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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Getting Close to Home but Still in Virginia

I've started today's pictures with views of our bedroom last night, since Glen reminded me that I'd failed to do that. I also included what appears to be a pace car from Kentucky but probably not--just a bright spot on an otherwise gloomy, overcast, rainy and cold morning.

We headed back southwest to Bedford Va to take in the sights of Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson's retreat and retirement home located 93 miles and, in his day, three days travel from Monticello. The history of the plantation is pretty much explained by the pictures. We were unable to photograph any of the interior restoration work on the first floor which is ongoing so I will attempt to paint a word picture of what we saw.

First though I'll talk about the outside of the house--at one time it sat in the middle of a symmetrical landscape which included double rows of linden trees extending from both sides of the house to a mound on each end of the allees. Just beyond each mound stands an octagonal tower like structure of brick, which is one of two necessaries--or as we would call them--outhouses. The mounds were to be covered in varying types of trees but apparently that plan did not work as desired and so they were replaced instead with shrubs. After a time, Jefferson decided that he wanted a wing of office and work space and so the allee on the East side was removed and a brick wing constructed. I'll talk about that later. This symmetrical layout echoes his architectural approach at Monticello and is, once more, the result of the influence the designs of Palladio had on TJ.

To take you on the imaginary tour of the interior I will use the post card enlargement of the octagonal house which shows a bit of the wing on the right side. The top of the floor plan is the North Portico which can be seen in the house pictures as the porch with the four stucco columns at the top of the flight of stairs. The columns are actually brick covered with stucco. As we walk across the floor of the porch toward the faux mahogany door our docent pointed out the Carrera marble threshold which is not original. That marble step disappeared many years ago but a duplicate that fit was found in the basement of the Capital building in Washington where, apparently, artifacts from various changes to the building are stored. We entered the room on the right side of the hall ( your left in the picture). Directly across from the door is a small fireplace and to the right of that are two windows set at forty five degree angles to each other. The room is small and the floor has already been restored--it is a light colored wood--possibly tulip poplar which is cleaned each day--or was in his time--with beeswax and linseed oil. I remember my Dad used that on nice wood in our house. The walls in most of the rooms are just the bare exposed brick but here one wall has been partially replastered to show how the walls will look when that restoration is done. This room, our docent said, is thought to have been the bedroom for the butler when TJ was in residence. The book on the house says it was a storage/spare bedroom.

We continued through the opening that will hold a door in time into a very large room that is bisected by an alcove bed.This is a design used in Monticello and is a French design that TJ particularly liked. One side of the bed is in a sitting room, the other in a study. TJ could swing his feet off into either side--also with a fireplace in each space there was adequate heat throughout. Again two large windows sat in the corner of each of the rooms. Interestingly jutting out the west side of the octagon is a tower to accommodate the stairs without taking anything from the living space. The stairs descend to a door that opens into the yard.

Continuing to the South or the bottom of the floor plan we come to the Parlor with a fireplace at each end and a window in each corner. The flat southern wall has two very wide floor to ceiling windows that are sash windows in three parts--just the lower section can be raised for air, or the two lower sections can be raised to form guillotine windows that are tall enough to serve as doors. The double doors were all panes of glass and another set of solid doors, which haven't been hung yet will form a dead air space between them though why in this climate I'm not sure. Again through these doors is the South Portico resting on the Arcade below.

Opposite the outside door of the parlor is a set of glass doors that lead into the central cube with a ceiling that soars two stories in this one story house and that contains a full length skylight. The skylight has shutters that can be closed over it during bad weather or when the sun is particularly strong and hot. This elegant room is the dining room and in it is a long dining room table which can be disassembled into several individual tables or, when the leaves are removed totally can be closed into an octagonal table. Also here were several Windsor chairs, a cabinet of about four shelves referred to as a dumb waiter and another table whose round top totally revolved. All, except the chairs, designed by TJ. Once more in one corner there is a fireplace and on each of its walls are glass double doors to make this windowless room as light and airy as all the rest of the rooms. The floor here is an intricate and beautiful parquet.

The East side of the house mirrors exactly the West side--the bedroom used by TJ's daughters and grandchildren and the front room used as its mate for storage or as an additional guest room.So, too, on this side the East Stair Portico retaining as much as possible of the house for living space.

The East wing is totally a restoration since the original wing was removed after fire damage. The original consisted of a kitchen, smokehouse, housekeeper's dwelling,laundry and cold storage. The roof served as a Terras upon which TJ enjoyed walking at night and in front of the rooms ran a covered arcade.

All in all an intimate, airy, comfortable retreat from the busyness of business. I very much loved it.

And then we were headed over familiar territory, up through Charlottesville, to Front Royal and into Winchester where we wearily decided to stop for the night. We had hoped to make it to Maryland and fried oysters but stopped about 30 or so miles short. Just exhausted -- the weather and winding back roads with stop and go traffic around Charlottesville and Culpepper took their toll.

Ordered Pizza Hut we were so tired we didn't even want to go out. Also for the first time in weeks we turned the heat on in the car and in the room tonight. I also dug out my fleece jacket again. It is supposed to snow tonight but though it doesn't look like a great driving day we are hoping to make Binghamton tomorrow. Friday may be a different story. We'll just have to take it as it comes. If all goes well we will be home on Friday.

From here on in it is the same old same old--so unless I see some really new sights there won't be many pix and the blog will probably just be a report on where we are. Until tomorrow-----

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

234.5 Miles Today--10 of Which Turned My Hair White!

The day started out sunny at 37 degrees with frost on everything. Amazingly, we were on the road once more by 9 am--we have been having trouble adjusting to the time change but think we are back in sync. Decided to take I 81 to up around Christiansburg and then cut across the Blue Ridge on Va primary road 8 and then backroad it up to outside Roanoke to Booker T. Washington's birthplace. Took a few snaps of the highest mountain in Virginia--Mt Rogers at 5729 feet and then just a few more of the sunny countryside. By the time we reached Pulaski I'd had enough of the tractor trailer trucks and suggested starting our back road exploration about 25 miles sooner. Bill was agreeable so off we went on primary rt 100 south to primary road 221, where we arrived in Hillsville, the home of one of the Mohawk Rug factories and also the Cavalier Cafe. The young fellow running it made me a buckwheat pancake the size of a dinner plate and the crispiest fresh bacon I've ever had. He was a cutie--married five years with a three year old daughter. His wedding picture and pictures of the baby from infancy covered the walls of the local eating place. He is a year and a half younger than his wife but his gramma is a year and a half younger than his granddad and they are doing fine--unlike his pappy who is on his third wife! I said the good luck skipped a generation and he is hopeful that is true. Works hard--he got to the cafe at 3 am and his wife came in at 5 after dropping the baby off. It was now 1130 and his wife had gone home at 10. He's hoping that they can start thinking of looking for a house--business is good and he's doing fine - no debt but he's nervous about taking on a mortgage but is sick of renting. Hope it works out for them--he is working hard and so is she--I hope they get the dream.

On we continued on 221 to Floyd where we took secondary road 681 for two miles and then hooked up with secondary road 860, which looked smooth--no curves, just a slight change in direction from due south to a bit south east. The first three miles or so were fine but then the road crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway which was flat, narrow and not open at all. As we started to rise above it I should have had alarms go off but NOOOOOOO. OMG--for ten of the worst miles--topped only by the road from Silver City to TOC--I thought I was going to die. When we appeared to be near the bottom we pulled over to let the brakes cool a bit and when I got out of the car my legs were shaking so much I almost couldn't stand. After another couple of relatively straight flat ( not ) road we came to Va primary 40 which was my intent. I don't know what I would have done had we needed to go back up--though Bill did suggest trying it in reverse--what did I ever see in this man? He did congratulate me on my navigational proficiency and thanked me for not choosing PRIMARY route 8 which had those terrible wiggles on the map! GRRRRR

I'm afraid that Booker's birthplace was somewhat anti-climatic! Although the walk around the old plantation in 59 degree sunny weather was quite nice. He was freed at 9 along with his family at the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation and soon moved to W. Virginia with his mother, brother and sister to meet up with his stepfather. By 16 he was headed back to Hampton Va to study at the Negro school there run by a white former Union officer. After graduation he was called back by Armstrong to serve as house father for Native American boys and then, when a council member from Tuskegee looking for a white principal for a new Negro school they were starting. Armstrong recommended Washington and the rest, as they say, is history.

From there we headed to Lynchburg and the Quality Inn where we stayed on our first trip and ate at the Outback next door. Rack of lamb and fresh veggies with a Yuengling draught. Delicious. And now, off to NCIS which I've been sort of watching. Forgot DWTS last night--darn!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Was That Kentucky???

Once more we left the warmth of our motel room to venture out into 40 degree, rainy weather. I probably wouldn't feel so cold if it hadn't been 89 degrees in Andersonville! But today, I relented and pulled out a heavier shirt and shoes. As I've mentioned before getting from point A to point B in this part of the country is not as easy for us as it is for the crow! So off we went westward on 11E until we met the road that would take us north to 11W which we would take west until we met 25 E which goes right into Kentucky by way of the Cumberland Gap. In actuality, we go through a tunnel which bypasses the gap. That was rather disappointing. In the 1920's a road was built right through the Gap where the people of Virginia and Tennesse traveled to the West--Kentucky! In 1940 the National Park was authorized and it was established in 1955. It was felt that the road through the Gap actually destroyed the historical aspect of the trail and so in 1996 a tunnel bypassing the Gap was opened, the original paved road was removed and from that time to this the Gap has been returned to its 1810 appearance. That is really nice except that none of the park --except the road to the Pinnacle Outlook--which I opted not to take--is open to be seen unless one hikes various lengthy trails. I suppose that recreates the Boone experience but it was a bit disappointing.

Bill has dreampt of seeing the Gap since he started reading the Louis L'Amour Sackett Saga--he says he was satisfied and I hope that is true. We took Rt 58 to Bristol,Va where we are staying and that follows the Wilderness Trail taken by Daniel Boone and others after him. We passed the site where his son James had been killed by Indians and saw the rows of hazy mountain tops that just roll one after the other almost from the sea into the beautiful valleys of Kentucky. It must have been such an adventure for those early settlers to overcome those mountains to move Westward.

Barb--we passed the road to the Clinch Mountain winery ---I have no idea how you and I came upon it--but I think we cut up this way from Knoxville and over the mountains from West to East toward I 81 and so on up through Virginia. We were going the other way this time.

Logan's Roadhouse for meatloaf and now a bit of TV and good night.

Head is Spinning--So Many States in Such a Short Time!

Yesterday ( Sunday--Day 42--six weeks!!! ) Bill says it is day 43 because I didn't count the first day which was the Sunday we left--he's right of course but who's counting?

Anyway, Yesterday started out wet and miserable so we took off into the mountains on the Cherokee Foothills National Highway, which follows the original Cherokee Trail down to Charleston from the southern mountains of the Blue Ridge. We were going in the opposite direction, planning on reaching Morristown, Tn so that we would be within driving distance of the Cumberland Gap on Monday morning. At this area and particularly in Va there is no easy way to go north-south or east-west-the Appalachians run southwest to northeast and that's how the roads must run. Makes it a bit difficult to navigate and for this part of the trip I was using three maps at a time. Getting out of South Carolina through a small part of North Carolina and into Tennessee in a way easily followed. It was a challenge but somehow we managed to get into North Carolina at a point that would lead us in the right direction in Tennessee.Although we like to avoid Interstates we did use I 26 and I 40 to get across the mountains near Ashville NC.

As I was studying the map I noticed that Carl Sandburg's home was around Hendersonville so I asked, since I'd skipped Flannery O'Connor's the day before, and since we weren't traveling very far if we could stop to check it out. Bill was agreeable and we left the Interstate to take a two lane, narrow country road in the fog, to Flat Rock. Carl spoke about that fog--it comes in on little cats feet--and so it seemed.

I remember Sandburg's narration of Aaron Copeland's Lincoln piece with the NY Philhamonic with Andre Kostelanes--I was a senior in HS--and part of it was televised. I also remember reading some of his poetry in school and saw his interview with Edward R Morrow and I always just loved him. So, though it WAS a strenuous .3 mile up to his house I am proud to say I did not call for a shuttle and just took my time and we were there. The next tour of the house, only the ground floor, was in an hour but we saw the two videos--one of which was the Morrow interview and the other an overview of his life and shots of the house and narration by one of his daughters. It more than fulfilled my wish to have another view of the man and his life. Picked up a few quotes etc for my scrapbook and took beaucoups pix and we were off. It was very cold and I decided that the sandals would be stowed once more.

On we continued into Tennessee and dinner at the Hillside Grill next to the motel in Morristown. Met a crazy lady named Nicki, who moved back home after traveling the country as a salesperson for a national chain store--which doesn't exist in New England--and then lived in Nashville which she very much misses. Her friend, Sam, whom she has known since High School showed up and we chatted for a bit more before turning in for the night.

Rained and rained some more, but at least the thunder wasn't as scary as in Georgia--I didn't even unpack my flashlight!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Georgia in My Memory

Today was the first really bad weather we've had since snow in Cheyenne Wyoming--that seems a lifetime ago. Didn't sleep particularly well last night for some reason and it was rainy and cold--60 degrees this morning. As a result we went to Walmart since I needed a new memory card and I managed to find a Cricut cartridge to buy. Then we were off through the true backwoods of Northern Georgia to South Carolina. The highlight of the day was a little spot called Comer, Ga and Maggie's Cafe. I had the best tuna salad sandwich I've had in ages on perfectly toasted home made bread. Was so full I couldn't have a piece of carrot cake so asked for a togo box. Bill had a BLT that was beautiful to look at as well as delicious to eat. A women with a college age daughter and two teen boys owns the cafe with her sister. It is really cute and the food is to die for--$6.00 for the sandwich--how could you go wrong. I'm still full hours later.

I just told Bill there is a cute sparrow looking in the window at you. He said he is not interested since, while he was right there smoking, they fornicated on his car. I'm still laughing--which reminds me--the day started with hilarity in the breakfast room. We were the only white folk there and a heavy set lady said someone in NY won Megamillions. A guy said where--she said Albany--he said your sister lives near there--I said so does mine. Well, that started it--lady said I'll call my sister, how you doing? how's the dog? your boyfriend? Your husband/ I said: and she says--who's this, I don't have no sister! All of this between heavy laughter bringing tears. god it was funny.

As I left I said if your sister won just send me $50 for the laughter--she said okay--leave your address at the desk! More laughter and wishes for a good and safe day. What a way to start out---the people on these trips are worth almost more than the sights and sounds. No,they are worth more!

Rainy, rainy, rainy and tomorrow too --heading to Morristown, Tn and then on to Cumberland Gap on Monday. Hoping to follow rivers mostly and not hit too many high and winding roads!

Friday, March 25, 2011

History--Musical and Otherwise

One thing we've noticed in many Southern States there are no billboards--in some cases, none at all and in other cases, only as one approaches a major town. Along the Interstates they abound and some are rather amusing--need I say more?

Left Perry and headed 20 miles away to Macon and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. We really enjoy these types of sites because we spend several hours surrounded by music and in this case of many kinds. There was a radio pair of men who used to have a show in Savannah singing Gospel music. The remarkable thing is that while there were just the two they sang four parts and were known as the only two man quartet in the South. I wish I could remember their names-- they were in the film in the chapel and were remarkably good. It was great to sit at the soda fountain and sing with Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers as they played on the jukebox. There was no one else around so I really belted out my part in Accentuate the Positive--just like I used to do when they came on the radio when I was little. I bet I sounded as good as I did then, too! LOL

It was fun to see Connie Hines and Bob Eberle, two of my Mom's favorites and listen to them sing on the headphones. Such fun to see Usher and Jerry Reed and Ray Stevens and Ray Charles and the beautiful Lena Horne! and Ludacris and on and on. The movie comprising various inductions included Lena singing----Stormy Weather--and all I could think was how different this was than when she sang that in her movie debut. Whites and blacks were not shown on the screen together so she was filmed alone singing and was spliced into the movie! She also lost the role of the mixed race girl in Show Boat to Ava Gardner! How times do change! The costumes, the music, the stories all so much fun and the movie culminating in snippets of various singers performing Georgia on My Mind, the State song, written by Hoagy Carmichael. Just terrific. But the most fun was in the Children's section--playing with the instruments and hearing Happy Birthday played in about six different styles.

From there we headed to the Ocmulgee National Park and the mounds of the prehistoric Indians of the Mississippian civilization. We've seen many of their mounds throughout the Southeast on our various trips and also went to Russell Cave but this is the first site in which there is a mound that has been excavated and was actually a subterranean meeting room--the Earthlodge. So similar to the kivas we saw in New Mexico and Arizona. Archeology is so fascinating and the similarities and differences among contemporary civilizations worldwide is truly mysterious.

Met a couple from Rochester, Ny at the burial mound whose daughter lives in Burlington and who got married last year in the Round Church in Waitsfield. Small world. Also found out that the Ivy Classic Corp makes power tools and the guy with the van is working out of Atlanta selling them.

Tired and stayed in tonight for a respite and Bill brought me soup and salad from Chili's plus a huge cup of mango iced tea. So I'm going to go now and humming, Georgia on My Mind, am going to research Flannery O'Connor whose home is here in Milledgeville, Ga. May want to explore it on our way to South Carolina tomorrow. Anyone ever read anything by her? She had a study time at Yaddo in Saratoga. Wonder if we were wandering around the grounds when she was there in the 50's? Where was Hoagy Carmichael born? How high is Cumberland Gap National Park? Pondering, pondering--til tomorrow--Accentuate the Positive and take care!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"It takes 7 of its ocupiants to make a Shadow"

Andersonville-- a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that I never read---a name that conjures up the worst possible hell on Earth ever experienced by a Union soldier in our Civil War---a place where the men were so emaciated that it would take 7 of them to make a shadow, according to Sgt David Kennedy of the 9th Ohio Cavalry. Fort Sumter which was the official name of the prison in Andersonville, Georgia was opened in 1864 when the Confederacy decided to move Union soldiers from around Richmond to a more remote, secure location. It was built to accommodate 8000 men but once the exchange program between the combatants collapsed both the Union and the Confederacy found themselves with an untenable number of prisoners of war on their hands. Andersonville, in the 14 months--only 14 months!--it operated saw 45,000 men enter its gates, of which about 13 000 never left alive. The highest number of prisoners there at any one time was 32 000. In my pictures you can see that the stockade was built between two steep hills on which cannon were mounted--more to repel any Union Calvary attack but equally able to shoot into the compound if needs be. The disturbed earth running through the middle of the indentation is a small steam--Sweetwater Creek--my God, who named it? The waste of the officers who resided on the hillside ran into the stream and down into the compound--the soldiers were so ill that they did not go to the sinks or the other end of the stream which they were to use as latrines! No food, no clean water, make shift shelter, incredibly close packing together and it is a wonder any of them survived the starvation and disease that killed so many.

Then, as now, there were men severely lacking in morals or ethics who became gangs of roving bullies and thieves--The Raiders. They appeared at the gate whenever new POW's arrived and if caught preying upon them the Raiders were made to run through a gauntlet and were severely beaten. Even with this disciplinary action they still ran rampant through the camp. Finally, some of the men went to the commandant and asked to be allowed to capture the ringleaders. This new group, the Regulators, were able to identify six men, who were then tried and convicted and hung in the middle of the encampment. At the request of the POW's they were not buried among the rest of the dead--they aren't very far away but they are distinctly separate from them.

As the men died they were taken out of the camp and taken by wagon to the cemetery where they were buried by the hundreds each day in long trenches. Each was given a wooden marker on which was placed a number. A young 19 year old prisoner was given the job of recording the name, rank and group to which the deceased belonged. As the prison was liberated he smuggled a copy of this info out,thinking that he would perhaps we able to get notification to the families of the dead. Unable to get any assistance from the government he went to Clara Barton who had worked so hard to get food and supplies to the prisoners and she was able to get a work party together. She, the young man, Dorrance Atwater of the 2nd NY Calvary, and the workers were able to identify and mark the graves with stone markers. Through their efforts only 460 of the over 12000 graves are marked unknown.

In addition to the site of this notorious prison, Andersonville National Historic Site is also the site of the National POW museum. By the time I got to the section dealing with the Vietnam War and the atrocities imposed on our military I was too emotionally disturbed to be able to read the rest--the museum took an hour to read and look at everything from the Prison Ships used by the British in the Revolution ( so bad that Washington wrote Gage and told him that America would treat British prisoners in the same fashion--our soldiers suffocated to death on the ships they were so packed beneath decks) through the Vietnam War. The movie that ran for 27 minutes covering the same period in our history had interviews with survivors of captivity from WWI through the Gulf War. By the end, I was in tears and could not speak to the man with whom Bill was chatting--he had been a child in the internment camps in the Philippines --the Japanese imprisoned Europeans and Americans in the Philippines but because these were civilians they are not considered POWs.

One of the men interviewed in the film was a handsome man with a head of beautiful thick white hair. He had been a POW in Vietnam and said that with all the hardships etc the thing he remembered the most was the love and loyalty of his fellow prisoners. He was well-spoken, handsome and lucid. What a horrible shame that Ross Perot decided to use him in his presidential campaign and allow him to be maligned and mocked because he had become old and less lucid. I'm convinced the experience was more demeaning to him than his experience in Vietnam, of which he said " part of my identity is that I lived part of my life as an animal." In 2005, Admiral James Stockdale died at 81 years old having struggled with Alzheimer's Disease. What a sad end of one of our heroes.

After leaving the park Bill told me that, while he took the walking tour with the Ranger and when they came to the monument on which several states are listed, including NH and Vt, the guide stated that these were ALL border states in which there was a large faction of Southern sympathizers and spy activity. A couple from Montreal and Bill questioned this portrayal of the two states and he cited the bank robbery in St Albans as an event that had the assistance of insiders in Vt. HMMMMMM--not the way we've heard it. There was Southern activity in Montreal and an attempt to get Canada to support the South--not sure there was very much sympathy there or in Vt.

Ah, well, off we went through several small towns, similar to Plains which don't seem to have changed much since the Civil War. Lots of peach trees and pecan trees and some sod farms. Lovely antebellum homes and train depots no longer sites of arrival and departure of passengers--prisoners or otherwise. Arrived at Perry and our motel and went to eat in Applebees--I now know why people eat at Micky D's etc--you are sure of what you are going to get and I wanted to have food I could depend on--ribs and queso blanco. Fattening but recognizable!LOL

When we returned we found that our next door neighbor was also in Americus last night. A commercial truck from New Rochelle marked only Ivy Classic. Will have to research what that is-- a spy following us?

Tomorrow Macon--I think we are due to hear some good Southern music and maybe look at some prehistoric Indian mounds. What do you think? Night from the road, until then!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NH people don't like Southerners, they don't like Georgians

Hmm--Didn't know that til I listened to the narration in the Jimmy Carter visitors' center --they did continue to say the people in NH had no idea who he was--probably more likely why they didn't vote for him.

This morning we crossed the Chattahootchee River, owned by Georgia and immediately lost an hour--we are back in EST, alas. Went through Lumpkin, not knowing there is a canyon they compare to the Grand!! and the village that the fellow in Clampton told us was opposite the Andersonville NHS--Not!

Arrived in Plains and visited the High School that has been converted to the JC visitor center. Saw Billy Carter's gas station and the fenced area in which Jimmy and Rosalynn live when home in Plains. Interesting area--the town looks just like the pictures from 1925--time has stood still here in many ways.The farm in Archery where JC grew up was probably the most interesting part of the day, especially the two Siamese Cat mix who loved the attention we gave them. I loved speaking to the Ranger who told us that the pansies in the little flower garden had grown throughout the winter and would shrivel and dry up in April with the real heat! Real heat? It has been 84+ and humid for days.

Continued into Americus--why do I know that name??? Lindbergh made his first solo flight here--maybe we'll look for the statue tomorrow. Had dinner in the hotel restaurant and met a couple from the Finger Lakes Region of NYS. They had purchased a Panama Canal trip of two weeks with another couple, whose daughter became seriously ill. Having purchased travel insurance they got their money back and are on a smaller trip around the States. They owned a 96 acre farm, he had heart surgery, they sold the farm and now live in a double wide which they love. Nice to meet them.

Tomorrow Andersonville and then we are headed toward Cumberland Gap--Bill has always wanted to see it--I think I've been there already, but who knows at this point? Hope I can handle the height! LOL

Until then--Salander has been released!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuskegee, Union Springs and Eufaula, Alabama

Woke to the melodious barking of some of our resident dogs, whose accommodations were right outside our window--a suite with jacuzzi and a dog run--what more could one ask for? The room next to ours was unoccupied however the alarm went off at 4ish though I never heard it--I guess Bill did but he gets up then anyway. I started the day with a delightful soak in the jacuzzi while sipping my morning coffee. On the road on a hot, humid overcast morning. By ten the haze had burned off but the heat and humidity continued. We headed out toward Dadesville where we had taken rt 49 north yesterday to Horseshoe Bend but took it south today toward Union Springs.

Depending on the wind pattern and the temperature Alabama is redolent of either pulp mills or flowers --today it was sweet with the blooms of spring, especially the Wisteria that is so abundant and beautiful. I haven't noticed as much Kudzu this year in either Mississippi or Alabama--it may be the area of the states where we traveled this year--sort of right in the middle moving west to east.

Our destination today for study was Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site--which only opened in 2008. The temporary visitors' center was more temporary than planned having become contaminated with mold. As a result there is a small reception area at the entrance of Hangar 1 in which a rather extensive display has been assembled. The lady volunteer with whom we spoke said that Hangar 2, which burned down in 1987 has been rebuilt and there is another display area there along with a theatre but that it will not open until 2012. I hope we will return.

Briefly, the history is that black men were not allowed to be pilots during WWII being considered subservient and lacking in the abilities necessary to become pilots. In 1939, with an impending war, Congress passed the Civilian Pilot Training Act which allowed non-military guys to become pilots and move into the military if needed--basically building a bank account of a large number of flight ready pilots. An organization of African American pilots --National Airmen's Association, six black colleges and a private flying school joined the effort. Tuskegee Institute was very successful in turning out licensed civilian pilots and as more legislation was passed preventing discrimination in training etc and with the support of Eleanor Roosevelt the segregated 99th Pursuit Squadron was formed in 1941. The Tuskegee Airmen were born. The pictures show many of the men involved and the type of training etc that took place. Unfortunately, I could not record the stories told by some of them in their own words which were available to listen to on the phones on the desks scattered throughout the hangar. I spent over 2 hours, reading, listening, and photographing the exhibit. I hope you enjoy what I can provide for you. I never saw the Denzel Washington film but will now watch it with this experience as background. I also hope to return for the rest of the story when hangar 2 is opened.

Bill did not listen to all the tales so he was finished much sooner than I but he and the lady volunteer had a pleasant chat about many things so he wasn't at all upset that I wanted to be more thorough. The story of these men was told me by my Dad, who a product of his time was very biased but who, in fairness, was impressed ( surprised? I don't know.) by their accomplishments and greatly admired them. He is also the source for my knowledge of internment camps which my junior high school civics teacher told me did not exist. HMMMMM

We headed out through town with me snapping shots of the beautiful houses as we left--There is also the Tuskegee Institute to explore with the artifacts of George Washington Carver and the home of Booker T. Washington. The heat and humidity of the South tires me more easily than it has before and so I don't want to overextend. If we do too much in one day I'm too tired to sleep easily and feel awful the next day. Bill doesn't like to do too much in one day since he finds it hard to absorb so much info in such a short time. So in this way we are compatible in our approach and TI will definitely be another trip tour.

We arrived in Union Springs which my Historical Alabama book stated had a great bird dog statue in the center of town--they weren't kidding--the dog is not only in the center of town he is in the center of the road!!! His photo will go well with my coon dog statue from two years ago. There are brown signs at the entrance to town directing drivers to the dog! While photographing a young man and his little girl crossed the road and I asked if there were a place to grab a sandwich or something. He suggested the wings and fish place so we went seeking it.Definitely a local place and it is like sitting in a lady's informal dining room with her in the kitchen cooking the meal for you. I had three fried chicken wings, cole slaw and sweet tea! At last, good food--this black lady was a delight--housedress--who wears a housedress anymore and apron. Bill had hot wings so she said yours are messy so here is toweling--to me she said--you're more dainty so here are a few more napkins. Then she gave me my utensils and said I know they're on the wrong side but we'll manage. Soon she came out and said is that tea sweet? I said not overly but it has sweetening--nope she said, I added more tea and forgot to add more sugar--out she went to the kitchen and she brought two new jars--gave me the one with the handle--and said take your straw and away went the not sweet enough sweet tea. It felt like eating at home--LOL I hated to leave.

Off we went to our night's rest in Eufaula( asked the fried chicken lady how to pronounce that--oh, she said that's an Indian word and I always figured they said you folla so that's how I say it!)--the Quality Inn. The directions in the directory says on rt 82 at the Alabama Georgia border--they weren't kidding--the parking lot overlooks the Chattahoochee River which is the border! Actually, the river belongs to Georgia--so if we sit on the lawn later when it cools down we will be in Georgia and EST. Here is the room it is Alabama and CST! Took more pictures of yet more beautiful homes as we passed through town. The Pilgrimage here will be Apr 1st weekend.All of these towns have these open houses etc for a large fee per person --I'm sure they are beautiful but not Bill's thing.

So now--I'm going to finish Hornet's Nest--the trial is on lunch recess and lots is happening--soon it will be over. :(

Tomorrow Plains and Jimmy Carter!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Battle of Horseshoe Bend/or Another People Oppressed

The day dawned with condensation on the windshield for the first time--BUT it was not frozen!!!! Got ourselves on the road and headed north on Rt 22 to Clampton for breakfast. Well, once more the cooking of Alabama leaves me cold--a pancake that tasted and had the texture of an omelet! Sigh. But the coffee was great. And we chatted with a fellow who has relatives in WRJ--Reynolds family are his in-laws. Again we don't know them but still it is a small world. We chatted about different parts of the country since he too has traveled widely. He also gave us some ideas about places to see in Alabama next time we come to the area.

We continued to Alexander City and through it to the Horseshoe Bend Battlefield National Site. Andrew Jackson starting his career and beating the Creeks and destroying their confederation. Of course they had already taken a beating at the hands of the British who ceded much of their land to the Americans at the end of the Revolution. A treaty of New York was then signed by the Americans stating that if they gave us a certain area the rest of their homeland would be left in their control. Sure--we may have beaten the British but the acorn doesn't fall far from the oak. First an attempt was made to have the Creeks give up hunting etc and become farmers and settle in one place. So they for the most part conformed. Many of their leaders were sons of European traders who married Creek women. And yet, not satisfied, when he became President Andrew signed into law the Relocation Act that moved them all by force to Oklahoma--The Trail of Tears.

Unfortunately, no one ever felt very guilty or upset or motivated to redress the wrongs done to the Native American. Some of the most impoverished places I've seen on my travels are the homes found on the reservations of this nation.

The signs and sites of the battlefield tell the story as well as I can. One thing--in the diorama the soldier grasping his thigh with an arrow through it is Sam Houston in his first battle. He almost didn't survive--he was shot twice more after the arrow--so badly wounded the doctors decided not to treat him. He survived to the hospital but after traveling over rough roads without water or medical treatment he was in even worse shape so again they figured he'd die so did nothing for him. When he got back to Tennessee still alive they still were not going to treat him, but his mother, who only recognized him because of his eyes, insisted they help him. They agreed if he was still alive two days later, which he was. Irish do you suppose or maybe Scots! LOL

Back to Alexander City and our hot tub suite. Watching Dancing with the Stars and Castle. Tomorrow Tuskegee!

Quiet Spring Sunday in Selma

The first day of Spring started off slowly for us. Having sort of raced across Mississippi and half of Alabama without coming across anything of interest for which to pause, we were tired and mopey. When we booked the motel room we did so for two nights so that we would be able to explore the historic sites at leisure and rest before moving on.

We made our way into town around ten o'clock and headed out Broad Street which leads to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of the March 7, 1965 Bloody Sunday March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. We admired several of the large older buildings and then as we reached the bridge the older and more run down buildings. We planned our first stop to be the National Voting Rights Museum but it had moved from the Selma side of the Alabama River to the other side. We drove down historic Water Street just to see the buildings and to check out the Depot Museum, which traces the history of Selma from before the War to after the Civil Rights movement. It came as no surprise to see that since it was Sunday in the South the museum was closed. We continued back up Water to Broad and then across the Pettus bridge, following the steps taken by 1000's who had marched across it almost 50 years ago.

After having held voting rights classes and starting to get people ready to register to vote, the Reverend Hosea Williams, Jr and John Lewis led a small group of people across the bridge with the intent of carrying their request to vote to Gov. George Wallace in person. On the far side they were met by Alabama State Troopers who attacked them and drove them back into Selma. Two days later, MLK, jr showed up and led them across again, met the troopers and turned back to Selma peacefully and more or less without incident. Several weeks later the Supreme Court stated that the march was legal and by the time the crowd,originally 4,000 strong, reached Montgomery their numbers had soared to around 25,ooo people!

On the other side of the bridge we found the new Voting Rights museum but it too was closed. Across the street, however, was a small park, near the Selma Welcome sign that looked interesting. Monuments to Williams and Lewis have been erected here along with one commemorating Amelia Boynton Robinson and Marie Foster. Mrs Robinson is still alive at 99 years of age. She and her husband knew Booker T Washington at Tuskegee Institute and met MLK, jr in Montgomery. After her husband died she continued working for civil rights and her home was used for planning meetings for the March, which she is considered to have had a major hand in organizing. Mrs Foster in the meantime, frustrated at trying to pass the barricades erected to prevent blacks from registering to vote--such as expecting them to know the number of words in the Constitution!!---once she succeeded, began literacy and citizenship classes. Of course, once that was discovered a law was passed barring more than three black persons meeting to discuss civil rights. Uh-huh. Both ladies were beaten on Bloody Sunday, Mrs Robinson, unconscious. Mrs Foster was one of only three ladies who completed the 50 mile march on Mar 21 and she was instrumental in founding the Voting Rights Museum.

Adjacent to the three monuments is an assembly of rocks with a quote from scripture--Joshua, I believe. Behind this are several boardwalk and stair accesses to the area beneath the bridge. The day being warm and sunny with a slight breeze and incredibly quiet we decided to stroll the unkempt park there. Several young men had parked beneath the bridge and walked onto the embankment to fish the Alabama. We ascended once more and perused the mural on the building next to the park. Other than MLK, jr none of the names were familiar to us, though they were referred to as martyrs to the cause and all of them had died in 1965. I'm not sure anyone was killed on Bloody Sunday so I researched them as well. One of the men was a native of Keene, NH and an elementary school there is named for him. In addition, he is carried as a martyr by the Episcopal Church and is honored by it in August.

I will start the story with the first of the four to die: The story is not atypical for the times--basically Jimmy Lee Jackson, a deacon in his Church, was part of a peaceful march of 500 people in Marion, Al. Troopers etc nervous and vicious started beating these people. Jackson, his 80+grandfather and his mother fled and were pursued. The old man was beaten, his daughter when she came to his aid was also beaten and young Jimmy, 28, was shoved and shot and beaten when he came to his mother's aid. He died in Selma several days later and his case fueled the movement for the March.

On Aug 13, 1965 the Keene, NH native, Jonathon Myrick Daniels, was one of 40 or so protesters who went to Ft Defiance to picket whites only stores. They were arrested and held for about a week. When released they were given no transport back to Ft Defiance. Jonathon, a Catholic priest and two black protesters headed to a store for a cold drink when they were confronted by an unpaid deputy with a shotgun. The gun was leveled at a young black girl, Jonathon threw her to the ground and was hit with the full blast of the gun and died instantly. The priest was shot in the lower back as he ran away with the other protester. A commemorative service was held at the location and Ruby Sales, the girl he saved was part of it.

The Rev James Reeb had arrived in Selma to take part in the second march organized by MLK, jr, who had sent out a call to the Southern Conference Ministers for supporters to assemble in Selma. Reeb and two others had gone to a black restaurant for dinner and upon leaving and walking back to their hotel were accosted by white attackers. Reeb was hit brutally in the head with a metal rod and was assisted by the other two to a black clinic, where the doctor realized the injuries were greater than he could handle. An ambulance was sent for to take Reeb to Birmingham --it was sabotaged--another was sent for and he arrived seriously injured. He died two days later.

Lastly,Violet Gregg Liuzzo, marched to Montgomery and was bringing others back to Selma in her car when another vehicle attempted to force her off the road. When that didn't work the car came abreast of hers and her car was shot up --she herself was shot twice in the head and the car veered off the road into a ditch.

I remember these horror stories as I was living and teaching in Troy, NY ---many of my students were black and yet at this point in time the mood was still quite peaceful. So much of this seemed to be happening in another world. By the time I left Troy in 1968 the violence on a smaller level had caught up with us and the school was locked at all times, basketball games were played without spectators and vandalism had become rampant.

We returned to Selma still not knowing these specific stories but wondering who these people were and the role they had played in the upheaval that was the civil rights south.

We both felt somewhat disappointed that everything seemed to be closed but since the day was not to be wasted we decided to seek out Alabama's first capital city--Cahawba. Once a bustling river city at the confluence of the Cahawba and Alabama rivers the place was hit with several whammies that turned it into a ghost-town. Getting to it involved a lovely drive through flowers and Spanish moss draped trees, through which the sunlight and shadows alternated in strobe-light fashion. The bugs are huge and on this first day of Spring the bumble bees seemed curious--they would fly up to us and hover like a hummingbird--looking at us like the Nasonex bee--as though they couldn't figure out if we were a new kind of flower or maybe just an early scented plant. It was weird!

There is little left of the original town--yellow fever often took its toll on the population, floods became problematic, the Confederate government had a foundry and arsenal in Selma so the railroad was taken up and rebuilt there, the county seat was moved and so eventually the population moved to where business could flourish. Houses were literally moved from Cahawba to Selma in whole or taken apart for the bricks and rebuilt elsewhere. Kirkpatrick bought up a lot of the land and the family was there into the 1930's when the Depression finally forced them to sell and move. The last black family buried in the Black cemetery was in 1957 and that family still owns, though I don't think lives, in the almost totally plant covered house, the picture of which I took from Bill's window.

The New Cemetery has been so severely vandalized --it is tragic to see. And the black cemetery has only a few graves marked with posts though there are probably hundreds buried there. It would seem that the place would be sad but it is strangely peaceful and sitting overlooking the river one could almost imagine the bustle of the town behind one on Capital Street--deserted but for the ghosts.

Returning to town I took some more pictures of some more of the antebellum homes. Went to the Steak Pit, which Bill insisted on calling the Snake Pit. He had steak---thin, almost raw and pan fried! I had fried oysters---small and burned --and a sweet potato. The salad bar was excellent. But, boy, these Southerners--at least in Alabama don't know how to eat. Fast Food flourishes here and cafeterias are upscale eating.

Back to the room, research, uploads of pix, blog and one more chapter in Hornet's Nest--almost done and I'm loving it. But why did he even mention Lizbeth's sister--is she the Amazon?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Flying Across Mississippi

Left Natchez yesterday and literally drove straight across the State into Alabama. Route 84 is designated the El Camino East/West corridor and runs from El Paso,Texas to Brunswick, Georgia--you remember that place, Amy--Glenco and Pam's! LOL It is an interesting cooperative plan amongst the five States it crosses and, while I can understand the idea behind it, as usual I hate the widening of the road and destruction of its rural backwoods feel. For a short description of the road and the plans for it check out http://www.elcaminocorridor.org/

As we drove along through the bucolic Mississippi warmth we noticed such things at a sign for the Longleaf Trace, which I thought might be something like the Natchez Trace. It is actually a rails to trails paved path that bikers, hikers etc can use to cover 41 miles between Prentiss and Hattiesburg.

Eventually we entered Alabama with little fanfare and not much change in scenery, although there were no complaints from us as we enjoyed the trees budding out and the myriad colors of the flowers in bloom. Within 12 miles we left El Camino and headed north on rte 17, until it connected to Rt 80. We passed a school in Waynesboro called Beat 4 Elementary School. I looked it up but cannot seem to find any explanation for the name--has a good standing in the county and several thumbs up comments from parents.

I barely caught the name of the bridge going over the Tombigbee River just west of Demopolis--the Rooster Bridge. Curious name I thought so researched that as well--couple of interesting sites about it--or at least the original bridge which was demolished in 1980. Wonder if selling roosters would get enough money these days to build a footbridge! Maritime enthusiasts might also enjoy the added story of the tug boat that rolled under the old bridge!



Stopped in Demopolis for my Sonic fix--always need to stop once and eat garbaggy food there--Bill hates doing it but I only go once on the trip so he can just grin and bear it! LOL

As we were leaving town a police car with lights flashing went racing through the intersection that was sort of like a five corners and another set himself right in the midst of the intersection and got out of his car, standing next to the hood with his hands behind his back. The several lights turned green but not a vehicle moved. We could not imagine what was going on but then a funeral passed through, followed by several more official cars with lights flashing. Once it had passed he got in his car and followed, too. We all joined the procession but within a mile all the police cars headed back to Demopolis. The cortege continued on ahead of us for fourteen miles to Faunsdale, where they turned off the main road--toward some cemetery out of sight.

Upon arrival in Selma we went to eat at the Oasis Steakhouse and Grill which turned out to be a cafeteria type deal. I had the best fried chicken with sweet potatoes cooked in orange juice and brown sugar. A huge glass of sweet tea and some melon and I was fixed for the night. Very hot at 84 degrees so an air conditioned room--though strongly redolent of heavy handed air freshener is some spicy scent, which gave me a large headache---and my book and my day was over.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Catching Up in Mississippi

After we rested a bit in Mckinney we decided to go out to Two Senoritas, an authentic Mexican restaurant and cantina. We sat in the cantina and met a young Iraq veteran Marine who has three purple hearts and a bronze star. Said he was in Germany but since he was in the hospital he wasn't able to enjoy any of their famous beer. He was shot in the left hip one time, another time in the right arm breaking both bones in the forearm and the third time he got it in the chest. He couldn't pass the physical requirements to stay in so he was mustered out but he can pass now and he wants to re-up though it may mean Afghanistan this time. He is an engineer but wound up with recon guys and had absolutely no training in recon! Has two sons--the youngest just like him--gung ho to become a Marine,even though his ex wife has told the little guy--5yrs old--about talking to his Daddy with shells bursting in the background. Kid thinks that was cool. The guy is happy that his older son is going to be a poet and musician--peaceful and creative--he's hoping this son will guide the younger to make better choices than the Marines. LOL

Another person there was a woman who works in the local mill and is from the Texas hill country--says it is the most beautiful part of the State. I was close when I was in Round Rock several years ago but still haven't gotten there--New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Luckinbach--just about the only part of the State where I haven't been. And it is definitely a part I want to explore--next trip!

The meal and the conversation were terrific--had a fabulous white queso dip with pico, bean soup and two tacos washed down with Dos Equis.....Way to go!

The next day we took 67 out of town and on to farm roads. Since it was St Patrick's Day it seemed perfectly logical to go through Kildare but let me tell you--there is NOTHING in Kildare, Texas. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day and it was a joy to see all the flowering trees of every hue and wisteria which seems to grow wild--probably an escapee! We eventually entered Louisiana but because we were on back roads the only indication we'd crossed State lines was a change in road number and designation from Texas to La 1. Continued along back roads and through towns that are barely there until reaching Ruston, La the home, as the water tank says, of Louisiana Tech. Since traffic was terrible along the frontage roads and the Interstate, Bill suggested that we go eat and get it out of the way.

Off we went to Applebee's and the cutest barkeep I've seen in a long time--David's smile just lit up the place and his personality is every bit as big and fun as that smile. We had a blast talking to him and the young fellows who sat next to us. All Grambling State students, except David, who just graduated. One young man dropped his fork when opening those bundles restaurants give you these days. Without thinking he said " shit " as he started to get down to pick it up--immediately he apologized to me--oh, excuse me, ma'am! When was the last time a Northern kid has done that? The graciousness, friendliness and courtesy in the South is unbelievable. The Southwest if similar but there is a warmth in the South that is lacking in other parts of the country. Any way, though there was to be karaoke which I think would have been fun, we left and returned to our room where I read some more of Hornet's Nest.

Today we headed South to see the birthplace of Huey Long and his nephew, Earl. As we stepped out of our motel I got a whiff of something that smelled like strong cabbage--I had gotten a touch of it the night before, also--but that didn't quite seem right. As we continued along I realized that it was an odor I'd grown up with in South Glens Falls, the eau de paper works from Finch Prynn. Sure enough when we reached Hodge, La, there it was --a containerboard mill--with all the steam coming out and the sounds of compressors going. One never forgets that smell--think Rumford, Maine before air pollution regs--which obviously don't exist down here. Once we passed the mill the odor was gone. In Winnfield which is the Long birthplace there was no evidence of any commemorative house etc so on we went to Rte 84, eastward through the piney woods--soft pine for paper mills--and on across the Mississippi from Vidalia to Natchez.

That motel is still there in Vidalia, Barb--now it is a Budget Inn and looks even seedier than the last time we saw it--most of it is empty--it must have been something in its day. We opted to return to the Quality Inn in Natchez though someday I'd like to check out the Comfort Suites right on the river beneath the bridge and across from the casino. I bet the view from a riverside room is beautiful at night. Will have to be on the way West when we are more flush. As it is, the Spring Festival is going on, as it is in St Francisville so we opted not to go to Grandmother's Buttons. Anyway, while our room cost only $72 plus tax they wanted 25,000 pts! A suite in Ruston only took 16.000 pts last night. We opted to pay rather than use so many points. That is only until Apr 15 when the Promenade is over.

So, here we are and we think we are going to head into Alabama tomorrow and explore--we've really covered Mississippi pretty much on previous trips. I kind of want to go to the coast and Bill is leaning toward Selma so not sure yet where we will head tomorrow.

It is really getting too hot already--80 degrees plus all day today--which wouldn't be bad but since central Texas the humidity has been building. Also along with the beautiful flowers the bugs are emerging and you all know how I love June bugs, etc.

Will let you all know what we've decided tomorrow night--until then--keep dry and don't get stuck in the mud!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hello Again

Whew, I feel shell-shocked and drained. Arrived in Richardson around lunchtime Monday and met Bill's frat brother for the first time. He is certainly wired and odd but very nice --big-hearted and anxious to make us welcome. Within the past three years he has lost his son, in 2008, in a freak snowboard accident, his wife to cancer and a sister. He has been working on the estates and seeking answers to his son's accident throughout this time but has given up his own work. He is rattling around in a HUGE house all by himself and is so desperate for company. Add to that wanting to catch up on 39 years since he and Bill have last seen each other.

Immediately, upon our arrival he wanted to know what we wanted to see in Dallas but we soon convinced him that we really did not want to run around sightseeing but rather wanted to visit with HIM. He is very into nutritional supplements but he does not cook for himself and has NOT cooked a meal in over three years. His pots and pans were definitely dusty and have not been used in some time. Having spent many years working in the Orient he is very fond of Asian food so the three of us went to the Walmart Grocery--a really nice store--solely a food store--and gathered the ingredients for Bill's Nepali food and returned to the fabulous kitchen he has ( the electric range top built into the counter has NEVER been used!!) and Bill cooked for us.

I was grateful for it too since we haven't had a decent meal since we left Gloria's--when one travels farm roads in Texas and stays in tiny towns the selection of restaurants is quite limited--Sonic, Dairy Queen, Arby's, McDonalds, Taco Bell and some sort of delivery pizza. We've had Dominos and Pizza Hut and neither hit the spot. So to have another home cooked meal was a great treat. Jim was thrilled and he and Bill ate huge plates again yesterday for lunch and there is still another serving for Jim tonight.

Lots of catch up and getting to know you conversation, wonderful Shiner Bock which I haven't had in ages and in general a day and evening that just flew. It was our intention to leave on Tuesday but Jim really wanted us to stay and meet the lady that he is dating and go to a Korean restaurant last night. It felt ungracious to refuse but with the emotional gamut in conversations about his son, especially it was quite stressful at times. Also Jim does not sleep so he was constantly running to the computer all night long and several times it awoke me to hear him. I worry about him since his friend base is in New England since he worked overseas so much that he didn't really cultivate friends in Texas though he has lived here for almost 20 years and the most recent time has been spent nursing a seriously ill wife who also was totally devastated by the death of their 33 year old son who was a very prominent and innovative physician. I'm not sure he has had a real chance to absorb and start to recover from all of this stress.

He is at loose ends and wants to sell his house and put all of this behind but there is still so much to do and he doesn't know if he wants to move to Fort Worth or leave Texas totally and move to Maine. Not knowing him myself and Bill not having seen him since they were 20 year olds in college it was difficult to know how much to pry and or advise or even how to respond to some confidences and yet we wished to be supportive. I know he really loved having us there and would have liked us to stay longer.

We did go to the Korean Restaurant in Dallas last night and Sunny, who is Korean, was a true delight. She ordered for us and helped us make our lettuce rolls of all the various little items that got mixed with our marinated beef which we cooked right at our table and our spicy chicken which was cooked in the kitchen because of the seasoning process. The weak cold tea with the meal was surprisingly refreshing between the various flavors and textures of the food, the miso soup was wonderful and we were totally stuffed by the time they served us the most delicious gingered sweet tea I have ever tasted. I wished I could have brought that home with us.

After dinner we went downtown to the Hilton and up to the 27th floor lounge where we reveled in the luxury of a nightcap overlooking the Dallas skyline--just beautiful.

By the time we arrived back at Sunny's it was 11 and though she wanted us to come in for coffee and apple pie--though she said she and I could share her red zin instead--we begged off--feeling quite sated and tired from a delightful evening. Got back to Jim's and while the boys had another beer and a cigarette I read another chapter of my book.

The room we had was huge, light and airy and both mornings--since both Jim and Bill were up at 5 and I slept until about 7 I took the opportunity to have me time and read a couple of chapters each morning before joining them for the breakfast Bill cooked us.

This morning we left around 1130 and headed right out of the city but took I 30 to Mt Pleasant where we got our motel room--Bill turned the TV on but is sleeping and I have just sort of dazedly looked at maps and my book and my backed up email. As I said, we are both reeling and need to decompress. Bill will see Jim again in April at their frat house gathering and will, at the same time, catch up with other brothers he hasn't seen in the same 39 years. I know he is happy to have seen Jim and we will stay in touch and see him again but in small doses, I'm afraid. Bill is wondering how he'll find the other guys and how they will find him.

Listening to hell week stories and pledge stories I don't understand the whole process any better now than I did when I was in my 20's. A little strange to me--paddling, branding only ended a couple years before they pledged, etc etc--warped and weird, I'm afraid. I'm curious to know what these other guys are like now--many of which are very successful and seemingly normal adults. HMMMM--wonder if their kids know! LOL

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Not in West Texas Anymore

Though there are still some mighty big spreads as we traveled the Farm roads from Wichita Falls to McKinney they don't compare to those of West Texas. As a result we were able to get out of WF by heading north toward Oklahoma and then pick up a South then East bound pair of roads that set us up just fine to head toward Dallas. The Texas map is one of the very best I've come across--these roads are beautifully marked because they truly are the major arteries of the locals. We found we needed gas so we stayed on 82 to Ringold but there was NOTHING there! The next town was in the same size print with the same little dot,which made me a bit nervous--but wonder of wonders--there were several liquor stores--open though it is Sunday!--a convenience store/gas station, dairy queen, a bank, etc---almost a metropolis out here !

We had not really eaten breakfast and Bill asked the young high school girl where we could find a restaurant---duh! An older gentleman mentioned Times Forgotten on Clay St--what a find. Mr and Mrs Reynolds--I forget their names--they are on the menu picture--were nearing retirement from careers in education and were looking for the next thing. Having grown up in Nocona and raised their family there, and seeing the deterioration of the downtown, they decided to renovate one of the buildings and open a restaurant. Their hope is to prevent the town from becoming a ghost town. Let me tell you--I had a club sandwich and a bottomless glass of sweet tea and seasoned fries. Bill had a Cajun stir fry and fries and a salad that would be a lunch entree at home--he had at least 8 oz of steak in the stir fry. The meal came to 18.00! We left totally full of excellent food. As you can see the dining room is lovely and the meals are huge and more than reasonable--if they all tasted like ours they were delicious--they sure looked it.

Our waitress, Ivon, pronounce Yvonne--I asked, she laughed and said Ivan, EEvan, Ivor --whatever! I laughed and said I know, that's why I asked. Cute kid. She forgot Bill's salad and played the cute card--I could say it's coming and not say I forgot but I forgot--with a cute smile. Then while speaking to me and reaching for my glass across my table she let the pitcher sort of lean forward and as she spoke the tea was pouring on the table and onto the floor. I sort of hummed or something and she said oh, it was overfull--as she righted the pitcher. She was so cute so how could you get upset. Met the Reynolds who were eating at the table next to us--Mrs Reynolds had come to our table earlier to assure us that our food was on its way--we were fine--it was very busy and it is obvious that things are made fresh--plus we are retired --we are never in a hurry on our trips.

Anyway, I told them that we, too, were retired educators--they were thrilled to meet us--we chatted for awhile about time teaching. He said he was in it for 42 years--had that look--sure he was a principal if not a superintendent. You know that look, guys? Delightful people with a wonderful relationship with their staff, most of whom were high school girls. I know they had a good rapport with the kids when teaching--he started out as an ag teacher as did Bill.

Headed south to Montague and picked up farm road 445 which we followed all the way to the Interstate that goes into Dallas. As in the case the other day the road is being widened so it will lose some of that back road feel, alas. It is interesting, however, how often the non-farm roads are that scarified surface that precedes the final paving--it is as thought the project was never finished. It is a relief to get off it and onto the " back" roads. Once we reached Sanger and the junction with I35--remember it Barb?--the road to San Antonio--which runs from Oklahoma and down through the major cities of Texas, except Houston, the tentacles of Dallas reached north into the hinterlands.

Now, we started at Sanger Lake--artificially formed by a dam over which we drove. On the one side the huge lake, on the other the parks and residential areas that will be wiped out if the dam ever goes. Once we passed this resort-y, lake-y style stuff we came into the land of McMansions. They are so grotesque--they stand out from the landscape in an almost obscene way. Don't get me wrong--I love large houses and wouldn't mind having a bigger place and a housekeeper to help me with it. It is just that they have made no effort to blend in with the terrain so they are like scars on the land. And the money--again--you can smell it--doesn't seem to be any economic downturn here. There are some trailers and broken down places but not like the areas before Sanger. Don't know where they've hidden the poorer people--not poverty people--just the so called middle class people.

I laughed and said I can just hear a lady like me turning to her husband and saying--Honey, just sell off about 100 acres of the RANCH--or better yet--just develop a 100 acres--then build me one of those nice houses here next to the old place. Don't forget the help!

Eventually, after more tight hair pin turns than we have ever encountered or that we could ever explain, it was a relief to hook up with I 75 for only three exits and arrive at our motel in Mckinney. The Indian girl with her tika had no idea what I meant by an upgrade--right! She knew how to use the credit card machine etc. No mention of breakfast or the password to the Internet.....isn't a lack of fluency in English in the US a kick? Grrrr! It's bad enough to have to deal with it on the phone when making reservations--I'm too tired to have to learn Hindi or whatever to check in.

So full from lunch I decided the last of Gloria's banana bread and a glass of Gewurztraminer would be a lovely dinner. Now, back to Hornet's Nest--anyone else think the repetition of the whole Salander mess is a bit unnecessary?

Off to Dallas and a visit with Bill's frat brother so there may be a break for a bit. Don't know if we will go into town or just chew the fat --Bill is going to cook Nepali for Jimmy, who is a widower and eats out always. Not sure how long we will stay with him--sort of a play it by ear kind of thing. Until whenever--Kathy and Bill--the Nomadic Ponds

PS--Betsy is psyched about the Holly sunglasses! She's upset because she doesn't know how she would be notified if something happened to us--guess I'll have to put something in the purse, glove compartment etc.

The town of Charlie is a cemetary and ranches!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where Are the Farm Roads?

Started the day with coffee in the Jacuzzi--heaven! Where can I put one at home? The motel in Lubbock had the best biscuits--probably Bisquick--LOL and sausages--no not with gravy, yuk!

Got on the road around 10:15--we have been having a bit of a problem adjusting to CST. As navigator I decided to take us right out of Lubbock by going Southeast and then, once about ten miles out, taking farm roads north and east and north and east again until we reached Texas 114/US82. I could not understand what geographic feature prevented the building of farm roads along the way. Well, I soon discovered that it wasn't geography but private property that was the problem.

If you look at the Texas map you will find huge swaths of the state with absolutely no roads. These areas are large ranches, huge spreads, through which run dirt county roads that really don't go anywhere except across the ranch. There are also dirt roads running parallel with the main road, on either side, but inside the fences that separate the private from the public. These are the maintenance roads for repairing the fence line. Seeing them and the gates they go through I was reminded of Michael Martin Murphy's song about where one sits in the pick-up. The wise guy sits in the middle where he has access to the radio, doesn't have to drive and doesn't have to get out to open and close the gates. www.youtube.com/watch?v=HymNVqy0h51&NR=1

Even though there weren't any farm roads the main one went through all the small towns that existed with their various types of homes and old buildings and grain storage etc. The countryside was scrub from Dickens to Guthrie--more than 30 miles--no water , no electric for large parts, no cell service. Interspersed with the stunted trees there would be a steer or some horses but by and large not very productive. Periodically we'd come to a field of emerald green and sure enough there would be a sign talking of fresh water, an aquifer. For these 30 miles and more the spread on either side of the road was the Pitchfork Ranch--there had been the Collier before. We came to several hysterical signs but many were on the other side of a four lane road divided by a median--not conducive to safe travel. One sign in particular reminded me of the largest ranch in Texas--the King Ranch---and when we looked at the map we realized that the boundaries cited in the sign would encompass almost a quarter of the State!

Dating myself again--I remember the TV show, Sky King, about a rancher whose place was so large that he used a small plane to cross it. Lo and Behold the private plane and airport--not on the map--for 6666! Hmmmm, and look at those horses and the driveway with the name "Run for Cash. The houses and equipment and outbuildings SMELL of money--beautifully painted and maintained, laid out just so--as though a layout editor had been consulted. God!

After the dry scrub land, which in places had been cleared in an effort to reclaim the land from nature, the irrigated fields looked like emeralds--our eyes rejoiced at the sight!

By 3:30 after going over one of the highest, curviest overpass I can remember in a long time, we checked into our motel in Wichita Falls, Tx. Rather than go back over that thing or eating at Cracker Barrel, which we hate, or Denny's, we ordered in Domino's. Not what we would have liked but being hungry we settled.

Although this is a suite and an upgrade there are no hot tubs or jacuzzis here so a morning shower will have to do. Now it is back to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which is turning out to be as good as the first two. I loved the movies also and cannot wait to see this one.

Tomorrow on to the Dallas area. For now, good night from Texas and 84 degrees and sunny with fruit trees in bloom and pansies growing. Sweet!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Finding Buddy Holly

Spent the day in Lubbock but chose NOT to look for Buddy's schools--all three--or homes, or venues or grave. I guess we aren't rabid fans although I was just graduating from high school when he, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens died in a horrendous plane crash in a snow covered field in Iowa. The museum is quite thorough in presenting the roots of rock and roll, Holly's contributions and his influence on such groups as the Beatles, Stones etc. I never really fell in love with Rock and didn't like Elvis until he'd been dead for years. I liked Valens and remember several of Holly's hits. I sort of let rock and the black Supremes sound etc roll over me and fell in love with the folk movement. Bill was a Stones fan and we have a Holly-Crickets album that is his. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed and I bet his widow has something to do with that. She tried to get Lubbock to pay her to name the street and center after him. For having been married to him for about six months before his death she has lived well on his legacy.

His high school bedroom furniture is on display and that was sad in a way for he was only 22 when he died so not so very far removed from that room. Yet, in so many ways he had moved on--a hit internationally and living in an apartment in Greenwich Village. It is strange to realize he'd be 75 this fall. I wonder if his widow will come when he gets his star on the West Texas Musical Walk of Fame--she didn't attend his funeral nor has she ever been to his grave. Odd.

As impressive as the Holly( birth name, Holley) memorabilia was the fine arts gallery with jewelry, paintings, photography and ceramics done by local artists.

Purchased a post card for Bets and a pair of black rimmed sunglasses for her. When I met Bill he had Buddy Holly glasses that he'd gotten in Nepal. By the time Bets came along I talked him into wire-rimmed glasses that look less bulky. Bets has seen pictures of him and has always been upset that he got rid of those cool glasses--now she'll have her own --at least sunglasses. For myself I purchased a neat pendant of stone, wire and beads designed by a local jeweler--one of a kind she claims!

Having finished walking down memory lane we headed over to Baby Brighams BBQ and had a messy, delicious plate of ribs, cole slaw and beans with sweet tea. Checked out the brewery next door--I was too full but Bill tried their American Pale Ale and liked it enough to buy a growler. The bartender turned out to be from Hartford, Vt. His name is Mike Elliot but his mother's maiden name is Goodrich and her mother's maiden name was Perkins. Grandmother Perkins lived on Christian Street along with another lady named Kiddo. What a small world. His dad, Mr Elliot is from Colorado. Mike says he comes from a heritage of Mountains and water and here he lives in the flat desert landscape of Texas. Says it is getting time to move on to an area more like his ancestry knew! LOL

Returned to the motel to watch the horror of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. What a terrible thing but at least Ghadaffi is off the news for awhile and, God help us, Charlie Sheen! Yuck, just tasted the American Pale Ale--tastes more like a Stout. I love Guinness but wasn't expecting that taste.

Now, we need to call Jim in Dallas and make arrangements to see him. Also want to start The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest--I keep bringing it in to read and do too many other things.
We are now in the Central Time Zone so I have to get used to having lost an hour.

Will add the picture of the glasses and necklace to the album I've sent for today already. Until tomorrow--have a good evening.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Good-bye New Mexico; Hi There, Tex

First thing this morning we looked over the Texas map to see where we were headed. It was amazing to see how little we have left to explore in New Mexico--the mountains north of Albuquerque-Santa Fe is all. But that will wait for another day. Today we put New Mexico in our rear view mirror and headed into Texas. The map said Clovis to Lubbock 94 miles;in Farwell, Texas it said 88 miles and when we arrived in Lubbock at 1:52 CST our car said we'd gone 150 miles!

It may be because I love Texas farm roads--they are all paved with posted speed of 70 during the day, 65 at night and they slow you down to 60 through town! We actually putter along more slowly enjoying the tiny towns and what they have to offer such as hot and mild home made jerky which serves as a great snack with a sweet banana and cold water. It is so amazing that within a few miles of entering Texas the fields are green and agriculture, oil wells, and cattle become the major industry. Of course, it is all because there is water to spare--we are no longer in desert. I loved seeing the cattle enjoying the spray from the irrigation rig. All in all just zig-zags into Lubbock.

The afternoon was a catch-up day--accounting, blogging, picture uploading and filing brochures etc.

Tomorrow we are going to check out Buddy Holly stature and the West Texas Walk of Fame etc.
Bill used the jacuzzi tonight--tomorrow it is mine--actually we could have shared but I had to get all this clerical stuff done. Next planned stop?--We think Wichita Springs.

More Ruins

After another wonderful breakfast--this one including Gloria's banana bread--we were on our way East by 830 am. It seemed strange to say good-bye we've spent so much time with Gloria and Bud. Wonder when we'll see them again? Gloria asked if we were coming back so she won't strip the beds and wash the sheets this time--we said no--we're headed East for sure.

Bud told us about other Indian ruins in the area and so we set off for the Salinas Pueblo Missions near Abo and Mountainair. There are three sets of ruins--two are near Abo and about ten miles apart and the third and largest is Southwest of Mountainair. Since we felt we only wanted to see one this time it is the third to which we went. I bought a book about the various Anasazi areas and these missions in particular. It is interesting to note that though the peoples of these various communities were related their rate of development was quite different--yet they traded with each other and learned from each other. The Indians in this particular settlement were behind those of the Canyon de Chelly for example and were actually flourishing when those earlier settlements had been abandoned and the people moved on. At any rate, this settlement was much larger than the ruins in Aztec and much more impressive with a Spanish mission church completed and a newer much larger more ambitious one started. The priest charged with that construction asked to be transferred to Zuni Pueblo where we visited and he was the priest who was beheaded there. Should have stayed put!!! LOL His church here at Gran Quivira was never finished and another priest was never assigned to the village.

We returned to Mountainair and ate lunch at the 1923 hotel there--Bill had fajitas again--I had a club sandwich and sweet tea. As we continued East we encountered many trains since the road--Rt 60 once more follows the tracks. I had seen a book about the Belen Cutoff at the visitor center at the ruins and forgot to go back and pick it up when we were finished exploring. ( By the way, we explored backwards since it was easier to walk up the ramp and down the paved walkway than the other way round. I'll have to reorganize the pix at some later date. )

Also around Willard we came upon obvious dry bed salt lakes. Come to find the whole valley was once a saline lake--hence the name Salinas Pueblo Missions--the Indians used the salt from these very early lakes. They are huge and much the way the Great Salt Lake will probably one day appear. Around Vaughn the heat and my meal caught up with me and I fell asleep for about 55 miles. Bill told me I missed a burned area of good size and several antelope right near the road--since he had no documentation to prove these claims I think he merely wanted me to feel sorry to have slept! LOL

We continued past Billy the Kid's grave and the Bosque Redondo Monument marking the end of the Long Walk--which truly was a long way. The fellow who wrote the book I read wanted to walk it but needed permission from the Navajo over whose land he would have to go. The elders said no--the Long Walk was NOT a hike, so he followed as best he could in a car which had problems navigating some of the route.

We eventually reached Clovis, where we'd stayed last year, too. I opted to stay in and finish my Socorro brewery leftovers of steak and broccoli. Bill had Mexican and brought me back Sopadillas which were perfect.

Slept like a log!

Takin' It Easy With Friends

Got up fairly early and had a wonderful breakfast again--Bud makes the best bacon and eggs! OJ and toast and coffee too! One never goes hungry in this house. We decided to pack cheese and crackers --simple snacky stuff for lunch so that we'd have room for dinner at the Socorro Brewery. Over breakfast we marveled again at the idiots in W. Woodstock staying on a landscape structure covered bridge as the river raged around them--www.youtube.com/watch?v=TL8Z3dvbY9U

Once we organized we took off in Gloria's car for a lovely day in the Bosque.Before leaving Sunrise Bluffs we looked over the wonderful community buildings with the pool, exercise room, card room, library ( I could see myself there alot) dining room etc. Then we took a tour up to the bluffs above their home where there are other homes and a small airport etc. Then we departed for our day trip. We stopped first in Bernardo to check out another Wildlife Refuge but had gone only a few feet when we saw the road was totally disrupted by some kind of construction so that wasn't to be. Continued to San Antonio where they told us not to bother with either the Owl or the other hamburg joint, since they were equally awful and disappointing. We had tried to go to either last year but since it was Sunday they were closed.

Nosed around the visitors' center and gift shop for a bit and Betsy called so we chatted with her awhile and then we went off into the refuge. Most of the cranes were gone by Mar 1--which actually was a bit later than last year--they were gone by Feb 26th when we stopped. The scenery and remaining water fowl are delightful anyway--the refuge is just so serene and seemingly another world. It just is so renewing and quiet that it is as much a refuge for us as for the waterfowl and bobcats and coyotes and other birds that inhabit it. The roadrunner is one of my especial favs. Gloria and Bud have the CD tour which we haven't ever picked up, though I want to next time--it not only talks about the maintenance of the refuge, which we already knew, but it identifies some of the plants and birds that are found here. For example, the rust colored tall stems are the coyote willow and the elusive bird we tried to see last year is indeed a type of pheasant. Gloria and Bud plan to come every other month to see the changes that take place here as the seasons change--I wish I lived close enough to do that, too!

As we continued back through the small town in which Conrad Hilton started his provision of rooms to travelers Gloria and I were both taken by the forms of the collapsed beams of a ceiling in an adobe building--I also liked the shadow and sun pattern they made on the wall. The rose window in the church is broken out--wind, vandals?--so Gloria did not photograph it and I promised to send a picture I'd taken in a previous visit.

We proceeded to the Brewery and had a wonderful lunch--Gloria and I each had steak, Bud had a Southwest Cuban sandwich and Bill had chicken fajitas--he loves Tex-Mex enough to eat it every day. I like it and eat it more than once on the trip but I don't want it all the time. We talked about all the places we have gone--the four of us--back home--the Maine coast--seafood especially our experiences with lobster--NYC---etc, etc. The one place we agreed we've wanted to go is the Isle of Shoals and for whatever reason none of us have made it. I said they have to come East and stay with us so that we can do it together--but neither of them has any desire to even come back for a visit. Sigh.

And so, full once more, we wandered home and took a different route into the complex--getting to feel like a real native. You should have seen Bill yesterday tooling around residential neighborhoods in Socorro like a local! Gloria and I were a bit tired so we each took a short nap and then we gathered in the living room to visit and watch the news etc. Bill made himself some pot roast and Gloria and I munched on cheese and crackers and chocolates while we watched and roared at the 4th season of Waiting for God! That show is so funny and it was a perfect choice since all four of us liked it--it is always so hard to find something for that many people --especially when there are women and men. Waiting for God is truly a satisfy all with its incredible humor and great characters.

Around ten, and this time it really was ten, we all agreed it had been a beautiful, totally satisfying day and we bid each other good night. I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Turning Eastward

On Sunday we took out the Arizona map to figure out our next move. We decided that to go farther West would entail quite a distance past Flagstaff and then significantly south to avoid the whole Phoenix debacle. Trying to cover such a large area would involve more time and money than we feel we have at our disposal. So we made the decision to take our time and a scenic route and work our way back to Socorro, NM and make a visit to the Bosque del Apache, which we love. That night I happened to see that our friends, Gloria and Bud, were planning a Monday excursion to the Bosque. We intended to call them from Socorro and ask them to join us for dinner there on Tuesday. Since the Bosque is in the next town, San Antonio, I face-booked and called to ask them to postpone their trip and come down on Tues and do the refuge with us and have dinner with us. Gloria suggested that we return to Belen, 40 miles north of Socorro and use it as our base of operations. Then we could all go together on Tuesday, we could spend another night with them and leave fresh on Wednesday. And so it was decided--the day's trip would be Holbrook, Az to Belen, NM.

Our plan had been a bit up in the air as to how to leave Holbrook --we'd thought of going West to Globe and then swinging widely Southeast through Safford, Az and back Northeastward to Socorro. Since we were now adding 40 miles to the day and also since we wanted to take a scenic back road route we decided to cut back on the loop as planned. I happened to look in the Arizona travel guide and saw that there was what looked like a nice road through the Ft Apache Indian Reservation.

Taking a quick jaunt on Rt 66 in Holbrook to check out the historic WigWam Motel, we were surprised to see it is still operational! Each WigWam that wasn't rented out has a vintage car parked beside it. In the future we may just check out the cost of a room for the night--it's pretty unique.

We then took Rt 77 south out of Holbrook to Snowflake--a stretch of open road with no towns for 26 miles. Unfortunately, the road is being widened and otherwise improved. I say unfortunately for I love taking back roads and hate to see them become main thoroughfares. I found Snowflake quite impressive--beautiful old-fashioned style street lights from one end of the three mile town to the other. Snowflake flows directly into Taylor, not to be outdone--this town has double-lamped fixtures.( In both these towns, and the next, the lamps have solar panels attached which supply the energy to light them at night!) Then it was on through beautiful woods of the Sitgreaves National Forest, for 19 miles, to ShowLow, which is apparently a card playing--poker? --ploy. The main drag is called the Deuce of Clubs! The area here is not only magnificent forest of stately ponderosa pine and pinon pine, but also a land of lakes and at least one ski area. As a result, the lengthy stretch between ShowLow and Pinetop-Lakeside, is filled with very ritzy walled communities, fancy restaurants, upscale lodges and inns, and expensive shops. Think Stowe multiplied ten times. Seeing this stretch it became clear why Rt 77 is being improved. It was a great relief to enter the Apache Reservation--through a rather impressive stone entrance way, which I was too slow to capture.

We entered at Hon-Dah and it became immediately evident that the Apache are doing much better economically than the Navajo and Zuni within whose reservations we had so recently traveled. One reason is their stewardship of the forest--it is quite selectively cut and the trees are growing tall and straight. Excellent building timbers. We encountered our first snow on the ground in a long time and, though we are glad not to be home with the weather that has been going on, it was actually nice to see it. I'm not sure I really could live here without the changing seasons--or at least without the dramatic change in seasons which we experience in the Northeast.

The pictures show the beauty of the drive and in time we entered a high mountain valley with snow fences and views of the mountain tops with which we shared elevation. What an incredibly beautiful view--like the scene in Sound of Music where Julie Andrews is dancing on top of the world--huge valley with only sky above and mountains all around. This is known as the White Mountains Grassland Area. On we descended into Eagar and then Springerville where we had a quick lunch at the TrailRiders Restaurant--I had some good taco salad and sweet tea and Bill had fajitas. We both downed the chips and salsa whilst waiting for the meal. When we left the restaurant it was snowing!!! The first blowing snow I've felt on my face in over a month!

In a very short while we bid good-bye to Arizona for the last time this year. I love Arizona and hope we will spend more time there next trip. Picking up Rt 60 we continued through Quemado, Omega and Pie Town into Datil where the road opens onto The Plains of San Augustin surrounded by the Datil, Luera, San Mateo , Gallinas and Magdallena Mountains. Spread across this almost 30 mile wide valley are the satellite dishes that make up the Very Large Array or VLA. I thought they looked pretty impressive coming from the East but from this direction you can see them for a much longer time and from a far greater distance. I remember a picture of this arrangement of dishes monitoring sound waves from outer space in my General Science book as a ninth grader in 1956 and in every physical science, general science and earth science text that I used as a teacher. It was really special to finally see them on our first trip in 2008 and they still excite me now.

We continued through the Cibola National Forest and Magdalena and into Socorro. Stopped at a Smith's grocery and called Gloria to see if she needed anything. Picked up I-25 north to Belen and the winds picked up like mad--the dust storms blocked the view entirely and the tumbleweeds went mad. When I saw the sign Belen--the Hub of Enchantment--I laughed and said I've got to kid Gloria and Bud that this is what we want to give up ice and snow for--blinding windstorms in the hub of ENCHANTMENT! LOL

Despite New Mexico's best efforts we held the road and arrived at their home at 4:02 in 61 degree weather! Gloria had offered, once more, her washer and dryer and this time I took advantage and started the wash almost immediately. The wind had torn their storm door off the house and they agreed that this was a bit much. We also said that the Bosque would be out if the weather continued. Around sixish friends of theirs, Sue and Russ, arrived for dinner. The men bonded in the living room while we ladies retired to Gloria's workroom to look at the scrapbooks she is doing for her grand-daughters, Lisa and Gia. Sue also scraps so it was really fun and it is always great to pick up pointers for our own work. The albums are beautiful and both Sue and I are really impressed by Gloria's creative use of patterned paper. Russ came in and said what it this--ladies' gabfest? and I said sure, you guys are having a buddy bull session!

Dinner was really nice--homemade chili and fresh baked rolls to die for. Gloria made a coconut cream pie the consistency of which was off, making the flavor different though not unpleasant. Poor Gloria was so upset but I really believe that the change in pressure caused by that awful wind was the culprit. She admitted that there have been times that her bread hasn't risen as it should etc and altitude and barometric pressure definitely plays a role in that. Conversation was all over the map and was fun and interesting. All in all a true social success. We truly liked Sue and Russ and they love the relocation from California as much as Bud and Gloria love the move from New Hampshire.

Got to be earlier than the last time--which Gloria told me was more like midnight than 10ish! LOL Time is so insignificant when you are having fun!

Sunday, March 6, 2011


"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worthy reading or do things worth the writing." Benjamin Franklin

I don't know if I'm doing either but we are surely doing things that are incredibly wonderful--or seeing things that are. We took it easy into Holbrook, Az yesterday afternoon and had a leisurely day exploring the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest today.

I'm in awe of both the Desert and my photos of it--they look like watercolor paintings and that is exactly what it looks like. Unfortunately, though it was to have been sunny and in the high 60's today only the temperature was accurately predicted--reaching 67 at the highest. The winds, however, made it feel much cooler than that.

The Petrified Forest was as my Dad described it to us when we were kids--actually so was the Desert. What ever happened to the piece of petrified wood he had back then? I was always fascinated with it. The wood is plentiful in the area outside the park and when he took rte 66 West in the '30's the land wasn't fenced off the way it is now. So it was easy to pick up pieces all along the road. There are plenty of tourist traps in which you can buy pieces now. Unfortunately, almost all are polished smooth and I think lose the whole character of the rock.

The first stop in the Petrified Forest is the Puerco Pueblo where I caught a raven in flight--notice that his legs are down for landing but the thermals had to be overcome for the landing to happen--quite a wind these guys had to deal with!

At Newspaper Rock I forwent--is that a word???- looking at the daily reports, since as you can see it required the use of scopes looking straight down. Vertigo makes such an activity painful, hence I missed all the news that was fit to print back in the 1200's!

The road turned among wonderful cones of blues, purples and grays in formations called Tepees!

Blue Mesa was absolutely beautiful with the log falls and logs lying on the top of the hills. They look so real and the chunks look as though they were just cut with a two man saw and were awaiting splitting.

At the Agate Bridge we encountered our second pair of Ravens. It is apparently mating season. I sat in the car and watched the male groom and preen the female while she stood perfectly still enjoying the pampering. Then they flew into the parking lot and begged. A couple from Minnesota fed them a banana and I shared my getting stale Breton crackers. They seemed quite happy with this snack. The female even managed to carry a whole cracker--which is at least three inches in diameter away and return for more immediately. Then when the next cracker broke into pieces she got all three in her beak somehow and flew off to eat it.

At Jasper Forest you look into the valley into which erosion of the bluff ,on which you stand, has scattered petrified logs.

And then, after three hours and 26 miles, we were once more on the golden prairie from which there is no evidence of the fantastic landscape just a few miles to the East. The sky had become rather picturesque as well. We returned to Holbrook and again took pictures of another town passed by when I 40 replaced old 66 which still runs through town. I have to find the WigWam Motel before we leave--a Rte 66 land mark. But for now I have to decide if I want to go next door and eat awful Tex-Mex or finish my Applebee's salad. Decisions, decisions!