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Archive for the ‘road trip’ Category

The bluebonnet is “a kind of floral trademark almost as well known to outsiders as Cowboy boots and the Stetson hat,” —  Texas historian Jack Maguire.

Texas bluebonnets. — Photo by Pat Bean

Road Trip: June 21 – July 26, 2002

My next journal entry takes me into Texas, my home state where the majority of my family still lives. Today, that includes three of my five children, 11 of my 15 grandchildren, and five of my seven great-grandchildren.

In 2002, however, the numbers were fewer and I only had to visit Dallas, Fort Hood, and Lake Jackson to see them all. This coming Thursday, I’m flying home to Dallas, where I was born, and then will rent a car for trips to San Antonio, Lake Jackson, and West Columbia to see all my Texas family, except one granddaughter who will be on a delayed honeymoon to Disneyland in Florida.

I’m excited to be going at this time because this is prime bluebonnet season. However, I noted in my 2002 road trip journal that one of the first things I saw when I crossed the border from New Mexico into Texas were bluebonnets, even though it was then late June.

Texas late singing governor W. Lee O’Daniel (1939-41), sang; “You may be on the plains or the mountains or down where the sea breezes blow, but bluebonnets are one of the prime factors that make the state the most beautiful in the land that we know.”

Indian paintbrush is often seen blooming with bluebonnets. — Photo by Pat Bean

The bluebonnet, all five varieties of them, are Texas’ state flower. And thanks to former First Lady Ladybird Johnson, the roadsides are abundant with them. She encouraged Texans to toss flower seeds all across the state – and they did. But how all five bluebonnets became the state flower makes for a good Texas tall tale.

According to the Aggie Horticulture web site, the story goes like this:

In the spring of 1901, the Texas Legislature got down to the serious business of selecting a state flower, and the ensuing battle was hot and heavy. One legislator spoke emotionally in favor of the cotton boll, since cotton was king in Texas in those days. Another, a young man from Uvalde, extolled the virtues of the cactus so eloquently that he earned the nickname of “Cactus Jack,” which stuck with him for the rest of his life. He was John Nance Garner who later became vice president of the United States.

But the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in Texas won the day. Their choice was Lupinus subcarnosus, generally known as buffalo clover or bluebonnet. And that’s when the polite bluebonnet war was started.

While you’re looking for bluebonnets, don’t miss the butterflies, like this swallowtail at Brazos Bend State Park.

Lupinus subcarnosus is a dainty little plant which paints the sandy, rolling hills of coastal and southern Texas with sheets of royal-blue in the early spring. But some folks thought it was the least attractive of the Texas bluebonnets. They wanted Lupinus texensis, the showier, bolder bluebonnet. So, off and on for 70 years, the Legislature was encouraged to correct its oversight. But the solons weren’t about to get caught in another botanical trap, nor did they want to offend the supporters of Lupinus subcarnosus. They finally solved the problem with typical political maneuvering.

In 1971, the Legislature added the two species together, plus any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded, and lumped them all into one state flower. What the many things the Legislature did not know then was that Texas is home to three other species of lupines and the umbrella clause makes all five of them the state flower.

A bit of interesting history that I only learned when doing some research for this blog. It adds a bit of pondering to my upcoming bluebonnet viewing.

Bean Pat: Sunrise at Bryce Canyon http://www.trailsunblazed.com/sunrise-at-bryce-canyon/ One of my favorite places.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She is also currently looking for a new canine companion. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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“I chose the road less traveled. And now I’m lost.” — Darynda Jones

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Carlsbad, New Mexico

Road Trip June 21 — July 6, 2002

If you’re in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the No. 1 place to visit is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. But since I had already done this, I decided to forgo the cave tour and instead visit the city’s Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. It was a good choice as I added three new bird species to my life list — and got an educational experience about the landscape, plants, and animals of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Barn owl. — Wikimedia photo

It was late afternoon when I arrived, giving me only a couple of hours to walk the 1.3 loop trail around the park’s variety of desert habitats that included sandhills, marsh areas and arroyos. But it was a good time to see daytime birds getting ready to nest for the night, or nighttime birds coming awake for their night of activity.

The first stop was an aviary near the visitor center that featured native birds of prey including golden and bald eagles. While these were fun to see, it was the birds that flew free around the avian-friendly park that interested me more. One of these, a barn owl flew right in front of me as I rounded a curve in the trail, which I seemed to have all to myself. A little farther on, a couple of scaled quail scurried off when they saw me coming, but not before I had a satisfying look at them.

Because back then I was still new to birding, both of these species were lifers for my growing bird list. So were the common nighthawks skimming the water at Waterfowl Pond near the prairie dog homes. I easily identified the nighthawks, well after a quick look at my bird field guide, by the broad white stripes visible near their wing tips as they flew.

Bank swallow

Also circling around the ponds were quite a few cliff and bank swallows. I had seen quite a few of these birds during trips to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. On one outing there had been a huge flock of five species of swallows circling around and under a small bridge. I had spent hours learning how to tell them apart. The bank and swift swallows, I had decided were the easiest to identify.

The bank swallow has a gray, necklace-like stripe on its white breast, which I came to think of as a banker’s bow tie. The mature cliff swallow, meanwhile, has a prominent white spot on its bluish-black head that flashes when its flying toward you. 

Other birds I saw as I followed the winding trail through the desert landscape included a Harris hawk, burrowing owls, black-chinned hummingbirds and an Eastern kingbird. It was a delightful late afternoon that ended far too quickly.

According to my journal notes, I paid a $4 entrance fee to be admitted to the park. I certainly got my money’s worth, and I noted that the admission fee today is only $1 more. A bargain I would say.

Available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Seaman https://sarah-angleton.com/2019/04/11/a-classy-post-about-a-loyal-dog-with-an-unfortunate-name. A dog story and a travel story in one, and it made me smile.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She is also currently looking for a new canine companion. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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I got a good belly laugh when I saw a sign for eye exams on a Wal-Mart front in Roswell, New Mexico — and right above it a space. — Photo by Pat Bean

“When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

From Santa Fe, I took Interstate 25 south to Carlsbad, New Mexico, which took me through the strange city of Roswell. Home to about 50,000 residents, Roswell sits on the southern edge of the Rocky Mountains.

Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Carlsbad Caverns at sunset. — Wikimedia photo

The city’s weirdness factor, meanwhile, is based on a reported UFO crash near the city in 1947.  The alternative story is that it was actually a weather balloon that crashed and not an alien ship. The taller tale, expanded by UFO fans, claims that aliens were recovered from the crash and that the incident became a military cover up, a story that spawned the television series “Roswell” and been exploited by movies, such as “Independence Day.”

Roswell entrepreneurs have also exploited the UFO story to attract tourists.  Alien-themed businesses and museums abound, even Wal-Mart got into the act, as you can see from the above photo. I couldn’t help but have a good belly laugh when I saw a sign advertising an eye exam with a spaceship painted on the wall above it.

But since I’m not really into the UFO conspiracy, after a stop to refuel and have lunch, I drove on to Carlsbad, my stopping place for the night.

Scissor-tailed flycatcher, an awesome bird that’s common in Texas but can’t be found in Utah. — Wikimedia photo

While I wasn’t taking the time to visit Carlsbad Caverns, for which the city is famous, I did want to get into to town in time to watch the Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from the cave at dusk. Some believe millions of these bats once inhabited the cave, but the latest rough count of these flying mammals was slightly less than 800,000, which is still enough to make for a spectacular show.

The day’s drive also increased my birding life list. Added to the list were scissor-tailed flycatcher, Couch’s kingbird, red-shoulder hawk and common and great-tailed grackles. All these birds were not normally seen in Utah, where most of my birding had been done since I had started seeing and listing birds.

Other birds seen on this day’s journey included house sparrow, rock pigeon, raven, red-winged blackbird, western meadowlark, turkey vulture, Lewis woodpecker, Swainson’s hawk, crow, mourning dove, northern mockingbird and cliff swallow.

Bean Pat: Oregon’s Painted Hills https://roadsbeltravelled.com/2018/09/08/born-to-wander-these-painted-hills/ I, too, traveled this road alone – as an old broad during my RV-ing days. Good times.

Available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. — Wikimedia photo

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from a single thing I wanted to do.” – Georgia O’Keeffe 

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

Santa Fe, the oldest state capital in the country, is a delight to visit – if you like quaint adobe buildings with an artistic flair and a town filled with old churches, art galleries and an atmosphere of enchantment. And I do,

A page from my journal with a Georgia O’Keeffe print.

The city, whose name means holy faith, was founded by Spanish colonists in 1610. I got to see quite a bit of its charming downtown area as I searched – and searched – for the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. I had an address but no map and it took me quite a while to finally come upon the humble building.

I’ve long been a fan of O’Keeffe’s art, and of her boldness in living her life her way.  Here’s a sample of her way of thinking:

“Men liked to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I’m one of the best painters.”

            “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.”

Georgia wanted viewers to really see a flower.

            “I know now that most people are so closely concerned with themselves that they are not aware of their own individuality. I can see myself, and it has helped me to say what I want to say in paint.”
I bought a few Georgia O’Keeffe prints while in Santa Fe, intending to use them as gifts and keep one for myself. The latter didn’t happen but I made one extra family member happy when I gave the print to her.

With my morning of sight-seeing behind me, I was ready to get back on the road. I had a long way still to go before nightfall.

Bean Pat: Chicago Botanical Garden photos that might have intrigued Georgia O’Keeffe    https://sfkfsfcfef.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/coming-to-a-point-at-the-chicago-botanic-garden/

Available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

 

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“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

Echo Amphitheater, located 70 miles north of Sant Fe, New Mexico on Highway 285. — Photo by Pat Bean

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

After turning off Highway 160 onto Highway 285 in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, and heading south toward Santa Fe, New Mexico, the scenery changed in both color and form. I left the green lush mountain foliage color behind in my rear-view mirror and stared ahead at red rock cliffs. Each landscape, in its own way, was perfectly awesome. One had a peaceful charm and the other bold outlandish character.

Photo by Pat Bean

I wouldn’t dream of choosing a favorite. I simply enjoyed the change as bringing added variety to my road trip.

I was making this annual trip from Utah to Texas slower than usual. In earlier, younger years, I had twice driven the 1,300-mile trip from Ogden to Dallas in one long 24-hour day. Then I slowed it down to two 12-hour days of driving. This trip I was taking my time and doing it in three eight-hour days, which left me eight hours to discover new places to explore along the way and eight hours of sleep at an inexpensive motel along the way.

About 70 miles from Santa Fe, I stopped for a short hike to Echo Amphitheater, a sandstone formation just four miles from Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch, where the landscape inspired her art.

This New Mexico natural amphitheater is quite visible from the road, but made an ideal spot for Maggie and me to stretch our legs a bit. A dripping red stain on the rock at the site has created a ghoulish legend about the place. According to the tall-tales, Indians massacred a family of settlers on the rim and their blood dripped downward. Then, soldiers killed a group of Indians on the rim and their blood joined that of their earlier victims.

“Do you believe that?” I asked my canine companion Maggie. I assumed her lack of a reply indicated she didn’t. And neither did I … to be continued

Available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Nature always wins https://naturetreatnatwin.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/squirrel/   Great nature theme photo blog.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

 

 

 

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“I see my path but don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” — Rosalia de Castro

A view of Wolf Creek Pass from Highway 160 — Wikimedia photo

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

The drive on Highway 160 between Cortez and Pagosa Springs, Colorado, is one of my favorites. The most scenic section is Wolf Creek Pass, a high mountain drive that takes travelers across the Continental Divide through the San Juan Mountains. I first drove this route in the 1970s when it was a simple two-lane highway, which, of course, it no longer is.

Wolf Creek Pass tunnel that was completed in 2006.

Thankfully, I never had to drive it in the winter, a trip that  C.W. McCall sings about in his song “Wolf Creek Pass.” He calls the drive “37 miles of hell.” I call it a road trip not to be missed.

Near Pagosa Springs, I took a four-mile detour off Highway 160 to visit Echo Canyon Lake State Wildlife Area. The small, but about 50-foot deep reservoir that sits above 7,000 feet in elevation, is surrounded by scenic mountains,, It is mostly used by fishermen, but is also listed as a “hot birding spot” and is one of the sites on Colorado’s birding trail maps. The latter is what brought it to my attention.

Coots at Echo Canyon Lake. — photo by Pat Bean

While I didn’t have long to explore the area, I felt well-rewarded for taking the time to visit. There was not another soul around. I had the place to myself and could drink in its peaceful scenery, and the birds, in wonderful solitude. That doesn’t happen too often these days.

Birds at the reservoir included coots with babies, yellow-headed blackbird, red-winged blackbird, redhead duck, cinnamon teal and brown-headed cowbird.

On the way back to the highway, I spotted a Lewis woodpecker, a Brewer’s blackbird and a rough-winged swallow all on the same power pole. I thought that was kind of neat. In addition to these, the other birds seen this day included house sparrow, turkey vulture, western wood peewee (my lifer at Mesa Verde), a wild turkey with two chicks, Clark’s nutcracker, kestrel, violet-green swallow, raven and magpie.  … to be continued.

Now available on Amazon

Bean Pat: A simple way to travel https://simpletravelourway.woodpress.com/2019/03/13/car-camping-our-way/   This was my way of traveling for many years.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

*You can listen to McCall sing “Wolf Creek Pass “on YouTube 

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National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” — Wallace Stegner. 

Cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Road Trip: June 21 – July 6, 2002

            Today would be the fourth time I visited Mesa Verde National Park, a place that because of its beauty and its history would never bore me. But today would be the first time I had visited this park since I had become addicted to bird watching.

A page from my journal.

So along with looking at the high mesa scenery and cliff dwellings, I was always on the lookout for birds. Of the 1,000 or so bird species found in North American, about 200 of them have been sighted in the park. I didn’t see too many of them, but it was still fun looking.

I enjoyed the 45-minute drive up to the top of the 8,600-foot mesa because of the scenic views as much as I enjoyed stopping at overviews of the cliff dwellings and the hike down to one of them, the Spruce Tree House. The cliff dwellings were used by those often called the Anasazi sometime after 650 and through the end of the 12th century. The occupants used a combination of hunting, gathering, and subsistence farming of crops such as corn, beans and squash to survive.

Before hiking down to the ancient dwellings, I spent 50 cents to purchase a guide to the site, which also identified the plants along the trail. While I enjoy the historical aspects of the places I visit, the truth is I enjoy the handiwork of nature even more.

And the highlight of this morning of sightseeing on the high mesa (perhaps because this wasn’t my first sight

Western wood peewee 

of the cliff dwellings) was seeing a western wood peewee for the first time. It was my second lifer for the trip. This peewee is a rather plain grayish-brownish bird five to six inches in size. Its most distinguishing feature is a peaked crown that gives a triangular shape to the bird’s head. The peewees belong to the flycatcher family, and like them can be seen sitting up tall and then flying out to catch a spotted insect, then flying back to the same perch.

It was this action that gave me a clue to the bird’s identification, followed by a close look at my bird field guide…. To be continued.

Bean Pat: Mesa Verde  https://www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm   Check out the video about the park. 

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

 

 

 

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