Saturday, September 29, 2007

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jog

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No Starbucks in Livingston, but Google pointed me to the Coffee Crossing which was even better - a quirky little coffee shop that made me an excellent latte to hit the road with.

RV's towing cars are fairly common, but you don't see too many large RV's towing a large SUV towing a trailer with two large ATV's. Having no personal experience with this sort of combo, I can only guess at the usage. I imagine it as a bit like a multi-stage rocket. First you blast down the interstate burning huge amounts of fuel to make your lift-off. You jettison the RV stage at an RV park (for most of them, "parking lot" would seem more appropriate). Then you head out on the secondary roads with the SUV. Reaching the end of the roads you launch the final stage ATV's. But the purpose of this complex mission is not to stand on the moon. Not even to see seldom traveled wilderness. No, the purpose is to reach some semi-wild corner of America where there is something left to kill. Ah, the noble hunter.

But enough sarcasm and bitterness. I figured the last days driving would go quicker as I left the interesting scenery and reached the long miles of prairie. But I still found a few things to take pictures of. Considering my techie geekness (check out my computer blog), it's a little disconcerting finding myself getting enraptured by early morning patterns of light and dark on the hillsides.

Or more fall colors:

This wind power installation was a ray of sunshine through the dark clouds of all our environmental problems.

And while I was taking pictures of the wind generators some pronghorn antelope ran by. They are beautiful animals, one of my favorites.

With all the hours of driving this trip I was very grateful for my iPod (hooked up to the car audio). My favorite new music for the trip was Jesse Cook's Frontiers. I had loaded up a variety of podcasts, mostly technology, but I ended up mostly listening to the Social Innovation Conversations.

I managed to find another decent coffee shop in Harlowten, but only a mediocre lunch in Lewiston. I thought for sure I'd find some kind of coffee shop in Swift Current, but Tim Hortons seemed to be best they could offer :-(

Despite all the driving, I'm glad we took our car instead of flying and renting. I would have to say the Prius is my favorite of the cars I've driven. Partly because, regardless of the significance of the fuel savings, it's a way of "voting" that you care about such things. Some people think it's ugly, but I don't mind it. The size and shape are definitely functional. Or people complain it doesn't have enough power, but it's ok for me. (But then, I don't drive like I'm practicing for the race track.) The car performed well with no problems. Probably a good thing, I'd hate to have to try to get it fixed in some small town in the middle of nowhere. It wouldn't have been a problem in Boulder - I've never seen so many Prius's in one place! The only minor drawback was on long uphill sections on the mountain roads. Once the battery runs out the relatively small gas engine has a bit of a struggle on its own.

* The title of this post has a history. When I was small my mother would often say "Home again, home again, jiggity jog." The last few years when I would drive her somewhere and we got back to her seniors residence it became a routine for one of us to say "home again, home again", to which the other would reply "jiggity jog". I never really thought about where this saying came from until I used it for this post and did a Google search out of curiosity and found it came from a Mother Goose nursery rhyme.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tetons and Yellowstone

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Unfortunately, I couldn't see much of the Tetons as storm clouds boiled, thunder crashed, and rain showers poured down. I did do my good deed for the day by picking up a woman hitching a ride with her bicycle. I thought she might have bike problems but she was just trying to escape the storm. She was working ferrying cars for fly fisherman.

Thankfully the rain stopped for at least part of the drive through Yellowstone.

The animals don't seem too bothered by people.

Except for this large elk that started to get excited after I took this picture. I drove away (slowly) but he then proceeded to charge the tourists standing around taking pictures. I couldn't see what happened but hopefully no one was hurt.

Yellowstone is beautiful but it's also slow driving with speed limits of 45 mph and less. I just made it out of the park as it started to get dark. By the time I got to Livingston, Montana it was pitch black and pouring rain. After feeling guilty about the hotel the night before I had been determined to camp tonight. But I gave up looking for campgrounds pretty quickly since I couldn't even see the road signs. I saw a Best Western with a restaurant and gave in. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed at 8 pm and it was 8 pm by the time I checked in so I was forced back out into the rain. I passed a Pizza Hut but decided I wanted something other than pizza. The lady at the hotel had recommended the 2nd Avenue Bistro and I managed to find it. It was a nice looking place, but after being seated I was told it was pizza night! So much for something other than pizza! But they brought around a variety of different pizzas and they were all excellent. I'd definitely recommend this restaurant if you're ever in the area.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

More of the (long) Way Home

The world is a marvelously strange place. For me, nature makes up most of the marvelous part and human beings the strange part.

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I got away about 8am. One advantage of being on my own is that I can stop whenever I get the urge to take a picture, like here:

The funny part is that I didn't even realize I was getting the car in the background!

I stopped at the Dinosaur Monument visitor center and decided to drive in to Harper's Corner even though it would add several hours of driving. I was glad I did because the views of the canyons of the Green and Yampo rivers were great.

This canyon was the site of a famous conservation victory where a proposed dam that would have flooded the canyon was blocked. The sad part is that they simply built the dam 100 km up stream at Flaming Gorge (below). And to add insult to injury, although the canyons in Dinosaur Monument aren't flooded, the ecosystem has still been destroyed. Because the spring floods and the silt are blocked by the upstream dam, the original plants and fish are being lost.

I ended up skipping lunch, but I stopped at the Bedrock Cafe (in the town of Dinosaur) for a homemade ice cream and a latte. Both were excellent and the coffee was even fair trade! I sat outside to eat the ice cream where I was serenaded with Christmas music! (I can't stand Christmas music at Christmas, let alone in September!) There was a huge mud coated 4x4 truck parked outside. The "good old boys" were busy inside using a change counting machine to empty their piggy bank jar. Like I said, human beings are strange!

I stopped at Sheep Creek to see what the signs were about and found the creek had Kokanee salmon that were imported to the reservoir and spawn in the streams. It's hard to see through the water but they are strange looking creatures when they're spawning, with their bright orange bodies and strange green jaws.

I love the fall colors. It's hard to capture the brilliance:

Unfortunately, the nice sunny weather turned to pouring rain for the last two hours of driving and I was really wimpy and decadent and checked into the Holiday Inn in Evanston. (Which is why I was able to do this post.)

I had supper at the restaurant next to the hotel. Someone from the restaurant (I'm guessing the owner) had a Lamborghini parked outside and drove off in it! One way to (very publicly) spend your money, I guess. I don't imagine there are too many cars like that around here!

With my canyon tour I didn't make a lot of distance today. Tomorrow I'll go through the Tetons and Yellowstone and after that it should be faster the rest of the way.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Way Home

I know this is out of order, I'll try to go back and write up the climbing from the last week, but wireless in the campground seemed too good an opportunity to pass up for some stream-of-consciousness blogging.

I left Shelley this morning to start her conference in Denver. After a few round-the-block maneuvers (I hate driving in big cities!) I spent the morning at the zoo. As with any zoo it was a mixture of awe and fascination and pity. Some animals I'm sure never notice the difference between zoo life and a life in the wild. But others are not so lucky. What must it be like for the snow leopards confined to a cage no bugger than a hotel room? Pacing, pacing, pacing, nowhere to go. The Denver Zoo seems to be trying. They are building bigger, more natural exhibits and have plans for more. My love-hate relationship with zoos continues. (As usual I bough a family membership to help support them.) The zoo was filled with mothers and their children (and the occasional father). Children are so fascinated with animals. Why do most people lose that? I haven't!

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I made it out of Denver with no wrong turns and rode the fast stream of traffic out the I-70 - the easiest way to put some distance between me and the city and get back into the mountains. A messy accident in the opposite lanes were a sobering reminder to pay attention.

I planned to stop for coffee after a couple of hours of driving but couldn't find a coffee shop when I needed one! I stopped for gas and pressed on. Finally, Steamboat Springs offered a Starbucks with chairs outside in the gorgeous fall sun. I finished Of Wolves and Men by Gary Lopez. I found the final chapters of the book on the mythology of the wolf a little slow, but the book is definitely worth reading.

There was a state park with a campsite marked on the map at Yampa River, but it turned out to be a rather unattractive open field so I pressed on. Luckily, there was a KOA campground just outside Craig, CO that was a little more attractive. I asked the woman in the office for restaurant recommendations. Her eyes lit up and she asked "do you like steak?". No doubt she did! I didn't have the heart to tell her I was mostly vegetarian. I suspect it would have baffled her. Luckily the other women in the office suggested alternatives, including an Italian place. That piqued my curiosity - Craig hardly seemed big enough (population 9189 as of 2000) for an Italian restaurant. It was called Carelli's and it looked more like a pizza joint than an Italian place. It was decorated with skateboarding, surfing, and snowboarding memorabilia! But they did have wine on the menu and the Pinot Noir wasn't bad. And the spinach lasagna was vegetarian and quite tasty. The Tiramisu was not so great, but I didn't really need dessert in the first place.

I started reading Mexican Days by Tony Cohan. I had an impulse to point the car south. But it also struck me that in many ways traveling through rural America can be just as "foreign" as another country. Every male customer was wearing blue jeans, t-shirt, and ball cap. I find it odd in India or Moslem countries where everyone dresses the same, but I guess we're not so far from that here. I also couldn't help but notice (here and elsewhere) how large a percentage of the people were obese or at least overweight. A sad state of affairs in North America and spreading further.

It's a little bizarre that I can be sitting here at picnic table next to my tent site, with my MacBook and a wireless connection. Soon the internet will be everywhere. In the Apple Store in Boulder I played with the new iPod that has a touch screen similar to the iPhone with wireless built in. Very sleek, slick, and thin. As I wrote this there were fireworks in the distance - some kind of town celebration, I guess.

It was an interesting transition. Last night I was visiting an old friend (David Solsberg) in his neighborhood of multi-million dollar mansions and staying in a fancy downtown Denver hotel. Tonight I'm tenting outside a small town in the countryside. And you know what? I bet I'll sleep better tonight :-)

It's almost 9pm - time to hit the sack and read for a little bit before sleep. It looks like Dinosaur National Monument might make an interesting stop tomorrow morning ...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Formerly Known as Tadpoles

Quite a change from the tadpoles they came from. Surprisingly long back toes.

I'm pretty sure these came from the tadpoles I released since I had never seen frogs in this pond previously. I spotted about half a dozen and I'm assuming there are more hiding that I didn't see. Nice to know some of them have made it this far. It'll be interested to see if they survive the winter and are around next spring.