Sunday, January 10, 2010

road trip anecdote, visiting the dead

Often when I'm at the wheel mrs. a-go-go will point and gasp or say, "Ooh ooh!" This makes me a little bats. Instead, I wish she would just say, "stop the car!" I never really know what she wants while she is in that speechless state so I check the rear view mirror for cars. If it's all clear I hit the brakes to find out if she really wants to stop for photos. So often the cause of the gasp is a small cemetery just off the road. The weathered wood grave marker above was in a small dirt and gravel plot near Tehachepi, California in 2007. We had headed out for an unplanned day trip just to see if we could catch up with the thunderhead clouds we could see over the dessert. We ended up finding this grave yard and getting silt in our underpants in a muddy patch of the Kern River.
On a wet afternoon near Sebastapol mrs. a-go-go spotted these stone and concrete grave markers among the eucalyptus trees and a small heard of sheep.
The ever present coastal damp had frosted all the headstones with moss and lichens. We stayed a while and wished we could afford to move to picturesque, quiet Sebastapol. Then we headed on our way to Eureka and at last to Portland, Oregon.
A few cemeteries we have visited were the objective of the trip to begin with. On a whim one Saturday afternoon we drove madly to Manzanar in the Owens Valley of California when Mrs. a-go-go learned that day was the annual pilgrimage of former prisoners and their families. We arrived after four hours of driving just in time for the end of the event. We met a few people who were still in the cemetery paying their respects to the people who died in the camp. One of these visitors had been born at Manzanar durring the internment. The dedication obelisk had been decorated with strings of thousands of paper cranes. We stayed until sundown walking among the few remaining traces of the camp and the few restored buildings.
Just south of Death Valley Junction and the Amargosa Opera House we nearly tripped on this still active small grave yard.
The few and widely scattered residents of this little township still bury their dead in a stark, dry plot where you can see so far that the distance looks like a painted backdrop.
In a place named for a grave marker and famous for violent deaths we couldn't pass up visiting the Boothill cemetery. Few of the markers are tombstones but that doesn't deter the keepers of the place from maintaining the freshly painted epitaphs. Tourists will know who is buried here for as long as there is someone with a few planks, some black paint, and a will to keep Tombstone's claim to fame alive.

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