Wyche San Francisco trip July 21 - 31, 2006

Friday, July 21st
We set out for San Francisco at 10am Friday, July 21st, 2006. An uneventful day other than the new 80 mph IH10 speed limit had trucks whoosh by, but traffic was light. I never did get a working radio into this Nissan Altima so I had many thoughts to myself. We ate our picnic lunch along the way and stopped for the night in Van Horn, TX.

Recycling Art in Van Horn, TX None of the motels carried ONL, so I got no Tour De France video. We paid $64 for a motel and ate at Chuy's. A curio establishment was next door sporting all manner of recycling castoff metal products into art.

Saturday, July 22nd
In the morning light I took a picture of the recycling monument. We ate at the Sands Motel Restaurant. Unlike at Chuy's last night the waitress was attentive enough to swat flies that wandered in. She said the condition was unusual.

We knew this was to be a long driving day but still were not underway until 9am. In El Paso at a Target we bought a side window shade. There was a guy on a cell phone just outside that was fascinating to listen to as he randomly and smoothly mixed english and spanish into his conversation.

A time zone change just west of El Paso started a confusion that lasted all the way to S.F. Nobody messed with the car clock, but also we could not recall if it had ever been moved to CDT. After Carol played with her cell phone she couldn't recall if the altered hour had actually be saved properly or not. Somewhere in the New Mexican desert we stopped for our 2nd (and last) picnic. As long as the wind blew (and boy! did it) it was pleasant enough.

Weather listing: Phoenix 116 on July 22, 2006

At 6pm (5pm?) local we stopped for supper in Phoenix, AZ since we knew our bodies were back on CDT.. Having failed in a 20 minute search for a local eatery, we stopped a block off of IH10 at a Subway Shop. I swung the car door open and it was like someone had just turned a hair dryer blower on me. It was a definite assault on the face. We hurried into the sandwich shop. While we ate I noticed that the building thermostat was set to 82. Sure felt cool. We didn't find out until Sunday evening by looking in the paper that it was 116oF in Phoenix. Yuma registered 120. These 2 were the hottest recorded temperatures in the world for July 22, 2006.

When we filled up with gasoline just before the AZ - CA border the temperature was still way above 90 which worried me about camping out this evening.

I calculated that we would get to Joshua Tree National Park about 10:15 pm (after midnight body time). Carol was a good sport about it. We drove right past a large thunderstorm just inside the CA border and it followed us to the park. We steadily climbed in altitude once in CA. I had wanted to stay at the 4300 ft camp, but it was late and the storm might catch us before we made camp, so we stayed at Cottonwood at 3400 ft. There were no lights nor super clear instructions at the site. We were not alone, but neither was it crowded, even though it was a weekend. The website said it tended to fill up on the weekends. Not this one! I judged the temperature to be in the high 80s, and the rain fly on the tent killed the light breeze. It rained about 3 drops on us, but did cause a cloud cover that ruined my anticipated star gazing. Carol woke me about 3am to the sound of 3 or 4 coyotes yipping it up. It lasted a couple minutes and then silence. Another storm came by about 4am, but also passed south of us. Just thunder. It was definitely warm, but I slept well enough. What to you want for $10?

Sunday, July 23rd
We awoke, took ablutions, broke camp, slammed car doors and left. Long about Indio, CA we tried the University / 34th Street exit for a local breakfast joint, but it was not to be had. Grumble. I gave up and headed back to IH10. At the last second I saw a motel sign and turned along the frontage road to find old U.S. 99 and an 24hr restaurant next to a gas station and motel. We disturbed the cook and the waitress, who did not speak much english. We both ordered coffee, eggs, sausage and hash browns. The waitress asked, "You want eggs?". Carol puzzled over this because she'd already written down something. Ah, ha! "Scrambled", Carol said. I nodded for the same and away she went for the coffee. I went next door to the gas station. The newspaper bin for the Los Angeles Times was empty. I leaned in the door and inquired about that. The young guy shrugged, saying the deliverer was often late. Still no news about the Tour De France. Back in the restaurant I asked the waitress, "Is the clock over the checkout counter correct?". She shook her head. Carol and I mused over what time it was and finally concluded it was 6:30am on a Sunday morning. Early bird, old, tourists. Ha!

Carol steered us around L.A. with the intent to take 138 over to IH5. The map didn't tell us that it was under construction, so we bumped along on various, slow, undulating roads. We knew was were getting close when we began crossing paths with the aqueducts.

The next wonderment came around 4pm as we crossed over the coastal range to U.S. 101. We took 152 and were shaking our heads for the 9 miles of backed up, east bound traffic all needing to make a right turn (way back there). For a moment I joked that it'd be a laugh if as we got to U.S.101 there was a sign turning us back to the tail end of this river of cars on our left. Carol said she was a Texan and there would be another way! But instead our side continued to be trafficless all the way into Gilroy. Carol said, "Yep, there's the smell of garlic." I said that I couldn't smell it. Now that we were a block closer, I gave a deep sniff. Cough! Cough! "Oooo. That burns! I sure smell garlic now."

In due time we arrived at Rob and Tatiyana's. Via cell phone contact we got final landing instructions, and Rob was our docking guide. We got the aligned wrong the 1st time, but eventually unloaded our gear and selves into Aaron's bedroom.

The unusual central California heat wave was under full swing. Doing their part, the Olsons left the house unairconditioned. Thanks to the high ceilings and numerous windows (and a couple of cold beers) I was fine. Went to market with Tatiyana. We ate on the back patio and stayed outside into the night, talking.

Monday, July 24th
2400 Taraval, S.F., CA in the Sunset neighborhood

Carol's classes ran from 12 to 4:30pm. Uneventfully, we drove up U.S.101 until it turned into 19th street. At Santiago we made 3 right turns onto Taraval, traipsed down to 27th, turned left and parked. It was 11:30. We inquired in the Yoga building about places to eat. Plenty of them! We walked across the street and ate in the diminutive Sunset Cafe, named after this neighborhood. Just as I got my mouth around the hamburger, Brett phoned and kept me at Sunset Cafe. That went on until the cell phone he gave me gave up the ghost. Used up battery. Too late for me to get over to Alameda across the bay and return by 4:30... at least according to my www.511.org printed out instructions. I asked the counter person where the nearest book store was. Sensibly, she said the library was just up the road about 3 blocks. But I wanted to buy a book. She thought for a while and said 43rd & Sloat. Then she went on about how the streets are numbered east-west and letters of the alphabet north-south. "But this is Taraval.", I said. "The first letter of each street, I mean", she corrected. I nodded and left.

small map of Parkside neighborhood in San Francisco Red is where I walked. Yellow is where we drove     Let's see... we came north to Santiago, then back south to Taraval. S, T. Sloat. Alphabetical order. "What was she trying to tell me?". I walked downhill toward 43rd looking at our plasticized, folding map. Jeez. Every 4th building seems to be a place to eat. "How can they all stay in business? S.F. is supposed to be expensive.", I thought. As I approached what I thought was 30th, I saw the place numbers were 2703, 2709, ... I just left Carol at 27th. What's going on?

Walk to 43rd and Sloat. Remember the kid's book On Beyond Zebra? Well this one would be Not Quite to Zebra. The alphabet theme sputtered at Wawona, skipped X..., and gave it up at truncated Yorba. Instead it was Sloat. No book store. But I can see the Pacific Ocean and some sort of park is south. I asked a guy buying a vending machine newspaper if he knows of a book store. "No", after mulling it over for a bit. "Oh well", I sighed. I saw my first Doggy Diner (picture belongs to kunmr.chem.ku.ecu/~dave/). Doggy Diner Later I read about it. Its one of the looooong time establishments that one either hates or loves. The "park" is the Zoo. *Could* be a book store in there, I suppose.

Oh well, I walked back up the hill via Ulloa so as to see different stuff (and maybe a book store). This whole place seems to be about 98% Asian. Chinese? Korean? Malaysian? Not Japanese, though. I can recognize them now after numerous trips while working for SMS.

At 26th there was a park with a public restroom. I was beginning to wonder. At 19th I turned north for a block and headed back down Taraval and came upon the Library. Monday afternoon, 4 ish, and it was crowded. I looked for a book about Guardianships because of Dave Shaw being out-of-it with an aneurism and things looking grim. No books. Even used their S.F. library search system.

Met Carol at the Yoga building door. We drove down to the ocean, parking at the Zoo. Lots of space now. Water was cold. At 2 places along the way fisherman had landed 8 lb. fish. Their english (or knowledge of fish type) wasn't sufficient to tell us what kind. We walked around to the front of the Zoo, which took some doing. The "front" seems to have changed more than once. "Oops! They closed at 5. Here it is nearly 6 and people are still straggling out." Pricey at $11/adult. Guess you don't just drop in.

Robert Olson garden harvest for supper several stages of the fungus lantern stickhorn

Rush hour was over. We retraced our path to Los Altos. Tatiyana had harvested more backyard goodies and made this wonderfully tasty basil and green-bean dish along with a huge salad with meat and diced ripe fruit. Rob showed me the bane of gardens in the area: (Lysurus mokusin) Lantern Stinkhorn. If you let it get a hold in your garden, its hard to get rid of. In even small quantities it smells just horrid and attracts flies. Rob rooted them out until light was failing.

Tuesday, July 25th
After a leisurely morning of coffee, newspaper, and the like, Carol drove and dropped me off at the Daly City Bart station (on the 2nd try). I bought $20 worth of fare, lucked out (50-50) on which train I took. This one did go all the way to Oakland City Central. Then I followed the notes, not used yesterday, to locate the #63 bus stop, 1 block from the Bart station. I waited about 20 minutes. A black woman was driving. All others on the bus were Asian, excepting me. I kept a close eye out for Monarch and pulled the cord. Alas, she turned the corner and let me out at the end of the next block... 1 block too far.

I was knocking on the air plane hanger door just at noon. No one seemingly home. Wandering around, I chanced upon a guy with a boxer dog directed me upstairs and my "work" day was started. Roger Owen gave me a complete tour and showed me to the unix workstation desk. I was right at home. I met Andy Yu. He pointed out the Roach Coach that had just honked outside about where my bus should have stopped.

Is it all CITA201 scanners that go with Roach Coaches? Oh well, a sandwich, chips, and a drink.

Through discussion I came to understand that Andy lives at 23rd & Pacheco. He insisted on giving me a ride back to the Yoga building. Thus I stayed later. I'd have had to leave at 2:30 in order to meet Carol by 4:30. We left at 3:30 and were so early, Andy took me by his house and gave me a tour. I met his wife, viewed his backyard garden, and sunned in the sunroom, and still got to wait for the school to let out.

We had heard about the Ferry Building regaining prominence after the over shadowing freeway was removed (can you imagine removing a freeway?). We drove along Ulloa, with its several way ups and steeps downs until it intersected Market. Fun things were seen along the way. We caught a parking place at 14th. The parking meters are something. A nickel gets you 2 minutes, a dime 4, a quarter 10 minutes. All the change I had been saving for the bus (that I didn't take), was shoved in there. As I was plugging dimes in I saw that the time wasn't going up. The damn thing has a 1 hour maximum but smirkingly took my surplus change. Bah!

We walked toward the Ferry Bldg., but were only down to 3rd street by the time 20 minutes had gone by. We stopped for something to drink. Carol stayed put, and I briskly walked uphill to the car. Further down Market I tried to make room for a car to turn right, but when I moved forward at the next green light, the Altima lurched over a high corner with a thud. I stopped soon afterward, but no damage showed. We drove past the Ferry Bldg. To the east around Bryant we saw a parking lot. We'll save a visit until another day, we kind of needed to be up around Guerro and 16th to meet Rob and Tatiyana at a Tapas Restaurant, our treat. We arrived a few minutes early. A call from Tatiyana. They had driven into town and so would be about 15 minutes late. Reservations are held for 15 minutes. We could see the place was next to vacant of patrons. No worry. We walked around the block. There was another more occupied Tapas place down the block. Lots of restaurants. All were sidewalk friendly. When we got back, people were starting to come into the place. Rob dropped Tatiyana off and went to get the car valeted (can that be a verb?). We stood outside the restaurant's open door as one chauffeured car after another dropped people off. With Rob's return we beheld that the restaurant was over half filled. Amazing what 7:15pm does to occupancy.

Credit Tatiyana with finding this place where we had a great time and the complete bill+tax+tip came to under $100 in downtown San Francisco. We passed around the long list of treat possibilities, crossing off stuff we definitely didn't want (due to dietary concerns) and checking items especially desired. Our waiter approved of our choices, delivered drinks and spaced out our items over the next hour and a half. A delay in our first of them was due to that influx of people we saw. It was a largish (30?) party seated above and in the back. Could that also serve as a stage under other conditions? When the seemingly obligatory impromptu serenade of the birthday party's celebrity happened, Tatiyana was pleased they chose a Mexican tune less often played, "not Cielito Lindo, thank God", she said. We shared stories about such and about other public displays for embarrassment or narcissism. The morrow was a workday for Rob so we didn't carry on late into the night. It is hard to compartmentalize the unpleasant, nighttime, highway drive back to Los Altos in such a way as to minimize its affect on the fun you've just had.

Wednesday, July 26th
Car trouble. I drop Carol off and go look for a service shop. Find one at 19th & Pacheco. Will be done this afternoon. Brett's cell phone comes in handy. They call me while I'm riding the Muni for further instructions. Alas, the Muni breaks down. I cope. Find a Bart station. Buy a sandwich lunch in Oakland. Food on bus? Nobody knows! Today the bus stops one block too short. I drink my drink and mosey to work.

The door is locked! I turn around to see Andy and Roger Owen in a rental truck pull up. "We're off to get furniture." "Can I help?", I ask. Need I have asked! Moving furniture in Redwood City. Stuck in traffic. Again use Brett's cell phone. Warn Carol to go get the car. The walk will surely do her good... Its all uphill. Andy gets me back to Sunset Cafe at 6:58pm (it closes at 7). The Ferry Bldg is again our goal. We park at Tatiyana's suggested parking garage practically across the street from the Ferry Bldg. We went straight to Ferry Building Wine Merchant to try and catch Peter Granoff, Tatiyana's brother. Alas, they were closing up and Peter was making sales left and right by the case. So we left a note and sought something to eat. We really were too late for the "good stuff" and opted for dessert at Taylor's To Go. (If we had not been late, we could have... Ferry Bldg. Eats!. Back that the car, we leaned over the railing and took this stitched skyline photo(s).

S.F. Bay Bridge to Oakland

We drove along the Embarcadero then crisscrossed the busy nightlife streets until we happened upon Van Ness, a.k.a. US101, where upon we turned for Los Altos. After another hour we arrived in Los Altos hungry once more and tried to find some substantial food in Los Altos, but 10pm is too late for this berg. However, the Olsons served up ice cream and sherbet and all was well.

Thursday, July 27th
When Carol and I drive off for S.F., its noon Austin time. No wonder I'm ready to get going. Today its BART to Oakland; bus to Monarch St. This time I get it correct -- the bus stops directly across from my destination. Andy has made me promise to play some ping pong with him. I don't think he gets much opportunity. Its one of his favorite sports. But first there's the trip out to the Roach Coach. At the end of the meal Brett calls and we talk for a long time. Poor Andy! Finally, there we are mano-a-mano. During pregame practice its easy to see I've been away from the game too long. Still, this is also true of Andy. We're both sloppy. He is twice victorious and then anxious to beat the traffic and we rush off.

Elspeth, the Olson's daughter, my niece, 18, has returned home for her only weekend this summer from a desk job at Yosemite National Park. At her job there is no air conditioning and its been consistently at 100 degrees the last few weeks. Her work place is cut off from the rest of the park because of a landslide some time back that is too vast to clear away. What should be a 15 minute trip is hours to join with other Park personnel.

Elspeth is back for a "dance night", Friday night up in S.F. It includes ballroom and popular dances and is great for mixing it up instead of just being with one partner. But for this evening we get to enjoy her company. As part of the Stanford program she is going to England for 2 "semesters" at Cambridge, staying at a house for Stanford students. Her study while she is there is still awaiting approval. Its audacious enough: Presenting J.R.Tolkien's works as a myth origin for England. Contrast this with other myth pantheons. They all got their start somewhere. Quite ambitious for a Stanford Sophomore!

1st day Salmon Our meal over which all the talking takes place is another triumph for Tatiyana. She wrangled a place in line for the first salmon in the stores from the just begun local run. So its steaks from local salmon on the outdoor grill, salad from the backyard garden, a remarkable homemade lemonade from backyard lemons, a loaf of bread laced with walnuts and California wine. Is this a California happening or what?

[Here was to go a relating of some of the tempest surrounding Hetch Hetchy renativelization (no its not a real word), but doing so will delay this another week, so ... some other time.]

Friday, July 28th
Carol's last day of class. I took BART for the last time and j u s t missed the #63 bus in Oakland. With my "free" 30 minutes I wandered for a few blocks to find a farmer's market of 3 blocks in length with many good smells and loads of fresh vegetables of all kinds. A trio of acoustic musicians played at one corner.

At "work" I met the boss who showed me where all the real equipment manuals were for 6 MEV linear accelerators from Varian and I perused them while I ate my last load of Roach Coach food until the next 201 scanner I encounter. Poor Andy was tasked with real work and there was no time for ping pong. Indeed he rushed to finish so we could leave 30 minutes earlier than Mon-Thr to beat the weekend S.F. rush. And boy did we! Andy's done this run at least 1500 times and he didn't hit a single pylon! I told Andy that I still had one more adventure to take and made him drop me at Fell & Haight along the way he usually drives. I bid him a fond farewell and started walking Haight Street.

Edward Kluth asked me to sample a pastry of the kind he did on his last trip here. My goal was to capture same and take it to him. His only description was "a poppy seed cake that was more like a strudel, located in a Ukranian bakery next to a synagogue on Haight St". From my handy map I knew the street was some 18 S.F. blocks long. So up hills and down hills I walked looking for bakeries and synagogues. Turns out there are 18 synagogues in S.F. but none of them in the Haight. Not knowing this I stopped people on the street, went into the Fillmore Whole Foods store to ask, a bookstore to ask, and finally just anyone I thought looked Jewish! Without fail I was informed that there was no synagogue around there. Oh well! It was still a very fine cross section of S.F. that I saw on that walk. Now. How to reach Carol? Walk! Haight Street deadends at Golden Gate Park which borders the Sunset neighborhood.

About 4:45pm Carol phoned Brett's cell phone at which point I was up to Judah & 12th (that is 12-J and I needed to get to 27-T). She didn't want to try to intersect with me via car, so I walked some more. I could see the big hill and knew I needed to be on the other side, so I zigzagged but still hit the Sunset Reservoir, darn it. A couple extra blocks and I got to the Sunset Cafe about 5:10pm. I was downing a big drink when one of Carol's cohorts, Donna, from the Restorative Yoga class dropped in. She chose to eat supper before driving back to her home in Sacramento. She'd been staying with friends in Palo Alto, just as we are staying with Rob and Tatiyana. She was very talkative and I wheedled out of her that she had been a regional water resources expert. So I brought up all the Hetch Hetchy controversy as it relates to water. Donna was very helpful in giving depth to the sound bites going around. [But because of reasons cited above I won't go into it!]

We talked until 6:15pm when we just had to get going to get back to Los Altos because Rob and Tatiyana were taking us out to supper next door in Mtn. View. No problem. We found Elspeth all dressed up, waiting for her ride. We gave her our goodbyes, since it was clear that she'd still be sleeping when we left on the morrow.

There are numerous places to eat in down town Mtn. View, thanks to Google and AOL being in the vicinity. Tonight's choice was The Tied House . As this was a Friday night and we are in the habit of going out with a group to eat on Fridays and I have made a habit of remembering those events on our website (a harmless hobby). So check out that link for this place [we'll wait here]. After supper we walked several blocks (No I did not collapse from too much walking this day). One of my sand volleyball cohorts wanted just a small grill for the back porch. He was tired of lugging the big, black griller from the back. Well, one cheap add on led to another and they ended up with a propane kitchen stove of a thing. He was kicking himself the day after for being self lured into spending such a large sum for an item that was not even what they set out to buy. THAT is why I took this photo through a display window. That puppy's tag was $2999 (without the add ons).

Inside Tied House, Mtn. View, CA Rival Grill for one bought by Duane S. last month

As we talked Carol mentioned that we had seen a rocket (very much like a spaceship) in parts on big flat bed trucks coming at us from the west along IH10 in West Texas. I said it must belong to Jeff Bezos. Rob said he knew Jeff way back when. Tatiyana quizzed Rob about this and he told her that she'd met him and Ray Tomlinson, the inventor of email, at a party back in the day. So close, yet so far.

Saturday, July 29th Got off before 10am and headed straight for the coast. We first tried 17-Mile Drive. We pulled into the pay station. It was so foggy I asked the guy if we would be able to see anything at all and that we were headed south to Point Lobos anyway. He said, "Turn around over there just past the station." That saved us $18, right there. As we drove south the fog let up. We pulled into Point Lobos.

Words about Sea Loin Rocks Sea Loins look like dead mullet left on shore Cute, brash, squirrel

We paid up and parked. It was windy and a bit cold. I hadn't brought any long sleeve anything (remember 7 days ago I was in 116 degrees!). I put on a shirt over my T-shirt and put on long pants. So it was off to see the Sea Loins. Carol caught sight of the sardines first. We loved watching the incoming tide subsume the jutting rocks. There was "spout" that was quite noisy. You would hear a WHAM followed moments later by a hurled sideways stream of water. It wasn't consistent, but you could expect it every minute or two. At some point we had to admit that the clouds had become fog had become rain. That sent us further south a few miles to yet another pull-in where we watch Elephant Seals (and squirrels) sun themselves. They were 10 yards from where the crowds stood. There were maybe 50 or 60 scattered around. One large dead on was lying about 10 feet into surf. The rising tide was bobbling it and finally rolled it over. At the other end of this short beach one was out in the water making this loud "Stick, Stick,..." noise and then would drop down below water level. Turns out that our "dead" seal was just inordinately lethargic. Once the water got high enough it started paddling for deeper water. We continued south on U.S.101 / 1. Carol estimated another 40 miles to a decent size town to replenish our gasoline, and since the needle was on E, we stopped at the next refueling station. We paid for about $20 of "the most expensive gas in America". You had to go ask how much it was a gallon before you gassed up. It was $4.35/gallon.

We beat it over the coastal range at State #46, crossed IH5, turned right at State 99 to Bakersfield, then into the desert on State 58; into lower California. It was dark by the time we passed Edwards Air Force Base. We selected Boron, CA for supper. Thinking the "real" town must be on the other side of the highway we back tracked to the well lite area. Oops! Mistake. That took us along Borax Road which dead ended at Borax, Inc.. We'd about decided that food was not to be had around here, but Carol figured with such a big plant, there had to be places to spend that money, so we backtracked our backtrack and kept going this time. Downtown Boron. Domingo's Restaurant. Still swinging at 9:30pm. I ordered a dish with chile relleno and an enchilada and Carol ordered 2 tacos. Ice tea for us both. Carol snagged a wait person to alter her order. Guy didn't speak any (much) english, but brought our original waiter. They were all men, of the "we can remember your order" type. Carol said she wanted cheese omitted from the tacos, but he said, "Oops! Sorry, too late!" with a laugh.. and it was a joke since the dishes came as we wished. Then it happened, harping back to the large party at the Tapas restaurant, 4 of the wait persons crowded around 2 tables down from us, and sang Cielito Lindo followed by Happy Birthday. Tatiyana-- they didn't give us a chance to suppress it with a donation. This place must be THE place for many miles around. Some of the younger ones were from Edwards Air Force Base.

Off again, turning right on State 395, landing in San Bernadino at 11:30pm at a Motel 6. Fell right to sleep.

Sunday, July 30th
Desert beside IH10 flooded It was raining when we got up. I backed the car right up to the motel room door to avoid getting the baggage wet. Then we found a local chain breakfast place a couple blocks away (thereby avoiding a Denny's and a Kettle). Then back to the road. This was going to be a looooong day. Mostly uneventful as we coursed along IH10 until about 5pm as we drove past the Wilcox Dry Lake Bombing Range where I got Carol to take this picture. Dry? It was dry last week and the signs reading, "Dust Storms Will Occur" had been accurate last week.

Onward into New Mexico. It was plenty dark when we ate in Deming. We kept going and surrendered to the night in Anthony.... TEXAS at, again, 11:30pm. Somebody had stolen the 2 light bulbs from the lamps in our room. Sheesh. And later I found that the pranksters had also removed the knurled knob to turn on the lamp above the table. The one woman doing everything for this motel kindly rounded up 2 bulbs and allowed ,"You'd be surprised at what people decide to take".

Monday, July 31st
Loop around El Paso from http://www.jeremyandnina.com/wedding/imags/thingstodo/inthecity/ In spite of there having been semi trucks all over the place around where we slept, they made no annoying noise. I think it rained in the later hours of the morning which could have muted the trucks. It was overcast when we packed the car. Breakfast. There was a passable continental breakfast in the nook of the lobby. I had the desk clerk write down the mechanical problems associated with our room. (Yes, I also email webpage masters about errors when I see them, too.) The last 2 touristy things on our list were see the Franklin Mountains and see Hueco Tanks. The rain had kept things cool and overcast. We went up and over the mountains on loop 375 looking for things to do inside the park which spans the road. We only realized we'd missed where ever one is supposed to get off the road when the "Leaving Park Boundaries" sign flew by as we descended on the north side. Oh well. It seemed to be catering to mountain climbers and vistas (which we did take in).

Getting to Hueco Tanks took us through Fort Bliss. Boy its easy to see why it was decided to use this area for bombing practice (back in the day); it was mile after mile of hip high, uniformly sized shrubs stuck in grayish dirt. The cut off to Hueco Tanks had all the earmarks of the "old road into town" being a gauntlet of junked car dealers interspersed with small, used car sales and repair places. Approach to the park is unassuming, for sure.

The park has long been a place for mountain climbers which brought it public attention and vandalism, so after paying our $4 each we had to sit through a 20 minute video telling us to NOT after which we were given receipts with the explanation, "Present these on your next visit within one year and you get to skip the video". That out of the way we proceeded toward the huge rocks that constitute the park. Once we got onto the rock the paths disappeared because of the recent rains. We finally figured out that if water looked like it had been running along, THAT was the trail, not the other trompings of people staying out of the water. There is no signage about where the petroglyphs were. We went about hunting on vertical surfaces and inside cave-like overhangs. Nothing. We did hear running water. Little water falls from water still percolating down from the areas above. I volunteered to pull my way up a chain lined path up to the top to see if I could find anything up there before Carol expended a lot of energy only for disappointment. I figure the chain was there for a purpose. I still couldn't find any petroglyphs. When I came around a boulder giving me a long vista to the north across the flat plain, I saw a large, raining storm cloud bearing down on us. Hmmm. I didn't care to be caught on this rock in the rain! I hurried (but not too much of a hurry) back to the chain, zipped down in about about 5 minutes (down is sure faster than up, yes?) and was finally reduced to yelling for Carol to locate her. She was back under an overhang preparing to sit out the rain that was starting. "Uh, uh", I said. "You can't see it from here, but buckets are on the way. Let's get down. Its going to get real slick". I trotted the last 100 yards to the car to avoid the big drops.

That was our 1 hour visit to Hueco Tanks. As we passed back over the undulating desert road I wondered if it was prone to flash flooding. There was a lot of gravel across the road at one sharpish turn. The rain caught us about where we got back onto Loop 375, but moved on the way we had just come from. It really was associated with that cloud. The loop intersected IH10, which we than rejoined. I didn't realize it avoided El Paso entirely. Um. Where to eat? Why, Van Horn, of course. We ate once again at the Sands Motel Restaurant - a very laid back place. It was sunny and hot and I wished them some of the rain we'd had an hour back. They hadn't gotten any of it. Carol was talking about what a bust the last two days had been with nothing exciting at all.

Hah! In Tuesday's paper we go to read that El Paso got so much rain on this very day that the pass over the Franklin Mtns had to be closed. That's the one we drove over. Further, the East bound lanes of IH10 in El Paso were closed for 4 hours while a jack-knifed semi truck was cleared out. That's the very route we seridipitously avoid by our loop 375 drive.

Brett's cell phone rang as we got back in the car after lunch. Business. Its Monday after all. Carol drove for the next couple hours while Brett and I talked off and on, somewhat due to absence of adequate signal between towns. We had talked about gasoline when I took over again and somehow in my mind that substituted for actually stopping for it, so when Carol made some related comment, I looked down to see that E again with the yellow fuel light on. Ugh. We were half way between Sheffield and Ozona. I began envisioning "out of gas" scenarios, slowed down to 60 mph, and watched the mileage signs closely. At the Ozona 2 miles sign, I sighed. That's not too far to walk.

Grrr. That was 2 miles to the cut off to Ozona which was yet another 2 miles to a gas station. Made it! I filled the tank to 12.8 gallons. I asked Carol, who guessed 14, to look up the fuel capacity: 15 gallons! Lying damn gauge. See if yours truly ever pay attention to that thing again. Useless worry.

It was turning dark as we passed through Junction. Nice sunset. At Segovia we turned left onto U.S. 290 in the dark. Tried dinner in Fredericksberg. Ended up at a gas station on the south side of town. There was a guy inside, headed for CA with no map, asking about the way to IH10. We joked about parity -- he leaving Austin for CA and us from CA to Austin. He kind of looked like a guy to was told to "Get out!" and had resolved to make a new start in California.

At night I just didn't recognize 290 anymore. Definitely being built into the wider megopolis.

One last thing. We came up MoPac, then along 38th and was caught at the light at Lamar Blvd. I brought the driver's side window down. Whoosh of humid 85ish air. We have been in the desert. It was 11:30 pm again. Trip is done. Thanks to Jane Anderson for care of the animals, fish, plants, and house.

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