Thursday, February 4, 2016

County Count Update

World's Largest Sandhill Crane,
Steele, North Dakota
North Dakota is one of the states that I thought would be about the last one I would finish with. It's as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get, without actually being there. It's not really on the way to anyplace. It's big and remote and, in tourist terms, uninteresting. But yesterday, I did it: I took a drive out of Bismarck, east to Kidder County (where stands the World's Largest Sandhill Crane, to go along with the World's Largest Cow about the same distance from Bismarck in the opposite direction); north to Wells, then West as far as Dunn County, at which point I entered the last of the state's 53 counties.

That makes 22 states that I've been to all the counties of; tomorrow, as I start for home, I'll pass through the last of South Dakota's counties (having been through 2 new ones on the way up to Bismarck). That'll make 23 states done; and this summer, when I head up to Vermont (if the trip goes according to plan), I'll finish three more: Mississippi, Vermont and New York. By the close of the year I'll have been to all the counties in half the states of the union. And quite a few others, as well.

(And if you're keeping track -- but why would you be? -- the states I'm done with are: Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii.)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Something Worth a Couple of Minutes to Read

Food for Thought:
An article on censorship by Roger Scruton, a writer and philosopher (according to BBC; me, I've never heard of him, but found this article to be of interest)

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34744432

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Huntsman Trip

Fresh from my trip to Wisconsin in September, after a week of decompression (and laundry), the wife and I took off for Utah, where she was registered to play soccer in the annual Huntsman Games, a seniors' sports tournament with any number of different competitions. She has found herself a team out of Dallas (with a few stray members from Oregon --- don't ask me how that happened), and this is her second time in the competition. As we tend to do, we combined the trip with other, theoretically less strenuous, things.

We prepared for the trip by getting our new dog Carly medications to deal with motion sickness: she pukes when we drive. We had the same problem with our dog Homer, of beloved memory, but he grew out of it fairly quickly, and we hope Carly will, too. In fact, after two days of medication (during which she was somewhat listless, though not as drugged-out as Homer had been), we decided she didn't really need it all that much, at least on the highway; and indeed, after that she only threw up once, in city traffic. So I guess it's not the motion so much as the unanticipated stops, starts and turns that upset her.

Study in Black and White

We spent the first night in Alamogordo, at a barely-acceptable motel in the run-down part of town, then went out early to White Sands. I had been there a couple of years ago, both in the afternoon and the morning, and am still amazed at the differences in the light there. But this time, sadly, the sky was heavily overcast, so the pictures aren't as eyepopping as they were back then. But doesn't Carly look good in that landscape!

De-Na-Zin

From there, we drove up toward Farmington, in the northwest corner of the state, stopping at Bisti (or De-Na-Zin) Wilderness. (Not sure why the two names.) Not an easy place to find: county roads, some unpaved, and almost no signage. The wilderness area stretches some miles across an Indian reservation, and photos I've seen of it make it look like a spectacular landscape. We, however, were (it appears) at the other end of the wilderness area, which was nowhere near as eerie. Pretty, but not up to expectations. In any case, storms were coming in from the west, so we spent only a short time hiking in the stark desert valley.

the other end of the Wilderness
(photo from Roadtrippers.com)






and there's a rainbow, too!



Next morning we were off early again, and happened to be at Shiprock, New Mexico, just as the sun was hitting the eponymous rock. 



Sherry waving from the promontory
Natural Bridges NP
From there, we went up to Natural Bridges National Park, one of the older parks in Utah. There are three main natural bridge formations in the rock --- rock that is far, far older than at Arches, and not as colourful, but still impressive. We found a trail to one that didn't look too strenuous, but there were ladders along the way that we couldn't traverse with Carly. So we took turns: I waited with the dog while Sherry hiked out to the viewpoint, about twenty minutes' trek each way, then I went while she waited. (There was another trail that led down to the actual bridge, but that was much, much longer and about a 600' drop.) By the time we got to the last bridge site, those storms were about to hit again, so we went for the car and headed off to Torrey, Utah, the other side of Capitol Reef, for the night. I had planned originally to spend time at Cap Reef, but we decided that it was better to spend more time exploring Natural Bridges instead. We'll have to go back to Cap Reef (again) some day --- after all, that was what prompted me to buy an off-road-capable vehicle in the first place --- but other than a drive through it on the flooded highway, we didn't see any of it.

I had, of course, no intention of spending 3 days watching old women play soccer again --- after Escondido, I probably never will --- so I had arranged for my friend Curtis to come up from Las Vegas, and he and I went up to Bryce Canyon for a little hiking. We got to the park in the afternoon, checked into our hotel, and after a really, really bad lunch at a really crappy local fast-food joint -- the only place we could find -- we went into the park and hiked the Queen's Garden trail, so called because there's a rock that looks like a well-known statue of Queen Victoria. And it really does. 

Next morning we drove over to the optimistically named town of Tropic, Utah, and hiked into the canyon on the trail from there, a good morning's travel, during which I was confirmed in my opinion that Carly is not a good hiker's companion. Yet. Maybe when she's older.


That night, Curtis having returned to his digs in the Sin Capital of America and I to my hotel in Hurricane, Utah, we went to a team dinner at a really nice restaurant on a cliff overlooking the small city of St. George, where the Huntsman Games are held. Wish I could remember the name of it. On Saturday, Sherry's team won the Silver Medal in the women's over-60 soccer tournament, and we headed down the road to Havasu for a week's visit with her dad Ben and his wife Lana. 

When they bought the house out there, they brought the boat out from Phoenix, and bought a pair of waverunners and a rail (sort of a dune-buggy), so I was looking forward to some novel and exciting activities. But one of the waverunners had been sold, as junk apparently, and the rail had a flat tire and no clutch, which left one waverunner and the
London Bridge
boat. And of course the first few days were spent just visiting, though Sherry got her exercise by digging a trench in the back yard for electric lines going out to the gazebo her dad had put in. (I helped a little, just to have something to do besides walk and go take pictures of London Bridge.) Finally came the day when we took the surviving waverunner down to the lake and put it in. I took a couple of rides on it. It's fun, but would be more fun if somebody else could have come along. It's like a motorcycle, but with a soft landing when you fall off. (I didn't.) I'd do it again, but living where I live I don't see much point in owning one (or two). That part of Lake Havasu, slightly south of the bridge, isn't very crowded, at least on weekdays, but there were enough kids on loud machines churning doughnuts in the no-wake zone to keep me irritated.
Fritz and Carly

Carly had the best time of her short life in Havasu, since Ben & Lana have a puppy -- a giant puppy -- about her age, named Fritz. They kept each other entertained the entire tie we were there.

We were going to take the boat out the next day, but the weather called for thunderstorms, so that was out; and the day after that, when we actually got some lightning (though not much else). And after that, we headed home.

To find a giant crack in our bedroom ceiling. It collapsed today. Ain't life grand.