Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

My original plan for the 2015 Walk was to cover some of old Route 66 on the way to Las Vegas. At the time, I was imagining that I might be giving up my abode in northeastern Arizona for a spot in or around Nevada’s biggest city.

So, I did a little study and map research for the imagined trip through the desert to Sin City. Once I made Vegas, I thought I would take a bus up to Montana and visit friends while planning a return trip.

My researches led me to call a friend of a friend in Las Vegas asking for thoughts about a possible move there. Michelene suggested Henderson as one town to consider for my next residence. She also took pains to tell me how hot it is in Las Vegas in August. I just replied, “Well if gets too tough, I will just walk at night.”

Nonetheless, my conversation got me to thinking and checking the Internet for Las Vegas area temperatures in the summer. Highs turned out to be consistently between 100 and 110 in August. Wow!

I can do 100 for a couple days on the road. But, I thought, “Even walking at night, those numbers might be beyond my abilities.”

So, I thought some more. I came up with the idea to route to the East and inspect Las Vegas on my return in September. I had no illusions that traveling through the desert into Utah would be a lot easier than going up into Nevada. But, historical temperatures suggested that that route might be 10 or so degrees cooler on average.

So, I expected. What I had not taken the time to consider was precipitation. I simply figured the summer in the desert in the southwest would be hot and dry. Hot and dry.

Well, I got some pleasant and sometimes not so pleasant surprises on the trek to the Northland.

I should say that the Weather Gods were really pretty kind and helpful on the route. I was very lucky and so was Pooh. As we shall see.

The temperatures were moderate from those latter days in July when we started our travels. 80s and 90s. I think maybe it got into the mid 90s on a couple occasions.

The few days we spent in Arizona were warm and dry. Not Hot and Dry, thankfully.

My earlier looks at weather forecasts and past average temperatures suggested that southeastern Utah - namely the Moab area - would be warmer - maybe hotter - than other spots along the trail.

But, I was surprised when the skies began to clouded up as we passed through Moab.

Moab was old uranium mining country until a few decades ago. Recent years have seen it become a busy and sometimes expensive recreational area with access for tourists to a number of nearby national parks, scenic deserts, and man-made attractions.

We made a rest stop of sorts in Moab, picking up a couple Palisades Peaches for the road. They were consumed before I got to the edge of the city.

It was a bit of a climb trudging along the highway past a resort or two and on up from the valley through a stout rocky canyon. I waved the flag and Pooh gave me a few chuckles to get us up the hill.

It was toward evening before we found a spot on the side of the road to rest - 11 miles north of Moab. A trailhead on the west side of the highway called 7-mile Rim Trailhead. It was all the cloudier by the time we took over the rest stop all to ourselves.

There wasn’t much to take over. A parking lot, a dumpster, a portable toilet and a pavilion made of four posts and a flat roof. There was one long thick and split log on one side of the pavilion meant for resting. I pulled out my sleeping bag and tried to rest.

It wasn’t long and a rain took up my interest. I didn’t expect much, but it came down with a good kick and wet the sleeping bag before I realized that the flat roof above was meant to keep the sun out and not the rain. There was daylight between each board and the next one.

Still, I was hoping that the rain would pass over as quickly as it came. But it didn’t. I had no tent, just the bag, the flag, the bear and a poncho.

So when another round of rain picked up where the last left off, Pooh (who had been tucked in the backpack) and I retreated to the portable toilet. It was hardly comfortable, but we squished in. Gear and all. Thinking to wait out the rain.

No such luck.

It was way past dark as the rain persisted while abating a bit. I decided that the portable john had done its good deed and left a deposit in the donation box. We would do just as well walking the bike trail next to the highway. The rain was sure to stop eventually. And, the warmish air would dry us out some.

The clouds were parting just a bit when we returned to the road. We walked the bike trail and highway most of the night, stopping here and there when possible. The morning brought sunshine and an opportunity to dry the gear at a turnout on the highway.

We had been lucky to find some shelter, modest though it was. I should have taken a photo of our “toilet tent.”

Pooh and I made Crescent Junction before noon the next day. The highlight of that walk was a visit with and a photo of a man who calls himself Baboon.

The Junction is a story in itself which I will have to save for another time. It is THE spot on the highway north of Moab, most of 40 miles away. Thereafter, Utah went by quickly thanks to a meeting in Crescent Junction.

Before I knew what had happened, I was not in southern Utah, but in the northern and not far from Wyoming and Idaho. Two hundred miles can go quickly - especially for someone used to walking.

I cut to the northwest for a time skirting Flaming Gorge Canyon. Passing into Wyoming, the rains came down again. The poncho came out in the morning trudge until we found a little bit of a country store run by an older woman named Nyla. It was one of those places which needed some signage. “A business without a sign is a sign of no business.”

For the half hour or so I was in her establishment, I was The Business. I stayed long enough to dry off a bit, get a few things for the road and have a Cup of Soup. Actually, I bought two and decided that Nyla needed the soup more than I did. So, I asked her to take the extra Cup off my hands.

Then, back to the trail. We covered territory that day until darkness came and eventually the rains. They weren’t overwhelming. Just persistent.

And, we had no tent. I could only find a modest-sized evergreen tree on the side of the road to cozy under or into.

Pooh and I huddled under that dripping tree with the poncho covering our backpack and everything else for a few hours. Eventually, it got rather boring stationed there. So, we lit out again at about 3:00 am and let the coming day dry us out a little at a time.

Rain was threatening again a few days later when we had passed into southeastern Idaho. Actually, it was drizzling when Officer Larkin picked us up on the western edge of Soda Springs and gave us a quick ride to the Marina.

He said the forecast was for real rain, and I believed him. So, we “camped” for the night on the concrete slab under a pavilion near the water.

I was more concerned about mosquitoes than rain then. Neither eventuated. The policeman got his forecast wrong. But, we were glad for DRY and thankful for the young man’s stopping to help us find a reasonable spot to park after it was already dark.

The raindrops had not stopped falling in August in the desert southwest. We were nearing the end of the planned journey as things were tentatively scheduled when we got some unexpected lifts through the Pocatello area.

I had been in touch with Duane and Audrey Kolman who were planning a run down into Idaho to lift me back up into Montana by mid August. The farther Pooh and I traveled to the north, the fewer miles the Kolmans would have to drive to the south to rescue us.

The pace picked up thanks to a number of unsolicited rides. Several happening in lower Idaho.

We were aiming for Rexburg as we passed through Pocatello, Idaho Falls and Blackfoot. We had some fun experiences with young folk the last few days and were running into our last laps of the present journey.

Two jeep rides in a row, one from a potato farmer, and a brief - very brief - newspaper interview in Blackfoot made the day interesting. But as it wore on, the clouds appeared and the rains came down.

They weren’t terrible. Even though the wind made getting the poncho on a bit of a task as I have often found it.

We were some miles north of Blackfoot and thinking we had some more moments of weather to deal with when a car pulled over. A woman asked what we were doing and where we going. It was a tough time to campaign. But, I basically said, “We are just trying to get up the road toward Montana.”

Before we knew it, we were invited to Arlene’s house a couple miles off the road. Arlene made it clear, “I have never done this before and sure don’t know what my husband will say.”

Nonetheless, we got packed into Arlene’s small car and drove to her home. There to meet husband Ron who didn’t know what to think at first. But being a talkative bus driver for the Salt Lake Express, he soon got to know me a bit and I them.

The Mechams have a large property and grown children. Rod has changed jobs a few times and Arlene has held the family together while running a title company and a Lutheran bible study. I got a few hints that Arlene might have the talents to be a pulpit minister. I passed them on.

In any case, I was treated royally. Dinner and breakfast with Mechams, TV and conversation. A room to myself, sleeping on my decision on the cushy rug. Why mess up a bed for one night.
Arlene drove me a couple miles down the road next morning. Rod said they would look for me on their way to Rigby later in the day. They had a party with an old RV court group to join that evening.

So, we walked for several hours. Tiring a bit, I put out my flag and took a nap on the side of the road on the edge of a little town along the way.

The Mechams appeared late afternoon and lifted me further up the road to Rigby which turned out to allow me to make our last stop on the road at the Country Club Golf Course on the far north side of town.

While the Raindrops Kept Falling on My Head, they were surely beneficial in a number of ways. Like keeping the weather cool for August, getting to experience unusual shelters, and meeting grand people like the Mechams.

I am always pondering the way things turn out. The Mechams had things to share with me, hopefully I with them. I sent a copy of my Montana book to them some weeks ago. I hope Arlene thinks more about ministerial work.

And, then there is Rod -

Rod Mecham - Rob McNary
Rodney Mecham - Robert McNary

Interesting, Pooh and I started our journey out with Ronald McDonald and finished - more or less - with Rodney Mecham.

Thanks to Ronald and to Rodney and especially to Arlene.

I am reminded that Pooh and I have to visit another Arlene - 94 years old - at the nursing home in Harlowton in the next few days. Arlene read my Montana book when it came out. Said she would read it again when she had time.

I will ask her if she ever found time and then Pooh and I will do some politicking with her.

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