Quarantine New Year

We kicked off 2020 in the most spectacular fashion:

In fact, it’s become somewhat of a tradition, having New Year’d into 2018 and since, first at an otherwise vacant winery in Oklahoma, then under the stars in Big Bend Ranch State Park, and into this cluster of a year at the magnificent San Lorenzo Canyon. We knew we wanted to do something to ring in 2021, though perhaps more gingerly and with greater caution, given how 2020 turned out.

Between avoiding covid hotspots, not wanting to encroach upon the memory of previous destinations, and needing to be as self-sufficient as possible to minimize exposure to public, we’ve changed our recipe. Rather than a circuit of one-night stays on a longer route, we’re going to hub-and-spoke some sightseeing from a pair of cabins. We’ll meet in the Ozark National Forest near Hot Springs, Arkansas for three days, then migrate to Mark Twain National Forest in south-central Missouri.

We’ve each found December to be intensely hectic so we have also done far less planning than usual. Truth be told, we were sold pretty quickly on an AirBnB listing called “Escape the City.”

Evan found some scenic points of interest and pushed our cabin search toward dark sky areas for betters stars. I mapped a few hikes, and George set about locating potential fire towers and interesting looking unpaved map-squiggles. And if we end up spending a few days in the stillness, looking out over a fire at our cabin in the woods, that also sounds perfect.


Stunning and surprisingly warm day in Austin before heading out.

The spring fowl that lives over the Xterra arrived early this year. I’ve been driving the Truck since coming back from Nevada, so I hadn’t realized that it looked like I’d parked under a sewer main. So today I went to the car wash before climbing, and hit up a Jiffy Lube on the way home.

That second part was a little odd. Given the current social distancing guidance, they asked me to sit in the car and wait, which I’ve never done before. On the way back home, I got gas at a station that is very proud of all their contactless payment options at the pump. Is that useful? Given how the pump itself is, like, not?


Took a break from packing to do a number on the Nikon. I spent a lot of time fixing dust spots in Photoshop from all the Vegas photos, but some of the unedited ones show how bad it had really gotten. Do they make a Hobart for cameras? Maybe changing lenses with chalky hands in desert winds is a bad idea after all…

Escape the City

And we made it. Surprisingly all at the same time, too, since we all left ahead of when we planned (which — again — this is very unlike us) and I didn’t actually know how long my scenic drive would take. But let’s revisit how much better this was than motoring on I-35 and I-30 for 7 hours…

More or less Austin to Tyler to where Texas shares borders with both Oklahoma and Arkansas northwest of Texarkana. From there, a farm road up through the foothills of the Ouachitas to Mena (near-ish where we stayted on OAT East) and then a highway straight through the middle of them over to Mount Ida.

Our AirBnb, aptly named “Escape The City,” is outside Mount Ida, Arkansas. We haven’t yet made a plan for tomorrow, but it may be our only hike-friendly day here, given a potential snow storm. We’ll see. In the meantime, there’s beer and burgers, and George has borrowed a small telescope from a friend and 3D-printed an adapter to it for his camera.

And for kicks, and to continue the tradition, here’s how to get here without Google Maps:

This will only be funny to United Airlines frequent fliers — George gave me a box of 24 stroopwafels as a Christmas present because I’ve been grounded all year. 🙃

Weather is…

Evan has taken to traveling with a small Google Home Mini, which is Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo, about the size of a hockey puck.

“Ok Google, what’s the weather?”

According to Wikipedia, weather is the state of the atmosphere, describing for example, the degree to which it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy…

So we don’t know, but it was pleasant with brilliant sun when I walked outside.

My mother got me this for Christmas, I’m not sure what that says about me. But the drive we just got home from was very chill until it super wasn’t, all right at the end. So yes.