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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

X-C 2017 Has Come to a Close and We've Been Home 2 1/2 Weeks Already!

Hi Trekkies--so what have we done since we returned? Not much and yet, a lot! I had called from Batavia to have our newspaper resumed on Sunday, April 2. Betsy was here by 10 am--hugs and kisses all around. Catch up on what life was like in Vt and the cold snowy winter while we were basking in warmth and sunshine. Seems our plow man was less efficient than he could be and, while Bets couldn't get up the driveway on Sunday either, the driveway had been a hot mess more often than not the whole time. Didn't make us happy to hear but we'll deal with it in a few weeks.( Paid the bill but haven't said anything to the plowman--they are hard to find for this driveway so Bill is going to let it go!) Gave Bets her mail, which she didn't even sort out the one time she picked it up while we were gone--lol . As a result, she got her birthday card, which I took great pains to mail from Tularosa so it would arrive on time. Her birthday is March 9! Guess I won't knock myself out next year. She and Bill made several trips getting stuff out of the car. Driveway too soft and unplowed to get up yet. After she left, I read the Sunday paper and did the puzzle while Bill headed to Price Chopper to get some food for the next few days. Hello again, Trekkers! It is now April 19 and much has happened in seventeen days since I started this summary blog. Beginning on Monday the 3rd, it was a week of getting things in order and enjoying the antics of the cats, especially Shadow, who is beside himself with glee having us back home. Fortunately, the bills get paid from the road so it isn't urgent to get through the mail, though that is always my first priority. There are always the bills for the plow guy and, if she has gotten it out in time, for the garbageman. Unfortunately, Jeff Fifield, who does our rubbish died shortly after we left on our trip. He is someone we've known forever and he and his wife, Leslie, are dear friends. Their son was in Betsy's class all through school and it is Leslie who gave us the two pennies I keep in our log book on all our trips. She gave them to me the first year we went cross country as good luck charms. We were really upset when Bets told us he had died, though he has been ill for quite awhile. As a result there was only the plowing and my eye doctor's bill to pay. Also in the mail was a book I'd received from Book Browse which I needed to review. Fortunately, it was a very good book and easily read--I finished it in one and a half days. So enjoyable I almost hated to go to sleep and wait for the next day to finish it. It was just published and available on Amazon for the first time today ( April 19) It is called If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. By the way, I review most books I read on my blog https://kt-themindtraveler.blogspot.com/ if you have an interest in them. In addition to paid bills, which I filed in the annual records, junk mail that I filed in the circular file or the shredding bag, and books, there were the AARP magazine and the AARP newspaper as well as a couple of copies of a new magazine I've subscribed to--Writer's Digest. I'm still hoping to figure out whether there is a book in these travel journals. Took me a couple of days to get through all of that, as well as close out our travel journal. We were gone 7 weeks and a day, covered 8145.1 miles, were as far south as Alabama, as far west as New Mexico and as far north as Colorado. We visited old favorites, such as Eunice for Mardi Gras and Lafayette/New Iberia Louisiana; Alamogordo and the White Sands and Bosque del Apache in New Mexico; Perry Null in Gallup, New Mexico and Grandmother's Buttons in St Francisville, Louisiana. Got reacquainted with Mme LeBiche at Konriko and bought another James Lee Burke at Books Along the Teche. We returned to the Mississippi River in Vidalia and spent a couple of days just gazing at it from our room overlooking it, Natchez across the way and the dual bridges that connect the two. Only once did we eat raw oysters at Shucks with the side of crawfish etouffee but we did enjoy a new restaurant in Breaux Bridge, Chez Jacqueline, after our annual Swamp Tour on Lake Martin. Banana Splits for breakfast at Borden's in Lafayette and King Cake from Mac's Grocery in Jeanerette. The trek across Texas is unavoidable but we've seen almost every corner of this big piece of land and while it is beautiful in places there aren't any other sites we want to see. Although I do want to get to Brownsville and St Padre Island one of these days. Would also like to return to Galveston without being sick, as I was the only time we went that way. Bought pistachios from Heart of the Desert Ranch in Alamogordo. Returned to visit our good friends, Gloria and Bud in Belen, New Mexico. As always overate and laughed a lot. Just a second home, a home away from home with friends who feel like family. We could not be in Oklahoma without stopping at Boise City for No Man's Land beef jerky and in Guymon to see if Eddie's Steakhouse was reopened--and, happily, it is!! In Kentucky, if near Louisville-Lexington area it is necessary to stop at least once at a bourbon distillery. This year we returned to Buffalo Trace, where I got my Freddy hug and bought a bottle of a new release. And if we are going to do that, then it is the Clarion in Lexington and the Pub for steak and bourbon. Visited with friends in the Smoky Mountains, Karen, my high school classmate and her husband,Bill on this our first visit to Smoky Mtn National Park. Happened across Bush's Baked Beans in the process. Went to the home of Andrew Johnson, president after Lincoln's assassination and in doing that we completed visiting the homes of all three presidents from Tennessee. We looked for bald eagles in Lake Gunnerston State Park in Alabama--a first. Found a brochure on Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman and spent a morning exploring the miniature world created by one of the priests who taught in their school. Another new experience. Went to Artesia from Roswell this year--a new path--and went over Cloudcroft--something I'd avoided for years but decided needed to be done--we've gone over the mountains to the Tularosa Basin on just about all the other roads. Turned out to be a lovely ride and we'll go that way again, I'm sure. In New Mexico we focused a bit more on places we hadn't been before like the Wolf Refuge near Gallup and the area around Farmington in the north. We actually stayed there twice --before and after going to Durango, Colorado and the half way climb to the ruins of Mesa Verde. Another first as was the trek into Chaco Canyon, which we've wanted to visit ever since we came west. Having spent so much time on these repeat visits and new experiences the turn to the East was upon us. We followed an entirely new path to reach Las Vegas, New Mexico on our way to Oklahoma. Found another new spot to visit--Fort Union. It is truly a ruin, having been partially razed by the government before the locals and the lady who wrote Land of Enchantment prevailed upon them to preserve the remains. I need to go back again, since, until I read her book back home once more, ( again, reviewed on my blog) I had no true idea of the importance of this Fort. It was the supply warehouse and arsenal for ALL of the forts west of Las Vegas/ Santa Fe and was the junction of the two Santa Fe Trail branches and therefore the site of rest and final departure of pioneers using the Trail east and west! What a shame so much of it has been lost to deliberated destruction and natural erosion and weathering. Took an entirely new path in Oklahoma, too and hit the Chisolm Trail and the Cherokee Trail Heritage Center --one of the nicest museums we've experienced in the West--though nothing can compare to the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City that we visited the year of the Cobalt disaster in Tulsa. We made our way once more to that huge piece of Western real estate and headed to Lavon, a suburb of Dallas, to visit Bill's frat brother, Jimmy Jack. Spent a night and then made our way back through Oklahoma to Missouri and Corder to visit one of his Peace Corps buddies, Paul and his wife, Jean. Another couple who are like old comfortable shoes--just easy to be around and visit with. Some people are just like that and we love them. Hope they will come East again sometime--it is so nice to see them and catch up. Once we get to the Midwest the days become long drives to cover the road home. We do take different roads than in past trips so that we see some new things--for example, Jefferson City, Mo is pretty small and easy to navigate for a capital city! Once in Kentucky, it is two days home, weather willing. Ohio, Pa ( a sliver ), New York and Vt. So, once the trip and the log were closed out, the time came for tackling the pile of suitcases and shopping bags on the living room floor. We don't buy a lot of souvenirs anymore, just a spoon or pin, postcards but we do pick up things for Betsy, Barb and Charlie--foodstuffs mostly and of course we pick up jerky, spices, nuts, candy, bourbon, oil etc for ourselves and all those things require sorting and storing. The last of the laundry needs doing, too. Bill returned to work at Price Chopper in the mornings on the 5th--just Wed-Fr but that took him out of the organizing picture a bit. He, of course, had outside things to do, although the snow, as deep as it was the first week home kind of prevented him from doing very much. By the 8th, one week home, half the snow on the south side of the house was melted off the slope and a vernal pond was beginning to form and the river began to back up. By the end of the first week most everything was taken care of. Attilla needed to go to the vet for his shots and I needed to order seresto collars for them both to get ahead of flea and tick season. I continued to keep up with my POD project and to keep track of the snowmelt and to read. I have set a goal of 80 books to be read this year and thus far I've read 12!! I am very far behind, although of the 12 read, six of them have been since I've returned home, one was read on the trip and I have three going right now. Still, there is much catching up to do! After I read them, usually, but not always, I do have to write a review because I won the book on the condition that I would. Last week, I spent forever trying to get flowers ordered for Easter for my Aunt and Sister--the foolish website was undergoing construction less than a week before the day and kept refusing my credit card--each time I had to redo the order with gift cards etc--I must have composed six different cards by the time I got the ones that eventually were the actual greetings! Not complaining, really. I LOVE picking out the perfect arrangement for my Aunt--I send her flowers every month. I know it gives her a lift and it does me, too, since I ADORE flowers so the shopping for them is a joy. I needed to order ink for the printer since I didn't bother before I left, thinking it would just dry out over the two months that Betsy wouldn't be using it. One of my projects was to get all the brochures in the expanding file that I will use if I ever scrap the photos from this trip--haven't done any of the trips so probably won't get to this one either. Sold a book on Amazon so had to get that out in the mail within the day. We were on the last book of household checks so needed to order them--always a lengthy procedure because I like pretty checks so have to peruse the offerings. I also set up a project to refresh our maps and visitors' guides from the lower 48. That meant going through the map bag and determining which were outdated and then going to the Dept of Tourism of each State that required updating and asking for a map and guide be sent to me. That took two days, but they are pouring in. Interestingly, RI is so broke they aren't publishing highway maps any more--haven't a clue about guides. Ct didn't seem to take the order--the link didn't seem to work. And Georgia requires a visit to the Dept of Transportation to get the map. Nevertheless, the new ones are arriving daily and it is fun to peruse the guide to see if there are new things to discover that aren't in cities or expensive resorts. By the 12th most of the snow was gone and the pond was huge. On a beautiful day, a pair of mallards enjoyed exploring it as a possible nesting site. I think they opted for the more permanent river at the edge of the field, though they may have chosen a more secluded shore of the pool--out of the prying eyes of the resident cats who watch alertly from that porch yonder! Before we knew it, Easter was upon us. Made the grocery list and Bill picked up the stuff. Cook's spiral cut ham, brussel sprouts--for the B's and Kathleen, kernel corn for me, baked potatoes, baked yam for me, olives from the deli. Pistachio-white chocolate chunk cookies for dessert from Heart of the Desert. Betsy's college classmate, Kathleen, who hails from Montana but now lives in Boston, came for dinner. I met her several times in Montana but Bill had not. She is a real sweetie and it was great to have her here. I know we'll be seeing more of her this summer--she is the girl some of you may remember Betsy going to visit on Brexit Day in London. Her London room-mates are coming over to visit--maybe I'll go to London and get some of those behind the scene tours Betsy enjoyed. Bets mentioned that perhaps we could put them up--we'll see what happens when they arrive--but we wouldn't mind. Anyway, Kathleen brought Mimosa makings and we girls sipped the day away --she brought Bill Narraganett--made in Rochester--lololol--I didn't know it was still being made ANYWHERE. So here we are, April 19th. I left the house for the first time since returning home. Oh, I've been out in the yard and on the porch but most days in a house dress or lounger and barefeet. Not only did I go out in a car, but I DROVE it myself. Betsy's car--my old red G-5--to the new Dartmouth Coach terminal to pick Betsy up. She returned to Boston with Kathleen for the Marathon, so took the bus home today. Left her car here so I could get her, since Bill's Marigold is having muffler problems and so Douglas Bristlecone left at 5 am this morning for Maine. It is Bill's pig dinner frat weekend. When he returns I may head over to Saratoga for a few days visit and to bring Barb and Charlie their goodies. If the weather is good, Barb and I will head down to Highland to see Aunt Shirley. In the meantime, I have set myself a project to do a thorough culling, sorting and cleaning of the mudroom. Got the two big drawers under the bay window done yesterday and a bunch of old baseball caps and mismatched winter gloves went out in the garbage. Made an inventory of what is in them for future reference, since they always seem to get tossed about by people digging and tossing to find something that may or may not be there. Will they use the lists? Probably not, but I can ask what they seek and tell them where it is--maybe! Bets balked at having to say yay or nay on a few items when she got back but I reminded her that she has complained that there is so much junk she is going to have to discard when we die. I, said I, am trying to help get rid of some of the junk before hand. She said nay on all of the items so out they go. And, so my dear Trekkies, here is the coda to X-C with KandB in 2017. The snow is all gone, things look drear and gray but I noticed buds on the trees along the Interstate--closer to the Ct--very swollen and the catkins on the poplars etc hanging down. It won't be long before they look like that here on the Pond Estate and once that happens, overnight it seems everything is busting out all over and Spring has caught up to us. This year, I've managed to avoid the post trip depression that usually overcomes me--except for just one day and it was very mild. I think that extra week away made a difference--six weeks just doesn't seem long enough. Of course, when January comes, I'll be chomping at the bit once more. Until then---signing off for this year. Hope you'll come along when we head out again. Enjoy the best part of the year--Spring, Summer and Fall--at least in Vermont and the Northeast! Affectionately, kanb

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dave Robicheaux In Crusader's Cross--Another Winner!

Crusader's Cross (Dave Robicheaux, #14)Crusader's Cross by James Lee Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As usual JLB creates an engrossing mystery that is convoluted and filled with questions. What ever happened to that prostitute who saved him and his brother, Jimmie, from sharks off the coast of Galveston Island in 1958? She was supposed to meet Jimmie at the bus station and take off with him to Mexico. Is she dead? Where's her body?

Who is killing and brutally disfiguring women--women who are middle class, good women--leaving them in the area of Iberia Parish but also in Baton Rouge. He's known as the Baton Rouge killer--but is he really from Robicheaux' area?

And should Dave really get mixed up with the Catholic nun who is ministering to the black community around Jeanerette? Why does the rich guy on the block, Valentine Chalon seem to want to destroy Dave's life and prevent him from investigating the serial killings. How is the Chalon family involved or are they?

Not to worry, Dave, Helen his boss on the New Iberia Police Force and Clete, his best buddy and probably the one who gets him into the most trouble outside of Dave's own self-destructive personality, manage to pull it all together. As usual, things are not what they seem and the ending ties all kinds of unexpected strands together. And, on a personal level, Dave seems to yet again be headed for some domestic bliss.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Land of Enchantment is As Enchanting Today As Ever!

Land of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along the Santa Fe TrailLand of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along the Santa Fe Trail by Marian Russell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marian Russell, her mother and brother traveled the Santa Fe Trail many times during her youth. Her first trip on the trail was at the age of seven when her widowed mother decided to move with her children to the gold fields of California and reunite with her family who had gone before her to the Coast. Before she was able to get there she learned her family had died in illness and so she and the children stopped in Santa Fe. Through the years she took them back to Kansas for several years, but homesick for New Mexico and also loving the excitement of the trail she returned to the West. This pattern was to continue throughout her life but Marian married a young lieutenant stationed at Ft Union during one of the stays in the West and from then on she remained there.

In her memoirs, Marian tells of the Santa Fe Trail excursions and her fellow travelers. She speaks of her childhood in school in Santa Fe and in Kansas. She speaks of the " Mexicans" and the Indians, both friendly and savage. Then after marriage there is the time as the young wife of a Lieutenant protecting those who ventured into Indian territories, their leaving the military, starting a family, moving away from Forts into the small towns of New Mexico and finally the establishment of their final home near the Colorado town of Trinidad where the Trail turns southward through the Raton Pass.

Her memories are so vivid and well told that it is not hard to feel the same sensations, smell the same scents, see the same sunsets and sunrises and hear the same singing voices she experienced throughout her life in the unsettled West. She died in 1936 after being run over by an automobile in Trinidad. Though the world had changed very much by then--especially the Western US--her story comes to life through her words. Having been to the places she of which she speaks, it is easy to roll back through time and imagine the young Marian arriving at Ft Union at 7yrs old sitting on the springboard seat of a prairie schooner. Also it is not hard to imagine her love of the place, because it is truly still an enchanted and enchanting land.

And as an added bonus, her brief mention of the Maxfield Land Company and its interference in the Stonewall Valley of Colorado inspires further research into the history of the land.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

The Shadow LandThe Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fast-paced and interesting the book takes place in post-Communist Bulgaria. There are several interwoven plots here, some of which were overlong. Basically, we are introduced to a young American woman, who has arrived in Sophia, Bulgaria to take a teaching position for a year or so. Her childhood and loss of a brother in his early teens is revealed to us so that we may understand her desire to visit this country and spend time exploring it. Her name is Alexandra Boyd. Not speaking the language well, she finds herself erroneously deposited at the door of one of the hotels in the city, rather than the hostel in which she has reservations. In the confusion of people coming and going, she bumps into a group of Bulgarians hurriedly leaving the hotel and entering a taxi which she herself had planned on taking. As they, being older and she, being polite, get into the cab with their bags and drive away, she realizes that one of their bags has gotten mixed in with hers. And thus the scene is set for the ensuing tale, in which Alexandra becomes acquainted with a local taxi driver, she calls Bobby, and their endless travels throughout the mountains and villages of Bulgaria in an attempt to locate this family. It turns out that the misplaced bag contains the cremains of a talented but relatively unknown violinist. The people who were carrying the urn were his son, his widow and an aged, wheelchair bound friend of the deceased.

At the outset, the pursuit of the family and the ensuing pursuit of Bobby and Alexandra by unknown people who vandalize their taxi and who also seem to be searching for the family, is intriguing. Who would want the ashes of a relatively obscure Bulgarian musician and why? Soon, however, when the search ranges many miles in various directions from Sophia and involves far too many relatives and acquaintances of the family, the mystery starts to raise plot questions that become distracting. Why would Bobby spend all this time aiding Alexandra, whom he calls Bird, in what appears to be a fruitless and unnecessary search? He tells her pretty early on that he is gay, probably in an attempt to assure her that he is not a threat to her, so there isn't a romantic angle. Why does she become so attached to him--maybe she sees in him the companion she lost when her brother died--that is at least plausible. But why is she so obsessed with the thought of the musician's son, whom she saw very briefly and fleetingly at the foot of the hotel steps?

By the time, the story gets around to the life of the musician, Stoyan Lazarov, the constant dead end trails of the search just about ends the desire to finish the overlong book. But, here the story becomes truly interesting--Stoyan's time in a Communist labor camp --the suffering, the abysmal conditions and the amazing methods the man uses to maintain his sanity and dignity as his body becomes more and more wasted is described in such excruciating detail that the reader's mind is battered with the cruelty of men on others while at the same time, amazed at the resiliency and strength of the victim. One cannot help but wonder how well he or she would survive physically, emotionally, mentally under the same conditions. This section of the book is the very best part and if the reader can get through the almost 300 pages to get there it is so worth it!

The end of the book is sort of a letdown--so far as the family, Alexandra and Bobby are concerned. I would have loved to have read the poem her wrote for her rather than just having it mentioned. And, Stoycho would have had a different end, too.

I received an ARC from Random House Readers' Circle in exchange for a review.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Home At Last!

Howdy Trekkers! We have been home almost a week now but have been busy and not so busy most of the time. I'll start where we left off, which as you may recall was the lovely room at the Comfort Inn in Batavia, New York, where we waited out the anticipated snowfall in Eastern New York and New England. Jim Cantore, a former denizen of White River Junction, Vt and now one of the major reporters on the weather channel assured us that snow was falling and that Amsterdam, NY already had four inches on the evening of the 31st with more to come before fading away to the northeast mid day on the 1st. The first dawned gray and cloudy in Batavia with drizzle and no snow at all, so by 10 am we were making our way eastward on the NYS Thruway. Once more we followed the Mohawk River and Erie Canal past Rochester, Syracuse, Utica etc never encountering any snow falling --just rain--but noticing ever larger patches of snow and icy rock faces as we moved along. Having grown up in New York and travelled this road more times than I have fingers and toes, I didn't take very many pictures. I do enjoy the Federalist houses that are so typical of this and the Hudson River Valley--they show the historical age of this part of the country. They are unique though I've often wondered why those early settlers thought that flat roofs in this land of snowy winters were very practical. I would imagine leaky roofs were not uncommon in them. I noticed others, later??, had a small hump like a top-knot in the middle of the roof--an attempt to direct the water and melting snow to the level of least resistance--Downward to the ground--perhaps? My mind does wander when I'm looking out the window. As children, Barbara and I were encouraged to look out the window and observe the things we were passing. Both of us still do that and have been known to travel for hours without speaking--just observing--with an occasional outburst when something of particular interest has caught our eye--the funny part is that we often simultaneously notice and comment. This leads to laughter, sometimes off the path exploration and discussion. It is one of the things that makes our travels together so unique and fun. Bill is not as observant but he also is curious and we explore and discuss and have the same sort of fun. I'm really lucky I have the two of them to travel with. The rain, as you can see, ranged from drizzle to downpour with heavy ponderous clouds throughout. It amazes me to see the flocks of geese high in the sky on days like this--although I suppose the ground is pretty soggy so might as well fly as not--going to get wet in any case. They are pairing up, too and we saw pairs in sodden fields or right up on the edge of the road, where the land was somewhat drier--the water having once more sought its own level--downhill. Eventually, we arrived in Amsterdam, where there was fresh snow, though not as much as Mr Cantore had mentioned--perhaps it fell in another part of town or the rain had already melted much of it. By this time, I'd spoken to my sister several times on the phone--she was keeping us informed of the forecast for Killington. My friend, Joyce, had also been keeping us informed of Vt weather since she lives just over the ridge from us. And I'd asked my FB friends about travel on Killington---which marks me as a non-Vermonter--since old time Vermonters call it by its true name--Mendon Mtn for a town whose name is rarely mentioned anymore--having been overshadowed by the tourist skier who frequents Killington Ski Resort. LOL It is where I learned to downhill ski all those centuries ago and don't ever remember anyone mentioning Mendon, though you drive right through it--don't blink--to get to the slopes! At any rate, with all these people, who unlike Cantore, were right at the sight of the action, keeping us up to date, we decided not to stop at Barb's but to continue straight home. For the first time, in all our trips, I really was anxious to get to our house and see the boys. Usually, I like stopping at Barb's for a week to decompress before facing the lasting winter in Vermont, but this year I really wanted to get back. Maybe because we were gone a bit longer than usual? As we passed through Amsterdam I took some pictures of things other than the old mills that I usually photograph--there are some lovely old buildings in that industrial town. Between it and Ballston Spa there is lots of farmland and the fields were completely covered with snow--I could not fool myself any longer--Spring has not sprung here--no matter what the calendar says. We got onto the Northway and saw that winter has not been kind--the big Moreau exit sign was split right in half. It is in the town of Moreau that my parents had our house built and where I lived for the last two years of high school. This whole capital area was where I lived through college and grad school and first taught--all before I moved to Vermont in my late 20's. Really seems more like home than Vermont despite the years--funny, that. Again, having photographed the area so much through the years I didn't take any more pix til we were approaching Rutland on route 4. The clouds were so thick and the mountain fog rolling down the slopes so heavily that Killington was invisible until we found ourselves at the foot. As we passed Pico we saw that skiers were on one of the slopes, enjoying some sloppy spring sluicing. Then we were up over the peak and descending on the Eastern slope--obviously there was lots of snow on this side. The evergreens looked like Christmas trees so covered with blown snow that the rain had not yet been able to dislodge. I must admit they looked beautiful. Running along the Ompie it was neat to see the snow hanging on laden limbs waiting to fall on an unsuspecting driver headed toward the mountain. In the main stream bed the rocks had caps of snow that showed just how much had fallen overnight. The snowbanks of newly plowed roads and the driveways and walks newly shoveled by people who, I'm sure, were muttering curses on the joke Madam Nature decided to pull on this Fool's Day--all of these gave us clues to what we would find in Post Mills. On we drove through Bridgewater--yes, the cop was out, parked right up the road from Long Trail, which was packed. I'm not sure why being parked outside a bar isn't entrapment! Around the bends in the river and into Woodstock we came. How is it that I never noticed what appears to be a train depot in Woodstock?? Onto I 91 and the first pictures of the village of Post Mills--the flats, Sunshine Corner, The old mill site, Baker's with the Grange next door--the window from which the tenant asked our Missouri friends what they were doing there--gruffly, I might add--one of the differences of people here in comparison to people in the Midwest, west and southwest, Jane! The library, past 244, our house across the way, our road and Grumpy Attila and Jovial Shadow, after walking up the driveway--unplowed and unpassable! 388.8 miles--tired, cold and wearing sneakers in four inches of snow! But home at last. Called Betsy and Barb to let them know that we had landed safely 4:07 pm in 37 degree weather. I know that Bill had a hamburger for dinner but I have no recollection of what I ate. Mostly I just opened packages that had come while I was gone--a new book If We Were Villains, another paperback. put food away, played with the cats and watched TV, I guess. The house was in great shape which was nice. I went through what mail was here and threw a bunch of catalogues away. Other than that, just glad to be back! KandB

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wicked Women of New Mexico--More Than Just Soiled Doves!

Wicked Women of New MexicoWicked Women of New Mexico by Donna Blake Birchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of those books at the checkout counter at Lowe's Grocery in Alamogordo! Love to read about the earlier inhabitants of the places we visit and this was not a disappointment. Some of these women were absolutely amoral and fascinating. The West had its share of hard nosed men, but don't be fooled into thinking all the women were sweet church going schoolmarms just looking for a husband and a home. Some of them were as hard-drinking and hard living as any man who ever rode a horse and shot a six gun. Some were sweet to look at and sweet talking but all these ladies were tough and ready to get ahead. Just a fun book and interesting!

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Killer Crab Cakes--Something to Read When You Don't Want to Think Too Much

Killer Crab Cakes (A Fresh-Baked Mystery, #4)Killer Crab Cakes by Livia J. Washburn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The usual fun romp with the retired teachers. This time they are on the Texas Gulf coast taking care of a BandB for a cousin. Naturally, someone is murdered--this time poisoned crab cakes does the fellow in. He is not a pleasant man, this guest who stays by himself and is rather brusque to his fellow guests, but when Sam pats him on the back down on the dock as he sits fishing, he falls face first into the Gulf. The handsome police chief and his daughter, the assistant chief have their hands full trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. We have a cook, the mostly likely since the crabcakes were made by her, her two daughters who help clean the place and her husband, who years ago served time in jail. But then there are the three couples who are also guests there. No one seems to have known this guy other than staying in the same guesthouse. Two of the couples are regulars who are friends and have been coming to the shore for years together. The third couple are young newly weds who appear to spend most of their time " napping." A few other possibilities show up in the course of the investigation--the victim's three grown children and a business man and his lawyer. These all did know the victim quite well and had differing relationships with him. A truly confusing situation, especially when, near the end of the book, yet another victim meets his demise. BUT, there seems to be absolutely no connection between the victims or their deaths. Oh, my--and there is a baking contest to get ready for besides. It all gets resolved in a neat little way and for once the ladies are not competing with each other!

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A Tragedy in Five Acts--If We Were Villains

If We Were VillainsIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Could not put this book down, literally inhaled it in one and a half days! Only took time out when it was impossible to stay awake. The prologue takes place in the visitors' room of a jail in Illinois. A retired policeman has come to visit an inmate, soon to be paroled, as he has for ten years, every two weeks. The inmate, 31 years old, has served the ten years for having murdered a fellow classmate at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a small but prestigious school devoted to the training of thespians, dancers, artists and writers. The inmate had been one of seven fourth year actors--the only seven left after four years of culling lesser talented would be Shakespearean performers. The visitor is the policeman who investigated the death of one of the others. He is not satisfied that this particular player is the one responsible and he has come for the last visit, hoping to convince the inmate to tell him the whole truth of the tragedy that befell the seven in the last year of their studies.

And so begins the telling, by Oliver Marks, of the lives of seven young people finishing the training that would, hopefully, lead them into successful lives and careers as Shakespearean stars. There are the three girls: Wren, as small and delicate as her name implies: Meredith, the red - headed, sexy, but insecure temptress; Filippa, the level-headed, unflappable but detached somehow dependable friend to all. And there are the four boys: Richard, the robust, tall, deep -voiced who is always the lead male in any of the plays they perform; Alexander, the pot smoking lesser player; James, the delicate, almost pretty gentle soul; and Oliver, James' room-mate, best friend and usually the best friend of the play's hero, as well.

We follow them through the course of the year, right to the death of one and the imprisonment of another, as Oliver takes the policeman, Joe Colborne, and us back ten years in time and back to Dellecher to relive the year and its events. Told in scenes in each act, it is as though the curtain has lifted and all the players have returned. What happens in this play is funny, heart-breaking, warm, sad, youthful, wistful and tragic--it is Shakespearean, it is true to life and yet, it is somehow not exactly real--the players are isolated from the reality of the outside world--but then, aren't all kids in school, until they graduate to the true everyday reality of the rest of the world?

I received an ARC of this book from BookBrowse in exchange for review.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 31, 2017

Almost Home!!!

Hi Trekkies--thought we'd be home today but Mother Nature decided to play late winter, early spring games with us. So, since I've just finished the bills for April and have gotten all the pictures thus far uploaded and sent to you, figured I'd catch you up on our final days on the road. I left you all as we checked into our motel in Boonville, Mo after several downpours and views of the most incredible cloudscapes I've ever seen. Hard to believe that was six days ago. For the most part our time was spent crossing the country on back roads, using Interstates only when there was no other choice. We left Boonville on the morning of Mar 26 with a final look at the last of the daffodils in front of our motel. We headed south to pick up Mo Rte 50 which runs pretty much East - West toward St Louis. We had debated heading farther south and crossing the Mississippi at a less crowded location and then working our way back north in Illinois. Upon further discussion we decided that since it was Sunday that the traffic would most likely be light and we'd save time, Our original aim was to get home on April 1 but now that we were getting so close we decided we could make it by today. Usually, I'm depressed these last few days and trying to do anything to delay the inevitable return to the frozen, dead looking northland of Vermont, but for some reason, this year, I'm actually looking forward to getting home and seeing Betsy and the cats. Although the day was heavily overcast, it didn't rain, though it seemed as though it should. The weather was actually unseasonably warm--high 50's. low 60's. Initially, the terrain was as flat and the roads as long as it had been for days. Soon it became rolling hills and still lots of beautiful fields waiting cultivation. Some had been tilled and the rich soil looked almost black, in other places the undisturbed fields sported the beautiful purple mats of henbit--a weed with very shallow root systems that love the richness of the unplanted fields. Although we could not see it we were travelling parallel to the Missouri River and soon reached the capital city, Jefferson City which sits majestically on its bluffs. Once through town we started to swing southeast away from the river and toward St Louis and the mighty big muddy. Once we'd passed through Linn and away from the river we entered a more forested, less farmed area of the State. Still we were in the land of alphabet soup, as I call it, with all the side roads either single or double letter designations. I've not noticed such road labels in any other State. Why there were even two that formed my monogram--KP! On we went through such nice little residential towns as Rosebud and Gerald. In time 50 ended by a " T " to I 44 which led us directly to St Louis. AND semis with some interesting loads. LOL Bill started to get a bit nervous with all the coming and going of vehicles going to Memphis or Chicago or St Louis. I urged him to imagine he was driving our Interstate near Manchester, NH and that I'd make believe the bridge, which makes me nervous, is the one in St Francisville. La. It also crosses the Mississippi but is much lower and shorter. Well, traffic turned out lighter than he expected and the bridge was much easier to cross than I'd anticipated. We were a bit south of the city center and so it isn't the major St Louis bridge. Phew--in minutes it was all behind us. And then we were in Illinois. Right on the other side of the bridge I took us on a narrow two lane--county road " J " --to connect to Illinois 64, which parallels Interstate 64. Paul and Jean had taken the interstate to get home after leaving the northeast last summer and Jean said it was a pretty ride from Louisville, Ky to St Louis. We try to avoid interstates but the State road covered the same area and though out of sight was close enough to access if we got tired of the back roads or felt we wanted to make up time. " J " ended at a t-intersection with 64 in Freeburg. Bill said which way and I said left--within seconds I saw we were headed West back toward St Louis--I'd forgotten we were headed North, not South on "J" so we had to turn right to head East. Oh, well, even the best navigators make mistakes sometimes--at least we got to see the whole of Freeburg! A few more Illinois towns, some small, others smaller, and we arrived at Mt Vernon for the night. Ate at Applebee's. Watched NCIS LA--nothing else particularly appealing. The next morning dawned overcast and threatening rain once more. Drove through Mt Vernon which has all this colorful squiggly stuff on the welcome sign and water tower and a strange sculpture at the railroad crossing but, though I google searched like crazy, could not find anything that would explain the apparently import of the logo. Once more we followed 64 eastward through more farmland,and small towns. Today's journey took us into Little Egypt and Wayne City, whose water tower declared it to be the Bean Capital of Little Egypt. It is much easier for me to give you a link for those who'd like to know the history of this geographical designation of this part of Illinois. Interesting, but easily skipped if you don't care--lol http://www.illinoishistory.com/egypt.htm Then we drove across the Wabash and into Indiana. Though we usually only eat breakfast and then supper when we stop for the evening, the breakfast at the Mt Vernon motel was inedible and the coffee was brown colored water. Worried that we were moving out of Sonic country I asked to stop at Sonic for my one Sonic fix of the trip. My eyes, as Mom used to say, were bigger than my belly!!! A SuperSonic double bacon cheeseburger, a small order of tater tots and a Sonic Blast--small thank goodness--Butterfinger, of course! Stuffed--but so good! I guess I should tell you about my gourmet requirements on our trip: One Johnny Carina's meal ( Alamogordo, this year ), one Buffalo Wild Wings ( actually twice this year--don't remember where), one Pizza Hut delivery ( went to the restaurant in Las Vegas, NM) and one Sonic Blast ( this was it ).. Other than those, I don't care where we eat. Don't want more than one of each --not a glutton--but they don't exist at home and they are yummy. Some more midAmerica towns with elegant Courthouses and pretty homes before entering a truly rural area. We descended off a plateau and the town of Bird's Eye into a narrow valley and rode along a railroad. We came to a sign that said welcome to St Anthony and St Marks but there were actually two little villages running right into each other. I thought there had to be some history to the combo welcome sign but the distinct individuality of the hamlets. Again, only St Anthony is listed on Google and no mention of St Marks. I'd love to know the story. Then we came to bluff area and noticed caves in the walls as we drove. There is a National Site Cave in Marengo, Indiana https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marengo_Cave These, however, were not anything I'd want to explore. We pulled over in what looked like a quarry and the whole wall was pocked with caves. Drove back along the road to look at the ones there--dark and hard to tell how far back they go, but this is obviously pretty sinkhole country. The road is probably on a system of caves. Eerie. I could not resist the turquoise and white chevy for Glen. I think that it is rigged with electric light along its sides which must illuminate it at night. That made me sad--but love the car. Once more we came to the Interstate and took it. We decided we'd stay in Jeffersonville on the outskirts of Louisville, Ky. Used navigation system to find the motel--thank goodness I didn't call to make a reservation. Madam Sultry Voice took us across the Ohio--God, another bridge!!--into Ky. We wondered about that since Jeffersonville is in Indiana. But, in short order, Madame Sulty was directing us across the Ohio once more---no,no,no--On to Lexington. Unfortunately, she is very persistent and every chance she got, she was having us make a legal U-turn. Bill, of course, is trying to drive in Louisville traffic and I'm desperately trying to figure out how to shut her up. I suspended navigation--that stopped her--but still needed to get rid of the destination. Eventually, don't ask me how, I found a delete destination and so I did. This added another hour or so to our day and by the time we arrived at the Clarion we were pretty pooped. Thank goodness I had eaten my Sonic because I was stuffed. Bill went to the bar and had a salad. Watched Criminal Minds and Designated Survivor--I think. We decided to stay another night in Lexington and so the next day we headed over to Frankfurt and Buffalo Trace Distillery. Bill had gotten a nice fleece vest there several years ago and wanted to get a new one. Unfortunately, they didn't have them anymore. I got my Freddie hug. Freddy is a gentleman who has been at the distillery for years. We've taken tours with him several times. He is just a delight and, as you can imagine, meets thousands of people each year. I KNOW there is no way he can possibly remember me but every year that I visit I make sure to say hello to him and he always greets me like I'm a long lost friend. Hugs me tightly and asks how are you baby--it is so good to see you. I told the tour group that I didn't know how they'd feel about the bourbon or the tour but that they would love this man. I truly do--he is just a wonderful person and it makes me happy to see him. Drove over through Versailles and back to the Clarion. Went to the pub for sirloin steak dinners and laughter and talk with the guys at the bar. A travelling loading dock door installer and repairman and his crew. A young local, married for ten days--we gave him a hard time--wife was home making tacos for dinner. He kept in touch with her and she seemed okay that he was staying out. I tried the new Trace Bourbon--Eagle Rare. Excellent. Watched NCIS, Bones finale :( and The Americans. Slept like a log! The next day--It was off toward Cincinnati. We've been along this route so often--I got bored and fell asleep after we entered Ohio and fell asleep until we reached Columbus. Around Dry Ridge Ky we were rolling along at 75, went around a curve and the traffic was stopped dead in its tracks. Three lanes of cars and semis--a wonder no one came around the bend and rear ended anyone. We crept along for six to seven miles and at one point we could see the empty road before us--and then two pace cars. The traffic headed south was moving just fine but we were being held back. After about six or seven miles Bill saw the lights on the pace cars go out and the traffic was released. No evidence of any accident or of the pace cars--so a mystery as to what was going on. From then on traffic moved fine until we came to the OHIO --again and crossed into Ohio State at Covington, Ky to Cincinnati, Ohio. No welcome to Ohio though! In the middle of the bridge the Interstates divide--as you go onto the bridge you have to make sure you've picked the right lane for your destination--for us it is the two right lanes for Columbus. I navigate Bill through the mess and relax once we are out of the yellow blob on the map. I dozed off as I said and woke up in time to navigate him through Columbus toward Cleveland. Though Mansfield would be a nice distance to call it a day, we have stayed there and eaten in the Dutchman Restaurant--several times, because we forgot how awful it was. The last couple of times we've remembered and push on to Medina--pronounced Medinah--like Dinah Shore. A wonderful deli right next door so we each had a pastami on rye with mustard. Yum, yum. Unfortunately, he doesn't open until 1030 am so no getting coldcuts to bring home. Another time. Yesterday morning out we headed hoping to make Syracuse and home today. Horribly dark in the morning--felt like evening instead of 10am. Along Lake Erie in fog and rain--heavy most of the time. Couldn't see the lake at all. Into Pa for a few miles and then into New York at Ripley and around Buffalo. Kind of bored so used my camera to make Impressionistic paintings of the passing scenes. Loved the rest area where they left the weigh station sign that said " OPeN" there. So in came the trucks in single file, went around the building in a circle and then make a 180 at the end of the circle right back onto the Thruway. All nice and slow like a procession of silvery trucks with colorful cabs. Inefficiency, but guess it slowed them down and released them en masse back into traffic. Arrived at Batavia around 230 and decided to stop. Applebees had piles of snow in the parking lot--temp in low 40's--it had been 34 near Erie, Pa. Lovely!! Watched the weather report last night and this morning and decided the motel here is cheaper than around Rutland, if we made it. Or Syracuse if we had to stop. Decided to stay. Rained all day here. I paid the bills. Looks like Killington may be a problem. But,if all goes well, we will head out tomorrow and be home in late afternoon. So, there it is---back in the deep freeze and gray days and snow and wintery mix and mud. But Spring will catch up within the month, I hope and another year in Vermont begins. Will do the summary from home and will answer your questions, Jane--haven't forgotten. Also, Amy. I know I haven't talked about Miami but I will. Wish us luck on the last leg, Trekkies and good night. KandB

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Traversin Missouri to See Friends

Ah, Two nights in Joplin and we feel quiet rested. Yesterday was a total rest day. I never got into street clothes--just reveled in the relaxation of sleeping in, taking a LONG shower, setting my hair, doing my nails and lazing around all day. Bill brought in Chili's chicken wings for dinner and I read almost a whole book. We had planned on going up to Carthage to roam the shops around the square and up to Lamar, the birthplace of Harry Truman but it rained all day--so it was perfect to stay in. This morning it was still raining but we went 200 miles north to Corder, Mo to visit with our friends, Paul and Jean. Paul and Bill were in Peace Corps together and their lives have many similarities--both married around the same time and had one daughter. Paul has been hands on in agriculture--growing thousands of acres of corn and soybeans and raising pigs. Their home is a lovely house in which Paul was raised set into the hills surrounded by their planted fields. No matter in which direction you look, the scene is just beautiful. As a matter of fact today's pictures focus primarily on the rolling hills, small towns, expansive cultivated fields and incredible storm clouds of Missouri. Our visit was so much fun--lots of laughter and catching up with fun ribbing about our political views and political situation we find ourselves in after an unreal election year. Travel and work and kids and a delicious lunch of a plethora of cold cuts and wonderful rolls from a deli near to us in Boonville but I bet they are closed tomorrow ( Sunday!). When we left Pioneer Road, we were almost immediately in the midst of a deluge preventing all visibility. After several miles of white knuckled driving the skies cleared and the roads were dry--but soon we found that we were to spend the next 50 miles going in and out of heavy down pours followed by almost no rain. I've never seen such banks of clouds or blackness of sky. Everywhere I looked was an even more jaw-dropping scenes. Got into Boonville and right next to our motel is a Russell Stover store. More jaw-dropping scenes of aisle upon aisle of candy. I hesitate to admit how much we spent on chocolate. Actually, I'm not telling. But, I really must close since an Easter egg is calling my name. Also we have to figure which way we are headed tomorrow. Sort of want to avoid St Louis but just don't know. All in all, a good day and now time to call it a day. So, to all a goodnight, until ...... KandB

Friday, March 24, 2017

Catching Up--NM to Ok to Tx to OK to Mo--in One Week!!

OMG, Trekkies! What a week this has been! Last I spoke to you, we were still in New Mexico on our way to Las Vegas, NM, I believe. As you can see we've covered a bit of ground since--mostly on the road but with a few interesting stops along the way. We did indeed head out on St Patrick's Day--in full green regalia--well, I was wearing my shamrock scarf, green fingernails ( which badly need redoing tonight ) and new shamrock earrings bought by my darling non-Irishman back in Louisiana at the Dirt Cheap store ( really its name!) I also wore my jade ring that I bought at Perry's last year. We headed East to Bloomfield for the umpteenth time and I took my final pix of the oddities along the road--pick-up trucks way up high, toting and electrified cross etc--as well as the beauties of fruit trees in bloom and the lovely San Juan River. We turned southward and drove down Cuba way past the entrance to Chaco and onward toward Albuquerque. As we headed out of Bloomfield we passed a pick-up filled with bales of hay, towing a trailer, also jammed with hay. There is a drought south of here and, as we found out many miles later, these guys travel a very long way to obtain hay. Is it only my family who makes a wish when passing a vehicle loaded with hay? I told Bill to make a wish and he said "why?" . Told him we were passing a truck of hay and he said he had only two wishes--one, that he did not have to unload the rig and two, that he didn't have to throw the bales into the loft! Oh, well, I made a wish ( and it pretty much came true.) Once more, I found the geological formations and the colors just so wonderful. I've decided, other than Louisiana, New Mexico and Arizona are my favorite places. They were my Mother's, too! As we moved southward we began,once more to enter and leave reservations of various Indian tribes. I must say, we certainly left them the worst of the land--thank goodness for casinos. I still don't know how any of them make a living--they must, like the residents of Canyon de Chelly only live here on week-ends and work somewhere else. There isn't enough food for any large ranching operation and the soil sure doesn't work for planting. It is beautiful but beauty doesn't fill stomachs. Still little towns cling to the foot of the mountains, protected from wind and weather and as close to the snow melt as can be. Water is the whole deal--if there is water, there is greenery and variety in the plants. No water, the landscape is dull and stunted. You can always tell, in many places, where the water flows--there will be a double line of trees or shrubs--one on either side of the stream or creek, which is sometimes only flowing underground there is so little water. While in Cuba buying gas, I got myself a small McDonald's Shamrock Shake--tasted like mint chocolate chip ice cream--yummy and GREEN! Lo and Behold, who should we come upon once we went back on the road? Hay, Man!! Left him in our dust so don't know how far south he carried his load. Soon, in the distance we could see the Sandia Mountains at the foot of which is found Albuquerque. Sandia in Spanish means watermelon and it is posited that the early Spanish named the mountains at sunset when they take on the hue of ripe watermelon. Works for me. As is the case of all major cities there are the 'burbs and here they consist of house upon house in gated communities--little enclaves separate from the native denizens. Without having to go into the city itself and entering at the northern edge we merged into the northbound I 25 and headed toward Santa Fe and Las Vegas. We could have cut straight across to Santa Fe from Cuba but it would have meant crossing those snow-clad mountains. We opted to take the long way round. I love that little church --it is a big fast surprise when going south since it is tucked against the hill just around a curve--you get a fleeting glance before you've gone down the road. Going north it peeks over the interlane barrier. In time, we arrived in Las Vegas ( fertile grassy plains or valleys ) and drove the lovely residential neighborhood off the main highway. The Spanish influence on the architecture is very strong as it is on the restaurants in town. Not wanting Mexican and there being little else we decided to have our one time Pizza Hut of the trip. After a very long day we retired to our room and enjoyed a beautiful sunset before watching TV and bed. The next day we took I 25 once more, going past Wagon Mound, which is one of the landmarks used by travelers along the Santa Fe Trail. There are two hill, opposite each other and for years I could not decide which was Wagon Mound but decided after looking at them from distance and all angles that the one on the East is it. It looks like a long covered wagon, even dipping a bit in the middle. But before reaching them this time, we got off at Waltrous and headed to Fort Union. Bill insisted we'd been there before but we had not. It was a supply fort for many of the forts of New Mexico and Arizona. Being on the Santa Fe Trail, it also served as a stop along the way. There isn't much left, since after it was abandoned they began to raze the buildings. Locals and former residents were able to stop the destruction, but since most of the buildings were adobe it became necessary to coat them with a brown material that resists the erosion of weathering. As a result there are scattered partial structures coated with brown goo. If nothing else the size of the installation has been preserved and some things, such as the stone walkway, are still intact as is the cell block from the otherwise missing jailhouse. The narrative here speaks of a vibrant, bustling community of many men and few women--wives of officers and an occasional wife of an enlisted man who worked for the fort as a laundress or cook. It so happens that for the past month or so I've been reading a book called Wicked Women of New Mexico. Imagine my surprise to find last night as I read the last chapter that Fort Union had a number of " launderesses" who actually were soiled doves who plied their more lucrative trade in the caves of the bluffs surrounding the Fort. Also that it was quite fortuitous that the hospital here was the best for miles around since there were so many cases of venereal disease--60 cases in 6 months. Also the soldiers were constantly AWOL and stealing food from the warehouses to trade for sex. None of this aspect of the installation was shared in the family friendly National Park story. I purchased the book by the Russell lady--she grew up in NM and married a soldier stationed at Fort Union. She returned in 1934 when she was 92--so saddened by the desolate ruin it had become. She died two months later. I've only scanned the book so far but it looks like an enjoyable well written memoir. While leaving we met a woman from Virginia who was stamping her large National Parks Passport book. I never got the big one and have pretty well finished my second small book. She said that she belongs to a stamp club and gave me the website link, which I've filed someplace. She travels all over the country with her two cats and her parrot. The big white rig next to our car is rigged like a living/bedroom with a small kitchen. The cats run loose in there and the parrot is in a huge cage. She sleeps and eats in it. Must have cost a pretty penny--she showed us pix--pretty impressive. Leaving the fort we saw ruts that remain from the wagons that passed over the SFTrail--though the Oregon Trail ruts in Nebraska are more impressive. We also came upon a herd of antelope leisurely grazing alongside the road. As content as the Angus steer across the road. Back to I 25 and up to Springer where we turned Eastward through Clayton and on into Oklahoma. Sadly, we bid good bye to New Mexico for another year. But, the Kiowa grasslands are beautiful and usually we see antelope here, too, but other than one in the middle of the road, there were no more for this year. Now we are in that part of Oklahoma known as NO Man's Land. For some reason when the borders of Ok, Ka, Tx and NM were laid out this strip of land did not fall within any of them. It is now made up of three counties of Ok and Beaver is the one that has been in the news this winter since there were and still are incredibly strong grass fires that have gobbled up much of the land and many of the homes of people there. Our two day trip over No Man's Land was quite odiferous. Our first stop was in Boise City at No Man's Land Jerky Co. Being a Saturday afternoon it was closed but we know Moore's grocery carries the stuff so we backtracked down the street after first greeting the local kitty who hangs out on the bench. Leaving Boise we continued East to Guymon. Now, those who have traveled with us before know about Eddie's Steakhouse. Eddie was a widower who ran the best steakhouse we've ever patronized and we have often planned on hitting Guymon on the way home for one of his prime ribs. Unforunately, two years ago Eddie became very ill and last year when we came to town the restaurant was closed and Eddie had died. He has two children--one of whom is a dentist around Dallas and the other equally well employed someplace else--California, maybe. At any rate, neither had an interest in returning to Guymon or running a restaurant so things were in limbo. We decided to check it out again and lo and behold, the kids decided to lease it to another restaurant owner in town. It has opened once more and the same chef and wait staff are there. We were delighted to renew our friendship with the two teachers who also work there. The salary situation is so sad--no raise in base pay for 8 years and one of the ladies has twenty years plus and has topped out at 43K! I retired almost 20 years ago at 46K. So sad. We visited for over an hour as well as eating dinner so by the time we returned to the room it was an hour of TV and sleep! After another stellar sunset that one only gets over the ocean or in the last of big skies. On Sunday we laid out a day of travel---heading to the end of No Man's Land and then crossing Oklahoma in a southeasterly direction. As we left Guymon we noticed the ranks of low metal buildings in a distance that we'd been told of the night before. Apparently, pigs are the big product here and they are raised indoors in these series of sextets or quintets of the metal buildings with grain feeders at both ends. When the wind is just right, there is no problem in identifying the use of these very uniformly situated groups. Worse than any cow manure ever. Right up there with chicken poop--gagging and throat burning, eye watering stench. Yet, along with them there are large fields of beautiful patterns of soil being prepared for sowing and cattle grazing. Not long after leaving the Strip, we were in the scorched earth area and a new odor assailed us--the smell of burnt grass. We were not even in the area of the worst fires and yet the damage was extensive. Here hay is being brought in because what animals have survived have nothing to eat. A whole new problem, inspecting for the introduction of invasive insects in the hay. So many ramifications to something reported simply as huge grass fires. Once out of the grasslands we entered the oil fields and wind farms and larger towns. The area was now water rich. Having just left two areas that were so arid, the profusion of plants and the number of ponds and rivers was incredibly noticeable. How difficult it must have been for the westward moving pioneers to leave this lushness behind for the dryness of the west and southwest. The number and size of herds of cattle also increased. When we came to Thomas--the home of the First Gentleman, Wade Christensen, I asked Bill who he was. Well, the other day, I picked up a new Oklahoma map and lo and behold he is the husband of the governor--who, as a true modern woman, does not use his name. Remember when Hilary demanded to be called Hilary RODHAM Clinton??? LOL On we continued, through one reservation after another of the many tribes found in Oklahoma. Finally we reached Chickasha and a small diner with a filthy bar but nice people. The barman was a young former marine, Mark, who asked where we were from. When we said Vermont--he said "where's that?"!!!!!!!!! I said Vermont, USA. He had not a clue and even after we told him, I know he really didn't get it. He said when he was a kid he used to think Washington DC and Washington State were the same place. OMG--no wonder there is no unity in this country--kids don't even know what makes up this country. Anyway, he was stationed in Korea and traveled to Hawaii. Says he isn't a native American but rather a Pacific Islander,yet later he claimed to be an Arbuckle/Turner of the Arbuckle Mountains/Turner Falls area of Oklahoma, which he assured us was a beautiful part of the State. As did the two women down the bar from us. We added it to our inventory of possible explorations. Having driven 300 miles I uploaded the pictures and decided I was too tired to do any blogging. Basically, the goal was to get closer to Texas and our visit to Bill's frat brother, Jimmy, who kept calling us to find out when we were going to be there. Ugh! Determined to slow down a bit and take in some of the sites of this area, where we had not traveled before, I said that I wanted to go to the Chisholm Trail Museum in Duncan. With an almost cloudless, clear blue sky for about the fourth day in a row we headed out south once more. The jets stand out for miles in these wide skies and where there are no clouds there are often contrails criss-crossing the sky as their planes criss-cross the country. We entered Outlaw Country which is also watermelon country though we are much too early. In one of the towns, all the trees along the residential section are painted with some sort of white substance--makes them look like they are wearing knee socks. Bill figures it is some kind of insect repellant. Arriving in Duncan we found all types of reminders, including a large mural, that informs the traveler that he has arrived in the Crape myrtle capital of Oklahoma! Even the street signs have a blossom on them. Apparently, this is also the home of Haliburton and there is a statue of the man himself sitting in an easy chair on the plaza of a riverside park. We made our way to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center. One starts the visit with a 25 minute film which is a reenactment of a drive to Abilene, Ks complete with a crossing of a swollen river. Those of us sitting in the front were treated to the splash of water created by the maddened steer coming onto the bank on which we sat. That was a little surprising, though I didn't jump at all. But the best part was the wind and rain and lightening and thunder of a nighttime storm--we were blown and rained upon along with the characters in the film. A really neat approach. I even closed my eyes after awhile because the lightning and thunder seemed so real. Next there was a campfire chat with Chisholm and a first time wrangler on the drive. Animatronic characters-and Cookie behind the chuckwagon, out of sight but not sound, as he pulled the tooth of an ailing cowboy and added to the conversation. After that there were all kinds of hands on exhibits--Bill drove his herd so successfully through Indian encounters and weather events and swollen rivers that he sold them in Abilene for enough money that he would not have to work again and could buy a house in New Orleans. He lost few steer and no men. I lost a man in a river and several head though I bartered better with the Kiowa than he did. Nevertheless, my men and herd were tired enough that I went to a different railhead than Abilene. I managed okay and became a veteran trail boss but looks like I'm going to have to make a few more runs and make better choices if I ever expect to retire. There was a nice exhibit of the four groups of men involved in the workings of the Trail--the mayor of Abilene who has the quandary of trying to attract a high class of people to the town while managing to rein in the wild trail cowboys who have lots of money to spend, which the town really wants, but who have a tendency to go wild in their pursuit of booze and women. Then there is the cowboy who wants to strike it rich and stop having to spend so much of his year driving a bunch of nasty, unpredictable creatures over long miles of Indian infested, open country with wild weather patterns and rivers to cross. The Kiowa has had to learn that the land that was once his is now being trampled by more and more cattle drives. He either can raid them and then have to reassemble and corral these mad steer or he can charge a fee for the passage over the land. Better to get along and make some food out of it--barter for the best deal. And then there is the Buffalo soldier, trying to defend the settlers against the Indians and protect outliers etc. The second half of the building is a gallery that houses the collection of a prominent family in town. The collection is huge and it is beautiful. Of particular interest to me was the first painting--Maria Tallchief--a prima ballerina in the NYC ballet. I saw her dance on Ed Sullivan when I was a little girl and thought she was so elegant and regal. Her sister also danced in the corps. I laugh when I see the big fuss made over the black girl who is now a prima with them and is praised as the first minority star--guess Indians don't count as a minority at times. After getting our cultural fix we continued on down the road toward the Arbuckle Hills and Turner Falls. We now had truly entered catfish country--people down here love it--not me. The Arbuckle Hills are one of several clusters of pimples that erupt on the flat surface of Oklahoma. After 8000+ feet it felt like a kiddie roller coaster to go over them--but they are quite pretty. However, the Baptist Church has much of the area fenced off and the Creek that feeds Turner Falls is dry as a bone. Only the " blue hole" has water. Don't know why. Continued into Ardmore where Bill did the laundry--his turn--and I read. Too tired to blog on internet that really didn't work very well,. He went out to Applebees and brought me back a chicken oriental salad. The next day I had plotted out to get to see his Frat brother in Lavon, Texas without getting snarled up in Dallas traffic. On Tuesday we tooled through Ardmore and on into the cute town of Madill with a lovely fountain of little kids playing in a creek. The road markings were pretty poor here and we had a bit of a time finding our way out of Madill on the right route. Nice tour of the square all the way around to the sign that finally gave us the right direction. Soon we came to old Wallis Bridge across the Red River and into Texas. I always love the exhortation on their welcome signs " Drive Friendly-The Texas Way." They are the worst drivers--they tail gate, pass, sometimes three vehicles certainly two, over double solid lines with no oncoming vehicle visibility. What they don't do is honk horns at you. The speed limit in most places is 75, Bill is doing it, and they leave us in their dust. They are maniacs and the only drivers worse are the Massholes back home. They are all over NM, Co and Ok and as soon as we see a guy passing we KNOW it is a Texan and might even be a little old lady driving! Arrived in Lavon about 12:30 and sat around talking with Jimmy. The conversation ran the gamut of politics, religion, politics, Texas history and college exploits of the Brothers. Then there was the rehash of what everyone has done since college--LOTS of talk about guys I've never met and never will. Unfortunately, there wasn't a place I could excuse myself to go to read. Periodically, they'd go outside for a cigarette and I'd sit staring at the walls til they came back in. Boring. But since Jimmy doesn't cook and didn't want Bill to cook we went out to Chili's for dinner which broke the monotony. Jimmy said to be careful, it would be a redneck crowd--?? Well, they seemed totally normal to us. When Bill mentioned on the way home that the crowd seemed fine, Jimmy said it was a different crowd than usual. He also wanted to take us down to Fort Worth to go to a real honky-tonk. We demurred--60 miles of traffic one way--not fun for us. Got back to the house and Bill went to bed at 8:30. Much too early for me and no lamp other than the ceiling light in the room so I couldn't read. The best night of the week for TV and Jimmy didn't have one. I sat up and did the puzzle, while Jimmy went to his office and the computer surfing he does most of the time. He also stays in touch with Frat guys past and present--hence knows where everyone is and what they are up to. I retired at 930--still too early--and tossed and turned until 11 or so when I finally fell asleep. Bill was up at 6 the next morning, I got up at 9--Jimmy had been up but gone back to bed with a panic attack. He joined us around 10 and Bill made breakfast --he was the only one who ate. Jimmy and I had coffee. At 11:30 we were finally on our way back to Oklahoma. It is nice to see him, though stressful. Bill promised we'd stay only one night, thank goodness. He finds Jimmy stressful, too. Passed through the cute town of Bonham, Texas which is the home of Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House for as long as I can remember in my youth. We've passed his house going east -west through town on a past trip. Would have liked to have visited the site but it doesn't open until Memorial Day. Took a different route back to Oklahoma, passing over an even older bridge across the Red. This one had far more character. Interestingly, though there was a nice old cement welcome sign in the shape of Texas on the Texas side, there was absolutely no welcome sign in Oklahoma. The fields on the Oklahoma side have been planted and the young corn plants have started to sprout making nice young green stripes to alternate with the rich brown stripes of the soil. Spring is all around down here. The temperature had reached 92 a couple of days earlier--20 degrees warmer than usual--but in subsequent days the it has dropped to a more normal 70's. Came into Durant, the City of Magnolias and checked into the motel. Bill went out to Main Street Barbeque to eat and pick something up for me. I remained behind planning on catching up with pictures and the blog. He wasn't gone five minutes when I found that the TV didn't work and after a half hour of trying I gave up on the Internet. Called the main desk and Lisa came down to check things out. Someone had stolen the cable to the TV!!!! She had to call maintenance man to come back into work and replace it. While he was there he told me that they had reset the Internet--now it showed no available networks. He said that an Ethernet cable would probably work though the hotel didn't have any ( their little info book said they did! ) I carry an Ethernet cable with me but was too tired to try it. Bill came back with ribs, cole slaw and potato salad for me. I was sad I hadn't gone with him, since I wasn't going to get the blog done. The final aggravation came when the toilet stopped flushing!!! Also, tried the Ethernet connection the next morning and that didn't work either. Up at 730--dressed in the same clothes--packed everything up and went down to breakfast. Poor Lisa asked how everything was. I assured her that she and the maintenance man were in no way at fault for the situation and that when I wrote my review of the place they would both be praised for their attempts to help us--including Lisa offering to find us another room. If I'd known the plumbing was going to go, I'd have moved. Anyway, we were on the road by 830 and I set a course directly northeast to Joplin. The ONLY zig we took in the path was into Caddo, Ok which the manager at the Trail Center had said was an adorable town with an old Victorian Main St. The only unique aspect to the town was the arched welcome sign over the road in and the buffalo on the tops of the signs marking Buffalo Ave. LOL But, it was a fun little diversion from the night before. I took few pictures since we were on a four lane that passed lots of truck stops, gas stations and shopping malls. I even slept for about an hour. My only goal was to get the hell out of Oklahoma!! At the intersection with I 45 there is a huge Indian to greet those entering Oklahoma from Missouri. There are many tribes in Oklahoma, mostly in the Eastern side. They have their own nations and license plates. We spent a great deal of time several years ago exploring Choctaw and Cherokee sites. We had planned on going to another after visiting Jimmy but decided to save it for a future trip. Once in Joplin, I again attempted to get caught up on my blog. Bill went to Longhorn and brought me back some French onion soup and a half steak sandwich. Very good. I blogged for several hours and when I was ready to send the email, discovered that I'd been dumped off the Internet an hour earlier so no draft was kept. Although I highlighted and copied the blog, when I went to paste it, I found that it had not copied. I lost over an hours worth of typing that I've now recomposed at 830 am on Friday the 24th. It appears to have been saved as a draft so I will be able to send it on this morning. We had planned on going up to Lavar, the birthplace of Harry S Truman and on to Carthage to visit the square and have lunch at the café. Last night's weather report said high winds, and heavy rain today. It is already windy and the day is heavily overcast. There may be tornados. So, I think I'll go out to the bank with Bill, since he doesn't know how to us and ATM--really!--can't use a credit card at the gas station either. Amazing. Other than that I think I'll stay in and read my new book and otherwise just veg. Tomorrow we will go to Corder to visit with Paul and Jean Gross. Paul and Bill were in Peace Corps in Nepal together. We've visited them before and they came to see us over the summer. Looking forward to seeing them and maybe the pigs. After that, it is headed home for sure. We have to be there by April 1--so not too much time to linger. Always makes me sad but it ain't over yet!! LOL Amy, I know I have your emails--will reply later today. Gloria, glad Bud is feeling better. Sorry you had to delay Branson-had hoped maybe we would link up for lunch or something, but we will be close to home by the time you get here. Have fun. So, until I find a good Internet connection once more--we are here hoping not to come face to face with any tornadoes and looking forward to visiting with old friends. Take care, all KandB

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Very Busy Few Days--Mesa Verde,Chaco , etc

Good Morning, Trekkies! Here we are back in Farmington--returned two nights ago from Durango, Co and staying until tomorrow morning-St Patrick's Day! Once more I'll try to make my narrative follow the pictures as closely as possible so you can " see " as you read. The pictures start with the magnificent sunset seen from our room in Farmington on Sunday the 12th. Then as we headed toward Shiprock on 64 West I took a couple of pictures of downtown Farmington--they are big on colorful fiberglass animals around here. They probably handle the weather better than most materials--kind of fun to look at. As we progressed westward what I think is Shiprock rose on the plains before us. This is a volcanic core that rises between 1400 and1800 feet from the plain bed. Here is an interesting Wikipedia page about its religious significance to the Navajo, upon whose reservation it sits. It is very difficult to get a good picture of it, since it is off limits to anyone who is not Native. The legends and myths surrounding it are very interesting, particularly the one about women and children stranded atop it. There is a very similar legend about the Devil's Tower in Wyoming--another volcanic core--a bit less eroded. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiprock As we got closer to Shiprock we saw before us a formation --a line of hills that appeared to be made of waves of alternating yellow and blackish brown sand--the waves moving from left to right in a vertical as well as horizontal plane. Fascinating optical effect. As we moved behind the hills the land was made up of scattered uplifted earth forming " fins ", the result of groundwater dissolving salts and the overlying ground tilting rather than uplifting actually. The landforms here just continue to fascinate me. At the town of Shiprock we turned north toward Colorado on 491 and soon saw a Navajo dog--like all dogs--lol--scrounging on the roadside. Here, once more, is the land of buttes and pinnacles --dry and bland in color. Before us loomed the mountains of Colorado and soon we crossed into that State. The land is desolate yet there is fencing so somewhere are animals grazing--cattle or horses or both. When we came to Towaoc, we found the town tucked tightly against the mountains. This is Ute land--another of the many tribes out here. This little community has a very large Casino. Unfortunately, I did not see a sign for a Ute museum that is apparently here. There is an exhibit about mountain lions going until Sept and another dedicated to Ute veterans. It would have been interesting since this is one of the tribes of which I know very little, other than they, like the Zuni are Pueblo Indians, which the Navajo are not. Eventually we descended into the town of Cortez, which still isn't exactly at sea level! We stayed here three years ago on our first foray to Mesa Verde. The motel was not particularly appealing so we decided to stay in Durango this time. On our way out of town we stopped at the bank which had given Bill nickels on that trip--not all banks will let you buy nickels, many require that you have an account with them. The Bank of Dolores ( a town in Co ) was, at the time, the Bank of Mancos ( another town) but as happens so frequently these days there was some kind of consolidation or other. Still, the teller asked Bill if he was looking for a particular year--one of very few tellers who know why he buys nickels--even after he explains to those who ask, most don't get it. He liked the fact that she was knowledgeable--also that they still give out neat calendars--although we were amused to have it be a Rockwell instead of local sites and wildlife, as it was in the past. We continued right by Cortez and up to Mesa Verde. Oh, my God, I did it---well, sort of. The ruins are 21 miles up and over mesas. That means 21 miles of heart stopping drop-offs and dips and curves before you even get to the whole reason for visiting the park and then there are about another 20+ miles roaming around more overlooks, dips and curves to look at them. The ranger lady who told me three years ago that the climb visible from the visitors' center was the worst part of the road--LIED! It is probably the easiest part of the road. I think if you study the pix you can see the switchbacks and where the road ascends before us and clings to the side of the mesa as it curves around blind corners or a horizon that drops away as though going off into the wild blue yonder. Going up. I sort of kept my eye on the mesa wall with occasional peeks over the edge. Then we came to two idiots on bicycles whom we had to pass on a curve--groan! We climbed to the high point, 8572 ft. We got almost to the Far Point Overlook when Bill asked if I'd had enough. I'm sorry to say that I really was pretty tense. If truth be known I think Bill also had enough--he isn't fond of height either, though he handles it better than I do. I'd NEVER be able to drive this road--he can and not super tense either. At any rate, we decided we'd seen ruins like these at Canyon de Chelley, though maybe not as high or large so we were happy with the views and drive we'd experienced and turned around to head back down. I put on my straw hat, turned toward the middle of the car and avoided the views. Still, I could not resist a peek through the holes of the hat and a few times even looked straight out over the open space and a couple of times looked slightly downward. I guess you do kind of acclimate to the height--but NOT totally. I really am proud of the picture of the Mancos River Valley and the road that cuts through it between Cortez and Durango. How beautiful the fields and HOW FLAT!!!! As we headed toward Durango I took one last shot of the opening butte and the elongated mesas up which we had climbed. Mancos is kind of interesting--an old mining town in which Louis L'Amour, one of Bill's favorite authors had a ranch. Some beautiful old buildings but don't think those miners and cowboys ended their days in art galleries and expresso bars. Drove by one of Durango's ski slopes and then continued down into town. Having had a long and tiring day we bypassed historic Durango and maneuvered through afternoon traffic to our motel. There on the reception desk, my name, not exactly in lights, but still rather flattering. Finished out the day demonstrating my" look --don't look " technique for heights. As I still had my five Asian Zing wings left I decided to eat in --Bill went down the street to the local brewery for a hamburger and some brews. Tuesday the 14th meant returning to Farmington. I made a reservation for two nights, bid good-bye to Jared, our very attentive and courteous desk clerk and headed to historic Durango for a look see. Betsy says that all of Colorado is Hanover. I think of it as Woodstock. It is like Sedona--all the old buildings are there--filled with boutiques, jewelry stores, bakeries, art galleries. These places ooze money--yours actually or what, maybe you wish you had. I just don't enjoy that kind of thing, but I suppose it is what keeps these towns going. It just creates a cookie cutter aura that takes away from the historic atmosphere I'd rather enjoy. The buildings are beautiful and well-kept--their architecture if not their contents invoke an image of how things may have been when the streets were crawling with the miners that the silver in the hills of Durango, Silverton and other towns brought here in the late 1800's. The Strater Hotel is certainly a jewel. We decided to return to Farmington by a different route that entailed climbing yet another mesa.The Animas River flows through Durango and down to Farmington along the valley floor. Jane, here is one of the differences in terrain between this part of Colorado/New Mexico and home. Where there is no water the land is dry, drab, lifeless but where there is water it is green and cultivated. In this section of pictures we are running almost parallel to the road we took from Shiprock to Cortez. That road had buttes and pinnacles--this one has cultivated fields all because the Animas runs through it. Trees and grazing land all the way. At Aztec there are also ruins of the Anastazi--the puebloans that populated the area. Bill and I went there several years ago and it is fantastically accessible. One of my favorite sites of these types of ruins though we have been to so many. We continued through Aztec to Bloomfield which is a hope, skip and jump down the road. Never having been here before we stopped at Salmon Ruins--named not after the fish but rather after the family who owned the land and spent at least 3 generations protecting the ruins and preventing, to the best of their ability , the collecting of sherds and other artifacts. There is a lovely small museum containing many artifacts but the exhibit I really enjoyed was of the pottery created by these ancient peoples commemorating the appearance of Halley's and other comets in their wide open skies. What views they must have been--another difference, Jane, the vastness of the sky and distances over which things can be viewed unobscured. It is breath-taking--it is impossible to determine distance in these places! The museum itself is made in the image of a kiva--the underground room of worship and ceremony--so important to all the tribes of the region. They instill in me the same feelings of walking into a cathedral in Europe or even the newer ones here, or the old Spanish mission churches--just a true feeling of spirituality and serenity. Here Bill is working out the complicated dual slide rule apparatus used to determine the age of wood used in the construction of these ruins. Reading various books and brochures at various ruins there is a bit of confusion about where these people were living at the same time as other sites or from which site they moved and to which site they did move. It appears as though a drought descended upon the Mesa Verde site and the people sought a better place in which to dwell--one in which water was present. Bloomfield and Aztec certainly have water--the Animas serves them both and in addition the San Juan River passes through Bloomfield, too. So, it would seem these areas were populated by the culture moving off that high mesa to these river valley locations. The first picture shows Chacoan wall construction--veneer and core. Tabular rocks are carefully cut and fit together to produce a wall that is smooth on both sides. Then mud and unshaped stones are poured down to fill in the spaces between the cut rocks. Bill is standing at the far end of the exterior eastern wall of the ruins--it extended 164 feet. The exterior western wall extended about 183 feet. Though I didn't photograph it, the back wall is 394 feet and stood, in places, three stories high. Walking along the front wall, and at the first level there are many individual rooms--the first, long and narrow, is a common feature of the ruins of the period, though its use is a mystery. The next few rooms were probably originally living space, eventually used for storage. The last room in the corner was a square room that was converted to a round kiva at some point. This is the case with the next room as well. At the top of the hill, there is a rather large room which was on the first level,below a room used to mill grain and cook. There were holes in the floor of the second story room through which trash was thrown into this room. It was so full of trash mounds that it was almost to the ceiling and the wood extending from the walls are remnants of this room's ceiling and prep-room's flooring. The large holes are where large logs called vigas were inserted as beams. At this point, I opted to take a picture of the remaining rooms looking toward the plaza and a large kiva. I am at second story level and the rooms are stepped--it is believed that way the roofs of the rooms could be used for outdoor activities. On the left there are several rooms that were open air rooms facing the plaza. There is a rounded air shaft protruding into one of the rooms--believed to have provided air to the kiva on the other side of the wall. Room 13, was for a long time a real mystery but one of the most important in the ruins. There had been a wall of juniper posts and mud that divided the eastern most third of the room from the rest but wall did not restrict access to other parts of the room. In the west portion were several milling bins and two hearths. On the far west wall was a long, low pedestal with tools laid out in an obvious intentional way. All of this was excavated in 1978 and remained a mystery until 2008 when experimental archeological techniques and time lapse photography was used. The pedestal was placed again in the original location and a reproduction wall was built. It was found that a hole in the first level roof was actually an aperture through which a beam of light entered the room and was restricted by the wall. As the sun rose in the sky the beam of light traveled down the west wall to the pedestal and illuminates a particular tool until too high in the sky. This happens around the 21st of June. It has also been found that light from different phases of the moon also illuminate the pedestal and its tools in various ways. How these phenomena were interpreted and used remains a mystery. Interesting, huh? AS Bill was moving along the upper reaches of the ruins, I was moving across the field to a huge kiva, reading as I went. The three rooms at number 12 were used as living space but were also built in such a way as to support a tower kiva above it. The room at number 11 is more important from early pictures taken during excavation because there were remnants of walls extending another story. They have since collapsed but without those old pix, there would be no knowledge of the third story since all remnants are gone. The room at number 15 is really interesting because the wall is bending inward and it shows reinforcement throughout time. It could not support the weight of the tower kiva behind it. It was a much larger room on this side, rather than smaller rooms that supported the weight better. As a result, eventually the room was abandoned for living and became a depository for garbage--and as a result of its positioning the materials were very well preserved--fabrics, string, rope, matting of Jupiter bark weave, cotton clothing remnants, pot rests, coiled baskets, wooden tool handles, dyed or painted textiles, braided hair and fur and feather remnants. Later it became a latrine and those deposits were helpful, too, in trying to analyze the diet and health of the people. A small room has been covered to protect unexcavated deposits. 17 is the tower kiva. An off center hearth which allowed a ladder to be placed in the smoke hole for entering and exiting. Behind it a board to prevent the fire's getting extinguished, and then a ventilator shaft connected to the plaza outside. A small hole in the ground symbolically represented the hole that the ancestors climbed out of to be " born " into this world. The boxes in the floor are mysteries since there have never been any artifacts found in any of them. Could they have had stretched skins over them to serve as drums?? A major fire destroyed the kiva and much of the pueblo--evidence found here shows that it occurred after a major and good harvest, that a ceremonial cremation was held here for some of the victims, others were buried among the rooms of the pueblo and the survivors abandoned the site. 20. is another square room converted to a kiva and mirrors the square rooms so converted across the plaza where we entered the ruins. 21. is the Great Kiva--it has been back-filled to protect the features of the floor found in #17--the Tower Kiva. This one has a small anteroom with stairs entering the kiva. There were three hearths in the anteroom--perhaps to prepare food used in the ceremonies. The anteroom was used by whomever was officiating the particular ceremony. Many pieces of turquoise and other precious stones, a mountain goat horn and burned corn husks were found in the floor of this kiva--perhaps offerings. This Kiva is used to compare these ruins, which are considered outlier to main communities, to other outlier communities and main communities such as Chaco. So as we walked back to the entrance I took pictures of the ruins and the trees etc that are growing from them. Soon we came back to the bench on the eastern wall where we sat beneath a tree of some sort and spoke of our own visits to various other ruins and how they compare. Then, I took a picture of an apricot tree, one of the trees of the orchard that the Salmon's grew while living here. Took a few pix of the Salmon homestead and the reproductions of various dwellings of modern tribes in the area. Soon we were back in Farmington and the huge room that was reserved for us this time. Tired I decided once more to remain in--Bill went to the Chinese buffet nearby and brought us each back a huge to-go box of a great variety of oriental goodies. AND, how clever is he, he brought me a Jimmy Buffet coconut-pineapple tea to wash it all down----delicious! While he was out I called Chaco to ask about the condition of the roads to that very large and elaborate set of ruins of the same age as Salmon. Tuesday night--good TV night--NCIS,Bones and The Americans! Read USA Today and did my puzzles. Then bed after another full day. Wednesday, on the road by 10 and down the road to Bloomfield once more. Then south on Rt 550 past oil fields and under a cloudless bright blue sky streaked with the contrails of shiny silver jets. Just gorgeous day--so hard to imagine snow to Betsy's knees and temps in the 30's and 40's in Vermont. Just saw a video on The Five showing Amtrak pulling into the Rhinebeck New York depot pushing an avalanche on the commuters waiting for it. AMAZING!!! At any rate, about 40 miles down the road we came to the turn off for Chaco. The first six or seven miles is paved but then the road turns to dirt. All along the road but spaced far apart are the trailers or small cottages of the local ranchers. Again not much water here so there are fields and fields as far as the eye can see of sage. At one point the air was redolent with its scent. I told Bill I wanted to get some of the aromatic herb to put in Douglas Bristlecone under his visors as a gift for the heights we made him climb and the shake, rattle and roll he had to endue getting to Chaco. We crossed over several huge washes that must be scary as hell when filled with racing water after torrential rains or major snow melt. I love the areas of the country where horses and cattle are free range. Sometimes, cars must stop because these animals know to whom the road belongs. The horses we came upon initially, however, had no interest in us and one dark brown horse lifted his tail to make clear in just how much distain he held us. Eventually, we came upon an equally disinterested partial herd of cattle. After crossing an even wider dry wash we came to that part of the journey ( 21 miles) the ranger had told me was very rutted and wash-board like. SHE, unlike that witch in Mesa Verde, did NOT lie. This last 4 1/2 miles is on private land and as the sign said we had come to the end of county maintenance. We had come to the end of ANY maintenance!! Bill had to move back and forth across the road to find the best way and for at least a mile he had to carefully straddle a high point in the road to avoid getting bogged down into deep ruts. We bottomed out, very lightly, just once. He's good. We watched the movie on Chaco which ran for 25 minutes and was extremely interesting. Hopi, Navajo, Ute and Zuni tribal members spoke of Chaco's importance both as an ancestral place of history and a sacred place. Though the Navajo are not puebloan, they too, hold Chaco in high regard. I think of this place as Mecca or Rome. Even in ancient times it is believed that, though it is huge,( look at the group of people on the outcropping overlooking the Great House, Pueblo Bonito to get an idea), that the permanent population was not huge. It is thought that Chaco was a gathering place for various ceremonies and celebrations, that it was a stopping off place for those travelling or moving to another place, that it was a trading place. Today, it is a place of pilgrimage and every native we have spoken to about it has spoken of it with reverence and awe. If you look at photo 8501, you will see what we saw--I said to Bill --is that a rabbit in that window? Pulled it in and there he was, staying cool, out of the sun. He heard the folks coming around the bend, jumped down and then back up into the corner window that was sealed on the other side--more like a niche than a window--they walked by and never noticed. LOL Safe jack rabbit! I can't remember any Western movie showing stairs on the cliff face like these--they must have crawled, they could not have stood upright getting up them. It was one of the engineering feats these folks used to keep their trails and roads going in as straight a line as possible--don't go around an obstacle, go over it, one way or another. As we departed the park we saw that another part of the herd had moved on the plateau above the camping ground and the ruins within it. If you look at shot 8542 you can see to the middle the ruts to avoid and straight ahead the straddling Bill had to do in this area. Once on the maintained dirt road we gathered some of that sage--heavenly! I would love to be able to grow it at home. If ever I moved out here, I'd plant aromatic sage as my lawn. Returning we saw the herd of horses had gotten larger and in numbers they stopped both us and oncoming car--they seemed really curious--especially the two white ones. A couple crossed in front of us, while another was on my side of the car and moving behind it to cross. Still, yet another dark horse lifted the tail to give us an odiferous farewell. And so, we reached the paved road that took us out to the highway. Followed 550 back to Bloomfield and on into Farmington where we were greeted by the Sinclair dino. Hungry we headed to Texas Roadhouse but they were closed until 4 so we went to Applebee's. Cute bartender, Mario, a little down. His parents were to leave tomorrow but left yesterday to move to Deming. He helped them pack up the last of his things before coming to work. Met another young man who lives right outside town--I couldn't hear him very well as he chatted with Bill. Then just before we left, probably the most interesting man came in. He was in his 40's--maybe early 50's. All these folks, Native. He had gone to a sort of private gr 4-8 school. In order to raise funds to keep going, they took kids for two months to travel the country and visit organizations likely to contribute to their cause. He was so excited because he got to travel all over--Maine, Fl, Ga , La , Cal all over. I asked if his mother missed him and he said that both of his parents encouraged their children to get educated and while she did miss him, she was pleased he was getting to see these places and learn. His sister lives in Japan and is a scientist, another lives in California. He has lived in many places and worked in Yellowstone for several years. All of them have educations and his mother, who has since died--just a year ago--was thrilled. Came back to the motel and another perfect night of TV. Lethal Weapon finale, Major Crimes and Designated Survivor. Read USA Today and did the puzzles. Of course, I'd watched The Five,Jeopardy, and Family Feud both nights, too. Decided we'd stay one more day in Farmington so I could catch up on many things besides my blog, which I've been writing forever--it now being 5 PM !!!! But, also did some filing, checking the bank accounts, etc, etc. Now, I'll do my nails while Bill watches basketball and then I'll read. Tomorrow we'll head for Las Vegas, NM--we are on our way home. Always makes me sad, but there are still exploits ahead. So, now you know what we've been up to these past few days. Hope you enjoyed the info. Until next time.....KandB