Sunday, April 10, 2016


Sorry. I've been busy.

I miss this blog. I miss writing. I resent facebook. I used to think it was cheating to write in this place, that it took energy away from "real" writing, but it is just about the only writing I do anymore. Work has become bigger than it should be, and a good road trip seems to be the cure for all that seriousness.

We started out for Bend, where my niece, Cassie, lives. After a good visit and great food -- she is a good cook like her mom was -- we headed for Utah. Not something I'd usually do. The whole southwest thing has never really appealed to me, but we were running out of National parks to visit and Utah has a bunch. Still, the arid dirt landscape didn't really get it and I extracted a promise from Kurt that if I agreed to the dirt run, we'd make our way back through green country.

We use an older map. This, in itself, is not advisable, but it has the major passages and freeways covered, so off we went. Besides, it has sentimental value: I've documented the past twelve years of vacations with various neon highlighters. I find my small enjoyments where I can.

So, we headed east, which feels like west the east-er you go. Barbed wire, republican candidate signs, although oddly and happily, I did not see one Trump sign. It makes me wonder who will  be voting for him if these folks aren't. Come to think of it, I saw few presidential signs at all, confirming how desolate the GOP really is.

Anyway, the first day after Bend was considered a pure driving day. Nothing much to see but juniper, sage and tumbleweeds, the landscape flattening with each mile, barren by the time we hit the salt flats at 110 mph. Did I mention we rented a Charger? And farmed out the dogs to a boarder? And ditched the trailer? Well, we did. We citifolked this road trip. Motels and bad food all the way. Utah is no culinary destination from my point of view.

I missed the dogs. When we made pit stops, it was reflex to reach for the back seat to let them out, to get them water, to let them poop. It was nice not to have to face the motel morning ritual of finding a proper spot to walk the boys. They are still in the process of forgiving us.

The first day we made it Price, Utah. Again, not a destination -- just a pit stop in paradise. We'd made it from Bend, Oregon, 60 miles past Salt Lake. Long day.

In the morning we took off for Moab and Arches Nat'l Park and Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods.

Entering the valley of the Colorado River, rock walls began to rise on either side of us until we had to crane our necks to see the sky. These cliffs, every shade of brick and rust in a thousand layers, looked like they had been painted by the hand of god.  The way the rock has flaked away left images, feather-like and graphic, that made me think of cave paintings. I baptized myself in the Colorado and began to maybe comprehend what all the fuss about southwestern art is about.

As we meandered through this canyon to Arches, it seemed like each new cliff was an Indian ribbon skirt floating on the dust below. I'd always found Mexican and American Indian art repetitive. But to see the origin of their mimicry, the constant flow of line and pattern, made sense to me at last. It must be like someone who has never seen the northwest: what the fuck is it with all these trees and salmon and shit?

We stayed in Tuba City the next night. Recall that I am not yet convinced of the relative beauty of the area. Tuba City is in the Navajo res, and the abject poverty is stark, unrelenting and unavoidable. Like good white folks, we tipped well and felt bad. Damn, it is hard to see that and return to an abundant life.

Arches was awesome. You can google it. This was a drive-by vacation. We didn't hike these canyons, we didn't take the guided tour. We just drove by, pulled over to take pictures, and moved on. I think one of the main reasons we went to Utah was so Kurt could stand in the place where Forest Gump stopped running. It is in Monument Valley. It is just what it looked like, only awesomer. I loved the explanations offered for the various geology: "There was a mile of stuff on top of salt, the salt degraded and left these deposits. Probably." Thank you.

Next morning, off to the Grand Canyon. It was awesome. This is a known fact. You can google some pictures. Mine are awful in comparison. We did a bit of walking around because you pretty much have to get out of the car to see anything. So we did. The north side was closed, so we skipped it.

Instead we followed our map. It is the kind with green dots for scenic routes and the location of walmarts in case you need to stay over night in their parking lots. So, we had done well following green dots so far. Kurt was all about the most direct route, but not me. I'm on vacation. I want to see stuff. So we took this one road somewhere between the grand canyon and maybe Kanab, Utah. It started out fine. There was a sign that, in hindsight, we should have paid more attention to. It said something like "5mph road ahead with switchbacks and 10% grade." So we proceded with initial caution, but the road was only a bit windier than the rest of the roads. We scoffed at their warnings. I drove. Probably forty miles into this particular road, we ran into another, similar sign. Then we came around the corner.

10% was conservative. 5mph? Not a chance. We stood at the edge of the cliff and calculated the distance to the barren desert below us -- a long, long way below us. A goat trail for brave goats zig-zagged down the face of the highest ribbon skirt of them all. With an easy forty miles in, there was no turning back. There was, of course, but we didn't. We took pictures and posted final videos to facebook. We crawled down a cliff that made Eastside Road on the Applegate River gorge seem like a freeway. No rail. No mercy. No nothin'.

We lived to see flat land again.

Onward and forward. We pulled off to have a sandwich and change our underwear near Fredonia, Arizona, maybe. When we got back on the road, we came upon a semi truck that had rolled. Just. The driver was wandering around with his pants down around his ankles and bleeding from his ears. We pulled over to help. Clearly he was in shock and we did what we could until an MD showed up and took over. I wonder if he made it. He was pretty banged up. I tried to keep him sitting or lying down, but he couldn't stay still. He was confused and in a lot of pain. His name was Steve.

That may have slowed us down a tiny bit. We then decided what the hell, go to one more park. Zion. It also was awesome. Maybe the most awesome, but we missed Bryce and Canyonlands and some others, so how do I know? It was pink. And overwhelmingly huge. Many rocks looked like Jabba the Hutt, but in a beautiful way. I'm certain this is where George Lucas got the inspiration for him.

We continued on to Vegas and saw my almost sister-in-law, Paula, and stayed at a shiny place for the night. Kurt wanted me to see the strip, I didn't, really, but when in Vegas.... So we drove through it, long and sparkly, and island of excess next door to the res. The only thing I really liked was the sculpture above the entrance to Harrah's. And the black pyramid -- that was surprising. We let a bellman carry our luggage up. We were that tired.

After Vegas was another driving day, really. All the way west to the Santa Monica pier. We dipped our feet in the water at Malibu and stared at the houses because with privatized beaches, the houses are side to side to side and you can't see the water. Same as Washington state. You know the ocean's out there, you just can't see it. So we took Hwy. 1 or 101, depending on where it went and what it was called, all the way to Morrow Bay where we spent the next night. Beautiful sunset on the beach, crab coctail and chiopino for dinner, and onward. The next night we spent near Mendocino in Fort Bragg at a crackhead Super 8 or 6 motel which I give a 2. The next day we drove, he drove, all the way home. 8amto 7pm, hellbent.

The dogs were so happy to see us. When I turned on the news, the byline read: "Trump leaves campaign trail. Says he has to run his business." It was too good to be true. It was Wolf Blitzer at his finest, getting a jump on the facts.


nina said...

Can't begin to tell you how much I've missed these posts. I'd rhapsodize, but it's midnight -- about three hours later than my usual bedtime. I've been chasing ants.
Come back soon.

someone said...

Thanks. My time feels more like my own again. Did you catch the ants?