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Showing posts from June, 2015

A "Rez" Dog at the Stage Coach Stop

Cuba NM is a shabby rez town, like they all are. And yet, there was something I liked about it. It is the only real shopping between Albuquerque and Farmington, NM, on busy US-550. Travelers do need services, you know. There is something redolent of the old southwestern stagecoach way station in this place.  When you drive in perpendicularly to the busy highway after seeing no population for 100 miles, it is gratifying to see people and stores again. You know better of course, but it is enjoyable to put that aside for the moment. If any place were the modern equivalent of the old stage coach stop, it would be the McDonalds, convenience store, and gas station. Cars drove in and out in a hurry; it was like being back in the "real world."  It really is true what they say: 'busy-ness implies purpose in people's lives.' I sat in my van, soaked up the free Wi-fi, and compared all the different motor vehicles coming in off the highway. Something grabbed my eye as

Conversations with Strangers in Coffee Shops?

I stand before you today to announce a great and newly discovered truth: that it is possible to have an interesting and useful conversation in a coffee shop. With a stranger. Do you think I am exaggerating? Consider just one feature of this conversation: it was 10 or 15 minutes before he fell back on the old 'Soooo, whar ya frum?' If you wanted to be scientific about it, you could easily correlate how late that question arrives with the interesting-ness of the person. I am used to it being the second thing out of their mouths, and I have been known to literally groan out-loud when it happens. But maybe you are going to tell me that this kind of thing happens to you all the time, and the fact that it has never happened to me is my own fault. Indeed, it is easy to misjudge people. Perhaps I don't ask people who look sufficiently available, are the right age, or are displaying the right body language. Perhaps they take one look at me and say, "How could such an over-o

Sometimes, Only a Pretty Girl Will Do

Early summer seems to be the time of year to notice butterflies on my mountain bike rides. So often, they seem to tag along, as if they are requesting membership in our bicycle club. It is physically challenging to focus on them as they flutter along, a step or two from the bike, and at the same speed as the bike. Whenever my eyes manage to freeze them in motion, they seem transformed, somehow. The other day a large yellow butterfly fluttered in from the side, perpendicular to the direction of the bike and my dog. In fact, the butterfly collided with the head of my dog. But she didn't react snappishly, as she would to a normal insect nuisance, such as a fly or a sweat bee. She playfully -- and yet, gently--pushed the butterfly away from her head, and La Mariposa flew off, uninjured. What is it with dogs and butterflies? A strange rapport between dog and butterfly Seen close up, they seem cartoonish and Disney-like. We are having great luck in northern New Mexico, rig

Hitting a Home Run in the Book Department

Bertrand Russell, in his eighties, was killing time in an airport, reading a novel that pleased him. He told somebody, "I've dedicated the first 80 years of my life to philosophy. The next eighty go to fiction." He lived to 98. With that inspiration, it is certainly worth tooting my horn over a rare success in the book department, especially because it resulted from deliberate flexibility. A reader's life has not been wasted if they end up with a good understanding of the Great War and the French Revolution. Although I've yet to find a book on the Great War that really blew me away, I have bumbled onto a great book on the French Revolution. Once, when reading a Tolstoy novel, one of his characters was said to be reading Taine, a popular French writer of that era. I had never heard of him, nor have many modern readers, I suppose. What a shame. Actually he wrote a series of seven books about the ancien regime, the Revolution proper, and then the Napoleonic se

The Second-best Sensual Pleasure Outdoors

Sometimes you just have to slow down and soak it up.  My campsite was broadside to the west wind, coming off a large sagebrush flat near Cuba, NM. It was the hottest time indoors, 4 o'clock. But soon the shade from one large ponderosa pine would cool off my trailer. This was proof of how few trees a summer camper really needs. I hardly ever sit outside in a chair, therefore I was paying Mother Nature a genuine honor to move a chair into the shade of that lone ponderosa, and do absolutely nothing. Normally it is more comfortable and useful to be inside my little igloo on wheels. Usually people don't use 'windy' as a compliment, but they should: not only does it cool you, but it keeps the bugs off. But this afternoon I just sat there, indolently and contentedly, in the shade of that lone ponderosa, and took a wind-bath in la brisa fresca from the west. Since I dislike heat, and this was the hottest day since February in Yuma, it was easy to appreciate the cool breeze

Combining Vehicle Camping with the Great Divide Route

Every year at this time of the year I look forward to reading the travel blogs by people mountain biking the Great Divide Route (GDR). (Do not confuse this with backpacking the Continental Divide Trail. ) The GDR is a selection of dirt national forest and BLM roads, and occasionally paved highways, that stays close to the continental divide. The northern terminus is Banff park in Alberta, whereas the southern terminus is the New Mexican/Mexican border at Antelope Wells. Yes I know, some readers think I dislike travel blogs. But there are some that really do involve adventure. It is a great thing to find them and read them. For instance, if you read the blog of this group getting ready to mountain bike the GDR, you will probably be infected with their anticipation. An opportunity is being missed here. A person might love the scenery and mountain biking, but dislike the tent camping and the need to find water, biking too many miles per day, biking during monsoonal afternoon hail