Driving South in a Buick

Outside Winthrop, whitetail and ravens compete for rotten crabapples as they drop into snow. In town, fences cage unpruned trees.

West of Snoqualmie Pass, a lone man in a business suit leans against a guardrail, miles from an off-ramp, no car, no pack, no sign, his rain jacket flapping in the gusts. He’s grinning.

A bumpersticker:  Evolution is God’s Intelligent Design.

In Portland, women walk the streets in veils. Helicopters circled the mosque a while back, say my hosts. Something was wrong. Turned out, they say, a man had tried to place a bomb; the FBI had caught him in a sting.

On the radio: Should kids who grow up on the Warm Springs Reservation stay put or leave to see the world? The discussion is heated. There’s no good answer.

In Eugene, ponytailed men in tie-dye share the sidewalk with frat boys in shorts. One asks for a plastic cup for his dog to drink from. They are two miles from home and did not expect the heat. Sorry, I say. Another tells me about the seven-foot snow drifts of his youth. In Eugene? Yes, he says. Awesome, I say. He says: You said it, Little Girl.

A Ron Paul bumpersticker on a Prius.

North of Siskiyou Summit, a lone attendant hustles to fill a dozen tanks. Four bucks a gallon Inside, I fill my cup with coffee. On the house, the owner says. That’s on the house.

On the radio: Backcountry snow lovers, especially you snowmobilers with kids, take an avalanche safety course. The snow is waiting. The snow is moving. Call. Please call.

At the Comfort Inn, an elderly desk clerk knits doilies, sitting. Young men in hard hats and orange vests loiter, standing. Cold out, one says. Blows on his hands. The clerk does not look up. Colder last week, she says.

Out jogging. An otter in a reservoir swims through a culvert and turns to face me. Geese flee squawking.

Back in the parking lot, a driver sits impatient with his defroster. Scraper offered. Scraper declined.

At the Burger King, closed for remodeling, women, all with children, idle in line, waiting for the lone girl at the drive-thru to get them what they need.

South of Shasta: almonds in bloom and hand-painted plywood: American Revolution Now.

On the radio: the Chinook salmon run is supposed to be bigger than ever. Experts don’t know why. Peyton Manning is done with his career with the Colts. In some towns in Greenland where chemical exposure is highest only girls are being born. No boys at all.

In Marin County, green hills, white spotted cows, blue ocean. No shoulder on the roads. No spraying, say the signs. No one waves.

On the radio: In the years before the Civil War, the scholar says, when everything was in flux, giving up slaves was akin to giving up automobiles now.

A good idea. The right thing to do. Unthinkable.