Saturday, May 11, 2019

Portland, Oregon

(I've seen this sign close up! But I stole this image from here.)

Yes, we arrived safely.  Our internet was turned on today but it was a busy day but I thought as we creep into nighttime - most of you have already gone to bed - I should give one last update before I return to talking about a radio show which hasn't been on the radio for over a year & which might not be on the radio any time soon.  Thank you for indulging me as I ramble about our ramblings.

Before I go into dumb detail about our journeys, I want to give props to the wife for her amazing skill at sneaking cats into hotel rooms.  At the place in Twin Falls, the clerk told us we'd need to keep the dogs in crates if we left the room.  The wife said, "No problem.  We bring their crates in."  & she did, although of course inside said crates were three freaked-out cats.  There's a thrill - it's kinda like being naughty, isn't it - to being involved in something that feels like a caper.  Although of course the cats disappeared in our tiny hotel room & we had to turn everything over & upside down to find them before we left.  Note to self: add thirty minutes to prep time if you're taking cats anywhere.

Despite getting a decent night's sleep, I got sleepy driving through Idaho's farmlands & was grateful when we made it to Boise.  Boise is a lovely little town - the wife felt it was quite Lexington-like - & we found a vegan-friendly place that made delicious sandwiches.  We ate outside with the dogs begging for food at our feet, & we made sure the cats in the minivan were parked in the shade.  It was a lovely day & quite chilly so I was surprised when I overheard that it gets over one hundred degrees there in the summer.  "For just three weeks," the person next to us told me.  I figured that was better than three months!

Western Oregon didn't start feeling like the Oregon I expected until we found our way north to the Columbia.  What a joy to drive alongside that mighty river, that Woody Guthrie song in my head as I marveled at it.  Soon the trees became prominent & the wife was calling to tell me that the place reminded her of Santa Cruz, where she was an undergraduate.  (She also told me that the previous farmland reminded her of Sacramento & nearby environs.)  We stopped a couple of times, in Baker City, where they let me pump my own gas (to the horror of people we told in Portland), & at a rest stop, where I made the wife leave the minivan on because it had gotten warm out.  Cooked cats were not on the menu for our destination.

It's true, it got hot!  Portland's been in the 80s the past week.  I didn't mean to bring Texas weather here but I have asked it to leave.  I am not looking forward to lots of rain but I would not trade that for six months of heat.

We arrived around five, met our next-door neighbor, a specialist in fonts named Thomas, & his sweet hound Bella, & after we had carried things in, we went for a walk.  It's true!  We were exhausted, we were discombobulated, we were barely coherent, but we took our hounds for a walk.  Pauline in particular had grown very tired of the drive, it was important to let her know her life was not in fact a car ride five hundred miles a day.

It cooled down, we enjoyed wandering around on a Friday night in a lively town, I wanted to get some whiskey, & on our way back from a liquor store, we passed a taqueria (this place) which had a prominent vegan/vegetarian menu, so we got food.

We ate & watched tv shows on Hulu & wanted to settle down to some kind of normal.  Except.  Our stuff won't arrive till Tuesday.  & this place we're renting - it wasn't easy to find a place that would accept all our animals - it's expensive & it's big.  We have four bedrooms & three bathrooms.  & so far only the cats have truly taken advantage of our delightful spaciousness.  & they spent most of the first day using it to hide from us.

Though today (Saturday) has been punctuated by dogwalks (one of them took us to this delightful place which is like a ten minute walk from where we live), I did spend a good deal of today asleep.  I don't often feel like the fifty-one-year-old that I am, but extreme fatigue caught up with me & I'm sure the heat didn't help, nor the long dog walks.  But I will say that I love that it's still spring here, & especially in this area we live, people have let their lawns & gardens grow wild, & it's an explosion of colors & fragrances & I swear I'm not talking about all the hippie types that live in this town.

Tonight we spent some time on the porch with our sweet neighbors & talked about British sitcoms & Marvel movies & our dogs cuddled with their daughters & all felt right with the world.  The cats have decided to spend time downstairs with us & they seem happy & as I write this the dogs are spent.

Thanks for reading this, I hope to have updates about volunteering at local community radio stations soon.  But no matter what happens, this town feels like the right place to end up.  The wife & me & the animals - we're great.  & tonight the windows are open & despite my nap (& perhaps because of the whiskey) I'm feeling sleepy.  Good night.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Twin Falls, Idaho

(Not Twin Falls, but Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, image from here.)

Boy, after driving through the middle of Utah, the rest of the trip suffered from the comparison.  & driving up I-15 to I-84, through Utah into Idaho, one is exposed to many different kinds of natural beauty.  But gosh the area around Arches National Park is gorgeous!

Here's something you might not know: the speed limit in Utah & Idaho on major highways is eighty frickin' miles an hour.  That's really, really fast.  I joked with the wife that the reason is, the people who make the rules know drivers want to get out of these states as soon as possible.  But it's amazing, there's virtually no one on these roads.

We started out early, we were in a caravan of folks leaving Moab until we turned onto I-70 & everyone else went... somewhere else?  At some point the only car I could see (going either direction) was the big red Chrysler Pacifica behind me, driven maybe by cats as the wife napped?

Speaking of, the cats were very comfortable this morning & last night we blocked hiding places so they were easily nabbed & put into their carriers.  Bolan again was the most agitated - I heard him every time I talked to the wife.  The dogs were fine, although I think they are getting quite tired of the long drives.  I looked at Pauline today & I felt like I could see in her eyes that she was thinking, "This is my life now."  Except!  Wherever we stopped - outside a convenience store, at an Idaho rest stop, here in Twin Falls - she was excited & she wanted to smell everything & she pulled to go, go, go.  She's now asleep on my side of the hotel bed, she's so worn out.  I'd sleep in the chair tonight but two cats are doing that.

My favorite part of the drive was the winding road (I think it was 191) from Green River up towards Salt Lake City.  We were driving through mountains, there was a small but agitated river alongside the highway, & a pair of train tracks as well, including cool-ass tunnels for the tracks blasted through the rocks.  I felt like I was going too fast - the wife later scolded me - but I'll bet there were people behind us on the road grumbling about elderly Texas drivers.

Salt Lake City is a big place & the traffic was as bad as in Dallas.  We stopped at a nice vegan restaurant in the gay section of town (the cross street was Harvey Milk Blvd) & discovered a vegan donut shop next door.  We ate in a little park nearby & nearly froze to death.  It's quite cold up here - I forget that you can still be chilled in parts of this country in the month of May.

In fact, we saw snow not just on the mountains but on the ground in parts of northern Utah!

We didn't see any Mormon places in SLC, the wife asked me where the Tabernacle was, but I had no idea, we just drove straight through.  Five hundred miles & all that.  I almost didn't make it - the wife saw me swerving a bit on the last leg of the trip, assumed correctly I was on my last leg, & called me & made me talk.  I don't think I fell asleep, but I was feeling like I should close my eyes a bit.

Two things I should mention: the wife wondered about the constant use of the beehive on the state's signs, which I looked up & told her about.  The other is the weird street names - I had heard about the beehive before, Utah is called the Beehive State for pete's sake - every street in SLC is numbered in the hundreds.  As I have just discovered, it is in fact a Mormon thing.

In any event, we made it to Twin Falls all right, & Magda said, "This is the ugliest place we've been to on the trip."  She wasn't talking about the falls or Snake River - we'd take the dogs down to the river once we sneaked the cats in & unpacked, & once we were down there, we found it breathtaking - she meant that the place was all box stores & fast food joints & big trucks.  It reminded her of D/FW I'm sure.

The dogs were very excited & we had a great walk.  I don't understand why I am not tired right now.  We ate more food we brought ("vegan options" is not a phrase commonly found in Idaho, I'd wager) & the wife fell asleep surrounded by hounds & cats & is now snoring like a drunken lumberjack.  Not really, but if you let her know I said that, you can get me into some trouble, which may lead to hilarious shenanigans.

Tomorrow is our longest drive, & we'll get to Portland late.  We traveled there in March, you may or may not know, & we found a place, so we have a home to go to.  It's too freakin' big, but we needed a place that would accept our animals & fortunately we found one.  The weather there is supposed to be very Texas-y - a high of 89 tomorrow & Saturday! - but we'll be there for the weekend & it'll give us time to explore.  Anyway, we found out our furniture & stuff won't arrive till Tuesday.

Speaking of: I hope I haven't bored you too much with this shabby travelogue, but you've been spared another one.  We won't have cable & internet when we arrive, therefore I don't know when I'll be able to write a long, tedious description of what I've been doing.  I'll post something on Facebook but I'm not trying to compose something like this on my phone.  Although I suppose I'll written some novella-length texts in my time.  Which means: we'll see.

Tomorrow, Portland!

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Moab, Utah

(Main Street in Moab around the last time I was here.  Ain't like that now!  Image from here.)

Moab, Utah, holds a special place in my heart.  I first visited here I believe in 1994 with my friend Lauren.  Our friend Abbie was working as a park ranger at Arches National Park at the time & it seemed a good excuse to come camp & hike.  (I believe Abbie also gave us her reservations at Canyonlands that same trip, so we camped there, too.)  I came back in 1995 & dropped Lauren off - she & I camped for a night I believe, then I went to California, but I picked her up when I returned.

There's simply nothing like the landscape around here.  It's not something one forgets & yet I was surprised how unreal it seems compared to memory.

Moab was a sleepy little town the last time I was here.  No more!  The Main Street is bustling, there are apartments being built on the outskirts of town, there are restaurants & businesses I don't remember seeing the last time I was here - which was twenty-four years ago, mind you.  Wikipedia says Moab in the 1990s had around 4,000 residents, & the current population is over 5,000.  But just walking down the street today, I saw far more tourists than I remember seeing in the 1990s - & far less granola/hippie types.  (It's good to know that they have a community radio station now, though.)

None of this is terribly important because I'm supposed to be writing about my journey from Texas to Oregon, but I was stunned - stunned! - at how bustling the place seemed.  When we were first here, Abbie took me & Lauren to a tiny vegetarian restaurant (that doesn't seem to exist today) where we saw Woody Harrelson!  Now there are chain motels & a craft beer place.  & there was actual traffic getting here.*

Because it was a mostly quiet drive from Santa Rosa to Moab.  Even Albuquerque didn't seem too busy.  But the trip took longer than usual because, except for I-40, most highways were the kind which went through towns, where we were subjected to reduced speeds & traffic lights.  & sporadic rain.  That has nothing to do of course with the route, but we did hear so much about the storms in Fort Worth (& all over Texas) that we feared we'd be driving into tornadoes or hurricanes or I don't know earthquakes.  The wife & I chatted less on the drive than yesterday because we drove through "dead zones," where, as she put it, "there were no bars on the phone."

Many of the areas were Indian lands, which prompted me to tell the wife this terrible joke:

"Hey, Magda, did you know that New Mexico almost didn't join the United States?"
"I didn't know.  Why not?"
"They had reservations."

She hung up on me & blamed it on the lack of cell reception.

One other funny moment happened when we stopped at a truck stop, & I was offered some snack foods when I bought a soda, a two-for-one deal, & I just said, "No, I don't need that kind of temptation in my life."  I amused the clerk quite a bit with that comment.

The dogs were fine, they were with me of course.  Pauline, our lanky beagle girl, was initially not very happy with the lack of grass in these desert areas, but she adjusted.  The cats were not, however, as happy.  In the hotel room last night, Boone found a way through a hole in the box springs to hide under the bed, so at five am we were looking for him in the hallways of the hotel.  & they very reluctantly returned to the carriers.  Okay, they fought us.  & whenever I talked to the wife, I could hear Bolan complaining in the background.  She said she often stuck her fingers in his carrier (it was in the area just behind her seat) & he would rub his face on them & calm down a little.

Once in the hotel, they were all fine.  We took the dogs for a walk & got a vegan pizza & were lost in the midst of all kinds of tourists: campers, off-road bicyclists, jeep enthusiasts, travelers, the like.  Pauline loves meeting new people, so she was happy to say hello to whomever she could - a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses stationed outside the visitors' center were waylaid by her charms, & we were gone before they could even begin to tell us their version of the Good News.  For her part, the grumpy Yoko was too overwhelmed to bark at everyone so she barked at no-one, which prompted the wife to muse that maybe she'd be a good big city dog after all.  Maybe we'll test that hypothesis on long walks in Portland!

It was a long day & everyone is pooped.  There are no hiding places in the room for the cats so they're just lying around kinda spitefully.  The hotel lets us open the window a tad, which is fine - you forget how cold it gets at night in the desert! - & we had our pizza & now we're winding down.  Just two more days of this.  The wife is yelling at someone from Spectrum on the phone because they're charging us for something & she won't have it.  A second ago Bolan tried to jump from the floor onto the desk where my computer is, he didn't quite make it, & one of his back legs used the soft but sturdy tissue of my forearm to finish the leap.  I probably should put some neosporin or something on it.  It's quite bloody.

Tomorrow: Idaho!

* The wife wanted cookies so we walked to a nearby supermarket around 9:30 & the city had quieted down considerably.  Ten pm seems to be when it goes to sleep.  But I wonder if old-timers are a little freaked out by the late hours these days!

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Santa Rosa, New Mexico

(This is where we are.  Image from here.)

We made it.  516 miles.  Three dogs & me in a tiny Prius.  Three cats & the wife in a rented minivan. (A Chrysler Pacifica if you really want to know.)  The wife was happy because it had Sirius radio, & she loves the First Wave channel.  I am exhausted.

Last night I couldn't get to sleep, which is par for the course.  I get anxious before trips - my first trip by car to this part of the world, I spent the night until I collapsed from exhaustion around 3am thumbing through a Mapsco deciding the best route.  (This was in 1995, in the days before GPS.)  Then, as this morning, I woke at six.  It's 9pm New Mexico time, & I am running on fumes.  Which is great!  I'll sleep like the dead tonight.

We planned to leave at eight but it took a little longer to get the house cleaned & our shit packed - kudos to the wife for putting four & half times as much as realistically possible into the minivan - & so far the only thing we left behind was Magda's lunch.

It was sad to let the house go.  It's a lovely place, & I know even though they really can't miss it, the dogs (especially Pauline) are going to miss the beautiful yard.  I think my anxiousness about last night was equal parts going from the house & going to Portland.  The wife put so much work & so much of herself into the house & it was the most comfortable place I've ever lived.  Even after all our belongings were taken away on Thursday, I would find myself going to this room or that as I had been doing for two or more years, out of habit, surprised that my stuff wasn't there anymore.

But I love moving, I love going to new cities, I am very excited about getting to know Portland.  It's not that I have wanderlust per se, I just wish I could relocate every two or three years & spend time in a new place.

The dogs - who doubtless thought we were just going to the park - were easily cajoled into the car.  The cats, however, were freaked out - we put them in an empty room while we packed up & it unnerved Bolan, who was quite frantic.  Bronte & Boone hid in an empty closet, & they were easily grabbed & put into carriers.  Bronte & Bolan shared a large one, Boone had to be by himself in a regular-sized one.  The wife tells me that Bolan complained occasionally throughout the drive, & when we stopped & I checked on them, Bolan was meowing to get out while Boone & Bronte stayed in the back of the carriers.  I wish I could have trained them to be walked like dogs!

We hit the road after 9, I got to hear a bit of my friends Pippin & Carole begging for money on the show I used to do, the Tuesday Morning Blend.  They were much, much better at it than I was, & I was glad they were doing it & not me.  The route began on I-30 till it became I-20 & wound its way through Weatherford, past Mineral Wells, through Abilene, & made a right onto 84 at Sweetwater.  Thanks to the magic of cell phones, the wife & I talked a great deal of the drive, although I did listen to some new records, & a collection of Momus tunes I made so I could sing along.  I didn't listen to any podcasts or books on tape, though I brought those, too - I just really love to listen to music when I drive.

We made a promise to stop every hour or so, for everyone but the cats to go pee, & we pretty much kept the schedule.  We stopped outside Abilene to eat lunch - we brought a lot of food, since we ate out with friends pretty much the entire last week we were in Fort Worth (though, as I've said, the lunch Magda prepared for herself last night was left, we later realized, by our unused fireplace).  While I was eating my sandwich, I met a fellow at a gas station who had a pro-beagle bumper sticker & I also met his beautiful sixteen-year-old beagle named Buster.  The guy was so obviously pro-beagle that Winston, who is famously stingy with his love, gave him a lick when the fellow put his face close to Winston's.

The route took us around, & not through, Lubbock - which seems to have more wind turbines than oil derricks these days, hooray! but the same amount of stockyards, so boo!  - & we had to improvise to find a gas station, which we did, in a town called Littlefield, at a service station on Waylon Jennings Road.  Would you believe I was listening to Townes Van Zandt when we drove up?  I was, but you don't have to believe it.  It began to rain as we left, & the very gregarious cashier told us bad weather was coming.  How did she know? I asked.  She said, "I don't watch TV!  It's just what people tell me!"

She's very good, it turns out.  We later discovered we just missed a storm which included a tornado watch.  We had escaped over the border to New Mexico by then.

The highway was smaller, & we had to drop from 75 mph to 35 mph in a matter of fractions of a mile from time-to-time.  That happens in Texas, too, of course, & also there are generally cops there to give tickets to the unwary.  About an hour from Santa Rosa - in a town called Fort Sumner - we met a young woman who was moving from Washington State - the wife noticed her license plates - to Austin (we asked).  We talked about the Austin that we knew & she admitted that she was moving reluctantly - her husband recently got a job there.  Magda thought I might sympathize but nope!  There isn't a lot of reluctance with this move.

Highway 84 took us to Santa Rosa & I noticed we were in a new time zone.  It is earlier than it once was.  We sneaked the cats into the hotel room - luckily our room was near the back door - hey, we paid extra for three dogs! - & they were pretty unhappy.  It's been a few hours & they've finally come out to eat. They still don't know what to make about the noise in the hallway, but I think they'll be fine - although I am not entirely sure they won't hide when it's time to go.

The hotel is on what used to be Route 66, so we walked the dogs a mile or so down the road & back & I took a lot of pictures of cool signs & abandoned places, two of my favorite things.  I'll post the ones I like best at some point - to my personal Facebook page & to the show's Tumblr blog - but knowing how long it takes me to get through my pictures, I'll be settling into regular life in Portland by the time they make their appearances.  Hey!  I take a lot of dumb pictures!  I go through them chronologically!  They remind me how much I forget things!

For dinner, we ate leftover enchiladas I made in Lexington*.  There are not a lot of vegan choices in Santa Rosa.  Let me rephrase that.  There are hardly any vegan choices in Santa Rosa.  Might I try again.  I would be surprised if there were vegan choices in Santa Rosa.  The enchiladas were good.  If I don't say so myself.  Though I just did.

It's earlier than I feel, but I am exhausted.  The wife has already fallen asleep.  I had last driven in this part of the world maybe twenty-five years ago, & for some reason back then I usually drove around here at night.  But the desert is lovely in its way & I've missed it.  Like Jonathan Richman says, "When I'm in the desert, I wanna see the desert some more."

Luckily we're driving up into Utah tomorrow!

*  (I wrote this sentence at the end of a very long day; of course I meant Fort Worth)

Monday, May 06, 2019

Last Day In Texas

Sort of.  I'll be here until the morning.  I'll take your questions now.

Are you having too many feels?

Strangely enough, no.  I'm looking forward to this next adventure.

How long will the trip take?

Four long days of driving, about five hundred miles a day.

Why are you driving?

In addition to the human I live with, I'll be bringing along the six cats & dogs who live with me, too.  Most of them are afraid of flying.  The rest like road trips.  None of them could afford the bus.

That's a lot of animals crammed into a little car, isn't it?

Oh, we're renting a minivan.  Dividing the cats & dogs.

Are you camping or what?

We're staying in motels.

Which ones?

Why are you being so creepy?

What if I were, you know, nearby?

You're basically just me inventing questions!

Oh yeah.

But.  We're going to be in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, on the first night; Moab, Utah, the night after that; Twin Falls, Idaho, the third night; & Portland finally on Friday night.

Hey, I'll be in Moab when you will be!

No, you won't.

We should hang.

We're done here.