Trip to IPP29, Summer 2009  

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In July/August 2009, Dick and Kate Jones drove from Baltimore to San Francisco by way of Boulder, Colorado, and many other in-between stops, to attend the 29th Annual International Puzzle Party, an invitation-only fiesta of fabulous mindbogglers.

With laptop on lap and plugged into the van's cigarette lighter, Kate spent glorious hours enroute catching up on rulebook composition, website enhancements and editing chores. Evenings at motels that bragged of providing online wireless, she would upload Twitter tweets and download emails. Not every motel was true to its word, and often delayed tweets were dumped in by the dozen.

If you didn't follow us on Twitter, here are the trip texts, interspersed with the appropriate photos.

Tweets are terse, make small demands on readers' time. Skim and skip through as you like, or just pick up on the pics. We took over 600; here are just a few samplings. All photos by Dick Jones.

July 23, 2009
  • Crossed the Mississippi today, spending night in Topeka near Frito-Lay plant amid huge expanses of cornfields. Tomorrow head for Boulder.

  • With laptop plugged into cigarette lighter socket, can answer emails, complete artwork for book covers, compose new rulebooks. Dick drives.

  • Finished graphics for new Max Benda/Win Wenger corebook, The Creative Problem-Solving Tool Kit. Good stuff.

  • Retouching art for cool new puzzle's booklet, to be released soon. Not easy in moving vehicle. More news as it happens.

  • West on I-70, landscape littered with crosses and it's not even the Bible belt. Billboards tout Jesus messages. Xtian America in your face.

  • Trucks everywhere — behemoths rumbling down I-70, the nation's bloodstream of things we need, from east and west. Pigs, pies, milk, ammonia.

  • Trucks with great logos:  Landstar, FedEx, Barr-Nunn, Knight...S. Abraham and Sons (SAS) showed a sun. Some could be puzzles. Hmmm..

  • The wizards of Kansas — in rest area toilets, a small alcove in wall. Insert hands, and it dispenses timed soap, water, warm air. Nice but strange.

July 27, 2009
  • Boulder, CO — boulders, hills, mountains. Finished show and packed in record time, 3 hours. Rented tent saved time. Manana, westward ho!

  • Colorado — pig out almost daily in Mexican restaurants. The real thing, with Mexican music, decor, waiters and cook. Green cards, si!

  • Is it just me, or are all the doors in the motel really so heavy that only a weightlifter can budge them? Takes two to get luggage through.

July 28, 2009
  • Heading south on I-25, 7700 ft. above sea level. Rings of mountains, brilliant flat-bottom clouds dotting the bright blue sky.

  • Detour to Colorado's Great Sand Dunes, 50 square km of sand eroded from the mountains and piled high by wind. Water removes, air returns.

  • Cross mile-wide dry river bed to climb dunes. Folks turn it into beach front, sunning on lawnchairs, wading in 2" deep trickle of mud.

  • Strange yellow-green bugs populate dunes, settle on Dick's flowered shirt. Cute, harmless. Sand is finest powder, smoother than any beach. Heavy walking.

  • Cross New Mexico line, heading for Carlsbad. Working on laptop but easily distracted by glorious scenery.

  • Love these western interstates, 75-mile speed limit!! Lead-foot Kate can barely exceed that, hauling all that cargo.

At horizon, what appears as water on the road is a mirage. See close-up detail below.

  • Memorable NM highway signs — "Gusty winds may exist." Believe it, they do. Tossed our van vigorously on Rt. 285 south of Roswell.

July 31, 2009
  • Roswell's UFO Museum is moving to newer, better quarters!

  • Artesia, NM, sad little dilapidated town, mostly abandoned ruins. Even the Wendy's sign is bungeed in place, McDonald's half missing.

  • Arrived Carlsbad, huge storm knocked out Internet in motel. In morning we walked 3 hours through magnificent caverns.

    The natural entrance, 75 stories deep with extreme switchback trails.

    Kate girded for the long descent. Expected cold, but exercise fogged up glasses.

  • Carlsbad Caverns, 250 million years in the making. A drop of water fell on Dick's head, depositing stalagmite stuff 3 million years old.

    Living formations, draperies artfully lit.

    The "big room" with huge pillars, high ceiling. See walkers at right for scale.

    In the Hall of Giants, millions of years of patient building drop by slow drop.

    A forest of stalagmites and stalactites reaching for each other.

  • Ate at Joe Lasky's Chinese/Mexican restaurant, "China Lantern Cafe," in Carlsbad. In came Bob Sandfield/Kathleen Malcolmson, puzzle friends also on way to SF. Small world.

  • Heading north on Rt. 285 and I-40. Huge storm system on left and right, we drive the thin clear swathe between. Awesome, inspires haiku:
    Behind foggy drapes,
    Where storm clouds suckle the earth,
    Golden horizon.

    Storm cloud drags its belly on the ground.

  • Pass Albuquerque and fancy casinos, head for Monument Valley, Utah. 7000 ft. high, Rt. 491 and 264 straight as far as the eye can see.

  • Monument Valley, nature's playground, Navajo treasure. Dick drives the 17-mile rough dirt road loop, rattles our bones.

    Huge rock formations left when all else has worn away.

    Two hand-like promontories facing off; note dirt road through austere, rugged terrain.

    A glorious expanse of formations in Monument Valley, a fantasy landscape and clouds to match.

    An awesome teetering slab atop terraced rock layers, backed by folded creases.

  • Northwest on Rt. 191 — "Open Range" — "Stock on highway" — yup, dodging cows and horses meandering on road. It's their land.

  • In Kayenta, UT, watched highway scraper with dinosaur-like neck tear up old blacktop and regurgitate its black stream into truck. Fast work.

  • NM-AZ-UT amazing red earth. Even clouds overhead had flat reddish-tinged bottoms. Planet's restless past seen in folds and layers. Wow.

  • Been using Dick's new GPS, named her Gypsy. Doesn't always steer us right, frequently mutters, "Recalculating." Needs better crystal ball.

  • Tonight in Moab, Utah. Van may need mechanic as brake lights warn of trouble. The 17 miles of lumpy, rocky road may have shaken up its innards?

  • Interesting parallel in nature's time scale — clouds reshape vapor, erosion reshapes earth and rock: minutes vs. eons. We ride a molten core.

Water vapor, shapes of rocks, fluid landscapes painted with time. Grass clumps cling to life.

  • Notable signs along Rt. 191 — "Watch for deer in your lane." Huh? Like it doesn't move? — Hole N" the Rock — novel punctuation usage. How about snakes?

    Quaint punctuation in 20-foot letters     (Photo from Hole N" the Rock website)

    Reassuring sign in rest area: "Watch for Rattlesnakes"—where do they park?

  • Tomorrow, if van works, drive to Las Vegas, see Cirque Du Soleil's Mystère. Maybe visit more rock formations enroute. How do ideas form?

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