Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Lakeland Chamber of Commerce


Tuesday’s drive to town-- the Lakeland Safeway Cowboy through a rainy windshield.

In the middle of our second night at the Fort, drops of rain spattered our tent and forced me running outside to rescue the last roll of toilet paper before it soaked through. This morning we drove into town Lakeland and circled looking for a dry and warm place to wait out this storm. We found the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, where the nice ladies offered high speed, coffee and all the local literature our table could hold. Best of all, this has turned out to be a lively place to meet some interesting towns folk. First Deborah the cowgirl who left us with an offer visit her historic home just north of where we're camping on the famous Applegate Immigrant trail (looking forward to that). Next was a guy that manages the hang gliding festival here. He explained thermals, landing, and just about everything one would need to know to get started hanging from a kite. A Humane Society Volunteer tried to convince Melissa to adopt a very cute pitbull mix (I’m still working on her). People trickling in and out constantly. Not what I expected of a chamber of commerce. The sun seems to be breaking through now. Heading out now to the Lakeland Museum. This town keeps growing on me.

Fort Benjamin Wade




We are now on the Oregon/California border within a good days drive of home. Camped last night and the night before on Larry's land, within the very esteemed gates of 'Fort Benjamin Wade'. How we ended up here is a fluke, or as I told Larry, by serendipitous luck. On a tip from a teenage gas station attendant, headed to Lilly Lake to look for an obscure campground not even on the map. Six miles up a winding rock dirt strewn road that turned from mud to snow covered (we almost got stuck in a bank or two) we conceded defeat and made the eight point back the way we came. Half way back down, we came across a guy on a three wheel ATV surrounded by barking dogs. If there was anywhere to camp, I figured this guy would be able to tell us. We explained the situation and next thing we know we are following the ATV to a frontier village type structure of ten-foot timbers with a towering gate and a sign made of tiny cut timber lettering announcing the 'Fort'. Inside the gates was nothing more then a tall abandoned chimney, beautful woods and a wild rushing stream. Sharing wine and appetizers next to a blazing fire, Larry explained how he had gone from working in the family wireless empire to managing this 600 plus undeveloped parcel at the foot of Crane Mountain. His current project was to preserve a meadow in memorium to his recently deceased son-- a big job ahead to finish in time for a large family reunion/dedication ceremony in July. After a glass or two I found myself asking if he was hiring. ‘Surrre’ replied Larry, and explained his terms. I was a little delirious by this point but heard something to do with clearing and fencing in exchange for a place to stay and some cash. It was an offer deserving consideration.

Thursday, May 22, 2008




Driving to the Black Hills


In a motel in the Bad lands/Black Hills now of North West South Dakota-- The casino town of Deadwood. It's pouring rain out, otherwise we would have camped. We drove through Sioux indian lands all of today, down Hwy 63 north toward South Dakota. Cattle, ranches and plains, wild horses, and towns with names like Little Eagle, Iron Lightening, Faith. sometimes completely flat, then suddenly the road pitching up and down. Roaming the fields, buffalo, antelope. Pheasant with bright red crested heads pecking in the shoulder-- and road runners running across the road just like in the cartoon. Narrowly missed a few. The only car for miles and they choose that moment to dart across. Not too savy, like their famous namesake.
Further down hwy 65 towards the border, the Buttes rose straight up from the flat grassy plains, revealing colorful generations of black, pink and red strata. Descending the high points on the highway the road stretching down and receding in a long thin triangle, a winding snake disapearing over the edge.
Endless visibility.
No idea what to expect here-- where we're going to end up at night (we economized on the maps and serious guidebooks). Joint intuition is the guiding force.
Open space and a sense of infinite possibilities. In my head, the inflight movie for the drive, thinking of how to buy a simple cabin, live a simple life-- what to make, where to live. Perhaps one of these ranchers needs a resident artist to lend a helping hand? should stop and ask them.


North Dakota Wildlife


Stopping for a shower and tick check at the North Country Inn off Hwy 6 in Mandan North Dakota. The night before camping at Pilsbury State Park, Rock Lake Campround, Melissa picked up her hitchhiker. I pulled at it off today. Fierce little thing, biting in deeper the harder I pulled. Left a nasty mark. We had hoped to make it further but with night falling and no clue where to go, Melissa stopped at another Indian owned motel to ask owner if there was anything up ahead. He replied emphatically "No-- I will not let you go-- There is nothing,, not even gas!". He implored us to stay offering clean room, with free wifi, cable tv, coffee maker, and a hair dryer in the room. Hard to pass that up. He even added a discount to already low low price. A Motel splurge was inevitable.

Next morning enjoyed a nice breakfast -- mountain of browns and bottomless coffee at the North Dokata Inn while listening on a group of farmers play roll the dice next to us. Dice gets passed and rolled. I don't know how you win, not a lot of reaction to each roll, good or bad. Sems the point is just kill some North Dak0ta ime. Across the way, a nice view of the farm equipment. splashes of primary color and vast brown skies.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Motel Patal


Got on the road and traveled I35 Wisconsin winding through the Mississippi. Green rolling hills. Van Morrison set the tone for driving alongside the wide deep Mississippi. All kinds of birds shooting over and around landing in a spray on the marshes that flanked. Half way out it rained hard. Eliminated any possibility of camping. We drove through the city of Minneapolis. A Long and low place with countless little lakes and equal number of little colleges. Convoluted streets, with no discernable grid and single massive body of water to navigate by. Hard rain turned to drizzle turned to gray skies, yet warmish temperature somehow. I carried two or three maps. Rotating each to see if either could get us some where close to the AAA single diamond motel. The things we do for a discount. Melissa asking questions. Me navigating. Hungry and getting on each other’s nerves (just once or twice), many wrong turns later we found the Lakeland Motel with it’s well deserved single red diamond rating (the absolute lowest of the low). It appeared to be the cheapest in all of Minneapolis. This motel was owned by Patals. The dark girl/woman that runs the desk greeted us with an empty stare and not so much as a hello. When I asked question, her head would nod imperceptibly but she would say nothing for a few minutes. Each question required she size us up before offering an answer. At first there were no cheap rooms with the no smoking option. The AAA discount also seemed subjective. I asked to see the rooms she did offer. She looked at me for a while. Again I asked to see all the rooms she had available. Finally she handed me a single key— and with it direct emotionless eye contact. But I saw a glint of resignation. I had won--out cheaped her. We walked to our room. A basement with green carpet. Tiny. Single/non smoking. The cheapest of the cheap.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Are they art??

I was confused at first, but these are museum goers and not part of the show here at the Museum of Art. But I like this Wisconsin fashion statement--Blue and baby pink IS the new black!

the crossing




Crossing over windy Lake Michigan on the ferry at 40 miles an hour. The horizon heaves up and down like a teeter-totter. Melissa woozily gazes out a porthole and tries to steady herself. She knows now she should have listened to the safety movie offering 'Sea Sick Sodas' for sale at 'The Galley'. She also didn't listen to the nosey lady that sat next to us with her granddaughter and nodded emphatically. 'Get the soda,' she said....'you gotta drink it BEFORE you get sick'.
I drew the lady and took picture while Melissa stood looking out the porthole, refusing to hurl.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

muskegon / milwaukee institutional


Arrived early at a depressing little port town on route to Milwaukee-- Muskegon. With two and half hours to kill waiting for the ferry to crossover the lake, we drove around, took pictures and drank watery coffee. Found this grey monolith (the picture on left) in the center of town. It can be seen from afar over the tops of the shabby houses-- a Catholic church that says evil mind control is alive and well in Muskegon. On the opposite side of the lake and end of the color spectrum is this angelic white building -- The Wisconsin Museum of Art. We got up early the following day to see it's rib like flaps open. Looked like a moth unfurling wings to dry in the sun. Apparently this happens every morning at ten a.m. I'll take my religion white and fluttery over Darth Vadar oppressive any day.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Taking off in an hour





Melissa getting all her food, clothes, art supplies, etc. organized and packed in many little plastic containers. There will be order to this madness called camping. I stay out of her way. we take off in an hour for the Muskegan (sp?) Ferry today. Three hours of driving followed by a two hour ride, all three of us (melissa, me, the Volvo) floating across god's vast shiney glass topped coffee table called lake Michigan. Not cheap way to shave a few hours off the trip. I won't say howmuch. Though compared to rising gas prices, it's still way too expensive. We land in Milwaukee at 8:30. Tonight we have dinner at Melissa's cousin's house. Spending the night there too.
Drawings from last night: Post feast: Lydia and Melissa chat. I drew. Vince listens to Frank Sinatra on EP (he died ten years ago to the day). (we had brined Cornish game hens, Rapini with Ramps on Corkscrew pasta, and for desert Lydia's Chocolate Polenta souffle, home made Myers lemon liquer-- Delicious!!)
Second and Third Issac the old dog on his doggie bed.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


At eleven thirty it’s time for Rocket’s sunbath. He finds the solid rectangle of light that stretches across our green carpet. He closes his eyes and arcs his snowy white chest upward, lifts his nose and offers himself to the god of all of cat creation. To the great creator of the only thing worth creating, he worships. By noon his deity is sliding east. By 12:15 it has climbed up the wall. He reaches with long arms and dagger sharp claws to catch an outer corner until that too slips his grasp.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bernal Hill


Took Pablito up Bernal Hill this morning. My plan was to meditate. Closed my eyes. The wind bit through my windbreaker. Too cold to concentrate. I could hear the dog snuffing around in search of gophers, his collar clinking in the wind. I pictured myself on some remote mountainside in the Southwest. I was an ancient goat herder and Pablito my old goat. I rubbed my grizzled chin to keep warm and braced myself against the windswept landscape. My goat pawed the ground in search of edibles, his bell chiming sweetly.