California to Florida – why not.
While the USA is certainly filled with its many wonders, such as why people in Kansas do not use the left lane, why all of Bakersfield smells like feces, and why people in NYC bother to own cars, it also has enormous rocks. Some of these rocks have large holes and therefore attract a plethora of inconsiderate families who travel for hours and hours only to sit and consume food in these holes thereby making it impossible for others who have also traveled similar distances to take pictures. But let’s start from the beginning.
After leaving Las Vegas, Jeremy and I stayed in Tahoe for 10 days. Lake Tahoe is a large fresh water lake shared by the states of CA and NV with mountains surrounding it. There is one main road that surrounds this Lake and many houses and ski resorts tucked along its sides.
Heavy snow was still falling in late April and the trees remained decorated with white snow even as the sun shone. It was magnificent and I had never seen a sun snow shower until that trip. The air was fresh and crisp and smelled like the Holidays.
On many days, the snow fell constantly, but silently and gently, as though time were moving in slow motion and one could endlessly witness a single water droplet reach the snowy ground.
It had been our intention to hike, and given our lack of experience or understanding of snow, we gave this several tries. We made 5 hikes in 10 days, during which time I slipping into a partly frozen river, slipped over an icy branch, and slipped and fell into a snow pile. However, all cases were uneventful as snow is soft and if one avoids accidentally falling off of a precipice or into a crevasse, the fall can be quite amusing.
On one of the days, we ventured to a large ski resort to contemplate skiing or snowboarding. We packed up all of our gear and goodies and drove about 45 minutes to the NorthStar Resort. Ski resorts are very odd. They are a collection of wealthy adults, unruly children, and those who engage in the use of mind numbing products and thus can snowboard. To satisfy such an eclectic collection of residents, fresh Smores (melted chocolate and marshmallow inside two gram crackers) were constantly served for free throughout the day by the “Smores Service Person”.
So the question came up as to whether I might ski or snowboard. As I have never done either, I inquired about the process to gain more information. Here is what I was told. A person purposefully locks either two thin and immobile planks to each leg or one single plank to both legs (snowboard). They connect their feet in both cases so that their feet cannot be released easily and their knees can afford no rotation. Next, this person attains a great altitude by riding an open bench that is over 40 feet in air. Finally, the person elects to jump from the bench onto snow and ice that is at a steep angle, thus thrusting themselves forward at a high speed. I was also informed that causing oneself to fall is the best way to stop, and that it is best not to fall forward and this can cause severe injury. Finally I was told that falling is inevitable and that because a board is strapped to my body, the falls may prove to be unpleasant.
After 15 seconds of deliberation, I agreed to go on the ski lift and that is all. I then reiterated that there would be no board of any kind strapped to any part of my body. The ski lift was fun.
Overall, Lake Tahoe was unique and beautiful, but it did not “pull me in”. From there, we traveled to San Francisco with the intention of going home. This, however did not occur, but for more on that, you will have to read my other write up, “Viva Las Vegas”.
Skipping ahead then, and after our second trip to Las Vegas, we decided that we would go “canyoning” in Utah. As it turns out, part of the USA has very large and unusual rock formations. Some are very tall, some have holes, and some are truly mystical and look like traveling giants who were punished by the Gods and turned to stone many millennia ago.
But let’s start with the Indians.
Indian families (from India) like rocks with holes and each time we traveled to find rocks that had formed some sort of circular shape, there was an Indian family inside the circular area, having a picnic and making it impossible for collections of angry tourists to take photos. At one point, after a large family with an excessive number of noisy children and treats had lingered in one of the picturesque circular areas too long, I was headed over to yell at them. However, in the nick of time, Jeremy swept me away to an even larger circular rock that seemed bare of squatters. It is truly astonishing what water and overpopulation can do, both to rock formations and a lack of privacy in photographing them.
Our next stop was to be the slot canyons. Slot canyons are very small crevices that have formed between and within huge rocks. Only the tiny (and those who are not claustrophobic) can shimmy their way inside to explore. Happily, Jeremy and I are both very good at being small and so popped right in. This was quite the experience and I will let the photos speak for themselves.
We stayed a few days in a small town in South Utah called Escalante. This is the closest location to the slot canyons and many other unique geological formations. The town had 125 people in it and many more cows than residents. It was dry, cool (about 50 F), and dusty. When we first drove up, and knowing our nightly cost, I began to suspect that we had been “taken in”. However, the house was an original log cabin, was large and beautiful, and each night before bed we dragged the old fashioned solid oak dresser in front of the bedroom door to avoid visitors who may have fallen victim to a lack of genetic diversity.
On one of our hikes in this area, we entered a bazaar place called the Devil’s Garden. It was as sandy as a desert and filled with large rocks and stones of the oddest shapes; like travelers who met an unexpected end. It was strangely mysterious, and out of an unusual sense of deference, I refused to climb or tread on them.
Perhaps a notable observation is that each day we were there, we felt more comfortable. On the front porch step of the lonely cabin, there was moment where the uninhibited wind was gently tickling my ear, and it seemed like the mountains in the distance were speaking.
From these dry rocky venues, our next stop was Aspen CO. The difference was quite profound. Aspen is a small town of enormous wealth and skiers (of normal size). The smallest 1000 sq foot town house (in poor shape) was 1.5 million. The town was very fancy and pretty and the view from all sides was snow-capped mountains. Aspen was filled with coffee houses and parks and we were told that the hiking (in summer) is excellent. Sadly, it was not yet summer, and so we whiled away the time making fun of the skiers who got to the end of the slope and were unable to stop.
Once we were ready to leave the mountains of CO, we had the common choice before us. Should we continue along the North pass, through Kansas and into St. Louis, or should we take the South pass into Albuquerque NM and then through Texas. This is not a simple choice and so we decided to check the news to see if anything was going on in either location.
We learned the following. In Kansas, and on the exact route that we would have to take, there had been 20 highway random shootings in the past 30 days and the shooter was still at large. The 20 shootings blanketed not only the main highway, but all surrounding outer passes around the main highway.
Hmmm, we thought, let’s check Albuquerque.
We then discovered that Albuquerque had just experienced a nuclear spill and incident that was releasing nuclear waste into the area.
Ok, so the shooter or the radiation. Ah the choices. Well, we thought, the shooter is still at large but they might catch him. Plus, he only injured 3 people in 20 shots and so clearly is not good at shooting. The radiation levels and locations are not clear.
In the end, we chose Kansas and the shooter. But hey, for all those who still believe nuclear power is “clean energy” please do me a favor and remove your head from your anus.
So, we entered a 17 hour stretch of smoke-filled flat lands, unusual traffic policies, highway shooters, and pick-up trucks with viewpoints displayed on the sides. I refused to urinate.
Before we entered Kansas, I also warned Jeremy not to speed for any reason. I told him that we would get pulled over for certain if we did not act with caution. Jeremy knew this to be true and so drove the speed limit. About 7 hours in, we suddenly noticed a car’s front lights so far up the back of our car its lucky no one sneezed. At first, Jeremy sped up, thinking South Florida style that a driver had gotten tired of our slow speed and was encouraging us. But sadly, the police lights came on and we were, to our astonishment, being pulled over. Jeremy was so surprised that he did not pull over at first, and I was alarmed and encouraged him to do so right away.
There we were, pulled over on the side of the Kansas highway. We looked like we had been driving for over 12 hours. The car was a shocking mess and I had chocolate smeared on the side of my face (as I later discovered). In this state, the Officer approached my window. I of course rolled it down and smiled. The Officer made a slightly uncomfortable look toward the chocolate that was unknowingly spread across my cheek, and then said (with a deep Kansas accent), “Son, we don’t drive on the left side of the road in Kansas”.
Well, Jeremy and I made eye contact. We were both thinking – what the hell does that mean. Is the left lane off limits? Can only certain people use the left lane?? There were no signs. How does one know this??
However, we said nothing of this kind, looked at the Officer, and mumbled something like, “yes Sir, absolutely Sir, we are sorry Sir, we have no Jews in the car Sir.”
He then collected our information and went back to his vehicle to check it all out. In the meantime, Jeremy and I were hastily trying to figure out what this all meant. In time, the Officer returned, warned us again about the apparent taboo nature of left versus right, and was about to leave. However, I simply could not resist and had to ask. As it turns out, in Kansas, left lanes are only for passing. One does not “drive” per se, in the left lane. As such, for the remaining several hours of the trip, we drove in the form of a sine wave.
Finally, after long last, we made it to St. Louis. We spoiled ourselves with a nice hotel on the corner of their large park, and we were so pleasantly surprised. Not only did we get to visit our dear friends (we love your guys!) but we also got to visit a true spring season. The very large and well maintained park was filled with every type of blooming tree, including cherry blossoms. There were tulips, and magnolias as well, and it was such a wonderful treat. For two days, we did nothing but walk in the park, visit our friends, drink coffee, and smell the flowers. Our stay was short, but relaxing.
Our next stop was home, and I will be kind and say that there is nothing worth reporting between St. Louis and FL except public urination (and not by me – that’s only in France!).
This was a fun trip, certainly worth doing once, but perhaps not again.