Town sign in Carlin, Nevada

 

Check out the trip slide show here

 

 

 

ROAD TRIP 2011

Monday, June 13th: headed eastward to Colorado and Wyoming on a summer road trip to visit friends, parks, etc.; after a half day of work, Claudia and I left San Francisco at 2 p.m. in my 2007 Dodge Caravan on Monday afternoon, a half day ahead of schedule and in advance of the Bay Area/Sacramento afternoon commute traffic; nice easy drive over Donner Summit in the Sierras at 7,000 feet, beautiful snow caps above, 72 degrees outside; soundtrack served up by Tony Rice, Red Allen & Frank Wakefield, and Ronnie Bowman, logging 210 miles on the odometer; arriving at our friends Dan and Corinne Carlstrom’s in Reno by 6:15 p.m.; ate an excellent meal, sipped some suds and engaged in some great conversation at the Old Granite Street Eatery; it was a really nice night visiting with our hosts and their Labradoodle, the amazing Ziggy Stardog.

 

Tuesday, June 14th: out on I-80 East by 9:30 a.m., having wagered not a nickel in Reno; long 11 hour driving day, racking up 730 miles, losing one hour to Mountain Standard Time at the Utah border; lots of sagebrush, chaparral and vast nothingness driving across Nevada; beautiful day, 80 degrees, more snow on the distant mountain tops; stopped in Carlin, NV, to take obligatory photos by the town sign; cruising at 75 mph (legal) across the endless white salt flats of Utah; an eclectic soundtrack by Paul Simon, Gillian Welch, Chesapeake, Peter Rowan, Carol Elizabeth Jones & Laurel Bliss, Rick Jamison and Teddy Thompson (let's see a show of hands by those of you who know all of these artists!); cruise control, A/C, borrowed portable GPS (thanks, Tim Van Raam), hundreds of bugs committing suicide on the wind shield; Guild D-25 road guitar in hand, singing some songs while Claudia took the wheel for a while; we arrived at the Aarchway Inn just on the edge of Moab (altitude of 4,000 feet) by 10:15 p.m., hitting the sack just after 11, exhausted by the long drive yet exhilarated to finally be here.

 

Wednesday, June 15th: rising at 8:30 a.m., breakfast in the motel, and out in the van by 10:30, heading nine miles back up 191 to the turnoff for Canyonlands, which is about 30 miles southwest; a warm 95 degrees, sunblock, sunglasses, shorts and hat the uniform for the day; simply breathtaking scenery for the next few hours, stopping for a bit first at Dead Horse Point overlook where we had a picnic lunch in the shade, sharing crumbs with an eager chipmunk, and from there it was a 20 minute drive to Canyonlands, seeing even more awe-inspiring views than earlier; cameras clicking away at a rapid rate; listening to some vintage Stanley Brothers on the ride back to the motel by 5 p.m.; C went for a swim in the pool while I rested a bit in the room; later on we went to the Moab Brewery for a wonderful meal and some of the tastiest beer (Lizard Ale and Scorpion Pale Ale) this side of the Rocky Mountains; back to the motel by 9 p.m., totally relaxed and happy to read on the Blackberry that the Phillies won a double-header against the Marlins, so all is good in the world for at least today…

 

Thursday, June 16th: a beautiful 93 degree day in Moab; up at 8:30 a.m., b-fast in the motel, checked out at 11, and headed up the road just three miles to the entrance to Arches National Monument; drove throughout the park, stunning vistas of buttes, spires, fins and arches, a completely different – yet just as fascinating – scene from Canyonlands; visions of author Edward Abbey (most of whose books I read back in the day) appeared constantly, especially because of his epic “Desert Solitaire,” which he wrote back in the ‘50s after working at Arches as a park ranger; if you have never been to Moab, it is well worth the journey, as the parks are simply awe-inspiring, and besides looking and taking photos, if you are so inclined you can also camp and hike for days there; we left town at 3:15 heading south on 191 to 491, a two-hour drive to the town of Cortez (altitude of 6200 feet), in the southwestern corner of Colorado, more incredible scenery along the way; soundtrack by Janet Beazley, Blue Highway, and more of the Stanley Brothers, arriving by 5:15 p.m. at the home of college friend Paul Ermigiotti, a Philly guy who has been living out here for about 25 years, working at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center; a quiet evening of talking, eating and imbibing True Blond Ales from the Ska Brewery in Durango; another perfect and memorable day on the road…

 

Friday, June 17th: temps a bit cooler in Cortez than in Moab, a nice 83 degrees; a little later start to the day than usual as there was no rush to get out the door today; Mesa Verde National Park is about 10 miles from Cortez on Highway 161 East, and then from the ranger station (where – thanks to Claudia being a wee bit beyond age 62 – we got a “senior pass” for $10 that is good for any other national park in the country) the heart of the park is another 20 miles uphill on a winding road with many more majestic vistas of the flatlands below; first stop was at the visitor’s center where we learned the layout of the park and the 13th century cliff dwellings that were built by the ancestral Pueblo Indians; we signed up for the 3:30 ranger-led tour of the Cliff Palace dwellings and saw a bit of the Chapin Mesa Museum and Spruce Tree House before arriving in time to start our tour; a group of 50 people were led down a steep and narrow stairway to see the Cliff Palace, which is the largest dwelling inside the park; truly amazing architecture, and to think that these folks existed here for over 700 years without Smart Phones and Facebook is simply incomprehensible!; back to the house in Cortez by 6 p.m., 70 miles on the day, where we had pizza in town with Paul and his friend Susan (another archaeologist), followed by some local brews at the Main Street Brewery before arriving back at Paul’s by 10:30 p.m.; that’s three days in a row at three different parks, with each one being different from the other yet also magnificent in their own right; pretty dang amazing…

 

Saturday, June 18th: a free day in Cortez, and we’re now halfway through Road Trip 2011; a nice 82 degree morning, with me spending some time at the Spruce Tree Café to use their Wifi connection (this blog has to be posted somehow!) while Claudia and Paul went to the Notah Dine Trading Post, where Claudia got me a beautiful Four Corners bolo tie; then we went with Paul for a private and fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center where he has been working for 20 years; we saw the lab, education and curation areas as well as replicas of a 600 A.D. pit house and an 1100 A.D. pueblo, along with countless artifacts, and he also took us out to one of the current dig sites that dates back many centuries; from out there we had grand views of Mesa Verde, Shiprock and the Sleeping Ute mountains; back to Paul’s house by 5 p.m. were we had a delicious home-cooked meal of polenta and salad while sipping on some Fetzer Cabernet from California; for desert we dashed out to the street to flag down the chiming ice cream truck, something we had not done since we were kids; real time soundtrack provided by listening to two radio shows on public radio by friends that we know from the Bay Area – Under Currents with Gregg McVicar, and The Grateful Dead Hour with David Gans; earlier in the day, while driving to the dig site, Paul slipped in a tape I made for him over 20 years ago of Berkeley bluegrass singer and acquaintance Laurie Lewis singing her song “Old Friends,” which was quite appropriate, considering that I met Paul when I first went to Penn State in March of 1974, and after 37 years of comradeship, we have certainly entered the phase of being “old” friends…

 

Sunday, June 19th: back on the road for another long drive; we were up at 7 a.m. in Cortez, had a great Southwestern breakfast of eggs (with peppers and mushrooms) and home fries in the kitchen with host Paul, loaded up the van and headed out by 8:45, facing 11 hours of driving; we retraced our steps up to Salt Lake City, going through Moab and dozens of other small towns, but this time we experienced our first inclement weather of the trip, as rains fell on and off throughout the day, heavy at times, with many morons seemingly jacked up on caffeine racing past us going 80 mph in torrents on I-15 outside of Salt Lake; soundtrack by Gillian Welch, Ginny Hawker, Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen, Bluegrass Etc., the O Sister recording, Peter Rowan’s Crucial Country, and Kathy Kallick’s My Mother’s Voice; as luck had it, while we were listening to Rowan’s smokin’ version of his song Land of the Navajo – that was recorded live at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1994 – we realized that he was also playing live at this exact same time at this year’s fest down in Telluride; we also picked up a nice bluegrass show on a public radio station in Salt Lake, hearing the song “Gum Tree Canoe” sung by Bay Area friends Larry Hanks and Deborah Robins while the Dodge Caravan hit the 50,000 mile mark; we exited on to route 89 North off of I-80 East, winding through Wyoming, back into Utah, into Wyoming again, into Idaho for about one mile, and finally back into Wyoming for good, suffering a small crack on the windshield thanks to a semi truck shooting a small rock our way; finally arriving in Jackson by 7:30 p.m., just two miles shy of a 600 mile drive, and the last song we heard on CD was, coincidentally, Kathy Kallick and Peter Rowan singing a duet of the song “Hello Stranger”; the Grand Teton Mountains are in full view looking west, aptly named and still covered with snow; temps a bit chilly here at 6,500 feet, easily 30 degrees lower than in UT and CO, as we put on long pants for the first time in almost a week; we’re staying with our friend and noted writer, photographer, historian, and musician (he was a longtime member of the trailblazing bluegrass band from the 60s The Charles River Valley Boys) John Byrne Cooke at his house; we had a scrumptious meal and also got to see some of his priceless short movies that he made of the late singer Janis Joplin back when he was her tour manager; this is our first time here in Jackson, and it feels great to be here, and to be with our good friend and music pal!

 

Monday, June 20th: easing into Jackson after the long drive yesterday; cool and overcast in the morning, about 57 degrees; as the saying goes, there are three seasons in Jackson – July, August and winter; lazy morning sleeping in at John’s house, which is about three miles from the center of town; lots more conversation and catching up, and having a fine lunch of homemade bread and chicken soup; a short walk around the neighborhood of Cottonwood Park, and then some rehearsing of some songs for our little performance later this evening; we left the house at 5 p.m. in John’s car, it good to be driven for a change after logging 1,500 miles behind the wheel in the past week; driving through the center of town, it quite the summer tourist trap, with folks coming through here by the thousands daily en route to Yellowstone and Teton National Parks; it is about a twelve-mile drive outside of town to Moose, with the still snow-covered Teton mountains rising to the clouds on the left, passing the airport along the way; there are a few shops next to the renowned Dornan’s Resort in the heart of the Jackson Hole Valley; the Monday Night Hootenanny has been taking place there since the early 90s, and singers cue up for one of the twenty coveted ten-minute slots to perform on stage in front of an enthusiastic and supportive audience; normally held inside Dornan’s restaurant, during the summer the Hoot takes place in an outside tented pavilion; John got slotted for the number eight, and Claudia got to sing a duet with him on the George Jones/Emmylou Harris version of “Here We Are” that was a big hit; occasionally guest artists get to play a few extra songs; our duo, Keystone Crossing, was given a special slot right before the break, and we got to sing four songs, and on the last selection we had our friend John come up to join us for a haunting three-part a capella version of the Stanley Brothers’ classic “Glory Land”; it was great fun, and afterwards we ate some pizza, washing it down with some Snake River Ale while watching some of the other acts; the Hoot is really a great event, with some of the performers (including our host John) having sung there over 500 times; we feel really fortunate to have had a chance to perform there, as it was one memorable night; we got back to John’s by 10 p.m. in time for pie and ice cream to help celebrate a wonderful night.

 

Tuesday, June 21st: Summer has officially arrived here in Jackson, and with it came one of the nicest days of the year so far, with highs pushing 70 degrees; this morning we slept in at John’s, had a light breakfast, a talked about plans for the day; John suggested a hike up to the top of Snow King Mountain after lunching downtown; John treated us to a fine repast at Café Genevieve, and when he went off to attend a meeting Claudia and I walked around town a bit; the town square is reminiscent of the square in the town of Sonoma, except with lots more art galleries, stores that sell cowboy hats, and endless moose references; at 3:15 p.m. we met John at the base of Snow King, which is a short five-block walk from the center of town; we then proceeded to start the long, 1.5 hour hike up to the top; the town of Jackson is at an altitude of about 6,200 feet, and the top of Snow King is 7,808 feet, so it was a bit of a climb; in winter it is an active ski run, and in summer it is a common hiking area; the views on the way up are rather scenic, as you can see the entire town of Jackson as well as a good part of the Jackson Hole Valley while the Tetons rise majestically in the distance; however, something we were unprepared for was the preponderance of nasty, blood-sucking mosquitoes; whenever we would stop for a break the little Draculas would attack incessantly; fortunately John and I had on long pants and shirts, but Claudia was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, so she was getting eaten alive; about two-thirds of the way up the hill she decided that she had had enough, so she walked back down while John and I made it to the top by 5 p.m.; the best part about arriving at the top is that there is that a ski lift, so we did not have to walk back down the hill; the worst part about arriving at the top is that I am not a skier, and I am not very comfortable riding on lifts; I had only been on a lift one other time in my life (in Alaska), and it was one most frightening experience; the 20 minute ride down was literally and figuratively breath-taking, as I was holding on for dear life; needless to say, I was quite happy to finally touch the ground again, as we met Claudia and then went back to John’s to get changed for dinner; at 6:30 we went to a fabulous restaurant in town called Rendezvous Bistro, where we were joined by friends John Sidle and Mary Chessman; afterwards Claudia and I went to John and Mary’s house to sing and play some songs with John, who also plays guitar and who also played for 16 years in the legendary Stagecoach Band at the Stagecoach Bar in the nearby town of Wilson; we swapped tunes and sang for close to two hours, and it was a really enjoyable way to end yet another terrific day/night on our trip…

 

Wednesday, June 22nd: another beautiful day in the Jackson Hole Valley, 80+ degrees; the plan was to rise early and get on the road to Yellowstone, but “vacation time” runs a bit slower than real time; after breakfast in John’s kitchen Claudia and I headed north through Jackson towards the parks; the first one you come to is the Grand Teton National Park, which from Jackson you have to go through to get to Yellowstone National Park; with Claudia having purchased her senior park pass at Mesa Verde for $10 last week it cost us nothing more to get into both Teton and Yellowstone; it was a pleasant drive as we reached heights of 8,200 feet, crossing the Continental Divide three times, seeing lots of snow and gorgeous lakes; we arrived at the Old Faithful visitor center by 12:30 p.m. in time to eat a quick lunch and then we got to see the geyser do its thing, which it does for about two minutes once every 1.5 hours; in short, it is a long way to go (100 miles from Jackson) for a two-minute Disney-like production (on the whole, I’ll take Yosemite any day over Yellowstone); on the drive back we took a different route through Teton – the road less-traveled – and it was a lot more scenic than taking Highway 191 back to Jackson; we had fabulous views of The Grand Teton range, and we stopped at the marvelous visitor’s center in the town of Moose as well as at the Laurance Rockefeller Preserve building, which is off the beaten path but is also the first platinum-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building to be built in the National Park System; its green technology includes composting toilets and solar power; we arrived back at John’s by 6:45 p.m., and along the way the only wildlife we saw were a herd of bison, a few elk, a weasel, a squirrel, and an odd park sighting of a parent-hating/self-loathing/tattoed-from-head-to-toe/mohawked/stud-lipped urban biped that I see just about every day while working in downtown San Francisco; the day’s soundtrack was provided by Jaime (son of John) Hartford and The Grant Street String Band, whose rendition of “In My Dear Old Southern Home” made me long for Bay Area singer Nell Robinson’s far superior version of the same song (I inadvertently neglected to grab her CD off the shelf before leaving town); at John’s we had a gourmet dinner cooked up by our host and some California Fetzer cabernet, and afterwards we saw some more of his fascinating Janis Joplin movies that he made when he was her tour manager in the late 60s (great shots of Janis and her three bands – Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Kozmic Blues Band, and The Full Tilt Boogie Band)(how often does one get to eat a meal and see movies made by the same person?); after this, guitars were taken out of their cases, and John and Claudia provided the real time soundtrack for the rest of the evening, singing wonderful country and bluegrass duets while I strummed the Guild D-25; if there is a better way to spend the second day of summer, I am not aware of it…

 

Thursday, June 23rd: final day in Jackson, and the last day before we start the long drive west; had a good night sleep, the Teton range still covered with snow out the bedroom window view, and a nice little breakfast was consumed before running out on some errands; the first stop was a glass shop in town to have the rock-chipped windshield repaired (thanks to Tim Van Raam for the advice!), which we had done for free thanks to AAA insurance coverage; from there the gas tank was filled up, and some provisions were purchased at the Jackson Whole Grocer (great name!) for lunch at John’s and for the 700 mile drive to Reno tomorrow; the afternoon was spent relaxing and packing some, as the plan is to rise early and hit the road shortly thereafter; at 7 p.m. we rode with John downtown to the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts to attend a reception for the 2011 Jackson Hole Writer’s Conference; he is on the faculty of the conference, and Claudia and I got to go as his guests; it is a lovely building, and it was nice to hang for a while with a group of writers and attendees, as for just a short while I had the illusion of being a writer too, if only because of this travel blog here; after the reception John treated us to yet another fantastic meal, this time at the nearby Trio American Bistro; we returned to the house by 10 p.m., ruefully with the realization that our final hours were winding down in Jackson; after years of wanting to come here to visit, the time spent in this town and area just flew on by, and our stay could not have been any better, thanks to our most cordial host; if you have never been to this part of the country, do yourself a favor and start thinking about it now, as it is one beautiful place to visit whether in winter or summer…

 

Friday, June 24th: up early at 7:30 a.m. in Jackson where we had breakfast, loaded the car and said farewell and thanks to our friend John Cooke, who was one gracious host; in more ways than one it was tough to say goodbye – not only because of the long drive that lay ahead, but also because it meant that the fun part of our journey was officially over; we pulled out of John’s driveway at 9:30 a.m. and headed east on Highway 22 through the town of Wilson, up over the Teton Pass (8,000 feet) into the neighboring state of Idaho, cruising through towns such as Victor, Idaho Falls, Pocatello (bypassing the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot) and Twin Falls via Interstates 15, 86 and 84, passing through mustard and potato fields as well as too many generic villages filled with Burger Kings, McDonalds, Wendy’s, and countless other venues that are only worth stopping in to use their restrooms; three hours from Jackson we finally reached the Nevada state line in the town of Jackpot, where we also regained the hour that we lost to Mountain Standard Time about ten days back; calling Jackpot a “town” really stretches the definition of the word, as it is essentially just a few casinos and a gas station; we had a nice picnic lunch in the shade outside of Cactus Pete’s, a casino that I played a week of shows at in 1983 with Elmo & Patsy; Jackpot is on the edge of nowhere, where people from Idaho who cannot afford such go to bet their paychecks, retirements, mortgages, savings, etc., with the hope of striking it rich; there are people there hitting the jackpot by selling false hopes with smoke and mirrors, but it ain’t the folks pulling the arms on the slots, playing cards, craps, etc.; from Jackpot it was about an hour south to Wells, where we once again entered I-80, set the cruise control, and headed west, with the soundtrack provided by Uncle Earl, Chris Stuart & Backcountry, Jackson Browne, the Good Ol’ Persons, Emmylou Harris, and Doc & Merle Watson; we arrived in Reno (logging 693 miles on the day) by 8:30 p.m. at the Days Inn, which is literally a stone’s throw from the constant rush of traffic racket on I-80; we made a judgment call on Thursday night to reserve an inexpensive prepaid room instead of trying to make the 915 mile drive all the way back to Mill Valley, yet in hindsight we could have made it home by 12:30 a.m.; instead, we checked into our funky room, turned on the fan to try and block out the din of the freeway, had a romantic dinner of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while watching the Giants’ game on TV, and with earplugs firmly in place we hit the sack by 10:45 p.m., hoping that bedbugs would not soon be feasting on us while we slept…

 

Saturday, June 25th: the clamor of the freeway outside our window at the Days Inn in Reno made sleeping in not an option, but this was just as well as the plan was to rise early and get on the road as soon as possible; after a cheap breakfast nearby (most things are cheap in Reno – the idea is to just get you to the town to spend and lose money as quick and easily as possible at the casinos), we were on I-80 headed west by 8:30 a.m.; it wasn’t long until we reached the California border and drove over the Donner Summit (7,056 feet): from there it was literally all down hill to sea level about 3.5 hours later when we made it back to Claudia’s house in Mill Valley a little after noon, logging 222 miles on the short day; we arrived safe and sound, the van ran trouble-free, and except for the windshield ding that was repaired in Jackson, it was a smooth and perfect trip; our two cats were, of course, happy to see us back, and after racking up 3,017 miles on the odometer in 13 days, it was nice to be back home after a successful and very enjoyable Road Trip 2011!

 

Looking back…

 

The two of us had never taken such a road trip together before, and it had been a long time since we drove anywhere other than to music festivals in state or down to Los Angeles for a few days. We only had one day of lousy weather, but this was okay because it was a traveling day, and the rain did not dampen our spirits at all. It was simply marvelous to see majestic sites such as Canyonlands, Arches, Mesa Verde, Yellowstone and Teton National Parks. Even better was being able to visit and stay with good friends Dan and Corinne Carlstrom, Paul Emigiotti and John Cooke, as well as spend some time with John Sidle and his partner Mary Chessman in Jackson. Along the way we got to play some music at Dornan’s in Moose, WY, as well as with both Johns at their homes in Jackson. We only had to spend three nights in motels, it was nice to have a borrowed GPS device to use, and having cruise control really made the journey a lot more pleasant. Hundreds of photos were taken, and with any luck they will soon be formatted into a program where they can easily be viewed. We listened to about 40 CDs of eclectic (and mostly acoustic) music as well as tuned into National Public Radio whenever we could, and both of these outlets made the journey much more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been. And the biggest irony of all is that this travel blog ever came into being. The original vacation plan was to get away from computers, deadlines and pecking away at a keyboard, and I had no intention of bringing my notebook along. But there was a possibility that Claudia would have to do some real estate work while we were on the road, so the computer was packed at the last minute. As it turned out, she did not need to use it all, and while driving across Utah on day two I got the idea to maybe punch out a few lines each day to keep track of our travels. Little did I realize that this travel blog would turn into the massive tome that it has, obviously, now become…

 

With any luck you have enjoyed riding along with us. It certainly was one great trip for Claudia and me, and with any luck we’ll be heading somewhere else next summer…

 

Larry Carlin

June 26, 2011

 

 

This page updated 6/26/11