I’ve been meaning to post a photo of this for a month or so now.
Back in 1998, I wanted to make my mother a quilt. I “made the mistake” of asking her what kind she wanted, and she asked me for a whole cloth quilt (one made out of a single piece of fabric). Well, back then I’d only been quilting for about ten years, and I had no real idea how to design or make one. All I really knew was that I didn’t want it to be beige or white, as the only whole cloth quilts I’d ever seen by then were.
But I couldn’t find a pre-printed top in anything but beige or white, and I didn’t know where to buy a) fabric wide enough to make a bed-sized quilt out of a single piece of fabric, or b) a bed-sized stencil (I’m still not sure there is such a thing as a bed-sized quilt stencil [wry g]). So I did the best I could with what I could find.
Technically, this is not a whole cloth quilt, because it’s pieced out of 42″ width fabric. I bought a center feather wreath stencil and two border stencils, a lot of blue (her favorite color) fabric, and got to work. I remember that I saw blue fabric in my sleep for weeks after I finished it.
I washed and dried it, and picked off what I thought was all the cat hair, then I took it with me when I made my annual visit that year (we lived 2000 miles apart). The first thing she did after we spread it out on her bed was pick a cat hair off of it. Well, no, that was the second thing. The first thing she did was hug me and tell me how beautiful she thought it was.
My mother died in January of this year, at the age of 92. That quilt decorated her bed for eighteen years, first in her home, and then in the assisted living facility where she spent her last two years. It’s been washed many times, but it’s held up pretty well (the binding’s a bit worn, is all).
And now it’s mine again. I miss her, but I’m so glad she loved this quilt.
One of the weirdest and most unpredicted (at least by me) things about blogging this trip has been that I’ve felt reluctant to change my plans for fear of disappointing people, which is really stupid. About the only really big change I’ve made so far was to not go to Newfoundland, and even then I felt like I had to explain why [wry g].
Anyway. I’m not feeling a whole lot better today, and when I took my temperature early this morning (I have a thermometer in my first aid kit), I was running a slight temperature. Which seems to have gone down since then, thank goodness, but still.That said, the last time I had symptoms like this, they got worse and worse instead of better (thanks to a nurse practitioner who insisted I was just getting over a cold) and I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia (just about two years ago, actually). The other thing is that as an American, going to the doctor in Canada is an expensive proposition, even with travel insurance. And the other thing is, I’m at the last border crossing where there’s a city on both sides of the border for a long, long way. As in over 1000 miles, at least. The next border crossing, period, is at Thunder Bay, which is almost 450 miles away on the other end of Lake Superior. Also, from Sault Ste. Marie to Kenora, ON, on my original route, is actually a few miles shorter going through Michigan than around through Ontario.
Also, I’m starting to get to the point (and was, before I got sick) where I’m ready to start heading home. If there’s one thing I regret about this trip, it’s that I didn’t start it in Canada and come back home across the U.S. (I’ve been saying that practically since I hit California, alas). But there’s not much to be done about it now. On the bright side, my passport is good for eight more years and my Canadian national parks pass is good until August 2018 [g].
Anyway, I’m going to cross the border this morning, go across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and see how I feel about the time I get to Duluth, Minnesota. That way, if I need a doctor, I can hit a doc-in-the-box (aka urgent care) and get antibiotics before it gets worse. If I’m feeling better and ready to explore more, then I’ll cross back over in Minnesota, head for Kenora, and continue on with my original plans. If not, then I’ll head on home.
I’m so glad I wasn’t doing the driving today. Downtown Baltimore is a nightmare to drive in, and they were doing construction on top of that. Teri was amazing to get us all through that and still manage to take us where we were going.
That said, I really liked the Inner Harbor area. We walked along the waterfront for a bit, and saw some interesting sights including a very odd piece of sculpture with a wonderful fountain at its base, and the weirdest trash collector I’ve ever seen. We ate lunch at a Lebanese restaurant (I’d never had Lebanese before, but it was close enough to Greek that I kind of knew what I was doing, and it was pretty tasty).
Then we drove around in the traffic for a bit more until we arrived at a park called Federal Hill (at first I thought Teri had said Federal Hell, and wasn’t that in DC, not Baltimore?), which gave us lovely views of the Inner Harbor area, and had a cute playground with a pirate ship and a screwpile lighthouse jungle gym.
Then we went to the Museum of Industry, which was fascinating. Sort of like MOHAI in Seattle, oddly enough. We went on a tour of the museum with a guide who was knowledgeable and entertaining, and who even operated some of the machinery on display for us. We saw stuff about canning oysters (and vegetables in the off-season), and a working machine shop from the turn of the last century, and a tailor shop, and a pharmacy (Noxema was invented in Baltimore [g]). And we saw a print shop with a linotype machine that made me feel very old.
My first full-time “permanent” job was as a display ad proofreader at a chain of newspapers in the Bay Area, and we worked in the same room as the folks who set the type for the articles and the ads. This was in the days before computers were widespread in that industry (I worked there from 1980-1983, and they were just moving to computers for part of the process when I left), and I remember the linotype machines.
Oh, well. It was a lovely museum, and I had a very good time. We were going to go to one of the last drive-in movie theaters in the country tonight, but there’s another thunderstorm booming and crashing (and, for a few hours at least, dropping the temperature to something resembling human) out there, so no movie for us, at least not tonight.
Ah, Bloomington. It’s amazing how much has changed, but how much has remained the same. This morning I went looking to find places on campus that I remembered – the building in the music school (at the time, and still, I suspect, given that I saw no less than three new-to-me buildings with music school signs, one of the best in the U.S.) where I worked as secretary to the director of undergraduate studies (my longest job title ever [g]), while my ex was going to library school. I loved the job and my co-workers, but, oh, dear godlings, I still shudder when I remember the stage parents. Kids came to study here from all over the world, but the American parents were the worst. Pushy, omigod.
But I digress. I also found the library school, excuse me, now it’s the:
It was the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) when I was there. Wow, do I feel old.
Anyway. I also found my old grad dorm Eigenmann Hall, see below, which is not one of the beautiful old stone buildings that most of the campus is made of. I will try to take some photos of them on my way out of town tomorrow, because Indiana University really is a gorgeous campus. Even if at least one of those buildings (the music school undergrad office) housed a waterbug the size of a silver dollar that wasn’t crushable by anything. We ended up scooping it up with a piece of paper and throwing it out the window.
This place is bringing back some singularly weird memories.
I got my hair cut for the first time since I left home, too. She did a really good job. And, no, that’s not the borderline TMI.
In the afternoon, I drove thirteen miles east of Bloomington to one of my favorite places when I lived here, Brown County State Park. The guy who took my money at the gate (and who gave me the “honorary Hoosier” price because I told him I’d gone to IU — $7 instead of $9) was from Pasco, Washington [g].
I love Brown County State Park. It’s actually hilly so the views are pretty impressive and the woods are dark, deep, and full of so many different leaf shapes, sizes, and colors that it’s impossible to count or identify them all (I remember it being particularly spectacular in October, but the shades of green now are still pretty amazing). The roads wind from viewpoint to viewpoint, down to two little lakes (really reservoirs) and around and about. Picnic areas everywhere. And a neat lodge and a nature center (which latter, alas, was being remodeled, so I didn’t get to visit it). Oh, and a nifty little covered bridge. I ate lunch at the lodge, and drove around just remembering and enjoying.
But by the time I got back to Bloomington late this afternoon, my rear end was hurting again. TMI warning. I didn’t just crack my rib and bruise and scrape myself up when I fell out of the van. I also managed to bruise my tailbone. Anyway, unlike everything else (the rib doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it did, mostly, I think, because after a week and a half the bruising is all gone), the backside is still aching, more than it did right after. So I stopped at a drugstore when I got back to Bloomington and bought one of those doughnut cushions. Inflatable [g]. Anyway, I should have bought one right after the accident, because wow, is it making things feel better!
Anyway, end TMI.
Tomorrow, I am off to Mammoth Cave NP. This is one of those places that is definitely on my mental list. I am so looking forward to it.
But I’ll try to remember to take at least one good photo of the IU campus before I head out. If I can figure out where to park, I might even go into the Student Center and see if the Venus de Milo is still gracing the staircase inside as a newel post [g].
Of the kind of platitudes like, “If one door closes, another opens,” or “every ending is a new beginning.”
I also hate how you have to end some things to start new ones.
But I’ll be 57 years old next week (how the heck did that happen???), and there are things I will regret not doing, and I don’t have too many more years before I won’t be able to do them at all.
So. I have made two, no, three concrete steps towards ending some things so that I can start some new ones. In ascending order, from least to most scary.
First. I test drove and have about decided on a new vehicle. My current car is 10 years old with 123,000 miles on it. It’s time. Also, the new vehicle will facilitate the rest of my plans.
Second. I have started de-cluttering my condo, so that I can put everything in storage. I also need to figure out what to do with my cat, but much as I’d like to take him with me, I suspect that’s not practical.
Third. I just spoke with a real estate agent. I don’t want to leave my condo empty for that long, plus I don’t need to be making mortgage/HOA payments on an empty house. Plus, as some folks already know, there are other reasons I need to move, and those reasons were basically the straw and camel’s back thing.
Once the condo is sold and the new vehicle is purchased, I am going to hit the road, the way I did in 1999, the journey that resulted in Cross-Country. For at least three months, possibly longer. Last time I went across the northern part of the U.S. to Vermont, down the east coast to Florida, and back across the South to California and on home. This time I’m going to go across the center of the U.S. to the Other Washington (D.C.), up the east coast to Prince Edward Island, and back west across Canada.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I get back, but I do know I will be coming back. I can only live so long without looking at Mt. Rainier, after all.
Peggy Henderson, a fellow writer of Yellowstone, tagged me to talk about seven things in my writing life. That’s going to take some thinking.
1. I’ve been writing a good chunk of my life. I started keeping my first journal on a trip to Alaska when I was fourteen, and I wrote my first fiction — an extremely bad case of Mary Sued fanfic of the shortlived 70s TV series Apple’s Way — not long after that. I kept voluminous journals (no longer in my possession, alas) in high school and college, wrote a lot of really bad poetry during the same time frame, and was only stopped dead in my tracks by the creative writing teacher from hell when I was twenty-one. I didn’t start writing again until my thirties, but have been ever since.
2. It took me twelve years, off and on, from the time I first came up with the idea for Repeating History, until I actually had a published book in my hands. I wrote at least three other books (none of which have seen, or are likely to see, the light of day) during that time, too, though. And wasted a lot of time receiving rejection letters from tradpub and agents that said, in essence, “I really like this, but I can’t sell it,” during that time, too, before self-pubbing became a viable option.
3. I’ve built two iterations of my own website, the first one hand-coded using Notepad and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Website (I still own my dogeared copy), and the second one using self-hosted WordPress, which was both orders of magnitude easier and much more professional-looking. I’m rather proud of that, and of the fact that I do all my own graphics work, too. That was a steep learning curve for me.
4. I vastly prefer writing about fictional versions of real places, and preferably real places I have visited, or, in one case, lived in briefly. I also vastly prefer to write about ordinary people dumped into supernatural circumstances than to write about people who are supernatural themselves. I firmly believe there’s magic in the world, even if the only place we can write about it is in fiction.
5. I use the “event horizon” method of plotting, as once described by Lois McMaster Bujold. While I do usually have a last line or scene that I’m aiming for, what I do is plot until I hit the event horizon (the point where I can’t figure out what happens next), then write up to that point, then plot to the next event horizon, and so forth and so on, till I get to the end.
6. NOT a fan of marketing my books. I worked in advertising in a past life, and so have an extreme allergy to being marketed to, which means I don’t want to inflict that on anyone else. This makes life difficult. Also, unlike writing books, marketing them does not have a clear beginning, middle, and end. That’s very frustrating.
7. Most of my book ideas come from odd things I find, or from historical events, or from natural disasters, of all things.
I hope you enjoyed this little venture into sharing my writing life with you. If you have any questions, please be sure to ask!
The summer after I turned twelve years old, my parents gave me the best birthday present ever. Ever since my first visit to the Grand Canyon when I was five or six, I’d wanted to go down to the bottom on the mules. But you had to be twelve to take that trip, so I had to be patient.
At last I was old enough. Early one morning we left our tent trailer parked at a campground on the South Rim, met the wranglers at the corral right on the rim, and climbed aboard our mules. Because I was the youngest person on this trip of about twenty people, my mule’s reins were tied to the saddle of the wrangler who rode at the front of our group. My mother was behind me, and my father, whose mule is the only one whose name I remember, because that poor animal was named Baby Doll, was behind her.
We all wore hats bought in the souvenir shop, because the guidelines we’d been given when we signed up said everyone needed to wear a hat to shade them from the sun. Mine had a nautical theme, of all things, and for some reason the decorations on it had my father, who had an extremely warped sense of humor, saying that it looked like a mad beaver.
My mother, who had had surgery just a few months before, remembers telling my father that she was going, that she wasn’t letting her little girl go down there without her.
All I remember is how magical it was. Incredibly beautiful. I really don’t have the words for it. I just remember layer after layer of varicolored rock, decorated with sparse trees and cactus and the occasional wildflower. I wish I had the photos my father took of our trip, but they’re all slides, and I haven’t been able to have them scanned yet. So you’ll just have to watch this wonderful National Park Service video:
The trail was narrow and, in many places, several hundred feet straight up on one side and several more hundred feet straight down on the other. The mules, we were told, were trained to face out towards the drop whenever they stopped, because when a mule is hit by something, like a falling rock, its first instinct is to back up. The trail was so narrow that sometimes it felt like the mule only had its back feet on the ground when we stopped like that.
It was an incredibly hot day. We were almost to the bottom when my mother felt as if she was going to pass out from the heat. One of the wranglers stayed behind with her in a shady spot as the rest of us went the short distance on to Phantom Ranch, and she followed a little while later. It was 123 degrees in the bottom of the canyon that day.
Phantom Ranch is an oasis, with Bright Angel Creek flowing nearby and the lovely little stone and wood cabins (each with its own evaporative cooler, which my mother, especially, greatly appreciated). I spent most of the late afternoon in the creek, until they rang the bell for supper.
I remember it being much cooler the next day, but maybe that’s because by the time the heat of the day had arrived, we were several thousand feet higher up, almost all the way back to the South Rim.
I do remember being sore for days after that trip down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but it was one of the milestones of my childhood. I’ve been back to the canyon as an adult, and I still look down on the trail stretching across the Kaibab Plateau and think, “Did we really do that? Did we really?”
Sometimes traveling at the last minute just doesn’t work out. But then sometimes it does.
So. I was supposed to switch from hostel bunk to single room two weeks ago this morning. I had been informed when I originally made the reservation that the rate of $95 would include an ensuite bathroom. I was informed this morning that it was one of the rooms in the old building that shared the same bathroom as the hostel.
You have to understand. I’ve stayed in one of those rooms before (about seven or eight years ago, when they cost what a hostel bunk costs now). It wasn’t worth what I paid for it then, for two reasons. One, the room had a horrible bedbug infestation (the bunks have always been clean), and two, that’s where I had a really frightening experience with what I’m pretty darned sure was — well, I’m not going into that here. Let’s just say that the only reason I was willing to pay $95 for a room was because I thought they were going to put me in the new part of the building. The new owner and I went round and round about it, and I ended up having him refund my credit card.
But now I didn’t have a place to stay tonight, nor did I want to waste the day looking for one. So I drove back into the park figuring I’d make the best of whatever time I had left, and I’d head on out this afternoon to find somewhere to stay farther from the park before heading home tomorrow a little earlier than planned.
Which all turned out to be a good thing. At least timing-wise this morning. I headed back out into the park, towards the geyser basins again, and decided my first stop on this cloudy-but-not-raining-yet morning would be at the Fountain Paint Pots.
The Fountain Paint Pots (and the long-gone Fountain Hotel, which was nearby) are named after Fountain Geyser, which is just off the boardwalk there. It was a geyser I’d always wanted to see, but it’s not officially-predicted, and I didn’t know then about the unofficial predictions, so I’d never seen it.
So what do you think happened? Yup. Just as I walked up, it boiled over and started erupting. And if I hadn’t ended up wasting the time arguing with the owner of the Madison Hotel this morning, I’d probably have missed it — again.
As for those unofficial predictions, just as Fountain was beginning to wind down from its glorious half-hour long eruption, a very nice lady named Maureen, who turned out to be on the Geyser Gazers Facebook group, strolled over and we struck up a conversation. And she told me about the unofficial predictions available if you have a smartphone. I really do need to get a smartphone…
The rest of the morning was still wonderful, if a bit anticlimactic. I mean, there’s nothing better than a new major geyser to add to one’s life list. But I stopped at all the usual suspects that I hadn’t wanted to get soaked over before — Midway, with the clouds of steam hanging over Excelsior and Grand Prismatic.
Biscuit Basin, with its glorious Sapphire Pool.
And Black Sand Basin, with Cliff Geyser, which is James’s geyser. The one where he finally found out where he really came from, in a brief timeslip one sunny October afternoon in 1959/1983 in Finding Home.
By then I was way overdue for a late lunch, so I waved farewell to my favorite place on the planet once more, already making plans for a hopefully longer visit next year, and stopped in West for KFC, where the manager was having her Chinese employee write something to do with the Fourth of July on the window in Chinese characters, for some reason.
I then headed northwest on U.S. 287 towards Earthquake Lake, which is, obviously, the site of the earthquake I mentioned yesterday that was part of Chuck’s time travel device in Repeating History. On August 17, 1959, a 7.3-7.8 (estimates vary) earthquake struck here and an entire mountainside fell, blocking the Madison River and burying a campground, killing twenty-eight people. The quake also did a lot of damage in Yellowstone, just a few miles east of the epicenter, and, incidentally, sent my hero Chuck eighty-two years back in time.
Today it looks very peaceful, although the slide is still strongly evident fifty-five years later, and there’s an interesting, recently redone visitor center, too.
By the time I got that far, it was midafternoon, and while I had a good idea of where I wanted to spend the night, I needed to get moving again. I drove down the Madison River valley and turned west on Montana 287 (as opposed to U.S. 287) at the town of Ennis.
I wanted to see Virginia City again. Virginia City, and the neighboring ghost town of Nevada City, are two of Montana’s earliest settlements, and I hadn’t been there since my Long Trip fifteen years ago. It’s a fun, touristy place with an interesting history as a mining camp (of course) where vigilantes dealt with the infamous Plummer Gang. Lots of false-front buildings and even a stagecoach offering rides, and plenty of historical markers. I spent a rather pleasurable hour or so there, before I climbed back in the car one last time for the day.
On my Long Trip (as documented in Cross-Country), I was desperate for a place to stay one night in this part of the world when I finally ran across the tiny town of Sheridan, Montana, and found a nice little place called the Moriah Motel. I was banking on it still being there, and it was. I think the same elderly lady was running it, too. It was reasonably priced and modern and that was all I needed.
So some things do work out okay. But if a friend and I do go back to Yellowstone as part of our WorldCon jaunt next year, we’re going to make our reservations in January.
The temperature had dropped by about twenty degrees, which was lovely, but it was pouring rain, which was very much not.
I packed up from the very nice hostel at Teton Village and headed north, anyway. What else was I going to do? It did gradually clear up the farther north I went, and by the time I reached the part of the Tetons I’d been to before, the clouds were beginning to let those sharp, pointy mountains shred them a bit. (You do know what “tetons” means in French, right? — those fur trappers must have been out there a long time to make that particular association), and by the time I reached the southern entrance to Yellowstone, it had pretty much stopped raining, thankyouverymuch, although it was still nice and cool.
I’d never approached Yellowstone from the south before. Because of where I live, I usually come at it through either the north or the west entrance. I missed out on entering via the northeast entrance two years ago because the Beartooth Highway (which tops out at almost 11,000 feet) was still blocked by snow in June. Anyway, it was an interesting change, and one that required me to show my parks pass three times today — once entering Grand Teton NP via the same goat trail I’d taken the day before, once re-entering GTNP via the Moran entrance (U.S. 89 is not officially part of the park, apparently), and once to get into Yellowstone itself. Weird.
It takes a while to get from the southern entrance to anything interesting except for Lewis Falls, which is pretty. I didn’t stop there this time, but here’s a picture from August, 2008, when the weather was much better.
My first real stop was at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. I’d never been there when the lake was so high before. Not only was Fishing Cone completely covered, but the water was actually lapping up underneath the shore boardwalk, and out the other side.
I love West Thumb. It’s as if TPTB said, where’s the prettiest place in the park to put some hot springs? And then put them there. There aren’t any regularly-erupting geysers at West Thumb, but it really is fetching.
In hindsight it wasn’t the best decision I’d made on this trip because of the weather (not today’s, but tomorrow’s), but I decided I would drive the Grand Loop today and do the geyser basin thing tomorrow and Saturday, so I headed north along the lakeshore. I stopped and ate lunch at the Lake Lodge cafeteria (which is absolutely identical to the one at Old Faithful, except for the view), then stopped again at the picnic area just north of LeHardy Rapids to look at the river.
Historically, this is where the Nez Perce crossed the Yellowstone River on their flight to Canada, and so it’s where Charley and Eliza and Anna crossed the river in Repeating History, and Charley almost drowned. So it’s sorta special to me.
So’s the next place I stopped, the Mud Volcano. Sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it? Well, it’s smelly, and it’s muddy, and it’s pretty violent. It’s also where James happened to be when he realized he was falling in love with Jo in spite of himself in Finding Home, so it’s another kinda special place for me.
And so I kept going north. I drove through Hayden Valley and saw some red dogs (the local name for baby bison), which are adorable.
I stopped at Canyon and admired the view from Artist’s Point.
And I went up over Dunraven Pass, where I saw a flower new to me at the top of the pass (and, yes, the yellow ones are dandelions, just ignore them):
And around Tower Falls, and west across to Mammoth Hot Springs and drove the loop up and around. By then it was sunny and gorgeous. Go figure. There were no elk at Mammoth. There are always elk at Mammoth. I did not see a single elk on this trip. Go figure that, too.
Then, because it was getting on in the afternoon, I headed south again, only to be brought to a dead stop because there were iris blooming in a small clear spot between the aspens just south of Mammoth. I’d never seen iris in Yellowstone before. My favorite flower in my favorite national park. It was just too cool to be true.
It took me a bit to get going again after that. I stopped at Norris and walked around Porcelain Basin, where I saw a geyser I’d never seen before (it takes a fair amount for that to happen these days). It’s called Constant Geyser, but it does not live up to its name, so I was pretty lucky on that score.
I also got to listen to the tiny springs that sound just like butter sizzling in a frying pan, which amuse me vastly every time. They’re not very photogenic, but this is probably the best picture of one I’ve ever gotten in any number of tries over the years.
After that, it was time and past time to go check in at the hostel in West Yellowstone, which, as it turns out, was sold to a new owner last spring. This was not an improvement, alas, but it was a place to put my head for two nights, and possibly for three if I didn’t mind paying for a single room instead of a bunk that third night. I signed up for all three nights, but, well… That’s a story for a couple of days from now.
I couldn’t wait to go back into the park tomorrow and wander around waiting for things to erupt.