As I awoke in Amanda’s house a gun loomed to one side of the bed. It took me a moment to realize it was attached to a lamp. And another moment to remember that amongst other things Amanda collects are odd and wonderful fixtures.
I rolled over to look at this one more closely and realized it was one of two guns, crossed.
Which caused me to reflect on the relative peacefulness implied by crossed guns. They can’t be fired if they’re crossed? Something.
Amanda was up early, baking delicious muffins out of strawberries
supplied by her brother David from his garden, which she served with excellent coffee.
She wrapped a few up for us to take with us, and off we headed, almost immediately crossing the Colorado/Utah border and turning South on Highway 128, which undulates through sagebrush until it happens on the magnificent western scenery close to Moab.
This is one of those drives I’ve taken a dozen times, often including a trip to Arches National Monument, and part of the planned sweep of the Waterdragon tour through the Southwest was to return this way, was so I could introduce Maggie to its beauties.
Our little dragon Hestia nodded approvingly the entire way, swinging her head in curiosity from side to side, taking in the vistas.
After a stop for huevos rancheros and green chili at the Eclecticafe in Moab, we headed for Arches.
Always I am moved, even stunned, by these layers of earth, created with such different alchemies: some of these ancient layers are “soft,” and can be blown away by centuries of wind and sand and snow and freeze and thaw. While others are so hard they withstand these ravages of nature, and create bridges, windows, arches of stone through which, as Tennyson says, “gleams that untraveled world.” The park’s written materials remind the visitor, often, that the very forces that created these astonishing shapes will be what will eventually destroy them.
In no time at all Hestia’s become a mascot, bobbing her little head in approbation and only occasionally—after a particularly intense hairpin turn—having to be righted on her place on the dashboard.
Reluctantly we motored back out of Arches and headed North to rejoin Highway 70, where we again turned West, readying ourselves for the long haul across the desert states. But just a few miles along we spotted a sign for Black Dragon Canyon and, being black water dragons ourselves, couldn’t resist.
At Salina, Utah, Interstate 70 effects a little jog that leads to Highway 50, known as “The Loneliest Road in America.”
Even now, one rarely sees another car on this highway for hours at a time, and services are a minimum of 60-70 miles apart. We drove directly into the sun, game to go as far as possible, but decided to stop in Delta: it just wasn’t wise to launch into the next bit of loneliness, over 110 miles to the next oasis, after dark. We found a decent room at the Rancher Motel and Café in Delta and unpacked.
As I was paying our dinner bill, a man walked in wearing blue jeans chalked with pale dirt, the brim of his dusty cowboy hat furled. He stalked past, boots jangling—a wicked pair of spurs jutted out about four inches behind his heels. I kept watching as he disappeared into a second room of the café, peering after him in some wonderment: was that a pistol tucked so nonchalantly in his back pocket? Ah, Utah!
The next morning, we rose at 5:30,
as we had the rest of one state and the whole of another to cross in time to drop off the rental car by 4:00 p.m. After a two hour+ drive we hoped to find breakfast in Ely, Nevada, but other than an all-night restaurant in a Casino on the edge of town, everything was shuttered and boarded up. Sad, and I don’t mean because we were yearning for a good cup of coffee and some eggs. We pushed on to Eureka, where we found the Pony Expresso Café,
run by three Amish women, and sporting a chalk board full of delectables. We tried to think who might want a whole antelope
, but were unable to come up with a worthy candidate.
Another pause in Fallon for a bit more caffeine at the Fine Grind—an amazing find in this land of really bad brewed coffee. We just missed an open mic but we were invited to come back and play any time. And on the TV, playing as I waited for black tea to steep, another dragon reference.
After all that we managed to land in Reno with an hour to spare. Tracy—who after hosting us in Rio Rico, visited the Grand Canyon with her son, Nico, before heading to Squaw Valley to help out with Mother and the writers conference—met us, and somehow managed to add a few bags from Trader Joe’s, full of supplies for Hall & McKaig’s penultimate concert in Squaw Valley, to the load of guitars and suitcases we transferred out of our fine Rogue. Adios, Rogue!
First thing Maggie transferred to Tracy’s car was Hestia, facing her forward to lead us on our way from Reno to Truckee. But little by little, the dragon swiveled around, as if she needed to make sure we were still there, or maybe just to keep an eye on us.
Hestia, one of the original Olympian gods, is the goddess of the hearth—of home. She was swallowed by her father, Cronos, and saved by her brother, Zeus. She’s quite different from the other ladies up there on that Greek mythological mountain: the virgins, Artemis the huntress and wise Athena, who sprang fully formed—and armed—out of Zeus’s forehead; different, too, from Aphrodite, the goddess of lusty love; or Hera, the mean-spirited and often jealous wife; or Demeter, the mother-god. As the power on Mount Olympus shifted focus, Hestia was demoted. She disappeared out of the 12 that reign up there in the clouds; she was replaced, curiously, by the androgynous Dionysus, who is accompanied by all those female maenads “raving ones”). An intriguing reflection of the place or importance of hearth, perhaps. A reflection, too, of the rise of the patriarchy so intriguingly unfolded in Aeschylus’s great trilogy, The Oresteia (another post, another day). In any case, for us, Hestia, and a sense of hearth and home, is with us the whole time.
Speaking of hearth and home: The next concert, and the next-to-last, is in the house where my sisters and I grew up, in Squaw Valley. Brett, in spite of working hard to get this summer’s Community of Writers up and running, managed to contact many old family friends. Tracy, Nico, and Ola created a lovely little stage, and we had a marvelous crowd on what has been dubbed the “party deck” of the Squaw Valley house.
I’d purchased little feathered “fascinators” in Silverton, blue for Maggie, red for me, and we pinned these in our hair and played two wonderful sets.
At the beginning of our concert, Hestia was on the table along with our tuners and capos, but then she somehow made it over to where my mother and sisters and dear Aunt Joan were sitting. There she is, on top of the wine bottle.
I’m afraid I wasn’t very proactive in making tips a part of our tour—lesson learned. But now and again we did put a basket out, and split the proceeds. For me, the dollars will be put towards getting into the studio with some of the arrangements Maggie and I’ve developed over these magnificent weeks together, and creating a CD.