Safe Winter Driving

Outside the front door, Dewey, AZ

In actuality, the safest thing to do when the snow is falling and the temperatures are below freezing is to just stay home. That was advice that I gave myself and planned on heeding in the future no matter what my husband, Bernd, might have to say.

Because we had everything set up for our move to Riverton, Wyoming at the beginning of December in 2020, we had no choice. South Pass was a mess. Never want to do that again.

It had snowed in Wyoming a day before we were to leave Arizona. It was a big snowfall. South Pass is one of the passes (Togwotee is the other) that go over the Continental Divide. It is almost a mile and a half in elevation and is the lowest point on the Divide. There was probably some other way to get to Riverton, but we had no idea what it might be.

It seemed like the road was mostly ice. The windshield washer in my Jeep had quit working. I was following Bernd in his Escape and it was making a mess of my windshield. We were creeping along and I thought it would never end. By the time we finally got to Riverton, I wanted nothing more than to sign the final papers, get the keys to our new house and pass out for a while.

But when we got to the house, the previous owners were still in it. Yes, they were mostly out, but they were not completely out for nearly an hour and a half of sheer torture. I kept thinking “please just get out of our house … NOW.”

However, what really inspired this post was something that happened while we were still living in Arizona and made me give myself that advice in the first paragraph. And yes, Arizona gets snow. Quite a lot of it, actually. Not all of Arizona is like Phoenix. Apparently that is a popular misconception. We lived at about 5,000 feet of elevation in central Arizona. It got cold and it got snowy

So anyway, one weekend, we had our first major snow storm. I don’t remember exactly when that was. Bernd and I found ourselves without much direction late on a Saturday afternoon and he suggested we go check out the new CAL Ranch store that opened up in downtown Prescott in the old Kmart building. I had wanted to do that for some time so I was pretty gung ho to go … except for the snow. Bernd thought it should be okay. I reminded him that Prescott was a few hundred feet higher in elevation than at home, but he was not to be deterred. Frankly, I was somewhat nonplussed by his desire to do this. Normally he didn’t have much interest in anything having to do with my obsession with horses at that time. Then I found out that on the way home from CAL Ranch, he wanted to check out the Fry’s grocery store in town.

All his co-workers had been telling him that it was better than the Fry’s that was closer to our home. Suddenly it all made sense to me. If it has to do with food, he’s all for it. So we dressed warmly, put on our sturdiest footwear and loaded ourselves into my Jeep.

The Jeep I had at the time was old, but still plucky. It had four-wheel drive and good tires. It did well in the cold weather, even if the power steering did tend to get a bit stiff. I topped of the gas tank at the gas station right at the entrance to our housing complex and we headed for downtown. We took the back way because it involves fewer traffic signals and I was already anticipating having trouble stopping.

As we drove into slightly higher elevations, the snow started coming down more thickly. The back road (Fain Road) had a speed limit of 65 miles per hour, but I found myself sticking to about 45 because the visibility was so bad. And mind you, it was still daylight. Albeit a very weak and watered down daylight.

The road had not been plowed and no cinder had been put down so my tires were making all sorts of squeaky noises in the snow. When I came to the first bridge, I could hear the crunch of ice under my tires. Because it was snowing so heavily, I could hardly see the first traffic signal even though I knew where it was. I drove this route several times a week on my way to visit the horses so I was very familiar with it. Still, I started to think about turning around and going home. But we forged on instead.

It was impossible to see the lane markings and we and the few other cars that were out were pretty much just driving in each other’s ruts. When I got to the traffic signal where I had to make a left turn onto Willow Creek Road where the CAL Ranch store was located, I had no idea if I was really in the turn lane or not. They hadn’t even plowed that major link between Prescott and Chino Valley yet.

With the snow still blowing and the sun barely lighting the day, we did make it safely to the parking lot of CAL Ranch. I parked and we enjoyed examining all that they had to offer. And it was a lot. Clothing, all sorts of boots, stuff for keeping pigs, chickens, goats, horses and you name it. Along with guns and rifles, and all sorts of hunting, fishing, and camping gear. It was heavenly.

By the time we were ready to leave, the sun had gone down and the temperature had dropped precipitously. And we thought it had been cold before that. Bernd said that maybe we should skip going to Fry’s and just go home. I thought that might be a good idea also. But I could feel his disappointment when I rapidly agreed.

We decided to go home the same way we had come rather than drive through downtown with its hundreds (okay, that’s an exaggeration) of traffic signals and some fairly steep hills. There is one piece of the main road (Gurley Street) that they close when it snows because it really is only good for sledding.

Leaving the CAL Ranch parking lot, I was extra careful to allow myself lots of stopping room. I had gotten immediately into the outside lane because the roads still hadn’t been plowed and it seemed to be more clear than the inside lane. I came to the first red traffic signal and stopped just fine. The next couple of traffic signals were green. But even so, I was only traveling at about 20 miles per hour. I thought that I had a better chance of stopping “suddenly” the slower I was going initially. Hah!

Unfortunately, I had to move into the inside lane due to a car that was stopped in the outside lane. Also unfortunately, the traffic signal just ahead was indicating by the walk/don’t walk signal that it was about to change to yellow and then red.

I had stayed in the inside lane after passing the stopped vehicle because it didn’t seem to be all that bad and crossing over the ridge of snow and ice between the lanes again didn’t really appeal to me all that well. The couple of cars behind me did, however, move back into the outside lane. I wish I had.

Right away when I saw that the signal was about to change, I started very carefully applying pressure to the brake pedal. Very carefully. The back end of my Jeep immediately began fishtailing all over the road. First one way and then the other as I let up and reapplied pressure. I realized that I was not going to be able to stop on what turned out to be ice and said so to Bernd. I looked at the intersection and saw that there was one cross-traffic car waiting to enter the intersection and I started laying on my horn. Just as I began to do that, Bernd rather excitedly told me to honk my horn. Thank you, Sweetie.

The light turned red before I got to the intersection and I went skating right on through. The car waiting to go waited until I had passed. The cars that had been behind me and had moved back into the outside lane were able to stop. I made careful note of that fact.

So, all of a sudden, I decided to stop at Fry’s after all. My nerves were a mess and I needed some time off of the road to calm down. I figured the roads weren’t going to get any worse than they already were. What I didn’t figure on was ice fog.

We had a nice time in Fry’s and picked up a few things that we could use. Bernd decided he was in the mood for hotdogs and so we found some without nitrites or nitrates and got some reasonably healthy buns (well, actually you probably wouldn’t want to eat them if they were actually healthy). We decided that Prescott’s Fry’s was not nicer than the Fry’s nearer to our home. Bernd said he wouldn’t have a need to go back there again anytime soon.

We spent enough time in the grocery store that my heart rate had returned to normal and the buzzing from adrenaline had abated. I could feel my hands again and I felt I was good to get us home.

When we left the Fry’s parking lot, I was so darn careful. I didn’t want to go ice skating with my Jeep ever again. I got into the outside lane and stayed there. I drove really slow and didn’t care what anyone might think. When the big black pickup truck flew by me in the inside lane, I thought it was an accident waiting to happen. Luckily, it didn’t happen before we made the turn off of Willow Creek Road.

All went relatively well until about the last, or what I thought was going to be the last, ten or so miles. That’s when we encountered the ice fog. I had been moving along at a nice 35-40 miles per hour after reaching a lower elevation and getting past the ice on the road. It had been just snow on the road for a couple of miles and I started to relax. But I could see ahead of us a wall of white and wondered what the heck we were heading into. Normal fog is bad enough, but ice fog is something else. Once again, we had to slow way down.

There was this one really big bump in the road that comes up just before the “off ramp” for Lakeshore Blvd. I knew that bump well so I knew where we were. Otherwise, we were just surrounded by white and couldn’t really see anything. I thought about pulling over.

 So why it’s called Lakeshore is a mystery to me unless it has something to do with the fact that all of Prescott Valley had been an inland sea at one time many eons ago. Why it’s an “off ramp” is an even bigger mystery. Anyway, after that bump, it was usually just a matter of minutes and about six miles to get home.

But, just ahead of me, I could barely make out a flashing light in the ice fog. I slowed down even more and approached it at a crawl. When I was very nearly right on top of it, I saw that it was a highway patrol vehicle. The officer was standing outside and behind it with a wimpy little flashlight signaling me to get off Fain Road at Lakeshore. I did and the “on ramp” to get back onto Fain was blocked by a snow plow. I thought they could have put that plow to much better use.

Bernd has no real sense of direction and so he was a little bit panicked at the detour. I was more incensed than anything else. I really, really, really, just wanted to be home and I had a good idea how far west on Lakeshore I was going to have to go before I’d come to a street that would take us to Highway 69 where I could head east toward our house. My few minutes from home turned into nearly a half an hour.

We did make it home safely and in one piece. And I acquired a new appreciation for traveling in winter weather. Honestly, I don’t know how folks back east deal with it all winter. Seems like there would have to be a lot of accidents, frayed nerves and cursing.

I know it might still be hard to imagine that it snows in Arizona, but I have lots of pictures to prove it. I’ve included one at the beginning of this post. It is the front yard of the house we had in Dewey, AZ.

Just in case you absolutely have to drive while it’s snowing, I’ve put together a few tips to help you:

  1. Just make any left turn from the outside lane. It’s probably the one most traveled in and more likely to be free of ice. Chances are there won’t be too many other foolhardy people on the road anyway. Hopefully.
  2. High beams are of no use whatsoever in an ice fog. And that trick people tell you about wearing your dark glasses is bull pucky.
  3. Allow way more stopping distance than you think you will need. Even then you’ll need more. Sometimes a lot more.
  4. Stop well back of the car in front of you. This allows you to test your stopping ability before rear ending them. Then too, it allows you some “wiggle” room when the person behind you looks like they are about to rear end you.
  5. Try not to stay out after dark. Previously clear roads will turn icy in the blink of an eye.
  6. Remember that ice will form first on the bridges.
  7. Do not make any sudden changes in direction even if you think you are going slowly enough.
  8. Do not do anything else but drive. I’m serious about this. Turn off the radio, do not have a conversation with any passenger, do not consult a map, and absolutely do not talk on your cell phone. Driving on snow and ice requires your complete attention.
  9. Keep at least one blanket in your vehicle in case you do have a problem. Some water and a few snacks are a good idea too. You can’t rely on emergency vehicles getting to you quickly.
  10. When you do get home safely, congratulate yourself and have a nice hot cup of something soothing. I did.
from pinterest


I’m not sure I know what happiness is. When I think about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced it.

I don’t mean that I am sad all the time. It’s just that I think happiness is a concept and not necessarily a reality.

I think I am more likely to be content. Or satisfied. Or fulfilled.

I can wrap my mind around those. But a good way to define happiness eludes me.

Then I looked online. Sometimes doing that is a good thing. Sometimes it is not. That’s just an observation. Has nothing to do with this post. has this to say about the definition of happiness: “Happiness is an emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment. While happiness has many different definitions, it is often described as involving positive emotions and life satisfaction.”

This definition used some of the terms I came up with and by this definition, I have indeed experienced “happiness.” But I still think the whole concept is overrated. The element of “joy” could be left out and I would still be content. Happiness and joy can be very fleeting. But contentment can last. I think that is what matters most.

And that’s my thought for the day.

“I Contain Multitudes:” A Book Review

“I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life” is written by Ed Yong.

Ed Yong (born December 17, 1981) is an award-winning science writer on the staff of The Atlantic. His work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Wired, the New York Times, Nature, New Scientist, Scientific American, the Guardian, the Times, Discover, Slate, and other publications.

His book not only covers the microbes that live within us. It also elucidates those that live upon us and around us in our environment.

He makes the point that microbes, in and of themselves, are not bad. It’s a label we apply to the ones that are blatantly pathogenic. But the vast majority of the microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.) that we encounter in our daily lives are not pathogenic … and a lot of them are downright helpful.

This book entranced me and scared me. I came into it already a convert to the necessity of microbes for a healthy life. I came out of with a zeal for living a more all-encompassing life in harmony and cooperation with the microbes around me.

He makes a great case for nurturing and caring for these tiniest of lives. He shows how they are necessary not only to our health but the health of the entire earth and everything living on and in it. He recounts how Florence Nightingale discovered that her patients in hospital actually got well faster and better when she opened windows and let the world into the sterile hospital environment.

The thing that scared me the most about all that he wrote is how fragile it all is. How the balance can so easily be upset both within us and without us. And how crucial microbes are.

Because he is a science writer and has a massive bibliography at the back of the book, one might think the book will be a dry dissertation. It is anything but. He writes interestingly and kept my attention. I found myself sliding into one chapter after the other, anxious for each new revelation.

Yong sums it up this way in the very last paragraph of the last chapter of his book: “We see how ubiquitous and vital microbes are. We see how they sculpt our organs, protect us from poisons and disease, break down our food, uphold our health, calibrate our immune system guide our behavior, and bombard our genomes with their genes. We see the lengths to which animals must go to keep their multitudes in check, from the ecosystem managers of the immune system to the bacteria-feeding sugars in beast mile. We see what happens when those measures break: bleached reefs, inflamed guts, and obese bodies. We see, conversely, the rewards of a harmonious relationship: the ecological opportunities that open up to us, and the accelerated pace with which we can grasp them. We see how we might start to control these multitudes for our own benefit, transplanting entire communities from one individual to another, forging and breaking symbioses at will, or even engineering new kinds of microbes. And we learn the secret, invisible, and wondrous biology behind the gutless worms that thrive in an abyssal Eden, the mealybugs that suck the juices of plants, the corals that construct mighty reefs, the small stinging hydras that cling to pondweed, the beetles that bring down forests, the adorable squid that create their own light shows, the pangolin curled around a zookeeper’s waist, and the disease-fighting mosquitoes flying off into a bright Australian dawn.

I think just about anyone would find benefit from reading this book. It’s an eye opener.

The Next Great Idea

I thought I had my next great idea for a novel. I was writing every day. It was going well. I had about 24 chapters written and then it all just stopped. Yes, I came down with West Nile fever right about that time and was exhausted most of the time. Feverish. Achy. Pretty darn miserable. But that shouldn’t have stopped the ideas from flowing. Right?

I think that self-doubt is the problem. I’ve never written a story in this genre before. It’s a murder mystery.

Okay, so I’ve really only published five novels. Three of them are science fiction, one is what you might call a woman’s novel and the last one is a semi-autobiographical novel with a smattering of literary license. No great shakes really, but none of them are mysteries. Unless you want to count the mystery of why I wrote them at all. No clue. So don’t ask.

So I asked myself what makes me think I can write a murder mystery. That’s me. Always asking questions. Should have left that one alone and just kept writing.

But, you know, the same could be said for the science fiction novels or even the other two novels. Then there is the other question. The one I should never, ever, never ask myself and that is … what makes me think I can write at all.

What made me think I could write science fiction was the fact that I’ve read an absolute shit-load of science fiction over the years. I know what I like about the genre and what I don’t like. Then I got to thinking about mysteries and realized, I’ve read a lot of those too. Not as many as in the science fiction genre, but enough. Or at least what I thought should be enough.

So shouldn’t I be able to write a mystery novel? And why am I not doing that right now? Like right now, this minute instead of writing this.

If I could figure out the answer to that question, I might be able to move on.

Sam, or Not Sam We have American red squirrels in our area.

I like squirrels and we have a lot of squirrels where we live. Our neighbors have named some of them. One of them is named Sam. He’s a cheeky fellow who will take peanuts from their hands, but hasn’t yet let me get that close.

We have a line of juniper trees in our backyard. I’m not sure if they were always meant to be trees or if they have just been trimmed and trained to be trees. The crowns of them are all intermingled and it’s easy for squirrels to go from one tree to the next.

We also have a cat. He was a stray. We have him mainly because he turned up badly injured one day. He’s got plenty of smarts, just not street smarts and we’re pretty sure he had some sort of altercation with a vehicle. I figure it was a pickup truck based on his very expressive dislike of pickup trucks.

We’ve made him into a house cat because he can’t be trusted not to get into trouble while out and about. So I let him in the backyard daily and monitor him the whole time.

A couple of mornings ago, I was standing a fair distance from the line of juniper trees when there was a commotion in the fourth tree away from me. Orange Kitty, also known as Mr. Fuzzy Pants, was stalking a grasshopper some distance from me with me between him and the juniper trees.

The commotion sounded like two squirrels having it out. And then one of the squirrels came down the line of trees toward me. The squirrel got to the last tree in the line, shot down the trunk, hit the ground and came running right at me only to pull up short about six feet from me with a look of total surprise on his face.

He sat up and stared hard at me. He was totally oblivious to Orange Kitty (OK) just a few feet from him in the squirrel’s five o’clock position. It was then that I saw that it was probably not Sam. Although, I’ve never asked our neighbors if Sam is short for Samantha.

Not Sam stood rooted to the spot for several seconds and OK became aware of her. I watched OK trying to decide what to do. Should he stay on the grasshopper that he was so close to catching? Or go after the squirrel? OK made up his mind, got into his I’m-going-to-pounce pose and then took after the squirrel.

OK got so close, just inches away, before little miss-I-don’t-know-what-to-do realized there was a cat behind her. She ran toward me and then realized that wasn’t really a good option and did an about face and headed for the juniper trees. She went right by OK but he couldn’t get a paw on her. OK never caught up. Squirrels are fast. I was relieved. I didn’t really want him to catch her.

In a flash she was up the tree, over the fence into the alley, and up the fence into our neighbor’s backyard where, hopefully, their dogs were not out. I didn’t hear a commotion, so I guessed that she was safe.

OK sat down in frustration and licked a few parts of himself and then seemed to forget about the whole thing. Right about then, a really big and noisy diesel pickup truck drove by (we live on a curve so we have a lot of exposure to the street in our backyard) and OK decided he’d had enough of the out of doors for the time being and nonchalantly, but very quickly, walked into the garage.  He was standing at the door to the house and looked at me and said, “Are you going to let me in or what.” Except it sounded more like “Meow meh-rowww!”

The squirrels have had other encounters. Our dog, Maddie, alternates between being happy just to observe them and actively chasing them. My theory is that she is trying to confuse them so that one day she might catch one. Not going to happen. Maddie is fast. But the squirrels are faster. Thank goodness.

Thing is, none of this keeps them from coming into our yard, checking out the poplar tree where I put the peanuts and having a feast.  And I’m really glad for that.

Millie’s Further Adventures in Time

I did it. I hit the publish button. It still gives me the willies. Was it really ready to publish? Did we find all the errors? Did I make some good editorial decisions?

With KDP, you publish the paperback first. Or at least that’s how I always have done it. I’m thinking that publishing the eBook first might be better. They do a spellcheck for the eBook version. It found where I had typed “cococut” instead of “coconut.” How both Bernd and I missed that, I don’t know.

It also found where I left the “n” off the word “question.” Thank goodness for the find and replace function in the Microsoft Word program. KDP doesn’t give you a page number or anything. Just the sentence in which the error occurred.

There were five other spelling “errors” that it found, but those were made up words and I meant them to be like that. They have an ignore button next to the notation. Very handy.

So I fixed my digital manuscript and re-uploaded it to the eBook, but before I can make a change to the paperback, it has to go live. Then when I re-upload the manuscript, I have to wait again until it goes live again.

So maybe this announcement is a bit premature. Oh well.

I still feel a certain excitement every time I publish a novel. And so I just have to talk about it.

I Remember Feeling Adult

It was coming up on Christmas. I was in my first year at college and I needed to do some Christmas shopping.

I drove myself to the Whittwood Mall in Whittier, California. I figured they had enough different kinds of stores that I could find everything on my list. In the middle of all the shopping, I took myself out for lunch at the Jolly Roger.

I sat at the counter with all the other people eating by themselves. Many of them were employees, at the various businesses in the mall, taking their lunch breaks.

I felt very adult. It was the first time I ever had that feeling. There I was with all these other people, making their way on their own, taking care of themselves, getting things done.

Some time before I went on that shopping trip, I had splurged on a pair of shoes I had wanted for months. They were platform shoes with a chunky heel. The vamp was a woven white leather. The toe was closed but the heel was open. The heels were wrapped in cork. I loved those shoes.

But the thing about them was that you couldn’t walk fast in them. Your foot would come right out if you did. So you had to walk like an adult. No rushing about like a child. You had to walk with a stately purpose. And with poise. More than anything else, those shoes made me feel like a grown-up. Like a woman.

I’m nearly 70 years old now. But I can still remember how I felt on that day. I can still feel it in my body. In my heart.

There are days, more than I care to admit, that I feel like I am pretending to be an adult. I can feed myself and do the laundry. I can cook and clean. I can take care of my husband and our dog and cat. But sometimes it doesn’t seem real. Not nearly as real as it felt on that day so many years ago.

This is what I remember. I remember all the time between then and now. And it tells me that I am an adult and that I shouldn’t doubt. But I do.

Still, I’m doing okay, so I guess I will just be happy with that.