Saturday, May 24, 2008

Waiting for the Bus (or, Adventures of the Unprepared MMVIII)

Eva just turned 4 years old. She's not in preschool right now, but don't tell her that. Lately, when Isobel arrives home from school, Eva often tells about her day:

"At my school, I played with my friends on the playground and we built sandcastles, and we did jumping jacks and somersaults in the gym, and we went on a field trip on our bus; it has windows all over it and it's really tall, and it goes really really fast, faster than every car in the whole wide world."

One day, she got me to walk her to the bus stop, to wait for that school bus. She rode her bike down to the corner. She got off her bike and stood next to the curb, waiting, watching for the bus. We waited for about 15 minutes, while she told me more about the bus and her friends and her school. During that time, she rarely took her eyes off the street where her bus was about to arrive. I don't know how long she would have waited there -- maybe until kindergarten 2009 -- but eventually I proposed that perhaps her bus wasn't coming.

She was furious; she wasn't leaving until that bus came. Then I told her we should go home, get some money and ride the city bus downtown. We didn't do it that day, but she had a new story to tell her sister that day after school.

"Isobel! Me and daddy are gonna ride the city bus!"
"The one with all the people on the side?" (Pictures of lots of smiling people adorn the Santa Fe buses.)

On Thursday, I had to buy a fishing license and talk to the guy in the downtown fly shop, so we got on that city bus. We walked to the bus stop at almost 1 p.m. It was a nice, cool spring day; a few clouds drifted by and Eva fidgeted around in a cute red dress, "We never rode on the city bus before, huh Dad." "When is that bus gonna get here?"

It arrived, and we began the simple plan: Ride the bus to within a block of the fly shop, walk there and back, ride the bus home.

The first two segments of that plan worked perfectly. We rode by Isobel's dentist office, paused at the hospital, saw Albertson's and even Isobel's school. We got off on the right stop and found the fly shop. I bought the fishing license and talked with the guy about all the water waiting in the mountains, ready to rush down any day.

While I was talking, my phone rang. I let it.

We walked back to the bus stop and only then did it occur to me that since we had been driving on a one-way street for the last mile or so, there was no bus stop going the way I wanted to go. I hadn't looked at the map close enough to know which direction the bus looped around. So we walked back up the one-way street until it became a two way street and waited for the bus.

The nice spring day was now a little breezy and Eva and I were wishing we had a jacket or a hat or something to go over our short sleeved shirts. That's when I remembered the phone call and listened to this omen from Gordon:

"Hey Petersens, I was just wondering what the weather is like up there. It's pretty crazy here in 'querque."

Uh oh.

Twenty minutes later, Eva was pretty chilly. So I was holding her. A woman walked her dog around where we stood, a nice little tree-lined plaza of sorts, three or four times. It was a pleasant time, holding my little girl, talking about the big labrador in the fly shop and the city bus and our jackets at home.

Then, a blast of wind. The woman with the dog turned around immediately and ran. Five seconds later, pea-sized hail. We hid behind a tree trunk about as wide as my own trunk, Eva sunk her head into my chest, I called for backup -- Bettie was working at home -- and Eva cried.

I talked her out of crying and looked at the buildings behind us for shelter. They were far away and didn't have much, so we hunkered down. A woman in a slicker hustled by and directed us to a huge pine tree (it was in sight the whole time) that, as it turns out, was blocking all of the wind and almost all of the rain and hail.

I held Eva there and we tried to keep warm. It felt very nice under that tree, actually, and Eva, still pretty cold, was fine again, knowing that her mother was on the way.

That's when a car stopped, a window rolled down, and an umbrella poked out.

"Do you want this?"
"No, actually this tree is blocking most of it."
"OK... Are you sure?... Free umbrella... She looks pretty wet."
"Alright. Thank you very much."

We opened the umbrella and Eva stood next to me, beaming. She wasn't cold anymore. Then she said, "When is he gonna come back?"

"Never. He just gave it to us."

That guy will never read this, and we'll never see him again, but he turned a cold, uncomfortable minute into a warm and fuzzy moment for my astounded little daughter. I think she got the message, even if this is how she told the story to her mom a few minutes later:

"It's our umbrella now. He's never gonna come back for it."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Top 10 Utah sites

Some fan of Utah (the state) asked Bettie to ask me to tell her Utah's 10 best spots. So I made one up.

Now, while you're looking at this, keep in mind that I think Snowbird and Lake Powell and the Uintas and Delicate Arch and Dead Horse Point are fabulous. These might not be the most beautiful spots in the whole state. They're just spots that I was stoked! to find. They're listed in the order that they popped into my head.

If you've been to any of these, tell me.

1. Drive the LaSal Mountain Loop Road, from Fisher Towers (11 miles east of Moab along the Colorado River) area up into the LaSal mountains and back down to the highway just south of Moab. Starts in red rock towers, climbs to the shadow of a couple of 12,000-foot peaks and descends to some sweet views of Canyonlands.

2. Cassidy Arch, 1.75-mile hike in Capitol Reef National Park. You can walk right on top of this huge arch, and it's a little spooky.

3. Egypt 3, a short slot canyon (not technical) off the Hole in the Rock Road just east of Escalante (in Grand Staircase). Lots of variety -- narrow section; twisty, plunging section; deep section.

4. Cable Arch, aka Funnel Arch, a fun little hike off the Kane Creek Road near Moab. It's not on any of the regular hiking maps. Take the Kane Creek Road (it starts between McDonald's and Burger King) west from Moab. There's a rock full of petroglyphs on the right (a sign points you to it from the road), then the road bends to the left and there's a pullout on the left. Stop there. Hike up the wash, scramble up to the top and bear right. You'll find it eventually from there. Nice arch, named for a cable attached to a nearby fin. Good luck.

5. Hovenweep, for nice clifftop dwellings that you can walk right up to. When I was a kid, there were no signs saying, "Please keep your distance" or whatever. But now the signs are like 2 feet from the walls, so it's still great.

6. Pine Creek Canyon in Zion, if you're up for a technical slot canyon with several nice, kinda scary rappels.

7. Swazys Leap, San Rafael Swell. Get a good map and take I-70 to Exit 131 west of Green River. This would be a fun little mountain bike (if you're into that sort of thing) to the Little Black Box section of the San Rafael River. I walked it. Cool local legend -- Sid Swasey won a bet by leaping over this very rugged, pretty wide gap over a 100-foot or so drop on a horse. You can actually cross the river near there, so you can wade the river or climb up and look down from the leap.

8. Thistle Slide Overlook. Just a really cool geologic event that happened in my lifetime. HUGE natural mudslide wiped out a little town in 1983. You can almost see it happen from this overlook. On US 6/89 just north of where 6 and 89 join (about 15 miles southeast of Spanish Fork).

9. Burr Trail East of Boulder, west of Capitol Reef. Everything's great in there. And I'm not going to tell you what. OK, I'll give you one spot. It's awesome. Strike Valley Overlook. It's actually after the road crosses into Capitol Reef National Park. Short hike to a gigantic, I don't know, amphitheater, half a conk shell standing on its end.

10. Meadow Hot Springs Just off I-15, central Utah, exit 158 at the town of Meadow, 4 miles south of Fillmore. Drive 2 miles south, turn west drive OVER the freeway on a gravel road (never seen that before) follow that to this very deep hot springs. (It gets pretty hick-wild on Saturday nights, though.)