Category Archives: my history

a bit

The following is a bit I wrote back in 2011, when the Unearthly Northwest stories were just a gleam in my eye.  I always intended to develop this into another in the series, but it’s not going to happen now.

So I thought I’s post it, just for fun.  It’s about as horror-y as anything I’ve ever written, which is to say barely at all.  Enjoy or not as you see fit.

It’s called At Perigee.

I keep thinking about that dream I used to have where I was trying to escape from a big old wooden building with all sorts of passages and stairs and dead-ends while being chased by something so terrible I don’t even know what it is. By candlelight. So on top of everything else there’s the fire danger.

It’s all so dried out and weathered to a silvery gray and the floorboards creak and I’m so afraid I’m going to fall through one and get stuck and I don’t know what would be worse – burning to death from dropping the candle or being caught by whatever it is that’s so determined to catch me.

Oh, and it’s pitch black outside. No street lights, no glows from nearby windows, no other light source except the distant, unfeeling stars. My breath is catching in painful gasps, the sweat burns into my eyes, the hot wax is dripping onto my hand, my hair keeps waving closer to the flame as if it wants to catch fire, and I can’t find my bloody way out.

Endless corridors, more stairs, broken banisters, nails sticking up in odd places. I’m not dressed for this, either, in flimsy sandals and shorts and a tank top. If I wasn’t sweating from exertion, I’d be shivering from the cold. As it is, I’m swiping sweat with my free hand, making it slip when I try to use the half-broken banister to pull myself up. I round another corner and come up against a blank wall. Not another one. I can hear the – whatever it is, I don’t know if calling it a monster is literal or metaphorical – thumping after me, catching up to me, only one floor below now. I think. Not any further away, and surely not any closer. Please not any closer. A sliver of light glows feebly at the baseboard in front of me. I don’t have time to figure out secret doorways, but I’m desperate. I shove on it. I don’t have time to go back, either. The thumping is getting closer. I shove on it again, lower down. Gods, open. I shove at the bottom with my feet, earning a splinter in my toe and a broken strap on my sandal.

The thumping is, louder, closer, up to the stairs I just climbed, when, without my even pushing on it a fourth time, the wall swings wide, like a door. On – oh, gods, it’s – nothing. No floor, no balcony, just unsupported air.

Something like the wind, if the wind had hands, pushes me forward. I teeter on the sill, grabbing futilely at the door jamb, trying desperately not to fall into the abyss. The door – there was a door? – behind me bangs open, jarring the whole building. I lose my balance. I can’t hang on. The sandal with the broken strap falls off my foot. I teeter forward again. The air – pushes. I don’t dare look back. I don’t dare look down. I squeeze my eyes shut. I drop the burning candle. I lean forward. And I let go.

I don’t know what happens after that. I never got even that far in my dream. In my dream I’m still running, climbing stairs, reaching dead ends, never getting anywhere by the time I wake up.

Now it’s all a blur. I’m not sure the monster, literal or metaphorical, hasn’t killed me. I’m falling, sort of. It’s almost too soft to call a fall. Almost like the seesaw effect of a feather floating to the ground. The wind still has hands. Arms. It feels as if I’m being cradled by dozens of them as I float endlessly. I’m afraid of what they look like, what they want of me. But at least they don’t seem to want to kill me. They’re gentle, not grasping, not grabbing. Not painful at all, in fact. I wonder if it’s because they know I can’t see them. I squeeze my eyes shut even more tightly. I hear a soft whooshing sound as if the wind were trying to laugh at me. At least I know I haven’t been deafened. Surely I’ve fallen much farther than even all those staircases I climbed.

I have to open my eyes someday. I screw up my courage, but when I open them they might as well still be closed. Pitchy, pitchy black. No stars, no lights, not a single thing to orient me. I’m not even sure which way is down or if I’m floating instead of falling.

Except that right that moment, I land with a thump. I half expect it to be viscous, gooey, to suck me down, but I can’t see or feel the surface, not even when I drop to my knees and stretch my hands out. It’s as if the wind has solidified just enough to hold me, but not one bit more. I thought I’d been disoriented in that maze of a house, but it’s nothing compared to this.

I stand, or at least stretch out my body in a standing position. Just one sandal makes my stance awkward somehow. I kick it off. It disappears into the abyss. I can’t see it no matter how hard I peer for it. Just past where it should be – where it is, dammit, it can’t just disappear – I see a speck in the darkness. It flickers, but I can see it. I haven’t gone blind after all, either.

I step forward onto the air. I don’t see it as a leap of faith, more like a baby step of bewilderment. The light – beckons. I take another step. A second speck appears. Before I know it I am leaping. Not with faith. But definitely leaps. Towards the ever-receding light.

my mother’s quilt

Mother’s whole cloth quilt. 72 inches square, hand quilted.

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.

September 10: a change of plans

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.

Hey, at least I haven’t rolled my car.  Yet.

I hate being sick on the road.


July 16: Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Lebanese food, and way too much traffic, alas

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).

This, believe it or not, is a contraption that scoops garbage out of the Inner Harbor.
This, believe it or not, is a contraption that scoops garbage out of the Inner Harbor.
This is a sculpture celebrating Polish history.  It had a wonderful fountain as its base, too.
This is a sculpture celebrating Polish history. It had a wonderful fountain as its base, too.
This, I'm told, is the Bromo-Seltzer tower.  Apparently the guy who invented it lived in Baltimore.
This, I’m told, is the Bromo-Seltzer tower. Apparently the guy who invented it lived in Baltimore.

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.

An extremely bizarre sculpture, viewed from Federal Hill.
An extremely bizarre sculpture, viewed from Federal Hill.
Another view from Federal Hill.  That tan area is a beach volleyball venue.
Another view from Federal Hill. That tan area is a beach volleyball venue.

The playground at Federal Hill.  That's a screwpile lighthouse (a common lighthouse construction in Chesapeake Bay), and a pirate ship [g].
The playground at Federal Hill. That’s a screwpile lighthouse (a common lighthouse construction in Chesapeake Bay), and a pirate ship [g].
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.

The linotype machine at the Museum of Industry.
The linotype machine at the Museum of Industry, and our tour guide.

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.

June 25: Reminiscing, more hoots, hollers, and woods, and borderline TMI

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:

The school formerly known at SLIS.
The school formerly known at SLIS.  The IU logo always makes me think of a devil’s pitchfork, and Herb White, the dean at the library school when my ex was there in 1987, was very controversial (in certain circles) — I used to own a sweatshirt with a cartoon of him holding a pitchfork and the quote, “Being of the honest few who give the fiend his due.”  But I digress.  Again.

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.

Eigenmann Hall. I lived on the 3rd floor while I was in library school.
Eigenmann Hall. I lived on the 3rd floor while I was in library school.

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.

A view from Brown County State Park.
A view from Brown County State Park.
There's a little stone view tower (actually, there are several scattered through the park) and this is the view from the top of it.
There’s a little stone view tower (actually, there are several scattered through the park) and this is the view from the top of it.
Through the woods. It looks a lot darker in the shade than the picture makes it seem. A lot cooler in the shade, too.
Through the woods. It looks a lot darker in the shade than the picture makes it seem. A lot cooler in the shade, too.
Ogle Lake, which is really a reservoir, but is still pretty.
Ogle Lake, which is really a reservoir, but is still pretty.
The covered bridge at the north entrance to Brown County SP.
The covered bridge at the north entrance to Brown County SP.
The inside of the bridge.
The inside of the bridge.
Tootling down the road at Brown County State Park. Almost all of the grassy area is mowed like that -- makes me wonder how big a platoon of lawn mowers they have.
Tootling down the road at Brown County SP. Almost all of the grassy area is mowed like that — makes me wonder how big a platoon of lawn mowers they have.

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].

I am not fond

West Texas
Along the highway in west Texas, fall, 1999

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.

Deep breath.  Here we go…


So, I was tagged in Facebook

RH 300 cover

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!

To the bottom of the Grand Canyon


Taken on a return trip as an adult.  If you look at the plateau to the lower left, you can see the trail we traveled when I was twelve.
Taken on a return trip as an adult. If you look at the plateau to the center left, you can see the trail we traveled when I was twelve.

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?”

Yes, we did.

Two weeks ago, Day 8

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.  This early in the year, they're kind of runny.
The Fountain Paint Pots. This early in the year, they’re kind of runny.

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.

Glorious, glorious Fountain Geyser, which is much taller than it looks in this photo.
Glorious, glorious Fountain Geyser, which is much taller than it looks in this photo.

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.

Runoff looking back towards Grand Prismatic Spring.
Runoff looking back towards Grand Prismatic Spring.

Biscuit Basin, with its glorious Sapphire Pool.

Biscuit Basin's Sapphire Pool.
Biscuit Basin’s Sapphire Pool, which erupted in 1959 after the earthquake.

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.

James's Cliff Geyser.
James’s Cliff Geyser and hot spring runoff into Iron Creek.

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.

Want some Chinese fried chicken for the Fourth of July?
Want some Chinese fried chicken for the Fourth of July?

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.

The landslide triggered by the Hebgen Lake Earthquake, which created a new lake, and, unfortunately, killed 28 people in the process.
The landslide triggered by the Hebgen Lake Earthquake, which created a new lake, and, unfortunately, killed 28 people in the process.

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.

The Madison River Valley south of Ennis.  You'll note that the weather improved drastically as soon as I left the Park .
The Madison River Valley south of Ennis. You’ll note that the weather improved drastically as soon as I left the Park .

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.

Boardwalks of another kind, at Virginia City, Montana.
Boardwalks of another kind, at Virginia City, Montana.
Charley hated detachable collars like the one in this Virginia City storefront.
Charley hated detachable collars like the one in this Virginia City storefront.
Want a stagecoach ride, little girl?
Want a stagecoach ride, little girl?

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.