More than 600 cats saved in Paradise and Magalia, and still so many out there needing rescue, but the time has come to leave this mission to new hands.
Together in Paradise
Time and circumstance have led us here, to the final kittie round up.
We learned so very much.
Together, with strangers turned friends, I’ve shed tears of joy and sorrow.
Living a “Nomadic” life, I have experienced a lot in these past two years. I have personally grown as a rescuer and as a human being in the residue of this tragedy. I gained a new travel companion, along the way.
These hills, strewn with debris and melted cars, will slowly alter and life will prosper.
Life abounds amongst the burned out rubble.
The Earth greens into rebirth despite the sorrows that lay beneath the ashes.
Paradise, Magalia and Concow may never be the same, but the will is strong here to rebuild. The sense of renewal is palpable.
To some it may just be a bunch of cats, but to many here, it is the sign of hope.
Over 600 cats rescued, easily thousands of cats, if all combined rescues are accounted for… and I was a part of it. Just a small part… but part of it nevertheless.
Stay Strong Paradise and Magalia. The sun will continue to rise.
I believe this to be my twelfth cross country road trip in the last year and a half and it is difficult to believe. Nearly two years non stop on the road to date.
Why am I heading cross country yet again? Because my son and his girlfriend are sick of watching my cat. The cat eats plastic bags then runs through the house barfing and they are pretty sick of it and rightly so.
Not that I need much of an excuse to hit the road. I love to travel and am particularly fond of long haul drives.
Pretty much any excuse to go out on any sort of road trip is good enough for me.
Need help selling your house in Seattle? Have a cool place to stay in Madrid New Mexico? Wanna have drinks in Denver?
Festival in Arizona? I’m on my way. Hiking in Maine? Castle in Scotland? Daring bridge crossing in Norway… I’ll be there.
I do not need a specific reason or destination, the drive alone is pleasure enough. A desolate and beautiful drive in the Scottish Highlands? I’ll do it numerous times. (Lately it seems I’ll do anything in Scotland, any chance I get.)
I do love to venture out and explore on foot. Yet driving to and around any destination is one of the best parts of travel for me. Be it cross country or a road trip to the next town, even in its simplest form, such travel it is my bliss.
Routes of the Rootless Cross Country
At about noon I headed west on I 64 from Virginia Beach, bound for Lexington Kentucky. Amazingly I made it as far as Dale Indiana, where I spent my first night.
Having done similar cross country road trip sojourns so readily this past year, I opted to take a new route, staying as close as I could to the middle of the country.
I planned not to go too far north due to bad weather. Not that driving in snow bothers me. In fact I quite enjoy driving in the snow, and did so on a similar trip nearly a year ago
being that my plan this time was to get to my destination as quickly as possible, it made sense to avoid possible snow.
Dew the Cat
More commonly when I drive cross country routes I base them on things I wish to see and do. Yet this trip is more focused on quickly releasing my cat Dew, from my sons care.
Dew the Cat
A sweet cat, Dew is clean, goofy and funny but skittish and sort of… well… dumb. That she does not get along with female cats (of which there are 2 in my sons house) was an issue. As a barf driven in general and has little understanding of boundaries. She also is not fond of the road trip lifestyle, but she is mine, and I love her. So off we go.
My son has been caring for her far longer than ever anticipated. An outrageous amount of unexpected circumstances held me up, including a broken leg that laid me up for over 5 months.
America, the Beautiful Toll Free
The stretch through the West Virginia and Kentucky mountains is phenomenal.
An aesthetically pleasing, as well as enjoyable drive. Rolling pavement brings you up and around beautiful countryside, with steep inclines and descends.
On this cross country passage, I mapped the trip via google maps. For the first time I chose the option to avoid tolls. In result, I ended up on wonderful local small town roads that winded me around the turnpikes and other toll roads. It worked out wonderfully.
Google directed me off of the highway just prior to the toll booth and took me on a few off the beaten path sojourns. Each detour was truly spectacular scenically and roadway wise.
This unexpected bonus only added a few minutes to the entire trip in the end. At on point, I was amused to see myself pull out right in front of the truck with whom I’d been sharing the road for hours, just beyond the clutches of the “pay your toll” booth.
Resting at Rest Stops
I created a cozy little sleeping nook in the back of my Lincoln Aviator.
It was pretty comfy once I got the sun shade thing situated.
I slept at 3 rest stops along this road trip. Not only did it save me money, but it allowed me to hop back onto the road with little wasted time. I think I prefer this to motels when on a cross country route focused on expediency. over sightseeing.
This one in Dale, Indiana was not the most picturesque, but nicely maintained and I felt safe sleeping there.￼
This strip of highway has quite a few decent rest stops normally, but many were closed on this particular trip. I was extremely glad to find this one open.
Good morning Indiana From there I hit a Denny’s for a power breakfast then headed out towards I70 making it as far as Oglala Nebraska.
The Nebraska rest stop was fantastic. Clean with lots of parking. Wide open spaces and lovely views.
Good morning Nebraska!
For some reason google gps routed me through Nebraska instead of my previously designated plan to follow straight through Kansas and Colorado, yet I enjoyed the I-80 drive passing miles and miles of cattle ranches.
Riding High on Audio Books
As much of this particular drive offers such exquisite views, I tend to revel in the scenery without distraction.
But on long hauls like this, driven alone, various forms of distraction are necessary to staying alert, even if that sounds a bit oxymoronic.
One way I pass time is of course my music. When I’m feeling tired I at times rely on talk radio to keep me going. Yet one of my best allies is Audible.
Listening to lectures or books or whatever wets your noodle, is one the most valuable tools when in the more long haul type of journey. Just make sure you download ahead of time.
Your in Reno? I’m in Reno.
Before picking up my cat from my sons house in Portland, I will visit with FieldHaven Feline Center, the group with which I volunteer from afar.
FieldHaven, a long standing cat rescue and shelter in Lincoln California has been working hard to help the thousands of cats affected by the campfire.
Along with the support of Alley Cat Allies, FieldHaven opened 2 temporary shelters; Alley Cat Allies Recovery Center in Marysville and Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station in Paradise. These additional shelters were necessary for the unprecedented amount of cats let injured, lost, homeless or without shelter and food across the burn zone.
Having been invited to stay with Joy Smith, the head of FieldHaven, I remained in touch with her as I headed West. When I told Joy I’d be in Lincoln Friday, she mentioned that she would not return from Reno (where many of the unclaimed campfire are being sent for adoption) and ot back home until 5pm.
Checking my itinerary, it occurred to me that I’d be in Reno by about noon on Friday. In the same time my friend Christine, who I hadn’t seen in years texted me, asking me to stop by when passing through Reno. (Is totally forgotten that she’d moved there)
In the end, I got to stop in Reno, take a much needed shower as well as visit with my good friend Christine, then meet Joy & Rog of FieldHaven, as well as a bunch of campfire cats at Nevada Humane Society then follow them back to Lincoln.
Landing in Paradise
I made it across the US, practically from coast to coast in 4 nights easily.
The expense of the trip was purely gas, breakfast and drinks in the end and it was yet again another fantastic road trip across the US. I GoPro’d every light day of it and will share it, along with my many other recorded journeys, as soon as I am able.
Saturday I was able to visit Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station as well as drive around Paradise to see the devastation first hand. It may seem a grim thing to do. Yet certainly I am not a catastrophe tourist. I’d ridden this area on my motorcycle many years before. The strange familiarity felt by the awareness of knowledge of this place I had rarely ever been. I felt a unique and intimate understanding of the tragedy that affected so many.
The stories of loss, heartache and then the ultimate satisfaction of reuniting someone with a cat they were sure had perished in the fire. Cognizant of the feeding station and trapping locations as well as if I’d lived there and physically helped. To know the addresses and stories of human, animal and material loss as if it had happened to my friends and neighbors. It is difficult to put into words the sheer devastation of it all and how keenly I was touched by experiencing it first hand, after all of this time.
And am keenly aware of all hard work and dedication that FieldHaven and the many trappers, feeders, rescuers and shelters have put in just to help give a small bit of relief to the people and animals that have lost so very much.
Sadness and Loss
I GoPro’d the devastation but I’m unsure if I shall share it or not. It was heart wrenching to see the depth loss exhibited by these utterly charred neighborhood’s. Businesses mostly gone. Hearth and home obliterated along with the foliage and trees.
The overwhelming emptiness of the place, bereft in its losses it is tangible as if a solid entity.
But the cats… so many survived. They escaped locked down burned out houses like little Houdini’s. Thousands of cats so far recovered. More found and trapped every day. Their ability to survive in a burned out world of nothingness is remarkable. This place so long considered a paradise for so many, as in name then to ashes.
It was a magical experience and an added bonus to this cross country drive. If it actually meant anything beyond a rainbow happened to cross my path at the most opportune moment or not, I’ll let you decide that. What I will state, is that my expeditious drive across the US, for me was well worth it if just for that moment.
Hell, I live driving and exploring so much, it was worth it just for the drive alone.
Next Stop Portland
Soon I leave for Portland to pick up Dew. Then I will head out with my friend Laurie, her chihuahua Rudy and my cat to cross the country once more, this time via the most northern route heading from Portland to Rhode Island.
After a year of countless US Road Trip expeditions, on October 2018 I set out to Austin to help out my 93 year old mother.
Mom had fallen and broken her pelvis, so in response to her need, I headed to Austin, Texas to help. This would be my ninth US Road Trip in a single year.
I took a small blogging break through Thanksgiving intending to record my journey back to Virginia and begin writing again.
Three days before I left Austin for my next US Road Trip, I fell and broke my leg. Sadly, I have been nearly silent ever since.
That Road Trip; from Virginia Beach to Austin. This was my 11th drive across the US, that covered over 1000 miles in the last year (2018) (so I am excluding quite a few 600 mile excursions in that number). Since that time, (and after 4 months of healing stuck in Austin on my Mothers couch) I have driven a moving truck from Austin to Raleigh North Carolina, flew back to Austin and drove my SUV back to Raleigh and then onto Virginia Beach. My next US Road Trip adventure starts today.
I have traveled from thousands of drive miles from coast to coast, to coast in the United States (East, West, South). Through deserts, up mountains, across cities, to seashores.
I have flown thousands of miles, then driven thousands of miles beyond these shores of ours.
US Road Trip et al
The 6 month delay created by my broken leg, caused quite a few challenges. Hurdles that I am yet attempting to overcome. One of the key issues was that my son (and his girlfriend) have been stuck with my cat for far longer than ever intended and she’s been causing a bit of havok. At
Today, I began a US Road Trip sojourn once again. I will cross the US to pick up Dew the cat. leaving Virginia Beach heading to Portland in an hour. Travel plans are to begin via the middle route and back again through the northern route, then heading West via the Southern route once more, if all goes as planned (and I utilize the road plan loosely, for I am greatly open to enjoyable deviations (even those nt so enjoyable)
On this new US Road Trip, I will be stopping in Butte County so that I may visit those with whom I have been remotely volunteering, FieldHaven since the Campfire. Once retrieving my cat, I shall pick up my friend Laurie and her chihuahua, and together we shall head to Yellowstone Park.
The plan is to US Road Trip across the Northern route ending at Camp Anarchy to attend the festival. From there we head to Rhode Island to try and sell off all of my things. Then we shall pick up my trailer and head West again via the Southern route.
I plan to once again share my travel stories with you. I hope you will follow along my 12th US Road Trip in a year
The name may come from Roque Madrid who had interest in lead mining the area in the 17th century. Madrid later abandoned the area with little trace.
It wasn’t until 1835 that mining of anthracite coal found in Madrid and Cerrillos New Mexico, drew renewed interest to the area, especially by the railroad.
Anthracite coal was particularly important for use in passenger trains, leading to the building of a spur line to the area.
But New Mexico was still a rather rugged territory, torn between the strained relations of Mexico and the US. It was not until 1880 that The Cerrillos Coal Bank came to pass.
Cerrillos Coal & Iron Co designed the layout of Madrid, they built a railroad station known as Waldo Junction then transported most of the inhabitants to to the town.
This “company town” of Madrid, thrived through this heyday. The innovative and forward thinking leader, Oscar John Huber was instrumental to the towns success and with his nourishing hand the train stop and rich with coal, the town of Madrid boomed.
What You Don’t Know About the Wild West
When imagining the Wild West, visions of swaggering cowboys and marauding “Indians” come to mind. In truth, clashes between settlers and the local inhabitants were not the norm in the Wild West. The settlers and the local natives lived in a strained peace predominantly.
Of course, a land full of opportunity appeals to entrepreneurs, pioneers, opportunists and outlaws alike. But in general, the Wild West was never quite as raucous or chaotic as we’ve been led to believe. And Madrid New Mexico was at the very heart of this new frontier.
Madrid’s interesting history offers a glimpse into the reality of what later became known as the Wild West. It is a story of reinvention, innovation and strife, all while living in the middle of an arid desert.
American Frontier Not The Wild West
New Mexico was one of the last holdout states to join the Union.
This new American Frontier showed great promise for opportunity, offering the possibility of great wealth. Yet it long remained far more rustic than its more mature and populated brethren to the East & West.
Once New Mexico joined the Union in January 1912, Arizona followed close behind, making them the last states to join until Alaska and Hawaii joined in the late 1950s. (I am leaving out a Hell of a lot of history here including the Mexican / American war).
As a territory, New Mexico had little to offer to those not tribally connected to the land until coal was discovered. But when coal was found in a streak from Cerrillos to Madrid, the mining began and the people started to come.
Houses were broken down in Kansas where the mines were drying up, then transported via rail to New Mexico, and rebuilt in Madrid. A “company town” was born. Madrid New Mexico.
Oscar Joseph Huber’s Madrid
Oscar Joseph Huber, superintendent of the Albuquerque and Cerrillos Coal Company, encouraged the community to thrive through his progressive management style in Madrid. His innovative and forward thinking ideals demanded the community to pitch in for schools, a hospital and the things needed for a society to be healthy and flourish and it worked.
Membership to the Company Store and an Employee’s Club, offered members discounts and perks in exchange for their monthly financial contribution and their promised community involvement.
Huber set the standard for coal mining communities and the idea of those that could afford it, contributing to the communities needs.
This created a new standard for such communities.
Madrid stood as a shining light and a healthy and happy town and populace. Well as healthy and happy as coal miners, living in the wake of the toxins and dangers spewed above and dug below could be.
Celebration & Demise
By the 1920s, Madrid became known for their holiday events. Thousands of lights illuminated the town via coal power, during Christmas. Elaborate firework displays lit up the sky for the 4th of July, subsequently bringing in visitors from far and wide.
When the popularity of dirty burning coal died out to cleaner fuels such as natural gas, coal mining died out. Madrid’s population dwindled. When wartime came to pass, the result made Madrid a veritable ghost town down to 30.
Madrid languished. Classic western store fronts, the mining shaft and miner shacks, sat deteriorating under sun drenched skies.
For more than a decade most of Madrid lay dormant, snuggled between rolling pink hills and azure skies. Not quite a ghost town, but from the 1950s through the 1970s Madrid was practically forgotten. Laying dormant, the near ghost town of Madrid stood as a testament of time.
Rebirth | Joe Huber’s Madrid
Then in the early 70’s Madrid New Mexico came to life once more. Transformed by the son of its originator Oscar Huber.
With the same innovative thinking, Joe Huber invited artists to come rent housing for cheap. The rumour goes, they came to visit and never left.
Madrid was reborn, bustling to life as a vivacious, counter culture haven and remains such to this very day. Joe, a visionary, opened up his beloved town to the frontiersmen (and women) of the time, creating a community of artists, and counter-culturists.
Joe remained dedicated to his home town until his death in the late 1980’s. Some of those who shared Joe Huber’s original vision remain in Madrid today.
Visiting Madrid New Mexico
I had a Hell of time when I got to Madrid. My struggles made so much easier by the beauty of the location and the friendliness of the people. It did not hurt that my AirBnB was divine.
Luckily the town of Madrid is protected from most types of development due to water regulations. So the sleepy little hippy town remains pretty much intact.
Driving The Turquoise Trail / NM 14, found between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, Madrid, remains a slow moving and quiet artist community, albeit with a large community of dogs. Although the population is only about 200, colorful pubs, restaurants, shops, galleries and museums are enticing enough to spend an entire day there.
Lots of live music, good food, unique art and the friendly people draw an eclectic spattering of tourists. From bikers to family outings, the area offers a little of everything for everyone.
The Mine Shaft Tavern offers scrumptious fresh food.
Since I travel alone, I take note of how warm, welcoming and friendly places might be for someone alone and they score high on the list of comfort.
The residential area is made up of a patchwork of houses, cabins, yurts and adobes, along largely unpaved and gravel strewn drives. The main road is part of the Turquoise Trail
Madrid New Mexico, as a destination, is funky and unique place to visit. Truly an outlaw town that created itself and has held onto its counter culture roots.
A lovely little village, well worthy of the stop, offering food, entertainment, places to stay, shops and more, in a gorgeous location along a breathtaking drive.
Just remember to slow down to 20 MPH as you come upon Madrid on NM 14. It’s one of the only rules you may find there.
About a year ago I decided to create a life devoted almost solely to travel. Become… a Digital Nomad so to speak. Somehow I planned to diminish my expenses so that the majority of any future income could be directed to my travels.
Now I knew I wanted to live my life on the road, but had absolutely no idea how I was going to achieve that. Having already sort of ditched my home, I knew I was part of the way there, but when my random and impulsive purchase of a 1971 Fan Lee Liner occurred, my journey towards living a travel trailer life began. I was that much closer to my dream.
Although I am not even living in the damned thing as of yet.
Preparing for my Travel Trailer Life
It has taken far longer than I ever imagined for the stars to align and allow me to move in and start this new travel filled life.
Since I had little plan beyond that which existed in my head, I am not actually off schedule. But I’m ready and it is certainly time!
I left the camper with the guy from whom I had purchased it until April, due to weather. Although I picked the travel trailer up as intended, I ended up heading back to Scotland for a month again. That’s twice in one year now. Since that time, I have been across the US numerous times. East to West, North to South and diagonally covering every existing coast on the mainland.
You just cannot visit Scotland too many times. Ever!
Traquair House grounds 2017
It is not the trailer restoration that has taken so very long, but the typical extenuating circumstances of life. Sort of the expected, unexpected, that we all know will happen but do not know what they will be.
With little warning I had to pick up Roadie from the dog sitter. This was about a month earlier than intended. Roadie was located over 3000 miles away. I was missing her terribly anyway.
This put me back on yet another cross country US road trip, right at the time I had planned to be selling off my shit and fixing up the trailer. It also ate up a large amount of my budget well ahead of time. But it was just part of life’s expected unexpected.
Not being one to miss an opportunity to travel. I turned this diversion into a travel adventure, albeit also a bit out of a necessity.
I flew from Virginia to Portland, drove to Seattle pick up the dog, and back to Portland I went.
Drove from Portland to Austin, Texas and then from Austin, Texas to Providence, Rhode Island, booking AirBnBs in the places I wished to explore. I did indeed get to explore and visit friends and family. But I was far away from the travel trailer that was meant to be a part of these journeys.
Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Dogs, Cats & Kin
When I found out that I had but days to pick up Roadie from the dog sitter in Seattle, I was staying in Virginia Beach.
Having left my SUV at my sons place in Portland when I left for Scotland, I had to book a last minute flight to Portland to pick it up, then drive to Seattle to pick up the dog. But of course, the travel trailer was still in Virginia Beach. Most of my belongings are in storage in Pawtucket (near Providence) and my Mom was feeling lonely in Austin.
My 92 year old Mom was depressed and needing to see me, so after visiting with my son for a bit I headed to Austin Texas.
Jameson, my son had been watching Dew the cat while I was away and was not at all thrilled that I was not taking her with me. But the dog was sick, the journey ahead long and I just could not drag that poor skittish cat on another journey until I had the travel trailer ready for her.
I must make note that the dog nearly died in Baker City, Oregon. At 16 she is already quite elderly. An amazing vet saved her. Alika Fisher figured out it was a resurgence of an infection from a tick bite shed experienced in 10 years earlier. If you ever have an ailing pet in Baker City Oregon do not hesitate to stop at Baker City Animal Clinic. They saved Roadies life.
So we’ve covered planes, automobiles, dogs, cats and kin. There were no trains involved. Sorry.
Selling Off Your Life
It takes forever to sell off all of your shit. Especially if you’re living nowhere. Staying with friends and in AirBnBs until your home (travel trailer) is ready to move into kinda sucks. You cannot help but feel that you are putting those involved out. Being home is never really being in YOUR home, which puts a lot of ones routine on hold. You stay on perpetual visit mode.
The money consequently runs out pretty damned fast. And you get to the point, after staying far longer than intended, that you feel as if you’re walking on eggshells. No matter how welcoming the people hosting your stay may be, it is indeed their home and not yours.
With my writing, photography, online shops and GoPro editing I need a fair amount of space to work and it is quite difficult for some to share their space in that manner. I don’t tend to just visit, I need t spread out in order to work.
Although my friends in Virginia have been remarkably kind. I have lived amongst them on and off a great deal in the past year. They have become like family to me. A family more accepting and appreciative of me and my lifestyle than one I have ever known.
They have offered me understanding and support. Given me unending space and freedom to live as I wished within the confines of their home. Lent a hand at fixing up the camper and with helping me move about. I will miss them when I go and cherish everything they have so selflessly offered me.
Travel Trailer Life
Yesterday, my 1971 Fan Lee Liner went into the shop to complete the things I could not do myself. Soon I will be on the road doing a cross country test drive. Nothing is even close to ready. Yet the travel trailer is ready enough for me to live in. I will finally truly be living on the road nevertheless.
My travel trailer life will begin.
Well sort of.
I still need to head back to Rhode Island to try and sell off more of my shit yet once again. But at least I can stay in the trailer and not bleed out money to an AirBnB. I suppose once living in the travel trailer, no matter what I am doing I have at least met this one goal.
It’s ironic that getting to the point that I can begin my travel trailer life lifestyle, may be harder than actually living it. Once I finally start living in the damned thing.
I read so many blogs about the travel trailer life, the RV life, Van life but I have yet to read about what a pain in the ass it is getting to the point where you have cut enough ties from stuff and expectations to actually move in and start… well living the travel trailer life. But I am close, so very close!
If you wish to find out how it all shakes out. Follow my blog and we can experience it together.
Overwhelmed with relief to see the sign ‘Welcome to Madrid’, I knew my turn onto Back Road was close at hand.
No longer any need for the low tire pressure warning since now there was no doubt that the tire was entirely flat.
After turning on Back Road it was only one half mile left to the AirBnB.
The night was even darker, but it did not take me long to realize this was yet another unpaved road, laden with huge gaping potholes.
Here we are, actually in Madrid and subsequently what I thought would be the end of our ordeal. But now I was driving on a pitch black, unmarked dirt road, riddled with fissures and huge holes.
I started chanting again. “Come on baby, you can do it”.
The shaking of the SUV caused Roadie to sit up and try to peer out the window.
“Lie down dammit!” I yelled, worried she’d get hurt flying across her bed, even within the doggie hammock.
A nice comfy bed was ahead of us. I just needed to make it. Only one fourth of a mile to go.
I envisioned sleeping in a bed as I traveled down the mild grade of the unlevel and poorly maintained, muddy road.
Before me the rent in the road was wide, deep and on the same side as the flat back tire.
There was little room between the cars parked on either side but nothing was going to stop me at this point.
Slowly I pulled forward, the front right tire fell into the unavoidable hole causing the SUV to lean dangerously to the right.
Unpaved Roads & Anxious Dogs
The dog fell backward (I had told her to lay her ass down) and clunked her head on the door.
Thankfully, once we made it out of the hole she sat up, after a bit of struggle to get her ground and started panting like the happy dog she is.
How could .3 miles take so long. I swore the GPS was stuck.
As soon as I got close to what looked like the turn for Waldo Mesa Road, the map would expand showing it to be further ahead.
One more gaping hole in the road, of course it was also on the right. We made it through and were once more on level ground. Now making our way up a mild hill covered with huge sharp, rocks for gravel. (don’t they know what gravel is in New Mexico?)
We completed the last turn in the road and the roadway mellowed.
Flat dirt, no holes and I was pretty sure the light shining up ahead was the light for our AirBnB.
As we got closer though I groaned. The house was just as pictured, but subsequently on another fissure ridden hill.
“For fucks sake!”
I turned onto Waldo Mesa Road and stopped in front of the gate. I got out and took a deep breath. It may have been quite a challenge getting here, but I was in the New Mexico desert and it was beautiful.
Grateful in Madrid
I was so grateful to have made it I could have kissed the sand below my feet.
I took a few moments to appreciate my surroundings and remind myself how lucky I was to be here at all.
The AirBnB was adorable and it was surrounded by the scrubby, rolling hills of New Mexico.
Even in the dark it glowed with a tinge of pink. If I had to have 2 flat tires, then better in this place. I was infinitely glad to be there.
Roadie whimpered. She had to pee.
Leaving the SUV on the road I helped her out of the back seat and escorted her to our new digs.
The key was on the table as promised, so I let her in and went back down the hill.
Pulling the SUV in was not easy. The Aviator sat at a precarious angle but I really wanted to get into bed and sleep.
After hauling everything we needed for the night, I loaded the cold stuff into the fridge, washed up, changed and fell fast asleep.
Was the level of desolation on this road a good or a bad thing?
Regardless, I was determined to get to my Madrid AirBnB and lie down in a bed that night. Even if the damned sun was rising by the time I got there.
The Aviator crawled up a steep and curvy incline, as I murmured my mantra… slightly amending it each torturous mile.
Just 10 more miles, just 8 more miles.
Come on baby… you can make it.
A Dogs Life
I checked the rear view.
Roadie was quiet as usual. Asleep in her backseat and nestled in her hammock. Completely accustomed to long hauling at this point.
Even at her age the dog has the bladder of a champ and only asks to stop 2 or 3 times in a 16 hour stint. 16 hours being generally my limit for long distance driving.
She’d slept through the flat tire. Through the most of the tow truck guy changing the tire with my equally flat spare. (Thanks a lot you asshole)
She sat up and watched a bit as said “help” did not check if the spare tire was good. Even after I repeatedly shared my concern and told him that I was completely ignorant to the condition of the spare.
Roadie wasn’t worried, after all she’s a dog. For a moment I wished she was the driver and I was the dog in the hammock.
The Turquoise Trail
Tow truck dude reassured me that the tire was good.
Then drove off in his tow truck. Leaving me on a gravel road, that not one, not even two roadside assistance services could find without a great deal of direction and description from me.
Me, my ancient dog and my Lincoln Aviator with an equally flat tire as the first.
Alone on this unpaved road, in the middle of the desert, on a seemingly clear but oddly starless night.
Me and my sweet dog.
Left as fodder for the coyotes, only a few miles from our destination.
It seemed hours ago that I’d turned onto the Turquoise Trail and started on the last 12 miles to Madrid.
On this weird, cloudless yet starless night, the full buck moon was bright red. Drawing wild eyed deer to the roadways edge.
Like packs of starving zombies seeking to sate their ravaging hunger. Suicidal Whitetail await in the shadows for just the right vehicle to drive by.
In my mind I could see them. Pawing at the periphery. Waiting in the twiggy wedge of where the forest meets the road.
Moon crazed deer are the bane of rural Texas roadways in Summer and Fall. But not only deer succumb to the full moons lunacy. On Summer nights like these, a deranged contagion maddens more than the jittery, spindly legged, frantics.
Although unseen, denizens of the Texas wilderness hide in the shadows. Lurking at the brink of the unlit road. Waiting for me to drive by.
I scanned the verge with sharp intent. Hands gripping the wheel in anticipation. Ready to respond.
As Austin neared, the forest thinned and turned to sprawling ranchland. Not out of the literal woods yet, I loosened my grip but maintained a keen eye.
Hello Austin Texas
About about 100 miles north of my South Austin, Texas destination, traffic thickened as it now always does when nearing Austin. I began to relax.
Less than 100 miles from my destination and no casualties. Then something flew in front of the car and vanished. I knew it was a goner.
It was nearly dark, so it could have been a bat. Texas is home to millions of little bats. But I knew that whatever it was, was likely stuck in the massive grill of the Lincoln.
I’d not seen it do the customary ‘swoop of the dead’ over my hood. So I imagined it wedged between the evil teeth if the Aviators shameless grin.
I drove on.
The sprawling Texas ranchland faded to subdivisions. I drove across Austin through the late evening traffic, so common to this place. Venturing on to my mother’s house in South Austin.
Arriving exhausted, I merely glanced at the menacing grill of the Lincoln upon unloading and saw nothing.
I awoke to take Mom to do errands. It was hot. Three digit hot.
The bug laden grill showed no sign of a body, so I offered the little creature a moment of silence in recompense and went on with life.
The Heat (Heart) of Texas!
The next day was hot. Like the rest of the US, Texas was searing. Daily aspiring to triple digits or close, with just enough humidity to make it soul breakingly bleak.
As I traversed South Austin to help my Mom with chores. Instead of dodging moon crazed deer, I now evaded the blank eyed, soccer Moms, that dot Austins cityscape.
These dough eyed creatures, drive and roam about as if they have no real destination in mind. Such Austin transplants wander the parking lots and shops in a daze similar to the deer.
Swaddled in organic yoga pants and t shirts with ironic sayings, they prance about believing they too are “weird”. Their freshly dyed purple hair, a beacon of their unacknowledged privilege.
I prefer the crazy deer.
The deer are much more competent at blending into the landscape than are this new breed of Austin Moms. Fueled by their vapid superiority, they don’t even notice themselves blocking the way, driving to slowly or cutting you off.
And Ye Shall Arise!
We stopped at Michaels craft supply and walked the length of the strip mall to TJ Maxx.
The heat was better this day, yet too oppressive for my Mom. So I slogged off through the Texas heat, to get the car and come pick her up.
How could that be?
There’s no way it could be a second bird right?
Yet there she was, screaming her wee head off and waving her wings about. She looked a right mess too.
I opened the trunk and the dove flew out. She stumbled around the parking lot, mimicking the soccer moms and flew off into the expansive Texas sky.
How could that poor little sucker have survived? Eighty miles an hour in front of a searing hot radiator? Three whole days driving around town in 3 digit heat?
There is no way to know how that little bird survived her predicament. Yet, she now too was a transplant to Austin, Texas.
Maybe she’ll dye her hair purple, buy a Subaru Outback and start prancing around parking lots in ironic t-shirts.