Kokopelli’s Trail: Day One

Here I am at the trailhead on day 1. Look how well rested I appear!
Here I am at the trailhead on day one. Look how well rested I appear!

Up until a couple of days before the big Kokopelli’s Trail ride, I wasn’t sure when it was going to happen. Balancing all of the things in my schedule, along with Pete’s and Jess’s, was looking hopeless. We planned to leave Thursday night, but I had a meeting in Denver, so even that was put on hold until about 9:00. As luck would have it, we were forecast for one of the biggest snowstorms of the season that night. Rumors were even circulating that the Vail Pass was closed, making the drive all but impossible. Fortunately, the pass was open, but the drive was still dicey. Not only was the driving tricky, but the visibility was pretty bad as well. We finally pulled into the trailhead at Loma around 2:30 a.m., just in time for a few hours of fitful sleep.

It was cold Thursday night in Fruita, but there was no sign of snow. This was a good sign, as we were slightly concerned we might encounter some snow along the high-elevation sections of the trail that passes through the Manti-La Sal National Forrest. Thanks to the accommodations in the front seat of Pete’s Jeep, I was up at first light. After some obligatory stretching, we headed off to Utah to find the Bitter Creek campground to drop some water for the next day’s ride. Getting to the camp was pretty straight forward, but we were surprised to find so many people camping out in both the middle of April and nowhere. We left two collapsible 100 oz. Nalgene® bottles of water and about 1/2 a bottle of Powerade under a tree adjacent one of the picnic tables at an unoccupied site.

By highway, it was about 20 miles back to Fruita. We made a quick side trip into town so that I could pick up a new tube for my Camelback® (I found mildew in my old one, yuck!) and a roll of TP for the trip. I also grabbed a cup of coffee that I hoped would wake me up and fuel me throughout the day’s riding. Back at the trailhead, we unpacked the bikes and started gearing up for the trip. We shuffled some of the gear, with me taking the tent from Pete. I set up the rack and panniers on my bike, and Pete adjusted his backpack. That’s right, in addition to riding to Moab, we’d also be comparing the relative merits of two rival packing systems.

Pete taking a short break along some of Kokopelli's best singletrack.
Pete taking a short break along some of Kokopelli's best singletrack.

We checked the tire pressure, lubed our chains, and saddled up at about 10:30 am. I’d already ridden most of the day’s trail, but never in a single day. The extra load would be a new challenge, and I was a little concerned that the rack and panniers wouldn’t be up to the task. Kokopelli’s Trail starts with Mary’s Loop. Since I’d ridden the trail several times, I was anxious to see how things would unfold with the extra load. I was pleasantly surprised that the opening climb, a prolonged rocky section, was pretty easy. The rack made the rear-end of the bike pretty heavy, but while riding it was almost unnoticeable. In fact, the only reminders of its presence were an occasional banging noise when flying over particularly rough sections of trail and an increased difficulty in getting the back tire over large step-ups. On the flip-side, the extra weight actually added some stability in rolling large drop-offs.

A little after noon, we reached the Salt Creek crossing. The view from above was spectacular. We decided to ride down and cross the little bridge before breaking for lunch. The bridge has two twin posts in place to stop 4-wheelers and the like from crossing. I practically needed to butter up the panniers to squeeze through, but I made it. We had a nice lunch, and I snuck off to find a bit of cover to put the morning’s final purchase to use. There is very little privacy to be found in the desert.

The view of Salt Creek from above and the little bridge with the tight squeeze.
The view of Salt Creek from above and the little bridge with the tight squeeze.

Just after lunch we tackled the first significant hike-a-bike section of the trail. Quickly it became clear that all of the benefits of riding with a rack and panniers were negated when trying to carry your bike over rough terrain. Pete was suffering from a sore bum due to the extra load from his backpack, but I was really struggling to haul my bike up all of the climbs and around all of the rocks. Struggling with the bike really took a lot out of me, so I was glad to reach the end of the hike. I didn’t realize at the moment how little singletrack remained, but I was glad to have smooth, rideable road the whole way into Rabbit Valley.

The Rabbit Valley trailhead was bustling with activity when we rolled in for a snack stop. Dirt bikers, ATVers, and fellow mountain bikers were seemingly everywhere. We had a nice snack, but it was getting late. We needed to get back on the bike and finish the day’s ride. This brought us to the ride’s first disagreement. In my mind, Kokopelli’s Trail was going to be 142 miles of stellar singletrack. There are two ways to ride through Rabbit Valley. One, the official trail, uses a variety of dirt roads. Some of them are pretty rough, but mostly it’s a slough through pretty sandy washes. As an alternative, there are a number of singletrack trails like Rabbit Valley #2 that mostly parallel the roads. Pete wanted to ride the official trail, but I was in favor of singletrackus maximus. That’s when I reconciled the goofy image I had of Kokopelli’s Trail with the reality that was Kokopelli’s Trail. We ended up taking the official route.

Pete setting up our first camp at Bitter Creek. Anything would be better than sleeping in the Jeep again.
Pete setting up our first camp at Bitter Creek. Anything would be better than sleeping in the Jeep again.

Rolling out from the trailhead, we only had about 10 miles of additional riding to reach our first campsite. We’d been averaging a pathetic 5 miles an hour (breaks and photo stops included), and some profound saddle sores were beginning to set in. Most of the remaining miles were scenically beautiful, but my mind kept drifting to the 400′ climb listed on the map. It was literally the end of the day’s ride, finishing right at the campground. When we finally got to the bottom of the climb, it became obvious that it was steep. Pete had opened up a small gap on me over the proceeding couple of miles, and I found him standing next to his bike at the base of the climb. He had already determined that he’d just walk the 1/2 mile climb, but I was determined to try and ride the whole trail. I told him it looked pretty manageable after the 2nd switchback. I’ll never know if I was right, because I lost control and had to put a foot down after an ultra-slow-speed collision with a rock. Pete caught up to me sooner than I caught my breath, and we finished walking to the plateau together.

At the campground, we discovered that the water we had stashed earlier that morning was insufficient to hold the campsite. We also discovered that some of the water was missing from one of the canteens. There was another site available nearby, and the guys camping by our water replaced what they’d taken. We were shocked that someone would take some of the water, but we were way too tired to really care. We made dinner, brushed our teeth, and turned in to bed before the sun had even set. Since I’d brought the iPod, I set up an alarm for 8:00 am and put on some Cat Stevens. I don’t even remember the 2nd song.

Kokopelli’s Trail: Day Zero

When we announced that we were moving to Colorado, several of my coworkers back in Boston recommended new vacation spots that they were sure we’d enjoy. Moab was one of the most frequently mentioned; I often rode my mountain bike to work. It wasn’t until we’d actually arrived that I’d even heard of Fruita. I guess I’d had my head buried in the proverbial sand throughout college.

Not long after the move, we started looking into some of the new places we could go and things we could do. Unlike Boston, parking was a non-issue in Boulder, so we were keen to get out on the weekends. One of our first events was the 6th annual Ouray Ice Festival. While we’d been poor excuses for rock climbers for some time, we were just beginning our careers as mediocre ice climbers, and the idea of being in a small town where practically everyone climbs ice was fascinating. That was the fall of 2001, and we’ve been to every festival since.

My rig next to the Kokopelli's Trail sign marking the beginning of the Yello Jacket Canyon section of the trail.
My rig next to the Kokopelli's Trail sign marking the beginning of the Yellow Jacket Canyon section of the trail.

One of the great things about Colorado is the extreme changes in weather. While most of our friends and relatives assume that winter is a 10-month season of hellish cold and unrelenting snow, reality is pretty different. You can often find days in the winter warm enough for a nice day of climbing at Eldo or riding the mountain bike around Lyons. Jess has only had to remove the battery from her motorcycle once because extended poor weather made riding unlikely. By the time April rolls around, the Western Slope is already growing hot and hitting its prime for mountain biking. That’s when we first learned of Fruita.

When we were living in Boston, we took a weekend camping trip to Wampatuck State Park. They had a nice system of trails open to mountain biking, so we brought our bikes. That was Jess’s first exposure to mountain biking, and she was hooked. So, when the weather turned nice in Boulder, I started looking for some of this legendary Colorado mountain biking I’d heard of. One of the first things we found was the Fruita Fat Tire Festival. The weather forecast looked exceptional (80 degrees and sunny in April), and rumors circulated that the trails were incredible. We ended up camping pretty far from the trails, but had a great time anyway. We got to ride some awesome trails, and despite running out of water and fitness, were grinning ear-to-ear the whole time. We also watched a couple of really fun trials riders doing a series of demos in the park in downtown Fruita. I’m still blown away by what some people can do on a bike.

The first trail we rode in Fruita was called Mary’s Loop. It’s a neat combination of rocky climbs, 4-wheel drive road, and some fun singletrack. It taught us that you need more than a couple of water bottles to ride in the desert. It’s also the beginning of this cool trail called Kokopelli’s Trail that runs from Fruita to Moab. From that day onward, I determined I should ride Kokopelli’s Trail, and that the entire trail would be sick mountain biking.

Fast-forward several years. It’s 2009; I’m flipping through a new issue of Dirt Rag, and I’ve just learned that Kokopelli’s Trail turns 20 this year. Now, the desert is no place to be in the summer, and in the desert the summer is pretty much May–September, so that leaves two smallish windows of opportunity in the spring and fall. I know Jess pretty well, and I know she doesn’t have the vacation or desire for this ride, so I e-mailed an adventure-writing buddy of mine, Pete, to see if he’d be interested. He was, and more importantly, he’d landed an article assignment based on the ride. It was on like Donkey Kong; just the planning remained.

In planning a trip on Kokopelli’s Trail, as with riding the trail, there are 3 major concerns. One is the length of the trip. At 142 miles, most people will require several days and therefore some vacation to finish the ride. This brings us directly to the second major issue: water! Of all of the essentials, water is really the biggest logistic challenge. If it’s hot, and it probably will be, you’ll want at least a gallon or two per person, per day while on the trail. This dovetails nicely with challenge three: planning the trip. You’d be surprised to discover that there’s a dearth of quality information available for planning to ride Kokopelli’s Trail. It’s mentioned in a few guidebooks, but mostly they focus on either end of the trail in Fruita or Moab. There’s very little detail about the middle of the trail.

The best resource I could find was a 1-page, 2-sided map produced by the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Association (COPMOBA). Even that was rather confusing, because it listed a number of smallish campsites not included on any other maps. Eventually I had to call the BLM offices in Grand Junction and Moab to find out if the sites were real. The field rangers I spoke to were quite helpful. The ranger in Moab gave me pretty good directions to the Rock Castle campground high above the Castle Valley outside Moab, and she warned me against filtering Colorado River water due to excessive silt. I should have listened to this advice specifically! The Grand Junction office informed me that it was legal to park overnight at the Loma trailhead, and that they’d not experienced issues with vandalism or break-in. Both rangers impressed upon me that there is “no water on the trail!”

This is a picture of the Kokopelli's Trail overview map and elevation profile that we found posted near Dewey Bridge. Oddly, while planning the trip, I didn't find anything much better.
This is a picture of the Kokopelli's Trail overview map and elevation profile that we found posted near Dewey Bridge. Oddly, while planning the trip, I didn't find anything much better.

Okay, if you’re familiar with the trail, you might also know that there are several travel companies that offer guided tours of Kokopelli’s Trail. If you can afford to travel this way, it’s a great idea, but at around $1000.00 a person, it’s way too steep for my blood. The upside to the guided tour is the ability to have all of your camping gear shuttled from campsite to campsite by a support van. This also includes a prodigious amount of water, food, and best yet, beer. It sounds spectacular, just you and about 8 of your newest friends sitting around a campfire at night after riding all day, sipping a fine microbrew.

So, maybe that doesn’t really appeal to you any more than it appeals to me. I want to carry my stuff, and more importantly, I want to ride with my friends, not a laundry-list of guide-service clients. The biggest problem was going to be water. After looking at the COPMOBA map, which included rough trail descriptions and mileage, I cooked up a plan that seemed like it could work. We’d spend 4 days and 3 nights on the trail. We’d drop some water at the Bitter Creek campsite prior to setting off on the trail, and filter some Colorado River water at Dewey Bridge (not quite there anymore) for day 3. Jess would meet us above Castle Valley on the 3rd night with more water, and join us for the Porcupine Rim descent into Moab. It would be a mostly unsupported trip on Kokopelli’s Trail, and it would be nearly impossible for us to complete as planned. (I wouldn’t be aware of the last point until I was halfway to Moab.)

With the itinerary planned, the only thing that remained was the question of how to carry all of my stuff. I did an overnight trip to Winter Park a while back via the Rollin’s Pass/Corona Pass road, and for that trip I used a rack that attaches to the seatpost of a mountain bike. It worked pretty well, but the clamp wasn’t designed for a seatpost of the size that fits into my Cannondale hardtail. It’s too big and doesn’t attach firmly. That allowed it to swing around during hard cornering, not something I wanted to deal with for 4 days. Luckily, a coworker was able to machine a small plastic spacer for me. It worked well in the shop, making a tight fit that didn’t want to slip under moderate force.

On the Winter Park ride, I used a small bag that clipped to the top of the rack. It was large enough to hold a change of clothes and some extra food and water, but it wasn’t going to be sufficient for camping gear. On the Winter Park trip we stayed in a lovely hostel in Frazier, so I didn’t need much in terms of gear. A trip to the local REI produced a pair of “inexpensive” panniers that explicitly stated they were for road use only; however, after trying every single bag they stocked, it was clear that these attached the mostly firmly to my little rack. Since I was certain that most of the damage would occur from the bags flopping around, I decided that these would probably hold up better than the others that fit more sloppily. They were also the cheapest set of bags available, and because they were a little smaller in terms of volume, they’d help me keep my load under the 20-pound weight limit of the rack.

I was up crazy late the night before the trip, packing and repacking the paniers. I kept trying to reduce the weight without compromising my total calories. I even looked up how many calories you get from peanuts (a lot) in order to determine how many to bring (too many). Finally, I was satisfied, but the bags still seemed likely to outweigh my rack’s rating. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were 9 and 10 pounds respectively when I put them on the scale at work the next day. With everything packed, it was hard getting through the day of work knowing that I’d be on Kokopelli’s Trail tomorrow morning! It was an odd mixture of nervousness and excitment.

Working in the Big City

Even though I’ve been traveling for work for more than six years, I hadn’t had a conference in New York City until last week. The week beforehand, I felt too tired to go, which is often the case. I usually perk up when I smell the airport—I love to travel, and that stale, industrial air smells like traveling. My sleep schedule was off because I’d been staying up late trying to get the Parish Visitor, our church newsletter, ready to be printed before I left. I never get a chance to pack my bag until late the night before the trip, but it’s easy—I only have four days’ worth of clothes nice enough for a conference. I’d love to get a new suit—red!—one of these days. I don’t want it to be too garish, and I don’t want to look like Hillary Clinton, as much as I like her, so it might take some hunting. A nice used clothing store could be just the place.

Anyway, I packed my suitcase with two pairs of shoes, an extra pair of comfortable pants, a couple of sweaters, and my work clothes. My backpack is full of my iPod shuffle, my journal, sunglasses, two books, the camera, a camping pillow, and a swiped airplane blanket from a good ten years ago, when they were blue, fuzzy, and disposable. (Remind me to tell you my hilarious and heartbreaking story of arriving in Liverpool to study abroad—that airplane blanket features heavily.) I collapsed into bed. My coworker and good buddy Karen was picking me up from home in the company car, a manual transmission Jetta, at 7:50 a.m. on Friday. She arrived on time and I had already managed to make Dave a lunch and a mocha, polish off a few dishes, and water the plants. We headed for the airport, taking E-470 despite the fee, which the company would pay back. (Dave and I don’t take toll roads as a matter of principle: see this post and this one for the plusses and minuses of principles.) No problems at the airport, and we were both dying for coffee, so we sat down at Au Bon Pain to get some breakfast and coffee. I had a nice hot plate of oatmeal, which had brown sugar and strawberries—and was served in a cookie bowl! So much for a healthy start to the day. As always, as soon as the stale airplane air hit my face, I pulled my blanket over my head (Dave hates that) and went to sleep. I rarely even take advantage of my free drink anymore, since I’m asleep as soon as my head hits the camp pillow propped awkwardly against the plastic window. We got to New York on time even though we’d had to sit on the Denver tarmac for nearly an hour because of high winds at LaGuardia. We stumbled off and headed for the taxi stand. Both Karen and I are light packers and we hadn’t checked our bags. We got to our hotel, the Marriott Marquis Times Square, at about 6:00 p.m. EST.

I’d been having nervous feelings about New York City, which is kind of strange because I just LOVE cities. Even though everyone is tired of 9/11, it’s still very much a part of our lives. Dave and I moved from Boston to Boulder only days after the attack, and Boston was close to the center. If I remember correctly, two of the planes had originated in Boston, and the police were still raiding hotel rooms when we were packing up our lives and heading west. So I’d been thinking about danger. However, when we flew past (and past, and past) the city, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Building after building, and the sun was sparkling off the river. I had forgotten—I always do, somehow—that cities are always built on water. It seemed unbelievable that a city that big, perched on the edge of an island, hadn’t just sunk into the water. And such a big city! With so much land that isn’t the city beyond it. I love how flying shows you how big the earth really is, compared to the tiny little people with complicated, important, but self-contained lives bumbling about on it. I was just thrilled to see New York, and I was easily able to set the fear aside.

The view from our hotel room.
The view from our hotel room.

Karen and I checked in, checked out the view from our room on the thirty-fifth floor of the hotel, and headed out into Times Square. The silly thing that came immediately to mind was “it’s just like Tokyo!” I see so many more pictures of Tokyo on TV that I connect the neon and bustle to Japan rather than New York. It was gorgeous, hideous, overwhelming, disorienting, and exciting.

Times Square
Times Square

We pushed through the crowds to get to TKTS, hoping to buy marked-down tickets for a show that night. Luckily, Karen and I are both small and quick, so we were able to keep together. We wanted to see Avenue Q, but when we found out that it cost $75.00 to buy the cheap tickets, we took pity on our spouses back at home and decided to see something cheaper. (My spouse was splurging on himself too, but that meant buying more mochas than he was supposed to and replacing the headlights and windshield wipers on the car.) For $30, we could get tickets for a murder mystery called Perfect Crime, so we did. Then we realized that we didn’t have a long time to eat, so we headed back to the hotel to grab a quick dinner and change clothes. We ate pretty decent sushi at the hotel sushi bar and then dashed back outside to the Snapple Theater. It was small, and cute, and we all got to move forward because the theater wasn’t full. The play was terrific! We both really enjoyed it. Astonishingly, the program explained that the lead actress had been in every showing except four since it began running in 1987! I wondered if she’d been asleep the whole play. On the way down the stairs, we bumped into one of the actors and congratulated him. Then Karen asked him to sign our playbills, and he obliged. (We had the sense that didn’t happen too often.) We created a small line of like-minded audience members, and then headed back to the hotel. On the way, we bought cookies and an enormous chocolate stick that looked like a cannoli. Then we went back out to buy a bottle of wine, after asking the concierge where to find one. Karen wanted a pop, so we went into a drugstore at about 11:30 p.m. There were five cashiers and a line! I guess that’s Times Square for you, but I was amazed and charmed that there really were crowds outside at that time of night, like you hear. (It’s a bit hard to tell when it’s night in Times Square, actually!)

The next morning we checked in with the concierge and found out where we could eat breakfast. We ate at a little diner on Restaurant Row and then walked around the city for a while. We didn’t have to be at work until setup at 1:00 p.m. We stumbled on the Hell’s Kitchen flea market, which was pretty fun. I was (again) charmed to be somewhere I’d heard of—Hell’s Kitchen!—and Karen and I both love secondhand stores and flea markets. I found the most beautiful women’s suit, sort of green and gold, which I would’ve paid the $75 for if the zipper hadn’t threatened to burst when I tried the skirt on over my pants. We also found a little indoor arcade where Karen got a chair massage and I got talked into a skirt I never would’ve bought if the little Asian lady hadn’t insisted on bargaining with me. She wouldn’t give up! I almost yelled “I’m American! This isn’t fun!” but that would’ve been rude. I ended up paying $22 for a skirt that would’ve cost twice that at a Nepalese importer in Boulder—hot pink and flowy. It looks comfy, and I’ll wear it, but geez!

Karen and I spent about an hour arranging the booth and organizing the books loosely by field before Lynne showed up. (My boss, the honest-to-goodness Lynne Rienner of Lynne Rienner Publishers.) She has an apartment in NYC, so she walked over and spent the next three hours fiddling and organizing and teaching us how to think about the book groupings. She’s great at that sort of thing. We were set free at 5:00 p.m., when my old friend Renee was due to arrive. She and I worked together at Rowman & Littlefield until she moved to NYC, where she’d always wanted to live. She and her husband and their cat Pig live in Queens, so she took the subway to meet me in midtown. (I learned that everyone laughs if you say something is “downtown” in New York.) Karen came along, and Renee took us by subway to Caracas Arepa Bar, a Venezuelan restaurant featuring arepas, which I’d never heard of. It was amazing! Then we headed over to Bluestockings, a feminist bookstore, where we found all kinds of cool—and distressing—stuff to read. We finally headed back to the hotel and got to bed.

Saint Peter's Lutheran Church
Saint Peter's Lutheran Church

Sunday morning I got up and went to church; I found a reconciling in Christ ELCA Lutheran church about a mile away, so I headed over there. It was a beautiful morning, chilly but sunny, and I enjoyed walking past things like Radio City Music Hall. The church was a strange shape and located directly underneath a huge office building. I walked in to discover that the 8:45 a.m. service was held not in the sanctuary, but in a tiny chapel on the main floor. There were only thirteen people there by the end of the service (a few snuck in late), but it was a really intimate, very liturgical service. It was really fun to hear and sing some of the liturgy I was raised on, since my home church, Mount Calvary, doesn’t follow those traditional liturgies very often. I felt very included, even though I didn’t talk to anyone, and left happy.

Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center

I took a bunch of photos on my way back to the hotel, where I found Karen ready to wander about looking for lunch. We walked all over, enjoying the sights, and finally stopped at a Thai restaurant for some amazing soup. We got back to the hotel in plenty of time to change clothes for work, which started at 1:00 p.m.

Me at Madison Square Garden
Me at Madison Square Garden

What do I do at work at conferences? A few things. I meet people I’m already working with who I’ve never met in person. I talk with potential new authors about their book projects. I point out and sell books at our booth. I ask questions about the state of the academic discipline and who is working on good projects. All of it is designed to bring in new books and showcase our published books. It’s really fun! I get to talk about books and publishing all day and meet people who have interesting ideas.

Beautiful art deco GE building.
Beautiful art deco GE building.

Work ended at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, and Karen and I dashed back to our room to change our clothes. We were both headed to Long Island to see people: my old Emerson College roomie, Tracy, and Karen’s husband’s aunt. We took the subway to Penn Station, because we had walked the route on Saturday and found that we’d be pressed for time, trying to make a 6:40 p.m. train. I accidentally bought the wrong ticket (Peak/Off-Peak instead of plain old Off-Peak), so we had to run around getting a refund and then a new ticket. However, we made the train and chatted during the 45-minute ride out to Long Island. I got off in Wantagh and headed down the stairs to find Tracy’s car; she described it as “red, with lots of yellow tape. A total piece of crap.” It was just like what she described, so I got in and gave her a hug. Morgan Paige, her new baby, was tucked in the backseat, so we drove home quickly, talking about how long it had been since we’ve seen each other (more than seven years). At Tracy’s apartment, I delightedly took Morgan out of the carrier and walked around with her while Tracy pulled some leftover eggplant lasagna out of the fridge. We put Morgan to bed and then had dinner—delicious, especially since Tracy was not exactly known for her cooking during our year of living together. We reminisced, talked about her life with husband and baby on Long Island and mine with husband in Boulder, and what we hope for our futures. It was just lovely to see her again! (And the baby is adorable.) Plus, she gave me a cupcake—apparently cupcakes are the new thing in New York. I saw a burgers and cupcakes restaurant that sold only burgers and cupcakes!

I took a taxi back to the train station for the very last train headed back to the city. Karen and I had agreed to try to meet at the end of the train, so I waited near the green line that marked the “loading zone.” Five minutes before the train was due to arrive, a young guy stopped near me, unzipped, and began to pee. I dutifully looked the other direction. “Hey!” he yelled. “Hey! Hi!” I turned my head forward, still avoiding him. “Do you ever pee and it just feels SO GOOD?” he yelled. “Uh, sure, sometimes in the woods,” I said, hoping he might pick up on the suggestion that people ought not pee on the train platform. His friends, giggling, hauled him off and the train came. At which point I realized that, in my infinite genius, I was standing at the very, very beginning of the train. So I ran, and ran, thinking that I’d better get on the train, but wanting to get near the end of it so I wouldn’t have to go through the doors to get to Karen. (There are signs saying that you shouldn’t go through the cars while the train is moving, but I’ve since been informed by my native New Yorker friends that everyone does anyway.) Remarkably, I both got on the train and found Karen, who—also remarkably—had made the train despite the unreliability of her husband’s aunt.

Monday was a full work day. Karen and I got up in time to go to Lenny’s for a yogurt parfait (me) and oatmeal (Karen). I had appointments from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., and I drank a lot of coffee. We were part sponsors of two receptions that evening, so we went to part of each. Renee came by again, so she and I walked Restaurant Row looking for dinner. We started at Brazil Brazil, but the menu didn’t look that good, so Renee faked nausea and we left. We wound up at Dervish Turkish, where I discovered that, despite being a vegetablephile, I don’t like okra much. Oh well. It was great to see Renee again and catch up on our lives and the blog we both read, I Blame the Patriarchy.

Tuesday was another full work day. Karen got up first and got me some coffee and a protein platter from one of the two Starbucks in the hotel. (As you can see, she took very good care of me!) There was a panel about Lynne Rienner’s contribution to the ISA and the field of international studies at 8:00 a.m., so Lynne came by the room at about 7:20 and we all chatted until we had to go down to the panel. Everyone was very complimentary, and Lynne challenged them with some tough publishing questions that led to a great discussion. I ended up feeling very proud to be part of Lynne Rienner Publishers. Again, I had appointments from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., and then we had another reception. After the reception, we met up with my good buddy Joe Parry, editor at Lexington Books. Joe suggested a restaurant near his hotel, a mile or so away, so we headed over there. They had delicious sushi, plenty of warm sake, and the shrimp I was longing for. No one said anything to us, but as we were paying the staff seemed agitated and when we left, they slammed down the metal grate that protects the store for the night. We would’ve been happy to leave, if they’d just told us they wanted to close! So we stopped for a drink at Joe’s hotel’s bar, where a goofy older man told me I looked like the person who played “Ariel” in The Little Mermaid. He introduced himself as Andy Rooney’s son Jimmy Rooney, and told us that he was the voice of Flounder. Karen didn’t believe him, so he wrote down a website. Lo and behold! He was not the voice of Flounder.

Wednesday was the last day of exhibits. We sell our books at a good discount on the last day, so the booth turns into a zoo. Karen and I managed to get up in time to fortify ourselves for the madness—we went to Lenny’s for orange juice and egg and sausage sandwiches on a roll (delicious!). I only had one appointment, so I had time to help process orders. At noon on the dot, we dismantled the whole booth, ending up with only three boxes and our Lynne Rienner Publishers sign to send back! We had plenty of time to change clothes and get lunch before our flight, so we headed to the concierge desk for the final time and found out where to get good soup and real New York bagels within walking distance. We ended up at The Original Soup Man, of Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi” fame. I had lobster bisque and Karen had jambalya. There are, indeed, rules. You have to know what you want, have your money out, and then move to the side of the line in the tiny storefront. I HATE having to know what I want without time to read the menu, but it was on a chalkboard out front, so I thought I was all set when I got to the head of the line. I didn’t, however, know that I had to choose a fruit. “Apple, orange, or banana?” the lady asked. I hesitated. “Fruit?!” the lady demanded. “Uh, apple!” I said, immediately wishing I’d chosen banana.

After lunch we bought bagels for our beloved spouses, who had suffered through Valentine’s Day without us. Then we picked up our suitcases from the hotel and headed for the airport. Dave picked us up at 8:30-ish, Colorado time, and he and I dropped Karen off in Boulder before heading over to our friends’ house to walk their dog (they were on a trip to New York).

All in all, a very successful trip. I’d love to vacation in New York City sometime, although you can’t beat the work-paid-for hotel room and food. I got back home energized about following up with the potential authors I’d met. However, I was sure ready for a break by the time the weekend rolled around! And a lovely weekend it was, with Dave cooking me a delicious dinner for our belated Valentine’s Day.