Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another road trip

On my way from San Francisco to Pocatello, where I'm heading to visit a friend who teaches at the university there, I stopped in Weed last night (A) and in Burns, Ore. tonight (C):

Based on previous experience, I knew not to expect 3G service for my smartphone inbetween towns, but I thought there was a chance at my destination. No, not with Virgin Mobile. Good as their coverage is in metro areas, this is not in anyone's metro area. Problem: I forgot which motel I had reserved at, and I needed to check my email for the reservation. So I needed wi-fi somewhere. Usually a McDonald's is good for it, but when I stopped a the one here, it wasn't working right.

I noticed a small bookstore-gift shop on the main street, and I went in to ask them where I might find wi-fi. They had free wi-fi, bless them! And they sell espresso, too. It was a little late in the afternoon for me to have a cappuccino, but I bought a book. Stop by the Book Nook when you're in Burns, Oregon.

Okay, but the drive. For many years I've wanted to check out the northeast corner of California, because it's such a mystery. It's not on the way to anywhere; there is no reason ever to go there, unless maybe you're a hunter or fisherman, or you're driving from, say, Weed, California to southern Idaho.

Several times I'd driven through part of this country on US 97 just south of the California border, where it passes through a strange "national grassland" -- the only one so obscure it as "NO WEBSITE":

So if the grassland was so obscure, you can only imagine how curious I was about the part of California east of that. Well, it's high desert -- which means there is almost nothing out there but sagebrush, with the occasional smattering of pine trees in certain advantageous places. But the amazing thing about the drive is that there is nothing else out there. No shacks, no trailers, no ranches, no electric poles, no cell phone service, no billboards. I drove 30 miles before I even saw a sign reassuring me I was on a US highway. And the part in Oregon is, if anything, even more desolate.

It's a real change from the southern California desert which I've visited so often. There it's difficult to find truly empty vistas. There's always a railroad or a microwave tower or a power pylon or some abandoned shack in the picture.

Zero time taking pictures, unfortunately. For part of the drive the shoulders were snow-covered, though almost no snow fell on me. Been lucky with the snow so far.

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