Once upon a time there were three children alone in the woods. Or perhaps you would not say they were alone, because they were together. They were far from home, and the trees were different than the ones they had known before. The earth was red, and dusty, and the bugs swarmed around their arms and faces, and the sun beat down upon them. They saw evidence of a lake, but could find no water. What is this place, and what has happened here? they wondered. A kindly man in a distant land had gifted them a jar full of blueberries, and nectarines, and ginger, and vodka, and they mixed this with lemonade and played a game, also called Once Upon a Time. In the game there were cards, painted with images of fantastic creatures and objects and places, and they used these cards to weave tales for each other. The boy was best at using his cards- whether because of superior skill or greater insistence upon his right to speak, the girls were never sure. The children found a Laundromat and pay-shower in the nearby village of Chester, and they cleaned themselves and their clothing, and (at the suggestion of the kindly vagrant sexagenarian Roberta) had soft serve ice cream at an old-fashioned diner across the (town’s only main) street.
Sunlight can only cover the waking world, however, and the dark brought others down when it fell. We left the forest for the once-earth of asphalt and the butchery of wooden buildings. An old man in a new pickup drove by slow and lecherous (for gold, for gain, for gratitude) stopping outside our window to hoist two gallon bags of Marijuana and dangle them outside his; he paused to ask, “Do you party?” As insipid as inquiry as my unspoken response proved disdainful. Then it was dark, then we were drunk, then we saw the folly of the world around us and cursed ourselves for mummers in a poor parody of living free. Still, night can only raise shadows to be again brought low. Hung-over, road-winding, we made our way to a truer wilderness to learn to see with a kinder light.
Or, whatever. There was a river and a pig, mountains and bears.
Then the people came and with them madness. Look to your left, friend, and see the Jack Friday option below Archives. Here you will find the telling whole and true. Alas, life contains a taint as well as purity, but being able to choose which we will know, it is left to you should a desire kindle within to see with eyes unclouded what kindness, what charity, in all its stark, absolute nakedness contains. Now let us turn to happier tidings.
Just as all heroes, on their journeys, must descend into the underworld only to emerge with a deeper knowledge of their true selves, so we left our campsite along the Trinity River and moved toward Redding.
Cinderella had mice, Psyche had ants, Monster-Slayer had the fly. Magical helpers are well known to such tales. For us, the help and guidance came not in the form of enchanted animal, but in the form of Marilyn, our couchsurfing host. Marilyn has lived on the same two acre urban farm in Northern California for twenty-eight years. We discovered that her children are the same ages as those in Jack’s family. She asked me if I knew, when I requested she host us, that I would be coming home. The days we have spent here have been among the most peaceful of the trip to date. The house floods with the abundant California sunshine, the farm yields a multitude of fruit and produce, the family offers love and friendship. Our time here, though brief, has afforded new dimension to notions of welcome, hospitality, acceptance.
Like the road weary adventurer who finds solace in a hermit’s woodland cottage, so have we been replenished by the kindness of these once-strangers. Equipped with renewed energy, fresh insights from our wise host, and magical accoutrement, we prepare for our impending daybreak departure. A new adventure
on a new farm awaits us. Into the woods we’ve got to go…into the woods.
Handle me with care. Or don’t. I’ll hike anyway.
I fell off a boulder. But that’s just the beginning.
As you may have heard, faithful readers, we went to Wyoming, and we camped in Medicine Bow National Forest. We went bouldering. And I slipped. For a minute, I thought my ankle was broken. But it wasn’t, and I walked back down to Hot Daniel, and then I made eggplant parm for dinner.
As you’ve already heard about the magnificent experiences in Laramie (many of which I sadly missed, due to an inability to walk long distances), I’ll skip right ahead to Little America. This truck stop is bigger than the town I’m currently in (more on that soon), and the French fries only cost $1.90, and the staff are so helpful and genial they let me come into the kitchen to fill our water jugs because they wouldn’t fit into any other sinks in the facility. Wyoming really has some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
^Entering the Beehive State!
Fast forward a few days, and we are making our way across Utah, heading towards Salt Lake City and other well-seasoned locales. Fearless leader Jane Witchweeks (aka Emma) toils at the wheel up steep mountains through lovely scenery, and suddenly a warning light comes on the dash. Of all the warnings you don’t want to receive when climbing up and down sharp road grades, the most fearful of all is probably “low air.”
^We stopped on a side road to examine the brakes, but a mean, horrible man on a four wheeler made us move. The view was great, though!
Aside: Hot Daniel the Bus has air brakes. For a vehicle as massive as HotD, normal brakes would literally melt. Anyway, air brakes work by building up air pressure. This pressure needs to be above 100psi for safe braking, and anything beneath 60psi means you cannot safely or reliably stop. By the time we reached Layton, just outside of SLC, we were at 30psi. We essentially drove down a mountain with no brakes.
Because it was Sunday, we had no immediate recourse, so Wal-Mart was once again our temporary home. The next morning we found a Boss Shop who did road calls, and the kindly Gerald arrived to help us. It turns out old Chevy buses contain copper piping that’s prone to wear out due to the intense heat of the engine. The main pipe that connected our air compressor to our air tanks (which pressurize the breaks) had cracked right open. Gerald went back to the shop, custom made a new steel pipe for HD’s engine, and then charged us considerably less than he could have for his time and trouble. Hot Daniel was on the road again.
^You can’t see Gerald, but like the wind, he is there
West of SLC (no punks here, just traveling willburys) lie the Salt Flats. I cannot really describe what it’s like to step onto the crunchy, glistening, white expanses, stretching as far as you can see towards the mountains. But we have pictures, so you can imagine for yourself.
^Jack Friday has cried twice in his life. When Lil’ Sebastian died, and when he stepped onto the Salt Flats.
I-80 cuts across a fairly narrow swath of Utah, so we found ourselves in Nevada in no time. Jack Friday and I have family in the Vegas area, but that’s the only part of the state either of us had ever visited, and Jane had never been at all. We arrived at (confusingly named) Water Canyon Recreation area outside of Winnemucca on September 9. While there was definitely no water, there were breathtaking hills and rock outcroppings all around us. Despite my damaged ankle, I used a cane and ventured with Jack and Jane up these slopes, where we encountered quail, deer, and even the western diamond back rattle snake. Posted notices warned of mountain lions. While we didn’t view any of these noble beasts, we did find a veritable bone yard under a ledge of one of the rock formations, as well as a conspicuous grove of wild cat nip… so it seems likely that some lurked nearby. The views were spectacular, and the smell of the plentiful sage brush filled the air. We enjoyed the brightness of a gorgeous full moon in Pisces, fought off a full blown moth infestation, and reveled in the new and strange extremes of desert weather fluctuations.
^Not your stoicism, not even your stick, can save you from the rattler, Jane
^Oooh baby, I think it’s love
^Every mountain sunset is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen
Today we find ourselves in Susanville, CA. Last night we slept in a rest area next to Honey Lake, which is not, in fact, a lake anymore. The drought plaguing the southwestern United States seems to have far reaching and somewhat devastating effects. We have come across multiple locations that promised water, either lakes or rivers or reservoirs, but ultimately had none. We are hoping to spend the next few days camping at Lake Almanor, in Lassen National Forest. With any luck, there will be enough water for a swim. We’ll keep you posted.