health care, road trips, tech talk, occasional rant

mouse in the house!

I’ve returned from exploring Marble in the gathering dusk.  I’m back at the campsite sittin on my cooler messing around on this very laptop, probably working on this very blog, when I catch a movement out of the corner of my eye, and EEK!  it’s a mouse!! in my van!!! In my imagination this cannot be just a plain old mouse, rather it must be some kind of magical wilderness rodent, it must be a jumping mouse otherwise how the hell did it get in here?!

It sure looks like a plain old mouse – gray and skinny … from a little web research I don’t think it’s a pocket mouse because it’s too big and I don’t think it’s a kangaroo rat because its hind legs aren’t bigger than its front legs, so I don’t know what it is, but having it in my van freaked me out.

[days later: it was just a regular f–ing mouse, such as you might find at a campground a half mile from town, where people basically live while visiting the town.  No magic jumping powers.  There has to be some kind of way in and out of this van in the undercarriage.]

So my relaxing afternoon was not relaxing after all.  I chased it to the back of the van, took all my storage out to try to find him.  All in all I made quite a ruckus and got myself in a big dither – but it was a big FAIL on getting the mouse out.  I now know that my whole model of what the heck was going on was wrong,wrong,wrong, but this didn’t become clear for a couple of stressful days.

These critters are nocturnal, you know.  It woke me up at 2 in the morning with its busy bustling around.  The van is pretty tight in general, but the channel where the electrical wires run from the inverter right behind the drivers seat to the various 120V items in the back of the van is unsealed, and that’s where the little f—er disappears whenever he needs to.

Sunday

Another tour of Marble.  I really love the actual marble strewn carelessly about everywhere, but that’s about it.  The townspeople are not what I would call welcoming.  I was pretty un-charmed by what little I interaction I had with them.

So, out of Marble, up and over the hill, through a succession of valleys, till I round the corner in one steep valley and there is a gigantic coal mine!  The coal mine continues for 3-4 miles, until the little town of Somerset, whose welcome sign says “Coal Mining Town Since 1896”.  And the funny thing is that it really is a mining town – noticeably different from every other little town I drove through in Colorado.  Suddenly the wide road got narrow and windy with crappy little wooden houses crowded right up to the road, just like driving through a West Virginia coal town!  This is not a compliment.

After that the valley opened up a very prosperous little agricultural zone.  I made my best decision of the day, to stop at this orchard store, which turned out to have a little restaurant with breakfast burritos all day, tomato salsa made ten minutes ago, coffee, wifi, apricots and pears from their orchards – awesome!  Delicious Orchards near Paonie, CO if you’re ever out that way.

The valley kept getting bigger, and soon I was on US 550, the major north-south thoroughfare for the west side of the state.  Drove through boring Monroe to make it to Ridgway, and woo!  I’m here.

Here being Orvis Hot Springs.  This and Pagosa Springs are my favorite hot springs anywhere!  If only it were closer to where I live.  It’s a nudie place.  There’s a main building with showers and a kitchen and a couple of private tubs.  You have to wear clothes once you enter the building.   But once outside, there is one big pool, a couple of smaller pools, one very hot small pool, lovely grass to hang out on, and a sauna.  The oddest thing is that there is a smoking pool!  It’s off in a corner, with a couple of industrial-strength ash collectors, where the smokers can indulge their unpleasant vice and have a healthy soak at the same time!  There is a tent camping area, but car camping is just the parking lot.

Monday

After a morning wifi orgy and a soak and free coffee with the brownie I got from the orchard yesterday (I’m so smart sometimes!) it was time to tear myself away.  I had quite a pleasant breakfast in a swishy little cafe in Ridgway.   Ridgway seems like a pretty cool town that I could get used to.  I stopped at the hardware store to buy a non-killer mouse trap.

Very pretty drive over the mountains to the west, along the not very wide or straight road to Telluride.  I’ve been on a lot of such roads, but most do not have BMWs and Escalades screaming down them.

After the turnoff for Telluride things got calmer.  Colorado is such a pretty state.  It’s probably a little greener than usual because of the rainy week we’ve had.  SR xx to Dolores was quite steep and dramatic.  I know from previous trips that Dolores/Mancos is pretty wide open and flat, so as I was coming down the final valley I was looking for the transition.  It was a quick transition.  Ten-ish miles out of Dolores I was still in a narrow, high-walled canyon, four miles later I was in the plains!  Not many campsites around here so I decide to press on to Utah.

I curved around nondescript hills and dales until about the Colo/Utah border when the road straightened and went arrow straight across the gently rising plain to Monticello with the excellent Abajo Mountains behind.  My campground was listed as five miles off the highway.  After my bad experience in Montana I was a little worried, but this time it was a good paved road following basically the same straight line I’d been on for the last 30 miles.

The campground was in scrub oaks and aspens.  Kinda pretty, but it felt cramped to me.  The campground host has a mean dog and seemed kind of sketchy to me.  I didn’t particularly dig it here.  I think the rodent has gotten into my head … as well as my van.

About 2AM my nocturnal companion came out.  I caught the little f—er twice and still didn’t get rid of him! This is crazy. The funny little gray plastic box trap actually worked!  First time I simply opened the van door and dropped him outside and hoped that was the end of it.

No so.  15 minutes later I had a mouse in the trap again.  Same mouse, different mouse, who knows?  I think same mouse.  Anyway this time I put the trap with mouse in it in the tupperware I carry around and put it outside.  I cracked the lid a little because at this point I still did not want to kill the little guy.  I just wanted to study it in the morning and let it go its merry way.  Sounds pretty dumb to write it now, but that’s what I did.

Tuesday

Opened the tupperware in the morning, and no mouse! There were bite and claw marks around the lid, so it forced its way out to freedom.  I am a pretty incompetent mouse remover … I shake off my gloom about all this and start my day.

Coast down the hill back to Monticello, which might be my favorite Utah town after Moab … and I guess Logan.  Most Utah towns are a little too Mormon-y for me, like there’s a polygamy cult over the hill or something.  Basically the whole Mormon thing just creeps me out.  Anyway … there was an excellent little hippie cafe with wifi where I hung for a couple of hours doing my planning thing.  I decided to use one of my extra days to make the up and back trip to the Needles, the southernmost of the three access roads of Canyonlands National Park.

It was an OK day, but I can now say been there, done that, don’t need to do it again.  There were plenty of classic Utah crazy rocks, but I will see plenty of crazy rocks in the next few days.  The other Canyonlands road – Island in the Sky – is way, way cooler.  Much more dramatic to be up there looking down here.

The drive is quite nice though.  Coming back, there are a few miles of wide-open spaces, huge mesas and buttes, a lot like Monument Valley, then a narrow canyon full of cottonwoods closed in by steep cliffs – lots of petroglyphs – Newspaper Rock being the headliner.  Then climb out of that canyon back up the side of the Abajos where you leave the desert and are back in green country, oaks and pines and aspens and some other scrubby thing that was having an early autumn, peppering the hills with yellow.  Drove right past last night’s campground back to Monticello.

Back to this morning’s cafe; I think this is the first time I’ve eaten two restaurant meals on one day on the whole trip, and they were both at the same restaurant!

Tonight’s campground is really nice, much better than last night’s.  This is opposite of what I thought from their web descriptions, go figure.  This one is 12 miles south of Monticello on the main north-south road, up on a little promontory, with an excellent sunset, interesting little cliffs and a feeling of spaciousness.  woo!

I lay out my traps and prepare for another night of matching wits with a little rodent … FAIL again.  I think the little smartie has figured out the plastic box – time to escalate!

Wednesday

Up again, woken by little rodent noises, from about 3am to 5am.  This is not satisfactory.  I’m laying there reading, trying to get sleepy, and it crawls around the edge of my bed onto my sleeping bag and stares at me for a minute.  That’s it.  Definitely time to escalate.  It must leave or it must die.

Drive to Blanding, had breakfast at the local’s place and dropped by the hardware story for an old school snapping/killing mousetrap.  A little wifi at the library, the off into the Utah interior.

So far the Southern Utah crossing is going the same as it always does.  20 miles out of town is the Burr Ridge, a very impressive ridge of sandstone that goes all the way into Arizona.  At the bottom of the ridge is an area with apparently sanctioned BLM camping.  Again, it’s way to early in the day for me to stop, enticing though it might be.   Again, Natural Bridge National Monument seems a litte too off the road to drive down to.  Again the Fry Canyon Lodge looks interesting, but again it’s 1:30 in the afternoon.  Again the White River Canyon looks fascinating from the road.

At Hite, before the dramatic bridge over the upper end of Lake Powell (the impoundment of Glenn Canyon Dam) I break out of my stale narrative and do something I haven’t before.  I take a left before the lake and drive down to the beach and swim in the lake.  Excellent!  That is where I am now, typing and just chilling for a while.  I could stay here tonight, and indeed I’ll bet sunset is amazing here.  But that is four hours from now, and it’s a pretty crappy place to hang out in the middle of the day, so I will press on.

This little swimming break has broken me out of my funk (WOO!), so I am pretty cheerful heading to Hanksville.  There turn out to be semi-official pull off camping places all over the place around here.

I however opt to pay the $15 to stay at the Red Rock Campground, right in the heart of downtown Hanksville (which consists of about 14 buildings).  It’s a cheesy little place, but I’m really enjoying it.

This is possibly the ugliest place to camp in 100 miles.  There’s a junkyard right across the fence. Hanksville is ugly in general, and even though the hills around are natural, they look like mining waste.  Also, the big rains of the last week have made the mosquitoes vicious.  Nonetheless I am very happy here.  I just think I am ready for the shower and a few creature comforts, like walking 20 yards to the restaurant for pie and decaf after sunset, and wifi in the van.

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