Saturday, July 18, 2009

Theater I'm Watching: The Importance of Being Earnest

Just got home from a good performance of The Importance of Being Earnest in San Rafael. It's still funny after more than 100 years.

On the Road: Home Again

I arrived home late in the afternoon yesterday. I was out 22 days and traveled 6,928 miles, from Santa Rosa, California to Oberlin, Ohio, and back--with a lot of detours. That's more than a quarter of the way around the world.

Tidbits: Walter Cronkite--RIP

Just to note the death of Walter Cronkite. I can hear few other voices so clearly in my head.

Friday, July 17, 2009

On the road: Roads with no Names

It's amazing how many places are criss-crossed by roads that have no names, or names that indicate that people gave up trying to think of names. On this trip, I've been down and across countless roads with names like G Road, 124 Road, JJ Road, 39 3/10 Street, or G 7/10 Road, as in the picture here (in Palisade, Colorado). This seems very uncharacteristic of people. We always like to advertise or commemorate something. Then again, we're lazy, too.

Tidbits: Hotel Shower Heads

Why is it that hotel shower heads either gush like Niagara Falls or they're stingy and hiss and spit like an angry cat?

On the Road: Salt Lake City to Reno, Nevada

Made it into Reno, Nevada late last night. It was a long drive from Salt Lake City, via I-80, but the alternative would have been to head south, by way of Las Vegas, and that would have left me in Los Angeles and added another day of driving just to get somewhere, so Reno made more sense. I plan to do some bird watching today near Lake Tahoe, but expect to be home late this afternoon--after more than three weeks of driving. America is a big country.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On the Road: Grand Junction to Salt Lake City (Summer 2009)

Headed off this morning (the 15th) to Palisade, which appears to be the center of Colorado winemaking. I visited Canyon Wind Winery and tasted some good wines. They make a Tempranillo, in addition to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and other wines. All solid. The vineyards in the area (and orchards, especially peaches) are planted on the floor of a big canyon, the name of which I have yet to discover. Cool winds blow through the canyon, providing cool nights, which is good for the grapes.

I had hoped to get quickly to the Moab area and then to head north to Salt Lake City, or even into Nevada, but a late piece of work came in, which set me back a couple of hours. I made it to Salt Lake City nevertheless. On the way I stopped briefly at Arches National Park before heading north on 191, through Price, to Salt Lake City.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On the Road: Pueblo to Grand Junction, Colorado (Summer 2009)

Crossed the Rockies today, from Pueblo to Grand Junction, by way of Independence Pass--a very pretty route recommended to me by my waitress at lunch, at Twisted Cork Café, in Salida, which has a pretty historic core. The cafe had been recommended by the people at a winery I pulled into on the spur of the moment as I was leaving Pueblo. The café turned out to be quite good.

Clearly, serious wine is being made in Colorado. Most of the grapes appear to come from the area around Palisade, just east of Grand Junction. I tasted a good Cabernet. Here they have the great advantage of being able to grow vinifera grapes, rather than the hybrids wineries are forced to use in places like Missouri. Twisted Cork Cafe is itself associated with a winery. I tasted their wines as well. Again, solid, including an interesting raspberry-flavored Merlot. Sounds odd, but it was surprisingly good--a merlot with 10% raspberry wine blended in. Not my thing really, but I'm glad I tried it.

The road took me north, through Aspen, which turns out to be a smaller town than I imagined--clearly a ski resort. It has the look of places like Whistler. The aspens along the road approaching the town were beautiful. I stopped along a marshy area to look for birds, but saw only chickadees. I HEARD a lot of birds. That has been a frustrating pattern on the return leg of my trip from California to Ohio. Maybe I just got very lucky on the way out. Birds were everywhere. Lately, I can't seem to see any.

Independence Pass takes you over the continental divide at 12,095 feet. It was hard to breathe at that altitude and I experienced the headache and ringing in the ears I know from skiing at high elevations. The car was having trouble, too--very little acceleration. The thin air made me dizzy, but the wildflowers were beautiful. It was refreshing to see a variety of plants again after the endless corn and roadside weeds of Kansas. The terrain on I-70 at the end of the day, between Rifle and Grand Junction was right out of an old western--banded rocky tablelands and canyons.

Monday, July 13, 2009

On the Road: Oakley, Kansas to Pueblo, Colorado

Made it to Pueblo, Colorado today, which isn't at all bad, considering I worked until around 2:00PM. Gaining an hour as I passed into the Mountain Time zone helped. Before leaving Oakley, I stopped in at the local fossil museum. There are signs advertising the place all around town. It turned out to be in a corner of the library, on the edge of town--a small collection of fossils and rocks not very well displayed. The woman at the museum seemed to feel the most interesting thing to see was not the fossils but the "art." The art turned out to be garishly colored pictures embellished with things like fossilized shark vetebrae for tree trunks and the like.... I'm afraid it wasn't worth the detour.

Then I headed out toward Monument Rocks (chalk formations in the middle of the plains), which would have been interesting I'm sure, but they turned out to be seven miles down an unpaved road. I decided to save the time and wear on my tires.

I headed west on Highway 40, through Sharon Springs and into Colorado by way of Cheyenne Wells and Wild Horse. I then took SR94 straight through to Colorado Springs before diverting south to Pueblo. Eastern Colorado was rather flat and uninteresting, like Kansas, but eventually the terrain got hillier. Just west of Cheyenne Wells I passed through a town called Firstview. I imagine that from here the rockies first come into view as you head west, but the sky was dark and I didn't see the mountains until the following morning. Much of the drive across eastern Colorado was spent outrunning huge electrical storms that were a bit scary. I think I would have felt safer in a car with a hardtop. I got lucky. My route headed between two big thunderheads and then by driving very fast, I put the last of the big ones behind me. I have no photos to post today, because there wasn't much worth photographing. I would have photographed the storms, but wasn't really equipped to.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

On the Road: Kansas City to Oakley, Kansas (Summer 2009)

I got a slow start today. I went to the Nelson-Atkins Museum, but, today being Sunday,  it didn't open until noon, so I lost several hours in the morning. As a result, I didn't get as far west as I had hoped to. I am now in Oakley, Kansas. I arrived in the middle of another severe thunder storm, having woken up to one in Independence, Missouri this morning.

I'm glad I got to the museum, though. It's an excellent collection, strong in American art of the region, but also with a good collection of European painting, Asian art, and Near-Eastern art. The painting here is by Victor Higgins (1884-1949). Higgins was a member of the Taos Society of Artists. The painting dates from around 1926. It's a good example of the excellent regional art in the collection. I enjoyed seeing Thomas Hart Benton's Persephone, a funny painting that I've seen reproduced many times over the years. The museum opened in 1933, so it would have been new when my father knew it.

I left Kansas City at around 3:00PM. I had hoped to get to Colorado Springs, Colorado tonight, but, because of the storm, I decided to stay in Oakley. Just before Oakley, in Victoria, Kansas, I stopped to see St. Fidelis Church, known as "The Cathedral on the Plains." Tomorrow I'll start to cross the Rockies.

On the Road: Hermann to Independence, Missouri (Summer 2009)

Waiting out a major thunderstorm in a hotel in Independence, Missouri. The museum in Kansas, City doesn't open until noon on Sunday, so I'm in no hurry.

The photos here are from yesterday. One is a shot of the thick layers of limestone near Washington, Missouri, but I saw this rock along the highway pretty much across Missouri. The building is in Hermann, a town that still shows its German roots very obviously.

In Hermann, I toured Stone Hill Winery, one of the oldest in the state--in the country, for that matter. At one time it was the second-largest in the United States, they tell me, but no one seems to know which winery was on top. The extensive underground cellars carved out of the limestone were interesting. The guide said they are the most extensive vaulted stone cellars in North America. Impressive, but I have seen much bigger in Champagne and the Loire. I tasted a range of the wines made. All solid, but none exciting.
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