but the trip involves a very long, maybe four-hour, trip up a very dry hill, to what i call the mountain, a 9000-foot town of cloudcroft, very wet and nice-smelling, and then straight down the other side of the mountain into a valley that makes ours look like a lush green fertile crescent. this valley, the tularosa, has white sands in it, but then we shoot up the organs and come down into las cruces, once more, a place that makes any rain look like a flood. when we got there, everyone was talking about how it had rained hard there, what, maybe a few days ago. they were still recovering from it. it was like, rain in late june, that's unheard of. i said, back in texas, it rained so much in the month of may, they just about called off the drought, said it was no longer such a problem. but back in texas, we have mechanisms to deal with the rain, for example like gutters, or low places called playas, that collect the rain until the sun comes along and gets rid of it.
right there on the road outside of cloudcroft, we saw what looked like snow, on the side of the road, and this was in fact pretty close to the solstice, the longest day of the year and the first day of summer. at the gas station they said it was actually hail, but yes it's true, it's icy and it looks like snow on the side of the road there. of course, cloudcroft is at 9000. they get a little of that every once in a while, and they don't care if it's late june. it's just life in the high mountains.
so we hung around and visited grandma and grandpa for a while, and my sister, and in the morning we shot right back up into the mountain and pitched our tent and kicked back for some hanging around in the high mountains. now unfortunately, the boys didn't quite know what to do: one thought the place would be packed with his friends, and the other had trouble with the altitude and just didn't feel that hot, but come evening we had smores and a fire, and there were a million stars, and i was happy, because i could wake up on father's day, way out there on the mountain. and i did.
the license-plate watching was fairly typical, except that i saw a hawaii, this time shooting the other way when i was out there in oil country somewhere. it might have been the same one i saw a year or two ago, how many could there be? but in general, you don't see a whole lot of new england ones out there in the oil fields, and most people besides the locals wouldn't choose those particular two-lanes, unless they happened to know just how gorgeous that one little patch of high sacramento forest is. it's a pretty well-kept secret, and that's because it's so totally surrounded by the dry stuff. so i saw mostly TX and NM, but before it was over i saw all the regional ones, AZ, CA, CO, OK, LA, UT and even chihuahua mexico. there was some other mexico one at one point but i really couldn't get close enough to see it without being a hazard - i was on mountain cliffs at the time - so i let it go. what can you do? you can't run your family off a cliff just because you're trying to read some exotic license plate. but i could have sworn some pretty interesting stuff drove by while i was unable to actually read it, and i might have had a more comprehensive list if i could have actually got out of the car at some point and read them.
so the boys were a little bored way up there, sitting around in the beautiful air, and my own reaction was, when they said, what can we DO? i felt like saying, you don't have to DO anything, just sit there and BE way up here, and feel what it's like to BE in such a beautiful place. but when i went to collect firewood, they didn't want to help, they were too tired, or too lazy. i indulged them, but then i kicked myself for it, because here they are complaining about nothing to DO. you got nothing to do? get up and make sure you can BE here just a little longer. i collected it all myself. and i had a grand old time, making a nice crackling fire, having smores and coffee, and whatever i felt like cooking.
down by the oilfields, it was sunday, on our way home, and we stopped at an i-hop for pancakes before we shot across the fields themselves. up on the eastern slope of the mountain, where the dry chinook winds come hurling down the slope and dry and heat everything up, there was this one exotic yellow tree-plant, sticking right up there (picture coming), and i pulled over at one point to take its picture. but my camera is not really so good at that focusing on a single boo-berry bush out in the wild desert plain, i'm not sure how good the picture came out. in the i-hop, one of my boys commented on how we'd very likely never see any of these people again. yes, it's possible, but then again, it's the only i-hop in hundreds of miles, and given that, i find it very likely that we will see them again, but it'll be a few months from now, and we won't quite recognize them. i'm beginning to really know all the places between here and there, and i've come to expect that none of them carry real cream for the coffee, but all of them have the flavored stuff, hazelnut or irish creme or whatever, only probably really old since mostly people don't like anything in their coffee at all. or maybe they use up the plain real fast, and they have to just let the whole batch run out before they replace it. in any case i spend the trip drinking coffee with exotic flovoring that i don't even really like. and then at white sands itself, they have pinon coffee which is not even real strong coffee, but at least it's a flavor i can tolerate. so you take what you can get, and when ya gotta pee, you just pull over, because it's just pretty much scrubland all over the place. the oil boys sure don't care.
got home, and our own town seems lush, and green, and very much the kind of place where it does rain once in a while. and, though it's become much more of a typical texas summer, that's kind of reassuring in a way. no snow down here, for sure.