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, August 21, 2022

Road Trip 2022: Desert Bonsai

Ernie is well ahead of me on these accounts, as usual. He’s also the one who scouts ahead on the trails, mostly because I’m a chubby slowpoke. He’s already talking about New Mexico. I’m still in Nevada.


The desk clerk in Winnemucca had a point when she said her town was halfway between destinations. In our case, that town was halfway between two Extraordinary National Parks, Crater Lake and Great Basin. The stretches in between are not empty. They’re full of towns, graveyards, mountains, and petroglyphs. This graveyard in Austin is a beautiful example.

Hickison Petroglyphs Recreation and Interpretive Site is in Nevada, off Route 50, between Austin and Eureka. It's gorgeous but it suffers from some vandalism, as many sites do these days. It's one of the places that could benefit from increased funds and hiring more personnel to act as stewards. The majority of people who visit these sites don't behave like jerks. But it only takes a few people to destroy a place. Think of that when you're voting for representatives who can decide next year's state and national budgets.

Seeing marks that were made by people who lived centuries ago always blows my mind.

They had their own reasons for making marks that look like human hands, but I always get the feeling that this is how they said, "We are people who lived here. This is us." 

Meanwhile, in town, people built an opera house. I like to think that music and plays were performed here. 

In Ely, we visited this thrift store on the main drag.

But our main destination was Great Basin National Park. When Michael told me we were going there, I got the wrong idea about what it was like. One of the four deserts in North America is the Great Basin Desert, so I thought he must be talking about that. However, Great Basin NP is something completely different. It's a hanging valley that was created by a glacier. It is a varied terrain that includes a cave system (we hadn't made reservations for the tour, so we missed that part) and a drive up to a peak from which you can ogle the hanging valley. Michael was particularly interested in seeing the bristlecone pines

We were intent on finding good examples of these trees to photograph when we suddenly spotted the main event. It's breathtaking.

There were so many good examples of bristlecones.

And from the road to the summit, we spotted magnificent sky islands in the distance. 

The town nearest to Great Basin NP is Baker. The folks along the highway like to make sure they have yard art you're gonna remember. 

As had become our habit, we made sure our hotel in Salina, Utah, knew we were coming. We checked in without a hitch. The next morning, we headed east on I-70, which counts as a scenic highway in Utah.


The rest stops along that stretch are lookouts, where one can photograph more twisty trees. 

The rock formations in this part of Utah are sandstone, limestone, mudstone, and shale, with a bit of volcanic rock here and there.

Michael insisted I take a picture of this formation because it looks like a tugboat.

Fruita's Center Park had bathrooms, which was very civilized. 

We crossed the border into Colorado and checked into our hotel in Grand Junction. The day was still young, and there were many thrift and antique stores to visit. Delta, Colorado, like so many other towns there, is full of charming houses.

This antique store in Delta had my favorite yard. 

It also had an eyeball. 

I don't know if this auto repair place is still in business, but if it isn't, they're apparently sentimental about the hand-painted sign.  

Heirlooms for Hospice has a message for us all. 

They had some fun stuff for sale.  

For the next couple of days, we would be visiting local towns and a marble quarry. Soon, Ernie and I would be peeling off from Michael and making our own detour into New Mexico. But there were still places to visit and sights to see in Colorado.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Road Trip 2022: Grass Pants

Our roadtrip was only a few days old, and already I had encountered Something Unknown that made me anxious (namely the process of buying ferry tickets). However, my worries about being late for the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge had been alleviated the night before when I went onto the (somewhat glitchy) website and purchased a ticket for our vehicle that could be used anytime within the next thirty days. Hard to miss a gate time like that. Michael knows the area so well, he took us right to the ferry dock, but when we got to the window, the ticket guy said, “You’ve paid for your car, but where are your tickets for the passengers?”


I could have grumbled to him that the website doesn’t make it clear that you need to do both. Instead, I quickly bought tickets for the three of us, and with a minimum of fuss and muss, we moved into the parking lanes that would eventually allow us to drive onto the ferry. And by eventually, I mean within 20 minutes, which gave officers a chance to escort sniffy dogs around each vehicle to look for bad stuff. None of them raised an alarm. When the ferry pulled up, this desert girl marveled as we drove onto it, parked, and climbed the stairs so we could admire the Sound from the top deck. Once on the other side, we drove away from the ferry and onto the Coast Highway (101), famous for its fabulous views and quirky towns. 

To be fair, every town in the United States is quirky, especially if you're a bit odd yourself. This characteristic comes in handy for road trippers. It means you're more likely to spot the antique stores, ice cream shops, thrift shops, and yard sales. I found this beautiful clematis vine (pictured above) at an estate sale (no, I didn't buy it, I admired it. Its roots are firmly in the ground, which is why it was able to produce these perfect flowers.)

At this point in our trip, we had traveled through Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Utah again (we would pass through a third time before we were done), Idaho, Oregon, and now we were in Washington, headed down toward Oregon again. Later that night we would be staying in Quinault, in a lodge near a gorgeous lake, and we would just miss losing our room by ten minutes. Apparently they had tried to reach us during the day, but my phone was out of range, and their call didn't go through. Our lesson from that was to call our hotels as we went along to let them know we would be arriving late, because we were hitting a lot of stops on the road: shops, yard sales, and gorgeous nature spots. And of course, plenty of gas station restrooms.

Last year, our roadtrip was dedicated to scattering Mom's ashes in her favorite spots. This year, the Great Beyond seemed inclined to pay her homage with a sign.

We stopped at a burger joint for lunch, where we found this very well-fed mosquito.

Near Port Angeles we crossed this turquoise-colored river.

Farther down the highway, we had to stop and take pictures of Crescent Lake.

Olympic National Park and National Forest are both in this area, and we lingered among the ancient giants.

Fruit stands always seem to catch Michael's eye. They're a good place to get road food that won't break the bank. This one in Forks had some lovely colors.

They also sold T-shirts, and I discovered this guy who looks like the calavera version of the Most Interesting Man in the World.

The day was giving up on us by the time we made it to our hotel, which says a lot, because this was late June, when we have the longest days in the year (in the Northern Hemisphere), and the sun was going down on the West Coast close to 9:00 p.m. When we checked in, the guy in the lobby told us we had been minutes from losing our reservation. This disaster did not come to pass. We climbed way too many stairs to get into our rooms, which were charming and rustic. The WiFi wasn't great, and the TV only got three channels (we are spoiled brats), but after a long day, it didn't take us long to fall asleep.

I don't remember where we got coffee the next day, but I can tell you we hit plenty of Dutch Bros. on this trip. Early on, we spotted this buoy-themed yard art.

A braided stream in South Bend is emptying into the ocean.

Farther down the road, a library in Raymond honored the Bremen Town Musicians.

This antique store did not have a lot to offer, but it did feature two notable pigs.

This charming South Bend home is typical of the area.

We were only five days into our trip, and the nose of or faithful chariot had accumulated so many bugs, we were wondering if it would ever be clean again. Michael spotted an impromptu car wash being held by some gals who were financing a trip for their sports team. They did a bang-up job. Alas, just two days later, Michael had to repeat the process at a do-it-yourself car wash in Winnemuca, but for one bright, shining moment, we felt ready to zoom through another landscape.

Farther south in chinook, we spotted an antique store that we had visited on our previous trip up the coast. I don't recall if this metal fellow was out front then, but he needed to be documented.

Look for this sign if you're driving the same route. You won't be sorry.

And there's a giraffe for sale!

Here's one small corner of the interior of Shipwreck Cove antiques.

In Tillamook, the wonderful resale store we had shopped on our last trip had failed to survive another year. I had to settle for a mural of a rat in another gas station rest room. 

Had we stopped in Lincoln City, we could have participated in karaoke.

We might have also investigated these stone carvings that seem half-tiki, half-totem.

At Depoe Bay, Michael suddenly pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant and told me to run in and ask them if I could take a picture of the beautiful bay from their terrace. I felt dubious about this enterprise. The restaurant looked expensive and exclusive. But I dutifully trotted in to make my request. The maitre d' deserves some credit for at least considering my request for a few seconds, but his answer was a polite and firm NO.

However, all was not lost. When we drove further down the highway, we discovered a public park with several viewing spots for an even better look at the gorgeous cove. Photo managed.

Perhaps you recall I mentioned that we visited several ice cream shops on our journey. In fact, I believe we visited more of them this time around than we ever have before. This shop in Yachats had a long and well-deserved line. We did not leave disappointed. It's called Topper's.

By the time we pulled into Grass Pants (a.k.a. Grants Pass) it was dark. This time, we had called ahead to make sure they knew we wanted our room, only to have them call us back an hour later to ask if we still wanted our room. We said YES. But when we finally got there, we discovered they had sold our room anyway. Things looked pretty bleak for a moment, but my brother Michael is not to be trifled with. He pressed the guy, who finally parked us in a gigantic suite that isn't one of the rooms they usually rent (for some arcane reason I couldn't quite grasp). We had a home for the night. We slept like logs.

In the morning, we went in search of coffee. We had a lot of adventures planned. I'm pretty sure Human Bean is really Dutch Bros. with a different name. Either way, they're pretty good.

We have seen a lot of bigfoots on our journeys through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and even Arizona, but this is the first time we ever saw a zombie version.

The whole point of staying in Grants Pass was so we could visit Crater Lake National Park and ogle its gorgeous blue waters. It truly is a wonder, but I think I enjoyed another feature of the park even more: Rogue Gorge, a collapsed Lava tube with the Rogue River running through it.

There were several points along the path from which you could see water cascading through the volcanic landscape.

I could have taken many more pictures.

I love sandstone landscapes, but sometimes eroded lava can look so fantastical.

Still, Crater Lake is otherworldly. If you've traveled through this area without seeing it, you're missing something special.

Okay, one more shot of the Rogue River streaming through volcanic rocks.

After two nights of almost having our hotel room canceled on us, we really wanted to make sure our hotel in Winnemuca knew we were coming. Fortunately, they had no problem with our arrival time (which turned out to be a couple of hours earlier than those other two nights, no thanks to us). The young, tattooed clerk politely asked us what had brought us to her fair city, and we said we were just passing through. She laughed and said of course we were. No one picks Winnemuca as a destination – it’s halfway between everything else. 


It also happened to be the halfway point on our trip with Michael. There was still a lot to see.