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Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I LOVE New York!

As I related earlier I slept until 930 am this morning despite the fact that the train crossing was right outside our window--should have taken a picture!  LOL But it WAS and, as is the law, every train, all night long, blared its whistle and rattled the walls of our room with each of its cars. Yet, as tired as I was, I only heard it before sleeping and once or twice during the night and fell right back to sleep. So, with check out at 11 we just made it at 1050!

Off we went to the Finger Lake region. Chose a route that brought us in to the middle of Keuka, which we followed to the top and then hit Seneca about midway also and followed it to the top. Penn Yan is at the north end of Keuka and is really kind of touristy though the bell tower on the Methodist Episcopal Church is very beautiful.

All along the shores of the lakes and in the surrounding vallies there are vineyards. They've been there forever.

 I remember as a kid riding in the back seat of our buick with my sister and our dog,Rebel. Reb was an adorable black long haired dachshund who thought she was the third daughter. She sat between us and gobbled down Concord grapes with us. She didn't like the skin and would spit it out. In recent years I've read that grapes are bad for dogs--hmm, she lived to be 12 or 13 just fine. Used to chew bones, too! And loved chocolate--especially Loft's and she knew how to spell candy. But I digress.

And for each of those vineyards there is a winery which offers tasting. Dear God, if you stopped at everyone you'd be drunk for a week or else drown in whichever lake you drove off the road and into!  We did not stop at any--I really wasn't interested today. I just wanted to enjoy the drive in this beautiful part of my home State on such a sunny but cold--32 degrees!--day.

The head of Seneca has the pretty town of Seneca Falls. I was going to visit the Elizabeth Cady Stanton --Womens' Rights National Historic Site--but there certainly are no good signs to find it. Soooo, that will wait for another trip--not spending time looking all over for a National Site!

Picked up Rt 20 and headed East on what used to be the major East-West road prior to the Thruway and the road we traveled often to the St Lawrence every fall as a kid. Came to the Star Diner which had an old decrepit motel behind it. Cannot remember where we stayed on these trips--could we have stayed there?  Well, I don't know but I do know this place serves terrific food, lots of it and very reasonably.

As we drove along North of Cayuga Lake we noticed large nests on the top of high power line poles--this is the largest but they are all along the road--Bald Eagle and other raptor nests! Montezuma NWR has been implementing reintroduction of the bald eagle in NYS. We stopped and took a short drive in the refuge. They are redoing the tour road so we were only able to go about a mile into the refuge--up to the inlet where fish enter from the canal. Geese, a peregrine falcon eating flies and a heron sitting at the inlet just waiting for a fish to come through!  Pretty neat.

Continued on 20 passing from the lakes to the farmland north toward the thruway. The electricity in the motel last night was questionable. Every time the refrigerator turned on or off the channel on TV became unavailable. What I didn't notice was that the outlet into which I plugged my battery charger apparently disconnected,too. Soooo my battery died before we reached Rome, where we are spending the night.

Betsy called after we left the refuge--was hoping she wouldn't see angry parents in a dirty house tomorrow but rather happy parents in a clean house on Wednesday. We hope so, too. And tomorrow, after lunch at my sister's in Saratoga, we will once more return to Vermont. 2012's cross country adventure will come to an end. But not before we check out Fort Stannix across the street in the morning. Till then--good night, all!

The Long Way Home

Hi, We left E. Liverpool around 10 am yesterday. I was quite tired since we had driven almost non-stop for two days since other than the River and Grant's birthplace there were no major sites to explore. I would have liked to have stayed an additional day there---the room with the whirlpool was wonderful and I still have a great book to read. Bill, on the other hand, opted not to since he said there was nothing to do there. I know he was tired, too, since the River road was a tough drive, what with the curves, the narrowness and the roughness but when we get this close to home, he doesn't realize it, but he gets antsy and started so cover lots of distance in a short time. In fairness, the upper Ohio was not as beautiful as the lower part.

At any rate, within a few minutes of getting on the road we came across the somewhat contradictory--or at least not definitive--signs about the location of a marker that finalized the Virginia-Pennsylvania border and allowed the survey of the lands to the West to commence. Of course, after the Civil War the boundary became that between WEST Virginia and Pennsylvania. Thank goodness for the obelisk--for there was no Welcome to Pennsylvania sign to let one know that Ohio and West Virginia were both in our rear view mirror. Not so the Ohio River, however; we followed that for several more miles towards Pittsburgh and its head before veering to the Northeast toward one of its formative rivers, The Allegheny. It is interesting that rather than the Allegheny being a tributary of the Monongahela or vice versa, the two come together at Pittsburgh and give rise to a new river--the Ohio.

The first town we entered--Midland, Pa--had the steam and other gasses pouring out of looming stacks and cooling towers. Nice Church though. Don't think I'd want to live there. Moving along we came upon an interesting looking restaurant in one of the old lockhouses. Beaver is not far from Beaver Falls, the home of Joe Namath. And then we climbed out of the valley up, up, up to Zelienople. The Strand is a 1913 building--just looked so cute. Harmony was very interesting and when I looked it up online last night I wish we had stopped. The cemetery is on a hillside as you come around and down a hill into town. It is a great old wall with neat newels at the corners surrounding a field of grass! Not a marker or anything in the field.Check it out: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/1101 or http://pittsburgh.about.com/od/butler/p/harmony.htm

This road we were travelling is the  Washington Trail--he must have been one of the surveyors--1753--he did that as well as made a name for himself in the French and Indian Wars. I'm not sure right now what town we entered at noon but one of the many Churches was playing its bells for the Angelus. I haven't heard that in years--always in Glens Falls--do they still?  And play Christmas carols? It is a sound I've always loved--church bells.

Another thing I love--the lushness of the magnolias and forsythia even this far north in Pa. I did notice that the trees are not as far along as they were in Ohio but then we are not near the moderating affect of the water. Cut across the Allegheny for the first time in Allegheny Point and it was fairly good size as it was at Brady's Bend . Located near this point, 1839-73. Organized as the Great Western and later known as the Brady's Bend Iron Company. One of that era's largest iron works, and first to make iron rails west of the Alleghenies.  We reached a high point with a great overlook of part of Brady's Bend. We then followed a truck up and down and around until the end of Pa 66 in Kane where we picked up 6 East. I'm not at all sure what Mt Jewett had to offer other than a beautiful welcome sign. Several almost non-existent towns did the same but it is possible that we didn't pass down the middle of Main St!
Kind of an interesting Do 6 mural though--probably a bird's eye view of what is in store along it. The sold Victorian in Smethville was just one of many beauties in town.  So sad so see so many old buildings--even those associated with mills and other commercial enterprises--that were designed to be visually appealing either empty or plastered with horrible modern signs or both. 1895 for that nice brick empty storefront. Sigh!

And then we were finally far enough away from Pittsburgh that the Allegheny was a small creek--for we were close to its head in Randolph, Pa--in Couderport, with its small theatre. Wish they were having a showing --I would have made Bill stop--I'm dying to see The Artist.

Shortly after passing through town we turned North on 449 headed into New York. Gold has an intriguing name but all that's there is a general store at the crossroads.  Bill said there won't be a welcome to New York sign on this backroad, either. Uh, huh, sweetie, think again. Of course, the adopt a road program is more important!

 And a few miles later, in Hornell, we called it a night. I was so exhausted I literally fell onto the bed and said I'm done. Bill went over to the Italian restaurant and had spaghetti and brought me the best bbq ribs I've had in a long time. Ate them as I watched DWTS and had a Millers while watching Castle. Fell asleep at 11  and slept until 930 this morning.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

From The Junction of Pa, WVa and Oh!

Woke to bright sunshine and almost cloudless sky after overnight rain and the cacophony of Spring peepers beneath our window. Since the Ohio makes several rather deep Southern dips that would be time consuming to follow we decided to cut across them by travelling through some of the hills of Appalachia on the Ohio side. The path lead north on 23 and then east on 124. Some of the hollers are filled with trailers, broken down shacks and debris all of which are inhabited. Yet others have very nice homes and manicured fields. It seemed to depend upon the richness of the fields for either cultivation or pasturing and/or the nearness of a mining operation. The roads also reflected the relative affluence of the county in which they were found but this seems to be the case in almost every State in which we've travelled.

It was fun to come across the historical marker for Brewster Higley VI since Barb and I came across the sod cottage in which he lived and wrote Home on the Range in Kansas. It too is on a back road--as a matter of fact it is in the farmyard of a family in Kansas and is being held up by a very stout chain about its middle. Just goes to show that when you travel the less traveled ways in this country you keep crossing paths with the same historical figures.

A couple of miles east of Rutland we picked up 32/7 and so returned to the Ohio River in Belpre, continuing on through Marietta---plants of all kinds on both sides of the river---one right after the other and the first of many bridges connecting to West Virginia on the East shore. Downtown Marietta is quite beautiful but the strip that follows is industrial and dirty. I think we may have skipped more of the quaint and beautiful portions of the River drive by cutting across the dips. For the rest of the way to E. Liverpool there was power plant after power plant--mostly on the East side--all coal fed, all spewing steam into the air.

Several places along the River, either because of rapids or shallows there are dams and huge lock arrangements. Still, there were some stretches of mirror smooth, wide River with little villages and WV rte 2 visible to the East and a tug or two moving a string of barges up with gravel or down with coal.

Hungry, we stopped in Fly, Ohio at the Riverview Restaurant overlooking the ferry landing that connects to Sistersville, W Va. As we ate we watched the ferry carry one or two cars in either direction. At one point it sat idle outside our window until two cars lined up on the WVa side and it went to fetch them. Today was its first day of operation for the season. If it had been upriver from Wheeling we would have crossed but we did not want to deal with the confusion of merging roads in Wheeling.

Visit the historic Fly Ferry Landing in Fly, Ohio. Operating since 1815, the ferry is the longest continuous working mode of transportation in Monroe County and one of only four remaining on the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and the Mississippi River. It is the only one in operation along the 277 miles of river bordering West Virginia.
The Fly Landing is located on the apex of the longest straight stretch on the Ohio River called the "Long Reach." The landing is near the site where George Washington encamped during a survey trip to the west on Oct. 25, 1770. It is owned and operated by the City of Sisterville, WV.

For an interesting article on the ferry check out this link:http://www.themariettatimes.com/page/content.detail/id/537488/Crossin--the-Ohio.html?nav=5002

Steubenville is the hometown of Dean Martin and there is a Dean Martin Boulevard. The city is so dirty--a typical mining, mill, factory town. I bet he was happy to get to the clean air and sunshine of California. 20 miles northwest is Cadiz, the hometown of Clark Gable. We did not venture there.

In this area of the River are huge stratified cliffs on both sides--laid down by this water over many millennia. The new bridge north of Steubenville appears to lead one right into the immovable cliffs on the East side. From here on the bridges come one right after the other, just as they do along any River where cities have grown on each side. The ages and styles vary greatly but all of them are beautiful works of art and examples of fine engineering of the time. I don't like crossing them but I do think they are wonderful to look at.

Eventually, we reached Stratton and were able to pull over and watch a tug and its barges move downriver through the locks. I didn't take a full picture of this Power Plant and should have since it has one of the tallest chimneys in the world! It is the W.H. Sammis Plant and I took a picture of the tunnel because there is a Powerhouse on the East River in NYC which also has a tunnel for the Eastside Highway to pass under. Haven't thought about it for years!

Block 7 includes one of the tallest chimneys in the world (305 m), which was built in 1970. The power plant includes a tunnel for State Route 7, a four-lane freeway. The tunnel goes under the Baghouse structure, which filters particulate and toxic gases from the exhaust before entering the smoke stack.

Across the River--Homer Laughlin --my sister would love to check that out!  LOL

As we turned to the West away from the River, we glimpsed one last bridge crossing the Ohio from East Liverpool to Newell ,West Virginia with a tug-pushed barge passing beneath it.

Arrived at the Comfort Inn just outside town toward Calcutta. A comfy suite with the best whirlpool tub I've ever seen. I want one!  Two person and comfy. I'm off to enjoy a soak once more. Tomorrow--we cross into Pennsylvania and leave the Ohio and its head in Pittsburgh in our rear view mirror. We do not cross it but head along it for a bit before swinging north east toward New York's Alleghany Plateau and the Finger Lakes. More on that tomorrow night. We are painfully close to home, alas.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cruisin' Up the Ohio

Left the motel and headed through Madison on Indiana 56. Just outside of town we came to a huge power plant, the first of many we would see on both sides of the Ohio. Madison itself is a old river city with  beautiful homes and not much else. It was difficult to take pix as we were driving into the sun and with cars behind us Bill worries about holding them up and won't slow down to the town speed at all. Or drive on the right side so they can pass us as we sightsee. I guess he's right--we're probably as irritating as leaf peepers in Vt.

The most wonderful thing about this road in both Indiana and Ohio is that is truly follows the River and we are often on its banks. Sometimes the road moves away a bit to allow for campgrounds or rest areas or cultivated fields or little communities. For the most part, however, you can see the ribbon of water--very muddy brown and the opposite shore which today was Kentucky.

We went through many little River towns, each one welcoming us to "Historic" X,Y or Z and in fairness many of them were established in the early 19th C.  At Vevray 56 goes inland and 156 follows the River as the truck route. We followed it. I was able to get a nice shot of the Ohio River Scenic Byway sign and it perfectly tells the take--church spires, domed city halls and River traffic, though not Riverboats but rather tugs pushing barges as long as a football field and churning up muddy water as they go. I'd love to be able to cruise the length of the river on one of them--it looks so serene and relaxing. Riding alongside it on a narrow, winding, non-shouldered road with potholes and slight roller coaster heaves was actually peaceful and soothing. Though maybe not so much for the driver. LOL

One never knew what would be around the next bend---in one case, this little town had a huge resort and golf club and in another, a big marina!  The rest of the town was the old buildings that are distinctively river town. Patriot was interesting--huge eagle bedecked banners and elegant welcome signs and a historical marker about a native son, in charge of the damming of the Colorado. Wonder how he would have felt had they dammed the Ohio. The creation of Lake Mead was controversial at the time and my father and his friends were still against the whole project when I was growing up.  Probably no one left now who remembers it before the dam or gives a damn about its impact so many years ago.

56 rejoined 156, which thereby came to an end and on we went through more little towns.  Aurora and Lawrenceburg run right into each other. Lawrenceburg is the town in which a tornado set down for a few streets and then rose back up into the air last night, causing some damage but no injuries. We didn't see any evidence of its arrival. At this point we were due south of Cincinnati and in order to avoid it we crossed the Ohio into Kentucky and then crossed it once more back into Ohio.  Once more we were aware of the congested sky--thunderheads still all around despite the sun and cool temperatures.

As we proceeded east once more on Ohio 56 we came to a tiny crossroads called Pt Pleasant and we spent a pleasant half hour exploring the site of US Grant's birth. We read the hours of operation on the house and saw that on Sat they close from noon to one. As it was almost one we wandered down to the River and the memorial bridge and park. Read all the signs and were amused by the movement all over of this house and its final return to its original foundation. When we tried to open the door to the house after our explorations we found it still locked. THEN I read the first line " April-October"!  Oh, well, it was a nice stroll and one always needs to stretch one's legs while sitting for so long. Now I've seen where he was born and where he died. We did not go up to Georgetown to see his school and boyhood home--where he lived until he was 17 and went away to West Point--but we did eat at the corner of 221 which was just 8 miles south of the town.

In my picture on the stone wall, Big Indian Creek is right behind me and the Ohio River is to my left. In what seemed like minutes after leaving Pt Pleasant--actually it was minutes for I saw the cooling tower just up river a bit from the Grant Park---we came to Moscow, Ohio. Trees were ripped to pieces and had been cut and bucked up, a gift shop which is in a three story house had part of its roof missing and the Marathon gas station was no more.
Moscow is a village in Clermont County, Ohio, United States. The population was 244 at the 2000 census.
The William H. Zimmer Power Station, nuclear power plant converted to coal-fired generation that creates 1300-megawatts of electricity is partially located within village limits.
On March 2, 2012, a tornado destroyed over 80% of the town and caused 1 death, as multiple tornadoes ripped through Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
So horribly sad!

Passed through Utopia, of which there was not much, into Higginsport and The Old Dinner Bell. Had club sandwiches with fries and cole slaw.  Stuffed!!

Aberdeen Ohio has TWO bridges connecting it to Maysville Ky--you could almost toss a rock from one to the other and hit a car they are so close. Somebody from one of these towns got some PORK!

Manchester is an elegant old town--and then I started to doze on occasion; but not before having noticed a Tobacco Museum in Ripley and the claim on the Higginsport welcome sign that white burley tobacco was grown here first in 1864. Now the landscape was filled with old tobacco drying barns. Some of them are in desperate shape but others have been maintained and are used for storage or as business offices. The fields that stretch to the River are not cultivated now and are just beautiful green expanses. I would say the valley on this side of the River, at any rate is no longer used for tobacco growth. Some of the fields have been converted to housing developments or, as in one case, part of the Shawnee State Forest which contains an extensive golf course and marina. Farther along some of the fields are used to grow corn.

In Higginsport we had decided to call it a day in Portsmouth and I'd called ahead for a reservation. As we turned northward on Ohio 23 to our motel the clouds that had threatened all day finally opened up in a heavy downpour and we were glad we'd planned it this way. Upon arrival, Nanette told us she had upgraded us to a suite and so we raced between the raindrops and got cozy in our spacious apartment for the night. I gave her one of the 1000 points cards I have from Choice Hotels.

Tomorrow our plan is to continue along the Ohio to East Liverpool--at the tippy top of West Virginia but still in Ohio. Don't think we'll take the detour to Cadiz and Clark Gable's birthplace!  LOL  Until tomorrow and our continued cruise we bid you good night. Storms are well northeast of us in Va so we should be fine.

Friday, March 23, 2012

We Are Really in The Midwest Now!

We've crossed the Missouri, the Mississippi and last night the Wabash. The West is far behind us and things are looking and feeling more and more like home. The one thing that is different is the profusion of pink flowered trees in the woods--redbuds? They are so beautiful as you can see from the pictures I keep taking of them. I have been unusually tired the last couple of days and have fallen asleep on the road for a few minutes. I finally realized we've had two time changes in three days and I think my poor body is more confused than usual! When we crossed the Wabash into Indiana last night we re-entered the EST so my computer and I are on the same page once more!

Today was heavenly--actually sunny and moderate. Such a wonderful change from the rain we've been experiencing and such a mood lifter.  Our first stop was the George Rogers Clark National Monument and Historical Park.  George has been sort of eclipsed by his younger brother, William, who with Merriweather Lewis comprised the Lewis and Clark expeditionary force sent by Jefferson to check out the West. Had it not been for George's capture of Kaskaskia, Cahokia and Vincennes from the British commander, Hamilton, the Mississippi, Ohio and Wabash Rivers would have been in British hands. Controlling those rivers would have made a significant difference to the outcome of the Revolutionary War. Would we have lost? Maybe not, the British did have supply problems and the Long Knives of Virginia and Kentucky were pretty fearsome fighters. But it may have been a different type of victory and William may not have had American territory to explore.

Interestingly, the whole military action of Clark was highly secret and his men were not told of the mission until just before the attack on these villages. The inhabitants were primarily French and once Clark assured Father Pierre Gibault that he wasn't interested in harming them or interfering with their lives the French gladly supported the Americans and surrendered Vincennes to them. The Indians of the area were operating as British mercenaries but they were peaceful  traders with the French and, impressed by Clark's prowess in capturing the French towns , some of them adopted an attitude of neutrality.

When word reached Hamilton at Fort Detroit, which was Clark's ultimate goal, of the success of these upstarts, he gathered up a small British force, which was swollen with hundreds of Indians who still hoped to keep these Americans from taking over their land. With these warriors he attacked and overwhelmed the Americans and French at Vincennes and Clark's man in charge surrendered the town to them.

Winter arrived, Hamilton allowed most of the Indians and French militia to go home. A merchant and trader, Francis Vigo sent word to Clark of the reduced force and once more in grueling icy water and cold conditions, the patriots marched 180 miles to once more attack Vincennes and Fort Sackville. Clark threatened to storm the undermanned fort and give no quarter, forcing Hamilton to formally surrender in Feb of 1779.

While Clark never did capture Fort Detroit, he did weaken the British control west of the Appalachians. This decided the future of a vast new territory and ultimately added an area to the US that was as large as all of the original 13 colonies!  Lafayette considered Clark second only to Washington in military prowess. Yet, for over 150 years this man was all but forgotten by American historians. In the mid 1920's when the 150 th anniversary of the Revolution was being celebrated the people of Vincennes, Knox County and Indiana wanted this man's accomplishments acknowledged and so began the plans for this massive Monument built on the banks of the Wabash on the site of Fort Sackville.

Next door to the Monument is St Francis Xavier Cathedral--the oldest parish in Indiana. The original church was built in 1749 and the present structure dates to 1826. Since it was noon and Mass was being celebrated we did not tour the inside. Two other famous men from Vincennes, William Henry Harrison and Red Skeleton also had homes here. Harrison's a mansion; Skeleton's a small cottage that his mother and brothers left upon his father's death at 26. Actually, he died two months before Red's birth. We did not take the time to explore these or the Lincoln statue across that beautiful Lincoln Bridge on the Illinois side.

We continued on Eastward with an eye to the sky since, though sunny, thunderheads were building all around us. Bill wanted to check out French Lick, the home of Larry Bird. The road was truly twisting and turning but simply beautiful. Seeing how far into the country the town is, it was easy to understand why a truly poor boy from here would have disliked going to the University of Indiana in Bloomington. Indeed, why even going to Terre Haute could be intimidating. I could find no reference to him anywhere!

 The town is basically the French Lick Resort which is comprised of two old hotels dating to the 1800's. The French Lick Hotel was the home of Pluto Water--a cloudy liquid with a red devil's head as a logo. I remember my Dad had it at home as a laxative. Little did I know from whence it came. The other hotel is the West Baden Springs Hotel, which also had curative waters. Their heyday was pre-1929 and both of them fell on hard times. Eventually, they both needed restoration and a family from Bloomington

We returned to Rte 56 and headed into Madison. I dozed off , waking when Bill stopped for a red light in a town--took a picture, made sure he was still on 56 and dozed off again. LOL  We did come to a town whose Church has a board in front saying Chelsea, Marysville and Henryville--you are in our prayers. I looked at the map and we were only 8 miles north of the path taken earlier this month by a tornado that wiped those towns away. We chose not to go to see the damage--too heart-breaking.

Tonight we discovered that just before we arrived in Madison, a tornado touched down just north of us in Lawrenceburg--about 30 miles north. Now they are hitting about 50 miles south of us in Louisville. And we are under severe thunderstorm warning until 8 pm.  Well, it is 815 now, so hopefully we are going to be okay--I just heard thunder. Just pray no tornadoes--especially now that it is dark--Ugh!  Adding another two pix if you already looked--the front outside our window.  Good night--tomorrow Ohio and the Ohio River. Later.WARNING EXTENDED TO 9 PM!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Indiana and the Ohio River

Today was a driving day--torrential rains once more so I got us off the Interstate on the East side of Springfield Ill. Took 25 Southeast to 51 South and then 50 into downtown Vincennes. A long and trying day with beautiful flowering trees to cheer us. Nothing of interest to explore. I've been to Springfield three times and Bill wasn't thrilled about going into the city to explore in the rain. Other than that, it was fascinating to see Rt 50 updated but the bridges that once crossed the little Wabash, the little muddy and the big muddy creeks stand there, rotting, still. Closed off so no one can use the deteriorating road. It does serve the homes as a frontage road. But it is a question why it was moved over in the first place, since it did not straighten any curves etc.

Went to Applebee's and had one of their new chicken salads which has a bit of a bite--not too hot--just perfect. Well, going to bed--the day was long and I'm tired. Lots to explore here tomorrow--don't know when we'll leave town.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

And Across the State of Missouri

Good evening,

Staying in Hannibal, Mo tonight on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi. Wish we could see it from our room. Not much to say--more rain. Shortly after leaving Cameron we came across the boyhood home town of JC Penney and a museum. Decided not to stop--too early to start absorbing history. Besides, General Jack Pershing seemed more interesting and so we stopped in LaClede to learn about this man who held the highest rank ever granted in American military history. He was a SIX star general and in total charge of all American forces overseas in WW I.  He had full authority to deal with the commanders of British and French forces without having to consult Congress or the President. He was awarded the Medal of Honor which he refused on the basis that all soldiers faced danger and did their duty as a matter of course--it was their job.

The visit started with a 40 minute movie on his life and, since he was so involved with our mission in the Great War, the history of the US Army to that point. Next we visited the old schoolhouse in which he taught for two years prior to getting accepted at West Point, a school he attended primarily because it provided him with a free education. He soon embraced the Army life and was class president all four years and was Senior Captain at graduation--an honor also held by Robt E Lee among others.

He commanded Co D 10th company cavalry in Montana and when he returned to West Point as an instructor was so rigid a disciplinarian that he was greeted with total silence in mess and was referred to as Nigger Jack behind his back. This racist name was changed to Black Jack when he assumed command in Europe and was the subject of newspaper coverage.

He liked to drink, gamble and court the ladies--he was a player!  He did, however, make some powerful friends through the years, including a man who would one day be President and would promote him several ranks above more experienced and senior men. This only added to the jealousy and resentment that followed him through life. He finally married in his 40's--the wealthy young daughter of a prominent Wyoming Senator. Didn't hurt his career any, although from all evidence of contemporaries as well as correspondence they were very much in love. They had four children, three girls and a boy.While he was serving in the Philippines the home in which he family resided in San Francisco burned to the ground and his wife and three daughters perished. I cried when they spoke of the loss. How devastating. To his credit, he cherished his surviving child, his son and the boy was taken care of by his aunt, Jack's sister, May.

One of the narrators of the film,Gene Smith, had such a pleasant way of telling the story that I purchased his book: Until The Last Trumpet Sounds. I think I will really enjoy it since I know so little about WWI or Pershing. I remember my parents speaking of him--Dad was 14 during the war, Mom 16. I also remember that he was commandant at Camp Johnson in Winooski--and lived in one of those brick houses on Officers' Row, which form that semi-circle of buildings still, just past St Mikes on Rte 15.

Our last stop was the house---a simple one with two stories. He lived there from the age of 6 until 22 when he left for the Point.  The State ranger who gave us the tour said there is little that belonged to them but there are several bedroom sets and a shotgun that are Pershing items. He also said he read the General's book about The Great War--said it took him two tours in Iraq to be able to finish it--so dry and boring.  Well, he obviously didn't know his grammar very well!  LOL

As an aside, the yellow house diagonally across the street that is so beautiful sat empty for many years after the wife of the doctor that lived there in the 40's disappeared. He claimed she ran away and that the massive blood in the cellar was from the fish he had cleaned there. He WAS acquitted and moved away. The lady who owns it now, she bought it in 1998 for 13,000, had the house lifted and a new cellar installed. The vacant lot across from the Pershing House was the site of a house in which the owner committed suicide in the 1929 Crash, as was the shed in the back of the Pershing House. The Friends of Pershing had the shed torn down.  Apparently, Marilyn Monroe's grandfather, Hogan, also committed suicide here and is buried in the cemetery down the road. There has been some effort to find evidence she ever visited here but so far there has been none found. All of these suicides were related to the Crash of '29.

Several towns later, Marceline, is the boyhood home of Walt and Roy Disney. After spending 2 1/2 hours at LaClede, we decided to save that tour for another day. This is the third time I've passed Marceline by. Next time for sure.   It is interesting how many successful folks have come from this flat agricultural land. One of the places we stayed had a Nobel Physics Prize Winner in recent years, within 10miles distance we went through the home towns of two astronauts, Amelia Earhardt, Eisenhower, Pershing, Disney and many more. But looking around there is nothing to keep anyone here who is not into farming or raising cattle. If there are talents outside those realms or interests then having lived a hard working life requiring persistence and dedication, these children of the land take these life lessons elsewhere to develop the talents and interests.

Now, I;m going to climb into the whirlpool with Jack Pershing and relax. Until next time.......

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Across the Wide Missouri

Left Junction City on another rainy day with a looming congested sky. Within minutes I was stunned by a rather rabid anti-Obama billboard. Wow, these people in Kansas are sure outspoken, but then looking at the history of this place there have always been very extreme people and views, many times violently expressed.

 Just a few miles down the road is an atomic cannon. I just wanted to know what such a weapon looks like. High on the hill above Fort Riley is this and other pieces of armament. Only three of these cannons were ever produced--they could annihilate a target over 20 miles distant without blowing up itself. Interestingly, this one has never been used--don't know if the other two ever were.

The Calvary Museum and the Custer House are both at Fort Riley, which is an operational post but I just wasn't into serious history this morning and opted to go to the Oz Museum in Wamego, Ks. We were in the Flint Hills region of Eastern Kansas now and yet again the terrain was totally different. The sky was as ominous as yesterday and the ceiling was incredibly low. It felt almost oppressive and close.

Wamego is really cute--actually it looks like so many of these Midwest towns but having decided to grab on to the Land of Oz for its focus it has successfully enlivened the town and maintained the beautiful buildings and kept the store fronts, for the most part occupied, though we did not get any Toto's Takoz!  In the gift shop there was a really cute tee shirt " I hate Oz. Took the Ruby slippers. Find your own way home. Toto "  Just made me laugh.

Apparently Judy Garland loved the dog, Terry , so much that she tried to buy him but his owner held on to him and he acted in several other movies. As in all museums there was just a great deal to absorb. It was interesting to see that L.Frank Baum was not a particularly successful man, who did many things in his life. But at some point, he and a friend and illustrator, William Wallace Denslow, Jr, wrote a children's book--The Wonderful World of Oz.  It flew off the shelves and Baum thought he could go on and write other things but demand for more about Oz sort of forced him to write other Oz books--40 altogether. Yet, it was not from these that his money accrued but rather an adaptation of the original book as a musical that was the Cats of its day. Ran on Broadway and on tour for over six years. Having gained some affluence he and his family took a tour to Egypt and he wrote a book for tourists to follow. He also wrote a series of Aunt Jane's stories as well as other books using other pen names.  He moved to California and started a film company thinking to make a film of the story. That was not a success but 20 years after his death the mega movie in Technicolor was made.  My Mom took us every year to Loew's downtown to see the Wizard of Oz until I came to really hate it. I have not watched it in years, though I could have at the museum. I would really have loved to get a copy of the video shown about his life.

I looked in the gift shop for a biography but the only ones were on Judy Garland. Although she was luminous in the part at 16 there were certainly mnany, many other prominent actors in the show--my fav being Ray Bolger--I just loved the Scarecrow but also loved Bolger in anything he did. Oh, if I only had a brain. And Billie Burke as Glinda!  She was one of the most beautiful actresses of the time--she and Spring Byington, who was not in this movie.  But I digress. I ordered two paperback bios of Baum from Amazon when I got into the room tonight, as well as the iris folding book that Gloria recommended. I just refuse to pay shipping and handling so always order at least $25. worth of books at a time--never a problem for me!  LOL

From the museum we went down the road to the winery and tasted a few of them and bought a couple of bottles and a wine glass. The young girl, Kim, who waited on us had a business card but not the young man. Not sure why but took picture of them both anyway since we had such fun while tasting.

Before leaving town we took the two blocks over to the Dutch Mill and a really adorable park with a little model midwest village and a railroad track that ran all around --probably in summer. But you'd never know it was there if you just drove through on the Main street. Such little jewels hide on back roads and back streets of this country.

 Before leaving town we made my annual stop at Sonic. Had an Oreo Blast and bacon cheeseburger. I usually have a chili dog but the cheeseburger called to me. I only stop once a trip but have to have a Sonic Blast at least that one time. LOL Bill got out of the car to eat and Anthony, our server, asked if he'd been thrown out. Then he came to the car to see if I was alright and if I needed anything else with a little grin on his face. I didn't know what he'd asked Bill until later. What a wise guy kid!  LOL

Passed through Westmoreland

Then we arrived in Atchison, Ks, the birthplace of Amelia Earhardt. We however were tired --as a matter of fact I dozed a little, which is really unusual for me, but I think the gray day was just too bland to keep me awake. LOL I WILL be happy to get out of this rain. It was behind us but it overtook us and now we are running East with it. Just keep going rain, we'll slow down and let you win.

At Atchison we crossed the wide Missouri on the old bridge that is obviously being replaced and may I say, there is no doubt that is a good idea--potholes, narrow, rusty and old though I do like the appearance of the old bridges.  We entered Missouri and crossed through the rich riverbottom fields before the roller coaster started up once more. I stopped taking pictures since the rain increased in intensity and the battery was running down. It is unfortunate that I didn't have the juice to photograph the main street of Plattsburgh. Every house looked like Marian's home in the movie, Music Man. Doll houses in mauve and blue and pink and yellow with all the lace edgings you can imagine. Even the McDonalds was classy and sedate. Money oozed out of every door!

We got onto I 35 and reached Cameron, Missouri and called it a day!

Check out http://www.jgdb.com/lyr44.htm

and http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Atchison+Topeka+Santa+Fe+Song&mid=FFAFAC838DAFDC02DADAFFAFAC838DAFDC02DADA&view=detail&FORM=VIRE7

Monday, March 19, 2012

The First President I Remember!

Oh, yesterday was cloudy and windy today was pouring rain, cold and windy. Took few pictures since the countryside was not much different than we'd already seen here in Kansas and it was almost impossible to see out the windshield, never mind the side windows. Because of the weather, too, we opted to use the Interstate, something we avoid as much as possible.

Our only goal today was to visit the Dwight D Eisenhower boyhood home and museum, library and gravesite. I was 10 when Ike was elected the first time and I don't think I really remember that campaign though I have vague memories of Truman as President. By the time I was riding the city buses to high school on the upper Eastside Ike was running for reelection and the overhead brackets held campaign posters for him. I remember using my finger to write I LIKE Ike in the condensation on the bus window. I liked him and Mamie--they were very grandparent like and they had the cutest grandchildren, especially dreamy David who eventually married Nixon's daughter, Julie.

Later, after he more or less was retired from public life I remember the white fence that seperated his farm from the Battlefield in Gettysburg and that sometimes the flag would be flying indicating his being in residence. Almost royal!  LOL

His boyhood home is tiny. Three rooms downstairs and three upstairs. Six boys!  And he married a vivacious girl from Denver who was one of four girls.  The museum was incredibly detailed. Spent hours and skipped some things because it was just so much. Disappointingly, the focus, even in the house, was on his life from West Point forward. Unlike Plains,Georgia from which you departed with a real feeling for the formative years of Jimmy Carter. Most of what the museum covers is the part of his life we all know already. I did buy two books, however. One about the Eisenhower legacy which talks of his parents and his brothers as well as him as he grew in Abilene, Ks. The second is written by him--Tales I Tell My Friends.  Looking forward to reading them both.

I was quite taken by one of his quotes: " If all Americans want is security, they can go to prison."  I loved the letter he sent to Irving Berlin just prior to his death in Walter Reed Hospital. He told Berlin that he listened to his music in the hospital as background music during his recovery and that he'd listened to it all his life. He thanked him for writing such beautiful music. Send his regards and Mamie's. Said there was no need for a reply. He died several weeks later.

The gifts he received from Heads of State are so incredibly beautiful and priceless. Some of the countries don't exist anymore, others, like Iran are politically entirely different than they were. I could not help wondering what he thought of such ostentation in some cases and what he did with the gifts--he surely didn't use them and he seemed too self-effacing to have displayed them. Also, it occured to me that many of the people in those countries were suffering terribly while such large sums of money were spent on gifts just to solidify or indicate solidarity in friendship.

As I listened to the interview that Barbara Walters held with Mamie,  week before she died, I perked up when Walters asked if Mamie ever worried about Ike when he was overseas. Mamie said of course she worried.  But Walters said I don't mean for his safety, but rather that there might be someone else. How cruel--for it seems that there was someone else --Kay Summersby, his secretary and driver, has been said to have been his mistress. I'm sure Mamie knew and that this line of questioning hurt her. But the military wife that she was--with dignity she replied--No, never.

As we left the Museum the rain just poured and so we did not cross the quad to the little chapel in which he is buried. I hope we'll come back and say a prayer there some day--he was an old fashioned man who was wise and kind and loved by members of both parties. I wonder if we'll ever see that kind of bipartisan respect and admiration again.

We journeyed on into Junction City and the brand new Comfort Inn and Suites where we are on the Penthouse floor and ordered Domino's Pizza in so we would not go out in the rain and wind again. As I close I hear the lonely wail of a train at a nearby crossing. I wish we still had trains at home.

Not sure about tomorrow--there is a Calvary Museum and Custer House, as well as an Oz Museum. We'll see what the weather brings as we move ever Eastward and North toward home. For now, got to go--Dancing with the Stars is starting tonight. The only reality show I can stand.  Bye!

Tornado Alley

Hi all,

The weather yesterday and today has not been terrific. Considering how long we've been gone and how wonderful the weather has been for most of that time, we are certainly not complaining.

After weeks of almost blinding sunshine yesterday was an abrupt change. Spent most of the time driving out of Oklahoma and into Kansas fascinated by the sky and the eerie light. We passed through one small town after another that had little more than the ubiquitous grain elevator and a couple of houses. Some of the towns were not even incorporated. The names of the towns are interesting as well. The first Kansas town? LIBERAL!  Really???

Eventually we reached Meade and sought out the Dalton Gang hideout.  Well, you know, it was Sunday in Kansas--where there are bulletin boards with the Sacred Heart saying I trust in Jesus and others with Koala Bears climbing trees and saying please save human babies---so the museum would not be open until 1 pm. Guess we will have to visit that tiny prairie house and the museum some other time. For those of you interested in that sort of thing there is a neat article on the Dalton Gang at:


On we tramped still watching grain elevators and inventive town name signs and welcomes as well as an apparently drunken row of electric poles. Shortly after passing through Mineola, which Bill says is the home of Mineola tangelos--growing on the lone twisted tree in that field? or maybe that scraggly grove of windbreak trees?--he always gets me laughing---anyway, we came to a small sign that said round barn with an arrow pointing to the right. You guessed it--we needed to check that out.

 What a beautiful barn in the middle of nowhere!  The wind was blowing something furious so we didn't even try to open the sliding door marked entrance. Not sure if it was locked--we didn't want to try to open and then close it again. It was so bad that Bill had to come open my door and then hold it open when I got back in so it wouldn't slam on my legs as I tried to get them into the car.

I deleted the first pictures I took of the welcome to Greensburg sign since they had obstructions and were blurry. I had read the sign but didn't think anything about its meaning until after we sought out the World's Largest Hand Dug Well. As we drove the Main St we commented on how odd it looked--like it had just been created--no landscaping and the road looked freshly poured. Then as we looked around we realized something terrible had happened. The Big Well is getting a new museum which will soon open and is surrounded by utter devastation. A Tornado had to have torn through this place. All of a sudden Greensburg rebuilding took on a special meaning. Just as hurricane damage on the Gulf Coast had sobered us two years ago, so too, the evidence of the power of tornadoes also sobered us once more.

The flatness of Kansas gave rise to rolling hills as we continued toward Larned and the Fort which had sat as part of a string of Forts designed to protect the traders etc that traveled the Santa Fe Trail pre-Civil War. Buffalo Soldiers served here after the Civil War. All of the buildings are original--once the Fort was closed the Government sold it to a family which used it for a ranch. Some of the roofs were altered but by and large the family did nothing to the buildings, even using one of the Officers' Quarters as their home and the barracks as housing for their hands. In the 60's the Government took it back when the family wanted to close the ranch, removed the alterations and made it into a National Historic Site.  Didn't walk the whole quad, since its layout is very similar to Fort Laramie, which I've visited several times. Did, however, check out one of the houses on Officers' Row and also looked at the inscriptions by soldiers who helped build the Fort and several people in the early years of the 20th Century.(BTW, Ranger told us the tornado hit Greensburg in 2004. A huge Combine tire was thrown miles from town and the Combine from which it came was even farther away!)

Our last stop of the day was Pawnee Rock, apparently a landmark outcropping of sandstone that stood out quite prominently on the horizon and served to direct travellers on the right path of the Santa Fe Trail. Unfortunately, through the years the rock has been quarried and also eroded so it is quite a bit smaller than it was when it was visible from a great distance.

By the time our explorations were complete for the day the clouds had broken again and blue showed through. The sun came out though the wind did not stop! Upon arrival at our lodgings in Great Bend I noticed the lovely lyre shaped clock. Amber Montoya, our desk clerk ,said it belonged to the owner's wife and was from England. She said it plays a different piece of music each hour. Bill asked: Pink Floyd?  She groaned and said, no, unfortunately!  She gave us a suite and a $12 discount and I liked her service so much we gave her one of our 1000 pt bonus rewards card.

We went to Applebee's for dinner and home to bed. The wind and fresh air had tired us quite a bit. Slept like logs.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

We Aren't in New Mexico Anymore!

It is sad to leave New Mexico--I truly love the Southwest --but home is calling and though we have been getting 35.6 mi/gal with studded snow tires ! , money is a consideration, too. So, as has oft been said, all good things must come to an end. It is not ending quickly by any means, just ending the Westward motion.

Today's album actually starts with sunset outside our room last night--this tree was filled with birds of different types--a dove, chickadees and others I didn't know --all choosing a different tier to occupy for the night. Under this same tree this morning were two garbage cans that we heard early this morning being moved and overturned by some creature. It was around 430 am and we were both too lazy to get up to investigate. Of course, at 630 when we got up we were sorry--a bear, a raccoon or just a stray dog? Oh, well, sometimes sleep trumps curiosity.

While Bill got gas I noticed this elegant looking car sitting amongst the junk in a guy's back yard. Looks as though he is refurbishing it--I like the color though I suppose it is hardly historically authentic.

Soon we were off and running, continuing North on I 25 to Springer where we would turn Eastward to Oklahoma. Good bye mountains, more or less, though they lay to our west and mesas and plateaux though there would be a few more but here, where there is more moisture, their lovely hues are cloaked by vegetation. Even this early the sun was up and blindingly bright. The day turned out to be the hottest we've experienced on the trip so far--almost 90 degrees. This part of New Mexico is definitely range land and as we neared Oklahoma, oil country once more. We even passed some large dairy operations with huge mounds of silage and high piles of baled hay.

Springer is a cute Western town with old buildings and alot of empty storefronts. I guess old is relative but they are over a hundred years old though the State is only 101. As we turned toward Clayton which lies 8 miles from the Oklahoma border I noticed we appeared to be racing a jet East--he, of course, smoked us!  But boy the skies are full of jets going in every direction. One fellow or gal made a snake like path in the sky. Later we came across two huge sweeping curves in the road that made a gigantic "s" ( don't ask why--there is nothing to curve around--probably landowners' boundary lines). I told Bill I thought the pilot was mimicking the design in the air--with all that space, why not. It must be hypnotic flying over this never ending flat land--I know I've gotten bored as a passenger.

In a bit we came across a herd of antelope, which aren't really antelope just as our buffalo are not really buffalo. They are so interesting--as soon as the car stopped they all stopped and turned toward us with ears pricked. Then one of the males gathered them together and sent them off across the grassland,taking up the rear. They stopped and looked again and again he sent them loping off. Happened about three times and finally they were far across the field from us. We could hear nothing but he must have been making sounds to direct them and as a group they obeyed.

Passed through Clayton with its interesting and well kept hotel--The Eklund

The history and lore of the Eklund Hotel, Dining Room and Saloon play a significant part in the heritage of Clayton, NM. James Lee Burke wrote about the Eklund in his book Bitterroot, "…(we) drove back to Texas through the northern tip of New Mexico and stopped for the night at Clayton, a short distance from the Texas state line. We walked…to a nineteenth-century hotel named the Eklund and had dinner in a dining room paneled with hand-carved mahogany. The hotel was three stores, built of quarried stone, anchored in the hardpan like a fortress against the wind, …On the wall of the small lobby was a framed photograph of the outlaw Black Jack Ketchum being fitted with a noose on a freshly carpentered scaffold. Another photograph showed him after the trapdoor had collapsed under his feet. Most of the patrons entering or leaving the dining room were local people and took no notice of the photographic display…(we) walked outside under a turquoise sky…I looked back over my shoulder at the stone rigidity of the hotel and its scrolled-iron colonnade…and I wondered if cattle and railroad barons had hosted champagne dinners in the hotel dining room, or if cowboys off the Goodnight-Love Trail had knocked back busthead whiskey in the saloon and shot holes in the ceiling with their six shooters…But I think it was all of the above, truly the West."
The Eklund Hotel

The first two floors of the west side of what is now the Eklund Hotel was build in 1892; for two years the ground floor was used as a store and the upstairs rooms were rented out. In 1894, Carl Eklund, a Swedish immigrant, came to Clayton, NM and bought the building. He opened the Saloon using the historic bar and back-bar which is still in use today. It is said that he won the bar in a poker game with ten dollars he had borrowed.
The saloon business flourished and in 1898, Mr. Eklund built the first two floors of the east side of his then prospering venture, including a kitchen and dining room. In 1905 a third story and the second-floor balcony were added. Considered the finest hotel in the area, the Eklund's rates were quite expensive, running about two dollars a night! Always progressive, Carl Eklund saw to it that his hotel was the first place in Clayton to get electricity, public telephones and a switchboard.

In 1908, the Clayton Union County Courthouse was partially destroyed by a tornado. Several County offices were moved into a portion of the Eklund's rooms and business proceeded as usual. A makeshift jail was constructed on the north side of the first floor. In more recent years, that room has been used as a private dining room.

In 1937, Mr. Eklund turned the management of the Eklund Hotel over to his daughter and son-in-law under whose management it remained for thirty-five years. The Eklund was sold in 1972 to an investor who restored the historic Dining Room and Saloon, but Hotel operations were suspended. The Eklund was sold again in 1987 and 1990. In 1992, a group of private investors, mostly local residents, purchased the Eklund and struggled to keep the Dining Room and Saloon operating. By the late 1990's, the success of those struggles enabled the owners to start planning very carefully and thoroughly the restoration of the historic Hotel space and operations. The financing was closed and construction began on June 10, 2003 and completed in March, 2004. The original forty-two rooms and community bathrooms have been made into twenty-six rooms each with a private bath. The Dining Room and Saloon have also undergone renovations.

( James Lee Burke is one of my favorite authors--he lives in New Iberia, La in winter and Missoula, Mt in summer. I haven't read his Western stories yet-I'm trying to catch up his David Robicheaux mysteries set in  La but he keeps releasing new ones! )

And then the inevitable--Hasta la Vista--Hello, Oklahoma--Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains and does it ever! We had saved our salads last night for today's lunch and stopped at a roadside picnic area to eat them. It was interesting--Bill lost some lettuce--but it was a warm wind!  LOL

Not too much farther we came across yet another herd of antelope on Bill's side of the road. He pulled over into a bit of a dip for us to observe and film them. They behaved much the same way--stopped and looked at us, then ran rapidly to a male and gathered around him. He sent them running and remained behind to protect the rear.  To my amazement he'd sent them across the road right in front of us and then followed behind. Once on my side they stopped and gawked again. He stood looking at them and they took off then he turned and stood firmly staring at us. We were close enough that he could if so inclined charge us and I didn't want him or the car hurt. We decided it was time to let them go off unmolested. But oh, I was excited for the next 20 miles. They are so beautiful and so interesting.

When I examined the pictures I realized that the first herd was mixed--male and female with a dominant male but the second herd was all females and one male. So I checked to see what goes on in Spring in antelope land. Seems that they hang out in mixed herds during the winter. Come Spring the mature males either take off by themselves or gather a harem, which our guy did. Depends on weather conditions--mostly precipitation--lots of water they go it alone, drought conditions such as exist now, they chose the harem path. Apparently, this behavior can be altered at any time. In the meantime, the gals form their own herds as do immature males.   Looks like our first herd hadn't broken up yet and our second was a harem with a male protector. Mating will take place in Sept and babies will be born in May or so. So I guess some of those gals were with child!

On we continued through the Kiowa and the Rita Blanco National Grasslands and farmland with fields of incredible varied hues--yellows, greens, browns, oranges, just gorgeous. Soon we arrived in Boise City--- a prosperous place if the grain elevators, stockyard pens, trucks etc are any indication. We stopped in front of what I thought was the school but it appears is the Courthouse--take a good look at this shot. There will be a far more ominous shot later in the series taken in 1935. Those who know American history will probably know what's coming. The others are in for a surprise.

The temperature reached 84 at this point, around 130 or so but it was 88 by the time we reached Guymon, our stop for the night.

Having noticed a little red dot on the map we decided to take a trip into Texas--at the dirty, dusty town of Texhoma--and make a U turn back toward Guymon on 54, since the museum is southwest of Guymon. It is the No Man's Land Museum and I just love the fact that no State or Indian Nation claimed this little bit of the Panhandle of Ok and so it was dubbed No Man's Land! Original, right?

No man or woman for that matter had visited the Museum for several days and so, though she let me roam unfettered and said I could take pictures, the chance for conversation was too great and the docent latched on to me. I put the camera away and chatted while Bill looked over the exhibits. In fairness, the best part was about the Dust Bowl and the Ducketts. What is with these early 19th century farm people? In Chilicothe, Mo in 2004 I came across a little museum run by a maiden old lady, older sister of a pair of bachelor twin brothers who spent all their spare time carving buildings out of petrified wood. I bought Bill an outhouse for an outrageous amount of money and met both the woman and one of her brothers. They were all in their 80's, unmarried with no children. Then last Fall, Betsy, Barb and I came across a tiny clock museum down a farm road in Iowa. It is filled with the most incredible carved clocks--musical--of all sizes. One unmarried farm man spent his life carving them--or maybe he was married but no kids. And now here is a woman who carves jewelry and statues out of alabaster and her two brothers who do small carvings as well. Unmarried all!  I guess people were at a distance and very busy with farm work to socialize and one had to do something during those long dark lonely winter nights.

At any rate, after complimenting the docent on the incredible fossil exhibit and telling her if I taught there I'd use the exhibit for my lessons on fossils, she said she was from Ganardo, Az which we'd been through twice just two days ago. Talked about Az and NM and her work at the museum. Don't know how she wound up there but was glad to have enlivened her day.

Arrived at Guymon and headed over to Eddies for the best filet mignon and rib steak we've had in Oklahoma. Our waitress was Callie Chumly. She is from Middletown Ca.   I asked what brought her to this small town. She is a barrel racer and went to Jr College in Ca where she became friends with another girl, also a rodeo rider. Callie dropped out of school and worked in a winery for awhile. The other girl in the meantime got a scholarship in the rodeo program at the Panhandle College in Goodwell--where the No Man's Land Museum is located. Callie called to see how she was doing and the girl invited her to come visit. As they say in the old country, that's all she wrote. Callie competes and says she hopes I'll hear her name when I watch the rodeo. She also said if we pass through again and she isn't working to tell Eddie and she'll come down to see us.

As we left Eddie himself, who had been having dinner with a boatload of friends came over to say goodnight. Nice guy--loved listening to them all with the Texoma accents and told them so--lots of guffaws about who has the accent. Just great folks. Said he's had the restaurant for 31 years so he'll be around awhile and make sure to stop back if ever this way again. Sure will, Eddie and Callie. For now, time to say good night. I think we'll be heading into Kansas tomorrow.

Interestingly we've seen lots of Oklahoma and Texas and since the weather is milder this year we are going to venture a bit farther north and break new ground. Can't wait.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Moving North in New Mexico

Left Gallup this morning after chatting up a Raven who was quite angry that the garbage man had already come and emptied the dumpster! Followed I 45 East to Albuquerque--really the only E-W road mid-MidState--we've been this way many times before so I didn't take very many pictures as I'm sure I have them from other years. When we got to the Rt 6 exit Bill asked if I was sure I didn't want to head South and revisit Bud and Gloria. I was really torn but they had been out to a concert last night and got home late, I'm sure. It wouldn't have bothered them if we did return, as a matter of fact our sheets are still on the beds, but it is also the start of the Belen Balloon Fiesta. We have plenty of balloons go over the house from the Post Mills airport but they are beautiful and soothing as they drift through the sky like so many lazy, colorful, bubbles. I knew it would be hard to pull ourselves away tomorrow morning when they were all afloat. We have to start back now if we want to do any lingering in Ok and Ks not to mention the Southeastern states. We have already been gone 31 days.  It was hard and I almost turned the wheel myself but on we went. We'll see you again next year I'm sure. I should really bring some scrap stuff and work on a layout or two when I come--I want to learn so much from Gloria. Until then, good friends, enjoy that cheese and think of us affectionately as we do you!

And so, through the labyrinth of clustered highways we passed through Alb and on to I 25 North to Las Vegas, past Santa Fe and overlooking the Sangre de Christo Mountains. Next year we will have to set up a command post in this upper quarter of the State--the Northeast and mid-North section to explore the Rough Riders Museum, Pecos National Park, Taos and Ghost Ranch etc. For now we checked in early, I'm reading and Bill is watching March Madness. St Bonnie's almost pulled it out but Bill beat me at the last few minutes. :-(

Think we'll order in and lounge over my book. Tomorrow--Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. See those pretty puffy clouds>? They are the forerunners of the front moving in from Ca. The sun was hot enough today to burn my neck and the temp was 68 in the mountains. Windy the next two days and then temps in the 40's. Damn--
Tornado weather and much too soon. Little nervous but what can one do--Mother Nature controls the weather. Cross your fingers.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Back to Gallup for the Night!

Awake at 530 and up at 630, but today I didn't mind!  Got ready in record time, didn't even check email or anything. Went to breakfast at the Thunderbird cafeteria--fresh fruit cocktail, bacon, English and coffee. Then we waited outdoors in the morning sunshine for the start of our canyon floor tour. Wandering around I almost stepped on a bunny that had frozen at our presence as they usually do. Two crows took up their morning positions and reported back and forth to each other about their observations--"two white faces wandering over here, not dropping food. :  " Yeah, not so great over here either, no one at the picnic tables and no food dropped so far today."  Etc.  Looked at some interesting nests that we didn't recognize and a bird, puffed up in the crook of the tree, with the markings of a robin but the wrong bill. Not usually tree perchers either. Another couple all bundled up as if they were going to Siberia joined us. Don't know where they were from. A couple of young women we'd encountered last night in the canyon arrived--they have Alaska plates. They too dressed for the oncoming blizzard!  Then a couple chatting away in what sounded like German--you guessed it---hoods, gloves, heavy jackets. Eventually, our guide and his safari truck arrived and bid us to board. After a few minutes the last couple arrived--ditto on clothes--and we were off for a three hour jaunt on the canyon floor--a level at which I am comfortable.

To get to the Canyon Wash--not a river since it dries up totally in summer--we road at normal speeds along the main road. I was a bit cold then with no hat or gloves and just two layers. Soon, however, we were mid-Wash and moving much more slowly though far less smoothly! Our guide, David, had introduced himself before we set out and while we move along the entrance to the North Canyon I'll tell you a bit about him. He is Navajo, as all the guides are, this park lying on the Navajo Reservation. He grew up in the North Canyon and called it his playground as a child. He is 62 and has been doing this for over 30 years.

He also explained the tour--we would go up the North Canyon to Antelope House, where there would be a 15 minute stop and where there are restrooms and smoking is allowed off the truck. We would then return to the place where the two Canyons join and turn up the South Canyon ( the one along whose rim we have driven twice ) and go as far as White House. Another 15 minute stop with the same amenities. He also pointed out a plastic bag in the back of the truck containing blankets.

As we entered the canyon we passed through cottonwoods and along fences that are not visible from the top. The cottonwoods individually do not look green but superimposed they make a beautiful green haze against the blue sky and multicolored canyon walls. Our first stop is known as First Ruin since it was the first one discovered by a guy named Stevens(?) --have to look that up--in the 1800's. This ruin and the others we came upon looked like doll houses made of clay--which only goes to show how far below them we were, even though we had no sense of depth. The ruins were built by a very early civilization, now extinct, known to modern anthropologists, as the Anasazi. The Zuni, Hopi, Pueblo Indians claim these people as ancestors but the Navajo do not. As a result, the Navajo were unable to interpret the petroglyphs found here but the other Indians helped to explain some ,but not all, of them, many being mysteries to them as well.

At this first ruin there is a squiggly line representing a snake, a frog-like figure representing a dancing man, hands that represent hands elevated in prayer, and the reclining hunch-backed flute player, Kokopelli. A god, of fertility among other things.

Our next stop was a Navajo petroglyph representing a deer hunt.  We know this is Navajo since there are horses and they arrived with the Spanish, long after the Anasazi were gone. History does not explain how or when they disappeared.  The panel next to the hunters represents several traps used by the Navajo and a couple of diamondback rattlers as well as a man holding a squiggly line--a snake dancer. The area is very broad and open and since these glyphs are here it seems as though this may have been a gathering place to trade and tell tales. Today, it is a gathering place for the tours to stop and learn about the glyphs. Although, this picture of David and the other vehicles might imply that it is crowded in the Canyon and that other tours cause distraction, this is not the case at all. Especially since David preferred using the Draw to the road and thereby got in front of the other tours and left them in our dust!  LOL  I guess after 30+ years of doing the same thing several times a day, one devises ways to amuse oneself. Did I just say that???? Voice of experience speaking! Seriously, though, the guides spread out over this huge Canyon and there is a sense of being the only ones here. I'm sure they realize that is the best way to enjoy the surroundings and they do their best to share the home they love in the best possible way.

Sometimes it was impossible to get pictures without also including our fellow travelers: the blonde lady with the red gloves is the German (?) lady.She and her companion did not chat with us much though I think it was more a language issue than aloofness. He spoke to us more because I think he was more fluent in English. They were going to Monument Valley from here and " doing same thing--jeep ride"

The gentleman in front of her in the blue baseball cap and red jacket was part of the couple we met in the parking lot--again no conversation--but again, his wife was freezing and bundled up so tightly I don't think we'd have heard her anyway and he was on the other side of the truck.  In front of them was one of the girls in the Alaska car. Well, she is a nurse who lives in Flagstaff. I forget what the nurses are called who travel all over the world where there are nursing shortages but that's what she does. She is from Montreal, so we had a good chat about that city and the part of Vt where I once lived. She had her first assignment in Lebanon, NH so we spoke of her living in Eastman and of Thetford etc. Small world!

In front of us was her friend, a flight nurse with the same outfit, from Australia who lived four years as a nurse in Alaska, hence the plates. She now lives in Flagstaff and the two met in Alaska where they both had posted. She had been an ER nurse prior to changing over. The girl from Montreal is afraid to fly. Both of them were scurrying all over the edge of the rim last night but she says she can control her feet on solid ground but she can't control the plane. LOL Phobias are so interesting. I would also like to note here, that despite several layers of clothing they both wrapped themselves in two blankets but neither wore a hat!

Our second Anasazi ruin was in better shape than the first, primary because it is much higher and therefore was less easily reached. It therefore has been turned to rubble pretty exclusively by the elements rather than vandals and looters of artifacts. The round building is the kiva--the religious ceremonial room that exists among the pueblo, zuni and hopi to this day. The rest living and storage areas. It is believed that this civilization was primarily agricultural and that they build high above the floor for protection from predatory animals although possibly from more warlike neighbors as well. They used round logs out of which notches were cut to access the floor on which their crops were grown and if another level of building were present they also used these " ladders" to access them.

Once we had seen some of these ruins we began to see others as indicated by Scout Bill's pointing hand. David noticed everything, as you shall see, a very sharp-eyed guide and whenever movement from us that indicated a spotting or an interest he stopped to let us see it more closely and give an information he could.

Throughout the Canyon there are small homes and fences and horses and cattle. At one time, of course, the Canyon was filled with Navajo families year round. Now, however, with the need for children to go to school and families to work no one lives here in winter. Once school is closed some families return but mostly they come on week-ends and holidays. There are a few older folk with no children and who are retired who do come for the whole summer. Nevertheless, even though there are stores to buy food, the Navajo return to grow their own--beans,corn,squash--traditional, tomatoes and most of the other things gardeners grow. In addition, there are alfalfa fields and fruit trees, apple,pear,peach, apricot--it must be beautiful when those trees are in bloom!  Of course, like Acoma--no water, no electricity!  But instead of horse drawn plows there are John Deere tractors!

There is a picture you will see, in red rock clay, that appears to have been poked to make a dot design out and around and above an oval opening in the wall. Those are hand and foot holds to get from that opening which is really a cave, to the top of the canyon. David says that they are all over the Canyon as are other trails and that the Navajo still use them as well as vehicles to enter and leave. Oh, I guess I would not have been able to make it here in the old days-- who am I kidding, afraid of the dark, I probably wouldn't make it here now either!

When asked how deep the Wash gets David said that in areas where the floor is wide the water spreads out and is quite shallow but in narrow areas it can get up to about five feet deep. Seems unbelievable that by mid summer all that water is totally gone! As we rode under an overhanging shelf of rock the high water mark in that area was clear--about three or four feet. That mark creates a beautiful band of color along the bottom of the cliffs.

After about two hours we reached our turnaround : Antelope House, so named for the deer and antelope petroglyphs on the walls around it. This house is on the Canyon floor and David says there are many throughout the Canyon that are.  Having fifteen minutes allowed me to take many pictures and have Bill take a couple of me. It is here that I chatted up the nurses and learned all I've shared with you.

While the rest of the crowd are getting a closer look at Antelope House,or looking over the jewelry that several Navajo are selling, or using the facilities or in Bill's case, getting in a couple of cigarettes, allow me to tell you of the last couple in our entourage. The lady is quite frail and appears to be in her mid-seventies. The jouncing in the jeep has been quite difficult on her and I'm not sure her eyesight is all it could be so she may not have seen everything on the tour. Her husband has an arm that causes some discomfit so he wished he'd take a horse tour as opposed to the jeep. Both of them are pleased they opted for the half day tour. Still they were a cheerful pair, originally from Oklahoma but in Colorado since the 70's. He told us it costs something like $1500 to register his car, that property taxes are off the charts and there are sales taxes from the State level down to the City level. They live in Durango and their log cabin is snowed in--they got two feet of snow last week!  They have always left Co for at least a month in winter for they would surely go mad if they didn't. The last time in Hawaii it rained two of their four weeks, the past two years in Florida was overwhelmingly humid, so they decided to stay closer to home this year. I'm not sure if I understood his meaning--whether this was the only Canyon they hadn't come to or the only National Park. But they truly encouraged us to go to Monument Valley from here and then as long as we'd gone there to head over to Mesa Verde. I was game but Bill said there is too much to see in that area to do it this year. So,weather permitting, I know where we are going to set up a base of operations to explore next time. Well, break is over so we are headed back to the junction of the South and North Canyons.

The rock formation behind David is called Fortress Rock. Please note, that though there is a loudspeaker set up for him to use, David always stopped and got out to tell us the stories. I'm sure weather and tour group size have something to do with it. This canyon has been part of the Navajo tribe's lands for many generations. Initially, the tribe was agricultural and the crop growing that occurs today was the way of life they enjoyed. In time, the Spanish found them and took the men to Mexico to work as slaves in the silver mines, women and children were taken to work as house slaves and garden etc workers. In time, some of the people were able to escape and make their way back home to tell the remaining Indians what was happening. Fighting ensued and some of the tribe took refuge atop this structure. It lies between two canyons, the one to the left the way out and the one to the right ends in a box canyon that does have a small and difficult to find connection to the main one. It is a nice trap.  Eventually, the Spanish were gone and the tribe returned more or less to its peaceful agrarian ways.

Some of the young warriors, however, remembered the livestock of Mexico and decided that the tribe could use some of them. Although he didn't use the word rustling, that's what those young whippersnappers did. Causing more trouble and bringing more attacks. Nevertheless, with the livestock, the Navajo economy began to improve and jealous Hopi and Zuni began to attack to gain livestock for themselves. Word got back to the Cavalry that the Navajo were raiding throughout the territory--they were trying to get their livestock back. Excuses didn't work and the Government came in and burned the hogans, and fields and marched over 4000 Navajo to Fort Sumner in NM and some to Fort Defiance, closer by. Still, some of the tribe were again able to take refuge on Fortress Rock. Eventually, through lack of food and shelter many died and others surrendered and were taken to Fort Sumner. Kit Carson and a Calvary general were in charge of Sumner where conditions were abominable. Disease, heartbreak, lack of food took their toll. Eventually, the government checked up on what was left of the tribe and after almost four years the tribe was freed and allowed to return to Canyon de Chelly. 2000 walked back in what is known as The Long Walk and reestablished their homes. The rest had died. Since 1868 the Navajo have been able to remain here.

As an aside the Canyon is called Tsite--sort of pronounced like Say It except both the T and s are pronounced. It means made of stone. The Spanish couldn't pronounce it so they called it de Chelly--which is pronounced for some reason de Shay--and still means made of stone.

Soon we came to a wall long petroglyph--truly a story board. It represents the Navajo fighting the Spanish conquistadors. There are two moons over the mural indicating that they fought for two days. Legend has it that the Spanish leader came to a ledge overlooking a cave of Indians and that his forces wiped them out. This Northern canyon that we have been in is known as Canyon de Meurte ( spelling? ) --Canyon of the Dead. Some legends say it refers to this massacre. Others say that the Spanish seeking the Seven Cities of Gold entered the Canyon and found the skeletons of ancient dead--the Anasazi?  Who knows the truth--the legends are just that--the name remains.

Eventually, we came to Big Cow Cave--the hogan tucked under the cow is used in summer and the goal posts to the right are actually the loom the lady who lives there uses to weave her rugs.  It is a lovely place, secluded and peaceful. There is an unfinished hogan in front, and Anasazi ruins to the left. If there are ghosts, I wonder if they enjoy her presence and her work?

As we moved up the South Canyon we saw the farm I've viewed from above several times. The horses and cows have free range and from the top look like little toys.  I imagined a Roswell alien in one of the formations and a big eyed monster in another. Along this edge of the wash the bank gave out and Bill almost toppled off the top of the jeep. It was the only time we jostled quite THAT hard!

I don't know if you can make it out--but that tree with the solar flare behind it has a porcupine more or less dead center. If you look closely you can see him as a ball of fur with sunlight tipped quills.  Old Eagle-eyed David spied him as he did the mountain goats that moved swiftly and gracefully across the uneven rock faces.

Soon we arrived at White House--probably the most complete of the ruins. By this time the sun had risen high enough that it did not bleach to walls out as much. This house is really two different levels--the building which is most eroded is the lower building which is believed to have been at least 40 feet tall. Ladders from this building allowed access to those on the level above.

How many birds in that flock??

I  discovered, at the end of the tour, that I'd forgotten to change the mode of my camera from evening to daylight so the earliest pictures were taken as though there wasn't much light. Though a bit over exposed they are still wonderful and I can always retake them the next time we take the tour--I hope there is a next time--even for a full day , though Bill says half day was enough for him. I guess I'm never going to see Spider Rock then!

On the way out of the canyon we passed some of the same ruins we'd explored on the way in and I rephotographed them to show how the light had changed over a three and a half hour span. Interestingly, because the shadows had formed the mode was better for these.

Feeling thoroughly exhilarated by the wind and fresh air and sun and wonderful views we returned to our starting point--Thunderbird Cafe and lunch. A wonderful chicken salad plate that I should have photographed for it was a work of art, too. Cucumber, green pepper, carrots sticks and a halved hard-boiled egg on a lettuce bed surrounding a whole tomato quartered in which a large scoop of chicken salad was ensconced. V-8 juice to wash it down and a chocolate chip cookie freshly baked for dessert. Bill had meat loaf, mixed veggies and the best mashed potatoes and gravy with V-8.

Tired and well fed we decided to return to Gallup for the night. We didn't choose the Quality Inn and its awful internet but rather the Comfort Inn where we stayed last year and much better internet.

Tomorrow I think we are headed to Las Vegas---New Mexico and eventually the Oklahoma panhandle. So, though it is always sad, we are headed in a homeward direction but not necessarily hurriedly!

Have to spell check and send the pictures--then I have to see how I'm doing on March Madness brackets. Bill was gloating when I started this blog over two hours ago. Hasn't been saying much lately so I'm thinking I'm pulling it out. I also have to eat!  AND Big Bang Theory is on tonight if I haven't missed it!  Good night for now!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Canyon de Chelly Redux!

Kind of slow moving this morning but we left Gallup at about 10ish after stopping at the ATM to refuel. Out to Window Rock and entrance to Arizona, which is celebrating its centennial this year.  We timed and measured mileage from there to Chimle and the Canyon. About 85 miles and an hour and a half. Wanted to know since it is Spring break for a lot of people and we weren't sure if the Holiday Inn or the Best Western at Chimle would have a vacancy.

Got to the Visitors' Center and they provided us with a list of tour providers--one of which was the Thunderbird Lodge right at the beginning of the South Rim drive.  Made reservations for the tour for half day starting tomorrow morning. Came back to the Lodge office and rented a room for the night. I also bought some more Navajo Tea--mint this time and a shot glass and lots of post cards of the Canyon. Professional photographers always provide great supplementation to my photographic efforts.

Returned to the room and caught up on email and banking, took a nap, went to the cafeteria for corned beef and cabbage and took a late afternoon ride through the Canyon. I wanted to see sunset from the top and moonrise. Got the sunset--moonrise happens to much later.

Early tomorrow we check out, get breakfast and off we go. If we love it, we'll return some day for a full day tour. I'm so excited. I'll get to see things from the floor of the Canyon that I've seen from the top and also things I was afraid to look over  the top to see.  Stay tuned--I think the next blog is going to be full of wonder!  Nightie-Night all!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Between Us We May Have Two Good Legs!

After tootling about Grants a few minutes we headed out Old Rte 66 toward Gallup, where we decided we would try to rest our old legs and I could catch up on blog and pix.

Arriving in Gallup the first stop had to be Perry Null Trading Co. I've had my heart set on a turquoise bracelet I saw on their site last Fall. Wasn't sure it would fit my wrist so waited to go to the store. It is beautiful and I bought a small ring, too. My Zuni turquoise jewelry is now complete. Next year I'll begin my coral set, I hope.

Lunch at Applebee's and then a frustrating afternoon of an internet connection that varied from four to two bars constantly. I must have called the front office to reset the modem or whatever--the access point--I don't know. I wasn't too pleasant about the fifth time but I took a break for chicken wings and a pepsi and then resumed. Now at 112am your time but only 1112 my time I will go to bed. Calmly, so maybe I'll sleep better than last night.

Tomorrow Chimle, Az to see if we can arrange for a jeep tour of Canyon de Chelley. The only place on the list of attractions that we haven't visited is Chaco Canyon but it is too wet this time of year and very easy to get stuck and lost.  Some Day!

So until I have the incredible pictures from the floor of the Canyon, I bid you a fine good night.

Acoma Pueblo--Sky City

Monday we got our things together and had an last breakfast with Bud and Gloria. They aren't going to change the sheets, in case, like last year, we return East on a path that brings us close to them. After many hugs and good-byes we headed northwest on rte 6 which bypasses Albuquerque and connects to I 40 at appropriately named Highland Meadows. So many reservations come together at this spot that for most of the area around Alb and all the way to Grants you travel on Indian land of one tribe or another. Many of the native villages are perched against the mesas and in many cases the only building that stands out against the background is the Mission Church--such is the case in Laguna. Soon we came to exit 108 and the road to Sky City.

We had chosen not to go there last year because I feared the heights that the name implied. Bud and Gloria assured me that the city is high but it is on a flat mesa and that there would be no drop offs to frighten me. So this year we ventured to the Visitors' Center where tickets for a tour are purchased. The tickets also provide a permit for still photography only. I asked about photographing people and was told to ask but that a gratuity was not necessary nor was one necessary for the guide, who is a native Acoman.

Though there is a road to the top of the mesa visitors are transported by bus on a road, we later learned, was paid for by Henry Fonda. He wanted to film there and needed a way to transport all the equipment and people so he built a road. Nice for the 200+ families that lived here year round. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

When we reached the top we were greeted by a man of indeterminate age. I imagine he is in his late 20's, early 30's since he is an EMT and firefighter--that is usually a young man's game. He was born here and returned in grade school to live with his grandmother while his Dad sought work and a place to live. But at this point he told us of the history of this place. It was chosen because it is in a high position over the valley--easily defensible and also a great vantage point for any oncoming enemy tribes. In time the enemy was not the other Indians but the Spanish and because of superior manpower and weapons the natives were subdued and enslaved.

There is not now, nor has there ever been, electricity or water on the mesa. Some of the remaining 20 families have generators but they must still cart water up from the valley below. There are several natural cisterns which fill with rain water or snow melt and this water was traditionally the water used. Because of this lack many of the families moved down into the valley at the turn of the 20th C to be near the river that runs by the new village--Acomita.

Despite leaving the mesa the homes remain in the families. They are never sold or passed out of the family. It is a matriarchal community so the youngest girl inherits. If there is no youngest daughter then the youngest son inherits. No son? youngest daughter of the closest extended family member. If the home is not maintained it is taken over from the family by the tribal council which decides who gets it.  The tribal council also determines who the community leaders are. At one time the clan with the greatest number of members made up the tribal council, however, the Antelope clan was the majority when the Spanish took over, so the Antelope clan members continue to make up the  tribal council.

You will notice that our guide, Limbert Martinez ( Spaniards couldn't pronounce the Native names so they gave the families Spanish names and they have continued to use them.) is at times quite close to the edge and that we are quite high. Only once did I use another street and an alley to meet the group and thus avoided walking the edge. BTW, one of the members of our group was a Spaniard from Spain whose last name is Martinez. He said he was not responsible for the suffering of the Acoma at the hands of the friars who came to the Pueblo. We all laughed at his laughing denial.

Scattered throughout the village are ovens that may be used by any in the village---they can hold up to 100 loaves of bread so usually there is a major community bake. Just as the communal gathering of materials and labor to build and/or repair the homes.

Below the mesa are the fields used by the tribe as open range and also planting. In the shot of the road from the top the rock formation on the right is the one that Ford used to introduce its Ford 250 or some such number truck. They airlifted it with a helicopter to the top--but to Limbert's disappointment took the truck with them when they were finished.

Bill is standing next to a ladder that leads to a kiva, which is an important religious room entered through a hole in the roof. Legend has it that the people arose from the earth into the land and cloud through a hole in the earth. The ladder has pointed tops to pierce the clouds, represented by the carving holding the sidebars together. There are two sets of stairs--one to go up and the other to come down. There is a kiva in each of the four directions on the mesa. Men only. Though men join the clan of their wives. Children have a major clan which is their mother's and a minor clan--their dad's.

As we wended our way to the starting point the Mission Church of San Esteban we came past the plaza where all of the festivals and celebrations are held. The elders sit along the side in the best seats as the parades and other ceremonies take place. For some the public are allowed, for others the Acoma keep to themselves.  There is only one tree on the mesa--a cottonwood and Limbert told us we were now in the Acoma National Forest! We also met his grandmother and he pointed out the house in which he grew up--the one with the ribbon of decoration added by a cousin. He invited us to knock on the door any time we returned and we would be welcome for a meal and visit.

We then arrived at the Church. The balcony at top was the classroom in which the villagers were taught Catholicism and Spanish. None of them speak Spanish now. Below the balcony is the jail in which the friars incarcerated those who resisted this civilizing instruction. As we entered the wall surrounding the cemetery and the Church entrance we were reminded that pictures were not allowed and men needed to remove their hats.

It is difficult to describe the Church--it is thick walled adobe that tapers in thickness from bottom to top. As can be imagined there is a significant temperature gradient between the outside and inside even in winter. Having no electricity the interior is illuminated by highly placed windows and in winter by candles. The Bells were given to the village by the Spanish King as were the Stations of the Cross. The ceiling is high and held up by huge logs that had been carried by teams of 20 men on their shoulders from Mt Taylor--that snow capped mountain seen in the background several times--a good 30 miles away. AND they were not allowed to touch the ground in transit. No roads, no stairs and slave Acomans. BTW, the Friars' garden, which was in the courtyard behind the classroom, was tended by the women, also slaves. How embarrassing! 

The tour then ended with some people, including Bill, choosing to descend by the ancient stairs. I knew I could not walk off into space like that but Bill said it was even worse lower down where he had to walk leaning backward and hold the holes in the walls the descent was so steep. His legs were extremely rubbery and I think he was surprised at the affect. His greater surprise is that there were no notices of danger or warnings or notification of lack of responsibility for injury or worse. He said this would never happen in the suit conscious east.

At any rate, after a quick jaunt through the gift shop we headed on our way to I 40 west and Grants where we spent the night.  Despite the fact that the town is destitute since old 66 was superseded, there is a rather nice steak house and after 2 1/2 hours of walking in the thin air we decided we earned a nice prime rib.