The second time my family crossed the U.S. it was in an old-model Mercedes, a car held together by rust and kitchen string, altogether at odds with the grandness of the name. We flew from Belgium; it followed us by ship, swung over the sides onto the dock in a cargo net. At least, that's the picture I hold: I could be conflating it with a Spanish ferry on the Costa Brava. The family was together then, the five of us, and we stopped into a coffee shop, just off the plane at JFK. I ordered a hot chocolate. "Honey," said the waitress (they still had waitresses and stewardesses in those years, until they were all exchanged at equal value for servers and flight attendants)..."Honey," she said in a mellifluous New York accent, "we don't have hot chocolate in August."
To the east, Goat Hill catches the brilliant light that follows a winter storm. The deep terra cotta strata of the uplift are never as clear as when they contrast with bands of snow, like the blood-red and white of Acoma pottery. Geologists know the hill as the Bellvue Dome. At first glance, it seems just a continuation of the Hogback, with the characteristic eastern slope and sheer scarp facing the setting sun. But the gentle arch of the anticline, the eroding course of the Poudre River at its base, where it winds through Pleasant Valley, set it apart.