Monday, August 18, 2008

Mark's Favorite Out-West Memories I

Hi! Mark here. These are my favorite memories of the trip. Nate had a Pentecostal-style, tongues of fire experience in western Wyoming...

No, no, no...It was Annie blowing her top that was memorable...

Actually, it was a refinery in the desert. It got us wondering why these things are designed to waste so much fuel, shooting flames up a smokestack all day. Any ideas, Fred or Rocky?



I don't know why, but my eyes are always drawn to the odd. A Flanery O'Conner tendency. Like this weird auto salvage lot in the middle of absolute nowhere along I-80 in the deserts of western Wyoming. What on earth is it doing here? (I have lots more photos of it in case anyone wants to see more!)


And here's Cathy, trying to blend, chameleon-style into the salt flats of northern Utah. Amazing physical feature. So pure white that it hurts your eyes, unrolling for miles. And we thought Illinois was flat!

For those of you wondering how we made such great time on our big leaps...say from Joliet to Laramie Wyoming, or from Bakersfield in S. Cal to right by Yellowstone in a day...here's our secret. Drive very fast. It's not so hard as it sounds. There was often little traffic, and the highways were often flat and straight. And Uncle Sam was urging us to make haste...


And we all know the ironclad "speed limit plus 9" rule...

I was charmed by a Catholic church, St. Mary's of the Mountains, I think, built in Virginia City during its boom days in the 1880s. It's still a functioning parish, but with a fraction of it's original membership. The exterior was nothing to write home about, but the interior was lovely, with heavy beams intricately carved into fluted columns and archways. The stained glass windows filled the space with a rich light. My flash did not catch the look very well. And they sold their own wine in the basement to support renovations...of course, we did our part...

I never really got what the big deal was about Lake Tahoe...would not have driven half an hour out of our way to see it. A lake. How nice. I've seen Minnesota. But as matters transpired, our directest path from Virginia City to San Fran took us right past it (and for you history buffs, by the Donner Pass too). What made it wonderful to me was the contrast with the parched, rocky landscape we had just left. It is a high mountain lake, an oasis for the eyes. It is a field of brilliant blue surrounded by emerald pines. It was our first sign of how varied the landscapes of California are.
San Francisco. We stayed here longer than anywhere. Along with New Orleans, it is my favorite American city. It's designed for walking, with brilliant flowers, interesting, distinctive architecture, an old Spanish mission, vibrant ethnic neighborhoods, great food, art, universities, and museums. It has interesting, sometimes off-beat sites to visit. What is more, it sits right next to the bay, the ocean and Muir Woods, a large stand of redwood trees. What a city. Most American cities are interchangeable. They could be anywhere. Not San Fran. My favorite memory from this trip: Annie, Brennan, and Nate as we drove up and down the hills just before we left the city. Those impossibly near-vertical hills that make you fear that your car will flip over as you drive up, and have you praying about your brakes as you go down. The kids made roller-coaster "ticka-ticka-ticka..." sounds as we ascended and hollered "wheeeeeeeee!" and waved their arms as we descended. (With Nate urging me "Go faster! Go faster!") That's a memory.
We need to register for the Chicago Polar Bear Club. Kids seem to be immune to cold when there is any chance of playing in the ocean. This is the beach at Carmel by the Sea, California. We intended merely to stop for just long enough to eat lunch and then go exploring the world class aquarium there. First there were the "squirrels of unusual size" that descended upon us with the boldness of mosquitoes to mooch our lunch. (See Annie's post for a kid-version of the experience.) Then, instead of just dipping a toe into the near-frozen ocean, the kids first waded in, then begged for swimsuits. They chose a frigid bath over the aquarium. It was fun to watch them romping, fleeing big waves, getting tumbled over, and emerging shrieking with glee. They were a cute core of watery abandonment that absorbed other kids with the nerve to get in. (Not one adult on the beach did more than stick a toe in the water.) Then Annie got out and dug a sand pit big enough to pass for a small jacuzzi. The boys stayed in until we hauled them away so we could visit the gorgeous old Spanish mission in Carmel. It was a day of changed plans. But a nice break in a strenuous-paced trip.

4 comments:

Lorrie and Fred said...

Great post, Mark! Thanks for capturing your experiences for our vicarious pleasure! The Schultz kids have mugging down pat, for our entertainment as well as theirs, and of course their smitten parents. An enjoyable read! I remember San Francisco as a six year old who traveled from Connecticut in a family road trip. It is spectacular;I need to go back. I loved the picturesque hills, but I was a little concerned about our car's ability to handle those steep descents! And I'm still disappointed that the Golden Gate bridge isn't actually golden!

John said...

that junk car yard in the desert looks like it should be the setting of the next Coen brothers movie.
I love these pictures, they make me want to road trip!!!

teresa anthony said...

Great post, Mark. I loved all the aspects of the trip you shared about, but the reference to the "Rodents of Unusual Size" was the funniest.

spanish mission archi said...

You are entirely too generous. This was such a sweet and thoughtful post



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