From “This American Life” April 18, 2014 — a collection of the best of 1,300 submissions of coincidence. Fascinating, but you be the judge.
Used with permission
From “This American Life” April 18, 2014 — a collection of the best of 1,300 submissions of coincidence. Fascinating, but you be the judge.
Used with permission
Driving Interstate 84 westward into Idaho and down into Oregon is a trip. Just when you think flat ground is near comes another twenty-mile death spiral. There is absolutely no way I would attempt this again — in either direction — before April 1st due to snow and ice and the probability of chains needed on many sections. I was lucky this time — in a Florida car, no less — to dodge weather both in front and behind me.
After an uneventful night in Boise, Idaho, at the most bland Travelodge imaginable, I got on the road early and rode the roller coaster highway down into historic Baker City and into spectacular mountains covered in white powdered sugar. Baker City is out in the middle of bloody nowhere but that’s probably is why it’s there in the first place.
Continued down some of the steepest interstate grade I have ever seen to LaGrande and Pendleton, OR — again, not to be ventured in the winter unless you love taking your life in your hands with a huge number of trucks on icy 6,000 ft downgrades.
I finally hit the Columbia River about dusk — could Portland be far away at this point — and then endured miles and miles of charming military waste dumps. Finally became too dark to drive and I was getting loopy. I wound up at a crazy truck stop called Biggs Junction — I know it does sound like a candy bar — but I sat in my car and watched a trucker/hooker/tourist/cowboy show straight out of a John Water’s movie until I made the wise decision to snooze at a convenient motel.
The Gorge is completely black at night, curvy, head-on traffic, and not where you want to be when exhausted.
Next morning, I wanted to see the spot where Louis and Clark passed the Chinook burial island — reportedly where many natives were entombed in canoes — something like 47 or so — silently perched up on rocks overlooking the river. It’s called Sepulchar Island visible from Memaloose State Park east of The Dalles.
Another few hours and I was entering Portland once again in rush hour traffic but happy to be home after over 4,000 miles, nine states, and twelve days. Hard to believe I started in tropical Florida and made it to Oregon without major surface snow issues involving snow tires or chains. I was lucky. My original plan was to drive I-10 Florida to California, then I-5 north, to avoid the possibility of bad weather, but Santa Fe was too nice to miss and it seemed logical to continue north.
I think what I learned on this trip was to not count miles but each day just go as far as possible without losing control. It’s an odd feeling when you are driving solo how far you can push yourself; there are just certain points where you can’t go any further.
There were a couple of moments I do not want to ever repeat — one being the windshield washer fluid (in a FL car, no less) not being antifreeze and suddenly completely freezing over the entire windshield in high alpine Wyoming truck traffic going 80 mph — the other entering Denver dead-tired and getting stuck on I-25 downtown in mega traffic and totally a shaking mess.
Coffee does not wake you up; it magnifies exhaustion. And those five-hour energy bottles wreck your sleep for the next twenty-four hours. Lessons learned.
So, Portland is entering Spring and the long winter rains are hopefully soon over. It was an excellent time to get the hell out of Dodge, but time to get back to work albeit with a sun tan.
Thanks much for the great number of friends and family who helped make this journey possible. There is a certain sense of accomplishment in perseverance. The best, of course, is remembering it all — one city after the next — and getting ready to go back to my favorite places again. Perhaps traveling the country solo is better not in a car heavily loaded with furniture at the end of winter, but good memories none-the-less.
Namaste Portland. Safely home in one piece. I don’t even want to think about the laundry, mail, or the refrigerator, just s-l-e-e-p…
This morning started with gratitude for a wonderfully-placed Days Inn that kept me off the roads for a day during the worst of the storm. I was regretting entering the mountains in Idaho as the rain turned to ice and the traffic and trucks began to back up. I made one those instant decisions to settle in and it was definitely the thing to do. The Travel Advisor app really comes in handy when you need it. This inn is owned by an Indian couple who made me feel welcome. Talk about shelter from the storm…
The rest of the day was spent driving west across Idaho on Interstate 84, dodging rain and snow showers, and crossing the Snake River a few times. Fortunately, the major snow is over and the traffic was lighter than expected though black ice was evident. The clouds were amazing against the blue sky.
Finally darkness and exhaustion took over tonight. I had hoped to make it into Oregon but landed in Boise. Tomorrow will be the big push following the Columbia River and then into Portland late.
I feel like I have been gone for a year. So many people and places fresh in mind. I think I have a radically new perspective of how large this great land mass of ours really is — so many thousands of square miles of empty wilderness. The vastness. The trucks. The exhaustion. The ferocious will to stay awake. And good friends all along the way who were the real reason to attempt the voyage.
I am a Sagittarian. The traveler. Sleep.
Leaving Cheyenne in the heaviest winds yet west on I-80 was a challenge. I used a quarter of a tank of gas to go about 50 miles into direct head winds which threw the car all over the place. Highway now closed to all trailers and light automobiles. Altitude climbs and climbs but no snow showers yet. Views are stunning across the barrens of western Wyoming. Cross the Continental Divide twice for some reason.
Weather forecast is for heavy snow on the route later in the day so I dodged truck after truck to make time. Finally late in the day as it was getting dark I dropped out of the high mountains and into Ogden, UT, where it soon turned to heavy rain and ice. Exhausted but safe I pried my fingers off the steering wheel and spent the night in a motel to ride out the storm. Best $50 of my life.
Six to eight inches of snow predicted tomorrow on I-80 into Idaho with freezing rains. Not looking forward to it. One trucker tells me the real challenge is not the weather but the road construction outside of Boise.
Suddenly the concept of 1-10 through Arizona and north through California on I-5 begins to make more sense. Little I can do about that now.
I am in Mormon country. Sleep sleep sleep.
A quick overnight with old friends Nicky and Richard at their vintage home in the heart of downtown Cheyenne. They rescue greyhounds and are getting ready for an epic voyage to Iceland. World travel is their passion and I got to hear about an interesting month in New Zealand among other places.
The next morning it has turned cold and the wind is very high. I am planning driving due west on I-80 though weather seems problematic. I-80 is one of the highest elevation interstates in the country and is known for heavy truck traffic. Hopefully I can make it to just north of Salt Lake City if the angels are with me.
After living in Boulder, CO, for several years it was almost impossible to drive north and not stop in for at least a short hello.
A beautiful day on Pearl Street and a quick lunch with dear friend Zoe.
Perused the bargain book bin at the Trident and met my old buddy Peggy who I affectionately call “the mayor of Boulder” as she is always on the scene. The two of us have shared many a crossword puzzle while watching the snow come down over the years.
I hated to leave but was due in Cheyenne, WY, in a few hours. Did make a quick swing through the old neighborhood to visit a friend’s house on Arapahoe that backs on Boulder Creek. If this house could talk it would have quite a story…
Goodbye dear Boulder. I will return. See you in my dreams.
Santa Fe to Denver was incredibly windy which despite a beautiful blue sky and epic clouds made me exhausted.
After a harrowing late night very drowsy high-speed approach on I-25 at the Spear exit (site I’m told of a 100 car pile-up this winter) I arrived ready to sleep for two days. I was the house guest of old Boulder friend and design partner Lovedy in the Highlands district. Her modern house has become a museum and seems always to be changing. Thanks, Lovedy. Really needed the peace and quiet to recharge.
Sorry I couldn’t see more Denver friends.
We did a little cooking, a little dancing. Got myself back in shape to head north, and into that evil word… SNOW.
After breakfast Rose Marie and I set out to see the real Santa Fe as only a long time local could muster. Of course, the city focuses on art and culture although with limited time it takes a pro to navigate a compact agenda. Here the Museum of Indian Arts with several other museums stand on a hill overlooking the city. I would have liked to spend more time here. An incredible complex but windy.
Downtown offers one of the oldest public squares in America. King Philip of Spain circa 1573 decreed the city be laid out on a central plaza. On the north side is the oldest building — the Palace of Governors –built in 1609. Today only native craftspeople are allowed to show their wares under the portico. Everyone else is across the street in the park.
On the East side of the square is the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi circa 1869. A small chapel inside includes relics from 1626.
The griding of the streets off the central plaza offers charming alleys, historic buildings, and private gardens behind walls. One of the oldest complexes includes a wonderful inner courtyard in bloom and even a chocolate store with a creative entrance. I was told private balls took place on the balconies of the hacienda originally owned by the most powerful family in town. What were the women’s dresses like? Were the soldiers in uniform? Imagine it in moonlight.
Down an alley and around a corner you’ll find a simple doorway marked 109. It was the top secret Santa Fe headquarters of the Los Alamos Project. There’s a fascinating book about this place. Imagine the karma crossing this threshold. I sat on the steps a minute and thought about the magnitude of the decisions made here.
Of course, Santa Fe’s art scene is intense and immense. I have never seen such a number of galleries concentrated in one town; to try and do them all would be exhausting and probably impossible. We decided to start with a few contemporary galleries in the Site Santa Fe area. These former warehouses are now as sophisticated as any gallery in Soho or Zurich. Amazing natural light from huge skylights flooded the rooms. As for content, well, nothing spectacular. The director was trying to interest me in the art and I was more interested in the architecture of the building.
Lunch at the community table at Pasqual’s was a scene but delicious.
Then we ambled over to the ancient Santa Fe hotel La Fonda to get up to the bell tower — now an outdoor bar — to put our feet up and see the view. Unfortunately it wasn’t actually open yet for the season but it didn’t stop us. We snuck upstairs surveyed the terrace.
And so a really wonderful day with my old friend Rose Marie ended in the Tesuque Valley just north of town — up near the Opera House — on property where a close friend that originally brought us together was raised. I had heard about it for years from him and wanted to see the actual site. It’s called the Rancho Encantado — literally the ranch of enchantment — now a luxury Four Seasons hotel.
Joe’s aunt Betty Eagan — something of the Barbara Stanwyck of her day — originally created a 60 acre dude ranch for the hollywood legends of the moment — Jimmy Stewart, Maria Callas, and just about everybody else. I’m told they would sit around the bar and bet on the time the sunset would hit the horizon. Robert Redford boarded his horses on the ranch. Betty was both the ultimate cowgirl and socialite and also the first female fire chief in America, I learn.
Joe said she used to wear a holster and shoot rattlesnakes to startle the guests — though Rose Marie who knew her said she didn’t remember such incidents! Who knows? In any case, nice to finally see it in person. It is amazing. And what a place to grow up.
So ending Santa Fe, for me, really involved the sky. Sunsets here are sublime and I wasn’t disappointed. With all the art, and all the color, and all the pomp this town manifests, the most beautiful thing is the most simple: every night another show of unpredictable magnitude. Thank you Joe and Rose Marie. Special people in a special place.
Next stop Denver.
Decision made. Santa Fe, Denver, Cheyenne. I took off from Silver City and worked my way up past the copper mines on State Route 152 cutting over the Mimbres Mountains on a road barely wide enough for a car much less a truck. Beautiful scenery and a dramatic lookout at the top. A virtual bob sled run of switchbacks thankfully void of autos on the way down to the highway.
Here’s where the fun started. Wind. Little did I know the last week of March is the windiest time of the year in New Mexico. Shortly after getting on I-25 North it started getting gnarly. I’m used to wind, of course, after living in Colorado for several years, but this freight train style cross wind would throw the car into spasms. Outside of Albuquerque it was a white out and I passed several accidents. Driving a taller SUV only made it worse. I can see why every other vehicle on the highway is a wide flat pickup truck.
In any case, finally made it to Santa Fe in seven hours and not five.
Old friend Rose Marie charmed me with her stories of being a fifth generation Santa Fe resident. Her adobe home and amazing views were a great re-introduction to the city. We sat up late around the kitchen table until it was time to call it a night.
Time to sleep and because of the even higher winds approaching a rest day is planned to see Santa Fe’s immense art scene. Glad to be in safe shelter tonight with a special old soul friend.
After an incredible haul across I-10 and the infinite vastness of the Texan western landscape I plunged into El Paso dead tired (in heavy traffic no less) and drove by moonlight to the southern New Mexico town of Silver City — another couple of hours. I don’t know about you, but driving dead tired at night is not my idea of a good time. About the best you can do is get behind a truck and follow it at a safe distance to keep from losing your marbles or worse. Now add fifty miles of two lane head on traffic. Patient friends Brian and Dennis kept a candle burning. I think it was the longest day of driving in my life.
Silver City is a charming, authentic New Mexican mining town — now proud bohemian oasis — with an interesting history. The oldest remaining house of the original main street, and I say remaining as it sits creek-front and once almost totally washed away by a massive flood. Insert vision in your brain of Main Street being washed away probably some Spring day except this house… Who was in the house the day/night of the flood? Were they trapped on the roof while watching the town sweep down the river? Was a woman waving at her drowning husband? Bet this place has some spirits.
Silver City has a fun dusty downtown without pretense; i.e. no Starbucks or Subway shops in sight. It does have some friendly shopkeepers thankful to have you walk in the door and feels like a real mining town — one not designed for tourists as lots of New Mexico population zones seem to be.
Loved great downtown food co-op. The old men were hanging at the barbershop where I decided to get clipped. People greeted me in passing. One shopkeeper at the resale annex knew more about Ayn Rand then Ayn Rand.
A recent renewal project just re-lit the main street cinema. It reminds me of “The Last Picture Show”– just insert a dust storm. Cybil Shephard was nowhere to be found.
If you wind up there by chance and find yourself hungry — land at the Tres Rosat Cafe — proudly owned by this very type A dude called King and his band of foodies. The menu was awesome and my friends wanted to hang both at lunch and dinner as did many other locals so I guess we went “insane at the Tres Rosat Cafe” to coin a phrase. King loves his food and his clients love him so it’s a match made in heaven and all stuck out in a New Mexican mining town and not in Soho. We sampled his newest creations and heard his stories of a recent New Orleans food escapade with his wife which involved alcohol.
I loved this local lady at dinner who just wrote a book about exploring Tibetan monasteries post Chinese invasion. Can wait to read it. Now if I can just figure out her name.
I left with profound thanks for the hospitality of old friends and their house of many clocks that all had different times; yes, it was noisy. They are leaving shortly to retire to Ecuador so the local antique stores will be getting quite a consignment. They will be missed in this interesting town.
So now I have an interesting decision whether to shoot west into Arizona and California and explore Los Angeles traffic and high gas prices or allow the inner magnetism of beautiful New Mexico to take me to Santa Fe and northward. New Mexico is such a powerfully spiritual place. Even the dust has a soul. And there is a lot of dust.
Will sleep on that one.