Sunday, September 26, 2010

A quick note...

First a weekend report... I spent most of Saturday rebuilding a fishing pier in Fremont, a Rotary project... but for my employer... It was a good project, good camaraderie (a French word, referring to friends...), good result, good food (thanks Daren,) then off to work, to set up for a croquette game Sunday, and staff a wedding photo shoot.

Participating in a stranger's wedding is weird... it is their day, but you need to be there for your job... spent time with the bride as the wedding was starting, but she was waiting alone... strangely personal.

Today I played with photos, read the paper, went to lunch with T., the wife... we tried for Princeton, Half Moon Bay, but abandoned that due to traffic... instead we went to the 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco, The City.

Home afterward, and the rare afternoon nap... that toasted most of the day...

I continue to try to catch up with photos and posts about the last road trip... This is bothering me... is it so important to document the journey that the documentation overpowers the journey... In a sense this is the question of photos taken vs. those not taken... Even if not documented in photos, I was still there...

Tonights photos are from short hikes into several Utah canyons... along Comb ridge, into Butler Canyon, into Mule Canyon... The town of Bluff is there too... (if you want to find the Bluff site, look for the cemetery... its nearby.

Now late, time for bed, work awaits early tomorrow.

Randy



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chasing John and Charlie… Journeys in search of America

“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When Years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked” John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley.


50 years ago, Steinbeck, John Steinbeck, embarked on a trip with a large dog, of the color which the French call “Bleu”, by the name of Charley, (formally, Charlie Le Chien)… He went in search of America… a place he thought he knew, a place he called home and loved… I like to think sometimes I am following…


He stayed in a wide variety of places… expensive, fine, urban hotels, where Charley was bathed and pampered, but also spent time in a classic camper… he carried rifles and fishing poles… so the locals would not question why he was traveling… “I was told that a Stranger’s purpose in moving about the country might cause suspicion. For this reason I racked a shotgun, two rifles, and a couple of fishing rods in my truck, for it is my experience that if a man is going hunting or fishing his purpose is understood or even applauded.” Then wandering is not always acceptable… but hunting or fishing were common and understood, particularly in the far west… Steinbeck understood the west, knew how to fit in, and adapted. Today, 50 years later things are simpler, the traveler, the wanderer the simple tourist is better understood He called on previous experiences…


I read the Travels with Charley for the first time in the late 1960’s… my copy cheap paperback copy of the book, the kind poor high school and collage students would purchase, says it’s the 25th printing from October 1968, 42 years ago… at the time, Steinbeck was still alive, among us, but had abandoned his native California for New York…

Now in my middle age, a bit less than Steinbeck’s 58 years, but close… I find myself falling for his restlessness and wanderlust. I like to travel and wander, with road trips are my preferred but by no means exclusive method of travel. Like Steinbeck, I like to alternate camping and hotels/motels… occasionally returning to civilization to shower, clean up and rejoin the regular world. Unlike Steinbeck, I am not generally traveling with a dog (Emma the wonder dog stays at home, mostly) so don’t have to deal with those issues… But I suspect many of the travels would be better with Emma the wonder dog…


Now rereading the tome… increasingly, Steinbeck’s words speak to me…


“When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must fist fine in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This for the practical bum is not difficult. He has a garden of reasons to choose from. Next he must plan his trip in time and space, chose a direction and a destination. And last he must implement the journey. How to go, what to take, how long to stay. This part of the process is invariable and immortal.”


In chasing John Steinbeck, find myself too often planning, changing plans… justifying the journey. ( This for the practical bum is not difficult. J.S.) I make plans, a make schedules… there are maps involved… I use Google… I read books, … Sometimes I believe the planning is more important, and more enjoyable that the trip… I suspect Steinbeck would agree… but then I leave and understand, as he did, that the trip is always better… but the planning and dreaming is good.


My copy of travels with Charley is now 42 years old… pages now brittle… my name and address inscribed on the first page… an address that the family abandoned (but did not forget) in 1976 or now 34 years ago…


In 1960 Steinbeck was worried about being known, being identified… I don’t have that problem… I am Anonymous , unknown … Steinbeck named his camper Rocinante, after Don Quixote’s Horse… In 1972, I named my 1960 VW camper bus (my second car) Rocinante after Steinbeck’s camper… No one questioned the name then, today I would have to explain it… I suspect we are collectively less literate… He had New York plates then… occasionally people questioned him… I have California plates… Steinbeck’s home, and people judge me by those plates…


Now, rereading my Steinbeck, I am beginning to understand the wonderlust, my wonderlust.


Bye for now, Randy

Our cars, they define us...


With the Escape’s big anniversary, I seem to be stuck on writing about cars… Always an appropriate topic for those of us from California…


I drive a stick shift car. (The Escape… If you read this blog you know about THE Escape… It has become an old friend, beyond a car or truck or ….) I had to special order the Escape, with its 5 speed trans, 4 cylinder engine, 4 wheel drive, and high trim…


My wife drives a stick shift car. (A Mazda 3) It was hard to find a stick shift non turbo Mazda 3… I see a trend developing… It has 50 series tires... (if you don't know what that means, you will not understand)


My daughter drives a stick shift car. (Toyota Corolla, a 6 speed… its cool, a 6 speed…) We bought it used… from a Googler who was transferred to Zurich… his lost, our gain… He was French… not American… this may explain the transmission…. the trend continues…


My son drives a stick shift jeep. ( a jeep is different that a car… really, and Jeeps define a stick shift concept, abet not by choice) ….and there is a motorcycle too…


There are two Fiat 850 Spyders (Spyders is not a misspelling, it’s Italian) in the side yard, a 1969 in poor shape bought in 1976, named the Rat, and a 1971, bought in 2005, about half way through a full fame off (a difficult concept for a unibody car, but a good description of the work undertaken) named Red Molly, both with stick shifts… (4 speeds, old school) They don’t currently run, but we are working on that. Our, (Tina and I) fist date was in the Rat, Tina learned how to drive in the Rat of the 850’s… this might explain things…


We (our family) all drive… this is different that pointing a car… we participate in the experience… we are involved… We understand the shifting of gears… we are involved in the process of driving.


By now I am ranting… Sometimes I rant too easily, too often… I apologize.


Cars have become too easy… get in, turn the key, go… the car chooses the gear… the car knows if you are too close… the car is in control, because we are not. I want to choose when to shift, what RPM (they, the unwashed, unknowing they, don’t know what RPM is, or why they should know) I guess it’s ok to use the phone, or maybe not… The CHP may want to weigh into that one…


I (and apparently the rest of the family ) prefer to be more involved… First gear, its all right, Second gear, its all right, Third gear, its all right, Faster, its all right, (apologies to the Beach Boys… of course, Grandma Erma was the Little Old Lady from Pasadena, so it may be hereditary)


I also like to choose my music… particularly when driving (I like, no love KFOG our local radio station but they are an exception…) Mostly I choose my own CD’s to listen to… I carry 40 or 50 CD’s at any time…


I also carry equipment… two jacks… a tow rope… a shovel and an axe… I know how to get unstuck (usually.) Sometimes there is a come along and a block and tackle (with manila rope, really old school.) Brian’s jeep has a wench… He has bigger tires, better for most difficult roads, but difficult on the freeway at high speeds… ask about “death rattle” some time. I spent 500 miles in the jeep a freeway speed once…) I also carry a jumper cables… a jump box, wrenches and other tools… Three gallons of water, some motor oil and brake fluid… It’s all about being self reliant… Oh, yes, I also carry a AAA card… just in case.


The vehicles are not just objects… they are the magic carpets to other places… other places across town, across rough county… down country roads… to other places, some obscure. The music will follow us…


Randy


P.S. I have changed the mission statement for the blog (lower left) I am letting the blog be what it wants’ to be…


P.P.S. Today is the last day of summer… I am not ready… it hasn’t been hot… I haven’t had a chance to slow down…

Monday, September 20, 2010

A milestone with a close friend.

It happened, Saturday, September 18th, at 10:26 am… on Hwy 101 in Redwood City… the Escape turned 200,000 miles…


It’s quite a milestone… Most cars don’t last this long. It’s a reminder of good trips, many quite far away… The last trip, to the Colorado Plateau in Utah, ending less than a week ago was just over 2,400 miles... It was not a unique trip. Previously she has been on long loops through Oregon, through Montana and Wyoming, quick trips to Tucson Arizona, and many, many day trips to Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Monterey, Yosemite and various other places…


A good car or truck is a lot like a good dog… a really good, reliable friend, a companion, but too likely gone too soon.


At 60 miles an hour 200,000 is 3,300 hours, more likely I have averaged 45 miles an hour, so 4,400 hours… or something like 185 24 hour days... at 12 hours we are nearing a year in the driver’s seat, so likely I have spent more.


The Escape has been to 10 states, 19 or so National Parks… It has never had a mechanical that stranded me… I only got it stuck bad once, in quick sand in the Owens Valley. That cost several hundred dollars for a off road tow truck…


I special ordered the car… the truck… The Escape… it’s a cross over so who knows… high trim, with a 5 speed transmission, 4 wheel drive, and a very small (2 liter) 4 cylinder engine… (the engine was not a choice… the 5 speed transmission only came mated to the small 4 cylinder engine) but is was a good choice.


The small engine has meant good mileage, at least if I drive it carefully… At 45 mph it gets over 30 mpg… more typically it gets 25 mpg… I like to drive too fast, and so the mileage drops. The worst milage I ever got was 19 mpg taking the daughter to collage in Arizon… loaded to the gills with stuff, stuff on the roof…


Its been hit twice, both rear end collisions (hit from behind), both repaired… at someone else’s expense.


I am likely to special order the same vehicle when the time comes to move on… it’s that good a car.


Strangely it never acquired a name beyond “The Escape”, which in retrospect may be the perfect name for the vehicle.


It has scars… scratches on the roof from sand on the bottom of my kayak… a bent roof rack… from carrying too many heavy beams to rebuild a railroad car… the floor mats are well worn… currently there is red mud, from the Colorado Plateau splashed on the wheel wheels… The back seat is full of foxtails carried in by firewood, the spare tire compartment is dented, a victim of an off road experience, a large log near the headwaters of the Snake River.


She is in pretty good shape… My mechanic (a good local mechanic, (Big E Automotive)says she needs new engine mounts, but all else is good. I will have them do the engine mounts next week or so. I will probably treat it to an early oil change as well.


At 200,000 miles she is not yet done… I think she has at least a couple of good, long trips left, at least if I take good care of her. I will.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cleaning up


I am home… but far from fully back.


I have only begun to unpack… the cooler is unpacked, the duffle bag in, the dirty clothing (really dirty clothing including one pair of socks that may need to be framed…)


Yesterday was a zoo at work… too many loose ends, too many messages to return… a meeting (I hate meetings) We are doing a Murder Mystery Dinner tomorrow, and there is too much to do for that…


I am working on the photos… in no particular order… I can’t find one memory card… the one from Keet Seel… I took it out and put it somewhere safe… clearly safe from me… It will emerge eventually, but for now it is MIA.


Today I am posting photos taken on 9/11 while traveling through Monument Valley, Garden of the Gods, and Comb Wash. With a little distance, both geographically, temporally, and emotionally, I find the photos that I have taken interesting… Some are scenery, some snapshots, but many seem to have a theme… the country, and what we, the people, have left, either intentionally, whether or not a good idea, fences and roads, or the debris and trash we abandon. A fence, while possibly needed, does not add to the wide vista of Monument Valley… another (and another, and another) Navajo souvenir stand with locally made jewelry from China and rubber tomahawks and such, now empty is a common site. Another empty beer can or 12 pack box is now ubiquitous.


Equally interesting are the photo not taken… Things I saw and remember, but for whatever reason I did not raise the camera and take a picture… does that make that view any less real?


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Southwest Continued -Saturday, September 11 - Tuesday, September 14


Monday, September 13, 2010, Sunset Campground, Bryce National Park


I am sitting in the campground… it’s dark, dinner is done, the dishes washed sufficiently for stowage, the trash away, safe from bears or raccoons… the camp fire is blazing, the Colman lantern is providing illumination, and I am writing on my computer… powered by the jump box from the car… The mix of technology and fire is not as great a conflict as I expected…


Richard and I have covered a lot of ground since the last blog post… so I will try to pick up where we left off… Mexican Hat Utah, last Saturday, 9-11-2010…


After checking in to the Motel, we showered, washing off the grime of two days of camping, and an 18 mile hike… I checked my emails, found I was once again over quota, and cleared out quite a bit of junk. We headed uptown (uptown being 3 blocks, with a gas station, two motels, and an abandoned store front… Mexican Hat isn’t a big place) to the Swinging Steak… it’s a restaurant, a bar, a hotel, and an institution… Alton Brown visited on Feasting on Asphalt…


We sat down, I ordered a beer, Richard a “pop” (there have been academic studies about who calls “soft drinks” “pop”, “soda”, “soda pop” among other names… at the Swinging Steak it is pop…)


We both wimped out and ordered the 12 oz sirloin, rather than the 18 oz rib eye… The house band started to play… an old guy on a steel guitar, a woman on bass guitar, and a drummer… playing old country western honky-tonk bar music circa 1980… they weren’t bad, (in fact they were pretty good, the bass player did a great Patsy Cline) but most of the crowd didn’t get it… the crowd, in this small town in far southern Utah were speaking French, German, and who knows what… This is the reality of Utah’s canyon country and the Arizona strip… many (most) of the visitors are from very far away…


We finished dinner, returned to the motel, and went to bed…


The next day we set out for Cedar Mesa… we tried to locate a petroglyph panel, but found a ghostly abandoned two lane road instead… it was the old road across Comb Ridge… disconnected at both ends…


We passed through Bluff… and found the ruin near the cemetery…


On to Blanning… where we discovered the local grocery is closed Sunday, so ended up at the Chevron station where we could get gas, ice, and some badly needed first aid supplies… The mix of goods was weird… local history books, some fruit and veggies… (Richard got a banana, who knew they sold bananas on Sunday in Blanning) school supplies and Colman stove fuel for only $18.00 per gallon (the gallon I am carrying cost $6.95, but it is old, very old…)


Westward from Blanning we stop and hike the ruins at Butler Wash… If you ever visit the ruin (the first ruin, there are many ruins in Butler Wash) you need to hike past the fence to the left… if you do you will discover a small natural bridge… and a much better view of the ruin… We had planned to try to find Wetherill’s cave 7, but having dealt with the local roads the day before waved off… we had maps to other Butler Wash ruins, but instead headed further west to Mule Canyon, and its ruins.


Again we had maps, instructions, and GPS coordinates… It was a mile up canyon floor to the first ruin, an easily accessible site called “house on fire” then a mile further to a second smaller site, an half mile to two more high on the wall, then another half mile to a ruin with a collapsing room and a tower, that is supposed to be accessible, but we couldn’t find a route… beyond were larger ruins, but the route along the canyon bottom was getting confused, clouds were gathering (this brings the danger of flash floods) so we retreated to the train head and the Escape. The canyon was not what was expected… this is the desert… a dry place… the canyon floor was damp, vegetation lush and surprisingly riparian.


Again we headed west… pausing at the road side “Mule Canyon Ruins” then further west to Natural Bridges National Monument… We checked in at the visitor center, showed the magic National Parks Pass then went in search of a camp site, which were scarce… we prevailed, and got the second to the last site in the park… made camp, and were cooking a pizza (in a dutch oven) when cute ranger chick stopped by to tell us about tonight’s ranger program…. (previously known as campfire talks, but sadly lacking a campfire so just “ranger programs”) We attended the program (Indian stories) then returned to camp, wasted some time and went to bed… we did take a walk about the camp ground… It was a bit strange… we had the only camp fire… It appeared that for our fellow campers, camping is not a social activity…


Sleep came easy. We both slept in a bit…


The next morning we got up, I made coffee and we took our time as we broke camp… We visited the visitor’s center… books and tee shirts for all… checked road conditions and ferry schedules and made a decision to drive around Lake Powell rather than taking the ferry across the lake at Hall’s crossing… No one knew if Burr Trail was open (it turns out it was) and we would have ended up on the 2:00 ferry, resulting in a very late arrival at Bryce…


The route took us north to Hanksville… where the local gas station had a “Goliath” for sale, a weird German car, circa 1960… “it runs!” Look for it on EBay motors next week… We turned west across the top of Lake Powell, crossing the Colorado River. It was stark and beautiful country… big country with few inhabitants or facilities… traveling through which we saw many bicyclists… really crazy bicyclists… with a long way to go, and few support services.


Leaving Lake Powell we continued west through Capital Reef National Park… where we found more petroglyphs, really good petroglyphs… stopped at their visitor center, then headed west again… through Dixie National Forest and Escalante Staircase National Park (run by the BLM, not the National Park Service?) then through Escalante and Tropic Utah, to Bryce National Park.


At Bryce (free, we have the magic card) we went in search of a camp site… the first camp ground was full, we tried the second, where the sign said, “tent sites full, tents may use loop A” (the park service thoughtfully segregates those of us who chose to camp in tents from the heathen hoards from the Winnebago tribe, aka the “turtle people” who travel and live in their shell like oversize mobile homes… ) but today at Bryce, there were more tent people than turtle people, so they let tent people invade the turtle people’s territory…


We claimed a camp site, then went to see the canyon… It is spectacular… fairy like… we looked, we went “awe”, we dodged German and French tourists… then returned to camp, cooked dinner, and are now sitting by the fire with computer and Coleman lantern… Now, fire dying, batteries dying, legs getting cold (we are at 8,000 feet) I am about to shut down the computer and go to bed…


Tomorrow we will drive home, first south, then westward through Zion Nation Park, the onto I-15, through Las Vegas and San Bernardino, to Pasadena… I will pause in Pasadena… off load Richard… shower, sleep, then head north towards home and family…


Tuesday Evening, Pasadena California…


This morning we again arose… (the alternative would have been messy) a bit later than planned, but this is vacation damn it! We made coffee and broke camp, loading the Escape for the last time this trip… We explored the lodge… a nice, typical park service lodge of the mid 1920’s, saw deer, then checked out the visitor center (they have wifi, but the computer was dead, and I would have needed to find a power source… I didn’t take the time to try.)


Bryce was worth more time, but we had far to go, so headed westward (well first north they kind of south-west…) across Utah… This is funny country, originally settled by Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons) generally a conservative traditional bunch, but with a recent influx of nature lovers, more likely to be liberal and more outward looking… Strangely, there seems to be less conflict that one might expect.


We stopped to photograph a dead coyote, hung from a barb wire fence… This is old school… coyote’s are varmints, and can be hunted if they threaten livestock… some believe that hanging the bodies on the fence drives away the rest of the pack… but its not PC, and rarely seen anymore… It didn’t bother us as much as remind us that this is an old place full of old ways and traditions.


A few miles later in Mt Carmel, we stopped to tour Maynard Dixion’s home… Maynard Dixion was an artist, active in the late 1880’s and early 1900’s, painting scenes of south west scenery and life… His home is preserved privately as an art studio, gallery, and seminar space…


Beyond we paused again to photograph the “The Rock Stop”, a rock shop, shaped like a rock, much as Randy’s Donuts is a giant donut, or the little orange juice stands once found along Hwy 99 were shaped as giant oranges… but “The Rock Shop” took it one step beyond with a copy of Fred Flintstones food powered car… Of course, in addition to rocks and fossils, the also have Espresso.


Just beyond we turned west again to cross Zion National park via the tunnel route… the magic card used once more… It was a slow drive, with lots of road construction. Emerging on the other side.


We stopped for Mexican food outside the park… a rare restaurant meal… first since Mexican Hat, last Saturday, then down to the Interstate, I-15, and the high speed run south and west and home…


We got to Richard’s about dark… Adam and Jenny got hugs, while I played with Sparky the wonder dog…


Now showered, and relaxing… I will post this and go to sleep.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day two (and three and four), Navajo Country


We started across Utah, towards Page Arizona… where we found the Glen Canyon Dam a bridge across the Colorado River, and a Safeway… We walked around the dam visitor center, walked onto the bridge, bought a couple of books, then headed into town…


Apparently the biggest business in Page is storing boats… lots of boats, boats to be used on Lake Powell…


We stopped at the Safeway, a strangely normal Safeway, if all the employees at your local Safeway were Navajos, and all the customers German Tourists… It was especially interesting to watch them decide how big a bottle of Jack Daniels was big enough.… We bought a block of ice and some beer… we are after all, men.


We headed out of town on a reservation (Navajo Reservation) road… past the Navajo Power plant… a huge coal fired power plant, supplying power to much of the arid west. We noticed a large number of whiskey bottles by the side of the road, strange as alcohol is banded on the Rez.


We reached the Navajo National Monument, our goal about 1:00, or maybe 2:00, we are not sure… Utah and Arizona is on Mt time… but Arizona doesn’t recognize daylight savings time… so far part of the year California and Arizona are on the same time, but Utah does so is till an hour different, but the Navaho , located in Arizona does recognize daylight savings time… I am confused…


We arrived… they don’t charge admission at Navajo National monument… we found a camp site… they don’t charge for camping either… They don’t allow fires, but at least its free…


We set up camp, we took a hike, we checked in at the visitor center and were oriented for the hike tomorrow… The park is overrun by German tourists driving rental motor homes… We suspect they have large bottles of Jack Daniels concealed inside.


We cooked dinner… The campground doesn’t allow camp fires but it does allow charcoal fires… I built a fire, we each had a beer… I cooked potatoes in the dutch oven, then grilled steaks… we opened a bottle of wine with dinner… we cleaned up and went to bed.


The next morning, (now Friday, Sept 10th) we cooked breakfast… biscuits in the dutch oven, bacon on the gas stove… then hit the trail for Keet Seel… we were a bit later than suggested, about 9:15 or so… the trail started with a slow drop on a paved road to a lower parking lot, then a steeper drop on a paved road to a red gate… then a steeper drop down trails, switch backs, steps made of wooden timbers, steps cut into rock, more switch backs… then a steep sandy drop as we approached the river…


We passed one hiker on the trail… he caught up to us at the bottom as we stashed extra water for the climb out, and changed into other clothing… we descended the last short drop off to find a group of Navajo cow boys with a small herd of cows… our fellow hiker was headed up stream, the wrong direction… he claimed the Navajos had told him that was the way… We could see the white posts headed the other way… our fellow hiker was quite disagreeable… We headed down stream to the next canyon, and out route upstream to the ruins. We were traveling a bit over 3 miles an hour.


The hike follows the river bottom… its sandy, muddy, and rocky, sometimes at the same time… there was quick sand… not much but it was there, and including it adds a bit of danger to the description of the adventure. We forded the river constantly… We tried to keep our boots dry… mostly we succeeded.


About 5 miles in we reached the water fall… a really nice 30’ tall water fall… we climbed to the top… we continued up the river bed, now fording the river more often… and getting our boots wet… At 8.5 miles we reached the camp ground. The last 2 miles took a full hour.


We continued another half mile or so to the ranger station… Patrick the ranger had seen us walking up and was ready. He asked about any other hikers… we only knew of Mr. Disagreeable… Patrick decided to tour the ruin rather than waiting for him.


We stored our packs in the squirrel locker, grabbed water bottles and headed for the ruin… Upon seeing the site for the first time Richard said, “Oh, Wow.” Patrick said “that’s what I said my first visit.” The site is deceptive. It is a large ruin in a much larger cliff alcove, so it seems smaller at first. We approached from the left, then climbed a 70’ tall ladder up, into the site… There were pot shards everywhere… so many that they seemed planted rather than real scatter. Up in the ruin we looked into buildings, and found more potshards at our feet.


The conversations with Patrick were wonderful. He is Hopi, and the Hopi claim a connection to the site, with three Hopi clans once having occupied it, 700 years ago. His story was the story of the Hopi, and how this and other sites are part of their origin story. He told it with a clarity that was amazing. There were parts of the story he couldn’t and wouldn’t tell… His clan was not one of the clans that claim a connection with this site, and he can’t discuss their stories, for they own them. He could talk about other area tribes, and how their stories. It was the most personally honest interpretation of an Anasazi site than I have heard. We saw petroglyphs, that he didn’t point out… we suspect that they had clan significance, and were therefore not a subject for a Hopi to share with an outsider, but he did point out hand prints, possibly less religious, and more personal. He showed us turkey feather wrapped twine… binding roof beams… an arrow head, tiny, perfect except for the broken tip. We spent a full hour and a half in the ruin, mostly in awe.


Other hikers appeared at the bottom, including Mr. Disagreeable… Two were spending the night… Mr. D was a day hiker like us, and was facing a long hike back… He was difficult, full on complaints… We offered to show him the storage locker… He complained to us that he would be hiking back in the dark…


We changed from boots to sandals for the hike back (we both agree the best decision we would make on the hike) and started off… we were just passing the ranger station when Patrick caught up and told us Mr. D was claiming to have injured himself, and was demanding a ride back.


We left on our return trip, wondering if our favorite hiker would get his way…


On the way down we tried a different route to the water fall… it was higher on the canyon wall in the trees… It is the recommended route in high water or when flash floods threaten… but it has been badly cut by streams crossing it, and the route was a mistake… not a bad mistake, but not the best route.


We regained the river bed at the water fall, and a few minutes later met a white Park Service truck, looking for our best friend. They asked us if we knew where he was. We told them likely an hour behind us. Richard told them he was a “whiner” (we later found out that until they met him in person they thought we meant “wino,” but after meeting him came to understand the true nature of Mr. D’s personality)


As we trudged back down stream, we tried to calculate where we would meet the truck again…


The trip down was slower… we were tired, but having a good time… The truck reappeared about 3 miles down stream. The rangers asked how we were doing, offering a ride, but we had equipment and clothing stashed off their route, so we continued downstream, wondering how Mr. D, aka “the whiner” would be received when he reached the park headquarters…


The trip of the switchbacks was a slog… we were tired… possibly beyond tired… our feet hurt, our legs were dragging, our packs seemingly heavier… (unlikely, as we had each drunk 7 lbs of water or so) We hiked the last 2 miles by flashlight, as darkness fell… we finally reached the car about 9:10, 12 hours after we had left.


Returning to camp we agreed that dinner would consist of a couple of beers and trail mix (with M&M’s) I finished the first beer, but couldn’t finish the second… I was too tired, so I stripped of the damp and dirty clothing, climbed in my sleeping bag and went to bed.


Sleep was not as sound as I would have liked… various pains and aches made themselves known, and the camp ground was noisy, particularly one couple we named the newlyweds, who coupled repeatedly, and loudly… (this brings to mind the phrase “get a room”)


We both slept in a bit… we were stiff, but functional, and little by little aches gave way to the warm sun and the bravado of having hiked something over 19 miles in one day at 55 years of age… I made breakfast, coffee, bacon and biscuits. We took a walk around the camp trying to identify the newlyweds, who strangely had arrived in separate cars… We broke camp, packed the car, and headed for one last visit to the visitor’s center. We found ourselves in conversation with a ranger (the head ranger?) and got the rest of the story on Mr. D… When the radio call came in from Patrick, then knew who he must be, the one hiker who was a jerk the day before during orientation… The Navajo cowboys in the canyon had reported him after he wandered off the wrong way, onto their property…


His joy of getting a ride out ended early when down in the canyon the truck was met by another, carrying two Park police, and a Navajo Tribal police officer… there were discussions… background checks… He was escorted back to his car, then escorted out of the park… there may have been threats about being seen in the vicinity again. The park suspected that he might be a pot hunter scouting… News of his reception and forced exit was welcome… It’s nice to know that occasionally, Karma still rules the world.


We left the park headed North, to Ketyana, and gas, and the road north through Monument Valley, and Mexican Hat.


There were roadside stands where Navajos sell trinkets and rubber tomahawks to tourists… lots of stands, most with only a single vendor or two… the season now coming to a close… there was the new vendor area at the Monument Valley turnoff, where each vendor had a garage size space with a roll up door. We have both done Monument Valley before, so instead we turned up the hill to the west to Goulding’s Trading post, motel, and museum… It was a good choice… the museum, dedicated to the trading post, the early area tours, the Goulding Family, and most of all the many movies made there is small, but full of artifacts… its not very slick, rather more cozy… we enjoyed it… the Trading post, with its jewelry and trinkets, also had really nice Navajo rugs, Katchinas, and higher grade wooden tomahawks…


We left Gouldings and continued towards Mexican Hat, stopping for photos… many of which seemed to include abandoned beer cases and cans… Base on our research Bud Light is the most popular brand on the reservation, with Bud and Coors’s light also found.


We passed through Mexican hat in search of ruins… we were headed for Coom Wash… on the west side of Coom ridge… there were known roads, roads said to be ok for passenger cars, if so, easy for the Escape… but there had been rain two days before, and the roads weren’t passable… the road to the south was really bad… be abandon the effort after fording a couple of streambeds… deep with mud… before we got stuck really good… the road to the north was better, but there was one big mud hole, and a side road to a ruin was impassable…


We returned to Mexican Hat, checked into the motel, showered, bandaged wounds, and headed to dinner at the Swinging steak…


It’s now nearly Midnight, so I will end here for now…

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On The Road Again - Pasadena, Baker, Zion and Kanab…


Live from the Red Rock Inn, Kanab Utah, Wednesday, September 8th


Yesterday I worked, then headed south on Hwy 5 towards Pasadena… The Great Valley smelled wet… the tumble weeds were still green, and not yet rolling across the fields. There were tomato trucks and, cattle trucks.


Twilight fell as I reached the end of the valley, with its oil wells.


I reached Pasadena in the dark… about 5 ½ hours after I left… good time… Pasadena was once home, and is still home to long time friend Richard, partner for this trip. We went to elementary school together… so are school mates since kindergarten…


We (Richard, Jenny, (Richard’s wife, I have known Jenny since High School) Adam (Richard’s son, He arrived later)) talked… we went to bed, me in a sleeping bag on the floor… Sparky kept us company...


I slept on the floor in my sleeping bag…


The next morning, we arose, had coffee, Jenny took Adam to school, we packed the car and left…


We stopped for gas in Claremont… in a light rain… We crawled up Cajon pass, through the clouds, breaking out about Victorville, the beginning of the high desert.


We stopped to look around Baker… home of the world’s largest thermometer, the Bun Boy Motel, and the Mad Greek… plus Alien Jerky… At 10:00 in the morning it was over 90. On to Las Vegas for a stop at Cabela’s sporting goods… too large to describe… with a trout stream, fiberglass sharks, guns and knives and instruments of destruction, and even beef jerky… along with a wide variety of camouflage clothing, and even an owner to dog two way radio… This being Las Vegas they also had a casino... with signs saying you couldn't take you newly purchased guns inside... no fun...


We continued north east to Mesquite… and a Wal-Mart for supplies… then through Arizona, climbing through the gorge of the Virgin River, where the landscape changed from desert to red rock country. We grabbed a bit to eat in St George Utah, then left the Interstate at Hurracane. Into Zion where the trip started to get interesting… we ignored the canyon, instead traveling east along the tunnel road, up switchbacks and through tunnels.


By now the sun was getting low in the sky and the light was getting interesting. We stopped several times to take pictures… This was red sand stone at its best, swirls, gnarled trees and brush, wild flowers… and… drum roll, a big horn sheep… The first I had seen in the wild…. We went looking for some petroglyphs we were told about but didn’t find them… we continued through the park, encountering a lone buffalo… an animal not indigenous to the area, but impressive none the less.


Into Kanab, our stop for the night at the local Best Western… Dinner at the Flying V cafĂ© next door… As Richard put it we had the geezer conversation… about ailments, medication, Drs and such… we are getting so frigging old…


We walked about town, discussing the quality of the souvenirs, the German tourists in surprisingly good well worn western wear.


The town is surprisingly well kept, pleasant for the tourists… the tourists seem to respond well and all the local motels on main street are showing “no-vacancy” signs…


Tomorrow we continue east back into Arizona on the way to Navajo National monument.


(photos from this post)

Monday, September 6, 2010

A project gone bad, and how to retreat.




I volunteer with a local railroad museum, and have for some time. I am the group’s curator, and lead most of the restoration projects. The railroad museum is in the same park as the Patterson House Museum, my place of work. This is both good and bad… I have a short commute from my workplace to my hobby/volunteer site. I can handle little issues for the railroad museum while at work… I have incorporated the railroad into the camps I offer at Patterson House.


The railroad museum consumes (too) much of my free time… It has for many years. Generally I don’t mind... but late last week I found myself becoming frustrated and angered by some of the membership, particularly one board member… He can’t find the time to show up at a board meeting (so far he has missed 8, and attended… drumroll… none,) but he is very ready to claim authority, legitimate or not, if there is a steam train to play with… The museum held its Railfair this weekend with visiting steam engines, model railroad layouts and such… Generally I would have been there all day, all weekend… working and playing…


But this time I decided to sit railfair out.


There was an upside to the decision. In place of playing with trains, I had a weekend to start to unwind, and play…


Saturday I ran errands. The birds needed food… I visited a couple of book stores… I found some books, particularly an 1899 copy of The Life and Achievements of Admiral Dewey… hero of Manila… (the book says so.) I drank too much beer.


Sunday, Tina (aka T, the wife) & I & Steph (aka, the daughter) went sailing with Erik T’s brother and his wife Mia… Erik’s boat is a 65’ MacGregor, big, fast, nice… We sailed from Tiburon, under the Golden Gate Bridge, along San Francisco’s waterfront. It was a spectacular day, a bit cool in the morning, but quite warm by midday… We saw dolphins and sea lions… We ducked into the Aquatic Park lagoon, under sail, then tacked out… (The Aquatic Park Lagoon is small and shallow, and the boat is huge… this was showing off… people on the piers applauded.) We ate lunch sitting in the bay, off the ferry building, then motored into McCovey Cove, then back into the bay… The wind picked up off Treasure Island, and we flew along as we passed between Alcatraz and Angel Island. We dropped the sails and motored into the Yacht club in Tiburon, where we reclaimed our car, and left Erik and Mia to motor off to Sausalito. It was a perfect summer day, in one of the most beautiful places in the world… Tourists on sightseeing boats were watching us have fun. I will accept that we may be spoiled.


Monday, a rare holiday with no plans gave me time to pull out the camping equipment and get everything ready for the trip… The Escape is packed… I have a couple of jacks… three gallons of water for the car, oil, tools, a shovel, tie downs, at least two rolls of duct tape and some hose clamps. I have a compressor and a jump box. There are tie down straps, 50’ of climbing rope, and an axe. There are 50 CD’s, after all we need our music. Then there is camping stuff… the tent, an awning, two folding chairs, two cots, a carpet for the tent floor, a bag of tent pegs and rope and a two mantle Coleman lantern.


Of course I need the drybox… a steamer trunk with pots and pans, dishes, a cook stove, a gallon of white gas, dish soap and matches. It lives in the attic, ready to go… along with a cheap ice chest and a plastic bin of food and booze, we have our equivalent of a chuck wagon.


The Escape being mostly loaded we once again set off for the coast… the local coast… at Half Moon Bay and Princeton Harbor… Again it was a spectacular summer day… again there were tourists and traffic, lots of both. Only 20 miles from home (only 7 if we could fly instead of following the somewhat curvy road) we (T, Steph, Emma the dog and yours truly) found ourselves sitting in a beach bar, watching the surf, sitting in the sun, relaxing. (“Found ourselves” may be an overstatement… we knew where we were going… we knew what we would find…)


We found Sam’s Chowder House… home of the Lobster roll sandwich… There was beer and wine involved. There was desert… Emma found a stray shrimp on the ground.


Having eaten, and relaxed, we fought the traffic back across the mountain…


I returned to my packing… now the other stuff… clothing and stuff… two duffles… one with camping clothing… the other for motels and places with showers…


I am taking 4 cameras (two digital, two film, along with my last two rolls of Kodachrome, and 4 rolls of B&W) The cameras demand support equipment battery chargers and spare batteries for the digitals, a tripod. I have a power inverter to run the battery chargers off the cars cigarette lighter… I will bring the laptop (both to download the photos and clear the memory cards, but also to update the blog (assuming I can find an internet connection… by no means a given in many of the places we will be)


Finally there are maps and a small library… maps of California, Nevada, Arizona… maps of Utah, two Utah atlases, maps for each of too many hikes planned to various Indian ruins, and four copies of my favorite map, the AAA Indian Country map, a map made famous by Tony Hillerman and his detective novels set against the backdrop of the Navajo Reservation…


Tomorrow, Tuesday, I will go to work at Patterson House… I will make sure everything is in order… I will return a projector I checked out from City Hall… I plan on loading a few pieces of hard dry eucalyptus for those really good camp fires… then I will point the Escape southward towards Pasadena, once my home… where Richard, my accomplice for the next trip resides… Wednesday we (Richard and I) will head east at high speed… headed for the Utah plateaus… Navajo National Monument, Comb Ridge, Cedar Mesa, and the land of The Old Ones….