Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

December 31, 2005

Long, desolate trip

This little town on the border of Arizona and New Mexico was typical of today's scenery. Adobe houses. Sparse population. Sage brush. Red soil.

The sky got more dramatic as the day progressed. I didn't realize until we got into the hotel that we were seeing the front of an enormous storm system which is passing over us tonight.

Tumbleweed is prevalent. In the brisk winds of the past two days, which have at times threatened to blow us off the road, we have been dodging plenty of bouncing tumbleweed. Here is one caught in a fence.

INTERSTATE 40 is the main route from Los Angeles. It runs along a very busy train track. All day we watched trains carrying goods from China eastward.

TONIGHT, downtown Flagstaff. Really, a nicer little downtown than Santa Fe. Santa Fe is so overpriced (one window had a necklace priced at $25,000, marked 30% off) and foofy that you feel out of place. Santa Fe has lots of unhappy rich people doing their rich thing. Downtown Flagstaff is more college students, hippies and skiers. A couple of funky old hotels from about 100 years ago. We ate at a Thai restaurant. Not as good as the Thai Orchid in Fargo, but not bad.

Flagstaff sky

After a day of trying to capture the dramatic skies on the 370 mile stretch from Santa Fe to Flagstaff, Lance stuck the camera out the window while we were going 80 mph down the freeway and took this shot. Wow. I now know where the Hudson River school of painters got the inspiration for their incredible paintings of clouds. Albert Bierstadt comes to mind (Google his name to see what I mean).

Skies of Santa Fe

Pulled into the hotel parking lot just in time to see the sunset in Santa Fe. I stepped out of the pickup and took one shot east, one shot north and one shot west before heading inside to check in. Above is the shot north, with a typical Santa Fe fence.

The sunsets of Santa Fe are legendary. Their colors are almost impossibly vivid. Artists who attempt to capture them on canvas turn out pictures with colors so lurid as to seem unlikely to people who have never seen a Santa Fe sunset. About sunset last night, the whole city turned a sort of pink, a rare light I have seen at home only after a thunderstorm has passed and the sun hits it while being blocked from direct view.

Here is the hotel. The luminaries, not yet lit, are on the wall. Lance and I took a shuttle downtown. Santa Fe has a typical Mexican plaza in the center of the city, which was still lit with Christmas lights. The adobe and pine beam architecture gives the downtown an enchanted air.

The air is very, very dry here. Crinkles inside the nose. And the effects of the high elevation are a bit much for Lance--achy joints, nausea, flu-like symptoms without the fever. I guess it takes about a day or two to get over the high elevation. By then, we'll be lower.

Tonight, Flagstaff, where we'll steadfastly ignore the stupidest holiday celebration of the year.

December 29, 2005


After a leisurely drive across the wastes of western Nebraska, Lance and I pulled into Denver late this afternoon. Called cousin Chad, who met us at a restaurant with his delightful family, girlfriend Kathy and daughter Madison.

The stories of how people meet are usually completely boring. Not so with Chad and Kathy. Chad is a fan of a band called "The String Cheese Incident." He's such a fan that he has seen the band in concert no fewer than 161 times. At a concert outside of Portland, OR, Chad noticed that the girl next to him was entering the name of the first song of the evening in a log book, which is apparently typical String Cheese Incident fan behavior. Upon inquiry, Chad discovered it was Kathy's fiftieth concert.

With The String Cheese Incident in common, the two are now, several months later, the doting and happy parents of little Madison, who was born at home on a couch which Chad later advertised as "slightly used." A beautiful baby, with refreshing, intelligent, and utterly devoted parents--a wonderful thing to see.

Highlight of western Nebraska

December 28, 2005

The fog belt

The traditional first night stop on the way to Arizona is York, Nebraska. The way I take is to go to Sioux Falls, SD, take I-90 west a few miles to a little past Canistota (home to the famous chiropractic clinic where my grandmother used to take weeklong cures during the 1940s, weeks she called "the best time of my life"), then down to Yankton on 81, across the Missouri on a one-lane two story bridge, and then south to the intersection of 81 and I-80 at York.

From Canistota to Yankton, it was pure fog. It always is on that stretch of highway. I think it should be called the fog belt, where the transition is made from snow to wet ground. Dreary. Wearying.

Then we crossed the Missouri, and within three or four miles, the fog suddenly disappeared and this was the scene--a sunset about as grand as you could ever expect. I was driving, so Lance rolled down the window and took about 50 pictures with his Nikon, and then snapped a few with my Canon as well.

The stripes in the picture are all vapor trails from jets, even the large ones. We're right under the coast-to-coast flight routes, so the sky is full of vapor trails.

York was much farther than I thought. I don't know what I was thinking, but I thought we'd get in about six tonight and it turned out to be 8:30. Thank goodness Lance could relieve me driving for a while.

We ate in Johnny Carson's hometown of Norfolk, NE. When we were leaving the Country Kitchen, we looked at poster in the entry advertising the Johnny Carson museum, and said almost in unison, "Here's Johnny!" Well, a guy in front of us bolted around. His face looked just like Johnny Carson's--but with shoulder length hair. It looked like Johnny done up in a wig for one of his skits.

Must be a small gene pool.

Tomorrow, Denver.

December 27, 2005

Weasel in the woodpile

When I was about to get in my pickup and leave the house this afternoon, I saw this critter running to the woodpile. I ran back in to get the camera, not expecting him to hang around. But he poked out long enough for this picture. I wish my telephoto--which is in the care of UPS right now--had arrived earlier!

Then, I saw why the weasels--it was two of them--had visited. They liked the old freezer-burnt roast I put out by the bird feeder to see what it would attract. Pretty fun to see a critter like this!

December 26, 2005

Lotto winner

I've never won anything in my life--until tonight. When I walked in the door for a visit at their Grandma and Grandpa's, cousins Cynthia and Cora had their desk set up and were selling lottery tickets. My number was 814423. Lo and behold, for the price of two 50 cent tickets, I won the $9.47, half the overall pot. Here are lotto officials Cynthia and Cora congratulating me on my winnings.

The next venture? Bingo. This was a non-profit affair, but even so, Cynthia was still in charge. I won a single prize--an airline-size bottle of Crown Royal whiskey (from the adult box).

Meanwhile, two-year old Teddy got bored with Bingo and decided to go swim in Grandma and Grandpa's oversized whirlpool tub. What a little fish! He was diving and swimming without plugging his nose--something I didn't do until I was a sophomore in high school.

Holiday confusion

What day is it? One has to ask more often around holiday time, as the usual routine is disrupted. Today is Monday, but it seems like a...well, I am not sure. The same will happen next weekend with the New Year holiday.

My gift to Aunt Olla didn't work. She called this morning to say that "this phone has to go!" I knew from her tone of voice that she had been stewing a bit over it, gathering up the courage to call. I assured her that I would bring her old one back today, and she was relieved at that.

I suspect the volume on the new phone was turned down. Her stepson called yesterday to wish her a Merry Christmas and she couldn't hear him.

The idea was that with a remote phone she wouldn't have to get up to answer the one which is attached to a cord. However, these remote phones can be a bit difficult to get used to--especially when they don't have a mouthpiece near the mouth and you have to get used to the notion that people can hear you through a microphone which is at the side of your cheek.

Oh well, it was worth a try. I will keep looking for a remote phone which will do the trick. I think somebody should cook up a remote phone with a big old receiver just like the old type, but without the cord. That would make the transition easier.

Another invention I am waiting for: A wall mount screen similar to a nice computer monitor which one could program to show one's pictures in a perpetual slide show. I know Bill Gates has them all over his mansion so he can customize the art on the walls to the tastes of his guests, but such a gizmo isn't on the market yet.

What I find is that I enjoy looking at my pictures on the screen of a computer but am inevitably disappointed when I develop them. In fact, I have developed just a few dozen of the several thousand pictures I have taken since I went to digital photos. They look better on a screen, but they are difficult to share with others in the room in that format.

With Christmas in the past, I am going to hit the road Wednesday morning, destination Arizona. Lance is going to help me drive out, and then he will fly back. I don't know how long I am going to be gone, nor do I know what shape the trip will take. I suspect I will get homesick sooner with a nice house to come back to. So, I am not making any long-term plans to stay anywhere.

Ideally, I would find a nice place to hole up near a Barnes and Noble so I could work on some writing projects. I find I am better able to concentrate when I am in Arizona, away from the distractions and habits of home. If I get on a roll, I might stay somewhere for a while. If I don't, I will travel around, see the sights, and take some pictures. After scrounging around here for things which are worth photographing, I look forward to new vistas.

The seasonal rhythms of the nursery business are a bit extreme. I remember in May thinking how nice it would be just to have an hour to myself. During that busy time, I think nostalgically of the winter when things are slow, when there is so little to fuss about on a daily basis.

Now, winter is here and I find myself short of stimulation. Solitude and quiet are fine, but I think they are best interspersed with activity so one doesn't get stale.

Now that Christmas is over, does that mean the Christmas music ends? I don't mind hearing carols done the old fashioned way with straight rhythms and big choirs, but when pop stars massacre "Away in the Manger" complete with drums and jazzy synchopations, my gag reflex kicks in.