Monday, June 26, 2006
Stay tuned for more. In a few days I fly back to the West coast and LA. Once again I will be making a connection in Las Vegas, for the love of God. I visit freinds and my habibi in LA, go into Mexico a little, fly to NY to see freinds, and then back home I land in Chicago. The three biggest cities in the U.S. and a new country to my list. At least in Mexico I don't think they will stop me at the border because they think I have a DWI. See you there.
By the time we got into Montana my uncle and I were pretty sick of each other. At that point we had spent about six days together non-stop. We even slept in the same room. I wanted blood and so did he. We both agreed it would be best to move it along a little faster. Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, and back into Wisconsin went much faster than the first half of the trip. A few notes from that leg. Some of the roads in Wyoming are red. I’m not sure why, but I am guessing it has something to do with the rock in the area and the availability of quarry. Also, Montana is called big sky country at least that is what I have heard. Although Montana did have a big sky I am skeptical about rumors I heard that Montana is long and flat. Montana did not seem that flat to me, but I was in the southern part, maybe in the north it is flatter. We also stopped at Mt. Rushmore where I hiked around the mountain. The faces are surprisingly small, at least that is what I thought. I kind of had the same feeling as when I first saw the sphinx. Perhaps in my own mind these objects have been built up to epic proportions in the back rooms of my mind. I don’t know. Lastly, I want to give a salute to my traveling companion on this trip. We will have to put this one in a jar, cork it, and put it on the mantle for later. 4000 total miles, California the long way, nine states, and two countries is a long way. A long way. A long way. Happy trails.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
We stopped for a little while at Mt. St. Helens and I went for a short hike. It is amazing that even now it feels like a powerful place.
At 8:32 Sunday morning, May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted. Fifty-seven lives lost. They were loggers, campers, reporters and scientists. In all, there were 36 victims brought out of the devastated area. But after all of the searching, rescues and recoveries, there were still many people who were never found. Oddly Mt. St. Helens did not erupt skyward like many volcanos but horizontally. This is why there was such devastation.
Mount St. Helens formed a conical, youthful volcano sometimes known as the Fuji-san of America. During the 1980 eruption the upper 400 m of the summit was removed by slope failure, leaving a 2 x 3.5 km horseshoe-shaped crater now partially filled by a lava dome. Shaken by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale, the north face of this tall symmetrical mountain collapsed in a massive rock debris avalanche. Nearly 230 square miles of forest was blown down or buried beneath volcanic deposits. At the same time a mushroom-shaped column of ash rose thousands of feet skyward and drifted downwind, turning day into night as dark, gray ash fell over eastern Washington and beyond. The eruption lasted 9 hours, but Mount St. Helens and the surrounding landscape were dramatically changed within moments.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Going through Spokane, Washington I was tagged for speeding. I was going about 85. I thought it was a 75 zone, but it was a 65. I suddenly saw a motorcycle parked on the median of a six lane highway and the motorcycle cop pointing at me as I whizzed past. Paul immediately said, “Was he pointing at you, maybe you should pull over.” I said, “I don’t know if he was pointing at me, let’s wait and see if he comes after us.” He did come after us, but I didn’t pull over right away. I was looking for a safe place to pull over. After a couple miles I pulled onto an exit ramp. When he approached the window he asked why I didn’t pull over right away both times. I just said I wasn’t sure if he meant for me to pull over. He knocked down the ticket to a lower price, but I don’t think I am going to pay. So I will just have to remember that I have a warrant in Washington in case I ever go back.
Again at the Canadian border we were tagged and asked to go into the building. Once inside we again were asked numerous questions but this time about what was in our car. Obviously they did a search and found nothing. Later that night, as we were eating dinner, I found to my dismay that one of the guards had stuck his finger in my peanut butter and swirled it around. I hope he wore gloves.
Monday, June 19, 2006
Once into Canada we went to Vancouver. It is really the only place I did research on before we left so the only place that I really knew what I wanted to do. We stayed at an older hotel that night and decided to go to the Capilano Park that night and then do some whale watching the next day. Capilano was pretty cool. You have to cross a really long suspension walking bridge to get to the other side of this gorge. The whole time it sways and bounces. Once on the other side there was a series of walkways suspended in the fir trees. It was really fun. That night we went to the pub near our hotel and I got talking to this older Irish guy, Rosco. Rosco really loved me. When he found out my name was Hurley, that I was Catholic, and that I teach in a Catholic school I became like a son to him. Either that or the pints were getting to his head. He invited me out on his boat the next day. He fished off of Vancouver in the Pacific, one of those 40 foot fishing boats with the boom arms that come out to drag hooks. I was really tempted, but still hoping to make time the next day. The following morning Paul and I awoke early and went to Steveston in south Vancouver to get on our boat. Once there we boarded a small craft and set out for the San Juan Islands. It took about two hours to get there, but it was worth it. While in the area we saw Killer Whales about fifteen feet from the boat. On the ride back we saw numerous Sea Lions and about twenty Bald Eagles. It was a little expensive, about 85$ each. However, having six hours in the boat, getting to see these beautiful animals in their environment, and getting a little snack in between was well worth it. At early evening that day we set out of Vancouver and again headed for the Canadian border.
When Paul and I reached the Canadian border we were asked a series of question. I assume the man we were talking to was trained to take our responses and see if they made us potential threats. In any case, we were told to pull to the left and enter the building with a piece of paper. What the paper said, I'm not really sure because it didn't appear to make any sense. Once parked and inside the building we were again asked a series of questions. This time they were a little more direct. We both were asked where we have lived, our professions and such. I was asked what I taught, what the age group was, and most particularly why I had decided to teach in Egypt. Everything was going smoothly until they asked if we had ever been arrested. We both answered at the same time, "no" "Yes". I was asked what for and tried to explain what an Absolute Sobriety ticket was. The guy didn't get it. He explained that Canada would not let me enter because I had a DWI. I kept telling him it wasn't a DWI, I wasn't drunk, I was just underage. I had to call home and get court documents faxed to him for him to see that I did not actually have a DWI. When he read the documents and realized what the charges where and that I had paid the fines he let us through. Enter Canada.
Day Three driving through Oregon was just that, driving. We passed through Portland without a stop and continued on into Washington. By the end of day three we had reached the outskirts of Seattle and settled for the night intent on getting an early assault on the Space Needle the next day. As we pulled into downtown Seattle I could feel the cities beat. I like it from the first second. The Space Needle was a welcome break from the road and the first of our sights to see. It was on a Monday and not too many people where there. We spent about forty five minutes at the top and then headed out of Seattle. Intent on making Vancouver, B.C., Canada that night.
I landed in Palm Springs on Friday night, very late. By eleven the next day Paul and I had packed up his life and were on the road. California, here I am. I don’t like California, or at least not the southern part. It is very dry, sunny, and has that reddish tinge to the mountains and rocks. It’s just not something I enjoy very much; I am not a desert person. I like the rain and cold and all that comes with it. One interesting thing in the south was the vast fields of wind mills. As we traveled north the first night we settled in Bishop. I wanted to go in to Yosemite the next day and do some hiking. We went to dinner and as we ordered Paul asked the waitress how far of a drive it was to Yosemite. She said, “Oh, you don’t want me to answer that do you?” Apparently the main road was blocked with snow and where we were it would be about five hours to get into the park, which meant five hours back as well. Ten hours seemed like too much and the first day was done with the decision to just keep going. As we got into northern California the Mountains became more prominent and the terrain became more to my liking. Most of the driving on day two was through mountains and by rivers. Crawling uphill and plunging down. At one point I was going about 95mph when I looked in the rearview to see a police car closing fast. I expected to get some speeding tickets and was obviously speeding so I just took a deep breath and waited for the lights to flash. However, they just followed for a while and then passed, no ticket this time. By the end of the second day we crossed into Oregon, Medford I think. Crossing into Oregon was like flipping a switch. California was sunny, Oregon was cloudy and rainy. These rain and clouds would follow us for the rest of the trip.
I didn’t know what time it was and it didn’t matter. I’d lost most of my reasoning to keep track. I’m sitting at a bar in the Las Vegas airport. I’ve been here before and I can hear her blithely striding upon me, trying to seduce my soul. This time I will win. Sorry darling, but you are no longer a mystery.
Las Vegas is a town of rapid expansion. It is profitable, growing, and largely dependant on a coal fire plant in South East Nevada. Once I took a tour of the Hoover Dam. On said tour the guide told us that “Las Vegas actually gets only about 1% of the power generated by the dam. Most of Las Vegas’s power is generated by coal, but don’t worry folks, its out in the desert and can’t hurt anyone.” Obviously this guy was not a man of science. This desert flower is more like blight. Yet the city grows by attracting residents and tourists alike.
Hypocrite? Yes, I am. I am here, for the second time. Last time was curiosity, this time is economics. I took the cheapest flight that would get me to California. The voice said, “Go West”. I wanted to ask why, but all that came out was, “yes, yes, ok”
My flight here was o.k. We shook a little but that is the nature of life, shake a little or don’t leave the house. However, I left the plane disturbed and uncomfortable. When I travel I do so for adventure, to “rough it”, and to see the unknown. My travel is not a vacation, it is work. On my flight I was surrounded by paisley shirts and knee high tube socks. One woman made it very obvious this was her first flight. As we left the ground she screamed, “Oh My God!!!!” followed by other very frantic and unarticulated screams. By the tone of her voice I thought that smoke was coming from the engine, the wing had fallen off, or possibly there was a gremlin on the side of the plane. I was certain that the plane was going down. As the people around her started to laugh it dawned on me that she was just excited. This lead to me contemplating the ambience of flying for the rest of the flight. When did it become something retirees did in the meantime?
With greater opportunity comes greater cost. Not monetarily, but to the soul or panache’ of something once mysterious and prestigious. Las Vegas, like flying, has become more affordable and in doing so has they have lost the unavailability that made them unique. Humans are expanding into the world so greatly that soon there will be nothing left to imagine. Very soon to travel will be no adventure at all. As I sit here my conscious tells me not to worry. In any case, it can’t hurt anybody; it’s in the middle of the desert.