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Road Car

2007 Pontiac Vibe

2007 Pontiac Vibe (bought new in 2008), 89k miles

This is my wife’s car. (I drive an old truck for now.) It’s also what we take on trips. From Taos to Mankato, Minnesota is about eleven hundred miles, and we’ll be on the road a bunch longer than we’ll be stopped. A real road trip, then. This will have a different focus than just hauling our asses and gear to my sister-in-law’s place and having no responsibilities for a week. The primary environment won’t be the condo in Dubuque but the inside of the car and where we find ourselves. That means we get to have and do whatever we want along the way.

dashboard of 2007 Pontiac Vibe

Fine ergonomics and style

The cockpit is one of the reasons I wanted us to get this car. There’s a fine meaty steering wheel. The gauges are round like God intended and have chrome rims. The rest is shiny and obvious. Nothing fancy, but it works. We almost never listen to the radio or play CDs because we like to have the windows open. (I do both when I’m alone, but my ears are already blown.) Always on the back roads, stop whenever we want for any reason. We almost never see a cop. It makes you like America again.

I see I left the wedding out of this, the reason we’re going to Mankato, duh. How typical of me. That says a lot about my priorities, but I am looking forward to the socializing and commotion. I’ve been married for over thirty years, myself, which must account for some detachment. It should be fun to be the only one who isn’t worried, too.

I wonder if the hotel has a pool?

Flaming Sky

Taos sunset

Digital image not altered in any way

I was washing the car the way I do before a trip. No way will I head on down the road in a dirty machine. This was taking care of business, then, and yet extremely satisfying.

I’d already been under the hood. The engine was pretty wholesome to start with, except for some dust. But I clean everything I can, all the painted surfaces: the underside of the hood, the perimeter of the engine compartment, the door frames, the edges of the doors. And then I do the interior. I have this amazing German chemical crap that shines up all the black plastic. I wipe the dust off the upholstery with big wet towels. I organize the glovebox. I check my tools in the back. All this work so the car can get plastered with bugs by the middle of the first day! But I was in my element. Completely grounded. As natural as I could be.

This is only news if you’re a lunatic. (Remember, I’m the guy who just discovered air.) That evening the heavens caught fire. After that a storm rolled by and chased the cat in. This morning someone told me—speaking of a different issue that’s bedeviled me—”When things align they align. Until that space relax into your life.”

Set me to pondering, too. I don’t think I’ve ever relaxed into my life! Maybe yesterday a little. So many messages, so little sense.

Saturday Report

oh no it’s me

But I look so handsome in the mirror! I like this, though.

This isn’t right. I’m not supposed to be this old, however old this is. At least I look like I live here. I feel like a slightly tired thirty-year-old. So.

The big news is a road trip. My wife’s nephew is getting married in Minnesota, at a winery no less. We’ve been married long enough that I can remember wrestling with him on his grandparents’ carpet in Des Moines when he was probably less than three feet tall. This is the first and last time I’ll mention that, I think. Dear God I have been around. Why does it feel otherwise? If I ever do die, I know what my reaction will be:

“No, wait! I just got here!”

Anyway, we do this well. Any kind of road trip, but especially out here in the West with its wide open spaces and mountain vistas. Traffic is almost never a problem. Travel is simply a joy. Planning where to stop can be a challenge, but I’m always up for it.

This time there’s a rehearsal dinner in Minnesota at 6:00 p.m. on the day we arrive, so I had to make that leg a short one. Considering the lodging limitations, this meant I needed to find an excuse to take a whole day going across Nebraska. Couldn’t have us arriving in Yankton, South Dakota in the middle of the afternoon, now could I? That would just be silly. Happily, it turns out that Nebraska Highway 12 is just the ticket. Starting in Valentine, which we’ll reach via a glorious empty road through the Sand Hills from Ogalalla, the Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway (Hwy. 12) runs along the bluffs and prairies above the Niobrara River and will definitely take all day. We may see three other cars or not.

[click to continue…]

There’s Something in the Roof

confluence of the Red River and the Rio Grande

La Junta Overlook, Wild Rivers Area, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

I heard it while I was in the bathroom. It sounded awfully loud, like a small hoofed animal running back and forth, but of course that can’t be right. The roof on this old adobe is actually a double roof with insulation in between, except maybe not over the bathroom, eh? Even so, the creature would have to be no more than a foot high. So much for the hooves, but it was loud.

Maybe the thing was outside, though. Not inside the actual roof but on it, like a squirrel in little combat boots. That would do it. I raised the old aluminum ladder outside and climbed up so I could see. Nothing but the goddamn cat sprawled out on the skylight like she owned the place! So that was where she hides out. Nice breeze, Taos Mountain in the sun across the valley. That cat was enjoying quite the view.

It was also time for her to come in so I said “here-kitty-kitty” and she ran away, of course. Fortunately that was down the elm tree and in the back door. I looked around to find the shoes she must put on to drive me crazy, but I didn’t find them. Nothing but piles of elm twigs and the filthy stick I use to knock soot down the chimney.

Yes, but what’s this have to do with a pretty lady dressed in red and blue, holding her hat on in the wind by the confluence of the Red River and the Rio Grande? Nothing, except it helps me forget about the roof. (I’m sure you understand.) Besides, she hasn’t heard the alien goat people overhead, so it’s all good.

For now.

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Real Taos #1

Real Taos poster

You can have this as a greeting card, too. Hilarious!

Behold my latest creation, the first image from a poster series I’ve launched. The “Real Taos” posters, photos, art prints, and cards will be available at my Redbubble store first and later at other online stores. Right now there’s just the one, but ain’t it grand? (This same image, without the text, is available in landscape orientation for every conceivable fine art format at SmugMug and was originally posted here.)

It gave me a great deal of pleasure to conceive and produce this. In an age where everyone with a cell phone is a photographer (sort of), how is one to stand out? We’re drowning in digital images, after all. I decided to just be myself and make a statement. Do exactly what I wanted to do, take a single photo and make a poster of it. There will be more, obviously.

I love this picture. The leaning television antenna at top left is a special touch.

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