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Exodus in a Tin Can on Wheels


-Part 2-
(Part 1 - Part 3 - Epilogue)

TaoUrso decided to cancel the contract on the ATT cell phone (the one we lost and got back) and we bought a new Verizon phone at Cherry Creek Mall. Verizon man told us of stormy weather in the past couple days, bringing much-needed rain.

Also spent over $300 on new sandals. They better last a while

Before we left Custer, we hired an artist to paint Onyx's picture on both front doors. Very nice.

August 24 - Laramie, Wyoming KOA. Another TV-less night.

Spent a few hours touring the town's Wyoming Territorial Park, which includes the onetime Laramie Territorial Prison, now a museum. You can see a mediocre recreation of an Old West town - y'know, the bank, saloon, jail, etc. all on one street. The prison - said to have once housed Butch Cassidy - was the best part of the place, because it was at least real, or had been. Oz would look like a Club Med next to this facility. Each cell is small, maybe 6' X 9' at most, just enough room for a single bed and a small table with a wash-basin. Another room down the corridor had some toilets and two bathtubs. (I tried to visualize a slash-fiction scene happening in this room, but just couldn't.). Looked around town a bit. Judging from the shops and restaurants downtown, you can guess there's a university nearby - and you'd be right.

August 29 -- At Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah, near Salt Lake City. We'll be staying here a couple weeks. TaoUrso's son put us up at an RV site on base till 9/15, when he and his wife leave for Germany. So it looks like I'll be spending the first anniversary of 9/11 on a military base, of all places.

Monday (8/26) we drove to Utah from Wyoming. Stopped at a "Little America" truckstop where a connection on the RV muffler was tightened up that was creating a lot of noise. But the real scare came a bit later, we were doing around 60mph on Interstate 80 when the right front tire suddenly blew. TaoUrso managed to get the vehicle off the road, and Good Sam helped us change the tire (hey, that's what we pay them for.) The service guy showed us to his tire place where we got new front tires.

Been doing more work on the RV this week. TaoUrso installed a new water pump, now there's no more leaking. Today his son helped him with some fuses, and it looks like the front windows are rolling again. TaoUrso has been talking with him a lot; good to see them doing that father/son shit they both sorely wanted.

Salt Lake is a curious city. Like Denver, it has these huge mountains looming up behind it, as well as that big salt lake to the side. To me, it looks positively surreal.

In many ways, it appears a typical mid-size U.S. city. But beneath the cosmopolitan/strip mall veneer, is a constant awareness of who started the place. Yep, I'm talking about those Mormon dudes. For example: the following address - 1432 East, 2700 South - refers to how many blocks it is from the house to the big Mormon temple downtown. All addresses in SLC are like this. This gets confusing because there are several towns adjacent to SLC, each with its own temple, who do it the same way. Take a wrong turn and you may find yourself at the right address, but in the wrong town.

Wine and hard liquor are sold only in state-operated stores, which appear to be few and far between.

To update: Onyx is doing much better, his poo is back to normal. Dr. McLucas tells us his thyroid is now at an acceptable level. I guess we'll have to keep giving him those pills forever. TaoUrso bought a pill syringe to get it down his throat. But the real problem is mine - finding him, grabbing him and getting him in position. The cat can be real nasty some days, and I have a couple of marks to show for it.

One more thing: there's a town in Wyoming that bills itself as "the highest town on I-80 between NYC and San Francisco." It's Buford, Wyoming - elevation 8000 feet, population 2. I met the population last week, they run a canteen/souvenir shop just off the highway. Got a coffee for TaoUrso, and an official Buford T-shirt for me. Sad to say, their restrooms were not working, but who was I going to complain to? Town Hall?

Speaking of coffee, it's been many days since TaoUrso enjoyed his beloved Dunkin' Donuts brand. I don't think we've seen a DD since we crossed the Mississippi River. I warned him he may have to live with that.

September 7 -- Still at Hill AFB. Rain much of the day. Don't feel well at all - some bad stomach irritation. A doctor in Ogden took blood, but I won't know results for at least two days.

Think we're finally done w/repairs on RV. A service station Thursday fixed a pipe on the underside airbags (suspension). TaoUrso plans to get tires for the back when we leave SLC on 9/16.

And would you believe: there's actually an occult supply shop in this town! Called "Spellbound" - it's a nice enough little place. Bought a bracelet there (at T's strong suggestion), now must wear it a couple days. Also bought smudge stix.

Last night kicked off Rosh Hashana, 5763. Jason's uncle Karl brought me, TaoUrso and Jason to a service with a very reform bunch of Jews in the city, at an Episcopalian church basement no less. I'm sure they meant well, but I found the service long and tedious with no form or substance at all. It was conducted, sort of, by a female cantor who didn't seem to know what she was doing. (TaoUrso didn't like her either.) And there was no shofar! The potluck was okay though.

September 15 -- Last day at Hill AFB. I'll be happy to leave this cozy, restrictive place. Tomorrow we head south.

Stomach problems have cleared up. Dr. Johnson at a local health center gave me some Prevacid. Also some Synthroid for what he found to be an underactive thyroid. (Funny, I have the opposite condition from my cat.).

Being plagued by flies again.

Saw a few nice things around SLC. Took a horse-carriage tour. I liked the local parks and how clean everything looked. TaoUrso did not like how the driver treated the horse.

Cleanliness of every stripe is a big deal here. There are video places that advertise "Clean Flicks" (edited movies.) The spirit of Wal-Mart pervades SLC, but as in Wal-Mart, there's a dark side to it all. Since July - when we found our first one in Connecticut - TaoUrso became enamored of Wal-Mart, especially since most of them have those electric carts he can drive around in. There's a lot of selection, and the inventory is pretty big. It became a running joke for us on the road: "A Wal-Mart! We're saved!" On the other hand, Tao's daughter-in-law told me how she tried to find the latest Eminem CD at the local Wal-Mart. She asked a clerk, who gave her this snotty business of, well, we don't carry that! 'Nuff said.

Saw Antelope Island Friday [9/13]. More bison. Great Salt Lake looks very strange to an outsider. There's an almost alien stillness to the water, with a permanent haze in the air above. The salt-funk smell of the air reminds me of nothing so much as a city dump - until you remember that this is the natural odor of the place. It all looks so desolate, incapable of supporting any life. Yet there must be something in that water to attract all those seagulls. Looking at Salt Lake puts the word "nature" in a bigger context. Many of us connect the word with more benevolent pictures - fields, forests, green hills and the like. But to know Nature at all, requires the idea of salt lakes as well.

September 16 -- Today had its ups and downs. Got more new tires for the RV and took off for East Bay RV Park (Springville, Utah). But when we arrived here, we spotted antifreeze leaking out. Fortunately there was a repair shop just across the way, they fixed the broken radiator line. (TaoUrso blames Long View - again!) So all went okay there.

This afternoon, we visited a woman in Mapleton who breeds alpacas. Very lovely critters. But breeding them is a major investment. Here's what I learned: You can expect to pay anywhere from 13 to 50 thousand dollars for an adult alpaca. Two basic types - those with dread bangs over their eyes, and those with curly tufts on their heads. Breeders usually start with a couple of pregnant females. Ms. Loveless says eight (including a sire or two) is a good size herd. Alpaca gestation is 11 months. Females are pregnant most of the time, and the other two weeks of the year are spent getting that way. Alpacas eat mostly grass and hay. They can be kept fenced in outdoors on just a couple of acres. Build a shelter for when it rains. Breeders shear alpacas once a year. Their fleece is softer than wool. There are alpaca shows all over the U.S. Ms.L. has won quite a few prizes.

September 17 -- An unexpected delay. This is our second day at the Springville RV park. When we started moving the rig, the radiator leaked again. Turns out the repair guys hadn't thoroughly fixed the line. Brought it back to their shop early this morning. Gods willing, everything is okay for tomorrow.

Been raining heavily the last couple days, just starting to clear up now. We're surrounded by mountains out here. Saw clouds over their heads; it reminded me of that silly French movie from years ago, The Valley (Obscured by Clouds). (Although, as I recall, the soundtrack wasn't half bad.).

September 18 -- Today we arrived at Zion Canyon Campground, after some 250+ miles of driving. In the middle of Zion National Park. On the way to camp, we drove thru some fascinating scenery - lots of plateaus and buttes, that sort of thing - and saw these lovely houses along the road. Many, as it turned out, were up for sale. "That's a bad sign," TaoUrso says. When we got closer to camp, I got a hint about why the exodus. This southern edge of Utah is very touristy. Lots of rock & souvenir shops, Indian stuff, etc. Quite different from elsewhere in the state.

More trouble with the RV. Pulled over at a station for gas, and a serviceman advised us about the suspension air bags (which I thought we'd already taken care of.) He told us we needed new bags in the front, and also new shocks. The shocks he sold us at $130 each for four. Ugh! TaoUrso is suspicious; he thinks someone is screwing us - Long View or someone along the way, but can't figure out who. (He even suspects Long View of toying with the odometer, but can't prove anything.). If that's not enough, it looks like the car needs some work as well. The engine feels pretty shaky.

September 19 -- Today we drove thru Zion National Park. It's a hairy ride, lots of steep curves, but a great view of all those red sandstone mesas(that's what they are). This was on the way to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kenab. "Bittersweet" is how TaoUrso describes the tour we took, and the word fits. The cats and dogs kept there are really messed up. Some are blind, some are missing parts, some can't walk straight, and some are just feral or neurotic. TaoUrso noticed that none of the cats had their tails up, although the lady who guided us said that made no difference. Still, it's good that those critters have a place to live, where they might not otherwise.

TaoUrso was thinking about getting another cat there, someone Onyx could play with. I remembered how he and Marbles got along, and didn't think it wise. Guess the people at Best Friends talked him out of it.

Found a mechanic in Kenab who got us new wires and distributor cap. Car is running much better now. (Sigh of relief).

For the record: It was 15 years ago today that TaoUrso and I first met. Five years since we put Marbles down. We've found a place in the RV for her photo.

September 21 -- Took a plane ride over the Grand Canyon today. It was fun, but I kept nodding off. Slept a good bit this afternoon when we got back. What's the Grand Canyon like? It's big, and has a lot of pretty rocks. Ah, what the hell am I saying? An accurate description does not fit within the confines of my brain. But everyone should see it once.

Yesterday was more enjoyable. Took a shuttle around Zion National Park. (Lots of locations in Utah have Biblical names - that Mormon thing again.). Took some nice pictures at a formation called the Temple of Something-or-other (duh) which has two of my favorite things: big, colorful rocks and running water (the Virgin River to be exact.).

September 23 -- Redlands RV Park, St. George. Last night in Utah. Tomorrow, it's Vegas, baby! I'm told many people (especially retired ones) want to live here. Apart from the scenery, I don't see anything charming about St. George. Too hot for too much of the year, and nothing to buy but the same old universal mall shit.

More repairs on RV. New front airbags put on today. And we paid two guys to wash and wax RV and car. I guess it was worth the money.

My right knee went out yesterday, have trouble walking.

September 26 -- Third night in Las Vegas. Had my fill of slots, neon and kitsch. Am ready to move on.

Still have pain in my knees. Have done a lot of walking these last couple days.

Caesar's Palace: very pretty, many shops, all filled with over-priced brand-name stuff. Didn't buy anything. TaoUrso wanted to see Luxor. That casino has a replica of King Tutenkhamen's tomb. Nice looking, but unreal in an obvious way. MGM Grand: big, really big. That's all. New York, New York I found the most amusing. The design was some Westerner's idea of '50s Manhattan art-deco. Even had faux steam coming from the "manholes." Tried to imitate NYC, but as TaoUrso pointed out, it was all way too clean. Spent a lot of time losing quarters, winning them back, then losing them again. At one point, I let TaoUrso drag me to a blackjack table, where I must have looked very stupid. Think the two of us lost about $40. FYI: The only place in Vegas you won't find slot machines, is the local Wal-Mart. Wouldn't ya know?.

And it's very hot! can't get into an autumnal head here.

TaoUrso managed to get himself a new wheelchair, spent $240. (a steal, I understand.) So I've been pushing him around the casinos a lot.

Expect to leave for California in a couple days.

September 29 -- On U.S. Route 95. Scotty's Junction, Nevada. Yesterday we tried to leave Las Vegas. A most bizarre day! Got as far as Indian Springs, when we discovered tire trouble. TaoUrso and I were screaming at each other a good bit of the day - which normally happens when things go wrong. Ended up back in Vegas looking for a tire shop. Finally found one on Rancho Drive. Got a couple of new tires, but still need worms. (That's what was causing the trouble.). By then, the sun was setting. So we drove up 95 again to Indian Springs, stayed at an RV park there. (Glad we filled the water tank back in Vegas,because water and sewer hookups looked - ahem - dubious!).

Went to the little restaurant/casino nearby (apparently these places are all over NV.) That night they served a special "Hawaiian Luau" buffet (more like pseudo-Chinese with sushi), so we ate pretty well.

Now back on the road, heading north. Surrounded on all sides by mountains and semi-arid desert. ("Semi-arid" means you have plants growing in it.). Driving thru Utah and Nevada, with all their rocky immensity, drew this question to my mind: If there is a Divine Force behind such creation as this, would this Divinity give two shits whether the U.S. invades Iraq?.

Want to note one more thing about the RV: Bought a new rear-view monitor, since the old one (another Long View installation) had crapped out.

September 30 -- In California, at some woody camp whose name escapes me, somewhere near Yuba City. Drove nearly 300 miles today from Mina, Nevada. Started the day in the desert and ended up navigating a lot of tricky mountain roads covered with evergreens. But we're out of the mountains now; tomorrow we're headed for Cobb, where we expect to stay a couple weeks.

On the way to Mina, stopped at a casino for lunch. I won fifty bucks at a slot machine - a record for me. It was worth the indigestion from that lethal foot-long chili dog I ordered. Bleah! TaoUrso seems to like that part of Nevada. He has fantasies of running an RV park like the one at Indian Springs. Don't think I'd want to live in it.

To Be Continued....

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