Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mesa Falls, Idaho - On the Road Less Traveled

From the Boardwalk
One of the sights on the road less traveled is Mesa Falls. Highway 47 parallels highway 20 but has alot less traffic. There are lots of places to boondock too.

The Lower Falls (unlike the Upper) is free to look at. About a mile below Lower is a large turnout with a trail leading to the river that had me wishing for more stamina.

Cats' nightmare
The Upper Mesa is a National Forest Fee area. Like most, of that designation, it's free to holders of the Senior/Access Passes. The visitor center has an exceptional collection (in the back room) of pelts, tracks, insects and bird skulls. The numerous pelts give insight to the variety of fur-bearing mammals that once roamed this land.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Alpine, Wyoming - Capers, Coffee & Laundry

Two miles from the border of Idaho, Alpine, Wyoming, is a cosmopolitan hub-of-the-universe offering all the essentials...including capers.

To the North the highway is bounded on the west by Palisades Reservoir and some mountains on the East. Here and there a stream flows down. There are only a couple of roads into the mountains and, as far as I could find, few dispersed camping sites...and those were taken.

Forced, FORCED, I tell you!! to resort to a campground, I was pleasantly surprised to find Calamity C.G. almost empty. I chose tent site C-11 at the top of the hill.

1957 Cummins Diesel (click to largen)
Next morning I supervised the Corp of Engineers launch of their tugboat to clear driftwood from near the dam outlets. Afterward, I explored Little and Big Elk creeks.

Little Elk is pretty small, but there are three (count 'em) dispersed camp sites along it. All were taken. Big Elk looks like good fishing but no camp sites.

The drive up Sheep Creek is beautiful and worth the price of the gasoline, but the area is closed for revegetation.

I was about to mosey on North but an R.V. park owner said the only laundry facilities in the next four counties was in Alpine. I backtracked.

While waiting for the laundry I found filet mignon for $8.99/pd at the Alpine Market. The butcher ground it up and with the aforementioned capers it made superb beef tartare.

The Mountain View Natural Food Market (140 Hwy 89 tel:307-654-5433) has all the essentials be yea a  New-Ager, Greenie, or bike-a-thoner. Coffee (beans or brewed), bison, local beef (excellent!) and fair assortment of organic fruits and veggies and a good selection of supplements. I picked up some Pamela's gluten & wheat frosting mix which, with a whisper of cream, is great straight off the spoon. A bit more, a touch of heat, and voila!...a fine hot chocolate.

Click to Largen
It was late afternoon when, following my Lucky Herrmann instinct, I took the road out of the center of town toward a large canyon. It was the Grey's River road. The Grey's is the last undammed waterway in the U.S. that connects with the Columbia and the Pacific ocean. I soon came to an area of dispersed camping and, as luck would have it, a beautiful overlook (photo at left).

Traffic on the road was intense and as the day advanced, it worsened. As beautiful as it was, I decided to push on. However, for those of you who don't mind neiborus proximus or being ogled by passersby (there's not much room between the road and river), there were quite a few dispersed sites. And everyone looked suitably civilized.

Knowing I'd have to drive a while to the next forest, I stayed another night at Calamity Campground. Cheryl and Mike, the campground hosts, are the best! From Mustang Island (Gulf of Mexico) to Palmer, Alaska (NE of Anchorage), their pit toilets are the cleanest.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

World Travelers & Cupcakes to Die For

Bear Lake straddles the Utah-Idaho border. At 18 miles long, it's a real one, not like the stock ponds in New Mexico. Bear has waves 'plashing on the shore -- and the other side is a bit hazy...and not 'cuz of smog, neither. The hamlets along its shore are filled with boats and water sleds and fishing poles project from vehicles like toothpicks. The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is to the West. My reconnoiter led me up a beautiful, narrow canyon that had been so over-used it was placed in "restoration" status with no camping allowed.

By the time I got to Garden City, I'd driven more than 60 miles!! In one day!!! I pulled into the Farmers' & Artisans' Market (June - August 2013) looking for respite. Mrs. Willis greeted me cheerily and we began. They are world travelers. Her son, young Mr. Willis, had recently returned from India.  He'd also hiked the Pyrenees from Portugal to Spain. In 2010 he'd visited South America where he'd been strongly advised not to travel by bus. But that's just what he'd done. He described the roads as being similar to the kind for which the U.S. Forest Service suggests high clearance or four-wheel-drive.

Having heard of the steep drop-offs along Peruvian roads I asked if he'd been scared. He said no, it was more annoying to be jounced so much. He told of the adventure of reaching the terminus of a line when the bridge across a river was out. The bus company had sent another bus to meet the passengers on the other side and take them to their destination. They crossed the river, about 600 feet wide, on a zip line. He said it was quite an experience, especially with his heavy backpack. He'd visited Peru, Brazil and Bolivia and liked Peru best.

Mrs. Willis, his mother, had recently been to Shanghai to visit her daughter and son-in-law where they were teaching English. While there she traveled to Beijing. She found the contrast between the poor and the wealthy disheartening, but she said the food was superb!! Nothing like Chinese food in America.

Neither of the Willis' expressed any fear of travel. And interestingly, neither mentioned having encountered any "bad" people....the multiplicitous (too big a word for t.v.) bogey-people our media tell us (and we BELIEVE them?) who're lurking behind every bush waiting for victims. (Of course, YOU have a concealed carry license.)

After bidding the Willis' happy travels, I segued over a couple of tables where some innocent looking cupcakes languished. They were grouped in cardboard boxes keeping company with some also rather unprepossessing cookies. I'd had a hankering for the past few days and decided to succumb. I asked for two, chocolate. When she said, "That's four dollars." I almost balked. But I had my wallet out and the cakes were settling into their travel cozy -- a "naturally-flavored sparkling water" box. So I plunked down muh cash and ambled on.

Now let met tell you -- those cupcakes smelled like heaven. And as I drove out of town I began to speculate....were they laced with coca leaves; mari-ji-wanna? I mean $2.00/cupcake! I could see seventy five cents maybe, perhaps even $1.25, but $2.00!!? So I took a bite.

The frosting was the finest whipped cream since the German tortes of my childhood!! The flavor was exquisitely delicate and not too sweet. The cake was as light as feathers and, I kid you not, floated upon the tongue. And at the bottom was a nougat disk of peanut butter and nuts. Thank godz they won't be back until NEXT Friday!!

But for those of you of other interests, I heard a vendor asking a customer if they had cats as they had catnip plants as well as tomato. There were several people selling jewelry and one that had Adirondack-style rocking chairs.  There were custom frames from old barn wood and lots more. And all seemed welcoming and pleasant. It's just a few feet south of the junction of highway 89 West on highway 89 South. Say "Hi" to the Willises for me and if you EVER find a better cupcake for $2.00, PLEASE let me know.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Omnivores' Delight - Dave's Custom Meat Shop

In Evanston, Wyoming I chanced upon Dave's Custom Meat Shop.  After gassing up at The Maverick (supreme $3.77/gal ) I took an exploratory turn (Let's see where THIS goes) to scout the town.  As I emerged from an underpass, I spotted Dave's -- big as life. 

While traveling in The Yukon the other day I was invited to dinner at the home of an artist. Her husband had shot a bison so that's what we had. I was surprised at the flavor. Since then I've preferred it to beef. Besides phenomenally lower in cholesterol its milder flavor makes beef seem gamy. Like beef though, I enjoy it raw. So it was with pleasure I found Dave's had some and the price was around $8.50 per pound, a bit cheaper than most other places.

I also bought a pound of Dave's Smoked Sausage (approx. $5.65/pd). I let the sausage thaw in the afternoon sun on the dashboard as I toodled along at my death-inducing speed (they come upon me so fast most lay rubber standing on their brakes) of around 40 miles an hour. To facilitate the process I slit open the package. I quickly found myself doing "The Pavlovian." I had soon eaten it all.

As with the cupcakes (see: June 21, 2012), I was thrown back to childhood. This time to the public pool in Germany where for lunch we ate bratwurst and gummi bears purchased from small, privately-owned stands. My taste buds were undoubtedly  influenced by the heady combination of chlorine and the company of my German girlfriend, but I've yet to find the equal of those pool-side wursts. But Dave's brought back the memories.

During the night I put out to thaw a package of Dave's bison. In the morning I was surprised to find it was separated into patties with paper dividers between each (elves!!). I had it  for breakfast, straight from the wrapping, similar to beef tare-tare. It vuz excellent!!! Augmented with a bit of bell pepper and onion, it made for a fine supper. Hear yea all you omni/carne vores....Dave's is a must-stop when in Evanston. Please tell them you saw it here.

Daves Custom Meat shop
20 County Rd
Evanston,Wyoming  82930
Ph: 307-789-6555

Friday, June 15, 2012

Numinosity - It's All About Timing

Double click to Largen
Aldous Huxley once said, "Life is mundanity punctuated by orgies." (Harper & Row, 1989) I'm continually amazed by the way the orgies insert themselves.

After several hours at the wheel I stopped to photograph a stand of poppies. Nearby was a sign that read: Stop and rest, linger, enjoy all yea travelers, wayfarers and walk-abouts. The sign was fairly large in a cursive font that leant a creative flair to the invitation. The grounds were contained by a metal fence with stone pilasters which, although a bit closely spaced, added an aire of elegance in an otherwise nondescript, small-town neighborhood. Thinking it might be a Bed & Breakfast,  I strolled up the drive.

There was evidence of yard-work, but no one to be seen. As I approached the front door I noticed the building's facing was composed of rock inlaid between "pilasters" or, in this case, column-like accents. Four semicircular steps resembling concentric waves led to a small porch and the front door. To the side of the doorway a finely-crafted, wooden rocking chair, the glider kind, basked in its position of prominence. It was attended by a lithesome pot stand upon which rested a bird's nest. I pressed the doorbell and detected - rather than heard - it ring.

I inquired about seeing the art. He asked what I meant. I said the house was obviously the abode of an artist and as an enthusiast I was interested in seeing the work. He said I was partially right. The home had been built by an artist but he had sold it to them. His wife appeared and joined the conversation. She averred as how upon purchasing the home she had begun painting.

He left to get one and soon emerged carrying a beautiful winter landscape. The scene was of a stand of birch in front of a picket fence with a barn off to the side. Gray, rounded mountains filled the background. The painting's light was so wonderfully done it actually glowed. I had to pause.

The husband said, "I think she has talent." I agreed vigorously. She beamed. I pontificated on why (I thought she had talent) and added that the yard was beautiful too. He had been working hard on it and was glad it showed. By now the synergism was imbuing an expanded state of enthusiasm. I realized I was once again in what I'm convinced Aldous meant by an orgy...we'd reached numinosity and were basking in it.

The husband bid me happy travels and I ambled back to my carriage. (Eggbert sees himself as a Caravel with four-in-hand, dontchya know.) The "hours" at the wheel had given the poppies to appear at just the right time.

Thank you J.A.T.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bluff, Utah & Cadillac Ranch

I like heat, but this was too much (see prev post). I decided I'd come back in the Fall.

Before continuing North I went to explore Bluff. For such a small place, it's well-endowed with several art galleries/studios and is rife with interesting folks. 

My first stop was J.R. Lancaster's outsider gallery (no longer there when I went by August, 2014 although I hear he's till around.).  J.R. is a bit of a curmudgeon, but don't let him scare yuh. IMEO most curmudgeons are simply thinkers who've gotten pissed; he's just annoyed, not dangerous. J.R.'s working a bit larger and incorporates a spiral similar to the one associated with the Sun Dagger in Chaco Canyon. He then attaches objects such as seashells and stones. Like most art, words don't suffice; yuh gotta see it.

As part of his curmudeonly demeanor, J.R. challenges visitors to create...and the spirit-of-the-day he has a unique way of incorporating a deadline; a cypress-stump timer. 

The lower portion is a sho nuff, N'aw Leens cypress stump. The upper portion, that goes 'round,  is a cypress knee. The knee hangs by a short piece of chain embedded in the point of the stump. When given a light push, the knee, which is cone-shaped and dangling from its apex, rotates around the stump. J.R.'s challenge is for you to make up a story before the knee stops. Beneficent curmudgeon that he is, he has a collection of objects, or muses. And for those who might be intimidated, the "knee" rotates far longer than you'd think!

Next comes The Fort. And this was my lucky day! As I was soon to discover, the great-great granddaughter of Bishop Nielson, one of the founders of Bluff, was staffing the Information Center. Unknowing, I sat on the floor and watched her weave a rug out of old sheets as she told me about herself. A tall, slender woman with beautiful blue eyes, she counted herself lucky to have inherited some of her great, great grandfather's stamina. She'd recently been through treatment for brain cancer and her husband had passed away five months ago. I'd read about her great, great grandfather and how his feet got frozen when he lead The Handcart Group west around 1860 so I knew what she meant.  "We just keep on going." she said with a smile. I less than enthusiastically agreed and told her I was glad she was still here. We hugged and as I went out the door I heard her asking a new group, "And what can I do for you?" As I ambled back to Eggbert, I softly acknowledged, "Another Lucky Herrmann moment."

By now afternoon was approaching and I was thinking of heading on. But I couldn't leave town without saying hello to Diana, the Queen of Bluff. Owner-by-default of Cadillac Ranch R.V. Park, she is an amazing woman. She doesn't say a whole lot, but her silences are among the most incredible I've encountered.

When I pulled in she was ensconced under the overhang of her fifth-wheel. I moseyed over and invited myself into a chair. By way of introduction, I thanked her again for telling me about Butler Wash and my long drive up from Gallup. We chatted about her children and how she sometimes wonders (not really, I suspect) if it was wise to have them. We segued into my problem of the clunk in the front end.

Now here I have to impart some history. This clunk has been plaguing me for the past several years. It comes and goes and several excellent mechanics have looked for it without success. It's been getting worse and although I've been assured the wheels aren't gonna fall off, it's had me wondering.

Diana suggested having her partner Tim look at it. We chatted on for a bit and then Diana went and got him. Tim allowed as he'd been a diesel mechanic and had some experience. He got a long screwdriver and began prying around the link pins and anti-sway bar. And lo-and-behold, he found it!!

(This is one of the times being poor is a drag. My gratitude is in the $50,000.00 range, but it's the old "beer budget, champagne taste" syndrome. I thanked him several times, but he refused money. I made sure Diana saw me slide $10.00 under a watering can for her to give him later. Later, and several miles out of town, I discovered it and another $10.00 I'd given her tucked inside a map on the dashboard.)

As we continued to visit, me basking in the enjoyment of knowing my wheels weren't gonna abandon me, Levi, Diana's grandson, Tim and I began discussing art. Thirsty, as Levi is sometimes known, was playing with a piece of rope dangling from the nose of the fifth-wheel. He looped it around itself several times making an open-air knot. He then took clothespins and placed them along the rope so they held together the places where the rope crossed itself. He then filled in the loops with clothes pins. It was a masterpiece!!

This inspired Tim to show me his "nutty people." He'd put together some nuts (as in nuts & bolts) and, using pieces of wire for arms and legs, made figures. He had a cowboy, a fisherman, a golfer and several others. He said he went to some trade shows (this was a few years ago) and had gotten some orders. It quickly became a going concern.  To make it profitable he made jigs to form the arms and legs and contracted with several folks to produce them. The jigs were works of art in themselves. 

And he had a steam engine he'd built. It had a lever that reversed the flow of the steam and made it go backwards.

And he told me about Muley Point, which is where I camped next. First though, yuh gotta get up the Moki Dugway. But once there, Muley's overlook of Monument Valley is spectacular!

Pictures eventually.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

And Stay Off! (The Rez, that is)

It's a bit of a run across the Rez. Sometimes, when traveling on Interstate 40 I'll sleep a few hours in a rest area. But I learned my lesson about camping on The Rez last Spring (2011)  when I was enroute to The Canyon of the Ancients.

I'm getting olde and my stamina isn't what it once was. I try and limit my driving to around twelve and half (12.5) miles (20.11 km) a day. The Navajo Reservation is around 200 miles wide and almost that tall. At 12.5 miles per day it can take me a while tuh git acrost.

Ute Mountain Utes - Unequivocally

So there I was in the first week of March wending my way through das hinterlands somewhere near Ganado. I'd had a long day at a pow-wow, bobbing my head (think aging hippie with a white-boy's sense of rhythm) to great dance tunes. I pulled off onto what I thought was a dirt road into the wilds. Darkness came early and it was cold. I put up the window covers to help retain the heat.

As the evening progressed, I began to suspect a faux pas; there was WAY too much traffic. Sure enough, just after sunup the Navajo Tribal Police confirmed it -- the dirt road was an entrance to a sub-division. The officer was very polite, but asked me to leave...immediately. He added, "You've upset alot of people."

On my way out I pulled over to let an incoming go by.  The driver, a man about my age (I was 58), stopped, rolled down his window and read me the riot act. "And furthermore," he said, "You're lucky that the young men didn't beat you up. That's what they did to the last person who camped there." So ya'll take heed: incursions, no matter HOW unintentional, are not tolerated.

So you get the picture....they got me under pressure. But it's New Mexico and the manana syndrome rules (I whined piteously). I was slow getting out of Gallup. And when in Gallup one MUST stop at nearby T & R Market  for mutton. It's six miles North on highway 491, but I rationalized that it was on the way. Fact iz, hit's wurth hit enny uhther tyme too. People come from miles aroun' jus' tuh gaze at the mutton display. It's piled in a large, refrigerated case and on a good day the crowd is three deep....all eyeing up each other's adornments and chekin' tuh see who has the latest sneakers. They'll cut to order too.

Safe Haven Outside Bluff, Utah

It's a beautiful drive up highway 666, especially at sunset. One HAS to stop every mile or so to take pictures. But the Southern Ute Indians' reservation parallels the Utah border so yuh gotta press on a ways before you can camp.

I guess word's gotten around about us boondockers though 'cuz there are signs everywhere. But thanks to Diana at Cadiallac Ranch R.V. Park I had a safe haven ahead. As mentioned above (first paragraph of this post), I came exploring in March and having read about Cadillac Ranch R.V Park online I stopped in to see how much they charge for a shower. It was then that Diana clued me to a great spot. I arrived at the gate at 10:00 p.m. Four and a half hours of driving takes it out of me.

The next morning I hiked up a canyon and found a "hole in the wall," a small passage through the rim rock into the next level. I could see into it but the brush was too thick to get through. Besides, it was getting hot. I spent the rest of the day under the tarp reading. It must have been in the nineties. I'd hoped to get up here before this happened (it got hot), but you know how life gets in the way? 


Monday, June 4, 2012

Lift Off (in Gallup, NM)

A wonderful incident occurred today (Friday, June 2). I was in the laundromat in Gallup (the lone anglo) and as I went outside I said g'day to a guy sitting with his wife. He said hi in a drawl that got me wondering where he was from.
Chain of Craters Scenic Byway

Later, I pulled the sleeping bag from the dryer ahead of time. The zipper was so hot it burned muh fangar. But while waving it in the air I noticed there was still 13 minutes on the dryer. I mentioned it to the woman next to me and she said something to her husband. He was pulling things out of a washer and went right to it.

As I returned to stuffing the bag, the drawler drew up on the other side. He opened by asking where I was from. I mentioned the three-day journey on the Chain of Craters Scenic Byway.

He said he'd flown in from N. Dakota (a fellow traveler) and was an iron worker. I realized he had a slight speech impediment, but the challenge made it all the more interesting. I added I'd spent another three days dawdling through the Zuni Mountains Scenic Tour (44 miles). I'd taken the better part of a week to get to Gallup; a two hour trip for most folks (from Albuquerque). Never succinct, I went on about maybe getting to the Tetons to do some fishing.

He commented that fishing sometimes requires luck. I agreed and added that besides which, most of the streams had been fished out long ago and were now stocked. (Rumor has it domestic trout are even more wiley than wild). He asked if I'd checked the stocking dates. I said no, that it was more about putting the worm on the hook and throwing it in the water, than whether I caught anything.

He then held out his hand like he wanted to bump fists and depart. I made the gesture, but he indicated there was more. He said,"Turn your hand over." I did, but kept my fist closed. He then said, "Open your hand." When I did he dropped a fist-full of quarters into my palm.

I asked, Where'd you get this?" He indicated the change-maker's window. I said, "I don't need any money." He said, "Well, it's a gift from Alley (Al Lee?), a friendly Navajo." I thanked him, laughed and headed for the door.

As I passed the couple who were making use of my dryer I gave each one of Al's "lucky" quarters.

And as I drove away I started to cry (kindness does that to me). I was extremely uncomfortable in the laundromat. It's been a week since I've been around people and when I go into town the bright lights, music, dancing gurlz, (drugs,sex & R & R) are overwhelming. But time and again (in town & in the wilds) things like this happen...the kindness of strangers.

But there's more.

As I was trying to drive through my tears I noticed Aurelia's Diner. It looked like an old Dairy Queen so I made a U-turn, wiped my eyes, strolled in and ordered a cone. She asked what color I wanted. The list was staggering, but just as she got to purple a waitress came around the corner in a purple t-shirt. "Purple!" I blurted. It's my fav, after all. My waitress was a beautiful Latina and the cone was almost as pretty as she. A real purple, not some wuss lavender. And when was the last time you saw a purple ice cream cone?

It's good to be oot & aboot agin.