Thursday, July 16, 2015

Trip Into The Desert

Life has been very busy recently.
So busy in fact that blogging on this seemingly never-ending page has been all but impossible.
My lap top was out of commission for almost two weeks.
More appropriately my access to the Internet was out of commission.
After almost two weeks of trouble shooting over the phone, reluctance to send a tech out to Atomic City, endless waits on the phone, dropped phone calls, non-returned-phone-messages and endless frustration I finally resorted to that line in that really terrible movie starring Patrick Swayze called Road House.
Be nice until it's time not to be nice.
Not being nice is not in my nature but I can switch it on if I have to.
Angry at being backed into a corner and having no choice but to make a lot of noise I called the number, waited too long, finally and reluctantly left my number, and when the tech finally did (unexpectedly) call me back I let it loose..
By the end of the phone call (which started in Idaho and continued in Utah) a tech guy was coming out the next day and our bill was going to be pro-rated for the two weeks of limited service.
Is there anything else I can do for you?
No - just get somebody out here to make this thing work and you won't hear from me again.
I am sure that he was pleased to hear that.
I was pleased to say it.
Tech-dude was at the house for 30 minutes and when it was all said and done we had a new router and cables and other make-it-work-stuff and were good to go..............

We bought a 1991 Suburban from a young family on a Wednesday a few weeks ago, and they were moving to Dallas on that same Friday.
143,000 miles.  $400.  With a full tank of gas.
It is huge and old and a beast of a vehicle and we both love the thing.
As I followed LC back from Idaho Falls we drove across the endless and empty desert, and I was dumbstruck as I watched that old vehicle smoothly and seemingly effortlessly drive 80 miles per hour.
OK - skeptical-me turned into believer-me and I was pleased that we could spend so little for a tight vehicle (with less miles than both the Tahoe and the truck we already owned) and that we could use in the mountains and through the desert.
4 wheel drive worked.  Lights worked.  New parts under the hood.  No leaks.  Full tank of gas.  
Within a few days we realized that the engine wanted to surge, and that it would stall out when first started and when moving from stop to start.
The last few weeks have been frustrating for LC as he quickly realized through online research that the problem could be any one of a multitude of things.
After replacing a number of parts, it is now in the hands of a mechanic we know in Arco.
We hope that he will be able to fix the issue.
If not, our great buy will only turn into a decent buy, and we'll figure out whether to keep it or sell it.
I love this beast.
It is huge, Kory has all the room in the world, it drives out fine once you're moving, and is surprisingly good on gas.
I hope the mechanic can find the problem.
A picture of our beast above, taken about a mile outside of town.................

For the past week I have been very busy cleaning out our metal storage building.
Am finally going to try and restart a business...............

These pictures were taken about a week ago, late in the evening as the sun was beginning to descend behind the mountains of the Lost River Valley..............
A few days later we drove out into the desert to explore with our neighbors.
Assuming that we would all travel together in one vehicle, I was surprised when LC came back to the house and said that the couple would be driving in their own truck.
We don't know the couple well, but are on friendly terms with them and so I asked why the two vehicles.
They smoke pot.  The woman of course knows that LC is a retired law enforcement officer.
We don't care.
They are good neighbors.  They are our age or a little older.  They take great pride in caring for their very modest home and beautiful yard, and their greatest enjoyment in the evenings is driving 5mph around town in search of the deer (who are gradually and thankfully finding their way back to Atomic City) while drinking beer and smoking pot.
They live a quiet life, hurt no-one and are good people, and we enjoy them when we run into them outside.
Regardless Mrs Neighbor insisted on taking their own vehicle.
That was fine with us....................
The desert has remained green so far throughout the summer, which is a stunning and surprising development.
We had a whole lot of rain throughout May and (even though we had one week of suffocating 100 degree temperatures) the bulk of summer has been welcoming and mild.
And wet.
Every day for the past week the sky has built up a storm that quickly descended on top of us with furious wind and rain for all of 30 minutes before the sky returned to its summer sun norm. 
It has been an amazing summer so far, and the desert does not look like the desert.
Rather it looks like grassy plains.
As we were driving down Big Butte Rd I looked to my right and saw antelope running in the distance.
We have seen many antelope over the past few weeks out in the desert (and in fact a resident of the town had antelope walk down her road one day last week) but they have always been a long way off, and impossible to capture in decent pictures.
Such was the case on this occasion as well.  Before they sped completely out of view I made a grab for my camera and snapped this lopsided picture.
We have seen more antelope this summer than in total since we moved to Idaho.............
Meeting up with our neighbors we drove only a mile or so further down Big Butte Rd, crossed over the railroad tracks, and almost immediately we saw the truck in front of us pull over to the side of the road.
We had heart stories about an underground cave, and a huge fern that was down in the cave but visible from above.
We watched as the man climbed out of his truck, before following his lead and climbing out of our own vehicle.
Kory immediately jumped from inside the Suburban and began to eagerly explore the area, as did our neighbors little Chihuahua.
Making our way over rippling, buckling, ancient lave rock I looked down into the hole that both the guys were closely inspecting.
A fern it was.................
Our neighbor helpfully told us what he knew about the cave.
If you dropped down into the hole the cave was almost deep enough to be able to fully stand upright.
This fern had been in this same place as long as our neighbors had been living in the area, which was well over 10 years.
Smiling at me, my neighbor invited me to climb down into the hole.
Smiling I declined the offer.
I did a lot of crazy things while I was adventure racing, but when it came to crawling around in very tight spaces another of my team-mates was the one to go collect the checkpoint.
When I first started racing I was part of an all-woman team.
I still remember standing in a huge cave and watching one of my team-mates belly crawl through a hole in the stone wall in search of a navigation punch.
And I remember being glad that she had no reservations about doing so.
Claustrophobia is not something I think of on a day-to-day basis, but there is a certain measure of it that comes into play when I am standing in front of places like this one.
Thanks, but I'll pass................
It was probably 8:30pm or so on what had been a very hot day, when we headed out into the desert in exploration of who-knew-what.
At this time of day the world was embedded in continuous transition.
Even though I was standing in bright sunshine I realized that my dog (standing on top of a rise to the west of me) looked to be shrouded in deep shadows.
She stands at the top of rises very often.
Enjoying being able to see the world from an elevated perch, I sometimes stare at her and wonder exactly what she is thinking. 
At this moment she was staring at the Big Butte 9 miles further to our west..................
Looking north towards the Big and Little Lost River Valleys.................
Driving further we picked up a flat, rutted out double track trail and bounced our way through the desert.
As I scanned the world around me I smiled when I realized that with each bounce of the truck in front of us their cab would partially lift away from the frame of the truck.
It wasn't battened down well at all, and somehow I didn't think that they cared.
For the needy users I have alluded to in past blog posts, these are two people who live independently and quietly and happily, and who just simply do their own thing.
I have to respect that about them.
I do respect that about them. 
We stopped again when we reached the row of power poles that towered over the desert in a straight line in both directions.
LC and I had been this way before.
On that day we turned left at the power poles, and quickly picked up a bumpy, rutted out, rocky trail that went up and over a steep rise before picking up Big Butte Rd again.
On this trip we would continue straight for a good while before eventually veering off to our right.................
There used to be buildings out here in the desert.
I am still trying to piece together why and what because stories seem to continually change depending on who is telling them.
Regardless, there are remnants of structures - cistern, foundations, junk piles and so on.
This (in the middle of seemingly nowhere and nothing) is a cistern...........
Two puppies happily wandering...............
Before heading over to inspect this unexpected find in the desert I walked over to the passenger side of our neighbors' truck to see if the lady wanted to explore with us.
Looking at her eyes and her huge smile I immediately recognized that she was better off hanging back with the truck.
Neighbor again invited me to step down into the hole in the ground so that LC could take a picture of me with my head sticking out.
Our neighbor's little dog.
Her name is Stu and the man of the house good naturedly calls her Stupid.
Or maybe her name is Stupid and it was shortened to Stu.
Who knows?
One thing I DO know is that this little dog and our much bigger dog like to chase each other up and down the adjoining fence, and it is very funny to see our dog with her long, graceful bounds and this little one with legs going a mile a minute in an attempt to keep up.
It keeps them happy and occupied for a long while each time they play and chase each other up and down the fence line, and it is very funny to see..................
As the shadows across the green desert floor continued to lengthen we continued on our journey further away from town.
We had little time to explore in truth.  Our neighbors wanted to keep moving and we wanted to at least get some idea of what was out there, knowing all the while that we could head out that way again in the future and explore at our own pace.
The rusted remnants of two old vehicles...............  
As daylight was rapidly fading for the night, we slowly began to head back in the direction of town.
We had not seen a whole lot that I thought was picture worthy in truth, although I had greatly enjoyed the trip into the desert, the guided tour of areas that we blew through much too quickly, and the friendly neighbors.
Surprisingly our neighbors abruptly stopped when we reached Big Butte Rd for the third or fourth time during this trip, and told us to go ahead.
They were stopping for a bathroom break or at least that is how the story went.
Smiling, waving and thanking them for the trip LC turned the truck east and back towards Atomic City.
With the sky quickly turning into beautiful shades of blue and pink and purple, and with daylight now almost completely gone, at first I was not sure exactly what I was seeing walking in the desert.
It took another minute before I finally realized that these were elk.
Two yearlings.
Likely siblings traveling together and likely not long separated from their mother.
Stopping the Suburban in the middle of the gravel road almost directly across from them, they immediately stopped walking and stood warily staring at us.
It was so good to see them.
We had seen so many tracks over the past couple of years.  Had heard them bugling late in the day while out on BLM land.  Had heard the stories about elk sightings, but we had never seen one.
Until this late evening, while slowly making our way back towards town.
Without any doubt, the highlight of the trip.............
If you don't die of thirst, there are blessings in the desert. You can be pulled into limitlessness, which we all yearn for, or you can do the beauty of minutiae, the scrimshaw of tiny and precise. The sky is your ocean, and the crystal silence will uplift you like great gospel music, or Neil Young................Anne Lamott

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