Friday, September 08, 2006

On The Road Heading East

That's me and my camera, on the road in North Dakota, trying to shoot pictures of those beautiful rolled hay bales that are everywhere in that landscape. For a week we've been travelling across the country to St. Louis (our current location). The trip has been fantastic, with so many highlights. We came across the lower Cascade range in Washington into the fully-ripe fruit producing area around Wenatchie, where we stocked up on the most crunchy-delicious apples I can ever remember eating. That first day we made it all the way to Missoula, Montana - wow!

The next morning we took a delightful detour to the little town of Basin, where we met a fabulous group of women artists and musicians, thanks to our new friend Bryher who owns a little cafe there, and is the sister of my dear friend Mary. This little community has put together a Women Artist's Refuge, a retreat center where artists can go and stay for months at a time and work. In a nutshell, what we can say about Basin is .... We'll Be Back (and soon)!

Montana, of course, was heartbreakingly gorgeous. We drank in the luscious scenery, and wildlife (elk, sandhill cranes). That second afternoon we had a little adventure. We stopped in Billings for gas, and when Daniella turned the key in the car there was a huge BOOM from our vehicle and the engine was dead. We were stunned, and frightened, but eventually discovered that our battery had simply exploded. The plastic on top was all cracked open, and we could see battery acid roiling and steaming inside - scary! We called AAA and were towed to a local Sears store (mind you, this was Sunday of Labor Day weekend). They changed the battery, tested the car, and determined that there were no further problems, so off we went again. Wow! We stayed that second night in Miles City, MT - on the far eastern side of the state.

One sad thing that we noticed all the way across Washington, Idaho, and Montana is that the evergreen trees are dying. Everywhere, there are dead trees and dying trees amongst the green ones. We've heard that global warming is creating new conditions in the forests that weaken the trees, allow beetles to attack them, etc. There is also the excessive heat that these states have been experiencing, along with a shortage of rain. It was shocking to see it, however, and very worrisome to imagine where it might lead. At the very least, it increases the fire danger considerably. At worst, it threatens all of us.

On The Road - North Dakota

Because our dear friends, Rob and Mary, are in North Dakota, we especially wanted to visit that state. We were immediately struck by the splendor of the Badlands, the vast and rolling rock formations and gulleys that sprawl across the land in all directions. ND has a real cowbow culture (see above!), and field after field of blooming sunflowers, grasslands of fragrant sage, and rolling meadows edged with brown-eyed susans. The beauty is subtle but undeniable.

Our friends live about 50 miles off the main highway, and then about 8 miles back on a dirt road - what they call "on the mountain" where they are building a home on land that has been in the family for generations. Rob has done an amazing job of putting up a house by himself, and, although there is still much to complete, he has done so much, so skillfully. His parents, Bob & Edna, live nearby in their lovely home, and we had some meals together there. Best of all was the time catching up after many years apart. Mary and I have been close friends for about 30 years. She was with me when my last baby was born. I love her like a sister, and it was a great joy to have time with her and with Rob.

Rob took us out in an open jeep, driving all over their land. We kept meeting up with his dad, age 86, out riding one of his many horses - something he does every day.In the evening, the family built a camp fire and we sat out under the stars. Chris, Rob & Mary's son, is a performance artist who uses the name "The Rappin' Cowbow". He recited cowbow poetry at the fireside, and then Grandpa Bob sang a few songs - he has a rich, deep voice. Here is the family looking at some of Daniella's art work.It was difficult to say goodbye to ND and get back on the road again......what a terrific visit!

On the Road - Midwest

After leaving our friends in North Dakota, we headed east, eventually into Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes. The landscape turned from brown to bright green. There were little lakes everywhere. That night, Tuesday, we stayed in a little town called Fergus Falls, MN, unremarkable in every way. On Wednesday we stopped in Minneapolis at the Walker Art Center, and spent a couple of hours looking at the exciting contemporary art in their collection.

By Wednesday night we had driven down into the corny state of Iowa, and spent the night at Cedar Rapids. We passed the Spam Museum (didn't see it in time to turn off for a visit - darn!) and were delayed at a traffic intersection in the middle of nowhere while a long tractor parade passed through - go figure??!!

Yesterday (Thursday) we finally saw the Mississippi River when we stopped for lunch in Hannibal, Missouri (home of Mark Twain). We bought sandwiches and took them up onto the river levee for a picnic. While we sat there, someone played old-timey songs on a calliope on a river paddleboat. It was joyful and so evocative of that whole Mississippi River culture. Later we arrived at our hotel in St. Louis, had a delicious "tapas" dinner, then rested up to prepare for today when we must put up the booth and art exhibit that begins tonight and goes through the weekend. Let's hope that Daniella kicks butt!