Monday, July 28

Tears in Texas or A Georgia Peach or District of Cheerfulness or The End of the Road...

We left the New Mexico desert with a sense of excitement as the asphalt of Route 20 pulled us on into the heartland of Texas. Route 20 was to be the final interstate running East/West that Tracy and I had yet to travel.

The saying "save the best for last" does not apply here.

Now I'm not out to offend Texas. I'm sure there are plenty of things to see along this stretch of highway, but Maisy's increasingly loud car-seat protest was beginning to wear on all involved and we decided to skip the detours and beeline it straight for Atlanta, our next oasis of relatives and rest.

Not allowing time for sightseeing, our exposure to Route 20 was a mixture of oil fields, bad coffee, and quite possibly the worst Motel 6 room in the world. It was the one time we ever requested a refund on a room. Odessa Motel 6 - clean your sheets!

We did quickly realize that marathon driving sessions were not improving Maisy's temperment in the least and made plans to drop by a zoo - any zoo - for some distraction in the afternoon. The city of Abilene provided a close approximation to our request.

Things seemed fishy at the Zoo of Abilene from the get-go when they offered crackers with our admission tickets. "What are these for?", I queried with bewilderment. "Feed the animals", she replied as if I was from another decade.

Feed the animals?! The phrase was so general but I assumed it would be obvious once we were inside that the crackers were limited to a cute petting zoo section. This was not the case. I even spotted one man giving a cracker to his son so he could feed the lions !

We restricted ourselves to offering the Giraffes some snacks.

Now I don't want to harp on the Zoo of Abilene too much - it seems like they were making a sincere effort to keep the place alive in a rather difficult environment - but we did spot something rather disturbing in the reptile house.

The above photo is healthy turtles with their alligator pal. Nice enough...but this poor guy...

...was dead, possibly for weeks. His carcass was flaking off under water and it was placed at eye-level for Maisy to study closely. After that encounter we settled for a less adventuresome and way-more-tacky method of providing entertainment for Maisy: The Walmart toy aisle.

I'm sure we're not the first parents to resort to this and Maisy sure enjoyed the idea that all these toys were her personal stash. In our defense, we did purchase a toy and box of diapers for the two visits with Maisy. Regardless, you could tell we were getting desperate to reach Atlanta, which we did.

Maisy was enthralled to be staying with my Aunt Bev and Uncle Gary.

And we were pleasently surprised to see that my cousin Dylan was quite the baby whisperer. He tricked Maisy into eating an entire jar of green beans. Nice!

After the hell ride that was Texas, we reached our limit of daytime driving with Maisy and tried a new approach for the long stretch to Washington D.C. - the night drive. We hadn't done one of these in years and were both wary of the 10.5 hour run.

Successful but exhausted, we arrived at 8am in time for Maisy to meet some more kin from Tracy's side of the family. Fortuntaly, her cousin Amy and her son Gabe had plenty of energy to make up for our complete lack thereof.

Gabe had this super-cool balance board thingy that kept us all entertained for much of the two-day visit.

They also introduced us to a lovely swimming hole!

Despite a great time, the finish line was pulling us back toward Upstate NY, our resting spot for the better half of August. Eight hours of traveling was once again done during the graveyard shift after the success of the Atlanta-D.C. journey. Fairing just as well, we considered making this our go-to method for future trips. If you ignore the day of zombie living after the drive, it's not such a bad way to get around with a toddler.

And so we come to a well-deserved rest in our beautiful undisclosed hideout somewhere in the Adirondacks. We'll recharge for three weeks and then consider the final leg East and home to try on the domestic lifestyle once again.

Sunday, July 20

The Turning Point

We've been covering plenty of ground in the past couple days, partially because our clock is now ticking to get home in time for some friend's weddings but also partially because the wear of the road is starting to get to us. If my calculations are correct - which they never are - we've been on the road about forty-odd days now. That's enough to make a person start seeing things.

But we weren't seeing mirages at a rest-stop near California's "Grapevine". I'm not sure how long it's been since our faithful readers have perused the 25 cent machines - which are now mostly 50 cent machines - but this little oddity caught Tracy's eye:
That's right, fruity bubble gum isn't enough anymore. If it doesn't rap it ain't goin' in my mouth.

Meanwhile, Maisy and I took up a new addiction.

I've know they're bandits but I can't help but try to win a stuffed animal for Maisy. So far I've sunk at least two bucks into these darn machines and no luck.

As fascinating as the rest-stop area was we had to move on to Los Angeles where a few more friends were waiting to host us.

I knew we'd be best of pals with Eric and Silje when we first moved to LA and heard of their dirt biking adventures. Having been a "twist-of-the-wrist" addict myself back in high school, we immediately latched onto their company.

Being July in LA and with Silje expecting baby number two, we didn't get to rev any engines but one can still admire the plastic and metal.

LA was also a time for seeing old AFI friends as well including Josh - editor extrodiniarie who took us to some excellent Korean BBQ. While the food and company was wonderful the east coast was beckoning...

Here's Maisy and I celebrating the offical Eastward direction change.

Not pictured is Tracy, our loyal photographer. She did capture this nice moment:

Yuck. That's about 50 degrees higher than my preferred tempature. Palm Springs residents - I just don't get your attraction to desert living.

Passing through Arizona we spotted the most bizarre campaign being pushed by Burger King:

I opted for the salad paired with a chocolate shake. Apparently my taste buds aren't sophisticated enough to appricate the nuance between a Whopper with a Coke vs. a Whopper with a Sprite.

Our campsite that night was nice enough and gave Maisy and Tracy time to practice winking...

...before moving into New Mexico and making contact with aliens at the Very Large Array or VLA as people in the know tend to call it. Just of Route 60 you'll find this gigantic collection of radio telescopes that were made famous in the film Contact. Contrary to Jodi Foster's method of use, the radio telescopes do not require headphones to operate: The signs told me so, otherwise I'd go on buying her riveting performance.

Even the bathrooms caught the radar fever:

Our resting place for the night was my personal favorite destination of the West - my grandpa Fiato's house!

Maisy finally completed her collection of Great-Grandpa photos with this one:

The old man has bigger biceps that I do though I suppose that isn't too much of a feat...

Wednesday, July 16

Renegade Two: A total failure at trying to be a disaster.

For you logic hounds I need not explain that the title of this post equates to a success!

For a first year-launch, it was a pleasant surprise to see so many eager customers join us for two days at the Fort Mason pavilion. While the hours were long, we had support from unlikley sources:

There's our little Maisy selling our miniature pendants - both baby and pendants were a big hit at the show. Maisy took to the sights and sounds like water to a live wire. Much time was spent playing "Ferby" with other like-sized toddlers. It was also nice to see familiar faces to stop and say hello, since our time was limited and schedules were difficult. So thanks, you know who you are!

Sunday provided an extra treat with the appearance of punk-Marching Band, Muccapazza.

They're high energy music moved the afternoon along nicely and made me pine for my neglected trombone - currently sitting in my parent's basement.

While Renegade kept us busy, we did manage to enjoy some other San Francisco pleasures. One important stop was Golden Gate Park where we found an old piece that Tracy designed back in the day. Our crafty friend Heidi managed to help secure a permanent placement for it in the local playground:

To continue our Golden Gate safari, we took a few hundred steps over to the carosouel; a first for Maisy as you can clearly see:

A visit to the bizarrely flavored Bi-Rite Creamery topped off an excellent week in San Francisco. Strawberry/Balsamic was a personal favorite of our clan.

And an extra behemoth thanks to Steve and Heidi for the shelter, company, and laughs!

Wednesday, July 9

A San Francisco Treat

Well faithful readers, we’ve made it to major destination #3 on our cross-country tour – and we appreciate your company all the way. As I write this posting we are enjoying the cool weather of San Francisco (actually hot right now), our home base for the next week as we prepare for Renegade Show #2.

The travels here from Bishop, CA were by far the most spectacular miles covered yet. We charted a course past Mammoth, onto Mono Lake, through Tioga Pass before barreling into Merced where the kind family of a friend agreed to house our trailer for the week as we moved onto San Francisco – Land of No-Parking.

That same friend, who shall remain nameless, recommended a brief detour on our way up from Bishop to visit a strange geological anomaly – Devil’s Postpile. The bizarre hexagonally shaped formations peaked our interest so we added the stop to our itinerary. Little did we know that the visit would be hell incarnate. See, the problem with Devil’s Postile is that it is beyond Mammoth, summer vacation paradise. Stack a Jazz Festival on top of a major mountain biking destination and you have tourist central. By the time we reached the actual entryway to the monument we had dodged no less than twelve bikers trying to run our car off the road. That’s when the bad news came. A friendly ranger informed us that our two-hour detour was all for not. A mandatory shuttle was the only method available for traveling to this monument. The entire excursion would have added another two hours to our already jam-packed day. Rejected and dejected, we rolled back down the mountain hexagonal-less and toward our consolation prize.
Mono Lake, while no Devil’s Postpile, is a pretty interesting pit stop. The combination of inland salt water and surreal tufas was enough eye-candy to hold us over through lunch. It was, however, hot…very hot. Maisy informed us all that hydration was the key to happiness.

Having our fill of desert climates, we headed west through the well-known Tioga Pass. Of all the roads thus far, this one easily put our Forester/Scamp setup to the maximum test. Second gear was the default as we ascended from 4,000 to 10,000+ feet in a matter of miles. The view at the top is well worth the climb.

We camped over in Hodgdon Meadows, which is sort of the bastard campsite in Yosemite but did us just fine for the night. Having already visited this park a few years back, we hightailed it to the city. After all, Maisy had a prearranged playdate.

Our old friend Sarah introduced us to our new friend Ahmory. Sarah is a fellow glass artist and runs a lovely outfit – Mediums to Masses (link). While the babies discussed various chewing techniques, Tracy and Sarah talked shop and offered support for the weekend, as Sarah will also be participating in this weekend’s craft fair.

We’ll close this posting by sharing a first for Happy Owl Glass. Meet Elaine.

While perusing the cheese at a local Berkeley market, Tracy was complimented on one of our limited Raccoon shirts. She liked the shirt so much that she literally bought it off of Tracy’s back – what a compliment!

Sunday, July 6

Nevada to Bishop to Bristlecones to Bishop

As mentioned in previous posts, one major motivation for this cross-country trip was to shoot a film in the surreal landscape of the Bristlecone Pine National Forest. We have just returned from an exhausting weekend of doing just that. While most people were sanely enjoying fireworks and BBQ over the Fourth, we opted for high altitude desert-like camping mixed with stressful shooting conditions.

The buildup to the weekend started out easy enough with another plush KOA experience in Ely, Nevada; If you've ever looked at a map of the state you'll note that the stretch of I-93 for Idaho to Ely doesn't offer much in the way of scenic camping. The Ely KOA did offer a few exciting surprises for us though. One was this swing, which Maisy adorded...

Behind the swing, and not pictured, were a pair of burros that brayed throughout the night. It was more charming than annoying.

The second surprise was a really delight for Tracy. Apparently, Ely sits right next to a healthy supply of garnets. We took a drive up to the old "Garnet Hill" and did a little amatuer rock-hounding. Tracy gleaned about six specimins! Maisy and I found squat.

Leaving Ely, we took a shortcut over a country road to get on Route 6. It's not a very well marked shortcut at that, and we ended up deep in some copper mine instead. It spawned a discussion over the beauty/disaster of mines.

The area reminded me of the work of Edward Burtynsky.

A friendly security fellow set us back on course and straight to Route 6, which brought us into the world's premier destination for star gazing - or so their signage declared, Tonopah, Nevada. Sadly, we were just there for a brief lunch siesta.

We had passed through this little town in the hills on previous trips and somehow managed to forget about this disturbing sight:

Motels and Clowns. As tempting as that was, we opted to move on to Bishop for a night's lodging before our ascent into the Bristlecone Pines.

Note that the sign toward the top-left corner is a plague warning! The Clown Motel was looking better and better.

It was at the Grandview Campground that we experienced the first of a series of mishaps with our poor little Scamp. Being the greedy types, we circled the area for the premier campsite. A hairpin turn resulted in an hour's setback.

That's what a bottomed out trailer looks like. It's not a fun experience but did confirm that we knew how to use a car jack.

With the Scamp righted, we settled for the first site we saw and proceeded to hold a marathon shooting session with the help of our friends, Heidi and Steve.

Here's some production shots from our little short.

I can't comment much on the shoot itself since the entire three-days was a blur of f-stop calculations and baby-wrangling. We're excited to send the footage out and see what exactly we have!

On a final note, we caught this amusing photo of our "home" on our return to Bishop yesterday:

Could Raptor be compensating for something or am I just jealous?