Saturday, April 29, 2017

To Pass or Not To Pass

Durango was a cool town.  Surrounded by mountains.  Old west tourism meets the outdoor recreation.  It’s a place I could have stayed another night and roamed the town.  However, my next stop was a Kitty visit and we don’t keep Kitty waiting.

Durango is in southwestern Colorado and I was going to Evergreen.  Foothills west of Denver, near Red Rocks.  In March, you have to keep an eye on weather forecasts.  Snow in the mountains can be a bit unpredictable.  A forecasted flurry and a strong wind turns into zero visibility.

I traced out my route on a map.  For the younger crowd, a map is a silent, paper GPS.  I used my vast AAA membership benefits and got maps for my entire route.  I did use the route GPS suggested, but needed the  map when I lost GPS.  If you lose GPS when driving in your city, imagine losing it on unknown mountain roads.

An hour out of Durango, I stopped at a saloon for a shot of Rye and a poker game.  Ok, that didn’t happen, but when you say “an hour out of Durango“, you should run at least into a posse chasing rustlers, or a rye-serving saloon.  In truth, I gassed up the Uhaul in Pagosa Springs.  Was making small talk when the clerk asked, "Are you driving through the pass.  “You know, I have no idea,” I said.

Turns out I was driving through the pass.  She warned me of very high winds up there.  I thought she said 85 mph.  I don’t think my girl, Sacagawea does well with an 85 mph crosswind.  She told me to take heed of the warning signs as I get closer.  

One should always take heed of things locals tell you are worthy of such heeding.

I was 30 minutes from the accent into the mountains.  Some might be hyper-focused on that kind of thing.  Perhaps hurry and get through it while the getting is good, not that you’d know either way.  I, however, don’t work that way.  Remember, it’s the journey, people.  So when I see horses at roadside, it’s time to stop and say hello.  No such much me, but a certain Cranky Bunny likes to mingle with other species.  Although, you’ll never convince me that horses aren’t really just two people in costume.

A pulling-over I did.  There is video of the encounter (see link at end of story).  Suffice it to say, there was love.  There was bunny-horse love.

The coast was clear.  An electronic sign at the final turnaround point advised that only wide-load vehicles were prohibited.  I’m of the belief that wide-load vehicles should be prohibited most hours of the day on any road, but let’s not get political.

“If you want an idea of the accent you face, look to those who are descending.” - Me

As I drove up, the vehicles coming down where moving at a crawl.  Kidding aside, when an SUV is creeping at 20 mph, Mr. Uhaul’s not going to screw around.  Biggest issue I now faced, what’s going to be my accent/descent music.

Pretty obvious.  Pink Floyd, live from Rotterdam.

The accent went well.  When I peaked at Wolf Creek Pass (alt 11,000 ft) and it was a bit intimidating.  Not so much for the current conditions, but for the plowing that must have taken place within the last 6 hours.  From what I could tell, there was an avalanche that covered the road.  At least the leftover snow…4 ft high and 10 ft wide, meant no 85 mph wind was blowing me into the abyss.

The descent was everything I expected.  Not a place to screw around.  15 mph most of the way in a Uhaul with no one passing me.  If someone was an asshole driver, they were at least smart enough to wait until they hit the foothills of Evergreen.  Again, Coloradans are shitty drivers.  Worst I’ve ever seen.  At least with common sense to take another car with them though.  Not going to skid off a mountain when you can cut someone off and cause a wreck.

As much as this Pass was uneventful, the next two were more interesting.  It’s pretty cool when you’re on a very flat road for miles and miles, but on the horizon you see mountains, and even better you see a storm obscuring part of the horizon.  It’s like driving right into, not just the storm, but the cloud causing the storm.

It’s on.

Early, Kitty texted to find out my location.  I greeted her with an enthusiastic “Saguache!”  My second time there, to which she replied, “Where’s that?”  I wanted to tell her “it’s right where it belongs”, but there were cars in the ditches.

Instead I took a picture of the impending storm and said, “There are cars in the ditches.  The Uhaul is handling fine.  I’ve never felt more alive.”

Video of the Cranky Bunny finding love

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Navajo, Yoko Ono Cover Band

When I flew into Phoenix I was surprised by snow-capped mountains as we approached the airport.  However, I also knew that the Grand Canyon is sometimes closed because of snow.  So a cold Flagstaff morning didn’t surprise me, but what did was the gale force winds.  True, I’m not sure what a gale force wind is, but neither are you.

“Blow hat off your head and kiss it goodbye” winds.

I wasn’t sure of my route for the day, but I knew I’d pass through Tuba City.  It was on the way, but even if not, who among us isn’t imaging a city named after the often mistaken musical instrument.  People, you’re mistaking a tuba for the sousaphone.  Leaving it at that.  Tuba City also reminds me of something I’d see on a 1990 Late Night with David Letterman.  Dave asking the clerk if they sells trumpets and the clerk saying, “No, just tubas.”

The drive would be all Navajo or Hopi Indian Reservations.  Rather excited for Hopi, because if we all remember 6th grade, the Hopi Indian lived in Adobe huts.  I learned maybe four things in my entire school career and that’s one of them.

1. Hopi Indians….
2. “Power tends to corrupt.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” - Lord Acton
3. Iconoclast translated means “image breaker”
4. Brittania est insula.

Navajo country is rough on the radio stations.  I found one.  It was Navajo Public Radio and, when in Rome…they played Navajo music.  Drums and chanting.  Nothing against it, but I think it does better when included as part of tribal dancing.  God bless the Native American.  Seriously.  We Europeans have screwed the shit out of them, but their music…it rivals Yoko Ono.  

Hell is a Navajo, Yoko Ono cover band.

A signpost up ahead.  Grand Canyon South Rim 79 miles.  Never been, but I hadn’t planned on going there this trip.  Just didn’t think a busy road full of tourists and a Uhaul would mix, but when I did the math a little bit later…30 miles from the Grand Canyon and not stopping?  Just silly.  The Brady’s would be very disappointed.  Yes, referring to the episode where they road donkeys to the bottom of the canyon.

The Grand Canyon can best be described as grand.  Like really, really grand.  Best obvious decision I’ve ever made.  I asked the Park Ranger where to stop if I only planned on spending an hour and he hooked me up.  If you’re in Arizona or Las Vegas and don’t go to the GC, shame on you.  Just shame.  I wish I would’ve poked it with my finger because I’m pretty sure it’s just a painting.  A masterpiece.

I should add that on the way I saw the greatest advertisement ever.  A hand painted sign that read “Navajo handmade jewelry.  Stop and say hello.”  One of a few dozen roadside stands I’d see that day, but I had to say hello, right?  The ad wasn’t a request.  It was an order.  For $5 I got a bracelet and talked to two very nice Navajo women.  I told them I stopped to say hello.  One said the sign was her late husband’s idea.  The man knew his advertising.

I still haven’t checked a map, but I think I passed through the Painted Desert.  I looked painted, but I was distracted by the still very strong winds that were now a sandstorm.  My next option for really cool destination was Monument Valley.

Monument Valley is every cowboy movie every made and the jogging in the desert scene from Forrest Gump (I’ll include a link to a picture).  The problem with this stop was timing.  Burning daylight.  A lot of this on the road.

Crunch time.  Decided on Highway 163 to MV.  Knowing I had a hotel booked for Durango, CO, if I skipped MV I wasn’t sure I’d want to backtrack the next day to MV.  This was all very complicated map stuff, so just go with me.

Monument Valley at dusk is like being on Mars.  Maybe cell service is better on Mars, but both places had the same number of humans.  So cool.  Intimidating.  A lot of 90 degree angle geography that gets pretty creepy looking as the sun goes down.  Reminds me of a first grader cutting out around the teeth of a construction paper pumpkin.  They might want it to look smooth, with sloping foothills, but it ends up being a lot of jagged, random cuts that just don’t look like something nature would create.  Nature created MV, but God only knows how.

I felt like the only vehicle on the road for the hours I had left.  It doesn’t bother me.  It’s kind of cool.  It’s the time when I’m sure half of my face is going to get sunburned (movie reference you should know) or I’ll see Bigfoot.  

I reached Durango just in time to enjoy all restaurants being closed, but the grocery was open.  Just gave me that much more naked hotel time.  Don‘t worry, I haven’t forgotten.  We still have to discuss NHT.  When I get to Kansas.

Forrest Gump in Monument Valley video

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sacajawea, My Sweet Ride

Sacajawea was a Native American woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition from the northern plains over the Rocky Mountains, to the Pacific Ocean, and back.  On the side of my Uhaul was her picture.  Love at first ride.

After a few nights in Phoenix, the first stop was Flagstaff.  I’ve never been there.  Not been to much outside of Phoenix.  When weather is extreme…Minnesota is sitting naked on a giant bag of ice.  Phoenix is being scalded with hot coffee.  Winter in Arizona is summer in Minnesota.  I'll let that soak in.

Ten minutes into my drive I find out that Sacajawea’s breaks are solid.  An accident happened a few cars in front of me and everyone/everything survived.  Biggest concern was the snacks my sister-in-law packed for the journey.  Cheese & Sour Cream Ruffles intact!

I didn’t have a set arrival time for Flagstaff.  I’ll get to Flag.  Yeah, college town.  If there was nothing for me to see on the way, then I get there before sundown (we measure things by sunup and sundown on the road).  Flagstaff seemed to have some ok restaurants, a few Uber close to my hotel.

However, Mike and his lovely Indian maiden had a date with history in Prescott, Arizona.  No Sedona stop.  Whether it be -a Vortex or static electricity from a meditation rug, none of that held a candle to Prescott.  It especially didn’t hold an ice cream cone to it.

Some won’t even recognize this history.  That’s what the internet is for.  Marino’s Mob Burger and Ice Cream.  Forever it holds a place in Mike’s folklore.  For in the 1960's, the movie Billy Jack was filmed in the surrounding area.  Quite sure some don’t remember this movie, but might remember a few scenes.  Mike remembers, and after all, it’s my folklore.  So I went off the normal path for about 30 minutes into Prescott.  I found appropriate parking for my sweet Indian legend and was on my way.

I found a seat right where I wanted.  The counter.  The kind where one gets a root beer float, a double cone, or a scoop of flour poured over their face.  Yes, for I was sitting at the place where the young Indian students were refused service, and the bad guy proceeded to “make them white” by pouring flour on their faces.  At this point in the film, the hero, Billy Jack arrives in his classic, straight-brimmed cowboy hat and tells our bad guy that this kind of treatment makes him go berserk. He uses his supreme martial arts skills to ruin some people.

A nice bucket list item for me and you probably understand why driving solo is often for the best.  It was an excellent get.  I wouldn’t go hours out of my way for it, but 30 minutes was a no-brainer.

The place had changed.  We’re talking 50 years ago.  Few customers even know about the movie, aside from the poster on the wall.  I knew it.  I sat in the same freaking spot where Billy Jack kicked ass!  One tin solider rides away...  Youtube links at bottom of story.

The young man at the counter knew the story and told me some history of the place.  That’s what you get for two scoops of Gelato.  I told him more about the movie and what happened in the restaurant.  Also introduced him to TCB, showed him a video, and explained that history.  He loved it.

Interesting thing about the Prescott Town Square, there were at least three ice cream places on the square.  I actually had to compare Google Street View to the film.

It was a fun visit.  No great, life-changing experience, not on my end, but perhaps on the counter guy.  He got to meet The Cranky Bunny.

Billy Jack goes berserk.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Road Trip 2017 - Pretrip Preface

I like road trips.  I like solo road trips.  Not because I want to be alone.  Sometimes I do.  It’s easier to do what I want, be on my own schedule, etc.  However, the biggest thing it does is make me mingle.  I like mingling.  There are few strangers on my road trips.  You can create memories traveling with someone, but you will create them when traveling alone.

Is it lonely?  A few years ago I traveled by myself for 45 days.  That got lonely towards the end.  After a week?  No way.  It’s just nice to experience things on your own accord.  Be your own boss.  I’m to blame for stopping at the Navajo Jewelry stand, or regret not stopping.

Also, no one else snores.  Once I close my hotel room door, the clothes are gone!  More on that later, because I know you want to know more my hotel naked.

So this road trip.  Sis-in-law mentioned moving her mom from Phoenix to Iowa City.  I volunteered to help months ago, especially with my long distance driving skills.  A few months later, she asked and I said I’d be interested if the timing worked out.  I was asked again as plans were firming up.  I was given the chance to bow out, no questions asked.  Honestly, my initial reaction was “no, I better not do it.”  What if something comes up?  Like with a lot of people, for me it can be easier to just say no.  “No” keeps me safe because it eliminates “what if”.  I hate “what if”.

So for that exact reason I committed on the spot, period.  I’ll do this road trip.  Period.  My only caveat, I could dilly-dally.

The art of the dilly-dally.  I could have made this Phoenix to Iowa City trip in three days.  Interstate all the way.  I would have if it were required, but it wasn’t.  So, I didn’t.  The destination just ends the journey.  Wow...

“The destination just ends the journey”-Mike Brennan.  

There are interesting places along the way and some cool people, too.  Granted, what I considering interesting, you might not, but still.  Explore.  Dilly-dally

“A life without dilly-dallying isn‘t living.”- Mike Brennan

Next - Off like a truck full of herds of turtles driven by a guy who isn’t used to trucks full of anything.