HWY 40 to New Mexico

Readers of this blog may have noticed a hiatus in this series.  I will get to the reason for that in a minute, but first, some of the experiences along Hwy 40 from Arizona to New Mexico and along the old Route 66.

50,000 years ago a large meteor hit what is now the desert in Arizona.  It left a hole that can be seen from space, the way we see the craters on the moon.  My brain turns to jelly when confronted with lists of numbers, but in case you can deal, here are some specs:
4000 ft. diameter,
570 ft deep,surrounded by a rim of moved earth that rises 150 ft above the surrounding plane.
The nickel-iron meteorite was about 54 yards across,
speed of impact about 28,600 miles per second.

It’s big.  And little has changed since its impact.

Meteor Crater, Arizona
Too big to fit into my camera

Now, I know that some of you think that Oola didn’t really accompany me on this journey.  Some of you even think I am just making her up!  Well, here is proof positive that Oola was at the Meteor Crater, (even if the light source was a little wonkey).

Oola looks down into the meteor crater
Oola looks down into the crater

The next stop was not far away, by Southwestern standards.  The Petrified Forest is a National Park protecting the Painted Desert, the remains of forestland that once existed here, petroglyphs, and architecture ancient and modern, and more.  It would take more time than we had to see it all.  Here are a few shots.

Twister in the Painted Desert
Twister in the Painted Desert

A dust devil in the Painted Desert.  I was already thinking on how to not get transported to The Emerald City from Northern Texas.  I did intersect one of these on Hwy 40 a while after this.  It was a moving experience!

petrified tree
petrified tree

These trees fell over into water and were protected by silt.  The silica in the water gradually replaced the wood tissue and the result was these rainbow hued samples of petrified wood.  They are gradually revealing themselves through the process of erosion in the layers that hold them.

ccross section of petrified wood
cross section of petrified wood
Mountain Lion petroglyph
Mountain Lion petroglyph

Many petroglyphs in this area.  Especially great for rock art enthusiasts.  This mountain lion is my favorite petroglyph of all times.  It was found in this area and is now displayed in…

Painted Desert Inn
The Painted Desert Inn

a preserved remnant of the Route 66 era.

But it was time to move on to visit my friend Lana Bobele in New Mexico.

Lana tends a magic garden which has a huge cottonwood tree at one end.  One can escape the heat, for it is immediately 10 degrees cooler under this tree.  Lana offered me a room, but I was lucky enough to pitch tent in her garden and enjoy the stars and smells and sounds of a garden next to an acequia after a thunderstorm in the desert.  Oola found two tiny frogs under the tent the second morning.

Lana protects many animal friends.  Here is a drawing of just two of them.

Lana's dogs
Lana’s dogs

Lana and Oola and I had a wonderful time together until I got a phone call telling me that Costco had sold me some frozen berries that were tainted with Hepatitis A.  And yes, I had made a smoothie with them before leaving on this trip.

So the short end of this story is a trip to the New Mexico Public Health center where I became a statistic, and where I couldn’t get immunized because date of ingestion couldn’t be established.  And, not wanting to take any risk of infecting the wedding party in Texas, or more friends, I turned around and drove home.

But on the way back, we did stop at the Continental Divide, and took a yet another picture of Oola.

Oola astride the Continental Divide
Oola astride the Continental Divide

Our love to you all!

Grand Canyon, June 1

It seems I lost a day somewhere.  No matter, because my camera and I are in love again!  (Not to worry, Oh Mysterious One.  You are still first.)

The disappointment I experienced yesterday has been washed away, and I realize that I was not dispirited by the Grand Canyon but by what humans are doing to this great place.

The U. S. Park service has designated a car-free zone during the summer on the rim road of the west side of the park.  You can grab a ride on a free shuttle and, if you leave early enough, you share most of the morning with just a handful of well adjusted people like yourself.

Oola and I took a walk along the Rim Trail of Grand Canyon.  Visibility was markedly improved over yesterday’s.  The colors, and views were merely wonderful. And in four hours we shared the place with only about a dozen people. Over and over I felt my heart and other vital organs leap at sites like these:

You can click on the thumbnails to see enlargements.

Now, if they would only turn off the sound of the helicopters……

Grand Canyon, May 30

It’s big.

Too big to take pictures of it.

Just sit and look.

Last night, when I came in, I saw how big the parking lots are.  Many parking lots.

I already knew that “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun”.  So I was he first visitor on the excellent shuttle system, and the first one at Mather Point.  Had the whole thing to myself.

It’s big.

Disappointing really.  I had expected vibrant colors.  But evidently that happens only on special days when the smog hasn’t rolled in for the L.A. basin.

So, no pictures of any worth.  No drawings.  I spent the afternoon in the campsite, communing with the herd of elk that sauntered through a couple of times in search of stuff to eat.

elk in camp
elk in camp

Oh, and the lizards were good too.

lizard in the Grand Canyon
Lizard inspects the Grand Canyon and finds it to his liking.

I saw the Grand Canyon, but for whatever reasons, I guess I did not experience the Grand Canyon.

Crossing the Desert, May 29

Hwy 395 in California is beautimous.  That is where I saw the rainbow, and yes, that was a for-real picture, as true as photos ever are.  I didn’t mess with it. Honest.  Funny how people used to think photos were true.  Now, with Photoshop, everyone assumes they are lies of some kind.  (Well, usually they are, but so they always were!)

But scenic highways must end. And I found myself in a small dust storm whipped up by the wind on the Mojave River.  Then Barstow, an economy motel on the old Hwy 66.  At least that is what the townsfolk said.  The motel was run by a sweet Indian couple with a new baby.

And the bed, the bed, a shower and a good night’s sleep!

Early start before things got too hot.  Stopping at every rest stop to exercise.  There was a profusion of desert wild flowers, but the siting I enjoyed was of two hawk nestlings in a palm tree.  They didn’t mind that their home was a non-native species.  They  were patiently waiting for FOOD.

Baby hawks waiting for food
Baby hawks waiting for food

They waited for Mom.  Oola and I had to move on.

Oola has been reading ‘The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  She commented on the part where Little Prince asks him to draw a sheep.  I know that Antoine was a little too busy to draw a sheep, so he drew the box that the sheep was in.

Oola asked me how deep the Grand Canyon is, and could I draw a picture of it. I’ve seen only pictures of the Grand Canyon, but not wishing to disappoint her on either point, I made this cartoon for her.

grand canyon cartoon
The Grand Canyon for Oola

I told her that the astronauts like to take pictures of the Canyon from outer space.  And that it is very deep.  So deep that it goes all the way through the earth and you can see the stars on the other side.  Oola liked that.  She said that the clouds were ok too.  And she liked the little mountains on the edges.  But she thought I should have put in some fiords.

More about the Grand Canyon tomorrow.

Crossing the Sierras, May 28

One muddy, soggy tent shoved into Mom’s Memorial Prius and we are finally ready to enter Yosemite.  One rainfall cannot ruin a day up here.  We see dogwood in bloom, unassuming, just on the side of the road.


You can’t swing a camera without focusing on something magnificent.  It is too easy — and too hard!  When everything is exceptional, what does exceptional mean?  I try to focus on the details.

We are heading for Tioga Pass, the highest pass in California.  And me with only 24 hrs to acclimate!  We have to stop for an unassuming waterfall of heartbreaking beauty. And, yes, there is still snow up here.

This one’s for you, Bob.

I had planned to take one of several easy hikes I remembered from my youth.  But at the first trail head there was a warning about recent Mountain Lion sitings in the area, and how to act if you came into contact with the creature.  I love mountain lions — from a respectful distance.  And since I was walking alone (Oola was sleeping off the night on the ground) I decided not to take that particular path.

We pass places I remember from childhood.  My Dad loved Yosemite, and summer often found us here.  I don’t know that he consciously wanted to infect us with Beauty.  But he did, rest his soul.  How this makes me miss him!

I remember Tuolumne Meadows being larger, but while memories grow over time, meadows shrink .  So I stop for ponderation.

deer in Tuolumne Meadows
deer in Tuolumne Meadows

That rain we had last night left a dusting of snow on the highest mountains.  Dana Peak looks like something sugary to eat.

Dana Peak
Dana Peak

I hear that maybe the rain is over.  And I am feeling sick from the altitude.  Time to move on.

The ranger at the exit station is in a hurry to see my pass.  As I search for it she says, “Just go through.  I trust you.”  And I am reminded how much we need to be trusted.  How my students, the great majority, respond so well to trust.  And for those who don’t, I think it will catch up with them (about finals time).  I would not deny the majority of my students the time to act autonomously in response to trust.

We cross the Pass, and I see signs of 7% down grade. Dope slap!!  How could I not have thought of this?!!  Some of your may remember my  transcendent experience of a downgrade out of Death Valley.  I am reluctant to repeat it.  So I, who have never been a maniacal driver, become that cautious slow car you all fume at on the one-lane road.

The scenery is astounding, and I, motivated as I am to save my breaks, stop every chance I get.  And every time I stop, I am rewarded.

Wildflowers on the side of the Tioga Pass road.
Wildflowers on the side of the Tioga Pass road.

Finally, heart pounding near the bottom of the Lee Vining grade I see across the sage bush fields a stand of young aspen.  There is a sign for a campground.  The water from the snowy peaks behind me cascades through this area.  We find a spot near the river and pitch a still soggy tent, which dries in short time.  Everything is looking good. Down to about 7000 ft, and I am able to breath easier.  The water is icy cold.  The man in the campsite next to me catches a trout for dinner.  He sees me playing my guitar, tells me he has a guitar with him, and invites me to come over and jam.

But the sunshine is waning. The wind in the pines is picking up.  My fingers begin to freeze. I crawl into my sleeping bag to get warm.

4:30 AM.  Pit, pit, pit.  It must be pine needles, think I.  But, no.  It is more rain.  Beauty is not one sided.

When the sun rises it lights the campsite from the East, but we are still in the rain.  We take the food out of the bear locker and once more we pack a soggy tent into the Prius.   I think how one of the great lessons of human history is to get out of the rain.  Sure there were some who liked to sing and dance in the rain, but they caught cold, and their DNA was eliminated from the gene pool.  Sure there are a few throw backs, but they are just the proof of the lesson.

So we get ready to leave, and low! — or above as was the case — there was a big rainbow making the snowy peaks look like a bad Photoshop job.  Below us waited Mono Lake.

When we got there and looked back, this is what we – honest to God – saw.

Rainbow between us and Lee Vining Mountains

We’ll follow the wind to the desert.  Maybe the tent will dry out there.

Too many things to see, no drawings.  (You wouldn’t believe them anyway!)  More later.

Crossing the Sierras, May 27

drawing of white flower in forest
Some kind of white flower  You can click on the pictures to see enlargements.

The first drops of rain were falling as we rolled up to our campsite late in the afternoon.  We were at about 4000 ft. about 30 miles west of the entrance to Yosemite on Hwy 120.

Oola, always one for adventure, urged me to pitch the tent.  Somewhere close by there was a small herd of cows, complete with bells.  Oola thought them very musical.  There was a group of Korean families close by.  It sounded is if they were playing some kind of game that ended in uproarious laughter about every 3 to 5 minutes.  Well, in today’s world, who can begrudge laughter.

The rain was prompting a regalement of wildflowers.  There were these white bell-like flowers, and poison oak, and there was bear clover, and poison oak, and little yellow flowers, and poison oak, and something that looked like wild strawberry, and poison oak — to which my body has a hearty and unambiguous response.

There was poison oak everywhere (I should have remembered that this is not uncommon in this part of the Sierra.)

I tried to warn one of the Korean moms.  She and her small son were picking up twigs  for kindling.  I saw him back into a bush of the stuff.  So I pointed to it and said she needed to be careful.  She replied something like “ooooaa…k?”   I pantomimed scratching.  I thought of telling her about Queen Lily soap.  But didn’t know how to translate.

We lay in the tent, eating a dinner of fruit-and-nut bars without tea because I forgot the matches, listening to the tip, tip, tip of rain on our roof and the calling of cows with their bells, and the laughter of the Koreans.  It was quite relaxing — once we figured that the tent was as advertized and it would not leak.  During breaks in the rain we went out looking at the wildflowers and making iPad drawings.

Perfect days come in many varieties.

I will send these posts out as I get access to Wi-Fi.  It seems that I have not been touched by the dreaded poison oak.  Hope the Koreans are as lucky.

Road Trip to Dallas

It’s time to hit the road again.  Oola and I are going to Dallas – with stops along the way –  to a family wedding.

Before the camera, people on the Grand Tour would keep their observations in a sketchbook.  This ties in perfectly with my conviction that I remember places and things I take the time to draw much better than if I only take a photo.

I have this app that lets you draw and paint on the iPad with finger, stylus, or special brush.  The plan is to post a drawing each day.  It’s new to me, so let’s see if I gain any facility with it.  I also got an app that alerts you to roadside attractions along the way.  We’ll see what oddities we can find – and draw.

You can click on the drawing to see an enlargement.

Blue Prius
Mom’s Memorial and VW

Here is the first sketch.  In the parking lot, under the magnolia tree, ready to go.  On the left is Mom’s Memorial Prius, still with her bobble-headed chihuahua who has acquired the name Bruiser.  On the right is a Volkswagen van of venerable age.  It bears the decals of many trips, and would love to go, but, alas, is no longer a long-distance vehicle.  I have a greenish memory of morning sickness in this van, brought on by the child who is now getting married.

We’re leaving tomorrow morning, heading to the Sierras, maybe Tioga Pass.  We are trying not to plan to much in advance.  Just generally heading East.  Though we do have reservations to camp on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.