Monday, May 25, 2009

Myetonic Milly

Because fainting goats are funny.


Monday, May 18, 2009

U.P. 844

Eric is a railfan!

Camping, with Dogs

Molly says "hi."

Meet the Blueberry.

Highway cleanup near Pilot exit. When we started that morning it was a brisk 17 degrees.

Campground at Slate Creek.

Molly naps.

Bandit, Tuffy, and Duchess seek shade.

Slate Creek Campground.

The Green River, with our little home-away-from-home in the cottonwoods.

Blue Forest.

Ant hill.

It occurs to me that this post is heavy on the Molly. She's got to be the best-tempered dog in the world, despite having had several tumors removed from the same location on her right front leg, which the vet now thinks it might be a good idea to take off. She's an older dog, 13 (I think? I'm horrible about the years), but we'd like to keep her around longer, especially since she's otherwise healthy, and most dogs adjust pretty well to having only three legs. It's sad with any dog, but this one in particular is just a good, good dog. Unlike the next one, who is hyperactive, needy, obsessive and dense:

Bear, being patient (the stick is just outside the frame). But he's got a big heart, and he's fun, and he can take a lot of playful abuse from the boy he loves.

Our shadow on the causeway.

Bluffs near Names Hill.

Green River, Blue Forest

I used to wish the standard workweek was three days and weekends lasted four; now I know I'd never survive it if it were a weekly occurrence.

Friday the 8th, Mom and I drove the Blueberry (Evanston Motor Co. loaned me an electric blue P.T. Cruiser with 9,000 miles on it to take out of town) to Ogden to shop. Thursday was her birthday, so we hit two craft stores (I needed art supplies), a Target, and two discount stores (I heart Ross and T.J. Maxx) in about four hours before we busted home to meet M and K for dinner at Don Pedro's.

Saturday was the 7:00 a.m. Jaycees' highway cleanup out by Pilot, which went fairly quickly due to a good turnout, but just made me despise humanity even more than I already do. We developed a dangerous game called "Tea or Pee;" truckers (and, to be fair, probably other motorists) have developed the sick and wrong habit of urinating in plastic bottles or jugs and tossing them out the window of the moving vehicle so they don't have to bother stopping at a truck stop unless they need fuel. Why not drop them in a dumpster the next time you do stop, people? Or better yet, STOP AND USE A RESTROOM. We also picked up a lot of empty cigarette packs (we can't get all the butts; there's no point trying), broken CDs, cans and beer bottles, napkins, chip bags, foil, chunks of cardboard, oil filters, broken bungee cords, clothing and rags, a pillow, hubcaps, tools, fast food debris, vehicle trim, awning arms from campers and R.V.s, and the occasional $5 bill or sex toy. We leave the neon orange garbage bags for WYDOT to pick up and flag items that might be dangerous, like the Arizona tea jugs full of cloudy urine, and hypodermic needles.

After the cleanup we all bathed (because EW) and got ready to camp. M and K bought their 35-foot camper late in the season last year and weren't able to use it before winter set in, so this was the inaugural voyage of the as-yet-unnamed home-on-wheels. It required a lot of preparation -- flushing tanks and hoses, locking and leveling, airing and securing, loading generators and propane tanks -- but eventually we got on the road after Kelly built the dogs an ingenious in-bed kennel for his big Chevy pickup out of PVC pipe, zip ties, and chicken wire. It looks a bit Beverly Hillbillies but works like a charm to contain the four dogs, two giant Labs and two good-sized mutts, none of whom listen very well when there's the great outdoors to explore. We got to our campsite at Slate Creek, just yards from the Green River, a few miles south of the Fontonelle dam, a bit late and found Mom waiting with hot coals ready in her little charcoal grill.

I have to say, I'm ambiguous about camping. I like running hot water and a soft bed, and I hate being damp, and it seems like you're always damp in a tent, no matter the weather or season. But the idea of camping is so appealing -- toasting marshmallows while the owls hoot, tossing sticks in the river for the dogs to dive after while you amble long and slow up the river bank, breathing fresh, clean air -- that I almost always go when invited, even if I remember how dirty I wound up the last time. When we got home I had enough unidentified debris under my fingernails to pot a plant in, and that was even with running water and a good bar of soap. But I was so tired I slept like a rock on the pull-out couch, and in the morning Morgan made muffins, eggs and sausage in kitchen far roomier and nicer than the one in my apartment.

Sunday was delightful. We drove up on a high desert plateau and turned the dogs loose to crawl around in the Blue Forest. The Blue Forest is the kind of thing that makes Wyoming so bizarre: a forest without trees. Or, a forest with trees, but you have to dig three feet down in the loose orange shale to get to them (mind the scorpions and fire ants), and when you find them, you find they're stone, beautifully preserved, sticks and bark and in many cases solid trunks that are five and eight feet long. Drillers in the 70's discovered this rare phenomenon, a place where ancient sediment perfectly fossilized trees that must have been on the bank of what once was a vast ocean; Wyoming was the sea floor. Not too far east of the Blue Forest is something called the Green River Formation, and a family in Kemmerer named Ulrich has a fantastic gallery out there showcasing fascinating, rare whole fossils of many kinds of prehistoric fish and plant life.

The sagebrush plain called Eden Valley is pitted with holes, some short and shallow, some the size of a grave, where people have unearthed petrified wood and hauled it away. You can't use power equipment; the law requires only hand tools, and you have to be able to haul what you find out in your vehicle, no dump trucks, and the quantity is limited. We found lots of interesting things to bring home, but my favorite are the small, flat, pink chips of wood that look like they might be from a dry cottonwood that died a decade ago; on closer inspection, they're solid rock, millions of years old. Some larger specimens have layers of blue agate or chalcedony, hence the name "Blue Forest," but there's no amber or other precious stones here, unless you count the wood, just orange calcite in crystals and blobs that I think are as pretty as amber.

After a weekend by the river in the desert we zipped to Mom's and swapped the camper for a pair of Henry's snowmobiles that have come to live with Morgan and Kelly, including my beloved little Polaris 600. The workweek flew by (with some angst and a lot of trauma due to my schedule change) and I wound up with a nasty cold and had a three-day weekend this weekend which consisted mostly of sleeping.

That's a lot of information to take in, I know. Stand by for photos.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Moondance Diner

Belated pics of the Moondance, now that I've been a couple of times. The Pierces have done a nice job on the remodel, even using the former exterior metal corrugated siding -- complete with authentic graffiti -- under the chair rail around the booths. It's cozy, and we're glad to have it.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

What Happened to April?

If the wind isn't blowing, you're not in Wyoming. The snow finally melted and the grass is beginning to green with all the rain, but the wind here is constant, blizzards or blooms, prying open doors, depositing a fine, silty grit on windowsills, making the loose license plate on Monte's front bumper creak and rattle.

As I left the plant tonight, I waited to see the automatic gate come down; sometimes during a strong wind it hovers midway, bounces a little, and opens again. It stuck halfway, so I put the parking brake on and walked back to pull it down, clawing the chain link like I was climbing it, the wind whipping my hair and wrapping my hood around my face. As I returned to my waiting truck I noticed a figure standing at the end of the cul de sac, in the brush several yards down the hill, facing out over the town with arms flung wide against the wind. I got in the truck and leaned forward to watch the show as he swung his arms and tossed his head back, spinning Fraulein Maria-style, apparently singing or shouting, blue plaid flapping, cap in hand.

For a minute I wanted to join him, but I needed to mail Mom's birthday card by 5 so it will make it there tomorrow. I ran several errands, came home and made hummus. I've been trying to buy less prepared and packaged foods and fix things myself, not because of the cost but because it's the way Grandma and Mom used to do things. I peeled and sliced carrots instead of buying the bagged baby carrots, which don't actually taste like carrots anyway. I like the clink and swish of the loose blade on the peeler. It reminds me of Gram and dinnertime chores on Topaz Street years ago.

Puck is still in the hospital; one plastic component in the parts kit Glen ordered arrived broken, so he had to order another, and was very apologetic. (A: "You're putting plastic in my transmission?" Glen, man of few words: "Yeah.") It's been almost three weeks, and even if the parts came in whole, the mechanic's wife had a baby today, induced, I think. As Glen suggested, I called Tim to see about a loaner so I can make a much-needed art supply pilgrimage to Utah, but he was as unpleasant as usual, insisting that the only loaner they offer, a '96 Bonneville with 166k miles on it, not be taken out of town for insurance reasons. I thought about appealing to Dave, who would certainly loan me a used car off the lot, but M offered the Pontiac -- now a collecter's item! -- and Mom offered to copilot. As usual, my family takes care of me. But I miss my car more every day.

Funny, before I got a brand new car (almost a year and a half ago! How is that possible?), I was self-conscious in Monte. He's getting awfully rusty and occasionally backfires loudly when I decelerate, and he's so square that he's susceptible to strong gusts and tips threateningly. The front right fender and bumper still bear the scars of my National City, CA head-on with a Pontiac in 2000, dents and cracks and a missing bumper cap. The windshield took a rock in construction the day after I replaced it last (an owl shattered it on HWY 189 one winter night) and split three ways, the cracks traveling a little farther every time I blew hot air on the brittle winter glass. The remnants of an Imperial Beach sticker and the glue from a Cartman rub-on dirty the back door, and my Browning fishing pole never leaves the dash, which is sticky from the oily fluid that leaked out of my altimeter one year. The speedometer needle is in pieces in the bottom of the round window and the cable buzzes no matter how much grease I apply. Monte, who has 240k miles on him, would make it to Utah, but he would do it at no faster than 60 mph, even on the freeway, and I'm afraid it would be dangerous.

But now that I've been driving around in a brand new car for so long, somehow I've forgotten to wonder what people think when they see the rusty little white refrigerator barrelling down Front Street. Monte, as I've mentioned before, is hella fun to drive. He's not as easy on gas as Puck is, but he's not as bad as the Caddy is. I've listed her on but have only gotten responses from scammers so far. I'm going ahead with some purchases I was putting off until I got her sold because I've delayed so long I've managed to save up for things I planned to use the money for.

We're swapping shifts this weekend, so I get four whole days and begin the Tuesday through Saturday shift on the 12th. I'll miss Sundays and Mondays with Jeff, but it'll be good for Robbie to get to know him better, and honestly, I could use the peace of two days a week without the boss around. We've been going at such a breakneck pace since Jeff took over in October that I've hardly had time to think; it's one project after another, usually overlapping in twos, threes, even fours. The research for most of these projects gets done Sundays and Mondays, along with a lot of exhaustive administrative stuff, reports and EPA things, and it's a lot of thinking. Jeff's gratitude and trust have been incredibly rewarding, and although I worry that he's becoming quite dependent on me, I like my job more now than I have at any time since the first year, when it was all new and amazing. The days fly by with only minor irritations and setbacks, and I've always loved problem solving.

We're planning to camp this weekend, rain or shine; if it's raining, said M, we'll sit in the camper and play Scrabble. If it's shining, we'll hike. We all have cabin fever. It was neither a particularly hard winter nor a long one, but all the same, it'll be heaven to stride across the prairie, through the brush, with the wind in my hair and the sun on my back. I'm ready for campfires and fishing and beer from a cooler, bandanas and meadowlarks and stale sleeping bags. I haven't seen a herd of antelope run for about seven months, and that will be a lovely sight, too.

Not only has it been crazy at work, but I've had a project of my own at home simmering since about November, and I've finally taken the first step, which of course proved to be much easier than I imagined, nay, feared. I'm figuring it all out as I go and as soon as I finish the first stage I'll post a link and explain. It's a money-making, creativity-spurring, potentially very rewarding project, and I'm still surprised that I even got started, let alone am doing well at it so far and truly having a ball. I hate to be so secretive, but I like for things to be a certain way and I don't like to share them until they get there. I'm waiting on some things in the mail and have a little more work to do. Be patient with me.

I suppose if I think about it there's a lot more news around here, mosty just oh thank God it's spring, but it was another long day at the plant and I sniffed way too much PVC glue configuring the plumbing for our new sample line. I thought about a long walk but it's looking more like a nap at this point.

It feels good to write. I should do this more often. Maybe the new schedule at work will enable that; like Jeff always says, a change is as good as a rest.