Fascinating courtly intrigue and bloody power games set on a generation ship full of secrets―Medusa Uploaded is an imaginative, intense mystery about family dramas and ancient technologies whose influence reverberates across the stars. Disturbing, exciting, and frankly kind of mind-blowing.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Pandemic Road Trip: the Aftermath

West Coast Road Trip 2020 (Pandemic Edition) started as a notion in Michael's noggin. He had spent the last few decades selling drum boxes like a maniac at craft fairs all over the country. He had his favorite routes, and HWY 1/101 was one of the tops. COVID 19 had cancelled most of his scheduled fairs, so he suddenly had quite a lot of free time on his hands. On top of that, my mom turned 99 in July 2019, and I had mentioned to Michael that we were going to take her on her annual road trip to New Mexico. I was pretty sure it would be her last trip, ever. Michael decided he wanted to go with us. It was so much fun, we schemed to do another trip. We knew we couldn't wait another year, based on Mom's health situation, so we decided to go as soon as the wildfires had burned out enough to let us pass.

That's right -- we had to scheme to get around vast tracts of burning territory. It was the basic plot of every adventure movie. Or several of them, anyway.

Our best departure time turned out to be the end of October, and that had the extra attraction of putting us on the road and entertaining ourselves with quaint towns and natural wonders during the election. I've posted a day-by-day account of those most excellent distractions. Here are some of my favorite photos.

First from Michael's workshop, which has a 40s sci-fi vibe.

This is where he makes all the cool stuff he sells on his Hardwood Music site. He gets lost in that work for hours, sometimes for days. So he was ready to meet the Morro Bay Coronavirus shark.

I think my favorite town was Cambria. Medusa has her own Mexican food joint there.

I loved the hotel kitties.

The Avenue of the Giants is Amazing.

And who can forget Shark and Chicken?

 We found a stylish gal in Tillamook.

All of the Sasquatches we saw were properly masked.

Also the dinosaurs. 

This thrift store dog we met was quite adorable.

And this shop cat.

This shot turned out to be the essential road trip pic.

I don't want to leave out Troy, the excellent barista, son of Micah, who was not named after the mineral.

Those are just a few. We started our trip in the afternoon of October 29, and finished it on the morning of November 14. Before we left, I expected the election results would be well-established by the time we returned. They were, as far as I was concerned, but many of the Republicans in congress still have not addressed reality, and Trump is apparently considering declaring martial law. That's not going to work out for him. You heard it here, first.

Anyone who's ever been on a road trip knows one of the first orders of business when you get home is laundry. We had gone thrift-store shopping all the way through the trip, so we had only added to the problem. The pile took a couple of days of diligent attention. At our house, it's also necessary, within the first hour of arriving home, to seek out all of the inconvenient spots that pets have peed and nuke them with cleaner. And of course, there's the traditional run for pizza, and the mail to sift through, and grocery shopping, and notes to take about what needs to be done in the next week.

It's best not to have too many expectations when you're on road trips, because you've just got to let those happen to you if you're going to get the most out of them. Returning home is another matter. Over a month later, I'm still scribbling schemes. I've got a lot to accomplish, like keeping Mom company in her last days. Every night before she goes to sleep, I tell her I love her, because I'm afraid she's not going to wake up in the morning. But really, it's not the worst way to pass out of this world -- in a comfy bed, in your own room with your favorite things around you, knowing that you're loved. 

Ernie and Michael and I have more road trips to do. We're going to see this world out of its semi-apocalypse. In her own way, my mom is too.


Saturday, December 19, 2020

Last Day Blues: Pandemic Road Trip Part 16

"If you want to know where to get good coffee in any town," Michael advised, "ask a cop."

Not that we went looking for one. It's just that we were looking for morning coffee, and we saw a police officer. Michael asked, and the fellow told him "Look for Wanderlust Cowgirl Coffee" (another drive-through style place). "My son Troy works there. Tell him Micah sent you."

For a good fifteen minutes I thought Micah was named after the mineral. Then I recalled the name is in the bible.

Troy was wearing his mask and social distancing like a good guy -- he only took it off so I could take his photo. And he is a most excellent barista, so stop in if you're passing through.

What's funny is that my Mom had already had a 16-oz caramel hazelnut decaf latte at Sevier Valley Coffee, and two hours later she wanted another one. So we found Wanderlust Cowgirl Coffee in Panguitch and got her another one. After all, that little lady needed all the calories she could get. Come to think of it, I may have had a second one, myself.

My email notes were the most phoned-in of the entire trip:


Paria Beach, Lees Ferry 

In my defense, Utah is so crowded with wonders, you're not going to feel compelled to point your eyes at a phone. For instance, as we headed south on HWY 89, we passed Big Rock Candy Mountain.

It has its own convenience store, too.

Yet somehow, I ended up taking more pictures of small town stuff than of geological wonders in Utah. Like nifty buildings.

And this one over here.

And that one over there.

Oh look, there's another one.

Looka the nice porch.

And the gorgeous public building, upon which considerable moolah and care were lavished.

But wait, there were also these wacky vehicles.

All in the same yard.

In Hatch we saw a couple of hitchhikers.

Our plan was to drive through Kanab and into Arizona. From there 89 becomes 89a and veers around the southern border of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, mostly because a gigantic erosion feature called Grand Canyon makes it impossible to go straight south. Michael wanted to show us one of his favorite fishing spots, Paria Beach at Lees Ferry, in Marble Canyon.

Rivers are cool, especially for the sediments they erode and deposit, but the features I find most interesting are washes. They epitomize the desert. "Water has been here, but not right now, and not for you, sucker. Until the moment you're not looking, and then you're gonna drown."

I especially love the rocks you can find in washes.

By the time we left Lees Ferry, the day was waning. I was already pretty sure we wouldn't make it back to Flagstaff in time to turn around and leave for Phoenix, but at least we were able to get the rental car back and not get charged for an extra day. We went to the market with Michael and got steaks, and family cooked up a wonderful supper. Ernie and I ended up back at Michael's workshop for the night. Full circle.

For the record, you can see an amazing number of stars in the night sky over Michael's workshop. You can see through our galaxy and into the next one. I stood there and reflected on two weeks of road trip wonder. I started to scheme about the next one. Part of it would have to pass through New Mexico, so Mom could see her radio telescopes at the VLA again.

That's never going to happen. 

The night of the 13th wasn't a good one for Mom. By the next day she was herself again, and she was so ambitious when we got home to Phoenix, she cleaned out a couple of drawers. But she started to decline steeply after that. The day after Thanksgiving, she couldn't even speak. That's the case about every other day now.

She did the two things she was still hanging on to do. Honestly, I think she would go on another trip if she could. Her will is still strong. It's her body that's giving out. I respect her decision.

Tomorrow, the Aftermath. Spoiler alert: there's an amazing amount of laundry.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Rifle CO, Hardass Town: Pandemic Road Trip Part 15

Holy crap, November 12 and we were still on the road, still looking for coffee joints. In Glenwood Springs, charming neighbor of chi-chi Aspen, we found The Bluebird Cafe. If we could afford to live in Glenwood Springs, I would be going to this cafe several times a week (if not every day).

I may have already stated this for the record, but I feel compelled to reiterate that tourist towns should remember that people drink coffee and people eat breakfast, sometimes as early as 6:00 a.m. Perversely, many places don't open until 8 or 9. Though I have to admit, Ernie and I were pretty much the only customers in Bluebird. So possibly I'm just being an entitled jerk.

Michael wanted to make sure we took pictures of the old storefronts that were built in the early days of the town.

And right next door . . .

However, it turns out that quaint old buildings were not the main attraction of Glenwood Springs. Technically that would be Glenwood Canyon. But I'm not talking about that, either. I'm talking about the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

I've been to ReStores in other towns, and let me tell you, they are not in the same galaxy as this place. Apparently being so close to Aspen means they get the good stuff. Like this Steinway made out of 
Brazilian Rosewood, a wood so rare it can't be exported anymore (the piano was probably made sometime in the 60s).

This was one of several pianos, though it was the only one made of rosewood. They had a lot of really cool stuff, and I took a lot of pictures. Honestly 
people, if you need to furnish a house or office, come to this place and get everything shipped.

My little house couldn't hold furniture this big, but I can dream.

Seriously, I may as well add a gigantic dining table to keep my gigantic coffee table company.

Add a sideboard. The lamps are nice, too.

Add some artsy-fartsy decoration.

And an adorable thrift-store dog. But the best buy was out front.

We couldn't buy anything from the ReStore, we could only form unwise ambitions for an uncertain future, but on the way back through town, we stopped at the Community Thrift, and I snapped this photo of a fallen angle and his friend, the pug, and then my camera battery died.

My camera had its own battery, a rechargeable thing that had never given up the ghost on a road trip despite heavy usage, but on the other hand, I had never taken photos for 2 weeks straight without recharging. So I had to switch to my phone camera for the rest of the day.

While I'm thinking about it, here are my email notes:

Rifle CO, hard-ass town

Yampa River

Glenwood Canyon

Meeker Rt13 CO

 Our plan was to drive across Utah on I-70, then make the long haul back to Flagstaff on HWY 89. Michael pulled over quite a lot, enthralled with the landscape. At one point I took the photo that summed up the trip.

I-70 passes through some fascinating terrain.

The town of Fruita also has some interesting sights.

Dinosaur's are just a thing in Fruita. But at least they practice safe social distancing.

The sedimentary deposits in Colorado and Utah from the Mesozoic are still intact (they've mostly eroded away in Arizona), so there are plenty of dinosaur bones to find. Utah is a class unto itself as far as scenery is concerned. Wonder after wonder greets you as you turn every corner. I-70 cuts through an extensive line of up-thrust rock called the San Rafael Reef (or San Rafael Swell).

Deeper into Utah, I took the essential road trip photo.

We settled for the night in Salina, Utah. There was a popular Mexican Restaurant in town, El Mexicano, where Ernie and Michael picked up supper. While they were wrangling supper, I plugged my camera battery charger in and plugged in the battery. It took a couple of hours, but it charged like a charm. The next day, I would be able to snap like a fiend again.

On TV, the political storm still raged. Threats and imprecations flew. But I had a feeling it was all steam, vented by a monster who had never believed he could be stopped. Soon we would be going home, doing a mountain of laundry, apologizing to pets for our absence. But we had one day left. We were going to make it count.