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LEONARDO de"VAN"ci LOG

FIRST EXPEDITION IN LEONARDO DE "VAN" CI

4/12/04 :  The last leg of our journey was from Sagle , Idaho .  We hugged Jo, Janet, Jerry, Chelsie and Cruz good-bye and set off for home.  We can’t believe it that it has been TWO MONTHS on the road.  What state would we rather live in? California ? New Mexico ? We can’t decide on one favorite place.  We have learned so much on this trip about each state and the history of the United States .  Filled with wonderful memories we started driving back into Washington .  We pass many beautiful farms with new calves and colts wandering in the fields.  We notice wildflowers in abundance even in the desert climates of western Washington .  Looking out under a sunny blue sky Washington isn’t so bad.  It seems to have a little bit of every climate we have experienced along our travels.  Even the blue snow-capped mountains start looking so striking in the distance.  Maybe not quite as big as the Rockies , they are big enough for us.  All the trees freshly adorned with new leaves are so majestic.  Instead of Sandhill Cranes there are flocks of Canada Geese migrating.  I guess there are many good reasons to return home.  Besides little Jessie is eagerly waiting for us. 

4/11/04 :  What better way to celebrate Easter than by enjoying the Montana scenery.  Driving along Big Sky Montana we feast our eyes on the velvety, emerald green hills, valleys and blue snow-capped Rockies .  Don quickly identifies prong-horned antelope grazing in the fields.    Cattle, calves, and horses roam freely in the open spacious terrain and drink from water holes by picturesque windmills.  Miles and miles of land!  We chose Hwy. 200 to Sandpoint , Idaho to experience the back roads along Clark Fork .  (Named for Lewis and Clark)  To embellish our traveling we listened to “Undaunted Courage” a novel written about Lewis and Clark.

As we got closer to Idaho we saw flashing lights alerting us to the presence of “Big Horn Sheep” on the road.  A few curves later and sure enough there they were.

How thrilling to actually be close enough to take pictures of them.  Don had promised me that we would see some exquisite old barns to photograph and he made good his promise.  We would drive a few miles and see another Kodak moment.  Not just barns, but the scenery mirrored in the Clark Fork River we followed north.  The views were unbelievable. 

We arrived in Sandpoint after such a beautiful day to visit Jo Sipprell and Janet and Jerry Mason.  Chelsie and Cruz Allen (the Mason’s grandchildren) joined us for the evening.  So much to share and so much joy in visiting .   It was so good to see everybody, especially Jerry in a much healthier state.

4/10/04 :  About 70 miles north of Sheridan , Wyoming , after crossing the Montana border, we arrived at the Little Bighorn National Monument.  The visitor center displays provide a rather confusing record of what occurred; however, the 20-minute video they offer does give one a sufficient understanding.  The five-mile drive through the area of the battle site has many placards that help expand one’s understanding as well.  It seems that Custer used standard military strategy in planning his attack, but terribly under-estimated the size of Indian forces and their willingness to defend themselves.  Custer appears to have been focusing of keeping the Indians from fleeing; not expecting any unified defense.  When they resisted aggressively, the 475 U.S. Calvary vs. 3000 Indian warriors proved over whelming.  It can hardly be considered a massacre however, as the U.S. troops attacked first, firing into a village of warriors, women, children and elders.

That concluded our historical endeavors for the day as we “beat feet” to Butte , Montana for the night.

4/9/04 :  After spending the night at the most pleasant small town of Hot Springs , Wyoming , we started the day with a stop at Liz’s new most favorite coffee shop, The Flatiron Café.  The raisin oatmeal cookies were a special hit.  Properly fortified and caffinated, we headed to the nearby Mammoth Site.  In the early 1970’s while beginning excavations for a new housing development, the dozer operator unearthed a tusk.  The housing development was put on hold and experts were brought in to examine the site.  Twenty-six thousand years age, the area was a sink hole containing warm artesian waters with slippery sandstone sides.  Probably filled with lush vegetation, the area attracted many Columbian Mammoths, who once in the sink hole, could not escape.  The Columbian Mammoths are the big guys who measured 14 feet at the shoulder.  So far only 23 feet of the 60 plus feet of the sink hole have been excavated and the skeletons of 50 Columbian Mammoths, and a few of their smaller relatives, the Wooly Mammoth have been unearthed.  Because of the conditions present, the skeletons are in excellent condition.  The site is very well organized, with excellent tour guides and exhibition hall, and was a special unplanned treat.

We next headed 32 miles north to Mt. Rushmore .  The museum at the visitor center did an excellent job of outline the roles of Washington , Jefferson , Lincoln and Roosevelt in the development of our nation and why they were selected to be immortalized in stone by Borglund.  It was also quite interesting to look at the exhibits explaining the techniques and planning that went into the sculpturing process.

Needing to put some more miles behind us, we then drove on the Sheridan , Wyoming , passing many grazing Pronghorn Antelope along the way.

4/8/04 :  If one would think that this was sufficient crane watching, one would be wrong.  No, Liz insisted that we arise at 5:45 AM and hike out to the old railroad trestle near our campsite at the Fort Kearney State Park .  Mind you it is about 34 degrees outside and our bed was much warmer than that.  However, as the sun rose, we were standing on the trestle in the middle of the Platte River as the assembled cranes headed for the farm fields to feed another day. Before the sun rose, all was quiet, except for an occasional Kildeer and a waking wild turkey.  As the sun peaked over the horizon, illuminating the gentle mist that rose from the river, the brilliant colors of the prior evening’s sunset were repeated in reverse order. Then the cranes began to make their presence known.  At first fairly harmoniously in small groups; then as thousands added their voices the symphony became quite raucous.  The volume continued to grow until as if on cue, a swirling mass of thousands of cranes suddenly ascended a hundred feet or so into the sky, circled several times then headed out towards a nearby field.  

4/7/04 :  In the morning we made arrangements to join a tour that would spend a few hours that evening in a blind on the Platte River , and then headed out to a local golf course.  A 6:15PM we joined the tour organized by the Rowe Sanctuary of the local Audubon Society at Kearney , Nebraska , received a brief orientation and walked the ¼ mile to the blind which extended out into the Platte River . We arrived at the blind about 7:00PM and were quite excited by the thousands of cranes standing in the Platte River and on its sand bars.  However, as we watched, many flocks continued to arrive, flying over, circling, then turning into the wind to land, looking very much like little Concords; legs angled forward, necks extended, frequently on a long, gentle approach to a very soft landing.  Paul, our guide, explained that to tell male from female crane you watch the pair in their dance ritual.  The male initiates a hopping action raising his bill straight up, then straight down. The female then responds, hopping also, with a double-bobbing of her bill from the horizontal down and back to horizontal.  Not only could you see all this action happening, there was cacophony of sounds coming up from the river and down from the sky.  As the sun crept closer to the horizon, the number of cranes kept increasing and the volume of crane-racquet grew.  The Platte River flows west to east, and the cranes were settling into the river just west of the blind.  At sunset, we were looking into a river filled with brilliant magenta hues, with the cranes back-lighted by the sun.  It was like having box seats at the ballet with the lights and sounds perfectly coordinated.  At the climax, just as the sun left the sky, ten white-tailed deer crossed the river in single file, passing through the crane congregation.    

4/6/04 :  It was time to say our fond good-byes to Kit and Melinda and start the trek west.  We headed out of Fairfield , Iowa on Highway 34.  Our first stop, just off  34, was Lorimor , Iowa where Don’s Great-grandfather and Great-grandmother, Austin Adams and Isabell Healy were buried.  After obtaining directions to the graveyard from a Lorimor local, we started our tombstone search.  In less than five minutes, Liz had found the grave stones, which were in very good condition.  We took photos of the markers and the site and headed on to Afton , Iowa , a few miles away, where Austin and Isabell had lived and where Austin had operated a jewelry, photography and musical instrument business; Healy and Davis .  We continued on to Creston, the county seat of Union County , Iowa , to check out the area history at the local library.  After considerable searching, we were able to find a reference in the 1893 city and county directory to the business of Healy and Davis on the east side of the town square in Afton .  Unfortunately, the structures on the east side of the square had been replaced with metal industrial buildings.

That bit of historical research done, we headed on to Grand Island , Nebraska . The area from Grand Island to Kearney is one of the prime resting sites for the Sand Hill Cranes

on their northward journey to Alaska and Eastern Siberia .  Before the sun set we drove around the nearby farm fields and spotted hundreds of the estimated 100,000 that were resting in the area.  A few weeks earlier the count reached about 500,000.  As the sun set we watched flock after flock lift off from the fields and head to the Platte River where they spend the night.  The Sand Hill Crane species has been around for more than 40 million years and they do have a prehistoric appearance.

 4/5/04 :  This morning we headed out to the town of Amana which was once one of 7 villages that operated in a communal structure for more than 80 years by German immigrants; the longest operating commune in the United States .  It functioned as a commune from about 1860 to the 1930’s, when it disbanded from its communal ways, and distributed its assets.  However, the woolen mill and furniture factory still function in the community.  We toured both operations and the many other small businesses and shops that make up this community.  At one point, the Amana Commune owned over 20,000 acres in the area.  The weaving operations were very colorful to observe in action. 

Prior to Amana, we had stopped at the Kalona Cheese Factory in Kalona , Iowa , where we purchased and ate some of their famous “squeaky cheese”.  Much of the population in this area is Amish and Mennonite, and the folks in their traditional garb, driving horse and buggy were frequently present.  We purchased some groceries in the Stringtown Grocery run by the Amish (I think; they could have been Mennonites) at very reasonable prices.

On our wanderings about the Iowa countryside, Kit had us identifying silo manufacturers and Liz was focusing on old barns, particularly those with lightning rods on them.  We finished the day having found 14 different producers of Silos.

4/4/04 :  Another wonderful day with Kit and Melinda.  We started the day with a nice drive through the beautiful Iowa countryside, then along the Des Moines River , and ended up in the community of Eldon , Iowa , in which stands the house that Grant Wood used as the setting for his famous picture “American Gothic”.  Of course it was necessary to take pictures of all of us in various groupings, looking very serious and holding imaginary pitch forks.  Just across the street from the Grant Wood house was a mobile home that had a tornado shelter next to it.  The shelter was much older than the mobile home, and the owner was very gracious in letting us enter and examine the structure, which we did with much enthusiasm.  We then returned to the campus to pick up Kit and Melinda’s friend Joanie, and headed out to the Raj Restaurant for a fantastic and very filling lunch.  Kit then continued our tour with a trip through Vedic City , laid out according to principals defined by the Maharishi.  We next went through the power plant where the University can produce its own power using two very large diesel powered generators.  Kit was involved in the construction and is currently involved in the operation of this plant….very impressive.  We then finished the day with a bird watching walk around the reservoir just outside of town that ended as then sun settled in the west. 

4/3/04:  Kit and Melinda took us on a tour of the surrounding countryside, beginning with a tour of the campus of the University of the Maharishi, where Kit is employed as Associate Director of Facilities Management, and seems to know, and is known, by everyone on campus and is held in the highest regard.  Following this we headed out to the town of Pella , famous for its wooden window and door factories.  Again, the town has a spacious town square surrounded on four sides by businesses.  However, on one of the corners the city has erected a 124-foot tall windmill, the upper portion of which was constructed in Holland , disassembled, shipped in pieces to Pella , and then reconstructed.  The length of the vanes was 82 feet (this is how windmills are compared), the cost slightly exceeded $3 million dollars, and they actually use the mill to grind wheat.  We toured all five floors of the windmill and received an excellent orientation in windmill operation.  We were all quite impressed.

Next we toured the replica of a Dutch village, which happened to include the boyhood home of Wyatt Earp.  The Dutch immigrants arrived in Pella in the 1840’s or so, seeking economic opportunity and religious freedom.

We returned to Fairfield on more scenic byways.  Melinda then introduced us to burritos with fresh, homemade tortillas, on her handy, dandy tortilla baker.  Aside from the great meal, we had a lot of fun baking the tortillas.

4/2/04 :  We headed west from Jane and Roger’s, and using Kit and Melinda’s research, followed Highway 80 west into Iowa to exit 267, where we turned south towards Moscow , Iowa .  Melinda had found detailed information regarding the Healy Cemetery on the internet, and had called us the night before with the directions.  Sure enough, about two miles north of Moscow , on the left side of the road, we found the Healy Cemetery .  The cemetery is a small, very nicely maintained plot on a small hill overlooking the adjacent farmland.  We quickly found the tombstones for Abial and Mary Healy, Daniel Lyon and Tryphena Healy and numerous of Healy relatives; some in our line of descent and many probably not.  We had never seen so many Healys, dead or alive, in one place before.  Abial was my great-great-grandfather, and Daniel Lyon was his father. 

When the history about Abial and Mary Healy, by Tom Woodhouse (another Healy decendant) was written, the home and inn owned by the family was still standing.  However, a long-time Moscow native (since 1945), George McCoy, told us that the house and inn had been torn down many years before.  However, the Woodhouse story did mention a general store that Abial operated in Wilton, Iowa, about six miles from Moscow, and we were able to locate that building in the business section (all three blocks of it) of Wilton and take some photos.  The building is now being converted into an apartment building.

After this successful foray into the Healy family history, thanks to Kit and Melinda, we headed on to Fairfield , Iowa .  It was a most pleasant jaunt through gently rolling farmland, punctuated with small towns, many of which have very spacious town squares, with the businesses surrounding the squares.  A strong reminder of the way small town life used to be before Walmart.

We arrived in Fairfield , at Kit and Melinda’s a few minutes before 5:00PM , visited for a while, then strolled into downtown Fairfield to partake of dinner and “Art Walk”.  Many of the business around the town square and down the side streets participate in this event and we were able to view many very talented efforts and a few more interesting attempts.  The highlight of the evening was watching the 13-year old daughter of one of Kit’s co-workers perform an Indian (as in India ) dance called the Kathak. 

4/1/04 :  Jane took us over to the Oriental Institute Museum a few blocks from their home.  Jane was a docent here for a number of years.  We spent the next several hours totally enthralled in the collections of Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Persian artifacts, art and history.  The time spent here tied in very nicely with our earlier observations of Anazasi and early Native-American sites earlier of this trip.  Not only was the art and sculpture of the highest quality, but it impressed upon one the productivity of the agriculture efforts of these cultures.  To accomplish the massive construction projects and adorn them with the works of art on such a scale, a relatively small portion of the population was involved in food production.  While this culture was booming, so to speak, the peoples of the North American continent, where in lands just recovering from the last ice age.  More than 5000 years elapsed between the development of extensive cities in Mesopotamia and the construction of pueblos by the Native-Americans.  More favorably climatic conditions did prevail in Mexico , Central and South America , allowing very impressive civilizations to develop there in the interim. 

 After all that history, a long walk was in order, so in the afternoon, Liz and I walked over to Lake Michigan and hiked north along the lake for a mile or two.  We became acutely aware of the reason behind the name “windy city” that is applied to Chicago .  We then headed inland and walked through neighborhoods exhibiting interesting and diverse architectural styles.
   

3/31/04 :  We high-tailed it from Springfield , Illinois to Chicago , arriving at Jane and Roger Hildebrand’s about 12:30 PM .  Jane had a wonderful lunch ready and the four of us had a pleasant lunch together before Roger headed back to his office to prepare for a meeting in Boulder , CO. on the morrow, at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (which used to be called the Bureau of Standards).  After lunch, Jane took us on a walking tour of the neighborhood and campus, and introduced us to two very extensive, independent book stores in their neighborhood.  Living in such close proximity to these fonts of great reading material could be quite detrimental to one’s pocketbook.  It also explains why Jane is always such a wonderful source of great book recommendations.

That evening, Roger laid a fire and the four of us enjoyed wonderful  living room.  Roger shared the story of his conversion from the field of chemistry to that of physics in the days immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 .  It is a very humorous and enlightening episode.  I have put it down on paper as best as I can recall, and will put it on the website after Roger has had the opportunity of correcting my efforts at recording the story.  (I have an excellent memory, but it’s too short; and getting shorter with age.)   

3/30/04 : 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” 

                                                    Mark Twain, 1869

Our visit to Hannibal inspired a renewed interest in Mark Twain and his wit and wisdom.  Hannibal has done a very good job of preserving the home, history and memorabilia of his early days there.  Maybe our charitable view was influenced by visiting Hannibal on a cool day during the off-season.  We enjoyed it immensely.

Then it was off to Springfield , Ill. , and a very quick view of the only house that President Lincoln ever owned.  Brief, because we arrive at 4:45 PM and the park closed at 5:00 PM .

3/29/04 :  As we approached St. Louis on a warm day with beautiful blue skies the ARCH soon came into full view.  What a spectacular site!  We secured parking near the Mississippi River (Thanks to a nearby Casino. The darn things are ubiquitous!) and made our way back to the “Gateway to the West” National Monument.  We decided to experience everything the site had to offer; starting with an hour-long movie on the Westward Movement.  This helped solidify the information we had gleaned in New Orleans regarding the Louisiana Purchase .  As this was the 200th Anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition there was an extensive exhibit detailing their trip to the Pacific and back.

Part of Liz’s birthday present was a trip on a paddle-boat down the Mississippi River which we were able to fulfill at this time.  The views from this part of the Mississippi River are “slightly” less industrial that those in Memphis and points south.  Liz greatly enjoyed the cruise, but looked with trepidation at the 630ft. ARCH to be ascended later in the day.  We then watched a movie on the construction of the ARCH which turned out to be more disconcerting than the trip up the ARCH itself.  After a couple of trips to the restroom Liz gathered up her courage to get in line to get into the “egg-shaped” capsule for a tram ride to the top.  They warn you not to take this trip if you are at all claustrophobic; apparently she was not.   The ride up went smoothly and once on top we had a great view of St. Louis and environs.    We bonded with two students from Thailand with whom we shared the capsule ride down. 

We then headed over to meet with Vanessa and Lee Hoffer and Ruby for dinner and a visit.  We enjoyed seeing their home and hearing about Vanessa and Lee’s current work.  Lee is currently preparing for the oral portion of his second Master’s Degree, so live with the Hoffers is quite busy at this time.  We greatly appreciated Vanessa and Lee taking time from their hectic schedules to visit with us.  It was so exciting and fulfilling to catch up with them and learn of the exciting activities they’re involved in.

3/28/04 :  A very quiet day.  We took a 60 mile jaunt along the Illinois side of the Mississippi , through very beautiful farm land, and returned to Missouri after passing through the town of Chester , Illinois .  This town may not ring any bells, but this is the home of the creator of “Popeye”, and they even have a statue and “Popeye” museum to celebrate this fact.  Additionally, there seems to be an emphasis on spinach in these parts.

After finding a KOA in Perryville , MO , and getting set up, we decided to bicycle into town to restock the larder.  Seems our timing was well-coordinated with the arriving warm front, which made it before we got back.  Drenched is hardly an apt description of our state upon our return to Leonardo; thank goodness it was a warm front.  I forgot just how hard it can rain in this part of the country.

3/27/04 :  Happy Birthday Liz!!!!!  After breakfast, we departed our haunt on Lonely Street, and returned to Memphis to go through Sun Studios where Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis got their start.  The studio, started by Phillips in 1951, is very small but the tour guide did an excellent job of explaining the whole operation and history.  Mr. Phillips sold his rights to Elvis’ later work to RCA for $35,000, and viewed it as one of the best business decisions in his life.  With this money he was able to expand his operations nationally, and did very well promoting many other stars.  It’s notable that after the tours cease at 5:00 PM , and music group that wishes to, can come in for recording sessions for $75.00 per hour; keeping the Phillips legacy alive.

3/26/04 :  Back into Mississippi and north once again on Highway 61 to Clarksdale and the home of the Mississippi Blues Museum .  This is an excellent stop with great art work about the blues movement and many musicians that practiced this precursor to “rock and roll”.  “Blues is sad music and it’s happy music.  Also a secret language.”  It originated for the call and response style of chant employed by the slaves to help break the monotony of repetitive, back-breaking work.  The most common theme is an interaction between a good man and a good woman gone bad, and it is structured with three verses of 12 bars, where line one asks a question and line two repeats line one and line answers the questions or states a solution.  Some of the notables mentioned were Willie Dison, Madam Sadie, Muddy Waters, Memphis Minnie, James Cotton, John Lee Hooker, and the “King”, B.B. King (BB stands for blues boy).  Highway 61 is also known as the “Blues Highway” because it was the route followed northward by the musicians who wanted to hit the big time in the bigger cities of Memphis and Chicago, and was also the route followed by many blacks seeking a better life after cotton harvesting was mechanized and employment opportunities in the south virtually disappeared.

From Clarksdale , it was a short run into Memphis .  We were able to park on the street downtown and tour Beale Street (Memphis’s version of Bourbon Street; if only 3 blocks long), the Peabody Shopping Plaza, and the visitor center to get directions to the Civil Rights Museum that utilizes the motel room that Martin Luther King was staying in  Memphis when he was shot while walking on the balcony on his way to dinner, as well as the boarding house across the street where James Earl Ray fired from.  The museum is well worth the couple of hours it takes to review this unfortunate aspect of U.S. history.

Viewing Vicksburg , the Blues Museum and the Civil Rights Museum as we did provides an interesting perspective.  Our fore-fathers formed a union by avoiding dealing with the issue of slavery (the Union could not have been formed had the slavery issue been force in the late 1700’s).  About 80 years later, Lincoln was able to force an end to slavery by bringing the industrial might of the north to bear on the south.  Following the Civil War it took 100 years, thousands of lives, and two world wars to finally provide blacks the rights they had been guaranteed under the “Emancipation Proclamation”.

This whole scenario now begs the question:  If these unalienable rights apply to all human beings, when and how does mankind begin to deal with these same issues on a global basis?

In seeking an RV park for the night, it turned out the most convenient one in Memphis is the park run by Graceland , Elvis Pressley’s Estate.  So we spent the night parked directly behind the Heartbreak Hotel, on Lonely Street .  Conveniently, the hotel offered a shuttle service to Beale Street , so we headed in to hear the numerous variations of blues music offered there.  A lovely way to celebrate Liz’s birthday eve.

3/25/04 :  We drove the 40 or so miles from Jackson to Vicksburg , probably a bit more rapidly than General Grant was able to.  We took the advise from a billboard that said “Come enjoy Vicksburg … Grant did!”  Vicksburg was the site of one of the last major battles of the Civil War, and one of the classics in military history, involving frontal attacks, tunneling, naval engagements, and finally 47 days of siege.  As is typical of most military confrontations, “thems that has the most resources, wins”.  The Union had the industrial advantage many times over.  At that point in the Civil War, Vicksburg was the last remaining Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi; the “key” to free navigation on the Mississippi, which was essential to protect the north’s ability to get goods to the port at New Orleans.  The cemetery, with over 18,000 was a very sobering sight.  We finished the day be heading further on Highway 61 until Greenville, where we took a left turn into Arkansas for an RV park at Lake Village, AK.

3/24/04 :  Leaving our campsite beside the lake, we drove a few miles south on I-55 to downtown Jackson .  Our first stop was the Mississippi Museum of Art which was featuring a show, “Paris Moderne”, which focused on the art deco period between the two world wars. We especially enjoyed the works of Raoul Dufy (The Electrical Fairy), the street scenes of Maurice Utrillo, and a painting by Marcel Gromaire entitled “Dr. Girardin”.  Apparently, the subject of the painting, Dr. Gromaire was a dentist and an avid collector of impressive paints with which he created walls within his dental office.  His objective being to keep his patients’ mouths open in awe. (Apparently he had not heard of “shock and awe”)

After a lunch of jambalaya at “The Grocery”, we walked a few more blocks north to the public library to view the “Writers of Mississippi” exhibit.  Two of the most famous of this group are Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner.

We then went to The Old Capitol Museum of Mississippi History.  As you might gather from the name, this museum is in the old capitol building, which was used as the capitol until 1903, and as a state office building until 1959; a very impressive structure.  The museum itself provided a good back round in the early history of the area, but the room covering the civil rights movement in the late 50’s and early 60’s really grabs you. It is difficult to imagine that these landmark activities took place such a short time ago, and that prior to that time, for centuries, a major part of our population was treated in such an animalistic fashion.  It does make one ponder the conditions under which much of the worlds’ population currently lives, and how much longer, as supposedly civilized human beings, the human race collectively can tolerate the existence of tyrants.  That one room was quite small relative to the entire museum, but it had a very powerful message.

Walking back to “Leonardo” we visited briefly with a native “Jacksonian” who said he had been stationed at Madigan Hospital in Washington State during his stint in the Army.  He had never been out of Mississippi before and arrived at his new post in darkness.  When he awoke, he got up and opened the curtain to view his new surroundings.  Doing so, he gazed upon Mt. Rainier .  Never having seen a mountain before, he claimed he stood there for half-an-hour before he could turn away.   

3/23/04 :  We slowed the pace today and went back into to Natchez to view the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.  This site, which is administered by the Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History, provides information on the history and culture of the Natchez Indians and recounts their treatment at the hands of the Spanish, French and U.S. .  The grounds contain three large mounds that comprised the ceremonial center of the Natchez nation.  There were many similarities between the Natchez and the Anasazi cultures; however, the Natchez ’s efforts were less grand than their western predecessors.

Following this education experience we headed to the Natchez Municipal Golf Course for a delightful round of golf.  At about 4:00 PM , we decided to head further north following the Natchez Trace; the 440 mile path that had been used by Indians, De Soto , La Salle , Andrew Jackson and numerous settlers, traders and trappers.  The Trace is now maintained by the National Park System.  The Trace itself is a very beautiful two-lane road, bordered by hardwood forests, meadows and farm field, and there are numerous historic points of interest along the way.  Other than an occasional road sign, there are no other unnatural visual stimuli.  We went many miles without seeing another vehicle, making it an ideal way to enjoy the lengthening shadows at the end of the day.  We stopped at “Locust House” which is one of the original inns along the Trace.  For 25 cents, an early traveler could receive a very basic meal, and could sleep on the porch.  Generally, travelers would remain at these inns until 15 or more fellow travelers had collected and would then start their northward journey.  Because of the threat of attacks by Indians and/or bandits, it was unsafe to travel in smaller parties.  

We ended the day parked next to a small lake in LeFleur State Park in Jackson , Mississippi .

3/22/04 :  The “must sees” were the Rosedown Plantation and the Afton Villa Gardens.  Rosedown is another of the old Spanish Land Grant plantations, as was Oakley Plantation.  The Spanish wished to develop the land, but had no volunteers from Spain.  If you agreed to become Catholic, build a home on your land, and develop half of the land for agriculture, you could receive 600 acres.  Over time, many of the plantation owners bought additional acreage.  In their prime, both Oakley and Rosedown comprised over 3000 acres each.  The tour guide at Rosedown packed more information into a one-hour tour than we thought was possible, and she did it in a most humorous and enjoyable way.

The State of Louisiana has been able to acquire many of these old mansions and turn them into historical sites.  In fact, in the spring, selling tours to the old plantation mansions and antebellum homes appears to be the major industry of the area.

We then journeyed a few miles up the road to Afton Villa Gardens .  The plantation mansion burn years ago, leaving only a giant cistern, but the gardens have been very well maintained.  The azaleas, cherry trees, daffodils, dogwoods and camellias were in full bloom.  We walked through the gardens twice; once to enjoy the plant life and once to observe the birds, then made a lunch to enjoy in the flower festooned patio area.  After physically dragging Liz from the grounds (figuratively, not literally) we head north once again on highway 61; destination Natchez , Mississippi .

3/21/04 :  We hated to say good-bye to Linda, Craig and Bri, but it was time to move on.

We jumped into Leonardo and decided to travel the back roads of Louisiana .  We saw a sign for the Audubon State Historic Site and visited the Oakley Plantation.  What a find!

On this weekend in March, the locals celebrate the “Pilgrimage”, where volunteers dress in period costumes and carry on with many of the typical daily activities in an historically correct fashion.  We were able to observe weaving, cooking (the head was still on the roast pig), baking, dancing, musket and pistol firings, and games typical of the 1820’s to 1850’s.  Very enjoyable to observe, but very sobering when you viewed the slaves quarters and learned of the conditions under which they were forced to live.  Seeing this part of plantation life gives one the same feeling we experienced when viewing a concentration camp site in Germany . 

 

Following Oakley Plantation we headed in to take a scenic tour of the historic part of St. Francisville , LA.   The town has done a masterful job of maintaining the historic buildings, of which they had many.  We stopped at the tourist information center near closing time and learned of a couple of “must sees” for the next day.

3/20/04 :  Linda, Craig, Bri, Don and Liz bicycled into “Old Town Mandeville” for breakfast; what delicious omelettes and cinnamon rolls!  It was Saturday and we were lucky to stop at the local Saturday Market on our way home.  It’s fun to compare Saturday Markets and get a taste of the local art scene.  After returning from the Saturday Market we headed out to watch Bri play soccer.  Later in the afternoon, we fulfilled our promise to Bri to go golfing.  Can you believe she still had enough energy?  So off we went to Slidell for a Par 3 golf experience with Bri.  She did very very well.

This was to be our last day in New Orleans , and Linda and Craig planned for us to experience an evening in the “big city”.  Bourbon Street , we found, is a “show in itself”!  Don described the scene as “Homage to Bacchus”; a hedonistic extravaganza with people hanging from the balconies and parading down the streets.  Linda and Craig introduced us to “Hurricanes” at Pat O’Brien’s along with dueling pianos.  What fun!  We sang and partied until it was time for our dinner reservation at G. W. Fin’s.    More pleasures!  Eating gourmet delicacies!  We were out until after midnight and felt no pain.

3/19/04 :  A trip to Louisiana is not complete without a Honey Island Swamp Tour.  If you rub the green gator on the necklace you are given, you see all kinds of gators.  Liz rubbed her necklace and we saw 6 alligators, white egrets, 2 nutria (furry critters similar to beavers with a rat tail), and Cypress trees laced with Spanish moss in the bayou.  Our boat was uncovered, but we felt cool breezes as we darted into the bayou and along the river.

Linda and Craig had recommended the new D-Day Exhibit in New Orleans and we weren’t disappointed.  It was well worth 3-4 hours!  We learned so much from the films, actual voices of the soldiers, animated visuals and displays.  I never knew that Patton was in charge of a fake force in England to trick the Germans.   

3/18/04 : A visit to Linda, Craig and Bri Joseph in their lovely new home in Mandeville , Louisiana .  Where to begin?  Linda drove us across Lake Ponchitrain (Pon-cha-train) on the 24 mile Causeway to take us on a Walking Tour of New Orleans.  We began our day with beignets, which are powdered-sugar covered French doughnuts at Café du Monde. The coffee and beignets were absolutely decadent and delicious!  What a way to start our day in New Orleans !

We walked through the French Quarter with its lacy iron balconies and colorful buildings.  There were horse drawn carriages, musicians, jugglers, mime artists, sidewalk artists, and flowers beneath a beautiful blue sky.  Spring weather was in the air!  We were thrilled to go window shopping and people watching.  The next thing you know, we are entering Pierre Clement Laussat’s Historic New Orleans Collection.  Who is this Frenchman?  It turns out he was a French diplomat who was sent to the Spanish territory of Louisiana in 1803 to become governor when Spain transferred the territory to France .  Once in New Orleans , he learned that Napoleon planned to sell the territory to the United States and  received official word that the U.S. had agreed to purchase Louisiana .  Laussat formally took possession of Louisiana from the Spanish authorities on Nov. 30, 1803 and was governor until Dec. 20, 1803 , about 20 days later, when he transferred Louisiana to the U.S.   Laussat’s tenure in Louisiana and the Louisiana Purchase is thoroughly described in journals, documents and correspondence.  We watched a short movie decribing the purchase and why Napoleon was so eager to get the money to fund his invasion of Russia :  In retrospect, what a waste.  In Haiti , he had lost thousands of men to Yellow Fever and felt he was over-extended in the New World .  President Jefferson got more than he had ever hoped for.  Congress granted permission to spend $2 million to buy New Orleans , Napoleon asked for $23 million for all of the Louisiana territory, and settled for $15 million, which amounted to $.04 per acre, not a bad deal.                                                                                

Next, we entered Muriel’s for lunch where we feasted on Wood Grilled Drum accented with pickled ginger, orange sections and wilted sautéed garlic spinach.  As if this were not enough, Linda got special permission to take us upstairs to see the Séance lounge, balcony, courtyard, and dining rooms with terrific views onto historic Jackson Square .  We took pictures of the Séance Lounge with it’s rich decadent furnishings and “Ghost Table”.  We walked down a hallway covered with gold leaf and leaned over the lacey wrought iron balcony to view the street below.  What a commotion we observed below with horse drawn carriages and side walk artisans .  It was a show itself.

3/17/04 :  Lafayette , Louisiana

The Vermilionville Acadian Village opened at 10:00 am we eagerly showed up early.  We walked through a reconstructed village and listened to people dressed in Acadian period costumes tell about life in the mid 1700’s – late 1800’s.  Craftspeople demonstrated cooking, blacksmithing, weaving and music.  In the schools, students were not allowed to speak French until 1968.  Where have we heard this before? We walked along a nicely landscaped walkway and  bayou surrounded by magnolias, live oaks, and cypress trees.  We were impressed with Vermilionville and couldn’t believe it when we returned to Leonardo to find an identical Pleasure Way Van!  There on our windshield was an invitation to join them at some Bayou RV…signed from our new friends.  Sorry we couldn’t have waited to meet the owners.

As hunger beckoned we drove on to the Blue Dog Restaurant which turned out to be a delicious introduction to Louisiana cuisine.  We were as delighted with the Gumbo Soup as we took in all the art work.  All with “blue dogs”!  Interestingly, President’s Reagan, Clinton and Bush had also eaten in this establishment.

 

On to Mandeville to visit our friends the Joseph’s who live in the countryside just north of New Orleans .  What a beautiful setting!  What a gorgeous new home!  What a warm welcome!

3/16/04 :  Lafayette , Louisiana

Reaching Lafayette we headed immediately to the Acadian Cultural Center/National Historical Park to learn about Acadian history.  There was a film dramatizing the plight of the 18th centruey Acadians at the hands of the British, as well as many pictures and very good exhibits.  The Park had been recommended, but we were too late to see the whole village, so we decided to stay in Lafayette and finish our exploring.

We found a wonderful KOA on a small lake, jumped on our bikes and toured the area .  We were delighted when two Wood Ducks swam right up to Leonardo!

3/15/04 :  We decided that the golf clubs had been ignored long enough, so we headed out to the Galveston Island Municipal Golf Course, and enjoyed a pleasant 18 holes, at least 16 of which were occupied by Curlews.  The course’s claim to fame was that water comes into play on virtually every hole; and they were right!!

After the golf we wandered northward again, thru Galveston (very crowded with families and college students celebrating spring break), across Galveston Bay on the ferry, and on to the Bolivar Peninsula .  (In the northern parts of the country we don’t have a full appreciation of the chaos that spring break can bring.)  On a small loop road out of Port Bolivar, we did spy four Spoonbills.  We had been trying to finding these peculiar fellows for the last several days, so another entry was made in the Sibley’s bird book.

We closed out the day by continuing to Port Arthur ; another very industrial city, but one with a wonderful city park and one of the nicest, most modern RV parks we have seen yet.  When you check in, they even give you instructions about correctly dealing with the alligators in the nearby ponds; like, don’t feed them unless you wish to become lunch.  We looked for them briefly as the sun was setting; maybe tomorrow.

3/14/04 :  In the AM we left Port Lavaca State Park and headed northward.  Port Lavaca was an ok park during the day.  It is situated on a large bay that fronts on the Gulf of Mexico and has a large wetlands area with boardwalk as part of the park.  The city of Port Lavaca was interesting with a very nice residential section north of Highway 35, and a "ghost town" where the old downtown had once been.  Apparently, much of the population works in the large industrial area on the northeast side of the bay.  From the park in the distance you could see the structures of oil refineries and a very large Dow Chemical plant.  Interestingly, at night, the industrial area was transformed into an eye-catch display of lights.

We continued on north on Highway 35 for a couple of hours, sticking to the shoreline, before coming across the Galveston Island State Park .  Galveston Island has much the same feel to it as Nags Head and the outer banks.  The houses are built on pilings in the same fashion and they have the same folk lore of pirates and some locals attaching lanterns to horses moving up and down the beach so as to lure vessels to their destruction on the shore where they could be easily plundered.  There we were able to secure a gulf-front campsite and spent the rest of the day, between rain showers that is, bicycling around the park, which amazingly enough has an ample supply of bird and animal species.  We even found time to fit in a couple of walks of the beach.  The State of Texas does a wonderful job with their state park system, and they are fully utilized this time of the year.

3/13/04 : Rockport , Texas :  One of my favorite small and charming little seaside getaways.  We met other birding enthusiasts at 9:30 AM to search for the famous migrating Whooping Cranes.  We had a wonderful local naturalist “Ray”, who  helped us spot Whooping Cranes in the marshes and along the sandy beaches near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on a 75’ catamaran.   We were so excited to see these elegant birds in the wild and hear their story.

We also observed some 25 or more other bird species - Great Blue Heron, Black Skimmers, Laughing Gulls, Great White, Snowy and Reddish Egrets, Common Loons, Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants, Black-necked Stilts, Brown and White Pelicans, Crested Caracara, Long-billed Curlew, Spotted Sandpiper, Dowitchers, Caspian and Royal Terns,  Hooded Mergansers,  Belted Kingfisher, and a Peregrine Falcon just to name a few.   We got dizzy just marking off all of our finds in our Sibley’s Guide to Birds.  To top it all off, a couple of bottle-nosed dolphins escorted us part way out to the outer islands; occasionally breaching for us.

After returning to port, we stopped at The Duck Inn for lunch.  How appropriate! 

Then, on we drove (with fond memories) along the coastal waterway as far as Port Lavaca State Park.  How can anything compare to this day? This bird watching is getting addictive.   

3/12/04 :  Rockport , Texas was a recommended birding site for wintering Whooping Cranes so we got reservations on the “Wharf Cat” and got an RV site  at the local Goose Island State Park .  We stayed overnight in a place called “Pelican Cove” (aptly named for the brown and white pelicans that inhabit the cove).  We found many biking trails, a boat ramp, fishing pier and birding opportunities.

We bicycled to the Big Tree, a 35’ in diameter Oak.  It was so stately and so huge that part of it had to be held up by supports.  The countryside was beautiful to bike along with many wildflowers in bloom.  Parts of the Goose Island State Park were in the woodlands, other areas were right along the Gulf.  We watched fishermen bringing in the catch of the day and cleaning it while dozens of pelicans and laughing gulls soared above.  Many fishermen secured their poles along the shore to wait for the big catch.

If we had had reservations we could have had a site right on the Gulf…so if you decide to visit Goose Is. State Park and want to fish just outside your RV or camper, get a reservation.  We still enjoyed our quiet little site on Pelican Cove near a beach covered with oyster shells and pelicans. 

3/11/04 :  Time to do the normal tourist things in San Antonio , so we caught the bus into the downtown area; debussing at the Alamo .  It is quite amazing how small the Alamo really is.   We wandered the grounds and the museums on site, which are laid out in a rather haphazard fashion.  Perhaps our inability to quickly grasp the history was due in part to the seemly thousands of elementary school children whose teachers had picked this day as the “ Alamo field trip day”.  The noise level was quite amazing.  Liz commented more than once, that at least their state history is much more exciting than that of students in Washington State .  To escape the young crowds at the Alamo , we beat a hasty retreat to one of the river tour barges and took a 50-minute tour of the river and canal system in downtown San Antonio . Thus fortified we decided to try to understand the historical aspects of the role of the Alamo in the history of Texas more completely and with less interference, so we  attended the IMAX presentation of “The Alamo”. 

 Following all this history, took a stroll on the river walk, and found a nice restaurant overlooking the river from which to revitalize ourselves and absorb the ambience of the city:  Very, very pleasant in a touristee sort of way.

We then returned from whence we came that day, to regroup and plan our next day’s jaunt to Rockport on the Gulf Coast .

3/10/04 :  Today was rather uneventful.  In a leisurely fashion we covered the miles from Amistad National Recreation Area to San Antonio .  As we progressed, the vegetation became slightly greener.  Towards the end we even saw grass growing beside the roadway.  We did get the oil changed in Leonardo enroute and washed our clothes, and were able to access our email after we arrived at a KOA in San Antonio .  We also relaxed, went swimming and had a chance to read for a while.

3/9/04 :  We left Big Bend National Park and headed for San Antonio through  miles and miles of flat desert. We observed an occasional road kill (2 deer, 1 havelina, 3 jackrabbits, and 5 skunks) and on through the town of Dryden which had no discernable signs of life.

By chance we stopped at Langtry , Texas , to see the Judge Roy Bean Historic Monument & Travel Info Center .  What a judge!  What shenanigans he pulled!  He named the town after his idolized love Lillie Langtry, the actress whom he’d never met.  Judge Roy Bean was known as “The Law West of the Pecos ”.  While his brand of the law was highly unconventional, it was view as better than no law at all.  Before he was appointed, the various cities around were made up of the basest collection of folks one could imagine.  One of his more famous endeavors was holding a prize fight that would have been illegal in the U.S. just across the border in Mexico , and pocketing a substancial sum in the process.  Judge Roy Bean held court in his saloon frequently giving out hefty fines or sentencing folks to be hanged, as there was no jail.  Of course he pocketed the money from an fines!  Visitors to the Center can learn about ole’ Roy Bean by animated holograms that show the actions as you listen through an old phone. 

On the way to Del Rio we stopped at the Amistad Nat’l Recreation Area (Governor’s Landing on Amistad Lake ).  We found clear cool water for swimming and bathing.  

3/8/04 : 

We began our day going on a hike with the Park Ranger who shared his knowledge of the local geology, plants, animals and wetland habitats along the Rio Grande River .  He tried to educate us to the importance of wetlands and water worldwide.  We observed wildflowers and cacti in all their glory.  Lupine (Texans call it Blue Bonnet), Leather Plant (used to brush your teeth & chewing gum), Sotol  (used to weave mats & edible heart ), Prickly Pear (Blind and edible spiked cactus), Candelilla (wax plant used for candles & cosmetics), River Cane (leaves used for thatching and weaving mats), Horse Crippler (used in making candy), Boke Button Cactus (golf ball cactus),  and Lechuguilla (used to make twine & rope), Walking Stick Cholla, and Century Plant (Agave).

After lunch we hiked to the   Rio Grande Hot Springs about 4 miles (one way).  We walked among every cacti plant imaginable, hiking up and over a canyon to reach the Rio Grande River separating the United States and Mexico . Exhausted (Liz) and hot (both of us), we were eager to jump in the Rio Grande for a swim in the cool green water.  In fact, we joined many others who had driven a short cut to the remote site. We also sat in the warm 105 degree hot springs and rejuvenated.  A couple from Salinas , CA offered us a ride back in their truck which we joyfully accepted.  On the return trip we observed yellow and reddish marble sandstone with beautiful yellow nettle flowers growing out from the shelves of rock.

Next, off to the showers! We gathered our clean clothes and journeyed off on our bikes to the Shower Building/Store.   Don immediately walked into his shower.  Liz was in a line with some 10 other women waiting patiently for a shower, but it was worth it after the hot day of hiking; also, an amazing way to meet interesting people…if you go with the flow.

Finally off to meet our neighbor for a glass of Texan Merlot.  A friendly retired architect turned artist who waited to share his day of painting with our day of hiking.  While we were out hiking, hoping to see some havelinas, it seems a whole pack had wandered right through his campsite which was not 10 yards from ours  What a disappointment for Liz who wanted to observe these friendly little creatures. 

Before going to sleep we looked at the stars.  More than we had ever seen!  It was fun to try and locate Orion’s Belt, the Twins, the Pentagon, Sirius, and the Pleides.

3/7/04 :  We entered Big Bend National Park from the west from Study Butte, drove up to the first branch off the main road and headed south out to the Castolon Historic Area and Cottonwood Campground.  Stopping at the numerous viewpoints and points of interest, it became quite apparent as to why this area was referred to as a “geologist’s nightmare”. 

The topography and geology here is a jumbled conglomeration that started about 500 million years ago.  This area was originally a deep ocean trench that filled with sedimentary deposits.  These deposits were uplifted, eroded and later covered again with oceans which laid down yet more deposits before uplifting once again.  To complicate the issue even more, volcanic activity sporadically over the last 100 millions years created basalt layers, dikes, and batholiths that are now the dominate mountain peaks in the area, culminating in Mount Chisos. We continued on to the Elena River Canyon , where the jade-green Rio Grande , through the millennia has cut through the limestone and sandstone formations to form a very impressive and scenic canyon.  The scenery, geology, desert plant and animal life were outstanding; so was the temperature 75-80 degrees and sunny.  We took a 2-1/2 mile hike up into the canyon, watching several rafting and canoeing parties head the opposite direction; observing many new bird species enroute.  There we first became acquainted with the Vermilion Flycatcher, a small, but brilliant red bird.  We then returned to the main road and continued on to the Panther Junction Visitors’ Center..

Then it was on to the Rio Grande Village Campsite.  Fortunately we were able to acquire a campsite!  It just  happened to be the Texas Spring Break so college students and families were out in force. 

3/6/04 :  We wandered back into Alpine to do some shopping, then headed out to the local golf course.  We played the nine-hole course twice, this being the first day it was warm enough to do so without the presence of ridiculously high winds.  Due to a drought since 1992, the course was a little dry, to put it mildly, but the greens fees matched the quality of the course.  In any case, it felt good to get outside and active in warm weather.

In the mid-afternoon, we headed back to the Sul Ross campus, and took in a little of the “18th Annual Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering”.  It turns out that this is quite the event; attracting hundreds of poets, singers, songwriters and listeners.  We spent an hour at one of the many sessions.  We asked a lady in the reception area what she might recommend and she said “follow me”, which we did.  The session we attended was entitled “Hijinx on the Trail” and featured a poet, Doris Daley, performing her original works, and three singer/songwriters, Craig Carter, Rod Taylor, and Jim Wilson, who performed both their own and others works to an SRO crowd.  The emcee also did a very entertaining job.  We left very uplifted and much more appreciative of the ten-gallon hats, fancy cowboy boots and large belt buckles that we had been seeing in great quantities.

On that note, we gassed up Leonardo and headed south on Highway 118 to the Big Bend National Park .  As we drove, the shadows lengthened, greatly enhancing the vivid contrast between the wide open spaces and the numerous sedimentary and volcanic outcroppings through which we passed.  We pulled into an RV park on the outskirts of the park just as the sun set over the dusty western hillscape.

3/5/04 :  We left El Paso relatively early and headed east on Highway 10 as far as Balmorhea, losing an hour in the process when we crossed into the Central Mountain Time Zone.  The high winds from yesterday continued blowing today making the drive a bit more challenging than desired.  At Balmorhea, we turned south onto  Highway 17 and drove to Fort Davis .  Fort Davis was established about 1850 as one of a series of forts set up to protect the numerous argonauts and other settlers heading to California to make their stake in the gold fields from the Indians in the area.  The National Park Service has turned the site into an Historic Monument .  We spent about an hour and a half touring the fort and taking in a 20-minute film on the history of the site.  The parade field, officers quarters, enlisted men’s barracks, commissary, commanding officer’s house, and hospital have all been reconstructed and outfitted.  This fort also had platoons of the famous “Buffalo Soldiers”, the platoons of black soldiers that joined the U.S. Army after the Civil War,  and made a name for themselves with their valiant service.  The fort site was actually used twice; it was established in 1850 and used until the Civil War started.  It was then abandoned, as all available resources were needed to fund the war effort.  After the Civil War it was re-established and improved, and operated until the early 1890’s.  The Indian threat had been removed and the fort no longer served any useful purpose.

From Fort Davis we continued on to the pleasant town of Alpine, Texas , of just over 5000 population.  Alpine has a very pleasant feel to it and is the home of the Sul Ross State University .  This is a very modern institution, laid out very attractively on a small hill overlooking Alpine.  We wandered around the campus and the town for a while, trying to find a wi-fi connection to no avail, and headed out of town a few miles to an RV Park on a working cattle ranch.  When I worked in forestry in Eastern Oregon , I recall many ranchers and farmers who worked in the mill or in field positions to help support there farmers or ranches.  I suspect that the development of RV parks on some of these ranches serves the same purpose.

3/4/04 :  Elephant Butte turned out to be wonderful place to spend the night, but in the summer time it should be quite spectacular.  It sits on a large man-made lake that was created to provide electric power for El Paso we learned later; beautiful camp sites with all the hookups and paved parking pads and hot showers to boot.  New Mexico does do a wonderful job on its state parks; much nicer than 95% of the RV parks at half the cost.

We headed out through Truth or Consequences, NM., thru Las Cruces and on to El Paso .  The winds were quite high as we drove, gusting to 40 mph plus from the side, which can be a bit exciting in a high-profile van like Leonardo.  Reaching El Paso , we decided a little culture was in order so we checked out the El Paso Historical Museum and the El Paso Art Museum .  The Historical Museum was so-so, but the Art Museum was a great find.  We really enjoyed the work of Tom Lea (1901 to 2001;  great oil and water colors of mostly western scenes, but from very unusual perspectives.  The museum also contains many works of the old masters including some from the 1300 and 1400s (the flat period).

3/3/04 :  We randomly picked a place for haircuts from the phone book and showed up at the Hair Revival.  If you ignored the pink & turquoise exterior, interior, & religious music – Joseph turned out to be a competent barber and stylist for us both.  He recommended that we visit the Bosque del Apache – Wildlife Bird Refuge which we did.

Surprise of surprises!  We were lucky enough to see about 200 Sandhill Cranes that were feeding in the fields preparing for their migration northward.  Thousands of birds had already left.  What a thrill it was to see these beautiful and graceful birds in the wild.  We spent a good 4 hours with our binoculars, scope and Sibley’s Guide to Birds identifying more species than we have ever seen in one place in our lives.

To name just a few:  Double-crested Cormorant, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Scaup, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal,  Solitary Sandpiper, American Coot, Northern Harrier, Red-Tailed Hawk, Kestrel, Western Meadowlark, Phoebe, 3 Bald Eagles, 1 Juvenile Bald Eagle, Snow Geese and Brewer’s Blackbirds.  We felt quite smug when some Audobon-type birders asked to please look through our scope perched on its tripod. 

We continued driving south and stopped at the Elephant Butte State Park as it was getting dark and starting to rain.  Sounded too good to be true…but here we are with full hookups, showers, overlooking a lake for $14.00.  Better wait until tomorrow to finish this story.

3/2/04:  We spent the day catching up on maintenance details;  getting the generator tuned up, washing the Chaco Canyon mud off of Leonardo, finding a hardware store for a few parts, making appointments for haircuts for us both (an interesting experience in a unfamiliar city), and trying to find an internet connection.  However, we did find time while Leonardo was being worked on the get to Old Town for a great lunch at the Church Street and to go to the Albuquerque Museum (Liz) and the Atomic Museum (Don).  A divide and conquer drill.

In the evening, when were able to get together with Kate, Rick, George and Max Richardson for a wonderful meal and catch-up.  We had not seen Rick, George or Max since the family reunion at Estes National Park for Jane and Roger’s 50th wedding anniversary.  Both boys are in high school; George a senior, and Max a sophomore, moving rapidly along their own most interesting and creative pathways in life.  Max shared his expertise at digital movie making, including one demonstrating his skateboarding expertise (very, very impressive) and Kate showed us some of George’s art work while George was out studying for a major calculus exam.  Again, the talent demonstrated is most impressive.  It has been highly educational over the past few years to learn of the “movers and shakers” that have populated our family in previous generations.  However, in seeing what George, Max, Kate, and Rick, and many others in the family are accomplishing, it seems that current family members are contributing very impressively as well.  We left our get-together with the Richardson family with a very warm, comfortable feeling in our hearts.

3/1/04 :  We woke early to see the sun rise in a perfectly clear sky, and brilliantly illuminate the cliffs and bluffs around our campsite.  We made coffee and then with cups in hand, explored the secondary ruins that had been built at the base of the cliff walls in the campsite area.  We also watched the numerous Canyon Towhees flit about the area, making a distinctive “Thuuuush” sound as they took off.  After breakfast, we headed back to the Visitors’ Center, then out to Pueblo Bonito (Spanish for “ Beautiful Town ”) .  We learned that the Anasazi Great Houses share many architectural features:

planned layouts , multi-storied construction, distinctive masonry, very large rooms, formal earthen architecture and huge subterranean ceremonial chambers called “great kivas”.  Pueblo Bonito, constructed in stages between A.D. 850-1150 by ancestral Puebloan peoples, was the center of the Chacoan world.  Interestingly, it, and many of the surrounding puebloes were oriented according to solar and lunar directions and was surrounded by sophisticated astronomical markers, communication features, water control devices and Chacoan roads.

Walking through the ruins surrounded by the sacred mountains and mesas made us feel awestruck.  If only we could turn back the clock and actually see the inhabitants involved in special rituals and  ceremonies.  If only we could see the macaws, parrots, turquoise and shell necklaces, the black and white painted pottery being traded with travelers from distant lands.  I asked how the Chacoans could cut their stones so perfectly ?  The Park Ranger said that they had many different stone tools.  We took pictures of the unbelievable masonry techniques that evolved over the centuries.      

It was time for us to experience the sacred mountains and surrounding mesas so we drove Leonardo down the road just beyond Pueblo Bonito to start the hike to Pueblo Alto.

The first part of this overlook trail was a bit intimidating…but once we were up on top of the Mesa it was much easier. What majestic views of Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl!  It helped to observe them from above to better understand the complexity of the whole building site.  What a glorious sunny day to hike and what amazing vistas.  We noticed lots of  rusty iron spots, we later learned were fossilized shrimp burrows in the sandstone from when an island sea covered the area.  We were shocked at the Anasazi prehistoric stairway up and over the mesa.  You can still see parts of this stairway and parts of the 30 ft. wide roadway they traveled on to go to  north .  We followed a trail marked by cairns (little piles of sandstone rocks) to the Pueblo Alto Complex.  More ruins discovered!

We examined some pottery shards along the way.  After about a 2 ½ hour hike we climbed down the mesa – telling others climbing up- what glorious things to expect.  The sky was changing, clouds moving in.  It was time to continue our journey with Leonardo.

2/29/04 :  Woke up to an even colder day.  The incoming water line was frozen and later when we went to disconnect the sewer connection, discovered that the black water value was frozen in the open position.  However, with an extension cord, the portable electric heater and a survival blanket we were able to thaw out the stuck parts and leave the KOA at Bloomfield , NM .  We then drove about four miles to the Salmon Ruins; named for Peter Salmon, a local rancher who discovered the Anasazi Ruins on his property.  Both he and his son preserved the site until it could be turn over to the San Juan County Museum Association.  This site is an absolute must to gain an appreciation for the entire spectrum of the development of native civilizations in this area, starting from 11,000 B.C.

It also does an excellent job of explaining the changes that have taken place in the climate of the area and the impact that these changes have had upon the indigenous civilizations.  I will need to take so time to compare various references, but the climate changes that took place here seem to mirror those in Europe , such as the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age.  We spent about 2-1/2 hours here.

 Regarding the Anasazi, it is amazing to learn how advanced this civilization was in so many ways.  Their communal structures were carefully engineered and planned and the masonry work was of the highest quality.  They laid out road systems much like the ancient Romans.  The roads between major cities were 13 meters wide, and the entire road system that has been discovered was over 400 miles in length.  They traded extensively, and raised dogs, turkeys, and imported Macaws.  They developed varieties of corn that were much larger and had larger and more even rows of kernels.  The Salmon Ruins and the Aztec ruins were outliers to the center at Chaco Canyon ., as were many other communities.

 We then headed south to Chaco Canyon .  Because of the weather we debated for a while before venturing onto the 16-mile, graded-dirt road that leads in Chaco Canyon .  Other than the road being a little greasy, the run went well and we ended up in Chaco just before sunset, with Leonardo looking a bit more like the season traveler, complete with a coating of Chaco mud.  However, for our efforts, the clouds that had provided off and on snow showers all day parted to give us many beautiful vistas as the receded.   

2/28/04:  We woke up to a very cool, clear day, looking up at the beautifully eroded sandstone cliffs of the area around Goulding’s RV Park in Monument Valley, and out through a gap in the hills at the numerous sandstone formations that make up Monument Valley.  Not a bad way at all to start the day!!!

Today was the day to turn back south in a round about way, so we headed east on Highway 163 to Mexican Hat, Bluff, Montezuma Creek, Aneth, Four Corners, Tec Nos Pos, past Shiprock and on to Farmington.  As we proceeded we watched the sandstone formations change from red, to green, to white, and at Shiprock saw the first basalt formations.  It is a very impressive and most dramatic geologic area.  It has the broad expanses of Montana , with the addition of numerous entertaining rock shapes to keep one amused; which is very convenient as the distances in this part of the world are quite staggering.

At Four Corners we enjoyed watching Lyn Elwood (Navajo) demonstrate sand painting with natural colors ground from turquoise, coal,  white, yellow and red sandstone.  Her story of Kokopeli was most interesting.  At one time the world was flooded over.  The Navajo went underground. The Ant People fed them.  Kokopeli went from village to village teaching the ancient ones how to plant corn.  Kokopeli would play his flute so people would come out to see him.  Kokopeli is seen in much of the art today, hunched over playing his flute.  He symbolizes: abundance, prosperity, fertility and the art of healing.  Turquoise is also seen in many of the sandpaintings and jewelry symbolizing beauty and harmony. 

We spent some time wandering around Farmington , NM , which is an impressive little city that has used its oil revenues very wisely.  They have just constructed a very modern and architecturally appealing library that is fully utilized.  On the hill above the town is San Juan College with very modern designs and facilities.

About 4:00 PM we headed out to the town of Aztec , about 15 miles NE to view the Aztec Ruins National Monument containing Anasazi ruins.  The monument is compact but concise.  Viewing these ruins and the mysteries that surround them certainly gives one a greater appreciation of those humans that preceded us on this planet.  Due to the heavy “corn snow” that was falling, the photography left something to be desired.

2/27/04 :   Savoring Navajo Culture and  Monument Valley.

A quick trip through the Visitor’s Center and off with Richard Simpson, our Navajo guide.  It seemed rather ironic that one of our earliest predecessors in this country was a Richard Simpson.

 Richard showed us all the famous buttes, mesas, monuments and spires in the Monument Valley .  Each with a special story that he learned as a boy from his grandmother.

He described the geology with Shinarump Conglomerate on the top layer, Dechelly Sandstone the middle layer, and Organ Rock Shale making up the bottom level.  Over 230 million years ago, the area was covered by an inland sea.  The sedimentary deposits that accumulated, were, under pressure, converted into these layers.  Later, the entire area was uplifted.  Following he uplifting, erosion, both wind and water started removing the softer portions of the land mass, leaving the harder, denser portions to form the mesas, buttes, and spires that are so impressive today.  Mesas are the largest formations, buttes more squarish in shape and spires more fully eroded.

 

Richard showed us where he grew up and fell in love with the country.  He invited us to visit a Hogan to meet Susie (in her late 80’s)  who demonstrated carding wool, and spinning it to make yarn for her elaborate woven rugs. Susie also demonstrated using feather grass as a hairbrush to style an English visitor’s long hair.  We learned more about Hogan symbolism.  We had entered a “Female Hogan”  with nine posts symbolizing the 9 months of pregnancy.  The door was facing East. As you enter you walk in a clockwise direction to show respect to your host or hostess (this is a matriarchal society).  Richard told us about many Navajo customs and superstitions.  A baby cradle  formed from two flat vertical boards, one representing male and one female; a rainbow arch (the arc of wood joining the two vertical boards just above the baby’s head);  life line ties; bottom section symbolizing earth.  If the  lacing string starts from the right it’s a girl.  Also, it is bad luck to witness stones falling from the formations and indicates that something bad may happen in the future.  This necessitates a visit to the medicine man.

 

Richard showed us 800 year old petroglyphs from the Anasazi.  They looked like either antelopes or big horn sheep.  Interestingly the Navaho came from Athabasca not from the Anasazi, according to Richard.  According to Navajo legend, the ancient Navajo would raid the Anasazi to acquire their stores of food supplies.

 

Our trip with Richard was thoroughly enjoyable and inspirational.  The sun shone brightly for us to take splendid pictures then left as quickly as it came.  A rainbow shown over the entire valley as we said goodbye to Richard.  We decided to stay overnight in this special setting beneath the red rocks at a Goulding’s Campground right near the park.

 

 

2/26/04 :  We took it easy today to savor the countryside.  We started out by driving north  on Highway 191 to Ganado , Arizona to explore  the historic Hubbell Trading Post begun in 1883.  The actual Trading Post continues in business today, but is operated by the National Park Service and SW Parks & Monuments Association.  We got an actual taste of Navaho culture by consuming some Jalapeno Peanut Brittle as we leisurely walked around the buildings.  We watched a little old Navaho lady weaving a rug with a very intricate pattern.  Her yarns were hand-made and dyed from plants in the area. There is a Trading Post Rug Room with an extensive collection.  Naturally, my favorite rug cost $5000.

  The Forest Ranger, Geno, took us on a virtual tour of the Trading Post and told us all about the Navajo hogans (translated place home combines the meanings of home and a sense of place) we had seen on the road driving up.  The door faces east to greet the sunrise each day.  The Hogan building itself can be 6-sided, 8-sided or more depending on the wood available.  The earth floor is a connection to Mother Earth.  Often built of logs and earth covered, it provides a snug shelter.

Next, we headed for Canyon De Chelly, driving along one of the most scenic roads you can imagine.  Bright red painted desert scenes with small little farms…each with its own Hogan and miles and miles in between.   When we reached Chinle we quickly found the Visitor’s Center.   We chose the White House Trail (about a 2 hour hike) to independently explore from the canyon rim to the floor.  What striking views!   Every few steps we kept taking pictures of the brilliant red rock faces and mahogany stained walls, swirling wave-like sandstone patterns and the varied geologic layers.  In the valley we walked along a winding river.  Navaho men were trying to break up the iced river in order to reach farms further down the canyon floor.  We walked by one farm along our way with sheep, traditional Hogan, Cottonwood trees abounding. We followed a trail until we reached the pueblo ruins of a cliff dwelling called Kinii nai gai or “white house in between,” referring to the white plastered walls of the room built in between the rocks.  Built around A.D. 1060 (about 800 years ago) it’s an amazing multi-storied pueblo complete with petroglyphs and probably 80 rooms, plus 4 kivas.  People who lived here planted crops and gathered fruits and nuts. 

We  decided to celebrate our Navajo Appreciation Day with an authentic dinner –Green Chili Stew with Fry Bread at the Thunderbird Cafeteria  before retiring to our little spot in the campground near the canyon.  Obviously, this is not the height of the tourist season, as there was no fee for use of the camp.

2/25/04: We awoke to another beautiful sunny day with a slight nip to the air which is not surprising considering the 4000 foot elevation. After breakfast, we continued northeast on Highway 60, thru Devil’s Canyon, the towns of Miami and Globe and on into the Salt River Canyon, where you switch-back down to the Salt River and back up, losing and then gaining a couple of thousand of feet of elevation. The canyon is quite spectacular with its red rock outcroppings, white tuft layers, and rapidly flowing river.

After the Salt River Canyon we continued on to Show Low, AZ amidst beautiful Ponderosa and Pinyon Pine, and Juniper forests. The Cholla along the road were in full bloom, and a nice touch of color, all so beautiful under a cloudless sky.

In Show Low we were able to get the rock chip we acquired south of Santa Barbara (a souvenir of a dilapidated section of highway) repaired, and continued on towards the Petrified Forest National Park.

Next on the agenda, the Petrified Forest Nat’l Park & Painted Desert. Can you believe that 225 million years ago this forest was buried in volcanic ash and embalmed in silica which turned to stone? We took many pictures to document the colorful petrified wood. After looking at some 93,000 acres of the stuff, we journeyed on to the Painted Desert. We were amazed at the brilliant colors and learned that iron oxide turned the rock red and pink; manganese turned the rock blue and purple; carbon turned the rocks black, white, & gray. We tried to locate the petroglyphs using powerful binoculars. Along the highway we saw examples of all the dinousaurs that once roamed the terrain. A great place for kids to visit. We were thrilled to find a KOA Camp Ground in Holbrook with an empty space for us.

 

2/24/04: We left Mom, Dick and Dorothy and Desert Hot Springs about 9:30 AM and headed east thru Blythe to Phoenix, thru Apache Junction, on out Highway 60 on the scenic route towards Globe, AZ. We climbed up through beautiful rock formations and found the Oak Ridge Campsite on the Tonto National Forest. Before dark we took a short hike out over the surrounding hills and were treated to a beautiful Arizona sunset.

Amazingly enough, there was no charge for the campsite at this time of the year.

 

 

2/22 & 23/04: Liz, Mom and I drove down to Thousand Palms to meet Mary and Dave Flaming. The three ladies ventured out to brave the shops of El Paseo in Palm Desert and watch the locals strut their stuff; conspicuous consumption being the name of the game. Being less brave, Dave and I boldly ventured out to the local golf course where we enjoyed 15 relatively dry holes of golf, and three rather wet ones, but all in all a very nice outing. We returned to Caliente Hot Springs for another wonderful dinner with Dick and Dorothy. We shared dinner with Phyliss and her husband Stan. Delightful!

On the 23rd, Liz, Mom and myself headed to the Living Desert Museum in Palm Desert. This museum does a superb job of displaying the local plant and animal species as well as explaining many of the ecological and geological aspects of the local desert environment. We spent over four hours their and by no means exhausted the content available; we did however exhaust the ability of or brains to absorb additional plant and animal species.

2/20 and 2/21/04: Spent some very relaxing days visiting with Dick and Dorothy and Dorothy’s nursing friend Phyllis, and enjoying the snowbird life style with time spent swimming in the pool, playing golf on Caliente Hot Spring’s nine-hole par three course, and enjoying a lot of visiting

2/19/04: After spending the night at San Simeon, we returned to the visitor center for the Hearst Castle State Park and took tour #2, of the guest rooms in the main house, Mr. Hearst bedroom, and the bedroom of his girl friend, Marion Davies, the library, the board room, the Neptune Pool the indoor pool, and the kitchen. An educational way to spend an hour and forty-five minutes. Following Hearst Castle, we headed a mile noth up the coast to view the Elephant Seals that had migrated back to the California Coast – the bulls are very impressive 2000 lb. animals.

 

We then turned south again, stopping in Santa Barbara to take some pictures of the house at 2401Chapala Street, that was originally owned by L. C. and Mammee Simpson and later sold to Ray and Cleo Simpson. Following this we headed over to the beach to check on the beach area where Mom and her siblings frequently swam during the summer months. The northern area where they swam is now a marina in which no swimming is allowed. (The changes that take place when you’re not there to supervise.)

We then continue south to LA, through LA in rather heavy traffic, and on to Desert Hot Springs, arriving about 10:00 PM.

2/18/04: Leaving Mill Valley, we crossed the Golden Gate and headed to Monterey where we spent a couple of hours walking Fishermen’s Wharf (sampling the free clam chowder) and Cannery Row. Very scenic, but nothing like the Monterey that John Steinbeck must have known.

We then headed south on the windy, coast-following, Highway One as far as San Simeon, where we viewed the movie about W. R. Hearst and his castle.

2/15 to 2/17/04: Spent three wonderful days catching up with David, Sherry, Onwyn and Thatcher. On Sunday we went for a hike at Blackie’s Pasture and toured Tiburon. On Monday, David and Sherry had to work, so Mom, Liz and I had a great time being entertained by Onwyn and Thatcher. We went bowling, went out to lunch, spent some time in a games arcade, purchased some books for O and T at the old bus station book shop in Mill Valley, and had a Stephano’s pizza for dinner. On Tuesday, David and I were able to scan the copies of the family history from Nevada City. During our entire stay in Mill Valley, we experienced very heavy winds and rains, but we all had a wonderful time visiting and catching up, playing foosball with the twins and teaching them crazy eights and solitaire.

 

 

2/14/04: In the morning we checked out a Pioneer Cemetery on Upper Broad. Then we returned to the Doris Foley Historic Library which opened at 10:00. We found it was much easier to check out cemeteries in the library with detailed maps. There were many more cemeteries in the area than we ever thought. We obtained a history of the ownership of Mary Beedle’s home at 107 Mill Street and returned to the Firehouse Museum to see a display of one of Mary Beedle’s dresses, which unfortunately was still in storage. We drove to the Pine Grove Cemetery next, where we located Edna Beedle’s unmarked grave and the graves of Alice V. (sister of Granville Beedle) and George Hichens, her husband. We felt quite successful! Next, we headed towards Mill Valley, via Sacramento where we hoped to find the home at 1616 "H" where Lynn C. and Mammee Simpson lived while L. C. was part owner and editor of the Sacramento Union. It was in the living room of this home that Carol Simpson and Granville Beedle were married in 1915. We located the house very quickly and as we were photographing it and examining it from the sidewalk, the owner, Jim Walker, came out and introduced himself to us and gave us a brief tour, including the living room where the marriage took place. Jim recently purchased the home which had been used as a care facility, and is converting back to its original condition. It is a beautiful, spacious home, and is located just across the street from the original Governor’s Mansion. It seems that L. C. Simpson was one of the "movers and shakers" in Sacramento at that time.

Departing Sacramento, we then headed to Mill Valley, arriving at David and Sherry’s about 7:30 PM.

2/12/04:

After Page took us to breakfast, where it was very obvious that he knew the life histories of most of the employees at that Denny’s 2/13/04:

We started the day by touring Orland and locating the residence in which Lynn Beedle was born at 21 South Street, and the house at 521 2nd Street, where Mom and Gin were born. Lynn’s birth place was still in quite respectable shape. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Mom’s and Gin’s original residence which had fallen into some disrepair, and judging from the sign on the door, was occupied by less than the most sterling of individuals.

We then headed east to Orland, south to Yuba City, and thence east to Nevada City where we met Tony and the Nevada City Historical Society who directed us on the Sterling Historical Library at the Doris Foley Historical Library just a few blocks away. There we were able to obtain some additional family history data including:

A picture of Charles W. Beedle’s home in Gold Flat..

A brief history of C. W. Beedle.

A copy of Charles W. Beedle and Mary E. Holmes’ marriage license.

Additionally there was some evidence that C. W. had been employed at the Empire Mine just south of Grass Valley, so we drove down to the site which is now a State Park, and learned much about the mining industry and the history of the area. We found it ironic that we had been discussing Newmont Mining Co. with Page, and learned that C. W. may have been employed by a firm that was later purchased by a company that Page Douglas had an ownership interest in, with only a century or so separation.

Later, in the evening, we returned to attend an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Nevada City Film Festival that had shown interesting films to the Nevada City population every Sunday night for the past 25 years. It was held at the Nevada Theater, the oldest continuously operating theater in the State of California. The event included a brief talk about the program, a 9 minute film that included interviews with various residents about the festival, two birthday cakes, and a showing of "In America". All in all a very delightful evening, Nevada City style.restaurant (in a most friendly and supportive way), we headed south once again in I-5. As the day before had been, this day favored us with blue skies and warm temperatures, reaching over 60 degrees. Our movement south proceeded rapidly and uneventfully, and as the shadows lengthened, we passed Mount Shasta with its craggy ridges and snow fields strikingly offset by a dark blue cloudless sky. We continued on in to Orland, CA, arriving there about 8:00 PM.

12:30 PM 2/11/04:

Left Lynnwood, picked up Mom and headed south down I-5 as far as Lacey, Washington to visit Russell and Marjorie Day at their home in Panorama city. Russell and Marjorie shared many tips accumulated from their decades of traveling in small RVs and gave Mom the grand tour of their numerous wonderful art collections. Russell also showed us the beginnings of his next project which involves converting numerous empty Gallo vine jugs into a glass divider. This will be similar to a prior project in which he used empty gin bottles. Very attractive, although we haven’t figured out the symbolism quite yet: Something about the spirit of human ingenuity from alcoholic spirits.

Departing the Days, we traveled on to Portland where we shared a delightful meal and an evening on conversation with Page Douglas.