Getting to New Yawk
So we drove from Idaho to The East. We’re children of The West and other than a few days of rather ordinary tourism in D.C, neither of us had any prior experience with cultures not our own. (The Midwest doesn’t much count. They are just Westerners who got stuck in farm country. Different, but not strange). We’d heard tales of the Very Different environment and habits of The East, were looking forward to experiencing some for ourselves, and were not disappointed. Our visit with the mad scientist went well, was immensely informative* and well worth the long trip. My cousin in Cincinnati, having learned of our proximity, suggested we show up at their house on Saturday for their once a year party (A beer fest that eventually developed into a sort of reverse AA meeting, the drunken denizens taking turns standing at a podium and telling stories about how much drinking beer has improved their lives). The trip to the lab took place on a Tuesday, and showing up at the party place a day or two early would only have resulted in us being put to work for the party prep, so we had a day or two to kill.
“Let’s go into The City!”. ‘k. We needed a plan. Having lived on Earth, we’d heard rumors of the conditions in Manhattan, so taking our very expensive car there was obviously out of the question. The plan we developed was to take the train in, catch a show and spend the night, take the train out the next day. Roomkey.com said the cheap rooms push $300. no’k . Several decades ago when we’d vacationed to the Smithsonian we did it on the cheap and stayed in a youth hostel. At the time, separate dorms for girls and boys was a bit of a drag since we were in our 20’s, but now we’re in our 50’s and don’t even bother to zip our sleeping bags together every night. So I checked for hostels. Bingo! $70 a night for a room with a twin bed, so we could be together without all that mood-killing fussing with the zipper! And $70 is within our budget. So now … reviews: “Room is only 6 inches wider than the bed, but what do you expect”. ‘k. “No roof, so you can hear everything in every other room and the shared bathroom down the hall, but can’t beat the price” …..‘k.…”I stay here every time I come to the city because I can’t afford anything else. There are literally thousands of bedbugs, but I don’t get any reaction from them, unlike some of my friends, so I don’t mind”. *HARHK* DAYTRIP! HOW ABOUT A DAYTRIP INSTEAD? Skip the broadway show, it’s likely too expensive anyway. New plan: train in the morning, spend the day, train back the same evening.
Trouble is, we’d been warned about the pricey and unsafe parking of The East, and were hesitant to leave the very expensive car at the train station in New Jersey. We were staying 3.5 miles away from the station in Cheesequake State Park, a very nice place in the midst of the U.S.’s most population dense state, and very reasonable at $21 a night. Plus it turns into a gated community at 9 PM (So don’t forget the code if you go out to dinner). Laura and I are not averse at all to a 3.5 mile walk to the train station and back, but did begrudge the 50 minutes it would take us since we wanted to maximize the time we got to spend in NYC. So we unfolded the bicycles in the morning and quickly pedaled over, only to discover that SOME ONE of the two of us had forgotten the bicycle locks, and I won’t tell you which of us it was since it would embarrass me if you knew. But they are commuter bikes and we figured it would be handy and faster to tour Manhattan on bikes anyway. Maybe it was a blessing.
Fold the bikes, get on the train. $52 round trip for the pair of us. Quite a lot of consternation to figure out which train to get on, except it turned out there’s only one destination for all of them, New York Penn Station. OK, good.
Next Blog: Our Day On the Island of Manhattan
* Lawrenceville Plasma Physics is researching an alternative means of energy production with the ultimate goal of replacing electricity produced from fossil fuels. The average American uses 7 times more electricity than the average person in rest of the world (See “List of countries by electricity consumption” on Google). If there is any hope of bringing third world standards of living up to first world levels in a sustainable manner, we must have a cheap, clean, abundant source of electricity. LPP may be developing the answer. Go to Lawrenceville Plasma Physics.com to learn more.
They’ve been doing a lot of work on the Eisenhower Tunnel lately. We know this because the Supercharger Network heading east from Salt Lake City is on Interstate 70, and the ET is on I-70, fifty miles from Denver. That would be West from Denver. East from Denver is Kansas and in order for the engineers to put I-70 through a tunnel they’d have to build a mountain first. They might have been able to do it with the easy govment money from the stimulus, but I guess no one thought of it.
The Eisenhower Tunnel is the longest mountain tunnel (1.7 miles) and the highest part (2+ miles) of the Interstate Highway System. It takes I-70 underneath the Continental Divide, so they could have made the Interstate even higher there if they’d wanted to, but I think they decided that it would save the taxpayers money in the long run not to have to plow that part free of snow all Winter.
The construction on the tunnel causes the traffic to backup for 10’s of miles. Do they have to load the cars onto barges and ship them around the construction? Oh wait, Continental Divide. Barges are a no. Maybe they helicopter them over the mountain ridge?
Later: Laura is driving. I got bored and tried to take a nap and missed the ET entirely. I didn’t notice when we went through because there was no helicopter staging area, or anything else notably audible. No change in the traffic jam either, because it’s not the ET that’s having the work done on it, it’s a short tunnel 15 miles further along. Nice nap, though. But we’re back up to 75 mph and should be in New Jersey in no time. I like it when Laura drives, and she finds the Tesla a hoot in the mountains. Not so much on the Interstate which has boringly well-engineered curves, but coming south on 93 out of Missoula, she had a lot of fun with that. The S-curves heading up to and down from the pass on the way to Salmon, ID are real “Wahoooo!”. This is ‘cuz she’s a law abiding driver and the speed limit is 65. Sure, the signs ‘suggest’ 30 mph on a lot of the curves there but those are only suggestions and can be safely ignored in a Tesla. She goes 65, and Wahooo! I was trying to read The Sixth Extinction on the Kindle as we approached the really curvy bit, and, like other e-readers and thmart phones these days it has an auto-rotate feature that keeps the text vertical no matter how you hold it. It tells you something about the Wahoooo factor that every time she went around a turn the Kindle’s text turned sideways. Tricky to read with it going back and forth like that, and trying to keep the text from rotating by tilting it back and forth as the turns rolled by was too distracting for a satisfying reading experience, so eventually I just put it away and enjoyed looking at the pine trees.
I wrote briefly earlier on The South. The South is quite strange to someone from The West. I’d thought to get some digs in on The South before I got any followers from The South, but it turns out I’d already had one. He didn’t hate on me, though, since he’s originally from Australia or some place else that’s Not The South, and he said he agreed with everything I said. But now we’re in The East. We drove straight over from Idaho with the express purpose of visiting the lab at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, a facility doing cutting edge research on changing the world. Or perhaps taking it over. They do have a mad scientist working for them, but he seems harmless. We took him to lunch. Here’s a picture of the ‘device’. Can you guess which one is the mad scientist?
The Device is behind 3 foot thick concrete walls (“To stop the neutrons”) surfaced with copper mesh (“To stop the RF radiation”). LPP is rapidly becoming the leader in their field while working on a shoestring budget. So much shoestring that their device (One of only 45 on the planet) operates in what is essentially a garage. I asked him if his neighbors knew what he was doing and he said they did, they found out after hurricane Sandy when they’d had a “the power’s been out for 3 weeks” party and invited all the neighbors. He said they’re OK with the device, but one of the neighbors keeps filing complaints with the city council about his choice of planting wildflowers instead of lawn. People be crazy.
But to get into New Jersey (Did I mention the lab is in New Jersey?) we had to travel into The East, a part of the country we’d only ever had experience with in a Washington DC tourist sort of way. The first shocker was that they have to pay to drive on their interstates. Not every one of their interstates, to be sure, but certainly all of them that go from where you are to where you want to be. In The West they’re called ‘freeways’, and for a reason. They’re free. In The East they are called ‘Expressways’, ‘Tollways’, ‘Tollroads’, ‘Paypaves’, ‘Dollarsuckers’, or ‘Privatized Pothole Holders’. The first time we rolled towards a toll plaza I worried about having to give them quarters that I’d earmarked for doing laundry. How naive I was. It wasn’t quarters they were after, it was dollar bills. After the first day when we’d dropped 8 bucks on them and only gone 60 miles we got an EZ Pass. It’s one of those microchips you put in your dog, only for your car. Apparently the way it works is that every time you need to pay a toll the money is deducted automatically from a bank account somewhere. Now we roll right through the toll plazas and instead of being livid that we have to pay them 2 dollars and 60 cents, yet again, we get to be delighted that the chip worked and the little light turned green. *Kaching*
The other difference between an expressway and a freeway is that the expressways only have an exit every 15 miles. They also have an occasional travel plaza with, I swear to God, 30 people waiting in line for the Starbucks. But I’m used to an exit every 1 or 2 miles and my bladder and I can’t seem to plan ahead farther than that.
The East is also very damp. In The West things dry out if you take them outside, if they”d somehow gotten wet when they were inside. Here if you take something outside it gets damp. I don’t mean rain – all you westerners probably think I mean rain – but the weather has been delightful the whole time. Except that when I take a piece of paper out, after 30 minutes it has become clammy and you can’t write on it. I’m a bit worried that our tent will start to mold. Or our feet.
And you can’t see the mountains for the trees. And the parks have signs that say they have microscopic ticks that are known to carry disease so “tuck your pants into your socks and have a great visit”. And if you have a conversation with some random person when you part company they say, “Good Luck”. This does not build confidence.
The East also has funny names. We left the Expressway after entering New Jersey, the land of more people per square mile than anywhere else and they are all in their cars driving impatiently in the same direction I’m going and none of them seem to realize that I have a blindspot as big as an SUV when changing lanes to the right because I don’t check the mirror on that side until I hear the honk. I’ve taken to simply flooring it right before changing lanes because the car’s acceleration is so tremendous that I’m well in front of my blindspot by the time I move over. Now my wife just says “Wheee!” when I change lanes, which is way better for my ego than what she was saying before. (People say guys who buy powerful cars are compensating. I admit it. I am. I’m compensating for poor driving skills). Anyway, we got into NJ and there were 4 exits in a row for a place called Piscataway. *snort*. I mean, if there was a product called CatPisAway everyone who owned a cat would have some under their sink, and you think that’s a good name for your community? Wait, there’s more! We’re staying in a New Jersey State Park called….ready for this?…. “Cheesequake State Park”. *hhrnph!* No, really! Look it up! OK, I could see it if it was in Wisconsin but it’s not. You’re probably thinking the name’s funny because it sounds like ‘cheesecake’, right? But no, it’s funny because it sounds like ‘cheesequake‘! The ranger gave me some crazy story about how the Indian name for the place sounded like cheesequake, as if that explained it. If the Indian name sounded like ‘cheesecake’, a sane person would have named it ‘Egret State Park’.
Tomorrow – A day trip by train into Manhattan. Can’t be any stranger than The East, can it?
PS Laura tells me that she’s found a way to be a passenger in the Tesla on winding mountain roads and stay in the seat. She says she reaches down on both sides and grabs under the seat. She says this keeps her in place but she can’t look things up on her cell phone at the same time, so she wishes Tesla would install 5-point restraints. I didn’t realize until she said that that I drive the same way she does in the mountains. Wahooo!
Last week we were in Minneapolis, MN. Three weeks before that we were in Minneapolis, MN. ‘Tween times we were in Houston. A lot of driving, that, and The South seems really strange to those like us who grew up in The West. More on that in a later post. Should be a good one. I’ll try to get that done soon since to my knowledge I don’t yet have anyone from The South following this blog and I don’t want them to go all Hatfield on my butt.
A lot of driving. One of the things we do to pass the time besides shift our weight from one cheek to the other trying to get some feeling back is to play music. Not CD’s. No CD player. The car cost as much as a house and there’s no CD player, I guess ‘cuz CD’s are ‘so yesterday’ and the car is ‘so tomorrow’. (So what’s the excuse for no rear cupholders? Never mind, we have a solution for that, we put fanny packs around the front seats. Maybe they make good cup holders and maybe they don’t, but we’d never know since the back seat is taken up with a rolled up mattress, a folding card table, 12 step-in stakes, two folding bicycles and helmets, an inverter, honey bucket, roll of paper towels, 4 duffle bags, loose clothes, loose change, books, magazines, maps of states we aren’t in anymore, empty diet coke bottles, a purse, and not enough room for a passenger, so who’s going to test the cup holders?). It plays mp3’s and a dozen other formats from a USB stick or two you can plug in. It also has Slacker radio with voice recognition and we’ve had great fun with that. We sometimes tell it to play some random song we get from a billboard (“Play Free WiFi” or “Play Toto’s Museum of OZ, Exit 331”. Yes, we’re driving through Kansas right now) and in this way we have discovered that there is some interesting and very creative stuff out there in music land. But our FAVORITE music is not on USB sticks, it is on long play vinyl albums. This is because we were born in the early 60’s and people our age still have their record collections. These were very precious to us in our teen years so we haul them around with us every time we move. The Tesla designers probably agonized over putting in a CD player, but I’d bet a built-in Keurig was higher on the want list than a turntable. So last time we were in Pocatello I transferred a limited number of records to USB stick. Something like 50. I’ll do the rest later.
We were listening to Hank Williams Jr’s Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound, an excellent album that has stood up very well over the decades. In fact, it stands out as a historical pillar, though this wasn’t noted at the time of its release in late ’79. FDR’s New Deal, the Contract With America and its subsequent boost by Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights reforms, had held up pretty well for years, but it all started to unravel in the late 70’s and early 80’s. And people were sort of noticing. The whole album is reflective of that. Here’s an excerpt:
“I don’t like instant Iced tea
and I’m not crazy about dollar-a-gallon self-serve gasoline”
Yeah, dollar a gallon gas. Listen to the song ( LINK ), or better yet listen to the full album if you get a chance, or maybe just the 15 seconds of each song from its ‘Buy Me’ page on Amazon. That might be enough to get the historical flavor of it. (Note to the younger crowd – did you know that back in the day women got jobs because they wanted to have a job, not because they had to have a job?) Ahem… If you listen to the song you’ll hear that his little rant on instant iced tea is just playful, but he’s sincerely peeved about the high price of gas. Dollar a gallon gas? That’s was a complaint back in ’79, chillun’! Oh yeah, Hank was all “This shall not stand”. Well, guess what, buddy. It not only did stand, it got a whole lot worse!
Dollar a gallon gas. Got us to thinking. No wonder people are getting crazy. And with modern technology some of them are harder to spot. They can hide on the internet, or even right in front of us. We were at a truck stop in Salina, KS (Where is currently the end of the line of Superchargers on I-70, or in our case the beginning since we were heading west), and we’d left the car barely squeezed into the space between the Holiday Inn’s landscaping and a giant bus that was blocking 5 1/2 of the 6 charge stations. It’s a good thing the car has adjustable suspension so I was able to raise it high enough to bump over the sidewalk to get in there. Now it was ME who was blocking the BUS from leaving, and I got a certain satisfaction fantasizing about the bus’ people coming out and having to wait for me to come back and move the car before they could leave bwahahaha, but a bigger kick when I found out it was Styx’s tour bus! Here’s a visual, and yes, that’s a picture of the band autographed by all of them!)
I’m giving up on that paragraph and starting a new one: We were charging at the Supercharger in Salina, KS and had walked to a truck stop 1/2 block away and there was a man with a bluetooth headset chattering away: “She’s after me for more money! I can’t beliefe her! We been diversed for 6 years and she’s always after me again for more money….” and on and on, walking in a little circle. Back in the day, before bluetooth, we’d give someone like that a pretty wide berth, him being agitated and talking to himself. Today we walked right by him, got a diet coke and walked by again. Back in the car we toyed with the idea that maybe he wasn’t actually talking to anyone on the headset. So does acting normally around the mentally ill count as helping to mainstream them? I like to think we did some good.
Oh, hey! We’ve put 20,000 miles on the Tesla so far, all but about 400 on actual road trip. Here’s a red-line graph. Click to enlarge (I hope).
There are a few of you (my age, or a little older) who will get the reference. Perhaps a few others will be saying to themselves “Ummagumma, ummagumma, ummagumma…???”, reaching for a memory. Hopefully you are not doing this in an elevator with strangers in it. For all the others, I am not going to explain it to you. Not because it is a secret, but because you would find it boring to read, and I would find it boring to write.
But thinking of it does make me smile, so here it goes again: Ummagumma.
Unlike the original, though, I here include a list of the major items pictured. It is not necessary for you to read it all, but it’s here for those of you who find our lives more interesting than yours and can’t get enough of us.
2 backpacking packs – 2 backpacking inflatable pads – 3 water bottles – Seat cushion – Backpacking tent – 4 duffels (clothes) – First aid kit – Backpacking pots and pans – Backpack (Daypack) – Folding bicycle – 4 one gallon water jugs – Adaptor cables for charging opportunities, and case – Another daypack – Computer case, laptop, inverter/battery pack – Electric skillet – Folding table – Cook table – 2.5 gallon water jug – Cooler chest – HEET (alcohol stove fuel) – Alcohol stove and implements – Cooking bundle (tools and spices) – 4 duffels (food stores, misc food related. 3 are kinda’ behind Laura) – Another folding bicycle – 2.5 inch foam mattress with cover – 2 three season sleeping bags – Hiking boots – 2 throw rugs – Folding chair – Towel – Spouse, hat, book – Ab-wheel (An evil implement of exercise) – 15 ft 50 Amp extension cord, 30 foot 50 Amp extension cord, bag for these – 2 regular extension cords, 1 long, 1 short – drumsticks, assorted – NO4NOIL front license plate – Whisk broom (tent cleaning ) – Exercise straps (Throw over tree limb, do body rows, dips, etc) – 2 jumpropes – 6 kettlebells – 2 zippable red blankets (Summer sleeping bags) – Saddle blanket bags for folding bikes – Another folding chair – Assorted small things behind 3rd throw rug – oh, and the big 12 x 12 foot tent in the back. Almost forgot that.
All this fits in the Tesla.
Don’t believe me? Here’s proof
The Great Equalizer
The first day of the third leg of our adventures saw us heading south out of Pocatello, trying to reach the newly opened supercharger in Nephi, UT 253 miles away, without stopping for a top-up at the Nissan dealer in Salt Lake City. We arrived with 44 miles left on the battery. Another couple who’d charged at the same place we did (We finally got around to installing the High Powered Wall Charger at home and had listed it on Plugshare) left after we did and arrived before us. They had one mile left on their battery. One. They seemed happy. They were even encouraging, suggesting that we’d ‘get better at it’. Our modus is to routinely carefully monitor our progress relative to our rated range, like good scientists, to ensure we always have a comfortable cushion. I got the impression they were artists. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable arriving on, dare I say it, fumes.
Speaking of fumes, we were stopped at a red light today surrounded by idling ICE’s, when a strong smell of gasoline penetrated the car. Laura and I both turned to the other and said, “It wasn’t me”.
This was in Denver. Denver traffic is the worst. It’s the only place we turned on the traffic indicator on the big screen NAV map. It showed mostly red and yellow most of the time. Denver’s air quality isn’t so good either, which is a pity since its vistas are outstanding. Widespread adoption of EV’s in Denver wouldn’t change the congestion, but at least you could enjoy the vistas while stuck in traffic.
After Nephi we headed southeast to pick up I-70 and on to the supercharger at Green River, UT, north of Moab. There’s a dinky desert town at the junction. In the short space between the town and the onramp there’s a sign – “Next Gas 106 Miles”. Here’s a pic of it’s big brother on US 6 in NV:
I imagine there are a lot of U-turns made there.
There are pictures on Google of a sign in Australia saying Next Gas 357 Kilometers. For those of you not familiar with the metric system, that’s equal to 22 cubic hectares per second.
The biggest roadblock to consumers about EV’s is range anxiety. We’ve found there isn’t a problem with recharging conveniently, it just takes earlier planning. With gas, when the fuel gauge goes below 1/4 tank you start thinking about where you might fill up. With electricity, this step happens before you start driving in the morning. At the start of a long empty stretch of desert, EVERYONE asks themselves the question, “Can I make it?” The long empty stretches of southwestern desert are the great equalizer. If you’ve set out across one of these, you already know the mindset of EV driving.
It’s just that we ask ourselves the question every day. Unless we’re on the supercharger network, then we just hop in and go, knowing that we’ll make it handily, charge for 10-20 minutes and then on to the next one. The feel is just like driving on gas, but when we hit the last supercharger on our route, we stay a little longer and get a max charge, and plan to overnight when that charge runs out.
In practice, travel off the supercharger network is like this – max charged (265 miles) in the morning, stop at noon at a Nissan, Chevy, or Mitsubishi dealership and walk or bike someplace for lunch, often followed by some yoga under a shady tree (OK, I lie. Usually followed by a nap). Then back to the car which has picked up an extra 40-60 miles (free) from the dealership, and continue on down the road to an RV park having gone a total of 240-300 miles that day, pitch the tent, and plug in.
Except in the southwest we’ve driven most of our miles supercharger style. If you look at the supercharger map (LINK) there are considerable empty spaces, but with lunch stops at dealerships we can jump across an empty stretch of 600 miles with just one overnight. We can routinely do 500 miles or more in a day since the jump-over starts and ends on the network.
The requirements for planning ahead are much the same as for gas cars in the early 1900’s. This was before the gasoline network was up and running, so adventurous people who wanted to road-trip had to do careful planning before they set out, such as wiring ahead to confirm that the pharmacy in town carried adequate quantities of 200 proof ethanol. Or that the hardware store had kerosene. Similarly, if there are only a few RV’s near where we want to overnight we will call and reserve a spot, and confirm that the outlets are the tasty 50 amp ones and not the slummy 30 amp-ers. Early cross-country gas travelers would sometimes send cans of petrol ahead by train so they’d know they’d never be stranded. My understanding is that they did not send cans of 200 proof ethanol ahead, ‘cuz they’d be stranded.
After dropping off the old man with restless leg syndrome in Carlsbad, NM, we looped around the bottom end of the mountain range which starts just above El Paso and headed back north. Along the way we stopped for a few hours at Guadalupe National Park to climb the highest peak in Texas. It’s a pretty flat state, so climbing the highest peak would be a trivial accomplishment if the people responsible for drawing the state lines had done their job correctly. Mt. G is the last peak in the Guadalupe Mountain Range, all of which is in NM except Mt. G. Any child old enough to color within the lines would have put the entire range in NM, in which case our task of peak bagging in the Lone Star State would have been thousands of feet easier. As it was, summiting the 8749 ft peak of Mt. G was a strenuous hike, but not an accomplishment that would impress all that many people.
We overnighted at Gila Cliff Dwellings, a place of cultural significance at the end of a 45 mile nearly one-lane very winding mountain road. Good fun in a Tesla! We didn’t actually stay in the Dwellings (We didn’t even think to ask at the time, but I don’t think Mr. Ranger-man would have looked the other way. Well, he was one of these people full of joy and might have, but the don’t-touch-the-rocks volunteers were not, and would certainly have put the kibosh on any such shenanigans. We stayed that night in a supremely delightful small RV park just outside the Dwellings, a peaceful abode that would be one of my sweetest RV park memories if I hadn’t been borderline traumatized by my confrontation with the wizened proprietress who roared up in a cloud of angry dust on her 4-wheeler. Honestly, the whole thing could have been avoided if they hadn’t protected their 50 amp outlets with 35 amp fuses. I was able to immediately size her up upon her initial ice-breaker of “Hey! Are you the one that blew my fuse?!” I’ve worked closely over the years with many different personality types in emotionally charged situations, and I can kind of tell several moves in advance how a particular conversation is going to go. I knew any argument progressing from a “Your fuse isn’t my problem, bitch” rejoinder would end badly, and after running a few others through the matrix I settled on, “Oh, I am so sorry, may I, please, pay for that?”. That actually worked out well, seeing as before I got it out she’d started suggesting that I also owed her for the gas she’d have to buy to get to town and back the next day to get more fuses. (Really? You don’t keep a spare fuse? That also isn’t my problem. B.) (And how ironic would that be, the pure electric car driver has to buy gas for the dually F350 pickup truck to smoke its way through the pristine forest to haul 4 oz back from town). Anyway, she didn’t mention the gas again after I paid her $5 for the fuse, so I guess that was a win for me.
Anyway, I got kudos from the waifu for being ‘smooth’.
On to Aztec Ruins the next day. The ruins don’t have any more to do with Aztecs than the nearby Aztec Tire-O-Rama, but as Southwest ruins go I can highly recommend them.
We also swung by Aztec Office Supply and grabbed an envelope to mail “The Three Little Javalinas” to Emily, which we’d picked up for her at the Mt. G visitors’ center ‘cuz I wanted to read it.
And then on to Mesa Verde, where was the House of Bugs. As you know, or if you don’t you will by the end of the sentence, we are driving around and pitching our palatial 12×12 tent at RV parks, campgrounds, state and national parks, national monuments, and other points of interest or convenience. We picked up tickets for a late afternoon tour of a cliff dwelling (Ranger: “You want an afternoon tour today or an early morning tour tomorrow?” Us: “Do we care?” Ranger: “Maybe. What kind of camera do you have?” Us: “Cell phone” Ranger: *snort* “You’ll be fine with the afternoon tour”) We pitched in the early afternoon in a campground on top of the Mesa, inside the park, with the door facing east, hopped back in the car and drove deeper into the park to catch the late afternoon tour of Balcony House, a dwelling with a spectacular view. (All cliff dwellings have a spectacular view).
We’d left the tent door open for ventilation, as well as the flap off the west side vent. The surrounding vegetation shaded the entrance, and the setting sun streamed through the vent. The combination proved to make the interior of the tent irresistibly attractive to any of the local insects who passed by the open door. We all know that there are an awful lot of bugs out there, but OMG you have no idea, really. There were QUARTS of bugs in there. Tiny gnats, big and little flies, beetles, BEES, WASPS, YELLOWJACKETS oh my. Ack
“Up” is a default behavior of bugs along with “go to the light”. And the tent is cone shaped. So they would go toward the light, bump a few times against the back screen, and then at some point head upwards. There was a cloud of bugs swarming against the sunset-facing ventilation screen, and a veritable cumulo-nimbus of them in the peak of the tent. The complexities of exiting the tent under those circumstances eluded our new friends.
“What in the world are we going to do?” I asked, and Laura’s suggestion was to pitch the smaller camping tent for us and abandon the big tent. Apparently, the complexities of getting our new friends to exit the tent eluded us, also.
I pride myself on my ability to think problems through, analyzing the causes and effects until a solution presents itself. However, I was chased down a forest path in Sequoia National Park when I was five years old by a swarm of angry hornets after I stepped on their nest. So my powers of analysis are somewhat degraded when confronted by anything with a sort of black and yellow motif. Especially if said black and yellow is flying around, confused.
The need was to get the insects from the peak to the door, but they were not at all interested in DOWN. They were interested in PEAK. So we finally figured, if we can’t bring the insects to the door, why not bring the peak to the door? So while Laura held the top of the tent door up, I moved the top of the center pole down and out the door, with the peak of the tent still attached. I felt rather brave, actually inside the Hymenopteran House of Horrors, but it was Laura, who was in the EXIT PATH who was the brave one. Imagine, standing her ground while the angry thousands whizzed by her and I screamed like a little girl. That worked well enough that Laura could go in and mop up the remainders.
Oh, this is how you get down to the cliff dwellings:
The next day we took down and packed up the tent, taking a break to chat with a pair of Rangers/Tesla admirers who rolled up in a golf cart (We feel a real camaraderie with people driving golf carts, those being electric vehicles, too. They are sure a lot more personable than people driving 4-wheelers, at least in our recent experience). OK, it was actually just me who took a break to talk to the guys. Laura finished up pushing the tent gear into the improbably small bags they stow in, popped the front trunk (‘frunk’), and started some girly screaming of her own. We were all close enough to see what that was about – there was a mouse (Curled up in a mouse nest!) inside the frunk! We were close enough to see the mouse and to shout helpful tips (Ranger 1: “Grab him!” Ranger 2: “Don’t hurt him! He’s protected by federal law!” Me: “Eeeee! Eeeee! Eeee!”), but, apparently, not close enough to do anything constructive. Soon the mouse scurried under the trim that hides the fuses. More helpful advice ensued (Ranger 1: “You’ll never get him out” Ranger 2: “You can’t take him out of the park, you know” Me: “You mean ‘her’ “).
Mouse. Nest. Pregnant? Probably. Think that might void the warranty? Probably.
First, my apologies to all of you who have been waiting on tenterhooks for this, my next blog entry. Laura and I have been on sabbatical from our sabbatical, living for a month in the relative Taj Mahal of the upstairs storage room of the animal hospital. It has a real bed! Well, a futon, which feels like a real bed when you’ve been sleeping on the sandstone of various southwest national parks. I had been asked to mentor the new graduate for a month and to get a couple of Windows 8.1 laptops playing nicely with the existing network. Here’s a screenshot:
At least we were able to rescue the cats from the farm, which has developed a cat-eatin’ pit bull along with the two cat-chasing dogs they’ve been having to deal with. So we’ve been –
OMG, I just saw an early bird get a worm! Really! It’s 5:20 AM and I’m sitting in the Tesl a, charging in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express ($139.99) down the street from the Sunset Inn ($59.99), where Laura is still snoozing, and a grackle on the lawn just reached down and grabbed one.
Wait, I’ve got to focus…where was I? Oh yeah…
– sharing their futon with them. I got them a squeaking cat toy (Ain’t technology wonderful?) from PetCo. Here they are, wondering whose turn it is:
So far, feedback on my blog has been mostly positive. Mercifully, I haven’t attracted any haters. The only negative comment was from one of my ex-employees who says “It’s like reading War and Peace”. I’d take that as a compliment except she hasn’t read any more than 1/2 a page of my blog and even less of War and Peace. The kids these days, they get their literature as facebook bites. As a result I have vowed to post more frequent and less wordy & rambling blogs (Ooops. Too late. Maybe next time).
And I am truly sorry I used the word ‘literature’ in a blog.
We will move on to The Bitch in the Machine.
We named our Tesla Joulie. I instantly hit it off with her as soon as I met her. Just liked her looks, I guess. The more I got to know her, the more I liked her. She seemed to like me, too. She was very accommodating, was fun to be with, and even offered to do things I hadn’t expected. All in all a great relationship developed. Alright, I’m personifying a machine, but that’s human nature. And she’s a very personable machine, so who could blame me?
However, it wasn’t always the best of relationships. I felt vaguely uncomfortable whenever she used her ‘navigation voice’. Sure, she was always polite (“Please turn soon”), but the way she said it – it sounded as if she was just pretending to like me. And sometimes she sounded overtly annoyed. Sometimes she was even passive-aggressive, like this one time in Twin Falls she told me to turn the wrong way down a one-way street. And if I deviated in the slightest from her suggested path, for whatever good reason, she jumped all over my ass about it! “You have made a wrong turn. Please make a U-turn soon.” Always Oh So Polite, but endlessly harping on me until I capitulated and did it her way. And if I was right and she was wrong she’d never just admit it and apologize. I was really starting to feel bad. Sometimes she was just so not the person I thought she was. It was confusing, ‘cuz most of the time it was all sweetness and light between us. And then it hit me – the navigation lady is a different person from the actual car! The navigation lady is a little tinpot dictator, a control freak and a real bitch. The car, my Joulie, is sweet and smart and funny and athletic.
But The Bitch and I have come to an understanding. We have to work together and we’ll just make the best of it. If she gets on me, I just mute her (Not in anger), and she doesn’t take it personally.