Monday, June 29, 2015


Marina State Park, just north of the old Seaside State Park. Marie and I did a lot of flying there.

Sand dune photo follows.

Downtown Monterey was awash in tourists, so I chose to say hello to the sea lions next year. Plus, the smoke was getting in my eyes.


Retreated to Modesto from an attempt at a brief visit to Yosemite, no tent spaces left. Even on a Sunday, it seems, no space available without a reservation, even on a Sunday evening.

Three very young cats passed by in the twilight while I was eating. I greeted them without rising or offering food (duh....) They studiously ignored me, as felines will, while deciding if I was Food or Foe.

Tomorrow (Monday) I plan to travel to the Dunn's new home, stay there overnight, and leave for the airport about 3 a.m.  PDT. Next post should be from Poulsbo, Washington, about mid week.

Since I will mostly be doing training hikes out of the same location,  my posting schedule will ease off to two or three times a week, whenever anything of general interest happens. Comments? -- suggestions, complaints, disagreements, all appreciated!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Jade Cove

Rolling north up the Coastal Highway this morning, lost in memories; stopped at Jade Cove to take a few photos and remember. It was a happier time.

A search for an open  campsite near Monterey led well to the east on narrow  (but paved!) roads, so I set up camp, took a hike up to the top of the hill (puff, wheeze), paid my respects to John Frémont, who ignored laws, orders from his military superiors, and the welfare of his troops in the service of this Nation's Manifest Destiny and his own personal gain.  It's a recurrent theme for the leaders of America's military.

Tomorrow, touring the Monterey Peninsula. Plan for Monday's drive will take me back to the Dunn household in Castro Valley, and Tuesday morning will find me airborne for northwest Washington State.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sunshine on the Ventura highway

Worked clear of  the City of Freeways this morning to head west on State Route 126, also known as the Ventura Highway. It leads to the ocean beaches and Route 1, which explains the song ... I felt more like heading north to get clear of the Friday diaspora than kicking sand, and US 101, the King's Road, took me north along the coastline.

Good thing that the traffic was enough of a distraction to keep me focused on the road, or I might have driven right off the edge. The sea was giving the mountains their daily watering in great belts and tendrils of fog that blurred the differences between them -- where did the sea end and its gift to the land begin?  Was it the mountain drinking the fog, or the other way around? Wonderful to watch.

And why did that RV driver think that s/he could pass an 18 wheeler on a downhill slope? Something to do with Kant's view of space and time as things we cannot learn from experience, may be.

Stopped in a mountain campsite east of Santa Margarita this evening. Dusty, with aggressive biting flies. Good enough for one night.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lotusland invasion, southern front

Southbound on Interstate 5 this morning, headed for First Street in Los Angeles -- an unplanned detour to check in with the leading half of the family expansion intothe land of the Great Drought. Exits for Monterey, Paso Robles, Yosemite, and other names full of memories passed by before the road swept up and over the steep gradients going in to Greater Los Angeles.

After a third cycle through one of the freeway mixing bowls, I found myself looping by the correct address; as Katie advised, I pulled out the emergency cell phone and called Brian for parking guidance. He, Katie, and Poptart made me welcome in their new apartment -- moving up from their  Brooklyn days, now on the top floor!

PopTart on watch

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

California arrival

Easy start to the day, somewhat stressful spin through the Sacramento and Oakland area freeways to reach Castro Valley. Will helped us document the successful completion of our twelve state  fifteen day  4697 mile trip, and then walked us "downtown" for ice cream.

I will be leaving tomorrow for the Los Angeles area.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ghost towns and desert leviathans

On the road quickly again, with eager help from Sean once he realized that quick departure meant earlier biscuits and gravy at a small local restaurant in Austin, Nevada -- a town that flourished in the days of the region's big silver mines. Good food.

Last sightseeing stop, the Berlin-Icthyosaur State Park. More miles of desert highway ending in another crawl up marginally maintained dirt roads clinging to the sides of steep hills -- were we the only visitors to the fossil exhibit today? No traffic on the dirt road but a State Park truck that came barrelling down the one-lane road from the exhibit, so I pulled over to let it pass.and then continued up.

The ranger truck turned around, followed us up the hill, and pulled up right behind us. "Your timing is perfect!" he announced cheerfully, "I just locked up!" At 10:30? He reopened to let Tess and Sean tour the icthyosaur fossil mound containing 25 icthyosaur skeletons.  Although one would think that the icthyosaurs were related to the dinosaurs, they were actually descended from land - based reptiles. Aggressive looking creatures, giant tarpons with toothy jaws instead of a long spike.

The current guess on the cause of the mass die off here is a toxic algae bloom that prey mollusks concentrated and passed on to the icthyosaurs. Sounds like an aquatic version of "Seymour" to me!

Down the road to the mining town and plant that hit peak production and quickly folded in the early 20th century. Nevada tourism promoters are trying to build interest in the region's history by restoring what's left of these monuments to thensure days when riches came out of the ground. In the absence of design plans, restorers have been depending on the memories of former workers still living in the area,

One interesting historical note there relates to the arrival of the horseless carriage. Two of the three drivers who brought passengers to Berlin were early adopters of the Ford Model T,  but the third hung on to horse drawn carriages until 1915. Naturally, the car broke down on his first attempt,  and he had to be rescued by the other drivers. (There were no details about how he was rescued, but it was likely a team of plow horses that pulled the auto back.) There is another auto that must have failed on the mountain and is still waiting for repairs.

Tess drove us away from the ghost town and down US 50, "the loneliest road in the USA" to Fallon,  NV, our last stop before Hayward. We are showering and avoiding the casino co-located with the motel (or vice versa); laundry is around the corner (past another casino), and the hotel Wi Fi would not let us connect until I had a friendly insider conversation with their IT staffer. Unlike Angel Lake and Kingston Canyon, we cannot recommend Fallon for return -- but it will do well enough for tonight.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Nevada is a sometime thing

Idle day today,  pacing our travel across northern Nevada. We rose at 6:30, though, after a blustery night that slapped the tent walls against our heads, tried to lift the rent corners, and alarmed Cocoa into rising from her place. (It's okay, Cocoa, lie down, don't step on my knees.) After a quick  breakfast, we went for a walk to see the lake and the falls at the apex of the ice-carved bowl; Sean took the lead. Grand wonders were waiting for us!

After a cheery goodbye to the campground hosts, we headed off on an idle day of wandering around northern Nevada, originally looking for points of interest near Battle Mountain. What we found was a  completely different part of the world.

Museums? Closed. Visitor center? Sorry, no one manning the receptionist desk at the open and silent Chamber of Commerce info center. The featured exhibit was a letter written by a graduating senior explaining how, while cities like Reno offer more entertainment and opportunity, teens growing up in rural areas like Battle Mountain forge a bond that will last forever after they leave.

Grocery store?  There might be one open somewhere. Gas stations -- either go back to Battle Mountain, or try California . Since California is still a few hours away, we did backtrack, and then found our way to a Forest Service campground in Kingston Canyon. Two days ago, this site would have seemed magnificent; After Angel Lake -- well, it was okay for a night.

Tomorrow, the ghost town of Berlin -- and icthyosaurs!

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Lakeside walk before dawn this morning,  no one else up but a few fishers - a pelican and a pair of storks. The human fishers showed up a little later ....

Quiet lakeside rambles at dawn are a good centering time, reflection on the path that led to the moment, watching the glow of the coming sunrise flow across the waters. Then, on with the day; walk the dog,  boil water for tea, oatmeal, cocoa, and ramen.

Yes, ramen. The master of hammocks has veered into preferring flavored ramen for breakfast. His request to have the freeze-dried  garnishes counted as vegetables was, however, denied.

Although bug free, last night's stay at Scofield Reservoir was the coldest campout this trip. There was a ball of sleeping bag in the middle of the hammock when I rose this morning, and it did not unwind until Tess peeked into it and called forth its inner child.

 On to the Great Salt Lake! At Sean's request, we obtained a rental two seat funyak and spent  little more than an hour paddling about. The two adults alternated duties as sternsman and as dogsitter; everyone enjoyed the experience except for the dog, who had some issues with the heat. Sean might have enjoyed it more if he had been able to see the wreck marked by a black buoy, or at least allowed to steer.

Sean was also able to cadge a short ride on the rental agent's ATV minitruck, though, so he was satisfied. Onward -- over the Salt Flats, past the Morton Salt factory (mine?), a hundred miles of mirages, and a curious roadside memorial/statue several miles south of Wendover. As we climbed out of the basin, Sean looked back and had to agree that it was even flatter than Kansas.

Laurie's comments about Wendover, which straddles the Utah-Nevada state line, were confirmed. Count down from the "Welcome to Wendover" sign entering the small town -- 3, 2, 1, and  -- Showtime! Casinos, entertainment ... and then gone, back to desert and long miles of freeway. Sic transit gloria Vegas?

Staying tonight in the campground at Angel Lake (8378 ft), in a wonderful bowl of layered stone walls carved  by a glacial lake.  Site hosts Dan and Susan welcomed us cheerfully,  brought firewood for us to burn, and suggested a short trip to a waterfall and lake at the base of the snow-touched edifice towering above us. ("And when the snow melts, does it ever get warm?")

This is the campsite that Tess chose as an anchor for her planning, and it survived all of the modifications made before we left. Since we have arrived four days before the state park reservation system opens, we had to take the chance that the campground might be full when we arrived. It was worth the gamble.

Photos follow when connectivity allows.

Nevada is Number Eleven on our list of states; we plan to take it slowly and enter the twelfth and final state of this journey on Wednesday.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Of Eagles, Mud, and Doors

Goodbye to Laurie (and Negrita) after she prepared a good breakfast for us, onward and into Utah at slightly over the posted 80 mph speed limit. Only very slightly, though, there was a yellow caution sign warning of an Eagle Crossing. Wait, eagle crossing? Why would it want to cross?

Today's adventure was a visit to the Cleveland-Amory dinosaur excavation site, originally discovered by Western archaeologists in the 1930s. Just like the approach to Chaco Canyon, there were miles of dirt road, few signs, and no cell phone signal to keep Amy the Navigator from giving up. We kept going, though, and reached the small visitor center.

The small center presented the history of the site, and the mystery that has unfolded over years of careful excavation. Dozens of dinosaurs died in the three foot deep mud here leaving intact skeletons -- no sign of combat. Even more interesting, the most common species identified has been the carnivorous predator allosaur, greatly outnumbering the number of prey species herbivores and easily able to escape a few feet of mud ... so what preferentially killed thunder lizards?

Eager as the two interns staffing the center were to answer questions for the few visitors who had successfully reached the site, they had no possibilities to offer. Why did so many dinosaurs come here to die, skeletons intact, and predominately carnivores in three feet of mud? My first thought, toxic substances, had already been thoroughly investigated without finding any evidence, they said. Tess's response: a keg party? No, no beer cans. They admitted that their own debates on the question had been more along the line of acting out "Jurassic Park" scenes for the benefit of the visitor center's small Allosaurus skeleton during their idle hours.

Her second more thoughtful idea as we were driving back over the web of dirt roads toward our campsite at Scofield Reservoir, which she titled "Feed me, Seymour!" -- a meat-eating plant or fungus colony emitting pheromones that attracted carnivores, a good source of concentrated protein, and discouraged herbivores, who would be as likely to eat the plants as the other way around.  Once lured and disabled, the allosaurs could have been drawn into the mud where the colony can feed ... fits all the evidence,  but how can it be tested? Oh, well, it's at least a good idea for a science fiction story.

 Camp fire dinner tonite on a hill above the reservoir, gentle winds blowing through the birch trees. The door to the men's room is jammed, but Tess has agreed to stand guard of us when we use the women's room.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Red Mountain Pass

As we were packing up this morning in the shadow of the sands one walls, a ranger stopped by to offer a tent space for the rest of the weekend. No, thanks,  I replied, we're done (well, well done).

The campground was full for the weekend in spite of the plan to limit annual visitor count and protect the artifacts in Chaco Canyon NM mint plan clearly depends on long dirt and gravel approach road to limit annual visitor count. Limited sources of potable water help, also? But the campground was full for the weekend in spite of it all.

North into Colorado! The odometer showed over 3000 miles on the road since we left Pilot. The mountain ranges grew taller as we approached and then started up US 550 toward Red Mountain Pass (11018 feet). Four lanestar slimmed down to a wide two lane, then to two narrow lanes, and then to white road borders crumbling and falling over the cliff edge. Sean quietly asked, "Why aren't the any guard rails?"

Time to change drivers ... Tess took the wheel at Silverton, with 24 miles of UP! left to reach Ouray, and headed for the pass. Subaru still had 5/8 tank, amazingly.

Engineers Mountain towered above a wonderland of stone, trees, and waterfalls;  trucks and RVs struggled up and careened down, accompanied by a flock of subcompact and pickup trucks.

Avoiding distraction by the fumbling photographer in the second seat, Tess whipped through the 10 mph hairpins next to the crumbling white lines while reassuring her son that she was going to get him to California, and that the Subaru would carry them through like it always has. He agreed on complete trust in his mother's ability, but -- what about some accident that might happen? Nothing Will Happen, said the Final  Voice. Five minutes later, he was also cheerfully snapping pictures, and Nothing Happened. Amen.

The Subaru? Half a tank remaining ... and a good thing, traffic was backed up further west, blocked over a two hundred yard section by a rock slide. Fallen rocks, from overhanging cliffs not much different from the ones we had been sleeping and driving underneath for the last day....

Construction sign as we left the work area: "ROCK SOLID SOLUTIONS thanks you!" Thank you, Rock Solid!

Amy the Navigator missed another construction update,  but recovered and led us to Laurie Johnson's door. We were welcomed with air conditioning, iced tea, and kisses from Negrita.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Colorado has mountains!

Running south on CO  71 with Pikes Peak on the western horizon, Tess drove into flocks of -- starlings, possibly? moving too fast for me to be sure -- who apparently thought that leaping up from the road and dodging cars at the last minute was a great game. Several startled from their perch on the northbound roadway to race across the path of the Subaru, and a few even dodged under the car at the last second. The winners on style, we agreed, were two that charged straight at the oncoming demon beast, pulling up and spinning over the windshield with less than a foot to spare.

Foolish mating season display, or bravely defending the flock -- or is there a difference?  Tess and I agreed that somewhere back in the dawn times, a leader must have found it useful to encourage self-destructive behavior that benefited the tribe, such as jabbing a mammoth with a sharp stick until it either crushed him and his compatriots or blundered back into its death pit.

To keep clear the difference between this and life-risking acts like, say, stealing magic mushrooms from the shaman and trying to fly off the nearest cliff, the leader must have declared that acts of the first kind showed bravery and -- if the anointed survived the experience -- worthy of praise, parades, promotions, extra shares of the mammoth gleaning,  and of course medals. Absolutely necessary, medals, so that everyone can tell without asking the difference between crazy loons who have no sense of self-preservation and brave selfless servants who risk their lives for the good of the tribe.

It may seem a fine, almost invisible distinction,  yet a very necessary one for civilization. Or at least that's what we crazy loons keep telling ourselves.

No one, shaman or loon, had told Amy our GPS navigator about a closed bridge, so our travel plan was delayed. We had to redirect her through Pueblo and over a couple of the lower mountain passes to reach the Great Sand Dunes.

Double serendipity! On the way in to a park that Tess had only added to break up what would have been an overly long driving day and then forced to detour around the intended direct route, we passed a small mountain (compared with its neighbors) whose peak and upper half were bare of foliage or snow. Massive landslides, possibly? I have never seen anything like it. Then, nestled in the shelter of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and fed with sand by a combination of prevailing winds and by a creek that recycles sand blown off the dunes back to the front, we found the Great Sand Dune National Park.

Nothing at all like the dunes on the Outer Banks -- the Sahara-like crested ridge dunes contrast sharply with the snowcapped peaks behind them. Park visitors enjoy the creek at the dunes' base as a freshwater beach experience with a bonus sand mountain climbing experience and some interesting sandboarding slopes.

Of  course we had to try to climb to the peak! Sean and I took the first attempt, but he elected to roll down the slope with others of his age rather than keep climbing with his huffing and wheezing grandfather (it is a few thousand feet higher here). We returned to the creek and took charge of Cocoa while Tess ascended considerably higher. She did stop short of the summit and turn around -- wrong shoes, clock running down on the afternoon, and ominous thunderstorms moving down the valley.

Quiet rest time for all this evening, reading, tending bug bites, fending off gnats and mosquitoes, enjoying the soft fresh wind blowing through the pines, watching the thunderstorms march down the valley. The young adventurer plans to spend the night in his hammock, flying (snoring?) in the face of reports of scorpions, snakes, and bears.

Photos for this post should be added by weeks' end.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I don't think we're in Kansas any more

Out of Kansas today, a great emotional relief for young Sean. How can states be so big and so completely irrelevant to Minecraft(r)? Kansas did grant us great weather for depature, gentle soft winds with a stately eastward march of cumulus water barges headed out to fulfill the prayers of other prairie farmers.

Long straight roads emblazoned with the Sunshine State's logo crossed other straight state roads at right angles and led us to Cawker City, where we paid our respects to the World's Largest Ball Of Twine. This Leviathan, which dates back to 1953, calls out both amazement -- whoa, that's big! -- and puzzlement -- why? Sadly, the gift shop was closed so we were not able to add to it.

Rolling further west into the Flat and in need of a midday break, we paused at Home Cookin', an excellent lunch spot in Stockton with little more curb appeal than a parking area crowded with pickup trucks. Ah ha, there's a good one! It was.

Like the Cosmosphere, twine, latest model airliner, and the cropduster that was flying straight and low along the road as he lined up for each pass over the adjoining fields, the "best BLT ever" did not shake the young critic's negative opinion of the Kansas flatlands.  When we crossed the border, he  cheered -- and then, seeing that the Flat stretched well into eastern Colorado, dissolved into anguish.

Fortunately for his spirits, our last touring stop of the day was the Kit Carson County Carousel,  Philadelphia Trolley Company Number 6. We all had a good time riding the beautifully restored collection of horses, dogs, and more exotic beasts!

A carousel attendant's observation on gender self image: boys scramble to be first to ride the horse fitted out in medieval armor, while girls go for the hippogriff,  the only fantasy animal in the carousel's menagerie. Individual differences still matter, however; a sunny blonde princess outraced me to the lion and mounted it, but hearing me behind her, turned politely and sincerely offered to let this kindly older stranger ride it. I thanked her but declined, and went to choose a less noble steed.

A long day! We finished with serious takeout Mexican food and laundry at the Quality Inn in Limon,  Colorado.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Kansas and the Cosmos, with a snake in the road

Hutchinson Cosmodrone today after a slightly damp pack up; last night's thunderstorm was very good for the crops, as my mother used to say with a tight smile.

The Cosmodrone had a very interesting collection of space artifacts and displays, with significantly more information about the Soviet program than I had seen before! (It wasn't unreported catastrophic missions, it was booster manufacturing management problems that caused them to delay their program.)   The recovered Mercury capsule from Gus Grissom's  suborbital flight was there,  first of three to sink under him; also present was a Vostok space capsule. Interesting to see the different engineering approaches to the same challenges.

Much of the facility focuses on the "Future Astronauts Training Program"  sponsored by the Cosmodrome's guiding agency in cooperation with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. It is an impressive effort to revive interest in manned space flight, but a less interesting -- and clearly gender biased --  curriculum.

A well designed display led us through the overconfidence that let the USSR come from behind to launch the first two orbital satellites, Eisenhower's decision to develop a non military boost vehicle under the Vanguard program, that program's  spectacular failures, and the fallback Explorer program which used the Army's Redstone missile.

Like the Internet, American success in developing orbital launch technology seems to depend on the balance of military focus on objectives and on corporate confidence in meeting financial goals while fulfilling those objectives.

Snake sighted on the road into our campsite near the Kanopolis Reservoir this evening, species not determined. That's one more than I wanted to see this year -- so far.

Since nothing interesting ever happens in Kansas, we are moving on to Colorado tomorrow.

What can you do in Kansas?


Actually,  it's not particularly flat in the east, more of the rolling hills variety. Still, Sean says there's nothing that interests him here -- but while he was being not interested a restored Model T, a sign directing visitors to the Brown v.  Board of Education Memorial, and (we think) one of Boeing's new jetliners passed by. Tess also noted changing grass species away from the Virginia fescue,  a red-tailed hawk carrying dinner home and a pickup truck in white-and-mud trim with storage boxes that marked it as the work vehicle for a large animal veterinarian.

It is the state where I was born, but I've never thought of it as home. "Home is where the heart is," wrote Pliny the Elder; I agree, though I could not say where home has been since September '08. For me, home is a  place where I can join with the most important person in my life. As the Mistress of the Game allows, I will always return there.

But, not in Kansas. Or Arizona. Or Delaware, any more.

We  chose to take a deliberately unstructured day today, heading West towards Hutchinson and keeping an eye on whatever Chance offered. Newton offered the Atchison,  Topeka, and the Santa Fe railroad depot, so we headed there in hopes of a public- and dog-friendly display.

On the way, however, we saw signs for the National Teachers Memorial in Emporia. Detouring there, we found a memorial to teachers killed in their classrooms, sobering enough even before we realized that it had to be a a partial list. Tess noted in particular that university educators were missing, like the five killed during the Virginia Tech massacre in '07. We paid our respects and moved on.

The ATSF depot in Newton was not apparently open for any business, much less public tourism, and the next train was not due until 2:45 am. So we rolled on, and found a lakeside campsite at the Cheney Reservoir State Park. The area no more deserves connection with a certain unindicted war criminal than I do with two Presidents of the United States.

After confirmed observations of lightning from at least a third of the horizons' arc and in consultation with other members of the party, the hammock master has retreated to the the tent this evening.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Boring Kansas

Excellent breakfast this morning at the camp café. Tess had French toast, Sean had  biscuits and gravy, and I had a healthy breakfast wrap followed by café manager Pat's blackberry cobbler. Pat told us that she had run short last night, put another one in to bake -- and decided to pick up a little ice cream at the store this morning to go with. I assured her that the ice cream was not necessary, but it was appreciated.

The stopover in Kansas City for a reunion of his mother with a fellow veterinarian and Hokie concerned Sean until he was assured that most of Kansas City is not in "boring Kansas". However, when the veterinarians' conversation  shifted into discussions of employers, owners, and methods for treating cats with intestinal tract blockages, he was willing to risk boredom and join his grandfather on a westward scouting mission for essential supplies.

 "Boring" the trip was was not. The gusting winds and artfully twisted cloud bank with a curious bump on the bottom that appeared to be reaching for the ground ahead  seemed to concern his grandfather a little, but he was confident that his mom's car could outrun any kind of storm. He urged the driver to speed up and get clear of the increasingly heavy rainfall -- but the driver declined to do so, pointing out that (a) this was not his father's BMW, (b) outrunning the storm was not an option since it was approaching from the direction they wanted to go, and (c) furthermore, NO. 

After a brief drive to a safe location off the highway and a phone call to reset travel plans, the adventurers returned to Missouri, reunited with their comrades, and regrouped at a hotel close enough to the state border to allow withdrawal if Kansas' hostility continued.

Site admin note:  older posts are being edited to fill in the backlog of photos for posting when Internet connectivity allows. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Silver Dollar City

Uneventful dog sitting today, so this post is an interview with Tess and Sean about th day at the Silver Dollar City amusement park near Branson, Missouri.

Q:  Sean, did you enjoy the amusement park?
Sean: Yeah.
Q: So what did you do first, or like best?
 Sean: Well, basically there was the River Blast. When you were on the boat, you got to shoot a bunch of targets with water -- this water cannon, and really soak them!  And then when you're not on the boat, you blast them!
Q: So everybody gets soaked? That must have felt good on a hot day like this!
Sean: Basically, yeah. And the River Ride was the same.
Tess: About six riders sit in each raft and ride over several rapids. Everyone gets  completely soaked, so we did it together twice -- because, already soaked so why not?
Sean: Yeah.

Q: Sounds perfect for the day! Anything else?
Sean: Not really.
Tess: Except the glassblowers and the blacksmith.
Sean: Yeah, the glassblowers were cool!
Q: Aren't glassblowers usually pretty hot?
Sean: Yeah, but they were  cool, too.
Tess: Did you want to show Grandpa the souvenir you got?
Sean: Okay.
Q: Wow, that is great! "To go where no man has gone before"? (A simple brass wire and plate  model of the Starship Enterprise.)
Sean: Right into the blacksmith's forge.
Tess: And then there were the twisted potatoes ...
Q: I've never heard of that!
Sean: Yeah! The potato was cut in a spiral and wrapped around a stick. It was really good!
Tess: The ones wrapped around a hot dog were a crowd pleaser (nodding in the direction of the "crowd").

Q: Did you ride any of the roller coasters?
Sean: Yeah, but just one. It wasn't much fun for me ...
Tess: The Thunderation roller coaster.
Sean: ... so I didn't do any more.
Q: I'm with you there.
Sean: And we rode on a log, and Mom got really soaked!
Tess: There were only two of us, so they put us at the back ... and I was in back of Sean. So, drenched.
Q: Hearing a common theme here.
Tess: Felt good on a day like this, too.

Sean: There was one other ride that took you down into  a dark hole on a train, and at the end they dump a lot of water on you. It was the best!
Tess: It's called Fire in the Hole, sort of a mix of railroad bandits, dioramas, and dropping off hidden ledges in the dark. It's Will's favorite.
Sean: And at the end they yell "Fire in the Hole!" and dump a lot of water on you!

Q: So, City Museum yesterday and Silver Dollar City today. If you had to choose just one, where would you go -- or is that just a silly question?
Sean: It's a silly question, you have to go to both!
Q: Great advice, thank you both for your report!

Sean: One more thing, can i tell you a joke?
Q: Okay, I'm ready.
Sean: Where do pencils go when they go on vacation?
Q: I couldn't begin to guess.
Sean: Pencilvania,  of course!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Over the River (restored)

Crossing the Mississippi

This is already becoming a wonder-filled and memorable trip! The St. Louis City Museum, first of the  big adventure stops, was a jaw-dropping rush through mazes of spiral stairs, tunnels, chutes, slides, and Daliesque  walls and tunnels formed from images of mythical land and sea beasts, running from dimly lit caves and two large ball pools to ten-story open chambers to a Ferris wheel- crowned roof. Outside, irregular platforms and rebar-framed tubes climb up to a boom-equipped pumper truck, a pagoda, and a  couple of scrapped business jets  -- and amazingly for the number of youth charging around through all of this, no evidence of injuries.

The celebration of our passage through the Gateway to the West concluded with a visit to Ted Drewes,  an ice cream mecca suggested during an online conversation with Will today that followed photo reports of his son's derring-do.

Staying in a motor lodge tonight west of St. Louis ; time to decompress and do laundry.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Risks and rewards

Careful scheduling today aimed to make sure there would be time for a campfire grilled fish fillet dinner this evening. Even a one mile trail walk to view the Natural Bridge had to be discarded after scouting found that (allowing for climbs and descents) made the actual distance much longer.

Time was set aside to visit the Kentucky Horse Park, however. Respect was paid to the scope of Kentucky's commitment the many breeds of the animal whose hoof prints have followed humanity's ascent towards modern civilization (liberally recalled from the show  announcer's  patter while the horses trotted and cantered around the fenced yard).

Sean and Michael sitting back to enjoy the show

Most remarkable notes from the show for those of us who are not racing fans: presentation of the Gypsy Vanner horse, a new (to me) registered breed, very sturdy animal with a keen eye; presntation of the Shire horse, a recovered breed that dominated European warfare for many centuries (key word here is dominated,  a Really Big Horse who pushed my hand around when I offered a jaw scratch, sniffed my fingers to see if there was food and nibbled a bit to be sure -- no? I must be useful for something!); and finally, a colt rescued by the Humane Society and available for adoption. When approached,  I pleaded a chronic lack of resources and Tess regretted inadequate practical knowledge.

I'd almost believe, though, that when the Gypsy cantered by and looked at me sitting in the front row, it knew I was thinking of another life not lived. (The rider and I ignored each other, of course.)

The Gypsy Vanner 

Noticed when passing by Louisville and over the Ohio River: a surprising number of suspension bridges with a new one under construction, and a new stadium of eye catching design named the KFC Yum! Arena. Tess and I agreed that someone's marketing group should be sent back to the minors.

As the Subaru struggled up the alpine cliffs leading away from the river (alpine by Indiana standards), signs assured us that the Hoosier Helpers were ready to assist with any roadside emergencies. Another one for the minors -- or authored by someone with a certain twinkle in his eye?

Santa Claus, Indiana.  We didn't go there

We passed on visiting Holiday World at Santa Claus,  Indiana, preferring the less dubious if equally risky prospect of a fresh cooked fish dinner.

This evening in Henderson, Kentucky, is full of prospects and risks. Having failed to find any retail source for fish of non frozen, non breaded, and otherwise interesting in culinary sense, Tess prepared a camp dinner based on foil-wrapped beef tips and vegetables  tossed into a charcoal fire. After the meal concluded with campfire marshmallows, the result was unanimously voted a success.

For the next act, the master chef intends to spend the night in his new hammock suspended between two sturdy trees. Skies are clear, fortunately.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Invading exotic lands

One last run to the waste transfer station, then everyone posed for a farewell photo. We climbed into the Subaru, and Tess took the wheel for the last run over the mountain on Pilot Road.

We debated briefly between a GPS path following Interstate 81 (slightly faster) and one following US 460 (slightly shortter), and quickly agreed to the latter option -- which immediately directed us onto I-81, because why not? So Tess had one more happy dance with the 18-wheelers.

Signs of invasive species in West Virginia and in Kentucky -- torrents of kudzu pouring in great waterfalls over rocks exposed and shattered from their millenia-old layers, once again cloaking visions of deep time from invading eyes.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


Busy with the ritual acts of deconstruction on the day before the movers arrive -- emptying kitchen cabinets filled with opened bags and bottles of cooking magic, disconnecting cables on the entertainment center and various  computers, rushing around for last minute parties and farewells.

Time to load up and march off, without looking back.  Tom Stoppard: "We burn our bridges behind us, and pretend that the smoke makes our eyes water."

The firefighter's chariot headed north at mid day, carrying donated cooking supplies and the redwood bed frame I built in 1984 for the chariot's owner. The bed returns from service with his nephew and namesake, Sean the Youngest, and will now encourage happy dreams of soot covered helmets and flashing lights for his daughter.

Some things last much longer and accomplish much more than expected, though we slap them together quickly and rush back to work on important stuff. What was it that was so important? Long forgotten.

All of this emptying and moving of furniture is making Cocoa nervous; she glides up like a gentle giant and places her heavy paw on my forearm for reassurance. So I scratch her neck and chest and speak  to her in reassuring tones ... but when I stop scratching,  she puts her paw back on my arm and looks to me with sad helplessness, begging me to put everything back the way it was.


I understand what she is feeling! This has been a home, a vibrant (and vibrating, thanks to my grandson) frame for growth, for loss, for moments both glorious and sad.

Walking the empty shell of our Delaware home after its sale in 2010, I found it hard to connect with the place where we had lived and struggled for twenty years. It was a time of mourning for me, an afternoon of recalling days that had been swept away forever to make room for tomorrow.

Much that same feeling is flowing though this house today. Boxes, shelves, and the hundreds of things that accumulate over the years are stacked under signs that say "PLEASE PACK" or "DO NOT PACK". Care has been taken to ensure that the camping supplies and the trash cans are in the DO NOT PACK section.

Visitors drop by, and vague promises are made to meet again. We know we never will.

House Wi Fi will be shut down early Monday morning, so my next post will likely be from a coffee shop of opportunity along the road on Wednesday.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Riding a Firefighter's Chariot

Well, owned by a firefighter at least.

Tess,  Sean, and chariot

Sean and I said goodbye to the dogs, and rolled south to meet up with the wagon train in Riner.

Monday, June 1, 2015

On to the next terrain feature!

Winds are not cooperating with the forecast mid day end of the rain; time to declare success and move on toward the next part of this summer.

Beyond the plan to have fun pretending to be a pterodactyl again and to renew my Hang 1 certification,  I now have the local "park pilot" clearance to fly from the 150 foot launch without instructor supervision. This will reduce costs when I return here again, possibly in time to see the autumn leaves.

Next stop, Valhalla Ranch to pack up and be ready to roll south this weekend. Next post will be about a week from now, on the road West to Hayward, California!