Sunday, March 12, 2006

100% Roadtrip

Zippy and I took a road trip for two weeks. I stopped in on friends and family along the way. Speed limits were shattered, dog bellies were scratched, goats were fed, futons were opened (and politely closed), beer was guzzled, Border Patrol was respected, asses were grabbed, gears were synchroed, drool was sopped, Diems were Carped, thermodynamic laws were violated ... and literally thousands of other nouns were verbed.

On the way down I-5 I detoured to Chico to get dinner and buy some pale ale direct from the Sierra Nevada brewery. I used The Force to find both the brewery and Megan's former workplace, the Italian Cottage. Sitting alone eating clam sauce caught the attention of the guy at the next table and he asked about where I was from, what I was doing, etc--sorta the typical friendly West Coast type. He asked about what I was driving and had to go check it out himself. The reaction: "Man, you need to put some rims on that thing." Hmm ... lemme think about that one.

That night I stopped in Berkeley to stay with Christy LaGuardia. In 2001 we shared the misery of working in the lodge at Bryce Canyon National Park. Our friendship was forged in a crucible of dish soap, kitchen drama, alcoholism, and frilly underwear pillow fights. Unfortunately for her such bonds are not easily broken and her sordid past caught up with her when I rang the doorbell. She's now an Anthropology student at UC Berkeley living within walking distance of campus and downtown.

Christy and her favorite Oregon hamsteak.

The downstairs neighbor came for a visit and passed out drunk on my sleeping bag.

After breakfast Christybot and I cruised out to Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco.

The goats sprinted over when they saw me offering tabs of acid.

There's something about skipping rocks that is just stupid fun. I could literally waste a whole afternoon throwing rocks in to the water. WHEEEE.

I couldn't grasp "skipping" and instead substituted "heaving".

We hated to leave but Ms. Laguardia had to get to work at her restaurant. We barely got to Fellini's on time, whence she procedeed to ply me with free pasta, wine, and port ... basically the Warren equivalent of Kryptonite. I had to sit awhile before I could drive back to the apartment.

After breakfast the next day I had to press on. It was good to visit my old friend; five years of distance melted away like runny poop down a pantleg. Doubtless I'll return for another visit but I still felt guilty more-or-less abandoning Christy to her brilliant friends, beautiful surroundings, and student lifestyle.

But alas, Big Sur beckoned! I'd heard good things about the coast between Monterrey to San Luis Obispo but wasn't really expecting it to be as good as it was. Two words: Holy Crap.

I consider myself a desert rat but I could easily spend a week exploring Big Sur. Every turn revealed another beach or cliff or big sunny field. Unfortunately I travelled it in five hours. Next time, next time ...

Late that night I cruised in to in Santa Ana in Orange County to stay with my brother and his girlfriend. Heather is there getting her Master's degree in cinematography at Chapman University; Trav is an unemployed bum. They met at a summer film workshop in Maine several years ago. I suspect their relationship pivots around their combined DVD collection, which can objectively be described as "100% enormous". Their love of video/film is analogous to my obsession with geology, but not as bizarre or disturbing.

I managed to completely miss taking a single photograph of them or their rad apartment for the three days I was there. Heather was doing shoots most of the time so my brother and I were left on our own. We hit Newport, Huntington Beach, and the mountains just east of where he lives. The whole place feels like a bizzaro Northern Virginia: it's mostly sprawl but Falls Church doesn't have snow-capped mountains poking out of the smoggy skyline. Nor does it have Del Taco.

Anyway, the two of them finally teamed together and kicked me out after violating Heather's "no farting indoors" rule many times. Many, many times. I travelled east for hours and hours before finally leaving the sprawl behind and reaching Joshua Tree National Park.

I only had time to take a short hike before crashing in the tent and getting up at 4:30 a.m. to get back on the road. I managed to avoid Phoenix but apparently was close enough to see plastic bags stuck and shredded on every bush, fence, and prickly object. I'll never understand why parts of Arizona are so trashed. On the way through a desolate stretch of road I spotted A-10s dropping practice bombs in a bombing range; too far away to take photos but close enough to pull over and watch through the binocs. I continued on to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument along the border with Mexico. It was filled with, fittingly enough, cactii shaped like organ pipes.

It was also full of gnarled retirees driving enormous RVs and volunteering at the park. I was the youngest one in the Visitor Center by at least thirty years. As most of the fun scenery was down long dirt roads, Zippy and I quickly exhausted our options and continued heading east toward Tucson. I stopped at the Kitt Peak Observatory for a few minutes. The views from the top are superb and doubtless telescopes have been pointed at Tucson by lonely astronomers on freezing nights.

The sun was setting as I rolled through Tucson and furiously dialed everyone I knew in a quest for Alison 2.0's phone number thinking maybe I could grab dinner with her. I finally got in contact an hour past Tucson whence I found out 1) she received a massive promotion at work and 2) got engaged. What the hell? Since when have I missed all the big news? Living in a cave has a distinct downside. Anyway, it was good to talk on the phone but next time I'll make a point to "plan ahead" and stop for a visit.

From there on I passed through New Mexico in the dark, stopping to "cruise" downtown Deming with bored teenagers, and then through Las Cruces and El Paso, all the way out to Van Horn where I turned right and entered the big emptiness of West Texas. At 2:30 I was parking outside of Allison Randolph's trailer and getting handed a Lone Star beer by her boyfriend Mark. 100% excellent. It was pitch black and cold out and I had no sense of where I was. When I got up in the morning I opened the curtains for a look outside.

Sweet. Alpine, by the way, is a pretty cool town. It's only got about 6,000 people but there is a great vibe that's hard to describe. There's a lot of art, music, and a pretty accepting atmosphere. Allison moved there a couple of years ago and picked up work as an editor/publisher and car mechanic. Now she manages the day-to-day operation of the car shop. Her boyfriend Mark does all kinds of stray work and while I was there was finishing a GIS analysis of hurricane wind fields in Florida for a recent insurance claim. The two of them showed me around and gave me beer and took me out. The whole experience was definitely a big highlight for me.

Allison took me to the semi-ghost town of Terlingua near the north end of Big Bend National Park. It's hard to describe these places; again there were artists and renovated buildings and a strong alternative sort of scene. A number of the old formerly-abandoned houses had been reclaimed and rebuilt. We visited Mark's brother's place and drank Lone Star beer on their porch.

Fuckin' cool. Ever since then I've had an urge to go buy some desert land in Nevada or Utah and build my own funky house.

The next couple of days consisted of me going out to the Park during the day and coming back to Alpine at night for live music and/or drinking. I got some good shots of the park but managed to almost totally forget taking photos of Mark, Allison, or anything in Alpine.

The last night I was there Mark's band got a gig playing in the next town over, Marfa. It was a decent venue and it was good to see them live after having watched them rehearse a couple of nights before. I got some pics after the show was over.

Mark is second from the right.

The best shot I have of the two of them together. Bah.

Finally it was time to leave. Mark burned me a bunch of CDs and I meandered up through the Davis Mountains toward Guadalupe Mountains National Park listening to Enon, The Octopus Project, Audiolux. I couldn't make time to explore the Park but I will definitely return there some day soon.

There's some weird stuff in this corner of Texas, mostly in the form of abandoned buildings and failed farms. It's kinda eerie and I like it.

I was pretty tired by then. That night I managed to reach a National Forest campground east of White Sands and crashed hard. In the morning I tried to visit White Sands National Monument but it was closed for a missile test on the nearby range. Not wanting to wait for two hours, I pressed north through rural New Mexico in the area between where the High Plains end and the mountains begin.

I stopped at the Santa Fe Brewing Company for lunch and a sample of their pale ale and Chicken Killer barley wine and called Susan to wish her a happy birthday from New Mexico. By this time I was starting to feel pretty crappy and when I rolled in to Monticello, Utah that night I opted for a motel. By morning I'd caught a massive cold; so much for hiking in Canyonlands. I pressed on to Moab and kept going, skipping all my favorite places and parks in a quest for home. Outside of Salt Lake City I stopped to pick up as much Cutthroat Pale Ale as I could pack in the car. The checkout dude looked at me funny as I rolled up with my cart full of beer, a pack of restricted cold medicine, and a slow, hunched walk.

From there it was on through northern Utah and southern Idaho where speed limits rise and there are few places for police to hide. I managed eastern Oregon by nightfall and crashed there, only to wake up to a big snowstorm that had blanketed the hills. The clouds were breaking up and the snow was beautiful on the slopes.

It was good to get back to Eugene even if I was a day early. 5450 had taken a toll. The usual large pics are posted here.