Day One Hundred and Twenty Four of the Scone by Scone Book Tour

Days 129, 130, 131 and 132, WLBT

Albuquerque, Canyonlands, Bryce, St. George


by David Runkel

During which The Author gets her longest helicopter ride.

Leaving Oklahoma City, The Tour enters Interstate 40 and stays on it directly to Albuquerque, and we mean direct.   Was there even a curve in the 500 miles through farmland, shale driving fields and the largest wind farms we have ever seen, that go on for miles and miles in Texas?

First stop is a gas station on the Texas border where we fill up, buy a couple postal cards and decide against the Heinz T-shirt with a Christian theme – “Catch-Up with Jesus.,”  or “From your head to your To-may-toes.”  Another plays with a Hellman mayo ad.  At the clerk’s suggestion, we invest $2 in the lottery.  The man behind us gets out a $100 bill for five blocks of 10 tickets. Neither of us are now billionaires, alas.

A break for a late lunch takes us to the Farm Bistro in a small politically-correct town in New

Day One Hundred and Thirty Two of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
David in the desert

Mexico we’ve forgotten the name of. Like many of the eateries that have fed us, it serves only locally-sourced, grass-fed, made on the premises, super-creative and bound-to-be-healthy (but not always tasty) food.  We arrive in Albuquerque in late afternoon with nothing to do for the evening.   “A Star is Born” is showing at 6 p.m. at the Flex Brewpub, prompting another 20 miles to the sprawling suburbs (everywhere in the south and west there is urban sprawl).  The Tour settles in and orders beer and wraps.  In the darkness of movie previews, dinner is delivered.   This is not our first experience of eating and drinking while watching a film, having seen one with Lucy in a converted old theatre in the Castro district of San Francisco.  But to have it spread to the suburbs in Albuquerque! Is Medford next?

The movie is a showcase for Lady Gaga, who is terrific, as is Bradley Cooper.  The Author is not a fan of his, however, since he ignored her in favor of younger women in a gaggle outside the New York theatre where he was starring in “The Elephant Man” with our friend Tony Heald. (Tony was sweet and nice.) But enough of this. 

The following morning, adjusting our schedule at the suggestion of Julie DiChiro who had lent us

Day One Hundred and Thirty Two of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Deedie in Canyon Lands

some southwest travel guides, we take off for Canyonlands, the national park in Utah.  We drive and drive through spectacular scenery in New Mexico, through southwestern Colorado and into Utah.   We stop to stare at the rock formations and canyons in the national park before heading for what was to be our final stop of the day, an older motel in Moab.  And we thought Ashland was a tourist town.  Moab’s main drag is lined with shops, restaurants and motels.  After dinner, we stop by the town’s bookstore that last spring rejecting a requested reading of “Scone by Scone” on the basis that it did not fit its clientele. We now agree.

We were off to Arches National Park the next morning.  What a place!  The visitors center has films explaining the geology of the place going back 300 million years or so and the creation of the 2,000 arches in the park’s sandstone by wind, rain and snow.  The Tour goes on a few short hikes for better views, but with the high elevation, we are often short of breath. Next stop is Bryce, nearly 100 miles south and west.  The Tour takes I-70, turning around west of Green River for gas after spotting a sign, “No Services Next 107 Miles.”  Will someone please move the sign to that it is before the last gas station for 100 miles, not 5 miles after? 

There is no place for lunch at the Green River exit. The Tour buys drinks and snacks instead. En route we pass the “Big Rock Candy Mountain” resort, but it’s closed. We had hoped for an ice cream at least.  Driving through several small, dying towns we ultimately arrive at our destination, a motel run by the third generation of a family with a famed restaurant, just outside Bryce National Park, elevation 7,777.  It was our last scheduled stop of the day, but that was not to be.

We walk the long block to the restaurant which does not have room for us for three-quarters of an hour. The Author is out of breath and sits down to rest, while The Tour Director goes back to get the car for the return trip to our room.   We are called when a table opens up and decide to drive the block.  The Author continues to feel uncomfortable through dinner and when we return to the room checks her blood pressure. It’s unusually high and her heart is having trouble Garfield Memorial hospital in Panguitch, part of the Intermountain system. 

Test results there panic the family doc on duty.  Something is going on with The Author’s heart.  There isn’t a cardiologist in the area.  The recommendation is that The Author go quickly to the hospital’s sister facility in St. George, Utah, by ambulance.  But no one with the proper credentials can be found to accompany the ambulance driver for the two-hour trip.  The alternative is a 40-minute helicopter ride.  The Author is bundled up and loaded on.  Although the moon is nearly full, there’s no sightseeing on this trip. Meanwhile, The Tour Director returns to Bryce, loads up the car and at midnight heads for St. George, stopping at a gas station to fill up and get a cappuccino.

By the time, The Tour Director arrives, The Author’s heart is settled down, a heart attack is ruled out, with congestive heart failure ultimately declared the culprit, along with altitude.  She is moved from the emergency area to an observation room, where a sleep chair is added and we try to get a few hours of sleep. 

Sunday morning is spent reading the Sunday Times and the weekend Wall Street Journal before an early afternoon release allows us to settle into a Holiday Inn Express with a pool.  It’s sunny and in the 70s.  We relax, nap and chat with a Colorado couple getting a few days of warm weather in Utah before the annual 300 inches of snowfall in Breckenridge. 

We decide to stay low for the rest of our tour.  St. George is at 2,000 feet above sea level, same as Ashland. Visits to high elevation western national parks are crossed off the list.   We’ll be in Palm Springs and Palm Desert in mid-week for readings and on the week-end go to Pismo Beach where self-publishing “Scone by Scone” and a summer-long promotional tour were dreamed up.  A day or two on the Oregon Coast will bring this part of the tour to a close.  It’s where we started on June 8.  Full circle; final mileage count to be determined but as of today nearly 18,000 miles.