Wednesday, April 8, 2015

two thousand four hundred and thirty two miles later

And so now early, a Wednesday morning, the day’s light coming up with a light snow coming down, the flakes big and wet, falling straight, covering the brown, beaten down grass in the yard and the fields, the layers of broken-down stalks of wildflowers dead yet still alive underground, and as the light switches from charcoal to ash the snowflakes grow smaller, almost disappearing, almost turning to rain, just as the forecaster said.

Looking down at the ground.

If I had been here all winter long watching, hauling wood, driving, walking, trying to get from here to there, all the while musing about the whereabouts of the sun, I might not be interested in this morning’s snowfall. Except to sneer at it, to bear it, perhaps to dream of being elsewhere. But this morning I feel thankful for the snow and this touch of winter, this touch of spring, all wrapped up in one lingering dawn.

I left this cabin for six and a half months and no harm came to it. Nobody looked after it, no one was here but for the plumber who came in October to turn off the water and clear the pipes and the plumber who came in April to turn the water back on. There is much evidence of deer frequenting the yard, and now Josie feels a need to correct that situation. Every evening when the deer come by to pick at the dry grass and to stare at us through the kitchen window, Josie whines and runs between the window and the door until I open the door. He flies out, flies off the porch, and the deer stop chewing, look up as if caught by surprise, weeds dangling from their lips. They turn quickly on spindly legs, raise their tails in alarm, show their white flags, leap far and wide and away through the fields. Josie follows. Streaks low to the ground. But he senses a border and once the deer cross it he turns back, becomes border patrol, very officious, very stern. Eventually he returns to the porch, but not before stopping at that one little spot in the yard that smells pretty good, good enough to roll in. His six-inch-long legs kick high in the air.

Hey Josie! Nyah nyah!

And so we are home. Two thousand, four hundred and thirty two miles later, we are home. Six and a half months, and five days later, we are home.

First, we needed a fire.

We left California March 31 before sunrise, and by sunrise we were somewhere beyond the L.A. Conglomerate of Highways at a sad, dirty gas station on I-15 in a dry, dusty town sopping up cat pee from various things and surfaces in the van as somehow Elliott had become so freaked out he behaved unlike himself and peed in a terribly inappropriate place at an equally inappropriate time. To use the bathroom in this sad, dirty place I needed a coin of some sort and rather than investigate further I simply turned away in disgust. We found another equally sad and decrepit gas station about 30 minutes up the road and at least I did not have to pay—but perhaps if I had they could have afforded soap and towels, but now, what does it matter? Farther up the road again we stopped in Las Vegas at The Farm and Josie caused a stir among the peacocks. We unloaded an order of candles and collected some cash. End of Day One.

Later, there were hijinks at the motel.

The next morning, in St. George, Utah, I found a tick on Josie’s neck. Barely awake, I tried to grab it, pick it off, something which, due to experience, I am pretty good at, but this little sucker would have none of it. He seemed to be burrowing into Josie’s neck at an incredible speed, and I can still see this fat little tickie rear end sticking straight up and out of Josie’s neck with four little tickie legs waggling frantically in the air. I rushed to find the tweezers—and isn’t it amazing I knew right where they were?—but alas, by the time I returned the tick had disappeared. I searched Josie’s neck and shoulders laboriously and then somewhat deliriously, but could not find that tick. We had to move on.

Driving through Utah is pretty amazing.

That night, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, I found where the tick had been, or maybe still was. It was a scabby looking place on Josie’s neck, a scabby bump surrounded by a little redness. Had the tick burrowed all the way in? Or … ? End of Day Two.

The next morning we walked over to a vet’s office. We waylaid the receptionist as she was about to open up but dawdling, as she had a cigarette to finish. We launched into our disappearing-tick-and-travel story. She listened. She relayed the story (or some version of it) to the vet. The vet agreed to see Josie. She commented on his good behavior and then, after weighing him, his weight, which apparently was four pounds over “ideal.” Perhaps, we concurred, it was avocado weight, picked up in California, easily shed back in Michigan. Anyway, ticks do not burrow into dogs’ necks, she said. This just looks like a scab. But, to be on the safe side, and just in case the tick’s mouth is in there (sometimes the mouth does fall off, or, more accurately, the body falls off while the mouth hangs on), she swabbed the scab with antiseptic. And we left with a vial of antibiotics.

If you need a place to stay in Glenwood Springs, try the Red Mountain Inn.
If you need a meal, go next door to Vicco’s Drive-In. If your pet needs a vet,

try Gentle Friends Veterinary Hospital. And if you just want to take a nice walk,
go over to Two Rivers Park, alongside the Colorado River.

Going through the Rockies, Elliott freaked out. Apparently, for this cat, four cross-country trips is just one too many. As we crossed the summit at Vail, he stood at the van’s passenger window and screamed: “I’m mad as hell! I can’t take this anymore! Yikes! What the heck was that flying by! What’s that noise! Is that snow?!? Mountains? Where are we? Where are we going? Arg!!! I gotta pee! Get me outta here!”

Meowzers.

But, once through the treacherous Rockies and after a stop for a fresh roll of paper towels, we sailed along without incident arriving safely in Cozad, Nebraska, where we hunkered down for the night. End of Day Three.

Meanwhile, this is how Josie traveled..

In the morning, Elliott and I had a short, serious discussion, and all through Nebraska and Iowa and the stop at the bee farm to pick up 200 pounds of wax and then on to Skid Row Motel in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Elliott was his old self. He stayed by my feet, tucked back up, just a little bit, under the seat. End of Day Four.

The Windmill of Cozad.

Driving from Cedar Rapids on home was easier than I thought it would be. We were off the interstate and that proved an improvement. Less traffic, fewer trucks. We cut a diagonal through northeastern Iowa into southwestern Wisconsin crossing the great Mississippi at Dubuque. Wisconsin’s bluffs and crags reminded me briefly of Utah, but all in all, the difference between here and there is vast. Once east of Colorado, every few miles it seems there is a farm, a ranch, a small town; people and what passes for civilization; a clean restroom, a diner, gas. There is earth, dirt, grass, stubbled fields, and windmills. Cattle and cows, goats and sheep, horses and hogs. That stretch of driving between Nevada and the Rockies is probably my favorite due to the scenery, and there are two stretches of road where one is warned: No Services for 100 miles (or so), and a bit later No Services for 60 miles (or so). In other words, there is nothing there. Nothing. NO SERVICES. Nothing. But such fantastic rock. And a fairly empty road.

Utah.

There is much more traffic in Nebraska and Iowa and even in Wisconsin, on a Saturday, heading straight north from Madison.

The last stop was to be a Walmart in Rhinelander to pick up food and supplies for our first few days home. But I never saw it, never saw that big blue and white sign, and that could be because as we passed through Rhinelander Elliott started shifting around, creeping forward, encroaching on the gas and brake pedals. Elliot’s no lightweight, and I had not only to speak sternly to him but to shove him (gently) with a foot, then two, then a hand. So I was preoccupied. Is there actually a Walmart in Rhinelander? And did you know that past Rhinelander, as you continue north into Michigan, there is not much opportunity for shopping? Like nothing. Fortunately, though, Nordine has a grocery in Watersmeet, and perhaps that worked out better than Walmart. I was a bit punchy, after all, and the cashier at Nordine’s was kind.

So, finally, next stop home, until, that is, we had to stop in Nisula for a rafter of turkeys crossing the road. A veritable gang of gobblers.

Did I mention there is still snow in Michigan?

End of Day Five.

Usually these past few months on a Wednesday I would be visiting my mother. It feels a little strange not to. Not to be sitting next to her by the koi pond saying nothing about something or something about nothing. Or just sitting. In the sun. I am happy to be home, but I miss time with her. She is yet in California, enjoying the sunshine.