Thursday, July 31, 2014

Platoro, Colorado - Good Eats & Propane

The road follows the Conejos river and although the views are beautiful, the fish are experienced. After several days I ran out of food. 

The southside of town consists of a grocery/cafe. It's a family affair and has a welcoming atmosphere. The owner gave me a deal on four frozen ribeye steaks and when I asked about wifi he explained they didn't have enough bandwidth to make it available to the public. 

The rain had kept me from making breakfast and there's nothing I enjoy more than a steak. When Peggy (shown below) asked how I wanted it, I said I liked it lightly seared, but basically raw. She then delivered an aphorism that described the idea: "You want it dehorned, its ass wiped and chased through the fire." It was one of the best I've had; she also makes wonderful desserts.

The Lodge stolidly dominates the north side of town. Their inventory includes some fishing tackle and a few groceries and gifty items. They also sell propane, rent ATVs, have a guest laundry and (apparently) gleaned their interpersonal skills from a paleo text. The desk clerk took smug delight (yuh gotta get yer jollies where yuh can, right?) in answering with a single-syllable negative when I asked if the password to the wifi could be had. End of conversation. 

It rained all afternoon while I did laundry and read the travel issue of High Country News (Apr 14, 2014, Vol. 46 No.6).

It looks better from a distance. Please say hi to Peggy for me.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Road to Monte Vista - Pt II

The monsoons are in full swing with (maybe) three hours in the morning when you might see the sun. Forest Road 105 leaves off Forest Road 250 a few miles south of Platoro. I spent a couple of days exploring, but could easily stay weeks...if it weren't for the rain. 

The road soon rises above 10,000 feet and (finally) levels off at the junction to Tobacco Lake where I DIDN't check altitude but guess it to be close to 11,000.  

Monsoon at  >10,000 feet

The trail to Bear Lake takes you into the San Juan Wilderness. The aspen are dying en masse...supposedly due to the li'l gals shown below. They was the only wildlife I seen.

Other than the disfigurement, the leaves of the shrubs didn't appear to be suffering from their case of the carbuncles. (Time to start shopping for a camera that focuses).

Pausing to inhale the aroma of vanilla from a Jeffrey(?) Pine, I noticed a splotch of white in the brush; someone had tossed a bottle of gelled alcohol and yerz trooly, Lucky Herrmann, had found it. Back at camp I celebrated the tradition of stockpiling more than enough wood, but even after shredding the underbark (scout manual page 237, para 2) I couldn't get it going. It was then I remembered....FIRE STARTER!! What a concept!! 

I've never been big on fires; their romantic effects not withstanding, on my own, once the tater's done, so'm I. And with this kind of wet, youse either gotta be a duck or from Portland to stand around.

It's less than a mile past Saddle Creek to this view. Time for lunch!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The High Road to Monte Vista - Part I

Out ahead, the road melded into the horizonless expanse of the monsoon. After more than two hours of grey clouds and intermittent showers I had succumbed to the deep depression that affects New Mexicans whenever the sun goes out. I was trundling north solely motivated by smoldering patriotic fervor: I would do what I could to aid in the economic recovery by burning gas. (Does that qualify as a "burning" desire?) I pulled onto the shoulder and got out the map.

After intense perusal, I spied the dirt road along the Conejos River. Executing the necessary u-turn, I caught a whiff of the subtle change that signals "alignment."  

That afternoon, as we passed the final vestige of civilization (an RV Park) on Forest Rd 250, a woman in a small group looked up and gave a friendly wave. Too far to discern more than the gladful energy, her gesture inspired a gentle stiffening in Eggbert's white. I smiled as he straightened his cummerbund and perched himself a bit higher on his shoes. 

The one daunting aspect of the stretch between highway 17 and Platoro is the restricted camping -- only in designated sites, in this case...campgrounds. Being Lucky Herrmann I often find the one & only dispersed site available. (Dispersed is Nat'l Forest speak for an undesignated campsite i.e., wherever I choose. RVers refer to it as Boondocking.) But as sundown drew nigh without even a hint of an alternative, we resignedly pulled into Spectacle Lake Campground.

The campground's hand-pumped water is severely sediment-laden so when Richard, the host, offered use of his purification setup, we gratefully accepted. He recommends the 50 micron filters rather than the 30.

A whole greater than its parts.

The pump came with clips. Richard converted the negative connector to a long-term solution (above).

The filter canister (below) required a couple of adaptive nipples to fit this application. 

Richard recommends the 50-micron filters rather than the 30 shown below.

The water, which was brown when it went in, came out clear. It took less than a minute with the 50-micron filter to process five gallons. Thanks Richard!

It was an uneventful night and nearly everyone left the next morning before nine. I sometimes puzzle over where people are going at that hour. Now that they've freed themselves from their constraints, you'd think they'd spend the morning making love (scroll down to "Erotic Writings" under Literary Career).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Flash Flood - Highway 285, New Mexico

These monsoons are sumpin' else!! It was raining so hard I couldn't see. I pulled off and for the next hour watched this flash flood change the landscape.

Here's what it usually looks like.

Friday, July 18, 2014

It's a Rigorous Life - Cebolla Mesa

Boy howdy, this leisure-living is rigorous!! 

I arrived in Taos Monday afternoon in search of a new bow string. I thought I'd lost mine (more on this later), but as luck would have it, the archery shop was closed. 

I grabbed a Taos Visitors Guide and went looking for a place to camp. The road to the D.H. Lawrence Ranch crosses National Forest so I took it. I don't need to remind you that I AM Lucky Herrmann, but as I drove along noting the various side roads I cogitated on the hand-lettered, cardboard sign that had said the Ranch was open from 10 - 4. It's owned by the University of New Mexico and when I worked there one of the perqs was to rent it. I'd never had the time and was interested in seeing it.  

As luck would have it, this was the first day in four years the Ranch was open. Mr. Medina, in charge of bringing it back online, regaled me with its history and how his grandfather had killed huge rattlers on the west side of The Gorge when hauling water to his homestead. As I was leaving he suggested Cebolla Mesa for camping. This is my third night. 

It's a bonafide campground -- there's a pit toilet and a picnic table or two -- but the sites aren't designated; there're several dirt tracks from which to choose. The area is steppe bounded by juniper-pinon, many are on the brink...of The Gorge that is.

The string turned up; it had fallen behind the driver's seat and finally got bored (I guess) and crawled out from under some luggage.

By now I'd broken my arrows so went back into town. At the Taos Hunting Co. I was lucky enough to get Roy's assistance. He spent the better part of an hour explaining the differences -- fletch type & length (of fletch), point weight, shaft materials. I bought a package of twelve and waited while he assembled them. I also got some much-needed how-to advice. Thanks Roy!

Then on to Brodsky Bookstore where Willie Stark graciously stood (he was busy napping when I arrived) for his portrait. 

A bookstore MUST!!  ---  The cat.

Not now; I'm busy.

Well, alright, since it's you.

I hear yer mudder callin'.

Back at Cebolla Mesa, I perused the Visitors Guide and wrote up a calendar of events. After a bit I decided it was all too much, packed up and...headed to the highway (last phrase taken from Steppenwolf's: Born to be Wild). Outside San Luis, Colorado I got to looking at the distances to public land and decided to go SW about 100 miles where I could then take the high road to Platoro. It was the best decision I've made in weeks.

Whim! It makes the going great!

The Women of Pagosa Springs, Colorado...

...are amazing!!!

It was early in June that I spied a pair of Metros lounging on the veranda of a cabin. Eggbert's been having some issues and I surmised with TWO, surely their person would know a good mechanic; I pulled into the drive and banged on the door. Eventually Dana showed up and boy was she worth it!

I've never heard a woman talk cars, let alone Metro's the way she could. She knew all about 'em and actually had three, the third being a Suzuki Tracker. But it had been rolled and was no longer seeing action. When I asked how she came to be an aficionado she said it was partly cuz she had five older brothers, three rednecks and two others. When I asked who did her mechanicin', she proudly said her 19-year-old son did most of it. 

She's been delivering papers for 12 years and is partial to her 2000 hatchback. She commented that she goes through tie rod ends pretty fast and after three deer and an elk it looks a bit worse for wear, but is still going strong. But what fotched me up on my behimes was when I suggested negotiating with Andy Martin of Eco-Motors in Albuquerque for a custom-built and she said, "I have tits, I can negotiate." Somehow, it seemed related to the brothers.

She'd recently separated from a long-term relationship and has had a few sporting friends, but now, after two marriages, was looking forward to tying the knot one more time. So if you're looking for one that doesn't need you...or your shit, you might try bangin' on her door.

An hour later I was perusing the dairy case at City Market when a woman who'd been hefting a 6 oz thingie of yogurt turned to me and with a disgusted tone said, "Two dollars for that?! I can make it myself for less. I don't THINK so!"  "Absolutely!" I emphatically agreed (I've learned you gotta watch it at times like this...people can be dangerous.) 

I inquired if there wasn't another store and she said "No, we're stuck with this one, in hell!" The delivery was hilarious and as I laughed she took a hold of my forearm and began a tale of how she was raising fryer chickens and was upset because she'd lost 1/3 of her flock to heart attacks.

She blamed the breeder's website as it didn't warn that although genetically designed to be edible within two months, they gained weight so fast their hearts couldn't keep up. According to the forums, 1/3 loss was typical. But, as mentioned, this wasn't explained on the website and it was only after the fact she'd uncovered the truth.

Her grip tightened and she hit her stride. As I stood there wondering how much I could insinuate from the contact, she told how the second batch she'd ordered weren't adapted to high altitude and soon started keeling over. Furthermore, they, batch #2, declared war on the first and had pecked one to death before she could intervene. Her husband put up a fence between the factions, but the antagonists spent all day glaring at the others. For once I found myself at a loss for words. Groping for a scrap of optimism, I encouraged her to console herself with the yogurt. We parted on intimate terms.

As I made my way toward the front of the store a woman perusing the condiments turned and with her second glance gave me a most lovely smile. I'd have thought nothing of it except I'm feeling olde these days. She was near my age and I thought I caught hint of a muffled giggle (my ears get clogged when I'm in a city) as she coquettishly (do I read too much into these?) covered her smile with a ringless hand.

Adopting a slight swagger, I picked the checkout line by noting she was about my age. She was busy with a customer and directed me to the next aisle. As I approached I realized I was about to find myself in the presence of an exceptional beauty. At least ten years my junior with dark hair, she greeted me with a Mona Lisa smile that prompted me to inquire about what kinds of trouble she'd been causing.

With a touch of hurt, she averred her innocence and was merely responding to me. Concerned for her feelings, I described the cartoon that has two pictures of a seated cat. The cat, in both pictures has the identical, enigmatic expression. The caption under the left image is, "A cat thinking about doing something." The caption under the second image is, "A cat that's just done something." 

She got the joke and we spent the rest of the afternoon swapping tales of ribald encounters in the Ace Hardware.

As usual, it reads alot less dramatical than real life. But as I climbed into the cockpit, I was surprised to find myself pondering the potentialities of a rented room.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Kim R. Fuka - Ranchester, Wyoming

I noticed the sign for Indian Art in Ranchester (red on yellow next to pole), but it was late in the day and I wanted to get to the Bighorn Nat'l Forest and make camp.

But I had time the next day and followed the arrow through the alley to the gallery. Unfortunately, it was closed. But the business card taped to the door had a number. Ah whuppt out muh trusty cell, 'n' begin tuh punchin' numbers. ('Member duh daiz when we dialed?) It wuz then ah heard sumbody yellin'. Ah turned tuh see a guy and dog approaching. He allowed as how the dawg wharn't too friendly and sed he'd return after putting him away. 

When he came back he unlocked the door to the unprepossessing house

and we stepped into an oasis. The mix of old and new is museum quality and arranged in a way that inspires comfort and curiosity. 

Kim R. Fuka came to the area in the early '70s from the south side of Chicago. Over the years he's raised two boys, now 19 and 20, and has developed a relationship with the Crow Tribe such that all three have been adopted in. This Spring he's featured in an article on pages 10 and 11 of Destination Sheridan magazine, a bi-annual publication showcasing the cultural amenities of the area.

Renowned for his quill work, Fuka can barely keep up with the demand. Custom orders are welcome and he also does restoration. He can be reached by phone at 307-655-9157 or via email at

Carmen at the Santa Fe Opera

Well, you didn't miss much July 2. Joyce El-Khoury was poignantly evocative as Micaela, but no-one appreciated her, or, at least, expressed any. (Years ago a critic chided the audience for their enthusiasm. S/he claimed the applause and myriad standing ovations were evidence of lack of discernment. Since then they've been reticent.) I made a fool of myself by enthusiastically screaming Brava!!!! numerous times and holding up my lighter at the end of her first-act duet -- Parle-moi de ma mère -- with Don Jose, Roberto Di Biasio. Ms. El-Khoury has been coached by Lorin Maazel and, according to online sources, he designed past programmes at his Castleton Festivals to showcase her talents. 

The production is obviously the work of a ham-hand. The cigarette girls come out wearing labcoats that would, at first sight, evoke ruminations on Mao except the blue is too bright and the fabric too heavy. The lack of sensuality achieves blatantcy when the women embrace their inner "shameless flirts" and throwing open their coats, stroll about flaunting their charms in their undergarments. The motley assortment looks as if the costumer gave them carte blanche while directing them to a thrift store. Although one might beneficently view the contrasts as humorous, the affect adds to the production's general feel of clunkiness.  

Ms. Daniela Mack as Carmen is definitively lacklustre. Perhaps she was tired that evening, but her lack of emotive power prompted me to wonder who encouraged her toward the role. Her attempts at pole-dancing (around the bars of her cell) and spread-legged squats (in Pastias' Inn) ala a strippers revue lacked the talent that work requires and added further evidence to the impression that the choreographer worked in a vacuum. I suppose you could see the consistency of the short-comings as an aesthetic, but if it hadn't been for El-Khoury and Di Biasio, we wouldn't have made it through the first act. As it was we left before the end of the second.

Better luck next time.