Thursday, August 28, 2014

Harvest Day

The first time I went on the lavender tour (2008 was it?), it was for the beauty of the lavender fields and photographing that beauty. It doesn't hurt that I love Provence. As far as lavender's scent goes, I didn't have the most favorable of associations. Great grandmas were so heavily perfumed with it in the day that its cloying sweetness overwhelmed me. I didn't expect when I went on the trip that I might want to buy lavender products.

I approached sniffings warily and found most plants and products were much lighter and fresher than my memories. This might not be so bad!

I'd have to get out all my calendars to count the times I returned, three or four times for sure. I still go mainly for the photography, but scent of lavender, used judiciously, I'm liking now.

Years ago, my folks planted lavender in their front yard. The plants survive to this day, as Sister and Brother-in-Law live there about half-time now, and I've picked a few little bunches from time to time. One bunch I left on the dashboard of my car for a year or more and discovered that the scent could be revived by giving the bunch a tap. And although a spritz of lavender on a pillow is supposed to help you sleep, that little blast in the car wakes me up when I get drowsy driving.

After my room addition last year, the planter boxes in front of my house were extended across the new part of the house. I had my landscape lady plant lavender in the new portion. A week or two ago, I talked with her about when the lavender might need pruning. She was working on ridding my iris of white fly, but thought she'd trim the lavender "next time."  Heck, I didn't want it tossed out with the weeds and trimmings, I wanted it. I could make little bundles to use as a room freshener. Air needs freshening when you have inside cats. Since the landscape lady would be back today to get the watering timer set properly, I figured I better get busy on the harvest.

Today was harvest day. Some of the shoots were a bit over the hill, but they still smell good. And "drying" is what I had planned for them anyway. There isn't a lot, just enough for a few bunches, and I did not denude the plants.

Here are the iris, earlier in the year, in the flower bed that's along the front of the old part of the house.

Right next to my photo of the iris in the album is this quilt top that Donna put together in Spring Quilt camp, in accidental harmony with the iris and lavender.  If you look closely, you'll discover that this is her Elvis Quilt. What a neat  color coincidence.

Here's the spring version of the lavender plants, looking scrawny and disheveled.

Ten rooms, ten bundles of lavender, hung up to dry,

They make interesting shadows on the wall.

Good night. Maybe I'll spritz some lavender on my pillow and get me to sleep earlier tonight.


Little Toes and Rock 'n' Roll

The phrase "lazy days of summer" comes to mind. It describes my current mood and actions. Nothing noteworthy for day after day, nothing rising to the level of blog worthiness. Teetering stacks of papers await me, unsorted, unfiled. My customized itinerary for the next trip needs to be completed.

Oh, the usual: Needle Crafts. I have photos somewhere. There has been a flurry of baby hats and socks created in sizes from preemie to bigger babies to be donated to nurseries in hospitals.

And movies were seen. Have I mentioned that?  My car needed an oil change and new brakes, so courtesy service dropped me off at the Regal 10 and I watched Hercules in 3-D and Sex Tape in lots of nudity. (Who brings their pre-teen to Sex Tape? Doesn't the title alone give pause?) I went to a Stage 3 Theatre performance of On Golden Pond. I attended an out-of-town orientation for the next trip I'm going on and delivered pocket itineraries to the other participants. Then Sister and I went to see 3-D Guardians of the Galaxy.

I haven't seen that many movies in so short a period since my radiation vacation five years ago, when I took in at least one movie between twice-daily radiation treatments for a week.

Sister and I got word through the grapevine at NeedleCrafts that one of our small local eateries was shutting their doors after Sunday breakfast so the owners could help out their elderly mother who lives to the north. It's been a go-to place for hearty sandwiches and scrumptious home made pies, and big breakfasts, including Sunday blueberry pancakes that rival the best blueberry pancakes in these parts. Sister and I went to that last Sunday breakfast for blueberry pancakes. The place had a steady stream of locals who regularly eat there, many of us who came for the last hurrah, and random tourists who dropped in and sometimes dropped out because service was leisurely under the circumstance. I overate, because I didn't intend to leave a single bite of blueberry pancakes behind. (Alas, no pictures. Why did I not memorialize?)

Later that day that I got a call from Sister asking whether I had the phone number of the new-in-town podiatrist. She'd jammed her little toe into a door and thought it was broken. Funny, I had just looked up his number a day or two earlier because I have a tender spot on the ball of my foot that I want looked at before my next trip. She called me the next morning, having gotten an order for an X-ray from him and an appointment on Thursday with him, so we had another outing to the Little City Down the Hill where they keep the X-ray machines. I called him not long after she had to get my own appointment for Thursday.

Tuesday morning, I had occasion to post these words on Facebook:  "I guess those darn doors into the garage are out to get me, too (see my sister's encounter on Sunday). As I opened the door a little while ago, it scraped across my little toe. Ow. I leaned down to see whether it had messed up my toe nail. There is blood. I'll pull the Kleenex off in a little while to see what happened. It's not nearly as serious as sister's injury, I'm sure, but a bit ironic." That hurt-y part of the door was weatherstripping.

This was the chain of events that led up to Sister's a.m. appointment with the podiatrist. He confirmed that her toe is indeed broken. Treatment is to continue with pretty much what she has been doing, buddy-taping it. At my appointment in the afternoon, he discovered that the nail on the pinkie toe had been split vertically, so he took half of it off.  There was infection on the tip of the toe, so my prescription is to soak it in Epsom salts twice daily for several days. I need to get gel insoles for the original problem of the bump on my foot I made the appointment for.

*     *     *     *     *

Saturday was a big day in our Little Town. We -- Sister, Brother-in-Law and I -- had anticipated that a couple of overlapping events might strain downtown parking, but there were more events than we knew. We were heading for a return performance of the Life in the Fast Lane Eagles Tribute Band. They'd played at the hotel two years ago and were back by popular demand.

Our crowd strategy was to get to town early to get the car parked, then go to the Mexican restaurant for dinner. There had been the strong temptation to the All You Can Eat Shrimp and Sausage BBQ put on by the Rotary at the other end of town, but it didn't serve until two hours before the concert and it just felt like it cut too close. We thought the crowd going to the historical society would clear out the restaurant by about 6:30. They didn't. We were wait-listed at 45 minutes. To be on the safe side, we went to the tea shop for dessert first, while we waited. Me, slow eater, was panicking when we didn't get seated in the restaurant until 7:20. Order, wait, eat, pay, walk back over to the hotel in 40 minutes? My bowl of cereal and cup of coffee for breakfast takes me 40 minutes.

We picked up a solo diner and ate as a foursome, thus making one table available for the next party on the list. As I was sitting there, I realized I'd forgotten my camera. My camera! My way of remembering, reliving the concert, putting it here, in my "diary."  I would lose my parking space if I made a run for home. Sister volunteered BIL's camera, since I have a front row seat and they're in the fourth row. So the following photos  of are made with an unfamiliar camera.

Life in the Fast Lane Eagles Tribute Band - introductions

"Hit it!"

Dance ladies

Lonnie Garcia, bass, vocals

Jeff Poppinga, keyboards & vocals

Rick Rickets, left-handed guitar, vocals

Perpetual Motion Man

A crowd on the balcony as well

Brian Eldridge, drums, vocals, hidden toward the back

Perpetual Motion Man Matt Barrett, guitar, vocals

The dance ladies were up from the get-go, and the small dance floor was crowded all night long, with a significant proportion of the crowd with white hair. Well, let's face it, we're still the rock and roll generation. No one said we had to age into our own grannies' music. I can't remember lyrics to the songs, which most of the people could, but I sing along anyway.

I guess you could call them Perpetual Motion Ladies.

Oft-crowded dance floor
No fixed dance partner required,
everyone's in motion

I so wanted to get up and dance, but I worried that the wide-ranging perpetual motion ladies, or a couple of men swinging their partners enthusiastically would step on my toe. One lady coaxed me up and I cautiously moved around at the edges of the dance floor for a bit. Later on, Sister made her way up from the fourth row and we danced to Hotel California, her knowing I'd be missing my husband and lover (one and the same, thank you) when I heard that song, a favorite. You can read more about the playlist and the band and my husband here when I blogged about it after Life in the Fast Lane was here two years ago .

A younger group of  fans gathers above.
They know the songs so they're not just snickering at the old folks!


Don't wait another two years to come back, guys.

Sister, Brother-in-law and Moi

In the course of writing this, I have managed to tie up a couple of the loose ends that had been bogging me down. But that's another story.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Two faces of a mountain

I was terrified the first time I went up Mont Ventoux. That was in 2011. The road has a reputation as a steep curvy drive, with long drop-offs. I was not a fan of scary roads. Most people coming to My Little Town for the first time (and often, subsequently) are similarly daunted by the grades on their approach to my home. With experience, I conquered my own scary hill, so Sister and I talked ourselves into making that optional Mont Ventoux visit.

That first drive up was not quite the horror I'd feared. It's a normal mountain drive through the wooded areas at the base, except for the plethora of bicyclists of all stripes pedaling upward. The road is fairly wide and smooth, as are the berms. Let's face it, trees shelter you from views of drop-offs. But the top of Mont Ventoux is just plain naked. I've read that it was denuded by logging activity in support of shipbuilding over several centuries, not a natural phenomenon such as being above the timberline. Neither is it snow-capped year around! The view from the top is unobstructed, a long slope that looks on the one hand so gentle, so wide, so seemingly protective against falling off the roadway. On the other hand, if you perchance started rolling on the crumbled limestone incline, not much would stop you.

Always, you hope for a clear day where you can see the countryside forever. After all, you can see the mountain from everywhere in the countryside, its peak often clad in clouds. That first-time view and views on subsequent visits never quite reached the hoped-for clarity. It's generally been cool up there, made even chillier by brisk winds that require a windbreaker, but we discovered it's great photo-hunting for the surprising variety of tiny flowers that eke out life in that austere environment.

There's a gift shop and crowds big or small, a myriad of events for bicycles (most noted, the Tour de France), motorcycles, sports cars, that include summiting or crossing over Mont Ventoux. The summit is 1912 meters (6273 feet) and winds there exceed 56+ miles per hour 240 days a year.

But this day, this year late in June in the first session of the lavender tour, is almost balmy on Mont Ventoux. It's almost clear.

The Malaucène road to Mont Ventoux

I'm in Beth's car. She knows of a stop with good  toilettes. That particular facility at the summit is not good. She turns off on a side road and drives past ski resorts and shops. Very resort-y. We see Lisa's car follow us initially, then turn around to go back to the main road. They've assumed Beth has made an error. Sister and Brother-in-Law's Morgan doesn't follow, nor does G's car.

A table in the sun, hot and cold beverages, a snack, a clean, comfortable restroom, way more reminiscent of the cozy old mountain resorts. We linger.

Nearing the top of Mont Ventoux

By the time we get to the top, our other cars are almost ready to leave. I want to linger at the top, too, for a bit. The crowds at the elevation marker rule out the traditional photo there, but I want to look for some flowers to photograph. For the first time ever I take off my jacket at the summit.

This guy on his recumbent bike was really huffing and puffing. This might be nice mode of transport on level terrain, but can any of you cyclists tell me how well this works going up something like an 8%+ grade?

Moi, on a glorious day on Mont Ventoux

The Morgan is on the third pass of the road on the summit.

Lisa with Sister and BIL

Bicyclists ascending, probably from Bédoin

Looking back toward our rest stop,
which is in the settled area down below

Stage 15 of the 2013 Tour de France ended on Mont Ventoux. This is a publicity photo for le 2013 Tour, not actual photos from that race.

Perhaps you'll recognize some of this road from the TV coverage of the Tour de France last year?

It's almost clear enough to see forever, the gentle face of Mont Ventoux.

*     *     *     *     *

Sister and Brother-in Law had left the lavender tour after the first session to go to a sports car event in Le Mans at the speedway, as did all the other participants. The second session with its new group of participants heads up Mont Ventoux in almost mid-July, two days after my faceplant. We've had periodic rainstorms during the past week, and have been assured a mistral would follow and the rain would be over. Winds had been blowing. But "Is this a mistral or isn't it?" we wondered as rainstorms continued to blow through. Down below, where we live, there are blue skies and occasional big billowy clouds. Amanda has replaced G as the third driver for the second session and I'm riding in her car. 

She has driven up Mont Ventoux before, but she is acutely uncomfortable with heights.

The beginning of the road from Malaucène looks much as usual. We've briefed all three drivers about the stopping place at Camping le Mont Serein and I point out the turnoff to Amanda. We pile out of the cars and head to the outdoor table for beverages. It doesn't take much longer for us to go back to the cars for jackets, and then move our imbibing inside the tiny dining room, along with people who were still breakfasting. Hmmm. Is this a clue to the day? 

Yes, a clue as we climb up into the fog that whips by us at mountain's edge. See the grasses, practically laid over by the wind?

Here's the view without the road in the foreground.

Amanda is white-knuckling the steering wheel. I keep reminding her to keep her eyes on the rear wheels of the car ahead, so she won't be tempted to look down. At the summit we score parking places.

I want to feel the wind. I'm striking terror in my fellow passengers at that thought. Someone hops out to help me control the door which the wind is going to whip away from me as soon as I open it. The car is between me and the wind, but I inch around, holding onto the car. Blue skies show through between tumbling clouds racing by the mountain.

The guys brace against the wind and take photos off the edge. I don't dare move away from the car. I cannot forget getting blown away once when I was a little kid.

We're heading farther east to the lavender fields in Sault, after which we have a luncheon date at a friend's house so we need to hit the road. We are heading down the road to Bédoin which will branch off to Sault with Amanda resolutely keeping her eyes on the road.

This is probably the scariest part of the road if heights are not your friend.

On the level at last! It's not very wide for the bicyclists.

We've now seen the turbulent face of Mont Ventoux.