Hello my friends. We are once again home in the hot, humid embrace of a Florida summer and it is good.
The utterances that were last cast upon you in the previous Grumpa blast were delivered into cyberspace from Santa Fe, NM , which served as one of the milestones in what I will now call “The Great American Road Trip – Part One.” Of course there were many other stones along the way, several of which I had to sleep on during the camping segments of our adventure. No lasting damage done but I refer to this as “Part One” because we lingered so long in Reno that we decided to leave our car in Nevada and fly home to assess the result of two months of lawncare neglect. When we landscaped our yard in Florida we planted almost entirely native plants. Well………… the natives were restless……as were our neighbors! They expressed gladness at our return but were really saying “Do something with that yard!”
As they say in the old country – Hi Ho! Actually, you would have to say that in an old country. No one would say it now – although there are still alot of old countries
As it is, we’re quite attached to that little orange Subaru which was left behind. It will go anywhere, carry almost anything, glow bright orange in the grocery store parking lot to aid the elderly in locating their vehicle and gets almost 40 mpg. We always thought it should have some endearing name but could never find the moniker that just fit……UNTIL……..Susan backed into a red VW in our parking lot christening it “The Orange Crush” or just “Crush” for short. So in Reno it remains for a time; and Cameron, good son that he is, has volunteered to use it wisely.
What a country! We have travelled across only the southern states – so far. Vast, open, boundless expanses of forest, farm, desert, mountains, nothingness. The country is big and vast and beautiful and colorful and not only are the wide open spaces big but everything in them is big.
To look upon the mountains and valleys and mesas and canyons and millions of years of stratified layers of sedimentary rock, stretches the mind, redefines your conception of time, renders any utterance inadequate and makes palpable the sense of human insignificance. It is something to be seen that arouses deep passion, can be felt, absorbed but is beyond description. I wish you could all see what we saw. We hiked, we camped, we stayed in B&Bs and in nice hotels. We drove across endless miles of empty highways through Oklamoma, Texas, New Mexico listening to Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard – musicians we seldom listen to at home – finally understanding that their music makes sense in a place that is so empty and lonely and hot and dry and where times could be hard. We drove through ghost towns that even the ghosts had deserted and noted that there are plenty of places where escalating real estate prices are not an issue and good deals could be had – of course you would have to live there!
Alabama and Arkansas were beautiful too! Who knew? Some places seemed like a foreign country. Parts of Georgia for example, where you can still join the Confederacy. Perhaps if we travel far enough we will find a planet with intelligent life! Mississippi greeted us with torential thunderstorms, trees down, roads blocked and a tornado. Each state as we moved westward offered up new versions of beauty and then one reaches Utah. Utah has it all. We saw only the southeast corner which is about all the splendor one can digest in one swallow. It’s easy to see why the Mormons reached Utah and determined that it was God’s country. If you can only go to one place, make it Utah! Don’t worry. They sell alcohol there. Hi-Ho! (Tajikistan ?)
Camping at State and National Parks was, for me, an unexpected surprise. Aside from the variety of sharp rocks to bed down on there’s a sense of freedom and a relaxed self-sufficiency that arises from it and also, opportunities for the unexpected abound. For example, our first night camping at Mesa Verde the campground was serenaded at dusk by a German, female, bagpiper from Boise, Idaho playing Amazing Grace – no joke! Now by total happenstance, since our travel plans were mostly fly by the seat of our pants as were hers, she showed up at dusk at two subsequent campsites, far removed, playing Amazing Grace as well as other patriotic tunes in preparation for a 4th of July parade in Boise. One must wonder how our paths might cross with others many times in life unknowingly since most of the time no one is playing the bagpipes! By the way, if anyone has actually flown by the seat of their pants could you tell me where I could pick up a pair? Hi-Ho! (Albion?)
Most nights at camp were spent under the stars watching a fire slowly die while sipping bourbon and nibbling dark chocolate (devouring is more accurate). One night however, in Oklahoma on the windswept shore of a lake overlooking the Wichitaw Mountain Range we found ourselves wide awake at 2:30 AM, with our tent flapping wildly around us, wondering if we might find ourselves in the lake come morning. Sleep not being an option, and with little else to do at this hour other than roll around on sharp rocks, we began to sing tent songs. These are a lot like campfire songs except there is no campfire and we could only remember the first line of most songs. We sang ourselves to sleep by daybreak and eventually arose feeling like we’d slept on the ground all night!
In addition to camping there was ample opportunity to hike the great southwest. Had it not been for Susan I would have never had the opportunity to hike through slippery snowfields in Great Basin National Park at 10,450 feet in search of the elusive Bristlecone pine tree. Make sure she plans your next trip! In her defense, when all was said and done………….. we saw a tree!
The one I’m leaning against was cored by scientists a few years ago and determined to be about 4,800 years old. Susan wanted a picture to show the grandchildren something that was older that Grumpa! It’s hard to imagine that anything could survive that amount of time. Oh the things it has seen. Such wisdom. What it could teach us.
Further boredom could be imposed upon you but no one really enjoys another’s travel photos. Knowledge aquired through personal experience!
The next four weeks were spent in Reno in close engagement with our children and grandchildren. More hiking, swimming, fishing, running and camping – if Susan sleeping in the tent on our porch with our grandson counts as camping! Anything that makes a five year old say “I’m so excited. Can we go to bed now?” counts!
This is a picture of Susan just outside our door neglecting her grandchildren!
For years, attached to one of my notebooks has been a quote by well known author Annie Dillard.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”
Chew on that one for a while -and pay atention to the hours! Hi-Ho! (Persia! That must be where they said it!)
Looking forward to the Great American Road Trip -Part II. Whenever it comes. We drew a line on our map following the route we took. Just a thin thread across a vast continent – so much more to see!
On our trip we were never really lost but just one time the voice on our satelite mapper said, ” Turn right, go 300 yards and stop. I’m getting out!”
From high on the Grumpstump.