Another sketch from our cross country car trip. Tree in the Rock is nestled in granite rock in between the east and westbound lanes on I-80 about twenty-one miles and thirty miles from Laramie and Cheyenne respectively. We very briefly stopped, via a very thoughtful left-lane exit, to enjoy this point of interest. The State of Wyoming has it’s act together when it comes to accommodating visitors interested in the unique, nichey sites found along the highways and byways. For those inclined to make this tree a stop, it was an easy in-and-out diversion. There are no restrooms. Those are located westward at the Lincoln head (see previous post), in Cheyenne, or along the road shoulder in a pinch. Wyoming is a fantastic place.
This is a shout out to sleep-deprived dads (and moms), especially to those who’ve been awake most of the night comforting a cranky baby or tending to sick kids. For parents with little ones, sleep is practically a barterable commodity. If it were possible, we’d all get together like a mountain man rendezvous, trying to trade a few packs of gummy snacks and dryer lint cash for a few hours of uninterrupted REM sleep. When I was a single man, I took sleep for granted. But I also wanted to eventually get married and have children. So on the other end of the spectrum, I understand there are people longing to start a family, and some who aren’t presently able to do so would give up a whole lot to make that a reality. Laying that all aside, I would go back and punch my bachelor counterpart in the face, give him an ice pack, then tell him to enjoy his good night’s rest. I now leave you with a verse of dad poetry.
A day off at home for a family man with six kids
Is probably different than a bachelor without a daughter or son:
On a quiet wintry morning the single man blissfully sleeps with closed eye lids
While the dad, in silent repose, gets jumped by a kid with a Lego gun.
It has been a while since I’ve jumped in the blogging saddle, so here is a sketch of the Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada—home to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. If you’re a fan of folk music and you’re unfamiliar with Elko, the Gathering, or with the concept of cowboy poetry, do yourself a favor and look into it. Going on thirty-three years, the multi-venue event runs from the last weekend of January through the first week of February. On the last night of the Gathering this year, my wife, kids, and I met Don Edwards, a cowboy singer from Texas, during a meet and greet held at the Elko Convention Center. We also met Montana-based poet, Paul Zarzyski, who inscribed “Spur the Words Wild!” beneath his autograph in my Moleskine notebook.
SWEETWATER CO., WY—This is a page out of my Moleskine notebook. The rock formations along I-80 can reasonably be ranked up there in the quintessential aspects of the West. Not quite sure what the name of this butte is, but it’s just east of Tollgate Rock, south of the interstate. I used a topo map app but this particular peak was unnamed.
Quick History: Oregon and California Trails; Transcontinental Railroad; Lincoln Highway
Sigma Micron .02 ink pen on small Moleskine Cahir Journal
In case you can’t read my awesome handwriting, here’s the transcript (or whatever the cool kids and hipsters call it nowadays):
I lost my new Case pocket knife Angela gave me for Christmas, prompting me to turn the house upside down in [an] attempt to find it. I commissioned the children to help me search for it after supper.
Tipping the sofa over, I found, a wooden spoon, my guitar tuner, a saltine cracker, and a Duplo block. No knife. I was losing my mind. I resigned myself to the fact that perhaps the wayward knife was lost—maybe when we went sledding on the weekend. But, then, I tripped on my dirty Carhart pants. There in the left front pocket was my beloved Case pocket knife! All was right again.
I revisited my fond feelings towards the Navajo Nation and all the beauty found there. I didn’t sketch this while I was there last August, but I referenced a photo I took on my way back from Kayenta and the Black Mesa (south of the ever-popular Monument Valley). I threw off the shackles of the blank page and sat on my couch and went at it for a few minutes earlier this week. I waged a good battle trying to figure out how to get our scanner to work the rest of this week. Many thanks to my wife for helping me to prevail against the Hewlett-Packard beast!
Missing in this sketch, the Navajo craft vendors with their lovely wares. When I stopped to admire these sandstone formations beside the highway, a few Native women were setting up their folding tables, laying out table cloth and setting up their chairs under awnings which were also methodically assembled. There is so much to see and discover there in Navajo country. It’s little curiosities, like the subject of this sketch, which so often catch my attention.
Perhaps I may take my family back next time, making Monument Valley a priority on the trip. Of course, I’d have to take them to see the Elephant Feet at some juncture; a sign pointing travelers towards real fossilized dinosaur tracks near Tuba City also grabbed my fancy. Now, if only my job allowed the highway wanderer in me to run rampant.
Red earth country surrounded by a panorama of blue sky and wispy cumulus clouds filled the view from the cab of my Peterbilt. The view hung like a painting framed in my windshield. I was on the Navajo Nation—eleven hours away from home, north of Flagstaff, south of Monument Valley, east of the Grand Canyon and west of Four Corners. I was immersed in the reckless wandering feeling one gets while traveling in remote locations, especially in such an iconic region as northwest Arizona.
Along highway 89, north from Flagstaff, the typography turns from the Ponderosa pine-covered terrain of the San Francisco Peaks to the grassy plateau of mesas, buttes, spires, washes and canyons. I had a load of D10 dozer parts going to Black Mesa, south of Kayenta. Navajo vendors took shelter from the heat in the shade of wood framed stalls along the road side, where painted plywood fold-up signs advertised Navajo-made jewelry and woven blankets, with foods such as mutton stew, grilled meats, and Navajo tacos ( a delicious concoction of fry bread with taco fixings) also for sale for the hungry traveler.
I am a meat and potatoes guy. Check that, I am a meat, potatoes, and then-some guy. I am happy with foods that haven’t been served to French kings, but I am not generally picky. In fact, since I am giving food a central focus of this post, I will mention the above foods are not exotic. My wife makes fry bread (and Indian tacos), lamb, mutton, or beef stew, as well as other ethnic-specific foods, and I take joy in devouring her blessed cookery. In life, simplicity is a virtue often overlooked, in finding delight in panoramic vistas as well is in culinary choices.
I have much to write about staying overnight in the Navajo Nation. I have an aching feeling, attached with all kinds of emotions, from seeing Monument Valley from afar, seeing the tops of the buttes and pillars but not being able to roam and appropriately take in their grandeur. Passing by small homesteads, with pinion pine corrals and stucco hogans with t.v. dishes mounted on the exteriors, I took in every mesa and eroded sandstone formation I could, and enjoyed seeing how and where other people live. Seeing others’ homes placed a greater yearning for my own home. The sound of tires humming over asphalt is a lonely one. Travel is inherent to the makeup of man’s soul. Bob Dylan said in It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), “he not busy being born is busy dying.” With no intention of taking that lyric out of the context of the song, there’s a lot of road in between.
RIVER CITY GRILL, MISSOULA| Drove from Elko, Nevada up to Twin Falls then east to Pocatello. North, from there, to Butte then west through Deer Lodge and along the Clark Fork river, settling at a Pilot truck stop for the night.
Trying to be true to the budget, I still wanted to try something from the red brick diner. Boasting homemade pies and other fancies, I settled with an apple pie (a good standby). Trying out different takes on universally loved foods is something which speaks to my own sensibilities. It’s always interesting.
Despite the fact that my job gets me out on the road often, rarely are there opportunities to try a food that isn’t a mass produced commodity. I sat down at the bar and the waitress handed me a glass of ice water and the menu. I passed on ordering a meal and ordered a piece of pie instead. After taking my menu, she opened the glass case behind the counter and cut a piece and put it on a plate to warm up in the back. Minutes later, I sunk into the dessert, enjoying the crumbling conglomeration of crust, sugar and cinnamon layered over thinly sliced apples within. Not even close to the quality of my wife’s pie, but a pleasant change from a preservative-laden pastry in a plastic wrapper. Actually, it wasn’t half-bad.
While Boundary Peak, located in Esmeralda County on the Nevada-California line, is the tallest point in Nevada (at 13,147 feet), it shares its glory with the Golden State’s Montgomery Peak (13,441). Wheeler Peak, however, is the tallest peak entirely within Nevada. Located in White Pine County and Great Basin National Park, it stands at 13,065 feet above sea level. That’s pretty cute compared to taller ranges in North America, but in its own right, Wheeler is impressive enough, having a topographical prominence of over 7,000 feet.
My wife and I have been talking about making a summer visit to Great Basin National Park and Wheeler Peak to hike up to the bristlecone pines. Hopefully we can do it this year.
For my fellow geeks out there, for the sketch, I used a Pilot G-2 gel pen (because I like to keep it real) and a small Moleskine Cahir notebook. If you have any tips or outdoor destinations you’d like to share with me, feel free to comment.