Wind Generators and General Windiness

My car's inseparable friend.

It has been quite some time since I wrote the previous post. No doubt some loyal readers were wondering such things as:

  • “Did Zach just stay in Utah forever?”
  • “Did Zach ever install his carputer or did he only assemble it?”
  • “Did Zach actually, in fact, die?”
  • “If I had a nickel for every blog post apologizing for not updating frequently enough, how much money would I have?”
  • “Is this project ever going to be finished?”
  • “What’s for lunch?”

I apologize first for making you ask those questions, second for waiting so long to answer them, and third for not giving you a single nickel for this very apology. Because these questions do have answers. Answers such as ‘no’, ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘more than enough to pay for the rest of my gas’, ‘definitely’, and ‘delicious sushi with a glass of Oolong tea!’

U is for Utah!

Which ties in nicely to what I was wondering about as I drove out of Utah, very alive and full from a delicious lunch, to continue my amazing project: wind generators. It so happens that I ran across a couple of them on my way.

And behold, the wind generators were spread out before me, as ripe fruit to the harvest.

Okay, it so happens that I ran across a friggin’ slew of them.

You may wonder, were they generating a headwind or a tailwind? When they are all turned up full, they can reputedly generate hurricane-velocity winds. WHOOOOOSH! Just think of how much change this wind farm causes! WHOOOSH! Tote that pail, generate that wind, pitch the council tent...

What was the world like before we had wind generators? What was the world’s weather like with so much less wind? Did we have clouds or only fog? Was the Midwest still windier than the rest of the US?

There they are standing in a row.

Most of the world’s wind generators are located on “wind farms,” huge wind-producing complexes of wind generators, which are also often located close to actual farms. The reason for this is that wind farms, with their ability to generate wind in just about any direction, can effectually control the weather – of course, their direct influence on the weather fades quickly with distance, but the effect is, of course, worldwide (a la butterfly effect). Amazing, what mankind has wrought.

Then I thought about Chicago, dubbed “The Windy City” long before the advent of these marvelous weather-influencing machines. That was a different type of wind, however.

And I felt inspired by both types of wind. Wind. Wind carries the seeds of life from one place to another. Wind makes waves, affecting even the underwater world it cannot directly touch. Wind pollinates plants, carries whispers, lifts the eagle high into the sky, fills a boat’s sails and gives it motion. Wind turns the weathervane of change, and blows the dust from the old and stagnant. The wind completely shapes the unplanted desert, and can wear down even rock with its persistence. Wind.

And wind generators, though manmade, are one source of this wind, this agent of life, transportation, and change. And I too can be a wind generator! I will blow my trump and sound my horn and smack my drum to the beat of a different drummer, drumming together with 100 different friends from different cities and cultures. I will carry the seeds of music to places they have never been carried. I will blow a wind that has never been blown. I will bring music around the world and bounce the music of one man off another’s until all the world has connected their ideas in one big celebratory web of human experience.

I believe strongly that music is a language common to all humanity (one of very few such languages), and is therefore something remarkable and unique. With my Recording Tour of Love, I want to promote inter-cultural dialog to an extent impossible using traditional languages. With the wind of this project, I will blow the world together in a collaborative effort heretofore unseen.

Things like this go through my head all the time, I just don’t often write about them because I’m too busy doing something about them.

“Um…”

What is it, Attractive Girl?

“You know that wind generators don’t actually generate wind, right?”

Yeah, so?

“Okay, just making sure.”

Wind Generators: Not Really Generators of Wind

Soon I was out of Utah and on my way to Fort Collins. I was happy to say that getting out of the cattle region of Montana/Utah/Idaho also put this behind me:

Grisly scene of carnage.

NEXT: Carputer… PART DEUX!

Logan, UT

After recording in Idaho a couple posts ago, the next day found me leaving Mountain Home,

This is the one that puts the "Mountain" in "Mountain Home".

hopping on the highway,

This road is what puts the "ghwa" in "highway".

and proceeding towards Utah, which happened to be a scenic drive to rival all scenic drives.

A scenic scene. A scenic scene, obstacled by a bridge. A place where, hypothetically, deer and antelope play. This is a glorious "essence of road trip" type shot. The bug splatters became pretty intense on my way out of Idaho. Man!  Being a good old Nebraska boy, these images never get old for me.

Soon I was entering the part of Idaho known as “The Super Scenic Part That’s Even More Scenic Than the Previous Part.”

Near all the livestock, the bug splatters took on a distinctly bloody color.  I want a steak right now. A lesson in singular perspective.  Lines converge towards a single vanishing point, colors become faded with distance. If I were a cow I would consider this the good life. Idaho: drive-thru safari?

Soon after that, I was crossing over into the part of the U.S. known as “Mormonland.” On maps, however, it is called “Utah.”

The sign says "Logan."  That's where I'm going.

“These scenic scenes are nice, although you probably photoshopped them all,” says Mr. Yerfulovit in his customary growl. “But you still haven’t answered my question.”

That question being…

“What’s in Logan?”

Well, I was originally intending to hit Salt Lake City, which is large and well-known. However, the only people to reply to me in SLC were busy or nonresponsive, and someone had contacted me from Logan, so that’s why I went there.

So, after entering Utah, I turned onto the highway headed down towards Logan,

Headed towards the valley wherein lies Logan.

whereupon I saw Logan stretched before me like a lion in the sun.

Therrrrrrrre's Logan!

A short drive later,

Glancing to the left. Glancing to the left again.

I was in Logan, whereupon I met-

“What the deal, man?” interrupts the mob of teenagers. “Why you all usin’ that fancy English?”

Why you barely using English, homeslice?

“Whatevs, dawg.”

Anyway. In Logan, I met up with my contact and soon to be co-conspirator, Anthony Aronovici. He had contacted me on Couchsurfing, mentioning that he could play some trombone, worked at a music store, and might have some other musical connections I could record. Sounded like good business to me.

“That’s good business,” I said to myself at the time.

“Are you trying to coin new slang?” asks Attractive Girl, with that one-eyebrow-up look that she does.

Stop asking that! Every time you ask that you cast aspersions upon the authenticity of my neophrasology!

“Haha, good one,” she chuckles.

Thanks. So, back to Anthony. I met up with Anthony and several of the happening peeps he lives with, including Kaelee Jensen. Over the course of eating some delicious grilled cheese sandwiches, I explained the project in greater detail and discovered that a) Kaelee also plays the trumpet, and 2) Anthony is totally excited about teaching English in Korea. Anthony was motivated to finish up some classes which would enable him to do just that.

I, on the other hand, was motivated to record them both. So Anthony, Kaelee, and I headed over to the music store where Anthony works and laid down some fine, upstanding horn tracks.

Obelisk of Strength!  That may not sound anything like Tower of Power... but they did. Actually, "Obelisk of Strength" sounds more like a prog rock band than a funk band.  They would do concept albums about ancient monuments.

You may question my use of “fine, upstanding” to describe horn tracks, but I assure you these tracks, if they were citizens, would be the type that recycles, votes, and writes their local paper. They did a great job.

Thanks for playing, guys!

They also hosted me for the night, and barring the unfortunate incident of a roommate’s early, recurring (and apparantly ineffectual) alarm, my stay with them was nothing short of awesome.

See you in Korea, Anthony! Hope you get over here soon.

NEXT: Either Fort Collins, CO or Carputer, Part II, depending on which gets done first.

Boise, ID

Get ready for Boise! I didn’t record anything there!

“Explain this long post then,” demands AG snippily.

Whoa, what’s gotten into you today?

“Sigh… I’m impatient to hear about further recordings, not just travels. I already know you traveled, and all those scenic pictures just make me jealous.”

Well, lucky for both of us then that my remark about not recording was a gimmick. I didn’t record in Boise, but I did record in two fairly close Idaho towns — Nampa and Mountain Home. But first, an interesting story!

So there I was, driving away from Bend.

The geographical center of nowhere.

I didn’t realize before leaving Bend that there would be no civilization at all for the next billion miles. I had a half a tank of gas, but it kept dwindling

and dwindling

and dwindling

until the fuel gauge was starting to go below E, still with no sign of civilization in sight. I actually found a couple gas stations — more like shacks — but they didn’t have prices listed (and had trees growing out of them), so I assumed they were closed.

I began to formulate a plan: the moment my car dies, call AAA. I took note of the mile marker and got my coordinates from the GPS so I could tell them exactly where I was. It would mean costly delay, but I was planning on using the time to fire up my laptop and get some work done.

I was well below E at this point. Another gas shack was coming up, but I assumed it was also closed until I saw a truck parked in front of one of the pumps.

SALVATION! I feel certain I was literally seconds away from running out of gas. I rewarded that gas shack with business by filling up and buying some snacks.

Interesting story right?

“That story sucked,” compained some of the teenagers.

You guys… what reprehensible vocabulary. I bet you’d like my story if I had sung it to the tune of “Love Shack”… “The gaaassss shack is a little old place wherrrre… we can get –”

“No, that sucks worse,” they agree immediately.

Anyway, the rest of the drive through Oregon was scenic as all get out. Which is to say, quite scenic.

This nothing is the most something-like nothing I've ever seen! On this trip I often thought about the engineers who built these roads.  They were the stuff of legend. Wide-angle lens would have been nice. This vista looked so huge and awesome in real life that I fully expected it to look this unimpressive on film. Now we join that river we've been loosely following on a trek through the mountains. Scenic as heck.  Actually, far more scenic than heck. Let's go in for a closer look. These mountains were to prove my undoing! On the other side of the mountains, having forgotten to put my seat belt back on after the photos.

I was about to safely leave Oregon, when suddenly,

Do you know why I pulled you over today?

I had removed my seatbelt to take some beautiful mountain pictures. This particular officer, unlike me, was attentive to my lack of seatbelt. Good job officer. It’s probably because he is used to all the mountains so they don’t give him a sense of awe which normally causes one to forget one’s seatbelt.

“Ok, fun stories about gas, scenic scenes, and tickets. Now what about the recording sessions??” says AG impatiently.

You’re going to have to change your name if you keep that up, Girl.

“Hmph,” she pouts cutely, folding her arms and looking away.

Haha, ok. So, very soon after leaving the attentive officer, I was in Idaho!

Entering ID.

Wherein I drove to Mountain Home, which oddly enough is not in a mountain. But it is kind of between mountains, so that’s permissible. Still better than Rhode Island. A fellow named Corey Grubb had contacted me via an amazing amount of text messages about the project, and we arranged to meet at a gas station in Mountain Home. He showed up in a car with some friends, and I followed them back to one of said friends’ house. (It doesn’t sound right but I think that’s correct grammar.)

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the Idahovian students.

Wherein we unloaded everything and I got to officially meet Corey and his friends, Anthony Mazel and Stephen Kruckeberg. They are high school students who enjoy making music. Sweet. I set up the stuff and we started tracking!

L-R: Anthony, Corey, and Stephen, laying down the tracks.

I would like to reiterate my previous assertion that cleaning supplies make great mic stands.

This mic stand really sucks!

But sometimes so do … wire bins?

I was always pretty good at improvisation.

After that, I backtracked a ways to my host, who lived in Nampa and who also happened to be a musician with a sweet name.

Um, this is where someone asks me what his name was.

“What was his name,” mumbles a surly teenager, looking at his shoes.

His name was Amadeus DeKastle! Sweet name!

Amadeus, with instruments.

Amadeus did a lot of awesome things for me:

  1. He hosted me, which is of course awesome.
  2. The following day, he recorded all the above pictured instruments for me. Yes, that is a digeridoo (and a mandolin).
  3. He introduced me to joik, an amazing traditional music from the Sami people in Norway, and some of the modern bands which perform music in or based on this style.

I had a great time hanging out with and recording Amadeus, who is also a teacher. He’s a super friendly dude and I’m glad we got to hang out. As usual, however, the hangouts were cut short by my need to be at the next stop.

No one’s asking? Fine. The next stop is Logan, UT!

“Logan? What’s in Logan?” barks Mr. Yerfulovit scornfully.

You shall see, my skeptical friend. You shall see.

NEXT: Logan, UT!

Bend, OR

Bend! Besides being the home of famed cluster balloonist Kent Couch (undoubtedly the first cluster balloonist to fly in a lawnchair from Bend to Idaho), Bend is also known as one of the most scenically scenic places around.

“Excuse me,” interrupts Attractive Girl, delightfully.

Well, it’s been a while! I was almost afraid you had moved on to someone else’s blog.

“Nope, not every girl is like that,” she replies, winking.

You have to stop winking like that, it’s very distracting.

… What was I talking about?

“Bend. And what I want to know is, why Bend? It wasn’t originally on your itinerary.”

I went to Bend because of —

MPM: THE LONG ARM OF RAMON.

— um, yeah. Geez, we had two entire posts with no narrative devices and now this.

I had not yet located a host on the way towards Boise (the next stop) so Ramon very generously bought me a night at a bed & breakfast in Bend, which was pretty much exactly halfway to Boise from Portland.

“Hey,” says the ugly passerby, “did you by any chance steal that phrase about Ramon’s arm from a song by your friend Michael Olson, entitled Long Arm of Love?”

Dang, you caught me. Can I continue?

“I knew it!”

On my way to Bend I saw many scenic scenes. I even, on a lark, decided to follow a sign for a “Scenic Route” which ended up adding only a half hour to my trip, and negligible distance.

Watch for runny noses, next 12 miles. On the way up McKenzie Pass.  So scenic!

A few times the scenic route actually came out from amidst all the trees to give me a view of something, but unfortunately it had started misting.

Look!  The mists of time!

At one point, I knew I was really high up and there was a ridge to my left so I got out and climbed up the ridge…

Just over this rise...

I thought if I just went a little further I could have a spectacular view. At last, I came over the top of the ridge and saw:

Wow.

Ok, not quite so nice. But I turned around and got a decent shot of my car.

Car, by road, near deceptive ridge.

Finally, I reached the summit. It was dark.

Taken from a moving car at night.  Not bad!

The bed and breakfast I stayed at was called Country Inn the City. It was a nice homey place run by two very kind and motherly young ladies.

The Kind and Motherly Ladies of Country Inn the City

I had a bed!!!

It was pretty much like visiting my grandmother.

The following day, after an exemplary breakfast, I was on my way. I poked about Bend for a bit before heading along towards Boise.

Mountains.  I think some of them are sisters (of the Three Sisters). Driving through the bustling downtown of Bend. More mountains.  I think one of those is The Bachelor. There must be something interesting in this photo, but I'm not sure what it is.

On behalf of Attractive Girl, the ugly passerby, the mob of teenagers, Movie Preview Man, everyone who hears and enjoys the final product, and of course myself, thank you Ramon!

NEXT: Boise — where is it and why doesn’t it rhyme with “tortoise”?

Spokane, WA

Washington, unlike Montana, was full of happening peeps. In fact, it was pretty amazing just how many happening peeps happened to be happening in Washington. The first of such peeps was a fellow in Spokane named Steve, who plays a mean guitar.

“How mean?” asks a nearby international student. “Does it trip the old lady and shout at the passing child?”

What a great sense of humor you have, international student. Anyway, Steve, of whom I forgot to take a picture, has his own little music room (about the size of a king-size bed) which is crammed full with a drumset, guitars, amps, and recording equipment. Totally awesome.

“Which guitar was the mean one?” asks the international student.

Um, it’s not as funny the second time.

“Excuse me? I just want to know which-”

Yeah. So Steve and I spent a pleasant evening together recording and listening to each other’s stuff. Steve leans heavily in a metal direction, and he can shred in a way that actually sounds musical! Which is a pleasant surprise because I wasn’t sure if it even could be done. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to work up any harmonized butt-rock guitar solos, but we did put down a handful of various electric guitar tracks.

I had quite a few potential hosts in Seattle, but none in Spokane, and by the time Steve and I finished, it was too late to make a run to Seattle, at least not if I hoped to stay with someone. So, it was Car Night #4. I found an out-of-the-way spot in some incredibly scenic mountains (

Montana's mountains were rugged and dirty.  Washington's were lush and cold.

). It was like a little turn-off had been made for my car.

Probably two cars drove by here during the entire night.  And it only took me five minutes to get back out on the highway from here.

Also, there was entertainment in the form of this sign:

What I love about this sign is that if you read it the right way it means the opposite of what they want it to mean.  Yay English!

This is when I realized several important things:

  • My tour has taken longer than originally planned. This was meant to be a summer project, where I could always wear shorts and get a nice tan. Not freeze to death while trying to sleep in my car. Which I pretty much did.
  • It’s good that I did the eastern half first. That way I could be impressed by the Adirondacks and the Smokies. Then, when I got to the northwest, I could be doubly impressed by the real mountains.
  • The international student actually thought the guitar was mean! I’m sorry, international student — “he plays a mean guitar” is an idiomatic expression meaning that he plays guitar really well.

    “Ohhh! Thank you!”

    Don’t mention it.

    “Sorry.”

    No, I mean… you’re welcome.

NEXT: If a peep is happening somewhere, he’s likely to be happening in Seattle!

Montana

Montana! I’m pretty sure that if it had an ‘ñ’ instead of just an ‘n’, it would be Spanish for mountain. Which is appropriate, considering that Montana had a bunch of those.

I was driving in the vaguely hilly, sparsely vegetated land of Wyoming for a while, then went up towards Billings, and then things took a turn for the west.

“As bad as that pun was, I think I have to give you some grudging respect for it,” confesses Attractive Girl, her brow furrowed cutely.

How grudging?

Very grudging. So grudging that I will require years of therapy.”

Wow. I will endeavor to use less respectable puns in the future.

“You know, it’s better if you don’t use any.”

But I’m an English teacher, I have to use puns.

“Oh, why didn’t you say so?” She looks at me in newfound wonder. “Because in that case my repect is not grudging. Teachers can make the stupidest puns ever and still be pretty cool.”

Yeah, so I was driving along westward for a bit when suddenly (and by “suddenly” I mean “very gradually”) I came upon a bunch of mountains!

There they are, suddenly approaching.

From here on out it was mountains, mountains, mountains.

My First Mountain (by Fisher-Price)

And bugs, bugs, bugs.

Think this is bad?  It will get much, much worse.

Unfortunately again, no one from Montana had contacted me about recording, but I did manage to find a host: one Jeffrey James. He owns some property north of Missoula, whereupon he lives, raises chickens, builds his own mini-golf course, and sells cars. More information about his property here (in particular, check out that mini-golf course; it’s pretty amazing). He also built a tiny little guest house for Couchsurfing visitors to use!

My home away from home which is also slightly away from my host's home.

It was the first time a Couchsurfing host has set me up with an entire building all to myself! The funny thing was that the weather was at the point where the warmer interior of the room was attractive to insects at night, but when the sun was shining it was too hot for them. And there were evidently a few little places where crawly things could find their way in, because I woke up to this:

Which one is their lord?

It was pretty awesome, and I’m wishing now that I would have recorded it. It was constant erratic buzzing.

This dude gave me the mad hookups. I spent the evening eating a terrific burrito and lounging in a hot tub under the Montana stars. The following day I got the grand tour of his property, which is located in beautiful mountainous countryside,

Said beautiful mountainous countryside.

including chickens,

b'CAWW!!

both a limo and a bus,

Limousine, bus, tree.  A still life by Zach Bardon.

and a Mystical Rock. He found the rock buried in the ground when he was running some new pipe or something, and decided he would pull it out and stick it in his yard, aligned perfectly with the highest mountain visible from his property. Ooooh.

Jeff on his Mystical Rock.

And that was that. Next thing I knew, I was headed into Washington.

NEXT: Heading into Washington.