04.06.2003

We camped out at Amy’s this weekend and did nothing but work on the tour materials. I enjoy Amy’s house in the spring. Her artwork is everywhere and there are these linen-like billowy curtains dancing in open windows and intermingling with the tails of the three cats who claim domain here. It’s a house that makes you want to make stuff, to be creative and artistic. That’s probably why we decided to get out of the house and come here to do our work. We went through 25 states worth of an indexed singer/songwriter database. It took hours. I was amused and surprised at how many male acoustic musicians were described as “the male Ani DiFranco.” I told rob that he will always be MY male Ani DiFranco.

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Sept. 5, 2003

There was a solid ten minutes during which time I did not know what state I was in: Maryland, Delaware, or Pennsylvania. But when it was finally sorted out, we were in a Villanova college-town bar full of dim lighting and dark woods, windows of etched glass.

And I’ve already been dubbed “the organized one” because I go reaching for a binder any time someone starts giving me business cards or tells me their name. I guess it’s my way. The hardest thing for me about this trip is going to be finding my own personal creative style. Maybe it means fighting my natural inclination toward practicality and all that.

New York scares me a little and I’m more than happy to delay it. It’s huge and full of people doing what we are and places for them to do it, but not full of very many parking spaces. New York just scares me in general. The first time I went there with Jayson, on the way back into the tunnel to head home there was a disheveled, but not homeless-looking, man walking the yellow line as the two lanes of cars made their way slowly into the tunnel mouth. He was carrying a cardboard sign scrawled with, “I CAN’T RELAX!” on it.

So New York scares me. Yay for little Pennsylvania college town bars.

September 7, 2003

Changing tires and packing cars and hauling boxes – I am my father’s daughter, indeed.

Spent yesterday walking around the Reading Terminal Market with Shane. This giant indoor bazaar of everything you could possibly want to buy: a jungle plant called Heliconia that looks like a fraggle, fresh fish, books made of grape leaves, all sorts of food that rob and I should not be eating.

I love when you’re forced to confront your own stereotypes and realize you are not nearly as highly socially evolved and conscious as you’d like to think. While walking through the market, we followed the sound of a live piano, I, envisioning some tuxedo-clad elder gentlemen like the ones you see in malls and ritzier hotel lobbies. But when we rounded the corner, there was this basketball jersey-clad black boy, freshly into his teens, playing jazz for the market-goers. I was surprised how much it shocked me. Hrm. Take that egotistical notions of social awareness.

What sucked was that, though I got a couple pictures, I did not get the picture I wanted, the one that told the whole story. I wish I was a better photographer, or at least bolder. I dunno. I just feel strange inserting myself and my camera like that. But what I saw with my would-be photographer’s mind’s eye was the grizzled black shoe-shine proprietor at his similarly grizzled stand watching the boy with a smile. I wanted the shot from behind the boy, keys in view, with the shoe shine guy in the background with his wizened and easy smile of pride.

Oh, well. Maybe the trip will make me more bold further on.

Sept 12th, 2003.

New York, NY
New York, NY

It’s been sort of busy in New York. Lots of moving the car so we avoid the street cleaners, lots of walking and figuring out the subway and avoiding the really good-smelling food that I want so much. I think when this trip is over, it will somehow have managed to ruin grilled cheese and nori soup for me. That’s been lunch for two days and will likely be lunch today as well. I can’t believe I’m obsessing this much about food.

We played Tobacco Road in Hell’s Kitchen the other night and might be able to get a gig there, which is pretty cool. Meanwhile I could do nothing but go, “Oh, my god, we’re in Hell’s Kitchen!!!! That’s where Sleepers takes place. This is a real Hell’s Kitchen bar! I want to run out and find that book again right now!!!!” Because, you know, with me, I can have the real bar right in front of me and it just makes me want to book more.

New York, NY
New York, NY

Oh, and with current New York law, it’s illegal to smoke at Tobacco Road. This cracked me up for some time.

Jayson nabbed the camera LONG before we were ready.
Jayson nabbed the camera LONG before we were ready.

Seeing and talking to Jayson again is great. He’s much more open now. We talk for hours, long after rob has gone to bed, about our undying love for journalism despite our alternate career choices, about old teachers. He signed his book contract this week and was inundated with phone calls, and then there were articles in Variety, the Post, etc the next day. I forget sometimes the notoriety of our host

But despite his pariah status, his apartment suggests irreverance, sarcasm, mixed with a concerted desire for self-betterment. I open a magazine and a bookmark falls out that reads: “Every exit is an entry somewhere. – Tom Stoppard.” As if posted by a proud parent like their child’s A paper, Jayson has placed, under a Care Bear magnet on his refrigerator, a recent clean drug test. I am amused when, flipping through his coffee table books I happen upon a truly arresting photo book from controversial, congressionally condemned artist Andres Cerrano with the post-scandal inscription: “To Jayson, from one good guy to another. AC.”

Heather is a pants stealer.
Heather is a pants stealer.

Today he cracked me up. I rounded a corner in Strand, a labrynthine book store that boasts 8 miles of books, to find Jayson, all five-foot-one of him, still atop a gray milk crate he’d used to pull a book from an upper rough-wood shelf, reading a volume about the New York Times and framed in the doorway of the little room under its red directory sign: JOURNALISM.

New rule, the third Heather rule of the trip by my count (rule one, established pre-departure, was no hot dogs. Rule 2, established after a very unpleasant morning-after in Philly, was no mushroom cheeseburgers):

ALWAYS carry a camera.

09.25

I am currently sitting in the living room of the famous Will Schaff. We walked in at 4 a.m. a couple days ago and he emerged through the door, visually everything I expected: six feet tall, lanky but very strong-looking in his torn and beaten-to-hell black jeans and button-down shirt, missing buttons replaced with safety pins in that way that is not goth at all, but purely carelessly utilitarian. The second he opens his mouth, to put in a cigarette or to speak, he seems pure hooligan, street punk, I expect frayed-wire car stereos in every corner. His head is still shaved, but with frequent growing patches that make it look like burned-out velvet – he has tried to do it himself. And then we are greeted by the more uniformly fuzzy two dogs and four cats.

The townhouse he shares with a friend is covered with his artwork and it’s amazing. The room in which we slept was wallpapered with his nudes. Frightening and beautiful. Waking up to Will’s nudes, staring from the walls, amputated, all mid-sentence.

Wasn’t as weird or troubling as I thought it might be and I did not have the strange dreams I thought the paintings might inspire. I feel a little weird about taking pictures, but can honestly not resist. The holocaust imagery is everywhere, the shrunken bodies pouring from the mouths and eyes of his characters, the skulls and animal parts rob talked about … and then there’s the accordion sitting in the middle of the room.

I caught him this morning playing accordion to Deep in the AM. Snapped the picture before Will flashed me a raised eyebrow. Tyler would be so pleased.

And the tattoos are alluring, but distant. I feel weird getting too close, assuming that sort of familiarity with someone whose song lyrics I know, but whom I’ve never met before two days ago. When I get a good look, they are Holocaust names, not numbers as rob remembered.

Today Will is arting all over the living room floor and a pet-hair tumbleweed just blew through, dangerously close to the paint and glue. Collages of his piled bodies and amputated bits of Life magazines. Makes me want to make things. Draw more. Will is chastising rob for not drawing more and getting out of practice. Rule #5 – Both of us should draw more.

There are also little rules of the Will house. I love the idiosyncracies of other people’s houses.

1. Keep the bathroom door closed because the eldest cat likes to shit in the shower.
2. The bathroom sink doesn’t work, so teeth brushing is a kitchen sink activity.
3. Add an extra minute to anything you microwave and then stop whatever it is 30 seconds before the end or it will blow a fuse (rob forgot today).
4. Hang up anything of yours that the animals might have seen Will touch or they might pee on it thinking it is his.
5. Don’t bring up Jimmy’s Chicken Shack (rob forgot today).

September 27th, 2003.

I seem to spend every waking moment wandering through this house, looking at the scraps of artwork scattered, glued, hung, discarded – on every corner and in every corner. On dresser doors and door knobs, covering lightswitches and cat hair. This morning, getting ready to go get brunch with Mary (Christ, 10am leaves me feeling mauled) I run across a series of Shoe cartoons redone by Will.

They’re hauntingly reminsecent of some ghastly sit-com, talking of the main character’s death through lung cancer, complete with a hollow -sounding punch-line at the end of every strip. It was the most frightening thing I’ve ever read.

10.13.2003

Sitting waiting out the digestive consequences of a McDonald’s burger and fries, Thai food and a shot of Bailey’s. Mix, stir lightly by walking a few blocks through Times Square, add a gig and simmer for a couple hours. Ugh. I don’t even think I need to make a rule against this concoction. I am CERTAIN I will never put all those things together ever again.

So I am productive while I wait and have decided to write my first journal entry in some time. I haven’t been writing lately for a lot of reasons. I think it started after the car accident we saw on our way to New York.

While we were driving, and rob was typing his journal entry – including my commentary and a chronological and detailed breakdown of events – I figured, why bother writing about MY perceptions of the same event when rob will do it better, more entertainingly, AND is including what amusing observations and semi-profound thoughts I had in the car while driving and unable to write them down myself? Besides, wouldn’t the repetition get boring for those reading up on the lives of their favorite traveling rock stars?

What’s funny is how I try to tell my own mother about things from the trip only to have this conversation repeated every time:

“So, Mom, insert-some-trivial-detail-about-my-misadventures-here-but-get-cut-off-right-about-here ….”

“Oh, yeah, I saw pictures.”

“Huh?”

“Oh, yeah, read the journal this morning.”

“Roight.”

And then there are some other reasons for my silence … residual hang-ups that are coming alive anew hanging out with Jayson and being surrounded by talented writers all confined in one apartment.

I feel like I’m losing my touch.

I was a good journalistic writer. I am an observer. A collector of details. I can make connections. These are characteristics that served me well in my journalism career, in my songwriting, and in my life. But suddenly I’m struggling and while I struggle I get frustrated that I don’t write with rob’s humor and world-wonder, but I don’t want to emulate him.

However, if he is the more entertaining writer and I am the fact-checker, shouldn’t I just let him tell the story while I make sure he doesn’t stray too far into wonderland? Isn’t that my better-suited purpose? I don’t think I bring enough new to the table to repeat the same coverage of the same events. What is my role?

So while I ponder the future of my literary life in melodramatic and self-pitying fashion, I will do what I do (best?) and give you my observations from the week:

I found myself looking at an appallingly massive housing project in the distance. Its tiny windows and faded brown-gray exterior had the visual effect of thousands of cubicles. I looked at the structure and it was a “project,” otherwise faceless, nameless and meaningless in my life. I did not see its denizens in my mind’s eye any more clearly than a minority blur. I thought of dark skin, of children, of the dim elevators and hallways of the building …

Of the absolute anonymity that building stood for. My understanding of it as a “project” obliterated all humanity from it.

And I started wondering if that wasn’t some sort of sub-intent of the architecture, of putting all those people together in such a way. There is the architectural necessity of building up to conserve space in a city, so of course it’s going to be tall. You need to house a large number of economically suffering people … so why not together and why not in relatively small apartments? But I wonder if an architect or a politician who helped the project into being also knew, counted on even, how dehumanizing the building would be. How its size would discourage people thinking they could master the problem of poverty or even make a dent, maintaining a class in servitude. If they saw those people as a faceless mass and erected a building as a monument to convey the same thing to countless generations of inhabitants and better-off onlookers because it’s just more convenient to house people that way, or because they were just that racist and classist.

I love people – from a distance, when I can make up lives for them after a limited encounter and the clues yielded from a shared subway train ride. There were three older black men who got onto the subway the other day. One limped in slowly with the help of a cane, flanked by the others. They seemed so slow and so tired. Their movements made them old.

The man with a cane turned to his left and quietly said, “Ready on the left?” The man to his left responded affirmative. It went down the same with the man to his right.

And then, with a spontaneity that was shocking, the three burst into a barbershop trio. The cane became a kick drum on the train floor, and hands, snares. They were really very good. When they were done, the man with the cane graciously requested donations from the crowd, saying they had lost their jobs and were doing what they could to make ends meet. Rob and I each handed over a dollar. They blended their “thank yous” into their song, in perfect timing and harmony, never missing a beat every time someone handed them a bill.

I imagined them friends since grade school. They fought playfully over girls in their youth and now their wives are all friends. The trio had gone to work together in one of those city industry jobs that always seems to disappear when the economy gets tight – they had even been laid off together. They sang in church together, on street corners for fun – why not in the subways for money?

And then I think of the woman in the subway weeks ago who looked like the painting. I spend weeks trying to remember the name of the artist, but I never even say hello to the subway woman. Hmmm.

10.14.2003

I met my ex-boyfriend’s secret twin in Brooklyn in the shape of someone rob went to high school with. When Zak Smith, now a New York native and artist, walked into the Orange Bear last week, I had to do a double-take. Aside from the punk-rock hair (and what I later confirmed were not Zvi’s blue-green-gray eyes, but brown), he was the spitting image of him. Same dark hair, same deep-set eyes, same thin lips, same razor-sharp jaw – facial features I loved so much and that – the way firsts do – set the tone for what I found attractive in men forever after. Rob, with his light hair and dark eyes, is a features fluke in my dating history.

I thought I might have been crazy about the Zak thing, and rob had never known Zvi well enough to comment on his facial features. But when Brennan came up from Baltimore to the Tobacco Road show Sunday, I put my arm around Zak and said to Brennan, “Take away the brown eyes. Who is this?” The shock and the smile were all I needed to confirm my own perceptions.

It’s weird when you date someone as long as I dated Zvi, have that person so much a part of your life for so many years and then suddenly absent entirely. We broke up two years ago this November and have spoken a handful of times since, which is a big regret for me. He was on the radio with his band, Cindy’s Basement, when rob and I were driving to Providence the first time. I asked rob to let me pull the car over at a rest stop in New Jersey, the last place we could get 98Rock just so I could hear him talk. He sounded happy, which made me happy. Like I said, so much a part of your life and then gone … and the only way you can keep tabs is to jockey the radio dial and pray for clear weather somewhere in New Jersey.

I’ve always wanted Zvi to see the band and how far I’ve come in two years. He was the first one who ever suggested I should join a band, that I should cover White Rabbit. And he’s never gotten to see it … he wouldn’t come see it … just like I wouldn’t go see his new band.

So I found myself talking to Zak a lot. Just watching him talk and it made me feel really good. His personality and his voice are completely different than Zvi’s, and I liked Zak independently of my associations. Still, it was sort of nice to visit and look into the audience during both the shows in New York and let the stage lights fool me that his eyes were blue.

October 18th, 2003.

The Muse at the Gray Goose is like going to Cheers. Set atop a hill in the middle of a bunch of antique shops, the place looks like Christmas has come early to Londonderry, New Hampshire. That sort of kitschy country comfort like my Grandma Lloyd’s house. You don’t ever imagine it NOT being winter there.

Lucky for us, the cold temperature kept it appropriate-looking. It was so cold by the end of the night that when we sat outside, telling dirty jokes and jamming for the hell of it till midnight, the guitars were slipping comically out of tune. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It was a small turnout for them, they say. Normally the place is packed, but game seven in the New England World Series battle between the Red Sox and the Yankees is keeping a lot of people glued to their tv sets. New Hampshire sides with the Sox.

In a couple hours, I learned more about the people at this open mic than I know about people I’ve known for years, and they all were the most incredible people:

First there was Kim, 44, with blonde hair and creased blue eyes. A tall woman with a sweet, dusky folk voice. She’s a critical care nurse, making good money but thinking about giving it all up to pursue music full-time.

Then, Sue, in her early forties, who rob found breathtakingly attractive and who resembled what he imagined Daisy Duke would look like when she grew up. A few years ago, she went through a major life change and decided to become a massage therapist. She also had never sung on stage because a guy overheard her singing once at a party during college and told her she’d better not ever quit her day job. She was so mortified that she never performed in public, but then made a vow to get onstage by her 40th birthday. She sings and plays wonderfully. She immediately offered to put us up in her house if we warn her ahead of time (so she’ll know whether she has her kids – her daughter was with her at the open mic trying to drag her away and go home. 🙂 )Kim stays with her often to avoid the 45-minute drive back to where she lives. Dave is Sue’s boyfriend. He sang a song about a woman who goes to a soup kitchen with her children on Thanksgiving Day.

Then Chris has her 1-month-old baby girl, Sasha, strapped to her chest in one of those baby holster devices. The regulars at the Gray Goose feel like they own the child in a way because of Chris and her husband, Neil’s, involvement playing at the open mics and guesting with all the performers. Chris even makes her triumphant post-partem return to the stage of the Goose with Sasha sleeping on her chest, no doubt extra-lulled by the vibrations of her mother’s sweet voice. The child never cries once throughout the evening.

Neil, Chris’s husband, is the solo lead guitarist extraordinaire, and nearly every performer asks him to play for them. He plays cleanly, subtly, never overwhelming the performer he’s with. He might leave the stage twice during the night.

Meredith owns the place the cute shops attached and recognizes me from our press kit when I walk up to say hello. She says how she’s surprised to see us, thinking it was a long way for us to travel for just an open mic. I told her I’d heard and read good things and it had been special on my list. They do just music in the space now. They used to rent it out for other uses, but a fire in the eighties made them rethink that.

My favorite of the night, though is Greg. Greg makes me think it is possible to be COMPLETELY satisfied and content with one’s simple and gratifying life.

Greg is quiet, also – I think – in his thirties or early forties like most of the rest of the crew, and sings back up as the third part harmony for a lot of the beautiful folk pieces whipped out over the course of the night. He has a face like a marionette. Happy and surprisingly smooth. He has thin eyebrows that look painted on by Gippetto or something and they raise a lot as he talks as much with his bright eyes as his mouth. He is personable and easy. When he finally gets up to play lead, he charges into a beautiful version of “Wicked Game,” backed on guitar by Neil and on vocals by Chris (Sasha still strapped in for the ride). His voice is incredible. Clear as a bell. His range, heavenly. He then does a version of “Summertime” that brings the house down.

When he gets off stage we get to talking. He’s a grade-school art teacher who makes guitars on the side. Oh, really? Like this one? I begin inspecting the guitar (there will be pictures on the website soon enough). The sound hole is surrounded by the painted faces of women swimming in golden hair. The neck is inlaid with mother-of-pearl Celtic knots and symbols. When I pick it up, the heel of the neck is hand-carved with a Celtic knot.

Then he starts explaining the mechanics to me. The inside isn’t cross-braced like regular guitars, but a starburst of spokes extending from the underside of the bridge, which is also of a strange shape, huge on the low end to allow the full frequency to develop and short on the high end to be the apporpriate size for those sound waves. The neck is mahogany and part of the body is rosewood.

We ask if he has a website. No. He couldn’t keep up with the orders if he did and he loves his job. Where did you learn to do this? From books, he says. Oh, and his grandfather was a master carpenter “who worked on ships in the shipyards of Boston when ships were still made of wood.” He let young Greg play in the shop once he felt he was ready.

He hosts an open mic at a Borders in nearby Nashua and Sue is playing there this weekend. He bursts into Irish accents now and then to imitate the local “Joel” they have at his open mic, who talks that way and always badgers people loudly through their performances about whether they have a CD or not.

And we all hang out outside in the cold telling dirty jokes and playing Indigo Girls and Doobie Brothers and Traffic songs. “We’re almost there boys ….” that’s the one I have to remember to tell people when I get home.

We didn’t sell a single CD. But I guess it’s all a matter of how you measure success.

And I had to smile when we pulled out of the parking lot, and someone was driving away listening to We’re About 9.

November 16th, 2003.

I hadn’t seen much of America before this trip and didn’t have a real good idea of the progression from state to state. But now, I’m drawing little simple pictorals of the landscape from Pittsburg to Loveland, like a combination timeline and topographical map. Rob thinks they look like illustrations of a skin condition.

There is something iconic and timeless about the American cross-country road trip. So much of the highways and the midcountry is virtually unchanged. The farms are sprawling. The kitschy diners and truck stops are still running. And if you find yourself a good classic rock station, which are ever-present and indistinguishable from signal radius to signal radius, time slips into nothingness and there is just the archetype and the rhythm of the road and the feeling of freedom. And in my case, a passing of the torch.

My mother took her cross-country trip at 19, the summer that the infectious guitar riff of the Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” was a permanent fixture on the radio. Mid-way through Indiana I found a classic rock station and the song found me. I called my mother and turned up the radio.

After bedding down at the Naperville, IL house of my old friend Tim Bracken, we set off for Omaha. After Chicago, Illinois is flat and endless, full of lush farmlands and sky that goes on in every direction for miles. We pass a sign for an Orchard Road and I smile when the air smells thickly of apples and cider. And it’s here that I get my first glimpses of the black dirt I’d been hoping for.

As a Maryland girl, my dirt has always been the red clay and iron-rich soils of the east coast. Black dirt only came from the garden store in little plastic pots of heavily altered earth containing a single plant. Telling a Maryland child who has dug in the red dirt all his or her life that there is black dirt elsewhere in the world is like telling a Fremen that there are oceans of water on other worlds – unbelievable. In Illinois I think we are passing a quarry or a coal field before I realize its that rich mid-western soil I’d always wanted to see.

Yes, I like dirt and made a Dune reference. I get to be a little more of a dork because the touring musician coolness is balancing it out.

Iowa is lumpy – the “skin condition” section of my America drawings to which rob is referring. For miles before we saw its near-theme-park construction and grandeur, there were billboards advertising the Iowa 80 truck stop: 8,000 spaces! Iowa’s Largest Truck Stop! Only Ten More Miles! Next Exit! Though I scoffed at all the hoopla at first, about halfway through Iowa I begin to realize that the small clusters of buildings that look like isolated towns are rest stops, and they ARE something to celebrate. There are miles of nothing and then giant signs that have “FOOD” spelled out in big letters high above the establishments before miles of more nothing. They are the only sure indications that you are moving, and not on some turntable driving the same looped section of ground over and over.

The only other noteable thing about Iowa was that we passed Winterset, which boasts a sign declaring it the birthplace of John Wayne. I begin to feel like I am getting the real American tour.

Nebraska is lumpy around Omaha and then flat again for much of the rest of the state. The trees start to get meaner-looking, squat. Like the Depression-era farmers of Farm Security Administration and Dorthea Lange photographs – hardy, tough and frugal. The winds, soil and water is beginning to change.

In Omaha, we stay with a virtual stranger, a fellow singer-songwriter named Kyle Knapp. He is warm and soft-spoken. I like him very much. We sleep in the tiny bed of his grandson’s playroom, surrounded by shrunken furniture that makes me feel like a real grown-up. In the morning, he makes us scrambled eggs and onions, and my eyes surprise me by welling up when the smell conjures images of my grandfather making the same breakfast for me during my childhood. I drink coffee, to shake off the sleep and make sure I don’t nod off during the drive, which also makes me feel like a real grown-up. His golden cat, Mosha (the Yiddish for Moses), eats from a dish inside a wooden holder that has cartoonish cat faces painted on the ends. I do a double-take to realize the face does not belong to Mosha’s protruding body, his head hidden by the cartoon. Kyle begs us to take butterscotch cookies, left at the house by someone during a church group meeting, because he and his wife are on the Atkins diet together. We are in no position to turn down food, let alone good food. With our new rations we set out for Colorado.

I force rob into the one-street town of Paxton, Nebraska because we need gas and it is the first and last such stop for miles. I also just love small towns. When I thought about running away to be a small-town newspaperwoman, these midwest towns were the kind I envisioned. There is a local general store with four-letter words printed on the siding advertising all that’s really important: BEER, WINE, FOOD, AMMO. Though the grill at this place is closed after 1:30 p.m., the proprietor refers us to the Windy Gap Grill and Bar just across the street, so named for the wagon-wheel path etched by the settlers heading north through Paxton (says the back of the menu). I love this place. This is cattle country. There are representations of different types of barbed wire on the wall, and instead of painted borders on the walls and bar, there are examples of cattle brands burned into wood. Real cowboys with their occupational spurs clink and jingle when they walk around the wood floors listening – to my great amusement – to Sweet Home Alabama. We are so north we are just below Yellowstone in Wyoming.

And I have the best steak sandwich of my life. So good, I get another one before we leave. I’ve always been a little sad to come across things like that, things I love so much. Because it means they can be discontinued, or hard to find, or require 1,000 mile drives for a sandwich. Oh, well.I get to have one more on the way home, I suppose. Let’s see, that’s in just over two weeks …

When we enter Colorado, the world gets lumpy again. We pass the childhood home of Glen Miller. I have to hum “In The Mood” for rob to get him to remember who that is. The trees virtually disappear and are replaced with ground-hugging brush and scraggle. The farmland of Illinois and Iowa gives way to grazing land for cattle and horses. The one gas station we see to the side of the road is closed. We don’t see a town for miles. And there are sign for deer.

This perplexes me. Looking around I am struck by the open field and the absolute lack of forest. Where the hell do the deer live? Rob says the houses.

Regardless of where they live, I see a doe bounding up the hill to the highway in front of my car. I swerve, miss it, and leave it standing in the middle of the road behind us. I think I scared rob to death because he was asleep at the time. Whew. That’s all I need is to hit a deer at 75 miles an hour on a road like that.

So here we are and will be for three weeks. My first glimpse of mountains surprises me more than I expect. The altitude and the dryness bothers me at first, causing a tight feeling in my chest, but I down four glasses of water and things start to feel better. By the time we have to sing at 8,000 ft, I’m a regular native.

I feel like I am living. So much in four days when I sat desk-bound for months.

Iowa 80 looks like a carnival from a distance. A truck stop in disguise...
Iowa 80 looks like a carnival from a distance. A truck stop in disguise…
Heather's pioneering spirit.
Heather’s pioneering spirit.
Sculpture at the headquarters of First National Bank.
Sculpture at the headquarters of First National Bank.
Heather riding one of the First National Swans. Lucky swan.
Heather riding one of the First National Swans. Lucky swan.

The Paxton Pit Stop.
The Paxton Pit Stop.
Paxton, Nebraska. Best damned steak sandwiches anywhere - but little else.
Paxton, Nebraska. Best damned steak sandwiches anywhere – but little else.
A lesson in perspective in Paxton.
A lesson in perspective in Paxton.