Friday, January 27, 2012


  Earlier this week this is how things looked.  But progress is rapid and we're converting this space to home a little more every day. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jets Cooling In The Rain

   Today is day five we've been in Portland.  I realize I left this story unfinished.  Maybe there is no end.  This is life, after all.  Our home is with out internet access for the time being which makes keeping up with the updates a little more complicated.  Compounded with the fact that the greater part of this adventure is behind us, spread across the 3,231 miles of highway that tethers our past to the present, I will be writing less frequently here; perhaps weekly. 
   Eli and I are working on settling into our house which means daily lists of errands that have us criss-crossing the city in search of all the pieces of modern domestic life.  We have purchased a futon mattress.  Check.  We got some groceries and dishwasher detergent.  Check  We still need a dish drying rack, spice organizer, curtains, among other items.  Right now we are in The Red E cafe near our house, utilizing the coffee and internet and counter space.  Eli fills out an application for work at a nursery.  I've been researching home made bed frame designs.  Yes, we're building the bed.  This will be the 5th bed I've built.  My beds used to be six feet off the ground requiring a ladder to access to make the most out of cramped living spaces.  In the last five years I have preferred a bed I can easily fall into rather than risk serious injury falling out of. 
   We left Bob the landlord at the house to paint the second of two bedrooms.  Their standards as landlords are high in description.  But upon touring the house for the first time, a week after paying the first month's rent, after ten days of driving, left us wondering why the dingy bedroom walls hadn't been painted in the month the house has been vacant.  Closer inspection while unpacking and putting away revealed cobwebs in corners and previous inhabitants' grit in the higher elevations.  We do like our landlords though.  They remind me of our parents' crowd, like they would have fun going on vacation together in foreign countries.  Easy to get along with.  They have so far been pretty accommodating and definitely friendly.  Our second night in town we walked the 4 blocks to Matt and Elizabeth's house for dinner.  We met friends' of theirs who had lived in our house years before.  And upon talking more with Matt and a friend at the downtown Bike Gallery I found out that in my ordained ministerial role I conducted a wedding in 2007 and our landlords were in attendance. 
   I will be writing more about The Bike Gallery and the options that are opening up for us later.  For now I will just say that The Bike Gallery is where I worked from 2000 until 2007 when I moved to Maine, and the employer who generously offered me a position to return as a full time year-round mechanic.  Tomorrow I meet with my friend and manager Pete and will learn more about what my professional future holds.  Until then, just know that it is looking pretty good. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Last Road

   Friday January twentieth: 
   I awoke this morning at 7am at the Sunset Motel in Hood River.  I had a headache and all together wasn’t feeling so good.  So I decided to prepare a pot of the in room coffee provided for guests.  There’s a little drip coffee pot and a tray of regular and decaf pouches, packets of dehydrated creamers and sweeteners.  In a few minutes we had two cups of thin hot water without much resemblance of coffee.  I consumed a cup and within a half hour was feeling quite sick.  I laid in bed trying to will my stomach to a state of calm but finally had to give in.  On and off through the morning this was more or less my condition.  Eli went to the store and returned with some bottled water and bananas.  I ate half the banana and drank about a cup of water.  Then it was time to get in the truck and go. 

   We spent some time scraping the mirrors with credit cards.  We had a few ice scrapers with us.  But they were in the back of the truck and wouldn’t you know it, the lock was frozen.  Carefully we navigated the truck out of the parking lot and onto the road headed for the freeway.  I 84 east of us had been completely shut down the night before, sometime after we had made our way across to Hood River.  As we crossed over I could see the trucks on the eastbound lanes pulling over to the side.  The overpass was totally iced over and even making the turn onto the on ramp was a slow process. 
   On the road Eli kept a moderate pace and we proceeded to make our way towards the final destination.  So much had happened in the last 48 hours that really impacted our energy levels for the final day of the drive.  Eli managed to navigate the inner city cross town freeways to the end of I 84 where it meets up with I 5 then north on I 5 to the Lombard East exit, up to the light, left, down 5 blocks and park right outside of Mary and Bob’s house.  Mary and Bob are our new land lords and they seem like good people.  Their house is massive and open, spacious oak interior filled with artwork and artifacts no doubt from their world travels they talked about enjoying.  Soon they’re off to France for an extended visit. 

   We spent an hour reviewing and signing paperwork in their upstairs office.  It’s a good thing my stomach had finally decided to cooperate because I wouldn’t have been able to function and do what needed to be done a few hours prior. 
   With the papers signed, dated, initialed, etc, we all got in our cars and we followed Mary and Bob over to the new house.  We pulled up and there it was, our new house.  We’d only seen a few photos before today. 
   The beat up storm door opened and then the main door on the side of the house.  We stepped in and were greeted by the tired, sad smell of mildew.  I immediately was concerned about the basement and leaking water.  On up the stairs into the kitchen, tastefully painted yellow with lots of cabinets and drawers, a kitchen nook with built in leaded glass display shelves and drawers.  Through the kitchen into the living room we marveled at huge picture window, fireplace with built in book shelves on either side, beveled mirror above the mantle.  The bedrooms are large, built ins in the hallway.  Really the house is beautiful and feels like more room than I expected.  The basement looks to be leak free.  It’s huge with built in raised work benches on two walls and washer and dryer.  We’ve gone from our dusty cramped studio by the beach to a real house a block away from the Interstate. 
   We moved some things into the house and then drove Eli’s pick up off the trailer.  Now with a satellite vehicle we went over to our local grocery and got some food to eat.  We were fried but could not stop yet.  The trailer would need to be dealt with before we would be able to pull down the loading ramp to unload the truck.  So we drove over to Columbia Blvd to the truck rental place where we were finally relieved of the trailer.  From there we drove the Big Yeller over to the near by Fred Meyer to get some domestic house stuff.  A set of sheets, bath mat.  We wandered the store like zombies, trying to find stuff to check off our list.  Even after inspecting every corner of the massive everything you need for modern life store, we could not find a plain old broom. 
   Back at the house we moved a few things in, clothes and a box or two.  I set up our air mattress with our new sheet set and blanket; things we bought knowing ours were buried deep in the cavernous yellow rolling box.

   Meanwhile my brother Andrew was in a van with his band mates on the same interstate somewhere in California on their way here.  They would arrive sometime after 11.  I don’t think they anticipated the road conditions around Mt. Shasta and then later the pass at Mt. Ashland.  Ultimately they found other accommodations and arrived sometime after 2 am. 
   We finally sacked out around 11 pm.  I don’t remember anything after pulling the sheets over me. 
   The next morning we got up and brushed ourselves off.  Eli made a plan with her friend Willoughby to meet for breakfast down the street at Beaterville.  This was our pre unpacking the truck breakfast and it was on us.  I don’t think Willoughby knew what he was in for.  With food and coffee consumed, it was time to get to it.  Soon after we had the truck opened and started unpacking, Doug pulled up with another recruit, his roomate Dave.  It turns out that not only did Doug recruit him just after he had awoken that morning but Dave had helped another friend move his recording studio two days prior.
   We made quick work of emptying the truck.  And then there it was, our entire material life packed in boxes piled all over this new unfamiliar house.  Now we'll unpack the boxes, trying to find spaces to hide away our every piece of our fragmented lives.  It is familiar and yet foreign to be here.  Friends have come to find us and bring us around to their home for dinner or to a favorite restaurant for a visit.  We haven't yet had enough time to be in the house, to make a meal there, to unpack a box, or to even really talk about what just happened.  Everything for the last two weeks has moved so fast we have hardly had a moment to really take in the immensity of what we were undertaking.  We are in effect, still in shock.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Roller Coaster Road

   Let's see, where should I start?  Eli and I awoke at the Silver Spur in Burns just before 8 as we have most days on this trip.  I had already been awake at 4:32 AND 5:17 with wicked heartburn; thanks El Toreo. 
   I made a press of coffee with the hot water from the in room drip pot.  We were drinking on that, Eli was in the bathroom when I decided to see what the world wanted from me on Facebook.  So I found out about Dara.  That's Dara Greenwald, one of my first friends at boarding school.  Funny smiley big breasted Dara who made people laugh and joked about how unfunctional huge breasts were.  I had heard from a friend that she was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago.  There were online fund raisers, art auctions, and a list to join to get updates about how she was doing.  Somehow I didn't get on the list.  I tried, a few times.  I hadn't heard anything in almost a year.  And then this morning, on Facebook, I find out she passed away on Saturday.  I don't know what to do with this.  I mean, here we are, 8 days into a cross country life blender, about to land on the moon to build our colony there.  During this process, everything else is supposed to remain in suspended animation, to carry on in a holding pattern until we can safely land the space ship and boldly step where no man has walked before.  When I moved to Maine in 2007 I had only been on the East Coast for a few days before finding out that my friend Brett had been crushed beneath a garbage truck in Portland.  Why?  How?  Why then?  Why now?
   Now I'm just confused.  This day was to be our final, our arrival day, the grand finale.  How can I carry that knowing that Dara has left this world and I didn't even know until I checked my Facebook messages?  Hours later I caught myself texting a mutual friend about Dara's passing to ask if he was considering flying out for the memorial.  Then I realized how crass that was, a text message.  What if he didn't know yet?  Since when has Facebook become an acceptable platform for communicating such news?  Why didn't I know that Hospice had been involved for the last month?

   We were departing Burns by 11am.  Eli drove.  I was, as I say, confused.  The landscape in that part of Oregon is stunning, high desert scrubby sage and golden grasses spotted by occasional cattle and a tree here and there.  Or maybe just there.  We were amazed by the number of robins we saw.  Whole packs of robbins, sometimes dozens all congregated beside or in the road. What was drawing them to the road?  They would sit there until we were upon them in the Yellow Menace and they would scatter, just barely avoiding collision.
   Eli pulled the train over on top of a climb and we switched seats.  She needed to be able to see the world out there.  I'd seen it before, already knew how breath taking it was.
   In Bend I took a few wrong turns and we got a little lost which is stressful in the Golden Locomotive.  After about an hour we righted ourselves and eventually found our way.  Up I 97 bound for The Dalles.
   We were climbing up epic mountain sides and snaking our way down the other side.  The landscape continued to unfold in more magnificent views to the point of making me question if any place in the solid foundation of human reality could possibly be so beautiful.

   For a little time we were on top of a small world and then we descended into a dense cloud and everything further than 50 feet disappeared into white.  Down into the river gorge to cross over the Deschutes River and up the other side.  Past Dufur and on.  About 50 miles from The Dalles, we ascended a snowy mountain side and the snow would line the gray road the rest of the way to the mighty Columbia.  The road became slick.  Icicles were hanging like fringe off of the road signs.
   We crept along, up and down, around the side of mountains.  Plow trucks were navigating ahead of us at 20 mph.  10 miles out of The Dalles, we came upon two patrol cars on the side of the highway.  It appeared that a car had vanished off the edge of the road and down the embankment who knows how far down.
   Through The Dalles and onto the freeway where the road wasn't much more reliable than it had been up above the gorge.  We continued along at our 40 mph pace, slowly making our way.  Rain turned to frozen rain.  We pushed on.  Again we came upon two patrol cars, a tow truck, and a paramedic truck.  A man was lowering himself down the embankment from the guard rail towards the edge of the Columbia River below, presumably in an attempt to rescue somebody whose car flipped the rail.

   We pulled off 15 miles down the road in Hood River.  I was vaguely familiar with Hood RIver from visiting our friend Damon when he lived there.  For instance, I knew just where to go and park to be within two blocks of the Full Sail brewery.  I pulled the Yellow Menace over and we stepped out into the street, trying to access the condition of the roads.  All of the trees and power lines were coated in ice.  In fact a layer of ice coated every surface.  The streets were filled with dense slush at least 6" deep.  The pub at the brewery had closed early because of the weather.  So it was decided we would wait the night in Hood River before making the final 60 mile drive to our new home.  Eli asked some people where to go for dinner and a beer.  Another local brewery around the corner was recommended; Double Mountain.  The place was packed.  Apparently most of the downtown restaurants were without power.   We ordered pints and sat on the couch to await a table.  It wasn't long before we were sharing a salad that Eli could have designed herself.  That with pizza and we were taken care of.
   Damon had suggested a motel to us named the Lone Pine.  The selling pitch was that it had always been a dive but he knew that someone had gone in and done a bunch of work on it.  So that's where we headed.
   We rang the buzzer and were greeted by a nice enough fellow.  The lobby had a mold issue.  What was hidden from sight could not evade the nose.   The story was that this guy was watching the place for his friend who had to go to Minnesota.  I made sure to pay in cash.  I was given a receipt that had no information about the place on it.  So I wrote the name and address on the receipt.  Then we went to see the room.  Super creepy.  Crusty linoleum floors decorated with cigarette burns.  The room was freezing.  I consider my standards pretty low, especially after reading a lot of motel room reviews.  But this place was too much.  I suppose if it had cost $25/night it might have made sense.  But we had been getting pretty nice rooms for the price of this dive up to now.  I suggested we walk across the street to other motel.  For an additional $20 we got a real sweet room with coffee service, fridge, etc.  So we went back to the dive to get our money back. Now here we sit, dazed, confused, snowed in in a strange place. So close to the end, and yet, not there yet. 
  BIRD of the DAY:  Robin
  State:  Oregon
  IN MEMORY OF:  Dara Greenwald
  DETAIL:  Sage, rainbows, quail

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Welcome To Oregon:::

   We did awake before 8 am this morning.  But somehow between having the front desk clerk at the Thunderbird Motel heat up water for our french press coffee, walking down the street for bagels, and packing up to leave, we didn't make it on the road until 11:30.  Perhaps that is a key reason that all this driving has felt like a vacation.  It occurs to us that we should leave early from our previous day's destination, to drive in daylight and avoid inclimate weather.  But really what's the hurry?
   A short ways West of Pocatello we drove beside a field of elegantly turning wind turbines.  I recalled a friend of ours in Boston had mentioned traveling to Idaho to discuss his wind turbine software with the project managers.  Sure enough, these were Andrew's turbines we were seeing.  How cool is that?  
   There was a dusting of snow this morning at 8 and the sky was gray.  But the foul weather we'd heard about hadn't really started yet.  But within the first half hour on I 86, the snow started.  Visibility became an issue and the sky and fields were becoming the same color.  Further down the road we saw the first jackknifed semi in the center median.  The going was slow.  For the most part we stayed in single file behind the line of semis and cars.  I didn't think the snow would freeze up on the road because it was 34 degrees out.  But it did.  The road was becoming caked with uneven sections of ice.
Join us in the truck through some of the worst snow roads of the trip.  Play the video above. Skip to the 2 minute marker to get a hint of the action we avoided!!

Eli at the wheel she handled the trying driving conditions superbly.  There was really nothing to do but be patient and take it easy, try to avoid some of the less experienced drivers.  In all we counted 3 jackknifed semis, and 5 cars off the road.  We were not one of them.  The snow was intermittent and sometimes we were only dealing with some rain and the roads were clear.  Then a little ways down the road we'd be back in the white holding steady in the right lane. 
   Eli pulled the yellow circus off the road in Boise to refuel and get some sandwiches.  By the time we were getting back on the road I think it was about 4pm. It was about 5:30 when we saw the sign welcoming us into Oregon.  Mixed feelings as the realization that our journey was nearly complete. 
   It was too bad we were driving Rte. 20 in the dark.  At first the two lane highway was fine, no snow, light rain.  The landscape was beautiful but disappearing into the darkness.  The snow picked up after a while making some higher elevation passes tricky.  We crawled along and kept upright, patiently making our way.
   By the time we got into Burns and spotted the Silver Spur Motel on Broadway I couldn't wait to get out of the truck.  Our 7 1/2 hour driving day turned into a 9 1/2 hour day as the weather dictated it be so. 
   In the lobby we were greeted by the front desk clerks and their dog Dexter.  Dexter was a little black poodle looking thing.  Very sweet dog they found in the parking lot 6 months prior. 
   Into room 107 we moved our regular nightly inventory of necessities;  each of our back packs of clothes and hygiene necessities, french press and coffee grounds, crate of house plants, brief case with the computer and various chargers.  Then we headed off on foot in search of food and libation.
   Burns was soaked and over flowing with brown slush that settled in deep puddles at every corner  curb.  The Wagon Wheel Thai restaurant was recommended but we found it closed early.  So it was down to El Toreo for dinner.  That's the day's recap.  Can't believe we're in Oregon today, Colorado yesterday, Maine just over a week ago. 
   BIRD of the DAY:  Magpie
   RIVER:  Snake
   STATES:  Idaho, Oregon

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wind? What Wind?

   Today started at Sarah's house on the Poudre River in Fort Collins.  Cups of coffee and then out with Napo the dog for a walk along the river.  The few inches of snow that had fallen the day before was still crunchy beneath our feet.  Eli spotted the first bald eagle in flight, soon followed by a juvenile.  They landed atop a tree followed by what we thought were magpies that were not happy with their visitors.  But the eagles did not budge.
   We went into town to the Little Bird cafe to drink the best coffee so far on the trip and check the weather online.  It turns out that where we are headed is getting a winter storm with feet of snow predicted in some places.  Also on the menu were those 60 mph winds across Wyoming starting Tuesday night.
   Back to Sarah's and bid adieu with hugs and got back on board the yellow cannon ball. 
   Down the road from Sarah's house was the cheapest gas of the trip so far, $2.82/gal.  Thinking we'd beat that insane wind, we headed up to 287 towards Laramie.  The drive was beautiful, winding towards the front range and then it started to climb.  Climb we did and the wind picked up.  We continued to climb and eventually the wind was howling across the road.  The truck crawled against the steep grade and strong winds.  All the while we listened on to KCSU 90.5 Colorado State University independent radio.
   What seemed like a long drive was probably just over an hour before we drove into Laramie.  Under the Interstate 80 freeway and into town, I pulled the truck over on a side street near some restaurants I'd spotted.  We took time to walk around the block and then to a taqueria for burritos.  By this time I'm anxious about time, knowing we'll go through the worst of the snow through mountain passes if we don't make Pocatello by the end of the day. 
   Back on the road the wind continued to howl across the road.  We creeped along with the hammer down, struggling to stay in the lane.  There were plenty of semis on the road which was comforting.  It wasn't bad enough to keep the truckers parked at the Flying J, it couldn't be all that bad.
Hi Planes photo by Eli

   Out the window we watched the landscape go by; snow drift fences, herds of antelope, wild horses, hillsides covered with huge spinning wind turbines, the softly rounded and jagged mountains, long trains moving along.  I couldn't remember the last time I'd made that drive, I 80 between Cheyenne and Salt Lake City.  
   At 4pm we crossed the Continental Divide for the first time.  The driving got a little better until the road grade increased again and we were back to climbing and fighting the wind.  Then we crossed the Continental Divide again.  Then we were rewarded with some declination.  
   At 5:30 we pulled into Little America.  Little America is a ridiculous truck stop.  It's huge with multiple gas islands, motel accommodations, gift shop, restaurant and bar.  Big enough to get a spot on the map.  Eli and I went to the restaurant to eat more salty road grub and make a final route and weather check before deciding which way to go.  Who knew tomato soup could hide chunks of ham?  The grilled cheese and fries were alright.  And when the waiter saw we didn't touch the soup, he took it off the bill.  Nice.

   According to the storm map we would be in the zone of heavy snow if we were still over here in 24 hours.  It appeared that whether we headed for Pocatello or crossed into Utah and then up to Idaho, we were going to find ourselves in the storm.  I decided on Pocatello for at least it was far enough to get through the worst of it but still close enough to get there at a decent hour.  Back on the road we exited onto Hwy 30 a mile later.  Suddenly we were leaving the 4 lane ribbon of I 80, heading into the dark following a two lane over hill and dale.  I got up behind a semi holding between 50 and 60 mph.  Without being able to see more than 1/2 mile ahead along the road, I resisted my urge to pass and we just tucked in for the drive.
   Eventually we were passing over the State Line into Idaho.  Now we were officially in the Northwest.  Rte 30 meandered along rolling around and up and down.  Town after town went by out the window as we made our way.  There must have been 50 "Historical Site"s along the route.
   Finally we were rolling down the off ramp at exit 67 into Pocatello.  The Thunderbird Motel was easy to find.  The room is great.  It looks as if it was decorated in 1974 but everything still looks new.  Super comfortable with character.
   The weather channel on the TV doesn't seem to agree about the quantity of snow accumulation in store for tomorrow.  So it's likely we'll get on the road for I 84 with the goal of making it to Burns, OR.  Pictures of Portland show plenty of snow.  If the snow does look bad, maybe we'll stick it out here.  Who knows?  Stay tuned to find out...
   BIRD of the DAY:  Bald Eagle
   CROP of the DAY:  Wind Mills
   HERD of the DAY:  Antelope

No Two Are Alike

   A french press and coffee grounds were among the items that came into the Motel 6 with us last night.  So at check out in the morning we filled the press with hot water in the lobby and had real coffee waiting for us when we got on the road.  But first we drove over to the Village Inn for breakfast which was surprisingly good for diner chain food.  With breakfast of omelet, rye toast, hash browns, and yogurt with granola and fruit consumed, we drove over to the Prairie Museum to view one of the eight great architectural wonders in Kansas.  The hours were clearly posted on the window at the museum so it was confusing that it was actually closed.  Then I remembered it was Martin Luther King Jr. day.  Oddly we did meet two cats who had a camp just outside the door of the museum.  Water dishes contained partially frozen water and a little insulated fort was made for them with hay bales.  Eli shot some pictures of the barn and we hung out with the cats a bit before making our way back to the main drag and heading north on State Route 25.
   After a little confusion with directions it was decided that 25 north was our new road until we reached Trenton, Nebraska where we hung a left on Route 35.  Eli and I continued our hawk count by state and despite the brief time we were in Nebraska, we counted 35 hawks and American Kestrels, far out numbering every other state we'd spent half days to cross.
   Beautiful farm and ranch land spread out all around us for a thousand miles.  The road was flat at times, straight as a ruler.  Other times it would rise and fall over rolling hills and round to the right and then left around hills and other obstacles.
   We pulled into a gas station in Yuma, Colorado to refuel and get some sandwiches.  Yuma boasts to be the home of the largest cottonwood tree in U.S. history.  It was 100 years old and apparently came down in 2000.  What remains is a cross section slab propped up against the wall of a municipal building.  It was really big.  Make a nice table.
   Up ahead traffic was crawling behind a parade made up of trooper cruisers and boom trucks all accompanying a semi slowly transporting something gigantic, so gigantic the utility lines needed to be lifted until the truck and it's gigantic passenger passed beneath.  We couldn't see what the thing was except that it was huge and green.

   Back on the road after sandwiches, it wasn't long that we caught up to the line of cars waiting behind the parade of trooper cruisers, boom trucks, and the truck with the gigantic green thing.  Then we were waiting too.  Eventually the parade stopped and the line of cars were ushered on to pass.  We got to drive right beside the gigantic green thing.  It was still not revealed to us what it was.  The thing was cylindrical and hidden beneath a green tarp.  I could only imagine given the setting and the shape of the thing that perhaps it was a grain silo headed to a farm down the road.  Less than an hour later, we repeated this as we passed the second mysterious and gigantic object on the back of another truck escorted with the trooper cars and boom trucks holding the utility lines out of the way.
   Through Greely and finally onto I 25 at Loveland and moments later the snow started.  Dense snow I first mistook for fog shrouded the interstate.  It seemed like it was pouring down.  We got to our exit in Fort Collins and it was still coming down.  Down the road and a right turn, through town to the other side and then a left, another left.  Soon we were pulling over the truck on the side of the Cache La Poudre River and there was Eli's friend Sarah and her dog Nepo.  We brought a few things inside her house and then out to have some of Ft. Collin's finest beer at Odell's.  At the brewery we met up with Jeanne and her daughter Sprout. When beer was done with, we picked up the ingredients at Sarahs, and went to Jeanne's house to make dinner.   Dinner was a secret recipe for tofu burritos that originated in Bodega Bay, California.  Again we find ourselves thousands of miles away from home, hanging with some sweet peeps and having a great time. 
   It was while dinner preparation was happening that I took a look into the weather forecast for the road ahead.  What I found out was that tomorrow night the winds will pick up in Wyoming with 65 mph gusts possible.  That means we'll leave tomorrow and try to get through Wyoming.  The following day Pocatello, ID is expecting up to 36" of snow.  So our planned trajectory may be changing.  It might come down to a choice between the wind and snow.  It seems winter has finally caught up with us about where I expected to find it. 
   Pictures to follow.
   STATES:  Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado
   BIRD of the DAY:  American Kestral
   Josh's Road Name for Nebraska: Jim Jimmy Jeff Jack Johnson (Nickname: "Shorty")
   DAILY DOWNER: Cattle Stock Yards

Sunday, January 15, 2012


   We woke up this morning at Rick and Hilary's house in Colombia, MO.  We were caffeinated and fed before leaving with Rick for a downtown driving tour and a walk about on the MKT along the Flat Branch.  The trail is part of a state wide rails to trails system that spans Missouri from east to west.
   We wandered through dense forest with gigantic wild grape vines and sycamore trees.  It felt like spring walking in the sun, too warm for a jacket.  In fact, it smelled and sounded like spring.  Trees agreed with the sentiment pushing out leaf buds.  Cardinals, robins, mourning doves agreed.  It was very spring like. 
Hinkson Creek

   By the time we got back to Rick and Hilary's apartment it was 1pm.  We loaded up and were back on the road by 2.  Eli drove our rig back out to I 70 and westbound.  The wind was whipping us around on the road and Eli kept us upright and moving forward.  We pulled off at Oak Grove to fill the tank and switch seats.  We got back on the road and headed towards Kansas City.  I thought getting through both Kansas Cities would be tricky with dense city traffic and a winding freeway with merging traffic from all sides.  Really the traffic wasn't so bad.  The freeway was rather empty in fact.  We did manage to catch up to and pass another 16' Penske pulling a car with New York plates.
  We drove into the sunset and then beneath the stars.  The road eventually flattened out and the wind finally gave up.  I kept the needle between 70 and 75.  Not many other cars or trucks out on this stretch, central Kansas. 
   We finally reached our goal at 10:30pm Central time; Colby, "Oasis on the Plains".  I write this from room 204 at the Motel 6.  It's late and we're exhausted.  The room isn't bad.  A table with chairs, microwave and fridge.   Quiet when the heater's not trying to meet it's obligations.  Tomorrow we'll get back on the road for our last leg of I 70 to Denver.  Maybe we'll check out Kansas' largest barn first, one of Kansas' 8 architectural  wonders.  Or maybe the Prairie art and history museum.  Or maybe we'll just get a bite to eat and leave this oasis for what lies ahead.  The grass is always greener and so we hop the fence. 
   Independent RADIO: KOPN Columbia, and KKFI 90.1 fm; Kansas City area radio featuring a Native American show intermingling traditional American Indian ceremonial songs with contemporary music; Intense! 
   Birds:  Coopers Hawk

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Flat Plains Driving

   I am so tired writing this.  The day started in Richmond, IN.  We made a french press of Dancing Goat coffee and drove across the street to fill the tank.  A tire looked to be low so we drove over to the truck stop.  Not until feeding the vend compressor did I realize that the compressor chuck would not reach the valve on the dually rear tires.  The woman behind the counter at the Pilot sent us over to the big rig shop behind the island of diesel pumps.   A young dude in his shop shirt and pants helped out and topped off all four tires on truck and trailer.
   Once that was done we were off, back on I70 westbound.  The terrain continued to roll for a few hours slowly leveling off until we were driving on the flattest of flat highways surrounded by empty flat fields that reached into the horizon occasionally interrupted by a clump of trees or a mound of dirt.  Eli spotted a hawk every so often and pointed it out.  Many of them were a beautiful rust color on their chest with dark wings.
   Eli got behind the wheel for the first time on the trip.  I was perfectly happy to continue driving but hadn't realized I had been depriving Eli of the experience.  She took over at teh Love's somewhere in Indiana.  We had gotten coffee and sandwiches there.
   Then it was time to drive more.  We drove through Indianapolis and then eventually St Louis with it's crazy huge silver arch.  Then more flat.  Our highway time concluded at exit 146 in Colombia, MO.  Eli had some friends from New Hampshire seacoast living there.  Rick and Hillary are really sweet and brought us in with smiles.  I had met them once briefly at an event at the BUOY Gallery in Kittery.  We drank wine and then Hillary, Eli and I walked around the area a bit talking and looking at these interesting houses.  A great dinner, conversation, hospitality.  My eyes dry, my mind fading.  Time to crash for the night.

STATES: Indiana, Missouri
BIRD of the DAY:  Ret Tailed Hawk
CROPS:  Corn and crucifixes

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday The 13th:::

   We finally departed Deborah's Rock Farm this morning at 10:45 am after some back up lessons from Uncle Sam.  Sam led us through the maze of windy country roads to the Wawa for a fill up and then on our way on Rte. 322 towards Rte 10 that would ultimately get us to the Pennsylvania turnpike.  Taking a day off at the farm yesterday was completely worth it and we recharged our batteries with quiet tranquility, family hospitality, good food and a comfy bed.  But today was all about the quest for miles.  The roads got a little hairy south of Pittsburgh as the snow was pelting down and high winds tried to whip us out of our lane especially crossing the massive Susquehanna River outside of Harrisburg.  But we took it easy and kept focused on coloring within the lines.  Driving this massive rig requires more concentration than a regular loaded van.  Especially with wind having its way with the truck eyes have to stay on the road ahead except for occasional glimpses at the elephant ear mirrors to see who's back there.  The Ford F450 Super Duty is really an incredible platform for this truck though.  It's impressive what it can manage as we wind up and down these rolling Pennsylvania hills. 
   We drove until 10:15 when we pulled into the Bob Evan's parking lot where the Yellow Beast would rest until tomorrow morning.  Our room was cheap and one wall is painted this very strange hue of blue.  The plants are happy to be out of the truck as are we.
   WORD OF THE DAY: friggatriskaidekaphobia
   BIRD OF THE DAY:  Turkey vulture
   RADIO STATION of the DAY:  WYSO 91.3 fm; Independent radio with Rev Cool playing International psychedelic rock, ska, hip hop in the middle of Ohio.
   STATES: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wake Up Surrounded By Love and Beauty

Overlooking the pond, Brandywine RIver in the background.  
  The farm is a special place in my mind that has been the scene of various moments in my life that are unforgettable.  It is a sanctuary of peace, an beautiful oasis that I am able to revisit on occasion.  A lived in museum soaked in ancient history that is utilized, lived in, comfortable.  While formal in appearance the atmosphere at the farm is welcoming and casual.  Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Sam are extremely gracious hosts, young and flexible.  They had no contention with us pulling in at 12:30 am and even stayed up with us until small hours visiting before we all needed to collapse in bed for the night. 
   Today we watch the weather channel.  Snow is falling in the void we left behind in Maine.  More accumulating around the Great Lakes.  Forecasters on the Weather Channel are very excited to have something to report on and dramatize each snowflake and every salt truck on the road.  We have been invited to stay another night which sounds nice.  But tempered by the call of the road which we have only begun to heed.  The snow is falling West of here and appears we will encounter one of two minor fronts no matter when we depart.  All to plot now is how to hit the snow during daylight.  

This Is Happening:::

   Wednesday was a reminder that plans should be adaptable.  The alarm woke us up at 7:30.  We still had more cleaning and packing.  It was noon when we were finally saying goodbye to our neighbor, friend, landlady.  Eli in her truck, me in the moving van, we drove out of the driveway and down the road, leaving our secure reality behind saying goodbye to every tree, road, and house that had been the back drop of our lives for these years.
   More goodbyes around town needed to happen.  So we managed to disregard our original departure time goal and accepted that we were going to start late.  Finally at 3pm we had the pick up on the trailer, trailer hooked up to the moving van, and we rolled out.  Goodbye Kittery, goodbye Maine, goodbye Piscatiqua, farewell Portsmouth, bridges, New Hampshire.
Eli Took This Photo of the road at sunset in Connecticut, 01.11.12
   Seven states in that first day.  Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  Rain started somewhere in New Jersey.  Into Pennsylvania it picked up with wind until we were barreling through the hose sharing the highway with semis and cautiously avoiding the texting drivers.  It was slow going into the rolling hills of the Keystone State through the inclimate weather and we eventually lost our way missing a connection.  Exhaustion and a long day of driving were wearing on Eli and I as we tried to right our tangle and find our way to Deborahs Rock Farm in West Chester, PA. Finally we arrived, driving the long way along the Brandywine to the farm.  In the doorway were my Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Sam cheering us on.  What a relief to be there.  And the sight of the big barn, the old house, reassuring.  We were inside with beers in hand within 5 minutes.  Day one concluded.

Last Night in Kittery Point:;

    After a day of packing the truck with help from our awesome friends, we were still cleaning and packing remaining details into wherever they would fit.  Finally at 10:30pm we left the apartment to take a farewell walk down to Seapoint Beach.   The air was frigid with a wind picking up, the sky clear with leftovers from a full moon a few days before.   There were no cars on the road to the beach, and the night was so quiet that we could appreciate the whisper of wind through the pines and the rattle of a few remaining oak leaves still clinging to the trees.
   At Seapoint the sea was so calm, with the most gentle, tiny waves lapping the shore.  We sat on a driftwood tree trunk and looked out at the majesty of the place and the moment we were sharing.
   Back at the house we realized our sleeping bags were at least half way back into the packed moving truck.  I was able to hook mine with a gardening implement.  In the garage below our apartment I found an old comforter and a rag sheet that had been in the back of my van for covering precious cargo.  With these we made our bed on the floor, on the mattress, surrounded by the empty apartment where we had lived for 4 years, and Eli had lived for five years before that.   

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Thanks to our beautiful friends
   We picked up our truck.  Then we traded it in for another.  Mellow Yellow.  With help from a small army of friends, we packed the mother out.  No time for disappointment at what lies beyond reach for the next 10 days.  All that ramains is to throw a couple more whatnots in the back, get behind the wheel and go.  That will come after the cleaning, last goodbying, and hooking up the trailer.

   In the back of the moving van just as we had begun packing the apartment into it.  Everything out of our storage space and my studio was already in.   Our friend Ross is in the back with me and Marcus.  Ross says to me, "hmm, smells like P.B. Blaster in here".  I have a can of P.B. Blaster in here somewhere" I reply.  Then I realize.  I begin pulling boxes out of the stack, trying to remember where the box of lubricants and alike is packed.  Quickly I find the box, saturated with orange solvent.  I grab it and hand it off to Marcus to get out of the truck.  But not before dripping on the floor, another box or two, etc.  Luckily a rag in the box absorbed most of the contents of the can.  But yeah, smells like P.B. Blaster in there. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Down To The Wire:::

   Today is the final packing day.  Our list of things to accomplish is too long for reality.  Add in breakfast and dinner plans with friends and the result is insanity producing.  All of this under the influence of the full moon.
   We'll be stopping by the bank, picking up more boxes, emptying our storage space into my studio, throwing the remaining bits of remnants of our lives into either a box or the trash.  Doesn't even really matter which at this point.  It's come to that.  No more plotting, organizing, sorting; that time has past.  It is time to fill the boxes and seal them up.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

End of an Era

   I've been living here in Kittery Point for over four years now.  The "center" of this tootsie pop of a populated area is Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  So employment in these parts usually involves crossing the state line into Live Free or Die Land on a daily basis.  The most direct means to cross the tumultuous Pascatiqua River is over the Memorial Bridge.  Since I've lived here there has been a ongoing public discussion about what to do with the Memorial Bridge.  The bridge is falling apart.  Nobody has put a coat of paint on it in a long time.  It has been publicly known that the bridge wouldn't last much longer.  And when it's useful life is expired, crossing into Portsmouth was going to get tricky.  Relying on that bridge for years to cross into Portsmouth for work, Eli and I couldn't imagine having to rely on the alternatives for possibly years while the Memorial Bridge was replaced. 
   Over the past few years during a routine inspection by some DOT inspectors, the bridge would be shut down immediately only to reopen weeks later with some get-by patch on the problem area.  This occurred a few times, three if we're to to believe Wikipedia's version of events.
   This might sound frightening to readers.  Be assured there are two other bridges to get from Maine into the Portsmouth area.  Heading West from the Memorial Bridge you've got your Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, part of the Rte. 1 Bypass, and then there's the I 95 bridge cleverly named Piscataqua River Bridge.  What is so distressing about temporarily losing use of the Memorial Bridge aside from it being the connection from central Kittery to central Portsmouth, is that it is currently the only legal passage across the Piscataqua by foot.  Every other option requires a car and driving it or hitching a ride with somebody else driving. Not only that, but the Sarah Mildred Long bridge is quickly diminishing structurally and will also require replacing in the not far future.  Leaving only the Interstate.  The idea of living way out on this giant potato farm sticking out North into Canada, with just one tenuous thread connecting us to the Lower 47, gives me a sensation of looking over the side of the ship and spotting a large opening in the hull.
   There have been endless open meetings where citizens can voice their opinion on what to do about replacing the Memorial Bridge, how the replacement can be safer, how to support transportation alternatives to driving while the bridge is being replaced.  The State of New Hampshire kept promising to pony up half of the replacement funds needed to get the job done.  While Maine politicians sat on their hands unwilling to accept any of the offers coming from across the line.  Then came the bridge inspection this past summer.  The last straw.  Without notice and easily a year ahead of optimistic schedule, the bridge was inspected and immediately closed for good to automobile use.  Since then it has remained open to foot traffic, also allowing for people to push their bicycles or scooters, mopeds across it's wooden plank sidewalks, the lift still operated to allow passage of large ships carrying scrap metal, salt, underwater communications cable and the like.  That is, until Monday, January 9th, at 8 pm.  That is when the bridge will remain in it's lifted state until the giant wreckahs come to haul it away.  We're bidding adieu to Kittery Point and Maine two days later, which feels like an appropriate time to seek life somewhere across the Piscataqua.
The entrance to the Memorial Bridge, 6:15pm Saturday January 7th

Friday, January 6, 2012

Roots and Routes

   For some unfortuate disruption in blogdom, I'm having no luck embedding Google maps into the blog posts.  So you'll just have to follow links if you care.  

Behold the master plans!

I 70 to Denver, then up to I 80
3,374 Mi.

Seven Days:
    Kittery to PA
    PA to Indianapolis, IN,
    Indianapolis to Salida, KS
    Salida to Ft. Collins
    Ft. Collins to Twin Falls
    Twin Falls to Burns, 
   Burns to Portland

Nine Days:
Kittery to West Chester, PA 400mi
West Chester to Dayton, OH, 440mi
Dayton to St. Louis, 420mi
St. Louis to Salida, KS 422 mi
Salida to Denver 433 Mi
Denver TO Green River, WY, 366mi.
Green River to Twin Falls, 344mi.
Twin Falls to Bend, OR, 443mi.
Bend to Portland, 160mi.

I-70 into Denver or
    North on I-25 to Cheyenne
I-80 West in Cheyenne
    North on HWY 30 at LITTLE AMERICA
into Idaho toward Pocatello
    to I-84 to Boise
onto Hwy 20 West to Bend
    North on 97 t0 197 to The Dalles
West on I-84 into Portland (less than 100 miles)

click here to See The Map:::

OR I 70 to Kansas City, then SOUTH to I 40
North on HWY 93 at Kingman, AZ (eastern AZ) toward Las Vegas, NV
to Eli, NV then
on HWY 50 to 278 N. to Carlin, NV
onto I-80 to Winnemucca
North on HWY 95 (Veterans Mem.) to Burns, OR
onto Rte. 20 West to Bend, OR
North on 97 to 197 to The Dalles
West on I-84 into Portland (less than 100 miles)

3946 Mi.,Kittery+Point,+ME+03905&gl=us&ei=WM_4TqOlE4jW0QGi9eXFAg&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=image&resnum=2&ved=0CCUQ8gEwAQ
Eight Days:
Kittery to West Chester, PA 400mi
West Chester to Dayton, OH, 440mi
Dayton to St. Louis, 420mi
St. Louis to Oaklahoma City 457 Mi
Oak City to Santa Fe 539 Mi.
Santa Fe to Bullhead City 563 Mi.
Bullhead City to Winnemucca 567mi
Winnemucca to PDX 504 Mi. 

I 80 Straight Shot
Schenectady then WEst on I90 to Chicago then onto I80
OR cut NORTH from I70 in Kansas City to pick up I80

3,140 Mi

6mi/gal =  $1,831  

We're In

   Our rental applications have been accepted.  Utilities in our name.  Our new address is 5804 North Montana Street Portland, Oregon 97212.

House, North Michigan:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Start Here:

   Hi friends, 
 This is the place to follow Eli and I on our adventure as we prepare to-and finally embark on-our Westbound trajectory.  Right now it is Thursday night and we are home after a five day trip to see family and friends in New York and Vermont. 

At 1pm today we got to Dover  to pick up Eli's truck from the shop.  I drove across the street to the car wash and got the van the Deluxe wash.  We emptied the van of all its contents and vaccuumed it.   Then I drove the van to Raymond, NH to drop off the van and sign over the title to Roland.  Roland and I drove around a bit to try and recreate a problem that started up on the drive from Dover to Raymond.  It was just after 5 when Eli and I drove away in her truck.  We went to Portsmouth Brewery to meet our friend Emily for dinner.  Inside the door we ran into Eli's 91 year old friend Masy and we invited her to eat with us.  I got fish and chips. Eli ordered the veggie sandwich.  Masy had the Korean BBQ Taco special.  Emily just had a few fries and a beer. 

   On December 31 we drove to Lowell to celebrate the coming of the New Year with our friends at the 119 gallery.  I performed with the group I've played in this year called Grau Garten.  WE also backed up Crank Sturgeon who counted us in to the new year.  There was late night sonic celebration and we were finally under our sleeping bags at quarter after three.  The next day we loaded up and said farewells. It was January 1st  and warm enough to stand in the sun in just a shirt.  

Back on the road and headed for New Paltz to see Eli's brother Eric, friend Stephanie, and nephews Tristan and Liam.  24 hours wasn't nearly enough time to have with those guys.  We made the most of it the next morning, running around the yard playing tag, hot potato pine cone, football toss, hide and seek and my favorite, garden laps. 
By 2 we were on northbound I87 to Schenectady.  We had dinner and spent the night with Virginia and Fred Thompson, Eli's parents.  Breakfast the next morning and a terribly cold walk through the winding roads of Niskayuna, New York.  

We received word that our friend in Portland had met with the landlord of a house we were interested in moving into.  The house sounded nice if a bit small and close to the interstate, so our friend faxed us rental applications.  Now we were faced with the task of tracking down the information we needed to fill out the forms.  We were only partially successful.  The rest of the forms would have to be finished later.  In the mid afternoon we headed to Perecca's for the awesome mozzarella sandwiches on our way to Anita and David's house in Scotia.  

David cooked us dinner and we spent some time. Part of the evening we would spend completing our rental application for a 2 bedroom house on North Montana in Portland.  Late night.  Next morning we had breakfast with Eli's folks at my folk's house in Scotia.  Then came the goodbyes.  

Three hours later we were driving on 107 in Vermont, still reduced to one lane.  It had just been reopened three days prior.  Hurricane Irene tore up that part of the state.  We saw large banks of earth removed from the river basin, foundations that had lost their houses, houses that had appeared to have been lifted and then dropped in place.  An hour later we were at our friend's house way atop a hill overlooking Barre.  I've known Greg since I lived in Arcata in 1992.  We went to Colorado together that summer and then were roommates and band mates in the years to follow.  I conducted the marriage between him and Sue in their back yard back when they lived at their first house in Randolph.  Now they have two kids we really like, Cooper and Scarlet. We got up this morning at 6:45 while everyone was getting ready to head out to school and jobs.  We watched the outside go from black to dark shades of blue giving way to other colors as daylight returned.The temperature outside had risen from zero to 20 degrees and there was a soft snow that descended slowly as if each flake had its own parachute.  

We left the Davis' house headed for Waterbury to see Helen one more time.  We had a cup of coffee together and talked for about 45 minutes.  An Amtrak came and left.  Then we had to say goodbye again and get back in the van.  The roads were a bit of a mess with fallen snow and the sand/salt mixture spread to fight off the ice.  The van was turning a solid hue of gray with all the road schmutz being tossed into the air from car tires.  We drove South on Highway 89.  

Our rental applications were accepted and we were offered the house.  But should we wait and see what else we find?