Thursday, November 10, 2005

Travel Log: 6 Oct - 8 Oct

Older daughter in minivan.Route

Frisco’s Main Street to I-70 west to Colorado Highway 13 to Colorado Highway 64 to County Road 7ish (can’t remember, really) back to 64 and 13 and I-70 to Utah Highway 128 back to I-70 to U.S. Highway 191 to U.S. Highway 163 to U.S. Highway 89 to I-40 west to I-17 south to I-10 east to Houghton Road to Seven Generations Boulevard to Thunder Sky Way to Sixto Molina Lane and home!

Younger daughter in minivan.Travel Highlight

Perhaps the highlight of the whole trip was our visit to Mike and Mary Grady’s 800-acre ranch just outside Meeker, Colorado. Meeker is a town of only 2,000 people, yet I was invited to read at the town library, following a book lovers’ group potluck. More on that below. Mike and Mary are the parents of our friend and former neighbor Jana Dawson, who now lives in Chicago.

Our girls in the chicken pen with Mary Grady.At the ranch, we got to see (and most definitely hear) newly-weaned calves and their lonely mother cows, a hopping baby black pig, and a rambunctious pack of friendly sheepdogs (though the black-faced sheep, comical goats, and nervous calves don’t find them so friendly—ever seen Babe?). Our girls got to feed the chickens and collect eggs. Our oldest tried to milk a goat, with near success.

The ranch house is a beautiful two-story “Denver square” built in 1903, and the ranch on this temperate day was pastoral, with the leaves not quite turning, the irrigation ditch flowing, and the first hints of autumn on the breeze.

Milking the goat---or trying, anyway!Many thanks to Mary and Mike Grady and Jana for such a wonderful time!

Travel Lowlight

If, driving west on I-70 through the increasingly arid and starkly red deserts of eastern Utah, you want to cut down on Utah Highway 128, along the Colorado River, and come out just south of Arches National Park, make sure you first don’t have to pee. Because though there’s a “town” called Cisco clearly marked on the map, but there’s also a sign at the I-70 off ramp that says “No services.” It means it. Back on I-70, though, the Utah visitor’s center is quite nice, with restrooms with running water, to boot.

Utah redrock at Arches National Park.Lodging

Thursday evening we staid in the roadside White River Inn in Meeker, courtesy of Mary and Mike. Thanks! It was a comfortable enough room that met our needs.

Friday evening we staid in the Holiday Inn in Kayenta, Arizona, on the Navajo reservation. At a whopping $145/night—more than twice what we paid for any other hotel on the entire trip—you’d think that they wouldn’t let smokers smoke in the clearly designated “non-smoking” rooms, that the electric outlets would logically be fastened into the wall, that the ice machine right next door would actually have ice.

I’m seriously rethinking my affinity for staying in Holiday Inn hotels, whether the Express variety or otherwise.

Reading at the Meeker Town Library.The Reading

Until Thursday evening—following a potluck that featured my favorites: chile rellenos—I had never seen my book in an official library. Now, I’m happy to say, the Meeker Town Library, supporting a population of about 2,000 good-hearted folks, hosts three copies of Riverfall.

My older daughter warmed up the crowd of about 25 people by reading some of her poetry. She may only be eight years old, but she’s a tough act to follow! Then I read sixteen poems, and we wrapped up with a lengthy question-and-answer session and discussion.

Simmons reading at the Meeker Town Library.As energizing as the Boulder reading was, a la Allen Ginsberg, this was the warmest and most comprehensive reading. Audience members asked lots of good questions, bolstered by the fact that a few attendees had the opportunity to read Riverfall prior to the evening.

Without a doubt, if and when I publish my next book—regardless of genre—I’ll make a stop at the Meeker Town Library, going hundreds of miles out of my way to get there if necessary (and it will, very likely, be necessary).

Three Things I Think…

The Magic Treehouse: Hour of the Olympics, by Mary Pope Osborne.1. I think the Magic Tree House book series by Mary Pope Osborne—where young readers “travel through time and around the world with Jack and Annie”—is turning my eight-year-old daughter into a voracious reader while teaching her a bit about world history on the way. She’s now zipping through titles like “Civil War on Sunday, “Tonight on the Titanic,” and “Viking Ships at Sunrise,” and we’re delighted with how they’re supporting her intellectual growth.

2. I think Arches National Park is just as striking as the last time I was here: spring 1992. And there are a few more trails for the less mobile of us (which includes my wife, poor girl, who badly sprained her ankle just before our trip). A few photos of Arches and Utah follow this blog post. And when in Moab, be sure to visit the Moab Brewery, which has an open atmosphere, good food, and great beer with names like Dead Horse Pale Ale.

3. I think this is the last Travel Log entry for the trip, which—though I only sold a grand total of about 21 books (making them worth about $84 each when calculating the cost of the trip)—was a great success by every other measure. It was the smoothest family road trip we’ve ever taken, despite my complaints about certain hotels and forgetful event planners. Many thanks especially to Carolyn and Joe Dooling, Jake Adam York, Eric Henningsen and Mike Smith, Jason and Shannan Reese, Bruce and Janet Kirschner, Cathy and David Cunningham, and Mary and Mike Grady.

And don’t forget: I’ll be back up in Denver reading at the '>Tattered Cover LoDo with Colorado Springs poet Lois Beebe Hayna on Monday, January 9.

Closing Poem

This final poem of our travel journal begins the third section of Riverfall (page 51). It is inspired both by something my wife said to me many moons ago—how tree branches, river systems, and veins are all mathematically equivalent—and the often divided landscapes of the Colorado Front Range and Western Slope.

The Last Harvest

She was taught that river systems
tree branches & veins are all mathematically

equivalent That a skein of geese
is directed by the electromagnetic pull

of iron within the earth’s core
That the brilliant wash of a sunset &

the enlargement of the harvest moon are due
simply to condensed particulates

in the atmosphere She was taught this
& believed it but wanted to learn further

why the geese shining in flight like a string
of pearls know the line of Old Hansen’s

ranch the harvest moon lies swollen
against the starless sky & the dying

sun flares longest before the frozen night
Why the cottonwood’s branches reach

highest above hidden stones
the Colorado’s tributaries course dry

through her father’s fields & the blue-red blood
in her mother’s veins does not move at all


The Green Skeptic said...

My son -- now nine -- also enjoyed the Magic Treehouse series. When he outgrew it, The Chronicles of Narnia and Roald Dahl books were just the ticket; now he's reading Harry Potter. (Those had always been our books to read together, along with Thornton Burgess' books -- one of his ancestors; but now he's reading them on his own.) Wonderful to see them come into reading in a serious way, isn't it? To have that same feeling you had when you discovered how magical reading can be...


Simmons B. Buntin said...

Yes, our older daughter is reading all kinds of series now, though we're still reading Narnia, Lemony Snicket, and HP to her because she also still enjoys being read to.

Gaia said...

Oh my... this looks like a blast from the past... I lived in Meeker for a year in 1991, I was an exchange student from Italy. I have many fond memories :)