Tales from the Road – SOLITUDE, SNAKES, AND THE SEARCH FOR GOD AND SCRAMBLED EGGS

campground

Salmon Lake Primitive Campground, Rogerson, Idaho

This is a typical view from a ‘primitive’ campground on Salmon Creek Lake, just outside the tiny, mostly abandoned crossroads town of Rogerson, Southern Idaho, a very lonely place.

Primitive campgrounds are very spare– sometimes not even a level parking pad, usually a common water spigot and pit toilet.  It never has electric.  For these reasons, you won’t find the herds of  bus-sized RVs that populate average brightly-lit commercial campgrounds that require hookups for electric, water, and sewer, as well as 75 ft. long paved pads that don’t require backing up.  Luxury and primitive don’t mix.  I prefer primitive.

Road to Salmon Lake Primitive Campground– kind of quiet.

Because of the quiet, primitive campgrounds generally have wildlife.  Small groups of deer are common, so are foxes, coyotes, and raccoons.  I stepped on my first snake in the West here. It was a little rattler, maybe a foot long. I jumped 2 ft in the air, and it scurried away.

I didn’t worry about it, but friends told me young snakes are more dangerous, because they shoot more venom when they bite.  It made me watch my step very carefully for the rest of the trip.   The biggest commotion was swallows diving and soaring on the shore. A pair of robins fussed at me, because their nests were under the picnic table shelter.

I didn’t see a structure or street light for at least 20 miles.  The only sounds were the wind and the birds. Nearing sunset, the temperature dropped into the 60s. Unbelievable clean air. Time to put on a jacket and contemplate the universe.

There was not a cloud in the sky, very new moon– my best chance yet on the trip to see stars. I woke up at about 3:3o AM and stepped outside. It was astonishing.

I’d never seen the entire Milky Way before.  It etched a path from horizon to horizon.  It looked like a consciously built, detailed structure, and was actually unsettling, like I was in a cage, a tiny, forgotten thing in the universe.  And this was still just a small portion of the Milky Way.

The earth feels so insignificant under that sky.  More insignificant are it’s petty squabbles, which  are the product of an  ”intelligent” species that has evolved to live in the delusion that it is important under this staggering sky.

 Human civilization has been around for 10,000 years.  It developed the ability to destroy itself, and most living things less than 100 years ago.  Difficult to conceive how it will sustain in this 5 billion year old universe.  With those disturbing thoughts, I went back to sleep in the comfy van.

In the morning, after a walk through the scrub,  I headed out for more Idaho.
In Rogerson, there was a convenience store with gas pumps and little diner, so I stopped in for breakfast.  I had very nice chats with the proprietor/cook and a local resident who had traveled much of the world,  but returned here for the peace and quiet.  This was the only business for 50 miles in either direction, so there you go.  The proprietor gave me a book about the spirituality of travel– she had traveled much.

Rogerson Cafe, during breakfast rush. Plenty of time to chat.

As usual, the goodbyes were brief.  I knew we were just passing through, and didn’t even bother giving each other our names.  No point.  Just living in the moment, which is a wonderful thing about living on the road.

Cafe breakfast– local bacon and egg. Homemade sour dough toast. The best.

Tales from the Road – ANOTHER THING TO WORRY ABOUT

Tales from the Road – FINAL TRIP MAP DAVIDSON TO DENVER

Nights on the road:

1 Tues 5/23
Davidson, NC-
Lebannon, TN Cedars of Lebanon SP

2 Wed 5/24
Mussel Shoals, AL
Belden, MS Deer Run Eagle Ridge Trace State Park

3 Thu 5/25
Clarksdale, MS Natchez, MS NATCHEZ State Park

4 Fri5/26
L’Acadie Inn &RV Park  Eunice, LA

5 Sat 5/27
Eunice, LA L’Acadie Inn

6 Sun 5/28
Denton, Texas Fairmont Suites Hotel
Outside Dallas; Parks way too hot for camping

7 Mon 5/29
Goodlett, Texas Old Cotton Gin RV Park

8  Tu 5/30
Amarillo, TX La Quinta Hotel
Instead of Capulet and Paulo Duro State Parks-
too hot, crowded, and attacking ants!

9 Wed 5/31
Raton, NM Sugarite Canyon SP

10 Thur 6/1
Trinidad, CO  Trinidad Lake SP

11 Fri 6/2 Louisville, CO

12 Sa 6/3 Louisville, CO

13 Su 6/4
Louisville, CO
AM – grocery supplies – Alfalfa’s
PM – drive to Glenwood Springs, CO

Tales from the Road – PINE RIDGE LAKOTA SIOUX RESERVATION

 

Drove today from the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux Reservation, via the Bandlands Nat. Park. My van parked for the evening in a field behind a Lakota-owned restaurant and motel in the middle of the reservation.

Prairie thunderstorm raging outside. I’m on high ground, but a ranger today said yesterday, several trucks were blown over in the Interstate. Not much wind. The photo below is of a ruined building is in the ghost town (real) of Scenic, SD., a few miles from the reservation border.

Alcohol is forbidden on the reservation, so little places like this can still be found in a few places near the reservation border– luring natives over for just one little drinkie. White Clay Nebraska, just over the SD line is a thorn in the side of the reservation, but the tribal government can do nothing.  Nebraska enjoys substantial tax revenue from sales to native-Americans. When implored to close that store. the Nebraska legislature says, no… ‘it’s a free country- don’t tell us what to do!’

US history is filled with hatred of the native populations.  Many immigrants thought the native peoples were savages and vermin that needed total extermination to allow Christian European theft, exploitation, and ultimately destruction of the pristine lands where natives had lived  and prospered 6,000 years– without destroying anything.  There are signs of friction, between white immigrants and natives,  still today.  But all the natives I met were friendly, helpful, open and easy-going.

I’d like to go back.  And they asked me to return.

 

Tales from the Road – SINGLE MEN ON THE ROAD

Spent a few hours chatting with these guys at a campground outside Trinidad, CO, a small hurting city with the odd reputation in the 1960s as the Sex Change Capital of the world– yep, Google it.  Trinidad hangs on as an old mining town, but not sure if a new coffee shop can make it the tourist draw many small towns hope they will save them in the 21st Century people drain into suburbia.

These were single guys on long motorcycle trips– not stopping for Trinidad’s medical clinics. They weren’t travelling together, just happened to land, like me, in the same place at the same time.

You see many of them on the road.  They are very friendly, curious, humble, and good at conversation– willing to tell you their whole stories, if you have the time.

They have interesting stories about why they’re on the road, and their  love of unplanned travel. Most bikers don’t seem to have a travel plan, stopping where it’s interesting, then moving to an accidental spot on the map.  They ride bikes because ‘they’re crazy’ –their answer to why? One was a John Waters fan. I had some copies of LOW BUDGET HELL with me, and gave him one for helping solve a camper van problem.

Before hitting the road, he was a massage therapist at a ritzy spa in Taos.  He was a hobby  a car mechanic who loved weird vehicles like the Roadtrek. The other guy was a ship captain in the Caribbean, but also a licensed mechanical engineer. Both had recently made a split-second decision to buy a big bike, sleeping bag and go figure out Amerika.

Both had college degrees, but were not content to live the conformist lifestyle of suburbia or marriage.  They were both helping their widowed mothers navigate old age, because they were the only ones who had the time.  This trip was a 2-3 break from that– to see how they liked bike/camping in the national parks.  

They’re definitely not the average guy behind the counter or selling you something on the phone.  They’re chasing a red dragon.  Cool dudes.

Spiffed up street in Trinidad, CO with the anchor coffee shop that local movers & shakers hope will attract tourists off the Intersate.

 

Tales from The Road – DEATH OF THE COWGIRL CAFE

Channing Texas  pop. near zero-  businesses O

I’d traveled 2,400 miles of back-roads through the South in the past 12 days, and passed through dozens of small towns. They were in bad shape– most business closed, bushes growing through the sidewalks, homes with collapsed roofs, “gas stations” with no structure but a single rusted pump in an weedy lot.
Many once-thriving rural ‘towns’ are sad monuments to  the dashed dreams of earnest entrepreneurs  Looks like most people have moved to suburbs of Denver, Dallas, New Orleans, Atlanta, Charlotte…
The devastation is a sad portrait of America, and the bitterness of those left behind is understandable in a way that isn’t covered much in the news. This cute/clever sign for THE COWGIRL CAFE looked pretty new, and seeing it from a distance, I was hoping to get  a nice down-home lunch there, after driving 3 hours on desolate Texas Highway 87 out of Amarillo.  It had been a voyage of dry ranches and as string of abandoned small towns.  To my disappointment,  it had been closed/abandoned for many months– joining Channing’s dozen other small businesses in oblivion. 

 

Tales from The Road – GOODLETT, TEXAS THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

Goodlett, Texas (pop. 138) is about 3 1/2 hrs. Northwest of Dallas on Hwy 287, 175 miles from the nearest Interstate and five hours from Amarillo, the closest town of more than200 people. The capitol of the middle of nowhere. I liked it.

Had a small shade tree, and little store, laundromat, and shower. It also had a very cool swimming pool! Only 3 other campers the night I was there, and I had the pool to myself.

Noticed a big bird (roadrunner?) hopping toward my glasses, that I left on the side. I swam over to grab them, which made the bird hop faster. I snatched them a fraction of a second before the bird, and it flew away.

Feeling ‘safe’ I put them down and continued swimming. But birdie returned and started moving in. I raced and once again won. Lesson learned. I put them on and doggie paddled so I could keep an eye on the thieving varmint. Shifty, outlaw Texans!

This RV park is for sale, if you’re looking to get away from it all. The lady who owned it grew up in the town. She married a local fella and had 5 daughters. When they went off, she went to college and earned a PhD in cotton genetics. So, living in and setting a business in an old cotton gin in Goodlett.

She is a true cotton lover who danced to her own drummer.

This is a display at an ‘antique’ store just outside Goodlett. I would have bought one, if someone had been around, but in the 30 minutes I strolled around, not a soul to be seen.  Being Texas, I didn’t want to tempt fate by slipping one in the van, and sneaking out of town.  They are popular lawn ornament in some places in the West.

Tales from the Road – CAMPFIRE AT NIGHT

Tales from the Road – VAGABOND COUPLE IN TWINS FALLS, IDAHO

Met these vagabonds today at the Love’s in Twins Falls, Idaho just off I-84. They were on their way to Vermont for a cool summer and people. They made Christmas Wreaths for a few months in the fall, and made enough money to get through the year.

They hitchiked, or frequently strangers offered them rides. One person even took them to the airport and bought them tickets. They felt sorry for people who yelled ‘get a job’ to them, since they thought they were miserable people looking to vent their anger and sorrows. They were happy to receive it, and just smiled back.

The couple were very calm, happy to talk and answer questions. A gypsy lifestyle worked for them, at least for a while. They were curious, and wanted to learn about American the Beautiful, and they felt the vagabond lifestyle was an important part of America. Pretty brave, considering how people today have closed their minds, hoping above all to keep safe, by disappearing into the crowd.

Tales from the Road – NATURAL LANDSCAPES OF THE WEST

I love the natural landscapes of the West. This eroded hill in Nevada is just outside Winnemucca. The lighting and sculpting of nature is so astonishing– especially when you turn a corner, and see things like this. Which happens every 5 minutes. The next shot shows the variations in one glance, in Craters of the Moon National Park-, Idaho. The closest rocks are from a recent, 65,000 old volcanic eruption in. The lakes in the desert, are just there, instead of elsewhere. This spot is on the Emigrant Trail from the 1850s– because there WAS water, and an easier pass through the mountains. But note the snow capped peaks in the very distant– still around on June 23, and a warning of what was to come.

 

 

The final 2 shots show mankind’s mark on the beautiful West a little further down the road on the outskirts of Winnemuca. Just as mind-boggling, about human progress.