Friday, January 23, 2015

Majestic Flagstaff

[For daily updates, more pictures, and humor follow me on Facebook and Twitterer (different content posted to each)  https://m.facebook.com/sierra.sugar ]


When I was in the 5th grade my parents and I went on a two-week trip from Florida to Albuquerque, NM, with a short trip over to Flagstaff, Arizona.  I don't remember much from that entire trip except the backseat of the Oldsmobile car my parents had at the time.  You see, the morning we left they woke me up to leave, I took two steps into the garage to get in the car and threw up.  And that was pretty much my entire trip.  I spent it sick in the backseat.

I vaguely remember stops in Texas, in New Mexico at the Carlsbad Caverns, the Grand Canyon, and even one day when my dad tried to take me snow skiing at Flagstaff, the mountain for which the city is named.  The only thing I remember about that morning is vomiting copious amounts of orange juice.  It seemed more than any 9 year old little girl's body could ever possibly hold.  My dad turned around and took me back to the hotel to stay with my mother.  I don't even remember seeing the mountain, or snow, or anything.

The other morning Allen woke me up with hot coffee and kisses.  “Baby time to get up, we're near Flagstaff and I want you to see everything.”  There at the truck stop I could see the mountain rising out of the flatland, sitting there like a snow-capped crown on a pillow of brown and green velvet.  I took some pictures but it was still so far away.


 As we drove, I kept taking pictures.  And driving and taking pictures.


And more driving and taking more pictures.  Distance is deceiving when you're out in the middle of desert land.  We drove for 80 miles with the mountain ever creeping closer yet still out of reach.


When we finally got to the base of Flagstaff it was more breathtaking than I could have imagined.


I tried to remember anything from my childhood, but sadly no images could be recalled.  I tried to imagine my dad skiing down the snow covered lanes towering so high above me.  I remember dad telling me his ski instructor looked just like John Denver.  As we drove around the mountain all I could do was smile and watch in wonder, my heart swelling with love for this man I share my life with.  One amazing experience after another, day by day, mile by mile, he is showing me the world.  I may not have many childhood memories but I am making uncountable new ones with him.  And that is what love, life, and happiness is all about.

~sierra

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cloud Making Machine


[For daily updates, more pictures, and humor follow me on Facebook and Twitterer (different content posted to each)  https://m.facebook.com/sierra.sugar ]

Have you ever seen a cloud making machine?  I bet you have and you just didn't realize it.  The magic is hidden from the more jaded mind of most adults.  Cloaked in innocence, only the innocent mind can see the beauty beneath the grime of the real world.  In a magical place not to far away the world around us is buzzing with all sorts of magic.  It's a place where children can grow up to teach the cows how to moo.  It's a world where shoes grow on trees.  It's a life filled with silver linings and pots of gold.  It's a world where underneath the ugly is unimaginable beauty.  And it all flourishes within the mind of a child and their unrestrained and untainted imagination.

Drive down any road around any city.  Look through the haze and smog and try to see it through the eyes of a child.  There in the middle of all the metal and dirt stands a majestic cloud making machine pumping out clouds of every size, sort, and color.  From white fluffy sunshine clouds to dark and ominous black storm clouds.  They form as thins wisps dancing on a blue stage, or bellow into the sky with a vengeance.  To you and me they are power plants, steel plants, paper mills, and other such mundane factory work places.  Oh but to the child they are where the clouds are made.  They are beautiful and special.  I mean, really, it isn't every day you get to see the wonders of a cloud making machine in full cloud mode now is it?

So the next time you see a sky covered in smog and smoke from the necessary but odiferous factories that populate our world providing jobs, materials, foods, and fuels, stop for a moment to look through the eyes of a child and smile.  In our grown up world smog and pollution are horrible things ruining the natural clean air and resources of our planet.  But in the world of a child they are the magical formations of clouds and all the magical cloud creatures they find in the sky.  Seeing it as a child doesn't change the facts of reality, but maybe for a moment it will bring a smile to you day.

And that my friends, that smile, is the magic peeking through.

~sierra

A cloud making machine for Eric.
*Inspired by our neighbor's little boy and his statement that it was a special day because he got to see a cloud making machine.  Out of the mouth of babes the world is a much simpler place.  Thank you Eric for the smile and the reminder that magic does still exist.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Night Before Christmas



[For daily updates, more pictures, and humor follow me on Facebook and Twitterer (different content posted to each)  https://m.facebook.com/sierra.sugar ]

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donner, and Blitzen.
But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?

It's that time of year where Christmas Carols are on every radio station, “Its a Wonderful Life” is playing on TV, and all the little children are anxiously awaiting what wonderful surprises might be under the tree come tomorrow morning.  It truly is the night before Christmas.  And did you know you can now track Santa and his sleigh as he makes his way around the world?  Just go here and find out how close he is to your house.  He really puts those reindeer through a workout this one night of the year; a 24-hour midnight race around the world.

Ever wonder how those reindeer train for such a demanding event?  I'll let you in on a little secret.

Watch out for flying reindeer!  

You see these signs all over the highways and roadways throughout America, even the world.  Yep, that's right!  These are the practice pathways for Santa's team of coursers.  Throughout the year they race through mountains and valleys, woodlands and hills, up and down, and over the rivers and through the woods, but not necessarily to grandmother's house.  Atleast, not until Christmas Eve.

I'm sure they take some time off after the mad dash of Christmas Eve.  But not for too long, as they have to stay in shape for the next year.  With that in mind, off they go, the experienced and the hopeful, of all Santa's reindeer training to be the next Dasher or Blitzen.  Talk about hiding in plain sight!  So next time you're out driving around and notice these yellow caution signs for flying reindeer, look around, you just might get lucky and catch a streaking red glimpse of Rudolph's glowy nose.

Merry Christmas everyone!

~sierra


Kitty kissing Santa Claus!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Memories of Mom & Crochet



[For daily updates, more pictures, and humor follow me on Facebook and Twitterer (different content posted to each)  https://m.facebook.com/sierra.sugar ]

My mother was an amazing woman.  She was smart, soft-spoken, friendly to everyone unless they gave her a reason not to be... and then watch out.  She didn't take anything from people.  She had a her own sense of style, an understated elegance that was tasteful and classy, and very feminine.  Part Irish and part Cherokee, she had a beauty that matched her style.  She had the long, silky, thick, straight hair of the Cherokee, liquid silver in color unlike any other I've ever seen, along with the high cheekbones so prominent in the American Indians.  And yet her skin was covered in freckles.  She was a lady.  She was a wife.  She was a mother.  And she is missed every single day.

Some of my most fond memories of my mother are of her being involved in one of her many arts and crafts hobbies.  She did sketching, home d├ęcor and design, bead work, jewelry making, sewing, stained glass, painting, quilting, and crocheting just to name a few.  She was good at everything she did.

Ever since I was a little girl I always wanted to crochet.  It was something I grew up seeing my mother and my grandmothers do.  I loved all the things they made.  At one point my mother even owned a yarn and crochet shop.  I would try and try.  Mom tried to teach me.  Both my grandmothers tried to teach me.  Over the years various friends would try.  But, I could never get the hang of it.  I'm sure in no small part due to my lack of patience.  I wanted to do it, and it be perfect... now!  And art just doesn't work that way.

With the weather turning colder, my mind once again returned to thoughts of my mom and the things she would make.  I was determined to learn to crochet once and for all.  Its something I can do in the truck while we are moving, unlike drawing which requires the truck to be stationary due to all the bumps and such in the road.  We were in the craft section and he bought me a book, a DVD, some yarn and several various sized crochet hooks.  I studied the book, practiced some of the stitches.  Watched several videos on how to crochet.  And finally I think I have gotten the hang of it.

He's been incredibly supportive and encouraging, especially when I would get frustrated.  I've actually finished a few small practice pieces and he just bought me the yarn to try to make my very first afghan.  Needless to say I am incredibly excited.  But there is also a part of me that is melancholy as I wish my mother were here to finally see me able to crochet.  I wish there was a way to turn back the clock, or change the past, and allow me a cool afternoon of crocheting on the couch, sipping coffee, and talking with my mom as she was busy crocheting too.

Mom, I love you.  And you are missed every single day.



~sierra

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Can't we all just get along?



[For daily updates, more pictures, and humor follow me on Facebook and Twitterer (different content posted to each)  https://m.facebook.com/sierra.sugar ]


The holidays are always a busy time of year.  People rushing from work, home, stores, and other various places getting ready for what ever festivities are included in their traditions.  The roads always seem more crowded and plagued with accidents.  We all like to think we are safe drivers.  “It”, meaning an accident, would never happen to us.  But chances are in your lifetime you will be involved in at least one automobile accident of some kind.

Slow down.  Be aware.  Leave space between vehicles.  Look for an out.  Don't text/talk on the phone and drive.  These are all common sense driving tips everyone is familiar with.  They are preached to us from the time we start driving.  But very few people are ever really taught how to drive around big trucks.  There is a common misconception that truck drivers are reckless, always in a hurry, speeding, or just other wise in the way of the common average American commuting on the highways.  Now granted, there are a few bad apples in every bunch, truck drivers and auto drivers alike.  I'd like to think though for the most part many of the accidents and aggravation come from simple ignorance, which can be remedied with a bit of education and a touch of patience.

Historical Fact:  Route 66 was the first fully paved highway in the United States.  It was completed to help truckers carry goods from the Midwest to the West coast and back.  It was later used for tourists and vacationers as a way to see the western part of the country.

Here are a few tips to help everyone as they go about their days and nights on the road preparing for the holidays, and every day beyond.  A little bit of education goes a long way.  Please pass this along and help make the roads safer for you, your loved ones, and everyone else out there.

The average car (4-wheeler in trucker terms) weighs about 4500lbs.

The average SUV or truck weighs about 7000lbs.

The average Tractor (without a trailer on the back), also known as a “Bobtail” weighs about 17000lbs – 20000lbs.

The average Tractor/Trailer combination when empty weighs about 35000lbs.

A Tractor/Trailer fully loaded weighs 80000lbs and up.  The more axels on a trailer the more weight it is pulling.

Speaking of weight and big trucks, they can't speed up and slow down like the average car.  It takes a lot of momentum, horsepower, and torque to get a big truck up a hill.  Typically a truck driver will try to gain a little extra speed before heading up a steep incline depending on how much weight he or she is pulling.  As the truck starts loosing power up the hill they will downshift for more pulling power.  If you block a truck in while going up a hill you are slowing that momentum down and making it infinitely harder for that truck to make it up the hill.  80,000lbs is a LOT of dead weight to haul and they need that speed.  So if you see a trucker coming up behind you on an incline, try to let him by if you can.  It's easier for you in a car to slow down and speed up on a hill than that heavily weighted truck.

Inversely, a fully loaded truck going down hill gains momentum and speed.  The weight of the freight in the trailer pushes the tractor down.  Unlike car brakes, when a big truck's brakes get hot they don't work at all.  Truckers rely on engine brakes and lower gear ratios to safely and somewhat slowly get them down the hill.

So that trucker you are annoyed with for slowing you down to a crawl up a hill and then appearing to race you down the hill, isn't being a jerk.  They are simply working within the mechanics of the truck they drive.  It's physics, nothing more.

When you are diving your car, truck, or SUV think about what happens when you hit the brakes.  How long does it take for you to stop when you are traveling 30mph?  65Mph?  When the roads are dry?  When the roads are wet?  It takes a big truck MUCH longer!  They can't just stop on a dime, or even a dollar.  If you cut off a big truck and then hit your brakes to slow down, you are just asking to be rear ended.  The laws of physics aren't in your favor, as there simply is no way a big truck can stop that fast.  And believe it or not, an empty truck and a bobtail are even more difficult to stop than a truck that is fully loaded.  That 3-car lengths you were taught in drivers ed that is necessary to leave between you and the next CAR, needs to be increased triple between you and a big truck.

On most highways the laws governing truckers prohibits them from being in the left lane except to pass.  If there are 3-4 lanes, the furthest left lanes are completely illegal for a big truck to travel in except in the case of road construction or accidents.  When you see a truck in the left lane just hanging out there with a blinker on, it is trying to get back in the right lane in accordance with the law.  And yes, police officers and DOT officers WILL pull them over for being in the wrong lane for too long, even if a car was holding them up for getting back in the right lane.

And why would a big truck be in the passing lane?  Traveling speed of course.  Big trucks get horrible fuel milage, 4-8mpg is the average.  Yes, 4-8.  And with the cost of diesel, you can image how much it costs to fill up each time.  Even a half a tank can cost $400!  It is better for fuel milage to maintain a steady speed than to speed up or down.  Every little bit helps the pocket book.  Owner/operators pay for their own fuel.  Company drivers get a discount, but often some of the cost still comes out of their pay.  And many of them only get those discounts or help IF they maintain a certain mpg per load.  So all that slowing down, speeding up, stopping, braking, etc, eats up their mpg!  Be kind, let a truck driver over to pass, or back in the proper lane without forcing them to race or play leap frog.  That would aggravate you, so it does them too.

When you are back there hanging out waiting for a trucker to come over, yet he just doesn't, chances are he can't see you.  He knows you're back there but not sure where.  If you can't see their side mirrors the trucker can't see you.  Ease up a little or speed up and get by him.  He's waiting on you to be clear of his trailer so he doesn't hit you.

The right side of a big truck is more dangerous than the left.  That is their “blind side”.  If at all possible always pass a big truck on the left.  And on either side, don't just hang out there by the trailer and tires.  That makes the truck driver nervous.  It's unsafe for you there.  For one, there is a good chance he can't see you.  And for two, if one of those tires blows it will total your car!  Seriously, those  tires are under so much air pressure, if it blows it can literally rip your pretty little Toyota easily in half.  If it will do that to a metal frame of a car, imagine what it will do to you?  Many people get nervous driving around big trucks or passing.  It's understandable.  But the worst possible thing you can do is just hang out back there.  Back off or get by them.  But remember when you pass don't cut them off and then slam on your brakes.

Many of the trucks on the roads today are “governed”, meaning their engine is programmed to not exceed a certain speed.  The companies put these restrictions on the truckers to prohibit speeding and to help with fuel milage.  It is hard coded into the ECM, the electronic brain of the engine.  It isn't something the trucker can bypass.  Some are limited to 58mph, some 60mph, some 62 or 65mph.  Not all trucks are governed, but many are.  So if it seems like a truck is taking forever to get around you, or just won't speed up, chances are he simply can't make that truck go any faster than it already is going.

Truck drivers communicate by CB radio.  If you see a truck driver suddenly slow down, or all the trucks trying to get over in a specific lane, you might want to follow suit.  They know what is up ahead, whether it is a cop with a radar, an accident, or construction.  They are slowing down or changing lanes for a reason, and it's not to interrupt your commute.

Many people think Truck Drivers are a poorly educated, untrained, unregulated bunch of miscreants let loose on the road.  Truth is many truck drivers are military veterans.  Many more have been traveling this country for 20-30 years.  They know the roads.  They know the history.  They follow and are active in the the laws of this country, not just road laws, but all laws.  They understand the workings of our government, the history of this country, the beauty of the land, and the inner streets of even the biggest cities.  For the most part they are good-hearted, family-oriented, softies just trying to make a living like you and me.

The fact is, that the trucking industry is highly regulated.  Truck drivers are limited in the number of hours they can be on duty, how many hours in a day they can drive, and how many hours in a 24-hour period they have to be off duty and in their sleeper.  Their trucks and trailers are inspected by DOT officers regularly.  Their CDL is highly regulated and they are protective of that.  Trust me they don't want to be the cause of an accident any more than you do. But a truck driver can only be as safe as the other vehicles around them.  A CDL isn't just handed to them, it is expensive to obtain and there is a huge book of laws, rules, and regulations they must study and learn. Further, each endorsement (hazmat, doubles, etc.) are expensive to get and to maintain.  Their driver logs are now electronically maintained are considered a legal federal document.

Big Trucks, 18-wheelers, Tractor/Trailers, or what ever other nickname you have for them make up a large and growing portion of the traffic on our highways and city streets.  They are a necessity.  Truck drivers are the heartbeat of America.  Everything you see, use, eat, wear, or otherwise own is transported across country via truck drivers and their big trucks.  Even the supplies to make the roads, your houses, even your landscaping is carried in some form by a tractor/trailer.  From crop to commerce, from lab to hospital, from warehouse to home, everything each of us use every single day is there because of a truck driver.  They are a necessity.  So think twice before you grumble about the trucks on the road.  And remember a few of these tips to help make the road safer and more pleasant for you and the truckers alike.

~sierra. (aka Kitty)

Monday, December 1, 2014

True Gun Control = Our Right to Bare Arms!

*DISCLAIMER*  I rarely post political opinions because they are a hot topic and trigger arguments. This however, is a topic I am passionate about. And if I can't express my opinion on my own blog then there is much more wrong with this world. Agree or disagree with me, but no arguing, no name calling, and above all else be respectful and considerate of differing opinions. Diversity is beautiful. 

Someone posted a meme stating "how did a well regulated militia get twisted to mean a well armed unregulated populace?"
I love how all these political memes on both sides of any issue fail to take in all considerations and historical precedence. The history of the American population is diverse and based not just on events from our own country but from the long history of England and other governments much older than our own. Specifically, what those governing bodies did that the citizens and government of the newly formed United States wanted to avoid. 
The provisions for the individual states' militias stated for every able bodied male between the ages 18 and 54.  Every male citizen was required by law to carry arms and ammunition. There was provisions for them to report twice a year for some minimal training, but it wasn't well regimented. These essentially unorganized militia served as a sort of check and balance against the more organized national guard, army reserve, and national army and navy, as well as the government that controlled them. They were to protect the citizens of the states against tyranny, abuse of political power, local crisis, and foreign invasion. 

The laws, amendments, alterations, and revisions are many. Some over the years have been contradictory. But the spirit of the initial laws passed by our forefathers was to ensure the right of this country's citizens to bare arms. It is one of the many CORE issues this country was founded on, not something added later. Since politics, money, power, and greed are seeds of a destuctive weed that will thrive even in "civilized" societies, this is a right we can ill afford to relinquish. 
This argument has nothing to do with unwell or evil minds hell-bent on destruction and murder. Those people will always find a way to carry out their destruction regardless of laws in place or availability of needed items. This is about the majority, the average American citizen's inalienable right to protect themselves and their families and towns from not just sick individuals, but a government out of control. Money, power, and corruption go hand in hand. Every society from the dawn of time has fallen into those traps.  The combined wisdom of our founding fathers knew this and gave the new citizens the right to protect themselves from such a fate. It may or may not work, but without this provision in place, we as a population stand zero chance against such an eventuality.

"Civilian control of a peacetime army

At the time of the drafting of the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, a political sentiment existed in the newly formed United States involving suspicion of peacetime armies not under civilian control. This political belief has been identified as stemming from the memory of the abuses of the standing army of Oliver Cromwell and King James II, in Great Britain in the prior century, which led to theGlorious Revolution and resulted in placing the standing army under the control of Parliament.[18] During the Congressional debates, James Madison discussed how a militia could help defend liberty against tyranny and oppression:
The highest number to which a standing army can be carried in any country does not exceed one hundredth part of the souls, or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This portion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Besides the advantage of being armed, it forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. The governments of Europe are afraid to trust the people with arms. If they did, the people would surely shake off the yoke of tyranny, as America did. Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors."- (Source I Annals of Congress 434, June 8, 1789)

Tench Coxe, a prominent American political economist of the day (1755–1824) who attended the earlier constitutional convention in Annapolis, explained (in the Pennsylvania Federal Gazette on June 18, 1789) the founders' definition of who the militia was intended to be and their inherent distrust of standing armies under the direct control of 'civil rulers' when he wrote:
The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American ...the unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.
The militia, who are in fact the effective part of the people at large, will render many troops quite unnecessary. They will form a powerful check upon the regular troops, and will generally be sufficient to over-awe them.
Whereas civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as military forces, which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms."

~sierra

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Clear hair, Cold nights


[For daily updates, more pictures, and humor follow me on Facebook and Twitterer (different content posted to each)  https://m.facebook.com/sierra.sugar ]


One of the hardest things to get used to while being over the road in a big truck is not being able to take a shower every day. When you're under a load that has a tight time table finding time to stop and shower isn't always possible. Every time we get fuel we earn shower credits at places like Flying J, Loves, Petro, and Pilot truckstops.  But we can't always stop at those when he has to drive until his time is out.

Last night was one of those no truck stop nights.  Instead we stopped on a "get on ramp" off the interstate in the middle of the desert.  It was late and dark, and the stars were so bright in the sky miles away from any city lights.  The Milky Way just jumped out at you like special effects at a 3d movie.  Despite the spectacular view I couldn't relax because my head was itching. My hair needed washing and bad!

This was the view to random passerbyers.  Me standing outside the truck, the top of my head barely reaching the bottom of the door. The desert winds blowing, dropping the already chilly air to near freezing while I used a spray bottle to wet my hair. Thankfully, I keep a small bottle of Dr. Bronners castille soap on the truck. It cleans and refreshes wonderfully, removing oil and dirt without tons of bubbles and lather to try and rinse away. The bad thing about it is, it has peppermint in it, which is cooling.



Scrubbing the soap into my wet hair, in the cold night air, my poor little fingers were frozen. Then the fun part.  He had a gallon jug of rinse water which he slowly poured over my head. So here I am bent over, head turned upside down, combing my numb fingers through my hair as he poured cold water over it right there off the side of the interstate. Yay for teamwork!  It didn't take much water thankfully and my hair was fresh and clean.

Clean hair finally, and I was able to sleep last night all snuggled up to him to keep warm.  Tonight we get a hot showers somewhere near Fort Worth, TX.

~sierra