I should write about sensory overload and why it is bad for keeping contemporary records but useful for after-the-fact recall because once you are at a point where daily occurrences are hitting you without the insulation of the sort of aesthetic distance needed to compose a camera shot in a viewfinder or lcd screen, events sort of inscribe themselves in your neural pathways to form permanent impressions which may or may not be accurate but they do tend to be particularly vivid and thus later recollection has a nice storehouse of near-trauma to draw upon.
And trauma or near-trauma are necessary, it seems, for the production of concrete reflective pieces, be they anecdotes or essays or sketches or books. And possibly paintings, but I have yet to learn to paint but I need to put that on my list. I was supposed to have learned it back in the early 80's but my art school education was ended prematurely by an intense desire to escape by any means necessary but I have written elsewhere and extensively about that.
The longest day we spent in the high country between Salt Lake City and the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Criz picked the correct route given weather conditions on what was going to be our prudent, southern route: the storm that the Weather Channel was hyping as possibly the Worst Winter Storm Ever Ever Ever hit mostly east of the Rockies but the tail end of it dipped down into NE New Mexico and so we did not get to see Gallup nor take a left turn at Albuquerque--which I badly wanted to do because I had never done it before--but instead we drove I-80 from San Francisco to Cheyenne WY where we took a right turn instead. We drove through the Sierras at Donner Pass and then across the Great Basin and on past the Salt Lick up into the Wasatch Range after which to my amazement the road never bent back downhill except slightly between Laramie and Cheyenne. Instead it Kept. Going. Up. For hundreds of miles, up. We crossed the Continental Divide twice, as though once were not enough to make us pay attention to the not-quite-appalling-but-merely-abyssmal road conditions up there.
I did not have fond impressions of Wyoming before. I now have seared into my memory the experience of driving on a more or less continuous sheet of ice at around 6000 or so feet of elevation, trying mostly to emulate the truckers who were about the only drivers accompanying us probably because we were the only people that truly needed to be somewhere else the next day. The good thing about that is that if you watch them they will show you how to drive in icy conditions as safely as possible and it meant that traffic was relatively light giving us more room to do things like try to stop or maneuver without hurting anyone should the need arise.
The luck of the driving draw put me behind the wheel from Evanston WY to Rawlings WY and you can probably go online and look at the weather reports and the roadway reports to get some idea of what it was like. I think that the coldest rest stop was probably the one near Evanston where off in the distance wooly buffalo stood around like nothing was unusual and for them I suppose nothing was. One day I would like to know what it is like to be inside of buffalo hide at 30 or more degrees below 0F. Which it must have been there with the very strong wind chill, because when we left Rawlings the next morning knowing it was 30 below, it felt warmer than the rest stop did.
When we did get to Colorado Springs it felt quite balmy at around 10F or so. I don't recall the exact weather report for the day we drove up. It did hit 40F within a couple of days, making it almost hot! Because the Worst Winter Storm Ever Ever drove temperatures to extreme lows in the Midwest, the train that was supposed to leave Chicago on Thursday afternoon did not, and so the train I was supposed to board in Denver the next morning did not arrive. And because Greyhound is less reliable than Amtrak, I could not get out of the Springs until Monday because the only sure way to get from there to Denver without wheels of your own is to take the Front Range Express commuter bus that runs on weekdays only.
And so I did get to spend a couple of days in what may be the most congenial winter weather climate in the country if you like snow enough to want to see a little on most days but not enough to have to put chains on the tires to get anywhere because it seems that in Colorado Springs it will snow a couple of inches and then the sun will come out, warming the asphalt and melting the snow off the roadways where it was not already either cleared by plows or at least sanded--with magnesium, apparently, as it is less corrosive than old-fashioned salt.
The temperatures stayed mostly in the no-sweat zone for me, with the daytime average around 20F. With sunshine and little wind, 20F is my Perfect Temperature. I really miss the brilliant winter days of cold sunny weather that we would see even in Georgia for about two weeks out of the year. When I moved from Seattle to San Francisco I went from a chilly moderate climate to a cool moderate climate and I have not seen what most people think of as a normal succession of seasons in many years. There are seasons here but they have very little to do with the seasons that most of the rest of the country experiences. Even Seattle has more of a winter than we do but still it rarely drops below freezing long enough to produce substantial snow there.
So, yeah, I saw winter. Possibly too much winter in some places but I did get to hang out for a little while in what might be perfect winter weather.
Beyond cold and more cold, I can report that Criz' new house is very nice, extremely well-insulated especially compared to a drafty, leaky San Francisco flat, and located in a friendly and walkable neighborhood. I am somewhat jealous although I do like San Francisco more than she does but still less than I like Seattle so I still have to figure out where it is I want to spend the rest of my life if I have a choice. She is located about half a mile from wilderness and so one could conceivably put on a backpack at her house and head into the backcountry without having to find parking at a trailhead. Here things are a little more complicated although perhaps I should take advantage of the Angel Island escape more often.
Riding in a rental truck cab with two cats and a large dog and one other person was a bit like playing one of those games where you move the tiles around the one vacant spot to get them to line up except that there was no vacant spot really so we all maneuvered around each other carefully. Abby and I got to know each other very very well and we had a routine down in which she jumped into the wheel well in front of the passenger seat and curled herself as small as her greyhound/st. bernard frame will allow her to--she can make herself surprisingly compact, in fact.
The train ride home was much more pleasant than I expected, as I went coach but even when the train was full nobody sat next to me so I had the whole two-person space to myself all the way from Denver to San Francisco. The only snag with the train was that I got to Denver's Union Station only to learn that Amtrak had a new "station" four blocks away and so I had to go back out into the snowy streets fully loaded with backpack and book bag to find it but my body is of course overly adept at keeping itself warm so the walk was almost pleasant at least once I was sure I was going the right way. I had arrived about an hour and a half ahead of departure time so at least I was not in a hurry. It is hard to walk on re-frozen slush when one is in a hurry. I stepped carefully where the broken ice was and avoided the smooth sheets that covered parts of the sidewalk.
But so I came home wondering whether I look much scarier than I used to since not one person even paused by my seat to consider sitting next to me on the train. I did not trim my beard last time I shaved my head, partially out of curiosity to see how it does long and bushy and partially because I knew I was going someplace much colder than SF soon. The extra hair really is useful in cold weather as long as you can avoid zipping your coat up into your whiskers. I did get to experience frozen facial hair which is not that uncomfortable as long as the frozen part is not right next to your skin.
When I got here Santiago and Sandy were waiting for me and Santiago said "meow" as soon as I opened the front door. He has shadowed me the last twelve hours. In a little while I will need to go see Nan but he cannot come along so he'll have to wait till I get back to continue following me around. I am so glad to see him I cannot even begin to say.
There are pictures on various digital media and I will work on getting those out onto the internet in the next few days. I did not really get a good picture of the cold because the cold was overwhelming to the point that I could not take pictures but I can say that I now understand that -30F is in fact colder--and feels it-- than 0F. I was really really glad that I bought that REI down jacket back when I had money. I don't get to use it very often but it sure does work well on those occasions when I need it.
And that is my story. I reserve the right not to stick to it and to remember things a little later that I forgot to include and to revise portions of it and to retell it as often as I feel the need.