December 14, 2010

Leaving Vegas, we began “The Grand Circle Tour”, as 1920s Union Pacific marketers once called the line that brought travelers through Zion, Bryce and the North Rim of Grand Canyon.  Lacking both the intricate beauty of Bryce and the sweeping, oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-die shock of Grand Canyon, Zion is the least memorable of the three.  That doesn’t mean it’s not memorable.  Or not amazing.  Just not as.  A good place to start.

We took a long hike.  The first of many.  Here’s Selby walking up a hill:

The top:

I thought about stealing this marker but forgot my pickax.  Do they increase the fine with inflation?

The view:

Back at the bottom, tired, dehydrated and in need of electrolytes, we met some hip, road-tripping Portland chicks (or was it Seattle?  Same shit.) who were toting a couple lion heads around the country, photographing what they saw.  They saw us:

The weeping rock:

Rain falls on the top of the mountain.  It soaks into the porous sandstone.  Over hundreds of years, it seeps down to the base of the rock, and drips out.  Like rain or tears.  Don’t drink it.  Imagine the video turned this way:

A fawn suckling at our campsite:

The next morning, a sunrise:




December 10, 2010

I regret to report that Vegas is no longer about suits and dice-kissing ladies.  Though Selby and I tried to bring that style back:

As you can see, America’s Best Value Inn is a glamorous, glamorous place.  The other hotels (the ones with casinos) were mostly patronized by three-foot-daiquiri-toting, NASCAR-shirted flip-floppers.  Not that there’s anything wrong with flip flops.  The streets are uncomfortably crowded.  Imagine Time Square: The Theme Park staffed mainly by whistling men snapping prostitute fliers.  $37 dollars…really??

I miss New York:

WHAT?! GEYSER PORN! VIDEO!!! aka Yellowstone, pt. 3

December 1, 2010

Photographs are all well and good, but they’re quite still and don’t lend themselves to moving things.  In Yellowstone, the ground moves:

Video is better:


Yellowstone, pt. 2

December 1, 2010

The Boiling River flows through Yellowstone.  You can’t touch it: it’s boiling.  Eventually, it flows into a normal, cold river.  Where they meet, they form something of a jacuzzi river.  I paddled about for an hour or so.  Some eddies are scalding hot while others are frigid.  Delightful, really.  To get there, you’ve got to head to the north edge of the park:

And of course hop between states on your way.

Yellowstone has a canyon, too.  The Yellowstone Grand Canyon.  Not as impressive as the real Grand Canyon.  But not bad:

Now you get the bit about yellow stones.  Me:

I met a lady at my camp who offered me some newspaper to help kindle a fire.  I thanked her for her kindness.  She then offered to dig out her ax so I could cut the logs I had carried from a dry part of the camp.  I prefer the smash-into-concrete-until-they-splinter method.  I declined her offer but thanked her again for being so hospitable.  She said, “Of course!  This is the West!”  As if only the West is hospitable.  Would no Vermonter share their newspaper in a campground? Would no New Yorker point a lost Montanan to the train?  I hate that shit.

Yellowstone, pt. 1

December 1, 2010

I was told that there is a point somewhere in Yellowstone National Park that is farther away from civilization than any other point in the lower 48.  Granted, this most-distant point is only something like 30 miles from the nearest town.  But still.  It’s a barren place.

And an otherworldly one.  There are more geysers and hot springs in Yellowstone than in the rest of the world combined.  The whole place is little more than a thin crust atop a massive volcano.  Fields of thermophilic bacteria, which thrive off the extreme heat produced by the volcano, surround the geysers.  These are crossed by wooden boardwalks and marked by signs warning that the earth may have shifted since the maps were published.  Don’t walk off the trail.  Don’t trust the maps.

Here, buffalo prints wander through a bacteria colony:

Here, mud boils in what’s called a “Paint Pot”:

And plenty of steam too:

The Long-Promised Buffalo

November 30, 2010

Yellowstone Traffic Jam:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo:




November 27, 2010

I slept in my car in the woods surrounding Priest Lake, Idaho.  I had intended to stay at a friend’s cabin, but the plan collapsed.  I woke up before the sun rose and boiled water for coffee on a camp stove I bought in Seattle.  Ate an apple.  Walked down to the lake to see the sun.  Then drove east to Bozeman, MT.

The Great Northwest is extremely rural.  The towns have their churches and auto-repair shops and little else.  So one is surprised by the omnipresent espresso stands.  At nearly every gas station sits a small hut, where men in pick-up trucks stop to order lattes.  Not the drip-coffee rurality I knew growing up.  Seattle creep.  Strange.

Portland, Seattle

November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving resolution: updates this blog.

Portland was beflowered houses, bearded folk and microbreweries.  Kind of like the Shire. I worked on a gay rights campaign and raised over $500 a day. Not bad.  Portland boasts the most microbreweries per capita, the most strip clubs per capita, and the “largest independent book store west of the Mississippi.” They also quote more statistics about their city (per capita, at least) than anywhere else. I caught the swifts. Thanks Michael.  Thanks Kara.

In Seattle, I ate vegan cupcakes.  I ate vegan Mac and cheese.  I ate vegan chili dogs.  I worked to preserve Mt. Rainier and I shopped at REI.  I drank Americanos.  Then my car got towed.  Fuck Seattle.  Thanks Katrina.

And then, for the first time in a long time, I turned East.

Election Reflection

November 3, 2010

My, have I fallen off.  I’m not anywhere near Portland.  I’m in New Orleans and will be for some time.  I’ll get back on here and catch y’all up on my wanderings (quick preview: I SAW BUFFALO), but for now I’d like to do an election post.

Now, there’s been plenty of noise out on the nets about the thing.  Nate Silver liveblogged the night.  Jon Chait has some good words on why the Dems went down.  Marc Ambinder gives us a taste of what’s to come.  And then of course there is every other news site out there: the chatter is endless.

But I noticed one tack that none of the pundits have taken.  It’s a time-tested method of analysis dating at least as far back as the first election covered by the New York Times in the 1850s.  Basically, you take election-relevant words, convert the words to numbers (using that oh-so-scientific cipher in which A = 1, B = 2, etc) then look for meaningful overlaps between the resulting numbers.  That 1850s New York Times author discovered that “Zachary Taylor” and “will be president” each add up to 173, and so it was.

Now, what can we learn by analyzing 2010 as they did in 1850? Lots of bad news for the Dems.  This is the year where the “GOP” (38) equals “Change” (38).  Where the ghosts of Republicans past come back to haunt: “Richard Nixon” (137) equals “Washington DC” (137), “Ronald Reagan” (110) equals “President” (110) and “Bush” (50) equals “America” (50).  The year when the “Grand Ol Party” (1511) throws a “Revolution (151) and when “New York” (111) falls into “deep sadness” (111).

Man, “Barack Obama” (68) must have gone out and got “drunk” (68) last night.  The people have spoken: not only are the “Democrats” (98)  “partisan” (98), they’re also “assholes” (98).  Speaking of “partisan assholes” (196), what about that “Christine O’Donnell” (196)?  Her “unamerican” (99) patron saint “Sarah Palin” (99) didn’t do so hot last night.  Not only did the Palin-endorsee go down in Delaware, but also in West Virginia, Alaska and Nevada, against the unpopular Harry Reid.  Some might call her “hopeless” (99).  Though really, “Palin” (52) is the “Devil” (52).  Perhaps these “major losses” (146) are “bittersweet” (146) after all.

And more good news.  The party of “Lincoln” (79), as the Republicans dubiously claim to be, is going to have to look for a new moniker.  The man is a “Democrat” (79).

So the question remains.  Is “Democracy” (87) to be built by the “Clinton”(87)-“Drunken”(87)-“Artist”(87)-“Schumer”(87) elites or the “Rand Paul”(87)-“Dick Cheney”(87) freakazoids? Maybe the Luke “Skywalker” (125) of political prognostication “Nate Silver” (125) can tell us.  Personally, I say “elites” (70) are “better” (70).

The Road North

September 20, 2010

I woke up at 5 AM in the dark.  Packed my camp and drove up to a turn-out to catch a sunrise.  Ate a peanut butter sandwich and drank an energy drink.  The sunrise was still 50 minutes off.  I left.  Later, another turn-off:

I had eleven hours of driving before I reached Crater Lake.  The drive reminded me a lot of my tour through west Texas.  I saw mystical places:

And hilarious towns:

And right-wing nuttery:

And a motherfucking bald eagle:


Around 5 pm, I reached Crater Lake:

A better view, kind of:

The campground was just as wet.  Hardly anyone else was staying at it.  But I was feeling bold.  And I own rain pants.  So in a rush of rugged enthusiasm, I set up my tent on the highest ground I could find.  I then set to work collecting the driest wood around.  I found a few logs hidden beneath picnic tables left by previous campers.  I found a tree protecting a cache of pine needles.  And I pulled the Yosemite newspaper out of my car.  I then hung a tarp over one of the few non-submerged firepits in the camp.  I was never a boyscout, but  I did camp a lot growing up, and I pride myself in my fire-starting skills.  My first attempt was the strongest.  It burned for 15 minutes or so.  But the large pieces never caught: it had been raining for two days there and there was just too much moisture.  And now I was out of small twigs.  Still I pushed.  I tore more paper.  Threw on a handful of pine needles.  Burned threw a box of matches.  Grabbed more from the car.  Each subsequent flame lasted for less and less time.  If at first you don’t succeed try, try again until you’re bitter and cold and frustrated and wet and it’s dark and you’re still 5 hours from Portland.  The forecast had 100% chance of rain the next day.  I was done.  I tore down the tarp, collapsed my tent, and threw it all in a pile in the back seat of my car.  I changed my socks.  I then screeched out of the campground, probably terrifying the single group of campers remaining.


16 hours of driving that day. I listened to a This American Life episode on the road about some Iraqi young men living with daily bomb blasts and dying children.  I felt bad for feeling bad about my struggles.  Fortunately, I’m friends with a law student at Lewis & Clark, and she was up studying when I got into town at 1:30.  We split some beers.  Then I curled up on her couch, with warm blankets and cats, and fell asleep.