Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

What a bizarre night last night! As I lay in bed, a strange throbbing in my left foot keeping me agitated, but also a caffeine-like electricity coursing through, I recalled Fellowship of Friends students I’ve known, names arising that have not occurred to me in thirty years. My memory replayed images of each "teaching house" I had lived in, each “octave” (project) and the faces and usually names of those present. Hundreds, it must have been.

Why all this data? Of what use is it to recall? Mental clutter. Something would like to think there is some inherent value in these recollections, but I doubt it.

Slept until 9:00, though the neighbor commenced weed-whipping around 7:00. In vain, I tried to ignore it.

Looking at myself in the mirror, it’s clear to see there is little respect, self-worth, purpose. Take a shower. Try to refresh and set aside those thoughts.

Immediately turned to the "FOF" blog, reading another 40 posts. Pseudonymous characters such as "Howard Carter" present the imperturbable face of the "Fellowship". The well-known act (or is it?) Someone has posted two videos of Robert teaching on "YouTube". Taken in recent years, I assume, his words, gestures, mannerisms are no different than 20 years ago. If something works, stick with it. Is it simple because it’s the truth? Is it simple because it’s effective and difficult to refute? And the more obstinate, the more it appears like conviction (simply think of George W. Bush.)

Being Memorial Day, I’m inclined to ruminate on all this, and even formulate a more expansive response than my previous quips. As if addressing my own inner questions.

At home, a simple thing like making fresh salsa evokes a curious melancholy, as though this has been something lost to my life. Then I think “well, you’re been on the road for two years, silly. No wonder!”

Spent so much of the day reading the "Fellowship of Friends Discussion" blog and formulating a response (or contribution) that might reflect some of the thoughts and emotions I’ve felt in the past few days. It was late in the day when I finally wrapped it up and submitted my comment.

On the trip, I was talking with someone about not knowing if on a motorcycle I was protected from lightning. "No, there’s no Faraday’s Cage," they responded. I didn’t know the term, but since looked it up. I think that person was correct.

I also researched "lostandfound.com" It already exists! Exactly as I would have imagined it.

[For more on the Fellowship of Friends and its teacher, see: "Robert Earl Burton: An Unauthorized Blogography".]

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Few Reflections from the Reunion

There is such a desolation and forlornness this morning.

After rising, I turned to the "Fellowship of Friends" blog, to read the latest discussions.

The school’s obsession with money is amazing. Members were (and are) often dismissed for monetary reasons alone. How can a “church”, recognized and tax-exempt under California law, do that?

With a need to absorb what happened yesterday, I went on a hike to Bald Mountain. I noted that fellow hikers were in good spirits.

So many thoughts on the mountain. Can a “church” discriminate based upon an ability to pay? Are their not other methods of payment or contribution that must morally be considered? Perhaps we need a “Conscience Project”. A web-based movement to end this "play of crime"?

After the hike, I slowly drove toward Santa Rosa, scanning the roadside. After all, it’s possible my pack could have fallen off late in the ride. Why did I assume it was hopelessly far back?

I should create a website: "lost and found.com", where people can post things they've lost and found, by category and location. What an idea! Help locate items, and perhaps earn a little commission in the process.

Lunch at "Chelino’s", reading the "Bohemian" as I dined. A Hefeweizen beer at home later.

Drew called after I sent them an e-mail about the reunion. He said "Bonita" had responded to his e-mail. He was quite excited, as it completed, in his mind, some kind of celestial cycle. She had been the first or second "student" in the "Fellowship of Friends". We talked of R., a student we both knew in the 70s. I mentioned that I just heard he rejoined the school. “What a slime ball…” (He took my girl!) Someone said he was involved with "Oui", the mens’ soft-porn magazine, in the early 70s. That didn't coincide with Drew's memory. R. was from Buenos Aires, went to Hawaii and joined there (where Drew and Susan also joined.)

I mentioned another student I saw, R., with whom I had always had playful ("polar opposites") friendship. Drew was annoyed. He described the person as “vanity trying to appear not to be vain,” then related a story about R. visiting them on Whidbey Island. In an emergency, Drew had to take Susan to the hospital just before R. arrived. They never heard a word from R. Not even an inquiry as to Susan's condition.

Drew was "buzzing", a hundred things apparently racing through his mind. (It's something that annoys me at times. From my perspective, he fills his mind with such clutter and distraction.)

He recited everything I didn’t need to know about the friends they went to see in Port Townsend today, the extended families of their friends, and what’s going on with THEIR friends and families. All as background material for the simple tale of an outing to Port Townsend! The guy is definitely a "people person"! (And I guess I am definitely not.)

Then, on the spur of the moment, he decides he might write an article about the "Fellowship of Friends" for "Rolling Stone" magazine. While I was still on the line, he downloaded all the web pages from the "FOF" blog (multi-tasking, of course.) I offered to support and assist his effort, but he abruptly decided he was all done, and "good-bye"!

"What just happened?"

[For more on the Fellowship of Friends and its teacher, see: "Robert Earl Burton: An Unauthorized Blogography".]

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Fellowship of Friends Reunion Day

With no real regard for appearances, I did manage to press a short sleeve shirt for today. Loaded up a few things in case I accept Cathie’s offer of a room in Grass Valley. Packed a sleeping bag, pillow, change of clothes, toiletries, my home-made guacamole and bags of tortilla chips.

Off about 11:00 a.m. It was cold and I bundled up with fleece layers (no electric vest.) Traffic heavy on I-80, and "required" that I "split lanes".

By Sacramento, it was too warm, and I had to strip down. Running the gas tank nearly empty, I found my way to the Schoolhouse in Columbia, just off California's Highway 49, "The Gold Rush Highway". Arrived at the same time as my friends Klaus and Margaret of San Rafael. I was surprised to see the schoolhouse parking lot nearly full, as I hadn't really any concept of what to expect at this "reunion". Among the first friends I met, "Dara, Cathie and Karl" (all organizers of the event, and official greeters.) It took a long time to recognize "Ames", his mop of dark hair now almost completely white.

Looking around, "Karl, Cathie, Ramona, Charles? No wait, Charles is over there. Who is that? Leave it." Later I realize, "it’s Rick, Charles’ brother!" I haven’t seen him in over 30 years. Santa Barbara, circa 1974.

Not wishing to have my hands occupied, I never did take advantage of the fabulous potluck buffet. (The Fellowship culture developed some amazing chefs!) I simply helped myself to a glass of wine. ("Claude" and "Elizabeth" being the others hovering near the wine table, and “photographing me”.)

Over the course of the afternoon, there were perhaps 120 visitors. I knew most, maybe half casual acquaintances, and the other half friends with whom I had worked closely. Most I hadn't seen in 25 years or more. It was remarkable how the individual mannerisms we shared with each other instantaneously resurfaced, with slight variations depending on the person we were with.

Conversations that were interrupted 25 years ago could almost be resumed without missing a beat. At least that's how it felt. It was easy to joke with those we always joked with, easy to be careful and considered with those around whom we were more reserved.

Most have moved on from the teaching and practices of "The Fourth Way", Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. But everyone carries the lessons and memories of those days. While most present struck me as still vital and growing, a few individuals displayed a troubling disconnection from reality. Casualties of life's tortuous path.

As sunset approached, I took out my camera. (Others were taking pictures and I felt some responsibility to contribute.) I took a photo of “Christine” (Julia E.) Then Elizabeth L. told me not to take her picture. I thought about it, then put the camera away. Yes, maybe a camera just reduces this experience to a superficial level.

With nightfall, it became very difficult to identify people, and I started to drift, disconnected. I asked Cathie, Ramona and Ames if there were some way I could help (needing to "do" something!) Folded and stowed chairs, but soon decided it was time to go.

Others were taking leave, many with plans to gather for breakfast at Ramona's house tomorrow morning, where the reunion and conversations would resume.

Though Cathie offered a room, I decided not to stay overnight. Since I had a sleeping bag, someone suggested I could just camp in the Schoolhouse. "No one is going to kick you out!" I considered that might be the best, most rewarding (and perhaps least characteristic) action on my part. But my answer to tension is often to ride. And tension there was. The day had indeed been quite overwhelming, and I didn't feel capable of handling much more of this emotional energy.

As I collected my dishes, I noted with some satisfaction, that early on, my large bowl of guacamole had been scraped nearly clean.

Slowly driving the dark and winding mountain roads, I was filled with an intense sadness and loneliness. I had just faced many people who, until a few hours ago, still existed as twenty-somethings (my daughter’s age!) in "my mind's eye". But standing before me today were old, weathered and weary (still recognizable!) friends. Seeing lifetimes so compressed, the obvious extrapolation is "the next stage is death."

My god! How can one reconcile this shock? In our reuniting, there is the glimmer of familiarity, the emotion of times shared, the memory of now-distant youthful and vital friendships. And now, as if in a moment, their youth has been stolen. How utterly unfair it seems!

Marilyn seemed to epitomize this for me. I had not thought of her for perhaps 30 years. Yet her memory was easily elicited: long brown hair, sweet personality, cute and attractive. A sparkle in the eyes. Kind-hearted and modest. Today, she stood there before me, quite a different vision, white-haired, made wise by the years (and still that sparkle in the eyes and voice!) We joked about how she always looked like "one of the Kampions".

It brought tears to my eyes as I drove away, trying to understand the reason, the purpose for this powerfully disarming experience (for everything must have meaning and purpose!)

(Earlier, when I retrieved my camera from the motorcycle, I noticed Margaret seated in her car, weeping. Yes, it was powerful.) I think many of us were indeed left in a delicate emotional state.

I recalled Shakespeare’s 30th Sonnet:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

"But if the while I think on thee dear friend, all losses are restored and sorrows end." I want to re-dedicate this to my friends.

Early on, Robert ("The Teacher") discouraged us from using the word “love”. The premise being "a machine cannot love. Only conscious beings are capable of 'love'." (Yet we used intellectual terms such as "think", "know", "understand", as if machines that could not love were somehow capable of these other higher functions.) In retrospect, I can see what an emotionally crippling device that had been.

As one of the most extraordinary experiences of our lives (and none will deny this), through a community of dedicated and idealistic individuals with a common dream ("awakening"), a certain brand of consciousness, will and conscience was nurtured. At the same time, we were psychologically disarmed, disheartened and dismembered by a charismatic and probably diabolical leader.

My experience seems to contradict Shakespeare's words,
The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.

In the end, goodness prevails.

If more speak out, current members might see the karmic burden they are now incurring. Perhaps, in respect to those who have passed, and to those who still remain mired in the "institution", we former members have a moral obligation to dismantle this "school" and return its resources to the greater community, to insure they do not simply inure to the benefit of an individual, "the Teacher". A formal position statement should be developed.

As I rode in the dark, I pictured the faces from earlier in the day:

Claude and Elizabeth
William and Kathryn
Charles and Devon
Ames and Nancy
Robert and Pamela
Klaus and Margaret
Dara
Rick R.
Anthony P.
Randall O.
James and Mary B.
Susan T.
Marilyn M.
Sheila and Richard S.
Richard and Susan M.
Joel and Jill F.
Karl M.
Cathie
Ramona
Steven M.
Bruce
Lyle
Sharon S.
Barbara H.
William H.
Diane K.
William S.
Connie T.
Richard B.
Micah and Diana S.
Jonathan W.
Jonathan F.
Katherine A.
Jeffrey K.
Gregory and Midyne S.
Alan S.
Douglas and Katie H.
Shelley M.
Kent A.
William K.
Gregory and Arisha W.
Sandra C. (and her friend Steve)
Sylvia T.
Jules (Julie) C.
Martha P.
Michael and Sharon J.
Pamela B.
Joseph G. and his wife and daughter
Elizabeth L.
Maria Elena H.

(And a number of others who recently left the school.)

***

Midnight. A stop at "In-N-Out" in Auburn. Yes, I had neglected eating anything at the reunion, and discovered soon after leaving that I was hungry. (This may be a lifetime first: "In-N-Out" two days in a row!)

Outside the restaurant, a limo unloaded a group of high school prom-goers. Tuxes and gowns, and a host of personalities. The rebel among them, not dressed for the occasion (I think he mentioned he graduates next year) acted tough, preying on a passively self-conscious boy, helping himself to the boy's french fries.

By Sacramento, the ride was getting cold, and I stopped at the West Sacramento Truck Center to add two layers of fleece.

Arriving home, I climbed off the bike and noticed something wrong: my "Sealine" duffel bag was gone, the two bungies that had secured it now hanging loosely.

Puzzled, I commented to myself "the son of man hath nowhere to lay his head. No sleep for you! Next time, make sure things are better-secured."

Somewhere between West Sacramento and home, I lost the pack containing my sleeping bag and the "$150-reduced-to-$30 Calvin Klein" down pillow. Well, the sleeping bag has served me well. What has it been, 20 years? And I never did like the right-side zipper and inability to open up the foot area. Hopefully someone will find the pack and make good use of it. Amusingly, the loss of the pillow was the hardest to accept, since I had found it quite recently and it was the "perfect" size for tent-camping.



This was the only photo I took at the Memorial Day Weekend reunion of "Fellowship of Friends" members. I had known "Julia" back in the 70s, when we both joined the "Los Angeles Center", then briefly shared a "teaching house" in Mar Vista.

Somehow, the idea of taking photos at the gathering suddenly seemed to diminish the experience. After this one, I packed the camera away.

(August 12, 2011 note: a new blog has been created to dig into the sinister background story of the Fellowship of Friends.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Around Santa Rosa

Out early to "Northbay Motorsports" to see about having my front tire replaced. I would have to leave the bike, and they would eventually get to it. For me, that just wasn't an option. Maybe next week.

I could try to change the tire myself, at home, but I’m not quite ready to take the chance that I might not be unable to finish the task. With no workspace at the apartment, I’m not really able to maintain this bike as it should be. Something has gotta give.

Filled up on gas: $17! A tank of gasoline, or a meal out? That’s what it comes down to these days. And the oil company wins. Our lifestyle is so inextricably connected to the motor vehicle. Our cities and communities are laid out this way. (What a treat it was in Waterbury to have the option of “walking one’s errands”.)

I went to the Santa Rosa JC, to work on the computer, but found the library has now closed for summer break. "Now what?" Drove over to a nearby "Peet’s Coffee". No wi-fi, but still I decided to spend money and time there. Their stores feature classical background music. Is this intended to imply or imbue culture? Why is classical music assumed to be sophisticated and a higher expression of culture? (Most of it, I've heard enough over the years to make it as innocuous as "elevator music".)

Considered a hike at Sugarloaf Ridge, but the afternoon was too hazy to bother. Instead, went out to Annadel Park again. I noticed two park benches inscribed “Free yourself, be yourself”.

Over to the storage unit to pick out some wine for tomorrow: 1999 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet and a 1997 Benziger Zinfandel. Looked at the spare wheels I keep in storage. I see the front tire (the original Dunlop on the cast rim) still has life. I decided there’s no need to install the new tire yet. I can just re-mount this wheel and run out the remaining tread life. Loaded the wheel on the back of the bike.

"In-N-Out Burger" for an early dinner. About $6.50. Less than I’d spend most places. (But there’s that beef again!)

At home, made fresh guacamole. Lots of it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Spend, Don't Save, Eat U.S. Beef and Ignore the Saudis Behind the Curtain

President Bush held a White house Press Conference in the Rose Garden this morning. In reference to China, he said we must “convert their economy from one of savers to consumers”. What a revealing comment about the psychology of our "national religion", Consumption.

He also stated the Chinese need to be eating U.S. beef. After all I’ve seen crossing this country, all the devastation caused by cattle and meat production, this is the height of insanity. Meat production must be reduced!

His speech passed through distinct stages: at first, the stilted, almost resentful and belligerent reading of the scripted words, then the uneasy searching for "truth" as he struggled to match questions from the press with answers from his "talking points" list, then easing into his comfortable one-sided banter (“...let me finish, I’m on a roll...") and finally the regurgitation of well-worn “truisms”.

"While we’re at it George, since you need to invoke the memory of 9/11 at every opportunity, can you explain why Saudi Arabia has not been held to account for the amazing fact that 18 of the 19 hijackers had ties to that country? Why do you consider the American public unworthy of an explanation? Why was information regarding the Saudi role redacted from the 'authorized edition' of The 9/11 Commission Report?"

"Are there perhaps some 'inconvenient truths'? Something that doesn’t quite fit your narrative of the 9/11 attacks? Could it be that you, your Administration and your good friend Prince Bandar are somehow complicit?"

"I don’t know the significance of your continuing obfuscation, but Americans are entitled to, and demand, the truth from their public servants."

Finally, it is almost laughable that the President is now publicly embracing the "Baker-Hamilton recommendations", a document he all but dismissed (as a political minefield for Republicans) in the run-up to last Fall’s elections!

Read the conference transcript, and you will find it astounding that such a man can be held up as "Leader of the Free World".

***

I pulled on some 34-inch-waist "Levi's" jeans. I have a couple pair that are virtually unused. Upon returning to the U.S. last year, I purchased them in Miami. They fit just fine at the time, however after eating my way across the country...

Anyway, in my on-going effort to downsize and reduce waste (waist), I’m going to force myself into them for the Fellowship of Friends reunion, and beyond.

***

A strange, light-hearted day, full of interesting interactions with people, especially women, it seems. I wonder if my beard (haven’t shaved since starting the trip eastward) has something to do with it? I’ve long felt that having a beard forces more focus on the eyes, and I have "friendly" eyes. (It's the rest of me people find repulsive.)

During a hike in Annadel Park, I was thinking about the goodness in all people, when an older gentleman on horseback (he felt like an old-time local) stopped abreast of me and started up a friendly chat before wishing me a good afternoon and moving on.

I went up to Lake Ilsanjo. After circling around the lake, two women, perhaps in their 40s, suggested I join them at a picnic table where they were seated. They asked numerous questions about where trails led, and also asked if I knew anything about Sugarloaf Ridge ("of course!"). “Maybe we’ll see you again…” one said as I took my leave.

Curious. Suspiciously, I wondered "what were they looking for?"

I paid special attention to the snake paths crossing the dusty trails. I saw more of their wriggly trails than ever before, especially near the lake shore. Counted at least twenty. Rattlesnakes are fairly common in Annadel.

Shopped for guacamole ingredients, comparing prices and quality at "Whole Foods", then "Oliver’s". "Whole Foods" was doing a brisk business as people prepare for the Memorial Day holiday. At "Oliver’s", I took time out to talk with "Dave" about our bikes. (He has a GS like mine.) Returned to "Whole Foods" to make the purchase, as their avocados were riper. Over $50 for 12 avocados, a few lemons and limes, an onion, cilantro, chiles, and a couple bags of tortilla chips.

It wasn't that long ago when I regarded $30 as "expensive" for the same ingredients. As I unloaded the groceries at home, it was interesting to watch the internal state: that of anxiety. A well-stocked refrigerator is something I never enjoy these days. The apparent extravagance means the depletion of funds is that much nearer.

Out to "Flying Goat" late in the afternoon. Again, warm interactions with people. Something in the air? (Pheromones?) The "usual characters" were there: Giancarlo outside chatting with a pretty Irish woman, Stacey and her mom just rolling in. I checked to make sure Giancarlo and Stefano received my Vermont postcard. He said they had.

Went over to the Veterans Building to meet Jess where the hospital shuttle bus drops her off near her car. Waited an hour, until 6:00, but she must have been working late. I let her insurance lapse, so we have to figure out what to do. At $1,300 annually, it seems excessively high!

Returned to "Oliver’s" this evening for some soda, a 6-pack of Hefeweissen and a couple more bags of tortilla chips!

Watched a disturbing documentary on Iraq: The War Tapes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pollution from China?

All indications are that I was snoring again! (Though the apartment revealed no seismic damage.)

I resumed yesterday's cleaning projects, turning now to the tent, the hydro bags and helmet (with its padding once again falling apart.)

And while those things dried in the sun, I continued typing notes. Returned to the JC library for the afternoon, where I could better work on the blog.

Late in the afternoon, I went out to "Carmen’s" for a burger. She has done quite a good job in creating a comfortable eatery. It's busy, serving quality food, a friendly neighborhood hang-out (even though the clientèle is primarily the affluent. I tried to work on my attitude: "each person is wonderful, a miracle!")

In a radio discussion involving members of the "Committee of 100" ("a national non-partisan organization composed of American citizens of Chinese descent"), a panelist stated that 1/3 of fine particulate pollution in West Coast cities is from China. If true, that's an amazing fact!

Tonight I watched Old Joy, a fascinating film by Kelly Reichardt. Outwardly simple and almost mundane, yet psychologically complex and haunting. I spent some time with it, viewing the special features and listening to some of the director’s comments. She mentioned that one of the characters walks a line between freedom and homelessness – much like me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Telephone Companies

Asked Cathie if the offer of a room in her Grass Valley house next weekend was still valid. "Yes." I may decide to spend the two days at the "Fellowship of Friends" reunion.

Spent about five hours at the Santa Rosa Junior College library today. It's quite a gift to have access to this remarkable, modern facility. I wrote a note to Dr. Andy Valla, an audiologist the Jessica and I met at the UCSF Medical Center. He's now in a private practice in San Rafael. I explained the difficulty Jessica is having with the digital hearing aid, and asked for his suggestions on a course of action.

Afterwards, I stopped at "Chelino’s" for some dinner. Outside, an exquisite day.

At home later, Drew called. "Why don't you get a cell phone," he asked, obviously irritated by my "slacker" status. He regards. this as irresponsible and "passive-aggressive", in that I force others to call me.

As I've often explained, I am ambivalent when it comes to phones. During my travels, I was dogged by two major telecom companies who claimed I had unpaid balances, even though I provided evidence that my checks were received and cashed by the companies. The accounts were simply not credited properly. The confusion was entirely due to administrative screw-ups resulting from merger activities and the transfer of accounting books. That did not stop one of the carriers from sending my account to collections. I still receive notices that I'm in default!

The telephone utilities are inefficient, nightmarish bureaucracies. I cringe any time I have to deal with them. The fact that they left a live telephone line into my apartment (incoming access only), which I can offer others as a way to reach me, does not in the least trouble my conscience.

Drew is suffering from a severe case of gout, forcing him to idle his right arm. This is a major problem for a writer!

This evening, I stepped out into the dark. The wind carries the fragrance of wild grasses drying on the surrounding hillsides. On the road, this experience was part of every day. "You can have this, if you want."

Watched a couple of movies tonight: Deliver Us From Evil (concerning child abuse in the Catholic Church, and efforts by the leadership to cover up the problem - not unlike Congress!) and Little Children, a well-crafted, well-acted, but very disturbing look behind the veneer of suburban life.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Visit With My Long-Lost Daughter

Wow! Was I snoring or what? Woke with a throat that was rough and a bit sore.

It was 7:30, the sun still hidden behind Bennett Mountain. (Was up at first light, but it was too cold to climb out of the warm bed.)

As I told Henry and Charlene last night, it’s nice to wake up in my own private space where I won’t be asked to vacate at 11:00 a.m.

But I already miss the road.

A critical mission to "Starbuck’s". It's convenient location, about a mile away, the factor in choosing it over the other shops. At a cost of $4.95 for a scone and cappuccino, it is clearly on the expensive side.

As I walked past people at this "neighborhood" shopping center, I flashed back to the "waving people" in Nebraska. My fellow locals won’t even look at me. In the cities, eye contact is threatening.

Drove out to Kenwood to pick up mail.

Gorgeous weather. And the foliage and shadows amaze me. Everything seems so incredibly lush here, maybe since the oaks were just budding when I left.

A former co-worker at Chateau St. Jean, "Bill", was a character in a dream last night, so it was odd to run into my friend "Bonnie" outside the post office. She has worked at St. Jean for over twenty years. I had missed hers and Ross’ 55th birthday celebration on May 5th. As we talked, she introduced me to "Angelo" who works at the post office. I’ve never had a favorable impression of him, but maybe that will change. She said that our friends Kathie and Dave have retired and now have a place in Scottsdale, Arizona. They divide their time between here and there.

Spent the afternoon hand-washing clothes, then the "Aerostich" riding suit and finally the motorcycle. Used solar power to dry everything.

Recorded expenses in the checkbook, working through a stack of receipts. Less than $9,500 in cash and in checking now.

The anxiety of grocery shopping - this is something new. Costs are clearly increasing, while income has essentially ceased. Do the math, and it's just a matter of time. (Of course, life is just a matter of time, isn't it...)

Arranged to meet Jessica at "A’Roma Roasters" tonight. It was great to see her! But she is weary from the stresses in her life. I probed into her comments more deeply. Her new hearing aid is very frustrating and demoralizing. (To limit costs, she and her audiologist decided to try the new aid in only one ear.) The digital technology was supposed to be an improvement, but in fact, she has found it to be worse. The sound quality is poorer than her old analog aid, and they have been unable to make it function with her cell phone.

Psychologically, it is a major blow. There has always been the hope (perhaps even expectation) that improved technology would eventually mitigate some of her hearing loss. It's not an idea that is nurtured, yet the unexpressed dream is always present. And digital technology has been touted as a major leap forward in hearing aids.

I feel my involvement in her life has been so inadequate lately. I owe her much more, and it pains me to see her suffer.

She grew tired of talking about it. “So…how was your trip?”

How do I answer? I realized I haven't really thought about it!

We went on to dinner at "East-West", now re-opened across from Howarth Park. It's a better location for business. All the same staff members are present, but they have added a young man as busser! (I'm not sure if he’ll be able to break into the all-female server force though.) Chatted with "Jana", a server I've known for years.

The menu at "East-West" is priced in even amounts, such as $10.00 or $11.50. No $9.99 or $11.49. I remarked to Jess how refreshing such honesty is.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Home Stretch


Lake Abert, Oregon


At 5:00 a.m., it was so quiet outside my tent. No traffic on the highway a mile or so distant. The only sound, that of a few birds.

Unzipping the tent and poking my head out, I saw why it still seemed so dark. The sky was completely overcast, and beyond my cocoon, the air cold. "Not good. Rain so close to home?"



High desert campsite near Drewsey (that's right), Oregon


After so many miles, this weather stuff is beginning to fascinate me. There is so much “information” available via our senses, if we only knew how to interpret and translate it. Even so, there are often amazing surprises that are revealed with night's passage. I established a goal to study weather phenomena more after I return home.

For some reason, out in this desolate place, I thought of Catherine, a beautiful young woman I once knew.

Reflecting upon this latest trek across the country, it’s funny how the thought of a particular coffee shop, an excellent steak, a special pastry can decide my course and take me 100s of miles off track. (I guess this was in reference to my internal questioning “so, why exactly did you just drive all the way up into Montana?”)

“Now I’m going to have to face getting the bike out of here.” But I’ve found it’s almost always easier traversing the same plot of ground the second time. “It should be simpler than it was last night.”

And it was. I first walked the hundred yards or so down the slope to the road, identifying a path through the thick brush, rocks and uneven ground.

The weather may tip the scale for taking U.S. 395 south. “It’s gotta be better in California.” Up to this point, I had left the options open, still considering a possible ride over to the Oregon Coast before turning south.

In Burns, I saw a “Big R” store, a ranching supply chain I haven’t seen since the 70s, when I lived near Yuba City, California and shopped there regularly.

Beyond Burns, it became clear that continuing west on U.S. 20 would carry me into what appeared to be a significant weather front, and certain rain. I decided to turn south on U.S. 395.

The next several hours were spent in pursuit of sun. The play of light and shadow on distant mountains promised a break from endless cold, but the sun seemed always beyond reach. I remained under a chilly blanket of cloud. (It took four hours and about 225 miles to break out into sunlight in Modoc County, California.) Oregon provided a soggy farewell as I drove through brief showers in the final mountain pass leading into California. It had been in the 40s all morning. To my disappointment, the sun, once I reached it, provided little warmth.



Lichen on volcanic rock along the Lake Abert shoreline, Oregon


Across the border, I entered the “home stretch”, psychologically (and now, with some sun, physically.) An easy ride, this final 400 or so miles.

In Alturus, I could finally relax. I was no longer running from weather. I stopped in at the Black Bear Diner that I had noted on a previous journey through here. Looking over the menu, I was surprised to learn this restaurant is not unique at all. It's part of a growing chain, which includes restaurants in Sonoma and Rohnert Park, right in my neighborhood. (But the people here are unique to Alturas!) "Kati", my server, was outgoing and very competent and dispelled any negativity about this being a "chain store". I made a note to submit a comment about the positive staff and obviously good training program. Ordered a strawberry waffle – good, but pricey. With coffee and some sausage, almost $20 in total.

Over California, the skies cleared. It's amazing what a difference blue sky and fresh air can have upon one’s perception of the land. The Pitt River valley east of Mt. Shasta struck me as an attractive area. A nice place to live? Found another "Chatty Kathie’s" restaurant in Burney. I had visited the one in McArthur on a previous occasion.

86 degrees in the Redding area. There I connected with Interstate 5 and joined the flow of traffic south. To avoid the usual congestion near the Bay Area, and enjoy a more scenic drive, I turned west on California 20 towards Clear Lake. It proved to be a mistake. Lines of traffic on a winding mountain highway. But I didn't let that slow me down. Using the throttle liberally, I passed vehicles along the centerline.

When an on-coming Highway Patrol car passed, I figured I better take evasive measures. I turned off on the next rural road, just in case he had decided to turn around and pursue me. A short distance from Highway 20, I passed a CDF station and just beyond that,turned around, figuring I had killed enough time. Just then, the forestry station personnel came out and shut the road down for a medical evacuation. They were expecting a helicopter momentarily, and it would be landing on the road.

There was nothing to do but watch and wait. I decided to get the camera out, and take a few pictures.

The helicopter arrived. An elderly man was wheeled on a gurney from a motor home parked at the station and loaded into the copter. After the helicopter took off, I turned around and saw a beautiful blond-haired woman who had been standing behind me watching the action. Her car was stopped behind my bike. Quite a vision out in this rather remote and parched landscape.



Traffic was stopped on a rural California highway while emergency crews evacuated an ailing motorist


Resigned now to the congestion on Highway 20, I slowed down and even stopped on the north shore of Clear Lake. Found a Foster's Freeze and bought a marshmallow malt. Joined a Harley rider named Steve sitting by the lakeshore. An awesome afternoon. Perfect riding weather. following the break, I was in a much better mood, and thoroughly enjoyed the ride over to Ukiah, and the final run down U.S. 101 into Sonoma County. It seemed a fitting homecoming. Arrived at the house around.



I returned to just another gorgeous day in California wine country, this scene south of Ukiah


Henry and Charlene returned home, driving a rental car. They had been involved in a minor accident near Davis and their car is being repaired. They gave me fruit, offered the use of their washer & drier, and offered to run errands. So kind.

In Santa Rosa, everything looks so lush and green! Shade!!! The oaks have now leafed out. A contrast to so much of the country I’ve seen lately.

The apartment is a mess once again, scattered with my gear.

87,696 miles on the odometer at the conclusion of this trip. Just under 12,000 miles traveled during this ride.

There is news of a student march from Berkeley to Washington, starting today.I'm tempted to join in! I've recently thought about crossing the country on foot, how even a motorcycle seems too disconnected from the environment.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Across Idaho and into Oregon


EBR-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor-1), the World's first nuclear power plant is located in a remote corner of the vast Idaho National Laboratory high desert test center


THIS MORNING

8:30 a.m.  Smitty’s Pancake and Steak House, Idaho Falls, Idaho

Idaho Falls is wide awake at this hour. I've already been on the road for two hours. Rain was threatening throughout my passage from Montana to Idaho until I emerged to sunlight just north of here.

Earlier, I had stopped in Spencer, known for its opals. I was hoping to view samples at a shop or market, but at 7:30 there was no sign of life.

"The Plan" keeps changing. I was going to cut directly to the West Coast via U.S. 20 to Newport, Oregon, then down to Garberville for a look at the real estate market there. Now, given this strange weather, I’m inclined to follow the most direct route home.


LATER

I pulled up to the security office at the Idaho National Laboratory and met security guard Layne Bird. He was just a wealth of information. Almost uncomfortably talkative! ("Are you supposed to be telling me all this?")
East of Spencer, according to Layne, is the largest volcanic crater in World. The first nuclear disaster site (SL-1) is just east of here, apparently the result of a love triangle. To the north, the Navy tested 16” guns for the battleships New Jersey and Iowa. There is a nuclear sub out in this desert, used for training purposes. They develop nuclear engines for space probes here. The laboratory is connected with the Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Savannah River sites. If they need help, Mountain Home Air Force Base is 7 minutes away by air and Hill AFB in Ogden is only 5 minutes away. This is where Verizon tests their communications equipment. There was formerly a large Navy contingent stationed at INL; there are far fewer now. People come and go at all hours of the day, 7 days a week. They hangered the "atomic bomber" out there in the desert. EBR-1, the nation's first nuclear reactor, is just down the road. Lower octane fuel burns hotter and gives better mileage than high octane. (They have 85-octane fuel available in Idaho. It's only available in a few places.) "Some" who work here are appalled by the incredible waste they see in government projects at the site. Projects are started but go nowhere. The first electric power plant in 30 years is under construction in Arizona. This location was considered by NASA as an alternate launch site to Cape Canaveral. The fact that it’s a mile high would save an enormous amount of fuel launching vehicles into space.

In danger of exceeding my hard drive capacity, I thanked Layne for the education and headed off to explore some of the locations he recommended. I couldn't help think of the World War II admonition "loose lips sink ships."

En route to EBR-1, I came upon Bechtel’s Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant (AMWTP)(Sounds impressive, doesn't it?). The sign outside the fenceline identified the operator as "Bechtel BWXT Idaho, LLC".



Out in the wide-open Idaho plains, and adjacent to the world's first nuclear power plant, Bechtel's AMWTP (Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant) processes nuclear waste. From Bechtel's website:

Bechtel is managing operations at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment project in Idaho Falls, Idaho. It is DOE’s most advanced waste treatment facility, where transuranic waste is safely treated and packaged for shipment and final disposal. (My emphasis added.)

Bechtel National is the lead partner in Bechtel BWXT Idaho, LLC, which operates the project, located at DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory.

Waste originally was sent to the Idaho site during the 1970s and 1980s from DOE’s Rocky Flats site near Denver, Colorado. It contains industrial debris such as rags, work clothing, machine parts and tools, as well as soil and sludge contaminated with transuranic radioactive elements, primarily plutonium. In addition to the radioactive contamination, most of the waste is also contaminated with hazardous chemicals.

The waste is stored in four-cubic-meter large boxes and 208-liter drums. It is retrieved and then characterized to determine the contents, using radiography, gamma spectrometry, coring, and headspace gas samples. The waste is then repackaged and shipped by truck to the DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, for permanent disposal.

Using an aggressive project management approach, the Bechtel-led team is revamping operations at the AMWTP and aligning operations with court-mandated milestones contained in a 1995 settlement agreement between the state of Idaho, the U.S. Navy and DOE to remove the waste from Idaho.

It certainly sounds to me like "permanent storage" of radioactive waste is an ever-changing concept.

Sometimes I just feel like I'd rather not know what goes on out in the deserts of the American West. There is an automatic sense that any activity so isolated from public view must be nefarious.



The grounds adjacent to EBR-1 are a bit radioactive. You can take the tour at your own risk.



These structures are test stands holding prototype atomic engines, part of a 1950s project to build a nuclear-powered bomber. (Among the fascinating things you find exploring America's deserts.)



The atomic bomber story


After a break, during which I learned a bit about the world's first nuclear reactor, "Atoms for Peace" and the Nuclear Bomber Project (I guess that would be the complementary "Atoms for War" program), I continued on to the town of Arco, where in 1955, the residents were the first in the "free world" to enjoy the "peaceful application" of nuclear power. They just happened to be unaware of the fact.



According to Layne, the people of Arco, Idaho weren't even aware that in July of 1955 their electricity was suddenly coming from an experimental nuclear reactor only a few miles away


Crossed the fringes of the Craters of the Moon National Monument, a harsh, craggy and blackened landscape, the result of huge lava flows. I wasn't inspired enough today to pay the park entrance fees for a close-up self-guided tour.

Not far beyond, I came to the junction of state route 75 and signs for Sun Valley. I had no idea the famous ski area was along this route. Since I was here, I decided to have a look. Being a non-skier/snowboarder, the area holds little attraction for me. Ketchum is a typical resort town, catering to the comfortably affluent. At this time of year, it's busy, but apparently nothing like in the "high season".

A wonderful Spring day up here in the mountain valleys. Enough moisture in the air to offer a kinder, gentler environment than the brutal landscape through which I had just driven in. It showed in the smiles of tourists strolling the sidewalks.

I was drawn in by a Tully’s Coffee shop (owned by Starbucks). At a table outside, I briefly joined locals Dave, Bill and Ursula (and Bill and Ursula's gentle Golden Retriever). Looking at the surrounding mountains, I asked aloud, "so where is the skiing?" They pointed to the mountain on the west side of Ketchum. "Baldy is the mountain." It didn't strike me as anything special, but then what do I know?

I admit of experiencing a bit of envy for people who have done fairly well in their lives, and can now enjoy these later years owning property in such a beautiful and relaxing environment (and still have the ability to get away when things get a little too busy here.) They, in turn, expressed some admiration for my own freedom (short-lived though it may be.)


7:00 PM Machuco’s Mexican Restaurant, Ontario, Oregon


This establishment is well-hidden in the back corner of a strip mall. Authentic Mexican food (like many of those in the Roseland area of Santa Rosa.)

Dinner consisted of 3 pork tamales and a beer. Simple, good food and excellent salsa! TVs are often a prominent feature in Mexican restaurants. This one is no exception.

Leaving Ketchum earlier, I traveled highway 75 north toward the Sawtooth Range. Followed the "Sawtooth Scenic Byway" to Stanley, then turned west on highway 21. This is serious river sports country. Again, I had no idea. The highway runs along the cascading Big Piney and Deer Creeks down into the Payette River. From a few brave kayakers tempting death in the higher country, to abundant river rafting rides along the lower reaches, this is clearly a "sportsperson's paradise". It is obviously a huge economic boon to the region. At several points along the rivers, I stopped to watch the "traffic". People were obviously enjoying the exhilarating experience. (I don't think you could get me into the river. I would be terrified.)



Idaho's Sawtooth Range from Galena Pass



Another view of the Sawtooth Range


It was with mixed emotions that I watched. It is a pleasure to see people engage in activities that are so healthful and stimulating, that require teamwork and create a camaraderie and develop friendships. At the same time, I'm torn by all the specialty equipment, clothing and accessories, the large trucks and passenger vehicles, all the "stuff" required to deliver a "fun and exciting" experience. (And, for each season, we are "expected" to outfit ourselves for a diverse range of activities, each with its unique paraphernalia.)

I was painfully aware of this tendency as I "geared up" for the America's Trip. I even "over-geared". When I gathered all my purchases together, it was obvious there was far too much to carry on a motorcycle. I ended up returning hundreds of dollars' worth of "stuff". Crazy Americans!

The temperature ranged from very cool this morning to hot and sunny in Sun Valley, to "perfect" higher in the mountains, to hot again on the lower western slopes of the Sawtooth Range.

“This community supports our troops" and “Life; it’s a wonderful choice”. Signs featuring such statements dot the Midwest and Western landscape. Since most Americans likely feel this way, it might be more efficient to instead identify the dissidents ("This community hates our troops", "Abortion; it's a wonderful choice.") It would require far fewer signs, thus saving resources.

All across the country I’ve seen "poor" crows being attacked by two or more small birds, (like a lumbering World War II bomber being attacked by fighters.) Everywhere, it's the same drill. What are the crows up to that they draw such wrath?

No sales tax in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. How do they do it?


8:45 PM Camped in the Oregon high desert

Westward from Ontario, the road follows the Malheur River. At twilight, it's a very humid and "buggy" drive, resulting from extensive irrigation of fields.

As it grew dark, I began to scramble for a tent site. Everything is fenced out here (who builds all these fences?!) Followed a dirt road towards Warm Springs Reservoir Recreation Area and turned off when I felt sufficiently removed from the highway. Climbed a hillside into the chaparral to conceal my site, but panicked as I encountered rocks, holes and soft soil in the fading light. I was quickly winded trying to muscle this behemoth even a little bit (realizing later I’m up about 5,000 feet.) At length, I found a relatively flat piece of ground large enough to accommodate the tent. As I pitched the tent amidst the dense brush, I wondered "do they have cougars out here?"

But now everything's all right with the world – I’m safely and comfortably in my tent. It's a mild, breezy evening. In the western sky, Venus is less than a lunar diameter away from the moon.

Tomorrow I may continue on U.S. 20 to the coast, or turn south on U.S. 395. We’ll see how the weather looks.

Now for (too) personal observations. Riding a motorcycle often results in a sore or numb "butt". It raises concern whether riding so much contributes to testicular or prostrate cancer. Boy, do I need a shower! The last one was in Moline, Illinois!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Wyoming and Montana


The mines at Butte, Montana


Arose before sunrise, 5:30. When camping "off the grid", I'm always inclined to get an early start, and make an "unnoticed transition" back onto the grid.

In Sheridan, I saw a Starbucks and, without hesitation, pulled in. Even here in Wyoming, you can spot "the Starbucks crowd"! There's just that certain look.

In a corner, sat a woman with an infant. She turned and I caught a brief glimpse of her eyes. Something there reminded me of my friend "Catherine" (such a sweet lady.) This woman spoke in French to her child. French-Canadian? Another plus in my book. There is a great deal of pleasure in unexpected moments such as this. And life is full of them.



Up the highway, at a rest stop near Billings, Montana I met Les and Sarah Miller from Ames, Iowa, who are riding matching Suzuki 650 "V-Stroms" and sporting matching "Aerostich Darien" riding suits (waterproof they say!) 
 

They have allotted two weeks and a day (or so) to get to Alaska and back. Now that's aggressive! But they rode 800 miles yesterday, so I'm not doubting their likelihood of success.

I admitted that I was tempted to "turn right" and head for Alaska myself. But my bike needs tires and brake discs before it could make such a journey. Too high a cost at the moment.


***

Dew Drop Inn (soda fountain) at Absorokee, MT

About 10 miles of road construction leading to this town, and a number of thunderstorms I was trying to dodge (though a little dousing was not objectionable.) Not much moisture in these clouds.

I'm sitting here, sipping a marshmallow malt and listening to Elvis.

I was concerned about riding up the Chief Joseph Highway, reported to be one of the most beautiful rides in the country, with a bald front tire.

In Billings, I decided I better begin the search for a new front tire. It may not be easy to find. On the west side, I spotted Hi-Tech Motor Sports, near a Harley dealer.

A salesman and I made a search of their rather dusty tire inventory and found two Michelin Anakee tires that would fit the bike. $154 and NO tax (gotta love Montana!) I asked about the possibility of having it mounted, but given it was Friday afternoon, and the mechanics were already on jobs, the service manager (a woman for a change!) suggested I leave the bike with them for a few hours. I decided to just pack the spare on the back of the bike. I’ll take my chances, modifying my riding accordingly.

12 miles beyond Red Lodge in the direction of Beartooth Pass, I came to a barricade. The road is closed due to hazardous conditions. It wasn’t bad news considering the ominous black clouds enveloping the entire high country. It would have been an impossible ride on motorcycle – with bad tires and brakes.


***

Proceeded to Livingston, my next “goal” on the list. I had to revisit, if the timing worked, Montana’s Rib & Chop House (now, Rib & Chophouse) , since they are in both Wyoming and Montana. They have three other restaurants: Sheridan, Billings and Cody.) The only problem is, at 3:15, it was extremely early for dinner. There were just a few patrons. It felt strange - too quiet. The staff was idle, relaxing in the downtime. Also, some restaurants do not show well in daylight. This is one of them.

Watched sailing on TV. We humans must turn everything into a competition. The male hormone-driven insanity.

The railyard adjacent to the restaurant was busy though. It seems to be a theme of this journey through the West.

Ordered "Moose Drool" beer on tap (cold and refreshing!), a Caesar salad, a 12-oz. "baseball-cut" sirloin steak, accompanied by a (huge) baked potato with all the trimmings. The steak was a bit tough, but tasty. $30 for the meal – no tax. Had two pints of “Moose Drool” (I enjoy that name), really too much. I took my unfinished beer into the bar and took a seat, not wishing to occupy a full table as dinner guests started to arrive. (Though there was no shortage of empty tables at this hour.)

Eating steak, I reflected on all the Angus I’ve seen crossing these states, and all the energy and resources devoted to raising beef. How much more we could do, if we did not favor a diet so heavy in red meat. (OK, I've eaten my fair share on this trip, but at home I'll have maybe one burger a month, about the only red meat I eat these days.) How much more of this land could be preserved or converted from industrial agriculture. How much cheaper the cost of living would be. (Certainly this helps drive the cost of food, fuel and other resources.) We are the "United States of Angus".

Reflected upon the trivial influences that often direct my wanderings: a steak (as in the present circumstance), a movie (Butte, Montana, the setting for Don’t Come Knocking), a word from a total stranger (the Chief Joseph Highway), a coffee shop (well, there have been many of them!)

I decided visiting Glacier National Park is out of the question once again. I’m sure it’s still closed, as they’ve had a late snowfall this year.

Before and after the stop in Livingston, rode in and out several thunderstorms. It's easy to accept brief downpours, knowing there's more sun down the road. I passed a couple riding on a BMW K1200. They appeared to be enjoying themselves. It must be nice, sharing that companionship.


***

9:15 p.m. Turned off Interstate 15 at a recreation area. The exit sign stated “Grant 44”, which, in my esoteric teaching days, would have had hidden meaning. Now it just brought a smile of amusement.

This is the Clark Canyon Reservoir Recreation Area and is another of the countless references to Lewis and Clark. (Their journey took them through this now-flooded canyon.)

I had just about given up on camping tonight. Checked the room price at a Comfort Inn in Dillon, Montana. An unbelievable $90. (For a Comfort Inn???) The clerk said he had only one room left. The parking lot was virtually empty.

“Where are all your guests?”

“There’s a track and field event tomorrow.” It didn't answer my question, but the price was ridiculous for such a rural setting. I moved on.

I can’t quite figure this out: there are no postings about payment for camping. Apparently it is free! I'm just a bit incredulous.

I look forward to seeing what the satellite images show the weather doing this past week. It has confounded my ability to make sense of it. From Scottsbluff onward, the atmosphere has been hazy, stormy. It makes everything look "trashy". Out here, you begin to sense how small this country is. The pollution we're creating in the West works its way to the East. (And even on the West Coast, where we consider the ocean breezes so fresh and clean, scientists have detected significant concentrations of pollutants originating in China!)

Highway 15 is across the lake, 3 or 4 miles distant, and the sound of truck traffic is subdued. It's interesting that so much is made of Lewis and Clark, and later, “Manifest Destiny”. The ideology doesn’t seem far removed from the present creators of the "Project for a New American Century" (PNAC). America's "Manifest Destiny" lives on in its latest formulation: to deliver "democracy" and "free market capitalism" to the world.

Light fading, sipping a "Coke" and munching some "Snyder’s Pretzel Pieces". On the road, the junk food habit is hard to kick. The convenience and availability factors are too compelling.

This afternoon, I wandered "Old Historic Butte", but couldn’t bring myself to stay there. I wasn’t inspired like Wim Wenders (in selecting the setting for his film Don't Come Knocking.) I was emotionless and tired at that point. (An emotional component is necessary for many perceptions.) Above old historic Uptown Butte, while searching for a view of the huge open pit mines, I found the Granite Mountain Memorial Overlook. Here, I read about the Granite Mountain Mine disaster of 1917, in which 168 miners were killed when a fire broke out underground. It was the worst "hard rock mining disaster" in our history. Activity around the mines seems very subdued now. I can't even tell if they're still in production.

I feel it rather a waste to have come this far north. Though every landscape and culture is fascinating, on this occasion it is difficult to justify the expense.

Bozeman is marked by massive new housing development, and right along the freeway. It's the new model of urban subdivision, “freeway view homes", and, in my humble opinion, it sucks. (I guess one selling point is that it is extremely unlikely any further construction will obstruct your view.)

Across the open range lands of Wyoming and Montana, it’s impossible to avoid thoughts of conquest; of the battles, skirmishes and ridgeline scouts. Of "Manifest Destiny" and the ensuing slaughter of indigenous peoples. Human behavior has not substantially changed since those days.

650 miles today. (Not that I’m counting.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Across Nebraska and Wyoming, the theme is "Clean Coal"


Coal-fired power plant on the North Platte River at East Glenrock, Wyoming


At about 2:30 a.m., I had to pull on my long underwear. It was cold - somewhere in the 30s. Packed up by 7:30. Birds, bull frogs, dogs (at a nearby house) and the highway noise creating quite a soundscape this morning.

I paid the $8 "camping fee", but disregarded an additional $4 per vehicle "registration" fee. I wrote a check, so they can pursue me if they must. When using public campgrounds around the country, I struggle with the "injustice" of being expected to pay the same fees as a family in a motor home (or even two or more families sharing the same site), who have come to "recreate" for the day (or days), while I have a substantially lighter impact on services and facilities, and usually only remain overnight. Usually, I end up subsidizing them! I don't like justifying my actions, but wish camping rates in general were fairer for us lone (and low-impact) travelers. So, when given the opportunity, I end up "compromising".

In Albion, I searched all over town for a place to get some breakfast. On the southeast edge of town, I found a treat: The Brewed Bean. This new little coffee house is "just my speed". It's new – just opened last fall - and operated by three women – all farmers’ wives, I suspect. I don’t feel like such a wimp – they all talked about how unusually cold it is, and how they're growing tired of it.

Savoring a freshly-baked cinnamon roll with thick, gooey white sugar frosting and a good cappuccino, I listened in on the chatter. Most of the customers were women, and friends and acquaintances.

"There was frost last night...tonight’s the last show Bob Barker’s on - gotta watch it (I watched him as a kid)...I was supposed to be a trucker, my personality (analysis) fit a trucker…it's supposed to be in the 80s tomorrow..."

I mentioned that placing a sign on highway 91 might help their business. Travelers passing through Albion on the main highway are likely to miss this shop. “Another customer told us that too. We’ll have to look into it.”

What a surprise to find this out here. When it comes to coffee shops, a true transformation is taking place across America! (OK, so I get a little passionate about the subject.)

I had to thaw out a bit, so I lingered. The wind is out of the south today, but just as strong, and just as cold as yesterday's. (Too late,) one of the proprietors invited me to stay as long as I wanted. “Time to move on.”

People wave in Nebraska! Mostly it’s the men, and mostly it’s in the form of an index finger wagging above from the steering wheel. But it’s still an acknowledgement, which I find refreshing.

There appears to be a vigorous tree-planting campaign underway in Nebraska. Across the land there is an amazing number of small cedars popping up in pastures and fields, and along highways. It's taking place on a massive scale. Is this a soil-retention effort? A carbon sequestration effort? A future source of lumber?

And in the pastures, many calves, colts and baby goats. It’s the season – everything is done on a schedule.

"The Loup River Byway", highway 91, ends at Nebraska highway 2, "The Sand Hills Byway". Before noon, I turned northwest and it was a joy to finally feel the wind at my back. It was just starting to warm, but I kept the electric vest on to cover a long-running "heat deficit" from the cold morning run.



Across Nebraska (and, later, into Wyoming) these tracks were busier than any I've ever seen.


Probably around 90% of the eastbound traffic was coal from Wyoming's enormous coal mines near Gilette. Each train was about 120 rail cars in length, and I passed dozens today.

I couldn't help but wonder at Dick Cheney's Wyoming connection and the Administration's recent promotion of "Clean Coal" as a key component of "America's Energy Independence"



Most of the coal cars I saw were new, suggesting America's enthusiastic investment in "clean coal"



Railyard at Alliance, Nebraska. Loaded coal cars are eastbound, empties are bound for Wyoming's coal mines.


By the time I reached Alliance, Nebraska, it was 80 degrees, and out came the motorcycles. Descended into the dry and hazy Scottsbluff basin. The air is filled with the stink of stockyards and an unhealthy haze. The land looks trashy.

On first impression, an unremarkable place, except for the wall of thunderstorms looming over the mountains southwest of the city. The vision urged me to keep moving, and not in that direction.



Across Wyoming, I was altering my path to avoid thunderstorms


9:00 PM

I'm camped south of Buffalo, Wyoming, high in the grassy hills east of Interstate 25. I followed Reno Road, wondering if it were named after an encampment, or trail leading to the Little Bighorn? My camp is far off any road, just on the east side of a crest, so I’m out of sight, and unlikely to be bothered.

In the twilight sky, the palest crescent moon gave rise to a sense that, for too long, I’ve missed looking up at the night sky.

It's very quiet - mostly the sound of birds, and the occasional distant traffic (which is remarkably light on this particular interstate.) And maybe the buzz of powerlines some half-mile distant (or is that my ears buzzing?)

Just as when I camped in the South Dakota grasslands, the air is dry, and after all the time in the humid East and Midwest, I like the change.

Far out to the east, in the darkening landscape, I watched as two cars approached. I tracked the headlights' slow progress, over the undulating hills, tiny flames in the night.

For dinner, I heated up a package of "Zatarain’s Jumbalaya" on my camp stove.


***

Just under 700 miles traveled today. I rode the interstate in Wyoming, as an expedient for escaping thunderstorms. The front tire is severely worn. Where to find a new one - perhaps Billings?

So many coal trains! Each about 120 cars in length. (I counted several.) It's the heaviest rail traffic I’ve ever seen. Is the Bush-Cheney Administration's "Clean Coal Initiative" behind all this? Accelerating depletion to maximize profits before the environmental reins are pulled in?

Rode the entire day dressed for this morning's ambient temperature. Long underwear, electric vest (turned off, of course), even though it reached 80 in Scottsbluff and beyond.

Wyoming appears to be almost entirely range land, and I was not comfortable riding after dark. Deer and elk are all over the place! There must be more deer and elk than people. I found them frequently grazing the highway median and along the shoulders.

I'm coming to the Rocky Mountains! It's exciting. Great riding ahead.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Across the Mississippi, and the Missouri, and into the West


Typical Iowa farmhouse


After a heavy sleep, awoke at 7:30. A beautiful day! (What happened to all that "weather"?)

"Breakfast" was a joke. The "buffet" offered some cereal, a bit of fruit and tiny cinnamon rolls. I picked up a couple of sweet rolls, then made coffee from my own stash in the room. Caught up on news, some notes, and the latest Fellowship scuttlebutt.

Jerry Fallwell died yesterday. What can you say? Maybe they'll appreciate him more in that place to which he is bound. His was not a Christian ministry, but one suffused with hatred and bigotry.

Finished drying my clothes using the heater. Always the conflict caused by the desire to "extract maximum benefit" from the cost of a hotel stay, while at the same time wishing to get on the road as early as possible.



The "buffers" to which this Iowa sign refers appear to be very narrow bands of untilled soil along waterways. I guess it's a start.



Two days ago, they had a record-breaking temperature of 93 in the “Quad Cities” (Davenport, Rock Island, Moline, Bettendorf). I’m thankful for the timing. Today there was a chill in the clear morning air and it was perfect. I’m fortunate.

I was off at 10:45, crossing the Mississippi, and into the West. (There is a palpable sense of liberation at crossing this line, even though a true feeling of open space may still be 100s of miles beyond.) This is a pretty area. Wishing to leave the interstates behind, I headed north to De Witt, Nebraska where I picked up westbound U.S. 30.

West of De Witt, the road is lined with beautiful farms in a rolling countryside. It's anything but flat out here in Iowa. Not at all what I expected. South of the highway, miles of train cars stand motionless. Free from the interstate highway, my pace immediately changes. I stop frequently. Any excuse will do. Most roads leading away from the this highway are unpaved, with a yellow sandy-gravel surface.

Town names evoke memories: Kimberly (a former girlfriend), Eldridge (ditto), Calamus (Walt Whitman’s wonderful poetry).

Stopped in Stanwood for a meal. Ditto’s, with it's full parking lot, seemed the place to be in this small farming community. On the counter wall, below the cash register are crayon drawings from local kids. One with flowers states: “Golden Poppy California Flower by: Allison Blake who is from California”.

The building trembles with each passing semi. Sitting with the big farm boys (and their equally big women), a smile arises from within. “I like it.” The guys have enormous arms. They actually use them. My own vanity is so clear among these humble people.

I opted for the “broasted pork chop” lunch special. It featured a host of unfamiliar (or long-forgotten) tastes: canned green beans, "mashed potatoes" made from flakes, and gravy from a package, I suspect. I chose the cole slaw rather than the peaches (which certainly would have been canned.) There was however a real biscuit with the meal! (Served with “European Style Butter Blend Margarine”. Indeed, the strange and heavily-processed foods seem an anathema in this, the "nation's breadbasket".

I was kind of scratching my head. The sign out front drew me in with the words “homecookin’ from scratch”. It's difficult to complain though when the bill amounts to $7.28, plus a $1.35 tip. And I would take the atmosphere of "Ditto's" over that of a fast food restaurant any day.

There is such a barrage of new impressions out here. The farms to the east sprawl for hundreds of acres. Atop hillocks, the houses stand in lush tree-shaded oases that invite relaxation amidst all this toil. I try to picture myself living out here.

But what do people do, who actually reside in these small farming towns - those who do not own the farms? Do they commute to the cities for work? Are they retirees?

A common sight in towns across the East and Midwest: Dollar General and Family General stores. Obviously, they cater to low-income families. I've never stepped foot inside one. There is the unchallenged perception that "they are beneath my level."

It's windy out here! What a calming effect trees have, providing a welcoming relief to the blasting winds of the open plains. There are remnants of dense forests, mostly bordering waterways, that make me wonder what this terrain looked like before the European settlers moved in. (Many times I have looked down on this landscape from aircraft and have seen the tiny islands of forest isolated and tenuous amidst an ocean of industrial farmland.)

Towards the horizon, a yellow-brown haze is trapped between earth and clouds, soil carried on the wind.

Ames, Iowa is home to Iowa State University. It has a thriving downtown district (unlike those many ghost-like towns I passed through in Kansas.) It took little effort to find Café Diem. Like many coffee shops now, it features eclectic music, free wi-fi, art exhibits, live music, and a fun and dynamic gathering place. As with most such shops, I wonder "can they make a profit?" The coffee was just "so-so", but it's only one facet of the business.

Before leaving Ames, a refueling stop: regular gas at $3.199, the higher octane "Plus" (with ethanol) at $3.099. I'm seeing the impact of ethanol subsidies at the pump. I'll have to do a bit of research on export trends. In the past, America was highly respected for its "Food for Peace" and similar programs that exported surplus grain to desperate Third World nations. Are we now burning that "Food for Peace" in our SUVs (and motorcycles)?

Signs bordering fields advertise the seed farmers are planting: "Garst Advantage", "Choice", "Country", "Innovation", "True Blue", "Yields".

Wandered into Denison, Donna Reed’s hometown. The "Donna Reed Performing Arts Center" occupies a prominent corner downtown. Nearby, a large picture of TV's "Stone Family" from the 1960s "Donna Reed Show". They were one of several idealized TV families created in the 1950s and 1960s.

Wind has been the chief feature of the day. In order to maintain a straight course, I’ve frequently needed to lean over about 20 degrees to the right! A gully or grove of trees, or even past a train parked a hundred feet from the road can offer welcome, if momentary relief. The temperature has been about 45 degrees throughout the day.

Arrived in Onawa, where signs proclaim “The Widest Main Street in America”. Indeed, it's wide. I didn't pause to discover "why?" A toll of 75 cents(!) to cross the privately-maintained Burt County Missouri River Bridge to Decatur, Nebraska. I detoured into the downtowns of three Nebraska towns: Decatur, Oakland (home of the "Swedish Heritage Center") and West Point. Each conveyed a sense of a somewhat faded, by-gone era.

I can only believe this is just a temporary phenomena. Certainly, the population pressures on the coasts will eventually drive Americans to rediscover and reinvigorate the countless Midwestern towns that have experienced economic decline. (This is perhaps unwelcome "news" for the inhabitants of these towns.)

Found my way to Dead Timber State Recreation Area. The thick grass was freshly-mowed in preparation for Memorial Day Weekend. But the park was empty, save one other camper. Set up my tent by a small lake. It's a bird-watcher’s paradise.

Occasionally, the stench of a pig farm several miles away fills the air. Ah, industrial farming! Then there was the air traffic above and truck noise from a nearby highway. Finally, at dusk, sodium flood lights came on throughout the campground, one located quite near my tent. "How did I miss that?"

All this reminded me that I was still very connected to civilization. But I can't live without it.

My "progress" was slow today. I figured the average speed was about 35 mph.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Moline, Illinois - Quad Cities



In Indiana, I saw this brilliant idea (if it's effective.) Apparently they use radar or infra-red to detect wildlife activity on the highway shoulders. Unfortunately, I suspect it can only be used on straightaways.

Traveling the country on motorcycle, deer, elk and moose within the highway corridor are a major concern. The blood-stained highways all across this country are testimony to the frequency of collisions.


***

Started out from Geneva State Park, Ohio.

Up at 5:00, first light. Warm, humid wind from the south. On the road just after 5:30. I was motivated: get down the road ahead of the afternoon thunderstorms!

Interstate 90 to Interstate 80. I don't intend to stay on them for long, but the interstates serve to move me west quickly. Once beyond the Mississippi, everything changes. Regular gas has reached $3.49!

In the Chicago area, I ran into horrendous truck congestion throughout all the highways and interchanges. What an intolerable lifestyle it must be, to deal with those conditions on a daily basis.

I envision a time when it will be necessary to completely separate commercial and private transportation, designating specific interstates as "commercial traffic only". Actually, I think the time has come for many parts of the country.

Between Chicago and the Mississippi, I started to run into a cold front coming out of the northwest. Thunderheads were quickly building, but I hit them in their early stages. Light rains were all I encountered. It was still warm enough to not cause much concern.

Passed Ottawa, Illinois, which claims the odd distinction "where Lincoln was first heard"! (Was this where he spoke his first words?)

By Moline, Illinois, I had gone about 550 miles, and the rain was growing steady, and cold. It was time to stop. Filled up on gas, talking with a Harley rider who had also just ridden two 500-mile days, leaving North Carolina yesterday. He was 60 miles from home.

Checked on a room at a new "Hampton Inn & Suites" alongside the airport, hoping maybe they haven't been "discovered" yet, and would be offering an introductory rate. Nope. $99.

Across the Rock River, I found an old "Best Western". $61 with "AAA". The manager took my "AAA" card and looked at it, but said nothing about the expired date.

First order of business, check in with e-mail. Priscilla pardoned me for passing through without stopping.

On the manager's recommendation, I went to "Los Agave’s" for dinner, just up the road near a large mall. I was still skeptical about finding authentic Mexican food this far from the border, but "Agave" turned out to be very good. Nearly the entire staff is Hispanic. I think they lost my order, but the server reported they just got busy. Chicken fajitas and two "Negra Modelos". Way too much food. Imported beers are only $2.50 here! Overall, a great value.

I absolutely hate the idea of taking leftovers from a restaurant due to the wasteful packaging it requires, and for the manner in which it encourages establishments to inflate sales. I take a very dim view of restaurants whose portions are so large as to necessitate diners take half their meal home in plastic, foil or cardboard containers. (Of course, diners could bring reusable take-out containers with them when visiting restaurants guilty of routinely serving too much food. That would address part of "my issue". The "Claim Jumper" chain is an infamous example of portioning food far in excess of any normal human appetite. The practice serves to inflate both the average guest check and the average guest waistline.)

But this stuff was just too good to leave on the plate! So, I left with my little parcel. Such a hypocrite...

Back at the hotel, I called Jeff to let him know of my progress. He had just been thinking of the little irritations on our trip, such as that night lost in Tennessee when he lost patience. It's funny how, after a journey, the negative perceptions start to fade, and the more positive memories emerge...and remain.

Tried calling Jessica, but as usual, only reached her voice mail. I noted how I always speak in messages to her as if speaking to a child (MY child!). I imagine it gets a bit tiresome for her. I'll try to work on that. (Maybe I can eliminate the habit before she reaches middle age?)

Washed laundry in the sink, then discovered they have no drier at the motel. Used towels to blot up as much moisture as possible, then draped the wet clothes around the room.

Read the latest Fellowship discussions, worked on e-mail and notes. My body's fatigued. Riding is taxing, even if one is not aware of it at the time. It's especially true, if temperature extremes are involved. To bed after midnight.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Beeline West

In the news today: Tony Blair is resigning! One more Bush ally drops from the picture.

At 9:45 a.m., Jeff saw me off as he left for the office. 83,619 miles on the bike leaving Waterbury. A stop at "Shelburne Village Wine & Coffee" (seen in passing on previous occasions.) An excellent chocolate croissant, coffee and the NY Times. A civilized start.

A useful habit one develops on bikes is using the crowns of hills for those frequent "elective stops" (to check the map, adjust gear, use the "Great Green Bathroom", etc. The hill brings you to a stop without the use of brakes. Since there's no load on the transmission, down-shifting is smoother and the changing inertia favors a safe stop. It often leaves you with a good vantage point for observing traffic and being observed by traffic. Similarly, starting off from the hilltop involves little burden on the machine.

There is also something psychologically calming in this method. I have used it during much of my motorcycle traveling. For obvious reasons, I abandon the strategy during electrical storms.

Decided to follow the Moose River down the west slope of the Adirondacks. Since I would be unable to attend Chris and Amber's wedding in June, I thought I'd at least see the area that has had such a big impact on their lives. (They have spent many summers as river guides and kayakers up here.) So many lakes in this beautiful Adirondack high country. The town of Old Forge (where I believe the reception will take place) is too developed for me; a big "Water Park" and an abandoned "McDonalds"(!) along the main drag. Passed "Nathan’s Bakery", wondering if that's where Chris’ friend, the baker works.

***

8:40 p.m. "Cracker Barrel" restaurant, Erie, PA

Sunset about 10 minutes ago. At the Pennsylvania border, I entered a warm, humid air mass, which was welcome since I was beginning to get chilled. I entered cloud cover in Western New York. Otherwise, it had been a wonderful day for a ride.

Hague, New York, on the western shore of Lake George (long ago...this morning) struck me as a beautiful setting. An idyllic little town. I'll add that to my list of prospective home sites for that day a fortune falls my way.

Followed the Moose River where I could. I may have seen the rocks where Chris and Amber’s wedding will be. But the wildest stretches of the river were hidden from view by dense forest.

On the road today, a bit less distracted, (stuck with myself, really) I tried to be more aware, more conscious, as if this might be my last day. So, it may seem contradictory that I bypassed East Aurora. But I felt I’ve imposed enough and spent a bit too much time in the East. Still, it felt strange to pass without a word. The cousins would think it crazy, I’m sure. Most people would. But I’ve got to move! And if I stopped, I'd certainly have been coerced to stay.

***

Day's End

An unhurried 585-mile day, finally camping in Geneva State Park, Ohio, near the Lake Erie shore.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Marketing Madness

Reveille courtesy of the state employees. A cold, clear blue morning. I went right over to the depot for a coffee. I recognized the baked goods on display from yesterday - definitely less appealing after another day of aging. Took my coffee and found a sheltered bench outside in the park and basked in the sun while a blasting north wind wrapped around my enclosure.

A beautiful, healing, "present". Went over to nearby "Vincent’s" pharmacy, purchased a post card and returned to the park bench. Wrote a note to Stefano and Giancarlo, Santa Rosa coffee shop and motorcycling buddies. They made me promise to send a postcard from Vermont.

Returning to the house, I "cranked" the heater up to 60. (Environmentalist that he is, Jeff keeps it around 56.) Read another 30 or so posts in the Fellowship of Friends discussion, then continued work on blog notes.

Once Jeff joined the walking dead, we drove over to the new "Shaw’s" supermarket for a specific bread that he likes. Spent an hour (no exaggeration) wandering nearly all the aisles, fascinated by so many of the products. (Unfortunately, the selection at the long-established local Waterbury market pales in comparison to that of "Shaw's".) In such abundance, there is certainly something quite exciting and comforting. I suspect a well-stocked supermarket releases endorphins!

Still, the marketing stuff drives me crazy. New packaging ideas often carry the concept of waste (and resulting social and environmental impacts) to a new (and almost always, higher) level. A tiny example: "Coffee Mate" (that processed crap you use to "whiten" coffee,) has "evolved" a sleek new plastic container that consumes "x% more!" plastic. And now the formerly-powdered product is marketed as a liquid and displayed in the refrigerated sections! If these people could get there heads out of that very dark place, they'd begin to sense the insanity of their pursuit.

Oh, and just another little pet peeve: upon checkout, we were notified that our “Rewards Savings” amounted to 5%! All this means is that some other hapless shopper has subsidized our purchase. Just as corporations seek to "externalize costs", consumers behave the same. My savings are another consumer's loss. (You can be certain the corporation is not going to take the loss! That would be dereliction of duty to shareholders.)

Another small "Spring Cleaning" project today: straightening up the garage. Garages back in these parts aren't nearly so useful for storage as they are in California. People here actually park their vehicles in the garages! It took all of fifteen minutes to restore order to Jeff's garage.

At Jeff's request, I worked on restringing a wind chime that had come apart. He claimed his hands weren't steady enough to thread the filament and tie the knots. It was a tiny project I could "get into".

For dinner, Jeff whipped up some tasty pasta with meat sauce.

Just in time, I finished up notes from the past few weeks. Tomorrow I move on!

Kellie came over. We old guys wanted to watch Neil Young’s Prairie Wind DVD, but she couldn’t quite "deal with it." (Some ancient hippie whining out loud.) Then Matt came over. He first took Jeff aside and asked to borrow money to meet his car payment, which is overdue. Jeff calmly and firmly refused, correctly observing that Matt makes "good money" now, and should have no problem meeting his expenses. Sometimes, we just need a gentle push.

In spite of this, everyone was in a good mood, and there was lots of playful banter. After the "kids" (now middle-aged adults, really!) left, Jeff and I watched Neil Young’s 2000 concert at Red Rock. An extraordinary performance, featuring an amazing drummer I didn't recognize. Though I have not always shared his taste in music, Young is a master musician, performer and artist. The concert ended in the rain, the band being soaked while they continued to play. (God knows how they avoided electrocution.) A real tour de force.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Winding Down in Waterbury


Jeff purchased a Triumph Sixty8 Collection "Bob Dylan" t-shirt for Drew. (Similar to the one Dylan wore on an album cover.) Says Drew: "Thanks to y'all I am cooooo-alllllll!" I'd say there's an uncanny resemblance...





It was just too COLD to crawl out of bed this morning. What’s with this weather? Hot one day, freezing the next! An icy wind gusting from the north this morning.

But I wanted to get out of the house. Walked over to the depot for a coffee at "Green Mountain Roasters". They serve up a pretty good double cappuccino. Browsed their wares, looking a little more closely than during my brief survey the other day. Many craft items they carry are from indigenous peoples around the world. And they are strongly promoting "Fair Trade" coffees. At least there's an effort to draw attention to the work that must be done improving conditions worldwide. These days, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish what is "corporate green-washing" and what is a sincere expression of corporate social responsibility.

Read a bit more from the "Fellowship of Friends" blog. The Memorial Day Weekend gathering is jelling. Cathie is involved in organizing events. Susan has begun adding her thoughts to the discussion.

It was nearly 11:00 when I woke Jeff – he had been up until 3:30. Time to get moving! I wanted to help him clean out the basement, but other than taking cardboard to the recycler and a bit of trash to the local trash hauler ($3.50 fee for the one bag of trash!), there wasn’t much to be done.

Helped him move the "Honda Blackbird" out of the dining room (where it resides in Winter.) He took it for a short ride up the block. It’s a great sounding machine. We intended to ride over to see Bob Mochinski, but there was no answer when Jeff tried to call him.

Jeff was ready to toss out an old "Arai Quantum" helmet, but I examined it and began to see parts I could salvage to fix my own. Though he has owned it for eight years, it is in better shape than mine. Only the strap was fraying (thus making it trash?) He said that, due to its age, it should also be replaced. I claimed that in most countries of the World, this helmet would be a treasure, not trash.

I extracted the cheek pads, head pads, face shield, face shield locking mechanisms, and rubber seal that covers the nose area. This should give my helmet a few years' additional life.

It looks like I’ll leave for the West Coast tomorrow. Jeff says it has been nice having me here. For me it’s hard to acknowledge that I feel the same. We were conditioned to suppress feelings in our family. (Well, maybe that was just me!) With four siblings, any such "overt" emotional or sentimental expression was fair game for sniping and embarrassing jabs. (Even the parents/step parent occasionally engaged in the behavior). (Was it just me?)

***

Just "hanging out" with Jeff today. For lunch, he heated up bleu cheese burgers (from "Costco") in the microwave. I very grudgingly admitted "they’re pretty good...I hate 'Costco'!” Then we ate some of his cake. Kellie dropped over for a visit. We ate more cake.

As I worked on notes from this trip throughout the afternoon, Jeff dozed on the sofa. He rests a lot, and says that it’s a result of the heart attack. He has read that fatigue is one of the consequences. Poor guy.

I listened as Bill Maher and basketball programs played in the background. As an evening snack, toasted some fresh bread with local horseradish cheddar cheese. Later, Jeff "forced" me to watch the start of The Lake House, a top-ten candidate for "Worst Movie Ever" title, then we switched to The Searchers – the classic John Wayne western that he loves. (I find the movie pretty ridiculous now, and wonder how it is that something that once inspired and impressed me can later be so belittled and devalued. It's something in my mechanics that I'm unable to explain.)

Under the impression that I’m leaving tomorrow, Kellie and Matt dropped by late in the evening. I told them I'm reconsidering. It’s going to be cold tomorrow, and considerably warmer Monday. So, it makes sense to wait a day. Strangely, everyone seemed happy with the decision (though it compresses the time frame I'll have to get across the country. I’m considering attending the Fellowship gathering May 26tth.)