In a letter dated Friday 1st August Widget asks: --What do you think of Wal-Mart letting anyone and everyone with an RV park in their parking lots, for free, overnight...?
Basically a good idea I think. I appreciate the flat-level place to
park when I want to stop for supper and a nap. There is a lot of
however. Various campground owner's associations want the practice
cos they say it cuts into their business (read profit) but they don't
any similar accomodations. I would gladly pay a dollar or two for a no
hookups flat spot by the side of the road but I'll be damned if I will
pay 20-30 dollars for hookups I don't need, that I have to drive ten
out of the way to find, that I have to call ahead to reserve, whose
are overhung with roof scraping trees, and all manner of facilities I
no use for. I want only a flat spot for a few hours. When I do
a campground for a few days of showers and laundry and water and dump
I don't mind paying the campground's rate tho it is still a bit
In addition there is this other matter: The Naturist Society recommends
its members not patronise Wal-Mart because of Wal-Mart's photo shop's
about photos depicting nudes in non-sexual poses. Usually they call the
sheriff. On the other hand the Escapees RV Club recommends shopping and
overnighting--but NOT camping--at Wal-Marts to encourage that
with travellers. Such a dilemma. I belong to both organisations.
A hundred and some workshops over the five days of this gathering and most of the ones I want to attend all happen at the same time. I have need of a split personality. The first one I went to on Wenzday was a meeting of the Nude Poets Society. Marilyn read her work entitled When I Am Old I Shall Wear Nothing. You might recognise the title if you substitute Purple for Nothing. "...And I shall spend my pension on good wine and beach towels / And hiking sandals, and say we've no money for clothes."
A poem of mine which I read was inspired by and plagerized from some little kid of long ago and far away:
My Sweater is Better but I'd Rather my Skysuit.
It was a very fine Spring day,
I wanted to go out and play.
The Sun said, --Take off your clothes.
The Wind said, --Put on your hat.
I didn't know which one was better,
And so I put on just my sweater!
The weather is still unsettled but warm and at least partly sunny. Just right for all the little projects and not so hot that the bus turns into an oven.
The Walrus said, Its never too late to get on the Road;
If all you need is a goad:
When your mother says clothes and your father says money
Tell them both: Only one is a worry.
It costs money to eat and money to play
And when the Cat in the Back can't Push,
We've got Sara(h) La Gata, the Cat in the Box,
The Cat who is Dragging the Inn.
We met back at the pavilion and laid out our treasures on a table to tic them off the hunt list. Can opener (was that a p38 or a b29?), portrait of Lincoln (a penny), purple flower, Friday's schedule, binoculars--a kid on another team came up with a monocular--and a bunch of other things. The only thing we were missing was a high-heeled shoe. None of those in my wardrobe. I said I could say I was wearing invisible ones and tried walking around on my toes. Everyone laughed. Trevor and Sam said --Let's go ask the ladies. Off they ran to find a lady. Presently, from far across the pool we could hear Trevor yelling. He'd found a woman who had a high-heeled shoe in her camper and a moment later the woman was seen running from the pool with Trevor in hot pursuit. He returned after a bit waving the shoe. --I got it! --I got it!
The Power Ranger's--that was our team--won! Jacob and Justin came in second, tied with the girls team. All the players trooped off to the snack bar to claim our prise: ice creams of choice.
Me'n'Ian will be getting on the road now. It is Monday morning. The awnings are furled and the water tank full. We still need to dump the bilge and do the dishes. And make sure there are no strays--kids, cats, or mice--under the bed, and then we can start.
Oh yes. We have to find some clothes to put on...
The tour through Hershey's World of Chocolate is much as I remember from umpteen years ago but still I was surprised by the Pavlovian effect the smell of chocolate has when you come round that corner of the process. They have us all figured out and at the end of the tour each participant is presented with a miniature bar of Hershey's, just to whet your appetite for the gift shop and food court are around the next corner.
On the Way Out: We caught up to an Amish horse-ed carriage. Next to
the triangular orange "Slow Vehicle" placard was a bumper sticker:
efficient vehicle: Runs on oats and grass. Caution: Do not step in the
On the first day we rode the antique carosel in front of the Smithsonian and then went to the Natural History and American History museums. After lunch, a long hot stroll along the reflecting pool--now quite thoroughly fouled by construction and goose poop--to Lincoln's Memorial, and then, on tired feet, back to the Metro.
The second day we took our bikes. We're staying at Cherry Hill Park campground out by the beltway, northeast of the Capitol, and the bus stops here. The buses have bike carriers on their fronts and bikes are permitted in some of the Metro cars during off peak hours. That made it a lot nicer getting around. The Air & Space Museum was the feature for this day and within it a new item since my last visit is the Flight Simulator that one can pilot. Six dollars for three minutes! Butt fun! ;-> Loops and rolls! Everything but the G forces. And unlimited ammunition...
But most everything beyond the Smithsonian and the monuments on the
Mall is open only by reservation or closed due to construction or fear.
Ford's Theater, closed due to construction; the FBI, closed due to
the Bureau of Engraving and the Washington Monument, open by reserved
only and no bags, packs, or water bottles allowed.
On the way here we spent an hour in Akron learning about rubber at the Goodyear World of Rubber. The six 11R22.5 rubber tyres on the bus are made by Goodyear so they let us in for no cost. One of the Goodyear Blimps is based nearby. Rubber erasers shaped like tyres and blimps are among the trinkets at the Rubber Gift Shop but rubber checks are not taken.
Columbus is the end of the first leg of this tour. Time to swop out
all the charts and line up the folders and brochures for the next
from Columbus OHio to Bozeman MonTana.
Drove from Friday night's truckstop north of Indianapolis (where the public transportation system is called "Indi-go") into downtown Chicago. Looking for the Alder Planitarium--so easy to locate on the map (just point and click), so hard to find on the shores of Lake Michigan.
What signage there is directs one to a park of narrow, tree-lined, and overhung, streets with inadequate parking and lots of cops who have nothing better to do than keep you moving. They don't care where, just so you keep moving. Only after going round the park thrice and stopping far enough between cops to attract notice did we get promoted from the attention of the blue-shirt arm-wavers who have one foot nailed to the middle of the intersection, to that of the white-shirt car-driver. He knew at least to send us off in pursuit of "Additional Parking"; however his instructions were hasty and delivered with lots of arm-waving, while driving by at such speed that Doppler Shift distorted his voice. Mostly, all his direction accomplished was to expand the size of the block we were driving around.
Eventually we made the connexion between the hand signals and the road signs and drove off south, following the arrows that pointed the Way. We found lots of construction staging areas, nicely paved, flat, lined, but otherwise mostly fenced and posted--keep out, no parking, tow-away zone. And there, in the middle of one most inviting, flat, paved, lined, not-fenced, but posted, carpark, was another cop. This one turned out to be not hassled and harried, but actually knowledgeable, conversant with the neighborhood! Down through that tunnel, he directed, another block; and there we found other big rigs parked in spendid spaciousness. Fifteen dollars a day. However they charged us only fourteen, perhaps cos it was already past 4:00 P.M.
We quickly unhooked the captain's launch and hastened back through the tunnel and managed to make it in time for the last twenty minutes of the Shedd Aquarium. The good part is that the ticket windows were already closed and the ticket-taker let us in. We never did make it to the planitarium but went for a chocolate shake consolation prise.
After another night on the road we were in De Kalb. Here it was that
barbed wire was invented in the 1860's. Now it is the weekend of the De
Kalb Corn Festival marking the end of growing and the beginning of
harvesting. And the last great fling before school starts. A corntastic
cornicopia of cornvoluted cornstructions for your cornsideration.
so yummy they will cornvert you to a cornivor. Even cornputers for all
your back to school needs. Corn for dinner with Dave, an OAE friend
On the way here we stopped at The SPAM Museum. They had a portable consession outside the SPAM museum giving away SPAM burgers! It was in honour of the Harley convention at Sturgis. Special billboards along the interstate: "Not All Hogs Make It To Sturgis!"
It occured to me somewhere along the road in MiNnesota, overlooking the huge hole in the ground of an open pit coal mine, that I've not taken any pictures this Summer since skinnydipping under the iron bridge behind the garage in Conway. Such a gap in the record can never be made up. Oh Well. I'll try to do better for the remainder of this adventure.
We are getting along, me'n'Ian. He is learning about patience and maturity as I learn about unschooling a teenangler. He spends a lot of time out hobnobbing with his peers whenever we find a campground, or deep within his fantasy world of computer games. That is the biggest bone of contention between us, I think, but then it keeps him out of my hair. We've pretty much worked out a routine that he will come up to look around and visit with me and the real world whenever we are not on the interstate roads. But it is still a struggle to get him to take care of his chores and clothes.
My patience is more tried in dealing with outsiders. Insipid and vacuous store clerks are the worst. There is a pervasive anger and frustration at loose in the country which in part is certainly a reflection of my own feelings however at the same time there is a very real component caused by people being forced to work longer and longer hours whilst unemployment rises. I don't understand it.
Ian is getting almost too old for this kind of lifestyle. It was more fun a couple of years ago when he was more enthusiastic and less contentious. The window of opportunity to travel best with kids is about 10-13. That little space of time is so delightful that I could visit the same places over and over seeing each place afresh through new eyes. On the other hand I suppose I am more contentious now too.
Ian's worst penchant is to use his 13ishness as an excuse for just about everything: --I'm a teenager, I'm supposed to be like this, he will say. But then every now and again he will realise how stupid that is and ask for help and I have to be careful not to help so much as to embarrass him.
Last night we went to the evening programme at Mount Rushmore. An hour of wandering around the displays in the Visitor Center, learning why those particular four presidents were chosen, how the sculpting was done, what the ongoing efforts are to prevent what happend to The Old Man of The Mountains in New Hampshire. Each nook in the displays opened new vistas of history. After one quick not more than ten minute breeze through Ian found a sixteen year-old girl behind the counter at the bookstore to chat with and spent the rest of the hour transfixed. He came outside for the programme that led up to the lighting of the monument but missed a substantial part of it when he had to "go and get a drink of water". Fifteen minutes...
I suppose I should take heart in that at least I am showing him
places exist and that perhaps later he will come back on his own. Maybe
with that cute girl on his arm instead of the other side of the
That said, now they will accuse me of being a megalomaniac as well.
And that will open the door to cries of self pity. Oh Well. Where does it all end. I suppose I could retire and take up being a drone. I'll think about that later, right now I have a boy to roust out of bed and set to his lessons and a cooling fan to replace on the main radiator..
Ahh yes. And what a
monday. Actually it
was tuesday when the fire happened
in the engine room. A smouldering fire actually, when the exhaust pipe
parted at a coupling just after the turbine and hot gasses melted and
some of the sound and heat insulation. Lots of acrid smoke permeated
firewall, driving occupants of The Cat Drag'd Inn to abandon ship. Took
a night in a wide spot by the side of the road in Ten Sleep for the
to cool and then until the next afternoon to take the pipes all apart
refit and tighten the clamps. I see what the problem is now and have
to do this better. Showers by the side of the road and off we go again.
Writing from mid-state WAshington today. Levenworth. Met with Camilla and Bill and had a few nice visits to hot springs on the way across IDaho. Some of these places are such that one could live at them year-round. Perhaps some folks did live at them in times past: there are the walls of stone houses and flat areas that could have been gardens, and roads that once provided easy access. Nobody lives there today but for the occasional visitor with a tent and a horse, or a four-wheel vehicle. One place we went to is Lower Indian Hot Spring. A long bumpy drive over a gravel road, right up to the edge of a small canyon. We went in C&B's little 4WD. Then a short walk down over the edge to a very nice pool with hot water trickling out of a crack in the rock wall of the canyon. Above the spring is a small cave where folks can camp for extended soaks. The next day we relocated to a ghost of a town named Grasmere on S.R.51. Twenty-five miles further along, southeast and then northeast, right up to the edge of another canyon, and then over the edge and down. Camila and I both hollered STOP! We'll walk thanks. This road would put the Carriage Road on Mount Washington to shame. Paved with footballs and basketballs. No wall, just straight down. And down. Until finally it switchbacked out onto a long ridge coming away from the wall towards the river below, and then the going got easier. Bill caught up in the 4WD and we rode with him to the river. Hot water pours forth from a considerable swath of the river bank. I measured the temperature at over 140f and on this hot summer day it was still steaming. Probly at least 160f. The water joins with the icy cold river and spreads out over top of it. You have to work your arms a lot to stir up the cold water and mix the hot.
Karen and Paul and Hannah and Isaac have horses and chickens and
at their place near Lake Wenatchee. Ian finally gets his wish to learn
to ride a horse as Karen teaches him to be an equestrIan. We visit the
nearby cave where the bones of an ancient dragon lie in moldering
and the Team Skinwalker Cache Finders find another cache at the mouth
the cave. Seattle is 100 miles away over Stevens Pass; we'll head that
way, over the mountains and through the cities to grandmother's house,
after we pick enough apples to make a pie.
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer
in waht oredr you put the ltteers in a wrod, the olny iprmoatnt tihng
is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.
The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a
porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey
lteter by istlef, but raeds the wrod as a wlohe.
In other news: Ian's Uncle Ryan gifted us with a kayak. Small enough to carry across the back of the truck for now, I'll think about a rig to load it up on the roof of the bus.
My one day plan of taking apart the muffler plumbing took three days
of re-engineering the way it was laid out. A local shop was able to
new fittings and provide clamps and advice so I could assemble my new
I think it is better this way; we'll see about that on the way going
the next big hill.
We are presently tucked away on some quiet tilted street in a residential neighborhood ten miles or so south of Portland. Yesterday Doyle took us to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) where there are the most hands-on displays of any museum we have been to this Summer. Great kids' place. Outback of OMSI in the Willamette River is the USS Blueback whose last engagement was an appearance in The Hunt for Red October. Sailors from the original crew now act as guides who take us down below the waterline to see the cramped quarters and close smells.
I hate bookstores, I love bookstores, and Powell's is the best of both and brings out the worst in me. Bring a shopping bag. I could not find any of the books on my list however that did little to stop me coming away with my bag heavy with books that just seemed to leap off their shelves as I scuttled past. Needless to say my wallet was lighter by the time I got out to the carpark.
Scott writes in answer to my request to translate "Tail-in-the-way"
to some Native American dialect: "...that's the best I can do in Lakota
Sioux, trying also to get you the Blackfoot spelling...probably
it without the accents would be good enough." So, Sara(h) La Gata con
Booger Mesquite La Rubia Frankencat has a new temporary ending: Sinte
Sometimes we call her Ceracaty for short. Or for even shorter we can
her Igmu, which in the Lakota Sioux means cat.
The new muffler arrangement is holding on and the exhaust brake is functioning without problem decending the long six percent grades. The added outside radiator is also working well and The Cat Drag'd Inn is making good time climbing the other sides of those same hills without overheating. However fuel mileage is at an all time low. At the most recent fill-up, in Mojave, the numbers said 4.7, down from the usual 8.1 to 8.5.
East of Portland a few weeks ago, on the way towards ORegon, we had a picnic with another of Ian's grandparents. They put us up for two nights at a campground and put up with us for meals and visiting and took us to a tarn below the south face of Mount Hood where we were able to try out Ryan's kayak on the mirror smooth water.
The Autumnal Equinox slipped past whilst we all soaked tired muscles in a hot tub. Up and down - round and round, past places closed for lack of interest; now, time is past the end of Summer and many of the places we would stop at are boarded up against the snows of Winter as the industry shifts gears. The Dalles, Madras, Bend; Burns, Winnemucca, Austin... Eventually to Spencer Hot Spring in the high valley between the Toyabe and Toquima mountains. After my good time here when northbound in the Spring I was very much looking forward to a few days of walkabout and soaking. But this time it was a weekend and the place was crowded with a somewhat less desirable element than I found here in April. Barking dogs, blaring "music", broken spirits, all subtracted from the fine weather. Ian moped about until I suggested he take the truck for his solo drive and look for the cache beyond the spring at the first tree on the right. I spent enough time cleaning the algae and muck out of the stone lined soaking pool to rebuild my fading tan. We went together to explore the Toquima Petroglyph cave and then made a plan for an early departure which might allow us to get to Bodie to meet Betty for supper on Sunday.
Between Frenchman and Eastgate on The Loneliest Highway in America there's a shoetree. The Shoetree, one might say. Hundreds of pairs of shoes from little kid sneakers to the fanciest fringed well-heeled boots, sandals of all sizes, hiking boots and dress shoes, decorate an aged cottonwood on the north side of the road. The tree stands in a wash at a bit of a wide spot and its "official-ness" is recognised by a couple of green trash barrels and a sign that says "Est. 94". If you're on the road east of Reno watch for this tree at N39° 17.67', W117° 59.18'. Perhaps you can add your shoes before you drive on.
Betty--see the front cover of Workamper News and pp28 for July/August 2003--is working at the Bodie Ghost Town State Park for the Summer, guiding tourists through the gold ghost town and the stamping mill. Named for William S. Body, in the 1880's the community had "more than 10,000 residents" however, now the place is in a state of arrested decay and the only folks living there are the park ranger, the several tour guides, and two cats. Betty spent last Winter at El Dorado Hot Spring and so that was our ticket to Bodie. After work she came away with us for days off and showed us around to the boiling water at Hot Creek and the grand vista of Wild Willie's.
At Hot Creek Geologic Site the water is literally boiling up into the middle of the icy cold river. Swirling whirlpools create waves of varying temperatures that caress and startle soakers and in some places the sand of the creek bottom is too hot to stand upon. To think that the magma of an old volcano is that close to the surface. Very exciting and very delightful. Wild Willie's sits in stark contrast just down the road a piece. Water at 111-113f bubbles from the ground in several places and feeds two nice pools with a comfortable temperature for soaking. At night the far horizon frames a vast dark sky uncluttered by city light. The stars are so bright. Yum!
Way further south The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest was our next stop on the road to San Diego. Pinus longaeva, the oldest trees in the world live here. Many of them have been growing in the dolomitic soil here for 4000 to 5000 years and the dendrochronology of these trees has provided a time line of climatic and fire data back ten thousand years.
Now we are back to sea level and under the smog and coastal cloud of the Los Angeles basin. Only a few days left until the end of this voyage of discovery; I wish more of you could have gone along. Maybe next year.
The problem with the house battery turned out to be several connectors corroded so badly they had come apart so two of the three pairs of batteries were disconnected. Have to add "rewire the batts" to my Winter Do List.
In one of those books that leapt off the shelf at Powell's I found
"Children are caterpillars and adults are butterflies. No butterfly
remembers what it felt like being a caterpillar." --Scipio in The
A day back at Eldo and already I am dreaming about the next road trip. But first I have to sit still for six months or so; it may take me that long to clean out the bus and pay all the bills. This tour comprised 5600 miles through twenty states and two months. Far too quickly for most of the places we visited; almost everywhere we should have stayed longer. I guess I'll have to do it again but for now I'm gonna go get in a little more hot water and soak my head.
This next tour (the most likely time-frame is mid-April through May 2004) is wanting for $ome $upport and a few companions to make it most fun. The Cat Drag'd Inn can accommodate several 8-13 year-olds and it would be nice to have another sort of adult along to help with the driving, the mentoring, and the housekeeping. Whinging-TV-addict-couch-potatoes need not apply (Unless they promise to leave their GameBoys behind). Prospective travellers should know how to play Cat's Cradle, wash dishes, like beans and peanut butter (but not necessarily in the same sandwich) and they should know how to read aloud and follow a roadmap. Prospective $pon$or$ need not have any of the above qualifications.
So, gentle readers, here is your invitation: "Eccentric Outlaw with
what many consider an unstable and abnormal lifestyle desires to mentor
Unschooler Travellers whom he entices with promise of adventure and
the community would just as soon have repressed." If you are a small
and would like to travel aboard The Cat Drag'd Inn on her next voyage
discovery, or, if you are an adult and would care to sponsor a student
to travel in your stead, write me. Write early, just in case there is a
big rush at the last minute.
I do not know what I may appear to the world; but
myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and
diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a
shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all
before me. --Sir Isaac Newton
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Copyright © 2003, A.J.Oxton, The Cat Drag'd Inn , 03813-0144.