Bwa Nef Falls

This picture of Flow standing awestruck at the foot of Bwa Nef Falls is one of my favorite photos from our recent trip to Dominica.


It is a stunning waterfall, set way back in a canyon with rocks tumbled over the top turning it into more of a cave.


Dominica Bound

6 months ago I had never heard of the Caribbean island nation of Dominica, Wednesday–if all goes as planned–I’ll be touching down at Dominica’s main airport.

Sometime around Thanksgiving my partner suggested that we go to Costa Rica in the Spring. I checked into it and found that my (somewhat) recent marijuana conviction prevents me from going there until 2021. That seemed like a lot of time to wait to go on vacation, so we looked around for an alternative. My partner’s friend suggested Dominica as that alternative.

Dominica? Where the hell is that? Well, as I discovered it is a small (15×30 mile) island state in the Southern Caribbean. Depending how you measure, it is either the northernmost of the Windward Islands or the southernmost of the Leeward Islands. It’s Western side is in the Caribbean while its Eastern shore is in the Atlantic. It lacks the white sand beaches of some of the other islands in its neighborhood, as such it has been left relatively untouched and is still mostly covered in rainforest.

You can rent a house in Dominica cheaper than you can get a Motel 6 in the US. So we (My GF Flow and my brother Mike) are going to spend 2 weeks. We have a place on the West side for a week and a place on the East for another week.

A few of the activities that I am looking forward to are: hiking, bird watching, photography, native crafts, whale watching, snorkeling, canyoning, tubing, and checking out the waterfalls, native cuisine, hotsprings,  and just generally immersing myself in a foreign culture for two weeks. Due to cruise ships, 99% of the visitors to the island stay for only half a day, so we will definitely be the exception to the typical Dominican tourists.

Both places we are staying (allegedly) have internet so I should be able to blog the trip and then per my usual MO pull it together into one narrative post after I am back and settled.

Off to Missouri

18 years ago I landed in California. It was a 4 month position that brought me here. I was here something like 5 years before it really dawned on me that I might be staying. Life can be funny like that. Tomorrow evening I pack up the dogs and head to Missouri. The dogs know something is in the air, they had their first fight in 2 years earlier today.
Added the wiring harness to my car for the trailer lights, replaced a belt and the battery yesterday. Today the trailer got re-wired and the hubs get greased. Tomorrow the trailer hitch goes on the car. Then there is nothing left to do but load the trailer and hit the road.
It will be a long slow ride across the southern route. Rain in the bay means snow in the mountains, and we’ve been getting a fair amount of rain. I can’t imagine I can get there before Sunday. I am going to be babying my little car, the trailer’s max speed is 55, I’ll be putting along with the slowest of the trucks.
I’ve been visiting folks and saying my goodbyes. Had a final Peets coffee as well as southwest nachos from
Pepitos Deli, and a chicken garlic cheese-steak (it had been a while and it was a disappointment how much the quality of
Philadelphia Cheese-steak on University had declined) . Hit Point Isabel twice today, this evening for a final visit, I can’t imagine that Shadow will ever be back again. She enjoyed her last dip in the bay, no way to convey to her that it is all about fresh water from here on out. Just watched the sun set behind the Golden Gate… I guess nothing else is holding me here.

The Further Adventures of Smokey

If my battery holds out, I hope to share two more camping anecdotes. Probably won’t be near civilization to post them for at least a couple of days.
I am back in the Kern River Canyon after a 10 day hiatus during which I took some friends who were visiting from Michigan to Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and a short trip down the coast. But that is another story…
We got back here the other night and found a campsite to the east of our previous one and much closer to the Kern River. These two anecdotes both concern my 7 year old Blue Heeler, Smokey. I am not neglecting my senior Aussie, Shadow, but she is wise enough not to start fights with rattlesnakes or the other brash (foolhardy?) things which follow. If I were to write camping anecdotes about Shadow they would all be a variation of “we went for a hike, Shadow stayed close and didn’t cause any problems.”
Smokey is a cow dog, when in the car she barks at every cow she sees. Until last month she had never met a cow in person. Since she had adapted so well to our life of travel I decided to let her meet some cows as a reward. So last month I tracked down some cows in the national forest and turned her loose on them. She instantly knew what to do with them, she circled to their far side and gently pushed them to me. I circled away and she nipped at them and they turned to follow. I eventually ran away and called her along (did I mention that I am afraid of cows?)  That is the background for the first anecdote.
This morning the dogs woke me up at about daybreak to let them out of the tent. Which I did and then I lay back down contented, just loving life. It wasn’t long before Shadow started growling…a rumble low down in her chest that tells me she is serious. She is 11 and this was only the forth or fifth time that I’ve heard her do it.
I grab for my glasses and the tent zipper at the same time and i hear a crashing sound from outside. I get the tent open just in time to see a half dozen cows come careening down a 30 foot sand embankment and into camp, with Smokey at their heels. Three cows, two calves and a bull. One cow lets out a bass “mew-oo” that I could feel in my bones. Evidently she had become separated from her calf. I scrambled out of the tent shouting and trying to get them out of camp while scrambling up the embankment away from them. They left out the drive and down the road, the calf-less cow continuing to call out and thankfully Smokey let them go. I am dismayed that Smokey thought it was a good idea to round up a small herd of cattle and run them through camp first thing in the morning. Incidentally, I saw the wayward calf slink around camp to join its mother about 15 minutes later.
I am blown away by how innate this behavior is in Smokey. Shadow, a sheep dog, would herd people when she was young, but without reinforcement, the behavior was extinguished by the time she was 2. The behavior has to be stored in their DNA, what other explanation could there be? It is totally amazing that Smokey would just naturally know what to do with cows. And, while I know that I am anthropomorphizing, I am certain that she had a self satisfied look on her face.
That was a frightening start to the day, but nothing compared to the fear I had for that dog late this afternoon. Like I said earlier, we are much nearer the river in our current camp. So this afternoon we bushwacked our way down to the river. It was difficult to get down to the river because much of it is cut through rock and has a 20 to 30 foot sheer rock embankment. We eventually found a spot that we could get to with about 20 feet of dirt only 2 or 3 feet above the river. Shadow generally likes the water while Smokey avoids it at all costs. I stripped and put my feet in but the river was too cold and fast to get in. Evidently too fast for Shadow too, as both dogs were hanging over the bank getting a drink. Smokey lost her footing and into the river she went. At first I laughed as that dog hates the water. But my schadenfreude was quickly replaced with fear as she was quickly carried down stream. 20 feet and there would be rock faces and she would not be able to get out. While I wasn’t afraid of her drowning, I don’t think dogs drown very easily, I was fearful that it would be difficult to find her or that she might end up on an inaccessible rock or who knows what. I was terrified for that dog. Somehow she ended up on a rock 20 feet from shore. She didn’t stay there long but made a jump for shore and swam strongly to the embankment where she couldn’t get out of the water. I scrambled over the rocks and got a hold of her collar and pulled her out of the river. She was not a happy dog and there was nothing remotely self satisfied on her face. She spent 15 minutes shaking and rolling in the sand before she wanted anything to do with me or Shadow.
I would imagine that she likes the water even less than she did before. Keep in mind that this is the same dog who canoed with me 350 miles down the Missouri River and never once got wet. Coming up from the river we had to traverse a field of poison oak, I can only hope I don’t get a full body dose of itchy rash, both dogs are covered in it and we will sleep in a pile tonight.
I both love and hate Smokey for her bravery. While I admire her heart, I fear that it will be the death of her.

I still hope to write this trip up in depth when I get access to a keyboard, tapping it out on my tablet is a serious drag.

Just to add, I was only gone from here for 10 days but during that time Spring ended and full on Summer started. The flowers are gone and the grasses are dying. It is 15 degrees warmer and we will have to move further up into the mountains soon.
I am coming up on 6 weeks of off and on camping and each day I feel less like returning to the bay area. I am so over traffic and the hectic lifestyle and the opulence and poverty that exist side by side. The chorus for a song that I recently wrote begins: “This concrete ain’t no jungle, it’s a prison don’t you see.”

Camping Anecdote

So I am still camping in Southern California. The Mojave became too hot so I migrated to the Sequoia National Forest East of Bakersfield. I am on the rim of the Kern River canyon, maybe 1200 feet above the river itself. I think these are the Piute Mountains. At some point I when I am near a keyboard I will summarize the trip. As of now I am tapping this out on my tablet, so a short anecdote will have to suffice. Probably won’t be back in civilization to actually post it for 4 or 5 more days.
I took a 4 wheel drive trail off of highway 178 and slowly navigated about 5 miles up to the canyon rim, bumping and scraping my way along. I found a pretty little knoll with gnarly live oaks, wild flowers galore, buckeyes, and not too many cows, and with lots of squirrels for Smoke to chase (my fear being that that dog will chase one off a cliff.)
After setting up camp and making coffee, I kicked back to relax and enjoy the bird songs and the view. Not too long later I hear a motorcycle putting up the hill. As he nears camp I wave and he puts into camp. As he pulls his helmet off, he says, “Dude, you totally ruined my whole day.”
Somewhat takin aback I inquire what I could have done to ruin his day?
And he replies, “I bought this trail bike for Christmas, today is my first real ride. I loaded it on my truck this morning and drove as far as I could up this hill, then I unloaded the bike and continued up the hill. I’m riding along thinking this is really getting away from it all, I’m riding where very few people get to go. Then I come around a bend and what do I see? A f*#king Toyota Yarris. The only way you could have made it worse was if you asked where the nearest Starbucks is.”
I pointed out that I already had coffee or I might have. I offered him a cup, which he accepted, and we talked for maybe half an hour. Then he said he had to get up the hill a ways so that he could at least tell his friends that his new trail bike made it further up the hill than a Toyota Yarris did.
I didn’t see him come back down the mountain so he must have found another way down, or he’s still up there.

Just to add before posting: got 2 or 3 inches of rain Tuesday and Wednesday, it came with 35 mph winds with 75 mph gusts. Holy cow, I think hurricanes sustain 72 mph and above. It was some crazy wind, but the tent withstood it.

Season’s Greetings

Another year over, and a new one about to begin. A time of  assessment and of contemplating the past as well as the future. The year was dominated by the Snowden leaks, while personally it was one of the more boring years of my life. Still exiled to the island of California, that restriction is still 11 months from being lifted.

Whatever your views and beliefs, I hope you have a most enjoyable holiday season. May your paths be warmed with laughter and may happiness light your way.

I am leaving Friday for a 10 day camping trip to Death Valley. Me and my dogs as well as my brother and his dog. This will be my 3rd Christmas at Death Valley (not in a row) and I am looking forward to it. I haven’t seen any of my family in nearly 2 years, so some good quality time with Mike will be much appreciated. The dogs are looking forward to some good  back country time (I am hoping Smokey doesn’t beat up Fido).

So, for all who are reading this; friends, family, and friends I have not met yet; hope your holidays and great and I am looking forward to quality time in the new year!

South Florida and Back

Sometime during the Winter of 2009/2010 I was on the phone with my brother Mike from Missouri. He mentioned getting a couple of weeks off work in the Spring and I suggested I pick him up for a trip to Florida. Over the coming months we solidified our plans, ticking off the places we should visit: Big Cypress Nature Preserve, Everglades National Park, and Key West came quickly to mind, as well as a visit with our old friend, Jay.

Shorebirds are numerous in South Florida     From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

By the most direct route, Key West is 3200 miles (5200 km) from my house, and I wasn’t going the direct route. While it was still a bit early in the year, I decided to take the Northern route to Missouri as the weather looked good for the next few days.
I had a rider from Craigslist set up to go, but I was getting weird vibes from him…so I backed out. Then, as luck would have it, I was unable to line up another rider.
So after a long work day, I threw the dogs in the van and we pulled out of Berkeley at 10 PM. We made it as far as Fernley NV that night where I had to stop for a four hour nap and we were on our way again. Driving across I-80, Eastern Nevada was as picturesque as I have ever seen it. Eighteen inches of snow on the ground in the high desert gave me an intimation of what we would see once we got into the Rockies. We stopped shortly before the Utah border to let the dogs play in the snow, which they enjoyed as usual. Then across Utah and into Wyoming. When we were about half way across Wyoming the wind picked up and started blowing the snow. Traffic would run over the blowing snow flattening it into black ice. It was dark and going was slow. There were numerous wrecks, mostly trucks, two spun out in front of me. A hundred miles took over 3 hours, still we managed to make it a 1000 miles in 20 hours (including our nap). We took another nap somewhere near Cheyenne. After this 4 hour nap we were on the road long before sun up. Driving through the dark with the wind and sliver moon was a really nice experience. We eventually left Wyoming behind as we entered Nebraska. Nebraska is long and it took most of the day. As we were leaving I-80 to drop south toward I-70 it started to rain. The rain would be our companion for three days, and i find it tiring to drive in the rain.
We got to Columbia in time for dinner Friday March 12. I had driven 2000 miles in 40 hours by myself. I was tired when I left home and still managed to pull it off. I find it to be a good feeling to push the limits of endurance and win.
Spent the evening with the Popster and left for the South the following morning. Mike seemed happy to hit the road and we accepted the rain, as what else can you do?
We made it as far as Murfreesboro Tennesee that night where we got a room and relaxed. Two nights sleep had me feeling almost normal again. We got up the next morning and continued South. We decided to drive straight through the night to get to our destination rather than set up camp in the rain.

Alligators were numerous in the canal         From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

Arriving in South Florida without much of a clue as to what to expect, we headed down Hwy 41 out of Naples towards Big Cypress Nature Preserve. Most of our time in Big Cypress was spent along route 41. We started at the visitor center where we found that Big Cypress contained not a single big cypress, they had all been cut down at some point in the past, leaving only smaller trees for present times. We headed to Monument Lake campground where we set up camp. Most of the hiking trails in the area are through the muck, with the exception of a few short boardwalk trails. So we did our hiking on a dirt road, Loop Road. We drove to a wide spot and set out hiking. As we hiked the road, impenetrable swamp on either side, we could hear crashing as wildlife took flight or splashes as alligators slid into the water. Walking along knowing that alligators were only feet away added to the sense of excitement of the hike. Back on 41, the canal to the north of the road was filled with alligators gathering up the warmth of the sun. There was an alligator about every 50 feet along the canal, this went on for miles and miles. There were also numerous shore birds…herons, egrets, anhingas, etc… My favorite was the Wood Storks, the US’s only native stork.

Wood Stork       From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

We spent two days there then headed over to Cutler Bay (south Miami) to get a room so we could get an early start on our way to the Keys the next day. We got busted taking two dogs up to our room, this forced us to pay for another room as only one dog per room was allowed, so we forked over $75 for a room that we never ventured into.
The next day we checked out and headed down HWY 1. It was raining but warm. It is about 130 miles of bridges and islands to get to Key West. Along the way we took a couple of small walks and did some window shopping. As we got near Key West the rain let up and we started running into a lot of traffic. We made our way to the ‘old down town” area which is the heart of the tourist section. Since it was Spring Break the area seemed geared to drinking and the youth. not wanting to shop, we went to the iconic Smokey Joe’s saloon where we found out the original Smokey Joe’s was at the location of Captain Tony’s. Since this was where Hemingway hung out we went over there, but couldn’t get a drink as the bartender was less-than efficient. We took a stroll past Hemingway’s house and packed back into the car for the return trip.

Hemingway’s favorite hangout       From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

The drive back north was much better, no rain and less traffic. We stopped a few times along the way to play and walk the dogs. In Key Largo we stopped and had a fancy meal at a place I believe was called Ballyhoos. I had shrimp with crab stuffing and it was very tasty. We finished off the meal with a generous piece of Key Lime pie, which was amongst the best pie that I have ever had.
We finished the drive off the Keys and got a room in Homestead, a small dumpy sort of place, but they took dogs.
The four days spent at Everglades National Park is really the heart of the trip. We entered the park near Coe Visitor Center and headed up the main park road toward Flamingo camp. The terrain was flat and featureless, there were saw grass (actually a sedge) seas stretching into the distance. Most of the elevation is less than 5 feet and it stretches 40 miles from Coe Visitor Center to the built up area of Flamingo (store, visitor center, marina, campground) which is located near the southerly tip of continental Florida.

Can it really be called a pass?       From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

As we drove in we saw a sign stating that the vultures would eat the rubber off of your car if given the opportunity. We stopped alongside a small lake and sure enough there were vultures eating the rubber coating off a SUVs luggage rack. We drove on into the heart of the park with the hope of seeing manatees, crocodiles, and whatever else we could see in our brief stay.
Flamingo campground was huge and we had no problem finding a spot to set up a couple of tents and tie up a couple of dogs. Since dogs are not allowed on trails we decided that we would do our hiking early in the morning and late in the afternoon when it is cool enough to leave the dogs in the car. During the day we would hang out in camp or do car touring of the park. Near Flamingo campground was a marina where we learned there were frequent sitings of both manatees and crocodiles. Daily, or sometimes more often, we would trek over to the marina to look for wildlife. On one of our early visits we saw an osprey fly by with a fish, it landed in a tree and we set and watch it eat the fish and interact with other osprey. It was surely one of the most Wild Kingdom like experience I have ever experienced.

Osprey with fish        From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

We found that osprey were more than common around the marina and it was nothing to see 10 of them with half a dozen nesting sites easily found. There were also red-shouldered hawks, swallow-tailed kites, and other birds of prey which made regular appearances.
Added to the raptors, there were also numerous shore birds that would make regular appearances. A flock of ibis’s would regularly walk through camp looking for whatever it is that ibis’s eat in the grass. Black vultures would also come through camp looking for garbage to pick through.
Daily we would make a pilgrimage up to the marina to look for manatees and/or crocodiles. On our third day we were rewarded with a visit by a manatee (sea cow) and her calf. They are large gentle seeming creatures and we felt fortunate to experience them up close.

Manatee and calf      From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

We visited most of the boardwalk trails and even hiked a canal near bear lake, taking the dogs on an illegal hike into the swamp. At one point a ranger came and lectured me about the importance of keeping the dogs on leash, so their running free ended up being quite limited. I don’t know about Mike, but I felt that I got to see the vast majority of what there is to see before we left.

Swallow tailed kite       From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

When we packed and left the Everglades we went back up to Big Cypress to spend a few hours checking out the alligators and hiking the loop road again. It was on this hike that I spied two alligators on the side of the road and decided to introduce the dogs to them. I hopped out of the van and ventured up as close as I dare to the alligators, probably about 10 feet behind them. The dogs were oblivious to them. I think that alligators are so far removed from my dogs’ experience that they were unable to even comprehend them, let alone see them right there in front of them.

Introducing the dogs to alligators       From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

By this time, there wasn’t much else to do but point the car north and begin our journey homeward.
Soon we were watching Big Cypress disappear in the review mirror. Back through Naples and North on 75 to visit Jay and Cecie at their Winter home in St. James (on Pine Island in the Gulf of Mexico).
Leaving the lushness of far Southern Florida was a shock. There was no buffer zone, it went from tropical rain forest to a desert like mono-cultured dead zone in the space of only a couple of miles.
We spent the night in a motel in Ft.Myers, a bustling modern city. Early the next afternoon we we drove over to St. James on Pine Island to visit Jay and Cecie. They have a nice place right on a canal. They loaded us all up in their boat and we went putting around the canals. Even here there was much wildlife and we saw eagles, storks, numerous other birds, and even dolphins leaping from the water behind us. When we stopped to fuel the boat, Smokey fell off and I had to fish her out of the canal. Then we took a quick spin out into the Gulf and around a small mangrove island. Back on dry land our hosts took us to check out an eagles nest. We watched the eagles fly from the nest making eagle calls…the first time I had heard them.

Eagle with nest       From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

After this we went back to Jay and Cecie’s place where we were served a nice dinner and spent a while chatting it up before heading back to our room in Ft. Myers.
The next day we headed North. We stopped and hiked a fire trail in the Osceola National Forest in North Florida. The area we hiked was farmed long leaf pine, sandy soil and devoid of wildlife. We finished the day by driving to Tallahassee in the pan handle and getting another room.

Smokey fetches in North Florida      From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

We had to two days of driving to get Mike back to Missouri and it was a two day drive to do it. We decided to enjoy the day along the northern Gulf coast and drive through the night to make up the lost time. After check out we dropped South to the coast and spent a big part of the day enjoying the scenery as we drove leisurely. We found some beaches that were barren except for us and did some hiking and playing with the dogs. Having a nice sandy white beach to ourselves was extremely pleasant. These same beaches were wrecked by the BP Horizon disaster about 2 months later.

Mike and the dogs play on the beach       From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

After a short hike in the national forest, we pointed the car North and West and drove on back to Columbia, Mo, where we arrived early Thursday morning. Spent most of Thursday lounging and napping. Then a long weekend eating good and catching up with the Popster.
Soon enough came Tuesday night and I loaded the dogs up in the van and left Missouri. As I pulled away from the curb, I noted the big beautiful moon and thought it brought warm bodings for the trip. Leaving Columbia I dropped down 63 to 58 West.
Generally, when I start a trip I leave at night. To me it is bonus miles. I find that I can drive all night and all day, but if I leave in the morning I find that I am ready for bed as soon as dark rolls around. Since there was still too much snow in the mountains for the most direct route of I-70, I was heading South and West to pick up I-40.
When I got down to 58 I started seeing dogs crossing the road. This was about midnight and they were crossing in twos and threes. We had just watched Stephen King’s Desperation a few nights earlier and it was weird…I must have seen 15 dogs in a 70 mile stretch, they appeared out of the dark like ghosts and vanished as the headlights moved on. The rest of Missouri was hilly, curvy, and dark. We followed 58 through the night and napped about 100 miles East of Wichita Kansas. The next day we drove across Kansas endlessly…it did finally end at Oklahoma. We only caught about 30 miles of Oklahoma, still I managed to get pulled over for speeding.
Leaving a small town, I accelerated too fast out of town and was pulled over doing 44 in a 35. It was one of the better experiences I have had with a cop. He was friendly, we chatted about life the economy and everything, and he let me go with a warning. Luckily the state takes all of the ticket money so there is no pressure on the local cops to write more tickets to help with the budget. We ended up shaking hands before I drove off and surprisingly it felt very genuine. I guess I have to take back all the bad things I thought about the Oklahoma police, of course the outcome would have been very different had I been burning when he pulled me over.
In Texas, still on 58, we passed the largest feed lot I have ever seen. It went on for miles and miles. As I drove past I saw a sign saying “Bio secure area”, thinking that strange I went back to take a picture of it and the feed lot. I jumped out of the van with my camera, then stopped to read the rest of the sign: BIO SECURE AREA, NO ADMITTANCE, NO PHOTOGRAPHS. Oops… I jumped back in the van and left. We made it to Tucumcari New Mexico and got a motel.
I had made good time thus far, so the next day I took it easy. I stopped and browsed the roadside stores, took in the sites and followed some of Old Route 66. Often 66 would be just the business loop off of I-40…other times it would be a 100 mile loop that paralleled the freeway.

If daisies are your favorite flower, keep pushing up those miles per hour      From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

It was fun to imagine what Route 66 was like in the days before the interstate. Instead of the direct Chicago to LA at 65+ MPH that I know, it was a much longer trip. Where they moved mountains to create the modern interstate, the old route would have wound its way around and over them. Where every exit along the interstate are interchangeable the old route would have gone through every town along the way, big and small. Route 66 was a time when we still had regional cultures in the US, now our culture is flat and varies little from place to place, like one giant field of corn where small diverse farms once stood. I imagine that if one travelled back 50 years in time, returning would have given the same shock that I felt upon leaving the diversity of the Everglades and entering the desert-like mega farms of central Florida.
In Gallup, I stopped to look at some pottery (starting price $1000), as I got back on the freeway I stopped for a hitch hiker. It was a young (18 or 20 year old) Navajo. He had hitch hiked into Gallup to see a relative in the hospital. I drove him into Arizona about 30 miles off the freeway to get him home. We had some interesting conversation, the most notable thing was his absolute faith in nothing positive happening in his life. He had recently lost his job and had no prospects or hope of getting another…hunting antelope and worrying about mountain lions seemed to be his main joys.
In Arizona I stopped at Ofelia’s knife store, where I met Ofelia and discussed the finer points of various switch blades (I bought a set of pairing knives). Ofelia used to run her business out of Modesto California, but the tightening restrictions and stress caused by further prospective restrictions caused her to pack up and move it to Arizona. It was interesting finding an educated person in the desert selling knives at the end of 100 miles of bill boards. Between Albuquerque and Flagstaff it was cloudy, cool, and snow flurries. I liked it as I could leave the dogs in the car without guilt. I did a lot of stopping along the way. Flagstaff was cold with a lot of snow on the ground, I found a warm motel and snuggled in early.
The next day we played in the snow for a while in the Kaibab National Forest, the dogs loved the snow and I loved the trees, the first since Missouri. Then we did a large loop (130 miles) of historic route 66 between Seligman and Kingman. It was beautiful high plains, complete with Burma Shave signs. In Kingman I picked up another hitch hiker, this one a 50′ish ne’er-do-well. I ended up giving him $25 for a pair of work boots that I really didn’t need, and with his attitude he really had no use for either. The boots are actually pretty nice, new, and just a bit wide for my foot. I dropped him off in Needles where he no doubt found a liquor store to trade his cash for something more useful.
Then we were into California. Needles to Barstow used to be the long stretch of desert, at least 100 miles of dry hot road without water or gas. Now, you don’t need to travel further than 40 miles to find gas and the stretch is not much different from any other stretch of highway. I remember when I was a kid and saw this stretch of highway for the first time. My father had been talking about the upcoming desert, and I had child-like ideas of what a desert should be…sand dunes, oases with palms, maybe a camel…I was disappointed that it was scrub and had no blowing drifting sand.
We stopped in the high desert West of Boron to let the dogs run around and chase sticks and made a short day of it by getting a room in Mojave about half way up Tehachepi Pass.

Shadow enjoys the high desert       From 2010 Everglades NP, Big Cypress Reserve

Early the next morning, Saturday, we took off for the final 6 hours home. Driving down the hill into Bakersfield I noted the moon off to the West…a quarter moon descending to the West, it really helped to put the 4 day jaunt into perspective. Driving North in the central valley the coastal range off to the left was as pretty as I have ever seen it. Green with the recent rains and colored with vast patches of orange (poppies) and yellow (mustard?), I am sure I have seen prettier landscapes, I just don’t remember when. We pulled into our home driveway early in the afternoon still relatively fresh. Of course the dogs were happy to be home and warm hellos were given all around. Vacation is always a pleasure, and spending this one with family made it particularly so…but the pleasures of returning home after a long trip are also to be treasured.

A few more pictures can be found here.

Note: I stole the idea of mentioning the shock of running into the monoculture farms after the Everglades from Mike, it tied nicely with what I wanted to say later about the culture-less interstate system.