Monday, August 22, 2016

The Return

The final leg of my trip east begins in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, my mother's hometown. Unlike my mother and five other siblings, my Aunt Peg never never left Johnstown. Even so, she was the linchpin of the family. She died in 2008 but I still have cousins Gretchen James and Michael Seifert there whom I had not seen in years. My visit was also an opportunity to prepare for the trip west. On the way to Johnstown from Virginia I stopped for an afternoon at Antietam National Battlefield and a full day in Cumberland, Maryland with Pamela McCormick, a friend from my days on the Rez.

Thursday June 16 is overcast, wet and occasionally foggy as I snake my way northwest out of Johnstown early and into the hills of western Pennsylvania. I make a long detour around a massive, stand-still traffic jam on the PA turnpike and finally cross into Ohio on toll roads I-76 and I-80. Weather is on-and-off rainy much of the day. Once through Cleveland my route follows US 2 along the Lake Erie coast from Lorain to Maumee Bay State Park.

The park is very high end. In addition to the usual camping, hiking and other outdoor activities on the Lake Erie shore, park facilities include a resort lodge and golf course. The camping pads are all paved. I find a site with good vegetation between other sites and mine and settle in for a relaxed evening after a long day's drive.

Next morning I check out a few of the park's features before setting out through Toledo and into southeast Michigan following US 223 through the countryside. Breakfast is in Blissfield before passing through Cement City about 10 miles south of Jackson where I pick up I-94 to turn west. Day is sunny and hot. Turning north at Kalamazoo I finally get away from freeway traffic in Ostego where I follow Michigan Routes 89 and 40 and US 31 to Muskegon. It's a Friday afternoon and plenty of traffic is on the road, large sections of which are under construction. Traffic in Muskegon is heavy and it seems like forever getting to my friends' place.

My friends, Jill Farkas and Scott Majetich, are also acquaintances from my Rez days. They both taught in Window Rock schools. Jill was also a photographer and one of the regulars with me in the Thursday night open darkroom at UNM Gallup. They are retired and living in Jill's hometown. My time with them is a whirlwind. Friday evening starts with dinner followed by a small neighborhood gathering and an event at Hackley Park downtown where two family members are performing in a local band and end at a bar where one of those family members is playing a set with another musician. Saturday is equally busy—farmers' market, kayaking on Lake Muskegon, dinner, lighthouse tour and back to the late night bar. 


Sunset in Muskegon

Sunday morning I headi north on US 31. North of Manistee I cut over to Michigan 22 following Michigan's west coast and stopping at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for a short visit. Turning east from Sleeping Bear, I head to Traverse City and continue on to Petoskey State Park on Little Traverse Bay. I'm very tired by the time I pull in.

Monday morning dawns windy with the threat of thunder storms. I manage a quick breakfast in camp and am ready to roll when the first storm hits. Continuing north, I soon reach the suspension bridge over Mackinac Straights. With a carrier on top of the camper shell, my truck is a high profile vehicle so I am required to cross in a convoy behind a pilot vehicle with the tractor-trailers and RV's. The wind is blowing hard. Any harder and the white caps would be breaking over rather than against the causeway. Gulls can hover in one place by simply riding the current.

On the Upper Peninsula now, I follow US 2 along the northern shore of Lake Michigan. After a late breakfast in Naubinway I turn north on Michigan 77 at Blarney Park heading to Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore on Lake Superior at Grand Marais. The visitor center there is not open (as in for the season, it appears) so I follow County Road H 58 through the park to the Upper Hurricane River Campground which is largely empty at mid-day. I claim a space and head down to the lake shore where the lower campground looks pretty full.

At the shore, I hike out to the Au Sable Lighthouse along what is essentially a closed road. Interpretive signs provide information about shipwrecks and lures me down to the shore where I am supposed to find the skeleton of one wreak. I don't find the skeleton. I'm too busy making sure not to fall The route at shoreline is rocky and I wish I was wearing stiffer footwear. The rocks end soon enough and I find a route up the sandy bluff to the lighthouse. After walking around the site and reading the exhibits, I head back along the road.


Au Sable Lighthouse

The day has been especially windy and even though my campsite is well up from the shore I can hear the roar of the surf. Weather here is decidedly cooler than farther south. Muskegon was hot. Tonight on the Summer Solstice I am dressed for warmth.

Tuesday morning I continue along H 58 through the park, much of which I recall as forest with the occasional lakeshore access. I make a few stops along the way but reach my planned stop by noon even after spending time in Munising to take care of some chores. I decide to push on following Route 28 through Marquette and a countryside dotted with lakes and rivers. The day ends at Curry Park Municipal Campground in Ironwood, Michigan. The feel of trip is changing--I decided against a second night on Lake Superior because it was 10 miles out of my way. I'm beginning to feel like I need to start making miles toward home rather than wandering so I end up camping in the middle of town. Hardly pristine but shaded and reasonably quiet despite traffic on US 2.

Breakfast the next morning is in a nearby restaurant, one of the benefits of camping in town. Two miles out of Ironwood on US 2 I cross into Wisconsin and zip across the northern part of the state to Duluth, Minnesota. Leaving Duluth I mistakenly follow US 2 north instead of taking a somewhat more southerly route west across Minnesota. I discover my error in time to follow Minnesota Routes 200 and 34 through a less populated area. I cross the Mississippi River at Jacobson. The river is substantial even this far north but not as wide as it will become. I pass Leech Lake which is also home to the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. Late Dinner in Park Rapids is surprisingly inventive and good. The day ends at Buffalo River State Park which includes and adjoins “one of the finest and largest prairie tracts in Minnesota.” The park is very pleasant and relaxing. 


Mississippi River at Jacobson, Minnesota

The next day begins my long miles of interstate driving. I pick up I-94 in Fargo, North Dakota shortly after leaving Buffalo River. The Fargo-Moorehead Visitors Center has the wood chipper from “Fargo” on display. The day is hot. North Dakota from the interstate is pleasantly pretty and definitely not flat. The topography is rolling and looks soft to me. Occasionally, I can see what seems like forever—green, verdant undulating fields stretching out before me. Above, a great blue sky encompasses this infinity. Climbing out of the Missouri River basin west of Bismark the terrain becomes more rugged, but even here subdued. No rocky outcroppings. No sharp peaks.

The day ends at an extended stay motel in Dickinson, North Dakota. The motel is housing for workers in the North Dakota oil boom. It has a full refrigerator, stove top, and a full size sink. I'm not in for an extended stay but this is all convenient for freezing water bottles for my cooler and washing dishes after a week on the road.

Friday morning I discover that I left my gas cap on the pump when I filled up in Jamestown yesterday. I find an auto parts store nearby for a replacement, grab a breakfast burrito at Taco Bell and blast off for Theodore Roosevelt National Park about 30 miles away. My plan is to arrive as last night's campers are pulling out. It's a Friday in June at a national park so the campground will fill fast in the afternoon.

The drive to the park goes quickly and I am in the campground by 11:00. It's about half-full. I select a site that appears to have the best shade on this very hot day and sign up for two nights. After a quick lunch, I head out to explore the 36 mile scenic loop drive. I'm slathered in sunscreen, have lots of ice water in the cooler. The park is part of the North Dakota Badlands/Little Missouri National Grassland. The park is cut by the Little Missouri River and peaks rise about 1,000 to 1,500 feet above its wide floodplain. Eroded sandstone cliffs underlain by harder rock create, isolated peaks and hoodoos. Between the heights are extensive areas of open range, the sparse vegetation standing out in green contrast against the gray-brown earth. Tributary streams create their own open ranges. I am surprised to see water flowing in any of the tributaries in this heat.

By the time I complete the scenic loop I am totally wiped out by the heat so I bail into the visitor center to watch the orientation video in a cool, dark theater. My campsite has a little but not much shade when I return. I cook dinner in the heat, hunkering in a sliver of shade afforded by a tree trunk. The heat breaks as the sun heads toward the horizon around 8:00 pm. After dark, I watch lightning flashes light up the southern sky.

Saturday morning is cool and pleasant. I lounge in the shade until the sun climbs higher before heading out to the park's north unit 85 miles away via I-94 and US 85. The wind is blowing fiercely hard from the west and keeping the truck steady in the cross wind is difficult. The day is much cooler than yesterday. The topography is much the same as what I saw yesterday except the elevations are higher and includes much grassland. A bit of rain falls but not for long. Back in camp the dinner challenge is keeping things from blowing away. After dark I spot Jupiter and Mars in the night sky. I also see bats circulating in the evening sky. They look fairly large, with maybe a 12 inch wingspan. 


Little Missouri River in Theodore Roosevelt NP

Next morning I soon cross into Montana. After breakfast at the Paradise Café in Wibaux I begin the 700 plus mile drive across the Big Sky State. The day is hot and traffic is heavy on this summer Sunday, especially after I-94 merges into I-90 at Billings. The landscape gradually morphs from badlands to rolling terrain where the freeway follows the Yellowstone River. I pull off at Big Timber, Montana and turn south on Route 298 looking for a national forest campground. It's farther than I expected but I finally find the Falls Creek campground about 30 miles south. It's a fairly primitive site in a steep canyon and charges no fee. The sites are walk-in so I am camping in the parking area to sleep in the truck. Even in the truck I can hear the music of water falling over rocks as I fall asleep. Sometime during the night I look out the window to see the most brilliant dark sky of the trip, a seemingly infinite array of stars splayed out against a black dome..

On the final Monday of the trip I roll into Big Timber for breakfast and begin another long driving day. I finally leave the Yellowstone River at Livingston and push on through Bozeman and Butte. After Butte, I get off the freeway to follow Montana Route 1 to through Anaconda to Drummond. Back on the freeway I am now following the Clark Fork River which parallels the road all the way to Superior where I will stop for the night. It's a damn big river that I've never heard of. I make a quick stop at the Nine Mile Remount Depot, a working Forest Service ranch in Hudson, Montana. Back on the freeway I find dinner in Superior before heading south to the Trout Creek national forest campground. The campground is in a poor state of repair but it's everything I need at the end of a hot day.

The night is surprisingly cold after the day's head. I started out sleeping in my light summer bag but switched to my down bag sometime during the night. Morning is the coldest I felt since the first days of trip in Yellowstone National Park in late April. I pack and roll out quickly for breakfast in Superior. The day's drive is a short one to my cousin Kathy Bonner-Walsh's place in Nine Mile Falls northwest of Spokane. I am almost home now.

I take a zero day at Kathy's and take time to catch up with family news with her and husband Mike. Their place fronts on Long Lake and I get out on Kathy's kayak both evenings to enjoy the quiet and watch ospreys soaring overhead and occasionally diving for food. The stopover also gives me a chance to wash the truck and remove the vast collection of splattered insects that I've accumulated since April.

On Thursday June 30, I roll out of Nine Mile Falls through Spokane and on to I-90. This is a familiar drive. I've done it numerous times but it feels different on this day. I have something like 8,000 plus miles behind me. I've seen many friends and familiar places while also seeing and experiencing new places. All of those friends and places come to mind as I make my way across a very hot eastern Washington. Crossing the Cascades at Snoqualmie Pass brings me into very familiar territory. I-5 traffic is heavy but not yet at rush hour congestion so I make good time.

Exiting the freeway on to Pacific Avenue in Olympia, everything looks the same but somehow feels different after two months. I pull into the parking space at my apartment and by the time I get out of the truck Maggie is waiting at the bottom of the stairs.

I am home.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

It's Over?

Today's Washington Post pretty much calls the election for Clinton.  The lead story describes continuing divisiveness within the Repbulican Party and Trump's campaign.  This is followed by Senator Susan Collins refusting to endorse Trump and a serious discussion of Trump's non-existent get out the vote operation.  Finally, Stuart Rothenberg makes a convincing argument based that Trump is unlikely to halt his downward spiral.

All of which is music to my ears.  I can only hope that all this will prove true.  I know that Donald Trump has survived as a candidate against all expectations but I think that most Americans are begining to tire of his bluster, lies and ignorance.  Of the only two people who have a chance of serving as president beginning January 20, 2017 I prefer Hillary Clinton.  Seeing a blowhard bully like Donald Trump crash and burn in November would be a bonus. 

This all reminds me of the Goldwater-McGovern treatment.  Both candidates were regarded as hapless losers from the moment of their nomination.  Barry Goldwater was widely described as a dangerous (the infamous daisy ad) and was reported to be psychologically unfit to be president.  McGovern was derided as the candidate of "acid, amnesty and abortion".  He was ridiculed for dumping his VP candidate after backing him "1000 percent".  Both McGovern and Goldwater were written off by the press early on.  Neither succeeded in turning things around.

I hesitate to compareDonald Trump to either George McGovern or Barry Goldwater.  The latter both demonstrated a demonstrated a serious commitment to public service and were decent human beings.  Donald Trump shares none of these traits.  But one comparison is appropriate:  both McGovern and Goldwater lost their elections.  I look forward to Trump joining them in the loser column.

A follow up question for extra credit. 
If Trump is Goldwater/McGovern, is Hillary Clinton Lyndon Johnson (remember how that worked out) or Richard Nixon (even worse)?


Saturday, August 06, 2016

Mid-Summer Velo News

Today was not much of a summer day, even by northwest standards.  Cloudy and cool, max temperature was 66 degrees.  Good riding weather, albeit kind of dreary.  I didn't sweat like I did just a few days ago.  Despite the cool weather, the Chehalis Western Trail definitely looked like summer.  All of the trees and brush are fully leafed out.  The small watercourse that runs down a gentle incline is bone dry.  The Deschutes River is very low.  The overcast skies kept me thinking of rain but none was forecast and none fell.

Since returning from the east I've ridden 206 miles.  That's an average of 40 miles per week and well above my typical average of 22-23 miles per week over the past few years.  The difference is that since I've retired I can ride twice a week most weeks.  The weekday rides are especially nice since most everyone else is at work.  I remember enjoying the occasional mid-week rides when I was self-employed.  It's even better now that mid-week rides are a regular part of my schedule.

Had an accident on last weekend's ride.  Getting off my bike as I was coming to a stop I lost my balance and fell off the bike.  I landed on my left side, skinning my knee and elbow in several places.  Nothing broken or seriously hurt although my left leg and arm looked distressingly bloody.  I cleaned the wounds with my water bottle and bandana and completed the final couple of miles home.  My hip and shoulder, which also bore the brunt of my fall without breaking the skin,  were a bit sore the next day.

Bicycling can be risky.  Ask Chris Froome.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Festering Carbuncle on America's Ass

So, Donald, you say in response to Khizr Khan's accusation that you have not sacrificed, that yes, you have sacrificed.
I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs,.
If you think that building a business with a "small" $1 million loan from your father and stiffing contractors and creditors is is in any way comparable to military service, you are totally out of touch with reality.  You took some business risk and profited, that is all.  You risked nothing but money.

Captain Humayan Kahn risked his life.  He lost his life in service to his country.  That's what soldiers do.  What have you ever done that comes close to this level of sacrifice?  Have you ever come under attack?  Have your ever dodged incoming rounds?  Have you ever seen your buddies killed and maimed?  Have you ever wondered whether you will live to see another day?

That, you fatuous asshole, is sacrifice.  And you don't even come fucking close.

With all due disrespect from this veteran. 


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Kill Your Television

 Study suggests sitting-to-exercise ratio.
"Researchers also ran the same analysis for time spent on an activity and mortality for TV watching and found that people who watched television three or more hours per day (presumably while sitting rather than being on, say, a treadmill) had a higher risk of mortality for nearly every amount of physical activity except for those in the highest quartile. But even these super active people could tolerate only so much TV time. Those watching television five hours a day or more still appeared to have a significantly increased risk of death as compared to those watching little TV regardless of the amount of physical activity. This implies that watching TV while sitting may somehow be worse for your health than doing a different type of task while sitting and it's something that has researchers find perplexing..."


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Another Week. Another Convention

Last week I paid some attention to the Republican convention, mostly in print and on radio.  My attention was limited by the fact that I cannot hear ugly, bilious rhetoric for long periods of time, especially when interspersed with the perverse simplicity of current Republican ideology.  Still I made an effort to keep up with the convention.  For better or worse (and these days it's only worse), the Republican Party is one of the only two parties capable of nominating and electing a president.  As citizen I believe I have a responsibility to stay informed, even when the task is distasteful.  I got a few chuckles at the various gaffes and Donald outperforming Rudy Guliani in delivering an apocalyptic, spittle-filled speech.  The chuckles were fleeting when I rememberd that I was hearing a possible President of the United States.

This week has been more pleasant.  For all of its shortcomings the Democratic Party is the one of the two major parties in this country that speaks to my values and beliefs.  Much of what the Democrats say is rhetoric but, unlike last week, the rhetoric is not hateful and aspires to an America where all share in our national prosperity.  What I have not heard is anything to suggest that America will be less militaristic and seek diplomatic solutions to conflict among nations.  Hillary Clinton's history does not suggest that she would be any different from her immediate predecessor or even the hapless George W. 

That said, Clinton has full-throated support from Bernie Sanders and she has been pushed to run on a very progressive platform.  Donald Trump is a guaratee of strong-man, idiosyncratic, reactionay policy, both foreign and domestic.  In all, the Democratic convention and Hillary Clinton address America's challenges in a way that leaves me more confidence than anything that Trump can do.  I hope very much that Clinton will prevail in November.

That said, I am most likely to vote for Jill Stein for president.  I can do that with confidence since Washington is a reliably Democratic state.  The last time Washington went Republican in a presidential election was 1984.  If I still lived in Virginia or any other swing state, I would vote for Clinton but I don't and will use the opportunity to cast a vote for an even more progressive platform.  I did that four years ago and barring any change from recent history will do so again.

Donald Trump must not be elected.  Period.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Heading East

I wrote about all of the experiences and friends I encountered on my trip to Virginia but did not include any account of my travels out and back. Here's that story.

My trip east began around 11:30 am on Tuesday, April 26. I left Olympia following familiar routes: I-5 to WA 18 to I-90. As always, I-90 was busy and the descent east from Snoqualmie Pass is still under construction. I was glad to reach the exit for WA 26 which put me on a low traffic two lane highway that would take me across The Palouse, Washington's rolling green agricultural southeast. The late afternoon light accentuated the dramatic topography as I made my way to US 195 and south to Lewiston, Idaho. From there I followed US 12 along the Clearwater River to my cousins Andy and Phil Foster's place in Kamiah, Idaho. The sun was already below the ridge as I drove up river, the soft light easing me through the last miles of a 400 mile day.

Next morning I took my time getting on the road, pulling out around 10:00 am after joining Andy and Phil in feeding their horses. Leaving town I spotted a bald eagle flying off with a catch from a nearby stream. Minutes later a large bird (a grouse, maybe) popped out of the tree line on a curve and glanced off my windshield, taking my driver's side wiper blade with it. When I turned around and returned to the spot I found the shattered remains of my wiper blade but no bird. I replaced the blade in Kamiah and set out again.

Destination this second day was Hagerman, Idaho. Sky was overcast with occasional showers. Not far south of Kamiah, I stopped at Nez Perce National Historic Site which commemorates one of the battles in the tribe's resistance to white settlement. The site offers a dramatic view of of a broad valley tucked among rolling foothills. Farther south, US 95 snakes alongside the Salmon River and the Little Salmon River. By late afternoon I was on I-84 at Fruitland and blasted the final 100 miles or so to Hagerman, arriving around 7:30. By this time I was in the Mountain time zone and had lost an hour due to the change, something I would encounter two more times as I headed east.

View from Nez Perce

Hagerman is about 90 miles east of Boise and is where cousin Tom Angel parks his travel trailer when not working or exploring elsewhere. After two long driving days, I was ready for a day off. I slept in the Red Truck parked by the trailer. We spent time talking and catching up. Tom took me out to see some fossil hoof prints in the Malad River gorge and later to Hagermen Fossil Beds National Monument where we had a commanding view of a wide bend in the reservoir behind one of the Snake River dams.

Day Four was Friday and time for my dash to Yellowstone National Park. Madison Campground was opening for the season and I wanted to be sure to snag a campsite. I didn't think a 278 site would fill up on what was an overcast day with rain and possible snow in the forecast. Even so, I always like getting in earlier rather than later. Left Hagerman around 10:00 and motored east on I-84 and I-86 until turning northeast on I-15 at Pocatello before exiting on US 20 to West Yellowstone, Montana. Expecting that the evening might be inclement in camp, I figured I'd find a local restaurant for dinner so I wouldn't have to fix food in the rain. Much of US 20 was limited access and once it became less restricted food choices were few. I grabbed a something resembling a Philly cheese-steak in Ashton.

Approaching the Montana border I could see snow on the mountain tops and drove through the occasional light rain shower. At the park I found Madison campground wonderfully less than full. Snow began falling just as I got in so I set up in mixed rain and snow. I got the truck leveled and gear stowed for the night without getting too wet. During a lull in the precipitation I made tea to go with my evening snack.

Saturday dawned cold with a dusting of snow on much of the landscape and the Red Truck. After breakfast I headed south through Lower, Middle and Upper Geyser Basins, an otherworldly excursion. The landforms around the geysers, mud pots, fumeroles and other ways that hot water and steam erupt from the earth differ dramatically from the adjacent lands. Much of the park is granite mountains and open meadows coursed by strong running streams. And then—Bam!--in the middle of this very traditional western landscape steam is rising everywhere, water is spurting and mineral deposits create bizarre patterns. My route took me to Old Faithful and the visitor center there. I joined the crowd for the 12:48 pm eruption which came off pretty much right on time. The road farther south is still closed for the season, as are most other roads and many of the facilities at Old Faithful. Tourists, though, were not in short supply. Parking lots were less than half full but plenty of people, including many foreign tourists, were taking advantage of what is open. Bison were out,mostly in the distant meadows.

 Wierdness in Yellowstone

My last day in Yellowstone took me up the road to Mammoth Hot Springs. On this day the bison were up close and in the road. I slowly followed the cars ahead of me and maneuvered my truck through the herd. At one point I could look out my window and see a bison eyeball more or less at eye-level. I could not see it but I sensed that the bison's massive hump was as tall as my truck. Mammoth Hot Springs are indeed mammoth. The steps in front of the post office are flanked by stone bears. I drove out the Lamar Valley Road a few miles and took in the more expansive views there.

By now it was 1:00 and time to get moving. I exited the park at Gardner, Montana, fueled up in Livingston, followed I-90 through Billings and ended up in Ranchester, Wyoming where I found the Ranchester Western Motel, an older L-shaped motel that advertised a continental breakfast and wi-fi. I'd hoped to make Rawlings was tired. Turned out to be a bargain at $55. Food in Ranchester was no bargain and limited. Still, I was hungry and got food that didn't make me ill. Options would have been better in Billings but I wasn't hungry then. I think I got a burger and fries. I was the only lodger at the Ranchester Western that night

Getting back into Wyoming on Sunday after Yellowstone put me in good position to reach Devil's tower on Monday. The continental breakfast was mostly cereal, toast, fruit and Fox news but it got me started until I found a good breakfast about 50 miles down the road. Traffic was light and Wyoming Public Radio came in reasonably well. I enjoyed hearing their very contemporary singer-songwriter music programming on a Monday morning as I cruised along the freeway to the exit for Devils Tower National Monument at Moorcroft. I reached the monument around 1:30 which allowed time to explore.

The campground is located along the Belle Fourche River was open for the second day of the season (one loop, that is) and largely empty when I arrived. It never filled even half full. Cottonwoods along the river and in the campground were just starting to put out new leaves but still mostly bare. The basalt formation that is Devils Tower was clearly visible from everywhere in the campground. A trail to the base of the Tower took me through a prairie dog town whose inhabitants stood at the top of their burrows, watched me pass by and make sounds which I assume mean something to them. The clear, moonless night gave me my first complete look at the still-early spring sky. 

Devils Tower

The following morning I drove up to the visitor center and hiked the trail around the base of the Tower. Devils Tower is the the first National Monument established by the United States (Theodore Roosevelt, 1906). Cool morning air and shade made for a pleasant walk before another long day of driving. On this day I would begin shamelessly bagging states I had never visited before. South Dakota was the first. I followed I-90 to breakfast in Whitewood, then on to Badlands National Park, passing through on the scenic drive. I stopped at the pull outs and gawked but it was a quick drive-through on a hot day that did not encourage much rambling. After a late afternoon dinner in Murdo, I turned south on US 83 heading for Valentine, Nebraska. I'd never been to Nebraska or Iowa and wasn't about to miss this opportunity to bag these two states.

Valentine advertised on its website camping at the city park which made it a good stopping place after a long day. Directions to the park were not obvious on the drive into town but the first person I asked told me how to get there. The park is down a short hill by a stream. It did not have designated campsites. I backed into a level spot by a picnic table like another camper, filled out a registration envelope, paid my five dollars and was in for the night. The sound of flowing water lulled me to sleep.

Morning was chilly. The still-bare trees and weak early sun looked like winter. I was up and out early, following US 20 across green and rolling farmland. This early in spring, many of the fields were being prepared for planting. Several of the small towns I passed through offered camping in their city parks. Got a ticket after a state trooper clocked me at 73 passing a semi truck in a 60 zone. The actual citation was for improper passing (I did not signal) and a warning for speeding. He noted my Veterans For Peace bumper sticker and thanked me for my service. Not long after the citation I crossed into Iowa. My planned destination was Fort Dodge but I decided to push farther on and ended up in a Howard Johnson's in Waterloo.

Now it's Thursday, my 10th day on the road. I am all cleaned up and civilized-looking for my arrival in Winnetka, Illinois for a zero day at the home of Tony Hodson and his wife Karen Jones. I served with Tony in Vietnam and have kept in touch ever since. Before Winnetka I have another 90 miles of Iowa and northern Illinois. I cross the Mississippi at Dubuque and follow US 20 to Galena, hometown of Ulysses Grant where I stopp to pay my respects. The local visitor center is all-things US Grant—lots of memorabilia and history. Across the river and up the hill is the house that grateful hometown citizens built for him that he never really lived in.

Somewhere after Valentine I must have crossed into spring because Illinois looks like a well-advanced eastern spring to me. Trees are leafed out, not fully, but enough to demonstrate new growth. Certainly more evident than two days ago in Valentine. Temperatures are warmer. Rural Illinois is a pleasant drive. Beginning in Rockford, though, I'm back on I-90—the Jane Addams Parkway—heading toward Chicago in heavy traffic, paying tolls along the way. I make my way on to the Tri-State Tollway and into Winnetka.

My zero day turns into two zero days. The company is good, the accommodations pleasant and an extra day of not driving appeals to me very much. The extra day also means that I will be looking for a campsite on a Sunday evening rather than Saturday when more people might be doing the same. We filled the time with conversation, food, the occasional walk and watching the Cubs on TV. Over the course of two days Tony and I compare memories of our year in Vietnam. We remembered many of the same events and people. Some of those events and people we remember differently. Some things only one of us remember.

Early on a Sunday morning I roll out of Winnetka, through downtown Chicago and into Indiana and Ohio. It's a day of mostly interstate driving under overcast skies and occasional showers. Traffic's not bad but it's steady. I miss the wide-open freeways in Wyoming and South Dakota. I cross into the eastern time zone, losing another hour in the process. In Chillicothe I find Great Seal State Park which is about five miles northeast of town in a rural neighborhood. The park is largely empty. A group of adults and children are picnicking under a ramada but the park is otherwise empty—no one else is camping. I set up and wait out a rain shower before preparing dinner. The ramada group departs leaving the park entirely to me. Sweet.

Camp at Great Seal

The last day of the outbound trip starts out rainy and wet. I pack up quickly and find breakfast in town under a roof before setting out on US 35 though southeast Ohio and into West Virginia. In Nitro, West Virginia I pick up I-64, my final route into Virginia. Along the way, I stop at the New River Gorge National Scenic River in West Virginia for a long lunch break before the final push. 

 New River Gorge

Traffic is very heavy with big trucks in both lanes when I-64 joins up with I-81 in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. After about 30 miles I'm able to get onto US 340 to Waynesboro and US 250 which  take me into Nelson County. I arrive a Peyton and Carol's place around 5:30 pm.

Setting my brake and looking at a place I've visited many times before, I can't believe that I actually drove from Olympia, Washington to the middle of Nelson County, Virginia. It seems like an enormous undertaking yet here I just did exactly that. By myself. And had fun. I've been mostly on my own the past two weeks I am looking forward to company. I can decompress now.  I don't have to drive anymore.


The three of us went out to dinner shortly after I arrived. Sitting on the seat of Carol's car I felt a bump on the back of my thigh and thought “engorged tick” and thought it odd that I had not noticed it before. At the men's room of the restaurant, I confirmed that it was a fat tick. I pulled it out along with a chunk of skin but it left an ugly wound. Next morning I went to a local medical clinic and ended up with a 10 day supply of antibiotics.

Welcome to Virginia.

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