Monday, September 26, 2016

Tossing a Penny into the Gravity Well That Was My Broken Fold-Out Futon Sofa

There is more to life than passages and departures. It’s just that these passages and departures are so much more acute this year.

No, I won’t write a poem for it like I did for our deceased 20-year-old TV, but this bent and ripped fold-out futon sofa that only folded out so far was a fixture in my office before it was an office. It was the first thing I saw for years as I stepped into my sanctuary/workspace in the morning. If you came to stay overnight with us, this is what you would have slept on. 
Of course, if you leave the door open, you might find yourself having trouble breathing.

It was July 2008, eighteen months after our February 2007 move into our house in Colorado Springs, before I started moving stuff out to the shelves of the just-finished garage, and re-purposing what was then a storage area. Once the basement room was clear, my wife slid a big flat box down the carpeted stairs and assembled the sofa beneath the basement window well. It was there for a day before I acted on my natural preference to have the window area clear, and dragged the sofa to the north wall, where it faced out the door. From there, it pulled the room together Big Lebowski-style for nearly eight years.

Like most furniture you buy at a big-box discount store and assemble for yourself, it wasn’t the sturdiest of things. The frame bent over time, and the fabric was barely hanging on to the too-thin cushions. The first time we took the covers off the wash them, the zipper on one cover broke in the course of trying to get it back on the cushion.

Well, throw a blanket or two on it. What do you expect for $200? For years, until the last Saturday in April of this most fatal year, 2016, we made do.

Before she grew up and moved out, my daughter would come down to sleep on the futon when it was too hot in her room. She even bought the Beatles blanket seen in the above photograph—it was the first thing she’d ever bought me for Christmas with her own money, earned from her first job. 

I would nap on the futon from time to time while grinding on my first prototype novel in 2012. I didn’t use it as much once I really got going as a writer in 2013— I didn’t even really sit on it all that much. Again, though, if you were at my place in Colorado Springs, this is where you’d have slept. Again, this pulled the room together for nearly eight years, until my wife came down the stairs with the red recliner chair, and declared it was time for the futon to go.

I couldn’t argue. We needed to shed as much weight as possible to save money with the movers, and the futon was as old and busted as it was heavy. The cats slept and sat on it more than I did. My daughter only needed it for when she stayed overnight for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we still had the living room sofa for that.

For a silly moment, though, it seemed like a betrayal. I had taken the covers off to wash when my wife came down. Little did my faithful futon know that those covers weren’t going back on.

We had to take the futon apart again to get it upstairs. My wife took it in pieces to the thrift store, and they accepted them as-is. I’d like to think they put those pieces back together and the futon found a new home, but, honestly, this thing was trash. So much was bent, ripped, or flat broken. 

The red recliner did look good, though, didn’t it? It really freed up a lot of space. I took some photos before moving it in.

Yeah. Lots and lots of space. Woo-hoo.

I was looking at my files the other day and noted that the last time I had done anything with my latest novel, The Wrong Kind of Dead, was on 3 May, a little over a week after the futon left my office. I laughed, because it’s no coincidence. Maudlin as it sounds, my heart went up the stairs with that old and busted futon, and that was it for any and all creative output from a room that was once mine.

After losing six weeks to that, plus another month in the Hotel Purgatario, I’ve been grinding through another two months fighting to make this new office with its new layout, upstairs and 200 miles away, my creative comfort zone. I’m almost there. It must be true; I’ve been telling myself this for months now.

Meanwhile, a moment of silence for a piece of cheap broken furniture that pulled a room together, and made it a cozy home. 

Damn this 2016. I’ve had to say goodbye to too many people, places, and things this year. It’s really hard to get past a lot of this. I know it’s not just me, but that doesn’t help, either.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

It Only Gets Worse

In the course of remastering Bleeding Kansas, I came across this scene. I rather like this one, setting us up for the horrors to come:

Officer Dalton pushes his way out the glass front doors. He turns back to us as he’s halfway through. “Don’t forget to lock these doors. In fact, I’d feel a lot better if you did that right now.”
I turn to Angie. “I’ll get the keys,” she says.
Officer Dalton watches as Angie retreats into the office behind the front desk. He turns and walks away across the front plaza. He’s out of sight before the door falls shut.
Looking about the lonely plaza, the vast and empty city beyond, I wonder who or what the hell out there might possibly require the attention of a man with a gun. And then it hits me. Finally, after all my encounters among wheezing, sick people at home, in that cab, at both airports, after watching the streets drain of cars, trucks, and pedestrians, seeing even the Queen of All Cable News facing her mortality, it hits me. 
The world has passed away. As in, “coughed, vomited, convulsed, and died.” The rest of us are just hanging around waiting for formal services to be over, so whoever’s in charge of all these armed goons can tell us what to do next.
Good Lord, Claire, maybe it was just as well for you. I’m so sorry you had to suffer like you did on the way out but, for all I know, you’re being spared from worse. I can only imagine what I’ll find when I get home. Assuming they ever let us out of here. I can only pray Sybil and Jack are together and safe.
I’m sure a lot of people have been praying these past few days. As that guy on TV used to say, “How’d that work out for them?”

I surprise myself with how dark I go sometimes. Just wait until those mass burials get going. Hilarity will ensue. A very macabre hilarity, the kind only a demon from Hell itself would appreciate.

Some of the post-mass burial hilarity can be found “In the Night Kitchen” and “Escape from Dead City.” Of course, for the price of a happy hour beer in your favorite sports bar, you could just buy the books. Buy the German language edition for the cover alone!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Scenic Landfills of Colorado

One of them, anyway. Hey, it’s something when even your regional trash dumps are surrounded by such stark, natural beauty.

Man, we had some stuff. Enough to fill nearly half of our outsized two-car garage. We had tall rolls of dusty carpet from the two main bedrooms leaning in the corner. We’d have to cut it to fit in bags before either one of the local trash companies would take them. The rotten wood ripped out of the upstairs bathroom walls, the cheap framing set up so the previous owners could put sheetrock over the original plaster (yeah, I know), the toilet, the sink, the vanity, bags and bags of lawn waste...obviously, none of that was fitting into the curbside bin. It was all going to the dump.

My wife looked it up, called their number, and all we knew was where it was. Like many in the San Luis Valley, they charged a fee for our using credit cards, so after throwing some of  the larger items into the back of the van, we stopped by an ATM for cash before driving out. 
My wife is looking from the passenger window, so this is facing north towards the distant Sangre de Cristos.

You have to use the zoom on the Canon Powershot to get decent photos of things in the distance. That’s why the mountains look bigger here.

The San Luis Valley Regional Solid Waste Authority is in the middle of some beautifully desolate high country, about five miles west/northwest of Monte Vista as US 160 runs to Del Norte. Just past mile marker 210 you’ll see this farm to your right, and a cell phone tower on the hill to your left. Get in the left lane to turn into Rio Grande County Line Road 44.
“Turn left. TURN LEFT!”

As the lady told my wife over the phone, settle in for a drive. It’s no more than a couple of miles, really, but it feels like forever.

The lone cell phone tower on the south side of US 160 that I used for a landmark after the first trip out to the dump.

The road starts off going south by southwest, then curves around eastward to parallel US 160. The entire point of this road is to get you in and out of the regional landfill, so there are no side roads to distract you, no wrong turns. Just drive, and watch out for injuns. 

Or their ghosts, anyway. If it wasn’t for the power lines and poles (note the distances, they are deceptive) you’d think you were back in eighteen-hundred and something. You’d be looking for the spear tips of the horsemen assembling on the butte, ready to charge down at you.

Me, I can’t help hearing that old Hollywood movie theme that seemed universal to the Indians in old Westerns, that ominous, heavy theme with cramped half-step intervals indicating something foreign and dangerous whenever I’m driving through this Wild West stuff. Such is the price of being older, and weirder than you’ll ever know.

Eventually the entrance to the landfill comes into view, if not the landfill itself. The way the road winds among the small hillocks to conceal the essential ugliness of human solid waste disposal is ingenious. 

Even at the small building at which one is required to stop for inspection, you don’t see anything, nor do you get the odor.

The process was informal, but orderly. A young woman came out to inspect our load. She pulled out a tape measure and took some rough figures in regards to the dimensions. That our refuse was enclosed inside the back of a minivan saved us from getting charged double. Double what? I wondered.

We went indoors and she entered her numbers into a computer. To rid ourselves of old bathroom fixtures and carpet cost all of eight dollars and change. The young woman took our money and directed us to the gate. Follow the signs, she said, and throw your trash on top of the already established trash pile.

So we did. We came upon this. 

The dead animal drop is notable inasmuch as this is cattle country. I can only imagine the horses and cows decomposing on top of all the dead dogs and cats. Naturally, we went nowhere near this place.

Oh, that odor. It’s what the word “putrid” was coined for, the kind of smell that haunts you long after you’ve left its source. It’s the smell of sour gone sour, the kind that tells you you’re going to get physically ill of something if you breathe it too long. I nearly lost it when my wife said something to me while we were unloading. I was not opening my mouth in this place. 

On the next trip up my wife offered me a face mask. I still insisted on not talking when we came to the landfill.
Waste among the waste. A perfectly good child’s ball. It pinched my heart to see this here.

After two more trips and a total of $21 and change, we had cleaned our garage of everything but a few broken down moving boxes, which we’ll rid ourselves of over a period of weeks through the recycling bin. It was a good deal, one I wish we’d availed ourselves of sooner.

The drive out was always pretty. My wife and I admired the wildflowers coloring the area north of County Road 44.

Those are some seriously rocky mountains.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hard (Rotting, Smelly, Carnivorous) Numbers

In Bleeding Kansas, Gitmo GutiĆ©rrez lays out the central problem of life in the post-Final Flu apocalypse:

“I tell you, I understand one more thing Kerch did not. You can’t take on thirty to fifty thousand of the dead with a few dozen people. Not at a hundred per day, and sure as hell not at a thousand a day. We can run and cull herds here and there, sure, but you are always losing people doing this. Always. There are simply too many. We will run out of people before you put all the muertos down.”

These words, like undead chickens, are coming home to roost in my final SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER book, The Wrong Kind of Dead. Meanwhile, browse the site, read some excerpts, maybe buy the books. For less than the price of a happy hour beer, you’ll have hours of gory, gooey, shootin’ and ‘splody entertainment to hold you over until The Walking Dead comes back on.

You could do so much worse. You could be living it. Also, don’t forget:

Just two, three words, like “Groovy kills!” or “Savage fun!” will do it. You wouldn’t be lying, either. Reviews build cred with the Amazon folk. The more positive reviews I get, the more promotion they’ll afford me, the more books I’ll sell, and the more kibble I can buy for my cats. Also, beer costs more here in the San Luis Valley. Just sayin’.

An Unexpected Enhancement to My Productivity

I already knew cats furnished a room, but this is seriously next-level.

I’ve discovered it’s impossible to linger at the Internet morning rage-reading with a kitten sprawled tube-like and tiger-striped across my lap. Typing, however, is feasible, so long as I maintain posture. Little Luna is actually helping my productivity. I don’t recommend lap kittens for everyone, but this particular feline is certainly working for me.

In other news, she’s had her first trip to the veterinarian, who informs us that our girl is nearly six months old and in excellent health. We’ve scheduled Luna’s spaying for just two days after the colonoscopy I’m having the day after my birthday. It’s an odd, if not obtuse way to celebrate a birthday, but we’re getting as much as we can out of the way before the killing cold sets in, which comes much sooner to the San Luis Valley than it does most places.

No way this baby is sleeping in the garage. What on earth was I thinking?

Luna does move a bit as she sleeps. I have to take care she doesn’t pour feline-fluidly between my thigh and the side of the chair.

Our First Month in the Valley of Big Pink, Part 2

Yes, by this point it’s already been two months. Work with me.

As an epilogue to the epilogue of my trip back to Colorado Springs on 25 August, I want to note that the meat I’d purchased at the US Air Force Academy commissary turned out to be the only worthwhile thing. Even then, whatever money I saved didn’t fully offset the time, money, and vehicle wear-and-tear involved in the drive.

Except for my brief visits with each of my grown children, I might as well have stayed home. 

True, we enjoyed the chips we used to have in Colorado Springs. Those six family-sized bags I brought back barely lasted the week. (I hasten to add that my daughter made a surprise visit of her own to Monte Vista, and helped.) Still, those chips were hardly worth a seven-hour round trip.

The biggest, most startling revelation was the beer.

I’m no beer snob, but like most who know the difference between a pilsner and an ale, I can’t bring myself to drink the common U.S. mass-produced beer. My go-to beer was as inexpensive as one could get for a craft-brewed amber ale. 

Interestingly, this beer is not brewed in Colorado. For some reason known only to the taxman, Colorado beer is actually more expensive in Colorado. It’s my best choice in Monte Vista, though. Not only can you not get a six-pack of anything decent in the San Luis Valley for under $8.00, you can’t get this Oregon-brewed beer.

I have been drinking this beer for almost as long as I’ve been in Colorado. This beer helped fuel the creation of a prototype novel, and two and one-half novels after that. Along with whatever my wife prepared for meal times, I called it my “genius fuel.” Night after night, season by season, year after year, gallons of this stuff poured through my liver and kidneys.

I picked up two cases for $12.65 a 12-pack on my way out of town. If this still didn’t exactly pay for the trip, it took a lot of the edge off.

By now, you should have an idea in regards to the magnitude of my disappointment when I popped the top on one of these beers after six weeks of drinking the more expensive Colorado brews.

Some beers are much worse than others.
(Image from Pixabay.)
My daughter once observed that bad beer tastes like rancid apple juice. Here, my once Semi-Official Beer of the Zombie Apocalypse tasted astringent. A little metallic on the aftertaste. 


I have been drinking this beer for years, and just now noticed this.

This was the real climax of Return to Colorado Springs adventure, nearly an hour after my return to Monte Vista. Cute, huh? Like the ending of an O. Henry story. So much for my genius fuel, right? Ha!

I managed to force it all down. And now the lesson is yours.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Meet Luna, Our Fifth Fluffy of the Apocalypse

I swore I’d never get married. I swore I’d never have children. I swore we’d never have more than the one cat. We got Mick. Okay, but no more. Then came Jack, then came Puff. I swore we’d stop there. I should stop swearing.

It occurred to me a while back to give up on the #MondaysCats hashtag. It wasn’t happening. I wasn’t up to making a cat post every Monday any more than I was scheduling anything else for any other day of the week. I don’t work like that. I can’t make myself work like that.

Which is fine. Leave the hashtags for the experts. I’m just taking photos of these cats, and posting them when I get enough to make a coherent, hopefully entertaining narrative.

As it turns out, I can’t even call them the Four Fluffies of the Apocalypse anymore. What happened was my daughter’s birthday, which she chose to spend with us and two of her friends here at Big Pink in Monte Vista. 

It was getting on towards midnight. My daughter and her friends were standing outside smoking and talking, when out of the darkness a kitten runs up to my daughter. She was holding her up for me to see through the big oval window in the front door. I’m told that the look on my face was priceless.

I was sick. This was a just-weaned kitten alone in the literal middle of the night. She’s obviously frightened and disoriented. 

We reluctantly left her on the porch as we turned in, hoping she would lose her attachment to our porch and attempt to find her way home. The next morning the neighbors rang the doorbell, asking if we’d lost a kitten. She’d only wandered away as far as next door.

My wife called the local shelter and learned they don’t handle cats. She was told of a local woman with connections to someone else in Boulder, CO, takes in cats “for a small donation.” She supposedly had an arrangement with a local veterinarian who would spay or neuter cats for $25 a pop. Once she had enough kitties to justify the trip, she would drive them to Boulder, where they would be boarded into a proper cattery, and placed into homes.

I found the arrangement suspicious. The Boulder address— maybe a five or six hour drive from Monte Vista, depending on the route—made sense only in terms of Boulder being the home of the University of Colorado main campus. For all I knew these kittens were being sold to vivisectionists, or others who depend upon the dissection of small animals for their education.

My daughter thought Bella was a good name, but then shifted to Luna, as the moon was setting on the horizon when she first saw her. “Bella Luna” sounded a bit too gothic for an affectionate, playful kitten, but we settled on Luna. History indicates I may very well come up with another name later, but this one seems to be sticking.

As I loathed the idea of cleaning the litterbox for a fifth cat (said cleaning already a once, sometimes three-times per day thing), our original plan was to keep Luna as an outdoor cat. We could fix up the garage, put a small heater in there for the worst part of the San Luis Valley’s bitter winters.

This plan disintegrated by the minute. It was apparent this cat was attached to human company. After going indoors to eat lunch, I got a feeling in the middle of eating and got up to look out the picture window at the porch. Little Luna was pacing fitfully about the chair legs, her mouth opening and closing as she meowed pitifully for yet another group of people who had abandoned her.

She was in very good condition, and it was apparent she wasn’t entirely comfortable outdoors. After my daughter and her friends drove away, we brought Luna indoors for the night. I had brought in the smaller litter box we’d used at the Hotel Purgatario. We showed it to her, although she had already figured out a spot in the yard with soft enough soil for her to dig in. We encourage her to use the great outdoors to relieve herself, but that infamously cold San Luis Valley winter is coming on fast.

After a few fits of rage towards the kind of person who could simply drop such a creature off on a street corner in the middle of the night—I’m convinced now that this is what happened—I’ve accepted the challenge of taking on a fifth animal into the household. We’ll just have to make this work.

Welcome home, Luna.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Return to Colorado Springs: Epilogue

This day trip weighed heavier on my mind than I thought. Believe me, no one’s sorrier for this than I am. Here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4, if you need to know that badly.

It was bright and sunny as I pulled away from my old neighborhood and made my way to my daughter’s apartment. The drive is a little over two miles, hence my indulgence. Even with the hangup at the light pictured in the last installment, it didn’t take more than ten minutes to get there.

Within five of those ten minutes, the sky darkened. At not quite 3 p.m., it was practically twilight when I arrived at my daughter’s place. 

Fortunately, my luck and the weather held for the 45 minutes I spent trying not to fall asleep in the chair while my daughter spoke of her adventures in big-box store management. To be fair, she was about to fall asleep herself. This was her one day off. She said she was grateful I stopped by because it gave her a reason to stay up, and she still had to do laundry.

I laughed. I was glad the three-hour drive was good for something. Of course, she didn’t mean it the way it sounded; she was tired, all right?

It was all right. I knew how she felt. I hugged her and told her to get that laundry done and go right to bed. It was her turn to laugh, to hear her dad talking to her like her dad, just like old times.

Before I left, I had her take a selfie with us. I’d wanted to post it here, but neither of us were looking normal, let alone our best, and you don’t need to see that.

I had two more stops to make before my three hour drive back. The first was to the liquor store to load up on cases of the brand of beer I can’t get here in the San Luis Valley.  Not only the brand, but the price—$12.65 a 12-pack for Oregon craft beer, when, for some reason, Colorado beer costs insanely more than the out-of-state brands. 

In any event, there’s no way you’re scoring decent beer in the San Luis Valley for under $8.65 a six-pack, so this was a great haul.

Costco had neither the lint rollers (four cats necessitates rollers are bought in bulk) nor the cans of compressed air I needed. I got away just in time for it to start raining. Again, luck was with me. There was no hail, and certainly not like the hailstorm Colorado Springs had endured the week before. 
My daughter told me cratered and pocked vehicles like the above Lexus are now common in Colorado Springs. This was the only one that caught my eye, but then, it’s a Lexus, and it looked even worse than in the photo.

I waited for several changes of the light to get onto Interstate 25 from South Academy Boulevard—another thing I won’t do again. The rain got a little scary south of Pueblo as the water began ponding on the road, but I came out of it just before the sign for the Spanish Peaks.
It’s kinda weird, so it must be art.

I saw the sun in time for it to set in Walsenburg. The drive through La Veta Pass was uneventful. I re-entered the San Luis Valley as lightning played about the slopes of the San Juan Mountains and southern march of the Sangre de Cristos.

I had a lot on my mind as I drove. I may or may not talk about it later.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Return to Colorado Springs, Part 4

The penultimate chapter of an #emophotojourno series I should have put to bed a week ago, and very text-heavy. Look, Ma, I coined a hashtag!

Colorado State Road 115 north to Colorado Springs from US 50 rushes you through the town of Penrose before sending you around and up, then down and around the foothills rolling and bumping up against the Front Range. It’s quicker than driving all the way out to I-25 in Pueblo, but it feels long enough. At least I was ahead of the worst of the weather when I got into Colorado Springs.

Still, even as I smiled to see Cheyenne Mountain, my heart sank. This was the wrong angle to be looking at it. 

It meant I had yet another 12 miles to go to the US Air Force Academy exit, and more miles of driving after that to get to the commissary. So I drove. I fell easily into the rhythms of the increased traffic. I had my ID ready for the guard at the gate as I had done thousands of times before. 

It was all familiar. But the closest thing I had to an emotional reaction to it all was a sense of weariness. When I got to the commissary, I noted it opened at 9 a.m. If I had left at 6 a.m. and taken the La Veta Pass route, I’d have been long since done here. Now it was already 1 p.m.

My wife called while I was shopping to tell me our daughter had been trying to get in touch. (I can’t hear my phone ringing over the noise of the Jeep while I’m driving, and generally prefer to ignore it anyway.) I was stiff, tired, and feeling under siege—dammit, can’t I go grocery shopping without people yanking my chain? I internally reminded myself that no one was doing this to deliberately annoy me.

Still, I was feeling hassled on top of tired. I got a nice haul at the commissary, though. After loading the cooler and setting the six large bags of chips we could only get in Colorado Springs into my front seat, I called my daughter. I would meet her at her place for a short visit, but first I had to swing by the gas station.

The gas station in question wasn’t on the base, and was indeed out of my way. My hunch proved correct, however, and my son was working the kiosk that day. The look on his face when he saw me coming around his booth made me feel much better about things. A brief lull in business allowed him to come outside and talk about what’s going on with his life, which boils down to work, his girlfriend, continuing bodywork and mods on his car, and what he wants to do next, of which he’s not sure.

As always, I reminded him he has a job, a girlfriend, and a car. The job could use an upgrade, but the game is his to lose. He seemed grateful for the reminder, as always, and I left wondering if I shouldn’t apply this count-your-blessings strategy to myself. My 19-year-old son is entitled to his uncertainty by virtue of his age and relative inexperience. Me, I’ve been a bitchy old ingrate stewing and railing at ancient resentments when I need to be pushing forward.

My son’s workplace is near our old neighborhood. I decided to spare a few minutes to drive down the old streets, past the old trails I had walked for nearly a decade.

It’s a strange feeling, but just as well that I experienced absolutely no sentimental frisson driving around the loop and past the house where I raised two children, wrote two novels, etc. The overall feeling I had was one of claustrophobia, with all the cars parked along the side of the street. Like going back to your old school, and everything looks so small.

Our yard looked as it always had, no changes save for a new and brightly colored U.S. flag in the flag holder we hadn’t used since 2008. But it was clearly someone else’s yard. 

I’m not at all altruistic, but it felt proper that we move aside to let someone else begin their story in this house. Someone else with children needs to avail themselves of the superb schools. That is, before the population boom overwhelms and degrades one of the finest school districts in the state.

These are just the few snaps I took while blazing eastbound up Research. This development looks as if it’s designed to house over a thousand people. Maybe thousands. I’m lousy at estimating such things. What I can tell you is that what were once vast, empty fields of waving blonde grass tucked between Research Parkway and Chapel Hills Drive are now row after row, block after block of apartments.

This place is going to become insufferable in another four to six months. There will be at least one car for every one of these units. And how many people per unit? They’re going to have to divert some serious money into building schools for all the children who must surely come. 

More to a real ugly point, how long until all of this turns into rundown tenements? Few apartment complexes—especially ones of this magnitude—keep their shine for long.

This much is certain. Traffic on Research and nearby Voyager Parkway is going to be wall-to-wall at rush hour. Exits 150 and 152 on I-25 will become choke points to back up traffic from here to downtown Colorado Springs on one end, and from here to downtown Monument on the other. 

What was once a pleasant, more-or-less quiet north side neighborhood—a genuinely great place to raise children—is on its way to crowded, cluttered hell. This isn’t the only place high density units like these are being built, either. Another mass of apartments are under construction on the corner of Vickers Drive and Union Boulevard. Others are going up throughout the city as I write this.

I feel sad for Colorado Springs. It’s no longer the same place it was two years ago, let alone the sleepy “Evangelical Vatican” it was when we moved here in 2007. The following photo, taken as I resumed driving towards my daughter’s apartment, sums up everything I miss and don’t miss about Colorado’s second largest city.

What I don’t miss is obvious. What I do miss are the sights and views I enjoyed even in traffic. Pikes Peak and the mountains to my right are obscured by the descending storm, but here I see Union Boulevard rolling like a SATA ribbon cable in a straight line over the hills. There is a view to be had from nearly everywhere, especially on the north side where the ridges buckle dramatically before flattening into the plains less than three miles east from where this photo was taken.

I’ve remarked before (and likely will remark thus again) how “Monte Vista” means “mountain view,” but I don’t see many mountains from where I live here. In Colorado Springs, it takes an effort to escape them. You’d have to go downtown and stand behind a tall building.

At least people will have something to look at when the traffic in the above photo fills all six lanes wall-to-wall, and over the hill and far away. That is, until the accumulated smog blocks out the view of the mountains, as in Denver.

NEXT: Epilogue
(all of two photos, and way too much text)