In the summer of 2003, Charlotte and I decided to take a trip across the country by rental car (why a rental? Don't ask--it's complicated, dull, and annoying.), stopping at various friends along the way, seeing the sights, and culminating in our annual visit to the Burningman festival in Nevada. This is the diary we kept along the way.
|25-26||Hot Springs AR|
|?||Oklahoma City OK|
|31||Mesa Verde CO|
|?||Grand Canyon AZ|
|11-13||Los Angeles CA|
|16-24||San Francisco CA|
|24-Sept 1||Black Rock City NV|
|2||Salt Lake City UT|
Lori and I are on the road, merrily singing as we go..... Fifty, nifty united states....ah, time for walt. I made a visiting card to give to give people that I meet. This is the text from Walt Whitman..."I have perceiv'd that to be with those I like is enough...to be surrounded by beautiful, curious, laughing flesh is enough...I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as a sea." After a lovely poetry reading session of Whitman, and a run through of his biography (He was an amazing guy you know, so intensely passionate yet caring of his fellow human being- such a mensch), my phone rings... Uh how do I answer this thing? OK, we just past over the Erie canal, and we will be driving though Lackawanna, which is sometimes the cause of Lackanookki. I think we need to upgrade the phone package...Sebbo, are you reading this? I am out of minutes..... Love Lotta
Whew. I feel exhausted already.
I felt much less out of place at Sirius than I expected. People were not just warm & welcoming, but strikingly genuine and unpretentious.
It's interesting to compare the cultures of Sirius (pop: 600) and Burningman (pop: 30,000). Starwood, by all accounts, would be a closer match, but I didn't go to Starwood, so I'm gonna search for my keys over here by the streetlight.
The phrase I like best is that Sirius is warm instead of hot--in every sense--weather, emotions, art. Apparently, it's part of a whole pagan festival circuit, which the hardcore deadhead loyally. Perhaps as a consequence, Sirius is much less self-congratulatory about its specialness. Let me clarify--I think Burner culture has a lot to congratulate itself for. I think a lot of what I was picking up on may have been that a higher proportion of Sirians live their day-to-day lives similarly. Stuff like stationing oneself at the exit gate to wave departers goodbye is a very distinctively Burningman gesture.
The vending at Sirius bugged me a little less than I had feared--it was mostly a pleasant enough backdrop rather than an obtrusive element.
I'll have a few more notes later, but that's enough for our first real hiptop-posted installment.
Peace, out, --sebbo
Hmm. Looks like a little more embedded markup is called for in these postings. A few <p> tags will do my readibility a world of good. Doing HTML where I can't fix my errors is pretty scary, though. For the gadgrt roundup entry, I had to go in and add several forgotten /'s after I'd firt posted it. Perhaps I should just get Lotte to use <pre>--she's not gonna want to wrangle anything more complicated.
The first line of the message is supposed to become the article title--that seems to have only successfully occurred once. Well, it's working more than it's not working--on the whole I'm pleased.
Lori and I arrived to find Hacksaw warming himself by the ritual fire at 6am (?!). He helped us pitch our tents, we put up a shade structure, and then went to breakfast in town. I felt like a small child in the presence of tribal elders. Over breakfast we read the course catalog, got information on teachers and content. This was to be the first incident of many where my expectations would be worlds apart from my experiences.
I scheduled dance workshops almost every day and only got to one of them. My daily routine would be morning yoga, a short workout, followed by a dip in the hottub/pool, and a tai chi class with E'beth's and Hacksaw's friend Ken.
Lotte's a little anxious that I'm about to muddy up everyone's sense of sequence, so here's a quick summary: she & Lori went out to Sirius Rising, leaving last Sunday evening and arriving on Monday morning. Lori's sweetie--Jonathan--and I came up to meet them on friday. (digresion: at Sirius, the line "are you staying for Starwood?" is as ubiquitous as "what do you do for a living?" back in the real world)
On morning of the 20th, we packed up, had lunch, and drove to Cleveland, where we stayed with Lotte's old friend Steve, and his boyfriend. The next day, we went to Cincinatti, where we stayed with her even older friend Vasso, and her husband and son. This is being written en route to Louisville, whewe we'll be staying with Lotte's sister Sarah.
There. Ssirius was a pretty intense experience, especially for Lotte, so I'm leery of trying to get it all down before describing subsequent stuff. There may be Sirius entries scattered through for weeks to come.
Our foray into regional cuisine occurred at Skyline Chili, a local chain, and Vasso's son Stergios' second favorite chilli etablishment.
Concinatti chilli, as you may know, is a spiced ground beef served over spaghetti, with some combination of onions, beans, and cheese on top. The flavoring was kind of odd--Lotte suggested large quantities of cumin and cinnamon as the culprits. It didn't really do it for either of us, but it was an educational experience.
afterwards, we asked Stergios why he prefers Gold Star's chilli to Skyline's. The former, he explained, offers free Pokemon cards with every kid's meal.
On returning to Vasso's house, Lotte collapsed into a deep sleep for an hour or so, and now suspects that Skyline's beef may not actually be of bovine origins, since it felt like a glycemic crash.
Word to the mother,
Lots of good, lots of bad. T-Mobile customers wewe the only cell users at Sirius who weren't covered. Once we made it out to I-90, though, coverage went right back up. Mail was waiting for us on the server. One odd thing is that the voicemail alert didn't come up until the next day, despite having a message from Saturday.
Leaving Cleveland, we got kind of turned around. As we finally made it back to the highway, we realized it had never occurred to us to check Mapquest when we were arguing about what direction we were headed in. It's hard to remember how many options this thing opens up. After we'd gotten fully underway, we mailed Ken (mentioned previously in these annals) with some followup questions on stuff he'd said at the festival and got a reply within an hour.
Coming into Cincinatti, Lotte called Vasso, and asked her to e-mail us directions. With printed directions, we made it to her street hitchlessly.
At Vasso's place, I talked to my mother and brother with the phone function for an hour or so. More on that in a later entry perhaps.
This morning, Lotte got up early and found that I'd forgotten to plug it in overnight. After fishing the power cord out of the car, she settled down to compose an e-mail to a friend from her Yahoo account.
45 minutes later, she finished the message and clicked "send." Turned out her session had expired. She hit "back" and found the entry forms empty. this resulted in a very frustrated Lotte and me taking dictation for the first hour or so of driving today. Conclusions:
As for its suitability as a diaristic tool, that I can leave to your own good judgement, dear reader.
Monday at breakfast I decided that I would get Ken to give me a massage. This is another incident of expectations and experiences being worlds apart. I really thought it would be an exquisite massage, combined with acupressure points in some way. Afterwards I would feel relaxed and slightly tingly. Yum. I had spent the last week under a great deal of stress, with a concentration of sexual energy which wouldn't dissipate, despite how diligent the attempts. The session lasted twice the amount of time I had expected. I spent the bulk of the time, feeling as if my skin were flooded with energy to the point of bursting. I kept having the feeling that it would feel really good to make incisions in each finger tip, so that the energy would explode outward. My body is arched -- I have two points of contact with the table: my head and my ankles. Meanwhile, Ken has my hand and is asking me questions. Weeping, I tell him what I want, why I am here at Sirius and keep answering the questions. By the time this session ends, my experiences prior to Sirius seem to fall into place, and I have a feeling of clarity, I am quivering but calm and centered. I drink two liters of fluids and am so wobbly that I can not stand. It takes almost two days to fully regain my gross motor skills. I would do it again.
In Louisville we picked up waterproofing spray, visited my beautiful and charming niece, Savannah and went to eat at Lynn's Paradise Cafe -- afeast for the tummy and the eyes. Lynn's sponsors an annual ugly lamp contest. The prize is a weekly breakfast for one year. With specials like kahlua and vodka pancakes, turkey and goat cheese on toasted nut bread, and vegetarian bisquits and gravy the clientel goes from the funky-tatooed crowd to suits and little southern old ladies. Weekends means a wait--so check out all the painted statuary in the lot out front. Located on Barret Ave, worth the wait. Great eye candy! Our table came with a plexiglass top, metal shavings on faces and a magnet to move the shavings around. Most tables have a toy. Have Fun!!! Hugs and kisses Lotta
Lewis Carroll did a piece about an island where the inhabitants earn a living by doing each iother's laundry. Similarly, the principal industry of Louisvill appears to be lawnmowing. Both of Lotte's sisters in town are married to landscapers, and, driving around town, trailers filled with lawn maintenace equipment seem as ubiquitous as snow plows in Boston in February.
I would have written this note sooner, but I was too stuffed with Lynne's biscuits 'n' sausage gravy to work the keyboard. We'll try to get pics of Lynne's up tonight if we can.
Yr. obed. svt,
A precious moment:
Lori and Jonathan
Hacksaw, Lotte, and Ken
Stergios demonstrates his tae kwan do skillz
Savannah loves the camera.
Lotte found a house in Louisville whose yard is filled with funky steel sculpture.
Number, like, three, I guess, in a series.
I found out at Sarah & Todd's that the titles of my entries aren't showing as titles on the hiptop, but look fine under IE. Thi turns out to be because when I set up the /sebbo template, I nested the header tags inside the anchors, rather than vice versa. I forgot to fix it there, but it should only take a minute to do in Tucson.
The discman's shock handling turns out to be for shit. If I put it in the glove compartment, it skips constantly. The extra cushioning of my lap seems to solve the problem nicely, though.
The transponder works great. The rental car we picked up in louisville onlu takes CDs (no tapes), so it's definitely a good thing to have. I haven't bothered with the discman's car cord, since the rechargable batteries I put in are still at 3/4.
I've set the hiptop's spellchecker to automatically convert "p "s to "<p>"s, a trick of which I am inordinately proud.
Lotte put labeled tags on all the cords before leaving. Damn good idea, that.
Zero coverage at the state park we stayed in last night. On the other hand, where the hell you gonna put a cellular tower in a state park? Needless to say, there was no coverage in Mammoth Cave yesterday morning.
He's a very geeky boy,
I can't really check these URLs at the moment, so let me know if any don't work. You might possibly have noticed that the hiptop does no wonders for my proofreading. The address, if anyone's lost it, is roadtrip at sebbo dot org. 100% spam-free since June 2003!
note: this entry was mostly written Thursday night, but posted Friday morning. "Today" means Thursday, "yesterday" means Wednesday.
So, as previously noted, we stayed in Meeman-Shelby state park outside Memphis last night. $15 bucks for a campsite seems a little steep, but the sites are pretty RV-oriented, with elictricity and running water. We didn't really get to exxplore much, so I can't say much about the park.
Up bright 'n' early, and breakfast in Memphis, at the Bar/ksdale Restaurant, another spot reccommended by Eat Your Way (remembering this time to use Mapquest). The trip was made trickier by the recent superstorm having knocked out most of Memphis' stoplights. Wood-panelled walls, a few autographed celebrity photos (none we recognized), a couple jingoistic bumper stickerss, air redolent of old cigarette smoke. Our waitress told us the place was in business today courtesy of a big ol' generator in back. Eggs: fine, ham; good, sausage gravy: good, hash browns: good, biscuits: quite good. A satisfying meal, nothing real special.
When we emerged, Lotte noticed that one of the screws for the temp plate on our rental wa missing. Strongly suspecting tampering, she later removed the plate and put it in our back window. Driving out of town, I noted that everyone we saw in Memphis looked sorta worn-down by life. Lotte suggested the hardships of this week's storm, but I don't really think that's what I was seeing.
We crossed into Arkansas before noon, and, realizing that Hot Springs was going to make for a very short day, decided to make for Oklahoma instead. I drove for several hours (a lot for me!) on I-40 while Lotte napped, then we switched off again with my right leg experiencing all sorts of exciting new aches.
We had a light afternoon meal from the cooler at the Spiro Archeological Something-or-other's parking lot. If you want to see reproduction Misissippian artifacts, that's the place to go. If any real archeology goes on there, they're careful to conceal it.
Oklahoma is generally getting a decent signal strength, but the hiptop can't seem to actually connect with it--I'm baffled what's going on.
We're now at Lake Eufaula state park, about a hundred miles from Oklahoma City. We had a very refreshing swim in the lake, and finally actually cooked ourselves a meal with the camp stove we've been hauling around for years. Oklahoma skeeters are delightfully small and wussy compared with the Tennessee variety. Tomorrow, Amarillo, if all goes well.
I can't close an i tag, and I can't count days of the week. In my defense, once I noticed that blosxom and I were disagreeing on the date, it took several minutes of debate to persuade Lotte we had it wrong. For the markup messup I have no excuses at all.
In the below text, for Friday read Saturday; for Thursday read Friday; and for Wednesday read Thursday.
For "outlaw bikers" read "quantity surveyors" and for "wild unhibited orgy" read "tea party"... No, wait--I got those right the first time.
Today begins the trip south. Our first stop, Mammoth caves, which has 365 miles of underground caverns, was pretty neat. Nashville here we come.
sebbo interjects: seen on the way in, while running the gauntlet of amazingly garish and cheesy camp-follower attractions: "Golgotha Fun Park." Featuring! The Stations of the Cross water flume! The Third Day boulder toss! DIY stigmata kits!
The bird life in the Memphis area is quite exotic sounding. The cicadas are in full...um...song, and the flood of chirps, trills, and hiccups made me feel like I was in a South American jungle, instead of the continental United States.
From here it's off to Arkansas, a straight shot to scenic Oklahoma. The climate becomes noticably drier once you cross the Misissippi. However, Oklahoma is more lush and green and hilly than I had imagined it.
We camped at Fountainhead/Eufaula state park at the same time as a biker rally, and the bikers were drowned out by the cicadas. We woke in the middle of the night to chase off some raccoons wo were trying to dissect bud cans left by previous campers. There are gorgeous black butterflies, smaller than a handsbreadth, which move like swallowtails.
Slick Willie's is the name that we must add to the ignoble roster of classics such as TA and BJ's. Who says Oklahoma ain't exciting.
Amarillo by nightfall.
Ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump...... 16beats per measure.... The right lane. All the way to Amarillo?
I'm learning all sorts of valuable driving tricks. For example, if you're driving and gretting down to music on the stereo, tap your left foot.
Yeah, you're welcome.
Tonight we are camping on a beautiful lake, Meredith, produced by the army corps of Engineers (slightly north of Amarillo). These always make me curious how the original environment was, air-moisture content, gulleys, condensation, weather patterns. The tenperature is down from the high nineties to the high seventies. We washed each other's hair before dinner--and a dry, hot wind blows our hair dry in about five minutes and simultaneously saturates our senses with burning wood and sage brush. Other places in the park smell spicier, but those were hunting areas -- and being who we are we don't trust just any yahoo with weapons. Leftover couscous with cheese and ham... Let's just say it doesn't reheat well. Well is an understatement. Porridge anyone? The only sound is the random pickup truck driving to the closed boat launch with driver waving merrily as he returns three minutes later, hhhmmm?
Wishing you cooling winds and a great view of whatever you see last thing before dozing off.
The striking red of the clay and sand, intersperced with the pale gray boulders and the dusty green sagebrush, grass, and scrub pine.
We're out of skeeter country now--saints be praised--but the houseflies and fireants 'round these parts have their own distinctive charmlessness.
What the heck is with the little ceramic wizards on sale prominently at every truckstop we pass? I threatened to lurk at one until someone buys one to learn the target demographic, but Lotte nixed that plan right good.
We crouched in the cool water of the lake, twined together, my feet planted in the soft clay of the lakebed, a long time, until the heat and cramps of travel had subsided.
My firsts: a mesa, a wild cactus, six large cars planted halfway into the earth, largest cross in the western hemisphere, a little gray-green lizard, and a roadrunner.
All in 24 hours! Woo-hoo!
Amarillo in the rearview,
Back in Arkansas, we saw a series of roadsigns a couple times. Here's what it actually said, and what I kept wanting it to say:
For a smoother ride
The construction is completed
Thank you for your patience,
The Arkansas Department of
You <expletive deleted>!
Well, a snake warning... And a corral Horses need to stretch their legs, too.
Sebastian and I visited petroglyphs today, like madmen out in the mid-day sun. Despite 30 SPF sunscreen, my skin was doing a fine imitation of sizzling bacon. More water, more water! I was outclimbed by elementary school children (I supect they're local). The petroglyphs are etchings in volcanic rock which have become glazed over the last 700 years.
Albuquerque has an altitude of 5000 feet. Somewhere between 5010 and 5030, I got very giddy. I'm guesing the altitude. Yee haw! Let me give blood, have a beer, and a cigarette.
Oops, the camera's out of memory! Time to put in a new compact flash card. Camera in one hand, water bottle in the other hand, new flash card in the other hand, take out the old flash card with the other hand....."mff mzflf uffluffm."
"Lotte, if you're gonna suck on the flash card, at least do it on the end that doesn't have the prong holes," says Sebastian, removing the used flashcard from my mouth while I juggle the contents of my four hands.
Heading to Santa Fe.
precious moments statues running from an African statue. Argh, run away!! it is the mad foto-fiend!!!!
Regular readers (both of you) may have noted some weirdness happening yesterday. In OK City, we had had some adventures trying to find an internet cafe, with no luck. At the New Mexico visitor's center, they had a free I'net kiosk, which I leapt on and tried to fix the broken HTML in my entry of the 25th entitled "Just the facts."
To make a long and dull story short, the combined weirdnesses of satellite internet and Windows' dazzlingly bad telnet client made it a miracle that I didn't mes things up wore than I actually did. Unfortunately, when I saved the file, Blosxom therefore moved it up to the top of the page, rendering its already-tangled temporal references stunningly out-of-whack.
Google doesn't believe "repatinating" is a real word, but the National Parks Service does. Apparently, many petroglyphs are slowly succumbing to said scourge even as I write this.
I've gotten really behind on my cullinary prose.
OK City featured breakfast at Classen's, a low hot-pink structure just off the freeway, and another Eat Yo' Way tip. Scruffy/funky interior, a menu that's a good mix of the stylish and the familiar. The mesmerizing OJ machine would give Krispy Kreme a run for its money for entertainment value. We each had nice burrito-y things, and Lotte ordered Classen potatoes--deep-fried mashed potato balls dipped in ranch dressing. Quite yummy.
In Albuquerque (which I've finally learned to spell) we went to El Norteno, a mexican joint with excellent tortillas, goat burritos,and a waiter who was friendly to the point of unctuousness.
Breakfast today I shall treat on in a subsequent entry.
For lunch, sick of asking Mapquest for Eat Your Way addreses, we set out to find a random café and ended up at the Pink Café, an attractive spot in the touristy part of Santa Fe with satisfying and inexpensive spicy stews, decent beignet, and overpriced mixed drinks.
After some hours of wandering around Santa Fe, we felt like a little supper. Lotte picked the AmeriCafe, which looked to be the sort of cutey-wootey "retro" pseudo-diner that usually gets on my nerves. However, the small meal we had was very impressive, showing attention to detail without show-offiness. The fried chicken was crisp and tender, the coleslaw was light with just a little mustard, the mashed potatoes with gravy were tasty & rich.
Thanks for calling attention to Golgotha Fun Park. Just knowing such places exist makes me proud to be a patriot!
I found the following trip reports useful:
Roadside America's review (be sure to read the ads!) is here.
Jim & Tammy Fay visit here.
As the first person to respond substantively to this diary, Andre also recieves the Golden Contributor award, and prominent mention in this space.
Silver Contributor awards go to Susan Banker, Lori DeGenis, Spike Holcomb, and Sara Rosenbaum for saying generally nice things about this page.
In subsequent communication, Andre further notes that Golgotha Fun Park is apparentlu now for sale--a golden business opportunity for you budding entrepeneurs.
Your HTML Daredevil,
John McPhee appears to use "rutilance" as a high-falutin' way to say redness. No signal out here in Hyde Memorial Park, seven miles out of Santa Fe, so I can't check what dictionary.com thinks right now. Remind me in the morning...
Taos is a cute Southwest town and a cute ski town before it's a cute New Age town.
Basically, it's Vermont with adobe.
The brewpub's quite nice. I particularly liked their peach ale and (characteristically) their stout.
One neat thing about the desert is that shade appears to work much better. I dunno if it's the humidity or what, but we've sat outside here when temperatures in the sunlight were in the 90s, an been perfectly comfy.
I'm starting to ramble.
Camping with Sebastian has proven to have extra benefits. Sebastian is a tasty morsel to all sorts of little creatures... i.e. Mosquitos. Thus proving to the world what we already know, um was that overshare....? No deet for me -- Yee ha!
Charlotte said: "I'd like to pick some white sage to take with us."
I said: "There'll be plenty of time for that."
And she said: "There are lot of things I didn't do because I had plenty of time."
In Santa Fe, we spent two nights in Hyde State park, as previously alluded to--7 1/2 miles and a climate zone away from town. In the cool alpine pine forest, we broke out the hot cocoa and Amaretto. For the first time, there were no insects harasssing us. Stellar's jays and ground squirrels (resembling a very large, unreasonably cute chipmunk rather more than a squirrel)--both far from shy--were virtualy all the wildlife we saw.
The second morning, as we were waking up, there was a deep, rather loud buzz just outside our tent, accompanied by a few twitters.
Lotte looked out the rear window and gasped. "A hummingbird!" It was the first she'd ever seen.
Late that morning, we visited Pueblo San De Ilseleta, home of a distinctive glossy black-on-matte black pottery style Lotte loves.
We arrived a little early, still in our sweaters from the mountain weather, and wandered through the warming, waking dusty town, followed by a little salt-and-pepper pueblo mutt that had taken a fancy to us.
At the far side of the pueblo's public region, we arrived at a closed home/potter's shop with a hummingbird feeder in front with--I kid you not-a full dozen birds darting, jostling, and twittering around the half-dozen feeding spots.
Lotte & I spent the next fifteen minutes or so slowly, slowly walking toward the feeder. Our painstaking care was wasted on those birdbrains, far too occupied with their own rivalries and flirtations to pay us more than the most fleeting attention. Well you live on a diet of pure sugar water and see what happens to your attention span!
By the time we finished, the shop had opened. We went in and tried to look at the pottery, but found ourselves far more interested in talking hummingbird with the goateed, white-haired proprietor, who watched them steadily through the window most of the time we talked. We shared amazement at the notion of such creatures migrating with the seasons.
That evening, on the patio of perhaps the only Tao restaurant without green chile anywhere on the menu, I looked around and saw what at first I thought was a small hummingbird, then realized was a large moth that convergent evolution had shaped into a startlingly hummingbird-like form. I think I've seen pictures of them before, but I can't find it in our Audubon guide to the SW. Anyone know what they're called?
Hey, speaking of bugs, I apologize for the two instances of smooshed-together entries. Apparently, if two messages arrive in the same second (due to having been composed out of cellular range, then automatically sent when a conection was made), they get saved into the same file. Won't happen again.
Throughout New Mexico, Lotte & I have noticed that whenever you or I would put a sign on a lamppost or telephone pole (a yard sale, a lost cat, the turnoff for a special event), locals will generally use a caardboard box filled with rocks. Weatherbeaten boxes with faded signs affixed to them stand at intersections in cities and towns throughout this area. Anyone have any idea what the reasons for this convention are?
At the Bread & Circus (well, technically the Wholefoods--two names, one chain ((or is it three names--is Fresh Fields part of that company?)) ) in Santa Fe I'm in the junkfood aisle, deliberating. "What flavor potato chips would we both enjoy?" I ask Lotte.
"get whatever you want," she tells me. "either it's a kind I like, in which case I'll enjoy them, or else it's a kind I don't like, in which case I get to not have any and eat a healthy diet--either way, I'm happy.
A few days later, leaving Ojo Caliente, I open my bag of jalapeño tequilla and lime flavored potato chips, and dig in noisily. "Let me have one," Lotte says, and flashes her don't-give-me-no-flack-about-it glare. (it was a sweet, flirtatious request--Lotta)
I give her one, and no flack about it.
She chews pensively for a while. "Tastes like the none-too-clean floor of a barroom in Texas," she concludes. "Could I have some water, please?"
Ten minutes pass, in which I chew and she drives. The she asks for another. She winces visibly as she eats, but gets it down
"The second worst potato chip you've ever had?" I ask.
"you know what that means...they're growing on you."
"Revegetation" is another Park Service word, beneath whose banner several areas of Mesa Verde have been closed to foot traffic. We haven't been able to raise a signal on the hiptop for a couple days now, so I'm unable to determine its outside legitimacy.
We have seen lots of animals and birds. A wild turkey in Kentucky (appropriately enough) Hummingbirds: blue throated, black chinned, broad billed, broad tailed ands rufous. Mostly in New Mexico, although I was buzzed by a black-chinned on McFee Resevoir, in Colorado.
A lone Road runner in Northern Texas.
Stellers Jays near Hyde Park, Sante Fe & AZ A magpie, Pinyon Jays, Turkey buzzards, and canyon swifts, western scrub jay, and mexican jay, and several ravens (Mesa Verde).
We got buzzed by some type of hawk trying to commit Hari-kari on our windshield, while we were on the highway. It was reddish brown, but we couldn't really identify it clearly. Our guide book is not really made for amateurs (Audubon Society field guide to the Southwestern States). I like the guides that are organized by colors. They are much easier to navigate.
Hoping all your beasties are exciting,
PS. Today we think we saw two kangaroo rats in Canyonlands National Park in Utah, but they were small and fast-moving, so we're not certain.
For the impatient, here are the photos (I hope):
A horned lizard we saw when we stopped near Canyon de Chelly to pee.
Charlotte looking cute at Navajo tourist trap the Four Corners Monument. We simply couldn't bring ourselves to wait in line to stand on the intersection. This is as close as we got.
A yard-long snake we spotted during a tour of Mesa Verde ruins.
One more picture I'm saving to use as an illustration for an upcoming story.
We hit an internet cafe in Moab today, and I used Netspace's lifesaving SSH applet to do a little mending around here. A couple nagging markup errors were corrected, and--after finding a reference in the blosxom documentation--I used touch to fake the modification date on the entries so they'd appear in the proper order.
There's a process of oxidation that occurs on the facess of the sandstone cliffs which creates a layer of black over the surface. The ancient peoples carved petroglyphs into this layer of "desert varnish," which is not to be confused with "desert garnish," which is the sand in your sand-wich.
The Mad Punster
It was sunny and 97 degrees today. We have seen more lizards today, than I think I have seen in my entire life. They skitter from shady spot to shady spot. I do the same, less skittering. The heat doesn't let me move that fast.
In Moab there are signs everywhere; they are similar to 11x14 band posters, except in color and laminated. They hang on store fronts and in bathrooms and in the visitor's center. " Got H2O?" drink a gallon a day.
Water in this part of the country is not taken for granted. $2 for a shower in Mesa Verde. You must take water, a gallon per person, on this hike warns signs. We filled up our bottles this morning-- four gallons for the day. We will refill them tomorrow after a short hike. Tonight I washed my face with a handful, rinsed it with another. It was pure luxury. The locals said the heat wave ended last week. On the Mesa Verde hikes
Many of the possible paths for hikes at Mesa Verde were closed-- extreme fire risk. They can't evacuate everyone quickly enough if a brush fire breaks out. At Mesa Verde there was lightening. As Easterners we didn't understand why this herald of rain was not welcome. Even in pouring rain, if a pinyon pine is struck, the roots can smoulder for days before igniting and destroying hundreds or thousands of acres of trees and vegetation. It finally started to pour, lightening struck, a ranger said that three "smokers" were already being extinquished or being brought under control. I drive 11 mile down hair-pin turns, with sheer drops off the sides (on of the highest points is 7000 feet up) in this downpour that doesn't quench the earth is falls upon. After the hot day of hiking, during the drizzly aftermeth we head to a damp, outdoor lecture on geology and how it determines the fragile balance of moisture that kept the Anasazi alive. Somethings don't change.
Thirstily yours, Philip R Whatabotls
The sun set, bathing the nearby several thousand foot high rock faces in rich, red light. The puffy clouds were lit from behind giving them a golden halo, and filtering the sun into dappled spots on the canyon floor along the Green river. The wind rushes up across the canyon and caresses your arms and neck. Slowly the sky darkens and the contrast with the already-risen crescent moon is heightened. A faint star appears in the heavens hanging several inches down from the moon. Slowly a cricket starts to sing in the background and the only sounds for mile is the gentle rush of the wind. My shadow is crisp on the gravelly ground. Today I saw places so perfect in their beauty that I would have never believed they existed. So beautiful, that I could hardly breathe and when I did catch my breath, tears started to run down my cheeks. I can not bring that beauty back to share. May the wind caress your cheeks and may you find perfect beauty somewhere in the world and a soft goodnight kiss before you dream.....
canyon lands park --5800 feet above all the rest of the people. I amgetting the rush of being in a hard-to-reach tree house fort. Maybe it is the same giddy experience that toddlers have-- they cover their eyes and say "Can you see me? I'm invisible." Then they giggle. Here I am invisible to the rest of the world, driving around on top of it. Giggle.
Love and giggles in Moab,
Prior to moving to Boston in the summer of '97 I came close to drowning three times. This made me a little bit nervous where water's concerned. And then I start dating a former whitewater guide. He talked about whitewater, and he talked about whitewater, and he talked about whitewater. Each mention brought up vivid pictures of being caught underwater and not being able to breathe. It also raised my adrenaline level and started my heart racing. The first time he got me into a canoe on the Charles my heart raced at every two-inch wave that rolled gently under us. Eventually, we managed a several-day canoe trip with Meg & Scott.
When we arrived in Moab, I thought it would be cool to try a rafting trip. AAAARRRRGH! I called and reserved two spots, gave my charge number, and felt okay. Then Sebastian starts asking me questions: "What kind of trip is it? How are the guides trained? Did they say how high the water's running? What class rapids?"
The adrenaline level goes up, the heart rate increases. It's four AM and I'm imagining being stuck under a giant raft. I resolve to ask the outfitters questions about licensing requirements for guides, and finally go back to sleep.
6;15 AM I'm up and doing yoga, packing the car prior to a hike and an afternoon of rafting. (what was I thinking?) sebbo comments: yeah, getting up at 6:15 is pretty crazy I lost the brochure not once but twice. Is my subconcious trying to tell me something? We find the place without the brochure. Register. Sign a waiver (!!!???). I'm okay, I'm okay. Get on the bus and head out. I think: "big raft--it doesn't flip. I can handle this." The river looks flat and calm and muddy. A father in the back of the bus explains about classes of rapids to his son, who replies: "They aren't whitewater--they should be called brownwater." I blissfully listen because the river is so flat--I can handle this. Sebastian starts talking about two person ... duckies??
At the site, they offer us the option of the two-person kayak. I think: smooth waters, I can handle this! And say, "Okay, Sebastian--lets do it."
We happily jump into a two person "duckie" and set out. The water's pretty flat--I'm okay, Sebastian's bored. We go through some bubbly frothy bits that I consider terrifying. My heart is racing. I think they mught be classified as Class 0 rapids. The water flattens out, my heartrate returns to normal, and I think to myself, "Okay--I can do that again." Sebastian chats up the girl guides and compares notes with them on rivers and something called a Class Five (eek!) rapid.
The guide stops the whole group in the middle of the river to give us warnings about the rapids we're about to go through. I'm okay, I can handle this...I think. That is, until I hear the rushing water. "Can I get out now?"
My heart starts racing. We are pulled by the current. It is a good thing that Sebastian used to be a whitewater guide. I can't believe they would let people into these little, tiny boats without checking to see if they have any experience on white water. The water roars. As we head into the mess, Sebastian says "look left." It is a ploy to distract me from my terror. The tiny little duck dips into the well of a big swell and it fills the boat. "Aaaugh!" The Colorado seems to rush at me without a break. Another swell, another swell. Slap, slap, slap, waves hit the underside of our boat. Breathe. Slower! Breathe, slow it down. I focus on breathing so that I don't hyperventilate. My heart is about to jump out of my chest. We emerge from the short, run of rapids--a class one. I am alive. YAY! Relieved, I collapse backwards against the boat. Someone yells, "Did you lose somebody?" I sit up, a tired smile on my face. "Oh," the voice says.
There is a lot of rowing to be done. The river is running slow. My hands are sore by the end of the day. My shoulders have had three workouts in the past 24 hours. The day that I almost drowned in the Mediterranean runs through my head: undertow, no natives in the water at all, being sucked under by the waves, emerging from the water shaking and terrified and the gorgeous, buff life guard looking at me and saying "You ! Water! No more, today!" Did that need clarification, I wonder to myself?
It was a good thing. It's OK. I can handle it. Am I not scared of white water anymore? No. Will I still be slightly terrified when I get into moving water? Only if it is moving really fast. Class one rapids--the main point is pushing my boundaries and moving in spite of them.
Becoming an adult under the zodiac sign of the water chicken,
From the Grand Canyon official guide (South Rim edition):
Serious bites from squirrels happen all too often.
Poisoning pigeons in the park,
A buttload more lizards. We saw two coyotes yesterday trotting along on opposite sides of Route 64 by the Grand Canyon. Also saw a buck with a full head of antlers with velvet on the same road.
A word on ravens: ravens are unbeautiful, common, scavengers with a substantial vocabulary of loud & obnoxious calls. Why do I find myself so charmed by them? They have an air of rumpled dignity that pleases me, and a quality of not-exactly-indifference to all the works and days of mankind. "'Bout time you built this fence," one of them will seem to say, "- was getting tired of sitting on the fuckin' ground. Still, not a bad job, kids. Not bad at all." I'm even prepared to forgive them for stealing the avocado I had out to ripen yesterday.
Monday night, we stayed at the Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park at the southern extreme of Utah. It was a remote and barren spot with an utterly stunning view of an undulating series of thousand-foot-deep canyons and a badly designed potty that occasionally wafted septic odors to our campsite. I stayed up late to read, and while I sat with my headlamp pointed at John McPhee's Basin and Range an unidentified rodent scuttled near my feet, and bats swooped near enough for me to hear their faint chittering and the frantic beating of their wings.
This morning, at the Grand Canyon's Desert View campground, we were awakened arounf 6 AM by an unearthly chaotic yipping, shrieking, and howling. We're fairly confident that what we heard was a pack of coyotes passing--indiscreetly--right through the campground. Lotte decided to put off her yoga for a little while.
We set up our tent and after a bit of hiking, while the sun was setting we had a wonderful fresh salad: local-grown tomatoes, fresh basil, onion, olive oil, cucumber and lemon. Most items we already had in the cooler. Our philosophy on eating while camping is "dehydrated what?"
Um, yeah sure, whatever. Bad Grammar, most certainly! (Call out the Grammar police for the National Park Service placards--is there a grammar weasel in the house?) Upon viewing the Grand Canyon I realized that I like things that stick up more than things that go down (well, except for belly buttons).
Starting at the top and looking into an almost infinitely deep chasm, whose chief charm is size, doesn't give me the rush that starting at the bottom does. Normally I am a bit of a size queen--Gimme a BMW or Harley, 1000cc's -- skip the cute scooter and its wimpy 40mph. Super-size that please! However the Mandelbrot-like patterns of several hundred million years of geologic, river-cut formations of the Grand Canyon just don't do it for me. It is very tourist-friendly, but the part I like is the lack of fencing around the rim. Careful, that first step is a doozy.
Travelling along the base of magnificent hills, upward-reaching cliffs, heavenwards-soaring mesas, and volcano peaks is awe-inspiring. Climbing up for the view, ascending with perspiration dripping down my forehead, neck and sternum. Breath-taking in every sense of the word.
In the canyon lands outside of Moab, it was glorious. Climbing up and down winding paths, trying not to step on the lizards at every turn, trying to follow cairns and dead wood that mark the trail along what everyone calls 'slickrock.' The views were varied and glorious. Strange formations, arches, dips, hollows and curves, pillars of sandstone glowing red in the twilight, caves created by eroding stone, canyons, and cliffs -- everything heading in two directions at once--positive and negative spaces, created or filled.
The trip to the Grand Canyon no less amazing: through the painted desert, passing stone sentinels, gray-blue in the dusky-mist of the evening--mesas and cliffs stretching up and canyons and crevices reaching downwards. The gray-blue of layer upon layer of mesa, outcropping, and uplifts of stone, one upon another against the distant horizon shimmer in the evening mist. We camp in a primitive campground, Gooseneck State Park, at an almost intersection of a half-dozen meanders, several thousand feet down to the San Juan River. 'Gooseneck' describes the canyon cut aptly. Bats are dipping and swerving at insects like drunken madmen. A hot breeze blows across the plain, most of the night.
Upon leaving the Grand Canyon, we head south along 64. It is beautiful in the early morning light. Passing the not -yet -open stands advertising 'Got Turquoise?' we head down through Kaibab National Forest, and opt for a scenic detour through the San Francisco Peaks. Black sand, uh make that, very gravelly pumice, lines the slopes of dead volcanoes, 1000 years gone. Scrubby, scruffy pinyon pines and junipers turn to ponderosa pines. Pumice formations that rise upward from the fissures long since hardened to stone stand, watching over the long crack where the earth split in two. Small plants are just starting to take hold in what from a distance appears to be massive sheets of asphalt-but it is the valley of black pumice they are trying to fill with greenness.
We pick another scenic route through an outlying bit of Coconino National Park and end up with Sebastian driving though switchbacks (omygod, my first Suguaros we are nearing Phoenix as I write) in a mountainous area north of Phoenix. Ponderosa pines stretching upward, red and beige, and white layers of sandstone reaching up and lush green canyons and valleys heading downwards. The switchbacks are slow and not without the tailgater. I get the pleasure of watching the rocks, and the folds of the layers of earth's history pass by. Sedona's red rocks impress with their rich, deep color.
Soon we are travelling through rounded hills, stubbled with bushes like a two day-beard, they roll around the country-side. 104 Degrees. Seguaro greet us, with upstretched arms.
Car thermometer reports an external temperature of 114 degrees. 17 S is five lanes, 70 MPH and an on-ramp merging in every half-mile. A lively education for this neophyte driver.
Palm trees?! Palm trees?!
were cool things to see and do. Tucson made our list, because we wanted
to visit Andre, however now I have other reasons to visit Tucson, too.
It was great being able to speak a bit of German with Andre--an opportunity I don't often get.
Andre took Sebastian and me on a sunset/moonlit walk through the Sonoran Desert last night. The suguaros stood black against the orange and rosy colors of the setting sun. The cactus wrens made their last calls. Bats started appearing as the moon peeked out from the light cloud cover. A moonlight walk in the desert is a beautiful thing. During the outing we saw a jackrabbit, a cottontail rabbit and some small lizards. In the time just past twilight every root, and twisted twig looked like a snake. After the walk we ended up in a great restaurant, called Feast. The delicious food (beignet with chocolate, Coq au Vin, chicken with plum sauce) was a perfect finish to a beautiful evening. We can now identify a handful of desert plants. And after several days of delicious local cuisine, we are pulling harder on our clothing.
We went through the The Desert Museum today and learned really cool things, and saw a great animals (javalinas, coyotes, prarie dogs, and coatis). We also saw black bears-- they are huge. The birds from the desert were awesome- I am reincarnated from a inca dove, whose call is 'whirlpool, whirlpool.' We saw Gambel quails. There are woodpeckers, who live in the suguaro cacti. And we saw more lizards than you can shake a stick at. The variety in the desert ecosystem is astounding. Suguaro cactus grow about 100 years before they can start to grow their first arm. Some of the cactus we saw were 500 years old.
Tuscon's thriftstores are nifty. Sebastian got four shirts and a smoking jacket in blacket and orange swirls (what else do you buy for Burning man?). I got a carry bag and a cotton shirt for four dollars.
Andre has a magic futon. If you plop down on it, it will give you enough time to read about two pages of text and then you are out solid. A wonderful thing that futon.
It has been over one hundred degrees, Stay cool boys and girls! Hugs Charlotta
We left Andre's at 3, groggy and stuffed from a large late lunch, with the plan of camping at Joshua Tree tonight and making it to my brother's in LA tomorrow.
A little after 7, at a gas station just on the Arizona side of the border, we open the door and a hot wind hit our faces. At a guess, I'd say 105 degrees @ 20 MPH.
"We're driving to Los Angeles tonnight," announces Lotte.
I go into the gas atation, pay for our gas, and pick up a Mountain Dew for her and a Starbucks Double Shot for myself.
We merge back onto Route 10 and drive into the setting sun.
Two miles later, we pass the closed California Bird & Poultry Inspection station. "this is the first time I've been in California!" Lotte says
Los Angeles: 230 miles
Lotte, bless her heart, left a key detail out of our desert hike last night, in deference to my right to narrate it. If you haven't read her account yet, you should probably do so first.
Andre had explained in advance that he's particularly fond of evening and night hiking because -- in addition ito it being much cooler -- the senses of sound and smell are sharpened when sight is reduced.
I was as dazzled by the diversity of desert plants and animals as Lotte was. I had always imagined giant saguaros to be a rarity, but the hills were covered with them. Any temptation to stray from the path was easily squashed by the thick array of formidably defended greenery on every side.
Andre let me break trail, giving me the best chance for wildlife spotting. Just after sunset, we came to a place where he urged me to proceed with extreme caution. The week before, he had met a diamondback rattlesnake there, and he suspected its hole might be nearby. We passed the spot without incident, though.
The jackrabbit Lotte mentions in passing was striking -- long & lanky, with improbably tall & erect ears. As dusk fell, as Andre had predicted, I concentrated more and more on my hearing. More than once, I jumped with surprise as birds were flushed out of bushes at my passing.
As clouds drifted over the face of the moon, a sudden, sustained noise had me leaping back in alarm. When my concious mind had time to react, I took a few more big steps back and called out to the others -- it was the sound I had been listening for so intently before -- the rattlesnake's rattle.
Andre pointed his flashlight where I indicated, revealing a thick mottled tan snake writhing angrily in the center of the path (subsequent research suggests it was a Tiger Rattler). In the flashlight's glare, it continued to rattle while retreating to one side.
While Andre pursued it into the bush to get a better look, I held Lotte's hand to my chest. "That's really fast," she said.
I think its time to turn around I announced k loudly.
As we walked back by moonlight heat lightening flickered brightly over the mountains to the southwest, illuminating the clouds from within.
Our little phonebook has Ruth Alfasso as a first entry--the alphabet being alphabetical and all. As a result not quite each time we search for a number it goes straight to you and somehow decides to call you up-- you being a nice person and all. We are not sure if these are connecting, but if they are...we are sorry. It is not out of a deliberate attempt to harass you. Nor are we canceling the calls out of a lack of interest in hearing your voice--you being Ruth and all that.
Palm springs?! Palm Springs?! What about the sharks? What about the sharks?
Now that I have been to Arizona, I have learned all the secrets of Carne
Secca--a regional meat specialty. Years ago when Shani and I lived
together in Malden she told me tales of drying meat in the Arizona sun.
Sebastian compared this to the production of a particular Belgian beer,
fermented outdoors and then drained of bugs. This led us to the
question, how do they keep/get the bugs off of the beef that is
air-dried outside? This, of course, led to the composition of an
irritating little song --
O you can't strain meat,
no you can't strain meat
You can stomp it with your feet
But you can't strain meat. > This has several verses-- see the wikki. What rhymes with venison?
The road is straight, and we've been driving fast...and this is all urban!
Oh, well -- at least it's 80 degrees instead of 110.
LA wasn't really what I expected. I really thought I would see more fake boobs. Sebastian's brother, Lukas suggested that I wasn't really paying much attention.
Our superficial expectation that everyone would be shallow was fortunately not met. A little lesson for us. You don't always find what you expect to find, even if you are looking for it. We did see many people with some very unhealthy, overly-tanned skin.
We stayed with Sebastian's brother Lukas. Lukas is a very hard-working, talented musician and song writer. I have two of his previous albums from his band Daeva. Now he is working with a group putting together a metal band. I was quite nervous when he offered to play some of his music for me. I really didn't think I would like it, and I am a pretty lousy liar. It was great. He has offered to send me a copy of some of his recent work. YAY!
Lukas has a pretty cool apartment in Marina Del Rey. Until staying there I had been against apartment complexes, but it makes better environmental sense in terms of impact to have people concentrated in one area and sharing resources and using the hottub and the swimmingpool, and the lounge with a pool table and the big screen movie room and be a stones throw to the boardwalk for about the same aa the rent of an apartment in Somerville.
When we arrived Lukas suggested we rent bikes and ride along the board walk from Marina Del Rey, through Venice beach. We ended up riding past the Santa Monica pier. It was glorious. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing, thre salt smell caressed our noses. There were all sorts of funky people from different social strata out and about. After a yummy lunch ('mmm, warm duck salad' says Sebastian and 'Rigatoni with vodka tomato sauce' says I) We walked knee-deep in the crashing waves of the Pacific ozean, enjoying the view of the sailboats, quietly making their way along the horizon. We declined doing the hollywood thing--as it really isn't our cup of tea.
The landscaping through the area is a bit disturbing, as it doesn't seem like the rainfall supports the lush vegetation. The big clue is that empty lots are dried and brown--more desrt-like than tropical. The landscaping at the apartment complex was so lush, that it seemed like we were in an amusement park... Sebastion said, 'where are the monkeys and pirates?' Don't forget the animatronic hippos?' There were giant Koi in the circuitous network of ponds and fountains surrounding the apartment complex. This hopefully made up for the lack for monkeys and pirates. My friend Ginger said the place smelled like Disneyworld.
Heading north up route one, With the ocean on my left--- Argh, who put that thing there? Lotta
We have passed through the Los Padres mountains and... How tall does a hill have to be to become a mountain? Vineyards, rolling hills, and spiky pine trees, big mountains with bits of green and dramatic stone outcroppings....where are we now? O, somewhere near Morro Bay.
Your Navigatrix, Lotte
G is for Gilroy, that's good enough for me,
G is for Garlic, that's good enough for me,
Oh, Garlic, Garlic, Garlic starts with g!
Did you know the air actually smells like garlic around here? It's so cool!
Gilroy is surrounded by these beautiful pale yellow rounded rolling hills, which are dotted with trees that cast lacy black shadows. It is glorious.
PS. Gilroy doesn't have variety packs of garlic.
It seems that it doesn't take many years of driving in Boston to become an embittered driver, like me. The trip west has managed to give Sebastian a whole new set of vocabulary words--ass munchkin for tailgater. Ass munchkin is the word of the day.
That was the conversation for most of the trip north along Route 1. Route 1 hugs the California coastline. It has precipitous drops, straight down into the jagged rocks and crashing surf. It also has sloping, curving, hills and small mountains rising up, punctuated by crevices and ravines, tucking themselves in layers to the east, to be unfolded with each right handed curve into the road, another switchback, another amazing crevice, canyon or drop off.
After Sebastian driving a bit of this route, my stomach started to
object--rare for me because I don't usually get motion sickness and
Sebastian is a pretty good driver. We pull over to swap positions a
little short of the Gorda town line sign. The wind rustles beautifully
in the trees. The scent of salt sits heavily in the air. There was a
canyon with a trailhead just to our right. Sebastian
squealsexclaims [thanks. --S], 'Hey, a
waterfall! Let's go.' I look up in the direction Sebastian is pointing--
a narrow rivulet of water about an inch high. Hmmph, I think I am not
sure about this expedition. Deperately needing the stretch we start up
the trail. We sprint, dash and walk in fits and bursts. The shade and
coolness of the woods is a relief. Suddenly, the smell changes from
salty ocean to rich, leafy, herby dampness. Pausing, we breathe in
deeply and revel in the richness of the scent and the moisture in the
air. In the distance we hear the splashing of water on rocks. I am
envisioning a narrow stream.
The path has an opening to the left. We take it, turning toward the direction of ther sound and scent of water. In front of us, rise up large boulders, two and a half to three times our height, but very climbable. Adrenalin-filled we excitedly start clambering, sliding through the nooks and crannies, going over soft grey-green domes of rock. The sound of the water gets closer. Finally the streambed. Crystal-clear water pouring over large beachball size boulders. We can see the fall from here. It is slightly larger. Clambering over and around huge boulders laid down by giants, smoothed by the stream, we head further upstream.
Finally we can see the head of the falls, fifty feet-up, the small stream was one of several that converge and diverge as they tumble over rocks and moss, algae and lichen. Spring green and grey-green stone intertwined and sparkling with rivulets of water. We start climbing to get closer, finding small footholds, amazingly smooth handholds, we cross the stream, leaping from boulder to boulder, cold water running over our Tevas. Our final obstacle, an immense boulder and we split, taking different paths but ending up on the other side facing the rock wall at the base of the cliff, and an idyllic, crystal-clear rock-lined pool of water calling our names. We gasp. I have only seen such views on postcards.
Hesitating only a second as we debate thr level of clothing required, since we passed a woman fishing and two sunbathers, who hurriedly dressed as we approached. We settle on damn little and shed to our skins. Sebastian dives in with no hesistation--the shy and timid me goes in slowly, as it is ice cold. A quick dip and a short swim. We scurry out of the water and towards our clothing, as we hear voices from a distance. Just as we come over the boulder, which blocks the view to the pool the photographer couple who had taken the left trail from the turnout lot, appear. Where we scampered fearlessly over rock and stream, they are carefully picking their way up the trail
Adrenalin flowing, refreshed and somewhat damp, we spend the ret of the day enjoying the vague, outdoorsy afterscent of our afternoon swim.
Regular readers (all three of you) may have noticed that my postings have declined in number in the last week or two. The reason for this is simple -- when were on Rte 40, when Lotte was driving I would write. Now, our routes are both twistier and more scenic, providing more incentive to gape out the window, and making it rougher going to type at any length on the Hiptop.
Currently, Lotte is napping in the tent, providing a golden opportunity for me to catch up a bit.
Avocado with spicy sunflower seeds turns out to be a very satisfying combination. The salty crunch of the seeds nicely compliments the creamyness of the avocado.
Puncture your avocado half several times with a fork, sprinkle on some lime juice (avocados are 89¢ and limes are a dime at Garlic World), and fill the pit pit with yer sunflower seeds. Dig in.
The little brown squirrels around here make a bizarre noise more like that of a rubber chewtoy than anything else I can think of at the moment
An short update on life in the hood, uh wood. We arrived in the area of the Sierra Nevadas, magnificent redwoods, gigantic Sequoias and tons of bear warnings.
Being the saavy, conscientious campers that we are, we had all our food packed in plastic, and in the trunk of the car. We are not going to attract any bears by not being good campers.
We got a sheet of warnings about the bears. We got a sheet of warnings about cougars. The park rangers were being overly-cautious we thought. Bears really aren't that friendly. They don't reeally eat all those wierd items in the list. Bears can smell things 3 miles away. Dutifully, we ravaged the car; removing an air freshener, deet, sunscreen, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, first aid kit, deodorant, candles, all almost microscopic crumbs, and anything that remotely smelled like it was vaguely perfumed, as well as all of our food.
Parents with babies are advised to remove car seats and leave them outside the car for the bears to get a sniff and go on their way, without destroying any car frames.
OK, the warnings start to sink in and I am a bit sceptical, but when we sign out of our camp grounds and go to the other end of the park, I get nervous just having food in the trunk. Thank goodness we don't eat in the tent, I think and breathe a sigh of relief.
Sebastian and I head down to the visitor center and on the way, he spots a momma bear and cub in a tree on the side of the road. We get to our new camp site, and immediately load everything (perfumed, lip balm, and dirty dishes) into the bear lockers: stainless steel, animal-proof latch, and anchored to the ground with cement. Closed! Whew! Off we go on our adventures. I remain doubtful, I still haven't seen a bear. A glorious cave tour, a wonderful hike alongside a waterfall, a trip to see more sequioas and an event-free night -- despite warnings that we are camping in an active bear site.
As we head back to camp to start dinner, we pass a traffic jam -- 20 people with cameras, one ranger with a stick yelling at a bear, and several people leaping out of their cars to snap pictures. We are about 10 feet from him, as he rounds a large chunk of granite and the car in front of us parks. I have seen my bear, medium brown, medium size (they can grow up to 600 pounds). I add that to my list for the day: Gambrel Quail, Stellars jays, and a handful of lizards and a bear.
We start dinner. I spot two large bucks foraging in the fire grate of the campsite next door (camp sites are about as far apart as houses). The bucks are gorgeous and they quietly wander off. Then I hear a loud crash!! Probably a squirrel. They climb to the tops of trees, wait for people to pass by, gnaw off the exceptionally large pine cones (some almost 12 inches longs, and almost baseball size in diameter)and send them crashing down. They can crash pretty darn hard, take off dead limbs, and scare you out of your socks. Damn squirrels.
I see the guy across the street take out his camera. I stand still and watch and listen. Crackle, snap, pop, crunch. The two stags, again or some pretty noisy squirrel, nope.
It lurches through the camp, sniffing at the fire grate, sniffing at the big, brown, bear-proof metal box, licking the gas canister from their grill, and sniffing their tent. Finally he gets further away from my car, I get the keys from Sebastian and head down to the ranger station. All good campers are supposed to alert the rangers, when they spot a bear. Sebastian follows it down the road.
I leave a note at the ranger station. 20 minutes later the ranger comes by, as he approaches at a nearby camp everyone (adulta and children) start yelling 'bear', blowing whistles and an airhorn. This is what you are supposed to do, when approached by a bear. Yell and scream, make a bunch of racket while standing together in a group to make you look bigger and fiercer --bear hazing. Don't run...don't give him the bag of chips in your hand, don't chase him too far, don't throw rocks at his face, do throw sticks in his general direction. YELL!
I slept ok last night. In the last two hours we have heard at least three or four bear hazings by different, well-populated groups of people. These bears are shy? Crunch, what was that sound? You should see the list of tactics for cougars! Were these claw marks on the bear-box there when we arrived?
My first real inkling of RV culture didn't come until a couple years
ago, when Lotte & I spent a few days camped on Assateague Island.
Public park campgrounds tend to have similar layouts -- a loop or series of loops, with a series of paved crenelations on either side in which to park your vehicle, each marking a campsite, with a picnic table, a little fire pit, and perhaps a water faucet and power outlet. Each loop will have a bathroom or two somewhere along it.
Privacy can be limited, as the designers try to pack as many sites as they can into these loops (there are some good reasons for this -- too big a loop means long walks to the bathroom, for example). From where I'm writing this, at Dorst site 120 in Sequoia Nat'l Park, I can see six other tents at five other campsites. As you can imagine, in less wooded areas, this issue can be much worse.
I'm digressing a little here. The thing, I was saying, that surprised us at Assateague (apart from the total uselessness of conventional tent stakes in extremely sandy soil...) was our first glimpse of RV culture. Virtually all of the campsite driveways had enormous RVs in them, and it didn't take us long to figure out that those things were there for the long haul. The lawn ornaments were one clue; the satellite dishes were another.
As you enter many public campgrounds, you'll see a sign announcing a one- or two-month limit on stays. That sign is directed at those folks -- retirees and semi-retirees who spend their summers in RVs in public campgrounds. Over rhe years, communities arise among the regulars at a particular campground, it becomes a veritable little town.
Now, goodness knows there's nothing particularly wrong with this lifestyle, but I'd personally rather not be camped between two RVs with their generators roaring & monoxiding through the night, and I'd rather not pay a premium for electricity, water, and dumping facilities I'm not gonna use.
So, anyway, Mesa Verde's an extremely popular park. We decided to not try to camp inside, but instead overshoot to the state campgrounds in the San Juan mountains.
In the afternoon, we pulled into the McPhee state campground. The ranger on duty told us that sites were $12, and, as an afterthought, added thar walk-in site were $10. How far out were the walk-ins, we wanted to know. Not far, he said. Half a mile? Not that far.
The site was the usual tight-packed RVs, kids on bikes, retirees taking pictures of the sunset. We parked in the empty walk-in lot, and, um, walked in. About ten yards down the walk-in trail, we hit site #1. Not quite that much further was #2. From one corner, it offered a glimpse of McPhee Reservoir and the mountains beyond. I was still admiring the view when Lotte called from further on, "I've found our campsite!" I came over and looked. Two broad flat areas, separated by a natural stone terrace, looked right out onto the lake on one side, and the distant mesas of the desert below on the other. Moving things from the sublime to the ridiculously sublime, a rainbow arced over the mountains to point emphatically to the picnic table in front of us. For this, yeah, we were willing to pay two dollars less.
Sebastian quotes Will Cuppy, something along the lines of, there are
times when I think that everything can be explained in terms of
Bandicoot ear length, other times I am not so certain.
Then Sebastian says I am wierd.
During our recent hike, 'On your right a field of laundrybaskets,' Sebastian continues, 'I bet that is the first time that sentence has ever been said.' Uh, it was a field of laundrybaskets, with mesh clipped over them near Clover Creek Bridge in Sequoia National Park. Some sort of test. Anyone know why.
I'm being followed by a tailgater, tailgater,tailgater
He can fall into a deep crater, deep crater, deep crater.
He is more than close enough
To trash my car and all my stuff......
Heyyyy, whaddya mean I can't have any more espresso?
At Plouf, a fashionably loud & busy french bistro:
Lotte: What does "cakeage" mean?
Crism: That's the fee they charge if you bring your own cake -- like for birthdays and stuff.
So Crism & Betsy & Thomas & Karen & Lotte & I are at the infamous Stinking Rose restaurant in North Beach, and we're starting to make the transition from the garlic fondue & roasted garlic in olive oil to our entrees when Crism shouts "Sandy! Over here!"
Sandy Carielli, freshly in town for a business trip, comes over and joins us for the rest of the meal.
At the lookout point, the Golden Gate bridge is hamming it up for the tourists. Its lower portions are clearly visible, its upper reaches shrouded in opaque fog. On the right, Alcatraz shines gold in the afternoon sun, and downtown glows white even as clouds obscure the tops of its skyscrapers. A pelican flys by, making slow progress against the steady westerly wind. "that's the most unlikely creature I ever saw!" exclaims Lotte.
Outside the gift shop is a mysterious sign in an unknown language. I wonder what it could mean...
Randon thoughts I had while watching some Native Americans dance, while at the Grand Canyon. The dances looked very much like they would induce a trance. The man who accompanied the dancers did make some commentary.
He said... Dance is about movements which create energy to be shared with the clouds, dancing is also about remembering our connection to the clouds and the earth.
Stirring sticks -- were made by older women in the village for the younger women's puberty ceremonies. After every use, they stand over the fire and wave the sticks in a circular motion to the sky and offer their prayers.
When one is dancing the sound vibrates within you. Your body becomes one
instrument among others, a part of the whole. Through this do we become
joined to creation, to those who have gone before and to those who are
yet to be.
Please insert many little periods between words, phrases and ideas. I can't offer much commentary, except sound can break down those boundaries, too. I have been considering how different forms of energy move through the universe--some people call the energy magic...I don't know any better vocabulary.
Inarticulately yours and wondering, Lotte
Lindy in the Park on Sunday included a dangerous overdose of Cole Porter. Since then, Lotte & I have been going around town singing:
I say potato, you say pajamas,
I say tomato, you say iguanas,
Let's call the whole thing off.
Well, except when Lotte is singing:
Burninating de countryside
Burninating de peasants
Well, San Francisco is a lovely city and we have been eating our way through it, Zazies (delicious French food in the Haight Ashbury area), the stinking Rose (yum, wonderful garlicky goodness-try the garlic cheese fondue and the garlic ice cream), and Plouf (more yummie French food, possibly the best French frie I have ever had. The Indian pub food experience -- chips with curry or Poori or stuffed Jalapenos with that Guiness? Thomas and I survived a Sushi restaurant with Karen and Sebastian. It was preceeded by a lovely soak in Palo Alto at a hot tub/steambath place called Watercourse way. There were these wonderful, private rooms. Ours had a jacuzzi, a cold bath and a steam bath. The whole room was done in a vaguely Morrocan style, inlaid terra cotta tiles and jade tiles on the walls surrounding the jacuzzi and covering the dome over the tub, iridescent turquoise tile in the jacuzzi. It was beautiful and very relaxing. My favorite part were the shrieks whenever someone would dunk down into the cold bath-- ahhh, invigorating.
Then we made the rounds of standard sights: Golden gate bridge and park, walk along the coast, the wharf, Haight-Ashbury, Good Vibrations, Arboretum, and the Cartoon art Museum. We also saw the exploratorium- a great place with tons of great hands-on science-related activities. The neatest things were one of the magnet ones using black sand, and one really long tube that distorted sound and playing with a chromograph, which registered duration and pitch of sound. I found it much more interesting than the Children's Science museum.
The hills are really quite amazing. Some are so steep that it looks as if once you get to the top that you will fall over the edge. I keep worrying about the contents of the trunk. Is it so full that we will topple over backwards going up this hill? It feels like 45 degree angles--arghh. Sometimes it feels like 90 degree angles!
Heading into San Francisco we passed through several miles of windmills. It was amazing watching them spin--big, and white with three large blades and evenly spaced along the pale yellow-amber colored rolling hills. Random winds would set them sequentially into motion or pick out a few and send thre blades spinning. It was magnificent and hypnotic.
Fogs here roll in in layers. It is fascinating to watch it happen. The water is impossibly cold and the vegetation is nifty. My favorite is a low-growing succulent, which produces a stubbley little colored flower, tulip-like in form. It grows in large patches along dunes and the shoreline.
We have seen some really cool birds: egrets, pelicans. Today we do our last bit of sightseeing and we start prepping for Burning Man.
Now we have to get ready for Burning Man. Much of our trip has been punctuated by small windows of email/phone access due to the remoteness of the sites. T-mobile coverage is spotty at best. Burning Man will be over a week that we will be off the grid. For years it has been debated whether having net access/phone access would be good for the event. The answer has been no. At Burning Man we break out the walkie talkies, yeah!! Now it is time to prep our gear, check out the batteries, plan for food and look through some of the camps and their offerings. Sunday will pull onto the Playa. It has been a long, exciting journey.
Our mission today was the mission-style burrito, to be found (yup, you got it) down near Mission Street. We ended up at Ponch Villas on Chris Maden's advice. It is a busy joint serving the standard selection of burritos, tortillas, rellenos, and quesadillas. The line is fast moving. The food is cooked up while you wait/watch in line. I managed to eat half of my burrito (in all fairness I started lunch with an upset tummy and then forgot to ask for no cilantro) and a small dish of chips. Sebastian ate 7/8 of his. The horchato, a combo drink of sweetened rice milk, cinnamon, and ice, was not as good as the ones we had in Tucson with Andre. Sebastian gives the burrito a thumbs up. We had marriachi music during a bit of the meal. Sebaastian was a bit scared of the Poncho Villa bust watching over the patrons and the large collection of ribbons from the California State Fair Salsa competition.
We just filled up at a 76 in Sonoma; Lotte reports that it's the first time sh's ever paid more than $20 for a tank of gas, and 2.20 per gallon. Ouch.
So we climb up through miles of conifers, and the Sierra Nevadas stretch out in every direction beyond the blueness of Lake Tahoe. We turn a corner and dozens of shiny SUVs line both sides of the street. What are all these people doing here? Then I see a sign: Catholic mass.
I don't understand why so many people go to Catholic church when the whole thing makes you feel guilty and inferior.
Sebastian says, "Name a successful religion that tells people good stuff about themselves."
The car is stuffed, our brains our frazzled. We have a hand-me-down bike from Crism and a $50 mountain bike from a Reno antiques shop tenuously tied to the top of the car. 20 gallons of water are strewn in every cranny of thevehicle. Two that we know of have sprung leaksj if any more hapvem we'll find out in a few hours. Lotte is merging onto 80 E, which'll take us out of Reno and off to the playa.
Any final words for our audience, Lotte?
Well, all righty, then. See y'all in Septembah, suckahs.
we just passed Deeth Starr Valley...
Burning Man was great as usual. Afterwards we stayed overnight in the Peppermill Casino Hotel, which is almost as over the top as Burning Man: lights, constant music, and animatronic beasts around the swimming pool.
The theme of Burning Man this year was "Beyond Belief." The streets were related: certainty, dogma, creed, revealed, karmic circle, doubt, real, imagined, absurd plaza, and vision. My favorite was the intersection of dubious and dogma. Some camps had religious themes. There were temples and prayer wheels, and sculptures. One sculpture was the 'get a cleu'. It was circles within circles. The get a cleu folks were on the perimeter, on vision. They gave out beautiful necklaces which came attached to a card encouraging ecumeniscism. The folks at Get a Cleu camp also passed out cards, reading things like "The clearest way to the universe is through a forest wilderness" (John Muir) or "Live joyfully without desire" (Buddha).
On Sunday at Burning Man we went to the Church of Wow. We sang some lovely songs about wow, everyone walked around saying "wow" to each other. James Wanless, famous for the Voyager tarot deck, gave a sermonette on wow. He said, some people go through life saying "woe", and others say "waah!", still other say "woo-woo" not being impressed with anything. Another category of folks just say "why, why, why?" He encouraged everyone to see "wow" in life and try to be good wowists and attain the state of wow. Then everyone said "wow-a-lleuia" and we sang a gospel song about wow. There was much singing and clapping and shouting of wow. It was almost as good as the service I went to in LA, at the Agape Church.
The Agape church is a transdenominational church. There were waiting lines to get into the meditation preceeding the service. The meditation begins with soft, quiet music and a woman encouraged everyone to enter into this sacred space. Shortly before the meditation ended the acoustic guitar began again and people were encouraged to slowly bring their focus back to this space to engage in the service. The doors to the sanctuary opened and others joined us for the service.
The church is clearly welcoming. It has a niche for almost anyone, any race, and sexual orientation. It felt really good to be in a sacred space, where the teachings of love and not just tolerance but acceptance were being obviously practiced. I saw no lip service to the idea of "love thy brother." I loved the diversity of the church members.
One aspect of the service really impressed me and that was the prayer vigils. During the service there are people keeping the space sacred and safe by engaging in prayer. I thought this was quite beautiful and made the word "sanctuary" seem more appropriate for this space.
Agape continued... At Agape they referred to God as 'it' not he or she and repeatedly called it the energy that moves through the universe. Some of the activities involve directing energy at people: they would ask everyone to send their love to some people, and everyone would face both palms at the person and repeat a chant. It was really amazing. The chi in that place was out of this world. They also did an energy thing with a new born baby. They held the baby up and introduced it to the congregants, and repeated a chant about love, and positive energy. Everyone held up their hands and 'sent the baby some love' Sending people love is what they call it--but it made the skin on my hands feel taught and completely electrified. The church is called Agape--unconditional love. They talked a bit about getting out of God's way so that the energy can work for you in a positive, beautiful, loving way. They talked about being immersed in the energy of the divine, which is the energy of the universe--no guilt, no sin, no finger pointing. It was about the energy of the universe being a gift so great, that you couldn't receive it--but let it kind of wash over you. The educational programs offered sacred dance, tai chi, and drumming and various workshops. The service is preceeded by meditation, in which people were led into with the idea of getting grounded and centered in this energy, and then followed by a very positive message about about prosperity, joy and pleasure basking in the energy, which is the universe. I think in some ways, it was very LA. In some ways very ecumenical and diverse--The congregation was truly open, and there was no overwhelming majority-- a real cross-section of society. Instead of teaching fear or loathing of the other, perhaps joy, love, delight in creation, and acceptance is something every church-goer could strive towards and every church could/should promote. I walked out of Agape feeling unconditonally loved, and on top of the world. If life is a magnificent gift, isn't that how worship and sanctuary should make a person feel?
Our camp is a group of folks who work for the greater good of Supersnail. We greet folks coming to have their pictures taken by Julian. These go up on the website. There is six years of beautiful portraiture of Burners at Supersnail.com. We camp at center camp, most parades go by our front door: Fuzzy nation, the Billion Bunny march, critical tits, critical stilts, drunk and belligerent santas, klowns and save the man protesters. Most art cars go by our camp. Many people paint themselves in our body painting garden. The lamplighters also go by our camp.
The lamplighters wear tunics covered in flame. They have poles across their shoulders, which are laden with oil lanterns. Everyday at dusk a couple hundred lamplighters process through the city to the beat of a drum and hang the lanterns which light our town.
Every evening as the lamplighters pass, a campmate of ours—Patrick—has been the catalyst for an evening serenade. We sing "You light up our lives" each evening. We sang to them last year, too. After we finish singing, we cheer them on. This year they gave us lamplighter pendants. I wear mine with pride.
Heading East from Reno we pass the usual sagebrush covered hills. Hills and Pignon pines, and then the landscape slowly becomes silvery white flat areas and marshes. Through the Humboldt ranges and ahead of us is the straightest road we have ever seen. Eighty leads ruler-straight directly to the horizon. Utah and the salt flats--an amazing view puntuated by the msot unlikely sculpture ever.
For miles in every direction everything is flat, but here is a slick, forty or fifty feet high sculpture. From the distance it looks like a giant oak tree. Up close it resembles a tree with giant croquet balls as if in imitation of leaf clusters. Later we discover that it is an art work, Metaphor--mascot of Utah?
Music, earplugs and ouch.
Burning Man was very loud this year. My first mistake was arriving fully rested, which meant that exhaustion didn't take over. Ahhh, the joys of techno. After trying several sets of earplugs, I became very sad because they let through the neighboring camp's MC Hawking physicist rap at around 3 am. Uh...hmmmm. The despair of not being able to sleep and knowing that it is virtually impossible to get new earplugs was dreadful--no vending to speak of at Burning Man.
Wandering around Burning Man you can strike up conversations with random people more easily than in the world at large. Also, at Burning Man people will give you stuff: stickers, necklaces, bracelets, hugs, scarves, anklets, alcohol, footrubs, and literature (Stuff We All Get or SWAG). A woman started talking with me and then out of the blue offered a set of earplugs. I figured this was a sign from the universe and despite the fact that I had tried several pairs, I accepted another set. These turned out to be much better than the several other sets I had tried...yeah, sleep.
Friday evening the nearby music was loud enough and the speakers strong enough that the ground beneath mny sleeping bag was thumping to the beat. Nope, earplugs wouldn't work for this. Saturday morning we move the tent and sleeping bags to an area of walk-in camping--no generators, no music, no speakers, no circulating artcars with loud music and no randomly wandering guys with BULL-horns (-I have not seen a female at Burning Man spewing nonsense through a BULL-horn...ever....hmmm?!). Sleep is good.
The walk-in camping area is cordoned off with a fairly taut cord to keep vehicles out, prevent folks from driving over tents and the like. Monday morning I am riding my bike like a bat out of hell, in the direction of walk-in camping. My brain realizes the cord is there and in about 4 seconds I have full impact. The cord snaps. One end whips the side and front of my upper right arm and on its way across my body whips nastily around the nice soft inner skin on mu left upper arm. OUUUCCHHHHH! My arms look as if some one snapped them with a whip. I could have come away much worse....6 inches higher and it would have been my neck. Had I fallen off the bike, it could have been a head wound. Simple water is painful on contact, so no swim in the great salt lake for me. Owwww. I decide I have been pretty lucky. Sebastian deserves a reward for sympathy.
At a vineyard in Sonoma, I got into a conversation
with the friendly hostess, who told me how Burning Man
was all commercial now. "Um, you mean since there is
no one selling/marketing anything there?" I asked. No,
she goes on to tell me that it is because people
create documentaries about it. Hmmm, a definition of
commercialism with which I am not familiar. Budweiser
and Coca cola cans are still not hosting it (nor
leaving thrie empties everywhere) And no one expects
anyone else to entertain them (No spectators! One of
several guidelines that govern our fair but temporary
city) Honestly, coffee, ice and water ARE sold and the
profits go to the schools and charities in Gerlach.
Gerlach is a small town, with a fairly small
financial base and very small school system.
Sebastian has come to the conclusion that, there
are several probable issues behind the commercialism
comment by former burners. It could be that Burning
Man is not free anymore; tickets start arround $165.00
in early Spring. Or it is a misdirected complaint.
Sebastian explains there are maybe two sets of former
burners. These former Burners want to be part of some
sort of elite, that doesn't believe Burning Man should
expand or include others-- a hip, secret society. Or
those others who believe it should transcend the
desert and the one week--and expand and change the
world. As a non -former Burner, who is OK with the
ticket price, and actually having port-a-johns and
medical evacuation services for those that need it.
I don't see why you could say that it is more
commercial. Yes, pictures of Burning man were in
National Geographic, and Wired and appear regularly in
the press. Hmmm, yes, it is the publicity that makes
it more commercial. There are two books about Burning
Man: one coffee-table version by Wired with mostly
sensationalistic, large-format, compositionally-weak
photographs of Burners in strange costumes, and the
book Drama in the Desert: sights and sounds of Burning
Man, which gives a more thorough and thoughtful
representation of the event and its culture. The
latter created and self-published by burners.
The pasts of burning man which pull me back every
year are the bits that I try to bring to my life
outside of Burning Man. I would like to see a world a
little more creative, a little more tolerant, a little
more committed to taking others as they come, and see
people a little more interested in giving others a
lift in spirits just for the sake of play, and see
people be responsible for their own health and safety,
and not so concerned with protecting people from
themselves physically or morally (judge not, lest you
be judged), and a bit more commitment to the
environment (leave no trace).
Now you know what category I fall into--the
category which has all of us poor, delusional souls,
being repressed by the current commercialism of the
Ah, end of rant.
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Heading East from Reno we pass the usual sagebrush covered hills. Hills and Pignon pines, and then the landscape slowly become silvery white flat areas and marshes. Through the Humboldt ranges and ahead of us is the straightest road we have ever seen. Eighty leads ruler-straight directly to the horizon. Utah and the salt flats--an amazing view punctuated by the most unlikely sculpture ever. For miles, everything is flat, but here is a slick, 40 or fifty feet high sculpture. From the distance it looks like a gigant oak tree. Up close it resembles a tree with giant croquet balls as if in imitation of leaf clusters. Later we find out that it is called Metaphor: Tree of Utah.
We camp about half an hour from Salt Lake city. It is possibly the cleanest city I have ever seen. It also has a surprisingly large number of coffee shops. We decide to make time! A quick lunch and some caffeine and we're off. The mountains east of Salt Lake City are beautiful. I see houses which look as if they are lincoln log knock-offs: green rooves and reddish timbered sides. We head through an area which resembles bad lands and then through an area with a lot of green in the soil...copper we speculate. We will check it later.
Along most of route 80 (Eastern Utah and most of Wyoming) are curious fences, six by eight foot, angled at almost 45 degrees, set randomly across fields in short rows of three to about twenty units each and serving no apparent purpose. You can walk around them, they are set on top of hills, in valleys, around washes, and near nothing. Some are of metal and some of wood.
We pass magnificent outcroppings of rocks. The highway leads straight to the horizon and then turns and bends around immense, layers of rocks in reds, browns, gray and beige. The landscape is gorgeous, speckled with black shadows from regularly spaced cumulus clouds. We are accompanied alternatively by Byrne, Hendriix, classical on tuba (some of sebbo's favorites) and a selection of vaguely middle Eastern world music. I practice belly dance chest moves while the wind whips around the car.
We pass bunches of signal towers while not getting any signal for our cell phone. Damn. I start peculating about missile silos, signal towers and how they hide them. When I was in the army, a friend had told me of his time spent guarding them. Now I wish I had asked more questions. It would be neat to be able to spot them. How can you hide the comings and goings of an entire staff? Is it easier to build some sort of cover/fake thing over them (a house or mining operation) or is a manhole in an empty field easier? Perhaps it is easier to have them on BLM land where access is pretty much limited to cows and sheep and the perenially non-curious? Maybe without the Russians it is less of an issue. The conjecture makes for entertainment during an otherwise longish drive.
Continental divide. Hills. More mysterious fencing units. Golden green fields, cows and sheep--no sagebrush here. Distant purply-gray mountains. Rain and a rainbow in the direction of Cheyenne. Horses outlined by the late afternoon sun.
We rant about Covenant trucking's offensive sticker about abortion politics. Sebastian says he should start a trucking company in order to put relativist, anything goes, libertine stickers emphasizing personal freedom on them. "Love is the law, love under will" We say, "If it feels good, do it...as long as it doesn't frighten the horses".
Big Conifers near Laramie. And a really awesome roadcut. Sebastian has been reading McPhee's book Annals of the Former World. Jonathan Gelbord told Sebastian about it. There is a section about the geology of this part of the country (Utah, Nevada) called, basin and range. It is very interesting stuff. McPhee is... like,... you know, uh, articulate.
We reread the section on Wyoming from "Eat your way across the USA" It is great food porn. Lavish descriptions of diners and eateries across the country. Nothing in Cheyenne. Only one major mistake so far, Louis Basque food in Reno is almost 20.00 per person, therefore two dollar signs, not one. We have eaten at almost a dozen of their listed restaurants. Most have been spot- on. Yummm, Meg Lent us the book. Thank you, Meg!!
Wyoming's section of 80 is in good condition. Between Laramie and Cheyenne are rolling hills covered in a pale yellow green stubble, which from a distance resembles slightly worn velvet. Argh, no t-mobile signal near Cheyenne.
A week at Burning man in the mid to high nineties-mild by Burner's standards; the dust storms compensated for the temperatures. This morning we awoke to a dew-covered tent and a brisk 60 degrees. Currently it is 70 degrees. We saw trees turning red and it feels strange to know that summer has passed and we will be returning to ever shorter periods of daylight. Colorado border and twilight. Sweet Dreams.
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