Light Matters

Two shots prove it.

We spent Monday night camped out along the east shore of the Snake River in Hell’s Gate State Park, just south of Lewiston, ID. The river is held back by a dam downstream to form a long, meandering lake that has plenty of boat traffic, including the “jet boats” that take people upriver through Hell’s Canyon. All that traffic makes for rough water, but I reasoned that early in the morning, around dawn, the water could be pretty calm. With first light on the gold-colored hills across the river from our campsite, I might be able to photograph some interesting reflections without a lot of effort.

While the idea of waking before dawn to take a few photos might seem like a chore to some folks, it isn’t usually a big deal to me. I’m usually awake by 6 AM anyway, and that was certainly the case on Tuesday morning. So I threw on some clothes, grabbed my camera and tripod, and went out along the path behind the camper to see what I could shoot.

What I ended up with was a great example of how the quality and color of light can change a photo.

Before the Sun

This first shot reveals an interesting scene in gray light. Photo details: 1/50 sec, f4.8, ISO 200, 35mm

I set up and framed my shot. The reflections were as good as I’d hoped and the shots achieved the almost mirror-like look of land reflected on water. But the light wasn’t quite right for the first bunch of shots. Even after the sun rose, it failed to cast its rays on the scene before me. For a while, it was the high hills behind me, to the east, that kept the sunlight off my scene. Then it was a cloud. The light was gray and colorless.

After the Sun

This shot was taken a minute later, when the cloud had moved away, revealing the sun. Photo details: 1/80 sec, f4.8, ISO 200, 35mm

Then, suddenly, the cloud slipped away and the low sun shone directly on the scene before me. It lit up with a golden glow and I snapped another photo. This shot was taken exactly one minute after the previous one. Rather than slowly creep down the scene to illuminate it, the sun shined full on the scene, all at once.

It wasn’t until I reviewed these two shots in quick succession in my camera that I noticed the dramatic difference you see here. These images were not manipulated in any way in an image editing program other than to downsize them for the Web. I think they speak for themselves as they are.

I’ve read a lot about photography, especially in the past year or so. One of the things I read recently was a “tip” by a photographer who basically said not to bother shooting in bad light. These two photos do a pretty good job of explaining why light is so important. And while I won’t tell anyone not to shoot in bad light, I hope these photos help them understand how light can make a difference in their photography.

Wheat Fields, Mountains, Valleys, and a Very Long Drive

What I’ve been up to — and why I’ve been too busy to blog.

I haven’t been blogging regularly for the past week or so. That’s because I’ve been on the move.

Monday, July 28

Combine in ActionI spent the morning cleaning out my hangar at Quincy for departure the next day. Then I flew up to Chelan and met my friend Jim. He flew us in his helicopter to Spokane, ID for lunch and then on to Coeur D’Alene, ID where he’s based. He demonstrated a confined space landing by setting down in the parking area of his business property in downtown Coeur D’Alene to offload a bunch of stuff. Then we went to the local airport, fueled up, and picked up his wife for the return flight to Chelan. I got some great photos of combines in action on the dry wheat fields. We landed at Chelan with just enough time to chat with another helicopter pilot before it was time for me to fly back to Quincy.

Tuesday, July 29

I spent much of Tuesday morning preparing to leave Quincy. I had to disassemble my helicopter tow bar and stow its pieces in the back of my truck, then clear out everything else still in the hangar I’d been renting. I also had to drop off my last month’s rent. I bought some cherries and other fresh fruit, too.

I had just enough time for a quick shower before visitors started coming. Louis, who would fly with me later in the day to Seattle, arrived first. Then Teresa, Jim’s wife, arrived with Jim’s pickup. He bought the remaining fuel in my transfer tank — about 50 gallons of 100LL — for $4/gallon. A great deal for both of us, since I wanted the fuel out to lighten up my truck. We pumped the fuel from my transfer tank to Jim’s and Teresa departed.

Then Louis dropped me off at Quincy Airport and drove my truck to Wenatchee. I took my helicopter to Wenatchee to meet him and we flew from there to Seattle’s Boeing Field, on a marginal weather flight I reported in some detail here. After a chat with my mechanic there, Louis and his mom dropped me off at SeaTac. I had a pretty good halibut dinner at Anthony’s before I caught a flight back to Wenatchee. I was back in my camper by 9:30 PM, exhausted.

Wednesday, July 30

Wednesday was the big day. I packed up the camper, stowed Alex the Bird on board the truck in his travel box, hooked up the camper to the truck, and pulled out. I’d been in my campsite for just a few days short of two months.

Palouse FallsMy destination was Walla Walla, WA, about 150-200 miles away. I chose a route that kept me on back roads. I don’t think I ever saw so much wheat in my life. My chosen route took me past Palouse Falls, so I stopped in and got some photos. It was an interesting place and well worth the stop.

From there, I continued on to Walla Walla, with a stop at a drugstore soda fountain in Dayton for an ice cream sundae. I checked into the Four Seasons RV Park around 5 PM, set up the camper for a two-night stay, and went out to grab some dinner. I wound up at a restaurant called Luscious, where I had an excellent polenta dish and a glass of wine.

This is also the first day I gave my new SPOT Messenger a workout. You can track my progress for this entire trip on my Share page, You’ll have to page back using controls under the Waypoints list to see the track for that day.

Thursday, July 31

There was something about dinner that didn’t agree with me, no matter how tasty it was, because I was up at 3 AM, leaning over the camper’s toilet and choking it all back up. I hate to puke but what they say is true: you do feel better when you’re done. But I wasn’t operating at 100% the next day, which I’d set aside to explore opportunities in Walla Walla.

It’s no secret that I pretty much hate where I live right now. Wickenburg is a dead town, full of ultra conservative retirees who live there only half the year and don’t spend much of their money in town when they’re around. They don’t have an emotional investment in the town and don’t seem to care what happens to it. As a result, new businesses — other than those that cater to the budget-conscious — don’t last more than a year or so. There are few decent restaurants and very few shopping opportunities. If it weren’t for the newly built and then remodeled Safeway Supermarket and a handful of longtime other businesses, I don’t know how I could live there at all. To make matters worse, the Mayor and Council seem more interested in growing the town’s population base for the financial benefit of their families and cronies than building an economic base that includes good-paying jobs that’ll attract young, vibrant people. The Chamber of Commerce pushed for an in-town “bypass” that’s destroying downtown parks and other facilities and adding a “roundabout” that’s sure to cause daily accidents. I love my home and its immediate surroundings and it’s painful to see how they’re destroying whatever was good about the town. There’s nothing else here for us anymore. All of our friends in our age group have already left town. We’re the only ones left.

So I’m exploring possibilities and Walla Walla was high on my list. I spent some time checking out the very pleasant historic downtown area, where it was nice to not be the youngest person on the street. Then I went over to the airport to meet with the airport manager about moving my flying business there. She was extremely helpful and enthusiastic and said a lot of things that made me believe I’d be welcome there. (What a refreshing change that was.) There would certainly be a lot more opportunities in that town than where I’m based now. I also checked out a few wineries — there are dozens in the area! — although I couldn’t do any tasting with my stomach so iffy all day.

By 4 PM, I was exhausted. I went back to the camper to relax and wound up staying in for the rest of the night.

Friday, August 1

On Friday, I needed to get an early start. I was expected in Salt Lake City at 6 PM. I’d be spending the night at the home of my friend and editor, Megg, and her family. Utah (MDST) is 1 hour ahead of Washington (PDST) so I’d already lost an hour. Trouble was, I needed to visit the post office to see if a General Delivery letter (containing a large check) had arrived. So I got as much prepared as possible before 9 AM and drove into town again. The check was there. I stopped at an excellent bakery that had been highly recommended by a Twitter friend and bought a fruit tart to bring to my friend’s place. Then I gassed up the truck.

Back at the camper, I was all ready to hook up the trailer when I realized that I was missing a leverage bar I needed for the hitch. I wasted an hour searching for it, then gave up and went to Home Depot to buy a replacement. That little fiasco cost me another hour. I didn’t get on the road until 10:30 AM.

That meant I had to take highways. I drove down to Pendleton and hopped on I-84 eastbound. And thus started a very long, very grueling day of driving. The trouble is, my 1994 Ford F150 8-cylinder pickup truck, when towing, is no match for hills and mountains. On flat areas (or downhill, of course), I could get it up to 65 MPH. But as soon as I started to climb, my speed deteriorated. Down to 35 MPH. Trucks were passing me.

And the roads through eastern Oregon and southern Idaho are very hilly.

I plowed on, stopping only for fuel and some fast food that I ate while driving. The hours slipped away. I was just entering the Salt Lake basin area when the sun set. It was about 8 PM. After making two wrong turns, I pulled up in front of Megg’s house just after 9 PM. I’d been on the road for more than 10 hours and was exhausted.

Megg fed me and helped me bring Alex the Bird’s cage into her dining room. By 11 PM, I was asleep in her guest room.

Saturday, August 2

We got up early and hit the farmer’s market in downtown Salt Lake City. This was, by far, the best farmer’s market I’d ever been to. Plenty of fresh produce, baked goods, and other items you’d expect to find at such a place, as well as other non-food items that generally dominate most other farmer’s markets in this country these days. Megg had her 5-year-old son, Cooper, along and we joined Megg’s friend and her 5-year-old son for coffee and scones at a shady table in the park. I felt as if I could have spent the whole day there — it was so pleasant.

AlbionBut we headed out to the Snowbird ski resort area, where we took a hike in Albion Basin. The area had been recommended by photographer and Twitter friend Ann Torrence, who linked to a photo of the place that made it irresistible. The three of us hiked about 2 miles round trip to Cecret Lake (also spelled Secret Lake). I took a lot of photos; this is one of them. The place was amazingly beautiful. Again, I think I could have spent the whole day there. But we didn’t have a whole day. In fact, I was hoping to be back on the road by 1 PM.

The departure time slipped as we went to the Snowbird Ski Resort and took the tram to the top of Hidden Peak. I’m so out of shape I was huffing and puffing at 11,000 feet. We headed back to Salt Lake City where I scrambled to get everything together. It was 3:30 when I said goodbye and hit the road again with Alex.

My goal had been to reach Page, AZ before nightfall. That simply was not going to happen — especially with the way my truck was climbing hills. I wound up in Beaver, UT, where I had dinner at a truck stop before pulling into an RV park for the night. I didn’t unhook the trailer or pop out any of the beds. Instead, I just plugged in the power cord, opened the sofa, and snuggled up in a comforter with a pillow.

Sunday, August 3

Reflecting PoolI pulled out of the RV park at 6 AM sharp and continued south on I-15 to SR 20 to US 89. It wasn’t until I got to Mt. Carmel Junction that I stopped for breakfast and fuel. I was back in familiar territory — the turn at this junction leads to Zion National Park. After breakfast, I continued down through Kanab, stopping to take a photo of a reflecting pool alongside the road along the way. Then I continued east and was very pleased to see the silhouette of Navajo Mountain off in the distance.

I arrived at the Glen Canyon Dam visitor’s center at 10:30 AM. Mike was already there with his truck and Jack the Dog. We had another breakfast in Page, then went to the airport to chat with the folks I’ll be flying for there, and finally to the campground, where we were told we were “lucky” to get a spot. (There’s more to this story, but I don’t feel like going into it now.) We spent the rest of the day picking up a few things for the camper and then just taking it easy. We had dinner in town, then came back to the trailer and watched a movie on my laptop before falling asleep.

Monday, August 4

We did a lot of chores that morning. We had to button up the camper to move it to another site (which we were “lucky” to get) that was suitable for monthly use. It turns out, the only thing that made it suitable was an electric meter, so if I sucked too much electricity, they could charge me for it. The new site is right near the road, which I’m not happy at all about. But I’m hoping it’ll be close enough to the office to connect to the WiFi network there.

We left Mike’s truck with the trailer and climbed back into my truck with the stuff I wouldn’t need anymore — including Alex’s cage. Then the four of us headed home. We’d gotten about 15 miles south of Page when Mike realized he’d forgotten his cell phone. We went back to fetch it, then bought milk shakes that were way too big (and way too expensive) for the ride. At 2 PM, we were in Flagstaff, where we stopped for a Thai food lunch. We were still full from the damn milk shakes, so we wound up taking most of the food home with us.

We were in Wickenburg by 5:30 PM. I fetched one of my cars from my hangar and came home.

Busy enough for you?

So that’s a whole week and then some, all accounted for here. You can see why I didn’t blog regularly. Hopefully, this long post will make up for it — if you could last through it all.

We hit the road again on Friday morning, when we fly to Seattle to fetch the helicopter and bring it down to Page. I hope to be able to share more stories and photos with readers then.

Until then, remember that you can track my progress for most of my trips these days on my SPOT Share page, Use controls under the waypoints list to scroll back through previous days.

And be sure to check out my photo gallery for larger images of what I’ve shared here:

Idaho is Prettier than Nevada

And Oregon is, too.

[When we last left our intrepid traveler, she was making herself at home in a 21-foot travel trailer parked in a casion parking lot in West Wendover, NV. You can read about the events leading up to this point here.]

I went into the casino at 5:30 AM in search of a cup of coffee. The espresso stand looked open, but it wasn’t. I asked a person who worked there what time it opened and she said 7 AM. I was about to freak out when I realized that my watch was on Mountain Standard Time and the casino was on Mountain Daylight Time. It was really 6:30 AM. I only had to wait 30 minutes.

After a peek across the street to see if there were another option — there wasn’t, unless you count McDonald’s, which is evidently getting high marks from some folks on their coffee; I’m not that brave — I went back to the camper. I busied myself finishing up the blog entry for the previous day’s drive. I’d just connected to the Internet with my Treo to upload the post when the phone rang, cutting off my connection. It was Mike. He has a real knack for calling when I’m using dial-up networking. By the time we finished chatting, my computer’s battery was nearly dead and the inverter I’d bought to power it in the camper wasn’t working. So the post didn’t get posted.

I went back into the casino, where I spent $5.08 for a 16-ounce “latte” with an extra shot of “espresso.” Note the quotes. I’m putting these terms in quotes because that’s what the casino called this stuff. It’s not what I received. In fact, it was barely drinkable.

Inside CamperI went back to the camper and packed up my bedding. The camper’s two queen-sized beds fold out the front and back of the camper and resemble pop-up camper beds. Although it’s not difficult to set these up, it really wasn’t worth it for a night of sleep in a parking lot. So I left the beds folded up and opened the sofa to a bed. This wouldn’t have been bad if the bed were long enough for my 5’8″ height. I’m thinking it’s about 5 feet long. I slept diagonally with my legs curled up. (This photo, taken with my funky fisheye lens, makes the camper’s interior look a lot bigger than it is. But it’s roomy enough for me. In this shot, the slide-out is fully extended; I usually only put it out halfway for overnight stays. You can see the closed-up front bed in the middle of the shot.) I didn’t have a good night’s sleep, but it really wasn’t bad, given the short bed and the fact that the parking lot’s lights made it bright as day outside all night long. Even the blinds couldn’t keep the light out. In the morning, when I woke up, I had to actually look out the window to see if it was daytime.

I got Alex back into his travel box — he spent the night in his cage — and loaded him into the car. A while later, after topping off both fuel tanks, we headed out. Oddly enough, it was exactly 7:05 AM. The same time I’d left Wickenburg the day before.

My route that morning took me west on I-80 to Wells. The 58 miles took about 90 minutes, mostly because of all the high elevation climbing we had to do. You see, the mountain ranges in Nevada generally stretch from north to south. When you drive north, as I did most of the day before, you’re driving on gentle slopes in valleys. But when you drive west, you have to climb over the mountain ranges in whatever mountain passes are on the way. That morning, there were three mountain ranges to cross. On one of them, the truck actually downshifted to first gear with my foot on the floor, unable to give me more than 35 miles per hour. Fortunately, I did better downhill.

The day was cloudy and it drizzled. When I approached Wells — which may have provided a decent place to spend the previous night after all — I saw that the mountains to the south were covered with fresh snow. In fact, it may have still been snowing.

I headed north on U.S. 93 again. The terrain was changing subtly. By the time I got to Jackpot, NV, on the border of Idaho, it was hilly and green and rather pleasant. I stopped at Cactus Pete’s Casino for breakfast, putting Alex in the camper while I went inside. It had a nice breakfast burrito with a cup of truly undrinkable coffee.

It was unfortunate I didn’t get all the way to Jackpot the night before. As my friend Stan had told me, Jackpot was a very RV-friendly place. It would have been a pleasant overnight stop.

Another refueling, then back on the road. I crossed into Idaho. Soon I was driving through farm country. At Twin Falls, I screwed up and followed U.S. 30 instead of 93. Although 30 was more direct, 93 would have gotten me to the Interstate a lot quicker. But the last 10 or so miles before I finally got on the Interstate was actually quite pleasant, winding alongside a river with lots of little waterfalls. (Maybe that’s what that “Thousand Springs” on the map was all about.)

Meanwhile, the weather remained variable: mostly cloudy with scattered rain showers. By 11:30 AM, I was feeling as if I needed a nap. That’s not a good thing when you still have about 400 miles to drive. I started thinking about maybe not getting all the way to Quincy by nightfall. Maybe an overnight stay in a nice campground would be better. Someplace with an electric hookup and WiFi.

By the time I got to Boise, it was pouring. I kept going. When I reached Nampa, I got off the highway and fairly stumbled into a Wal-Mart parking lot. I wanted to stop at a Wal-Mart or a Target to buy a cheap vacuum cleaner for the camper. You know, the kind on a stick. My mother used to call them “electric brooms.” I figured a walk around Wal-Mart might wake me up a bit. And maybe it would stop raining while I was in there.

I turned out to be a Super Wal-Mart, with groceries. I thought I’d take the opportunity to pick up some food for the camper, just in case my overnight stop wasn’t anywhere near shopping or dining. I bought some soup and eggs and orange juice and cereal. That kind of stuff. Then wiper blades for the truck and the vacuum. I brought it all out to the camper and stowed it away. Then I studied the map and came up with a plan — I’d press on and see how I felt by 5 PM. If I wanted to stop for the night, there were a handful of state park campgrounds I could try.

So I fueled up again and headed back out on I-84. It was about 2:30 PM and the rain had let up considerably.

A while later, I passed into Oregon.

I don’t know if it was my tiredness or my lack of enthusiasm for Nevada’s dull scenery or the changeable weather, but the ride into Oregon on I-84 was beautiful. Rolling green hills, farmland, irrigation canals, streams, rivers, snow-capped mountains, trees, rock formations. The interstate twisted through all this, with the inevitable climbs to slow me down so I could get a good look. Unfortunately, the rain came down very hard sometimes, making for bad visibility and tricky driving. It was also making me tired.

I pulled off the highway at Baker City and consulted the map. There was a state park with a campground about 50 miles farther up the highway. I got back on the road and homed in on it.

Hilgard Junction State Park is a tiny sliver of land alongside a creek just off the freeway. It offers primitive camping that includes a paved parking spot, picnic table, and fire pit. There’s a water faucet every 3 or 4 sites and a garbage pail every 2 sites. There’s also a restroom with cold running water. A campground host watches over all this. The fee: just $8/night.

Camper At Hilgard Junction State ParkI drove in to check the place out. The campsites were right on the creek. I drove down the little road toward the turnaround loop at the end. The sites were not pull-throughs, so I’d have to back in. The hell with that, I thought. I found one with a nice, long driveway and pulled in head first, parking the truck’s nose facing down the creek. This pointed the camper’s front door right up the creek. I just fit in the space. Works for me.

There’s one major drawback to the campground. I cannot get a steady cell signal. This almost caused me to leave — if I didn’t check in with Mike, he’d worry and I’d get scolded. But as I walked toward the self-pay station and tried unsuccessfully to telephone him, I managed to get a few text messages out and get one in return. It seemed the signal would hold just long enough for sporadic text messaging. I’d succeeded in communicating with him so he wouldn’t worry and I could stay.

A while later, Alex and I were settled into the camper. I perked a small pot of coffee — of course I have a percolator! — and made some soup. I enjoyed both while sitting on the camper step, looking out over the creek. My closest neighbors, two sites away, made their dinner on the fire and retired into their Minnie Winnebago with their two dachshunds. I made my sofa bed with an extra blanket on it, did the dishes, and fished out the 300 watt inverter to charge up my laptop. I even ran the heat for a while to get the dampness out of the camper.

As I finish writing this, rain is falling gently on the camper roof. Alex, in his cage, seems to be settled in for the night. I’m less than 200 miles from Quincy. While I probably could have made it there if I drove hard, this one last night on the road is like a little vacation before I get to work.

Sheridan, MT

At a friend’s ranch.

My August 2005 road trip (which still hasn’t made it to this blog), took me all over the northwest. On the way back, I decided to stop in and visit our friend Lynn. Her husband, Ray, had been partners with Mike (my husband) on a Grumman Tiger airplane. At the time, Ray and Lynn lived in town. They decided to move — or maybe Lynn did — and they bought a house on some acreage in Sheridan, MT.

I arrived at Lynn’s doorstep after a very long day in the car. I’d started at McCall, ID and had driven along one scenic road after another. In Idaho, most roads don’t run east to west. They run north to south between mountain ranges. (Or at least that’s how it seemed to me.) So I did a lot of zig-zagging up and down the state of Idaho before crossing the Continental Divide at Chief Joseph Pass.

I’d been told that Ray and Lynn’s house was in Dillon, MT, so that’s where I headed. When I got there and called for directions, I learned that I was still about 30 miles away. I finally found the place in the foothills of the Tobacco Root Mountains, near the Beaverhead National Forest.

Sheridan, MTLynn got me settled in and we had some wine by one of the two creeks that flowed past her house. Then we went for a walk in her alfalfa field. This is the view from the end of the field, looking back toward her house.

I can’t remember how many acres they have there, but I can remember the color: green. There was a lot of water in the area and with the right irrigation equipment, they were able to grow two crops of alfalfa a year. That was more than enough than they needed for their horses (which graze in a separate field). So they hired a guy to cut the alfalfa twice a year. He gets half the crop for payment and they sell the other half to pay their annual property tax bill. Nice.

I spent a wonderful night there, listening to the water flow by outside my window.

Back to the Desert

Day 13 brings me to the mountainous desert around Salt Lake.

Despite my less than perfect accommodations, I slept reasonably well. I think it’s because of the sound of flowing water that came in through the door to the back deck. I’d left the door open a few inches, trusting the lock on the screen door to keep out any hotel guests who might be wandering around on the deck. I was in the end room, so the chance of someone walking by my door on their way to another room was remote.

I showered. It was the first motel shower I’d encountered in a long time that couldn’t keep a steady water temperature. Every time one of my neighbors flushed the toilet, I’d come close to getting scalded. The third time this happened, I shut the water off and called it quits.

I packed up the car, checked out, and headed south on 89. I had a Doubleshot to meet my caffeine needs. (My friend Lorna, who has been reading these entries faithfully from her home in Maine, e-mailed me to ask what a Doubleshot is. In case you don’t know, here’s the scoop. A Doubleshot is a canned Starbucks coffee drink. It’s an easy way to get a caffeine fix when I’m on the road. I usually buy a couple of them when I’m in a supermarket and keep them in my cooler. When I can’t find decent coffee elsewhere, I drink a doubleshot. I don’t really like them — they’re too sweet for my taste — but they’re easy.)The road began by following the Snake River through a canyon. When it reached the town of Alpine, WY, the Snake River curved to the northwest while I headed south. Alpine was a nice little town with a lot of tasteful new construction and small businesses. The town was very quiet — it wasn’t even 8 AM yet. I almost passed a drive-up coffee stand. When I spotted it, I hit my brakes hard and pulled in for a latte.

The building was tall and it was quite a reach up to the woman inside it. My Clarkston reused coffee grinds experience had left me a little leery of coffee stands, but I had nothing to worry about here. The woman, who was very friendly, made me an excellent large triple latte. I asked her whether she owned the booth and she told me she didn’t. In fact, it was her last day at work. She was moving back to Spokane, WA. The woman who owned the booth was doing okay, but it was hard to do well in the town because of its heavy Mormon population. I later discovered that Mormons don’t drink coffee. I guess a coffee shop in a Mormon town would be like opening up a pork store in New York’s Lower East Side.

From Alpine, I headed due south on 89, which lies on the east side of the Wyoming/Idaho border. I was in farmland again, but at an elevation well over 5,000 feet. Wheat and alfalfa seemed to be the big crops. One alfalfa field had just been cut — probably the previous day — and the smell of the fresh alfalfa was rich and sweet.

I think I was in Afton when I saw the car wash and pulled in. I’d managed to call Megg on my cell phone and arrange to go to her house in North Salt Lake City that afternoon. My car was dirty and I didn’t want to make a bad impression. So I washed it for the third time on my trip. This time, it was the dirtiest it had been so far. The bug situation in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming is bad and the front of the car was pretty much plastered with dead bugs of all shapes, sizes, and colors. It took six minutes worth of car wash time to get it all off. I dried it with my rags and dusted off the dashboard. Much better.

I crossed into Idaho at Geneva Summit, which was 6,938 feet. That put me into a long valley with a succession of towns: Montpelier, Ovid, Paris, St. Charles, Fish Haven, and Garden City. Every town I drove through was remarkably quiet — nothing seemed to be open. Except the church, of course. All the church parking lots were full and I saw more than a few well-dressed people out on the streets, walking to or from church. Things changed a bit when I got near Bear Lake. Lots of people were out and about at the lake, in boats and in public access areas. There was a lot of housing on the lake side of the road with plenty of Private and No Beach Access signs to keep people out.

Bear Lake

Somewhere between Fish Haven and Garden City, I passed into Utah, the ninth state I’d visited on my trip. At Garden City, I got on route 30 and followed that around the south end of the lake. I climbed a hill and immediately realized that I had slipped into high desert terrain. The vegetation on both sides of the road consisted of tall grass, sage, and a variety of other desert plants. I was getting closer to home, leaving the water wonderland I’d enjoyed since entering Oregon more than a week before. I felt disappointed and did not look forward to what I’d drive through ahead: dry desert, hot sun, empty riverbeds. I realized that I’d fallen out of love with the desert.

I turned right on route 16 with a bunch of other cars, heading southbound. More farmland, but not much more. I passed the bunch of cars, tired of breathing their exhaust. Later, I turned right again onto route 39, heading west. The road climbed and climbed and climbed. I kept checking my GPS for elevation information and the number kept going up. I was certain that when I reached the top of the mountains, there would be a lookout where I could see Salt Lake. I crossed over the Monte Cristo Summit, at 9000 feet, and started down. There was no lookout. The road dropped into a canyon with a small stream on either side. It twisted and turned as it descended. I passed two pickup trucks and some kind of Volkswagen — a Jetta, maybe? — blew past me.

I spotted a restaurant on the left and made a harrowing turn into a parking space. I needed a bathroom and lunch, in that order. I asked for them in reverse order. It would be a 20 minute wait to eat outside on the patio, which looked like a good place to eat. I got directions to the ladies room and while I was doing my business, decided I didn’t feel like waiting. Instead, I’d find a shady spot in a park and eat some of the food in my cooler. So I left and continued on my way.

Trouble was, there was no shady spot in a park. All I passed were campgrounds, and since it was Sunday at midday, all of the campgrounds were full. So I kept driving.

The road dumped me down in Ogden. I got on a main avenue that was also labeled route 89 and headed south toward Salt Lake. I wasn’t in a hurry. I was supposed to meet Megg at around four and it was only 1:30. That meant I had time to kill.

I should have killed time up in Ogden, because when I got closer to North Salt Lake, all of the shops and businesses were closed again. It would not be a good place to kill time. I drove all the way down to the city, then came all the way back up to Bountiful, where I found a Barnes and Noble that was open. I killed over an hour in there, buying books for myself (as if I needed them) and for Megg’s son, Cooper. Then I hopped over to the Taco Bell for a bite to eat. Then I drove around some more. It was around four and I was in a Smith’s parking lot, after buying two pies for Megg and her family, when I finally connected with Megg. I was five minutes from her house. She gave me directions and I made my way over there.

Megg is one of my editors. She works with me on my Quicken Official Guide books, which I’ve been revising faithfully since the Quicken 99 edition back in 1998. Megg hasn’t been stuck with me that long. She inherited me from my first editor on that book, Joanne, about five years ago.

Megg has a lovely and very large house on a hill overlooking the North Salt Lake area. Excellent views, plenty of space. And a very comfy guest room. I met her son and her husband. I then proceeded to join her for a very relaxing afternoon and evening.