Tuesday, October 29, 2013



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.


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.

Family members on clambake day.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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


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


Author and family taking in the Wyoming view.


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.



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.


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. 


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.


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.


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



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.


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

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Author and husband/dance partner

There is no doubt that I am the eternal optimist and always envision my days of a performance as full of preparations that will support the best dancer I can be come showtime.  My perfect show day plans include exercise, mani-pedi,  quick nap, organized and pre-packed costumes, show make-up and hair supplies ready to go so the final hour is about putting myself together and not searching for important hairbands, lipsticks, etc. 

Tonight we are performing three numbers (a Salsa, Tango and Swing) at a benefit and whether it is a two hour show with our company or a 15 minute show at a function, I still need rehearsal, costumes and make-up.  Our show is scheduled at 6:45 near-by and we plan to leave before 6pm to drop off my older son who is doing sound at a local theater.   I hope to have an easy meal prepared for them before we leave for our event. 

As a working Tango Mom, the above plans are somewhat doomed from the onset as my early morning hours are taken up by supporting my 10 year old in the final hours of his 30 page state report.  This is the time I had scheduled to make the final costume selection and to organize them. My planned costume time of  30 minutes has been cut to six minutes and I make the best of my 80% loss of time.

Organizing the costumes for a woman is no easy feat.  There are many questions to answer regarding the proper foundations for each costume.  Will this bra work with this costume?  Do I wear a thong, regular underpants or dance pants with this skirt or pants?  Do I wear suntan colored pantyhose or fishnets?  Or do I opt for no pantyhose and go bare legged to get a better grip in my shoe for turns.  As to shoes, that is based on four things: the costume, what routines we are doing, the type of floor we are dancing on and if I have any injuries and how much support I will need.  Since I have two costumes for the evening, the above questions must be answered twice.  Finally, everything must be located and packed.  Currently my mascara and eye make-up are at large so we will see how the day develops.  The morning affords me six minutes to answer the above questions - TWICE!!

Tango Heels with Fishnets

 After helping my son with the final details of his state report, I run upstairs and try on a couple of costumes.  I run downstairs in a stretch velvet dress that features a silk flowing adornment and a rather sexy hemline.  It is elegant but snug fitting and my shape in general is  a little too featured.  My 10 year old greets my costume with a raised eyebrow and disapproving look.  My husband and I agree that perhaps this costume is better for the Saturday show at the Salsa event and that this costume ( although a couture design from the same designer as Toni Braxton’s dressmaker) is not the one for tonight’s benefit in Saratoga.  I decide to go for the classic Tango dress with a longer skirt and more upper body material.

After our opening Tango and Salsa number, I will do a quick costume change for our Swing class and performance.  I come downstairs two minutes later to model a polka dot dress that threatens to reveal my cans.  I get a lukewarm response from the guys and come back down in one minute wearing a flowing red chiffon dress that screams dance and Swing.  My chest is harnessed appropriately (meaning I have made peace with my ample chest and try to find a balance of a little sexy but not too sexy and try to avoid a costume malfunction.)  My swing look is achieved, I get the nod of approval from the guys and go back to making school lunches and slinging hash.  My bedroom has taken a beating from the many quick changes.

After recovering the house from my son’s departure around 9am, I had planned to go the gym  to make sure I am warm for tonight’s show but alter my plans because I am continually distracted by the fact that I am hosting a wine dinner Sunday evening for twelve diners.  It is Thursday.  Little has been done. I take some time to start preparing the house for company and go online to make a final decision as to what potatoes I will serve with the venison.

Well - clearly the mani-pedi is out and I will have to do something myself.  A Tango Mom’s feet are on display with open toed shoes and attractive feet is part of the allure of Tango.  I decide that my nails will be dealt with later in the day and start working on the house for Sunday’s wine dinner.  I also find myself making last minute preparations for our dance classes tonight.  Because my husband and I are doing the show at the benefit during our regular Thursday Class time at MINE ( downtown Saratoga Springs), we had to find substitutes for the classes.)  Despite the subs being secured a couple of weeks ago, there are still last minute details regarding content of the classes and registration of new students.  I also am waiting for my assistant to bring over promotional material for tonight’s event.  I look up at the clock and it is 11:15am.

Did I mention that my younger son is ill and I go and get him from school at 11:30, which means less focus for me at home and more lunch to prepare.  I ride my bike to school, in lieu of the gym, and pick up my son.  When we arrive home, I attend to him and also set him up to work on his state report.

I set a goal for my son and myself and then we have lunch at 12:30.  I take a short nap from 1pm to 1:30 and jump in the shower and am ready to leave the house at 1:50.  Where am I going?  I cleverly scheduled side by side doctor’s appointments for both sons at 2:30 in Clifton Park, twenty minutes away.  What a great idea.  

Although this particular errand runs smoothly,  there is always in the back of my mind as I am driving down to Clifton Park,  “Where is my eye make-up?” and “We did not get a chance to rehearse today.”  Once between shows, my false eyelashes spent a month by the phone.  This fact is not reassuring.  My make-up could be anywhere.
Tango Mom's Eyelashes

I arrive home at 4:30 with and hour and fifteen minutes left before our hoped for departure time of 5:45.  I do 15 minutes of preliminary spaghetti and meatballs prep and my husband dresses in a hurry (10 minutes) and is able to finish up the meal and pack my older son’s meal for the theater.  

Now a word about that 10 minutes dressing time for Tango Dad.  His change of costume entails taking off a jacket between numbers from Tango to Swing.  There is no bra question.  There is  no fishnet or no fishnet issue.  There are always black fucking socks and fucking black low heeled shoes.  There are no issues with balance, due to a 2 and 1/2 to 3 inch heel.  And that is just the clothing.  Let’s talk about make-up.  There is none.  He is blessed with lovely dark skin that requires only moisturizer -maybe.  There are no eyelashes lingering by the phone, or missing fire engine red lipsticks or open toed shoes.  There is only simplicity and 10 minutes.

I swear,  if it wasn’t for the ability to bear children and nurse, I would be fine with a penis.

But I can bear children and am grateful for it.  Since having children, my dancing has never been better.  Why?  Because once you have had children, you know what’s important and nothing else matters.  So who cares what anyone else thinks?  Going for it and dancing full out, became easier for me after having children.  I came more into my own as an artist - both as a dancer and actress.

In conclusion - I never find the make-up that I am looking for but manage to find some eye make-up I hadn’t encountered in a awhile.  So that worked out. My pedicure consisted of yet one more layer of pink polish over several existing layers.  I decided to go with fishnets with the first dress and no hose for the red chiffon swing costume.  My mom arrived at 5:45 to take over my younger son and the continued saga of the state report.  We left around 6pm but managed to drop my older son at the theater and back across town to the event by 6:15 for a 6:45 show.  We sometimes judge ourselves as parents, based on our exits from the house.  I am going to give this one, “ a not too bad.”

As to the show.  It went very well and was very much appreciated.  I’ve had more harried show days and some more relaxing.  This one was middle of the road.  At the end of the day when you come home and see them asleep in bed and have had a chance to be a mom and a dancer, you know that being a Tango Mom is the way to go.

Diane Lachtrupp Martinez

Photo credits - Tango Shot of Johnny and Diane Martinez by Jan La Salle of NYC
Tango Shoe photo of Dario Da Silva and Claire Vivo by photographer Keira Lemonis of Troy, NY

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

                                 Lake Avenue Trattoria

Last week I had the good fortune of obtaining a ticket to the new hot restaurant in town, Lake Avenue Trattoria.  The restaurant has some distinguishing characteristics that set it apart from your everyday Italian eatery: 1) The restaurant offers an interactive component  allowing customers to help out with the restaurant’s goings on, 2) The wait staff was very young and trendy, 3) The lemonade was freely flowing and seconds were available for pasta.  Well - need I say more. 

My evening started out with the interactive component where I was given the job of floater to the wait staff, seeing if they needed any assistance with carrying food or serving their customers in any capacity.  What little nervousness the servers displayed before the first wave of customers arrived at 5:30 soon dissipated as they were busy greeting their customers and taking their orders. At first, I was called upon quite a bit but soon the young servers could soon be seen moving independently and briskly in and out of the kitchen with salads, garlic knots and plates of steaming pasta.

Trendy, young wait staff before their 7pm shift

My other assignment was to make sure that the water, lemonade and parmesan cheese were always filled and plentiful on the table.  This afforded me an opportunity to  interact with both the customers and the kitchen. During my many trips into the kitchen,  I had the opportunity to meet the woman in charge Chef Gristowitz and her crew.   All kitchen personnel was friendly, helpful and committed to making Lake Avenue Trattoria a success.  In addition, the kitchen proved to be extremely clean and organized giving me confidence as to the quality of the food and service I could anticipate during my upcoming meal.
Busy waiters delivering delicious pasta

After each group of diners finished, the servers bussed the dishes, wiped the tables and reset them with red placemats, blue or white napkins and silver ware.  Each table decoration included a bouquet of fresh flowers and the dining room window treatments looked new and fresh.  Charming Italian music could be heard in the background to add to the restaurants ambience.

With my interactive portion of my evening ending at 6:30, I was now ready to begin the dining part.  We were seated promptly and politely by the hostess at 7pm.  Our waiter introduced himself  as Lucas and possessed charm, manners and efficiency.  We were given the choice of salad with or without dressing, and pasta with or without sauce or meatballs.  Before we knew it, our salads had arrived; ample plates of mixed greens drizzled with a savory Italian dressing.

Soon two more families were seated with us and two more excellent waiters were working our table as well.  I always enjoy a restaurant that has community style tables allowing people to meet and chat with other diners.  Our two new waiters (Liam and Grace) were also competent and friendly as I overheard them addressing their customers and taking their orders.  Liam and Grace also helped out by offering to bus our salad plates.

Presently, our waiter brought out our pasta without spilling a drop.   All four of my dining companions had chosen the pasta with sauce and three out of four of us had meatballs.  The tomato sauce was indeed on the spicy side but delicious and a suitable background for the savory meatballs.  My portion of penne pasta was ample and served hot.  When one of the other guests inquired about seconds, it was discovered that they were available at no charge.  You don’t see that everyday.
Lake Avenue Trattoria's best!!

About 5 minutes into our plate of pasta, our waiter returned and asked if everything was okay.  We replied that our meal was great.  We appreciated his follow-up and helped ourselves to more lemonade.  

Our meal was pleasantly interrupted by singing.  We turned to see approximately 10 waiters serenading one of the dinner guests.  The young diner was thoroughly enjoying her birthday treat.  What fun.

When our meal was finished, we were surrounded by eager servers happy to bus our plates.  To our surprise, another young server named Jackson helped to clear our plates.  We were then directed to the dessert table nearby.  My dinner mates went and got their dessert and brought it back to the table.

Presently, our waiter was back, apparently in a new position as raffle guy, offering us the opportunity to purchase tickets for a 50/50 raffle. He approached this new job with the same gusto as the waiter job, if not more so.  His sales techniques were irresistible and we purchased some raffles.  The fun continued.

Following dessert and a farewell from our waiter, we wandered into the adjoining room to discover more excitement. Apparently Lake Avenue Trattoria had more to offer than your typical restaurant.  The evening also included a fund raising event that offered a spectacular variety of baskets and prizes.  They had everything from a parent’s night out basket to a dog lover’s basket to a one year family membership at the YMCA.  People were enjoying their dessert as they viewed the baskets and prizes.  The excitement was palpable and building.  
Lake Avenue waiters before their shift

When everyone from the dining room and kitchen had moved into the prize room, the moment had arrived to announce the winners.  And winners there were.  I would say that there were at least twenty-five ticket winners.  So there you have it.  An evening that offers it all: good and plentiful  food, excellent waiters who sing and prizes!!  

Where is Lake Avenue Trattoria located?  It is conveniently located at 126 Lake Avenue in Saratoga Springs.  How can you get a ticket for this special restaurant?  Sadly, Lake Avenue Trattoria is only open one night a year in either February or March.  Since tickets go fast, I would contact the Trattoria in early January of 2014 to take part in this very unique dining experience.

Diane Lachtrupp Martinez

Photos provided by Christine Joyce and Diane Lachtrupp Martinez