Tag Archives: CA to MI

Palm Springs, CA to Clarkston, MI, Day 12, 13, 14 May 17, 18, 19

May 17

We get up this morning, get ourselves packed, eat a HI Express breakfast, and head out for St Louis. It’s a four hour trip, and not very exciting. At this point in the journey, we are not very excited by driving anywhere, and this is no exception. We get to St Louis, and try to visit the Campbell house in town. It turns out to be a parade day (Memorial Day parade??), and we (our navigation systems as well as our dead reckoning) are just unable to find a route that gets us past the parade where the Campbell House is. So, giving that up, we come back to the hotel, register, and go looking for the Missouri Civil War Museum in the Jefferson Barracks historical site. This one we find without hindrance. The museum presents its artifacts well and uses them to tell related aspects of Civil War history effectively, but unhappily doesn’t do a good job of helping one see the role Missouri played other than superficially. I am disappointed as my knowledge of the Civil War primarily concerns the battles in the eastern part of the country and the political turmoil centered in Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA.  I was hoping for some broader enlightenment concerning the war midwestern states, not only the battles but the political and social aspects as they were before, during and immediately after the war.  They do present a video listing some 500 battles that took place in Missouri, but there is no indication (other than number of casualties) of the impact any of these battles had on the people who lived there, or on the broader strife. The best presented material is to be found in the large central room on the main floor.  The artifacts there are well presented, grouped to show their use during the Civil War. In general, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be. We retreat back to the hotel, and then go out to dinner. Tomorrow we’ll go see the Arch, and then it’s time to start for Michigan!

May 18

As advertised, today is the day of the Arch!  The only problems are the traffic into town and the parking once there.

May 2015-9627 May 2015-9622Once we find parking, we walk to the Arch, and I make my way up to the capsule line.  Capsules run up the inside of each of the two legs of the Arch taking those who don’t mind the height to the room at the top.  As it turns out, the room is well closed in, the views to the outside world are through windows in the Arch’s side panels, so there is no feeling of looking over the edge. May 2015-9617 It is high up, however.  Gwen opted out, and well she should – the capsules hold chairs for five people each, with a four foot door closing you in for a four minute ride to the top.

Dred and Harriet Scott

Dred and Harriet Scott

Coming back, they say, takes three minutes, but the capsule does not feel like it is going any faster.  The view from the top is spectacular, with St Louis, its old Courthouse (home of the Dred Scott decision) and Busch Stadium on one side and the mighty Mississippi on the other.

There was a great video they provided in the visitor center which showed the construction of the Arch. As an acrophobic, the movie made me just a bit queasy, with views from the 630 foot top as they worked to fit the last triangle in place. A tremendous engineering feat, however! May 2015-9697 May 2015-9707We then walked to the paddleboat Becky Thatcher on the Mississippi just below the Arch, and spend the next hour moving up and then down the Mississippi. We go up-river under three bridges and back and then under two more down the river. The bridges make for some intriguing pictures, with lines everywhere overlapping and crossing adding geometry, ambiguity and interest.  May 2015-9760 May 2015-9730The Arch can be photographed from different angles as well. There are a number of barges lining the river, unloading or loading dry cement, grain, or oil. We are told the river tugboats push up to 12 barges at a time up stream (toward the upper Mississippi) and over 36 at a time downriver (toward the lower Mississippi). May 2015-9792 May 2015-9724 We walked back to the car, after visiting the Basilica on the way, and revisiting the visitor center in the old Courthouse.  Much to my chagrin, the parking lot near the old Courthouse where we found a parking spot charges a lot more than they advertised on their signs, even after making us climb to the sixth floor to find a non-reserved parking space. We pay it, and get on the road.  May 2015-9741 May 2015-9754St Louis is, in summary, a disappointment.  We have now seen the Arch, the one thing that we feel is worth the visit, so it is unlikely we will be back. A little after 6:00, we arrive at the Holiday Inn Express just outside Indianapolis, a nice half way point to our MI home.

May 19

Our trip from Indianapolis to Clarkston is uneventful, happily, and we are happy to get home.  The house has not fared as well as we would have liked, and it takes us time to get it back in shape, but we will take advantage of our lessons learned for next year and beyond.  This brings this trip and its blog postings to an end.

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Palm Springs, CA to Clarkston, MI, Day 11 May 16

We are in Independence, MO, a suburb of Kansas City, and we plan to visit the Truman House, the WW I Museum, and two interesting museums in downtown Kansas City: the Museum of Jazz and the Museum of the Negro Baseball Leagues.

We want to get to the Truman House early, as their tours only accommodate eight patrons at a time, and are only run hourly. So, we show up at the National Park Service office in downtown Independence at 8:15, easily obtaining the first tickets for the 9:00 visit. As it turns out, we are the only ones in the 9:00 group. May 2015-9510The house itself is as Bess Truman left it upon her death (Harry died in 1972, Bess in 1982). It is approximately 6000 square feet in floor space, and was built by Bess’s grandfather between 1867 and 1885. It has two floors, is set on the corner of Truman Ave. and N. Delaware St., in what at the time of Harry and Bess’s occupation was the better part of town. It was occupied by Harry and Bess from the time of their marriage in 1919 until Bess’s death, after which it was bequeathed to the U.S., being overseen by the US Park Service.

Our guide is James, a park ranger, who is extremely knowledgeable of the house’s history, Harry’s and Bess’s biographies, and all things related to the house. He does an excellent job of guiding us, starting on the back porch and taking us into the kitchen and first floor living rooms, telling us about each one as we went through. We discuss Harry’s legacy, and the historical changes in the popular opinion regarding his presidency.

From there, we go over to the WW I memorial.  May 2015-9572I had not heard of this memorial until we started to investigate what to see and do in the Kansas City area.  Since I have done a lot of reading about WWI, I am really anxious to see what they have to offer.  As this is a memorial as well as a museum, there is much more to it than just a collection of artifacts artfully arranged.  The memorial includes a tall tower that provides a full 360 degrees of spectacular views of Kansas City from the top, after a multi-story elevator ride and two-floor stair climb to get to the observation deck.

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May 2015-9552

Top Aces of WWI, including the number of planes shot down by each

At the base of the tower is the Memory Hall, entirely devoted to the display of a WWI timeline / compendium, developed in 1919-1920 to tour Europe.  It circulated for awhile, and eventually made its way to become part of the WWI Liberty Memorial Museum built in Kansas City from 1920 to 1926.   May 2015-9553The main part of the museum is downstairs under the tower and the ground level rooms.  The museum starts with a video showing the lead-up to WWI, focusing on the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo and the events that surrounded it.

Advertisements that sold the war to the US population

Advertisements that sold the war to the US population

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Vehicle of WWI

Then it is out into the first hall that includes information and artifacts around the first years of the war.  I find I am part of a group led by a history professor of a local college, who is substituting for a buddy who is a docent at the museum.  His specialty is WWI, so he does an excellent job talking about each exhibit, not in detail, but rather weaving the story of the war to put the displays into context.  Then it is back into a video bringing out the next stage, and then on to the next exhibit hall. May 2015-9564 This goes on around the exhibit halls, providing quite a detailed pictorial and visual record.

When we approached the Museum, we found a parking space along the street that leads into the Tower, and were immediately accosted by a man driving a golf cart wanting to know if we would like a ride to the Museum.  We were hesitant, as we believed ourselves capable of the walk, but he enticed us by telling us this was his job, and as it was early, there were no other potential customers around.  So, we agreed, and found that the golf-cart ride was the result of an anonymous benefactor and that the service had started only this week.  As luck would have it, there is one at the door to take us back to our car as well, so we availed ourselves of the luxury.

May 2015-9515The museum, we agreed, is one of the best museums we have visited.  It’s arrangement and presentation emphasizing the story and how each element contributes to that story goes a long way to helping us understand what went on in WWI, and how that has shaped the world since.  Our compliments to the curators who put it together and keep it going!

After this, we go to downtown Kansas City to visit the Negro League Museum, and then finish up with the American Jazz Museum, located right next door.

The Negro League Museum is very well done, starting off with a short video summarizing the history of the negro leagues.  It starts with the first blacks in major league play, way back in the period right after the Civil War.  For political reasons, owners of the professional teams soon decided that they wouldn’t play negro teams any more. They took on occasional negro players at first, but those players had to put up with considerable challenges to continue playing. It wasn’t too long before even those opportunities disappeared. Subsequently, negro teams were formed and barnstormed, playing heavy schedules going from town to town playing whatever teams would challenge them. In the 1890s there were over 60 such teams circulating the US, mostly in the East, mid-west and south, wherever there was a large enough population of blacks to supply the players and the audience for the games.

Around the turn of the twentieth century, a pitcher named “Rube” Foster joined one of these teams. He did very well as a pitcher. Eventually, he came up with his own team.  Subsequently, he engineered a meeting amongst the main negro team owners they had been playing against. The result was an organized National Negro League. This was 1921. Two years later, a white guy did a similar thing, coming up with a competition league. Quickly, an agreement was done enabling a “negro world series” to be played between these two leagues.  This competition between the leagues went on for many years, although the negro world series did not always get staged for a variety of reasons.

Many legendary players played for the negro teams. The most famous was Leroy “Satchel” Paige, a pitcher who could strike out 9 batters in a row predictably. His career lasted long enough so that he played in the late 1940s for the newly integrated National League / American League. There were other nationally famous black players who played in the negro leagues, “Josh” Gibson, “Cool Papa” Bell, for example. Then, in the 1940s, the pressure for equal opportunity for black players set the scene for Branch Rickey (of the Dodgers) to sign Jackie Robinson. He was chosen as the one to break the color barrier in white baseball because of his relative maturity (he was 26, engaged to be married, been in the military, and had been a four-sport starter for UCLA, including football where he was one of four black players on the team).

The museum does an excellent job, and is one I would definitely come back to, as there was more information than I could possibly absorb in the couple of hours we spent there. I’m only sorry there are so few pictures of the Negro League games, either stills or motion pictures. To be able to watch Satchel Paige pitch would be a tremendous thing.

The museum next-door is the American Jazz Museum, which I found also quite well done and much fun to visit. There is plenty of information on the history of Jazz, and on the history of some of the more famous players, like saxophone player Charlie “Bird” Parker, pianist, composer and band leader Duke Ellington, signer Ella Fitzgerald, and trumpeter, singer and entertainer Louis Armstrong. I particularly enjoyed the music library, where they have a number of stands. Each stand has a selection of eight recordings related together (all by the same artist, or same time period). You chose the selection you want to hear, and it is played from a speaker right above your head so it doesn’t disturb others in the room. Very well done. It was a great opportunity to hear some of the most famous recordings of the Jazz greats.

Neither museum allowed pictures, so I can only write about them. If you get to Kansas City, be sure to stop in to see these very well done museums.

After this, we go back to the hotel, and from there walk to the Mongolian BBQ for dinner. There we are seated in the bar area where the baseball game between the NY Yankees and the KC Royals is being shown from several TVs. In the inning we see, the Royals managed to get the bases loaded with no outs, but are only able to push one run across.  Sigh!  We never do find out who won the game.

Back to the hotel, and we rest for the evening, preparing for the trip tomorrow to St Louis.

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Palm Springs, CA to Clarkston, MI, Day 10 May 15

May 2015-9443

Looking down the front of the admin bldg

Today is mainly a driving day, with us getting between Dodge City, Kansas and Independence, Missouri. On the way, however, we plan a stop in Ft Larned, Kansas. This is the restored and maintained fort that provided protection for wagon trains, mail carriers, and settlers along this part of the Santa Fe Trail. The fort is just a little over an hour to the east of Dodge City.

May 2015-9447

Enlisted men’s quarters

The first thing that strikes me about the fort is that there is no “fortification” around the buildings. The buildings are arranged in a square (as most forts of this time period are), but there is no outside perimeter fence surrounding the acreage. Gwen suggests this is because the plain around the fort is so flat that seeing enemies coming from the distance would have been easy. In its short 19 year life (1859 to 1878) the fort was attacked only once (by Indians in 1864, when the site was manned by a small number of volunteers), so I guess this must have been at least part of the reason.  There is a sign which tells us that Gwen was right, but adds that there just wasn’t the supply of logs necessary to build such a barrier around the buildings.

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Baked goods ready for distribution

Two sides of the square (the side at the back of the officers’ quarters and the side at the back of the administrative offices and the enlisted men’s quarters) ran along the Pawnee Bend River that presumably provided water to the outpost. On the third side, across a wash is a flat and grassy section that was formed when an oxbow of the river was cut off and dried up.



Cemetery across the wash

Cemetery across the wash

This flat area was used as the fort cemetery, with rows of tombstones set in military order.

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The side of the square that backed up to the wash housed the workshops for woodworking, metalworking, as well as the bakery. Outside the square, beyond the corner made by the blacksmith’s shop and the supply storage side of the square is an octagonal building or blockhouse, displayed as a jailhouse. May 2015-9457 May 2015-9464This room had been a lookout originally, as it faced the only side of the fort which was open to surprise attack.  The administration building is now where the visitor center is, starting in the corner closest to the officers’ quarters. May 2015-9486On that side below the visitors’ center and the enlisted men’s quarters is the hospital. I suspect the stables for the horses to be opposite the hospital, along the supply storage side of the square. The central square itself is grass-covered, with a flag pole in the center.

Gwen and I toured the place. Each building had displays of furniture and paraphernalia related to its use along with notes talking about interesting aspects. May 2015-9468 May 2015-9469The fort was built originally in 1859 (although originally some little distance away, and made out of sod). It was finally abandoned in 1878, as they say, the victim of its own success. During that time, the pony express was established and died, as telegraphy replaced mail for communication. During that time, the Santa Fe Trail May 2015-9496wagon trains were replaced by the metal trains of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad. During that time, the plains Indians of several tribes were corralled and established on reservations thus eliminating the need to reach out and find the plains Indians to establish treaties, or to try to maintain existing treaties.

In the early 1860s the buildings were built out of sandstone in their current locations. The Calvary and foot soldiers made up the primary military presence, and they came and went with the requirement of the challenges undertaken. Officers came and went as well. Over the period, they indicated that 238 officers were assigned to the fort, approximating 10 new ones each month. This level of turnover kept the whole place in a constant upheaval in leadership. An interesting aspect of the groups assigned to Ft Larned were the buffalo soldiers corps, who spent a lot of time here. One theory about how they got their name was the similarity of their hair to the hair of the buffalos, but the respect earned by the organization by its hard work and excellent service record may also have been another source.

May 2015-9502We spend about an hour walking around and finding out as much as we could, and then we go on our way. The rest of the trip is long and boring, but not too difficult until we get into Kansas City. Our planning was not really that good in this instance – getting to a large city at rush hour on a Friday evening was not a good idea. However, we get to our hotel at dinner time, and after getting settled, walk next door to the Rib Cage, a restaurant specializing in various ways of preparing and serving ribs. Surprisingly (to us), they were not broad on their wine offerings, with only one red, and just two whites available. We get a glass each, and accept the shortcomings as part of the sacrifice for enjoying the meat. After dinner, we go back to the hotel for a restful evening.

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Palm Springs, CA to Clarkston, MI, Day 8-9 May 13-14

May 13

Today is to be a quieter day. After breakfast at the Bent St Café and Deli, we get in the car and go to the Taos Pueblo. This is the site of the “Red Elk” tribe (or so we were told by our guide (Louis)). The central place of gathering is the church, which we found out was located and built in its current location in 1850. Our guide (Louis) then led us to the cemetery, where the original church had been located. In 1847, after Governor Bent had been assassinated, the US cavalry came to the Pueblo seeking those who did the assassination.  Finding the only people there to be hiding in the church behind blockaded walls, they used their cannon to try to break the blockage.   When that failed, they used the cannon to lob shells over the walls and into the building inside.  The Indian men, women and children having been warned of the soldiers approach, had for the most part taken off to the mountains nearby and were hiding amongst the rocks.  Those who couldn’t make it that far had hidden in the church (old folks and young children), so they were the ones that were killed by the bombardment. The only thing left now on the site is the bell tower with the original bell as provided by the Spaniards and the cemetery with its many headstones.  I have no pictures, as the Pueblo doesn’t allow cameras on site.

Louis takes us to a central area near the river that divides the Pueblo camp. On each side of the river there is a main building, having been built between 1000 AD and 1400 AD. These buildings are five stories high, looking like reddish brown stacked sugar cubes.  There are quite a few cubes across the front, each with a door and a ladder, as well as the occasional window.  The cubic rooms built one on top of another but offset.  Louis tells us that the doors originally were in the roofs, as that way at the hint of any danger, the families would climb to the roof pulling the ladder up after them. The men would then use the ladder to lower the families into the rooms and establish such defensive positions as they could.  This was mainly to preserve themselves from raiding parties of other Indians (Utes, Navajo, Arapaho, Cherokee, Comanche, etc.).

These blockhouses are the characteristic pueblo buildings familiar from many pictures and drawings. We soon finish the tour and find our way over to one of the houses that is indicated as open for visitors. This, not too surprisingly, houses a shop with a variety of indian-related wares for sale. We buy a piece of very pretty pottery to take with us to Michigan, and eventually back to PS.

From the pueblo, we continue on to the Millicent Rogers Museum. This is a building on the northern outskirts of Taos, where Millicent Rogers retreated after her break-up with Clark Gable. Now, before I got to this museum, I didn’t have a clue as to who this person was or why she would have a museum named after her.  I find out she was the granddaughter of one of the group of men who formed Standard Oil in the late 1800s (Henry Huttleston Rogers), and because of that, she did not lack money. She was married three times, and had three sons, one by her first husband, and two by her second husband.  She had no children with her third husband.  Clark Gable (not a husband, but rumored along with several others to be a lover) introduced her to Taos, and she never really left there. She lived from 1902 until 1953. The museum houses several excellent exhibits reflecting her varied interests.  She was a fashion icon, and there are exhibits containing some of her large collection of silver and turquoise jewelry.  She designed a lot of it herself, and her wearing of it did a lot to bring such art to national and international attention.  There are several exhibits related to her enduring interest in Native American Civil Rights. Exhibits in several rooms tell the story of Indian blankets and pottery. Then there is a room devoted to three Native American artists whose work depicted the pueblo life they knew.  There are rooms displaying maps of what is now New Mexico, woodwork, leatherwork, weaving, and more modern artisan work. The work is displayed with a lot of information on where it came from, and how it was created, making the museum educational as well as beautiful to view.

After that, we go in search of lunch, heading toward the Guadalajara Grill, a local spot known for good Mexican food (as recommended by Steve Bundy). The food is indeed good, and we enjoy it. After that, however, we go back to the room and enjoy a quiet afternoon and evening.

Tomorrow, its on to Kansas!

May 14

Well, today is a driving day. We get out of Taos by about 8:00 am, and finally get breakfast in a small restaurant in Eagle Nest, about 45 minutes into the drive. May 2015-9291 May 2015-9301 May 2015-9308 This place is higher up in the mountains, and from the signs was more heavily populated during the skiing season.  We’re driving across higher elevations, and it is spring, so there are many areas where the trees are getting their summer leaves and needles.  May 2015-9331 May 2015-9343The colors are surprisingly varied, as I usually associate this time of year with dark greens.

We keep going, and finally get to Dodge City, Kansas around 4:00 pm. Gwen finds the Boot Hill Museum and Front Street and is interested in seeing it today before it closes, so we quickly make our way there. It turns out to be exactly as advertised: the original cemetery location, and the high street of the old Dodge City recreated just as it was depicted in pictures of the town in the 1870s.

We go to the cemetery first, and learn about the people buried there.  May 2015-9374 May 2015-9377According to the signs, the first person buried there (in September 1872) was Jack Reynolds, shot six times by a track layer.  The last person buried there is Alice Chambers, buried May 5, 1878 (cause of death not mentioned).  May 2015-9360Also on display in the building on the site is the office of the last U.S. Marshall of Dodge City, Kenneth Ramon House, who died in September 1998.  Gwen found a picture of James Arness, Marshall Dillon of “Gunsmoke” fame.

Down from Boot Hill is Front Street, constructed to replicate the pictures of the town in the 1870’s.

May 2015-9391 May 2015-9395Inside each store front are exhibits related to the original store that stood there, and in some (like the saloon, which starts off the street), related products are for sale. So we walk down through the stores and learn as much as we can in the short time we have. May 2015-9413 May 2015-9418Toward the other end of the street, there is a church, a house of the period, and then a blacksmith shop. The most interesting is the house – with history of a family named Hardesty who lived there. In early 1900s, the Hardesty daughter married Fred Harvey who owned and ran the Dodge City hotel and restaurant in the train station. May 2015-9420 May 2015-9422 May 2015-9424The house is full of period furniture, including two pianos and an organ.

We discover that the grassy area in front of “Front Street” is to be the site of a free concert tonight given by a band based around a singer named Sarah Dunn. While we were first walking on the boardwalk that lined Front Street, we were greeted by a very friendly puppy who desperately wanted to be petted. May 2015-9426 May 2015-9430He was shortly joined by a young woman who apologized for the dog’s interest. It turns out that woman is the singer Sarah, only we don’t find this out until we see the band rehearsing as we are leaving. She is very good, both singing and playing the violin with a group of five other musicians. We decide not to stay for the country music concert, though it probably would have been fun!

Tomorrow we leave early to get to Ft Larned, and ultimately to Independence, Missouri.

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Palm Springs, CA to Clarkston, MI, Day 7 May 12

We start out this morning with breakfast at the Bent St Café and Deli, noting that this is not a town of early risers. The deli is located in a mall area with a dozen or so small business shops, all closed. We find the café will not open until 8:00, and as we are there ten minutes before, we wander around until they open. The other shops open at 9:00, or 10:00, or …, but that is OK, as we are complete alone as far as customers are concerned even as we left the café and head back to the hotel (at 8:45). Good food, though! We say goodbye to the waitress and chef, who at that point are talking, clearly just waiting for the day to really begin.

Steve Bundy is a local photographer who conducts tours for the likes of us who are interested both in the best spots to take pictures and a day’s worth of instruction in the complexities of photography, as well as willing to pay for the privilege of his inside information. We arranged the tour before we left, and today is it! We are to meet him at 10:30, and then spend the entire day at the better spots. That’s next!

May 2015-8612Steve is to do the driving, so we agree to meet him at our hotel’s parking lot.  He shows up in a black four-door pickup truck with lots of enthusiasm.  After a short get-to-know-you period, we start off on our adventure.  The first stop is the Taos Morada, an adobe house built in the early 1800s by and for the Hermanos Penitantentes, and was used for religious study of ancient Catholic lay practices.  May 2015-8636The site is now under the ownership of the Catholic Archdioceses of Santa Fe.  The grounds are open to the public, but the building itself is private. We will be visiting another such structure later on.

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Nearby is a cemetery used by a similar group.  May 2015-8675I’m immediately struck by the attention paid to these graves, with much ornamentation maintained.

May 2015-8752Next we head to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, where we discover a herd of bighorn sheep just off the road on the far side of the bridge.  May 2015-8695Stopping there, Steve gets out his camera to get some shots.  I count 10 sheep in the picture at right.May 2015-8707 May 2015-8724He’s retired from his day-job, he tells us, but enjoys photography originally as a hobby.  He also enjoys meeting new people, so it makes sense for  to do these tours as a way to pay for his hobby.  It is more than a hobby for him, though, as he sells his photographs online.  He gets notification while we are traveling around that the third of three pictures he offered to the state of New Mexico has been accepted for purchase and display.

May 2015-8813Our next stop is the Greater World Earthship Subdivision, a bit further out from Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  May 2015-8815 May 2015-8846This is a community dedicated to living as sustainably as possible.  According to their documentation their goals include:

“- Produce our own energy
– Harvest our own water
– Contain and treat our own sewage
– Manufacture our own bio-diesel fuel
– Grow much of our own food
– Our buildings heat and cool themselves
– Made utilizing discarded materials of modern society”

We came away from that with a greater appreciation for how mud, old tires and bottles amongst a wide variety of other discarded articles as well as recent technologies can be used and reused to assist in enabling sustainable housing in a desert environment.

May 2015-8907 May 2015-8915We next go down to the Rio Grande River itself to get a closer look.  We stop at a number of places, at various levels to see views high and low of the river and some of the colorful plants that are to be found around it.May 2015-8889May 2015-8958 May 2015-8968

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Heading out in another direction, May 2015-9004 May 2015-9015 May 2015-9010Steve takes us along one of the backroads where just to the side of the road is a hill full of rocks with petroglyphs inscribed.  We don’t have to get out of the truck to take pictures of these drawings, it is just “point and shoot”.

May 2015-9031Driving up into the hills, we comes to a junction where two roads come together into a “Y”.  In the patch of ground between the upper arms is a small church.  Just as I am taking a picture, the local Sheriff’s car comes by.  He doesn’t stop, however, so I guess he doesn’t object to our taking pictures!

The next stop is Plaza Blanca.  May 2015-9045This is a river bed with a spectacular set of white limestone canyons near Abiquiu NM.  Georgia O’Keeffe made the place famous with a series of paintings called “White Place”.  May 2015-9050 May 2015-9058 May 2015-9064She lived for many years at the Ghost Ranch nearby and eventually bought and renovated an old hacienda in Abiquiu.

The limestone has been shaped into spectacular formations, reminding me very much of our recent visit to Monuments and Arches parks in Utah.  Like the formations there, many of these have names, but I only found out about this after we got back. One bank has vertical columns along it, while the opposite bank has more of a sloping side.  Where we enter the canyon, there is a middle section where the water, when it is running, runs around both sides of it.

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The spiral rock formation, Steve tells me, is maintained by unknown hands, as he has seen it as it appears here most of the time, but occasionally he sees it disrupted.

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Steve and I walk completely around the central limestone formation getting pictures in every direction.

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After Plaza Blanca, we stopped at Bode’s General Store, one of the significant landmarks in Abiquiu.  It was significant to us because they have restrooms there.

On our way back we visit another native american-maintained religious adobe buildings.  May 2015-9156 May 2015-9162 May 2015-9166

The next stop is the Santo Tomas El Apostol Church.  May 2015-9179 May 2015-9181On the side of that nicely maintained mission building is a beautiful example of how an adobe structure that is not in maintenance mode crumbles.  I hadn’t appreciated how much maintenance these buildings required until I saw this place.

May 2015-9199It is getting on in the day, but we are heading back up in altitude.  This view overlooks the Rio Grande again.  Steve tells us that he occasionally sees kayaks making their way around the bends here.

Next stop is the Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center, a much larger complex than I anticipated.  As indicated above, Georgia O’Keeffe lived there for awhile.  We drive in and tour around for awhile.  May 2015-9215 May 2015-9245 May 2015-9272The views, like some of the other places we visited are magnificent, but the clouds limit the photographic possibilities.

May 2015-9282The last stop is the San Francisco de Asis church in Taos.  Quite beautiful, but the sun has truly set, so the picture gives me the opportunity to see how Ansel Adams would have tried to capture it!

Well that was quite an adventure! Steve took us to a number of spots, and I learned so much. He is someone who believes in Aperture priority as the best way to control how to get the picture you want. So, along with the marvelous sights he has shown us, he has helped me understand how to structure how I take pictures to do much more effectively what I want to do.

May 2015-9259Amazing stuff. He also was able to help me see pictures in what I was looking at, finding the interesting things to focus on (in groups of three, preferably), and then getting them into a framed pattern.

While this was great fun for me, I’m afraid Gwen got rather bored.  She was a good sport though, and she enjoyed the variety of scenic views.

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Palm Springs, CA to Clarkston, MI, Day 5-6 May 10, 11

This morning it was up early, as we wanted to see the rest of Arches before we started out on our next segment eventually taking us to Taos, NM. The sun yesterday had been mostly bright with some clouds in the sky, but today it was very much a cloudy day, at least at 7:00 as we started out. We travel our way up to the Sand Arch parking lot (the one above Wolfe Ranch), and walk to May 2015-8403the huge sandstone slabs standing vertically side by side with little space between. May 2015-8408There is enough to enable easy passage, and the Sand Arch is only a third of a mile inside, so Gwen accompanies me. Actually, she leads me in, navigating the sandy ground without a problem. May 2015-8419She is happy to be inside the area without anyone else (indeed there were no other people there while we are) until I show up. May 2015-8405 I have been noticing the juniper “driftwood” pieces that provide very interesting sculptural counterpoint to the smooth lines of the rocky spires that project into the skies from the sandy ground wherever we stop. So I get a number of pictures, and am able to get May 2015-8422Gwen’s picture from a distance as she climbs around near the Sand Arch.

We get back in the car and keep going to Devil’s Garden, enjoying the various rock formations there as well.

May 2015-8446 May 2015-8451 May 2015-8454 May 2015-8490That was the end of the trail, however, so we head back out. I take some more pictures where I think the light contrasts with the light from yesterday, but in general, we make our way out fairly quickly.


After a rather disappointing breakfast at Denny’s, we clear out of the hotel and head toward Farmington, NM, about half way to Taos. Along the way, Courtney, Sandy and Kyle and Suzie call to wish Gwen a Happy Mother’s Day, and in general catch us up on their happenings. We thoroughly enjoy the conversations.

We get to Farmington, and the first order of business is to get the laundry done. Oh, happy day! Gwen gets that done in a reasonable amount of time, putting us on fresh footing for the rest of the trip. Our trek out afterwards is to find food, as we hadn’t had any lunch, and it was getting toward 5:30 pm. After some false starts, we ended up at the St Clair Winery and Bistro, which turned out to be quite a find. We are relatively early, but it is Mother’s Day, so the crowd quickly catches up. We share a very nice rib eye with sautéed mushrooms and onions, along with some very nicely done vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, and mashed potatoes with onion bits mixed in. In the process of introducing us to the winery, Lisa, the waitress brought a couple of white and a couple of red samples for us to try.  They are all good enough that we end up ordering six bottles to go.  We will join their wine club after we get back to MI. After dinner, we go back to the hotel and have a quiet night in so I can catch up with my log and try to work out the picture workflow.

Monday, May 11

Today, we get up and take our time getting out of Farmington. There is no need to rush as we don’t want to get to the Historic Taos Inn before check-in time (nominally at 3:00 pm). We leave about 9:30, and while we don’t set any land speed records, we get here about 1:30 pm. Along the way there are few things to distract; the scenery is greener than the deserts of Palm Springs area, but not so varied as we were used to seeing in Utah (with the sandstone buttes, towers and ridges all over the place). We pass three times into the Carson National Forest, and out twice, or is it the other way around? I do remember the first “National Forest” sign we called each other’s attention to was a “leaving” sign. We get well above the snow line while in the Carson forest, crossing over the higher elevations of our trip there. The snow is not near the road, nor are the temperatures below 40, but there are many obvious patches of snow below our elevation while we are doing our crossing. As we come into the area of Taos, one thing we do notice are a group of homes, spaced out from each other, and standing a couple of hundred yards off the road. They are each surrounded by their own version of a junk yard, usually with quite a few older cars/trucks, as well as trash cans, wood (broken), metal (rusted), and some kind of covering over all or part of the central area.  The houses themselves are some sort of trailer or portable living accommodation (sometimes more than one). There are quite a few of these dwellings spotted along the road. The land in the immediate vicinity has lots of green, but is basically scrub brush.

After checking in, we eat our late lunch in the hotel’s restaurant (named after Doc Martin, who started up his practice in the building where the restaurant is located in the late 1800s). His wife, after his death in the 1920s, turned this lot into a hotel for visitors, and through several revisions and some new owners recently, it remains a staple of the town.

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Kit Carson’s House

After lunch, we walk to the Kit Carson Museum, just around the corner. This was Kit Carson’s house in Taos. Taos is the place where Kit and his third wife Josefa lived, and were buried after they died in 1868. Josefa died as a result of complications from giving birth to their sixth child. Kit died a month later, finally succumbing to an aneurysm with which he had been suffering for several years. He was 59 years old, and she was 40. The museum is well-presented, bringing out his early days as a trapper, hunter and “mountain man” of no small reputation as the result of his navigating James C. Fremont on his adventures in the western US.  Fremont was generous in his praises, assuring for Kit a place in history. His place in lore was secured by the authors of books about mountain men in the old west who claimed for him credit for deeds of daring do in dozens of stories. These claims made the stories more exciting but the reality didn’t match. Between the two, however, Kit Carson was the most well-known mountain man around. He was not proud of this reputation, and in fact did what he could to discourage it.

The other part of his life emphasized by the museum was his family life. He married early to a young Indian woman. She died of complications following the birth of their second child. He married twice more.


The museum gives us both a better understanding of the man and the life he led. We walk next to an old house not far away where Governor Charles Bent was killed by a group of unhappy Indians and Mexicans.   May 2015-8608He had been appointed as territory Governor in September of 1846. In January of 1847, he was awoken with his family in the house because the Indians and Mexicans were upset about now being governed by the US rather than the Spanish. Bent went out front to talk to them to try to calm them down and to give time for his family to leave. He was not successful.  He was wounded by both arrows and bullets, and was finally killed by being scalped alive. As a result of this gruesome episode, the military came in and killed a number of people including hanging those believed to be responsible. The museum included a number of artifacts of the period, including rifles, tools and other implements. There were a number of newspaper articles about the episode as well.

We walk back to the hotel, and have been resting ourselves since. Tomorrow, Steve Bundy meets us out back to take us out on our day around Taos.

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Palm Springs, CA to Clarkston, MI, Day 4 May 9 part 2

If you are going to visit Arches on the weekend (as we are), the rangers recommend doing so in the evening and early morning. So we decided to get started today, even after our long drive from Monuments Park. We arrive at the park entrance at 4:00 pm, and the rangers are right — it is easy to get to whatever we want to see. The afternoon light creates some fascinating views, and I do my best to get every one I can.

Coming into the park, there is a visitor’s center which does an excellent job of describing the attributes of the place.  May 2015-7978Beyond that there is a uphill climb, which takes us to the first stopping point, the overview of the Moab Fault.  The fault follows the road down below.  According to the sign, when the fault occurred about 6 million years ago, the side of the road we are standing on dropped 2600 feet below the side across the road.

Just as in Monument Valley, the main features of the place have been created due to the wind and rain eroding the softer sandy soils away from the harder materials creating buttes and towers, some quite spectacular.  Other geologic activity, like the Moab Fault, have contributed.

May 2015-8002Some of the more interesting features are named.  In the picture at right, in front of Gwen you can see three towers, which are called the “Three Gossips”.  To their right at roughly the same depth is “Sheep Rock”.  The most prominent butte on the right hand side of the picture is “Tower of Babel”.  To its immediate right, is “The Organ”.  May 2015-8011The picture on the right is a view of the “Three Gossips” from a different vantage point.  It’s a bit like looking into the sky and seeing pictures in the arrangements of the stars; you have to have a good imagination.

May 2015-8016Another view of “Tower of Babel” is on the left. May 2015-7993


On the right is a picture of an unnamed butte formation, but behind it are the “Petrified Sand Dunes” formed as a result of a layering of sand some 200 million years ago covered by layers of other sediment including quartz and calcite and compressed over time.  The additional layers have been eroded away, and the petrified sand dunes are the result.

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One of the most unusual formation is this “Balanced Rock”.  You’ll remember a similar formation from the last post called “Mexican Hat”.

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The picture at right shows a number of other towers which were in the same area, but not quite as dramatic as this one.

May 2015-8070Another angle on “Balanced Rock” can be seen here.  They let you walk up right next to this rock; I guess they don’t expect it to topple in the near future.

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The next pictures are not named (as far as I know), but are examples of the formations to be seen.

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The park has a number of pullovers and parking lots to enable safe stopping and viewing.  Often excellent pictures are available directly from these designated parking areas, but there are two in particular that require walking along paths to get to the best picture-points.

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The first, at Windows arches, does not require us to walk that far, perhaps half a mile all told and Gwen kindly accompanies me to the “North Window”, the one with people in it enjoying the view beyond.  I go on from there to the “South Window”, and take more pictures, including the one of the two windows together.  Behind me as I take that picture is “Turret Arch”.

The second and  longer walk from the parking area is Delicate Arch, out beyond Wolfe Ranch.   Delicate Arch is the iconic Arches National Park Arch, and therefore one I have to take a picture of.

Wolfe was a Civil War veteran who came across to this area in the late 1860s with his son to try and recover from a bothersome leg wound he sustained during the war. The two of them lived at this location for 10 years before his sister, her husband and their children came out to live with them. Wolfe and his son had been living in a one-room shack, which was not big enough for the newly reunited family. Within short order, they built a bigger cabin, which is the one that stands today. Wolfe eventually returned to Ohio (from whence they came) in 1890, and died four years later at the age of 84.

The walk to Delicate Arch is 1.5 miles from the parking lot, and probably over 1000 feet in elevation climb. Described on the sign as moderately strenuous, it is all of that and more for this out-of-shape 66-year-old. One section, which as I get to it, I desperately hope is the last, consists of climbing up a 20% slope for probably 1000 yards.  Definitely “moderately strenuous”. Half way up that slope, I decide I just have to sit down and rest, so I find a nice step on the side of the main slope and sit down.  Its getting late, and I had been thinking as I walk that I am one of the last ones going up today.  May 2015-8261Boy was I wrong!  As I sit there, I get passed by group after group, all happily climbing their way up without stopping. After about 15 minutes, I resume climbing.  It isn’t the end of the journey, of course, it is only about half way along the path.


There are a number of people to follow now, so I join in. As we get closer to the goal, the path narrows, and I realize that we are being funneled up an ever-narrowing ledge that is climbing slowly around a hill rising out of the landscape.

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May 2015-8262The path continues to narrow; it is not more than a couple of yards wide with a sheer drop of at least 500 feet off the outer edge. Those who know me know I have an absolute terror of such unfenced edges, but I’ve got to get to this Arch and get its picture.  I concentrate on keeping close to the inner wall, and keep going on. Every time I think about looking over the cliff my stomach clinches. Eventually I get around the hill and there in front of me is the Arch. All the people who had passed me up on my trek up are there and of course a lot more.  Some are resting, the younger ones playing, some moving in and amongst the Arch, and some taking pictures. I quickly find a spot to take my own pictures. I do not have the time to wait for the people at the Arch’s feet to go away as Gwen has to be wondering where I’ve gotten off to by now.  Besides, they provide scale!

May 2015-After taking my shots it is time to start the trek down. It is much easier than the trek up, except for the first part where I have to walk that narrow ledge again.  The traffic pattern suggests the down-walkers should be on the outside closest to the cliff edge and away from the relative safety of the inner wall. I don’t trust myself walking there, of course. Fortunately there aren’t any people behind me that are in a hurry, so I just hug the wall and wait until a group of up-walkers go past, then quickly make my way to the next group, and wait for them. Soon enough I am past this obstacle, and headed on my weary way down.  Gwen is calmly waiting in the car when I return perhaps an hour and a half from when I started.

May 2015-8339As the sun was going down, we go one more stopping point beyond the Wolfe Ranch parking lot and then turn around heading back to the hotel. We get back and spend a quiet evening recovering from the long day.

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Palm Springs, CA to Clarkston, MI, Day 4 May 9 part 1

Today started off well. We get up, go to the restaurant for breakfast, go back to the room to finish packing, and hit the road to Arches National Park. Our breakfast waiter, Pascal, recommends we stop at Goosenecks State Park on the way, so we are on the lookout for it.

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The scenery is fabulous. There seems to be no end to the “monuments” visible, and as we drive along, we keep getting different views of them. Gwen drives so we don’t have to stop so much for me to take pictures.

May 2015-7803As the light changes, the views change as well, so that means more pictures. May 2015-7804As we continue north, I notice that the vegetation gets more bountiful, although it never really gets out of the desert variety nor the desert look.

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Also the altitude rises, and soon we are seeing juniper bushes as well as the occasional tree interspersed.  Before Gooseneck National Park, the most spectacular landscape element is Mexican Hat.

Mexican Hat

Mexican Hat

It is indicative of the strange results that occasionally are possible as the wind and rain erode the softer underlying layers of dirt leaving a large, harder stone balanced on top.

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We soon reach Goosenecks State Park, about three miles off the main road we are on.

May 2015-7878The prominent feature when we get there is quite a surprise, even though Pascal did his best to describe it to us. Like a mini-Grand Canyon, at the bottom of a thousand foot drop is a river, muddy brown. (Note the camper on the ridge at the right of the picture at left.)  May 2015-7900The goosenecks themselves are created as the river’s path flowed back and forth winding its way from one end of the basin to the other. Once in that pattern, the river cut through the layers of the basin floor creating the almost vertical drops It had more of the aspect of a long snake than goosenecks, but what are you going to do, the name “Snake River” was already taken. May 2015-7895It has the aspect of the river leading up to Victoria Falls in Africa, winding back and forth having worn vertical views down through the underlying rock.  h

The views are no less spectacular as we continue on from Gooseneck on toward Arches.  The buttes get even more unique, and the vegetation even more diversified.

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May 2015-7963May 2015-7964The most spectacular aspect of the drive is the falling snow that we drive through once we are in and past Blanding, Utah. May 2015-7958It is more like mini-hale, and it didn’t stick, but it occasionally made the visibility hard.


Our next stop is Moab, Utah. This is just five miles from Arches National Park, and seems to be also a recreational hub for all kinds of adventurous sports. The signs call this “Canyonlands”. In addition to the canyons associated with Arches, there is a recreation-sized river where people use kayaks, canoes and boats of a variety of configurations. There are lots of trucks and camper-vans pulling 4-wheel drive jeep-like vehicles, so I presume there are also lots of places to use them, although we didn’t see one close enough to the highway for us to recognize.

May 2015-7971The first “Arch” we come across close to Moab is the Wilson Arch.  A nice preview of what is to come!

We get to our hotel, check in, and then head out to do our first visit to Arches.



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