Tuesday May 31st Writing from San Francisco
Well we are two weeks into our Summer road trip and finally getting around to updating the blog, on our way from San Francisco to Ashland, Oregon. So far we’ve been through 6 national parks through 8 states and encountered bison, wolves, mule deer, elk, chipmunks, prairie dogs, and ants–which Harris insists are wild animals. All that not counting the San Francisco zoo where Harris was most entranced by the meerkats. He crawled into a kid cave and called it his home:
We’ve also stayed with a variety of friends, relatives, and other accommodations including a working ranch in South Dakota, an RV park in Wyoming and a 2-bedroom condo in Montana (with hot tub and pool). Harris has slept in beds, on air mattresses, on the floor, on the sidewalk (“taking a break”) and (thankfully) at times in his car seat.
Harris at the Badlands farm collecting eggs.
We started the journey by setting some intentions (Fun party game—guess which family member had which intention!) Variously, to work towards presence and sunrises, PMA (positive mental attitude), and less crying and accidents. Other than trying to replace some metal keys into a live circuit in Nevada, charring both my hand and the key, we’ve had relatively few of the latter. There have been gorgeous drives through golden light, spacious sunrises over buttes, mountains, woodlands, and desert foothills, and only a few rainstorms.
The hours in the car have been spent listening to music, telling jokes (Harris has now almost perfected the banana/orange knock-knock joke), listening to the Muppets adventure story (ten times and counting), and—when Harris naps—listening to our philosophical text of the journey Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Andy and I have both read this several times, but it’s a different experience listening to Pirsig’s words as he travels from Minneapolis to California through Montana on a motorcycle with his son and friends. We’ve been thinking about his parenting style and the role of the unreliable narrator as much as his proposed critique of rationality as an underlying system of thought and existence.
We’ve also sustained our fascination with folk art and shabby museums, commencing with a short side trip to South Dakota’s Corn Palace. Each year, the mural composed entirely of seeds and grain changes. This year’s theme, Rock of Ages, featured Willie Nelson.
Badlands May 15-17th
Our first stop was the Badlands of South Dakota. Previously, our visits had featured thunderstorms and double rainbows.
2012 second trimester pregnancy trip
This time we had crisp but intermittently sunny temps. Which is actually a gorgeous background for the buttes.
Harris also got to ride his first horse:
We stayed at the Circle View ranch bed and breakfast, arriving after a meal of Indian taco and iceberg lettuce at the Cedar Point diner (basically the only open restaurant in Interior, SD other than the bar that serves frozen pizza and corn nuts until 2am). The ranch owners had set us up in the family suite next to the “play room” which they had decked out with a working kids stove. Harris insisted on wearing the oven mitt for most of the time we were there.
I awoke around 5am on our first full road trip day to a glorious sunrise:
I crunched down a gravel hill to explore the cabins and cows below, accompanied by a muddy collie, Hank the deaf dog. Below the cows all ceased their cud-chewing and just … looked at me with placid eyes. All turning their heads and just watching calmly. There is little as oddly disturbing as a herd of cows watching you.
The cows are neatly penned together as are the chickens. With some rusting appliances and tractors parts nearby managing to blend into the landscape perhaps by virtue of the railroad ties stacked among them. “It ties things together” Robert Pirsig had noted of the blackbirds taking wing in a cluster in the opening pages of Zen... He meant a set of thoughts about presence—in particular about the being in versus watching the land enframed from a car container. The difference between being among and passively attending to the land as scape. The railroad ties work to knit the objects to the scene here (with slightly less philosophical undertones). Though there is something here of that as well. Of an 1880 homestead cabin built of mud, clay, and sweat by the side of a silty river. And above the “Circle View Ranch” homestead constructing, one imagines, at least in part by the labor of its owners, Amy and Phil. (At least this is suggested by the binders of the ranch building as a kind of adult 4-H project).
After a hearty breakfast Harris helped to bottle feed a calf, scatter food to the chickens in the hen hotel, and collect eggs for our next breakfast. This is ranching and subsistence carved from a landscape at once desolate and awe-inspiring.
We then went on a hike where Harris was most interested in the ants and “taking breaks”.
We also had a false start on a steep trail that Harris figured out how to get down the easy way:
Mommy followed his lead:
And Daddy helped out with the flatter portion of the hike:
Later on we went to Daddy’s favorite stop of the trip Wall Drug:
We returned to a gorgeous sunset over the hills:
Then the next morning Mommy and Harris awoke for sunrise:
And a little time on the play set:
Before we set off towards Yellowstone with a stop in a gorgeous Wyoming canyon and sunset bistro dinner in Cody: