel-wise, we fear we may be a little behind schedule and are now that we have seen all our major sights, we need to haul our buttocks home to see our older son.  As a result, we decide to have dinner at the campsite and then start driving towards the Badlands tonight and view them early in the morning.  A decision that does not disappoint.


There is one more brief section of our Western Adventure!!
Diane Lachtrupp Martinez





Tuesday, September 24, 2013

EXCUSE ME, I THINK YOU DROPPED SOMETHING!!


Thank you Paul Post for writing an article in the Saratogian about Farm Aid that opens with a paragraph about the garbage that was left by the concert’s attendees on Saturday evening. The article continues to relate the reactions of other people involved with the concert as well.  Their reactions were one of dismay.  This is not an attitude that is limited to SPAC, although you would hope that the Farm Aid concert-goers would demonstrate some awareness regarding litter and the earth.

Just because there are people paid to pick up after us at the concert, the ball game, the movie theater, does not entitle us to leave our trash behind.  It is a culture wide problem.  When our family leaves a stadium, concert or movie theater, we take our trash with us.  However, it is a taught habit.  My boys are tempted to leave it sometimes like most people around them or because the event allows it.  I let them know that our family is responsible for their own trash.

I have on a number of occasions made myself unpopular by making comments aloud like,”Who’s trash is this?”  or “Who left their wrapper behind?”  These questions have left my mouth many times on a Saturday morning at the rec soccer field ( near the casino) when a snack is served and a few wrappers are strewn about.  I have deepened my popularity by asking the enabling parents who stand up to pick it up, “Could you please let the kids pick up their own garbage? Thanks!”

My other unpopular MO is to say to someone who drops litter right in front on me, “Excuse me, I think you dropped something.”  I say it politely and usually witness an eye roll by the litterer but they do bend over and retrieve their garbage.

One time when I lived in NYC, my personal safety was threatened when I mentioned to someone that they dropped something.  I think I was in over my head because  this young woman was an uber professional litterer.  She was standing on a corner in the village with friends eating from her Chinese food container and when she decided she did want anymore and was done she simply dropped the half-full container on the sidewalk with her fork implanted in the container.  A garbage can was perhaps six feet away.  I was incredulous at her level of piggery, but somehow managed a calm tone with my formerly successful comment, “Excuse me, I think you dropped something.”  I didn’t fool her.  She knew what I meant.  She turned to me and snarled something about messing my face up.  I believe I made one more comment and we both let it go.

Did she pick up her Chinese food container?  Well, no but maybe I made her think for a few seconds or maybe I was simply annoying.

So - 
if you currently pick-up your own garbage when there are others paid to do so - Thanks!!

If you don’t currently pick-up your own garbage at the events described above, but want to start doing that - Terrific.

If you don’t currently pick-up your own garbage at these events and have no intention of changing your ways - all I can say is ,”Excuse me, I think you dropped something.”


Diane Lachtrupp Martinez

To read the Saratogian article in the Tuesday September 24th edition, go to www.saratogian.com


Sunday, August 11, 2013

HOW THE WEST WAS WON






Author and family taking in the Wyoming view.

BACKGROUND

In the past ten years, our family has vacationed in Anguilla, Prince Edward Island, Sanibel, Florida,  Isla Mujeres: Mexico, Costa Rica, Culebra, Puerto Rico, Disneyland, England, France, Jamaica, Tuluum: Mexico and many wonderful places in the northeast.  However, other than the England/France trip and the long drive to stunning Prince Edward Island, all our trips had been warm weather and Caribbean oriented.  A trip to a different locale was long overdue.

Also coincidentally for the past ten years, we have had family reunions on my father’s side and they have all been in the northeast including several in Vermont, one in Rhode Island and a number in the Adirondack's.  So when my Aunt Meme and Uncle Len suggested that we do a family reunion this year at their home in Stevensville, Montana we thought,  “Here’s an opportunity for a great summer trip.”  Meme and Len had always traveled east for the reunions and now it was our turn to return the favor.  Besides, a trip to the big sky country of Montana was no cross to bear and Montana played host to two spectacular National Parks - Yellowstone in the southwest and Glacier National Park in the northwest.  At some point, we were hoping to hit the Badlands, South Dakota on either the way out or on the return trip. 

There was much debate as to what would be our mode of transportation on our western adventure. Should we fly part way out and rent a motor home while out there and fly back.  My brother’s family of five was also a consideration and my mom and uncle Freddie( who both owned motor homes) were also part of the picture.  At one point, we had considered my brother driving out with my mom and driving back with uncle Freddie and we would do the reverse.  Uncle Freddie later decided not to attend( perhaps our plans scared him off) and we moved onto other complicated plans.  In April, we thought of my immediate family of four( familia Martinez) driving out with my mom and flying back and my brother flying out and driving back with my mom.  By May, we realized that these possibilities cannot be. 

Finally, simplicity won out and we decided to drive out and back with my mom and my brother David would make his own plans.  In May we put a deposit down on a 26 foot trailer that my mom’s motor home would tow.  The five of us would ride in the motor home and at night, we would reside in the trailer and my mom in her RV.  Thankfully, my mom’s motor home is not too long because between the RV(19’), trailer(26’) and hitch(5”) between the two entities, we were looking at  total 50 feet moving down the highway, taking corners, passing on the highway, going in reverse and pulling into gas pumps.  If I didn’t think about it too much, I was not concerned.

Our preparations were the minimum as our time was also the minimum.  My mother ( an experienced cross/country traveler REALLY wanted her map in triptik form from AAA.  I knew that we wanted to hit Yellowstone, Glacier and the Badlands and I knew our timeline so in late July with little thought, I took out a magic marker and drew a westward path on her US map and drew a return eastward trip.  There.  Done!!  In mid-July, I got lucky and snagged three nights in Yellowstone and in late July, I happily reserved two nights of a campsite on the edge of Glacier National Park.  Good enough.
We had transportation, shelter, a map, and reservations in two of the highlighted parks.  At this date, there is no reservation in the Badlands.  We are winging it on our road trip.


WE DEPART

FRIDAY AUGUST 2nd -

Traveling - We can hardly count this as a traveling day, as we did not leave White’s camper business with our rented trailer and my mom’s motor home until 7:30pm that evening.  We drove for an hour, ate and then drove another 30 minutes.  The reason for our delay - we rented our home for the Saratoga Track season and had to ready our home for our renters and pack for our trip.

HIGH POINT - Leaving our home in perfect condition.

LOW POINT -  Not even reaching Utica on our first day.


Saturday AUGUST 3rd -

Traveling -  We leave from our rest stop overnight spot and continue westward.  When we reach Buffalo, we continue on route 90 as it heads south along Lake Ontario.  We decide that we want to be closer to the water and exit the thruway onto route 20 which gives us a close-up view of the lake and vineyards that grow beside the Great Lakes.  We come upon a marina in the town of Dunkirk and drive out on the pier to park for lunch.  Our first lunch of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches takes forever and we decide that lunches must be simpler and quicker.  We head back to the big highway and drive through the northwest corner of Pennsylvania and then head into the wide state of Ohio. 
 We stop to see nothing else. We only stop for gas, which occurs about three times a day  and can either go very smoothly as we maneuver our 50 foot vehicles into the station or it can go so badly that we draw a crowd.  Saturday afternoon, we drew a crowd.  If you have never driven one large vehicle towing another one, it is hard to imagine what a mind of its own, the second vehicle tends to have.  This was my husband’s experience as he drove into a gas station that had tight corners and little angling room.  Our first approach to the pump isn’t right and we soon run out of room as   the continual arrival and departure of other costumer’s cars serve to block our every move.  I am sent out of the car to keep cars away as we try unsuccessfully for 15 minutes to reposition ourselves.  During that time, I convince at least three cars to park elsewhere and to make them feel good about it.  I become the ambassador of parking.  

At long last, a tall, bearded employee wearing a lime green plastic vest comes towards the driver’s side and shows my husband his credentials and coaches Johnny through the necessary maneuvers to get to the pump.  Five minutes later, we depart the gas station vowing to be more aware of the space available at future gas ventures.

We continue westward and stop for dinner near Toledo, Ohio at an Olive Garden.  Normally a good experience, they are badly run and poorly trained.  Oh well.  We drive 45 minutes longer and stay overnight in a really contemporary rest stop.

HIGH POINT OF THE DAY - Hard to say, there was so much driving.  Probably lunch on the pier on Lake Ontario.

LOW POINT - No doubt the parking debacle in the afternoon at the gas station.

Author trying to catch up to the camper as it departs.

SUNDAY AUGUST 4th -

Traveling - We wake up in Ohio 45 minutes past Toledo in a rest stop.  Our goal is to get on the road again by 7am.  We manage to pull out of the parking lot by 7:13am. I announce a goal of making it through Indiana, Illinois and Iowa by nightfall and after stopping for a breakfast of cold cereal, we cross into Indiana by 10am.  Our breaks are never as short as we hope.  Route 80 is still our route as we cross the northern part of Indiana just south of Michigan and passing by South Bend, Indiana.  It’s fun to see signs for such notorious universities as Notre Dame and Perdue.  At one point, we catch a glimpse of a horse and buggy traveling across an overpass.  My mother remembers having visiting Amish communities in the past.  We would love to visit them but -NO TIME - 1500 more miles by Tuesday afternoon.

About noon, we cross the border into Illinois and under Chicago.  Northern Illinois is fairly quiet on a Sunday afternoon and look forward to crossing the Mississippi as we cross into Iowa and the city of Davenport.  In the afternoon we stop for fuel and ice cream at the largest truck stop in the world called “Iowa 80.”  Our dinner stop is at a beautiful rest stop along 80 west in Iowa.  We get back on the road by 9:30 and drive into Nebraska and stay overnight in a truck stop just past Omaha.  We want to miss the Monday morning rush hour traffic and we made our goal and then some- we are in Nebraska.

HIGH POINT - Two great rest stops.  The largest one is fascinating with it’s facilities for truckers that include a barbershop and church.  Our dinner stop rest area contains stunning art work including a 70’ windmill blade.

LOW POINT - We drove about 12 hours today - Johnny probably 7 hours and Diane 5 hours and no one has had a shower or much exercise. 


MONDAY AUGUST 5th - 

TRAVELING - We head out across the plains towards Wyoming.  We spend the morning crossing Nebraska and into the early afternoon.  My mother reads about some of the interesting Nebraskan points and are disappointed that we cannot see them as we must make Cheyenne, Wyoming by night fall.  The western edge of Nebraska starts to change and we feel like we are transitioning from a plains state to a truly western state. The topography is thrilling to us easterners accustomed to proper grass covered land and older, tamer mountains.  There are sudden mountains, rough escarpments and a new view of wonder around every bend.  When we enter Wyoming in the early evening, we are immediately greeted by tumbleweed being chased by the wind across our path.  My younger son has a hankering for swimming and so we are on the lookout for a campsite with a pool or lake. There are none.  Park employees on the phone, tell us that there are no pools and the lake water is icy at this elevation.  The best we can do is find a KOA campsite with a hot tub in Rawlins.  Rawlins is a little further than we want to go but is at the intersection of route 80 and 287 which leads to Yellowstone.  Although we were hoping to bed down earlier for the night, we reason that it would be emotionally satisfying to end our relationship with the somewhat monotonous, big business route 80 tonight and tomorrow start fresh with route 287 on our final leg to Yellowstone.  

When we arrive at the campsite at 8:10, we are told that the hot tub is closing at 9pm.  Our parking and set up is quick and we hurry over to the hot tub.  Ahh!!

HIGH POINT - I’m torn between the tumbleweed and the hot tub.

LOW POINT - When we pull over halfway through Nebraska to view a historic windmill to break up the driving, only to find out that it had been taken down.


TUESDAY AUGUST 6TH -

Traveling - We are very excited to be on our final path to Yellowstone Park.  Route 287 clearly departs from western bound 80 and heads decidedly north by northwest into higher elevations.  Along the way, we stop at a deserted restaurant truck stop to fix breakfast and enjoy the view.  An hour later, we come around the bend to witness another breathtaking vista near the Red Canyon area.  Without much thought, we pull off to take in the salmon pink and green hills placed at seemingly impossible angles to each other.  With our binocs, we discover an animal carcass nearby and hike towards it to explore.  It seems that we have come upon a coyote carcass.  The break is over and we head to the town of Lander, on the edge of the Wind River Indian Reservation for lunch.  Sated with our bison burgers, we head out for what we hope are the last couple of hours.

However, it is slow going doing the last miles with road conditions, construction, traffic and naturally everyone taking in the views.  Grand Teton National Park guards the entrance to Yellowstone and are in awe of their grandeur.  At long last, we enter Yellowstone about 4:45 and our excitement is diminished when we read the sign that informs us that our campsite is another 21 miles into the park.  Could be worse - other campsites are listed as 49 miles away.  We check in, find our campsite and our happy to enjoy our campsite for the evening

HIGH POINT - The Grand Tetons foretold wonders yet to come in Yellowstone.  

LOW POINT - No doubt when I was pulling into a gas station with sharp angles and blocked the McDonald’s drive through exit line for about 10 minutes.  On a high note, I stayed calm and with Johnny and Joey’s coaching, rectified the situation.  And yes, I did draw a crowd.



Yellowstone bison at sunset.


WEDNESDAY AUGUST 7TH -

Traveling - I cherish the fact that I am usually not a typical tourist but  knew that we had to see Old Faithful at Yellowstone.  There we were, with 300 other tourists waiting and watching for the moment.  She did not disappoint and goes off impressively every 90 minutes or so and reaches heights of 70 feet or more for several minutes.  After the geyser show, we walked around to view the other 200 or so unique types of mud pots, hot springs and geysers.  Steamboat geyser had not gone off since 2005 and went off a week ago.  On the way to Yellowstone we stopped off at Kepler Falls to hike around and view the falls from various vantage points.  

We have to change campsites today, which actually works out, and after Old Faithful we move to our new campsite at Fish Creek.  After a trying 30 minutes of backing our 50 foot rig into our very narrow campsite, we unhook and drive out to see animals in Hyman Valley.  The first thing we see is a bald eagle sitting contentedly on his high perch viewing the possibilities for dinner.  He obliges us for at least 20 minutes and allows us and the other viewers a clear shot. 

 This is how it works in Yellowstone.  If you are driving along and see a group of cars pulled off to the side for no apparent reason, then you can assume that wildlife has been identified.  You pull over, roll down your window and either see the animal immediately, or inquire and decide what action to take based on the intel. Sometimes, the animals may be way off and require binocs and other times, they are nonchalantly crossing the road.

This evening I spotted a bison in the valley which we watched with our binocs.  I felt lucky.  One mile and 10 minutes later, I was ecstatic as a herd was nearby and three bison were crossing the road and were within 40 feet.  Although, they appear to be unaware of your presence, park visitors are constantly warned that they can turn at any moment and head towards you.  Bison gorings have definitely occurred.  Post bison, we acted on a wolf rumor but could not find them but instead saw some elk drinking from a stream.  The animals are so engaging that we do not return to our campsite until almost 9pm.

HIGH POINT - Definitely the bison.  Their profile is so dynamic with their furry mantle, proud head and pointed beard.

LOW POINT - Our campsite feels like suburbia.  We are packed in like sardines, one motor home after another.  AND - no picnic table or fireplace


.


THURSDAY - AUGUST 8TH

TRAVELING - Our goal is to hike the Yellowstone Grand Canyon today.  En route to the canyon we run across three more herds of bison along the road and in the Hayman Valley.  The hike is only two miles from the upper falls to Artist’s Point  but vigorous.  Artist Point includes an amazing view of both the winding canyon and the falls.  Spectacular, unreal, humbling.  On the way back from Artist’s Point, we take a short but truly rigorous detour and hike down and up 323 stairs to an up front and personal view of the falls.  Johnny and I are frequently asked directions by other hikers.  We attribute this to our adventure ready attire - hiking boots, zip off pants, backpacks, hats, knives and Paracord survival rope bracelets.  One never what might come up.  

After returning to our campsite, we are treated to hot showers before heading out to dinner at the Lake Lodge.  Although they have lost our reservation, they manage to still seat us and we have a fun evening and meet some other travelers as a result.  


HIGH POINT OF THE DAY - Hiking successfully along the south rim of the canyon and enjoying an excellent syrah in  appropriate stemware while listening to live music in the lounge of the Lake Hotel.  It is reminiscent of how I imagine travelling may have been in the 1890’s.

LOW POINT - A park ranger states that the black bears are the most intelligent animals in the park including humans.




FRIDAY AUGUST 9TH


TRAVELING - We are departing Yellowstone today and heading north towards the north exit into Montana and towards Stevensville, the location of the family reunion.  On our way north, we pass our friends the bison in Hayman Valley crossing the road, grazing or lounging about in the dirt.  Although we have seen about 500 by this point, their presence and profiles still amaze.  Our exit from Yellowstone is slow and dramatic and takes us three hours to arrive at Mammoth Springs around 2pm for lunch and our last official sight seeing stop.  The drive through the park has been rainy and somewhat dangerous as the roads are narrow with steep drop offs and few guard rails.  However, as always in Yellowstone, there is a surprise around every bend and the varied landscape of canyons, mountains, rivers and rock formations is ever changing.

Mammoth Springs is stunning and the hot mineraled  water has created multi-terraced mineral formations of yellow, peach and various shades of white and grey.  We leave the park at 4pm hoping to arrive at 7pm at our relatives in Stevensville.  Apparently, between some casual map reading on my part and unexpected construction in the park,  we discover  that we probably will not reach my relatives Meme and Len’s until 9pm.
Around 8pm, I drive through a vicious storm of wind, blinding rain, hail, possible snow slush and flooding.  Johnny coaches me through some of the tough points and we make it safely through the storm.  Our arrival time has been moved to 9:45 with the delays.  We finally arrive about 10pm, park our rig and are treated to a late dinner of bratwurst, potato salad, beans and a post storm driving glass of wine.


HIGH POINT - The Montana sky.  At the end of the storm, we were driving towards a fixed line in the sky between a dark cloud and blue sky.  The cloud line ran for miles.

LOW POINT - Driving through the large hail and driving next to this one car in the flooded area and fearing that the two cars would be pulled together in the water.


More travel details coming up.

Diane Lachtrupp Martinez