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Although we walk Ringo every day, he hasn’t gotten his usual exercise fetching the ball or frisbee since we’ve been in Spokane, so he’s gained a little weight.

We can’t have that!

So we found a couple of cheap flying discs at a thrift store, which Ringo made short work of. Then we came across a red flying hoop in our favorite vacant lot, which has lasted for two sessions; it’s almost chewed through already.

I took videos of Ringo fetching the hoop yesterday with my digital still-camera, since I didn’t think to bring the regular video camera. The video feature on the still-camera is limited, as I suspect most of them are — one cannot zoom while the camera is taking movies. But you’ll get the overall impression of the fetching, along with the ever-present roar of the highway nearby.

Afterwards we stopped at a tiny park where James indulged himself on the swing-set. We’re thinking of having a large swing-set made for our place in The Woods! We had such fun swinging when we were kids — so why stop now just because we’re “adults”?

A couple of pit-bulls barked as James swung. They were situated in a cage in a nearby backyard, so I captured a moment on video of them as well. Every time we walk down this alley, the dogs raise up such a ruckus that they occasionally attack one another in their excitement.

Every morning, James and I take Ringo for a walk through the neighborhood near our little brick 1922 house, in a residential section only two blocks south of the main street which eventually reaches downtown. Further south, the neighborhood abruptly ends with the Interstate highway.

Having been truncated by two major thoroughfares, the neighborhood has definitely seen better days. But perhaps it may have seen worse and is now on its way up. One can dream, anyway.

The oldest houses appear to have been built in the late 1800s, with the majority having been constructed in the 1920s and 1930s. There is a sprinkling of post-war houses as well, and less common, new construction usually consisting of “project”-type housing.

If I had a LOT of cash, this neighborhood would be a good investment, buying up cheap houses, fixing them up and selling at reasonable prices. But who knows what direction this neighborhood will really take, especially during these tough times?

It is rather sad to walk through this neighborhood. Echoes of a bygone era whisper as we walk through the narrow alleys choked with weeds and discarded furniture and appliances.

One can tell that the houses were grand at one time, with detached garages lining these rutted little byways. It is a sad testimony of neglect and careless dumping.

Alleys and fields are perfect places for Ringo to “do his business”. There are more vacant lots close to the Interstate. The juxtaposition of wide-open weedy spaces and the roar of the cars on the freeway offer a clashing contradiction for the senses.

Walk #1:  10/19/08

Yesterday morning was sunny and clear — cool but not brisk — as James, Ringo and I started our walk. There were more people up and about on a Sunday than we see during the week.

The first person we encountered was a man of indeterminate age shuffling aimlessly along the cracked sidewalk in our direction on the opposite side of the street. He stepped into the intersection and veered left, weaving into the middle of the street.

Ringo perked up his nose and sniffed the air, his attention immediately drawn to a flock of large, black crows picking at an object in this intersection.  As humans and dog approached, the birds rose up in a clattering flurry of wings and caws.

The roar of the highway increased in volume as we neared Ringo’s favorite vacant lot.

At the far end of this lot are two abandoned houses. I finally remembered to bring my camera in an attempt to capture some impressions of this neighborhood for the blog. I snapped this shot of the first “foreclosed” house, where new plywood has been tacked onto the windows just over the past couple of days:

…and the house next to it, in similar condition:

We walked up a couple of blocks back towards our house, away from the highway, and were treated with the sight of this yard full of “collectables”:

Then we turned down the alley which eventually leads to our house, and I took a picture of this garage and back yard which had caught my eye over the past few walks:

A few doors down, this house shot from the alley:

Further down the alley, on the other side, was this structure which looks older than the others:

Another sad house, with a larger weedy lot, taken from the alley:

And now for something more cheerful — a couple shots of the Fall colors:

James asked me to take a picture of this place with the tall pine and the tiny smudge of the moon to the left:

Walk #2 (today)

I took a break from writing the above to go on this morning’s walk. It’s one of the few overcast days we’ve had since we arrived on Oct. 6th. It looks like it’s going to rain soon, so we were glad to do the walk beforehand.

I suggested to James that we walk in the opposite direction from our house than we did yesterday, so I could take a picture of this colorful assemblage at “The Kings”:

An informal playground for the kiddies:

Lots of local residents park their cars and boats in their yards:

Here’s a sad little house. For some reason I could actually see myself living in this, if it were spruced up.

…and the house directly across the street:

Many yards have wood ready to be split:

I trust that the string of lights in this front yard make this place look better at night (with passing shot of Ringo):

A typical alley in the ‘hood:

A bit o’ this and a bit o’ that, including Halloween decor:

Another temporary change-of-scene with more Fall colors:

More creative Halloweening:

Combining “car in the hood” with Fall color:

As we approached the following house a few doors down from the car, the dog in the front yard started barking furiously. I snapped the shot without realizing that I caught the owner, who emerged to see what all the barking was about:

I don’t think he saw me taking the picture. I noticed him standing in front of his door afterwards, when we had already passed by, and he didn’t even look in our direction as he was so focused on his barking dog.

James and I are back on the road with Phantom, briefly, for the three-week show run in Spokane.

It’s like deja-vu all over again…

The two-day drive up here was unexpectedly beautiful, through central and north Nevada, then eastern Oregon and Washington.

Neither of us had been in that part of the country before. It’s always a refreshing change to drive along different highways, instead of the usual suspects such as I-40, I-80 or I-20. We’ve been up and down those roads too many times!

As soon as we crossed eastward over the green, pine forested Sierras last Sunday morning, the terrain in Nevada abruptly turned to desert. Bare, brown sandy mountains shimmered in the background while sparse clumps of low sagebrush-like vegetation surrounded the highway on the desert floor. It rather reminded me of the Mojave: stark and desolate.

It is a land rich in minerals; industrial processing and hydroelectric plants could be seen occasionally in the brown, hazy distance, adjacent to little towns carved out of the desert which service the factories.

The advent of Fall manifested in very subtle ways with compact, scrubby sagebrush in red and orange hues lining the roadside.

There were more flashes of green near Winnemucca in north-central Nevada, with more cattle ranches. Winnemucca is a town of cowboys and hookers and casinos, with a slightly disreputable, hardscrabble atmosphere. It is in the middle of nowhere, where gas prices are even higher than in California, because of the remoteness. Drivers are a captive audience there, at $4.19 a gallon for the lowest fuel grade.

When we entered town, a police cruiser kept a discreet distance behind us as James carefully observed the 25-mph speed limit. We weren’t about to give the local constabulary the satisfaction of nailing us “out-of-staters”, adding to their coffers!

The terrain grew more dramatic as the larger mountain ranges appeared closer to the highway as we headed north towards Oregon. There was slightly more moisture here, with fields of brilliant yellow mustard and occasional stands of trees nestled between the mountains.

Eastern Oregon has a great deal of variety in its terrain, from low, flat prairies to “mesas” such as are found in New Mexico, to steep, winding roads wending their way through lava moonscapes, then through more green swatches of ranchland.

We stopped overnight in Ontario, Oregon which is near the Idaho border, at a Motel 6 which is relatively inexpensive and allows pets.

We were pleasantly surprised that our dog Ringo and cat Rupert traveled well in the confines of our small car, a Scion XB. Rupert spent the whole time on my lap in front, with occasional trips to the back where Ringo had just enough space to lie down. He and Ringo seemed perfectly comfortable to be in close proximity, which was definitely a relief!

The next morning, we drove up through the rest of eastern Oregon, with even more dramatic mountains closer to the often winding road. The trees are now starting to show their Fall colors, mostly yellows.

At last we emerged at the top of a pass through which we could see an amazing vista of flatlands spreading out far below.

I took some video footage of this, along with some brief shots of Nevada the previous day; hopefully this will provide some idea of the spectacular country we passed through.

As we progressed through the eastern part of Washington, the land gradually turned more green again, with more grassland and trees. The areas became more densely populated as we approached Spokane in the late afternoon on Monday.

We arrived at our rental house after about fourteen hours of total driving-time over two days.

It turned out to be a fairly pleasant trip and we weren’t totally exhausted.

The place where we are staying for three weeks is a very pleasant Craftsman-style brick cottage, built in 1922. It has one bedroom and is about 850 square feet, which is actually spacious for James and me, as we spent many years living full-time in an Airstream travel trailer while on the road.

There are attractive built-in cabinets and moldings in this house, which adds personality and charm. It is located in a rather “basic” neighborhood which, at least, appears to be on its way up rather than down.

There is a huge Fred Meyer grocery store nearby which is very convenient, and it takes less than ten minutes to drive westward to the theatre in downtown Spokane — even better!

It feels good to be playing Phantom again, actually. I am comfortable with the show routine; I know what to expect after ten years of doing the drill. The people in the company are very nice and are always glad to see me, which is gratifying. I feel fulfilled in my horn-playing career in a way that has been sporadic over the past year and a half; the show continues to please a lot of people, and I feel appreciated for what I do.

I wouldn’t necessarily wish to go back on the road full-time again, but these occasional returns are fine. This week, James and I are settling back into the rhythm of this life away from home, after long years of practice. It is now made more bearable by the fact that we’ll be back in our wonderful place in The Woods by the end of this month.

We are enjoying having a dog very much. Here in Spokane, Ringo takes us on walks through the neighborhood several times a day, providing much-needed exercise and fresh air for all concerned.