Day 28: Thursday: Geneseo, IL to Omaha, NE: First thing in the morning I checked the damage I had done to the Air-conditioner and the roof. It was bad! The A/C was totally destroyed and it had jammed a hole in the roof of the camper. We were very lucky we didn’t get any rain last night. I called an RV place in Davenport, 30 miles down the road in the direction we were heading. They said they could work on it today. Lucy sang all the way to Davenport, IL. We got there at about 11 and left a little after 2 but I was cautioned not to drive at freeway speed for at least another half hour because the goo they put on the roof needed to dry a little more. So I played with Lucy a bit, had lunch and drove slow until about 3:15. Most of this trip has been unscheduled. This afternoon and evening had been an exception. We were going to Omaha to see Michele’s cousin, Judy and her husband, Joe. We got on the road about three hours late. One of the guys in the RV place had said that the drive to Omaha would be boring. I didn’t think so. He reminded me of something Ken Keyes said: “There’s always something happening. You only get bored when you call it nothing.” We discovered that no two farms are alike. There were wind farms with huge blades lazily twisting in the wind. I noticed a hill side that looked like it had been terraced. I didn’t know we did that in America. Then I saw more and suspected that it was a geological fluke. Later, Joe told me that a federal mandate requires the farmers to do that to prevent silt from contaminating the streams and rivers. Then it rained! I mean it really rained. I was glad I had had the roof patched or I would have been able to take a shower next to the refrigerator in the camper. Lucy and I got to Judy and Joe’s at about 7:45. We had a nice visit and called it a night a little after 10.
Day 29: Friday: Omaha to Denver: This is another day that has a schedule. I’m to meet my old college buddy, Nik Nikkel, in Denver in time for dinner. I had coffee with Judy and Joe and reminisced and I didn’t get on the road until about an hour after I had planned. I used to run every morning before work. I thought, and still think, that the exercise was good for me. But I always refused to run for a bus. That’s not exercise, that’s stress. I was not going to let my schedule interfere with a good time hanging out with Judy and Joe. I’m glad I didn’t stress. I got to Denver just about at 6 which was a fine time to meet Nik’s wife and to have dinner with Nik. AND, some interesting things came up on the road between Omaha and Denver. One: I noticed that the rumble strips in Iowa, Nebraska and later in Colorado were different than the ones we have in California and Oregon. At home they are just roughed up sections of the road by the shoulder that make a loud, rough, steady noise when your tire hits them. In Iowa and Nebraska I noticed that there are blank sections between the roughed up sections. When you run over them the roar is interrupted and almost sounds like a gruff “Wake UP!” I’m not sure which are better. They all make loud starling noise. The other interesting thing that happened needs some background. As a devotee of science, if not a scientist, I try to hold all the things I know in a state of probability rather than certainty and I am sure one cannot prove a negative. I am pretty certain that the sun will rise tomorrow. We have successfully predicted sunrises for thousands of years. There is a high probability that our theory of astronomy is accurate. I am less sure about the existence of God. I haven’t seen any predictive tests of God’s existence. But neither have I seen any science that proves there is no God. So, I am an agnostic. The only people who hear voices are prophets and schizophrenics and I can’t tell the difference. Sometimes when I pray I hear a response. I can’t prove that what I am hearing is coming from God or from my imagination. Some of the responses I get are as confusing as the responses from the Delphic oracles. Sometime the response is funny or ironic, but never so specific as to prove that it is not my imagination. So, as I was driving long on this gray, cloudy morning, enjoying the scenery I said to my voice “Some sunshine would be nice, Lord.” Immediately I was being passed by a truck. The truck that passed me was from Sunshine Trucking! Coincidence? Or God’s sense of humor? I don’t know. But I believe that God has a weird sense of humor. But I hold my belief lightly. I wouldn’t bet a lot on it. Judy told me about the Sand Hill Cranes that hang out in the corn fields along the Platte River. I wouldn’t have known what they were if I had seen them at all if she hadn’t told me. They are huge and gray and blend into the corn fields very well. I saw hundreds of them mostly in groups of one to two dozen. On this trip I noticed that no two trees are alike but I also noticed that they seem to communicate with one another and have artful shapes, they don’t clash. What I mean is when they grow together, they grow together. They blend into a shape without sharp edges or individuals sticking out or up.
Nik told me he had heard that Pati Cockram, whom we had known in college, had died. If I’d had more time as I passed thru Arkansas I wanted to stop to see if I could find any of her family so I could re-connect with her. But I was too late.. NY Times Obituary, June 13, 2010, confirmed it.
Day 30: Saturday: Denver to Provo, UT: Breakfast with Nik: Radio Shack for an adapter to let me hook up the inverter to the spare battery: On the road in Sunshine: We stopped at the rest area and visitor center in Georgetown, CO, and played with Lucy.
Glenwood Canyon was “Oh!,” “Oh!,” “Oh!” Then the mesas of Utah were back to “Wow!” I stopped in the “No Name Rest Area” coming out of Price, UT.
Right by the side of the road we saw a half-dozen Big Horn Sheep! What a treat! After Green River, UT, we got onto Route 6 which took us into the mountains on less than Interstate quality roads. The sky got dark and then started to snow as we climbed into mountains that went on forever. For a while I was afraid that I had been caught in a three-dimensional M C Escher experiment on a road that went up and up forever. The windshield froze! I thought it was dirt and the windshield washer fluid didn’t spray up far enough to reach it. Then I thought to try the defroster and it cleared. The last part of the trip to the campground in Provo was to be on Interstate 15. I 15 is under construction before and after Provo! The exit for the campground was poorly marked for an outsider so I went the wrong way. Wrong! There was no way back. I ended back on the freeway for three miles. I was able to find the campground from back roads, which helped me in the morning.
Day 31: Sunday: Provo, UT to Lakeview, OR: George tried to put me back on the freeway to Salt Lake City but he does not know anything about construction-caused road closures. He wanted me to take Center Street to I15 and then turn left. But Center Street is closed under I15! Remember how I screwed up last night and had to use back roads to get to the campground. I just retraced my steps and was back on the road. The sun was out and there were partly cloudy skies. There were a string of confusing signs along the freeway into Salt Lake City. They spoke of a 25 cent toll. It looked like it was only for the left lanes. I suspect it is to meter traffic on the express lanes and is collected by a transponder like my FASTRACK or EZpass. It indicated that High Occupancy Vehicles didn’t have to pay. I never did figure out how the system could tell if the vehicle was HOV or not. Have I mentioned that I don’t like traffic? Even on a Sunday morning there was too much traffic into Salt Lake City for my comfort but before long we were on I80 heading out of the city and past the Great Salt Lake.
It is the remnants of a truly Great lake. You still can see the lines where the shore was on the mountains around the lake. It must have been 100 miles across and a thousand feet deep. I remember one time in the eighties that the water level rose so much they thought they would have to close route I80 because it would be under water.
There were more “Wow!” times across Utah and in Nevada. The mountains had fresh snow. Just out of Salt Lake City I think I saw ski tracks coming down mountain sides that had no ski lifts. Could it have been helicopter skiing? I’ll never know. I wanted to have dinner in Winnemucca after I got gas but never saw any restaurant I would like to eat in so we pushed on, hoping to find food in Denio. Fat chance! I think Denio is too small to have a name. The road to Denio is absolutely straight for 30 miles then turns and then is straight for 11 miles and turns again and is straight for 16 miles. It is all very flat prairie with mountains on both sides. Neither Lucy nor I found it boring. She sleeps some of the trip but sits up a lot of the time and looks out the window appearing to be very interested in the scenery. From Denio the road rises into the mountains then drops off again. There were two places that signs said had 8 and 7 percent grades for 3 miles. One looked down onto a flat plain that was laced with streams looking like a jig Saw puzzle. On one of the up slopes after we were in Oregon I looked over to the left and saw a beautiful waterfall. Then there was the sunset! I looked up and saw a peach sunset with a dark blue spot in it under a baby blue arching sky. It only lasted a few seconds but I don’t remember ever seeing anything like it before. Seeing the old shore line of the Salt Lake and wondering what it must have been like and what it must have been like when it burst its dam and drained and seeing the mesas with sheer cliffs and knowing that they are what’s left after the surrounding land has washed away made me feel very insignificant both in time and space. I am in awe of the majesty of the world in which I live. This has been a wonderful trip of discovery for me. I had hoped to find a Walmart in Lakeview but no such luck. We searched around for a nice restaurant and settled on a restaurant without the nice. The service was so slow I left and ate in the camper in an Elks parking lot. And here we spend the night.
Day 32: Monday: Lakeview, OR to Home: I didn’t see an inviting gas station before I left Lakeview so I checked the mileage and thought I could make it to Klamath Falls with no problem. There were 209 miles since the last fill up and I have made as much as 360 miles without running out and Lakeview to Klamath Falls is only about a hundred miles. Yada, yada, yada! When I noticed that the gauge was below a quarter tank I started to worry that I had once again done something really stupid. Route 140 is not heavily travelled and I doubt there is cell service on most of it. This has been such a blissful trip and here on the last morning of it I’m making myself anxious!. “Here and now, boys, here and now!” It was a beautiful ride even though it snowed on the way from Lakeview. And then there was Bly and a gas station that sold diesel. The station must have been the town’s hang out. There were people standing around inside buying food and eating and talking. The attendant did not seem to be too happy, particularly when I asked for only 10 gallons when I heard the price. She apparently was the cashier, gas jockey, manager and lackey. She was definitely overworked. Lucy and I stopped in a roadside park to throw the ball. It was a nice park for people, or it had been ‘til the geese decided it was nice for geese. I picked up after Lucy but no one picked up after the geese. Coming into the Rogue Valley we were pleased to see Immigrant Lake and to see that it is almost full. We stopped to empty our tanks but were dismayed to see that the dump station was closed. I decided to try the campground for a dump station but found none. I didn’t find the park host either but I did find a regular camper who suggested I pull into an unused campsite and dump there. It worked. Then I stopped to fill the gas tank. Was I surprised to see that Ashland’s price for diesel isn’t much better than the price in Bly! With a full tank I was able to determine that if I had not stopped In Bly I still would have 6 gallons left in the tank when I got to Ashland. Another example of useless worry!
To sum up the trip: It was wonderful! Driving was like a moving meditation. There were few rough spots. I was reminded that I’m not as bright as I sometimes think. I was awed by the beauty of the country. I was blessed with great, good or acceptable weather almost all the time and only stuck in bad weather a few hours. Lucy was a fine travel companion. She sang a lot but it mostly amused me except when I was trying to navigate strange intersections and she and George were giving me confusing or conflicting instructions.
At home, Ashland is in bloom!