Another busy Universe day while Mark played poker in Vegas (with quite a bit of success). I went to all three lectures, and the morning one, by George Levine, was quite good, although none of the three lectures today were spectacular. We sold t-shirts again, so that kept us pretty busy before the lecture. And I helped tear down and tidy up the stage from the night before as well–but I did get a nap in in the early afternoon, so that was very helpful.
More Dickens Universe: great lecture by John Bowen; skipped the afternoon lecture so that JoAnna, Marissa, and I could go out to dinner with Miriam, JoAnna’s friend Linda and Margaret, another participant and friend of mine (also Miriam’s flatmate). We had a lovely meal at Cafe Mare, and a lot of fun with Miriam, who loves being crass and tenderhearted in rapid succession. We went back for the evening lecture on Dickens and poetry, which was was so-so. The day ended with the so-called Grand Party, thrown by the friends of the Dickens Project, and as always a great success: home-made cakes and excellent cheeses: what could be better? I actually ate less than I normally do at the Grand Party, and had a lovely conversation with Margaret about TAM and skepticism. Meanwhile, Mark played another 7 or so hours of poker, but tried out something new called “Mixed Game” with the rules changing every 10 rounds or so.
While Mark drove the 9 hours from Las Vegas to Santa Cruz, we wrapped up the Universe with one last day of lectures and logistics, plus, in the evening, the auction and the Victorian Dance with desserts. We also started packing up things, although we had a steady flood of questions and t-shirt requests etc etc. Mark came around 4 pm and after a bit of rest helped us out, including with the dessert set-up, for which I had just about 60 minutes, but I got it all done with Mark’s and volunteer Nate’s help. The auction was boring, as usual; the announcement of next year’s book was greeted with much applause, and the dance & desserts were a great success. Mark and I danced quite a bit and had a wonderful time; the last dance was my all-time favorite, the Sir Roger de Coverly, which is basically the Virginia Reel in square dancing. We had to clean up after we were done, but we had some help with that, and so Mark and I were actually “home” (at 113 Alta, where we were able to stay at Gretchen’s, JoAnna’s friend, in the room that always used to be “my” room when JoAnna still lived at that address) only shortly after midnight.
We got up early to go back to campus and help wrap up packing and sending off the Universe participants. Lots of saying good-bye, last minute logistics, many thank-yous, and even some more t-shirts sales. Mark was a great sideline help in that he distracted various people who just wanted to stop by and chat, not exactly something any of us had time for. We were done just before noon, and I was as ready for a nap as I have ever been at the end of the Universe week. We picked up some takeout lunch and ate it at home, then crawled into bed and slept from about 1 to 4 pm. Then we took off to drive up the coast to a little town named Pescadero, stopping at the old lighthouse right before the turnoff for Pescadero to look at the beautiful coastline a little. In Pescadero, we had dinner at this wonderful and rather popular restaurant named Duarte’s, founded in the 1890s, where Rick and Carolyn and JoAnna and I usually have dinner once a year. This time, it was just Mark and me instead; it was very lovely, though. On the way back, we saw the fog roll in over the cost, but there were also some really neat gaps in the fog where it was clear and we could see the sun go down–very pretty. We were home before 9, chatted a bit with Rick and Carolyn upstairs, and went to bed early, ready for more rest!
We slept in this morning, until almost 9:30, and then got ourselves ready to have our last Santa Cruz day. We drove downtown and walked around the fun little shops and restaurants, and then had cheap Mexican food for a quick lunch. By that time, the usual morning fog had cleared up and it was sunny and warm, so we decided to walk to the boardwalk area and the beach there. Since it was Sunday, everything was packed with people, but it was fun to see the rides on the boardwalk and the people on the beach. The tide was coming in and we were watching people by the estuary as it got bigger and bigger. We walked all the way down to the end of the pier and looked at the sea lions frolicking underneath and the many people fishing from above it. Then we bought ingredients for our dinner contribution at Trader Joe’s and went home. I even got a little nap in before I made the German potato salad I promised, and then we took one more walk to Its Beach and the surfers by the surfing lighthouse. We had a lovely dinner with Rick, Carolyn, and JoAnna (BBQ chicken, the potato salad, roast vegetables, and ice cream with strawberries, and chatted until about 9, but then JoAnna was ready to go back home, and we wanted to turn in early to leave early the next day.
Long driving day: 674 miles! We got through the whole Santa Cruz-San-Jose-Sacramento mess very nicely by leaving at 6:30 am–heavy traffic but no slowdown–and then, once we were on the I-80, really had no trouble moving along. It was a lot of driving for Mark, of course, but we kept ourselves entertained, partly by me reading to him, and made it, with a lunch break outside Reno, right to the border between Utah and Nevada, in the last gambling town before the Mormon cutoff. It only has 4,000 people (1,000 more on the Utah side), but surprisingly, it has 6 rather large casino-motels, and when we inquired about rates, it was only around $ 40, taxes included! So we decided to stay overnight and had a lovely buffet dinner at the casino, too, and we even tested their outdoor pool. The Bonneville salt flats are right East of us and look rather spectacular even from here.
Another long driving day: over 700 miles, again with a lot of reading by yours truly (we are reading David Lodge, Changing Places, which is a joy to reread this way). We got up a little later than Monday morning (about 7:00) and were on the road pretty much all day. We stopped 10 miles or so outside of Wendover to step onto the Salt Flats and marvel at the salt crust and the flatness all around us. But we only looked at the Great Salt Lake in passing and just drove on out of Utah and into Wyoming, where we had lunch (at a Subway’s) right inside the Wyoming border, in Evanston. We drove through all of Wyoming, had lunch in Sydney (at a Perkins’) and then, because hotel rooms were scarce and expensive in Sydney because of the nearby Sturgis motorcycle rally, we drove on to Ogallala, where we got the last room in a Rodeway Inn (most recently redecorated in the late 70s).
We got up early, had a bite to eat at the Rodeway Inn’s free (& meager) continental breakfast, and were home without any hitches before noon. I finished reading Changing Places to Mark about 30 miles outside of Lincoln, so that was great timing. It was really nice to be back, and even the return-home chores (laundry, shopping for a few days, sorting things into piles) were not a big deal and didn’t take us that long. I had a bit of an upset stomach most of the day, but I am not really sure what that was about.
What a wonderful trip it’s been! Both of us agree that we haven’t had a summer before that has been that much fun, and so stress-free, even with 6,000 + miles / 111 hours of car time (the GPS has been keeping track for us). And we are both glad we have this journal, with the photos, because how would we otherwise remember all the things we’ve seen and done? There were so many highlights, it would be almost impossible to keep track.