Thursday, July 31


Raleigh "Chopper" bicycle
I find a Chopper at Bud's shop which brings back all sorts of memories from San Ramon when this was the bike to own. Elongated handlebars, check. Banana seat - check. Only thing amiss is the smaller front wheel but easily amendable. I might add some streaming tassels to the handles. Us kids would tape baseball cards to the inner tire which made an awful racket when rubbed by the spokes, just like a Ford Mustang (we imagined ).  Also missing: A six foot orange fiberglass pole+small flag for extra visibility around corners - something we detested (but no choice).  

This bike made circles back-and-forth on the block, to Stone Face park or the Kensington five and dime store.

Bud Smith

Bud works at a local artifacts and outdoor antiques shop outside Montrose where one can buy ancient tools or iron lawn art to old cars - Bud tells me that just yesterday a middle-aged Brit (two kids in line) took four 1950s vintage cars, including an Oldsmobile and Ford Fairlane, off him, to be shipped to London via L.A. "Paid a pretty penny for them, too." This is what Tom Cruise did in Rain Man, only those were Ferrari 400s.

Bud from Western Kansas and not entirely down on his luck but keeping it together.  A divorce along the way did not help. He used to work a second job at the Montrose Town Hall bar, but notes that the young people today too rowdy or violent so he quit. On Montrose, where he has been for 20 years, "I just like it here."

Lead cover story, Montrose Daily Press: "Partners Hold Annual Pistol Shoot. It's time to lock and load for the third annual Partners Benefit Pistol Shoot coming up next weekend."


Sonnet’s show, The Glamour of Italian Fashion, profiled on the BBC World Services and airs across America, which gives Stan and us a hoot. It closes today.
Me: “So how do you feel about it?”
Sonnet: “Good. It was a good show.”
The exhibition now goes to the US, starting with Minneapolis Institute of Art at Minneapolis St Paul, when it opens October 23.

Definition of " 'tween"
1. Preposition. Contraction of between.
2. Noun. Also, tween, tweeny, a youngster between 10 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager.
1250–1300; Middle English twene, aphetic variant of atwene

Stan Stan

Stan hosts a party with some wonderful friends and neighbors, many who knew Silver, who was there in spirit.

We joke about whose party bigger. I am certain not one person today could name a single song at Madeleine's disco.

Stan: Maybe Bill will tell you about being in the Lubbock high school quire ?” [Dad's note: Bill is Stan's younger brother]
Bill: “Well, there was this fellow that stood in front of me and I looked down on him for three reasons.”Me:
Bill: “One, he was a lower classman. Two: He was a second tenor and I was a first tenor and, finally, he stood on the riser below me. His name was Buddy Holly.”
Me: “Did he leave any impressions on you ?”
Bill: “It took Boom Bracker, another classmate, now an orthopedic surgeon, to remind me that Buddy and I sang in the same quire together. We had to check the yearbook. Buddy was 15 when I knew him, and died when he was 22 or 23 along with the Big Bopper in a private plane.”
Bill: "His life's work was too short."


Silverton Grocery Store
Following Ice Lake, we lunch in ancient silver mining town Silverton (9,305 feet), which is nearly cut off inside the San Juans - The only access via 550 from Durango or the treacherous Million Dollar Highway from Oray, which is often closed by snow or rockfall.  The closest hospital is 400 miles and errands and shopping not much better. I imagine Silverton attracts a certain type.

It is not lost on me that the Griswolds visited Durango in the 1983 classic, National Lampoon's Family Vacation.  Too close for comfort.

Spotted from the road:
Grand Junction: "Pawn Shop, Guns and Goodies!"
Grand Mesa: "Pawn & Gun, the area’s best! We exchange for guns of any kind."
Montrose: Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, $299. Affordable and local.

Ice Lake Trail

Ice Lake, 12,585 feet
Ice Lake Basin is high above the timberline in a corner of the San Juan Mountains known for long winters -  the lake is frozen for at least eight months of the year. The basin is a textbook example of an alpine depression that was gouged out of the mountains by a long succession of glaciers that have periodically resided here over the past 900,000 years.

Our trail, described as "moderate effort" and gains 2,870 feet from the Lake Basin trailhead (9,840 feet) to Ice Lake and covers 9.3 miles, round trip. The first half hard-going (WTF is a "difficult" rated climb here ?) and the kids sit on a rock in protest and we find them three hours later near the car, a bit worried (Madeleine) and grumpy (Eitan). Their choice.

Sonnet and I rewarded by a spectacular emerald pool (not dissimilar to Blue Lake) surrounded by mountain wildflowers including the rare Colorado state flower, the "columbine", which gives Sonnet a thrill every time one spotted.

Monday, July 28

Million Dollar Highway

We pick up the "Million Dollar Highway" on U.S. Route 550 which stretches for 12 miles between Silverton and Ouray at the Uncompahgre Gorge, summiting at Red Mountain Pass or 11,018 feet.

The road is challenging and hazardous, characterised by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails; the ascent of Red Mountain is marked with a number of hairpin curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic -- many cut directly into the sides of mountains. Large RVs travel in both directions which adds some excitement for those of us in cars. Sonnet cannot bare to look.

The MDH gets its name from the construction cost - a million dollars a mile - which, when it opened in 1924, was a lot of money. Still is.

"Snake in a bathroom, snake removed and released. Report of a yak in a fence, unable to locate."
--Sheriff's Log, Ouray County Plaindealer newspaper

Black Canyon Again

Sunset Vista

We drive to the Black Canyon for sunset and to see Painted Wall.

While setting up for some photos we strike up a conversation with a middle-aged couple, bikers, from Fort Worth, Texas (both in body leathers) doing a four-week tour of the Western US. Their son, a Jr in college, married a British woman he met in a travelling band whilst in the UK. They were married last year and happy as clams. Or fish and chips. One thing nice about Americans : everybody says 'hello' and nobody afraid to share their story.

Sonnet: "Let's go and check out the The John Wesley Powell Museum about the early Colorado River and canyon explorers.”
Madeleine: “Oh, God.”
Eitan: “What?! We are not going to another museum. I am staying in the car.” [Dad's note: Eitan stays in the car]

Salina Summit

I-70 on the San Rafael Swell. 7,923 feet
We continue our dry dusty winding trail picking up Route 50, a major highway crossing the lower midsection of CO that drops us on the grand mesa of the Western Slope. We pass through Pueblo and Grand Junction. Most of the road is a two-lane black-top while the stretch between Grand Jnc and Montrose increased to four lanes in 2005. It is a familiar road.

On the radio, Utah, 70E: “Baling twine sale: We will match or beat any of our competitors”

Madeleine: “Can’t we just have a nice relaxing ride, with no biking or hiking ?"
Me: “No way, that’s not the way this family rolls .”
Sonnet: “Maybe we will stop at Green River and go for a bike ride.”
Madeleine: “Good, God, no.”

Roadside Poster, Rte 50, outside Delta: "Correctional Facility, Do Not Stop For Hitchhikers"

Sunday, July 27

Bryce Canon #1

On the Sunset Trail
"Mechanical weathering is the most important type of weathering at Bryce Canyon. On about 200 days a year the temperature rises above freezing during the day and drops below freezing at night.  During these freeze/thaw cycles, water seeps into cracks in the rock, expands as it freezes, and breaks apart the rock.

"Chemical weathering, while less important, also helps break down the rocks at Bryce Canyon. Water picks up weak acids from the air and soil, dissolving the calcium carbonate cement, which holds the clay, silt, and sand particles together. The particles then fall away, helping in a small way to shape the formations."
--Park plaque, Rainbow Point vista

Sonnet jogs by Snow College (“Your future starts here”; mascot, the fighting badger) in Richfield, Utah, as a tank pulls out from the campus centre, manned with a gunner.
Sonnet: "Then there was the western wear store selling tackle, clothing, feed and fencing."

Bryce Canyon #2

We walk the Sunset to Sunrise trail, which takes us from the upper edge of the Bryce Canyon (ampitheater) to below the hoodoos, or about a 5 mile, three hour hike in the 90-degree temperatures.

Museums: John Wesley Powell Museum, Green River, UT; Dinasaur Museum, Fruita, Colorado; History Museum, Grand Junction, CO; Uncompadre Natural History Museum (Grand Mesa, CO); Ute Museum, Montrose, CO

Bryce Canyon #3

Bryce Ampitheater 
Hot, tired and sweaty we enter Bryce Canyon at Sunset Point, perhaps the most famous of the 18 park vistas.  The "hoodoos," wacky-shaped pillars of rock formed by weathering and erosion, are magnificent, other-worldly. After Zion, Bryce is a colourful snap-to, more visually stimulating, without Zion's overwhelming scale. The grandeur equally awesome.

NB, Bryce is not actually a canyon but, instead, a bunch of horse-shoe ampitheaters along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The rock predominantly hard limestone but includes siltstones and mudstones which erode more quickly, leaving us our view. The geography "born" 30-40 million years ago during the Claron Formation when most of Western Utah covered in an ancient lake.

Madeleine has rabbits on her mind. She wants one for London.

Madeleine: “What?! Aren’t you going to pay? [Dad’s note, we pull out of the Philips 76 where I have prepaid with my credit card]
Me: “No. It’s how we are saving some money. Hit the gas, Sonnet.”
Madeleine: “But you can’t just do that !”
Me: “I’m Dad. I can do anything.’
Sonnet: “Madeleine don’t listen to your father.”

Saturday, July 26

Sacred Cliffs of Zion

Checkerboard Mesa
Entering Zion  from the east entrance, our first Holy Mackerel is the Checkerboard Mesa, a majestic criss-crossed mountain 900 feet above the Mt. Carmel Highway. The left to right deep scratches are due to a north to south wind direction while the vertical cracks are a result of weathering, a cycle of freezing and thawing.

Just beyond Checkerboard is the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel which, when completed in 1930, was the longest tunnel in the world, blasted through solid rock. The tunnel provides an easier way to access Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon parks. I am advised to remove my sunglasses. No shit.

Me: “How has the journey been so far?”
Madeleine: "Pretty good.""
Sonnet: "Pretty good ?!"
Madeleine: "It’s been great. Accept for the hiking and biking and stuff.”
Eitan: "Awesome. Ooo I have 'Family Guy!" [Dad’s note: Kids banned from electronics since the Grand Canyon. Eitan has is iPod back today. 'Family Guy' is an adult cartoon show.]
Me: "Other than your iPod."
Eitan: “It’s been amazing. Trip of a lifetime."

Friday, July 25

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Sunset on Utah
The Shakespeares want McDonald's so we hit the golden arches: $30 for two kids, which is a lot of chicken McNuggets. We dump them at the hotel and head for the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park to watch the sunset followed by an adults-only dinner (three hours later, Madeleine: "Did you get lost or something ?")

The Coral Pinks, for their part, created around 15,000 years ago by the erosion of pink-colored Navajo Sandstone. High winds passing through a notch between the Moquith and Moccasin Mountains deposit loose sand particles further building the dunes.

Some local shops on 89N and 70E: The Shave ‘n Cream; Dairy Freeze “A great place to eat”; Wheelers Drive-In and Malt Shop; Miller’s Ice Cream and Drive Through; and the Quick-n-serve "Where Plain Folks Are Served Good Food"

Eitan Checks Out The Scene, #2

North Rim Lodge - up and at em
At Le Fevre Overlook, 6700 feet, in Kaibab National Forrest we come across The Antelope Vendor Association, a non profit organization selling Native American beads and necklaces.
Madeleine: “That’s a nice necklace.”
Antelope vendor: “I can do $35 on that one.”
Me: “And that is one organization that will be staying non profit.”

Eitan Checks Out The Scene, #1

 Imperial Point
The nearly 40 major sedentary rock layers exposed in the GC range from 200 million to ca. 2 billion years old.  The rock and other deposits (compressed by gravity over millions of years) formed in warm, shallow seas and near ancient, long-gone seashores in western USA.

The serenity broken by a geo uplift 75 million years ago creating a plateau two miles above sea level. From 6 million years ago, the Gulf of California enabled a large river to cut its way northeast from the gulf, capturing the older drainage systems, to form the Colorado River, which in turn started to form the Grand Canyon.

Wetter climates brought upon by ice ages starting 2 million years ago increased excavation of the Grand Canyon, which was nearly as deep as it is today by 1.2 million years ago. Volcanic activity deposited lava over the area 1.8 million to 500,000 years ago. At least 13 lava dams blocked the Colorado River, forming lakes that were up to 2,000 feet deep. Earthquakes and human activities (Glen Canyon Dam, etc) have reduced the Colorado River's ability to excavate the canyon.
(Sources, park brochures and wiki)

Thursday, July 24

More GC

This reminds me of Walking Man.

Here are some museums we have gone by so far:

Air Force Museum (Brigham Young), Potato Museum (Idaho), Oneida Pioneer Museum (Idaho), Animal Art Museum (Jackson Hole),  Ranger’s Museum (Yellowstone), The Museum of Ancient Life (Salt Lake City), Natural History Museum (Salt Lake City), The Springfield Art Museum (outside Provo, Utah) displaying a quilt show; The Fairview Art & History Museum (Fairview, Utah); Salinas Historical Museum (Utah); Fremont Indian Reserve Museum (Outside Richfield, Utah)’ Little Hollywood “Free Museum”; Red Peblo Museum (Fredonia, AZ)

Sonnet: “The Potato Museum would have been good.”

North Rim Action

Point Imperial
It is over 100+ degrees - hot as hell (me, all black). 

The drops on the North Rim put my nuts in my stomach : sometimes 2000 feet or more (Sonnet can barely drive the car around the tight curves). The GC's highest point, Point Imperial, is 8,803 feet and overlooks the Painted Desert and the eastern end of Grand Canyon. Here the canyon transforms as the narrow walls of Marble Canyon (behind us) visible only as a winding gash then opens dramatically to become "grand." Layers of red and black Precambrian rocks add contrast and color.

Over 5,000,000 people visit the GC while the North Rim less populated since more difficult to access.  The distance between the North and South Rim is about 10 miles but 215 to drive.

Wednesday, July 23

Grand Canyon - First Look

View from the North Rim
We make the Grand Canyon by sunset and stay at the Grand Canyon Lodge at the Bright Angel Point - the canyon's haze due to a controlled fire visable in the distance. The lodge built in 1927-28 by the Utah Parks Company then burned to the ground in 1932 and rebuilt in 1936-37 with the original canyon stonework.  

For us and millions, the first view of the canyon thru the lodge's majestic front lobby which opens like a canvas (the canyon otherwise cloaked from the road by forrest pine). Seating grounds allow us to read and relax before dinner. Even the jaded Shakespeares impressed.

Eitan, Madeleine, driving by the Great Salt Lake : "I’m hungry. Can we have a snack? " 
Sonnet: “You can have some fruit. Or carrots."
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "Remember what those are?"
Sonnet: "Absolutely no cookies. Those are a treat. For later."
Eitan: “I’m going to have some Wheat Thins with peanut butter.”
Madeleine: “I’m going to have some peanut butter on bananas.”
Me: “Classic.”

Big Rock Candy Mountain

Bike crew
"Big Rock Candy Mountain" first recorded by Harry McClintock in 1928 as a folksong of a hobo's idea of paradise with booze and cigarette trees and hens laying soft boiled eggs. .. I never imagined I would one day be here, which is just north of Marysvale, Utah, near the Fishlake National Forest.  Our bike ride along the the Sevier River about 12 miles as the crow flies. Afterwards we jump in the river and Madeleine mortified when I go natural and give her the rain dance. Dad's prerogative.

James Garner of the Rockford Files dies.

Sonnet: "Have either of you guys had a teacher that has made a boring subject interesting?"
Madeleine: "Mr Beatty. He made Ireland interesting." [Dad's note: Mr Beatty was Madeleine's year-6 teacher and Irish]
Me: "Oh? What did you learn about Ireland?"
Me: "One thing. Please."
Madeleine: "I learned that there is a town there called Gaelic."
Madeleine: "What's so funny?"

Fairfield, UT

The Home Plate Diner
We are meant to be in at the Fairfield Inn in Richfield but end up in Fairfield (Utah) because that is what is put into the sat-nav. Bummer following a five hour drive but we make lemonade, staying at a perfectly nice motel (The "Skyline" Inn) and dining at the 100% legitimate roadside diner (some grubby kids eat pancakes for dinner, the old timers lined up at the counter, cowboy or baseball hats, discussing local news, eating pie and drinking coffee).

By chance, the town rodeo in full swing and we join for the final action – bull tackling and lassoing and, of course, bucking bronco. This is real America. One of the best nights so far.

Sonnet entranced by the rodeo clothes. The young boys/men with their best cowboy boots and hats; the girls in colourful shirts, jeans or shorts and (of course) cowboy boots.  It’s a real scene, too, with a couple thousand people, bright lights, American flags and bunting and the concessions underneath the stands.  Not a peep otherwise inside town as everyone here.

Me: “I love this place. What beer do you have?”
Waitress: “We don’t serve beer Sir.”
Me:  “We’re outta here.” [Dad’s note: Most of Utah is dry thanks to the Mormons]

On The Road Again

7AM, up and at 'em
We detour off Route 15 to bike into Provo Canyon (Provo home of Utah Valley University) which offers vertical granite walls and one spectacular waterfall. Our bike trail meanders alongside a brook filled with trout which can be seen from the trail.

Our attractive and young morning waitress (Eitan has buckwheat pancakes with blueberry syrup which brings to mind the marvelously racist “Sambo’s” chain which once served five syrup flavors before the restaurant hidden away forever) tells us the Big Rodeo, which the locals are gunning for,  is in Las Vegas. She notes that the cattle roping, which took 5+ seconds last night (front and hind quarters on a fast moving animal), is done in 2.3 seconds in Vegas. She grew up in Fairview, and did one year of university at Utah Valley. 

Madeleine: “If you were going to name me something other than Madeleine, Ava or Hannah, what would it be?” [Dad’s note: Madeleine named after Madeleine Vionnet]
Me: “I like Abby or Ada. We do have an ancient European Jewish last name afterall."
Madeleine: “Yeah.”
Me: “I noticed you now introduce yourself as ‘Maddy’. Is this what you are going by  these days?"
Madeleine: “Only outside our family.”
Me: “Maddy Orenstein. I like it.”