8/10/2017 – ON THE ROAD AGAIN

August 15, 2017

 

Pass a long list of small towns umbilically attached to I-80. Have been in most, and this journey is too long to allow my meandering about them again. (AM surprised at how far a commercial corridor and housing developments have expanded in just a few years).

“Curiosity calls; Auburn answers”, so pull off for a bit of a walk in “Old Town”.

Am delighted to find fewer changes than expected, and, while things look a bit cleaner, Auburn’s ambiance survives. (No doubt, Old Town being tiny enough to fit into an over-sized gully makes pretentious changes difficult). Even with a bit of “now-more-tiring” hill-climbing, feel no guilt for “renewing my vows”.

AuburnCA-5

Old Town Auburn

 

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AuburnCA-9

 

Continue uphill on I-80, and, as elevations approach 5000’ level, my van (taking a hint from contemporary politics, becomes subject to heated volatility), tucked behind a huge Wal-Mart truck, affords “top of the world” views as mountains fall into valleys, and alpine lakes reflect cumulus clouds aimlessly drifting. Pass through Tahoe National Forest, and neither Donner Pass (7227’) or Donner Lake give rise to cannibalistic urges.

Take a quick, traffic-clogged tour of Truckee: tarted up a bit, but, its downtown continues to retain a funky quality.

Arrive in Reno in late afternoon, but traffic is manageable, so make my way out to McKinley Art Center only to be disappointed by being too late. As an alternative, wander along frothy Truckee River, enviously observing huge mansions sited on river’s south bluff, and enjoying not only Nature’s contribution, but a series of artful sculptures which grace this walkway. Close in, Wingfield Park offers kiddy kayaking on timid rapids, a shale beach of safe shallows for little kids, and a charming flower vine decorated bridge joining both banks.

RenoNV-01

 

RenoNV-02

 

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Go “off-river” to satisfy my curiosity about local churches: St Thomas Aquinas Cathedral’s gorgeous golden doors, and Trinity Episcopal Church’s plainness.

Only Barbara Bonner Park cast a dark note: it’s habitués give off a sense of negative energy… a sense of hard-eyed, hanger-outers.


8/9/2017 – ONCE MORE INTO THE …

August 15, 2017

 

Manage last minute crises, with normal ineptitude, so leave SF later than expected. Traffic backed up to Berkeley’s Ashby Avenue benefits as those seemingly wasteful highway TV screens “document” that an accident is being cleared, and from where. (So tax money is NOT always wasted: who knew?)

A sunny day does little to help make more attractive dull dun hillsides along I-80. (Rodeo & Martinez offer a slight change: BLACKENED hillsides protect refinery gas tanks). WOW!

In Sacramento, a fast check-in @ AYH’s delightful old mansion. Am warned of a nationwide convocation of high school students, but a quick listen suggests some insightful conversations & some amazing musical talents. Yeah, they’re loud: but it’s more exciting than Smartphone silence.

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Manage to confuse myself (& my GPS) in Citrus Heights searching for an Elephant Bar. (Suggests some Liberal wordplay for changing Congress’s composition).

Finally, granddaughter Samantha connection occurs & dinner delights as she recounts her sometimes awkward efforts to put together a viable life while still carrying historical loads of family dysfunctionality. Am reminded, upon leaving, how she has always, even in desperately hard times, managed to keep an attitude & faith that things will get better.

Back at the hostel, youngsters are gone, downtown Sacto traffic is quiet, and thus, peace & quiet reign supreme.

Alas, solitude never lasts long enough, and an older woman turns TV on to hear two international bully boys play “King of the (Nuclear) Mountain”.

Turns out Joan is a Photography teacher wending her way from Yuba City to Bay Area’s Pittsburg high school. She posits that technology makes teaching more difficult, as students are now less inclined toward anything requiring a long attention span (MY memories make “It was ever thus” a non-point). Her enthusiasm for a past when she could introduce young people into dark room joy (No, not THOSE joys!) makes understandable her heavy heart.


8/8/2017 – PRELIMINARIES

August 15, 2017

Funny… a restless, dream-filled night.

Don’t remember quite so much anxiety before prior trips: the van? Moi? (At 83, a feeling of “vulnerability” about such an adventure?)

This AM, at Buchanan YMCA, slightly elevated heart rate: f(l)ight?

Darlin’ Sarah $uggests a $avings on $eptember due$


RESIDUE – 2012

August 1, 2017

Am unsure just when the following was written. Had to be on a 2012 trip “through the ‘Red States’”, but am unclear about where, or even circumstances. That it appears now, is simply a realization that, in a small way, was observing what seemed to be a small illness which metastasized by Nov/2016.

THE SUMMER OF OUR MALCONTENT

With “this is the Winter of our discontent” Will Shakespeare introduces us to physically & psychologically deformed “Richard III”, as he embarks upon his reign of terror.

After two months along our West Coast & now just below our Canadian border, get a distinct feeling an awful lot of Americans are dissatisfied with their lot. (Admittedly, this is NOT a scientific experiment, It’s just listening & watching as people interact in grocery stores, gas stations, bars/restaurants, parks, campgrounds and tourist attractions.)

Start this journey carrying along “The Question”, that is “If you could sit down with each Presidential candidate, for just 15 minutes, what goals would you ask them to accomplish at a conclusion of their Administration?”

Over time, get a few “original” ideas, but most just regurgitate Liberal or Conservative rhetoric. (To what degree this rhetoric influences “action” remains open to conjecture, but, it certainly influences “speech”).

Curiously, it’s not “classical” politics. Yeah, there’s SOME (much of it “local”), but, more often, it seems a sense of “persistent dissatisfaction”.

Not too surprisingly, age/generation “frame” conversations.

Young people, married or single, seem unhappy with their “relationships”… whether emotional or financial. Many reasons emerge: but a common denominator is a sense of a future without sustaining “commitment”, supplemented with a sense “there’s not enough time to be ME”. Families with young children feel an additional burden: whether they will be able to provide adequately until their youngsters are self-sufficient.

To listen to them talk, no one likes their job/boss/pay/prospects, or whatever.

Older people indicate concerns about health (“slowing down”) & whether savings will be enough to maintain a sense of physical & financial independence.

(Now, an admitted disclosure – in homes, schools, offices, churches, etc., there may be a lot of happy, contented folks who do not grumble – at least, not publicly)

Part of what make this discourse dispiriting is the affluence which surrounds it: homes large enough to house princes; RVs the size of sailing ships; pick-up trucks as big as buses; sleek SUVs; shopping carts heaped high (a $240-ish grocery bill which would stop my heart in its tracks). Kids have braces on their teeth, signature footwear, and EVERYONE’S got a cellphone. Little League-rs sport pro-looking uniforms & gloves large enough to camp in. Fishermen have half-a-dozen fancy poles lined up. Campers grapple with Webers large enough to roast a lamb. (This is not just a “Land of Plenty”… it’s a land of PLENTY of plenty.)

So… why practice “malcontent” so aggressively? Dunno! Dunno!

But, failing to look beyond the local (e. g., urban homelessness; international terrorism) it seems a sad testament indeed. It seems Will may have been wrong… perhaps there is no single season for “discontent”.


10/11-12/2014: Home Stretch

October 23, 2014

 

 

“There’s a long, long road before me… “

 

Somewhere/AZ: rest for the wiked

Somewhere/AZ: rest for the wiked

Leave Willcox/AZ along I-10: counting clouds and mountains… lots of both.

Somewhere Else/AZ: too numerous to count

Somewhere Else/AZ: too numerous to count

 

 

 

 

 

At Blythe/CA, after crossing inviting Colorado River, turn onto US-95, and pass uncultivated and cotton-cultivated fields along this flood plain, before ascending into glacial mountain hardpan on a winding, undulating, narrow-shouldered, near-empty road which, in fading dusk arrives in Needles. Get onto I-40, but, outside Ludlow must bow to reality: night-driving skills are not what they used to be.

 

McKittrick/CA: abandoned hotel

McKittrick/CA: abandoned hotel

Head along I-40 into Barstow, before switching onto CA-58, and, as dawn lights this desolate desert, continue through windy, windy Tehachapi Pass and into Bakersfield. Continue west, and pause in McKittrick… a town right out of “Bad Day at Black Rock”. (For those with a historical bent, this area has a special place in American history: it is this general area in which the infamous “Tea Pot Dome Scandal” materialized).

Santa Margarita/CA: Main Street

Santa Margarita/CA: Main Street

 

Stop in Santa Margarita, before slipping onto familiar US-101, detour briefly to checkout Atascadero’s gorgeous City Hall, and try really good pizza… but, with a name like “Fatte’s Pizza”, dare it be otherwise?

Atascadero/CA: City Hall & Plaza

Atascadero/CA: City Hall & Plaza

 

 

 

 

From there on, “the horse knows the way”.

 

(A special word of thanks to all those unheralded Chrysler employees who made this 1993 Dodge van capable of surviving my ridiculous demands, and friendly folks at Chris’s Smog Shop, whom, tho warning me it should be scrapped, nipped and tucked with spit and baling wire to get us from coast-to-coast!)

(And a special “Arigato” to those remarkable engineers at Pentax for creating a camera capable of deluding people into fantasizing about the quality of my photography skills.)


10/10/2014 – The Pause That Refreshes

October 20, 2014

 

Balmorhea/TX: Balmorhea SP - campground at sunrise

Balmorhea/TX: Balmorhea SP – campground at sunrise

 

Early morning sunrise is lovely: incrementally, sunlight transforms yesterday afternoon’s pallid campground into a thing of beauty. Almost hate to leave.

Pause briefly in town (a village which makes Grandview seem a metropolis by comparison).

 

I-10/TX: Do I hear Judy Collins singing?

I-10/TX: Do I hear Judy Collins singing?

 

Then, back onto I-10. More clouds …

 

Pass El Paso/TX and Las Cruces/NM, but cannot (yep, CANNOT) bypass Mesilla again.

 

Would be hard-pressed to say just why this town seems so attractive.

Mesilla/NM: Plaza w/St Albino Church behind

Mesilla/NM: Plaza w/St Albino Church behind

 

Yes, there is a lovely, tourist-infested “Square”, a wonderful church, kitschy shops, homes of universally-chocolated exteriors… yet, somehow, Mesilla’s appeal does not fade.

 

Mesilla/NM: bookstore - interior (ceiling of cottonwood logs/branches)

Mesilla/NM: bookstore – interior (ceiling of cottonwood logs/branches)

 

Step into its bookstore, slowly wander… touching a book cover here; picking up & reading a book’s back cover there. (Am sure owner recognizes my “will not buy” emanations… yet she offers me a free bottle of water “to avoid dehydration”).

 

 

Wander some back streets, before once again heading toward a setting sun.


10/9/2014 – Long and Winding Road

October 20, 2014

 

Rhetorical question: is it dull to drive across western Texas?

Well, “Yes” and “No”.

First, on the plus side, there are endless exquisite cloud formations (is THAT where my e-mails are stored?). Second, for introspection, a substantial lack of “interesting” sights provides a positive environment.

Alternately, if a desire to hear a human voice assails me, am limited to Russ Limbaugh – Sean Hanratty rants (amazingly, they do a GREAT job of identifying some of our nation’s problems: alas, rather than suggest rational solutions, they babble on about how to assign blame); mawkish (and, am being charitable here/hear) Country & Western music (do C&W singers imagine heartbreak does NOT take place in urban areas?); or “feel good” religious talk/music (sorry, folks, but sometimes, we agnostics have dissenting views). Having forgotten to pack my Patsy Cline, Nancy Gilliland, Wesla Whitfield CDs, am forced to practice my own grotesque singing (if Catholic theology is correct, not only is MY time in Purgatory cancelled, but suspect that of many others too).

 

By late afternoon, reach Balmorhea/TX. (May have mentioned that on my ferry ride from NJ to DE, a San Diego couple recommended “The Springs” here). So, chase down to Balmorhea SP, set up my campsite, and head off to their “pool”.

Balmorhea/TX: Balmoheas SP - bathhouse & pool

Balmorhea/TX: Balmoheas SP – bathhouse & pool

Now: there are “pools” and there are “POOLS”. This one is a gigantic “winged” pool, ranging from 3’ to 25’, with its own diving board). It also has signs suggesting stairs and bottom are “slippery” (an interesting euphemism for “slimy”… but that’s another story).

Dig thru van’s nether regions in search of my bathing suit, and am tempted to dive into tepid water and “return to the womb”. Instead, attach myself carefully to stair railings and step cautiously onto the first, water-covered algae-green stair… “Oh, MY GOD!”… it is COLD.

Balmorhea/TX: Balmorhea SP - pool

Balmorhea/TX: Balmorhea SP – pool

Now, for those of you without testicles, perhaps it is incomprehensible that there is no fear comparable to stepping slowly into cold water KNOWING that at some point, your groin is going to be immersed, and, whatever testicular phantasies you’ve entertained during your lifetime are about to be assaulted.

At any rate, embarrassed by 6-year-olds playing blissfully, imagine Robert Duvall as Evangelical preacher encouraging me to baptize myself, so push off. Body quickly adjusts and am instantly delighted. Lordy; Lordy: what a wuss.

 

A bit later, two young Canadian women, one campsite over, worried no doubt that there is neither tent nor cooking gear visible, offer to share their vegan dinner. Try to be polite, and suggest having eaten earlier in the day, and can only hope they don’t notice my dinner being cereal eaten within my van.

As sunlight falls, AM treated to a “starry night” which Van Gogh would have died for. At horizon’s edge, black mountains make magic silhouettes against post-sunset orange-pink glow, and, when black night invades, star spots offer atavistic joy.