Sunday, June 26, 2011

Road to the Left Coast, and back

Mind is still road-bleary, but we're back. American West is long and wide. Spacious skies, for sure. Rolled out to see the peeps in Bay Area. Good stuff. Badlands at dusk/sunset; Rushmore at coffee break; Wyoming all afternoon. Nevada, the nuclear test zone. Sierra Nevadas/Tahoe/Donner Pass; Oakland.

I've spent most of my 'free' travel time in the Bay Area in the past several years, seeing Michael for training and pleasure, hanging w/ Fran & Norma at their oasis off San Pablo, getting my familiars w/ Linds and Shelley. I love the place, albeit from comfort of brief-stay tourist. Linds & Shell live just off Lake Merritt, and that's a great neighborhood. I wander around, check the strange birds, and the stranger people, and dig Oakland, when I'm there. Fran and Norma live not far, and their place is a well-considered compound of esoteric and deliberate art. Michael and Carol are just up the road, and their place is always welcome and welcoming. Good people make for great visits.

I made plans to head this way several months back, when Annie thought she might be in Prague for three weeks with NPL. The plan was vague but easy: head west w/ kids in car, drive to the Bay, be there. When Annie decided not to make the European gig, it made this plan all the better. We were quite busy with end-of-school work and a couple theater gigs for her, so we never really made any more plan than the skeleton.

I realized, a bit belatedly, that I had/have a strong desire to share the experience--the feelings as well as the people & places--with Annie and the girls. Perhaps auditioning Oakland for a pipe-dream escape from Mpls's land-lockedness and winter and mosquitoes. Plus, a goodly chunk of my closest friends are out there, and I have such good associations; I think I wanted it to resonate w/ the rest of the team.

We drove well, and long. America opens wide and vast once one passes Lincoln, NE. I'm not as taken w/ the Badlands as Annie, but they are cool. We arrived just as the sun was dropping, and the light was stupendous. Note to self (again): the only walking area is at the east entrance. Twice now, we've toodled through the rest of the park looking for the next hiking trail.

We did Rushmore, briefly. Lots of wheezing tourists. We saw and split.

Post-Rushmore, we back-roaded down through the SD/Wyo borders to Laramie, which is a great little town (in Wyoming). Good food, strong coffee, and off into a tumultuous stormy evening. Wind attacked us for hours, just pounded the car. Salt Lake in early morning was nice; we stopped and played in the salt flats.

Kids were great and amused themselves (and us) throughout.

Post-Utah, Nevada is a hard stretch. It was a mental burn to get through it. Climbing into the Sierras was great. Zip, zip, zip through the mountain passes, then final stretch to Oakland. We were road bleary for the next day and a half, but we managed to do good stuff w/ the aunties.

I walked the pup way more than he was used to, not having any outdoor enclosed areas. Good to stretch my legs and check out the neighborhood more, and he enjoyed the sights and smells.

Oakland; Berkeley for lunch; San Francisco w/ Tim and Haarlem, including the Embarcadero and Crissy beach near the Golden Gate Bridge. The girls braved the cold water, splashed in the Pacific, and got sand between their toes. The pup plowed right into the ocean (as did Harper), then romped all over the beach. I was worried he'd either get swept out to sea, run away, or pester the milling groups of school kids, so he ended up leashed more than he liked. There were many, many dogs out there, and Moby wanted to meet and play with all of them, even if they weren't all so interested in him.

Interesting California vibe: dogs were roaming everywhere, in an 'It's cool, just chill' sort of way, yet when Moby tried to play w/ people's dogs, they were standoff-ish and unhelpful (refusing to break pace in their walk so I could collar the punk, thus continuing his interference w/ their walks...). Ah, the end of land madness of it all.

Michael and Carol's for dinner. Harper got to see the pigeons up close, including some babies. We caught sunset from the peak, and the girls went noodling for gophers in the backyard.

Moby & Shrike met cute. Annie and Carol finally got to see each other in the flesh and talk. Good times.

Return trip was arduous but fun.

The worst part for me was the stretch after Laramie: Nebraska is endless, and once that is traversed, there's still several hours of Iowa eastbound before taking a left onto I-35, and another several hours from there. But we survived and arrived home in one piece.

Shallow reflections for now. Main points: safe travels, great companions, lots of sites seen, people visited, time spent in reflection as the miles ticked away. I'm so impressed and thrilled by how Flann & Harper travel. Annie and I did some trips pre-kids, and it's nice to hit the road w/ her again, even as a quartet.

No comments:

Post a Comment