Good excuse for a trip around the south west USA at the 4th of July 2009

map of southwestern U.S.A. July 1
July 2
July 3
July 4
July 5
July 6
July 7
July 8
July 9
July 10
July 11
We only had three hard time constraints: Party July 3, party July 4, party July 5. After that we would continue to party: with Linda Foss, then with my cousin Mike Loring and his wife Cathy in Salt Lake City. Tough life, eh? I had a goal to relive the wonder Carol, Geoffrey, and I experienced back in the 1970s when we perchance arrived at the Joshua Tree National Monument in July at midnight. We were not in a financial situation to be using motels as we traveled to California to visit friends, relatives, and see the sights. So we were wont to camp out. And this is where we landed. I had never seen so many stars. It really did feel like I could reach up and touch the black velvet where these diamonds were embedded. But it was midnight, I'd been driving all day, and people were sleepy. When Carol and I went to San Francisco back in 2006 I prevailed and we beat storm clouds and 95o F temperatures at 10pm to camp at Joshua Tree, but lightning, the clouds, the temperature, and the rain from the east obscured the skies. No black velvet.

Ah, but Aaron and Rachel afforded me another chance. We even purchased a brand new, cheap, tent for the purpose of camping at Joshua Tree National Monument.

My newish job with Pratt-Whitney Austin working with people I know helped with my being gone so long. We are a small PW outpost; 8 people in all. Two of us planned to be out at the same time. Pratt Whitney's policy is to give you your vacation days on January 1 and you have until Dec. 31 to use 'em or lose 'em. I got 10 days! I guess working for a industrial giant isn't all bad. Like many companies this year we are forced to take some furlough days. MORE vacation! One of them was July 3. Couldn't have worked out better!

By starting on Wednesday we expected a relatively easy two day drive to Joshua Tree and a longish drive to Los Altos, CA by 5:30pm. That last drive would be no problem if no real road troubles were encountered. We did it in 2006 by 6:30pm with some road construction to put up with.

July 1, 2009

map of July 1, leg through Texas Left at 9am. Just west of Austin it started raining and did not stop until just before Sonora. We have had so little rain in Austin these last couple years. "Here it is over here!" When we reached I-10 outside of Junction, where we refueled, the speed limit went up to 80mph. Unlike 2006 I chose to go that speed. We are driving a Toyota Corolla these days instead of the Nissan Altima and get a fair amount better gas mileage. Anyway, at that speed, the odometer really turns; mucho miles. Also, means the times between refuel went down; Ft. Hancock was next.

We made it all the way to Deming, NM, to the Deluxe Inn. We had Carol's iBook laptop along, but the WiFi signal was poor and it was our first experience dealing with motels and WiFi connections.

July 2, 2009

map of July 1-2, leg through New Mexico We ate breakfast nearby at El Mirador. There was a 1 to 1 1/2 year old in the booth ahead of us. She neck was so flexible, we admired her. With her back to us she could nearly turn left or right and see some of what as in our booth.

On I-10 drivers are in the "Safe zone" for most of NM where fines double, lights must be on, drivers are urged to phone in about drunk drivers. We worried when we noticed that we were slowly passing semis. Our Toyota Corolla was bought used. The dealership admitted it had been in an accident. Was that the cause? Do we have large tires? Bad speedometer? Bright idea and a couple minutes later we were motoring along with peace of mind. How does 360000 divided by 4888 contribute? Why was it done this way?

Around noon we stopped to see "The Thing". There was no "thing", but the panorama was worth taking in.

In the middle of the stinkin' desert we ran into road construction AND more rain. That went on for about 45 minutes. And that was it for New Mexico!

Carol was manning the maps and we saw this craggy peak up ahead. Attention drawing in an otherwise continuously straight road through the desert. We were moved to stop and take pictures: Picacho Peak.

More rain. Lots more rain. And accidents. At 80mph there are many motorists that seemed to be "pushing it". The run-of-the-mill traffic (us) slowed down to around 60mph in the rain. Even slower, like crawling.

The rain was still coming down when we got in line for the crawl towards "who knew what" at the time. We came past a bicyclist with a broad brim hat standing by his bike. He was there on I10, in the rain,.. in the middle of the desert. Amazing. About 5 to 10 minutes later we finally came around a bend that was also headed down and there was a semi that got its nose really out of joint and had to be dragged off to the side. There wasn't much room on either side of the road at that point. The semi was off to the left and a few car lengths further was a spun out car on the right. It wasn't going anywhere, but the occupant was standing beside the thing with EMS guys standing around. The rain had almost stopped. I thought about the bicycle guy and what he was going to have to try to get past. For him it was still about a half hour in the future. I felt for him. Couldn't have been pleasant.

The desert opened up again immediately and cars sped off. Carol pointed to the desert plains around us. We saw it raining UP in the desert. It must have been steam (fog?) off the 105oF ground. It was clearly rising. There were storm clouds all around so your eyes are expecting to see rain. Strange.

Too cloudy. I couldn't face being disappointed again, so we did not stop at Joshua Tree National Monument. No stars. This would make various other parties happier about getting closer to the target of our deadline. I vowed that after wedding and on our way to Salt Lake City we would get another chance to camp out.

Carol again came to the rescue to plot a course around the Los Angeles metroplex to avoid Thursday evening rush hour(s). We followed her course and as per plan we turned off of I-15 at Highway 138. There was an advertisement for a restaurant at the top of the hill. It was 8pm. We were hungry. It was OK. It was all things to all people: bar, take out, and restaurant.'

We asked the affable (and singular) waitress about motels along Highway 138 and she, "Ha! Fat chance. There is a B&B a ways past the bottom of hill, but I've lived here 5 years and there is nothing."

She was right. We drove all the way to Palmdale, CA. It was late. We were almost all the way around there before we saw one. It was nice. The WiFi worked - no problem.

July 3, 2009

I-5 leg of July 3 A jog over to I-5, then north. When we stopped at rest stops we could count on seeing signs accusing government creating a desert. Behind the sign was agricultural land. Somebody has water-rights issues I would say. The highlight of this stretch was my finding an AM radio station of Portuguese. All of the talk was Portuguese, but he music was nearly all John Philip Suza in honor of toworrow's 4th of July celebration. There were ads which were announced in English by the show's host. The Suza was also interspersed with other music, obvious folk music, but also obviously more "popular" music, too. Quite a diversion.

The traffic was going well over the speed limit. We saw yet another accident not more than 3 minutes old. There was a car upside down on the other side of a barbed wire fence. Their was nobody in the car and 2 people standing just on the road side of the barbed wire on their cell phone. We generally stayed in the right lane and would get caught behind slow moving produce trucks: Onions, Tomatoes, and garlic, among others. Finally we got to the turn off.

The 152 Rd. can be very crowded with holiday traffic. We've been this route several times. The traffic picked up as we approached the cut off to Gilroy. It was still fun to see the very sudden appearance of all the road side stands selling strawberries, squash, tomatoes, and such. The smell of garlic was not all that prevalent like it was 3 years ago. I certainly didn't remember Gilroy being so crammed with street traffic. We had a slow time passing through. We looked around for a city park (or whatever) so we could make and eat our picnic lunch. Once again Carol was about to give it up when it was she in fact that caught sight of a brown, city sign announcing a park. We were already past the sign, but these streets are very regular and there was still a bit of traffic. Then there it was. Quite large and fairly unoccupied. We could see a congested nearby road and there was a school across the street.

I picked a concrete picnic table under some trees while Carol visited the restroom. As we made our lunch, we also put together that this was a homeless hangout. Feels like we are back in Austin. At the adjacent table was a family not anxious to go home. There was bickering about having to stay away, what to do until dinner, phoning people, and generally being highly vocal. The temperature was great; more than made up for the imperfections.

We worked our way up 101 to Los Altos. There was a small confusion about circling around San Jose, but we arrived in Los Altos at our reserved room at America's Best Value of Mountain View with an 1 hour to rest, before heading on to the pre-wedding party.
July 3, 2009 - Olson House Pre wedding Soriee

Peter Granoff's SO, Chiara, and George discussed getting a generation of kids away from gaming as their major mode of social interaction. She said that getting them to live in the now would be such an experience of depth, that they would thereafter THINK before indulging in such a uni-modal activity. George said that living in the now was an experience of breadth. Full sensory input is so much more alive than living through a computer/game experience. Once understood, then the addiction to a solitary function, a perseveration, would been recognized as such and dealt with as most unwanted addictions are.

July 4, 2009

No coffee at the front desk. We traveled N. on Camino Real, but no place was open at 8am on July 4th. Marilyn called. She's awake, the 3 teenagers are not. We ate breakfast with Marilyn at "The Dinah's Garden Hotel" where lots of the guests were staying. Then Carol and I went to Santa Clara University to the old California mission.

Then later after resting and ironing clothes it was off to the wedding. The wedding started at 5:30, but really more like 6:30 because of the heat.

banner of fireworks overlayed with 4th July Wedding

July 5, 2009

July 5th brought DAY 3 of the celebration: Sunday brunch starting about 9:30am. We enjoyed the cool of the morning and the bagels and the coffee and the more relaxed talk. People drifted in and later said their goodbyes and (much later) actually left.
July 5, 2009 - Sunday brunch

Carol was convinced I'd never get the posed picture you see below so she went out to the car and took a nap. But, around 2:00pm there was a lull in the exodus dribble, and I got what I could.
I promised I'd see them all in just 11 short weeks and went out to wake up Carol so we could "Go to the beach!".

We drove to Cowell Ranch Beach just south of Half Moon Bay to meet Linda Foss. She was trying out a new, high pixel, largish, camera. Below are some of her photos. She is a serial photo blogger. Her latest one is You can navigate there and elsewhere by clicking on the images for a larger view at blogspot.

beach leg of July 5 Carol and Linda had wind breakers on. In typical San Franciso weather, it was cloudy, windy, humid, and cool. Carol's sandals were not suitable for walking in sand so she abandoned them and went barefoot (she avoided cuts, thank god). I got a little bit cold, but after all the 100oF+ days, I welcomed it.

When we got to the north end we were below a cliff. As we watched waves well up way off the beach (no white caps) it was synonymous with a roaring that sounded like the old prop based airline planes from the early 1970's. Then as the waves dipped for a moment before rearing up to crash into the beach the roaring totally disappeared. The rest of the experience, which we watched for most of an hour, was familiar and pleasing.

We approached a couple that was tending to a dragon kite they were starting to reel in. I told them we could see if from the beach access parking lot just above the horizon. I asked if that was intentional. No. Just happen stance. We stayed until about 6pm. The cool was starting to seep in deeper and Linda had already been there well before we arrived.

Shiki Japanese of Half Moon Bay We talked Linda into allowing us to buy her supper. We figured there must be something in Half Moon Bay. We happened upon a new shopping area on Stone Pine Rd. We investigated 3 different restaurants and settled on Shikia Japanese restaurant where I had an excellent broiled fish entree. The restrooms in this place were architectural marvels. Reminded me of the one at the Snow Pea Restaurant back in Austin.

After catching up on actions of children, Linda's travels, the wedding we just left, Carol, Linda, and I discussed "now" as a continuation of the events of the last 2 days. It only expanded the areas of wonder and none of us could seem to get our points across. So we didn't leave the area until a bit after 8 pm.

evening leg of July 5 Driving at night to get north east of the San Francisco area so as to not compete with Monday morning rush hour traffic as a Fourth of July holiday was trying for Carol who was quite tired.

Would you believe that California had road work on their I-<wild_card>80 highways? The signs about how to get where were confusing, in part due to the dark disallowing easy viewing of all relevant signage.

I did stop for directions. Funny how gas station clerks are ignorant of the roadways. It was true this evening, too. Probably indicates just how far off the expected roads we were. I resorted to badgering others also buying gas. Finally, we got out of San Lorenzo toward I-580. Even along there we (I, by now Carol was "resting") couldn't see any motels from the highway, so I picked the Hayward exit, because a sign promised that the next couple exits were closed for construction. So I got to know Hesperian Blvd. pretty well. We had just about traversed the whole way back to I-880 before we saw Days Inn, circled back the couple blocks and settled on it.

It was the most expensive place on the whole trip, still a Days Inn. The WiFi worked great. Carol was awake again for awhile. It was obvious we were not going to reach Salt Lake City on Monday, so Carol plotted a more scenic route, then just getting to someplace in the flat desert like Winnemucca, NV in 100o degrees!

July 6, 2009 - Monday

In spite of it being a Days Inn, it didn't have breakfast accommodations so we eased out onto good ol' Hesperian Blvd and came across.. I will never eat at a Carl Jr.'s again (27467 Hesperian Blvd, Hayward, CA). Food there is worthless. We asked for coffee, bacon and eggs. We had to have a custom breakfast made, served in a plastic bowls. Carl's! Not geared for serving coffee, bacon, and eggs? Certainly meant that we were going to find something better to supplement that.

So guess what, back to Hesperian Blvd, all the way back through town and onto the very torn up I-580. Carol got us over to I-280 and then to I-5 past Stockton, around Sacramento to I-80 where things calmed down as we headed to the Nevada border. Our Rand McNalley trip planner had claimed we could get from San Franciso, to Reno, NV in a little over 3 hours. I beg to differ.

Once over the Nevada border we continued through Sparks and turned south at Fernley along Alternate US-50 until it join US-50 proper just outside Fallon, NV. travel leg during July 6th

Sand Mountain Recreation Area caught our interest because it was lunch time! It took a few minutes (see larger version of 2nd photo) to understand this is a Dune Buggy park. There was an out-of-place sign standing by itself, not near anything but more sand that said "Vendor Area". ? We got out our lunch makings and made sandwiches under "the" shelter. Carol tried out her cell phone, here in the middle of nowhere, and there was a good signal. I was certainly surprised. We called Mike in Salt Lake City, but got their answering machine. We left word about where we were and that we'd get there Tuesday afternoon. Then I walked (sifted) through the sand up that hill to the top. It was hard going. I did have a hat on, but was wearing my driving sandals. I tried to take a picture of my foot steps that I tried to retrace coming back down, but they disappeared to modest depressions much too fast.

As we went along US-50 I wondered by the road periodically went through wooded areas up off the desert flats. I suppose I'd have to check out the contours for all the surrounding area. Probably the road builders couldn't avoid going up and over an uneven plain and the passes are naturally like this. So it was as Carol pointed that we were approaching Austin, NV. We reminisced about our last pass through Austin, NV, back in the early 90's returning from vacation where we stayed too long in the Seattle area, and chose to hoof-it back to Texas. What a shock that was, to enter the desert 45 minutes after being in downtown Seattle. We stayed in the desert until we got to the hill country southeast of Lubbock. I particularly remember that there were NO radio stations out there. That time our path brought us through Austin and here we were again. Again through serendipity. Is your life all one serendipity?

We reached Austin, NV about 6pm and after a pass through town and back we chose the International Bar & Cafe, right down town! The waitress was about 16 or 17 with a very slow voice and pleasant disposition. From the conversation around the place, she is a high school senior and headed to a nearby college in the fall. After a bit it was clear she was the daughter of a woman who was running the bar in the next room. Our waitress took beer orders, but were not fulfilled quickly since such orders had to be communicated to the other end of the building, filled, and brought by the mother as bar business allowed. Some patrons (one) didn't appreciate the wait. The mother defended the law.

As we dawdled over the fried fish and onion-rings (which I could not finish as it was just too greasy) we looked at the various brochures on the wall and counter. One such outlined two tours of sites nearby. Even though neither was more than 50 miles round trip, they promised a 4 hour expanse to complete each. We still hadn't reach our camp out goal: Bob Scott Campground not far east of town, but there was still 3 hours of light, and this is supposed to be our scenic route. Waitress answered questions about a loop road that included a hot-springs. We asked her if she'd been there. "Yep". We asked if she thought we could find it in the dark? How far off the road is it? Questions like that. She acted like our questions were exotic and had to pass on them all. She did say it was public, but out of the way. Our brochure is have rather specific directions. We paid up and headed out.

We indeed found Bob Scott Campgrounds (free until 2010!). It is at a summit of 7200 ft. We chose one of the 10 camping places (boy, we were lucky there were some) on the west side facing west. We picked the flattest surface, cleaned it of twigs, and set up our new tent. We did set it up in our living room right after we got it, much to the dismay of the cats. I filled the living room. After rolling out the bedrolls we then set out for the hot-spring at dusk. 6 miles along a dusty road. We missed the turn off, just another dusty one lane path, but after another mile we were convinced that "must have been it". I caught a straight line narrow path heading pretty much directly for a hillyish area that seemed to be where that other road was going, so I took that. In the flat of the desert it was pretty easy to tell it had to be going there, even if it was a ways away. We still had some light.

Gosh, this place was a mess of paths. Looks like a mountain bike spot to do leaps from. Lots of jumps. All the paths looked equally used with desert brush all around.

Off a short ways I saw the dust from the motion of another vehicle so I went that way. Carol was ready to give it up. She doesn't like being lost. I found the pickup truck. I stopped about 20 feet from the passenger side and asked the girl riding if she knew where the hot springs were. She sound a tiny bit sarcastic, but I didn't pick up on that at the time as she said, "No". I circled the car around to head back, when Carol said, "What is that? Looks man made." We pulled the car around again and I got out. Heck, that's it. Right on the other side of the pickup! I asked the girl again, "Isn't this it?" She said, "Yes. I'm sorry. I thought you were joking." I continued, "No. We were about to give up. We have been wandering around here abouts for the last 30 minutes."

We put on our swimsuits in the car. By the time we walked to the spring (right next to the car area) the pickup left. I surmise that they hoped to have the place to themselves. Oh well.

We got in just before the full moon rose. Oops! No stars... again! Last time we camped out probably was 3 years ago. A long time ago! Need to stay in practice.

It was for real. It had an inlet that was quite hot and a single overflow drain pipe. The longer I stayed in the better it felt. We had been there about 10 minutes when a pickup truck camper showed up and a couple about our age came over and asked if we minded company.

They were over from northern California and were in the area again especially looking forward to the hot springs. While we were talking I saw a large, silent winged bird? bat? fly over head. We figured that not only humans valued this place. The couple gave us some history and culture surrounding the springs. Something in our talk set me off again talking about "now". I was certainly in the "now" up until that point. He mentioned several book references which Carol had already read. That talk went on among the 4 of us for about a half an hour.

That couple was going to be camping nearby and would be coming back so they were done for now. Several other neat, off the beaten path natural features were in the valley to our immediate east and our friend showed us a map pointing out where they were. I was interested for sure.

We gathered up our stuff and started back. Many twisty paths. I had to get out of the car and practically on top of the car in order to get a line on which way to try next. By the moonlight I finally saw another car coming down the road waaaaaaay off to the southwest (as I knew then). So I worked via a "right-wall-mouse" scheme to locate the road. We travel slowly, not wishing to raise even more dust. Carol was adamant that we could not afford the time to take in the natural features further into the desert that we had been told about and STILL get to Mike's by our stated deadline. [Those damn deadlines.] She was not amenable to me phoning him and do away with said "deadline". That's the way it goes.

We were both thirsty by now and Carol's drink was all consumed. We didn't know if the water at Bob Scott was potable or not. More stress. But, I could not be stressed with that hot springs still all saturated through my body. After we got back to the main road we went back into Austin, NV even though the chances of anyplace still being open now that it was past 10pm was small. But, Joe Dory's Chevron at the far end of town was open. They had water for Carol. Heck, they had ice for our depleted ice chest, and gasoline for our gas tank low on fuel. I even bought a soft drink. The woman running the store had 2 kids charge out back to get the bag of ice and bring it around. It was all spirit uplifting. [That and the sign back at Bob Scott confirmed that the water was potable!]

We got all bedded down and another curiosity of the world was solved. Having grown up in South Texas it never dawned on me that our cows bawled with Texas twang. I learned "Old McDonald Had A Farm" just like every other kid. I just never gave it much concern that, yes, chickens did go "Cluck, cluck", and, yeah, I guess, pigs go "Oink, oink" (more like "Snort, snort"), but that cows went "Moo". Ours go more like, "Maawww". But on this night some distraught? bovine was very definitely going "Moo".. just like in the song. It was what I was listening to as I drifted off.

July 7, 2009 - Tuesday

We disassembled the tent and laid it out on the road to get the dew to evaporate. We finished packing and folded the tent and I told Carol that

I relented and we took the faster road, US-50, toward Salt Lake City. The above is in the direction of the hot springs way off on the desert floor. That way was the way not taken, today.

Just down the road we came across Hickison Petroglyphs (and camp ground so it was ok to think we were lucky with Bob Scott last night) and Carol was happy to spend time here. It was all of about 8am (and not breakfast yet).

The sky was just such a deep blue. I couldn't get over it. The petroglyphs were many, but too hard to photograph in the morning light. Carol gave it a try. We had noted that the little sign posts along the path were in disrepair. With the economy in such recession this led to a long discussion about how organizations really should plan for graceful fall back positions. It wasn't until we got back to the parking lot that we found a place where brochures were to be stored. There was only one left, so I photographed it. Today was the day that the "now" discussion came to a close. Carol must have been thinking about it along, but the inner brain let it out now. She observed that Chiara and then Linda were talking about the "present" and I was talking about the "now". "Living in the present" and "Living in the now" are both current phrases, but my notion of "now" is extremely narrow which probably explains why the conversations seemed to expand. That is probably because the "present" is a much larger topic than the instantaneous time separating the past and the future. I'm busy talking about how our not being able to experience such a thing, but approximate it to varying degrees depending on the individual and the task they've set themselves to for the moment. I'm interested in what affects our association with the division. It has very practical matters that were the reason I ever brought it up with Chiara. She had relevant information about how large groups of people react to such things before and after virtual reality of video games and multitudinous yet shallow human interaction became so prevalent.

But to thanks to Carol I am now more sensitive to people easily falling into talking about the "present", but less likely to even understand easily what it is I am talking about. I haven't explained myself. I'm too close to my subject to communicate it to others in my alloted time.

The road did yield one more GeeWhiz moment. When we first stopped in Austin, NV the store we went into had a clerk whose accent was hard to place, but was much like that held out as Minnesotan in Prairie Home Companion. I had dismissed it as a result of "our mobile society". That was until we ran into another road block in the middle of the desert. The Nevada public works had stopped traffic while some oversized vehicles negotiated the narrow, window roads at this summit. For the first half of our wait we were the only car so we struck up a conversation with the woman who was holding the STOP sign. She had an accent identical to the woman back at the store. I don't believe in that much coincident. I asked her if she listened to Prarie Home Companion on NPR. She had never heard of it. I can definitely believe that NPR might not have a presence this far away of everything. I had been getting a signal off and on, but I hadn't listened for such today. Anyway, I told her that her accent was that of a Minnesotan and she laughed. Then we all laughed because we obviously are the ones with the accent. Texan in fact. She was unaware of any accent. I certainly don't think about mine much. Nobody referred to it in the 3 days of partying, so it cannot be terrible.

the afternoon leg of July 7

When we reached the Utah there we still no decent place (any place!) to make and eat a picnic lunch. The road's name also became US-6 and after about 70 miles we go to Delta, UT. There were picnic tables across the main drag from where we bought gasoline. The tables were adjacent to Delta's Chamber of Commerce + other municipal offices. So we ate. It is quite curious that our bread was turning to toast on the table! By the time I cut the bread, slathered it with food stuffs, and began dining is was already crusty. Dry. That's what this place is... dry. But, since they have water, it is given freely and the dryness is no problem as long as things are cared for. Hmmm. This also explains the difficulty I had cleaning the car windshield. I have had to change my method of doing it. Now I have to drag the sponge across, then immediately turn the thing over to the squeege side and draw the fluid off while there is still any there!

We lost US-50 and abandoned US-6 at Lynndyl to go through farmland along State-132 to Nephi. After that we were again on the "big road", I-15; Provo, then Salt Lake City.

An unaccounted for time change put us at the Loring's at 5:10pm instead of the promised 4pm. We moved in and had glasses of ice tea before setting out for supper. M &: C suggested Dasks, 6522 S Big Cottonwood Cyn #200, Holladay, UT 84121. Sure filled us up.

thumb of Silver Lake Then we were whisked up to Silver Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Cathy hoped to see a moose, since they are known to inhabit the area (like this one). And this is a map of the lake. We walked around it. The temperature was getting a little chilly by the time we and hundreds of other walkers were finishing the circle in the twilight. It was along here that Mike pointed out the elephant flower and I saw the next day waaaay up in the mountains.

We took the upper, red path. You can see how it follows the ridge. That photo to the right was taken by one David C Shilton (his 1800 x 1200 is gorgeous) the next afternoon and contributed to picasa google, but I could not locate him there. Anyway I give you a 800x600 version if you click on it.




  Back home Mike got out the maps and plotted out tomorrow's hike, showing us the roads and the contours around the mountains where we would be walking. At one point the talk got off onto irresponsible hikers requiring rescue and those causing fires. One particular boy scout group was L)atter D)ay S)aints sponsored. That sent Mike off into this LDS observations tirade and story telling.

July 8, 2009 - Wednesday

Click on the left or right half to see details of the path. Hwy150A.jpg the trail

The BIG day! Mike and Cathy picked the Mirror Lake area just over the mountain range to the immediate north-east. The hike was Cuberant Lakes. 10,200 ft+ (3.1km).

We found this Elephant Head's Lousewort


  The high point (chuckle) was the picnic lunch with the panoramic view. That is the photo above with Cathy, Mike, and Carol in front. It was so pleasantly cool.

After a bit more of hike Cathy and Carol demurred and Mike & I charged up the rise to see what it would take to get to Cuberant Lake proper. When it became plain that we would pressing our luck time wise, Mike & I settled for this photo of me standing on a bank of snow. Snow! on July 8. Marvelous. We had told Cathy and Carol to start back if we were tardy and we would overtake them, but they were still staring out over the lowlands from the cliff.

The return trek was memorable because we missed the in coming path where it cross the several marshes, but we were close enough! Not counting our stumbling about which added who knows how much, the map assured us we had done a bit over 5 miles. We only encountered a couple groups of fellow hikers during the day. This was the furtherest Carol and I have been from an automobile in 3 years. Felt special.

Mike sped us back into town while Cathy kept a close eye for moose, but if they were out there, they eluded us. Finally back down to Fort Union Blvd we pulled in to a favorite Grille of Mike's. The food always taste's great when you are ravenously hungry.

Cathy had to work in the morning, but Mike was taking off Thursday also to get a blood test done. Fine with us. We slept soundly.

July 9, 2009 - Thursday

We were up just soon enough to see Cathy off. Mike helped us with breakfast and then planned out the day. While he was at the doctors we would visit downtown Salt Lake City, riding the UTA, Utah Transit Authority.

Salt Lake City has a tiered fare system. Mike dropped us off at a station well outside center city. We only waited a few minutes and the light rail arrived. A young couple asked *me* how to use the system, so I guess the summer tourist season had thrown a lot of us together. Mike kindly had drawn up a map of the area around The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which is concentrated in 35 acres. Soon we crossed into the center city where the fare drops to zero for center-city travel. It was around 10:30 a.m. As stops went by people got on dragging their cheap mountain bikes into the back. It got kind of crowded back there. I overheard two guys greet each other, saying they hadn't seen the other in awhile. Turns out 1 was a homeless guy (well kempt) headed downtown about some city service and the other one had been gone since he was in a place that helped get people off of drugs. Yep. Typical center city people, using free services.

We were dropped off kitty corner to the main LDS entrance. Since the traffic light caught us wrong we diverted for a few minutes to see a middle 1800's homestead setup as a museum. They did a good job and the plethora of cool plants and trees was pleasant. Next we crossed the street with the other hoards of tourists, some arriving in big tour buses. Just inside we were greeted by a elderly man in a coat and tie. He had a brochure showing all of the 35 acres. It did not seem evangelical. We invited him to move a few steps over into the shade to talk. There was no humidity, but there was no wind either and the temperature had risen to about 90o F by then. Since Carol and I only had a limited amount of time, we opted to visit the historical buildings which were located at the other end. That afforded us the opportunity to walk past the many new LDS non-religiously oriented buildings, too.

Carol and I were very, very impressed with all the flower beds brimming with a multitude of different species of colorful flowers... and no work crews to be seen anywhere. There must surely have to be a hundred people needed to keep it this way.

We walked through the middle of Temple Square parallel to South Temple Street to visit Lion House and Beehive House down at State Street. The Beehive also sold food, which made Carol hungry. We weren't supposed to see Mike again until 1 or 2pm he guessed. Who knows with doctors, eh?

We continued along State Street to visit Brigham Young Historic Park which was vacant of people. Then further east across the street was a SLC park with water flowing through a rebuilt (sham) of a water wheel with a long walkway above it. Hunger pangs struck so we wandered back toward the State & South Temple to eat as a combination convenience store / sandwich shop. With the low humidity we ate outside completely comfortably even in noon day 90 degree temperatures.

Mike did phone. We took off for an intersection with the light rail stations. I got us on the wrong one. The criss crossing must have thrown me, but thankfully, not Carol. We got off, waited for a one in the opposite direction! Mike wasn't too put out about "Where the heck are they?". Mike picked us up just where he had let us off. He took us to see The Gilgal Sculpture Garden, one man's strange interpretation of events in Mormon history. Mike had not been in a while and was pleased to see that local organizations had taken up various maintenance projects and it looked great. It fills an area only a little bit bigger than a large back yard. It is in city center so there are nearby businesses visible. Somehow that gave it even more of a "special" quality. These are NOT small items. Thomas Battersby Child, Jr. after retiring as a mason in 1945 thought big and had the talent and fortitude to work on the mundane business of getting materials and seeing techniques through that I don't usually associate with an artist. We read most of the texts chiseled into rock, taking about an hour to take it all in. Mike said the doctor had ordered a blood test and there was a place on the way back home that was suitable to do the work and we headed over there. Carol and I sat in the shade in a courtyard while that took place. Next up was a trip to the grocery store, Dan's Foods #5. We to buy lunch provisions for the next couple days + some help for a backyard cookout that Mike suggested. Mike bought lots of stuff.

Back home he called Cathy to see if we should wait for her so we could all go up to Alta to catch one edge of the Albion Basin. She gets off at 4pm and definitely wanted to come along. Look up above at the end of July 7 at the Google Earth hybrid showing the two red threads. Click on that and you see the ridge drive we made. Mike drove us up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Albion Basin adjacent to ski/summertime resort Alta. If you click on the this unsupposing image, you can catch a bit of our time there.

As we closed in on the spot both Mike and Cathy were disappointed that the wild flowers for which this area is famous are not yet blooming to any great degree. "You never know when it'll start". Not for one to be turning tail Mike pressed on up to the highest place you can get your car. It was a bumpy ride in places. Still there were quite a few cars. This photo by someone else is what we saw at the ski lifts. I have never seen one up close so they indulged my interest. The brown sign blocks the view of the lift. Mike pointed out how the whole installation can be raised or lowered given the depth of the snow. To the left you can see the various road maintenance vehicles that seemed to be everywhere.

From where we were Mike and Cathy contrasted the relationship of the trails and buildings during winter and summer. Since all of what we were seeing was less nature and more "ski", they let us at least walk down the trail from whose direction the sound of rushing water seemed to be coming. We did that. The water sound was always further away, though we did cross some. Mike pointed out some of the more interesting vegetation and how it could be distinguished by its stem.

Well, OK. We drove back down (as Cathy once again kept a close watch in the wooded growth when we be doing switch backs and could see a ways) and got busy with the cook out. It just stays light out so long! While the food cooked, Mike dragged down the modern version of snow shoes from the attic over the garage for Carol and I to see. We moved our stuff back into the car, thankfully that I hadn't had to drive for the last two days. We dined, but couldn't keep our departure out of our minds. We still loads of light, it was hugs all around, directions to I-80 freshly impressed on us, we turned away. Mike and Cathy had shown us so much over the last 3 days we had no trouble with directions at all. We'd certainly been over it enough! We weren't sure how far we would get.

Mike had no particular suggestions off to the east, but that's the way were going. Carol was piloting again. Up and over the mountains. It was definitely dusk when we crossed into Wyoming. Carol suggested that Bear River State Park just beyond Evanston, WY might be our best bet for me to see stars, because after that it was out of the desert, back into humidity and urbanization. We found it OK, but, sadly, it closes at dark. We used the facilities there. We were the only ones around. The front gate had a lockable, long swinging gate. Sigh.

We crossed the road and found the Prarie Inn at this end of Evanston. Evanston has a desert feel. After checking in and resisting the daughter desk clerks attempts to sell her father's earring jewelry and money clips, we sought and found food just down the road. When we returned, the stars were out and the temperature dropping. I walked around the building looking for the best star view. All along the roof line were area lights. At the end was a inviting door. I went in. It was a huge corridor down the middle of the building. I could see a door to the lobby way as the end. This was construction with snow in mind.

Ultimately I walked as far east across the parking lot, onto a sward of lawn and stopped as a private road (big road) with a fence and a large, blocking hill further east. This was it. Having settled on this spot, I got Carol to come on out. We sat at the fence and looked up. Certainly more stars than Austin. The moon would be up soon so this was it until some future, as yet unplanned trip. It was better than nothing, but sure lacked the relaxed feel of a bedroll, solitude, and all night.

July 10, 2009 - Friday

We found a restaurant about 7am after noting several not yet open. I guess truckers are late risers.. at least late breafasters. As we pulled up there was a woman coming around from the back looking like she'd just had a verbal fight with someone, but she had a watering can in her hand. She was connected with this place. There also was an outdoor, umbrellaed table with 5 guys there in the chill with there motorcycles near by. Once inside we found a rather normal place, but made up to look like a wooden lodge. There was only one waitress, but she was fast and coffee came quickly. There were some regulars around. The breakfast was not chinchy.

That same woman from outside turned out to be our cashier. She was chipper by that time. I couldn't resist commenting about the water can and she became quite friendly, talking about the trouble with watering plants. She'd not done it the night before as she'd promised herself and was already late for work this morning and it hadn't gotten off to a good start. (Some stories sort themselves out.)

Friday leg through Wyoming

Zoom, zoom, zoom. We looked forward to the "Flaming Gorge", but saw nothing of it (except we could go THAT way...), we were amused by the city name Wamsutter. Looked forward to visual relief and stopped in Rawlins for fuel and and drinks. I ticked off a little mark in my life-time list when we went through Laramie and on through Cheyenne, WY. I suppose if we had time, we could stop downtown and find a touristy, old west show, but not today. It was goodbye at Pine Bluffs.

Friday leg through Nebraska

Sometime around there the inundation with all things Platte River: North Platte this, South Platte that and the land lost its desert quality altogether. About 7:30pm we pulled off the road about half way between North Platte and Lexington to refuel. We found a KOA's KampStore. Bought a small cappuchino for $0.75 since they didn't have any coffee. It was a strange couple that ran the thing. They were very thorough about checking our credit card. They matched up the signature and everything. Distinctly had the impression they had been burned recently.

I-80 was under construction starting just before Kearney and promised to continue all the way to our turn off at US 81 some 80 miles down the road. Well, it was a sensible time to eat supper.

We randomly found Kearney's Grandpa's Steak House about 8pm. We were not up for a high price place, but we are not chain eaters. So it came to be that we did not order real steaks.

Pretension radiated from much of the place, but we are not from Nebraska so maybe other explanations are possible. Things important to some are not to others. I'm tolerant, if critical. As mentioned on Y e l p where I have looked since, their review nailed it. The right attitude is: new investors attempting to shore up a venerated reputation.

The dining rooms are large. There were hints that the salad bar was to be valued. We were seated at a round table with a cloth table covering, cloth napkins, and solid silverware. The college age waiter was newish, not instilled with "the way", but seemed to think the institution's reputation absolved him of a lack of moxie. He brought some heated bread in a basket covered with cloth, but also a mixture of cracker packages, margarine pots.

The dinner menu was about $5 higher than I had expected (not yet knowing of the reputation), so with 2 diners, tip and tax it was not going to match our goal. We didn't order steak, so what can we say? We did not opt for the salad bar, but the waiter said that my wife's ham slice came with it. I ordered chicken fried steak with brown gravy (which came in a gravy boat) in order to challenge the mainstay. The huge (fake) wooden beam across the full length of the ceiling was okay until you actually looked at it. It was fake. It prompted me to look around at the other obvious "redone" bits. The salad bar didn't have dressings, so the waiter rattled off the available list ending with Dorothy Lynch. "Say what?" The waiter thought we didn't hear and repeated it. "What's that?" He came back with "You are not from Nebraska are you?" My wife chose a vinaigrette. She wanted her hunger to go away.. not out for adventure.

The food wasn't shameful, it just felt like a poorly produced play that we are expected to forgive since it is such a well respected play. So it was a mixture of things I consider an appreciated expense along with gratuitous cheapness. Since I couldn't come up with an explanation, I attribute to a my foreigness and their incomplete transformation.

Yep, road construction all the way to Grand Island. It was dark. Carol was sleepy. But I didn't want to give all our $ to "big highway" industry. The turn at US81 would connect to I-135 which becomes I35 down in Wichita. Fast roads. The construction stopped, but the road surface was peculiar. The I-80 road started playing melodies. When it started up we though maybe something was starting to fail with one of the tires, because the sound did not change when I moved across the lanes. With a little road design some simple, popular melodies are possible! I turned. It was nearing 11pm.

Highway 81 was bill board-less. Carol curled up to try to start sleeping. I finally had just leave the road as we came to Hebron. THEN the bill boards showed up to reveal a number of motels. I chose the Way Farer Motel, Hebron, NE. The attendant by his own admission barely spoke English. I was reading signs around the place and asked about the coffee in the morning. It seemed to imply I should ask ahead of time. I guess he misunderstood. He disappeared, returning with a cold bottles of water and two plastic cups. The room was fine. The refrigerator worked so I moved our lunch stuff in there. We tumbled into bed.

July 11, 2009 - Saturday

I brought the unopened water bottles back to the office. No coffee in the office at 8am? The same guy implied he would make coffee right now! But I said, "No, no, just tell us if there are restaurants nearby. He nodded vigorously and pointed down the road the same way we were going. Fine.

Alas we reached the town end. There was nothing. We turned east and again back north just before US81. We found breakfast. The restaurant had seen better days, but locals came and locals left while we were there and unlike Carl's, they served passable sausage, eggs, toast and coffee.

We zoomed off again.
Saturday leg through Kansas At the bottom of Kansas
the road authority
tried to force us on
the I-35 toll road
so we became
and side stepped west
to Wellington, KS
and down to the border.
Then into ...
Saturday leg through Oklahoma and into Saturday leg through Texas
I had never heard of Braum's Ice Cream but they were all over Oklahoma on our way down. When we stopped for more fuel I saw Braum's Ice Cream, 400 W California St Gainesville, TX. Well, that meant that I was just unobservant; this was not special to Oklahoma. Oh well, I coerced non-dairy Carol to stop in there anyway. It was past lunch time. She ate a burger and I listened to the gal behind the counter. So I had something with all kinds of little chocolate bits in the bottom.. that wouldn't come up the straw.

This was our opportunity to drive through Ft. Worth with out going out of our way, so that reason only, we did it.

We ate at "Up-In-Smoke" just south of the I-35W & I-35E join. The west side of I-35, not the new Yuppie-fied one a little further south on the east side.

The old horse sure knew the way home, now! ... 9:40 pm. Home! A w-h-o-l-e Sunday for rest and readiness. Savor it.

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