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(02-01-2003) Up early, hit the road about six AM. I was above Ocala when the news about the Columbia breaking up on reentry hit the nation. It's hard, very hard to talk about it, even now. I was outside, back in 1986, looking eastward, and I saw the Challenger's last lift-off all the way from the other side of the state. I'm glad I don't watch television, it's bad enough hearing about it on the radio. I gave up and put in a CD.

I reached New Orleans in the early evening, called Sid, my contact with the Gem and Mineral Society, and he came over for a bit. Class tomorrow!
(02-02-2003) A better day. I had ten people for the class. While I miss meeting them in person, I'm a little relieved some folks bowed out, as it could have been complete chaos with any more people than were there -- as it was, they really kept me hopping! You can see them all in this picture... the setting for the class was a geology lab, and there were wonderful rock specimens all over the walls and in cabinets, and the benches were very sturdy though they had obviously seen considerable use.

I went off to have dinner at PF Chang's, and went to bed early, so as to get an early start.
(02-03-2003) A _great_ day, toward the end, with certain problems along the way. I was to meet with a customer in Houston, and I misread the directions and we ended up waiting for each other about a hundred feet apart, out of sight. I had another meeting a couple of hours later in Bryan, so I went ahead and drove up there. It was a friend of long standing, whom I'd never met face to face, so we had a nice talk, I met his wife, and generally enjoyed myself, albeit with some puzzlement and regret for the mystery of what had happened to the earlier meeting. Well, checking my email, I found out what had happened (which was entirely my fault, no question) and I begged for another opportunity, which was granted. So, off I go, back to Houston, retracing my path, and following the correct directions this time, to have dinner with this person who turned out to be the most delightful, vivacious, and intelligent young lady I've ever had the good fortune to meet. Oh, to be twenty years younger! We talked for quite a while, and even discussed some jewelry she's interested in. I'll have to look for some stones that will be suitable for her commission when I get to Tucson.

Drive and sleep, drive and sleep. It was kind of late for looking for a room, so I just kept going.
(02-04-2003) Texas is big. I didn't help that, much, taking side trips to look behind interesting hills, so at the end of the day I'm _still_ in Texas. Found a motel when the sun started glaring into my face, and it's time to bring the log up to date again. I won't mention the restaurant across the street by name -- maybe it was just a bad night for them.
(02-05-2003) A good night's sleep, and back to the road. Had a little discussion with the Texas Department of Public Safety, but we parted on good terms, I at a slightly moderated pace. It was nice to reach mile zero at last, though.

Finally went through some more hilly areas again, at El Paso. New Mexico is beautiful, and there were more changes in the scenery there, as well. As I was coming up to Deming, NM, I saw a sign for a winery, with free tastings -- well, you know me... how could I pass that up? St. Clair Winery, not all that far off the track, and with some very nice locally produced wines. I asked, and was told that yes, they have to irrigate in order to grow the grapes, but that the soil is ideal for it. The wine certainly bears that out!

A little later I crossed the Continental Divide, still in New Mexico. The sky was beautiful, there were some sprinkles of rain alternating with brilliant sunshine, and there were mountains all around to give the horizon some dramatic flair.

I reached Arizona at last, and another rest area. I pulled in for a nap, and woke up right at sunset. All the big rigs in this part of the country have decided to spend the night here, and are all parked upwind of where I was, all idling and spewing diesel exhaust fumes. This is Not A Good Thing, so I'll have to find a better spot.
(02-06-2003) Brr, it was cold last night. I got up at dawn and trekked on west. Stopped to have some breakfast at Texas Canyon, an amazing place. Rocks, lots and lots of them, piled up higgledy-piggledy all over the place. It's really beautiful, and I keep trying to capture it in pictures. If any of today's pictures look any good, I'll upload one tomorrow.

Made it to Tucson, and went off to see some shows. I found the bead show right away, down on Ajo Way, at the Kino Veterans Memorial Community Center, and visited with some friends there, then went to the AGTA show to check in. I only had an hour or so, and spent most of it tracking down several booths with people or gems that I wanted to see right away. Tomorrow I'll try to pace myself and go through as many as I can without going crazy and spending all of my money right away.

A friend from the About.com Jewelry forum showed up, and she and her husband and I had dinner together. That was a lot of fun -- I always enjoy putting faces together with the names that I see online.
(02-07-2003) First full day at the shows. I went to see the "Wire Artist Jeweller" folks, hoping to pick up a March issue with my interview in it, but no luck -- they'd sold out. Probably nothing to do with my being in it, but I've had a number of people make comments on the article. Drives me crazy, since I probably won't see how they laid it out until I get home and dig my copy out of the incoming mail pile.

I looked at some beautiful stones, of various types, and decided where some money will probably end up tomorrow. So much for breaking even on this trip! Of course some of them might actually sell, as opposed to going into my personal treasures, which would be a nice thing.

I stopped by the studio where I'll be conducting the workshop on Sunday, and met several more people from online forums who were also visiting there, and then a while later saw even more old friends and new friends when I attended the annual Orchid Dinner, at El Parador. It was huge, too large for me to meet everyone, but it was still a great party.
(02-08-2003) I spent the day tying up loose ends, visiting a few new places and re-visiting a few others. Bought a couple of things here, sold a couple of things there, talked with a lot of really nice people, and spent a couple of hours preparing for tomorrow's workshop at Sam Patania's shop. I can recommend "The Garland Restaurant", for anyone who visits Tucson, the food there is excellent.
(02-09-2003) Today I conducted the workshop at Patania's. Eight students, and it went really well. We were spread through three interconnecting rooms, and it was interesting, trying to move from station to station and keep track of everyone's progress. Still, nearly everyone finished a bracelet without much trouble. One person was taking it a bit more patiently, and still had a few passes to go to complete hers, but she assured me she didn't think she'd have any trouble finishing it at home, later.

Next stop, Sedona. The mountains are absolutely beautiful, but I got here at sundown and there wasn't much light for pictures, so I'll have to go out and try again, tomorrow.
(02-10-2003) I'm definitely going to have to visit Sedona again, sometime. Beautiful place, with really nice people, and absolutely stunning landscape. I took a few pictures while driving around on tiny almost-not-roads north of town.
(02-11-2003 through 02-13-2003) Guess I was falling down on the job, there, and didn't keep the log up to date. Sorry! On the eleventh I wandered around Sedona for a little longer, then drive south to Phoenix, to meet up with the host of the next workshop. We went out for sushi, at "Sushi Kee's", which was absolutely great. If you like sushi, and are in Phoenix, bear that in mind.

On the twelfth, with a potential eleven students, I was a little nervous, but only seven actually showed up and it wasn't as chaotic as it might have been. This class did very well, with one student immediately getting another length of silver from me and starting a second bracelet, which impressed me considerably.

I left right after the workshop, to start home. Here it is, the thirteenth, after 28 hours on the road, and I'm in Houston again, arranging more business and catching a bit of rest.
(02-14-2003 through 02-16-2003) Home at last! It's been a busy few days, so not many entries. On the fourteenth I drove to New Orleans and got a room for the night, then on the fifteenth, Saturday, I poked around the French Quarter and explored, waiting for the Cirque du Soleil that was scheduled for that evening. I saw Renee at her booth at the Bywater Art Market, then went to have a late lunch with Sam at Copeland's, and filled in the rest of the time looking for a laundromat...

Later, I showed up at the Cirque du Soleil and picked up my ticket, then lurked about, waiting for the show. Reader, if you haven't seen any of these shows, please, put it at the top of your to-do list next chance you get. It is a magical experience, really! I've seen two, now, Quidam, when it was in St. Petersburg, Florida, and now Dralion, in New Orleans. Eventually, I mean to "collect the whole set".

Interestingly, after I got home, I looked up the mayor of New Orleans on the net and found that I had actually been talking with Mayor Nagin at the show, unawares. Someone said "that's the mayor", but I didn't catch who she meant until I saw his picture and connected the dots. I doubt he'll remember me, but I found him to be a really nice guy.

After the show, I hit the road, driving and sleeping. It was raining from well before the circus, on through the rest of the evening, and pretty much the entire way from New Orleans to St. Petersburg, so that drive is not going to feature as a highlight of my vacation, by any means.
That's all, folks! Five thousand miles in fifteen days, with twenty five students in my workshops, some nice scenery, some lovely people, and no major problems or calamities. I think I'll do it again, but not real soon...

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