the weird time

One sign of the times.

Weird times. How often have you heard people say that lately?

I know it’s been a while (understatement) since I posted here, but something about the weird time we’re in has left me with plenty of time on my (frequently washed) hands. I go out for walks to get groceries and other supplies, or just to walk, otherwise I’m stuck at home, like most everyone else. It’s very quiet in the city.

There are more and more people wearing masks each time I go out for groceries. And people are getting way better at practicing physical distancing (a rename from social distancing). Social  contact is so essential. Going for a walk with a friend, even from six feet away, helps a great deal. And among essential services: the internet. Going through this without it would be shattering.

I’m glad I don’t have to explain this virus business to any children. That job has fallen to my daughters. All I’m required to do is keep my distance, and wash my hands a lot. Randy Rainbow says it well. (I think comedy is also an essential service.) It’s ironic, being called to step up by, basically, doing nothing. Makes for a silly quotient to a very serious problem.

On one of my walks with a friend, properly distanced of course, we picked up lattes from a local shop in Kits. (Viva.) They are doing a great job managing the steady stream of coffee-starved people cut off from their usual routines, and they have good snacks. Walking away, a woman asked, her tone amazed, “Where did you get the coffees?” Ah, yes, in the olden times this was coffee city. We pointed her in the right direction.

It’s a bit disconcerting at first, if you are walking alone, to see people giving you a wide berth. As though you might have the plague or something. But then that’s the point I guess, that you might have the plague.  (Doesn’t that still feel unreal?)

Walking near anyone, I feel both unease, and vaguely silly with the new normal, stepping off the curb to give people space (I do look for cars first). Zigzagging sides of the street. It’s disturbing, to put it mildly, how insidious the virus is; we’re constantly watching for something we can’t see, and yoicks! it might ride in on people we know.

There are a phenomenal number of people working to sort this out. I’m of course a very big fan of Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s medical voice-of-reasonwho in BC isn’t a fan? So glad we have so many of them, voices of reason, in this country.

A picture of a discarded glove.

Some people haven’t quite got the concept of personal responsibility.

But it’s also ‘ordinary’ people putting themselves out in front of this virus; the usually unsung of our world turn out to be essential. Who knew? A human barricade of medical and emergency workers, but also bus and truck drivers and store clerks. Cleaners and garbage collectors. Restaurant staff. Grocery stores.

Ironic, as many of the unsung-but-essential people are also the lowest paid (if paid at all). All the support services running in the background include volunteers of all sorts.

It’ll be nice if this new understanding of who is really essential in our society carries over to the return of something resembling normal life, and we stop underpaying and undervaluing people who do necessary work. It’d be a good kind of new normal.

People are getting it though. The evolving new normal includes gratitude. And that’s something to celebrate.

I live in a very quiet neighbourhood, but at 7 pm every night, there’s a racket outside. A small racket compared to some parts of the city, but still. Usually the only noise around here is construction noise (this is Vancouver, after all). Or rain. I used to hear airplanes. But now the neighbours are getting rowdy (well, a few of them, like I said, quiet neighbourhood) and banging on pots to celebrate the people who are on the front lines with the virus.

There are a couple of small children I see, allowed out to bang on pots. Nothing makes any sense. The littlest one may not understand when this stops, and he’s no longer able to bang away. Soon, one hopes, but it’s not looking likely, until there’s some kind of treatment and/or a vaccine.

Ah, yes, another essential service: science.




Posted in covid-19, life | 1 Comment

rolling, rolling, rolling; (another) car ride

It’s about a year and a half. What happened? Well, I found a place to live, got settled in, and then one daughter arrived in town for about 9 months, with two granddaughters, and then the other daughter added another granddaughter to the mix. A wealth of riches, and somehow a bit too private to be blabbing about here.

alongside Hwy 3, a bit east of Castlegar, BC

But now I’m on another road trip and pretty used to being called Grandma. It seems to fit better, since I drifted into ‘golden’ status. I’m on my way to Ottawa, currently sitting in Thunder Bay, or just outside. I’m a bit confused about city limits here, but I’ve found an idyllic spot to catch my breath after six days on the road. The two grandkids and their mom are back home, and I’m bringing them their car. So not such a sight-seeing trip. More a meditation on wheels.

I started out from a vaguely sunny Vancouver, stopped in at Harrison Hot Springs to walkabout with a friend, and then slept in Kelowna. An easy start. The real driving (or so it always feels to me) is once I’ve made it past the Okanagan Valley. This is probably because so many childhood summertime trips with my family wound up on the shore of one or another lake in that valley. After all that driving around the place two years ago, I was a bit more challenged this time to find different roads to travel, seeing as I wished to stay within Canada’s borders.

I retraced some of the last trip, down Highway 37 to join up with 3, and slept in Cranbrook, in a new time zone. I like Hwy 3, and would have been on it from Hope, but had some stuff to drop off in Kelowna. So I missed the Similkameen Valley this time out. Oh well. You can’t go everywhere in this ridiculously large country. Consider that I didn’t pass the longitudinal centre of Canada until yesterday, six days out. Some day I have to pick up the road from Ottawa, and go see what the actual east looks like. In BC we refer to Ontario as ‘back east’ but of course it should be ‘back centre.’ But then Toronto calls the prairies ‘the west’ which is peculiar if you live beyond that. I’m sure Maritimers and Newfoundlanders have issues with the whole east/west/centre thing too.

This isn’t even mentioning that there is a lot of Canada north of the highways I’ve been threading myself along. The farthest north I’ve been is ‘out west’ in Yukon Territory, only as far as Whitehorse. Which is pretty far south in the Yukon…

from mountains (Crowsnest Pass)…

Anyway, from Cranbrook I aimed the car for Medicine Hat, AB, as a reasonable distance to go as I warmed up to this driving thing again, and certainly a beautiful drive through the Rockies (missed hitting a deer) and into the foothills, where it was raining. Hard. The next day I headed for Estevan, SK. More rain. I can’t remember why I chose Estevan, except maybe to try roads south of the Trans-Canada. I was going to travel along the border road, along hwy 18 , but at Climax, SK the road became rather iffy, so I backtracked to 13 before I turned east again. Saw what I thought was an antelope off the side of the road, but might have been another (prosaic) deer. Missed several ground squirrels. Lots of birds swooping around, avoiding the windshield. Saw plenty of hawks.

…to prairie, hwy 37, Saskatchewan

Hwy 13 was better, but the only other vehicles I encountered were trucks, and I started to yearn for that much maligned (by me) Trans-Canada. So I turned back up hwy 4 toward Swift Current. All this prairie driving added a couple of hours to my day, probably. Silly, but I felt better back on the bigger road. (And I’m reminding myself of a recurring skit that SNL used to do, called “The Californians,” where there was a lot of mentioning of highways…freeways in California’s case.)

Woke up to wind instead of rain, which through the day did it’s work  moving clouds around. Estevan is a pretty little town. Full of human sized houses, not the behemoths that keep getting built in Vancouver. The kind of houses I can imagine living in, except that I can’t imagine living there. The motel I stayed in was staffed with Filipinos, which suggests that there are a lot of other people who can’t imagine living there either, or at least not working in the local h/motels. I wonder how it is for people coming from hot and populous countries, and landing on the prairie. But then that’s the whole story of the populating of Canada (except Europe wasn’t so hot, temperature-wise). I remember reading novels set in the prairies, often featuring sod huts as first homes. I think that was in As for Me and My House by Sinclair Ross, maybe something else. And then there is Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie, which is more the early Ontario experience, eking it out in early days Ontario (Upper Canada then).

in Riverside Cemetery, Neepawa, MB

From Estevan it wasn’t far to Neepawa, MB, relatively speaking. I skipped the detours. This destination was more of a pilgrimage, to pay homage to Margaret Laurence, who filled my imagination with her many novels, back when I was in my twenties. (She didn’t set her novels in Neepawa, but many of them are set in imaginary Manawaka, which resembles it greatly.) I got there in time, in spite of another time zone shift, to get admittance to the museum that is her childhood home (The Margaret Laurence House). And then drove down to the cemetery, where I know her ashes are interred. I didn’t find her headstone, but I did see the statue that is likely the inspiration for the one in The Stone Angel. And the sun shone. Nice. So there you go; a bit from the canlit canon.

I set myself a ridiculously long drive the next day, from Neepawa to Thunder Bay, and so bypassed Winnipeg, where there is another childhood home, that of Gabrielle Roy (Maison Gabrielle Roy/ Gabrielle Roy House). Reason to go back to Winnipeg, I suppose. (I read The Tin Flute, eons ago, in translation. More from the canon.) And the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. I feel like I ought to go there. I might do another train trip one day, and make a stopover then. Add those too sites to my list. I do find myself going to Ottawa often enough, given the presence of daughter and her lovely family; it might happen.

So. Neepawa to Thunder Bay. Add in another time zone shift, and I was pressed to get there before dark, not wanting to crash into any moose. I was pressed only because I’m chronically bad at getting up in the morning, though on this occasion, I was in the car and driving east by 8:30 a.m. Amazed myself. Not so much rain this part of the trip, but the skies seem to have become chronically grey. Occasionally a glimpse of blue, but then the wind shifts those clouds around. I read in the paper this morning that a climate-change-studying expedition has been cancelled because the climate has changed. Old news I think, but I haven’t been keeping up. Likely to become regular news. Sigh. Or should I say: Sad.

I pick my sleep-stops online, using Google Maps to guesstimate time, and then search out motels that don’t horrify my spoiled sensitivities while not bankrupting me. But I had a couple of travel cards a friend had given me after I shared a room on another trip (which I neglected to write about) and so I searched out the Best Western in town. There are two, and one was booked up, so I reserved at the second one, and took it for two nights, as I wanted to rest up from the days of travel, and the too-long drive that got me here.

And so lucked into this idyllic spot. I’ve a bit of patio, and the view is across a green lawn and a pond, to a series of bluffs/mesas. Peaceful. Can hear birds. Can’t hear traffic. It’s a long way to come for R&R, but it’s doing the trick. Earlier I went for a walk down Loch Lomond Road till it petered out, and then back, just to get some exercise that didn’t involve moving my foot from gas pedal to brake, about an hour and a half all told. Houses nestled in the woods or set back from the road, lots of birds, about six cars the whole time. I know Loch Lomond is here somewhere, but I didn’t see it.

Went into town for a bit today, just to have a looksee, and to pick up a salad for dinner. Was enjoying the brief coming out of blue sky, but coming back here, I could see that the rain was pouring down. Deluge! Soaked me while running ten feet from my car into shelter. Ah well, so much for the patio. If it stops I’ll put a towel on the chair and get my outside-sitting done. It’s all grey again. Only sign of life are the Canada geese grazing on the nice lawn. They don’t seem bothered.

Tomorrow I head for Kapuskasing. I know I’ve never been there before, so a completely new road beckons. And after that Ottawa, to put on my grandma hat.

my view on arrival: blue sky peeking out; a teaser



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blink, and I’m back


On a sunny day you can see tankers in the water, over to UBC and all the way to Vancouver Island. On this particular Thanksgiving Day, the water lifted into the sky, making for a pretty grey day.

I rolled into Davis on the 8th of October, and now it’s the 18th and I’m in BC, staying at my brother’s house (for the time being). Made it in time for Thanksgiving dinner, which in this country is in October. I explained to my American cousin that it gives us lots of time to recover from the turkey onslaught, before we do it again in December.

Davis was a good break, though I only stayed two nights. I’ve been there before, had drifted off of the untraveled path onto one I knew. And I wanted to be home, for said turkey dinner, but also, to just be home. Even though home isn’t quite figured out. I have some ideas, but I’m not in a hurry (now that I’ve had that dinner, several times). I’ll figure out the next place in due course, but for the moment, well, for the next week, I’ve got a vote to cast, and a Writers Fest to go to. So I’ll be busy for awhile.

But I did want to finish this story, and give some accounting for my travels. So. Davis is a little place, university town (UC Davis) but aside from going out for lunch, and then for dinner, I really was just there for the family catch-up. And my own catching up, because that’s pretty much where I wrote the last two posts, though second one was posted from Oregon. One of the things about this trip; when I decided to blog about it, I had to factor in the time to do it. Or else I’d forget what had happened. Witness that ten days have gone by in a blink. In fact the past three and a half months have gone by in a blink.

First glimpse of Mount Shasta, coming out of California.

First glimpse of Mount Shasta, coming out of California.

To my story: I ended up coming home mostly on the I-5, in spite of my lack of enthusiasm for the (my) beaten path. Sometimes it’s the best choice. Did a weather search, because I wanted to come along the Oregon Coast, but seems there was a storm off shore in the Pacific (Hurricane Oho, next one I guess will be Aha). It wasn’t encouraged to go walking on the beaches, and that made me think that it might not be the nicest weather to drive through, so the I-5 it was. And I’d forgotten that it’s actually as scenic as any of the routes I’ve been along. Just not so foreign to my eyes. Trees on the mountainsides, instead of just the rock underneath, for one thing. Could sure see signs of the drought that’s plagued the west coast.

I couldn't pull over near Shasta Lake, but it's levels were as sunken as this view of the Shasta River.

I couldn’t pull over near Shasta Lake, but it’s levels were as sunken as this view of the Shasta River.

I did some searching for where to stay, and picked a motel in Shady Cove, Oregon, that took me a bit away from the main highway; on the way to Crater Lake in fact. I was tempted to go that way, but I decided another day. Anyway, Crater Lake is another of the places we went camping with our father, and I still have some foggy memory of being there, back in the 1960s. Not exactly recently, but oh well, I just may have been on that particular road, once upon a time, so didn’t fit my criteria really. I guess I was really done, even though I still had (what once might have seemed) a long way to go.

Shady Cove gave me my first glimpse of Fall. It was still sunny, and I wasn’t giving up my flip flops yet, but there were lots of fallen leaves scattered around my door at the motel. It’s the quickest season change I’ve ever gone through, driving into it, because while Davis was probably pretty autumnal to people who live there, it was the sort of temperature that we here north of the Pacific Northwest find pretty summer-like. The only need for a sweater was for inside air-conditioned buildings.

In the Umpqua National Forest. This is what I picture when I hear forest.

This is what I picture when I hear the word forest.

The road back to the I-5 made an arc, another of those lines on the map that tricks you into thinking it’s a nothing, when it’s actually quite a something. Off the Crater Lake Highway onto 227, rejoining the I-5 at Canyonville, so maybe the first hour of my day’s drive was spent snaking high up through the Umpqua National Forest, and then back down again. The road changes names more than once, so I don’t know whether 227 carries through, but I did. Carry through, I mean.

I’m glad it was at the beginning of my day as I certainly needed to pay attention to the switchbacks, but I will say I was delighted to get a last fix of new road. It was so quiet too, Sunday morning and all; I had the road almost entirely to myself, so I thought best not to run myself off it. It was a really nice road, just not one you would want to travel at the speed limit (well, not me, anyway, I did pull over for a couple vehicles) which was something absurd like 55 mph (around 97 kph). I’d have gone sailing off with the eagles if I’d tried to go that, yes, fast. But it was nice to drive through a forest that I recognized as a forest. Definitely into the home zone.


Wild turkeys, just crossed the road in front of me. A harbinger of Thanksgiving? Not for them, of course. These are truly free range turkeys.

I took a slight detour into Beaverton, Oregon, looking for a branch of Powell’s Books, which I found thanks to my trusty GPS. Wasn’t interested in dealing with downtown Portland, and bonus, free parking in Beaverton. Really nice branch of the bookstore too, so what’s to apologize for? I wanted the book my book club was reading, because I was actually going to be back in Vancouver in time for the next meetup, and there was the foggiest chance I might find time to read it! Alas, only got it started.

I slept in Olympia, Washington, the last night of this particular adventure. I was in sight of home, could I suppose, have kept going, but it was getting dark, I was tired, and I don’t see particularly well at night. Hey, I’m old enough to be prudent! So tucking into bed one more night in a comfy motel room was just fine with me. And I had just enough food left in my cooler and grocery stash that I didn’t even need to blow any more cash on dinner, so felt quite nicely cocooned, watching some nonsense on tv my last night out.

Breakfast view from the hotel I stumbled on. The I-5 is visible, on the right, but it looks so peaceful.

Breakfast view from the hotel I stumbled on. The I-5 is visible, on the right, but it looks so peaceful.

And then enjoyed one of the few, good, included-breakfasts of my trip (I’m not generally much for white-flour pastries to get me going in the mornings, and motels do seem to rely rather heavily on white flour) and then it was the home stretch, through Tacoma and Seattle, certainly not the most relaxing of stretches. I’m glad I took the break in Olympia, because from there to around Everett, it’s busy busy roads, and not a relaxing drive. But after that it’s fine, and after one more fill-up of cheap gas in Blaine, I faced the border, with only three cars in front of me. Both border crossings, in and out, were simple and unstressed, like the old days when you were often just waved through. Didn’t have to explain myself much at all, which is always a relief. I always feel guilty at the border, and I never am even slightly guilty of anything. Some nascent paranoia I guess. The agent did want to know what was under the blanket in my trunk (which covered an embarrassing, but not illegal, mountain of suitcases, etc.) She said “just in case I had a body in there.” But she didn’t even get out of her booth (it was raining, welcome home, eh?) and so I just pulled the blanket off. No body, I was free to go.

And so I rolled up to my brother’s house, found no one at home but the place full of the smell of turkey roasting, and unloaded my car into his guest room, and I was as home as I can be until I find my own place. My brother was glad to see me, and I got a laugh out of him, about his timing, as I’d finished unloading before he came back.

I started from his house, and that’s where I call the trip finished. 18,622 kilometres altogether (11,571 miles); 10,888 kilometres (6,765 miles) in the States. And the only new sign of wear on my car was a crack in the windshield that I picked up on the last day in Ontario, and I got it fixed last week. Blink.

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strange visions

Georgia O'Keeffe: Ghost Ranch Landscape, 1936

Ghost Ranch Landscape: Georgia O’Keeffe

I slept an extra night in Santa Fe after the stay at the zen center. I wanted to go to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and also poke my nose into downtown. The O’Keeffe museum made me think of my mother, as I remember that’s where I first heard of her (O’Keeffe) as Mum had a book of her paintings. She and my father have both dropped into my mind from time to time on this journey. At the beginning, in Canada of course, when I drove through Saskatchewan, where my mother had lived as a child, and through Manitoba, where my father had spent his youth. Mum again whenever I visit a cousin, as it’s her side they’re all related to. And driving, especially as I’ve drifted west, well Dad comes up, because of how many road trips he took us kids on, many of them into the States. I’ve stumbled on a few roads that I know I was once on, but they’re all long ago. The last few days, I crossed paths with my 15-year-old self. We drove through Las Vegas back then, swam at Lake Mead, oohed at the Hoover Dam. Funny thing, though, is back then, I hardly noticed where I was. My memory of Lake Mead? It was like swimming in hot bath water. No one camping then, because it was the summer, and no one but a tourist would think of summertime camping in the desert. But natural and man-made wonders, what’s the big deal, eh? Well, I will excuse myself. My 15-year-old self didn’t have any perspective. Or imagination perhaps. I like to think I’ve developed some since then.

ab santafegalleryIn Santa Fe’s galleries I picked out a few paintings I’d like to have. Fortunately, it seems I have expensive tastes (which is supposed to mean discerning, right?). Fortunately, because it means I didn’t have to wrestle with indecision about whether to buy anything that I liked, which is just as well, as I don’t own a wall to hang paintings on anyway. I finally remembered the distance I wanted to cover, so got myself back into my car, and started driving. Still feeling leftover lack of urgency, from my days in the zen center, I guess. But I don’t like to get caught driving at night, so finally got into my car, and headed west.

Driving out of Santa Fe, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was on my way to Winslow Arizona, picked as a simple waystation. On the way I saw on the map the Petrified Forest National Park, and thought that would be a good route to take, just a little diversion. Really, looking on a map, well, it just doesn’t prepare you for what you’re going to find.

Words kind of escape me here. I think maybe the descent from Santa Fe (from 7000 feet or so) was the first thing. Vast landscape, tremendous landscape, imposing landscape. This was different from the prairies. Maybe it was because of the slope I was going down, and the size of the sky. There was a point when I was completely awed by the dry land spread around me and the sky above. I was facing a wall of grey, and I thought about what kind of valley I might be going into. There must be mountains there somewhere, but I couldn’t see them. Weather is what I was looking at, a sheer wall of grey nothing. The road just dropped into it. Pretty unnerving. The double strips of interstate highway were reduced to ribbons across the land. Semi-trucks as toys. And looming ahead, weather.

I haven’t really been unnerved by what I’ve seen, not much on this trip. On the prairie outside Winnipeg, that sight of big sky, and a grey wall of cloud etched with lightning, yes, it was there too. My own insignificance in any grand scheme, clear. But no tornadoes, no flash floods, no living through natural disasters for me, so far anyway. I’ve skirted by them all trip. Smoke from forest fires early in my trip, and recently I saw some burnt out trees, residue of the summer’s burning. The sun shone for me as I drove through South Carolina, and now people are dealing with horrendous flooding. It’s weird.

It was Monday I was driving out of Santa Fe. The road briefly dipped into a cloud (or the cloud dipped down to the road) and I drove through heavy rain, slowed down, flipped on my lights, and wondered how far? I’d checked the weather for where I was starting, and where I was sleeping, but not this that I was now going through. I’d forgotten there could be many climate zones in a day’s driving. But then I was through it, and on my way to Arizona. Anti-climax. Whew. The rest of the day was a mix, dry dry land, with clouds waiting on the horizon, rain occasionally slipping down. Lots of rocks.

The Painted Desert Inn, inside the park.

The Painted Desert Inn, inside the park.

I turned off the highway for the Petrified Forest, still looking to the sky for weather, which was happening in more than one direction. But I drove through the park, with my car shrunk again, faced with views over the Painted Desert in one direction, and then through the strange desolation of these southern badlands. It’s such an alien landscape (to me) that I just kept stopping the car to get out and look. And I wasn’t alone, either, lots of other cars doing the same thing. Took lots of pictures, some maybe good pictures, but they just can’t  catch what’s out there. Framed, the landscape loses its power. You can’t tell from a picture how big it all is, and how all around you. The pictures serve to remind me though.

The Painted Desert (fancy name for badlands)

The Painted Desert (fancy name for badlands)

Somewhere in that switch from New Mexico to Arizona I crossed into another time-zone. Didn’t realize it, and so I thought I had less time in the park before the gates closed than I actually did have. As a result I managed to not stop at every viewpoint. Good thing too, because in the end I ran out of daylight anyway. And coming out on the south side, I ran into more weather, the edge of another thunder storm. Back on the highway, I ran away from that, and watched the light disappear (days are shorter now) and so drove my last half hour to Winslow, Arizona, where I had a room waiting, in the dark. For once glad to find the motel right off the highway. What a day.

Inside the Petrified Forest park. The sky is impressive too.

Inside the Petrified Forest park. The sky is impressive too.

Who did this?

Who did this?

And this?

And this?

And then there was Tuesday. Tuesday I drove from Winslow to Las Vegas, with a little detour to look at the Hoover Dam. All along the way I was just shaking my head at landscape, so starkly beautiful, dry (what sere means, maybe) and then I crossed the Colorado River into Nevada, on this extraordinary engineering marvel: a bridge. Bridge, like forest, river, tree, they’re not descriptive words, they are categories. Anyway, across the bridge and down a winding road to have a looksee at the dam. What can you say? Wow works. The view of it, of the lake (Mead) that’s a result, the bridge, seen from underneath and above (I climbed the stairs to have a walk back across it, and have a look down from the span). Spent some time there, at the dam, marvelling at the contrast of the lake against the dry, dry hills, and some of those hills bristling with metal towers carrying electricity off to, well along with other places, to that peculiar town in the desert, Las Vegas.

h lakeMead

Lake Mead, backed up behind that dam.

I spent the night in Las Vegas, not out of any particular desire to be there, but because it was on the way. The next morning (now we’re up to Wednesday) I got up, loaded my car, and took a drive down the Strip. Good grief, the things people dream up to entertain themselves. It’s another (to me) alien landscape, and I didn’t stay. Did stop off at a stationery store, to stock up on refills for the pens I like to use. One of the few things I’ve bought myself on this trip, a bit of stuff I will use (I ran through several during the retreat at Upaya). These pens that I really like aren’t made anymore, so the refills are hard to find, in Canada anyway. I’m good for a good while now, though.

Leaving Las Vegas

Leaving Las Vegas

Ten, twenty minutes out of Las Vegas, going north, I was practically alone on the road, cutting through flat desert, bounded on both sides with more dry hills. It struck me that the hills would suit watercolours best, if one were to paint them. Ironic I suppose, given how dry they are, but the colours, off in the distance have that texture somehow.

I had picked out Bishop, California as my next sleeping spot, so I took a left turn at Beatty, Nevada and drove west so I could cross into California at  Death Valley. On my map, they’ve coloured Death Valley green, because it’s a national park. I find that strange. Not that it’s a national park, but the choice that the map-makers made to designate all parks as green.

First sighting down into the valley.

First sighting down into the valley.

I’ve run out of words to describe. You can only use so many superlatives. Awesome? The word has become devalued, but maybe it gets it across. Alien, sounds a bit clichéd, until you remember that Death Valley stood in for some of the scenes of the Tatooine desert in Star Wars. It seems it rained in Death Valley a day or two before I found myself there, and so some of the roads had ‘flooded’ warning signs set up, which under the circumstances (now hot and more typically dry) was kind of funny. No water on the roads, but there was dried mud that had been washed up. And a lake, which I suspect will disappear pretty quickly. Again, I kept stopping my car to hop out and take pictures.

Coming from Beatty, the road drops for about 13 ear-popping miles to bring you (me) down to sea level and then a slight dip below. Then climbs back up and then does it again (to where I found the lake).

l deathvalleysanddunes

Can you spot R2D2?

m deathvalleyafterrain

After rain.

Coyotes. Adaptable creatures.

Coyotes. Adaptable creatures. Even cactus doesn’t seem to want to live in Death Valley.

Then the road climbs and climbs it’s way on a boggling switch-back road to take you across another range, where cactus starts to grow again, before dropping back down into the valley where Bishop lies, along US highway 395.

A nice night’s sleep in Bishop and I was off again. I’d thought to drive through Yosemite, but I was so blown away (again, still) by US 395, that I just followed it, up, up, up out of the valley, past elevation markers of 7000 feet, down and up again, highest point, 8000. More ears popping, and really, my head a bit floating (not sure if that was true of if I imagined myself into it, but I didn’t feel great at 8000 feet).  Somewhere I saw a sign that said “end of scenic route” and I laughed out loud. There is no end of the scenic route. There is just the end of the day, and Thursday ended with me dropping down into the Sacramento Valley, in California’s Central Valley (through actual trees for awhile!) to my next visit with cousins, in Davis, near Sacramento.

p MonoLake

Mono Lake, along US 395; just another day on the road.

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