Sunday, December 30, 2012

Roll Tide

There are a couple of things about coastal Alabama that I really get.  One is the weather and the other is the ocean.  Say what you will about rednecks and crackers and that every other human, women included, wears a Crimson Tide hoodie, the lovely folks on Mobile Bay's eastern shore can lay claim to  miles of pristine beaches and to sinuous bayous lacing the coast.  Besides I grow weak at the knees when it's 70 degrees in December. 

Gulf State Park’s new pier juts into blue water for 1540 feet making it the largest on the Gulf.  Opened in 2009, the gargantuan pier replaces a smaller wooden one destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.  2,500 feet of fishing space along its rails welcome fishermen who can cast for King Mackerel, Mullet and Bonito 24 hours a day.  Below the pier white sand stretches for miles east and west. 


Another kind of pier probes Ducker Bay at sunset as long haul trucks on I-10 track the horizon.  Alligators crisscross the marsh beneath the walkway and crawfish cling to the pilings at the waterline.  The moist richness couldn’t be more different than the arid high desert of northern New Mexico.  The briny air at sea level seems as heavy as it is crisp and light at 7,000 feet in Taos. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Feel the love

My friend and erstwhile traveling companion John Farnsworth passed on the query, “Can portraits still be original?”  I imagine the question was asked in light of the gazillion portraits that have been taken, drawn and painted over the centuries.  My answer was “yes.”  If a photograph, for example, captures something indelible about the person, a state of mind or a distinct personality, it is original.  And since no moment in time can be replicated absolutely it is an original by definition. 

With my response to the question I attached a photograph made last week of my niece Hannah and her boyfriend Chris.  I submit that the image is sweet as Hannah herself, and as original.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Please help. I'm falling.

The moment I got a glimmer of the Grand Canyon’s epic South Rim I descended into an abyss of corny snapshots and Kodachrome post cards.  The Grand has that effect.  I skirted the rusty maze for a dozen miles or so, pulling into every scenic vista for a hackneyed memento of the canyon’s grandeur.  Transcendence escaped me that’s for sure.

Still to paraphrase an old bromide, a bad day at the Grand Canyon is better than a good day at the office. 
I hadn’t been there for thirty years or so and still have a straw cowboy hat I bought in Flagstaff on the trip with the kids.  I’m a guy with lots of hats that are scarcely ever worn.  But then I’m also “all hat and no cattle” to use western lingo to describe a dude, a pretender and a tenderfoot.   Every boy, it seems to me, wants to be a cowboy and that’s been true of me since mom bought me my first boots in Tucson back in 1951.  The smell of leather still transports me to the Santa Rita Hotel, Porter’s Western Wear and the Rocky Mountain Oyster Club.  Rocky Mountain Oysters are, shall we say, byproducts of the round up. 
With that stream of consciousness I've wandered past my Grand Canyon moment.  Novelists often describe how the book wrote itself.  I think I just experienced that on a pedestrian level.


Sunday, December 09, 2012

Take the long way home

As I wound my way home crossing the Navajo Nation near Tuba City I missed my turn to Ganado and found myself once again on familiar turf; an honored theme throughout this adventure.  It’s as if my co-pilot, literally a Pilot, was going to take me through Cow Springs and on to Kayenta whether I wanted to or not.  The long cut probably cost me two hours but what the heck, it’s only time. 

Since I hit the road in Havasu muy late, the sun falling behind me created a heavenly glow on the homesteads and tiny settlements dotting highway 160 toward the Four Corners.  The Navajo reservation is a vast place made even vaster by enormous sweeps of desert scrub punctuated by the occasional hillock or mesa.   It’s an empty beauty of which I never tire.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Most Happy Fella

John reconnected with the lovely Betsy Tuesday.  It was a heartwarming scene as the big galoot embraced his sweetheart after lo these many months.  When we arrived Betsy was smiling through a long charge from her perch above the Victorville valley floor.  The sun shone, birds sang and all was right in the world.

The mechanic, the erudite Austin Stockdale, told John that his 1986 Vanagon would take him anywhere his heart desired but that an oil change wouldn’t hurt.  That’s when John’s eyes glazed over.  Oil changes and John Farnsworth are words not uttered in the same sentence.  John said he might top her off instead.  There’s no arguing with that, ahem, judgment.  But I digress.
It seems to me that Farnsworth was mighty lucky to have found Austin.  The guy diagnosed the problem, a cracked distributor cap, replaced it and housed the wayward bus for six months or so for pocket change.  Merry Christmas and a hearty ho ho ho to you, sirs.

The pics included capture the magic moment for all to share.  Happy trails John Farnsworth.  Write when you learn how.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Below Low

The thirty five mile long Salton Sea clings to life at 226 feet below sea level.  A watery inland sea that was caused by a Colorado River flood in 1905 the Salton’s salinity increases each year and when summer temperatures reach 115 a noxious sulfur odor wafts as far as Los Angeles.  Once a playground of the famous, Guy Lombardo set several speedboat records there, the Salton Sea has descended into shallow salty death rattle.  What’s left is a population on the fringes of society on the shores of a lake it can’t use but with the faintest glimmers of the inland lake’s brief heyday.

The Salton, it seems fitting, sits astride the San Andreas Fault.  If one terminal illness doesn’t kill it another certainly will.  A waiting for the apocalypse Eden housed in shambling mid-century houses and oxidized 1940’s trailers. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Abandonment Issues

Photographing Rice, California is like visiting an old friend.  Rice, formerly known as Blythe Junction, was a water station and substation for the Santa Fe Railroad in the thirties and grew to robust population of 15 by WW ll.  Today nada, zip, zilch.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Hualapai Nation

The Hualapai Reservation established in 1883 occupies a million square acres of northwestern Arizona from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to Interstate 10 and west to Kingman.  The 2,300 Hualapai have embraced tourism as a path to financial sufficiency and are best known for their so-called Sky Walk, a much maligned platform of glass and steel that extends 70 over the Grand Canyon and which, many would say, is out of keeping with a wilderness environment.

Today Peach Springs feels desperate with an over arching melancholy.  It was not apparent, at least in late November, that the tourism model has had much traction and government service continues to be the Hualapai’s primary source of employment.  Unemployment hovers at 40% as it has since 2004.


This post is long on visuals and short on verbage as my body is on tilt.  Too too much fun with Big Daddy Farnsworth,  These are companions to the corral pics of my last post and are sort of obligatory since it's Sunday and I haven't been late yet.  I have one word "sky."  It's mighty big over the Navajo Nation.


Saturday, December 01, 2012

Corral Fever

Yeah, I know I have a thing for corrals.  The wood rail ones hung together with rope, wire and twine.  This beauty in northern New Mexico near Gallina had us doing a screeching U-turn and jumbling north on a rutted path toward Navajo ponies, wild burros and Hereford cows.  A galvanized water tank completed the ensemble.

We’ve taken two full days for a one day journey but no matter.   We have the wind at our backs, ample memory cards and a craving for two lane black top leading to nearly nowhere.