What’s in a Name…

Names are important. Almost everyone knows Eeyore the Donkey. If you read this blog, you also know Bone. He’s being a bit sartorial here, all dressed up in his kilt. He’s also known for running around naked.

I’ve been tardy in the world of blogging lately. My apologies. Other things have demanded my attention: Important things like learning to back up a trailer (a work in progress), or make the trailer’s hotspot work so we can have decent internet, or figure out what the hundreds of buttons (a slight exaggeration) in our new Ford 150 do.  And a gazillion other things. Like the naming of the trailer…

I asked Eeyore to help me back up the trailer last week in my first ever campground backup spot at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. This was his reaction. The Olema campground host was hardly more helpful. “I’ll be glad to come out and yell at you when your wife gets tired,” she told me.
A partial view of the buttons on our truck, lit up at night. They are hard enough to figure out in the day when you can see their labels.

Names are important, right? They provide recognition. Everyone, or just about everyone, recognizes Eeyore, for example. And if you read this blog, the odds are, you know Bone. But did you know Bone and Eeyore are the best of buddies? They’ve been traveling with us together for over a quarter of million miles on North America’s highways and byways over the past 20 years. They became good friends when Eeyore saved Bone from hanging in Tucson. He’d robbed a bank, cheated at cards and hung out with ladies of the night.

Naming characters like Eeyore and Bone is natural, but how many of you also name your vehicles? We always have and recently we were faced with the challenge of naming two: our new Ford 150 pickup and our new Imagine trailer. The truck was easy. It is big, strong, and white like a polar bear. Iorek (pronounced Yorek), a king of the polar bears in The Golden Compass, immediately popped into our minds.

Iorek the bear in a free, downloadable photo from his role in “Golden Compass.” He was also quite gentle in his role when it came to Lyra.

The trailer has proven to be more difficult. We wanted something that suggested wandering. After all, this blog’s title is Wandering Through Time and Place. My Pacific Crest Trail backpacking name was Wanderer. One thing was clear. The name for the trailer had to represent a strong, independent female personality who loves roaming to provide a fitting partner for Iorek. The two of them are hitched.

Peggy suggested that maybe we should just go with Wanderer. But we wanted something more exotic. Remember, our first travel van was named Xanadu after the ancient summer capital of Kublai Khan. The second was Quivera, in honor of a mythical Native American city of gold that the Spanish Conquistadors could never find because it moved around— a lot, apparently.

“Go for a character out of Greek (or Roman) mythology,” our son Tony urged. And certainly there were strong Roman/Greek goddesses who wandered. Think of Diana, the Roman Goddess of the Hunt (Artemis in Greek Mythology), who spent a lot of time traipsing around in the woods. Like Peggy. My kind of woman. Or Persephone, who split her time between Hades and the outer world, creating the seasons as she moved. Then there was Medusa. But her nasty habit of turning people to stone disqualified her. She was a sweetheart in comparison to Pandora, however, who opened her box and set free all of the horrors of the world. What are a few stoned people in comparison to that? The treasure trove of Greek and Roman mythology encouraged me to check out mythological figures in other cultures. I found a number of promising leads but none quite clicked with us.

We were also open to historical figures. A ‘legendary but possibly historical character’ out of Ireland’s ancient history caught my attention. Muirisc was given land by her father, the 66th high king of Ireland, between 300 and 200 BCE, in what is now County Mayo.  According to Wikipedia, “She was known as a sea captain and a warrior who ‘ruled o’er hardy sailors and great men’ and was famed as much for being ‘daring’ and ‘bold’ as she was for her beauty.”

A wandering sea captain queen famed for her beauty, daring, and boldness— How could Iorek help but be charmed? But I don’t think “being ruled o’er’ was part of his agenda. (I’ve never been much on that, myself.) And he had someone in mind. “Serafina” we heard him whisper. She too was a queen, the queen of a clan of witches that live around Lake Enara in Finland. Like Iorek, she knows about extreme cold weather, and also like him, is a character in the Golden Compass. Both shared responsibility for helping and protecting young Lyra in her battles against totalitarian evil. They were a team.

It was hard to argue against Iorek’s logic. He’s the one, after all, who has to pull her along the highways and byways of North America. Plus, I like the way her name rolls off the tongue: srr-aa-FEE-na.   And maybe, just maybe, she will jump on her broom and park herself in campground spots that are particularly tight!

Imagine Serafina.

Traveling Companions: Peggy, Eeyore, Bone… 10,000 Miles by Bike

Eeyore rescues Bone from the hangman's noose in Tombstone, Arizona allowing him to continue his journeys around the world. Bone travelled with me on my bike trek.

Eeyore rescues Bone from the hangman’s noose in Tombstone, Arizona allowing him to continue his journeys around the world. Bone travelled with me on my bike trek.

Now that you have had an initial introduction of my journey, it’s time to introduce my travelling companions as Peggy and I cross the country in Quivera the Van retracing my 10,000 mile bike route. If you follow this blog, you know Peggy, of course. She is integral to this story, as she is to all of my blogs. Remember, I met her at the end of my bike trek. Sparks flew. She is the conclusion to this story… and the beginning of another.

I mentioned Eeyore in my first blog of this series. He was peering out the back window, his favorite location when we travel. He prefers looking backward instead of forward. He is a bit of a contrarian. It’s the jackass in him.

Everyone knows this lovable donkey who has trouble keeping track of his tail. He’s been travelling with us for ten years when we travel by van. Normally his life is rather calm. There have been a couple of exceptions, however. The first was the time the teachers kidnapped him from Peggy’s office when she was working as an elementary school principal. They demanded chocolate for ransom.  Peggy dearly loves her chocolate, however, and Eeyore was almost out of luck. He could still be hanging out at Olive Grove Elementary School while being abused (whoops sorry, meant loved) by first graders. Fortunately, Peggy finally gave in. It wasn’t like the teachers were demanding higher salaries…

Bone faces the gallows in Tombstone, Arizona. He'd been cheating at cards, hanging out with loose women, and robbed a bank.

Bone faces the gallows in Tombstone, Arizona. He’d been cheating at cards, hanging out with loose women, and robbing  banks.

The second time was scarier; he had to save Bone from the hangman’s gallows in Tombstone, Arizona. “Wait a minute,” you say. “Who and what is Bone?” Thanks for asking. Those of you who have been around my blog for longer that three years will know the answers. But for the rest of you, here’s the story. In the beginning of my blogging efforts, I had in mind writing a book called “Travels with Bone.” (It’s still coming.) So I developed a blog titled, The Peripatetic Bone. When I decided to write The Bush Devil Ate Sam about my Peace Corps’ experience I changed the blog to Traveling through Time and Place. Here is the very first paragraph from my very first blog.

This is it, the Peripatetic Bone’s blog. And no, I am not Bone. My name is Curtis Mekemson. My wife Peggy and I participate in, or one might say, facilitate, Bone’s wandering ways. Like the ubiquitous gnome, Bone shows up in some rather unique places. Burning Man is an example. Peripatetic means to wander about. It’s a good description for Bone (and me).

My friend Tom Lovering and I found Bone in 1977. He was hanging out half buried in snow in a patch of corn lilies along the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail south of Lake Tahoe. Tom and I had a game when we backpacked. If one of us found trash, the other person had to pack it out. I found Bone, declared he was trash, and Tom had to carry him— at least until he could sneak him back in my pack. Here is Bone’s perspective on being found:

I didn’t plan on seeing the world and becoming famous. Once I was part of a horse located just above the hoof. I had no freedom; I had no glory. Wherever the horse went I went also, a mere slave to his desires. During the summer this meant carrying greenhorn tourists into the backcountry of the mountains above Lake Tahoe. The added pounds gave me bone-jarring headaches. Then the horse died; I like to fantasize that a large bear with big teeth and sharp claws ate him.  Hopefully he ate the tourist as well.

Whatever happened, I was free to be me, Bone. Yes, that’s right, Bone is my name. A kindly coyote picked me up and carried me to a high meadow filled with Corn Lilies. It was there that I discovered my Zen-like nature as I meditated through the seasons. I was alone except for a mouse that came by and nibbled on me occasionally. That hurt. In fact, it interrupted my meditation and scarred me for life; you can still see teeth marks. I blame all of my subsequent bad behavior on that flea bitten miscreant.

My annoyance at the mouse, however, was minor in comparison to my anger at the large two-legged creature who yanked me from my meadow home and begin yelling I was trash as he ran down the trail in pursuit of another two-legged creature.  Can you imagine the insult? I had no way of knowing that this was the beginning of my world travels or that the two creatures, Curt Mekemson and Tom Lovering, would become my servants.

World travels indeed. Bone has now been in over 50 countries and all 50 states. He travelled with me on my 10,000-mile bike trip and with Tom in the back of a truck from the Sahara Desert to South Africa. He has wandered close to 200,000 miles with Peggy and me as we have explored North America. Other people have also carried Bone. He has been blessed by the Pope and attended a Bill Clinton Presidential press conference. “Excuse me, is that a gun in your pocket.” He has been on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, at the base of Mt. Everest, and on top of Mt. Whitney. He has gone deep sea diving in the Pacific and boated up the Amazon. You get the idea. It’s only proper that he be along with Peggy, Eeyore and me on our present journey.

Bone is going to answer the ten most common questions people ask him in my next blog. After that, I will get back to my bike trip and the big white whale that scared the hell out of me.

Wyatt Earp arrests Bone in Tombstone. Doc Holiday checks him for weapons.

Wyatt Earp arrests Bone in Tombstone. Doc Holiday checks him for weapons.

Bone checks out Billy Clanton's grave on Boothill— thankful it wasn't him.

Bone checks out Billy Clanton’s grave on Boothill— thankful it wasn’t him.