Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pomona RV Show

Another weekend rolled around. We'd been wanting to go to an RV show, and the California show, reputedly one of the largest, was beginning in Pomona, not even 400 miles away. So we took off Friday afternoon, drove to Pomona, spent the night with Tom Bodett, took in the show on Saturday, and drove back Saturday evening. Alas, the show was not what we'd hoped for, only about half the size of the Tampa show we saw a few years back, but we picked up quite a few new ideas and leads, and driving through LA afforded me the opportunity to recite some lines from my favorite movie.*
Not "the best RV show," actually, but good enough

You knew things were not going to be quite right when the entrance was covered in
a dozen or so plastic "outdoors" displays, with the San Gabriel Mountains in the
background, barely visible through the smog of 10 million people

We saw all the Bs and B+s, and Cs, and truck campers and 5th wheels and toy-
haulers of interest, but didn't really focus, since our travel plans presently are a
bit unclear and we already have the Grey Wanderer parked near Toulouse; it's
not even clear we'll need a rig beyond November, 2013; nonetheless, a few
items got our attention, and others', including this Mitsubishi-based Fuso 4x4
expedition camper, a prototype from SportsMobile, a firm we have long watched
with interest; perhaps we should be a bit younger to explore in an "expedition"
camper, but we figure nobody would mess with a monster like this and you could
stealth-camp anywhere you liked...

There are some great YouTube pieces on these vehicles, Fusos, Mans, others,
many of which we saw in Europe, climbing every mountain, fording every
stream, following every rainbow...sounds like SportsMobile will build these
for about the same price or a little more than our (admittedly top of the line)

Speaking of which, the most interesting thing we saw at the show was this Roadtrek,
more or less identical to ours except on a Sprinter 3500 chassis, a prototype "e-trek,"
that is, a completely electric (except for the M-B power-plant), fully-featured class B
RV; no propane, no ugly vents, no noisy generator; they accomplish this, including
powering the AC and microwave, with a super-sized alternator, solar panels, six
house batteries, and a 5000w inverter; we were taking lots of notes...

Tow-car of dreams...

We got back to Menlo Park in time to pick up my sister Carole, who was fresh
off the San Francisco Nike Women's Half Marathon; she's one of the "over 1
billion served" (as am I and pretty much everyone I know) so we had to take
her by the new store in town; and then later let her have some time with
Penelope and dinner with P's parents; it was another pretty good weekend!

*"But then, there was a lot about the Dude that didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. And a lot about where he lived, like-wise. But then again, maybe that's why I found the place s'durned innarestin'. They call Los Angeles the City of Angels. I didn't find it to be that exactly, but I'll allow as there are some nice folks there. 'Course, I can't say I seen London, and I never been to France, and I ain't never seen no queen in her damn undies as the fella says. But I'll tell you what, after seeing Los Angeles and thisahere story I'm about to unfold--wal, I guess I seen somethin' ever' bit as stupefyin' as ya'd see in any a those other places, and in English too, so I can die with a smile on my face without feelin' like the good Lord gypped me."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

View From On High*

*Well, 32,000 feet more or less.
The August and September smoke and haze, mostly from Idaho I surmise,
lifted the first three of our four days in Missoula, but on Monday, it was back;
here, just a few miles away from the airport, you can just barely make out
Horseback Ridge, where we lived for ten years, and Black Mountain; Lolo
Peak, the big mountain in the area, was completely smoked over from the

Skimming over the haze and clouds southwest of Missoula

Wildfires still blazing in Idaho


Ditto again; all the dead-fall in these forests, and in Montana and in parts of
adjoining states, is kiln-dried, and has been for years now, with drought and
increasing summer temperatures; and then there's the beetle infestation...

Over California now; square-top cloud

2012 Montana Festival of the Book

So another weekend, early in October, we returned to dear Missoula, staying with the Rotts, visiting old friends, and attending another Montana Festival of the Book. Alas, I missed the Thursday, Thursday night, and Friday events--Allegiant flies only on Fridays and Mondays, although direct from Oakland to Missoula (!) and very cheap--but I did make it for the Friday night gala and also some of the Saturday and Saturday night events.
Humanities Montana chair and Mr. Montana PBS William
Marcus opens the Friday night gala readings

Mayor John Engen welcomes the throng...more than 1,000;
Hizzoner's welcomes have become an event in themselves,
and this year's edition dwelt on Missoula's horribly hot,
dry, fiery and smoky August and September, and
particularly the 42 days without rain; it's below...

Ivan Doig, one of the patriarchs of western writing, reading
from his new novel The Bartender's Tale

Personal favorite David Quammen (Song of the Dodo,
Monster of God) reading from his newest, Spillover: Animal
Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

Pam Houston, reading from her new Contents May Have
; definitely from the "why didn't I think of that?"
genre; a great night of readings, great western fiction,
thought-provoking contemporary commentary, insightful
and amusing travel fare...

Saturday night, after a day's worth of panels, readings, etc.,
Festival Goddess Kim Anderson introduces

Lois Welch and composer Wayne Horvitz, discussing
Horvitz' Heartsong of Charging Elk Song Cycle, based on
the novel by James Welch, to be performed that evening

At the conclusion of the performance; the Song Cycle was
serious, contemporary music, probably something never
heard before in the venerable Wilma Theatre; not Welch's
cup of tea, I suspect, but he knew his words moved and
transformed people, and he would have been gratified at this
sincere tribute

Almost any reason is good enough to visit Missoula, but
on this occasion we went primarily for me to be declared a
"humanities hero"

Of course we found time to transfer items to and from our
home/storage unit in east Missoula

I was introduced to a Missoulian reporter as the founder of the book festival, and the following story resulted: Indeed I am very pleased still to be associated with this great Montana event.

And here's Mayor's Engen's weclome to the 2012 festival:

Why I Have a Degree in Journalism and not an MFA in Creative Writing

John Engen, Mayor

Forty-two days gone and not a drop of rain, mountains appearing and disappearing depending on the day and the breeze and the smoke and the people, my people, miss the comfortable landscape, the familiar, abrupt horizon rendered dull by the haze through which Russell Chatham must see the world.

And, you know, we’re not in goddam Livingston. Our writers wear smaller belt buckles and are prone to overt suffering and higher-rent drinking problems. There are fewer horses and a lot more ennui here; thick, milky ennui. We’re not Livingston. We’ve got cloudy winters and a peace center, so don’t bring your lonesome doves around here, because we have a French restaurant and an aloof squab could easily be the dinner special.

We’re not used to all that dryness. Every story’s about what springs from water: the timber and the ore and the booze and the punitive snow and these rivers carrying the fish, which, when combined with a dry fly and a decent cast will give you all the Universal Truth you could ever need. We write what we know or hope to know and we don’t know this. The smoke is all about young men and fire, but all that should burn in memory, from a distance, and not interfere with the hot, sunny August that’s still cool at night and smells just like it did when you were a kid.

Red suns are for Martians. Red sunsets for sailors. We don’t get that here. The righteous night sky in August is black but for the countless stars and the moon, somewhere.

Forty-two days gone and not a drop of rain. The sky’s gone missing, missing, I tell you and the people, my people, miss their place, their home. The last time we were dry this long was in 1896, and they may or may not have lynched the mayor, a purportedly jolly fellow right until the end.

Then, silently, in the middle of the night, snow. And we’re not and never were Livingston. And we’re not dry. Not hazy. Not smoky. Not angry. We’re chilly and it’s October and it’s finally OK and, coincidentally, the Festival of the Book begins tonight, in Missoula, Montana, the place we miss when it’s gone.

Welcome back, Missoula, and welcome to the Festival of the Book.

Oct. 5, 2012