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Durango Vacation Journal Part 15

Friday morning we said good-bye to the Stevensons. I made a Super Wal-Mart run, and just before 11:00, we left Alpen Rose RV Park. We drove steadily, and I didn’t take many pictures. Once I saw a brilliant yellow field of flowers that ran to the foot of the mountains, but I was driving, so I have no pixels by the million of that scene.

On Interstate 40, when we were about 30 minutes from Flagstaff where we would spend the night, the traffic suddenly stopped. A deadstop. Jerry turned on the CB and we learned that less than a minute ahead of us, an 18-wheeler blew a left front tire, had flipped and now lay completely across the highway. We sat in that spot for two hours. The driver survived, but with severe injuries—had to be extricated through the windshield opening. On the highway shoulders—both left and right—came numerous emergency vehicles—police cars, fire trucks, water trucks, and finally a wrecker.

We watched a helicopter fly in and set down on the highway, then probably 15 minutes later lift straight into the sky. One of the medical crew had performed a tracheotomy before airlifting the driver, whose chest had been crushed in the accident.

It was a first for us: I prepared dinner as we sat in stalled traffic. Jerry and I dined at our RV table, smack in the middle of I 40 just east of Flagstaff.

By now most of the people were out of their cars and as he is wont to do, Jerry went outside and struck up a conversation with those around us. After a while he came to the door and flashing his wide grin said, “What do you think? Some women out here need to go to the bathroom really badly.”

“Sure,” I said. “Bring them over.”

The women smiled when they climbed the steps into our rig, introduced themselves and said how much they appreciated us letting them use our bathroom. “Thank you, thank you,” they said when they were finished. They lingered and we talked a bit. Nice people, a couple traveling together, who plan to retire in two years and then do a lot of traveling. One of them had done a number 5 4-wheel trail. Somewhere in California.

Finally the wrecker had dragged most of the truck from the highway, and in single file, traffic that reached for many miles filed past the wreckage of the truck. It’s the worst wreck I have ever seen.

The sun was setting now, but our windshield was so dirty few of the pictures turned out well. The sunset was striking, and a sliver of moon hung elegantly in the dark, cloudy sky. Planes flew and marked their trail beneath the moon.

Taken in (See more photos here)


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Sensational Parenting Notes

The world today is replete with distinctive news of parents. In England, of course, was the touching anniversary memorial service for Princess Diana, where her younger son euologized her as “the best mother in the world.”

LONDON — Princess Diana’s family solemnly marked the 10th anniversary of her death Friday, with her younger son eulogizing her as “the best mother in the world.”

The bishop of London used his sermon at a memorial service to call for an end to the sniping between Diana’s fans and detractors, and a priest who has led an annual remembrance said it may now be time to let go.

“To lose a parent so suddenly at such a young age, as others have experienced, is indescribably shocking and sad,” Prince Harry said at the memorial service at the Guards’ Chapel near Buckingham Palace.

“It was an event which changed our lives forever, as it must have done for everyone who lost someone that night,” said Harry, who was 12 when Diana died.


Then there’s this Associated Press story from Alaska.

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — A father who was too drunk to drive had his 11-year-old son drive him home, police in Fairbanks, Alaska, said.

Police stopped the boy late Tuesday after he was seen driving the wrong way on a one-way street in his father’s 1992 Chevy pick-up truck.

The boy’s father, Frank Neff, 35, of Fairbanks, was too drunk to drive and had told the child to drive them home, authorities said.

Neff pleaded no contest to charges of reckless endangerment and contributing to the delinquency of a minor in connection with the incident. He was ordered to spend 15 days in jail and to take parenting classes.

He told police he’s been teaching his son to drive since he was 8 years old.


This one tops them all.

Holly Schnobrich

Mother-of-two Holly Schnobrich knew she was too drunk to get behind the wheel of her car.

But her judgment was so clouded by drink and drugs that she asked her five-year-old son to be the designated driver.

After her 2002 Mitsubishi screeched to a halt outside her house, Miss Schnobrich even boasted to a worried neighbour: “He’s a good driver.”

But when five-year-old Weston Schnobrich was quizzed by police he was forced to admit he was “having a hard time because I can’t reach the pedals”.

The 24-year-old mother is now behind bars in Lafayette, Indiana, charged with child endangerment and public intoxication.


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Trembling Feet, Royal Protocol Armageddon and a Wink

I love to read of the telling actions of highly placed people, especially when it involves their response to challenging and unfamiliar situations. The “humanity” and sameness of us all intrigues me. While I certainly know I will never meet Queen Elizabeth or President Bush, I enjoy thinking of the preparation each of them must have made for their recent meetings with each other. And, again, though I will never be in the presence of royalty, throughout my lifetime, there have been times when I brushed up on etiquette rules and considered essential protocol for certain meetings. For of course, I want to be “cool” when I meet VIPs, avoiding any profound gaffes.

So then, I snickered and laughed aloud when I read this article about our President and the Queen at last night’s white tie dinner. Think what you may of President Bush, I believe almost everyone would agree that he possess a boyish, tender side to him. I can just see his shoes tapping away from the Queenly visit jitters.

Hope Matt Frei doesn’t mind, but I’ve brought over his entire article from BBC. It’s a charming piece.

Washington diary: Royal jitters

By Matt Frei
BBC News, Washington

Queen Elizabeth II and George W Bush at the White House for a state dinner

The Bush White House hosted its first white tie dinner for the Queen

I have seen George Bush fumble for grammar, cringe in front of the cameras and shrug off insults from world leaders.

I have seen him joust gamely with opponents and stare down enemies with a cold eye.

But I have never, ever seen the commander-in-chief of the mightiest nation on earth look utterly terrified.

This week an elderly lady, who is at least a head smaller than the president and who, by all accounts, has never harmed a fly, achieved – unwittingly – what Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Nancy Pelosi have all tried and failed to do: reduce George Walker Bush to a quivering mass, make his lower lip tremble and – I promise you I saw it with my own eyes – make him blush to the roots of his Texan rind.

Yes, the 43rd President of the United States was smitten by her Britannic Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

Memorable gaffe

The endearing thing about George Bush is that his body language and the spoken variety both betray his true emotions at every turn.

At Monday night’s state dinner, the first white tie event in the Bush White House, a pair of lacquered black shoes could be seen virtually tap dancing with jitters on the red carpet next to the royal footwear.

George W Bush welcomes the Queen to the White House

Her Majesty was not amused by President Bush’s gaffe – and wink

Then there was George Bush’s hesitant “should I sit or should I stand” toast which left the Queen on her feet, sipping her Riesling all by herself.

The most memorable gaffe had been committed earlier that day, when the president almost implied that the Queen was 200 years older than her current age by thanking her for attending America’s bicentennial celebrations in 1776.

He corrected himself mid-date, then did what he often does in sticky circumstances. He winked, smiled and lunged for recovery.

The Queen was heard to mutter: “Wrong year!”

The president responded with disarming honesty. The Queen had given him “a look that only a mother could give a child” he told his guests and the world, under a glorious Washington May sky.

Call me churlish, but I thought this was a charming escape from Royal Protocol Armageddon.

To my knowledge no reigning Queen of England had ever been winked at.

The first Elizabeth would surely have had George Bush’s guts for garters. This one responded with dead-pan aloofness. Her Majesty was not amused.

There wasn’t even a flicker of a smile and the stiff upper lip of the House of Windsor remained resolutely stiff in the land of the free.

Shared ancestry

If I may take the presumptuous role of presidential shrink for a moment, I would say there are three reasons for George Bush’s quivers.

Barbara Bush and her son George W Bush

Does the Queen remind Mr Bush of another matriarch in his life?

It is not royalty per se that makes American presidents nervous. It is British royalty.

For all the loathing of the Red Coats, Mad King George and British colonial rule, America feels the Stockholm syndrome of its ancestry. Even an abused child sent for adoption is fascinated by his or her real mother.

Secondly the Queen probably reminds George Bush of his own Mama, the formidable Barbara, the matriarch of the Bush clan, who apparently raised her eldest son with a patrician mixture of love and discipline.

He may argue with his father over Iraq and diplomacy. They have a vexed relationship. But, I’m told, it is the mother he cherishes and dares not contradict.

Britain is to history what Saudi Arabia is to crude oil. We have lashings of it and don’t feel the need to draw attention to it


The third point is a more general one about the role of Britain’s history in the United States.

Americans nurture their historical shoots like a gardener fusses over a sapling. In Virginia, where the rich earth moans with the memories of the civil war, the war of independence and the lives of the founding fathers, every brick and beam dating back a hundred years or more is festooned with a plaque.

History is such a precious commodity because it is so rare in a young nation.

By comparison Britain is to history what Saudi Arabia is to crude oil. We have lashings of it and don’t feel the need to draw attention to it.

The Queen and Vice-President Dick Cheney watch a performance at Jamestown Settlement, Virginia

Americans are proud of their young nation’s relatively short history

Despite lattes and paninis, suicide bombs in London and the foreign takeover of English football, Britain lives, breathes and governs unselfconsciously in a historical context.

Which American politician doesn’t at some stage enlist the help of the founding fathers or invoke the American dream enshrined in the Bill of Rights? Which British politician ever mentions the Magna Carta?

For Americans, the Queen and her pageantry embody an exotic reality tinged with a whiff of shared ancestry.

It is a matter of affection mixed with curiosity verging, sometimes, on incomprehension.

It is the same attitude found when Washington grandees munch cucumber sandwiches on the British ambassador’s lawn and are too polite to ask about the missing crust.