Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Road Trip, Part 5: LeMay-America's Car Museum

Once we arrived in Tacoma, Washington, we kept noticing a large new (to us) metallic structure over by the Tacoma Dome. The Dome itself was built in 1981 and was still all shiny and new when we moved across the country to New Hampshire. Remember, we hadn't been back to Washington State since living there in the early 1980s, so there were lots of new and newish things to see. 

We discovered that big metallic thing was the LeMay-America's Car Museum. You can check out a photo of the exterior on the Museum's website. Once we were inside, I made a beeline to a car that looked something like one my dad might have driven. We strolled the length of the huge building, admiring the shining antique cars lined up along either side. But that was just the beginning: The 165,000 square foot building has four floors that you visit by walking down big ramps. It can house up to 350 cars and trucks, both those from the LeMay Family collection (which eventually numbered a jaw-dropping 3,500 vehicles) and from private owners. 

The cars were stunning. They were shiny. Because there were so many people there--it was Father's Day, and what better place to take Dad or Granddad--I spent my time taking close-ups of details of all that shininess. 

If you want to see more photos of entire cars, you can go to the Museum's collection page.

As we walked and walked, and walked some more, all those beautiful shiny cars started to blur together, and I began to watch the people instead. Not to be sexist, but I did notice that the farther down the ramps we went, the more I could see that the women's smiles were starting to look a bit strained. The children were getting kind of crazy. And the men? They all had a kind of goofy, glazed look to them--you could tell they were remembering their first car, their first car payment, their first flat tire, their first oil change...

I could show you a sampling of the photos I took of Beez, drooling over those cars, but I don't want to embarrass him. I had to turn away myself. The look on his face... well, some things are just best not described. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Road Trip, Part 4: Richland, Washington to Tacoma, WA

View from "our" patio

As I have mentioned before, Beez did a wonderful job of planning this trip and finding great hotels along the way. When we pulled into the Red Lion Hanford House in Richland, Washington, we had just driven for another long day that ended with a smoke-filled highway and backed-up traffic. There were some wildfires getting underway and that highway was closed not long after we passed through. The hotel looked nice enough, but the road in front of it was filled with traffic, it was hot, and we were tired.

Our room, however, was around back and, seemingly, in a far more peaceful world. It faced the Columbia River, which was a surprise to me, although not to that clever Beez, who always does his research. We had a private little patio of our own, the hotel bar supplied glasses and a bottle of wine, and we had a lovely time unwinding and looking out at the river.

Sunset over the Columbia...

...and sunrise the next morning.

The next day we traveled through the Cascades and it rained! We were fascinated to see that our windshield wipers actually functioned, especially since we hardly ever have a reason to turn them on in the desert. Once we arrived in Tacoma, the furthest point of our trip, we settled into a great room at the Hotel Murano. This was a special treat! The hotel itself is like an art gallery filled with glass treasures, with a different artist's work featured on each floor.  Here is the view of Tacoma at night from our room...

... and during the day. That's the Tacoma Dome over on the right. From here you can also see the Bridge of Glass, the Museum of Glass, and America's Car Museum. More about those in future posts.

And beautiful Mount Rainier came out for a while and obligingly floated above the city. When we lived in Washington, long ago, we could see the mountain from our back porch--when it was "out" which, as any Washingtonian will tell you, isn't every day!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Road Trip, Part 3: From Provo, Utah to Richland, Washington

Modern day "prairie schooners" make their way easily up and down hills and through mountain passes

I didn't take many photos as we made our way from Provo to Washington state, going across a little corner of Idaho and another little corner of Oregon, but I did notice every single speck of water. Back home in the desert of New Mexico, in the middle of a drought, we dash out after every tiny rainfall to take pictures of the teeniest puddles (New Mexican Facebook friends, you know who you are! We all do it).

These two water photos are all I have to show our progress for this part of our road trip. However, I was constantly aware that some of the routes we traveled were along the historic Oregon Trail. As we tired from a long day in the car, I couldn't help but think of those long-ago covered wagon travelers, inching across the map toward a new life in an unknown and strange land.

As a child, I was always fascinated by the idea of a family packing a Conestoga wagon and heading west. In our neighborhood in San Francisco I got my friends to play covered wagon; one child would sit on a gate pretending to be the driver holding the reins of the pretend oxen; the other kids would sit behind and would be the family.

Here is a photo of the interior of one of the wagons that might have traveled the Oregon Trail. I've borrowed it from the website for the National Oregon/California Trail Center at Montpelier, Idaho. According to the Center, a wagon needed to be strong enough to carry a load and passengers for the five month journey, yet light enough not to exhaust the oxen pulling it. The wagons had no springs: I thought about that as we comfortably and safely drove over smoothly paved highways, up and down mountains, and over rivers.

According to the Wikipedia article on the Oregon Trail, the main Oregon Trail was 2000 miles long, an east-west large-wheeled wagon route that ran through the present-day states of Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. Again, from the Wikipedia article: From the early to mid-1830s and particularly through the epoch years 1846–1869, the Oregon Trail and its many offshoots were used by about 400,000 settlers, ranchers, farmers, miners, and businessmen and their families. 

If bouncing along unpaved, rutted trails for months at a time wasn't difficult enough, the dangers were many: River crossings were most dangerous, but folks traveling this way were also at risk of being run over by the heavy wagons or shot when loaded firearms were accidentally discharged. Weather, diseases, stampeding animals, snakebite--the list of hazards goes on. See the article, Trail Basics: Dangers for more.

Traveling in our little Prius, by contrast, was quiet and comfortable. We had an adjustable cabin temperature, comfy seats, GPS apps to guide our way, access to constant weather and news reports, and even an altimeter to figure out the height of the mountain passes. We could stop to admire the view or to get a snack whenever we wanted. I wish we might have invited one of those travelers from the past to ride along with us.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Road Trip, Part 2: Navajo Bridge

The day's ride from Flagstaff to Provo started out in the mountains, came down through some desert areas, and then these beautiful mountains (rock formations? mesas?) appeared in the misty distance. 

We pulled into the rest stop for the Navajo Bridge, which crosses the Colorado River where it passes through Marble Canyon. Before the bridge was opened to traffic in 1929, the only way to cross the Colorado in that area was via Lee's Ferry.

I'm a fan of strange signs. This one, if you have trouble making it out, explains that there will be "no jumping from bridge." It's over 460 feet to the canyon floor, by the way. However, when I googled Navajo Bridge I noticed some entries about bungee jumping (you can imagine the language you'll hear if you click the link and view the video). There's just no accounting for the actions of folks way more adventurous than I am. 

After leaving the bridge, we continued on our long day's drive ending in Provo, Utah, where we had hotel reservations.

I'm putting in this last photo to remind us that we really shouldn't attempt such long driving days. That is one tired man, barely able to hold up that beer that night at supper. He managed to choke it down, though. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Going on a Road Trip: Flagstaff, Arizona

A few weeks back, we took off for the Pacific Northwest on a road trip in search of rain. Along the way we stopped very briefly at an Arizona gift shop featuring petrified wood and other rocks and minerals. I liked this column in front of the building, which featured some of the rocks to be found within. 

Beez did a marvelous job of booking accommodations for the trip. First stop, downtown Flagstaff's Weatherford Hotel, which dates back to 1897. The halls were long, a little dark, and appropriately creaky. 

Our room contained Victorian furniture and a woodstove for colder seasons, but my favorite part...

... was the bathroom, claw-foot tub and all.  You can see more photos on the hotel's photo page, where the second photo shows a wider shot of "our" room.

The little mountain town was lively at night, with street musicians and bands playing in alleys and on restaurant patios, and people cheerfully dancing most everywhere. This is a shot taken just at dawn, when all the partygoers were still asleep and we were ready to hit the road once more. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Inn of the Mountain Gods

Because we live in a desert area, and because we are also in the midst of a years-long drought, we are always very excited to see any amount of water. When we came across Lake Mescalero as we drove to the Inn of the Mountain Gods, we had to stop to take a photo. 

And then one more. Beautiful water...

The inn is located in the Sacramento Mountains in south central New Mexico, next to the village of Ruidoso. This photo shows part of the inn itself, which is also a resort and casino. Since we aren't gambling or golfing people, and because we were saving for our upcoming road trip, we only took pictures, then continued on our way. You can see some far more professional photos on the inn and the resort, as well as information about the Mescalero Apache tribe that owns the property on the Inn's website.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

And the Children Were Exhorted to... What???

Schools like to send their kids off to summer vacation with at least a few educational instructions. However, I found this sign down the road to be pretty odd...

 ... until I walked around to the other side and realized that it was just another New Mexican bilingual message. I hope the kids do remember to leer/read this summer.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Loving the Small Things; Thoughts on Mortality While Making Jam

While making jam in the kitchen of our old adobe house this morning, a thought occurred to me: When I am gone, will anyone ever know just how happy I was with my life? 

The small things give me joy:

a dog underfoot, following me from room to room

the feeling of my bare feet on the cool tile floors this warm July morning

the smell of the sweet apricots I am cutting up

And then a few deeper thoughts:

the fact that we rescued that little dog, who might otherwise have died alone and unwanted

that we have shelter inside these thick mud walls when so many are homeless and struggling around the world

that we have abundant food, all because we were born in the right place and at the right time

and that we have our health and the ability to find the joy in these small things.

Not such small things, now that I think about it. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Other Mimosa

We are drought-stricken. There's no other way to put it, although we have some cautious hope now that our annual monsoon weather has begun. So you wouldn't think that we would be able to produce anything as lush as this beautiful mimosa tree in full bloom, which I spotted down the road during an early morning walk. 

The tree is nestled at the edge of a pecan orchard, where it benefits from the bi-weekly flooding of the pecans. 

Lovely, isn't it? So exotic for the desert.