In the Q

We arrived Thursday evening. Since we were approaching from the east on I40 we decided to gas up and stock up at Costco on Eubank. For the record, if you’ve been out of town for over 5 weeks in some of the most beautiful country side, the absolute worst entry point to Albuquerque is via east Central and Zuni.

That said, the return to our own sweet neighborhood and home was a balm. And a relief. A relief from the road and a relief that all was in good order. The cumulative effect of all that saw us in bed by 9pm last night.

While at the bar waiting for a table at The Big Texan we struck up a conversation with a local. He mentioned Palo Duro canyon as something to see. It’s the second largest canyon after the Grand Canyon. It being a weekday we elected to backtrack a bit to take it in. It is a beautiful sight. Still, quite small in comparison to the Grand one.

There are just 100 campsites and they were all booked. They go fast! Not that we were going to camp. It being a weekday, we didn’t expect the hoards of kids at the picnic area. Bus loads! Good time of year for a field trip. They were friendly, responding to my waves, hellos, and have a great days.

Next stop – Cadillac Ranch.

This is what I expected.
This is what we got.

I surmise that visitors began spray painting the cars. Now there’s a truck there selling spray paint so that all and sundry can be a “graffiti artist”. Paint was 4 inches thick and melting in some parts. It’s interesting in its own right, but who could tell these are Cadillacs? And don’t stand down wind of active painters!

I appreciate the play on words.
I do like the looks of this!

I’ll be reviewing photos and memories, so there may yet be another post. It was a great trip. Did I already say 6000+ miles? Still, we saw just an infinitesimal fraction of what this country has to offer. Looking forward to exploring more of it, starting with a return to VA in early 2022. Oh, and a 2 week trip to FL in December.

Thanks for reading!

Almost home

Sitting in the last hotel we’ll be in on this trip. Amarillo, Texas. We had dinner at the Big Texan Steakhouse, known for the Free 72 oz steak – if you can eat it and the sides in 60 minutes. This feat also automatically allows entry into the annual big steak eating contest. On 10.04 one guy, weight 317 pounds, conquered the steak meal – just barely in 59 minutes 59 seconds. On 10.12 another guy, weight 220 ate it all in 45 minutes 47 seconds. As we were leaving, a great hullabaloo arose in the dining room. Another contestant was embarking on the challenge. Ed and I shared a mere 18 oz ribeye dinner. It was good. Here are some photos of the restaurant.

If you enlarge this photo you’ll see the timers for the contest. Contestants sit at the table on the elevated platform.

Hey, it’s Texas! Texas does big. Texas is in the US. US does spectacle. Put ’em together…

On a more somber note, we started the day at the Oklahoma City memorial. 1995. Timothy McVeigh. He had a beef with how the government handled Waco. Therefore government employees had to pay. The rectangle of shallow water symbolizes the road upon which he drove. At either end are tall walls. One end has 9:01 engraved. The other end has 9:03. In between the two on a grassy hillside, where the Alfred P. Murray Federal building stood, are chairs. One chair for each person who died at 9:02 when the bomb went off. Smaller chairs represent the children who were in the daycare located in that building.

The museum is the building in the background. We didn’t have time to visit it. Plus which, being at the memorial was such an emotional experience. I shed many tears.

This is the Survivor Tree. Symbol of Strength. An American elm tree just yards away from the explosion of the Oklahoma City bombing shouldn’t have survived the blast; however, this amazing tree not only survived, but it still thrives still today at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. The Survivor Tree has come to stand for a symbol of hope.

On a more uplifting note, we next visited The Western Cowboy and Heritage Museum. 2 hours was not nearly enough time. Our main goal was to see the Wilson Hurley tryptiches. We did. They cannot be described. Check them out on-line, you will have not a clue as to the grand nature, the exquisite masterful work. This man was gifted beyond human capacity. Except of course he was human. Extraordinary. I can’t even post a photo – it would be too puny, too insignificant, and an insult.

Instead, here is a photo of a statue Buffalo Bill Cody, he of the Wild West shows. Larger than life.

I didn’t take many photos here. There was too much. We would definitely return to this museum. Oklahoma City is pretty nice too. The bit we saw if it anyway.

Off to slumber world. Pretty sure we won’t be woken up in the early morning by a tornado alarm as we were this morn in Oklahoma City. That was eerie. Wicked good thunder storm and lightening show.

Wishing you sweet dreams.

Crystal Bridges – take 2

We arrived in Bentonville AR early enough yesterday for a return to this very fine Museum of American Art, vision of Alice Walton, daughter of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart. Many corporate sponsors also contribute to this first class museum and trail system. It is all free to the public.

The weather was cold and dreary so we opted for inside. I wanted to return to what we call the “bubble room.” But the artist calls:

Of course, her title is better.

A few more images:

Find the hidden images.
Like walking into a cartoon

Weather improved so we ventured outside to explore art dotted trails. Here’s what we found.

Some Chihuly floating balls. And part of the museum.

The above floating stainless steel balls in a pond were my absolute favorite! A slight breeze causes them to move against one another, creating a low and mesmerizing susurration. The visuals of them reflecting against each other, reflecting the sky, the trees, the photographer. The patterns they make. I can’t believe they don’t have a bench here. I could watch them, listen to them for extended periods of time.

This morning found us on the North Forest trail at 8:15 or so. It was brisk and the sun was not above the trees when we started. More great art amidst chirping birds, leaves brushing, and fresh air.

Chihuly. 1300 individual pieces of blown glass. 5000 pounds.
The sun. Or a dandelion gone to seed. Or the back of a head of unruly hair…
Not to scale
To scale
How I would love to see her sculpture made up if treader homes or aircraft parts! Why not old truck bodies?

There are a few of these along the trails. You manually turn the crank. Push a button and continue cranking to listen to a recorded message. There are 4 messages on\in each box. They cover a variety of topics – info about the red shouldered hawk and a recording of it’s call. Did you know though that blue Jays can mimic them expertly?

Another message might be from the architect about the construction materials for the museum. It takes quite a bit of energy to maintain the crank. I kept switching hands.

I’ll end this post with this photo. I think it’s called Brilliant Berry. Brilliant, yes?

Blue Ridge Parkway

Day 2 was significantly different from day 1 as it the Plateau Region. And day 3 was different yet again and is known as the Highlands region. Photos from day 2:

Moving Mist – a calming moment
The Music Center

The Music Center is well worth a visit and is a short drive off the Parkway, yet part of it. Volunteers play traditional music – if you’re lucky to be there when they are. We’ve had some good fortune on this trip. The structure has amazing acoustics. And how about that backdrop?!

Inside the Center there is an exhibit of the history of music in the area. There are examples of the original banjo style instrument from Africa. There are recordings of traditional music. And a variety of realia highlighting all of it.

Day 3 – was really rainy, but with periods of decent weather.

Typical hand-built home, 1700s – those were some rugged, self-sufficient folk. To the left of the house is the meat (mostly pork) storage barn and root cellar. Stairs lead to a small spring shelter. Running water kept dairy, eggs, and other perishables fresh.

After spending the night in Asheville NC we drove through part of the Smokie Mountains. At the entrance were a number of buildings that had been moved from the mountains or rural areas to form what a typical homestead might consist of.

In the Smokies

This photo and the next go together.
Behind us, somewhere behind the clouds is Clubman’s Dome. That’s where I started my Appalachian Trail trek. Julie and i walked it south, 100 miles to Helen GA. That was 40 years ago!
Some color showing up …

That’s it for today. Posts will jump around, depending on what strikes my fancy. Dinner time! Be well wherever you are.

Winchester TN

We stopped in the old downtown. That’s been part of the charm of taking blue highways. Winchester had a particularly imposing and gothic style court house.

Buildings around the square have plaques on them detailing the history of the businesses located in each one. Here is my favorite.

I also love this tree found in several places on the square. If you know what it is, please let me know!


Really not the grand manor I expected. Rather modest, in fact. That may have to do with the fact that we only toured the main floor. No. It is smaller than plantation manors that I have seen in photos, on tv, or movies. It is beautiful though, don’t get me wrong. Last night I began this post. Then I started reading about TJ and got lost in history. There’s no way I can – or wish to attempt – to capture the fullness of the man or his time. Suffice to say that there are inconsistent views – and he was aware of that.

Double-paned triple sash window. Open the bottom and top sashes for natural summer ventilation and cooling. Double-paned for warmth in winter.
The kitchen
Separate baking areas for different baking heats and needs.
TJ founded the University of Virginia. This is the Rotunda on the original part of the campus called The Academical Village. I love that! Academical. Note the similarity to Monticello.
Inside the Rotunda. Students were studying here. I wonder if I would have been a better student had i been on such a campus. Ed says i would have had to be as it’s not so easy to get in here.
Academical Village where senior students apply to live. Even without air conditioning and with shared bathrooms, these rooms are greatly desired.
I really was tempted to say hi to Mario!

I’ll be writing shorter posts. I’m finding that a driving trip is not as conducive to writing. Ed and I have talked about it. Maybe a riff on that later.


Raise your hand if you’ve been to our nation’s capitol. It truly is a wonder down by the mall. And i don’t mean shopping mall. The National Mall where the Smithsonian and so many sculptures of grand scale are located. Covid is good for one thing: sparse population at areas of interest. If you’ve visited places when the hordes abound, you know just how marvelous it is to visit in relative peace. Although, at one point a rash of truckers were wending their way down a main drag, horns blasting. We were too far away to see if they had signs to state their grievance. Ranger didn’t know, nor did a police officer.

Here are some sights from our day in DC.

The women’s Vietnam war memorial. The compassion on the face of the nurse holding the wounded soldier brought tears to me. The nurse gripping her as she sees incoming helicopters, also tells a compelling tale
This is the spot upon which MLK stood when he gave the speech. To stand in this locale, looking out over the reflecting pond to the Washington memorial, to imagine the thousands gathered in this place, listening to those words…
 “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

The photo below shows part of the FDR memorial. There are several of these wall bas relief sculptures that are endearing and intimate. They were included so the blind could have a tactile experience. Note the braille in the center of the photo.

Washington monument and reflection in the tidal basin
Charming dining option near the National Gallery

The FDR memorial is both imposing and inviting. There are 4 outdoor “rooms”, each representing a year of his presidency. Each room includes a statue, a waterfall, quotes on the red granite walls, and the bas relief seen above. I didn’t take any photos, so be sure to see Ed’s post.

We toured the area with our friend Jim who moved to DC about 7 years ago. He spends lots of time visiting the mall area, returning again and again to favorite spots. I would love that opportunity – to have the option of not having to fit too much in to too little time. It would be worth staying for a month or two just to take it in slowly, bit by bit, steeping oneself in the history, the art, the grand vision of our nation that continues to strive to achieve that vision.

Next up: Jefferson’s Monticello or maybe more of the Blue Ridge Parkway!

The Blue Ridge Parkway

is actually pretty darn green. Although some fall leaf color is beginning to show up. Tree coverage is so dense that you can’t imagine there might be an issue regarding deforestation. Thanks be for national parks!

We left Charlottesville VA this morning. Let me just say that we are loving Virginia! We plan a return trip to spend time in the area to explore more. Fall seems a pretty ideal time – like in most places. Days are still in the 80s and nights get down to 50s. Evenings are perfect weather and mornings are cool. The day heats up to steamy. But trees are so ubiquitous that shade is easily found. It has been comfortable walking – even in DC where we spent Saturday the 2nd October.

We walked around 10 miles touring the mall and outdoor sculptures. Too beautiful a day to be inside. The one exception being our visit to the Ford Theater late afternoon. A friend had recommended it as a place most visitors don’t think to go. More on that later.

Today I want to write about today. We had three interesting encounters. The first was when we left the parkway to detour to Steeles Tavern. It was around lunchtime and that seemed like a good bet. There was one sign directing. Then at a crossroads, nothing. We gambled and turned right. After a short drive in a very quiet and rural area with hardly any traffic or people, i spied a man roadside and exhorted Ed to stop and ask him if we were headed in the right direction. We were. But the Steeles Tavern is no longer were informed. Ed mentioned the need to visit his namesake watering hole and that he had family from the area. Upon hearing that, roadside gentleman proceeds to tell us of all the Steeles in the area, their names, and how many kids they have. He also mentioned Harold Steele just down the road apiece. Harold was Ed’s dad’s name. He was lovely! Continue on and just over the bridge you’ll come to Steeles Tavern he says. We thought we’d see the relic of the building. Instead we discovered the town of Steeles Tavern! Right there on the corner on the post office. I thought it would be an ideal place from which to send a post card to Amber.

Inside I ask the postmaster about the tavern. He’s young and doesn’t have a clue, but says to talk to that ole guy out there. So i do. Mr. Thomas proceeds to spin a yarn, some truth sprinkled in.

But before that story gets told i have to tell you how surprised I was to learn that he’d been to Santa Fe! Didn’t think any place could be closer to heaven. (I beg to differ.) He looked like he’d never been further than a block. I think it had something to do with military service. He LOVES La Fonda. Especially once he “taught that Indian how to make a martini.” Oh, he had stories: he was fixing up that old building there on the corner which used to be the hotel part of the Steeles Tavern.

Yeah,that one. Took 4 tons of material out so far. Working on it solo. Wants to get it on the historic register.

Upon hearing of Ed’s surname, tells about old man Steele who just died at age 97. Got stopped by the police just 4 months prior on suspicion of drunken driving. We said in tandem, sounds like a Steele!

Well he had some other stories about William Steele, hero of the revolutionary war who was a CIA type for back then and proprietor of the tavern and that’s why the town’s name was changed from Midway to Steeles Tavern. He wound up by saying that the post office parking lot was the place to be on a Saturday morning if you had any question whatsoever that needed answering. He was fun.

And now for some photos from the BRP!

And now – to bed. Wait! There was a third encounter! As we entered Devil’s Backbone Brewery (outside of Lexington, home of Virginia Military Institute and the Washington and Lee University) for lunch a young woman tapped my shoulder. Are you from Albuquerque? I was wearing my Get Elevated t-shirt from La Cumbre. She had been there. Her friend Nick had been a brewer there and was now brewing here. She had just worn her own Get Elevated hoodie yesterday. What are the odds?! Okay, now to bed. No editing either, so forgive typos, etc. Sweet dreams.