Roadtrip Archives

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.


email: roadtrip at sebbo dot org
phone: 781/308-4152

Rough Itinerary
July
14-20 Jamestown NY
20-21 Cleveland OH
21-24 Louisville KY
24-25 Memphis TN
25-26 Hot Springs AR
? Oklahoma City OK
? Albuquerque NM
30 Taos NM
31 Mesa Verde CO
August
? Grand Canyon AZ
6-8 Tucson
8-10 Phoenix AZ
10-11 Indio CA
11-13 Los Angeles CA
13-16 Yosemite CA
16-24 San Francisco CA
24 Tahoe CA
Reno NV
24-Sept 1 Black Rock City NV
September
2 Salt Lake City UT
3-11 ?????
12 Louisville KY

Tue, Jul 15, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Gadget Roundup:

Canon Powershot A70 digital camera
Pros: the cheapest camera Charlotte was willing to consider; reasonably compact; feature rich; high resolution
Cons: seems to be fussy about light conditions; too many damn features
compact flash reader
We probably won't need it on the road, but it's small and it can't hurt.
Hiptop phone/pda/net device
Pros: small for a PDA--phone/email/web in one device; reasonable monthly fees; extremely stylish
Cons: big for a cellphone; coverage appears to be spotty; no third-party applications (SSH, for example, would be very nice--if something goes wrong with this site, I dunno when I'll be able to fiddle with it.)
Hiptop recharger
Hiptop car recharger
Cheap Maganvox MP3 CD player
Just when we'd decided to forego an MP3 player and make do with my elderly Discman, we found a $40 player at Target. I've spent much of today buring four CDs with several days worth of music.
Radio Tranceiver
A nifty little device that transmits a radio signal from the MP3 player to the car radio. Eats AA batteries like popcorn.
car power cord for MP3 player
Sony CD boombox
what we were supposed to be buying at Target. For dance classes and other outdoor use
Car Battery Recharger
Big ugly other battery recharger
for the D cells that Charlotte's boombox takes
Two FRS radios

Whew. I feel exhausted already.

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Mon, Jul 21, 2003

Sebastian writes:

You can't be Sirius

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

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Tue, Jul 22, 2003

Sebastian writes:

This I the title of the story--maybe

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.

--sebbo

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Sebastian writes:

Cincinatti Chili

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,

--sebbo

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Sebastian writes:

Hiptop Report

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.

Yours cordially,
--sebbo

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Wed, Jul 23, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Town of a Million Zillion Lawnmowers.

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,
--sebbo

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Sebastian writes:

Testing...

A precious moment: Run, Billy! Run!

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Sebastian writes:

Pictures!

A few pics of our adventures thus far, courtesy of Sarah and Todd's generous sharing of their 'puter, plus hastily downloaded copies of PuTTY and IrfanView.


Lori and Jonathan


Hacksaw, Lotte, and Ken


Stergios demonstrates his tae kwan do skillz




Lynns



Savannah loves the camera.


Lotte found a house in Louisville whose yard is filled with funky steel sculpture.

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Fri, Jul 25, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Aaaaaaahhhh, Geek out!

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,
--sebbo

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Sebastian writes:

Just the facts

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.


Ick! What a dull entry. I need to either start writing better or acquire a more interessting life. --sebbo

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Sebastian writes:

Geekout 3 1/2

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!

RSS feed of this site

Lynn's

Roadfood.com --sebbo

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Sat, Jul 26, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Yes, I'm an idiot

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.

Yours contritely,
--sebbo

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Sebastian writes:

Note to self

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.

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Sun, Jul 27, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Lake meredith notes

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.

Transitionlessly,
--sebbo

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Sebastian writes:

Burm-A-Shave!

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 Transportation
You <expletive deleted>!

--sebbo

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Mon, Jul 28, 2003

Sebastian writes:

SNAFU

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.

Yech,
--sebbo

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Sebastian writes:

The Santa Fe tourist district

Too...much...torquoise! Blacking...out...

--sebbo

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Tue, Jul 29, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Word of the day

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.

--sebbo

Food round-up

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.

Foodily,
--sebbo

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Wed, Jul 30, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Andrel writes:

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.

--Andre

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,
Sebbo

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Sebastian writes:

Word of the Day

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...

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Sebastian writes:

Taos explained

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.

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Thu, Jul 31, 2003

Sebastian writes:

The Birds and the Bees (and the cigarette trees)

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.

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Sebastian writes:

A is for Ism

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."

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Sebastian writes:

What's the deal with all the cardboard boxes?

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?

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Sun, Aug 03, 2003

Sebastian writes:

The subtle economics of potato chips

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.

She nods.

"you know what that means...they're growing on you."

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Sebastian writes:

Word of the Day

"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.

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Mon, Aug 04, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Photo quickies (and a little more geeking)

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.

Yay!

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Wed, Aug 06, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Quote of the Day

From the Grand Canyon official guide (South Rim edition):

Serious bites from squirrels happen all too often.

Poisoning pigeons in the park,
Sebbo

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Sebastian writes:

Animal update (with meanders)

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.

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Sebastian writes:

Phoenix, 4 PM

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?!

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Fri, Aug 08, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Crossing over

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

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Sat, Aug 09, 2003

Sebastian writes:

A Memorable Encounter

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.

[/diaries/roadtrip/sebbo] ###

Fri, Aug 15, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Incommunicado, sort of

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.

[/diaries/roadtrip/sebbo] ###

Sebastian writes:

Cullinary Hacks

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.

[/diaries/roadtrip/sebbo] ###

Sebastian writes:

Squeaktoy

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

[/diaries/roadtrip/sebbo] ###

Sebastian writes:

Rocky Mountain Relative Value High, or, the subtle economics of campsite

pricing

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.


Several times on this trip, we've stayed at rather nice state campgrounds on the shores of artificial lakes. They were always pretty empty, even on weekends, and I was wondering why that was for a long time. Eventually, I remembered that in Cadillac Desert, it is explained (sorry about the passive voice -- I can't remember the author's name) that the BLM will wildly overestimate the "recreational value" of a planned dam to help sell the project to the money people.

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.

[/diaries/roadtrip/sebbo] ###

Sat, Aug 16, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Word of the day

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.

[/diaries/roadtrip/sebbo] ###

Mon, Aug 18, 2003

Sebastian writes:

And the whole wide world is a tiny town.

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.

[/diaries/roadtrip/sebbo] ###

Sebastian writes:

Gifotu Shoppu

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...

[/diaries/roadtrip/sebbo] ###

Wed, Aug 20, 2003

Sebastian writes:

But if we call the whole thing off...

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,
Potato, pajamas
Tomato, iguanas
Let's call the whole thing off.

Well, except when Lotte is singing:

Trogdor!!!
Burninating de countryside
Burninating de peasants

[/diaries/roadtrip/sebbo] ###

Fri, Aug 22, 2003

Sebastian writes:

A new record!

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.

[/diaries/roadtrip/sebbo] ###

Sun, Aug 24, 2003

Sebastian writes:

Let us not say "auf wiedersehen" but rather "slow the fuck down"

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?

"Nooo."

Well, all righty, then. See y'all in Septembah, suckahs.

[/diaries/roadtrip/sebbo] ###

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