Road Trip XI …by the numbers: 8 weeks. 10,000 miles (best guess). 26 states. 62 far-and-dear friends and family members. 14 national parks/monuments. 20 state parks. 6 post-season Tarheel men’s basketball games (5 victories + 1 almost!)
…and by the category:
Best hike: Custer State Park, South Dakota, Needles region
Best bike ride: Colorado National Monument rim road
(Honorable mention: Bizz Johnson trail in Susanville, CA …but it doesn’t win because it gave The Mate a flat tire)
Best waterfall: Sioux Falls…even though conflicted feelings arose when I read about its blasted, quarried history
Best trees: California redwoods
Best wildflowers: Rogue River National Recreation Trail, near Merlin, Oregon
Best wildlife: tie between javelinas in Arizona…
…and [not pictured] wild burros spotted in Utah off I-70 (a first for us)
Best sunset: outside our Virginia motel on our loversary
Best restaurant meal: sushi in Chapel Hill with my parents
Best home-cooked dinner: our friend Ben’s roast lamb with chimichurri
Best gift from our hosts: kumquats/avocados/oranges from our Hollywood cousins’ trees
Biggest detour: dropping south all the way to Las Vegas in order to avoid dangerous, truck-toppling winds
Best silver lining: getting to hike & clamber in Red Rocks National Preservation Area (or whatever it’s called) just outside of Vegas, just before the winds hit
additional bonus to silver lining: the desert in bloom!
Longest day’s drive: Moab to Las Vegas (460 miles)
Scariest drive: crossing the Cascades on snowy lil’ Rt. 89 past Mt. Lassen in California
And now for a couple of less-traditional categories.
Best basketball game: UNC vs. Duke in the national semifinal (81-77)
Best dog: Ramses in Olympia
And finally, the Grand Travel Blog Award for Best New Discovery goes to…Oregon’s Rogue River Trail!
We’re already talking about how to get back there.
…but for now, oh my goodness–it’s good to be home, safe and sound and grateful as all get-out for this long, LONG getting-out.And now, as Wing’s World morphs back into its non-travel mode…thanks for traveling with me anyway!
As March draws to a close, this will be my last Road Trip Retro post for now–and hopefully, ever! This is the time of year when, in “normal” years, we’d have just gotten settled back into the home routine: me working at the bakery, The Mate clearing fallen branches around the property and getting the lawn mower in shape.
It’s not a “normal” year. But things are turning that way, even though I’ll never think of “normal” again. (The other day I went into a friend’s house for the first time in 14 months and felt like crying with joy.)
So let’s finish up with Road Trip VIII, shall we? That year, three years ago, I became aware that we had fallen into a pattern with our first couple of road weeks. So I determined to NOTICE stuff that I might have bypassed before. Starting with this amazing “We Can Do It!”” cloud in Tacoma.
Passing out of Oregon into California on Rt. 199 (a fave), I captured this sign which we’ve always enjoyed:
Visiting our favorite Prairie Creek redwoods, I decided to highlight the less obvious parts of the forest.
Visiting our wee cuzzies in Oakland, I tried to capture the sense of their neighborhood…
…and just up the road in Berkeley, this wonderful memorial to the Free Speech movement:
Next up, SoCal. With our sons long graduated from college and my grandmother long since passed away, we visited a more obscure bit of coast, just the two of us…
…before heading into LA for the usual family & friends visits. Then, the Big Left Turn, and off into Arizona, where, for once, we rented a cabin near our favorite park-nobody-seems-to-have-heard-of, the Chiricahua National Monument.
In Albuquerque, I captured a piece of a “ho-hum hike” at the base of the Sandia range, right there in town…
…and finally remembered to give their spectacular cuisine its photographic due:
Speaking of noticing: we also finally decided to let Oklahoma show us its best stuff. Frequently terrible weather (blizzards, tornadoes) keeps us from crossing OK, but in 2018 we stayed in TWO different state park cabins, at either end of the state.
Nothing breathtaking, but very pleasant (too cold for us to camp). And I got to see this porcupine asleep high in a cottonwood!
The eastern park, Lake o’ the Cherokees, featured 1930s-era cabins made by the WPA.
Passing through Missouri (another rarity on our eastbound journeys), we stopped to recreate in some federal scenic river land. The name escapes me–but this beaver didn’t!
Cutting down through Tennessee, we treated ourselves to a date in Nashville.
With our friends in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina, I tried to focus more on the background of the place–its rhododendron thickets…
…though who can resist a mountain sunrise?
At the apex of our journey–my home stompin’ grounds of Durham and Chapel Hill, NC–I focused my camera on some of my personal NC icons:
…and, of course, the culmination of every annual NC pilgrimage, the ACC Men’s Basketball feast:
Heading north this time, we made a straight shot to our other cousins, in southern Vermont, where all the little things I might have noticed were immediately blanketed by snow.
Heading home through Kentucky: isn’t this the best bike path bridge ever?
Stopping for a bike ride in Topeka, KS, we pretty much stumbled onto this historic site: the school where Brown v. Board of Education began.
Heading for the Rockies, we took advantage of some friends’ spending a sabbatical in Colorado Springs.
A hike at Mesa Verde, where we had the trail to ourselves…
Our annual get-together with Adventure Buddies (you know ’em well by now) Tom & Kate was near Page, AZ. Just noticing this piece of the map (so near to the Grand Canyon) was new to us.
One thing we did that I’m not real proud of: took a boat tour on Lake Powell to see Glen Canyon, or what’s left of it. What I mostly noticed? My conflicted feelings.
Finally back in Washington, going for a walk as we waited in the ferry line, I kept the theme going, capturing the beauty of our Salish Sea environment…
…every tiny bit of it.
Thanks for riding with me through most of the past ten years! Tune in next time for something a little more current, ok? And be well.
So that’s it. Road Trip X is in the bag. As Wing road trips go, this one was DIFFERENT. Past sojourns have averaged around 45 days, but #10 weighed in at a runty 35 (and we still got home midday on that last day).
Difference #1 was, of course, the fact that our beloved Tarheel men’s basketball team played its last game a week ago. But Difference #2 was the fact that ALL BASKETBALL ended the very next day, thanks to the Coronavirus. So not only did we start heading home 3 days earlier, we spent those days eating up as many miles as possible each day, diverging rarely for scenery, and not at all for friendship.
Need proof? Here’s all I got from crossing the upper east corner of Utah:
Hiya. Now keep driving.
A bit further south, hoodoos like these turn into Zion National Park. But along I-80…
If you’re not going to stop, this is all you get.
We did stop for 90 minutes’ recreation in Twin Falls, Idaho. Twice before we’d been blanked when wishing to ride the Rim Trail of the Snake River’s canyon there, once due to weather and once due to lack of daylight. But third time’s a charm.
First you drive over the bridge. Then you bike under it.
Shoshone Falls was even more jaw-dropping than I’d expected.
Guess who just won Best Waterfall of the Trip?
Can we get a close-up?
Rainbow & all.
After spending the night in Boise (where we LOVE the river trail, but no-no-no, time for only one bike ride and you’ve already had it!), we followed the Oregon Trail route into the Pacific time zone, breathless with joy to be beating the big snowstorm we knew was on its way from the coast.
Frost: fine. Snow? No thank you.
That was a LONG day’s drive. But it could have been longer; we’d started early enough that we could actually have made it all the way to the Anacortes ferry terminal if we’d so chosen. But we didn’t.
It was our 41st anniversary (the falling-in-love one, not the wedding one. What’s better than two anniversaries?) and we wanted to spend it someplace special before diving back into our daily home routine. So I found us a BnB in North Bend, Washington, and we aimed ourselves there.
But before checking in, we decided to go for a hike. Snow levels being too high up on Snoqualmie Pass, we stopped at Rattlesnake Lake, outside North Bend, a place we know well. “We’ll get some exercise while practicing our Social Distancing,” we told ourselves. And here’s where irony took over.
The parking lot was overflowing. And the trail? Imagine a food court at the mall. Now take all those happy teenagers and arrange them along a hiking trail, laughing & talking loudly as kids do.
Ohhhhhhh. Oh yeah. Schools are closed in Washington. So are malls and movie theaters. So where do all these healthy young Seattleites go? Hiking! The thought made us happy. But it also made us turn around. Social distancing on that trail was just not possible. Not to mention it was kinda noisy.
Up on that crag was where we had intended to hike. Look closely; you can see a bunch of people up there.
Instead, we found a perfectly nice walk along the lake, with lots of room between people.
Not winning any waterfall prizes, but perfectly nice.
Then on to our trip’s final night. The place advertised itself as being near the Snoqualmie River. It was.
View from the deck of the main house.
What better homecoming to the Pacific Northwest than tall firs and rushing water?
Our room wasn’t on the actual bluff above the river…
Up those stairs, it felt like a treehouse.
…but a kind of porch swing was, and I took full advantage.
Who needs a porch when you have a river bluff?
And up on that little outside deck, I used our Coleman stove to cook up the Mate’s and my traditional anniversary meal, Reuben sandwiches.
We’re a cheap date.
Next morning we picked up some groceries (as island friends had advised) and drove through eerily light Seattle traffic, back to the ferry terminal. At 150,000 miles, Red Rover mayyyyy have just completed her final cross-country road trip, so I gave her a grateful hug.
Yeah, yeah, you’re welcome. Now how ’bout a wash n wax?
And now? The Mate and I have been everywhere and touched a lot of surfaces in the last five weeks. But turns out road-tripping is the best practice for self-quarantining. We’ll be with each other now and almost no one else for the next two. Red Rover will get a bath. Nature will get our full attention. And Wing’s World will morph out of Travel Mode.
How ’bout y’all? Anyone else in self-isolation? How are you passing your time, or changing your work routine? Please share any wit & wisdom from the experience.
If you’ve been following Wing’s World for at least a year, you know by now that Wing & Mate take to the road in February with the regularity of migrating swans–minus, of course, the awesome grace.* Also we’re heading east, not north, and also, swans have that life-or-death impulse behind their travels, while ours is more…let’s say … discretionary.
(*please, no Wingspan jokes)
OK, bad metaphor. But anyway, for you newbies, fair warning: Wing’s World is about to morph into a travel blog for the next several weeks.
You’d think, after a month on the road, that we’d be heading straight home now–next stop, our dear evergreen Washington State.
Instead, we’ve diverged to Colorado. We have an adventure-buddy date.
Seven years ago, when our retirement from our primary careers turned us into annual road-trippers, we found kindred spirits in a pair of friends from North Carolina. On every trip since 2012, we have met our Adventure Buddies somewhere along the way. We rent a house for three days, take turns cooking, and go for lots of hikes.
2012, Moab, Utah:
Arches National Park (duh)
2013, Sedona, Utah:
A little late snow that year!
Who took this pic? Our Adventure Buddies, of course!
2015, Yucca Valley, CA (near Joshua Tree):
…and great Mexican food nearby too!
2016, Anza-Borrego State Park, CA:
Thanks, Adventure Buddies!
At the end of each day, we watch college basketball together, men’s and women’s. See, our buddies are Tarheel fans like us. North Carolina,remember? If we meet during the eastern portion of our trip, there are regular season games to watch. And if, as now, we meet in late March, there’s the NCAA championship. In the rare years that Carolina’s not in the Sweet 16–yes, we Tarheel fans are that spoiled–we can always root against Duke together.
This year we’re meeting in Estes Park, Colorado, right next to Rocky Mountain National Park.
So, this should be a perfect weekend, right? #1 seed Carolina’s in, playing this Friday. And Duke? They’ve already choked lost to a lowly 15-seed.
Something I forgot to mention: these NC friends of ours moved to LA. As in UCLA. Whose team is also in the Sweet 16. Playing Friday.
Luckily for our mutual friendship, UNC and UCLA aren’t playing each other Friday. So we’re free to cheer for both.
If both couples’ sports-gods prayers are answered, both our teams will win. Then they have to face each other.
How ’bout that for a test of friendship?
I’d like to think that, on Friday, I’ll be wholeheartedly cheering for the UCLA Bruins to beat Kentucky. And I will be. Mostly.
But I gotta admit, more than a teensy part of me will be secretly hoping they lose. Just so we can all cheer on the Tarheels, together, on Sunday. If Carolina loses and UCLA wins, I’ll be a huge Bruins fan.
And if it comes to UNC-UCLA? I’ll be cheering first and foremost for our friendship. Of COURSE. What kind of person do you think I am? 🙂
Here’s why I know I’m not a COMPLETELY un-redeemable Carolina men’s basketball fan:
I have a sense of humor about how much it means to me (sort of)
I refuse to defend Tarheel Coach Roy Williams from charges that he knew about the fake classes his players were given credit for “attending” these past few years. He probably did, or if he didn’t, he should have.
But here’s why I know I’m pretty far gone: this year, right now, I DON’T CARE. The Heels are in the Final Four for the first time in seven years. Back in 2009, they won it all, under the leadership one of my all-time favorite players, Tyler Hansbrough, who stayed all four years to get the job done. This year, that favorite player is Marcus Paige, another senior (and Academic All-American). The Heels are one game from the finals, two from the championship. And I don’t just want that championship for me, I want it for Marcus.
But I want it even more for someone else. A whole family, actually. Last month, back in my home state of North Carolina to watch the ACC tournament with our Tarheel Tribe, The Mate and I learned some terrible news. The day before the tournament began, the 48 year-old son of some of our Tribe members was diagnosed with leukemia. His parents and his brother were in shock. And they all spent the next three days in someone’s living room cheering for the Tarheels.
The Tribe (partial), doing what we do.
Wait, you say–what? What is wrong with these people? Their son is going through chemo in the hospital and they’re watching basketball? Where’s their sense of perspective?
My answer: these folks were doing exactly what they needed to be doing. They were seeking solace with their Tribe. And of course their son–who’s SUCH a fanatic he doesn’t even join the annual group because he gets too nervous–was watching all the games at the same time, from his hospital bed. It was a beautiful kind of group witness…crazy, yes, but loving.
Son Two joined the Tarheel Tribe at an arly age.
Didn’t hurt that the Heels won the tournament.
And now? Our friend’s son is almost done with his first round of chemo. Being the fan that he is, he’s already joking that he’s going to have to go back into the hospital NEXT year in order for the Heels to win again.
And that tells me something. College sports may be corrupt in all sorts of ways…but it’s also pure in one special way. It brings the Tribe together. And maybe, just maybe, the Heels, through their athletic efforts, will have the power to heal.
If you’re a fan of neither basketball nor equality, you won’t be interested in this post. But if you’re a fan of either, or like me, both, read on.
Dear Hoosier Legislature,
Thank you for passing your state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would, in its current form, allow Indiana businesses to refuse to serve LGBT citizens.
Thank you for doing so exactly when the nation’s sports mega-spotlight is trained on Indianapolis for the Final Four.
Thank you for bringing to the fore the moral fibre of folks known usually only for their defense patterns. Folks like the coach of defending national men’s basketball champion Connecticut, Kevin Ollie, who is boycotting the Final Four. Granted, Ollie was following the directive of Connecticut’s Governor Dan Malloy’s executive order banning state employees from traveling to Indiana on state money. But Ollie made it clear he was doing more than “caving” to his governor’s demand (as the Connecticut Post put it).
“In support of Governor Malloy’s travel ban to the state of Indiana, Kevin Ollie and other members of the UConn men’s basketball staff will not travel to Indianapolis for the NCAA Final Four and events surrounding it,” UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement. “UConn is a community that values all of our members and treats each person with the same degree of respect, regardless of their background and beliefs and we will not tolerate any other behavior.”
Given the expected attention to himself and his program at this year’s Final Four, Ollie’s boycott carries great weight.
Pat Haden, the athletic director at the University of Southern California, will skip a meeting of the College Football Playoff committee this week in Indiana because of the state’s recent passage of a controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“I am the proud father of a gay son,” Haden announced on Twitter. “In his honor, I will not be attending the CFP committee meeting in Indy this week. #EmbraceDiversity”
(Orig. photo courtesy Mike Mozart, Flikr Creative Commons)
When my Mate used to teach Constitutional Law, he helped his students remember the acronym RFRA by referring to it as “the noise made by a small, angry dog.” There are a lot of small, angry dogs in our country, apparently: people who feel themselves persecuted because they don’t happen to be taking part in the great national shift toward tolerance of LGBT rights.
I, personally, am grateful to the Indiana Legislature for highlighting that small-mindedness on a national scale, and forcing even those who would prefer not to have to take a stand to do just that.
I’ll start with the Litany of Impressive Facts, for those of you who don’t follow men’s college basketball. 36 seasons at Carolina. 11 Final Four appearances. Two national championships. 96% graduation rate. Coaching Hall of Fame. Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Mate and I are Tarheels, so I’d be lying if I said those facts weren’t a large part of why we admired Coach Smith. And we have a lot of company
Basketball fans in general can thank Coach Smith for the 35-second clock, which was developed in response to his game-slowing Four Corners defense. But they can also thank Coach for that gesture players make after scoring, pointing to the player who passed them the ball to share the glory. Coach Smith started that tradition, along with starting all seniors (including non-scholarship walk-ons) at their last home game, and having the entire bench stand up when a starter comes out.
That’s not basketball–that’s kindness, honor, decency. And fans of a certain kind of decency will appreciate that Coach Smith never, ever cursed, and did not allow his players to use foul language in his presence either.
“Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith. He was more than a coach – he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father. Coach was always there for me whenever I needed him and I loved him for it.”
Other former UNC players–a galaxy of NBA stars, but non-scholarship players as well–are now chiming in with stories of how Coach Smith helped them negotiate the world as they left Carolina, how Coach remembered their mom’s name and asked about her, how Coach would call to check on them if they’d sustained an injury. The man cared.
(Ellen Ozier, Reuters)
But here’s why I think anyone–not just basketball fans–should want to know about this man. Dean Smith never let his role as a highly-paid, political figure (don’t tell me Div. I basketball coaches aren’t political figures!) keep him from following his conscience. He participated in desegregating restaurants in the early 1960s. In 1966 he was the first coach to offer an African American player a scholarship at UNC, when white players and fans were still spitting on Black players. He protested, with his church, not only the Vietnam War and nuclear proliferation, but the death penalty. He even took his players to visit Death Row inmates in Raleigh. In later years, through his church, he supported gay rights.
Remember: we are talking about a MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH. In the SOUTH.
To me, his legacy is summed up in something that happened that I was involved in peripherally, years and years ago when I first learned about his involvement in desegregating the restaurants in Chapel Hill. And I asked him about it ’cause it was his minister who told me the story.
And he said, I wish Reverend Seymour hadn’t told you that. And I said, Dean, why? Why would you want that? You should be proud of being involved in something like that. And he looked at me, and he said, John, you should never be proud of doing the right thing. You should just do the right thing.
I’m going to repeat that last part, just to let it reverberate: “You should never be proud of the doing the right thing. You should just do the right thing.”
Now aren’t you glad you took the time to read about this man? Rest in Peace, Coach–and thank you.
This year billionaire Warren Buffet famously offered a billion-dollar purse to any individual picking a perfect set of wins in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It’s no news by now that Mr. BigBucks learned he wouldn’t have to pay out…after the first full day of games, back two weeks ago. That’s how unpredictable this stuff is. But my own picks were so bad, I think I actually OWE Warren that billion.
Wonder if he’ll take a check.
It’s not that I didn’t see upsets coming, ok? I DID. I just chose the WRONG ONES. Case in point: Twelfth seeds are always matched up against Fives in the first round. I picked NC State, a 12, to beat St. Louis, a 5, based on my SUPERIOR KNOWLEDGE as a NC native who had just watched State beat the juggernaut of Syracuse in the ACC tourney.
In the first two days, three of the four 12-seeds beat the 5s. Guess which one DIDN’T?
Still pretty grumpy about that.
It went on from there. Every upset I called didn’t happen; every dominant team I “bet” on found a way to lose. I’m pretty sure they did it on purpose.
But I should back up here, pleading hyperbole (a common ailment among writers in general and bloggers in particular). First of all, not ALL my teams lost. Second of all, I didn’t bet.
See, when my own team goes out–as Carolina did in the second round, in a game too well-played for us to feel too sad about–and my brackets no longer hold any joyous anticipation for me, that’s when the wet blanket good angel of conscience joins the party.
What are you doing? These are kids playing with a ball! And they’re supposed to be students, not over-hyped vessels of steroids and future marketing! Or, worse, gateways to gambling addiction!
(Courtesy Chad Cooper, Flikr Creative Commons)
Last week’s editorial in the Christian Science Monitor (I’m not a Christian Scientist, but their magazine ROCKS) discussed exactly that: the rise in gambling among people who would never otherwise place a bet, caused by the huge mainstreaming of March Madness. So much for my giddiness over the Final Four. Luckily I had none left anyway.
Of course, the only reason I’m having these spasms of conscience now is because my own Madness has turned to Sadness.If my team were still in the Dance, don’t even think of lecturing me! Or at least wait till mid-April. Yes, I’m a total hypocrite–but at least I’m an honest one.
I am comforting myself with some gems from the past couple of weeks. I couldn’t find YouTubes for any of them, unfortunately, so you’ll just have to imagine…
North Carolina’s Xylina McDaniels making a shot from a sitting position beneath the basket after getting knocked off her feet
Louisville’s senior star Shoni Schimmel beating her male counterpart in the three-point shooting contest (part of the “hoop”la leading up to both the men’s and women’s Final Four)
And my favorite, which wasn’t even a sports moment: this ad. It’s from some network provider, I think–and I guess it must have failed in its purpose ’cause I can’t remember the name. But it features a couple of nerdy-looking guys installing some connections in the ceiling of a nondescript office.
(Non-classically-beautiful but adorably clean-cut) Woman, startled by nerdy technician in ceiling: Oh! What are you doing?
(Potentially-handsome-despite-large-glasses-and-lack-of-social-confidence) Man, hanging down from ceiling: **explains his job** then…
Man (in shy monotone): Did it hurt? When you fell from heaven?
Man (yanked back up into ceiling by annoyed co-worker): Sorry!
But we all know they meet for sodas later, right?
OK, this has NOTHING to do with basketball, or gambling, or the sad state of my conscience. But it does have to do with March Madness. Because among all the gazillions of ads, both TV and radio, that I have muted over the past month, this is the only one where I turn UP the volume. Hey, I’m not contributing to American commercialism–I’m enjoying a love story! My conscience feels better already.
Got a March Madness story? Best game, best moment, best ad? General rage or simply bafflement? Let us hear.