Tuesday, June 12, 2007

If Jack Kerouac Had Driven a Minivan…more impressions from the road

On the Road, June 2-7, 2007

In Raton, New Mexico, I could only find two hotels willing to accept Large Dog. My favored one, “The-Award-Winning-Holiday-Inn-Express-Raton-
New-Mexico-This-Is-Bernadette-Can-I-Help-You,” only had three “pet-friendly” rooms, and all three were occupied my travelers with more foresight. Thus we were consigned to the Motel 6. Yes, it offered free internet, but all the Ethernet cables had been stolen (also, all the remotes). My neighbors were a cadre of bikers…don’t get too excited, ladies; they were the Austin Police Motorcycle Club. Who knew public service paid well enough to provide those fancy BMW rides? At least I felt well protected from our other neighbors, the ones Large Dog fretted about all night long: two black calves, a large sheep, and a vocal young goat in their own stinky livestock trailer.

Stick with me: it’s all about the glamour.

The next day brought, other than gorgeous glimpses of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo and the Front Range, lots of interstate driving and an inordinate number of dead deer. I never fail to get the Heebie-Jeebies passing through Colorado Springs, epicenter of our country’s freaky-evangelical right, birthplace of purity balls, home of New Life Church, a city so chaste that Focus on the Family gets its own freeway exit sign. And don’t forget the Air Force Academy, in the news recently for religious oppression. I made a stop on the edge of town to pick up a couple of things and the clean-cut, homogenous blondness of the place took my breath away.

Interesting that it’s just up the road from Trinidad, one of the more popular places in the US to have gender-reassignment surgery (and featured in a South Park episode, "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina"). Colorado’s motto should be Land of Odd Juxtapositions, no? Think of it: Telluride and Tancredo. Vail and Virginity. Ted Haggard and Trinidad.

I-80 across Wyoming is, well, straight, although it offers a stark loveliness (and more dead deer…antelope are obviously the more savvy species) in between the unfortunate mining sites. Someone dear to me believes that every glimpse of wildlife is a blessing, and after this drive I am bound for glory. Between Laramie and Rock Springs I saw something I’d never seen before, a mother antelope and her very, very tiny baby. I’ve seen young ones before, but never one this small. Amazing.

Laramie afforded the trip’s best graffiti, on a porta-potty in a lovely little park: Republican Think Tank.

Salt Lake City? It deserves a blogpost of its very own. Stay tuned.

The next to last day of the trip was a ten-hour push from SLC to Lakeview, OR. When I exited the Hotel Monaco after a wonderful two-night stay to detox after the string of one-star hostelries, I noticed the temperature had dropped at least 30 degrees, my first clue that an odd day was to follow.

Crossing the Great Salt Lake, as the rain began, brought to mind Terry Tempest Williams’ wonderful book Refuge. 30-40-50-somethings with eco-interests should consider this one a must-read.

As I began to climb, the rain began to solidify. “Hmm…sleet,” I thought. “Not unheard of in June, particularly at higher elevations. What a delight.” But eventually the sleet became snow, the snow I’d noticed on the mountaintops all around. Real snow. Heavy enough that I could barely see the tail lights of the giant semi in front of me. Again, this is not unheard of in June up in the real mountains. But on I-80? Maybe a little.

By Winnemucca, it had turned back to little sprinkles. Alas, no stop this trip in Elko, home of massive Basque dinners (lamb is always best - sorry, DYR, I mean SHEEP) and potent picon punch; this video was taken by someone at The Star, but I prefer to savor my punch at Biltoki's. Every time I'm there I hear Basque spoken and I imagine the handsome young man at the bar, whispering with the elders, is an ETA terrorist hiding out from Interpol. By Denio, the sun was out.

And then, the breathtaking drop into Oregon, the bit of road that takes you on a 10% grade over a mile of curves down one side of a hill.

Don’t look down.

Lakeview is a logging/ranching town from the 1880s. I predict it to be the next Oregon retirement/artsy boomtown. I always rest well here. The last time, I slept through an earthquake, literally. It doesn’t have a McDonald’s or a Starbuck’s…yet. It does have the Snak Shak, where five delightful high school kids teased and flirted with each other, granting passing politeness to the adults who waited for their takeout. And the Lakeview Lodge, my home for the night, where I drifted off to the smell of pinon and woke to the unmistakable zing of 28 degree high desert air through the open window. Large Dog and I strolled through the original red brick downtown to a great walk-up/drive-through espresso hut for some road juice, I left for my destination restored.

I do love the west.

1 comment:

L. said...

It does sound lovely... my mind's eye is getting full on candy!