Wednesday, November 30, 2011

61 Miles To Go

I've made it to Livingston. One more cab ride in the morning back to the bus station where I'll be met by someone from the park and driven through Paradise (Valley) to Human Resources. And soon I'll be writing HR about the inefficiency of using the bus station here as the pickup point (more mileage and driving for them and more cabs for everyone they pick up since the station is at the end of town farthest away from the park and motels).

There isn't a phone at the bus station (actually, there isn't even a bus station--just a warming hut) so I had to use the phone at the coffee shop next door to call the cab company where I got a recording and had to call again later. Tonight I had to call back to arrange tomorrow morning's ride and I have to call back again in the morning to make sure she's up.

After the paperwork and the new photo with bushy Abbey beard for the winter, one last ride up to Mammoth to see the new dorm room furniture and probably some kind of required training in the afternoon. It will feel good to unpack my bags and stored boxes and settle down for 10 1/2 months.

In Bozeman I started investigating possibilities for my next vacation period, checking weekly rates at my usual place, and taking a look at a room at a nearby motel (much cheaper and much dumpier--I think I'll pay more.) I think I'm likely to finally spend some time in Missoula next fall also.

The weather and scenery during the 25 mile bus ride here from Bozeman today was outstanding. Patches of blue sky, patches of dark clouds, patches of snow. I heard someone behind me saying how beautiful it was. Maybe his first visit, maybe his 100th--it remains just as stunning.

I discovered a website which shows all the Yellowstone webcams on one page and substituted that link at the bottom of the Yellowstone Sites list on the right. Check them out. Well, wait for daylight here in Mountain Time (a coworker thinks it's fun that I get to leave messages mentioning my working hours in Mountain Time). Maybe I'll wave to you on the Mammoth webcam sometime this winter. At the bottom of that page are links to many other National Park and wildlife cams.

Tomorrow's high temperature will be in the 20s early in the day, dropping into single digits by afternoon. Welcome to Yellowstone.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Big Easy, Big Sky, Bit Pieces

I woke up whiny on my last morning in Duluth; I don’t wanna get on another bus. During the past few weeks, I’ve sometimes woken up in the middle of the night and been unsure both of what town I was in and where the bathroom was. But by the time I was leaving Minneapolis that night, I was eager to ride for the first time in the past six weeks of traveling.

I saw lots and lots of egrets in the waters as I approached New Orleans, and then a couple pelicans as I took a ferry ride across the Mississippi River. Hawks along the highway in Minnesota, and deer and hunters in Montana.

Many things conspired against my enjoyment of New Orleans this time. Of the six hotel rooms I lived in during these weeks, the one at the Frenchmen Hotel was by far the worst as well as the most expensive. The lighting was dim, the shower terrible, and the toilet iffy. The noise level was incredible but I expected that because of the proximity to clubs. The door, loose in its frame, was very difficult to lock which I suppose didn’t really matter because anyone could have come through the window which didn’t lock after they’d passed through the gate which had a defective lock. The excuses of being an old building carried no weight with me because I’ve stayed in equally old hotels in much better condition including in the French Quarter for a similar price. I checked to see if any of them were available for my full stay but they weren’t.

The weather was usually much too humid, except on the days when there was a chilly breeze. On the day I left, I decided to walk the mile or so to the train station. When I got there, I had to take off my soaked through t-shirt and put the one I’d worn the previous day back on.

The first couple times I walked around I was pretty aggressively panhandled which put me on the defensive for my short stay and kept me from fully enjoying conversations with the street people as I usually would. I did pick up a new nickname based on my shirts (as in “Hey, it’s Yellowstone, how ya doing?") and was asked while passing if anyone had told me I looked like Jerry (why yes, they have).

I got sick. Twice. Once from something I ate, a muffuletta I believe, and once from the weather changes. And though I knew it was an extreme longshot, I was disappointed that someone from Yellowstone didn’t appear at my door.

Despite all that, I enjoyed many parts of my stay. I would love to have dba as my neighborhood bar, a club with long lists of beer and single malt scotch, and great music. It was by far the best of the bars I visited, in part because the others were too small. Because of my sicknesses, I didn’t sample all the mixed drinks I planned to—no Monsoon, no Pimm’s Cup, no Sazerac—but based on a friend’s recommendation I did accompany an early lunch (gumbo and a garlic oyster po-boy at Liuzza’s by the Track—one of my favorite meals) with a fine Bloody Mary which sent me back out into the sun with a bit of a New Orleans stagger which made me feel like I fit right in. I didn’t go to the really fancy restaurants, but my best meal was catfish, shrimp creole, greens, and yams at The Praline Connection. I think every waitress in the city called me some variation of darlin’, honey, or sweetheart, and it comes across as real instead of designed to get a bigger tip.

The free ferry ride across the river was nice, and City Park is a lovely spot deserving more exploration than I gave it. Streetcar and bus rides gave nice looks at parts of the city which I hadn’t seen before. The city’s architecture is lovely, but the French Quarter felt more cramped than I remembered, which I’m sure is largely due to the wide open spaces where I now spend most of my time.

At bus transfers in Fargo and Billings, employees move your checked baggage for you, unlike anywhere farther east. The first time this happened last year I got very nervous having my bag’s fate determined by others, but by now I’m grateful to not have to deal with the big monster I can barely carry. It would have been nice to not have to pay for a locker in Minneapolis while I went out for something to eat.

I was hoping to get a good view of the badlands terrain of North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but I could only see shadows in the dawn light as I did this March also. Only last year’s late May trip gave me a good look so I guess it won’t be fitting into my bus schedule in the future. In Montana, I took a few photos through the bus window—nothing great but it felt good to have my “real” camera in my hands again after a couple weeks of using the mini. That said, I’m thinking that I’ll try to reduce the number of photos here somewhat and get back to my words.

I haven’t been offered any great free books for review in quite a while (though I was amused that while on vacation in New Orleans, I was offered a travel guide to New Orleans—what the hell—I took it) and since I no longer have a library card and very rarely buy books now either, my reading has been pretty casual stuff. The Kindle has crossed my mind a few times. Since I didn’t make it to the UP, I’ve been reading Jim Harrison’s True North which isn’t a bad substitute. And I have what sound like good readings to attend at the local bookstore the next two nights--Extremophilia and Where Elk Roam.

Tomorrow is shopping day--at REI for snowshoes and winter clothes, and at the evil big box for ten months worth of toiletries. I have more meals to eat here, then Wednesday head over to stay in Livingston for my last night out here before being picked up Thursday morning and returned to Neverland.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Leavin' Louisiana in the Broad Daylight

It's my last night and I don't think I'll be back. I didn't feel any of the magic which made me consider moving here after my visit twenty-some years ago. The city has changed but that probably has more to do with the changes in me. I heard some great music and ate some good food, but this isn't a place for a solo traveler of a certain age, at least not this one.

The weather has varied between humid 80s and 60s with a cool breeze and I've gotten a cold as a result and have stayed in the past couple nights and limited my days' activities as well. Now I get to travel sick on Thanksgiving week--oh joy!

This is where I've been staying--great location for the clubs I've been frequenting, but everything else about it sucks. If I ever do come back, I won't be staying here.

I did get to visit several parts of the city I hadn't seen before, including City Park and its botanical garden. I forgot there's also an arboretum there so missed that.

This cemetery is between the park and a restaurant I visited. I believe this is the one my guidebook says you'll probably survive visiting on your own. It advises avoiding another one even on a tour.

There's snow on the ground in Yellowstone, Bozeman, and maybe even a little in Duluth. I'm looking forward to getting back to the northern lands where I belong.

My next seven nights:
New Orleans
St. Paul

See you in Montana.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Humid N'Awlins

We were a couple hours late getting here yesterday because of problems near Memphis. There was a car accident on the tracks which stopped us for awhile, and when that was cleared, starting from a standstill couldn't get us up a hill's tracks which were slick from rain and wet leaves. So we had to back up a couple times and get running starts. A trainman tried to get us all to say, "I think I can, I think I can," but it didn't go over very well.

A couple scenes of varying naturalness from the train as we approached the city.

A wave of humidity hit us as soon as we got off the train and continued this morning despite overnight rain.

It seemed like a good day to spend indoors so I went to the Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium, and saw an Imax film about Katrina which choked me up a bit.

One highlight was an outside roomful of parakeets which flew around me.

Find your state insect. If your state isn't listed, you don't have one, at least not when the exhibit was made.

Another highlight was an indoor roomful of butterflies which flew around me. I would have spent more time here since it was set up nicely for contemplation if I hadn't had the film to get to.

I'd researched music to see in the afternoon, so I went to Margaritaville where I saw more photos of Jimmy Buffett than I'd seen in my entire life. Not a place I would have gone except I'd sampled the music of Colin Lake who was playing there and liked it. Enjoyed it enough in person to buy a cd. Right now I'm waiting a couple hours to go out to see Walter Wolfman Washington a couple blocks away.

The weather forecast is better for the rest of my time here, but I'm still looking forward to eating the Yellow(stone) snow.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Hello from Chicago's Union Station where I have another four hours to wait before my train leaves. Earlier today I sat for 2 1/2 hours in Chicago's bus station waiting for a bus to come here. I bought the ticket without any prior investigation but according to the ticket the stations were six miles apart. Had I realized they were so close I would have just taken a cab rather than sit in the bus station. After the time had passed without any bus announcement I checked with someone and found out the stations are actually three blocks apart so I walked over.

Saturday in Duluth I started on the bus with my big bag to put in storage for a week while I'm in New Orleans, realized I didn't have the key to my lock with me since I never carry keys so had to take the bus back and haul the bag back uphill to the hotel. After getting my keys, I called a cab.

There is snow on the ground in Mammoth and I'm looking forward to seeing it in person and getting back to where now feels more like home than anywhere else. First, New Orleans where the weather looks good for most of my stay with highs in the 60s and 70s and little rain.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Does My Left Hand Know What My Right Hand Is Doing?

In the creepy old movie Night of the Hunter Robert Mitchum has the words "love" and "hate" tattooed on the fingers of his hands. One of the singers I plan to see in New Orleans, heavily-tattooed Meschiya Lake, has "true blue" on hers. Not being into tattoos, I've settled for rings since returning to Yellowstone last spring. On the ring on my left hand, a herd of five bison move away from the pack of six wolves running after them from the ring on my right hand. I thought this might help remind me why I'm really there when I get bored sitting in an office.

I leave Duluth Sunday night, leave Chicago Monday night, and arrive in New Orleans Tuesday afternoon.
I'm working on writing up a possible schedule of clubs for the New Orleans nights--I wish I could be in at least a couple places every night. I'm packing a bag with each hand, a smaller one to take with me to Louisiana, and a larger one to go into my storage unit until I return to pick it up for the trip to Montana. I'm checking weather forecasts which call for 70s and rain to the south and 30s and snow to the west.

Still haven't made arrangements for getting from Bozeman to the park which is going to be a pain. Along with New Orleans, I'm looking forward to seeing Bozeman and some people in the park, but not particularly the job or the dorm in the park. Still, I guess it's where I'll be considering home for the foreseeable future. Stay tuned for New Orleans.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Minnesota Point

After hiking along Wisconsin Point a couple weeks ago, I wrote that I might not feel the need to do my favorite Duluth hike while I was here.

You didn't believe that did you?

It wasn't the prettiest of mornings, so I've brightened up most of these photos.

Those are new signs since the last time I was there.

Someone's been playing with the driftwood.

If you were reading this blog back in the days when I actually wrote words instead of just posting photos, you might remember that I often see bald eagles on this hike. They were in the back of my mind, but I didn't really expect to see one today even though they're still migrating through.

But there was a big one on the upper left branch of that tree seconds before I took that photo.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Trippin' in Minnesota

I hiked a loop of trails a few days ago, starting with Chester Creek.

Then on through the University's Bagley area. From the top I saw some remaining color and the Lake.

In Yellowstone, there aren't any stairs in the woods.

When I saw this creature in someone's front yard, I thought, that's not an elk! And the ears are too small to be a mule deer--what the hell is this?

And on along Tischer Creek.

Where shadow trees grow out of the water.

We do have some bridges in the woods in Yellowstone.

One night I went to see Cats!


and Kelsie:

They were Walden's, well, I can't say buddies, but housemates, for the last year of his life so they deserve a spot here.

The next batch of photos were taken with the new pocket-size camera I bought to take to New Orleans.

A nice sunrise while I waited for the bus to go to St. Paul.

St. Paul, home of the cathedral.

Where schoolchildren learn how government works. ;-)

New home to the largest Scientology building in the Midwest. It's across the street from the longtime home of A Prairie Home Companion.

One bagel after I took that photo, one of the members harassed me as I waited at a crosswalk.

Also home to Mickey's.

And passed through by the mighty Mississippi. New Orleans is the other way.