Virtual Workplace: Back in Ashland

Today the Electronic Nomad is working form a perch above the Ashland Meat Company @ Cross Brothers Grocery. I have a brilliant view of the tracks along Railroad Avenue. My eyes and ears enjoy the sounds of each passing Amtrak and CSX train, and my stomach growls as I think about the sandwiches they are fixing downstairs, and the Baltimore & Ohio Roast Chicken they’re cooking across the street at the Iron Horse Restaurant.

The next time you’re tooling down I-95 between DC and Richmond, get off at Exit 92, head west to Railroad Avenue, turn left and park. Have a meal. Spend a few hours here. Spend a day. I guarantee you will be glad you did.

Sno-jave

An uncommon sight in the Mojave National Preserve: snow, in the desert, and down below the 3500′ level.

As we drove, I explained to Aaron the difference between the “high deserts” and the “low deserts.” That difference was never starker than the week of December 23-30, when the demarcation between the two all but matched the snow-line.

All of which was a poignant reminder that the desert is not a single, simple climate zone, but can and does encompass a wide range of micro-climates as altitude and geography change, sometimes within a mile or two. Within each of these zones live varied but surprisingly diverse and and rich ecosystems camouflaged by what appear to the common observer to be desolate landscapes.

Of course, I am horribly biased: I do love the desert as  much as I love the seashore, and the ache to live again in drier climes grows in me daily. Is it the Wandering Jew in my soul that misses these scenes? Does something inside of me yearn for Sinai and Galilee? Or do I simply treasure the solitude and the chance to commune in quiet with the Infinite, far from noise, crowds, and fog?

No matter. I will be back, and right soon.

Sunday on the High Plains

Early Sunday morning in November on Santa Fe Avenue in La Junta, Colorado. I have only stepped off the train for a moment, and had to capture this.

I love train travel like no other means of transportation. As I get older, though, I find myself wanting to stop and spend more time in the places I pass through.

In the introduction to Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey opines that in some places time passes slowly, and that all time should. I suppose that is why I find myself of late drawn to places where the hours meander languorously rather than sprint furtively.

I will be back to the high plains of Eastern Colorado, I know, but at some point I’d like to come in my truck and stay awhile. I’ll bet the biscuits are warm and flaky at the Copper Kitchen, that the espresso and banana bread a delight at The Barista, and that there are delightful folks here as well.

Grapevine Canyon

I pulled off of Interstate 5 at Grapevine looking to see if I could find history. To my delight, I found it, almost hidden, all but forgotten,  and ignored by tens of thousands who drive past it each day.

This, from the mouth of the Grapevine Canyon in the San Joaquin Valley, is a forgotten vestige of what was once the main highway between northern California and southern California: a two-lane road winding up Grapevine Canyon to Lebec, then over and along a series of ridges until dropped into Castaic north of Los Angeles in a tangle of descending hairpins.

Perilous in the best of times, any kind of seasonal weather made the road treacherous if not vicious. During the Depression, there were sections of the road that had a “passing lane” that could be used by cars coming from either direction, with what in hindsight were predictable results. As a little girl, my mom had a friend whose father was a California Highway Patrolman. He used to enthrall their group of friends with horror stories about the accidents he saw along what was then called The Ridge Route.

The evolution of America as a nation over the past three centuries has been enabled by transportation links, from the Baltimore Pike, the Cumberland Gap, and the Erie Canal to the Oregon Trail, the Transcontinental Railroad, Route 66, the Interstates, and, what was arguably World War II’s greatest legacy, the most extensive civil aviation infrastructure on the planet.

Too many of those stories are on the verge of obscurity. This is unfair. They deserve to be told, and heard, by a generation that takes such links for granted, if for no other reason than to better understand the nature of the sinews that hold our naturally centrifugal country together.