Sunday, October 04, 2015


I.  St. Louis to Salt Lake City.

I have jumped seats across the aisle.  I paid up for legroom but the package I bought didn't come with any extra shoulder room.  Alas.  Alackaday.

It is not a full flight.  I last flight I was on, from St. Louis to Los Angeles, wasn't full either.  Behind me, along with me in the cabin are inter alia my wife and three of my dozen or so friends.  The chicken is in the woods.  It is a hen or a rooster.  Hen, I think.  I have selected from a snack tray the blue bag of mini pretzels.  And, on second thought, a banana.  The old man with the window seat one seat away scoffed at the pretzels, took the peanuts and a granola bar.  They rest on a napkin on the empty seat between us.  The laundry cats are in the basket, replete with anonymous fish.

I am sipping coffee; he orange juice, aka a little bit of the ole jugo de naranja.  He has a cut over his eye, a wound above his elbow.  His cane is in the cabin above my head.  He raises slightly the window shield.  Just as quickly he lowers it back down.  The chicken is in the woods, anon anon.

Something led me to think just now of the band Ratatat and their song, "Montanita."  I realiZe I left it off of the 'Montana' playlist Anne set up and invited us to add to.  I was adding theme-themed songs—meta-themes, mother of memes.  Montana; passport; glacier; aurora borealis; Alberta.  I am otherwise indifferent to music at the moment, whatever you want to listen to.  Whiplash, autograph.  Neck hurts?  Take an aspirin, laugh-in.  The breakfast sandwich expands across the federal lands.  No one even lives in Utah anymore.  "I'm on a plane....  I can't complain...."  I forgot that one, too.

After I went through the body scan sedan a TSA guard asked me to lift my left arm straight out to my side and then he patted my armpit.  He'd found my sweat alright, half of it anyway.  Flight attendant comes by with coffee. The one was enough.  I pass.  I demure, for sure, the cure.  My skimpy goal for this flight, my picayune imperative, is to refrain from having to use the restroom.  My fear is getting trapped in the aisle fore or aft the beverage cart; or having to stand outside the restroom for too long a time, standing there right on the doorstep of the poor folks with the seats right next to the restroom, crowded by the sloppy anxious passengers loitering on their doorstep.  Shadenfruede, Sigmund Freud.  Butter-scented candle, gold-plated candle.  My name is—six forty a.m. mountain time on September 26, 2015.  Wildcat, spoiled brat, exiled frat.  Scaredy-cat welcome mat—come on then, come on in.  National park, national party: no need to get arty: the wellhead's tapped but the rig's gone idle.  Let's do math, let's take a bath.  That chicken is back on the escalator!

I think the old man is asleep.  Except, as I'm stealing glances at him, there's that cut nascently healing above/around his left eye and there's just the slightest suggestion that his eye is cracked a glimmer and he is leering back at me as I am leering at him.  He looks a little like my grandfather, my dad's dad, gone...eighteen years now...a bit jowly, pot belly, light bulb polo with some kind go animal sewn on where the eponymous polo players would be...what is that animal?  A sheep, a fox?  A pox, on all the houses of the holy molybdenum.

I have brought two books, each of which I have read at least twice apiece.  One, The Sun Also Rises.  It is a copy I bought many years ago—18 years ago?—at the Memorial Hospital Book Bazaar in Belleville, IL.  I am fairly certain I took that book to Mexico in college.  Now it will also find its way into Canada!  Reading a bit of it just now, it is as rich and stark as it ever was; there are parts I do not remember, probably because I did not understand them in the first place.  Pernod for instance.  He calls it imitation absinthe.  Certainly this is the first time I have read the book having actually tasted Pernod.  It's not my taste.  I recently poured out what was left of a bottle I didn't want to sit in my cabinet any longer.  I suppose Earnest would have frowned upon me.  Sorry, Earnest, ye Great Pacer.  It struck me too that the girl he picks up early is a prostitute.  I am dense about the subtext in great books, kind of like how I am terrible about picking up song lyrics.  Plot, meaning, and subtext aside: it is the rhythm and the sparseness of his prose that set something in motion inside me.  All of the unused word.  Th'economy.

The second book, Bill Luoma's Works & Days, is the second of two copies I've owned of it.  The first I bought nine years ago at Subterranean Books on the Delmar Loop, back when they sold used books.  Now it's all new books and I am still sullen with their decision to stop selling used books; I don't go there much anymore, once or twice a year to throw them a dime and pick up a gift; nobody ever goes there anymore, it's too new.  I found my original copy in the poetry section, it was secondhand.  It's not strictly a poetry book but that's as good a place as any for it.  Prose poetry travelogue.  Travelounge.  I attempted to copy its style pace & rhythm when I wrote a journal about a trip to Jamaica back in 2009.  I have not read the book since then.  I leant it to a bandmate of my friend Brett.  This bandmate seemed interested in writing and poetry and I figured he'd like Luoma.  But Brett soured on him.  Apparently this guy and his wife liked to swing.  That's what Roy told me.  He ended up out at their place one time, to go swimming.  I'm not sure how he ended up out there, come to think of it.  This bandmate had an apartment with a pool.  He invited me out there the last time I talked to him.  I guess he got the sense I wasn't ever going to come out to swim.  That's how I lost that first copy of 'Works & Days' and why I had to get onto AmaZon to buy it used (again) a couple of years ago.

Loma might have copied Hemingway a bit.  I'm going to rip off the both of them best I can.  Hemingway, of course, is dead.  I cannot find any other work by Luoma; shame.  There's other works listed in 'Works & Days' as being by him but the last time I tried to find any of them all I came up with was a scrap about a guy living in Hawaii, working as a programmer of some sort, possibly utilising computer algorithms to produce a hop-scotch random sort of automatic poetry not different in concept than Burroughs's cut-ups, which I never cared for and which don't compare to his beat-diary classic, Junkie.  I digress; I have an abscess in the annex, the narthex, it's complex, with flecks—of tungsten conducting an experiment of relative thought at a temperature as close to zero as we might reasonably get a haircut, get a real job, get lost and—found my way to...Montana...not quite sure how that happened.

I am in-setting the poem Luoma opens the book with.  It is "Douglasses poem."  I've inset it in at least one of my previous travelogues.  Luoma writes, "It is a sad and beautiful poem about a broken car which makes you feel things.  You can interpret it however you like, but it sets the stage for everything to come."  I agree!  And now, "Douglasses poem."


if the car is broken,
& we cannot go to get it,
who will?

if the car is broken,
& no one can go to get it,
who will?

if the car is old & broken,
wounded like the street,

broken like the broken parts
of these our broken lives,

& we remain?


I was thinking about this poem this past summer when the contractor working for Ameren (who was working for the city) came to put down sod on a patch of the right-of-way that sits between the sidewalk and the street out in front of my house.  It all started when the bozo construction crew building a new house on a tear-down lot down the street was dicking around in the ground and snapped—for the second time in as many years—the electric cable that runs between the light post out in front of the tear-down and the lighthouse sitting by my house.

It was a Saturday and I was doing this and that in and out of the house while B was out running errands.  A flatbed truck arrived carrying nothing at all.  It parked right across the foot of our driveway, like it was looking for our driveway to cut it in half.  It was part of a convoy of trucks, one of which held the sod.  Figuring my wife was going to be back at some point that afternoon I went out to the fellas who were standing around chatting while a couple others did all of the work.  "What's going on?" I said.  A sun-bitten, rind-skinned smoker-for-life roofer-type told me, "Sod."  That was it, a one-word answer.  Sod.  I'm looking at the three or four trucks and this patch afoot the light pole that might have been 25-square yards at the most and all I could do was shrug; look up and down the sidewalk.  Quite an operation for this little patch, I wanted to say.  Three big trucks, five or six guys.

"How long you gonna be here?"  I ask.

"I can move right now if you need me to," said another guy.

I said that wasn't necessary, yet.  They got the sod down and were gone twenty minutes later, just as quick as they appeared.

This was late July.  They came and put the sod down but the sod wasn't going to take without additional care and maintenance.  It led me to wonder: city lays the sod, but city doesn't water the sod—who waters the sod?  That inquisitive rhythm reminded me of Douglasses poem.  It is the same sort of question.  Again I digress, I recess, I adjournal for lunch, crunch time and again and again & again.  Ryan Hanigan again.  Jack Clark.  Will Clark.  Clark Kent, naked on a beach in New Mexico.  They don't have a beach in New Mexico?  They do now.  Its sand is laced with kryptonite.

The old fella took off his shoes.  And then, no surely not—yes—he took his socks off too.  I'm stealing a few peeks at his left foot.  I was afraid it was going to be all messed up somehow—mad cow—but it's not.  It looks OK and, breathing now through my nose again, I don't smell anything at all.  Relief, Rolaids, trapezoids.  Polaroids of the pyramids.  Rhombuses of Ramses and a variety of other unclassified shapes.  Seatbacks up and try tables returned to their locked position.  Folks, prepare the cabin for landing!

II.  Salt Lake City to Kalispell.

I'm up in row seven while the other four are opposite aisle one another, two each side, two rows back.  There's a couple regular old folk in the row between us.  Anne starts giggling and I turn around all serious, "No laughing!  I'm trying to read up here."  With a real pissed off look I do this.

"Mind you own!" she snaps back.

The couple in between us, startled out of a toddling nap, is wide-eyes and in the way.

"We're just joking," I say.  "I know these people.  They've been following me ever since I left St. Louis."

"Oh, OK," they say, awkward chuckles from the both of them.


That last part didn't actually happen.  I just imagined it and thought it would be kind of funny.  I am two rows in front of them, though—and I have been hearing Anne's occasional giggles.  Rose and B are back there, too.  I heard a snippet of dialogue between them as we lifted toward cruising altitude over the Great Salt Lake.  They were talking about th'eponymous lake, I believe.  What I noticed about the lake: I saw no boats.  Is there no recreation on or involving the lake?  I did not see any wildlife but I am rather far away so how could I tell, even if there were wildlife?  What is the water source for the lake?  We are in the middle of what I would otherwise call a desert.  Where does all of that water come from?  I thought I saw a river winding its way toward something.  Perhaps the lake is fed by this river.  Is the river also salty?  Are there fish in the lake?  Does the lake have a bodyguard? Does the bodyguard go fishing in the lake?  Does the bodyguard keep the fish he catches or does he throw them back?  If he keeps them, does he clean the fish himself?  Or does he, in turn, hire someone that cleans the fish for him?  Is the bodyguard so busy catching and cleaning the fish that he cannot do the bodyguard work that he was originally hired to do?  Is this why there are not many famous or infamous people hanging about by the Great Salt Lake?

I had also been hearing behind me, amidst the landscape dialogue and the ticklish giggling, a baby.  That baby is now right across the aisle from me!  His helpless, provocative father brought that baby up here to gain hold of some peace and quiet.  I discover now that this baby has no shirt on!  How about if I take my shirt off?  The father is bouncing the shirtless baby on his lap and making goo goo sounds while the facing-forward baby grabs at the worthless Delta paraphernalia in the seat pocket in front of the seat.  The baby has quieted down since the father emigrated to this part of the plane.  The baby has a piece of paper in his left hand, now his right hand, that he is shaking.  The stewardess is going up and down the aisle soliciting trash.  Trash, otherwise referred to with this incredible euphemism I heard right at the end of the STL to SLC flight, when the attendant called out for any remaining "used service items".

When we got off the plane, B came up to me and said, "How'd you and that little baby get along?  It seemed like he got quiet once he went up and sat by you."

I said, "That's because when he got up there I went and leaned over to him and said, 'Listen here, you little punk.  You better keep quiet around me or I'll whip your little baby ass.'"

And everybody laughed at my good-natured faux-curmudgeon humor as we strolled through the effulgent concourse of the expansive and karma-filled Kalispell airport before seamlessly snatching up our already-carouseling bags and practically walking right into our rental car which was parked right on the curb outside with the engine running and the radio turned to whatever channel on Sirius we were all going to agree we wanted to listen to


None of that actually happened either.  I'm still on the plane but the father has taken his shirtless kid back to the back of the plane, though I still smell a little bit of baby in the air....  Oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen bubble...bubble boy...the Moops, oops, I—I—I guess I didn't know that.  The nose knows.  A rose is a rose is a rose.  Hemingway is at his best writing about Paris.  The Sun Also Rises is a lot like A Moveable Feast with a stronger fictional bent, stripped down, made minimal.  We are over mountains.  I am listening to Milieu.  The temperature in Kalispell is 36 degrees?  That's what the captain said.  He must be wrong.  Or maybe that's in Celsius.  Celsius Clay, the bizarro version of Casius Clay.  European and swinging from the left.

I am writing in a journal made in Spain munching on Biscoff biscuits from Belgium, while reading a Kansas City newspaperman's account of his time in Paris.  The descent into Kalispell has begun.  Fun.  These tray tables need to be returned to their seat-back position.  Adieu for now, mon frer.

III.  Cabin Outside Glacier, First Day.

It is Sunday morning.  The alarm clock read, '3:21' but that wasn't right.  It was 3:56.  I put on my glasses and opened my phone, went to Instagram, the photo-tribune obsession of my travels.  I strained against the screen in the dark before deciding to get up, go downstairs, turn on a light.  I slept alright.  The headache I had for most of yesterday is gone.  I was hung over.  The second flight in a row where too many beers the night before led to a mounting dehydration-fueled head-pounder.  I've chastised myself enough already.

I posted my photo, of a peak catching a bit of the fading sun somewhere around magic hour yesterday.  We were headed north along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.  We had stopped because of the way the light was hitting those peaks.  Pat was driving.  He upgraded the Santa Fe to a Suburban, a burgundy beast of a vehicle straight from Detroit with Bluetooth, USB ports, an excellent rear-view camera, and three rows of seats.  When it was holding all of our luggage and then our groceries we were all glad for the space.

I am sitting here in this woody cabin drinking tea and writing and it is quiet.  Pat had been out on the back deck last night looking at the nearly full moon when he realized how quiet it was.  No insects, no birds, no airplanes.  Occasionally a car will go by; there is a train track not far away, down the road, just past the point where the north fork and the middle fork of the Flathead River come together at the Blankenship Bridge.  Where water comes together with other water.  Take the north fork.  So much water so close to home.

I have been delighted by how many rivers and creeks we have seen.  I did not expect them.  I am not much impressed by the lakes.  Lake McDonald is big and rippling but it is also shapeless.  The Flathead at Blankenship Bridge—the sound of a train in the distance—looked like a scene from Normal Maclean.  There were fly fishermen in the river on either side of the bridge as we passed.  I want to get into that river.  Rivers move.  Creeks move.  The water of McDonald Creek could not have been more clear.  That creek tracks the Going-to-the-Sun Road for a pleasant stretch between Lake McDonald and The Loop, a hairpin turn on the road at which point the elevation starts to take hold.  From on high we caught sight of numerous creeks below and a few waterfalls here and there sluicing their way down various mountainside escarpments.  There isn't much snowpack to speak of; I don't know where the water comes from.  I am guessing we saw glints of Mineral Creek, Avalanche Creek, Hidden Creek.

Do not misunderestimate the size and augustness of these streams; I call them creeks because they have been dubbed, officially, as creeks.  They look like rivers to me.  Especially McDonald Creek.  It's got pools deep as most rivers I've ever seen.  It is wet and gets white and it flows.  I believe the terminology is captive to the scientific text in this case.  There must be some rule about what counts as a creek versus what can be dubbed a river.  These creeks, best as I can tell from the map, all wend down through the Rocky Mountains of Glacier National Park and eventually feed into the various forks of the Flathead.  Lincoln Creek, Harrison Creek, Nyack Creek, Pinchot Creek, Coal Creek, Muir Creek, Park Creek, Ole Creek, Bear Creek.  When you've got so many tributaries in such close proximity, all feeding into the same body of water, I suppose they can't all be rivers so they must be creeks.  And they're not especially long; they are about as long as their mounts are high.

This is all in the southern part, the southwest corner of the park.  Our cabin is just south of the park, north of Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Coram.  I did almost zero advance scouting for this trip.  Pat and Anne have been here before.  They got married in Kalispell, ten years ago tomorrow.  Ten years gone.  Time flies.  Where does it go?  Going, going, gone.  You better watch the road, baby.  The chicken is in the woods.  Syrah, syrah.

The North Fork of the Flathead River hails from Canada.  British Columbia.  I am looking at this Waterton-Glacier park map in awe.  Part of the park is in Canada, that's Waterton: Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta.  B and I honeymooned in the maritime provinces of Canada but I have not sniffed Alberta.

I've got so much to say!  The ink is flowing, the tea is strong and I am under a blanket in a recliner in Montana.  As John Sterling would say, "How do you like that?"  But that's baseball; that's a whole 'nother story.

The cabin has low beams.  Some have clearance of less than 6'5".  The wall on the staircase leading upstairs to the landing where our bed is has a nasty slant, requiring me to be very aware as I traverse the stairs.  The water has a strong iron content, I do declare.  I bent to wash my face yesterday and I could taste something in the water, I thought blood.  It was like my nose had started to bleed as I began to wash my face; I have in the paste hit my nose just the right way while washing and opened it up, realizing only because the water then ended up in my mouth.  This was the same exact taste.  I have concluded that this cabin would be perfect for short vampires.  Being neither short nor a vampire I plan to spend the bulk of my cabin time in this recliner drinking tea or out on the commodious back deck drinking beer.

The sky cleared sometime in the night.  B stirs.  It was mostly cloudy when Pat I and proclaimed our embers burnt and turned in somewhere around ten o'clock.  Yet I was underwhelmed by the sky when I looked out and up this cool, clear morning in my barefoot for just a minute on the back deck.  It's the moon.  The moon is too bright.  It's not going to be any less bright tonight.  Indeed, tonight is a full moon, a Harvest moon, a super moon (the moon being as close to the earth as any full moon will be this year).  And that's not all!  If you order now we'll also send you a full lunar eclipse and a blood moon for no extra charge!  See what I'm saying about the vampires liking it here?

We saw a small black bear yesterday but we did not see many birds; a stellar's jay; a robin (could have been a towhee); a quail (could have been a ptarmigan?).  The bear was alongside the Going-to-the-Sun-Road and went back into the woods about ten seconds after we initially saw it.  Pat had predicted we would see a bear on day one, and we did.  Rose is somewhat concerned about encountering a grizzly on one of our hikes.  The possibility is far enough above zero to be classified as legitimate.  She bought a bell.  I kind of wish I had a cowbell.  I've always liked the sound.  The point of the bell is to make noise; you don't want to surprise a bear and/or her family.  There is a gratis can of bear spray in the cabin (but if you break the seal, you buy it).  We should be OK, the five of us.  It's six o'clock, mama bear.  Do you know where your cubs are?

IV.  Sunday Night: Blood Moon vs. Milky Way.

We had originally planned to go up to Logan Pass, the high point in the park along the Continental Divide, to see the Blood Moon.  But I had doubts about us commanding The Beast along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in the dark and I said so.  I told Pat it wasn't a comment upon his driving and I meant  it.  It is a narrow road; difficult enough in the light.  And it would have been well into our cocktail hour.

We did phone research into the moonrise: when and on what horizon.  Rise was 19:12 in the southeastern sky.  I suggested we go down to the banks of the river banks, the ole Flathead.  The sky was pretty open there.  When we went down there in the light to scout it out the brush on the narrow, bumpy turnoff scraped the sides of The Beast something good—seemingly perfunctory warnings from the rental car agent about "No Off-roading" echoed in my worried head.

When the hour arrived Pat drove us down there.  As we worked our way toward the bridge the moon jumped out to us suddenly, big and round and orange and we were headed straight for it.  We lost elevation and we lost our view for the moment.  Cocktail in hand, Pat first drove over the bridge, missing the turnoff.  There were already a bunch of locals down on the banks and multiple bonfires were burning.  We made to join them.  It was a pretty sight, people out under the moon on a riverbank having a fire and being outside on a Sunday night.  The moon was just about in full eclipse when we parked on the rocks not too far from everyone else.

It was a rusty, orange, large, eclipsed moon.  It moved quickly through its arc.  Once the eclipse was full, the rest of the night sky came out of hiding.  The Milky Way was straight overhead.  I realize we won't have another lunar eclipse until 2033, but I'd be much more unhappy if you were to tell me that I would not get to see the Milky Way again until 2033.  That ghostly ribbon is the prize of any sky.  The only thing I'd rather see is a comet.  The Way ran from the southwest to the northeast, straight above through Cassiopeia.  Pat had his camera trying different exposures to nail it.  I don't think he was satisfied with what he got.  I'm afraid he will not have a better chance on this trip.  The moon will be just one day off of full tonight, plenty bright.  Maybe when we are in Canada, once the moon is set, one morning along 3:30 or so.  Will I be awake?  Will he?  It's 2015 and the climate is changing.  Do you know where your glaciers are?

I believe I could write a long, groping passage about glaciers but I don't want to fail in my responsibility to record for posterity the simpler items on my agenda, e.g. the cornucopia of other action from yesterday, Sunday, September the whatever.

We hiked the Avalanche Lake Trail from the Trail of the Cedars trailhead along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Taking our time to snap photos and pause at the end of the trail at the head of the lake we were out on the trail for three-and-a-half hours.  We could not agree on what distance it was we had hiked. I cannot say for sure that we did more than six miles.  The park map was not as helpful as you might think.  It was chilly at the head of the lake, a wind dancing off of its surface and cutting right through me.  We snacked.  I peed.  I am driving myself craZy with my small bladder and its itchy-trigger-prostate on these excursions.  I think I might have a drinking problem—I'm drinking too much water!  Pat remarked last night that he thought he drank one liter over the course of the whole day.  I drank two liters on the Avalanche hike alone and had to race like a pisshorse again by the time I got back to the trailhead.  I was militant with the sensation.  No one wants to get between a mother bear and her cub; no one wants to get between me and a place to take a leak when my bladder is beating with a pulse in my pelvis.  I need to figure something out.

Where was I.  There are lilies in here.  Pat got them for Anne, the same arrangement they had ten years ago.  I am somewhat allergic to lilies; a shame.

I want to voice briefly my wonder about the lakes and the creeks here.  I've discussed this with my comrades.  Where is all of this water coming from?  Snow melt they say.  What snow?  Glacier melt.  T'ain't many glaciers anymore, not enough to fun all of these creeks 24-7, no way.  Not unless I am simply underestimating, by magnitudes, how large and how voluminous these remaining, global-warming holdout glaciers really are.  Could the source be a sort of groundwater?  Maybe, but then the water table has to be somehow higher within the tallest mountains, rising like a column within them.  I am missing something.  The simplest explanation, my dear Occam, is: snow up high/snowpack/glacier; melts, reaches lakes via waterfall or sluicing through the body of the rock; lakes themselves also happen to be spots where the water table is high, commingling with the melt-off and/or there are springs somewhere on the undersides of these lakes, turbo-charging the runoff; the lakes then drain, slowly, via the creeks.  We saw an example of this process yesterday.  There were two waterfalls high above the head of Avalanche Lake.  That water reaches into and constantly feeds Avalanche Lake, replenishing the lake at a rate identical to that at which the lake loses water into Avalanche Creek.  Meaning: the creek must run in volume and at a rate equal to that of the waterfalls reaching the lake.  Avalanche Creek runs into McDonald Creek.  McDonald Creek feeds the lengthy Lake McDonald.  McDonald Lake spills into the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.  The Middle Fork of the Flathead River comes together with the North Fork of the Flathead River at Blankenship Bridge, becoming the "just plain" Flathead River, where I saw a beaver yesterday morning; where we saw the last of the three blood moons; where we were given, for one night only, The Galaxy; where we had a bonfire after the locals tried to drown it; where we ate peperoncini Kettle Chips; where we "crushed the Dickel"; where we walked along the flat, smooth rocks.  From which place we left at ten-fifteen last last to have Rose make us reuben sandwiches.  Which were good.

[Author's Note: Sometime later in the trip, after we had left the short vampire cabin, we were talking about the water again and Pat harkened back to the way that, about mid-morning, once the sun got going, water would drip off of the corrugated iron roof of the cabin...drip, drip, drip in the morning sun.  This water came from frost, he said.  If there is so much water suddenly sliding off of the roof of the cabin every morning, where the night before there was none, why cannot frost-melt be an important piece of the waterfall; lake; creek: where does it all come from puzzle?]

V.  20 Grams of Protein and a Case of Iron-Water Heartburn.

It is Tuesday morning.  B has been caught in the heartburn vortex.  She's never had it before.  I've given her some of my generic Pepsid completes.  At dinner at Belton Chalet last night we all talked about what could have caused the heartburn. The cabin's blood water or the 20-grams-of-protein bar she ate on the hike.  Breakfast couldn't have been the culprit because we hadn't eaten any.  The folks at the Lake McDonald Lodge closed down the buffet to new entrants sometime before ten o'clock; we got there a few minutes 'til ten thinking as long as we got through the door at ten we were good; we weren't.

Pat suggested the heartburn resulted from a combination of things and he's probably right.  Protein bar: a too-potent combination of protein and vitamins.  The iron-laden blood water she drank on the hike (and in her morning coffee).  The ibuprofen she took to alleviate the slight hangy she had as a result of our frolicking under the moon and Way.  The up-and-down topographic nature of our badass nine-mile hike  Monday along the Highline Trail.  The nut mix, which also contains chocolate in the form of M & M s.  The coffee she had yesterday afternoon.  The red wine we were then having at dinner (Hill Family Barrel Blend from Napa, $42).  The rich meal, her dish beef tips in sauce.  The caffeine she is about to have this morning, etc., etc.  The heartburn vortex spins and spins, and when it will stop nobody knows.

I will go into town this morning, to the Smith's, and I will get more heartburn pills....

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Money Isn't Right-Handed

"Anaesthetic, doctor.  Give me the anaesthetic."


First sentence setting the scene in an elusive way—best sentence of the story, except for the last sentence, which just leaves them hanging.  "What?  That's the story?"


City lays the sod but City doesn't water the sod.  Who waters the sod?


Jackson McCullers had won the steak and liquor bet.  The bet had depended on the outcome of the game in front of them, a National League baseball game between two teams out of the running, the season already stuck in the dregs and doldrum of August.

Players aren't supposed to bet on baseball but Jackson and his teammate, Chance Larson, didn't think anyone would find out.  And, luckily, no one did.  It was a simple bet.  The bet was whether either of them would get into the game.  It didn't matter which.  Larson was saying he didn't think any of them would get into the game.

"Dog days of the season," he said, munching on sunflower seeds.  He had a half a shell caught on his lip and this caught him up and he had to start his sentence again.  "Dog days of the season and this shitty team, we can't even get a hit off of them.  Getting our asses kicked and Baez is out there, it wasn't even supposed to be mop-up duty.  He's gonna have to eat it now.  Skip'll get try to get two innings out of him, don't you think?"

McCullers didn't respond.

"Three?" said Larson.

"If Baez isn't making good pitches, Skip won't let him stay in the game."

"You really believe that?" asked Larson.

"This is his last inning," said McCullers.  "It's you or me next.  Baez threw yesterday.  And the day before that."

The skipper went to Larson in the next inning and McCullers started thinking about a ribeye, and a few monster shrimp on the side, Gulf amazons—and a big Manhattan, something to make the big city proud, generous bitters.  After that, maybe split a bottle of wine.  It didn't have to be red.

Larson allowed a solo homer to the first batter he saw.  As it gained velocity and whizzed above his head, he cursed McCullers and quickly wondered what expensive and unnecessary items his teammate would order to consummate his winning bet.  Imagining a menu in his head, the various sections, Larson achieved a sort of Zen-like state and retired the next three batters on fourteen pitches.  Larson even batted in the bottom half.  The team went down a bench player when an errant foul screamed into the home dugout and clocked the backup catcher in the bottom of the sixth...

Monday, June 01, 2015

Air Methods

They walked over to the campground store with a few desired purchases in mind.  He wanted newspaper and wood.  He wanted to check their ice, to see if it was any good.  Usually it would be him looking for beer but this time it was her—Bud Light or Bud Light Lime.  It didn't make sense to expect anything better, such as Heineken or Stella Artois.

There were three ladies sitting behind the counter, on the older side, looking like they didn't have much else to do, here or anywhere.  He figured they must all be family, part of whatever family owned this land, the base of a business that included running a campground and its store, selling some of the adjacent timber, charging non-campers for day use, and taking a cut on float referrals they'd be glad to make to one of the nearby outfitters.

The store was a slimmed-down dollar store, mostly full of junk.  Anything worth buying they'd brought with them already.  He didn't immediately see any of the big, commercial refrigerators, the kind you'd see in a convenience store.  But they were there, toward the back.  It was just soft drinks, though, colas and sports drinks and water and tea.  It was a disappointment but not a surprise.  He'd get the wood in any event.  What a bunch of crap else wise, though.  A tent?  Who would buy a tent here?  It couldn't be any good.  Toys, pool toys.  Noodles and yet-to-be-inflated beach balls and rafts. A whole other section of regular toys.  A tractor, a car, a helicopter with one big propeller on top and another little one inside its tail, like a fan—a tail fan.  There was a blue cross on one side of it and on the other side a snake and staff emblem, like for The Hippocratic Oath.  There was a company, publicly traded, that ran medical transport helicopters.  They charged thousands upon thousands of dollars to fly people from one hospital to another, for special procedures like transplants.  Or they'd fly into the sticks and pull the broken people out.  He knew the stock from work.  His father, a chartist, had seen a secret pattern emerge in the up and down movements of the stock.  The fundamentals were terrible.  The insurance companies were still writing the checks but that was going to come to an end at some point.  He'd dabbled in the stock, bought it for a few clients.  At the moment it was a loss.  He could handle a small loss but if it got any bigger he'd have to cut and run, find something else, a train company, a car company, or a company that cut down timber and sold it for a hundred times cost to campers like him at campgrounds like this, where old ladies behind the counter refused to stock beer in the coolers.

One of the women sneezed as he walked up to the counter.  "I'll take three parcels of wood," he said.  Normally he'd call them bundles, and that's how the sign outside referred to them: "Wood—bundles—$4.50".  But these weren't wrapped in twine or encircled in cellophane.  These were in little plastic sacks, hopefully fairly heavy duty plastic, something with a generous amount of "mil".  Ten mil at least, maybe twenty.  Heck, he didn't know how many mil were enough.

The lady was coughing now.

"I've got a tickle in my throat."


"I suppose so.  Something came over me all of a sudden.  Maybe I'm allergic to you."

"I hope not!"

But it made him think of a sneezing attack he'd had that morning.  He decided it was best not to mention that, even though he was grasping at straws trying to think about what to say next. He just gave her the money, a $50, and took a half step back.  The lady squinted at the bill, seeming to say with her body language that she wasn't quite sure why it had been handed to her.  She didn't hold it up to the light to see if it had that little strip in it.  Nor did she take a marker to it.  She just set it on the keys of the register for a second, letting it rest there.  She turned away and coughed a few more times, dryly.  She consulted a note on the register that told her how much the bundles cost.  And then she gave him his change.

They would be in the cabin just for one night.  She had called and made the reservation.  The place had a two-night minimum but she went ahead and booked it anyway.  She'd pay for both nights but she wouldn't tell him about the second night.  It was the kind of thing that didn't really matter that he would get himself hung up on anyhow.  He would allow himself, even require himself, to get hung up on something like paying for a second night without being there for the second night.  If he knew about it he'd scotch the arrangement altogether and she didn't want that.  So, mum.  This was better than being in a tent here for the night and then breaking it all down hurriedly tomorrow morning, floating, stopping, setting up the tent again somewhere along the river and then breaking it down again the next morning.  Besides, the cabins were supposed to be nice.  A friend of theirs had stayed there before and recommended them.  Nothing fancy, simple but clean, with air conditioning and satellite TV.  She was eager to tell him about the satellite TV after she'd made the reservation.  In her mind, she saw them in the cabin, with a baseball game going, and she thought he'd enjoy that.  But when she told him there was satellite all he did was say, "Uh-huh."  He'd see.  He'd find a game and they'd drink a little, and they'd have a happy night.

In fact there had been a game on, a day game at Wrigley.  They started a happy hour, maybe an hour earlier than on a regular Friday, but this was a special occasion, a vacation of sorts.  It was a vacation day on the time card at work, anyway.  The campground and the river weren't quite two hundred miles from home.  It wasn't like they were flying somewhere tropical but it was still a getaway.  And Missouri really was quite beautiful.  People didn't realize that.  It was "underrated".  It should be in the top ten if there were any top ten lists for "The Most Underrated States".  It had hills.  Not mountains, sure, no one was claiming that.  It had rivers, not oceans.  So there weren't beaches, per se.  But there were gravel bars and float trips and some of the rolling farmland you would cross to reach the rivers was very pretty, especially when the grasses were let to grow high and sway in the breeze, waving like an ocean unto themselves, ungrazed, uncut, and unseen.

He had asked her to help him get a few rocks for the fire.  He had concocted what sounded to her like an elaborate idea for what she knew he was envisioning in his head would become not just his best fire yet, but the ultimate fire—a perfect fire, the perfect fire.  He had brought with them a bag of sticks he had picked up throughout the neighborhood in the weeks leading up to this little trip.  He was adamant about kindling and newspaper and turned up his nose at lighter fluid.  She appreciated the purist in him, theoretically, but every once in a while he was craft a fire design that choked on itself, smoking a lot, but never really becoming a fire.  Lighter fluid, for him, was just too easy.

They scavenged rocks from remnant fire rings at various vacant tent sites not far from the cabin.  He expected her to know exactly which rocks he wanted her to pick up.  But she didn't know, how could she inherently know something like that, what were his criteria?  Who knew?  She stood there, perhaps with her hands in her pockets, looking off at the river, as he tried to get at least two rocks in each hand.

"Are you going to help me at all?"

"I don't know which ones you want."

He shook his head not quite imperceptibly.  She reached for a rock.

"Not that one.  I need it to's got to be the same height as these.  These are all the same height."

She managed to pick a couple that made the final cut.


He had to admit that this fire had been a disappointment.  Where did he go wrong?  The rocks had worked in previous fires, they had kept the wood off of the ground.  Wood on the ground wouldn't really burn, it would just smoke and get in people's eyes.  No one liked wood on the ground.  He wanted a smokeless fire, the chewing tobacco of fires, if he could get it.  That was his goal.  All along in school they were always preaching about "goal setting".  He had shrinked away from setting goals.  It seemed so artificial, such an exercise, so clunky.  Life didn't work that way.  You couldn't just set goals and then strike out along the path of, "OK, here I go, I'm going about my effort of achieving Goal Number One!"  But he did have a goal in mind for that fire and he had failed.  He had formally failed to achieve his goal and this embarrassed him.  He hated that one cabin over they had gotten a nice little fire going whilst he flailed with his.  They had used lighter fluid, naturally.  Cheaters.  Still, with the kindling he'd brought, and by continuing to add crusty old sections of the USA Today Money section, he was able to conjure enough heat to allow them to roast three rounds of all-beef franks.  They tasted good—no residue of lighter fluid on them either.  Who wants to eat an oil refinery?  Anyone?

He shook his head but he was shaking it for a number of reasons.  It had been a long-enough drive just to get down here.  Elephant Rocks was crawling with kids.  Not exactly a romantic getaway.  Then there was that one town draping itself in Confederate flags.  Not exactly scenic.  They drove close enough to Doe Run to contract a solid case of lead poisoning.  Now this fire, the disaster that never caught flame.  Hot dogs for dinner and too much beer on top of it.  He was starting to feel a little woozy.  It was probably the cigarettes.  She was sitting at the picnic table and didn't seem to be having a bad time but she wasn't saying much either, was she?  He looked all around the campground in the gloaming light.  There were several respectable fires.  Kids rode bike and played grabass.  People ten, maybe even fifteen years younger gleamed and shined and rocked away with their music. The only thing that made sense to him was to have another cigarette.


I wake up and my dog is licking my face, which is weird because he wouldn't normally do that, so I lift my head a little to check and see: is this really my dog?  Yeah, that's him.  I'm dead, that's it, I must be, I'm definitely dead, which—at least I got here without killing myself—but, how did I here, why am I here, and—what's that on my dog's side, or—where is the dog's side, it's just gloop, bloody gloop that's kind of oozing down, a string of it is just about to hit the ground and I—


She is making coffee and he is sleeping in a bit, it does appear, it does seem.  The water was almost boiling on the range. With these electric ranges, remedial as this one was, water started boiling in about a minute, much quicker than on gas.  It was just a basic little kitchen but the range was nice and the countertop was no worse than what they had at home. They lived hardly a stone's throw from Granite County USA—they drove through it on the way down here, hill after hill bursting with new countertops and—  Well, the coffee was going to taste good.  It was Via, nothing fancy.  It packs up easy.  Strong taste.  Micro crystals, who knew?  The stretch of humankind that went through a couple of generations of Sanka before this stuff was invented deserves some sort of medal.  The Awful Coffee Endurance Medal.  Something like that.  It would be a ring of golden coffee beans lightly roasted from a very sustainable harvest spot in the mountains of Peru or the most agreeable swathes of Ethiopia.

The smell of bacon beckoned her back.  They didn't bring butter.  It wasn't on his "Camp List #3".  That was the most exhaustive pack list, the one that had every supposed possibility on it.  They never had cause to call for butter, apparently.  So she put the bacon in and it would render down and she would cook the eggs and toast the bread in that.  The way generations before had done it.  She could hang when she had to.  But he was gonna have to stir pretty soon, snap himself out of whatever dream he was enjoying.  The van was supposed to get them in ninety minutes.

She sipped her coffee, went and looked out the window.  Hmmmm.  She opened the cabin's front door unto a puddle.  It hadn't just rained last night—it had poured....

Friday, April 03, 2015

April Fragment

A friend leant me a book about projecting—effecting an out of body experience.  I attempted to read it just now.  The attempt was a failure.  I picked up a few good lines in a short time, though.

Projecting myself from here to there, to drop the book off.  Down Page, through Westport, curving downward into the valley, past the small airport blinking here and there in the night, to the river, seeing it sidelong, the casino standing sentry along it, looking north, all the water moving that way between here and there before winding its way east and losing itself all south, into another river.  I've had dreams that have explored this question but never answered it.  Past the river—.  No, the OBE ends at the river.  Best to keep it short, and what exists beyond the river anyway.

The ice cubes don't clink.  Not when they've been in the glass for a while and the drink is gone.  As one or more of them is melting, they shift, downward in a slink.  A sodden, blunt, downward plink. A drink.

That's four for me tonight.  I thought that'd be my limit.  I can't tell all of my truth.  I'll tell you I wanted to stop at four and now I'm sitting here in this old non-magazine chair listening to California classical and I don't have to work tomorrow.  I might be camping this weekend.  Campfire, hotdogs, a tent, the Squirt-man let loose into nature.  Are you seeing what I'm saying here?

The E-Van (E-Vonage, aka Coach) is going to be here tomorrow morning to appraise the old 74-squared.  I might do Vonage double-duty tomorrow.  I envision E-Van and right away I think of my own brother and he is a hole in me.  My brother the mystery.  He'd said, "Mystery?  What mystery?  There's no mystery."  E-Van, appraisal, tomorrow.  He came here four years ago, some early evening on a weeknight and I remember I was nervous about it.  Or at least that was the chassis I built my bar-car on on that night, drinking something and Coke and I was over here half-lit and he came and checked the place out and I was pointing out a few things I said were wrong with the house.  "It can't be worth that much!" kind of thing.  He took some photos, with a digital camera I think.  And—I don't know why I was nervous but I was.  I will fear and dread almost anything.

The fifth drink went down way too easy.  I've gotten the restless legs—the jimmy legs.  They get like that late, when I've been sedentary.  It's started pouring outside.  It's April now, two days in.  It was warm and humid today—ripe substrate for a storm.  No hail, unremarkable wind, but patchy moments of heavy rain.  Hold on a moment ... I switched TuneIn radio app classical stations.  LA started playing opera so I'm on KWMU HD2.  Drink number five just made its adios drink clink.  I'm reading a book by Margaret Atwood.  Not counting the Berkeley-taught-Aussie-penned astral projector book I just gnarred on unsuccessfully, that's two books in a row by Canadian women.  B is asleep.  She had some Canadian blood, and she is a woman.  The Dance of the Happy Shades, "Walker Brothers Cowboy", "What It Was Like Seeing Et"—smell of mojito on the doctor's breath.  I'm bleeding, drive me.  Cuckolded by a carpenter's apprentice, the kids all dead.  This story is autobiographical.  I'm blind.  I'm the assassin.

Monday, March 02, 2015

California in March

I.  The Other Loyalist.

P says take Instas.  We met a couple from NY—Long Island.  They moved here 1977.  They live in El Segundo.  I pronounced Camarillo wrong.  I didn't know where my brother lived.  We drank wine and looked out at what was left of the rest of the country.  Our view was of the Santa Monica Mountains, the San Gabriels.  The San Bernardinos were not in view.  We could see just the masts of the sailboats moving along as if floating on water.  Joggers trundled along a path along a levee.  We were surrounded by wetlands.  The wetlands were grassy and marshy, the real water was farther out.  Just the land was wet, not the water, not yet.

There were ducks, there were waterbirds.  We heard frogs.  Mixed in with the frogs was the sound of choppers, hovering.  There was a silhouette of a palmtree in the gloaming: that blue orange yellow of last light.  Condos abounded.  This was Howard Hughes's land.  I remembered in college written on the chalkboards of biology lecture: something about a summer internship with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  The setting sun set afire the glass of distant west-facing houses.  A fellow with two black labs took his dogs for a walk while he awaited an order from the Szechuan place next door.  The four of us, me and B and the NY expats, drank white wine.  She took her sunglasses off when the sun hid behind the last of the condos.  I asked her about the marine layer in San Diego.  Like so many other conversations, this one also started with discussion of the weather.

II. Paruresis.

They're listening.  They're listening to see if I can go.  And dammit, I can't.  I can't make a sound.  They're right next to me, pissing a foot away, relieved in their racket.  I'm here so deep and so far into my head that I've fashioned myself a waterproof seal....

Oh, Korea, I was right—
look at all the Arizona in here.

Dream of a chef's name,
text from Dad—
"You can turn on a light."


Cool morning, no dew.  Cars starting to roll by on Culver Boulevard.  City of Los Angeles sign twenty feet away.  I'm out on a little patio area right outside our room.  It's 4:45 and dark.  There are streetlights and a very bright, round Worm Moon.  Joe's wife said two meteorologists called it a Mini Moon.  I am thinking of tea...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Midlanding, Sept. 5-18, 2014

I.  Road Hand, 9/5.

Frontenac WFC ticker, Dow up 29.  Friday air yellow, please reduce travel.  Too late for that.  87º at 9:34.

No AC, US-61N to Hannibal.  Fifty miles to Cuivre River.  White Memorial Wildlife Area.  64 miles at 10:06.

88º at 10:36—windy.  No one on this road.  I'm doing 60 mph, comfy.

Missed turnoff for s-cut to US-36; went all way to Hannibal.  GIS plant.  Lots of caterpillars on roads.  184 miles to St. Jo at 10:48.

Roads are in good shape.  Pass exit for Mark Twain State Park.  Third baseball podcast.  Hunnewell Lake Conservation Area.  Mostly sunny, some clouds.  Salt River cross again.

11:47, had a cig and some beef jerky.  Put AC on briefly.  164 miles.  I haven't met fall yet.   Middle Fork Salt River.  Two miles to Macon, the City of Maples.  Long Branch State Park.  Power bar.  Chariton River, looks nice.  Valley, flattened out.  A few more clouds.  84º.  Rolling now, lots of corn.  82º at 12:10.  Mussel Fork.  Linn County.  I have to go, I don't want to stop.  Mussel Fork Conservation Area.  Pass turnoff for Marceline, Walt Disney hometown.  Pershing State Park.  Starting to look cloudy out west.  Looks like rain.  A creature called "spiderpus"—eight arms and eight eyes.  79º at Chillicothe.  I lift my shades.  Full cloud cover.  Grand River.  A vee of snow geese, up there.  77º.  A lynx by the side of the road.


Pad on thigh.  Easier than index cards.  76º dropping steadily.  On my fifth baseball podcast.  An old red tractor for sale.  I put my lights on.  Rolling prairie.  Farms.  75º.  Mushrooms in a pasture.  Sprinkles.  Some of the beans are going yellow.  I remember seeing that last year in Wisconsin.  73º!  Greenhouse next left.  72º. 250 miles, 1:07p.  Hamilton pop. 1809.  70º.  I crack the windows and drink it in.  It's luxurious!  69º.

Hay bales, seen a bunch so far.  With the windows down I go to music instead of podcasts.  I'm planning to stop in Cameron, MO.  Get gas, use restroom.  68º, 1:18, 263 miles.

I-35, a highway I associate with my Texas days.  I only did gas and restroom.  The WEN was pretty busy.  The bathroom was even busier and my nerves were jangly.  I told myself to calm the F down and do my biz.  It was a Shell/WEN/Godfather's Pizza combo.  But only two urinals and one shitter and someone was in the shitter.  Guy in there waiting to use it.  Nervy.  But I succeeded.  As I am, a guy is holding his son or grandson up to the other urinal and the kid looks in there and says, "Is that pee-pee?"  The guy says, "No...."  And the kid says, "Then what is it?"  Ha!  That was great.  If I was gonna order it was gonna be a spicy chick and fries but I just kept going.  There's one I can hit in St. Jo if need be.  Grindstone Reservoir.  1:42.  Hay bales.  Still 68º.

15 miles to St. Jo.  Definitely more cars on road here.  I just mosey.  All of them can pass me.  The sky is pretty to the N, NW.  Various shades of dark blue, blue gray, silver, white.  The fields beneath look very green.  The temp is back up to 70º.  Buchanan County.  Not all that unlike the MO of the I-44 corridor, really.  Farms, rivers, rolling land.  Third Fork Platte River.  Feels a little like driving between Nashville and Chattanooga.  Truck parking 1 mile, no facilities.  A Deere dealer.  I got some DJ Bene going now, it's boppy.  The outskirts of St. Jo.  Platte River.

Is that the same Platte as in Nebraska Platte?  Van Doren Van Doren? I've seen a lot of cell towers—what I think are cell towers.  My coverage has been good.  MO Western, next right.  St. Joseph.  It's still windy.  I'm going 55.  Exit for I-29N, Council Bluffs.  I am coming up on exit for hotel.  Rain is holding off for now, I'm pressing on.  Speed limit 70.  That's bad news for jotting.


Being back on interstate after 61 and 36 sucks.


3:30, backtracking.  Raining at Big Lake.  Ground fairly wet.  I coulda made it but I have a lot of camping in front of me: why force it.  I'll head back to St. Jo and the Drury.  343 miles.


At Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge:

Herons, like a huge lily field, something
like elephant ears.

II.  First Night, the Drury.

I love hotels.  Drury Inn is the most under-rated hotel chain in America.  I'm about to go get my free booze and apps.  It is clearing up out west.  I would have been OK.  My cost is that I am going to miss a pretty good sunset—yet I don't think Big Lake State Park would have been the place to see it.  That place would have been Squaw.  At any rate, I have a view of it from my hotel window and I am loving it.  I've got a Two Heart coursing through my veins and a little Jeff-Res.  A few prunes in my stomach—that's not a euphamism.  I've really eaten some TJ's pitted prunes and they were quite good—not so juicy and so sweet—but pretty good.  I can just barely see my car from the window.  I chose that spot on purpose.  I'm in 318.  It's 6:25.  I've been texting with B.

III.  Sat Morn in St. Jo, 9/6.

It's 6:10 and the fire alarm just went off.  I was already up though.  It stopped beeping before I could even get my shorts on.  I'm drinking coffee and listening to tunes.  I feel pretty good this morning.  The king-sized bed Patrick, the hotelier, suggested for me was just perfect.  He was a little bit of a character.  He asked me what brought me through St. Joseph and I told him I was headed to a campground in Nebraska.  He said he could get me the "ESAVER" rate on the room—but no campfires.  We both had a little chuckle.

I'm not going to re-hash all of last night.  There isn't that much to re-hash anyhow.  A couple of items stand out.  First, the hot apps buffet.  Drury doesn't call it dinner—certainly not in the way they advertise the breakfast (I'm about to go get in forty minutes) as the "Free Hot Breakfast".  They don't really call it much of anything.  They give more space in the little brochure housing the room key to the free drinks. Which I swear used to be two a night but now it's three.  The only beer they had was BL—but it was on draft.  I had one and tipped the gal $1 and she says, "OK, remember it shuts off at 7:00, so you've got two more: you come back and see me."  I ate nachos with hollies and a little salad with ranch dressing and stick carrots (there was something odd about the carrots, that's my only criticism, they seemed to have been blanched ten times in a row).

I also ate a hot dog, that was a little risky I thought, cause the one I grabbed was a little wrinkly.  But the bun was fresh and I clobbered it with ketchup and mustard.  It tasted like a hot dog at the ballpark.  The nachos were also a la ballpark—the style from old Busch Stadium, with the round, dark-yellow chips.  Old El Paso, you know.  They had cheese sauce, salsa, and the aforementioned hollies.  Getting seconds confirmed my decision to walk out of that WEN without a spicy chicken and a carton of fries in my hand.

But neither the food nor the bartender was the most interesting part of the apps buffet.  It was this gal and her lackey husband who were knocking down half the buffet—not eating it yet, just gathering it, off to the side.  Their four kids sat at a table (well-behaved I should say) while mom (and dad) hunter-gathered enough food for three families their size.  This was the text I sent B: "These people were stacking up plates from the buffet.  When I first went to the buffet I seriously thought thought their heap of stuff set off to the side was part of the buffet.  This lady had all this terrible makeup on and they were taking forever to get food and fountain sodas and of course their free drinks.  Every time I turned around either she or her husband was standing there.  The gal got a Bloody Mary.  And the last part (and) I'm serious here.  Somehow they used one of the luggage dollies to get the food upstairs."

They had their swimming gear on, too.  At least the gal had a t-shirt and shorts on over her stuff.  So I knew they were going swimming.  At one point over at the buffet the gal frantically told her husband, "I think Sabrina's doing something!"  That was one of the kids, who were still sitting calmly as far as I could tell, not far away but obscured by a wall.  So the guy goes back to check on the kids.  Later the mom was walking back to the buffet with the child I figured was Sabrina and the mom was telling her, "You're not going to get to go swimming if...."  How long are kids supposed to sit perfectly still while the week's food is collected?  That's a Drury Inn Hot Apps scene for ya.  Seeing them roll that arch-topped luggage cart out of the eating area.  I just shook my head and went for my second BL.

I finished eating and was moving quick to get changed into my trunks and hit the pool before The Gatherers finished scarfing 1/7 of the food they'd just amassed (and later I'm picturing those already shriveled baked potatoes sitting uneaten in their room with a nasty bowl of cheese sauce all kind of splattered around the place as these people wildly had a few bites of their gradual feast before turning their attention to swimming).  I did beat The Gatherers to the pool but it was all for naught because right as I walk into the pool area I get blasted by this screeching kid who never let up the six or seven minutes I could eardrum being in the same 300-foot radius as him.  Crowd control tacticians need to find this kid and put him to work.  Organic, non-violent, non-partisan, totally repellant.  My only refuge was under water, but I'm not a whale so I could only stay down there for so long.  Apparently this kid was screaming because his older brother was constantly "after him" in the pool.  There was a mix of three parents/grandparents sitting there, probably deaf, who were telling him to "stop screaming" but he never did.  I booked it out of there, still dripping a bit as I waited for the elevator, which had been snappy quick my prior several times up or down it.  This time it seemed to be stuck on the fourth floor.  After a minute it became clear what was transpiring.  When the doors finally opened on the ground floor I stepped back to let The Gatherers empty the vessel and continue on toward the pool.

It's 6:53a.  I'm headed to breakfast imminently.


It's 7:43.  The skies to the west are almost entirely clear.  I'm gonna take a shower (because I can) and get out of here.  It's a pleasant morning.  I've had coffee and breakfast (waffle, biscuit and gravy, potatoes, eggs, yogurt, OJ).  I've got my tunes going again.  My basic shuffle offering is better now that I've eliminated (a) hackneyed, played-out songs we all know and will hear again, somewhere, sometime soon-enough; and, (b) the frenzied, blow-your-horn-into-a-different-shape sax solo songs that I just can't listen to anymore (sorry, Trane...Ornette...Dolphy).

I'm swishing, with water.  In my mouth.  It's "The One Little Trick that Your Dentist Doesn't Want You to Know."  After coffee it is especially necessary.  Water is the universal solvent.  Take a little bit of water into your mouth and swish  it.  Imagine it blasting its way through your teeth.  Get it into your gums.  Work those cheeks.  It takes a little bit of effort.  Thirty seconds, forty-five.  As you are leaving the house, when you are commuting.  After OJ.  In the shower.  Before you brush your teeth.  Coffee and OJ are acidic.  You must get their residue off of your teeth before you brush them.  Otherwise you are probably doing more harm than good.

IV.  Second Night, Indian Cave State Park, NE.

6:27p.  At some point the log fire teepee is gonna fall down.  What happens then?  Does the fire smoke itself away or does it settle into its new personality?  It fell down once already and lay there smoking away.  I had to reconstitute the teepee.  This time I can leave it lay.  Cardinals announcer Rooney takes a shot at Braun.  Chippy, petty.  I've got a nice site on the hearth of a hillside and the...hold on...the fire was smoking back at me so I added another hog of a log and I added a little bit of small stuff too.  I find it helpful to throw some small pieces on every time I add a bigger log.  The fire is going now.  The big pieces are from Michigan and the tag in the wrapper proclaims the wood as "Certified Bug Free".  It's a mix of: birch, maple, oak, and ash.  Firewood is a bottom-line business: either it burns or it don't.  This stuff is burning!  So I'm giving a thumbs up to Beaver Creek Wood Products.  It was $5.99 for a bundle at a convenience store in Falls City, NE.  When I got wood there I did not think I was getting Michigan wood.  Hold on here.  I'm looking at the label again.  The company is based in Michigan.  The wood is actually from Wisconsin.  Whateverest.  At least they're identifying where the wood is from.  This is going to be a growing industry: certified firewood.  With certifications not just to bug-free-ness—but to what kind of wood is in the bundle—with a percentage breakdown—and facts as to how long the wood has been seasoned.  I'd pay up for fine wood, yes I would.

The Avery IPA I cracked to christen Nebraska was bad—it had no bubble.  It happens.  I mean, I still drank it but it went down like water.  Now I'm enjoying a Wookey Jack.  It's a beefer.  There's a lot to say; I can't say it all.  The campers closest to me are two couples, both with infants.  This place was more full'n I woulda guessed.  It is Saturday though.  I'm in the "modern" tent camping area so I'm not exactly roughing it.  One, I wanted a shower nearby; two, I didn't realize that the park's "backpack" campsites are actually "just off the road" campsites strung out here and there along the park road all the way down to the river.  There must be a couple dozen of them.  They have fire rings and picnic tables and some are near vault toilets, but not all.  They are very close to the various trailheads in the park, so they are not "walk in" sites like I first thought.

I'm texting with Roy and B.  Earlier I answered a call from Pat as I was sitting in an empty lot behind the Sonic in Falls City.  I was trying to get a hold of the Indian Cave State Park office to ask if they had any firewood for sale.  I called three times and got nothing but busy signals.  Then my phone started ringing.  Huh?  It was Pat.  I answered.  I usually do answer his calls; there's about a 0% chance of nastiness when he's on the other end of the line.  The conversation unfolded and eventually he realizes that not only am I out of town but I will not be back in town before Colorado.  "Oh—you've left," he says.  "Yeah."  I tell him everything is fine.  Not at work, but everything else: friends and family are fine.  He tells me that if I ever need to talk about anything I should know I can talk to him.  It's all good, I thank him.  "I am so jealous of you right now," he says.

The couple of couples with the kids are rather young.  I glanced over at them when I was leaning in to the Subaru via the back driver-side door.  I was looking at them through the "rear window"—creepy!  I had gone back to the car for my cigs...and my reading glasses, which I already had here at my table/site but which were buried under Airships.  I'm getting this Cardinals game—in Nebraska—from a station on FM out of Shenandoah, Iowa.  It's crystal clear.  The Cardinals Radio Network is the 9th Wonder of the World.  This is not 3G or 4G, this is Cardinal Nation.  I'm getting chills thinking about it.  The moon is up.  It goes full in 48 hours.  I don't have the rain fly on.

I have put one of my two bundles on the fire.  I haven't cooked anything yet.  At some point I will have to eat!  Lunch was...there was no lunch...a Power Bar...a half a bag of beef jerky...a Kind Bar...and now some full-bodied beer.  It's not so bad.  Men and women can live on bars and beer alone, I assure thee.

It is perfect out here.  70º.  The sun is going down.  I'm in a t-shirt, shorts, and Keens.  It'll be cool soon.  I'll add a layer.  I will need to take a shower later.  The shower doesn't look as nice as the other park showers I've been in; there were a couple of daddy longlegs on the shower curtain.  But I want that shower.  I'll wear my Keens.  It'll be fine.  First I'll eat a couple of hot dogs, cooked on the grill of this fire pit.

V.  Sunday Morning, 9/7, at Indian Cave.

I've had two noteworthy bird experiences today.  The swallows at the boat ramp and the cedar waxwings in the limbs of the ash above me as I lay on a shower liner, nursing my suddenly barking back.  The swallows were in the hundreds.  It was the first hour after sunrise.  They swooned and swung and dipped over the river to feed, as the fog wore off.  It was just me and them down there.  I believe they were bank swallows, bearing the scientific name Riparia riparia.  Riparia being the Latin name for riverbank.  Sparrow-sized bird, somewhat forked tail.  Foraging in numbers.  These are the same birds we saw working the Current River.  

The cedar waxwing was, for a time, my favorite bird.  I cannot say I have a favorite bird at the moment. But I can say that this was the closest I ever got to a cedar waxwing—or as it was: this was the closest a cedar waxwing had ever gotten to me.  I had waked at daybreak.  The sun had not risen yet.  There was light; it was no longer night.  I unzipped my tent and moved.  In my car, down the road, down the steep hill to the river.  I was afraid of missing the sunrise.  As I went down the hill day went back to night.  I had encountered a dense fog.  It was still midnight along the river.  Heavy machinery for river channel projects made me wonder when Ichabod Crane was going to jump out of the cloud and batter the side of the Outback.  I pressed on, toward the end of the road, the end of the line.  The outlook spot was listed as stemming from trailhead eleven.  The trailheads are not exactly well marked at Indian Cave.  The only tipoff for most of them are the signs along the road for "BP parking."  In other words, there is a parking lot right there because there is a trailhead nearby, and in many cases these are also the parking lots for the backpack camping areas.  I debated launching through some brush out toward what might have been a beachy area along the river, in decent position for a sunrise.  But there wasn't any sort of path and, once I returned and saw the area in a better light, I was thankful I had not so launched because every few feet of the brushy line of vegetation was marked by a frightfully large spiderweb, pretty with the sunrise light coming through it but otherwise to be avoided.  There was left a mowed area that was the default approach.  After crushing a Doubleshot and hitting the graciously placed privy I walked through the dewy grass and did indeed find the post marking trailhead 11.  I bounded up that slick, hard-packed mud in my Keens, cursing the cigarettes of yesterday, huffing and puffing at the incline, and generally wondering if I was just a touch manic at the moment.  I probably was.  But I got up there, literally racing against whatever time I had left before the sun got up above the horizon and any photo I hoped to shoot in that direction was to be compromised by too much light.

I got my shot, the sunrise above the world.  Well, the sunrise above the fog that had ensconced the Missouri River that morning.  I took a selfie on the way down that I sent privately to B, who said it was the best selfie I had ever taken.  I was tripping on endorphins I think.  At river level I took some shots into the sun-backed fog, some wicked black-and-white silhouette shots.  The morning turned out to be a real photographic bonanza.  And the whole time I encountered no other humans.  I tried to get a few photos of the bank swallows but they were so small and they were moving so quickly.  I came back to my campsite and upon getting out of the car I realized that I had strained my back somewhere in the process.  So I unfolded the old shower liner and laid it on the grass under the ash tree at my site.

As I lay there a flock of waxwings began to work the area.  These birds are generally a mix of light brown and easy gray.  Their eyes are set in the midst of streaks of black, like a Zorro mask.  Their head feathers culminate in a crest, like those of a cardinal or a blue jay.  All well and good.  What sets the waxwings apart are the slight bits of color, red or yellow, at the tips of their wings and at the tip of their tail.  It is as if their wings have been dipped in wax, as a prelude to being affixed as a seal upon a letter. Waxwings work in small groups and fly from one close tree to another, chirping as they go, kind of like crickets.  As I lay there on that shower liner, fearing the state of my now-strained back, I took pleasure in the appearance of the waxwings.  At times they were just a few feet above me in the branches of that ash.

But my back complicates things now.  I thought about moving my site but now I'm not so sure.  It's not that it would take long but it's that much more grabbing and bending, work my back is now saying it doesn't want to do.  Yet, there are backpack sites out there—now open—and if the baby couples are still here tonight I am seriously going to consider moving.

Right now I'm going to get out and hike.  Some gentle exercise should help my back.  I'm gonna take my hammock with me and find a spot to put up.  I'll have my radio and some headphones and I'll kick back.  I'll swing in the hammock and listen to baseball.

VI.  Monday Morning, 9/8.

I have some catching-up to do on my journal.  But for now I want to record these stats.  It's 7:42a.  The trip miles are 522.6.  It's 61º.

VII.  Monday, Late Afternoon at Mormon Island State Recreation Area near Grand Island, NE.

I'm sitting in my camp chair at site #4 at the Mormon Island State Recreation Area near Grand Island, NE.  I was planning to stay at Waubonsie State Park tonight, north of Hamburg, IA.  But a spraypainted sign at the entrance of the park announced that the park had "NO WATER."  I was not in urgent need of water but I was going to want a shower soon enough.  I was on the park's website several days ago.  I do not believe I overlooked an advisory indicating the park's lack of water.  I parked.  I went up to the overlook.  It was nice but I was distracted.  The kiosk at the trailhead had a little box for trail brochures—that box was empty.  On the site I had read about the "incomparable" scenery surrounding the park.  Photographs on the website led me to believe I would attain at least one good view of the type of topography particular to this area—loess hills.  I got on the Ridge Trail.  Soon enough another trail appeared, unmarked.  I stayed on what was originally identified as the Ridge Trail.  I'll make a long story short.  I hiked for about 20 minutes.  There were several instances where other paths appeared, unmarked.  I couldn't say with confidence what trail I was on or where it led.  Ultimately I ran into a "Trail Closed—Park Boundary—Respect Private Property".  What?  I'm walking along what I have reason to believe is the Ridge Trail and I have at that point achieved zero views of the "incomparable" nearby geography and then I run into a sign telling me that if I go any further I am going to intrude onto private property.  What a bust of a park!

I could not get out of there fast enough.  I developed a sense that whoever was running that park doesn't actually want anyone to use it.  Then why is it even open?  It was clear that there were repairs occurring at the park.  There was a "Pump House" near the trailhead that looked new (the concrete base upon which it sat was freshly laid).  Out of it hoses went this way and that.  There was a nonpotable water truck out in front of the showerhouse with all kinds of flexy tubes coming and going.  The place was a mess.  The trash can in front of the Pump House was overflowing.  The "NO WATER" sign, lazily painted in black spraypaint and slapped onto the top of the park entrance sign was more obvious than an omen.  I should have turned around right away.  The place gave me the heebie-jeebies.

So I got on IA-2 going west into Nebraska City.  The morning wasn't a total loss, I should say—and back up a few hours.  No—I need to back up about nine hours.

I got up at 2:43 this morning.  I was the only (human) soul in the "modern" tent camping campground last night at Indian Cave.  The campground went from mostly full Saturday night to completely empty last night (except for me).  If you've been reading any of these "Pages from A Camp Diary" you know by now that I can get a touch spooked when I'm out camping in a place that's a little too empty.  That's the incredible double standard that I acknowledge and must come to terms with.  When there are people around and they're making a little too much noise, or encroaching on what I consider to be the campsite boundary, I curse them and wish them away.  Then the pendulum swings all the way the other way and I find myself in a campground in nowhere Nebraska and there isn't another person in sight.  It's like that line that Herbie Stemple had in Quiz Show, "You know what the problem with you bums is?  You never leave a guy alone unless you're leaving him alone."

Mid-afternoon Sunday, once the place had cleared out and while it was still light, I had literally picked up my tent from where I was the first night and carried it down the campground road to a more level site that also had on it two trees capable of holding up my hanging hammock.  There were other options within the park.  I could have gone down the road to one of the "backpack" sites.  The one closest to the "horse people" made sense.  I call them that; they're really just campers who bring horses in with them.  They have their own, specially designated "equestrian campground".  Some of them were still around late Sunday afternoon, so if I wanted to be reasonably close to other campers it was either them or the RV campers.  I never really considered taking a site in the RV campground, but I should have.

Meanwhile, as Sunday progresses I'm fighting a back strain that came on shortly after my romp up the sunrise hill.  My body was telling me not to move anything at all.  The crux of the problem, and perhaps the culprit for my ailing back, was the terrible spot I chose to pitch my tent upon Saturday—what a slant I had put myself on.  I knew the spot was slanted but I had figured that as long as my feet were on the bottom end of the slant I'd be alright.  Throughout the night, though, I kept sliding downward.  I was in my bag and the bag itself is a low-friction material—there is no grab.  I kept waking up and shimmying myself back up.  It was silly.  I didn't want to deal with it again.  At a minimum I was going to have to get down on the ground and take all of the tent stakes out and reposition the tent upon the current site.  But, I figure if I go through the trouble of doing that, I might as well just move the whole damn tent to a different site I like better.  I could also put myself closer to a parking space and closer to the showerhouse.  While I was out hiking Sunday afternoon I'm chewing through all of this in my head (as I listened to the Royals play the Yankees on Derek Jeter Day at Yankee Stadium).

The spot I had moved to was "deeper" in the modern tent campground, which itself is split on either side of a dead-end road.  I was now toward the end of that dead-end road, past the showerhouse.  As I lay in my tent torn between the want of sleep and the fear of being alone and unconscious, what I really was hoping against was the appearance of a pair of headlights at the entrance to the campground road.  I did not want to see a pair of headlights turn into the road and then...slowly...crawl down the road...toward me and my I lay there in my sleeping 2:30 in the morning.  It wasn't pitch dark, though.  Sunday night was one night shy of a full (harvest) moon.  At one point in the night, as the moon arced its way across the horizon, it leapt out from behind a tree and popped me right in the face like someone suddenly shining a flashlight on me.  I'm not sure how I slept at all that night.  It was windy.  There was a tree back in the woods that was creaking like a creepy old door as the wind worked it back and forth. There was at least one raccoon about.  When I got up I saw it skanking around on the periphery, checking to see if I was awake for real or just peeing.  I looked over at my trash bag (slung low, picnic table-style) and it had been gnarled on.

Which reminds me.  I have got to say something about the AWFUL Febreeze "OdorShield" trash bags I unfortunately put in one of my camp buckets and in the camp kit.  Also in that bucket were my hot dog buns and some Texas toast.  Those damn trash bags contaminated my buns and bread with their disgusting OdorShield chemicals, the taste of which I denied at first but ultimately must admit ruined my hot dog fun last night.  I can still taste it!  It was like I was licking one of these disgusting bags.  I had smelled something funny in the camp kit prior to this trip.  I let the thought pass me by.  I had some of these bags stashed in the camp kit for a while but only recently did I add them to one of the buckets, because they're a little smaller than the "contractor-size" lawn refuse bags I usually use (for when B and I go camping).  But if it was just gonna be me, I figured I'd use a smaller bag and these were what I had.  I rue the day!

Where was I?  It was 2:43 and I was too afraid to sleep.  I needed sleep.  My back needed the rest.  But I was not willing to close my eyes again and have those headlights start creepy-crawling down the road toward me.  So I got up and checked the coals.  There was life!  I had more wood and more kindling on hand but I also had some newly found time to kill.  So I started skanking around looking for twigs with my headlamp on.  I went to every other fire ring in that campground looking for leftover wood to burn and I found some.  After an hour or so I had gathered plenty of twigs and leftover ends of park-bought wood and I had my fire going again without even having to put a lighter to it.  More importantly, I had found something to do and I had enjoyed myself a little as I went along.  The night/morning by myself hadn't turned out so bad.

Now flash all the way forward to present.  The flies here at Mormon Island are incorrigible.  There are five in the car right now that I could not get rid of despite sitting in the car for minutes swinging around a beach towel trying to smack the bastards or whisk them out a suddenly, strategically opened window.  The day is getting away.  I've had one beer.  It's 6:21p.  It has cooled down.  I'm grateful for the ever-breeze.  It inhibits the skeeters.  This campground is basically full—the electric sites anyway.  A small town pulling a Ford Heavy Duty just settled for one of the last spots.  I took an electric spot.  I don't believe I've ever done that before.  It's just me and my relatively little Subaru at site #4.  I'm using the electric to keep my phone and iPod charged.  Forget the RV people and their burdenous suburbs-on-wheels.  If they wanted this site they could have reserved it.  The interstate is only a couple hundred yards away.  As always there is more to say.  I haven't said anything about my incredible hike this morning in very northwest Missouri.  Yes—I was in Missouri this morning and it was as beautiful as ever.  But I'm hungry and I'm also thinking that some campfire smoke might keep all these flying pests away.

VIII.  Road Hand, 9/9.

Tyson stinks in
Lexington, NE.  Rain, trains,
& hay bales on Route 30
my kind of drive.

But 30 is closed Lexington to
Cozad so I'm back on
ding-dong I-80.

30 & 80 in same direction,
close together.

My rearview mirror is an
Instagram filter.  Cozad

Anyhow, I'm back on Route 30, also called the Lincoln Highway.  Lots of industry along this road, ag-related mostly.  Train-related.  Grain elevators.  Parts yards.  Materials yards.  Town squares set a block in.  Old downtowns, brick and awnings.  Liquor stores in between.  Cork & Cap.  Also sells bait.  Hay bales harvested on the 25 feet of grass in between 30 and the railroad.  I might have just gotten rid of the last Mormon Island fly.

I think a lot of the hay bales just rot.  Fertilizer storage tanks.  Willow Island, a small old town.  MJ Trailers, with a bunch of trailers on the lot.  The smell of manure.  I could smell it at the campsite last night and it never has gone away.  Numerous small airports, small planes, and windsocks.  Rain again.  Rain most of this drive but I like it.  Things don't get too bright, or dusty, or hazy.  U Pac workers are frequent up and down these tracks.  I can't say what they are doing.  Not manual labor, not manually intensive tasks like spreading rock or replacing old ties.  More like switching and signals.  Adding new tech maybe.  They're out in the rain today.  It's pretty out here.  Sargent Irrigation.  Gothenburg.  Vet clinics.  Fasteners.  A Sinclair with "New Pumps".  Auto repair.  Liquor store.  Tire store.  Some kind of Co-Op.  An agronomy co-op.  Big Case and Deere spreaders.  Thirty-five miles to North Platte.

The tan of hay, the green of grass underneath—a tincture of pasture.  Brown and black dots of cows on top of coiled clumps of hay.  A humble blue rain sky imbued with just a touch of pink.  Or maybe I'm imagining everything I see as a filtered Instagram photo.  There's light in the west, light that could befit a sunrise or a sunset but it befits neither.  It is just the light you begin to see after a storm has moved through an area and the sky in the distance is clearing.  Keith Jarrett in Kyoto, Part I.  The rain suddenly stops.  And starts back up again.  There have been a few hills to the north, they look a little like loess—the works of a river, deposit, sediment.  Could be glacial.  They are gentle hills.  The car is making a clicking sound, from the steering column.  It's bothersome.  The hills are getting a little bit of verve now.

I have just taken some elevation.  The topography just hit puberty.  But I can't see the traintrack—there it is.  The hills have taken over.  Pleasant, grassy hills.  The road gets curvy.  It had been straight, straight, straight.  The town of Brady, its water tower.  Population 428.  There is a footbridge over the tracks, the town is on either side.  Twenty-three miles to North Platte.  Horses.  A meadowlark (they are on the Nebraska license plate).  Missouri might have these same hills in areas beyond its northwest but the difference with these hills is that there aren't any trees on them—these hills are bald, shorn.  I can see the shape of these hills and they are transfixing.  Now to my  left—south and west—I can see quite an increase in elevation, a bluff—like along the Missouri River at Indian Cave.  I wonder if I am seeing the end of the plains.

IX.  At La Quinta North Platte, Remming.

It is Tuesday afternoon at 3:36p and I'm in a double-room at the La Quinta Inn & Suites in North Platte, NE.  That drive along US30 today ranks up there with the Squaw Creek Refuge and the foggy sunrise Sunday as highlights of the trip.  I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of the open-ended portion of the trip—how do I want to do the next two nights?  The only thing I know for sure is that I will take as much more of US30 as I can.  It does not extend into Colorado but there is an analogous stretch of road in Colorado: a two-lane, mid-major road that twins the interstate.  I'll take it.

I wrote a little last night at Mormon Island and I recall at one point saying I had to back up.  I don't remember how far I backed up.  What I believe I've failed to write about yet was that random conservation area in northwest Missouri I stumbled upon, and hiked at.  It was the Prairie—no—the Star Prairie Hills Conservation Area.  Something like that.  I have the brochure in the glovebox of the car.  Note to Iowa: even at the conservation areas in Missouri they keep the ding-dong map boxes stocked with information telling people where the heck they might be heading when the venture forth). [The name of the place was the Star School Hill Prairie Conservation Area.]  This CA was off of 275, north of Rock Port, MO.  The night before I was at Indian Cave in Nebraska, a place I'd call somewhat remote.  If I'd-a known Waubonsie State Park was going to be a bust I would've gone north from Nemaha and patched into NE-2 en route to I-80W.  But I wanted to get to Iowa, and the quickest way to get there was to go back through Missouri.

Once I crossed back over the river, I could have just taken I-29N.  But before I left Jim H in my office put a bug in my ear when he asked me if I was taking "two lane roads".  I could tell he was a little disappointed when I said, "No...."  That night I scrapped the notion of taking I-70, instead penciling in US61 & US36 as my means of getting to St. Jo.  That was my first good decision of the trip.  I had had to get out on some more two-laners to go to Big Lake State Park.  But it was really the following day, Saturday, when I threw out the playbook and decided to stop off at Honey Creek Conservation Area, that I adopted the two-lane road approach in a serious, ideological way.  And while I'm on it—I can't at this juncture recall what I wrote about Honey Creek.  There are two things I won't forget.  When I got to the trailhead—a trailhead which was competently marked and flanked by a bulletin board/kiosk stocked with plenty of maps—I promptly ran across two hunters coming the other way on the trail I'd just set out on.  I say "two hunters" and I'm also going to underscore where I was at the time.  Missouri, northwest Missouri; other patrons I saw on my way up the conservation area road were horse people, parking their trailers.  So I say "hunters" and you're probably imaging a couple of good ole boys in camo.  But there you are wrong, and not just because one of these hunters was a woman.  I am treading lightly here.  I will describe as objectively as possible.  The hunters were what I assumed to be a married couple of Asian, quite possibly Filipino descent, in their fifties, both wearing wellies and carrying shotguns.

"Oh, you're hunting," I say.  Which was my way of asking them whether or not I was going to get shot if I continued with my hiking.  Then I say, "What are you hunting for?"  They cheerily say, "Squirrel!" And the guy holds up a Ziploc freezer bag with a couple of bloody dead squirrels in it.  If I did not visibly wince then I ought to be given a pat on the back because I assure you I was throwing up a peanut butter Power Bar in my mouth.  That was the first thing won't forget about Honey Creek.  Those hunters, by the way, were from Kansas.

It wasn't too long after that that I—totally sober I swear—decided, upon having some film camera problems to OPEN THE FILM COMPARTMENT "TO INVESTIGATE".  Duh!?!  In so doing I pissed all over 28 or so photos that spanned trips to Sam A. Baker State Park, Meramec State Park (with my cuz), the Lewis and Clark Trail, and Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge (man, I took this badass black and white shot of a Caterpillar backhoe in the forefront with all of Squaw in the background, it was going to be incredible).  I texted Pat, my camera guy, hoping for some sort of miraculous absolution but he had to tell me straight up, "Light leak yes probably, possible if you open and closed quickly not in bright light, maybe the earlier photos you took are just burned on the edges."  Oh, it was plenty bright out there, walking along mowed grass in the midst of corn and beans under a clear blue sky in a strange sort of place that cried Fall.

I've backed way up now, haven't I?  Good.  Back to Star Lake Prairie Hills [sic] north of Rock Port.  I was on 275, which runs from MO into IA.  I saw the sign for this place, just south of a weigh station that sits right east of I-29N.  So what I'm trying to say is that at this point 275N is running parallel to I-29N with not much land separating the two.  I passed the turnoff and then went up and turned around and came back, taking the Subaru up something fit for the Jeep.  I had no problem, it was a steep, rutted hill, admittedly only about twelve feet of incline but still.  I parked on the gravel and as soon as I opened the door I could hear a voice over intercom talking to the drivers of the various trucks, asking them to do this or that.  I stand up straight and turn fully around and I'm suddenly looking at these beautifully crafted hills that don't look like anything I've ever seen before in Missouri.  They are grass-covered and wind-swept.  There are several of them, they are a gander of hills.  (They are the same hills I have now seen, that I would soon see as I delved farther west into Nebraska.)

The CA is dis-jointed.  There are two different sections of it, not contiguous.  There are two entrances via 275.  I had taken the southernmost.  The brochure lists hiking as an activity and the maps inset on the brochure show "access" trails.  These are parts of field that are at least regularly mowed, meaning they are easily walkable.  On the map the trail for the southern segment headed to the left but didn't really seem to go anywhere.  I was standing there holding the map, looking down the grassy trail, and then looking back up at those whimsical, imposing hills.  Out loud I said, "What I really want to do is get up into them hills."  I make my thoughts official by speaking them out loud.  The impatient side of me was lobbying for a wild scramble straight up the sheerside of the hills.  The rational part of me said—perhaps aloud—there's a trail here, it might not look like much, but it has been mowed: trust it, trust the process: if you walk a ways down the trail and it never leads to the hills, so be it, at least you'll have gotten in a good walk.  I take the trail as it gradually wound and curved and climbed.  I was winded.  I was sweating and it was only 8:30.  Eventually the climb leveled off and I hit a plateau.  On the southern side was a rolling expanse of corn: the sort of terraced farmland I had seen and enjoyed coming north on 275.  The mown grass continued, running wide between that corn and a line of trees and brush.  I have been walking much longer than I would have thought based on that dotted line on the map, I thought.  I am not at all sure that what I'm on right now is still part of the CA.  I imagined a scenario where some wild-eyed "don't trespass" farmer (me in 30 years) comes up on me with a shotgun telling me I'm on private property and I'm saying, "But I thought this was a CA!"  I really wasn't that worried because the path seemed too right—I had a growing sense I was going to achieve those hills.  Soon enough the tops of the hills rounded into view, and I was at their altitude.  Walking out onto their tops I had a 180º-view, farmland to the south, farmland and floodplain to the west, north along the highway and more hills, to Iowa.  And down, most importantly down.  I could see the car down there, a long way down.  It was windy and the grass, the uncut hay on those untouched hills swayed so happily.  On the way down I startled a deer on the trail.  I ate a bar, got in my car, and kept going.  It is a place I am already ready to go back to.


The moon rode over last night,
I planned to wake and capture it,
big and clear and orange—alas,
unlike yesterday morning, this one was
shrouded by close-clipped clouds....

That's a true story, although I took several pieces of the phrasing from Amy Lowell's "In a Garden", which I'm sitting here reading, as a sort of exercise.  It's from a Dover Thrift anthology of "Imagist Poetry", which is a kind of poetry in which the poet uses "I" a lot less and instead tries to speak only by describing things in the physical world.

It's 8p and I'm comfy, watching baseball.  I'm itching: too many mosquito bites.  I wonder if some of my deet has gone bad.  Deet is a very stable compound, though it is susceptible to heat and light.  Maybe some of the heat (inside the car in which I had stored some deet, in lidded buckets) zapped my deet.  I suggest this because I don't know how else to explain what is the worst assortment of mosquito bites I have had in recent memory (also, some corroborating evidence in the form of some batteries that went bad, like corrosive bad, in the boot of the Subaru that absent the heat of the inside of a car I don't think would have spilled their ions).  I was out with the telescope at the full moon acme last night, about 9:35p.  I was fiddling with the scope, standing fairly still, away from the campfire, preoccupied with getting a shot of a full, round moon through the tele.  At least I don't have any poison ivy!

This La Quinta is fairly full.  It's not a very old hotel.  I'd say between five and ten years old.  What have I left out about my travels so far?  The RV scene last night was noteworthy.  When I got there the campground was only about 30% full.  I took an electric site with a pad—a site that usually would hold an RV, if it held anything.  But I've never seen why a tent camper could not avail himself of an electric site.  Other than the family across the way from us at Sam A. Baker State Park in August, I'm not sure I've seen it done.  But I know of no regulation against it in any park we've been to.  I wanted a socket handy to keep my devices charged.  I wanted my car to be right close to my tent as a concession to my ailing back.  After seeing some of the sketchy characters at the sprawling Bosselman's Truck Stop a half-mile down the road, including a skater riff-raff who was yelling at his dog, I did not want to be by my lonesome in the tent camping area, which is closer to the road (and also pretty dark).  Plus, like I said, the place was hardly full when I get there.

The RVs started streaming in right about the time I'd gotten my camp all set up and had kicked back with a beer, propping my feet up on a cooler.  I started to let play through my head the scene where I got into a beef with a prospective RV camper who was giving me grief about taking an electric site even though all I had was a car and a tent.  It never came to fruition but there was a group with a full size Dodge AND and enormous house-on-wheels that had reserved what I agree was a pretty crappy padless RV-site over by the showerhouse.  They weren't at all happy with the site.  I know this because I saw who must have been the camp hosts' son go over and talk to them.  As they were conversing one of the would-be campers did point over to me at my site with my Outback, which compared to all of the  subdivisions-on-wheels must have looked like a Micro Machine.  It's your fault for reserving a bad site. All I did was show up and take the site that worked best for me.  Not to mention that I wanted to be close to the showerhouse, because I needed a shower.  And that I wanted to do some laundry (the laundry was under the same roof as the showerhouse, coin-operated, very convenient!)

I don't know how people manage with those RVs.  I had one pass me on I-80 today.  The speed limit is 75 m.p.h. on I-80.  That RV was doing at least that.  Why not just go set an oil well on fire?  And while I"m at it.  I saw men from RV sites going to the showerhouse this morning to use the resty.  Why?  There are toilets on the RVs, right?  Isn't that part of the point?  One of the latest arrivals last night took a site right by me.  They spent at least thirty minutes fiddling with how to stand up the RV after they detached the front of it from the truck they were dragging it around on.  All kinds of banging and wrenching and cursed fenestration.  I don't get it.  I urge all of the tenters out there to take electric pad sites if you have reason to do so.  The RV folk don't have any more right to a campground's most convenient spots than do you—certainly not by virtue of the tons they lug around.

X.  Coffee Morning!  Wednesday, September 10, 2014.

In my hotel room I've been watching a lot of The Weather Channel.  There is some rough weather in my wake.  A small tornado touched down in Tarkio, MO last night.  Tarkio is not far from Rock Port, where I was Monday morning.  North of US-36, along which I drove Friday, ten inches of rain fell yesterday in Browning, MO.  Back in College City, B has been fending off unusually heavy amounts of rain.  When we get really big rains at home the drain in our garage backs up, partially because dirt and debris clogs it.  But moreso because that garage drain serves as the de facto drain/lowspot for too large a surface area.  If it rains enough in a short period of time, the drain simply cannot handle that much water.  So B was out there plunging it.  She got it done.  It's raining there right now; I'm waiting to hear from her about what impact the storm rolling through is having.  On the other hand, there is now a story on TWC about the drought in California—50% of the state is in extreme drought status.

It did not rain overnight here in North Platte.  But according to TWC, there is rain forecast for southwest NE and northeast CO for tonight and tomorrow.  So I'm gonna keep on with the hotels.  I feel like I'm wussing out a little but I've got my reasons.  One.  I want to give my back strain more time to heal so I can hike like Mike in CO.  Two.  My camp gear is now dry and tightly packed, so perfectly so that I do not want to disturb it.  Three.  I find that the least amount of writing I am doing is while I am at campsites.  Four.  I love hotels.  Did I say that already?

XI.  Quick Hits on Wednesday Morning While I'm Still Feeling the Coffee.

Uno.  I have mosquito bites on my fingers from when I was using the telescope at Mormon Island.  I have some on my toes, too.  Those buggers were biting anything that wasn't nailed down.

Dos.  TWC just showed some footage of crazy rain and flash flooding on I-15 north of Las Vegas, typified by a sinkhole that sucked in a minivan and a Good Samaritan.  They were rescued.

Tres.  It has been a pleasant surprise that I've had such consistent 3G connectivity for much of this trip.  There were times at Indian Cave when I was on "Extended 1X" but I had 3G at Mormon Island and for much of my drive from there to here.  This is in contrast to my spotty service in the southern half of MO at spots like the Current River (Round Spring) and Sam A. Baker State Park.

Four.  Dangit—I am forgetting four at the moment.  I had thought about saying how it turned out to be quite a benefit that Waubonsie State Park in Iowa had no water.  I could have been there last night, where it stormed heavily.  I'm also glad I embarked on this trip when I did.  I have been out in front of the worst weather.

Five.  OK, yes.  That wasn't point number four at all.  That was redundancy while I let point number four percolate.  Here goes.  I enjoyed an epiphany (one tier below an hierophany) while I was rolling up my air mat here in the hotel (I rolled it poorly Tuesday morning at Mormon Island).  What I realized is that I don't want to be "behind" the direction of the roll—I don't want to roll something away from me.  Instead, I want to be on top of whatever it is I'm rolling up.  So, for the air mat: if I start the roll at the foot, I want to start with my knees on the mid-section and as I'm rolling the foot toward me I want to keep it taut by also pulling it away as I'm working the roll toward me, if that makes any sense.  Same deal with the sleeping bag.  Getting onto the bag or mat puts another pressure point in place and allows me to keep the object much more taut during the roll.  Then as the roll is working its way toward me, I am doing a knee-shimy backward toward the head of the object.  Once you have backed your way off of the object, the roll-up should be pretty much done.


It has cooled down in North Platte.  I'm still in my room at the LQ.  It's 9:15.  If the drive to Denver takes around four hours with no stops, it'll take me around five not using the interstate and stopping to take photos and stretch my legs.  Check-in at the Drury Commerce City is three.  I don't want to get there at rush hour but it wouldn't be that much of a problem if I did—because it's not like I'm coming home from the office: I'm all laissez-faire, c'est la vie, and copacetic, right?  The new Jack Handle?  Yeah right.

There is a Wildlife Refuge area right near the hotel (but also right near the airport—it cuts a wide swath on the map...if it's right near the airport then how much of a wildlife refuge can it really be?)  There's also Barr Lake State Park, not far off of I-76 just northeast of Denver.  I should do some hiking today, I'm feeling kind of roly-poly.

But right now I'm ready to get back out on those roads.  There isn't much left to do here.  There's a gas station right across the street.  I'll get some fresh ice at least.  I don't have much left to keep cool though: the butter spray, a few slices of turkey, several pieces of bacon, one slice of cheese.  That's about it.  I was keeping most of my bars cool because they have chocolate or honey in them that'll get messy when hot.  Same for a bag of dark chocolate M&Ms.

XII.  Road Hand, 9/10: Nebraska, You Shouldn't Have.

50°, 9:54, 881.1 miles.

The Platte is pretty shallow here with lovely, soap-shaped gravel bars.  It's raining.  I'm looking to get back on US-30W.

I'm on it.  Fifty-three miles to Ogallala.  I forgot to mention how 30 diverged from the train tracks east of North Platte.  Now it's taking me up and back north of them, like how it was before.  That clicking sound that I mentioned, that was bothering me, could be wiper-related.  I'm going for some heat in the car.  Three miles to Buffalo Bill's Ranch, a key tenet of my forlorn plan.  I'm passing the turnoff.  Sorry, Bill.  Lincoln Highway RV Park, laundromat open to the public.  That's another name for highway 30, the Lincoln Highway.  It's 49° and rainy.  I'm glad I brought my credit card.  The clicking sound is tied to the back wiper.  Olson Feedyards.  A lot of cows.  Wow.  First I saw a lot of haybales and I was thinking they'd go to waste.  Nope.  There must be 1,000 cows there.  What's a head of cattle?  I don't know.

So far on the trip 32.1 mpg.  Not bad.  I want this truck behind me to turn off, but I thank him for not gating me.  "Lose 'im, lose 'im, lose 'im."  Nope.  Greenbrier Rail Services.  Hershey.  The truck is turning but 30 just got a little rough.  This road is not graded.  I'm doing 45.  No passing zones are not marked.  Nothing's marked.  This is the wild west!  Cinders flick and tick up against the the underbody.  A sign announces "LOOSE GRAVEL".  The Outback is being put through its paces.

The clouds are not as interesting today, and I can't see the train tracks again.  But this is my way, I will not renege.  The roadwork has ended, it was just a few miles.  An open lot of old, rusty farm implements.  There's some train tracks now.  An intersection of them.  One patching in from the north/NW.  Had a coal train on it.  A U Pac engine sounds its horn.  This is Sutherland.  A backhoe coming the other way.  Another one of those walkover walkways over the tracks.  A Coor's Light banner says, "Welcome Rodeo Fans."  US-30 feels again like it did yesterday, nestled cozily between the tracks and the hills.  I'm not going much faster than that U Pac train.

Becker Family Farm LLC.  What I can't tell is how deep those hills are—do they extend north for miles or is there just the ridge I can see?  There's a U Pac truck coming the other way.  U Pac is all over the place.  It's been an incredible stock.  I don't own any; a while ago I thought it was too expensive but hindsight begs to differ.  Past Sutherland US-30 is updated, concrete, clean, fairly new.  Easy driving.  The hills are very close on my right now, the closest yet.  They're scrubby.  I see a few odd cows.  It's ranch land.  Like Texas west of Austin—the Hill Country.

Keith County.  An irrigation trolley, its long wingspan paced at several points by wheels.  I wonder how those trolleys can truck through a field and not trample the crops.  But I just saw one on a corn field and it looked like the corn was planted in such a way that slight aisles were allowed, essentially long notches where the wheels could come through.  Paxton.  A dirt lot filled with all shapes and sizes of tubing.  On second thought, the shape is pretty uniform!  PVC, metal, ceramic.  You need a tube?  They got it.  Swede's Bar.  Roadwork next twelve miles.  A sign announcing a public meeting re: "Highway Improvement Project."  Speed limit 45.  No loose gravel though.  Speed limit back up to 65. Eleven miles to Roscoe, 18 to Ogallala.  A drizzle, corn, the sheepshead hills drizzled in the rainy glaze.  Powerlines, power towers cutting right along them.  An irrigation trolley that's pumping in the rain.  I figure it must be on a timer.

I'd really like to hike on those hills.  A runner could get an incredible workout.  An old, big Lincoln coming the other way.  The corn here looks parched.  It's rainy now but it was probably dry for months here before now.  U Pac pulling a host of Vera Sun Energy cars.  I don't recognize the name.  Being right or making money—my submission fantasies, how they've become a thing since I started my job, my "disciplined" approach to the market.  I want so bad to just give in I guess—{...} feels good.  No more.

Cows upon cows.  Upon cows.  Twin Valley Feeders.  They didn't smell nearly as bad as that Tyson chicken operation.  I like those Wendy's Spicy Chickens; and I like making chicken fajitas with chicken from the grill.  But damn—just sayin.  Led Zeppelin, "How Many More Times," from I.  I've got it rated four stars.  I have been listening to Led Zeppelin for years.  Over twenty years.  I remember the mixed tape Mike Whiteaker made me in 7th or 8th grade.  Maxell.  Then he grew up way too fast for me, too fast for himself.  But I can still see his scrawly handwriting listing the tracks on that tape.  I still have the music.  The bogey that has been on my six, an older white Dodge, overtakes me.  No license plate.  No temp tag, nothin.  Graff Cattle.  Registered "Angus" and something else.  This is Roscoe.  HI-LINE Co-Op.  FCA Roscoe.  There's not much here.  A U-Pac with a lot of double-stacks.  CSX boxes, EMP, Pacer Stacktrains.

This hurts my eyes a bit, going back and forth between the page and the road.  For this specific task, I admit it: I need bifocals.  My eye doc said I should start thinking about bifocals and wasn't all "bifocals are for old people".  I just didn't, couldn't think of a specific instance in which I'd want them.  Now is that instance.

Lute Ranch.  Avant Garde Photography.  Strange mix!  But I like it.  Part rancher, part avant-garde photographer.  Lute, you're a genius.  The hills are getting a little terrace-y out here.  It's like the silver hair on the back of older gorillas, the silver white of the outcroppings on the hills. A mail car, a single flassshing yellow light.  Here's Ogallala—a lot of water under this place.  That's an aquifer joke.  Westside Storage.  Ogallala Moose.  Jan's Drive Thru.  NEW Smothered Biscuit Breakfast.  American Legion.  Bingo pickles?  Bingo pickles is what it said.  A UPS truck.  Ogallala Livestock Auction Market.  A trailer heavy with cow turns off slowly in front of me, not quite sure what it wants to do.  I'm gonna have to bid adieu myself to 30W, soon.  Past Brule.  The iPod, via Bluetooth, has been playing a lot of Pink Floyd.  "Corporal Clegg", "Have a Cigar", "Shine on You Crazy Diamond."  The sky looks more clear out west, especially to the northwest.

A guy walking a bike.  An old, weatherworn man.  Limping along, brutal.  Dead coyoté.  I think that was Brule.  Yeah, 411 (rearview mirror backward reading, i.e. that gum you like is going to come back in style).  I get distracted by a guy walking toward me on the side of the road, right on the edge of it, a walker, and there were cars coming the other way.

He would not've minded being hit.  Carrying a rucksack over his left shoulder and a 2-gallon jug of water down his right arm.  Buzz cut.  Very faded camo pants.  Sunworn.  This has been some roadtrip. It is filling me like a plane ride can't.  I abnegate, I denounce, renounce, repudiate, and apostisize plane travel.  I pull off at a roadside historical marker.  California Hill.

A couple photos and I'm at the end of that roll—not gonna force it this time.  I turned off of 30W.  It wasn't easy.  I'm on 138S, going through Big Springs.  I'm lolling behind a really old Caterpillar.  Elevator.  Pat sent me a text right after California Hill asking me if I was gonna keep on west until Cheyenne or if I was gonna follow 76 down to Denver. 30W joins with I-80 going into Cheyenne.  If I hadn't-a gotten off, that where's I woulda gone.  Cheyenne is closer than I ever woulda thought.  But at the pace I want, and with my tight, cranky back...Cheyenne will have to be another time.  I'll save Cheyenne for the drive up to Glacier, or Portland.  These hills are beautiful.  I don't even mind the transmission towers.  There's nobody out here.  How special this is.  Now there is some corrugated metal fencing set on some slight banking just on this side of the train tracks, some sort of wind block.


From 138 Julesburg I followed signs for the Colorado Welcome Center and Rest Area.  It was just a couple of miles.  It took me over the South Platte, on which a team of backhoes was undertaking a serious dredging effort.  Moving all kinds of dirt and sand and gravel around.  Tubes lying about, the kind I saw in that tube yard in Ogallala.  Highway 138 is, like US-30, a "Scenic By-Way", part of The South Platte River Trail.  In the Welcome Center I exchanged my state and zip code—Julesburg 3,477 feet—for a free map.  I chatted with the two gals at the desk.  Then I went up into what was called a "lookout tower", walked a path for exercise, had a Doubleshot, texted B, and now I'm back on 138, to Sterling.  It's still flat, mostly, but there are hills on either side.  Into Ovid.  Elect Alan Harris County Commissioner.  The hills on either side of here are what the Platte didn't carry away, back when it was wide as a sea.

I went into Ovid and turned around and backtracked to photograph an old, broke-down factory that struck me as presenting an awfully pretty palette.  While stopped I successfully unloaded my roll of black & white film and put in a roll of 36-exposure, 200-speed color film.  Well-spaced cumulus clouds lay over this road, the traintracks, telephone poles, grass, and crops.  It's partly sunny and 64°.  Nice.

I've seen a few hawks in a short time.  Red tails I think.  I'm at half-gas.  My mpg for the trip is up to 32.4.  It's 12:59.  I leave the engine idling while I make my slam-bam-Instagram stops.  Just in case.  Sedgwick.  3500 feet.  A mostly left-behind town.  I imagine the town really got going when local farmers moved into town when they got older, like how my grandfolks moved into Okawville proper.  Except the next generation didn't follow them into town.  And when they died, the town died with them.  Maybe they left the farm to the kids, and maybe the kids didn't want it—they went on to be lawyers and doctors and such.  Or maybe the kids couldn't settle the estate without selling the farm.  Or maybe selling the farm to a corporate entity for bonzo bucks was just too much temptation.  Either way, the behavior that created the town didn't repeat itself.  There might not be much left in Sedgwick but it still possesses a certain beauty.  It's that forlorn, "abandoned America" melancholy that is best expressed by photo so I'm not even going to try.

I haven't seen any trains on this track yet.  Sedgwick—maybe a good place for a pot shop.  But if you're thinking about being the first to open there, make sure you have a small army to keep your operation safe.  In its emptiness, that town was a place capable of anything.  Really I'm kicking myself now and regretting that I was a little too chicken to pull into the old drag that comprised the entire town and get a good photo or two.  It was so desolate it kind of creeped me out.  I'd need a driver to take me down main street so I could hop out and take a few quick frags and then we'd peel out and leave Sedgwick in our dust, badass photos in hand.  To do that town right I needed B.

It's dry around here about now, I suddenly realize.  Very dry.  Sparse and dry.  Wind mills.  On both sides of me, upon the hills.  Somebody's on me.  I don't do good work when somebody's on me.  Dry, salt-looking ponds.  A bunch of hay bales.  Crook.  Elevation 3,711 feet.  Sprinklers going at a house.  I pulled off to the side of the road in Crook to let the truck pass.  Twenty-eight miles to Sterling.

No snowplowing 7p-5a.  There is no water in these cow ponds.  Yet, there are (unhappy) cattails in the ditch alongside the road.  I see some bales of hay stacked in a way to make a rectangle and I stop to get photos.  Within a minute the flies are swarming the car.  There are twenty flies in the car in an instant.  I've never seen anything like it.  I didn't really get my shot.  I tried with my phone and with my real camera and I don't think any of the photos are any good.  I decided to cut my losses and moved on.

D&D Feedlot West.  Just outside Proctor a waste place, scrap metal and Johnnies on the Spot.

Some of these Colorado stacks of hay look pretty good.  They're stacked like box cars, shipping containers.  Long rectangles of golden hay.  I wish I could photo them without being swarmed like a just-dropped turd.  Of course, I could just roll up the windows and keep the door closed while I was stopped, but I'm afraid I'll lock myself out on accident!

I have taken so many photos now on my phone that I just got a reject message.  The gist of it: "Cannot Take Any More Photos Because There Isn't Enough Room."  I don't even have any video on there.  I will delete photos and then delete music.  I've got plenty of music on my small aresenal of iPods anyhow (ok, it's two old-school shuffles and one screen-cracked iPod 5, all filled to the brim).

This is not the part of America that's been buying new trucks.  Iliff, 3833 feet.  I see lot of older trucks.  Dodge Rams from 1999.  Home of John Korrey, 2002 World Champion livestock auctioneer.  It's 1:53—is it?  When do I go to Mountain Time?  It's 64° and so far on this trip I've gone 1,019 miles.  Not drink driving but ink driving.  I can see the bumper stickers now: PUT DOWN YOUR PEN AND DRIVE.  The junction for 113 is coming up—that's to get to North Sterling State Park, where there is camping.

One-lane road and I'm stopped.  The fun bus has come to a halt.  (But really, the only thing going slower than me was tractors....)


I'm on 6 through Sterling.  Much more action in Sterling.  Seems like a nice town.  Train activity has picked up, too.  No more U Pac, though.  This is BNSF territory.

I'm eating beef jerky.  Nuss Tractor Sales.  Massey Ferguson.  I've still got one or two of those hay bale flies in here.  McEndeffer Feedyard.  A truck coming out of there bore the name of "Fort Morgan Pet Foods."  Fairly stinky, the yards.  As I gnaw down half a thing of jerky.  I'm not making as good-a-time as I'd hoped.  I'm slow-pokin it.  I might need to hit the treadmill at the Drury.  No exercise today, at all.  Merino.  4,635 feet.  23 to Branch.  That's where I get on 34.

Taking 6 over the tracks.  That was a river, the Platte?  Wasn't marked.  Fort Morgan Pet Foods is right on me.  I'm gonna drive fast for awhile.

Hill Rose 4,165.  A junk lot, an old elevator.  Not much else.  I'm feeling this drive.  But if I get this done, I don't have a day with multiple hours of driving until I head back.  I'm a little de-hy because I'm not drinking much water, I really haven't eaten.  My right hip on down through my right leg is aching.

I audible onto I-76 before Brush and it's an immediate workzone.  Oops.  Sterling would've made a fine stop for the day.  I don't see any mountains yet.  There's a flock of birds though!—snow geese—white body, black wing tips.  Pretty.  Like ticker tape on the wing.  Billboards: haven't seen any of those in a while.  Fort Morgan, no elevation given.  The workzone has ended.  This area is no longer dry like it was just it was a little while back.  I realized all of a sudden that I was looking at a marshy area.  The change was that abrupt.

GW, pure sugar.  A plant with a smokestack.  Fort Morgan is history.  Now I'm in clear-through mode. How long was I in scenic mode?  Five hours?  That's it.  I can go five hours in a car, then I'm ready to get out.  This stretch of I-76 isn't in very good shape.  It's remarkable how the interstate is in worse shape than the two-lane "back roads".

At 3:14 pm, it's 65 miles to Denver, 68°, average fuel mileage now up to 32.7.  I'm doing 75 mph, have done some 80.  DJ Bene is going, House Mix 02.  Fine but not his best.  I can make out some higher elevation way to my right (west).  But I can't call them mountains.  This is still scrubland.  Hilly, grassy, scrabbly.  Three cell towers on the hill I'm climbing.  A black work boot on the side of the road.  Quite a view, that a was a high point, I can see for miles and it's flat.  Wildflowers.  Standard stuff.  Black-eyed suzan and Queen Anne's Lace.  Something purple I wish I knew the name of.  On the far south horizon I can see the makings of civilation, perhaps it is Roggan?

Clear above, bigger clouds far to the south and west—long white puffy clouds.  It was the Roggan Farmers' Elevator.  Forty-seven miles to Denver.  Those purple flowers are awful nice, a very soft purple.  The Lewis and Clark part of my trip is over.  But I want to invent a drink called a Lewis and Clark [of course some clever mixologist has already done so...of course, the last drink I had that involved pear purée was something of an emetic].  I see commercial airplanes, a couple.  Not long now.


I have gotten gas and rested.  Now I see the mountains.  It's hazy but they're there.  Damn.  They're just dreams out there, earthen dreams obscured by air.  It's 30 miles to Denver, 3:58 pm, 74°.  Like me, a coal train moves south into Denver.

Barr Lake State Park, exit 22.  That's a possible spot for tomorrow.  I see Denver.  That is all for now.

XIII.  Wednesday Night, 9/10, at The Drury in Stapleton, CO.

Wednesday night then.  I didn't need to bring nearly as much up to my room this time.  I did dig my running shoes out of the Subaru's storage compartment.  I did 45 minutes on an elliptical to get my heart rate up; my lungs open; and to test my back.  I showered and went down to Hot Eats for nachos and hot dogs.  There was also the last bit—corners of the pan, edges—of some darn good spinach artichoke dip.  Next to the spinach artichoke dip were three pans of something that had been absolutely ravaged by my fellow guests.  I could not even tell what had been in them.  I thought about dusting for prints.  Egg rolls is my guess.  There seemed to be some of those crunchy little Asian noodles remaining.  Just shards, remnants, scraps of egg roll memory.

I was wondering why no one else was scraping at the corning of the spinach artichoke dip.  96% of it was gone, but no one was touching the corners.  Strange human behaviour.  Actually there was one dollop remaining in the middle that I couldn't bring even myself to scoop up because indeed it seemed as though there had to be something wrong with it.  A sad, cold spinach artichoke island.

I've got baseball on.  There was more heavy rain, rain on the porch in College City, MO.  B has had her hands full it sounds like.  I've had two beers and a couple modest pours of the Jeff Res.  It isn't gone yet.  I do have a view of downtown Denver and the mountains behind it.  It feels a little like I'm in Vegas.  Bright lights, big city, mountains in the background—matches the description of Vegas.  The mountains are not real clear, they're still hazed out some.

I am forcing myself to read more poems.  I'm supposed to like poetry but reading poems is a labor.  I am reading them aloud, still looking for those unique descriptions (which I will then steal, no one will know, hardly anyone reads poems anymore, not even poets read poems!)  The thing I've noticed is that these established, distinguished poets are not afraid to re-use the same phrases, even within the dozen or so lines of a small poem.  William Carlos Williams talking about his wife's pink slippers and the "gay pom-poms" on them.  He refers to the "gay pom-poms" twice in a 17-line poem.  He is not worried about trying to find a different phrase, to avoid saying the same thing twice.  He knows how he wants to refer to these "gay pom-poms" and so that's what he calls them.  In "Contemporania" he is talking about rain.  He calls it the "great rain" four times in a poem that is not long.


Thursday morning, 8:30.  Being on mountain time has been a lot of fun.  There is baseball starting today at 10:05.  The Cardinals play at 10:35.  But I won't say much now.  It rained overnight and the view I had of the mountains—I watched the sun set over them—is now totally shrouded in a misty fog. Ah well—alas—alackaday!—look at the bright side.  The Medicine Man is open, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is near.  I'm going to combine the two.

XIV.  Thursday at Arsenal.

It is though this town around here sprung up at once, a year or two ago, now.  Not Denver but Stapleton, CO.  The Drury is five weeks old.  Right across the street from it is a big, brand-new mall.  Go north half a mile and you find a vast swatch of corporate parkland.  A couple of dispensaries, truck distribution depots, on Office Depot depot, start-ups, building after building of offices, housing developments.  The streets themselves are still being laid.

But this particular parcel of land I'm on now has no offices.  It has a kingfisher, barn swallows, flickers, doves, heron, a hawk, coots on the lake.  This is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.  [Once I got home I did the research and learned that the Refuge has this name because it was once the site of a chemical weapons manufacturing facility.  After that it was leased to a Shell subsidiary that made pesticides and herbicides on the site. After that it manufactured and stored Cold-War Era weapons.  Busy place!]

Somewhere along the way I believe the Arsenal divested some of the acreage.  Once government land, it was put up for private development and it is upon some of this "freed up" land that the little boomlet of Commerce City now sits.  What is now the Refuge stays federal, the rest goes corporate.  There are trails here, fishing lakes.  I am in the midst of walking around Lake Ladora.  The tall grass sways.  The breeze is cool.  It is overcast; it was misty.  There is nobody else out here.

The infrastructure of the refuge appears fairly new.  There were parking spots designated solely for parking alternative-fuel vehicles.  There were a couple of what looked like electrical hook-ups right by the parking slots.  One of the foot bridges spanning Lake Ladora is made not of wood but of E-Z Dock, a plastic material.  At various spots along Lake Ladora there are "monofilament recovery and recycling" stations—for recycling fishing line.  Apparently fishing line, made from monofilament, is non-biodegradable and can last in nature unfazed for 100 years.  The recycled line is turned into underwater fish habitat structures.  Along the walking trail around the lake are little signs identifying the place's flora and fauna.  Once sign identified the cottonwood, a water-loving tree often found along lakes, rivers, and streams.  The sound of a train in the distance.  It's pretty much all cottonwoods around me.  I have on: running shoes, pants, a t-shirt, my thick fleece, my rain jacket, and my tuq.

I read several poems aloud, with only a deer to hear: F.S. Flint, Ezra Pound, and H.D. (her parents had no idea what an avalanche of innovation they were unleashing on the television industry when they gave birth to their daughter, whom they had named "High Definition".  Of course, she was a writer and didn't watch TV, which hadn't even been invented yet, so it would be more than a century before the innovation took hold....)

The gal I got this Goat from, over in the industrial park on Nome—I parked, a security guard checked my ID at the door, I went into a ropey-line-queue, waited for just a minute before I was called—is from St. Charles, MO.  I showed her my ID, she said, "Ohh, St. Louis...I'm from there."

"Oh yeah?"

"St. Charles actually."

"I have some friends moving there from Undersea.  It's great out there."

"Yeah, I wasn't that far from Busch Wildlife, all that."

"How long have you been out here for?"


"So you've moved out here and haven't looked back, huh?"

"No...I went back, I was there last week."

Enough of the small talk.  I said to her, "I want to get high, not stoned."  Pause, no reaction. I continued, "Does that make any sense?  I don't want the 'couch-lock'."

"Oh," she said.  "You want a high potency sativa then.  The ones I've got are either Flo or Blueberry Dream."  But I had taken a look at a menu online and was scoping out the Golden Goat.  I saw some, labeled as such, in a little jar behind her.

"What about Golden Goat?" I said.  She asked the other budtender if she (the other budtender) had any goat left.  The response affirmative, my St. Chuck budtender went and got it from under the counter, opened the bucket by spinning its Gamma-Seal lid counter-clockwise, and showed me a heap of little buds filling up about a third of the bucket.  "This is what the Golden Goat looks like."  I didn't try to smell it.  I thought the whole dang block stank of skank even before I pulled onto Nome.  As I pulled into the little parking lot, it was like parking in the foyer of a pot aroma rain forest.  

I got two grams and it seems like plenty for me.  I believe there are restrictions—or maybe it's just a sort of etiquette—restricting the publication of price information.  Let's just say I shelled out what I'd spend on a fifth of basic bourbon, such as Jim Beam.

She asked me if I had an exit bag.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  "You'll need one," she said, "so you can transport it legally—in Colorado, not at the airport."  So into the zipper-sealed lid went the little pouch of Goat.

"Do you accept tips?".

"Yeah.  We just don't put out a tip jar because we don't want people to feel obligated."

I gave her $5 and left with what I joked to myself was my diplomatic pouch.


There was a guy taking a photo of the heron on Lake Ladora.  Some fishermen showed up.  I hear planes, plenty of planes.  The airport is not at all far away.  I can see downtown from here, now that the fog has thinned just a bit.  There is a stadium nearby, Dick's Sporting Goods Stadium—but I can't quite tell who plays there.  That reminds me: point of clarification.  The Commerce City Civic Center is nearer here than the Stapleton, CO Visitor Center, which I also passed on the ten-minute drive from Nome St.  So where I am now is, I suppose, more Commerce City than Stapleton.  In terms of the various little cities popping up on the outskirts of Denver like little fungal spores...this must have been like what happened at one time outside the city limits of St. Louis.  Denver looks on as its children grow up, in sight but moving away, if slowly.

There's an old house here.  It looks like an old farmhouse.  It's got one of those iconic farmscape windmills, like a little fan spinning with the wind up on the top of metal scaffolding, the type of scaffolding that you would envision as part of an oil derrick.  And there's a little old barn, with a faded red door on it—the color is a faded red pastel, a beautiful color, part of americana's palette.  There is actually a team of carpenters over there fixing this place up!  They're in the midst of putting a—pelican incoming!—new roof on.  That's a house I'd buy.  To be able to wake up, walk out my front door, and walk out into a national wildlife refuge.   And be sipping on some coffee all the while?  Yowza.

I'm going to walk some more.  But I'll switch to my boots and out of these running shoes.  It's 12:17.

XV.  In Which the Immunity of My Diplomatic Pouch Nearly Got Put to the Test.

I walked for over an hour, down a trail/road—it's paved but closed now to vehicle traffic.  It runs from the Lake Ladora trailhead down to where the Prairie Trail jogs in sync with it before jumping 64th Avenue and continuing along the other side of the road.  I then took the Prairie Trail (.6 miles) to the Havana Pond Trail (.2 miles).  Along the way I happened upon three deer.  They were curious but timid.  The doe ran off first.  I haven't watched deer run much, I guess, because I was delighted to be reminded of a kangaroo as this doe bounded away.  He barely touched down in completion of one stride before the next stroke vaulted him back into the air.  The older deer made me get close to them before they moved away, less in the fashion of a kangaroo.  The way the deer would have their bodies facing away from me but could still crane their heads around to put their eyes right on me reminded me of how my dog sometimes does something very similar.  He is saying, "I'm not going to turn around but I'm not going to take my eyes off of you either."

I have seen deer in several places on this trip.  The first was a doe I startled as I walked along what might or might not have been the Wetlands Trail at Indian Cave State Park.  It was small, its chestnut flank speckled with white.   Then at the Star Prairie Hills CA, as I was walking back down the curvy mowed-grass incline I happened upon a grazing buck.  Now these.  These let me get the closest—the others ran as soon as I saw them.  These I first saw walking out to the Havana Ponds and then again on the way back.  I got a decent photo of one on the way back.  "Just let me get a decent photo of you," I said.  "That's all I want, I don't have any weapons."  I'm not sure that worked, but it didn't seem to hurt, either.  [Note: After writing this I look at the back of my Arsenal trail map, which lists the various wildlife present in the refuge.  These were mule deer I saw there—the others I saw in Nebraska and Missouri were, I think, white-tailed deer.]

What a strange land that is out there.  It's prairie land, scrubby.  A continuation of what I saw driving into Denver from Nebraska.  It seems to be fenced in but I cannot tell you if it is fenced along every inch of its perimeter or if there are merely pockets of the refuge circumscribed in fencing.  Its recent history as an arsenal means there are pieces of that history left behind.  I saw mid-20th century Cold War-era buildings, characterized by a certain staid quality—very practical-looking.  These buildings looked like something out of "Dr. Strangeglove", the part supposedly taking place on the air force base where the crazy general locks himself and his fellow officer in the general's office.  I imagined that that scene could have indeed been filmed out at Arsenal in one of those buildings.

The terminus of the Havana Pond trail was marked with a barrier that had itself fallen over some time ago.  There was also one "Area Closed Beyond This Point" sign, a white sign on a blue post, ubiquitous at Arsenal as well as at Squaw.  But this one had loosed itself of the bracket holding it to the post and had slid most of the way down its pole, hanging there in a crooked way, not at all convincing me to stay back.

I walked past both signs and looked over into what I'd call a flash-flood river channel, something like what holds the incomparable River des Peres, except that this channel was not lined with concrete.  The only concrete in view were the wide, woebegone slabs that at one point must have, if briefly, bridged the 15-foot stretch from one side of the channel to the other.  Before they broke and fell all over each other into the crevasse some ten feet below.  I am not sure who designed that sorry ad-hoc attempt at a bridge but I sure hope they are not still in the business of civil engineering.  I could see no evidence of what had been put in place to hold the span of concrete in place as it traversed the channel.  Nor could I make out, looking over to the other side of the channel, where it was that the concrete ever connected to that side.  It was not simply the case that some concrete had merely been dumped there.  On my side of the channel, there was a slab of concrete, shorn violently at the edge, extending just barely into the void.  It was the damnedest thing.

I hit a liquor store on Quebec Street on the way back from Arsenal.  It was relatively new.  It was not the only tenant in what was a larger building—next door was a grow supply.  From there I got back onto Northfield with luck—I had to make a two-over lane change at the last second and I was able to do so only because I was in a vacuum of traffic.  From Northfield it was one more right onto the street where the Drury is at, Central Park Boulevard.  Easy enough.  But I had not approached the hotel yet from the north and I could not see where the heck I was supposed to turn left to get into the hotel parking lot.  This road was still being worked on, there were orange barrels up and there was a lane closed.  It couldn't be that slight opening there on the left, could it?  Nah.  Of course it was and once I realized I had missed my turn I started to panic because I thought that if I kept going straight it was going to force me to get on I-70 or I-270 and I couldn't have that so I made another last-second, two-lane jimmy-jump and turned off onto what I prayingly told myself was an entrance to the mall.  But it was not.  It was, in fact, the on-ramp for I-270 west.  And I'm thinking to myself: Christ, the one fucking place I don't want to be, whether in St. Louis, or now in Denver is on I-blanking-270!

It gets better.  My two-lane jimmy-jump had drawn the interest of one of Colorado's finest.  I hadn't really cut anybody off when I made the move...I had been in the left of three lanes and, in shifting all the way to the right, I probably did not give as much clearance to the bus coming up the middle lane as it or I would have liked.  "Oh man," I thought, "I was right there about to turn into my hotel, I had such a nice time out there at Arsenal, I stocked up on frosty provisions and now because I couldn't find the goddam turnoff to the Drury I'm suddenly on the interstate, driving away from the hotel, I've got a pot pouch in the car, and I've got a cop on my ass!"  I was desperately looking for a speed limit sign but I couldn't find one.  I was doing 60.  The cop was getting closer and closer to me; he must have been running my plates.  I saw a speed limit sign indicating the limit was 55.  I tell myself, "No big deal, just slow down a little.  Go down to the next possible exit and turn around."  But this cop was so close to me now and the thing is: he didn't have lights on the top of his car and I still had enough gear in the back of mine such that I could not tell, by looking in my rearview mirror, whether or not he might be trying to pull me over.  For instance, if he had the red and blue lights in the front grill of the car I could not possibly have seen them.  So now I'm thinking, "Shit, he could have turned those lights on, like, a minute ago and he could be trying to pull me over and now in addition to everything else he's going to charge me with evading arrest."  Finally I got to the Vazquez Boulevard exit which I took and he didn't.  The sense of relief I had was tremendous.  Somebody get this man a Pepto Bismol!  Seriously though: a beer and the last of my turkey, my last piece of muenster, the last of the pre-cooked bacon, hand-smushed on a Febreeze-infused Texas Toast roll?  That was gonna hit the spot.


More examples of word repetition in poems from my "Imagist" poetry book.  In Pound's short, exquisite 'Image from d'Orleans' he uses the same line twice: "In the bright new season." There are only eight lines in the poem, and two of them are identical.  Yet, the poem still works.  (It is such a shame that Pound's anti-semitism and hideous political activities will forever stain his art—he was a fan of Hitler and made radio broadcasts during WWII for Mussolini's Italy; he hated America—because he has written the most incredible poetry I have ever read.)  Or in H.D.'s 'Priapus', where the speaker describes how she fell "prostrate", and then repeats this description of herself in the next stanza, "And I alone was prostrate."  I have always operated on the aesthetic belief that I should not use the same word/phrase/description twice in such a short work, or in such close proximity to its first instance.  But Pound and H.D. don't feel any pressure to find a second way of saying the same thing; perhaps they feel as though to say the same thing a different way the second time might be even more obvious and impeding.

A list of words and phrases in some of these various poems that strike me:  noiseless as an oar / umber / undulating weeds / oleanders / rose-yellow / boughs / casement / colloquy / vaudeville / blueflags / calamus / pantomime / whistling / barbaric / rhythms / euphony / equipage.

XVI.  Early Friday, 9/12, In Which Tyler and Doug Don't Make Their Cameo—Yet.

I'm sitting in my car on the street outside of that shop I was at yesterday.  It's a little nervy.  I doubt they like having people sit in cars out here.  I'm trying to meet up with Tyler and Doug.  I suggested this as a rendezvous because I figured Tyler would want to hit a shop on his way to Estes and this one wasn't far off of I-70.

On the side of the street opposite the shop is some kind of chemicals company, a place that does something along the line of providing industrial gases, like a PX or APD.  A guy with a disc backpack is going into the shop.  It's been mostly (but not solely) men that I've seen going in, and they've been mostly (but not solely) white.  Most have been in their twenties and thirties but some have been well into their fifties.  It's a scene.  My checkout time is eleven o'clock and I still need to shower.  It's only 8:46 so I've got time, but I'm not entirely comfortable just sitting out here.

(A few minutes pass and I get a text saying Doug and Tyler are bearing down on Boulder...whuh?...)

Well, Doug and Tyler blew right past Denver like it was some little cowpoke town sitting all alone on the prairie.  Damn.  I was in a rendezvous kind of mood.

XVII.  In Advance of B Landing, I Pass Time at Arsenal.

I'm back at Arsenal.  I saw a mule deer with a magnificent rack and a clutch of magpies as I drove in.  Magpies are all over the place here—one of those several species that are plentiful here in Colorado but nowhere to be found in Missouri.  They're like a cross between a blue jay and a crow, with a really long, thin, black tail.  They have a ratchety sort of voice.  Today I'm taking 64th Avenue all the way back to its eastern terminus.  It's the "main" road in the refuge and is also called "Wildlife Drive".  Meadowlarks.  This place is enormous.  So much of it is still closed to the public.  Roads, lakes, would-be trails.  64th has gone to gravel; I'm at its end.  I'll do the Bluestem Loop Trail.


There were prairie dogs on the Bluestem Trail.  There were all sorts of alternative paths to take once you got out there—e.g., the Southwest Loop.  The prairie dogs were all over the place, sticking their heads out the tops of the mounds set atop what I imagine to be their intricate network of underground tunnels.  I saw doves and other brown birds with streaked breasts that I didn't readily know and couldn't get a good look at.  One was meadowlark-sized, sitting on a tall stalk of some wildflower, with a needly beak and a big, puffy, streaked breast.  Then there was some variety of sparrow, its face streaked, otherwise without any noteworthy colors—like a song sparrow but without a dot on the breast.  Oh, there was one other thing about it: two slits of white on either side of the tail that I could see only when the bird took flight.

Later, I saw what looked like a crew of barn swallows working Lake Ledora.  Except the tail seemed different: not only was it not not as deeply forked as that of a barn swallow—it was fan-shaped—but across that tail was a very conspicuous band of white.  These birds would sometimes hover over the water, not so much skimming it like barn swallows would do.  But the color and the size was the same: a Payne's gray blue on the back and the tops of the wings with a chest of buffy chestnut brown.

It's 12:10.  Soon B will be at the airport.  I will leave for her now.

XVIII.  Golden Gate to Estes.

Saturday, 9/13/14, 12:36 m.d.t.  We enjoyed our one night at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  Yesterday we hiked the Raccoon Loop out to a panorama point.  The view was incredible—wondrous.  Stupidly neither of us took any water with us.  We were under the impression that it was a two-mile loop, and we weren't going to do the loop.  We were just gonna go out to the panorama.   Well, we were misled by a sign and went clockwise instead of counter-clockwise.   It was a wake-up call, it was amateur hour.  As I walked I could see imprints of color against the sky, even moreso against the backs of my eyelids when I closed my eyes.  W

We got lucky though.  Not too far in advance of the panorama point we ran into two other hikers—a brother and sister named John and Terry.  Not only did Terry take several photos (of us) for us.  More importantly she gave us water.  I felt pretty sheepish.  I had spent the last two nights in Denver but the acclimation process didn't really start until the incline we did as part of that hike.  I was short of breath right away.  Terry pointed out some of the panorama's features: a little notch of rock called The Devil's Thumb; and, looking to the right end of the panorama (north) was Longs Peak.

We were in the Reverends Ridge Campground, top-shelf campsite.  Hard, level, elevated, demarcated tent pad, an ice machine on the premises, coin-operated showers [that each of us would use], well-spaced trees, shapely fire-ring, big sturdy picnic table, one site next to us unoccupied.  Two cars parked nearby in the dark to access their walk-in site; a family of three on the site next to us, a little disarrayed. After hiking, we drank beer, had a fire, went to bed.

I got up at three after tossing and turning for awhile.  I was cursing my crappy camp pillow, blaming it for my stiff and achy neck.  The pillow I was using was a regular-sized pillowcase crammed with one crummy little camping pillow and then a bunch of other bric-a-brac including but not necessarily limited to towels, my fleece, bags we use to pack our gear, and my stuffed dog whose name is Colorado because my mom got him for me in Colorado before I was ever born.  But it wasn't the pillow's fault.  Really it was dehydration, brought on by not having water on the hike and then drinking several beers.  This was the worst stretch of the trip.  I sat in the bathroom of the campground pressing my fingers to my temples, to the bridge of my nose, to a spot right by my ear, toward my temple.  I can feel my pulse there.  I make my own aspirin this way.  I imagine that it's a way of completing the circuit of my pulse, causing it reverberate back through my body in a way that somehow helps.  I can't pass time any quicker than it wants to go.  I threw up around two in the morning.  Afterward I felt better and slept for awhile.  That was the coldest night of the trip.  We did a badass hike the next day, into Frazer's Meadow.  A trail mix including M&Ms hit the spot.  B drove us down from out of the mountain and out of the canyon Saturday morning and we vied with numerous cyclists en route to Estes Park.  Rocky Mountain, here we come.

XIX.  If You're Looking for the Part Where Tyler and Doug Make Their Cameo, This is It.

We heard the elk bugling all through the cold, clear night.  I am now standing next to the car, watching the sky fill with light.  My hands are cold.  B is asleep.  It is a quarter 'til six on Sunday morning.

We went over to Tyler and Doug's site last nite for dinner and drinks.  It's the best campsite I've ever spent any time on.  C242.  It faces south and in view are two main features, one above and one below.  Above, mountains: peaks that stretch above the treeline.  Longs Peak?  It seemed to be but we weren't sure and I haven't looked it up yet.  A long stretch of the mountain is above treeline.  I thought about how I'd like to walk up there.  A long part of it was like a platform before it stretched higher yet—land up there, way up there, still earth.

But before I mention the second main feature, an update.  I went over to B in the tent and said, "Whaddya say, B?"


"Whaddya say?"


I am standing here at our site, A8, which is just not even worth describing after experiencing C242.  Here at A8 we are close to what I'd call the main camp road.  There are three sites in this grouping—6,7,8—and our tent pad is right up close to the road while the other two are set up and back.  The cars have started, is what I'm saying.  Crawling, creeping along.  Festooned in their unnecessary headlamps.  And, in some cases, diesel.  Ahhh, I love the smell of diesel in the morning.  Well, maybe some sour east coast diesel.  Ha!


She got up quick.   We have driven over to the showerhouse en route to Tyler and Doug's site.  They lucked into it, the result of someone else canceling a reservation.  Tyler and Doug themselves had canceled their initial site reservation.  Tyler's work schedule jumped up and took a bite out of their plans, apparently fatally.  They were going to go to the Smokies instead but at the last minute, as he was driving over to Doug's to start the trip, Tyler said, "You know what?  It's only a few more hours' drive to the Rockies, let's just go."  So they did.  Drove straight through, got here Friday around noon.  At around noon yesterday he texted me asking me where we were at.  We had just gotten to Estes.  Brimming, busy Estes Park.  We went to a Safeway there.  The parking lot was nearly full.  Inside it wasn't too bad.  Traffic was slow from there along 36W into the park.  Tyler and Doug dropped in on us as we were unpacking and getting set up.  We made plans to spend the evening at their site.

And that's where we're back to now.  The sunrise is much better here!  Postcards for later is all I have right now.  IOU.


10:08 and we're done with a hike to Alberta Falls—we went a little past it and then turned back.  Lots of people.  Did not go out to Bear Lake.  But we're coming back here later to go for a longer, one-way hike.  Tyler and Doug have to be out of their site by noon.  It's sunny and 66°.  Bear Lake elevation is 9700'.

XX.  Sunday Night with The Peeps.

There was a moment, many moments, when I thought this night was bust.  B and I were sitting in the car outside the Rocky Mountain Opry—a place that sells touristy stuff, knick-knacks, trinkets, figurines—not a mountain music venue.  They were inside the park and we were outside it.  They had come in looking for us, and they found us, but we needed a shower.  The solar showers that are listed as being available in the campground...we never really considered those an option.  If not for the hike I wouldn't have been so preoccupied with getting clean but I stank and I was down to one last clean round of clothes.  Last t-shirt, last boxer shorts, last pants.  I wanted out of the park.  So we came here, to V/B 66, and showered.

My shower amenities mix has become diaspora—here, there, nowhere—I used shampoo and face wash.  It worked.  There was an unopened bar of Dove in there that I really wanted to crack but I was afraid I'd leave a curly on it.  So I left it alone.  What is soap, really?  It's just suds, surfactants.  What can you introduce to the surface of your skin as a means of ferrying dirt away from your body via water?  That's the question.  And what can you use to divorce oils, or bind them in distraction—and then ferry them away by water?  That's all.

We eschewed the site tonight.  A008.  There's not much to say about it.  Too much traffic too close to home.  A dirt road and no view.  Whateverest.  I'm here and this gas fire's not flaming, or roaring, but it is breathing.  The five are abed, dreaming blue dreams.   Over the last few days I've gotten away from my poets.  I miss them.  I miss reading them aloud.  I told my Drury Pool joke but it flopped.  Pat just coughed.

We walked down to the Big Thomson River.  It sounded like the wind in the trees as a storm approaches.  But the storm never arrives.  The river just keeps on sounding that way.  There is so much to say.  Nebraska was a month ago, my college years.  Missouri is a dream I can't quite remember.  We hiked today, me and B.  We were ready but still we were struggling.  With distance, with time, with weather.  With the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale.

Walking on rocks makes my feet hurt but I don't believe I've ever been to, or slightly above, treeline at any other point in my life.  We made good time.  Four and a half hours, 25-minute miles, that's over ten miles.  Nine-something on the map but we ended at the Fern Lake shuttle bus stop and the gal there who picked us up in the shuttle—the shuttle got there right as we did, we needed that, amazing.  The shuttle bus gal, she drove that vehicle box through all of the elk people, as the dozens of volunteers tried to bring order to chaos.  The shuttle lady said, "Some people who have, you know," and she made a sort of stopwatch motion with her free hand, motioning like she was clicking a device, "and they say it's more like 10 or 13 miles."  Huh.  Early on we were making real good time, I thought, but on the map we should've been to Odessa Lake already.  But we hadn't even gotten to where you can see Notchtop Mountain well.

The distance I can handle, the elevation I can handle (only after getting my ass kicked twice at Golden Gate).  But it's walking on all of those rocks, for miles, that wears me down.  My boots are rigid, "Built Ford Tough."  But enough is enough.  Every rock is a balance beam my foot is plantar fasciating in an attempt to land on, brace itself upon, and finally launch itself back off of from—wow, three prepositions in a row: somebody get this guy into sentence diagramming class.  OK, bad seventh-grade English joke.  Does anyone have an overhead projector, an erasable marker, and a spray bottle with some water in it?  No?  A tissue and some spit will work just fine.  Random!

We experienced three seasons on that hike.  Summer to start, certainly so on that wretched Park 'n' Ride shuttle bus to Bear Lake—barf.  Winter as we climbed to tree line and it threatened rain.  On top of my t-shirt I added first a long t-shirt and then a sweater.  I had to tighten the chin strap on my floppy hat or else it would have blown off and bounded its way down a rocky crevasse to the base of a pine tree somewhere far below.  Fall as we passed Fern Falls, descended to The Pool, and then walked over aspen leaves and sand and observed some of the 2013 flood damage off to the left as numerous fisherman whisked their lines into the Big Thomson River on the right.

My thoughts drift back to Tyler and Doug....  It didn't seem real, them having to leave.  After our Alberta Falls hike we we went back to their incredible site and made hot dogs and sandwiches on a lighter fluid-lit fire.  Then we had to give Doug's red Dodge a jump because it was stone dead.  That was my first jump since the Jeep.  I was a stickler on the order of attachments: hot car positive, cold car positive, hot car negative, cold car ground.  "Drawing sword, sword cutting water, water flowing.  Sorrow again sorry."  That's Pound in my head but my head is not pounding.  Not since early Saturday morning in the tent, out of the tent at Golden Gate, in that showerhouse feeling so dreadful, wanting to be asleep.

I slept well last night, though.  I really did.  I felt safe, it was quiet, I was physically tired from the Coyote Trail hike at Golden Gate and then the drive up to Estes, and setting up camp again.  And I'm physically tired now at the V/B are, oh so generous for hosting us, letting us shower here, and crash here.  Thanks!  If not for you I'd be shivering now, maybe hearing some elk screech and whistle and creak and gargle, which would be nice.  But I would not be writing this, would I?


What about our tent?

What about it?

It just seems so lonely.

You said it'd be fine.


Sagitta, three dots, in a
line.  The arrow. Delphinium the
really small diamond.

We're in the full-size part
of a bunk bed.  B turns away slightly
as I turn the page.  If only I could
see better in the dark.  It's like
ink driving, not very
efficient.  This should be the last page 4
tonight.  I'm tired.

                                    Elk antlers
                rocks     pines
                                            horse poop on
          the trails           chipmunks

wind sun running water, views,
    hikers, water bottles, cameras, walking
       sticks, hats, sunglasses,       find
          spots to hide,      maps,

What was that?  It sounded like
      a rodent's scurry.   But it was just
     a computer charger falling out of the
       socket to the carpet down below.
Those rocks.   Why is this mountain so

rocky.   Shuttles on
    winding roads, mountains all around,
           pine needles, pine bark mulch
          naturally, bars, beef jerky,

sunscreen but no bugs.


XXI.  Monday the 15th: Hike to Emerald Lake.

"Are you guys shooting a time-lapse photo?"

I was into the third of three "tens"—who was talking to me, where was I along this mountain stream?  Oh, yeah: Pat down there with his camera and tripod.

"No, he's just taking random photos."

In my first count to ten I was already realizing how good it felt, how pleasant the sound is from this stream.  And I had that trite first ten thought, at about six, I'm gonna start doing this every day, I'm gonna get all Zen.  Then in the next breath I started thinking about that imperial pumpkin porter I had on Friday.  So at about eight I resolved that I was going to start getting all zen again, except for beer.
Then in the second ten I found my mind rather empty.  I was trying to recall what I had thought about during the first ten.

I'm on a rock.  There are people on the trail just a step behind me but the stream is so loud that not even their chatter is distracting me.


On the rock at Emerald.  An old Asian man is singing, "America the Beautiful."  Brett is laid back, comfortable.  Rain cloud though—was that a shrike we saw?  Let's go.


About halfway back.  I'm up above the trail, set back, on another rock.  Pat and Brett were behind me on the trail.  I'm caught by the sight of a cloud sliding down the side of a mountain, seeping down it.  I can hear the stream again.  The cloud is dropping slow and grazing in the gorge.

Brett is below me now.  I don't know if he knows it.  I'm playing the billy goat.  The sun is now back and that cloud has rethought its descent into the gorge.  It is gathering itself, mounting the peak, and moving along east.  There is some color out there: it's the aspen.  Patches of orange and yellow amidst the deep ever green.  A couple of backpackers come down the trail with what look to be mattresses on their backs.  I guess they fold the mattress in half, cram everything else they have into the fold, tie it tight, and then hike.  Brett is still down there, standing on the trail just below me.  I really don't know if he knows I'm up here.  He must.  He's been standing there for a couple of minutes now.  Too much of a coincidence.

Pat's back there somewhere taking photos I assume.  I figure he must have like the muted colors the sky took on when it got cloudy.  I heard him use the word "muted".

Brett left and now Pat stops on the same spot, pauses, thinks about stopping, turns around, sees me, grins.

"I felt like I was being watched."

"Did you?"

"A little, yeah."

Now he's climbed above me and is setting up his tripod.  I hear the stream and the clicking of the camera shutter.  The ache and the ratchet of the tripod.  Nothing else.

XXII.  Final Estes Brott.

A.  Laundry Monday Late Afternoon.

I am sitting at a picnic table outside a place in Estes Park called Dad's that does double duty as both a laundromat and a showerhouse.  There are people here doing both but I'm just doing laundry.  Being in there, listening to the conversation the proprietor was having with a local (whose laundry machine was on the fritz) made me feel like I was in a Northern Exposure episode in Cicely, AK.  It was homy and comfortable and time didn't seem to matter.

I was running out of clean clothes again.  So I'm waiting while my clothes rinse and spin.  It's nice out.  On the drive up here from the cottage I saw a dozen elk coursing down the sidewalk right by Safeway, a bull and his cortege.  It was like they were a runners' group and they were just out doing a group run before sunset.  No big deal.  Maybe it was seeing those elk that put Northern Exposure into my head even before I got into the laundromat/showerhouse.

Our cottage here is pretty basic.  Tiny, really.  The floors were new (beetle-ravaged, reclaimed pine) but other facets were lacking.  There was a little red mold on the shower liner, one of the screens on one of the windows was busted up.  The views seemed good, though.  I was only there for a few minutes before I went back out to come and do this laundry.  Here's the good news: there is a cooler full of good, ice-cold beer waiting for me and the peeps.  V/B is having us over for dinner.  They cook, we bring the beer.

B.  Tuesday Morning, The Egg & I, 8:20.

Words from Balderdash.  Agrafe-- the wire cage on a champagne bottle used to hold down the cork.  Pokelocken-- a small, secluded bar.  Brott-- broken bits of everything and anything.  Sweam-- (not sure now, this might have referred to "the skin between thumb and forefinger")  Palastra-- a school of wrestling.  Microhenry-- a unit of electrical measurement.  My fake definition for pokelocken was "a branch of locksmithing that doesn't rely on keys."  Pat was the moderator for that word.  He was sitting with his back to the door.  He turned around and was tapping at the lock.

C.  To the Tundra.

The Mummies come into view.  We're on Trail Ridge Road.  It's 63° at 10:52.  1,428 trip miles.  New Wave on the stereo.  Chiquita, Ypsilon, Fairchild.  We're going 30 m.p.h.

D.  Everything Else I Should Have Written About But 


XXIII.  Wednesday the 17th, Heading East.

The Shell in Watkins.  But I get on 36, not 70.  I dropped off B at DIA.  We had a tough time getting there.  36 east out of Estes was closed and we had to detour.  We took a bad route.  I let it put me in a bad mood and found it easy to blame her.  We've had our troubles as pilot and co-pilot.  I can remember a snafu in Nova Scotia.  We go on.

The scenery along the route we were left with was a silver lining.  Dropping down in elevation, we headed east into Lyons, the St. Vrain on our right.

We were on 36 only briefly south out of Lyons then we took 66 east through Longmont to I-25 south.  We had left early so we never entered a state of urgency but what a convoluted route and man was I cranky.  Maybe because heading back was enough of a downer already, thinking about work, the fucking stock market, the goddam S&P 500.  My flash-forward departure was giving me something of the bends.

On the day I was driving from Nebraska to Iowa, and then back to Nebraska because Iowa had no water, the Ray Rice news was on the radio.  Today it's the Adrian Peterson news.  An Emergency Alert System  test.  Whew.  Initially I was thinking it was an overreaction, the work of our fledgling outrage society.  But I'm listening to Colin and he says he's seen enough of AP's work and that AP should not play.  "Sorry if he's on your fantasy team; bummer."

I'm headed east, I-70 is thirty feet away, I'm running in parallel.  I lost 36 though.  I don't know how.  I'm on C-40.  I'll go down to Deer Trail and go north to get back on 36.  C-40 is like an access road, there's no one else out here.  It's 82°, sunny, 10:15 mountain time.  The tripometer is at 1,613 miles.  Miles per gallon is 31.8.  Dead coyote on the road.

Deer Trail, 5183 feet.  I had to turn around twice in Deer Trail (I guess you could say I lost the trail, har har, wacha wacha).  The correct turn was the most obvious one.  I resisted it but eventually I gave in.  Occam, my dear, you win again.  Eight miles to 36.  Cows with tags on their ears.  Price Road is what I'm on.  It's hilly.

Looking west I can barely see the mountains, lowly black and cloud-level.  Price Ranch.  A field with a lot of hay bales. The radio has gotten very staticky.  A little—not so little—racetrack.  High Plains Raceway.  No one racing.  To the south some cumulonimbus.

Cirrus to the north.  East, cumulus, maybe altostratus.  Clean Harbors.  Hazardous Waste Treatment Facility.  Through traffic stay to the right.  Picnic spot in a mile.  Cows.  The picnic table was heavily hemmed by weeds.  Windmills far to the south.  84°.  It's beautiful out here.  Ranchland palette.  The palette of a sky with enough clouds to look at but sporting a zero chance of rain.

I can see for miles.  Kansas is out there somewhere.  Two-lane road, rolling, decent surface, pass, don't pass, either side can pass.  Power lines.  Trees dead but standing.  Two cattle trucks wait for me to pass by on 36 before they cross it from south to north on C-71.  Short corn.  It's dry here.

Longhorns, Anton.  A co-op selling gas.  The next two towns are Cope and Joes.  Three heavy trucks behind me.  There was a nice wide field and hay bales a while back.  I thought about stopping.  Should have.  Coulda shook those trucks.

The first two trucks pass.  They were in tandem, same kind of truck.  Soft-top trailer.  Grain.  The third truck, an orange roadwork dump-truck passes, too.  Many of the fields now are bare dirt, but recently worked on.  Signs of tilling.  Smooth, no weeds.  Perhaps they are prepped for winter wheat.  Maybe already planted.  A bee came in the open window and landed in my lap.  It wasn't dead, probably concussed.  I had to pull over and get it off of me.

An agroforest demonstration tract.  A field lines on at least three sides by spruce trees.  Five walls of hay bricks.  Picnic spot in a mile.  It's 85° in Cope.  An old town overgrown by weeds.  I'm turning around, I'm going back for a photo.  JK Cattle Company, feed yard two miles south.  The ESPN signal being lost, I hit seek and got a hip hop country song.  Joes.  A couple of people using a picnic area.  Stores with closed signs on them.  Liberty Baptist Church, its sprinkler going.  A grade school.  Dead coyote, side of the road.  Did someone move him there or did she make it those four steps before lying down forever?  A tiller's dust cloud.  Idalia.  The Grainery Bar and Grill.  Some vibrancy here.  A Post Office—but many of them do have their little Post Offices, yet.

36 jogged briefly with 385 but now 36 curves away again to the east, its own way, to St. Francis and Wray.  A field of sunflowers, the town of Hale not far to the south.  It's 90°, 12:36 mountain time, 1737 trip miles.  I've spent more time doing 70 mph+, doing 67 now.  Stunted corn, smell of manure, cell phone tower tall.  US-36 mile marker 223.

I've entered the central time zone and....I'm in Kansas.

I stopped to take a photo and stretch.  It's dry and 91°.  It's also very windy!  Dorothy, get a hold of them ruby reds.  A gust just gave the car a jolt.  A dirt dervish is making its way across a field to my right.  A trash bag with only a few items in it waves around in the backseat.  Two miles to St. Francis.  Republican River.  Four miles to the St. Francis Feed Yard.  An old, weathered sign for the Angle Road RV Park.

The Dusty Farmer Motel.  The Empire Motel.  Sainty Liquor.  U Sav Liquor.  There are many cell towers out here so I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the decent coverage I've had along the road.  It's good rental income for the landowners and the carriers get to expand and enhance their networks.  I see no aesthetic argument against putting a cell tower in the middle of wheat fields.  People say there's nothing to see in Kansas so whom could you offend by putting up a tower?

The situation is quite different in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I didn't see any cell towers in the park.  Hence the spotty coverage.  I did see a tower on a mountain just south of Estes, just outside RMNP.  It did stick out, as I took in the view from atop Deer Mountain.  But I don't doubt I pushed data through that tower so I can't really complain.  What I wonder at, though, is why I have had such decent coverage in Nebraska or in a place like this, nowhere Kansas, yet my coverage is spotty at best in certain parts of Missouri like Iberia or Round Spring, or up at Pere Marquette in Illinois.  You can't tell me that there are more people within a 50 mile radius of here than at Pere Marquette or Iberia.  Bird City, KS.  Diner closed.  The elevator along the tracks is open for business though.

Caterpillars on roadways.  A tractor trailer passes with about a dozen lumps of hay weighing down the trailer, slanting it heavily to the right, starboard.  Feedyard stink.  A rest area, one mile ahead.  Really?  On 36?  McDonald, KS.  Indeed, flashed forward from 1950 is the rest area now before me.  Trash, restrooms, a water spigot.  I'll take it.

Carlson's choke tubes.  I don't know what a choke tube is.  Atwood.  The It'll Do Motel.  A small hospital, a Casey's General Store.  That was a town more modern than the others.  Built more recently, anyway.  This is now an updated surface on 36.  I'm going due east at 72 mph.  Even if I were driving straight through, from Estes to St. Louis—not stopping somewhere, soon—I think I'd take 36.   Past Oberlin.  Still in rather west Kansas.  The grass along the roadways here, in the ditches, has a reddish tint to it, adds a little color.  Pleasant effect.

Does it matter what kind of grass it is, or is it enough for me to tell you that it is red?

XXIV.  Wednesday Night at the Sleep Inn: Remarking upon the Krummholz of trees and friends.

I'm at the Sleep Inn in in in Norton, KS.  Highway 36 gets rather north of I-70 in Kansas—or should I say that I-70 drops well south of Hwy in western Kansas?  Highway 36 just goes east.  A sign outside of Norton points out that 36 is the shortest route from Indianapolis to Denver.

This room isn't bad.  I was initially really impressed but now I realize that appearance is facile, specious.  My window is leaky.  It leaks inward.  I heard some of the staff on their cig break—hey people, don't sell those cigarette stocks just yet—and now a couple of youngsters are out there screwing around along a concrete gutter that runs along "my" side of the hotel.  They're whipping at each other with forlorn switches.  And then, above me?  Someone just flushed the toilet up there and I'm thinking about going down to the MacDaniels here in town and setting up a booth to sell tickets for admission to "Norton Falls".  I didn't see any water but it was gushing between the drywalls, I could feel it.

The Colorado portion of this trip is so over.  Nebraska feels like something I did a couple of years ago.  I am not going to pretend that we had a whole bunch of great moments with Pat and Brett and Anne and Fairchild.  It was a start-stop several days with them.  We were on different schedules.  B and I front-ran them on acclimation, for one.  I refused to go all the way to the western side of the park yesterday.  We were at Tundra World together, and I loved it up there.  Trail Ridge Road was popular. And they were doing work on it, the Road Crew, shutting down one of two total lanes in spots.  I spent six hours in a car today.  I'll spend four or five in a car tomorrow and four or five in a car on Friday.  Enough is enough.  I imagined very few cars "up there" on Trail Ridge Road and I was crushed, bust, and deflated.

But Tundra World.  It was not crazy cold.  It was windy and I needed my hat, long sleeves, pants (not shorts!), boots (not flip flops!!), and tuq.  And camera.  The air was of impeccable quality.  If I am ever on a plane that goes into a tailspin and the yellow cups drop down, I hope the air from Tundra World is what they're pumping through the apparently uninflated bags.  The sky, the clouds, the mountains and their raft of lakes.  It is a special place.  Mushroom rocks, schist, freezing and thawing polygons.  Pika.  Marmots.  A coyote but no ptarmigans.  I finished my roll of color film while we were up there.  I successfully extracted the color and inserted a roll of 24 b&w.  I went through about half of that while we were up there.  I took at least one photo of each of the other five and I even mounted my camera on Pat's tripod, a first: that camera has never been screwed onto one of the universal tripod mounts, for as long as I've had it (thirteen years?)

Included in the dozen or so shots are one or two group shots that I used the camera's elementary "Boggle-style" timer to take.  I talked to a fella up there who asked me if Pat was taking time-lapse photos.  Pat had his camera set up on the tripod and he was indeed taking time-lapse photos.  That was the second day in a row someone had asked me if Pat were taking time-lapse photos.  People love time-lapse!  I saw just a snippet of what Pat had gotten in his first "variegated exposure" in the tundra: one shot every second for three minutes—180 photos lasting for seven seconds upon playback.  The move so comfortably in the midst of time-lapse.  The fella I was talking to noticed my camera and said, "You're (still) doing film."  I told him I had been on a ten-year hiatus, and had messed up a good roll of b&w while I was still in the process of shaking the rust off.  I was just yakking to this guy, I'm not exactly sure why—no, I do: I was proselytizing.  I was evangelizing for film photography.  JT is bringing sexy back, fine.  I'm bringing film back, baby!  I'm gonna invest in Kodak bankruptcy stock and become the unlikely "old" Kodak billionaire of the 21st century!  Alright, maybe not.  I need to get my film developed first and then go about my reclamation of the photosphere.

There is a term for trees that unluckily find that their beginning was borne on soil marking the transition zone between hospitable soil below and inhospitable soil above the tree line.  Krummholz—a German word meaning "twisted wood," referring to the stunted and irregular growth patterns  of trees found in the transition zone between forest and tundra.  And that was the landscape that B and I shared with our friends in RMNP/Estes Park in September 2014.  We weren't "on the same page," we didn't "hit on all cylinders."  Yet, I cannot remember seeing any other group of six unrelated people on any other trail I've been on this trip.  Getting six adults to do one thing at the same time—in nature, on vacation, at elevation—ain't easy.  We did Dream Lake/Emerald Lake together.  Then we took our time up at Tundra World together.  Perhaps it wasn't enough, but it was more than most sets of three other couples could muster in a national park.  I feel it was all a bit of a miss—it was amiss.  It could have been better theoretically, but not practically.  Even thinking of them now I miss them.  I could have embarked on my trip later than I did, days later.  And maybe then, maybe, after I dropped off B at the airport I would have gone back to Estes and Pat and I would be scouring the park for great sunset shots.

B and I were up early today—the duck was quacking at five and I was up and moving—and the light was incredible this morning, red and diffuse and suffuse and golden and amber all at once.  We went up to the Lumpy Ridge trailhead off MacGregor.  The light was a-wasting.  I took her phone and got up on this huge rock to get her a "killa" Instagram photo but I shot that shit right into the sun, which: have I learned anything on this blanking trip?  You take the opposite photo.  At sunrise, you face the sun, turn around and you shoot what is always there but is hardly ever there in that light.  In my scurrying down the rock I banged my already-cut thumb and we never really found a great vantage point for a final sunset photo.  The sun was all-up and the moment was all-gone.  You have to have your spot in mind and you have to be there as the sun is about to come up.  That means leaving at 5:30 or 5:45 and it's not that easy, either.

I wish I could have slowed everything down.  I mean, Tyler and Doug: remember them?  They were out there before we got there and we spent that first evening at their incredible site, C242.  That feels like a month ago.  We hiked with them to Alberta Falls.  We could have done so much more.  I hate it, I hate that the eight of us could not have had a night at C242.  It's stupid.  The fact that it didn't work is stupid.  But schedules override, jobs override and in the short term jobs and schedules are more important than friendships and memories.  That is reality.  That is terrible.  There is no quick change we can make to "the system," to the bureaucracy that is going to alter this reality.  It takes drop outs and money to change this.  It requires a sort of anti-reality moon-boot.  And I'm not even sure I've got those in my shoe-rack.


I sent B a text: "I'm checking for Roosevelt.  If you do some Ken Burns before I get back I won't say anything.  But get some in the queue if it's not instant."  Ha.  That's what a future Ken Burns doc would contain: Twitter bursts, Instagrams, and (somehow) texts.  We're gonna make it easy for the future Ken Burns.

XXX.  Road Hand, Thurs, 9/18.

1858 trip miles.  Hospital across the street.  New Age Industrial.  "The Aluminum Specialists."  It's overcast.  It's recently rained.  There is a train on the tracks just to my left but it's not moving.  Norton Correctional Facility.  A truck passes me.  Speed limit is 65, I want to go 53.  Ratatat.  The highway is curving, ghosts of dead buffalo are running.  Now, cows.

Mostly ranch land, pasture since Norton.  I tap my brakes at the person gating me and jaw at them as they pass.  If you want to go faster than me, go around.  It's a passing zone.  Perhaps the now-heavier fog made her reluctant.  I get that.  This just isn't gonna work until these people all get to work and get off my back bumper.  Welcome to Phillips County, the cow/calf capital of Kansas.  The fog relents a little.  Deer Creek.  Dead raccoon.  I don't understand the feed yard concept.  That's where the cows are brought to be sold?

I forgot to mention the two camper-cyclists I passed about 20 miles back.  Deer Creek again.  I had passed the same two gear-laden cyclists yesterday, too.  Pretty sure.  I've put my reading glasses on, wearing them Ben Franklin-style.  They must've stayed at Prairie Dog State Park, just southwest of Norton.  I suppose they are doing a bicycle camping tour along 36.  Or just through Kansas generally.  A little wet for them last night and earlier today, though.  That's a rough go.  Railroad still running parallel with 36.  Have not seen a moving train along it yet.  Nothing like the U Pac activity I saw along 30 in Nebraska.

Phillipsburg.  Hugunin Liquor.  Cute town, has some new buildings.  A building with a big "B" and then "Brooke" under that.  Almost.  I stop at Mac's Kwik Stop, a Cemex station.  They do not have credit card slots on their pumps.  I pump my gas and go in and pay with the correct change.  Two bills, two dimes, three pennies.  I cleaned the windshield and then thought I should go back in and use the restroom.  On the wall in there was a lot of scrawling but one particular inscription caught my eye:

They paint these walls
to hide my pen,
but the shit house poet
strikes again!

For "blunge"  I'm wishing now I had suggested, "Britain's response to grunge."  As in, "Hey mate, whaddya think about that new blunge tune?"  Sorghum.  Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge, six miles south.  If I were not entertaining the notion of getting home tonight, I would have gone.  Pumpkin at the base of a stop sign.  The road rises and bridges over the tracks, which course south.  Hay bales in a green grass field.  Smith County.  Another tower with a Viaero Wireless sign out in front of it.  Kensington.  In some instances, I am probably mistaken in considering what is right along the road/highway to be representative of the town I am driving through.  In the case of Kensington, there was a sign indicating that the Business District was to the south.  I looked down that direction and could a part of a town square.  So I did not really see Kensington, did I?  I merely walked into its foyer and turned around.  Sorghum and corn.  It's still a little foggy.  Pink Floyd's "Echoes" is in its 15th minute.  These towns have some Highway 36 pride.  On either end of Phillipsburg were banners promoting "The US Hwy 36 Treasure Hunt."  Athol.  Second Chance Antiques and Things.  The store itself was an antique, its sign for sure.

I just crushed a bird with the grill of the car.  It was a flock that was spread out over the road, in the brush on either side.  They took to wing but half the flock was right in front of me.  I'm surprised I didn't hit more of them.  Sparrows, I think.

The market is up, at all-time highs.  The FOMC concluded one of its regular meetings yesterday and stuck to its pledge to maintain ultra-low interest rates for a "considerable time" subsequent to ending its third round of unprecedented bond buying in October.  Only once has Yellen said anything the market didn't like and she quickly backed away from those comments once the market spooked.  I can't recall Bernanke ever saying anything the market didn't like.  Maybe just once, in the spring of 2013, when the  plan to curtail the bond buying was introduced.  Toward the end of episode 4 of "The Roosevelts" is the point when the documentary arrives at October 1929.  The market before that "bang!" moment was, in the words of the documentary, characterized by "speculation and easy credit."  There is no way we are not wrapping ourselves in bubble paper right this moment.  The bubbles will pop and we will be naked underneath.  As I drive east, in this loose fog, at the geographic middle of the USA, I do not see how I can go back to work when I get home.  I cannot keep giving these days away to madness.

Another gear-laden cyclist, this one solo.  I'm really curious about them.  Is this something people do?  Bicycle camping blunges across Kansas on Hwy 36?  Blunge—a camping bender exacted via bicycle.  Misting now, the fog heavier.  Eighteen miles to Scandia.  The fog is at its thickest yet.  I am driving through oblivion listening to Jimmy Smith.

Randall ten miles to the south.  The thought of loved ones is all that's keeping me alive right now.  The surface is fine this stretch.  I hit 82 m.p.h.  It's 10:05.  1,962 trip miles; 6,166 in the car's history.  A busted barn.  An old, weatherworn house with hay bales surrounding it.  An oversized load coming the other way, the fourth I've seen today.  Bergstrom Livestock.  A railroad crossing.  DJ Bene.

Barn swallows flit like bats over the roadway.  The fog has let up again.  Pawnee Indian Village, eight miles to the north.  I knew I smelled a feed yard, and there it is, the cows with their heads in the trough. Pumpkin patch, most of them white yet.  The Republican River, its second term.  Two blocks south, treasures by the TON.  That was Scandia.  Very green fields either side, short crop, winter wheat.

The clouds are thinning.  A black mailbox, an American flag waving on a tall white pole.  The sun is just about through the clouds.  It's gotten windy.  A car-port of hay.  An elevator.  Bestifor Hay Co., a year-round supplier of hay.  A K-State Extension experimental field.  Belleville, KS.  An orange sign saying simply, "Agenda."  C.A. Picard International, Kansas division.  A Super 8, a Conoco, and a Dollar General.  The sun is through.  Another oversized load.  Three have been big, cylinders.  Tanks I presume.  That one was metal.  I figure they are underground storage tanks, for gasoline or liquid fertilizer.  Cuba to the south, "Czech music, food, and fun."

The Little Blue River.  I stopped for ice, green tea Monster Rehab, and a bathroom.  I was getting a little sleepy.  Rolling down the window helped.  Along here 36 is called "Pony Express Avenue."  Nebraska is not far away.  I meant to look at the map while I was stopped and see how far it was until Missouri, to see how long I had to go before I was home again.


Mile marker 283.  75° at 11:15, Thursday 9.18.2014.  2,024 trip miles.  Highway 36 is split now, two lanes on either side.  This is how it was in Missouri—split like this.  Marshall County Line.  Go, Bene, go!  Get me on down the road to MO-town.  Kansas is not as flat as I thought.  This road has done nothing but roll.  Hips and dips.  It is now mostly sunny.  There are a few low, shapeless cumulus clouds.  Very cotton ball.  G&R Polled Herefords.  Marysville, KS.  Bridge over Big Blue River and U Pac train tracks.  Two trains, one moving.  Another sign for the US-36 Treasure Hunt.  Here in Marysville, main street is Highway 36.  Red brick side streets.

Casey's, Sonic, Hardees.  Dollar General.  The Surf Motel.  I don't know where the surf is.  But there is a lake.  Verizon store.  UPS truck.  Orscheln Farm & Home.  Penny's Diner: classic diner styling, like an Airstream trailer.   Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Wal-Mart—this place has it all!  The truck in front of me and the van in back of me both turned at Wal-Mart.

Two little white signs.  One: Junque Sale.  Two: $5 shrubs.  Seneca.  Did you know that calves weaned 30 days or less and shipped to the feed lot are more likely to contract bovine respiratory disease?  I was scanning for sports talk and heard that.  Case on one side of the street, Deere on the other.  South Fork Nemaha River.  A sign for Merz Equipment, which is located in Falls City, NE.  I went by there on my way west.  I'm getting close.  Thunder, thunder on!

A lot of beans now.  Beans and sorghum.  Getting cloudy again.  There's rain out there.  Renyer's Pumpkin Farm.  Family Fun, open September 27.  This trip was not like the advent of fall I had figured.  But I was at 74° earlier and only 68° now—Fall could be just over the river.

Fairview, a brief stretch of two lanes each way, now back to one.  Overcast and 66°.  Hiawatha, the City of Beautiful Maples.  Curving, curving again.  Wolf River.  St. Jo is but twenty miles away.  Sign for a Lewis and Clark Historic Site.  US-36 mile marker 373.  Casino White Cloud.  I'm making better time than I thought.  Witches wand!  Seventeen miles to St. Jo.  A walker.  Plastic bag, cutoff white t-shirt, army pants, tats.  Exit now for Troy.  Terraced field.  Geese on high.  Historical Marker, one mile.  Steeper rise, quicker fall, sandbags at the monument.  Kansas for lunch, Missouri for dinner.  Gun safe sale.  Wathena.  Speed checked by radar, engine braking prohibited.  More signs for the US-36 Treasure Hunt.  How big is this thing?!  Silverback bluffs in the distance.  Pony Express Bridge, Missouri River.  Hello, St. Jo, MO.

Onward east to to Cameron.


I made incredible time across MO on 36 and then south on 61.  Then I hit traffic in St. Peters and St. Charles.  I thought that was bad but I couldn't even get close to the airport before a backup forced me off of the abominable I-70.  Now I'm on Lindbergh going south to Midland.  Good old Midland, the middle road in the middle of my land.

XXXI.  Postscript.

I am home now on the night of Thursday September 18.  There is no Scottish result yet.  Not until morning.  I am home, short of patience but assuaged by good beer and good documentary (The Roosevelts, Episode #5).

It made me think—I have been thinking about a lot of things, more on that, more on the more of what I have to say—of waking up in my alcoholic stupor last night at 11:23 in room 207 of the Sleep Inn in Norton, KS.  The TV was on, I had fallen asleep to "The Roosevelts" (episode #4).  And as I look back on it, I fell asleep to one Eleanor and woke up to another, and then another, albeit with slightly different spelling.  I fell asleep with Eleanor Roosevelt.  I woke up to an interview by Charlie Rose with the director and two lead actors from the film "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" and "Him and Her."  In that moment I am shaking off the Dogfish Head Palo Santo, the Oskar Blues G'Knight IPA, and the Jack Daniels Tyler insisted I take off of his hands before he and Doug set off for old MO. I'm thinking: I don't get this, this "two film" set up for these movies; is it one scene and then other, like "Sliding Doors"?  And then J Chastain says she thought of it like "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "The Flags of Our Fathers."  The first thing going when I woke up was the trailer to "Eleanor Rigby" and I'm all..."huh, whuh?"  I look at my phone, and that other Ele()nor() has asked me, "How's Eleanor?"

I had to pause awhile and still it all out.

September 2014

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