Art by mail: Retrospective


Message on postcard:
Alissa, Michael, and family — Greetings from the end of my road trip! I drove all the way across Oregon, spending a couple weeks east of the Cascades, and then I drove across Nevada and Utah in one straight shot. Now I’m in Colorado, packing up some stuff I left here last winter … after this I’m returning to Portland, Oregon, where I’ll be living in a house with an architect, a journalist, a liquor store manager, and a former touring heavy metal vocalist turned serologist. Since you’re family, you get a list of mini-stories that never made it into other postcards. Remember these! They will be important for future generations of our clan.

  • Cell phone reception is better in Utah than it is at Iowa’s Yellow River State Forest.
  • There are places in Wisconsin where you can stand on a rock outcropping and look down at soaring birds.
  • Indigenous mound-building cultures are greatly under appreciated.
  • Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness has some of the prettiest shoreline along Lake Michigan.
  • Bison will make monster noises at sunrise.
  • I lack the expertise to distinguish between a tortoise fossil and shell-shaped rock.
  • Before camping on a bridge that dead ends into a fence, make sure something hasn’t died beneath it.
  • You can buy figs on your way to Muir Woods, but you can’t park there on a weekend.
  • Most Vanagon owners are pretty friendly; some are too friendly.
  • I found an antique bottle in the desert. It’s for a flimflam hair tonic that contained arsenic.
  • I almost crashed my van trying not to hit a giant rattlesnake.
  • While lying on my back falling asleep, I saw a meteor through the tiny little window on the roof of my van — on multiple occasions. It felt like being in space.

Reviewing this postcard, I see that this is more like a collection of facts and opinions than stories. I’ll round things out with some sage advice. If you spill transmission fluid on your shoe, it will smell funky forever. Don’t try to cook with anything you scrape off the ground at a salt flat. And be careful of the asphalt at Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit. It can crack the glass in your phone.

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