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Thursday, September 22, 2016


    Three days ago I saw a Grand Canyon sunrise from Bright Angel Point. To get there, you walk a quarter-mile trail. At times, both sides are so steep a miss-step could kill you. A fall would have you
bouncing off boulders for 2000 feet.
Taking this picture made me very nervous

     This is my fifth tip to Arizona's big hole and every time it both amazes and scares. It's such an incredible wonder, I can't stop looking down at all its levels, colors, and shapes. To get a better view I go as close to the edge as I dare. Probably 1/10 of one percent of the perimeter has guard railings.  Dying -or at least serious injury- seems too easy.

     Later in a gift shop, I saw a book, "Death in Grand Canyon". It went into detail about the deaths and serious injuries suffered by tourists.  Three years ago a 22-year old did a one-legged pose for a picture, lost his balance, and fell. 
     In 2009, a nine-year-old-girl, resisting her mother's order, "Don't  go near the edge!" did just that and died. They had to use a helicopter to retrieve her body.
          Florida is has more lighting strikes than any other state but this place has its share. When Francesca and I visited five years ago, we looked from the north rim across the abyss and saw dark clouds approaching. A bolt of lighting struck near the south rim lodge. We later learned it had killed a German tourist.

      Over millions of years the raging Colorado River carved our country's most scenic site.  Seen from the top, the tiny blue thread has taken its share of lives as well. Nine years ago a man standing at the edge lost his hat. When he jumped in to retrieve it he was swept away.

      The most amazing story of all, when you look at the stats, it how few people die here. Despite over a million people visiting annually, the canyon only kills about one of them per year. 
      I wish I could say that about Miami traffic.
                                                 Greetings from the Bright Angel Trail


Sunday, September 18, 2016



    Water and wind has carved Southern Utah into a wonderland of colorful rock formations.  I wrote about Arches and Canyon lands last month.  Last week I visited Zion and Bryce National Park (which has these incredible "hoodoo" towers.
      People describe the two, just 75 miles apart, as "In Zion you look up and in Bryce,  down".  Don't say that to the German hikers that are streaming past me this morning. They climb all over
these parks, from top to bottom (Bryce) 

 and ziz-zagging up the stone giants that wall the sides of  Zion Canyon. The tallest are 4000 feet high.
       I'm here for fun and walking long distances doesn't interest me much. In Zion, I hitched my bike to the front of a park bus and enjoyed the leisurely drive to its higher end.  After disembarking, I coasted  down the 9-mile run. Exhilarating!
 An artist's rendering of Zion

                    AND ON TO BRYCE
   When I woke up in the Bryce campground at 5 a.m. this morning, it was a ridiculous 36 degrees outside. Inside, maybe 37.  
  Being a sensible person I shivered over to the park's grand hotel and set up an office. A fire roars nearby -as I write this- in a huge stone fireplace. Ahhh.
     With the cold, the fire, my aching hiking feet, I almost feel like a Utah pioneer. The lodge will start serving breakfast at seven. If it doesn't warm up soon I'll have to trade in my pioneer shorts for something else. 

  Yesterday I hiked down into the park's hoodoo fairyland.

It was a successful adventure as once I got the  bottom, I did not have to be airlifted to the top.

        I'll be in the Grand Canyon this afternoon.  I can't get enough of the world's greatest hole in the ground. They don't call it "grand" for nothin'.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


      WHILE ROLLING HOME  Death Valley National National Park got between me and Miami.  It beckoned me; I'd never been there before. 
      At the visitor's center a ranger asked incredulously, "Why are you here?".  I told him I wanted to sleep in a desert that didn't have Burning Man's BOOM BOOM music.  He explained, "It will be quiet but warm. It's 108 now. At night it'll cools down to 95.  Ninety-five and no Boom Boom". 
   That sounded good to me. He added, "If you get out of your car more than a minute though, you'll probably die".
      I decided to drive on and tempt fate. I had a watch and remembered what sixty seconds looked like.  More outside time than that -before sunset- I'd surely roast like a marshmallow.   

It took just less than a minute to take this picture of myself below sea level.  I thought it would be hilarious to hold my nose and pretend to be "under the sea".  Now, I'm not so sure.
I hope you like this photo. To get it I had to leave the van for nearly ninety seconds. It nearly cost me my life.  

   Finally the earth rotated enough to block the sun. I was the sole occupant of the  Panamint Campground. If you like rocks and dirt, you'll love this place. It was named after Panamint City, a ghost town nearby that was once described as the "rawest, lawless, and most hard-boiled little hell-hole that ever passed for a civilized town".  Reading that made me miss Miami.
   The campground's "No Brand" gas cost just $4.88 per.


At Panamint they make their own electricity.  When their generators burn out they place them by the campground so visitors will have something to enjoy.


If you love scorching sun, endless desolation, and flirting with your own demise, I heartily recommend a visit to Death Valley National Park.


   Glad to have that over with I'm heading east.  I'm now heading to Zion, a national park with cool September weather and spectacular beauty. Yes, campers die occasionally -in flash floods- but it only adds to the excitement.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016


     Two weeks ago I headed to Burning Man.  I went alone, renting a bed in a crowded motor home. Every day I'd strike out at dawn on my bike. I'd gawk, take pictures, and volunteer for projects. Eventually I made some friends.

      The Center Camp Cafe has a performance stage. I helped run it and enjoyed the people I worked with. Like the event itself, our stage ran 24 hours a day with over 200 people performing. 

Below are a few entrants to Saturday's fashion show.

 I heard this guy is a winner 
every year.

On other days I served coffee,

               Coffee shop dish washing crew

took a shift on Man Watch (it guards The Man 24/7 until it burns Saturday night),
 You meet some interesting people, like Cray Krey, when you're a guarding the man.


and assisted the foot wash/massage crew. Your feet take a beating in the hot, dusty desert.

                                       My left foot getting some love

     I missed having close friends around. With no phone service or internet, you feel far away and out of touch. One day I saw a bar with a sigh posted, "Stop here for free internet!".  When I pulled out my PC and gave it a shot, nothing happened.  
    I asked the barmaid for help. She smiled and said, "We have no internet. We're just f--kin' with ya! I guess you're new here".  I was. Contacting the outside world is frowned upon, part of the "live in the moment" thing.

    A few days in I had better luck at the Temple of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Their tech guy had figured out a way to go online and I was able to sent out my first BMan blog and say hello to my family.  
   When I finished I noticed a phone booth next to their camp. In my own naive way I asked if it worked. Aaron (the tech guy) proudly said, "Yep and it's free. Anywhere in the world, five minutes".
He wasn't kidding.       Everyday I'd ride my bike a mile through the dust to tell my wife and kids hello.
    Everyone else assumed it was a fake phone and that I was part of the act. One morning a lovely woman stood nearby chuckling at me pretending to talk on the public phone.  After I hung up I told her, "It's not a joke, it really works".
    She said, "Really?...  I'd like to call my daughter".  When she tried she looked over at me and said, "Can you believe it? I can't remember my own daughter's number".  No one remembers phone numbers anymore, it's a cell phone thing. 

     One theme camp brought a 747 and parked it nearby. They let me join the crew as we turned it into a night club.  To enter you have to pass  through an insecurity checkpoint,

 get frisked by a hot, young thang,
then check your emotional baggage.


How burning man.

Occasionally I'd fly the dust covered mammoth myself.


   Some days I was actually a Burning Man artist.   I got permission from The Artery to set up a studio next to the big guy.  

When people came out to see him they could stop and I'd draw them. 

 The Bad Portrait Studio was a hit; with pen in hand I was part of the fun.


 At night I'd retreat to my favorite bar, The Awkward and Tawdry Lounge. They showed movies, served absinthe, and offered a living room setting with a roaring fire. The theme camp was composed of fifty friends who had grown up together in Sacramento. I felt comfortable there.

  I could go on writing, about the porto-potti that came alive or the man that tried to sell me dehydrated water
but it's time to move on. 
   I'm back in the comfort of my own camper van heading for what must be another fun place, Death Valley. Although they brag about it being the hottest place on earth I hear their dehydrated water is free.

The artist and his fans


       Photographers are constantly snapping at Burning Man.  It's a wonder they're able to see anything without looking through a camera.  One fellow I spoke with had passed the 4000 photo mark mid-week.  I kept it down to a reasonable 410.  Here are a few more before I move on. 
 At this clinic they could determine "who's your daddy" by taking a sample of your ear wax and matching the color.
 I first mistook these sculptures for real birds (a half mile off) then, as I got closer, I realized they were taller than me.

 Cardboard, apes,  eight-feet tall

 The morning after The Man burned someone was cooking french toast


in the embers that remained,

while this Russian lad

           combed the rubble for treasure

 The Lost & Found had an incredible collection of lost car keys.  

 Below, a man chased by a 
dust devil

We waited in line five hours to get through the front gate.
To amuse myself I went from car-to-car pretending to be a 
pea farmer. I asked folks to "Give peas a chance" as I offered
fresh peas. I was soon joined by New York Steve who
suggested, "Chase them with tequila!"  Many did.


 There were over 200 sculptures on the Playa.

 Spread out over a huge area, each invited you to walk or ride to the next.  Touching was not only allowed but expected. I chose to sit.