Wild West

Driving through awesome landscapes today I kept wondering, "Why would anyone choose to live back East?" Perhaps being back there next week will remind me.

Tonight Moxie & I rest in Rawlins, Wyoming.


Stranded at Spa Boise

It's kind of like the time I was snowed-in at a ski resort... decidedly STUCK, but that's so not a bad thing. I took the Subaru in for an oil change last week, then received that dreaded call. "Well, we found a couple of things..." The good news? The mechanic was impressed. My car's front axle and knuckle had become so firmly joined that the shop's hydraulic press bent when trying to pry them apart. A replacement axle had to be ordered up from a neighboring county. So Moxie & I have enjoyed a couple of extra days chez my parents, which - with a hot tub, a 24-hour open bar, a bottomless tin of gourmet dog biscuits, and lavish grounds - we like to think of as Spa Boise.


Texas Surprise

K says that the true heart of Texas beats in Austin. Houston smacks too strongly of Louisiana and Dallas of Oklahoma. If that's true, I'll confidently confess to being a newfound Tex-o-phile. While in Austin, Moxie & I watched a million bats take flight from under the Congress Avenue bridge. I ran past scores of turtles along vibrant Town Lake and ate tacos and drank aqua fresca at omnipresent taco shops. Moxie got to know the locals at one of six dog parks. K hosted us graciously, treating Moxie to a fenced-in backyard with an open compost heap (a.k.a. 24-hour salad bar for dogs) and me to top-shelf espresso each morning.

Of course, one doesn't see only Austin when traveling to and from there by car. Coming west via Houston we drank a glass with mom's artist friend J, then tackled the swamp-thing layer of grime we'd acquired from camping for two nights in southern Louisiana, Moxie at a groomer and I at a spa. (If you happen to be in Houston, the pedicure with the mint leg masque at Beautique is worth experiencing.) And the Hill Country of west Texas didn't disappoint. Endless expanses of scrubby terrain set off the biggest sky I've ever seen.

In Austin I decided to take a quick detour back to Boise for some r&r&r. This meant passing through Tucson, where we spent two very fun nights with K & S and their tough kitty Henry, in addition to enjoying a meal with geographer friend J. We look forward to returning to Tucson after summer has passed to enjoy more of these fine people and their wild landscape. K & S live just adjacent to a wash where lots of dogs walk their people each day, and J tells us there are many great hikes to be had not far from town. Moxie may even take a rattlesnake awareness course when we return. It's something savvy desert dogs do, we're told.

Before my journeys began, a friend and Idaho native told me, "Utah is magic." The drive between Arizona and Idaho confirms it. Moxie & I camped a night on the bank of Lake Powell then spent a day driving through sculpted red rock formations and steep dark green hillsides. We'll return here, too, when the temperatures descend again.

But for now, being back in Boise is having the desired effect. I'm rejuvenating by catching up on sleep while Moxie plays in my parents' park-like backyard. We're renewing ties with friends, from the nextdoor neighbors with wine in the hot tub to the vet with the ear scope in her office. On Easter we performed our unique set of family rebirth rituals, beginning with rich baked goods and chocolate candy for breakfast, continuing with a cold and wet hike, pausing for a nap, then closing with a decadent dinner out. Rejuvenation. Renewal. Rebirth.


New Orleans

After witnessing the desolation left by Katrina in Gulfport, the shocker in New Orleans was that the flood waters here seemed to have subsided only days ago. Desolation follows devastation on the path to storm recovery, wrecking balls and debris haulers clearing the way for rebuilding. But in New Orleans' ravaged neighborhoods destroyed houses still teeter and makeshift stop signs guide drivers through intersections where traffic lights remain defunct. The hole in the roof of the Superdome still gapes sickly. Folks at the campsite adjacent to mine north of Lake Pontchartrain evacuated to the state park for the hurricane and live there still, having lost their home and its contents. Yet contractors from Tennessee can't seem to get any work. They'd hoped to do every sixth job pro bono, but they haven't had the chance in the two months they've been in town. Mayoral campaign billboards vaguely champion rebuilding, but my sense is that no one really knows where to start.

But the bon temps still roll in the French Quarter. After beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde, Moxie & I took a mule-drawn carriage tour of the neighborhood. Then we took in more scenes on foot and savored lunch and live jazz at an outdoor restaurant.


Gulfport, MS

Farewell to Florida

We'll push off through Alabama and Mississippi today, hopefully spending tonight in Louisiana. I've decided to go ahead and drive through New Orleans. I've always wanted to see the French Quarter, which is rumored to be largely intact, and I must confess curiosity about the devastation elsewhere. I've heard that you don't really get it about how seriously Katrina demolished the city until you see it close-up.

Hurricanes touch every life in these parts. Moxie & I spent last evening catching up by candlelight with J & J on the porch of their house on the water just west of Pensacola. They're still rebuilding from Ivan, who caused the water to rise man-high in their house in 2004. I plan to take I-10 across Mississippi today. Tracing it along the map my finger skims Gulfport and Waveland -- names I remember from Katrina news coverage. I wonder how far they've recovered.

This small green friend hung inside the electrical box when I went to make my tea this morning. We enjoyed our stay at his home here at Big Lagoon State Park. I've realized, though, that the state of Florida isn't a place we'll call home. It's fun to visit, but we prefer cooler climes.


Tallahassee Lassie

They'd told me their neighborhood in Tallahassee was rural, but I didn't really believe it. Sure enough, the two days Moxie and I spent with family there were like a country retreat. We walked among horses on a dirt road and drove many miles over winding numbered roads.

While Moxie napped yesterday, B took me to Wakulla Springs State Park, where I saw my first real-life alligators. The park sits over a deep freshwater spring that we were lucky enough to view from above through the floor of a glass-bottomed boat. But in spite of the catfish meandering peacefully about underwater, I can't shake my angst about the 'gators languishing at the surface. Thank goodness Moxie was safely sleeping at the house! (Puppies are reputed to be an alligator's favorite snack.)

Tonight we're planning our next moves from Destin, on Florida's Gulf Coast. It's looking like campsites will be hard to come by as we inch west along the water due to the lingering devastation from recent hurricanes. We may move quickly if we can't camp, arriving in Texas before week's end.