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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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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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The abandoned cement mixer that’s been turned into and abandoned space capsule by an artist. The oddity sits eats of Phoenix near the Casa Grade exit on the south side of the road.

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

Between Phoenix and Tucson

I was heading home to Tucson from Phoenix on Interstate 10 with my friend Jean when I saw a strange object in a barren farm field off the road to my right. It kind of looked like part of a rocket, was my immediate thought,

The cement tree that sits off Interstate 80 between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Wendover, Nevada.

“What’s that?” I asked Jean.

Truly a woman of the times, Jean said she didn’t know but she would find out.

“I doubt you’ll find that on your smartphone,” I said as she began tapping its keypad.

“Wanna bet?” she replied. Fortunately, I didn’t because a few minutes later she

Told me exactly what we had passed. It was an abandoned cement mixer from an old truck that artist Jack Milliard had painted to look like a downed space capsule. The abandoned mixer had sat in the field for 30 years before that.

Weird, I thought. Then my mind went to the cement tree that sits in the middle of the Bountiful Salt

The two-story outhouse in Gays, Illinois. — Photo by Pat Bean

Flats between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Wendover, Nevada. As a journalist, I had written about this 83-foot-tall structure that was built to withstand desert winds gusting at over 130 miles an hour, and earthquakes in the order of 7.5 on the Richter scale.

According to the local Highway Patrol, and Wikipedia, more than two million cars travel past the tree annually, and five to seven an hour of these cars stop for a more thorough look. When Utah pumped water out of Great Salt Lake onto the West Desert to avoid the lake from flooding in the 1980s, the joke was that the state was doing so to water the cement tree.

Then I remembered the Two-Story Outhouse in Gays, Illinois. I did a short travel blog for American Profile magazine on this roadside oddity.

Such surprising sights are what make road trips so delightful. Do you have a favorite roadside oddity?  I hope you do. I’d love to hear about it.

Bean Pat Frog Diva thoughts https://frogdivathoughts.com/2018/12/03/all-i-want-is-a-hippopotamus-for-christmas/#like-8863 Do you remember this? I do.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon. Currently, she is writing a book, she is calling Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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“…on a still night, when the campfire is low and the Pleiades have climbed over the rimrocks, sit quietly and listen for a wolf to howl, and think hard of everything you have seen and tried to understand. Then you may hear it – a vast pulsing harmony – its score inscribed on a thousand hills, its notes the lives and deaths of plants and animals, its rhythms spanning the seconds and the centuries.” – From Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac.

There is something of magic in a wolf’s howl that speaks to my soul. — Wikimedia photo

A Moment to Remember

My fascination with wolves began at a young age, triggered when I read for the first time, but not the last, Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.” I discovered the book when I about eight years old among my late grandfather’s book collection.

Down through the years I read many more books that encouraged this love affair, including “Never Cry Wolf,” that details the summer the author spent observing wild wolves in the Arctic tundra. I longed see one of these wild creatures outside of a zoo. But given the way we humans had been eradicating these animals for decades, it was a miracle I doubted would ever happen. Then it did, in 2005.

I was traveling in Yellowstone with my youngest son. We had stopped at an overlook to check out an unkindness of ravens in some trees, as were other visitors to the park. Or so we thought. We finally noticed that humans and birds alike were focused on something moving on the far side of the small pond below. When I saw it was a wolf, I was almost afraid to breathe. Here was nature at its purest.

One of the wolves at Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana.

The overlook placed the wolf center stage while the morning sun, just capping a ridge to our east, spotlighted it.  The wolf ignored our presence until a small dog, left in a vehicle by its owner, began yapping. Only then did the wolf tilt its head in our direction. It clearly knew we pitiful humans were watching.  The barking dog, as if feeling the heat from that glance, became silent, and the wolf again continued its ground-covering stride.  Through my birding telescope I could almost count the hairs on the wolf’s back.

In comparison to seeing a wolf in the wild, which I would rate 20-plus on a 10-point scale, Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana, was a mere 10.

I arrived at the park just in time for an afternoon guided tour of the 75-acre grounds. While much more than a zoo, the wolves here were not free and only half wild. Wolf Park is a research facility, created to allow researchers to make closer observations of these animals than would be possible in the wild.

While the wolves are kept in large enclosures that encourage them to form, and live, in packs as they would in the wild, they have been conditioned to human contact to facilitate researchers. This begins when they are only a couple of weeks old, at which time they are removed from their wolf mothers and given to human mothers to continue raising. At about four months old, the cubs are returned to their packs.

A tour guide explained all this as he walked us around the park. His spiel included a genealogy of the pack affiliations, and stories about the personalities of each of the park’s 24 wolves. I was fascinated.

The pack I would late howl with was led by Tristan.  As wolves do in the wild, he had gained his position by asserting his dominance over higher-ranking wolves. This pack in-fighting, unless death of an animal seems imminent, is not interfered with by the park staff. Fights for the alpha female role, our guide said, tended to be more vicious than those of the male wolves, probably because the right to breed belongs only to the female alpha.        ,

I returned to the park later that night for the weekly Friday Night Howl, and found myself sitting on bleachers in front of a large fenced enclosure. A couple of staff members entered the compound and were greeted enthusiastically by the wolves, much as my daughter’s Great Dane, Tara, greets me. She is extremely loving, but if I’m not careful of my stance, she could easily bowl me over.

With the greeting between humans and animals completed, the staffers talked a bit about the work at the park, and then invited us to start howling to encourage the wolves’ response. I found the howling a bit weird at first. I didn’t sound at all like a wolf. Tristan seemed to agree – and looked at us humans as if we were missing our brains. But just then, somewhere in the background, one of the wolves from a different pack howled.  Tristan answered the wild night song. Other members of his pack quickly joined him. The chorus of human and wolf howls went on for a while, but at some point, I stopped howling and simply listened, feeling a freedom in my soul that I find hard to describe. It’s a writer’s block that actually gives me pleasure.

When I began my human, screechy imitation of a wolf’s howls again, Tristan gave me a disdainful stare. Then, never taking his eyes from mine, he decided to take pity on this mere human and howled with me. Shivers of delight rolled up my spine. It is a moment I will never forget.

Now available on Amazon

The above essay is a short piece from my book Travels with Maggie, which — to toot my own horn – would make a great Christmas gift for travel enthusiasts, especially RVers. You can get it on Amazon.

            Bean Pat: Window into the woods https://awindowintothewoods.com/2018/11/19/really/#like-11871 Brave little chickadee.

            Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Currently, she is writing a book, she is calling Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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Evidently, as usual, I took a wrong turn somewhere. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I think what is interesting in life is all the cracks and all the flaws and all the moments that are not perfect.” — Clemence Poesy

My GPS Has It Too

I have no sense of direction. Without a familiar mountain that never moves within my sight, I will almost always turn in the opposite direction of my desired destination.

For 25 years, I got around Ogden, Utah quite well because the magnificent Wasatch Mountains never moved/ They always stood tall and proud to the east. — Photo by Pat Bean

My usual method for getting to where I want to go when I’m driving, and the one I used for the nine years in which I traveled this country full time in a small RV, is to study a map before I head out, and carefully create a written cheat sheet of where to turn right or left.

The last few years, however, I have learned to use a GPS that a thoughtful daughter gave me. But it and I don’t always communicate well.

For example, I took a friend to the airport last week at o-dark-hundred. I knew the way to the airport but used my GPS because my night vision is no longer great, and the device tells me the names of streets coming up.

As usual, because, as I said,  the GPS and I don’t communicate well, the device wanted to take me to the airport on a route different from the way I wanted to go. As a result, because I thought the street the GPS wanted me to turn on was before the street I wanted to turn on, but it was after, I passed it by. OK. I’ll just follow the darn GPS directions, I decided. That would have been just fine if the GPS hadn’t told me to turn right when it should have said turn left.

 

These days, I live in the shadow of the Catalina Mountains, which when I’m in Tucson never move from their northern position. Above is a sunrise view from my bedroom balcony. — Photo by Pat Bean

Thankfully, after a couple more wrong turns, I got my friend to the airport on time. That’s because I always give myself plenty of time to get lost when I’m going somewhere – even when I have a GPS.

And there’s even a silver lining behind my flawed sense of direction. I’ve gotten to see a lot more of this beautiful country because of my many unintentional detours.

Bean Pat:  Garden of Verse https://argumentativeoldgit.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/for-love-of-unforgotten-times-a-childs-garden-of-verses-by-robert-louis-stevenson/  I, too, read Robert Louis Stevenson as a child.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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Great-Granddaughter Cora

Road Trip: Austin to San Antonio

“Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall. It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events. Joy comes in sips, not gulps.” — Sharon Draper

Cora is now a month old. And she still has adorable fat cheeks.

 

My great-granddaughter Cora was born in San Antonio while I was attending the Stories from the Heart writing conference in Austin. I got the news from my daughter and Cora’s grandmother T.C., and it came with the information that the baby had gotten stuck in the birth canal and was born with a broken shoulder, and perhaps some other problems.

Cora, Ben, Heidi and Marshall. One happy family, which warms this Nana’s heart. 

I was worried and heartbroken.

So, when I walked into my granddaughter Heidi’s home four days later and heard Cora crying as her dad, Ben, changed a poopy diaper, the sound was as grand as any musical concert I had ever attended.

It was a normal baby’s cry, and my heart was full to overflowing with joy when Cora was transferred to my arms, and curiously looked up into my face. Her shoulder, Heidi said, hadn’t been broken only dislocated, and everything else was fine.

I held her for most of the rest of the afternoon, constantly amazed at this tiny bit of new life with fat loveable cheeks.  Cora alternated between looking around at her new world, eating, and sleeping. I felt like the luckiest great-grandmother in the world.

While Cora will have to get reacquainted with me the next time I see her, which might be this Christmas, the afternoon I spent with her is a precious memory that pushed my happiness meter to the exploding point.

It was the perfect ending for my three-week road trip.

Bean Pat: Even if the umbrella is not big enough https://yadadarcyyada.com/2018/08/22/umbrella/?wref=pil An upbeat blog that put a big smile on my face.

Now available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

 

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