Winter Morning Music

red and orange solar flare
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Standing under a heater vent blowing 70-degree air on me, I still get goosebumps listening to Ed Sheeran singing “I See Fire” from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Removed we may be from the foothills of Erebor, but we never seem far from the breath of the great drake.

For there are days beneath brown hills, Santannas blowing dry from the Northeast bending the palms and sending crackles of static through hair and wool, when if you listen closely, you can hear the chuckle of the Old Wyrm amidst the howling tempest, and your breath stops, waiting in dread for the ridges to explode in flame.

Overhaul

In the waiting room at Nissan while my baby gets a checkup. Air, oil, filters, fluids, rotation, alignment, and a full diagnostic. I don’t know what we’ll encounter on the road, but we’ll both be healthy when we begin.

Mugology: Got Kicks?

Item #232 on my Bucket List is a trip on Route 66 from Michigan Drive in downtown Chicago to the pier in Santa Monica, sticking as closely as possible to the original routing.

Clearly, this is a drive I will not be taking in Winter.

I reckon it is still a year or two off. I am staying off the road until the nation has worked out its collective post-COVID cabin-fever. You don’t take a road trip to find yourself in traffic, and since I am now in a position to travel mid-week and off season, I am dodging all of that.

In the meantime, I have my mug.

Texas Road

I halt along a Texas road
To pause and look about
To feel the ground and watch the sky
Pretending I’m a scout.

I hear the rustle of the birds
A-nesting in the brush
And lose myself with ants in grass,
No longer in a rush.

The wind blows through my thinning hair
And sings a gentle koan
That says “absorb this moment, son
And make your life your own.”

— October 26, 2021, Callahan County, Texas

Mugology: Road Buddy

The thrill of the refill. Twenty-four ounces of Scoutmaster juice.

This one is from Love’s Truck Stops. I’ve been using it now for probably six years, but will probably stop buying these for fear of eventually putting more plastic into a landfill. Something steel, like a Hydro Flask, will replace this. 

 

Patchology: Saddleback Butte

As the Summer turns to fall, the shores turn chill and the hillsides to tinder, the eyes of the camper (and Scoutmaster) turn toward the desert. October through March is prime camping time in California’s arid regions. Days are comfortable, nights are chilly but not arctic, and enough animals are active during the day to make hiking more than a long walk.

One of my favorite places in the desert is Saddleback Butte State Park, a modest, Joshua Tree-girt peak located in the heart of a triangle between Palmdale, Victorville, and Edwards Air Force Base. The campsites are mostly primitive, but there are toilets and showers, making extended stays possible.

I have been twice, and only on the last trip – in early 2020 – was I in the kind of shape to take on the crest of the Butte. It’s about a 1,200′ rise in about 4 miles, but the altitude is enough to tucker someone in poor shape, and the last 100 feet is a scramble not far from some fairly sheer cliffs. Summiting this modest promontory was more satisfying that I had imagined it would be, and vistas from Palmdale to east to Victorville and Edwards south to the ridges behind Wrigtwood on a bright and clear day were a huge payoff. I only regret not having taking better pictures.

I rewarded myself and my scouts with the above patch, purchased from the park gift shop in a trailer at the north end of the park, just as I had watched my predecessor do on our last trip.

This will go on a brag rag of some sort, either a blanket or a shirt. Either way, it is a favorite. I hope to go back soon: the campground is a delight and worth the drive.

Retirement Goodness #2

Another nice thing about retired life: stepping outside each morning at 7:55am and hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner” playing over the loudspeakers at Naval Base Ventura County in the near distance, singing along under my breath.

It sounds corny, but it is a calming and edifying way to start the day.

Haidilao midnight snack

Indulging in a late-night hot pot without having to constantly check email, worry about a 6am call, or think about what I need to get done when I get back to my hotel is an unaccustomed luxury.

That said, I will still be up early to ensure her ladyship opens her eyes to behold a Philz Soymilk latte.

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