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Road Tripping

If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” – Dan Rather

Nothing beats a lonesome scenic backroad for a peaceful drive. This scene is just west of the Navajo Bridge on Highway 89A, — Photo by Pat Bean

The Last 500 Miles

            Day 12: Jean and I were on the road by 7 a.m. After being together almost constantly for 12 days our attitudes were both a bit crusty. We are not anything alike. And with so much time spent in each other’s company, our individual trifling quirks had become major annoyances.

Jacob Lake Campground: Peaceful and soothing.

So it was that the 10-hour scenic drive home was made with little conversation. This was OK for both of us, I think. I enjoy driving in silence, preferring not even to listen to music, and Jean could peacefully enjoy some awesome scenery she had never seen before.

After leaving St. George, we would head to nearby Hurricane, Utah, where we would hook up with Highway 59 that would turn into Highway 389 when we hit the Arizona border near the infamous Colorado City. The town was formerly called Short Creek and had been founded by polygamists when the Mormon Church abandoned the practice.

We didn’t make the turn off to the town, but back in the early ‘70s, I had driven through it – and it had been creepy. My car was followed until it was well past the town limits.

Our drive then took us through the Kaibab Indian Reservation almost all the way into Fredonia, where we would hook up with Highway 89A. This scenic backroad is one of my favorites.

Navaho Bridge

We stopped for a break to walk our dogs, Scamp and Dusty, in Kaibab National Forest’s Jacob Lake Campground located near the turnoff to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon I had stayed here a couple of times during my RV-ing years, and found it pretty much as I remembered  it: Peaceful and uncrowded with the scent from the Ponderosa pines that towered above soothing my soul.

Back on the road, we would cross over the Navaho Bridge that sits high above the Colorado River. I had floated beneath this magnificent 44-foot wide, 447-feet high bridge twice during the first days of my two 16-day rafting trips on the river through the Grand Canyon. I had also driven across the older 18-foot wide bridge before the new one was built. That one is now a footbridge across the river.

This section of today’s drive was filling my brain with vivid memories, and they continued as we passed the Vermillion Cliffs, where the first California condors born in captivity had been released. As a reporter, I wrote several stories on the recovery of this magnificent bird, whose population went from 27 in the 1980s to over 500 today, including 300 that are once again flying free in the wild.

Scamp and Dusty were eager to get home too. — Photo by Jean Gowen

While today’s drive may have been the longest of the trip, it didn’t seem that way. Soon we were on Highway 17, that would take us into Flagstaff, and then into Phoenix, where we picked up heavy traffic again, and finally onto Interstate 10 that took us into Tucson.

There is no place like home.

As for the uncomfortable tension and any unresolved issues between Jean and I, we got over them. About two weeks later, we had a good talk, and our friendship is even stronger now than it was before. This was the trip’s silver lining – the one I’m always trying to find.

Bean Pat: Living Life Graciously https://imissmetoo.me/2019/08/22/your-table-is-ready/ My kind of dining room table.

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.

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Battle Mountain, Nevada — Wikimedia photo 

            “Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” – Matsuo Basho

Cruising I-80 in Nevada and Utah

            Day 7: The next morning found us back on Interstate 80 for a scenic, peaceful day’s drive to Battle Mountain, Nevada, 350 miles away.

The Bonneville Salt Flats as viewed near the Nevada-Utah border. Wikimedia photo

            In my research to discover what battle had been fought here, I learned there hadn’t been any battle, but I did learn that in December 2001, the Washington Post published an article that called the town the “Armpit of America.”  And that Battle Mountain then used the title as a publicity opportunity, hosting an annual “Armpit Festival” from 2002–2005. The event was sponsored by Old Spice.

I saw Battle Mountain as just one of America’s small towns past its prime after a  familiar history of copper, silver and gold mining and accessibility to a railroad to bring miners to the area and transport the ores elsewhere. The city’s economy today is gold mining, gambling and a plethora of motels because it sits in the middle of nowhere.

It was simply a convenient place for Jean, me and our doggies to spend the night, order take out from a nearby steak house, and then start the next day at the town’s excellent dog park before continuing our journey. The pleasant dog park made me discount the armpit title.

Day 8: Back on Interstate 80, our goal for the day was Ogden, Utah, where I had lived and worked as a reporter, columnist and

Utah Tree of Life, a cement structure that sits beside Insterdate 80 between Wendover, Nevada and Salt Lake City, Utah.

editor for 25 years. I was eager to once again be in sight of its magnificent Wasatch Mountain backdrop. I was also eager to see friends I had left behind when I retired in 2004 and took to the roaming RV life for eight years before nesting in Tucson seven years ago.

But before that could happen, there were 350 miles ahead of us, the first 300 continuing on Interstate 80 through a mostly unsettled landscape that was sometimes awesome and-sometimes barren. The most interesting sight along the way – one that Jean, a former chef and now a high school culinary arts teacher was eager to see for the first time – came just after we crossed into Utah after passing through Wendover, Nevada, where Northern Utahns come to gamble.

It was the Bonneville Salt Flats, a remnant of Lake Bonneville that once stretched across portions of Utah, Nevada and Idaho until it broke through Red Rock Pass in Idaho about 15,000 years ago.  I knew the area’s history well because during my days as an environmental reporter I often wrote about the flats and the Great Salt Lake, which I had watched go from a historic low in 1963 to a historic high in 1983. Today, the ever-fluctuating lake is once again reaching historic low levels.  

We stopped for a short break at a viewing tower overlooking the salt flats shortly after crossing over the border into Utah. Jean, curious about its texture, walked out onto the salt.

 As we drove on, I noted that the area we were passing through was called the West Desert and that in addition to containing the salt flats, it also contained an Air Force bombing range and was home to Dugway Proving Grounds, where chemical weapons are tested. In addition, I said, there are several landfills, including one for hazardous waste, which I had also visited and wrote about as a reporter.

This portion of the day’s drive was full of memories for me and new territory for Jean.

To be continued:

Bean Pat: Worth reading for writers is today’s Jane Friedman’s column. Check it out at https://www.janefriedman.com/metaphor-and-imagery/   

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.

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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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