Wednesday, August 16, 2017

No Bull [photos follow]

With the storm dwindled into a few scurrying rain clouds, the drive from Rawlins to Fort Laramie took less effort. Still, the hypnotic barrenness of Wyoming's high desert had me looking for a place to pull off the lonely two lane highway for a break -- which gave me the only interesting item to share for the day.

The long stretch of leveled shoulder had a high wire fence separating the road from a partially fenced pasture. Two animals were grazing in it; nope, not cattle, those are bison! And up the road, another cluster of animals, a larger species of deer than I have ever seen.  

A wildlife management study, the sign on the fence said. I will try to retrieve the photos from my camera this week.

The invasive orange barrel species spreading over Wyoming's highways, however, won over my curiosity about Fort Laramie. When the AM radio road bulletins began warning of construction-caused backups between me and Denver, I abandoned my plan to touch another part of the Oregon Trail and turned south.

Tonight's shelter is a hostel in downtown Denver. My fellow umbraphile (aka solar eclipse geek) and I are staying with Europeans who have also come to witness the event; Barbara is in the girl's dorm, and I am in with the guys. 

I enjoy hostels, actually. Less privacy, true, but also much less sterile.

Adventure called on account of Rain

The highway into Wyoming this morning was open and relatively cool under high clouds, running between the red sandstone cliffs in the opposite that the Mormons fleeing religious persecution had taken into Utah.

This turned into an open plains rainstorm with gusting winds just as I went into close quarters with a variety of tractor trailers, pickup trucks, and street racers with California license plates.

Fortunately, I was fortified with a great meal at B J Bull's.  If I could have worked out a way to get those pasties shipped back east ... but, it wouldn't be the same, would it?

When the driver side windshield wiper started to fail, I decided to defer Fort Laramie and end the day in Rawlin.  Tomorrow's plan ends in Denver.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

East of Winnemucca

Eastward bound on Interstate 80 -- nothing especially interesting beyond recognizing uninteresting names and landmarks from previous trips. The last of the casinos fell behind as I crossed the final ridge before descending onto the Bonneville salt flats.

Posting photos has turned difficult thanks to a number of equipment problems that will need some attention when I return to Round Hill.

Tomorrow ends in Wyoming, where I hope to visit Fort Laramie of Oregon Trail fame. Bounding across this area at the posted speed limit in air conditioned discomfort leaves me amazed that any of the early settlers survived their westward migration.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

California, motorvated

The family week I enjoyed in California finished up with a day trip to let my grandchildren experience thousand year old redwoods that are taller than the Statue of Liberty. Out of concern for the long drive time and the summer crowds, our hosts chose the "middle size" giants at Big Basin State Forest rather that the bigger ones at Sequoia National Park. Photos follow.

In conversation over an amazing dessert experience with Katie and Brian at a Korean tea house, I praised them for successfully managing life and in high intensity metropolises, and thanked them for sharing some of the exotic enjoyments rarely available outside these places. Korean walnut tea, for example. Who knew?  The same applies for Tess and Will, who have led me to sushiritas, poke, and liquid nitrogen cooled ice cream!

More than enough time wading through Friday rush hour on several freeways as I headed east today. The Ion is pointing East now, looking to cross the Mississippi on or about the 23d and headed for the barn.

The Seal Rock at Morro Bay. Sounded like sea lions, though

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Reunited again

Monterey, California, always speaks strongly of family to us, though our few memories have been clouded by the years -- or in the case of our younger members, never experienced. Still.

The two grandchildren now share with us the awe of watching a turtle swim above us through a glass plate supporting a multistory column of water, and many of the other unique experiences available in the aquarium that David Packard and his spouse built with his computer industry earnings (yes, he was the Packard of industry giant Hewlett Packard, which started in a one car garage).

Cannery Row has changed almost beyond recognition. The pile of rocks where one of our iconic photos was taken is gone, also. Change is good, but sometimes, as Tom Stoppard observed, sometimes we have to pretend that the smoke from those bridges we burned makes our eyes water.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Footnotes and followups

Some extra items from my journey that escaped posting earlier ...

Here's some photos of the Strawberry wilderness adventure that Kirsten Elowsky offered to share.

Mary, Jakob, Andre, Keith, Michael, Tom -- photographed by Kirsten

More of Kirsten's photos are posted at

I have asked her for some more of the other hikers with us, in addition to all the electronic film she used up on the team's novice. (Viewers are required to provide a Google account.)

A few more photos from the Fold region in Colorado -- the Black Dragon Canyon.

And here's three photos of the Steel Sheep of Grand Junction, Colorado, courtesy Laurie Johnson. For some reason, I thought these might be of interest, if only as a background for some Photoshop artistry?

A quiet day here at the Dunn manse in Castro Valley. All the animals are resting.

Uh, oh

Not yet ... but soon.

Arrived at the Dunn household this evening without any delay or incident.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Back on the Loneliest Highway

The Loneliest Highway. Also known as the Pony Express highway, and occasionally as US 50.

Thia morning, rolling west from Ely across the wide valleys toward cardboard cutout mountains on the horizon that become steady uphill grades, sending the trucks over to the right hand lane to huff and puff their way along.  As the day grows warmer, the valleys fill with mirage lakes that flood over the highway ahead, threatening trouble. The lake disappears as it passes by, though, and the highway reappears unharmed.

Pretty cool, really, but getting hotter. Looking forward to the mountains and the forest.

The mechanics in Ely checked the obvious things -- blue smoke from the exhaust on startup, drips from the drain plug. Nothing. I could smell the hot oil burning, I remeinded them, it has to be leaking somewhere ... nope.  Their advice was to keep rolling and check the oil level frequently, thanks for stopping here, no charge, bye!

The advice would almost have been worth what I paid for it, I thought, if it hadn't taken up three hours. Pfft.

I went back to the truck depot to say goodbye to Nathan, and had the good fortune to run into the store supervisor, Nathan's boss, and sing a few bars of praise for my benefactor. Some return for his generosity, at least.

On the way west, I happened on the thriving town of Eureka, Nevada. Photos follow.

At noon, the Ion cleared the last summit before the USFS campground I planned to stay at last night. Beautiful place in Toiyabee National Forest, I will stay there tonight and continue toward Castro Valley. I plan to stop for dinner to avoid rush hour, and arrive mid evening.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


When I checked in, the hotel manager listened to my tale of woe and then cheerily assured me that Ely, Nevada, was indeed at the edge of a Bermuda Triangle for automobiles. The shop where I should take the Ion, she said was Big 8 Tire Auto, and I should ask for Junior. "He's my brother," she confided. "Tell him I sent you."

Somewhat scrambled departure from Grand Junction this morning; I doubled back to retrieve my tablet computer, only to find that Laurie had leaped into her car with it, intending to catch up with me at the service station when I stopped to refuel. All's well that ends well ... tablet retrieved, another opportunity to thank Laurie and say goodbye to Negrita.

I drove to the service station, refueled, adjusted tire pressures, and checked the oil level. It was low again, so I dug out another quart from my stash in the trunk. Joys of owning older cars, &c.

Thirty miles later, welcome to Utah! First warning sign, "EAGLES ON HIGHWAY". Alao falling and fallen rocks, apparently, but all I saw were orange barrels marking the road work in progress. Ah, well, I didn't have much hope that I would be able to clear the salt flats before noon.

Seventy miles into Utah, US 50 started its climb into the geologically fascinating Capitol Reef region of massive seabed sections lifted up on an angle along a hundred mile long fold in the earth's crust. The Ion drive train took the moderately steep climb in stride without dropping below 55 mph, but the air conditioner struggled in its battle with the high-90s heat.

Here's one of the photos I took of the San Rafael Reef during a rest stop; the rest will have to wait untill I have a better uplink. This is definitely a place worth some more wandering -- but not in August.

Descending from 7860 feet to pass Sevier Lake, I continued across the last few miles of Utah's desert, passing by the renowned Salt Flats of car speed racing fame and -- as the car's air conditioner labored -- looking ahead for Nevada's mountain ranges.

Then the low oil alarm went off. Fast stop! Engine temperature still in range, fortunately, but a definite hot oil smell. I stepped out into the early afternoon heat, checked the dipstick. Dry. More oil so I could reach the next service station? No, that was the last one in my stash.

Okay. Emergency cell phone? No, no service.

Right. I put tablet, phone, travel wallet, and a bottle of water into my daypack -- no towel, a crucial omission -- tucked in my shirt, set my straw hat on my head, and hung out my thumb for a ride. Good thing I've been practicing during my AT hikes, yes?

A young couple out on a ramble to Carson City stopped and generously agreed to take me to the next service station to the west. That turned out to be 95 miles and two construction zones away in Ely.

I bought four quarts of oil, and then checked online for a taxi or any other public transit option for the return trip. Nada, nicht, nikto nichevo.

"A taxi from Ely?" the clerk at the register said, and shook his head with a tight smile. "Can't help you there." Another associate, though, heard my request, and suggested that he would be finishing his work shift in a few minutes and would be happy to drive me back. Good fortune! But ... about three hours round trip, I cautioned, and offered reimbursement for his trouble. Nathan waved that away, though he did let me pay for refueling his car.

I made it back to Ely at 7:45 pm. Assuming that this town's name has the same Scriptural origin as Eloy, Arizona's oft-cited desert town of despair, I would say that in ths place and on this day, my God did not forsake me, instead showing once again how many good and generous people there are in the world. Deo gratias.

I plan to post a schedule update tomorrow after Junior has checked out the Ion's oil concerns.