Saturday, September 28, 2019

The New West - The Desert, Part 3


Well, of Moab, not perhaps a lot to say, other than to mention the plethora of ATV trailers, bike racks and rentals, Mexican food. Though, in fairness, its proximity to both Arches and an interesting petroglyph site right along a highway.

But not too far away, in the desert vastness which could be a rest stop anywhere around Four Corners: interesting history and terrain associated with the always fast-and-loose uranium mining history.





And thereafter, entering Nevada, back to those endless grasslands that occupy so much of the Western plains.





But then, a gem going into the very substantial mountains of Nevada, which are not the Rockies, nor the Sierras, but the geologic wrinkling containing, among other things, Great Basin National Park, at this point entering dramatically into its equinoctal blaze.







This was not the Alpine Lake I thought of beforehand, but is a dramatic exemplar over 11K in elevation.





Next day, a true Nevada experience, the town of Ely, once the domain of lawless miners, now the domain of modern extractors of copper, and yes, even now, silver. But not what you'd call a boomtown.





A visit to what our hostess called "a nicer restaurant" had an almost cinematic appeal, with what might be called a chemically-induced brightness in a male server with spiked hair, jarringly juxtaposed with the sort of soft fifties jazz you might find in a Mafia bar of that era. You might need to specially request a knife to spread the bread which accompanies your pasta.

But wait: there is another even more elemental decaying mining town in the state. But take Google Street View's word for it in a Main Street view of Austin, Nevada.



Beyond Austin, a parade of 7000-something summits to bypass on the way to Carson City and its development frenzy, South Lake Tahoe, and the California border - and the end of our desert odyssey.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The New West - The Desert, Part 2

Next day was the trip to Mesa Verde, another icon of Native American culture. It happens to have some interestingly wrinkled terrain, overlooking yet another vast plain, the Montezuma Valley.





And further into the park, a near-moonscape of burned-out trees amid rabbitbrush and other scrub, the legacy of decades of very large wildfires.





But among these burn areas are wonderful stories of the inhabitants of the tenth through thirteenth centuries, not quite as sophisticated as the clever Chacoans, but getting increasing facility with designing habitations to keep cool or warm, while avoiding getting smoke-choked - and keeping a fairly low profile vis-a-vis any interlopers with malign intent. But nowhere are they more inventive but in coopting wide caves for multistory development.








The archaeologists have centuries of puzzling over the whys and wherefores of these jigsaw-like cave fillers and the life that animated them. Fortunately there's plenty of structure to allow the underinformed to picture at least some of the scenes of everyday life.

But our everyday life is more animated due to the nearby delights of our lodging, the Retro Inn of Cortez, Colorado.







Here you can get a tamale for just part of the free breakfast, and eat it while you check out Captain America panels in the tabletop, then take your pic sitting next to the King, himself sitting next to a luxury habitation.








And not only that - each room number defines a theme, ours being 1974, which entailed, among other things, a Welcome Back Kotter framed cast portrait on the wall. Well.

But two days later, onward again, to yet another likely sixties Western set, Arches National Park, which often bakes visitors to a crisp as they check out the red rock, but less so today.





There was some cognitive dissonance as we got snagged by a confluence of road work, tour buses, a locally-decorated CruiseAmerica and the most popular parking lot in the park.





But the outlandish terrain rules supreme in this environment nonetheless.





Now to face the mega-outdoorsy frenzy of Moab, UT.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

The New West - The Desert Part 1

There definitely is something about Santa Fe. Though the elite shop Bon Marche here, and housing prices are reminiscent of the Bay Area, there is an abiding earthiness and disorganization which is threaded through town. The plaza may always be the plaza, commercial interests notwithstanding, a place with buskers, slackers, tourists, crystal-gazers, hucksters in abundance.



And our lodging follows suit somewhat; buildings are meant to remain what they were a century ago more or less, and so you have a Europe-like peculiarity with overall coziness.





We put in ten miles or more poking around the stuff we're meant to: the River Walk; the Georgia O'Keefe museum; the plaza; the Cross of the Martyrs with its commanding view.
And wow, those amazing kinetic sculptures, on one of which a cicada hitched a ride.








And finally to the Tea House for alfresco dining, and to bed to ready ourselves for Bandelier Monument, a place with a lot of ladders, and truly architectural outcrops.



We later reconnoitered with relatives with abundant First Nations knowledge, at dinner in their house in Albuquerque. They helped us with our planning for next day's visit to Chaco Canyon (The Chaco Culture Natl. Historic Park.) And their counsel really gave us a proper appreciation of the outsized awareness of this Norman Era people, who equaled many around the world in both structural design and celestial-inspired visual elements.






It became obvious why tourists, photographers, and tinhats all can't wait to get one of those lined-up shots that might capture the rays of the solstice sun (though we just missed the equinoctal one.)


















And it's hard to imagine a nicer picnic spot.





And after such a day, a cold Cholo Stout (from Albuquerque's Marble Brewery) hits the spot with impressive force.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The New West - The High Plains


The next leg took us to Denver, where a ball game awaited us.





The weather was propitious, and as it happened, the home team lost fairly ignominiously. The east coast fans appeared to outnumber locals, at least if the noise meter was any indication. The locals halfheartedly attempted to insert "Rockies" into the bellowed "Let's go Mets!", but couldn't quite submerge New York fans' fervor.

After the game we took in what was clearly a bastion of hipster culture at a Ramen joint, creative clothes, emo, gothic beards, chic shoes. The effect was if anything enhanced by the fact that there was a pot shop next door with steady traffic at afternoon commute time on a weekday. (But hey, afternoon commute time... what was I thinking?)





We were ready next day to get out of the line of fire of Lime scooters and head down 25 to our next lodging in Santa Fe. Wonderfully decorative clouds with sun, some with distant rain, persisted everywhere we went.




And the vastness! The sense of expanse equalled anything we had seen in Utah or Wyoming.



And that was true of the varied rest stops we used, including the view from the picnic pavilion in one which was part of the Santa Fe trail.






And then into Santa Fe, a little too late to see much of the gallery scene, but plenty of time to walk around the plaza. And see one notable Dia De Los Muertos shop display.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The New West - The Rockies

And it was down the road through more high plains. (Here a hint of the immensity of view from the dumpster area of a rest stop in southern Wyoming.)



We continued in this visual vein all the way to the border, specifically the northern Colorado border on the way to Fort Collins. In a mere quarter mile, the terrain changed, as though engineered by the state, to scrub pines, granite boulders, and hills. It was a prelude to the Rockies in truth, but also a prelude to the college-town-with-big-box-stores that is Fort Collins. There is no evading "town", though there is as much charm in the cachet-laden downtown walking mall as there is charmlessness in the outskirts with their check cashing stores, worn bodegas and struggling strip malls.

But soon enough we were entering Estes Park, the scenic gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, which, as the ranger in the visitor center informed us, is the third most-visited NP after Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon, take that, Yosemite. And on a Monday, well-subscribed, but not claustrophobic.

A must for the visitor is a trip to Bear Lake, which can only be driven to directly on a morning, by the crazed tourist who got up at 5 for breakfast to make sure they got a parking space before they were snapped up. We were unwittingly adept, since we ended up in the vicinity in midafternoon, when those who itch to see bull elk bugling have concluded that the creatures are too enervated to muster a vocalization.

Muster, in fact, they did, as our shuttle passed them, and a bit later too. But between we made our way to the shuttle-handy Bear Lake:




But surprised ourselves, especially being over 9000 feet, by covering a couple of miles more to get to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes, several hundred feet higher. In the throes of altitude adjustment, there was a bit of walking a shallow molasses pool to each step, but there was plenty of compensation.









We went high on the hog for dinner after such an undertaking, smoked salmon and stuffed trout, and thanked our lucky stars.

Next day was time for covering some ground in the park, in particular making our way to the tundra world in the vicinity of the Alpine visitor center. We had plenty of company making our way up the road through high arboreal areas, then above treeline.

We were not entirely prepared for the force of the wind, and felt like were were going to get blown down at one point.




We did see one plump marmot with his fur in serious disarray. And some Asian girls getting pulled around by their hair by the wind, wisely writing it off as a bad job after perhaps 100 steps.

Then came a frustrating set of attempts to find a viable picnic spot. If there was parking, there was rain. If there was no rain, there was far too much wind; when a wind-sheltered spot emerged, the drops fell.

Back to the room then for lunch, then out to the river walk in Estes Park, then a local brewery, where a suspiciously rigged game was set up near a view of the local sky tram.






(the note on the machine indicates that the management must witness an accurate launch of the quarter.)

Then dinner at a remarkably busy restaurant strategically placed to bag all of the park-exiting traffic. All good, really.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The New West - Part I





It is sort of a natural consequence of both Nevada's magnetic properties for Golden Staters, and Reno's explosive growth in the last twenty years or so. And I do wonder what it will look like in 30 years, when quite a few of the current residents have died, and the houses start to age.
After a walk with very pleasant views and a quiet night, we were off to Wendover, Utah - well, really West Wendover, Nevada and Wendover, Utah, which blend enough that, like Stateline, Nevada, require lines and labels to show the state transition. Though really it's not a secret in either case, since the plethora of high-rise casinos gives the state identity away.
Wendover is not as large as the Tahoe area, however, and after some scanning of the restaurant offerings, we dejectedly opted for yogurt and a banana from the local super as a workable enough dinner. The Marshall Tucker band was in town to play a venue there - we missed them, however. The Race Week was happening at Bonneville Salt Flats - ditto. In fact, as I considered a confluence of events that would attract people of a different stripe, I'm not sure I could have found a more effective approach. Oh, yeah, I forgot the casino factor, even more effective.
The comfort of the motel notwithstanding, the sun was not high in the sky when we hightailed it out of town - next stop, Salt Lake City.There was nice weather, not too much heat, in "SLC", where it proved to be easiest, if a little intimidating, to seek restrooms in the Latter Day Saints' center of the world - well, not the Tabernacle, but at least the info center hard by. Plenty of Stories of Jesus and carefully-coiffed women as expected.
Also magnificent views of surrounding mountains from the Capitol nearby. But we had to make way toward our ultimate day's rest in Rawlings, Wyoming. (We made a stop in Little America, represented in at least two locations in these two big states, but all we took away was that they have clean bathrooms and long lines of sapped tourists for their touted 75-cent cones.)




(above, flowers on the road to Wyoming.)Now Rawlings, despite its Hampton and Holiday Inn Express, has to be a good example of a Wyoming, or even high plains, town - one suffering the hollowing of the old core businesses, but moving right along. They even commemorate the "Pen":
(Deer grazing in front of the former penitentiary)


The improbably-named Shogun's Pizza cranks out a creditable product, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Western Atlantic - Part Seven: The Maritime Way

On we went to Port Hood, and our lodging for the day of our last Celtic Colors show, which happened nearby in Mabou, one historic location of several populated by Scottish emigrants arriving in the mid-19th century. The favored watering hole is called the Red Shoe, and is cultish enough that we saw an elderly lady with some undefinable localism to her, with a shirt with the logo "Red Shoe-aholic". We were completely ready to indulge in the very respectable Nova Scotia Cereal Killer - this being the name of their oatmeal stout - from the Big Spruce brewers, and the RS was ready to indulge us in that desire.

Right across the street, roughly, was  a vivid view:








And after a suitable time, we proceeded across the other way to the local meeting hall, where the salmon feed fundraiser was underway, where we met both locals and nonlocals from Maine and California, moreover Central California, perhaps improbably. This meal was Thanksgiving-like, no surprise given Canada's Thanksgiving had just happened two days before. The salmon stood in for turkey, but otherwise familiar fare.

Before I forget, though, I need to cover our spare lodging down the road, where a very taciturn fellow threw open a door to the office at our arrival, and left it open. Inside was a stack of flooring tiles, a woodworking-ready table on the other side of the somewhat cavernous room, and CNN provided the soundtrack. Impressively, a sweeping view of the hardware store greeted us out our window:










It was a fitting introduction to our meeting hall dinner somehow.





And we had just enough time to hustle down the road to the concert, a locals-heavy reflection on the musical connections across the Atlantic, many to the Inner Hebrides, including several MacDonalds who emigrated to Mabou, Judique, and other NS locations, carrying with them the Gaelic speech incomprehensible to the other transplanted Canadians, as well as the musical styles, the strathspey being one of the notable forms associated with this North American maritime area.

Suffice it to say that this area of Cape Breton has significant talent in step-dancing, pipes, fiddle, bhodran, whistles and Gaelic ballads. The local kids learn Gaelic, and Gaelic tunes, at an early age, and although none of the songs with lyrics were in any other language, many in the audience were singing along, and there is a local choral group which apparently only does music in the old language.

We got ready to drive back to Moncton in the morning in increasingly driving rain. Then I noticed the sign on our motel room door.

Just sayin'.