Saturday, 7/14/01 - Saturday, 7/28/01 - Hanging Out West
I spent a week at the Taos Writers Conference, the weekend taking a workshop on magazine writing, and then a week taking a workshop about "place" which I hoped would help my travel writing. Speaking with other writers and aspiring writers was a good thing for me.
My original hope was to attend the workshop led by Pam Houston, the incredible writer whose three books I've picked up during my travels and have read, given away, bought again, and re-read - Cowboys Are My Weakness, Waltzing the Cat and A Little More About Me. Every time I checked, the workshops were full, but I decided that just being in close proximity to her would mean at least the possibility of meeting her. Her books were inspiring me to be more honest in my writing, less cautious, and I wanted to be able to tell her that, to thank her.
The entire week went by, and I couldn't get the courage up to speak with her. The workshop was good, and I did a short reading, volunteering to go first on the first day. But each time I saw Pam, I couldn't say anything.
Finally, the last night after dinner, Pam did a reading. Afterward, I stood in line to have her sign two of her books. When I finally stood beside her, I told her that I couldn't find her website online and that I'd be happy to make one for her, if she wanted one. I was so worried she would think I was a quack, but she immediately agreed and wrote her phone number and address in one of her books so I could contact her about it. I could hardly stay calm as we spoke, my heart thundering, and when I got outside, I jumped up and down with excitement. I was going to make a website for Pam Houston!
That was a great way to end the conference. The next day, I headed north, back across Highway 64, with the intention of getting to Cheyenne in two days. Hills, trees, river, and then the sky opened up as I drove into Angelfire. I was looking ahead to Eagles Nest down the slopes of highway, and only turned to look toward the right. Something was in the sky.
I was driving right by a hot air balloon celebration. At the last moment, I turned off the highway and onto a side road, straight into the action. There are magical moments on the road, always when you least expect it, and this was one of them. Colorful, lollipop-like bubbles in the sky.
I turned onto I-25 a short while later and my drive north on I-25 went smoothly and by evening, I was in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I spent the next week in Cheyenne, enjoying various events surrounding the 105th Annual Frontier Days, a late July celebration in the city with rodeos, concerts, a carnival and even free pancake breakfasts served to tens of thousands of residents.
I've enjoyed my time in Cheyenne. It is a small city, population around 50,000. It is easy to get around. People are nice. There are fun things to do in town and outdoorsy things to do around town. I was beginning to imagine living there, getting a job at the local radio station or local newspaper (or both) and getting a little apartment that allows dogs and trying to get out of debt and save some money.
Sunday, 7/29/01 - Wednesday, 8/3/01 - Driving to the Ocean
I left Cheyenne on Sunday, heading West on I-80, a route recommended to me by other RVers who knew my Apache couldn't take any major mountains. I'd already done the uneventful but scorching hot I-80 stretch from Cheyenne to Rock Springs before, although this time, I stayed at the Rock Springs KOA instead of an EconoLodge.
After another hour's drive through the remaining western edge of Wyoming, I entered Utah, the Apache straining only slightly on the steep inclines, staying in the far right "super-slow" lane and taking it easy on the way up.
Strange how no one warned me about the God-forsaken section of Utah this route would take me through. Once past Salt Lake City, which from a distance looks pretty bleak (Park City, on the other hand, was a green haven nestled against mountains), the landscape took a sudden turn for the worst.
Nothing but miles and miles and miles and miles of flat dirty salt lands, the mountains only ghostly apparitions in the distance. Every sign for every town on the map said "No Services" except for one where the gas station looked to be so far away that I was certain it was a mirage and kept driving.
Lucky for me, at the last minute, I decided to fuel up in Ft. Bridger, about an hour outside of Rock Springs. Otherwise, I would still be on those salt flats, far from civilization or any other signs of meaningful life.
On Monday, we stayed at the KOA in West Wendover, Nevada. The sign into Wendover said to turn off NOW for "more fun than any city should allow" or something to that effect. After two hours of numbingly dull driving, a tin can could hold more entertainment than any person could stand at once. The campground was sparse, desolate and hot.
The drive to California was a lot longer than my Dist-O-Map led me to believe and I realized that I had another 2 days of 300 miles/day driving, and then some, before I got to California where I had rented a house for the month of August, hoping to be able to work on writing my new book - all about my RV travels.
Nevada landscape had slightly more variety and color than northern Utah, pink and tan mountains with deep, dark grooves carved into their sides broke up the flat plains.
I finally arrived in Reno, sweaty and tired, and pulled into the KOA which was literally behind the Reno Hilton in a glorified, gigantic parking lot with tiny trees. I hadn't called ahead, but I usually don't and they always have a site. This time, however, there wasn't a site to be had.
I took this as a sign that I needed to keep driving and get out of Nevada. And am I glad that I did!
The moment we crossed the state line into California, the terrain underwent an incredible transformation, from dusty hills and plains to tree-covered mountains. We entered Tahoe National Forest, curving around green mountains, shaded from the evening sun as it slowly set in the West.
We arrived in Truckee, California around 6:00pm PT, easily finding a campground off I-80. The Coachland campground is set in a pine forest, well-shaded, with a cool mountain breeze blowing through. This was WAY better than a parking lot behind a hotel in hot, flat Reno.
The following day, we passed through Silicon Valley and crossed over the mountain to Santa Cruz. Then we headed down Highway 1 to the house we were subletting for the month, in Aptos, California. Our home, sweet, home, if just for a little while.
I didn't keep much of a road diary while I stayed at the house in Aptos. I spent my days writing, riding my bike around town, going to the beach and looking out on the ocean, and taking a few drives up Highway 1 to Monterey, Carmel, and Big Sur. I did get some writing done, although I struggled every day with getting the words, images and feelings down on the computer. How do I convey what I've been through and make it interesting and important? I felt overwhelmed.