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Dubuque 2015

Mississippi River at Dubuque

Looking downstream. Illinois left, Iowa right.

I was so busy (apparently) on our recent trip to eastern Iowa that I never had a chance to post anything while we were there. No biggie, it was mostly family—eat, visit, and nap, you know?—and live in clean rooms with real closets and such. I only went crazy a couple of times. Oh yeah, my brother died, and it was humid, with a wild storm one morning when the city blew sirens.

But one afternoon two sisters and a sister-in-law went walking along the Mississippi, and of course I came, too. The river defines Dubuque for me. If I lived there, I’d be a river rat—exploring by boat and on foot, dragging odd artifacts back to the house. Fish, snakes, turtles, and birds. White pelicans, herons, and eagles, no less. Giant trees! Also quicksand, swatting bugs, and getting lost. Being swept away to hell or worse, Missouri, when I hit a snag and lost a prop.

It Has to Be a Sign

bull in the back yard

You really had to be there

The sharp, loud scream from my wife in the kitchen startled me out of a delicious slumber at 7:00 a.m. “Are you all right?” I yelled, staggering out of bed. (Cue visions of sharp knives, rattlesnakes, dead cats, and blood…) She was, fortunately, but something huge had just walked past the window: this guy!

I couldn’t believe it. Not again! (See here.) I was naked this time, too, just like fourteen years ago in San Cristobal. The big black bull had come around the house and was now standing in the back yard eating flowers. “Shoo!” I yelled. Nothing. He just stood there looking at me through the screen door to the bedroom. Bulls generally don’t react to “shoo,” of course. Then I had the good sense to call for my camera.

Believe me, the photo doesn’t do him justice

“Where is it?” she said.

“On my desk! Near the desk! I don’t know, just find it!”

She did. After snapping a few choice photos, I tried to chase him away again. “Shoo! Git! Go home!” But nothing worked. Finally I opened the door, still in my birthday suit, and yelled again. The sight was too much for him, apparently, and this time he took his leave—slowly, I might add. I wonder what might have happened if he’d charged me, though? Would there now be a full-grown bull wedged into the doorway, or better yet, inside the house?

This simply cannot happen twice, and yet it has. (Here’s that earlier post again.) Both times early in the morning in New Mexico and me naked with a camera. I mean, come on. I emailed a photo to a friend in Maryland. She said, “Egads! What kind of spirit animal is that?!!!!”

“A big one,” I replied.

The Force is with me, obviously. The gods are beating me over the head with hints. “Just write!” my wife says, but what the hell? Nothing ever happens around here. I sure wish it did.

Back Home in the West

back yard in Taos, NM

Seven thousand feet, by God

Before I’d even passed the Iowa state trooper on the shoulder, I could see his wheels begin to roll. We’d barely started out from Osceola early under a wet gray sky and I was doomed.

The road was wide, smooth, and empty. Apparently I’d flown over the crest of a hill at seventy miles per hour, because who wouldn’t and I’m the king. There were six hundred fifty miles to go. I hadn’t set the cruise control at my customary five-to-seven over the limit because we still didn’t know what it was. The dearth of signage we’d noticed while driving across the state was maddening. But on a two-lane highway that could handle four cars doing ninety, I figured that meant sixty or sixty-five and I was safe—patrolmen in northern New Mexico wouldn’t blink at ten miles over, right?

Speaking rapidly and memorized, the fine young man instructed me that there was in fact a sign just outside of Osceola five miles back and that the speed limit on all two-lane roads in Iowa was fifty-five. (The reason why there weren’t more signs: everybody simply knew.) With something of a robot parson’s zeal, he went on, stabbing the relevant entries on the citation with a gloved forefinger. He’d given me a break, he said, writing up my speed at sixty-two instead of the captured seventy-one, which meant the fine was only $114 instead of $200. Oh boy! I could pay at the courthouse. I could mail it in. I could pay online. I could trade a six-pack of hogs. What struck me, though, was that rather than acknowledging the extreme variety of two-lane roads and setting speed limits to match, the legislature in Des Moines had decided long ago that no one would go faster than the slowest of our number—think old pickups on a county road—because you really shouldn’t anyway, and aren’t you sorry that you did?

[click to continue…]

New Mexico Sky Again

New Mexico sky

Volcanoes on the horizon

I always say it’s the air, right? Well, it’s true. Here’s what it looks like. Monsoonal skies all afternoon long. Cloudy, cool—near 70°F—with rain falling overhead (according to the radar) that never touches the ground. Hasn’t yet today at this location, anyway. Very quiet, too. There’s a rodeo in town. Is that where everyone is? Or at Solarfest? Not that we’re complaining. The peacefulness is very restorative. We’re eating weird stuff as we empty the cabinets post-trip. Nobody wants to go grocery shopping yet! I don’t mind, though. It’s a small price to pay for gentle re-entry.

✫ Stand By ✫

Colorado Highway 10

Colorado Highway 10 into Huerfano County today

Oh yes, got back today around 2:30 p.m. My God, what a week for me, you, and America. I’m in shock. Everything continues to be…different… Once again, the transition from where we were to southern Colorado and northern New Mexico is a ripping blast. Among other things, I can’t believe I live here.

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