In the Museum of your Last Day

pepper b:w

There is a coat on a coat hook in a hall.  Work gloves in the pockets, pliers and bent nails.

There is a case of Quaker State for the Ford.  Two cans of spray paint in a crisp brown bag.

A mug on the book by the hifi.  A disk that starts on its own:  Boccherini.

There is a dent in the soap the shape of your thumb.  A swirl in the glass when it fogs.

And a gray hair that twines through the tines of a little black comb.

There is a watch laid smooth on a wallet.  And pairs of your shoes everywhere.

A phone no one answers.  A note that says Friday.  Your voice on the tape talking softly.

— Patrick Phillips  “In the Museum of Your Last Day” 2004

How the Trees on Dark Summer Nights Turn into a Dark River

Summer Triangle Thru Trees

How you can never reach it, no matter how hard you try

walking as fast as you can, but getting nowhere,

arms and legs pumping, sweat drizzling in rivulets;

each year, a little slower, more creaks and aches, less breath.

Ah, but these soft nights, air like a warm bath, the dusky wings

of bats careening crazily overhead, and you’d think the road

goes on forever.  Apollinaire wrote, “What isn’t given to love

is so much wasted,” and I wonder what I haven’t given yet.

A thin comma moon rises orange, a skinny slice of melon,

so delicious I could drown in its sweetness.  Or eat the whole thing,

down to the rind.  Always, this hunger for more.

— Barbara Crooker   “More” 2010

Judgmental Cities

The new reader-driven Judgmental City maps are interesting — if not for content then creativity — definitely made by people with time on their hands.  Seems it was a toss-up choosing the “most judgmental city” but readers favored Orange County over Los Angeles though the smaller cities are the most specific.  Wonder if there’s a tourist atlas?  Click maps to enlarge.

Judgemental NYC Map

Judgemental Orange County

Judgemental Los Angeles

Judgemental San Fran

Judgmental Dayton, OH


tumblr_n44xibYZGc1s4df8ko1_1280Is there an optimist version??



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


Mile 4349

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.

Portland OR

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…



Mile 3638

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.

Mile 3353


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.



Mile 2867

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.

Mile 2776

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.

Mile 2746

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.

IMG_0227 IMG_0229 IMG_0231 IMG_0237 IMG_0238

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.