Thursday, February 19, 2009

benton-saline pres day 09

Saline pres day 2009

see for pix

Benton days, cathy for 4, Jason inyo zorka johnnie and rodger for mon night, then ski tues blue skys deep pow, then only inyo, great help, now my second son.

Load up camper, bert in hospital w chf, flown to reno, charlotte taking it in stride. We toil at packing, prepping the camper, organizing shit. Long day. Second spare doesn’t fit, so I leave it, chains are perfect, 2 sets for snow on the n pass., or steel pass? We’ll know when we get there.

Kk arrives 730, good fast trip from sunnyale the landcruiser now in its new home. We party and chow down, and sleep. Frenzy of packing in the morning, but off at 830 to bishop and after a quick shop to big pine, Linda meets us and we head off up the hill.

N pass looks doable, I decide to try it without chains and forge ahead, 4-5 tracks beaten it down, no snow at marble cyn, but 2.5 feet at n pass, sledding down. Meet Kevin fixing cable chains trying to get out, no good, help him turn around, he came in leading johnnie and rodger. Sledding down whipporwill cyn, and out onto the dry fan, the valley spread out for 40 miles before us.

We take mellow breaks, on to willow creek, no dave, into the springs to great greetings from tom “hi there birthday boy” from the crystal pool. Check in with lee and off to find johnnie at checker gulch. Retrieve the bar from the upper springs. On loan from drummer dan. Great place set up barely then to upper in inyos truck for good soak, more people and great sunset. Dinner good, we party, I crash as others go to the lower for songfest.

Up early to yip of coyotes, now im 66, wow, this is gonna be fun. Early coffee (borrow inyos filter holder, forgot mine) and off to sunrise pool to jim Christie, Christine and turtle jim who seem to be a couple, ken and Linda, skip and terry, the usual suspects. I send invites for the potluck tonight, planning the attack. Back to camp to cook the d.o. a pineapple upside down cake, then to snooze, set up big tarp and poptop in raging wind, clouds come in, snooze and the storm blows through, a short storm, “gimme one of those any day” my comment. Set up for party, to upper for a quick soak, the usual suspects are all there, crowded into the wizard pool. Dave gives me bday present: the wizards hat, now I am the new wiz, a petroglyph rock he made, and an elkhorn pipe with mother of pearl plug.

We arrive to find the party started already, more usual suspects, Kenny b, timbo, silver bob and michelle, major tom, a great gang, oops theres garbage mike pulled in, he has his dick nose down in the crotch and we hug and laugh, thank god he’s over his snit. Fire up the barby but that’s gonna take a while, so I fire up the big stove and just lay the turkey and beef on there, smoked to perfection in harry’s coffin smoker in benton.

The banter begins and stories continue, all great storytellers, and strange tales of the valley, the guy with a 2wd d rental exploder who came in without chains, and couldn’t get out s pass, tried lippencott, put holes in the oil pan, blew the engine, and hiked 10 miles to the springs, guided by gps, knocked on lees door at 3 am and he set him up in the nps trailer for the rest of the night. Millers came in (hertz told him to get the vehicle to a paved road, not closed and they would take it from there.) $200/hour later they were towed out and on their way to lalaland. They read the nytimes article on saline and gave it a try, in bad conditions., oh well they learned the hard way, maybe word will get out that its not an easy place to get into.

Feed up, great smoked turkey and tritip, skips beans, other assorted dishes, great conversation, wine, more tequila than needed. Introduce kailen and inyo as my sons. My minions, mymadons or whatever. Inyo is pleased to be the chauffer. They go off into the night to shoot propane bombs, and dave and johnnie and I cruise to the lower, play guitar, sing, leave chair hidden and with a last chorus of pancho and lefty, with Barbara on dobro and chris on mandolin, we fade into the nighttime. Rodger and I put in some fire time and im out. Dog bark at 3 am, coyote bait, back to sleep with 2 bags over me, cold, dawn is clear, and another perfect saline day begins.

Wake slowly, no soak but great sunny morning, no w word, visitors come and go, ken retrieves his chairs, we talk of the desert and events to come. I write and draw a transect of the saline geology, following the pattern of the owens valley one, and put all the geology on one view. snooze and banter and wake again to the call of the golf game, time to head on up with inyo-choffeur, I bring chair, golf club, cooler of beer, and time to party. People have come outta the woodwork, we party on with the best of the best. Sign up, get card, get numbered ball, pencil and saddle up with a team: ken, party favor with a full bottle of Forestville merlot, taking straight shots outta the bottle. Wild man. We spot for the long 3rd hole, then kick off our round. I flub the first shot into the rocky desert pavement, pissed, dump my pack and sunglasses. And run into rough territory, finally get out into the fairway, a narrow gulch, festooned with low desert holly bushes. Another shot and im on the green, putting into the circle of rocks that is the hole. I yell at ken to pick up my pack, and he does, but neglects to note my sunglasses sitting on top and they are lost. I can’t find one lens after my first shot, so I look for a while to no avail, every rock and piece of sand a mosaic, hiding everything.

We play on, party favor is getting fucked up, but he has some good shots, we keep moving, and spotting, giving us a chance to savor the view, the picket fence, snowy heights of the inyos, scanning south to s pass, and hunter mt, and then around to the saddle of steel pass, the saline range and long low slope of the volcanic ridge of black mt. Groups of people scattered all over the fan, rocks and gullys hiding and revealing a sizable crowd of 50 or so golfers on the same course. Many with beers in hand and great costumes, ken has a huge bow tie and shorts and that’s it.

Finally finish up with a couple of good shots, and near miss putts. We crowd around the final hole for the shoot off, two guys at 15 for 5 holes. Pretty good for a bunch of non-golfers. Im a bit wiped, so inyo shuttles me down to camp into another session with garbage man, then incoming jeep with timbo, solvi, Kenny b and Lorenzo, again without pants. We party down and have a great time with some bloody marys, finishing the vodka and eyeing the tequila, saving it for later.

They leave in a flurry of insults and banter, we all take it in stride. I snooze until the return of the gang, kk has hiked peace mt solo, inyo is partying with the santa cruz gang, found his old friend tito from southlake tahoe and we go on and on telling stories and cruising. David comes by with the long white beard. He was at fish lake hot springs when I was giving tours of the sump to the locals in Benton.

Dimming of the day, sun down, rumors of storms coming but it all is clear here, the famous saline valley bubble. Shunting the fronts to the south and north. We revel in our special place, hanging around the fire looking at another evening of social music around the fire. The bluegrass band plays with rodger on bass, and we sing along, banter about, pass the tequila and jagermeister bottles and generally have a good time. I am still tickin after a double nap day, david sits next to me and I play along for a while, try knockin on heavens door, to no avail, and finally fade into the night. Stashing my chair behind the library for the game tmw. Sleep well, dreams of raging storms swirlinig in my head, but wtf? I have no schedule, I can stay a few more days if steele pass gets snowed in.

Up again and attem, laze around camp then head for the lower soaks a good shit in the shitter, festooned with drawings of burros and desert holly. People are going slowly, I soak in the sunrise pool, get good and warm, then head for the noise of timbos voice and camp. We sit around and banter, solvi is there, Lorenzo has finally put pants on, Kenny shows his balls, and terry goes into a long soliloquy about how mens dicks all look the same, and their balls are really different. Lorenzo recalls touch and go harry’s daughter dressed as a nurse and going up to johan at bat and wrapping his dick with elastic tape. To the great entertainment of all. Skip gives a call for omlettes and we troop over, elanor the wiener dog lying in the sun on the sisal rug, terrys mom hanging out sitting on a pillow, timbo, hairy beast that he is, presiding over the crowd. Skip appears in the door of the camper periodically with omlettes for all, with potatoes. He was cook on merchant marine ships and knows how to dish it out.

Over to pay respects to Christine and turtle jim at their camp, nestled in the trees by the burro spring. Nice conversation to catch up with Christine, still raging in pioneertown, and living the good life of a dual patent holder for amgen retired at 55. leave the calendar from hotel congress for jim macey, get a buzz,I take my leave and head back to camp, johnnie takes the d.o. to timbo, and kk and inyo are practicing throwing the softball, I duck as I pass under the line of fire. Fire up the generator and write this, now off to preside over announcements at the ball game in my elvis outfit with top hat.

The parade has started, flags waving, loud music, cheerleaders in skimpy outfits, uniforms of lower springs skins-in red, and upper springs misfits in black uniforms. We get in the mood with banter, greetings of old friends and new, inyo has backed his truck up to the spectator line and we mount chairs on the bed, looking out over the scene. Christine is in her black whip woman outfit, I have my red pimpdaddy coat on and elvis wig, and tyvek jumpsuit. I fire up the waist loudspeaker, and am ready for action.

I get the lists from each coach and with great fanfare take center stage and introduce the players. “And its darrel the gray at shortcock!” comes spilling out, each person with a different characteristic. All characters. The teams assembled, we sing the national anthem, the star strangled banana, with great gusto, I shout “Play ball” and we are off to another mayhem of long shots, short shots, cheers for both sides, the skimpy cheerleaders lurking in the background, no flashing the batters, the audience well-lubricated, great comardarie, like a big quagmire of whirling bodies, costumes, sizzleing balls and always cheering and shouting. Mike the garbage man is there in his dicknose outfit, picking up trash, with a safety vest on that says “business is picking up” on the back. The upper springs springs ahead 10-4, but the lower closes the gap. A ferocious double play happens right in front of us at 3rd base, with one runner caught off base, and forcing another out coming in. great arguments, kicking of dust at each other, all in good clean American fun. At the end the upper has it by 6 points but not after a big comeback from the lower, michelle parades the score in front of us, yelling “more steroids, more steroids”.

The sun is in and out, the air cold and freezing with a slight wind, but enough sun present to keep us from diving for cover. A big storm is coming in tonite, with 10 feet of snow predicted at mammoth, and snow levels to 3000 feet, and people are getting antsy about getting out. We all agree steele pass is the answer, the lowest at 5000 feet, and make plans for the next steps toward leaving. Already a caravan is headed to the south pass, the preferred route.

I snooze then get inyo to give me a ride to the upper for a raging potluck and bonfire and long soak with a crowd in the pool. The santa cruz ravers have found a nice hollow to party in, shielding us from incessant techno beat and their shouts and screams and piddly fireworks. I blow off a couple of mortars in retaliation.

Back to camp on garbage’s tailgate with tom and Carolyn, to find a party happening, newcomers also ariel and steve and her precious dog, guitars out, fire blazing, and good times. I play and sing and Barbara and chris come by and sit in, david brings his guitar and steve the ukelele man holds forth with his special brand of craziness. It is tiresome, tho and im ready for bed, the storm is coming in, we can smell it, wind picking up and I bed down in the disheveled interior of the camper and zone out with earplugs against the din.

Awakened by the pitter patter of raindrops on the roof, and emerge to find the place closed down, no mts visible, fog hanging in the valley and stuff to be organized. Kk and johnnie come out too and start packing for the steele pass exodus. I consider going with them, but after packing, realize that that would be stupid, wet and cold, possible chain action, so they go off up the hill, and I settle in with the gear all packed and ready to go tomorrow.

With the top still up, I’m mobile, free to roam, following in g mikes footsteps. Down to the lower and hang with skip, terry and the crowd there, then off to the sunrise pool for a soak, timbo holding forth and a great crowd of the leftovers, now the real usual suspects. Stories rebound and twist and turn, the banter is excruciatingly funny, and Kenny b gets the banter blue ribbon for outrage.

Head to the upper springs, and find Barbara and chris snuggled in bed in the tp, so I crawl into the sack in the camper and have a great snooze. They make getting up noises and fire up the stove, I bring out my terry wright perpetual beans, now with a big chunk of pork init. They break out leftover gumbo from the potluck and we chow down, watching the clouds and sunlight play on a fairytale scene… huge mountains, snowcapped peaks, vast valleys and always the springs with palms and inviting hot water.

Back to the lower for more soaking and visiting, Dotties birthday party is in full swing, with lenny and rodger singing, presents opened, possibilities for the evening emerge to settle on a potluck with music at ken and lindas camp down in the arroweed. I start out with a snooze parked next to their camp, ken comes out and rousts me, with promise of fun, food and great people. Rodger brings the bass, and lenny plays great old tunes, I gotta learn from him. Rodger has some really funny tunes and we all laugh along, while munching delicious chicken casserole, cheap box wine, and I get the seat of honor in the chaise lounge, with my feet to the fire.

I finally cash it in, retreat to the camp in checker gulch and find that the coyote has found the garbage sack and strewn bits of aluminum foil, cans and paper all over. Must have been delicious to him. Settle in for the evening, snoozing and listening as the breezes flutter the flag like soft waves on a forgotten beach.

Up with the dawning of another perfect saline day. Pick up the moop strewn by the coyote. Packed and ready to go by 8, after goodbyes to old and new friends bump up the road to steele pass following lenny, his first trip over, I catch up and tell him a bit about the route and we agree to keep tabs on each other. A dusting of frosting snow on the pass, but the road is clear, especially the side tilting switchback to the summit. The last chance range is shrouded in clouds, coming and going and I burn some megapixels, wishing I had a decent camera, an slr, lookin at a Nikon d90 for a grand.

We survive the rocky stair steps, with lenny being very careful. I blast right through and return to tell them to take the bikes off the back, they and the bike rack have been hitting bumps and would surely be badly damaged in the steps. On a roll now down to the dunes for lunch in the chair, waving at lenny as he and friend pass by. 3 figures silhuetted high on the dunes billowing like huge waves, etched against the sky with a singular splot of cloud. More mega pixels.

Cruise over the pass into big pine, find linda’s car but no Linda at aleshias, leave a note and head to bishop for buffulo berger and gas and la times then head for the barn. Sleep for 2 hours, then up to a dinner of b burger and an early crash. Im not skiing tomorrow, too wiped, so up early, talk to Christie, but win is sick, hes not skiing today, I kick back and putter, unload the truck, visit charlotte to hear bert is ok, and will be released form the prison-hospital in reno tmw.

The day passes swiftly, and I take a sunset cruise to adobe valley in the landcruiser, refeeling all the familiar quirks of driving this tank , low gear ratios, noise, but the radio works and im back in gear with my old truck, now 25 years and 180,000 miles down the road.

Back to talk to mark, busy as always, may come up Friday night. We talk of the solar developments in the desert, basically total loss of habitat over areas of 45 square miles and more for each project.

Watch constant gardner, not really the thriller the book was, but the projector and sound system work great, giving me a huge image on the ssu screen.

Another early rise, with stimulation and coffee also, Darlene calls and we make a movie date for Friday. Im planning on leaving sometime over the weekend, but no final date yet. Big bkfst and off early to mammoth to ski the perfect day on the mt. Great time with riders, skiers and a run from the summit down unbroken powder slopes. I fall and have a hard time getting up, feeling the elevation, and stick to the groomers.

Back to angels for a great lunch meatloaf sandwich and a beer, set up for the ride back to Benton. I’m tempted to hit the primo hot spring, no one would be there today, but pass on through.

Head across the barren moat of the caldera, and just getting steam up the grade to wildrose summit when the truck feels a bump and gets airborne for a minute, I white knuckle the wheel straight, wtf? Some thing happened, there were no bumps in the road. I get out and look at the front and realize the 60 lbs of steel framework that holds the 2nd spare on the front and the two hi lighter searchlights are not fastened to the carrier on the front any more. Shit, the pin must have vibrated out and the whole thing went under the car at 60 mph. I pick up the pieces, wondering how I could have prevented this destructive event. It looks like there is no damage done to the tires or under carriage, I hate to think what would have happened if the spare tire had been on there. I could have flipped at that speed. Oh well another painful expensive lesson learned, check the pin before you drive.

I see harry working on tarring the cracks in the road and tell him, he is impressed. Roll home, clocks are awry,the cell is 1 hour fast, maybe still on Tucson time, but I thot I had reset it. Out to snooze for 2 hours and on to finish this.

Mark calls and hes coming up tomorrow for potluck, ill just have to make some calls. Oh well.

Copyright 2009, terry wright
3530 words.

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