Friday, March 15, 2013

Mountain Panorama

Mt. Lemmon, Tucson, AZ. 3/15/13:   35 miles up a winding mountain road,
8000 feet above sea level, you may not be able to "see forever," but you'll think you can.  

   These pictures were taken on Mount Lemmon, which is in the Catalina Mountain range, north of Tucson.  People go up there to picnic, hike--they 
even ride bikes up the side of the highway--all the way up--just for the run
of coasting back down.  It's a mountain-lover's paradise, rising in total, about
9000 feet above sea level.  If it's too hot in Tucson, they go up Mount Lemmon.
Blue Horizon and Beyond

   There's a small town near the top of the ridge, Summer Haven, where people have built small houses and cabins.  They live up there mostly in the summer, of course..and they have all the necessities.  There is a visitor's center, a general store, recreation facilities all with a nice, comfortable feel of the outback. But some folks do live up there all year long..and it must be a hard place in the winter.  It must also be a heckuvva commute.

Oh, gee..

  There are lakes on the mountain, and a place to ski..and hoodoos to climb if you must.  That's a "hoodoo" there with the guy on top.  Why he went up there, I can't imagine, but the view must have been awesome.  And, yes, he got down..faster than he went up..but safely.

  Takes all kinds.

  That's what makes us great.




Thursday, March 14, 2013

Arizona touch me not.  At the Robinson's front door, Tucson

Tucson, Arizona.  Thursday, 3/14/13:   I have arrived; a little tired, dusty and hungry, but I have arrived indeed.  And I got a big welcome, too.  
Another day, another sunrise.
    Dale and Betsy Robinson were a little surprised when I pulled in around noon today.  They though I'd sleep in, but I started from Las Cruces, NM at about 7, local time (MST) and crossed what I always  think is the prettiest stretch of road on the entire trip--the high desert plateau and across the Continental Divide (4500 foot ASL) into Tucson.  Today,  the sky was stainless blue, the air was cold and clean, letting the mountains stand out in crisp detail.  It was exhilarating.  

  So again, I raced the sun westward...a futile exercise; it always wins.

  One of my favorite rest stops (I have many) is at Cage, NM.  I pull over there whether I need to or not just to see the sign below.  It warns you that
no matter how beautiful this all may be, there is need to be respectful.  Some

No kidding!
locals take exception to being stepped on..a good thing to keep in mind wherever and with whomever you are.

  But I paid mind to my manners and managed to keep pace with the interstate traffic yet another day.  Yesterday, the speed limit in Texas' Permian Basin was 80.  Today's was a sedate 75.

  At that rate, it takes about 4 hours to cross the distance from Las Cruces to Tucson.  You know you're getting close when you reach Texas Pass..a park at the very top of the last mountain range before dropping down to Benson, AZ, for the final approach to Tucson.  This rocky overlook offers a view in three major directions,  but the peak itself is the attraction--a jumble of honey-colored rock straddling the cresting road..just magnificent.  I always stop there, too.

Texas Pass
   It was all downhill from there, so to speak.  And, at least for a few days, my odyssey was over.  Next Thursday, I'll reverse course.  In the meantime,
there are places to visit, meals to enjoy, even a speech to make (Monday night in Green Valley) when I drop in on the John Taylor household.  John, a former Public Affairs Director at NASA, thought I ought to bring my little dog and pony show with me.  

   And I did.
Racing the sun, chasing my shadow.



Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Racing Ahead of the Morning Sun.

Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Wednesday Night, 3/13/13:   It takes many long hours to cross Texas' Permian Basin. But it's worth it.  

   I started just at sunrise today in Abilene, Texas and didn't reach the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains till about two.  It was fascinating.  Flat scrubland stretches out farther than the eye can see, all sagebrush, cactus and brown.  The soil is can run cattle out there and you can plow..but not without a battle.  It is hard to imagine that people on horseback crossed that range.  Going anywhere would take days.  
Texas Wildflowers
     And then there's the oil, of course.  This is where it is and that is what you see: drilling rigs stitching the ground..and where there are no rigs there are the little Worry Bird pumps, nodding oil out of the vast pool and out to the refineries whose smoke and flares can be seen from many miles away. 

     But this is Texas where the main chance is never ignored.  The competition is there, overlooking the great basin, up on the mesas and down in the fields as well.  There's a lot of wind on this vast flatland, and the mills rise like cornrows, churning electricity while the little pumps suck oil.  It's vast, exciting and on the go..and when you drive it, you think it will never end.

The southern horizon down I 20 at Pyote, Texas

  But it does. Just about the time you think you have seen all you can take, the vague shape of a mountain range is visible in the blue haze ahead, and you start to rise into the Guadalupe foothills that take you off I 20, exchanging for I 10 west, last leg of the day.  You'll have to endure the traffic in El Paso, but before you know it, there's Las Cruces, New Mexico and a bed for another night.

  It takes something special to drive long distance.  The good traveler does some homework, learning a little about the history of a region and why people live out there.  Today, I passed legendary places like Big Spring, Socorro, and Pecos.  And I laughed with delight at the sign announcing Stanton, Texas:  "Home of 3,000 friendly people and a few old sore heads."  Someday, maybe, I'll go back and find out for myself.

  This is magic if you pay attention.  You clear your mind and take it in, imagining the things that happened here and how people dealt with them.  You can do that anywhere in this glorious country. 

  And if your soul cups even an ounce of romance, it will be thrilled.


  On to Tucson tomorrow.  

  I don't know if it's seemly to blog as a guest in someone's 
I may be quiet for the next few days.  And I may not.

  Stay tuned.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Road Warrior's Daybreak


   “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  

           —Mark Twain (1835-1910), writer and world traveler, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


   The Master said that.  And, as usual, he was right.  Broadening?  My rear 
end is testament to that, too.  9 hours today from Little Rock, AK  to Abilene, Texas.  Pretty good, since I had to go through Dallas and Ft. Worth.  But it's great.  I used to hear LBJ talk about the Texas Hill Country..and here I am, out where "the lonesome cattle feed on the lowly Jimson weed"..and I'm beginning to see mesas..a sure sign of getting where I aim to be.

  The first time Mary Alice and I ventured into Cowboy Country together, I told her to tell me when she saw her first, for-real puncher.  Miles went by..she kept looking, but she never had a sighting.  I finally confessed it was a trick assignment: cowboys drive pickups and wear ball caps, mostly.  The big hat is for social occasions, like going into town, and the horse is reserved for really hard country, not pasture near the Interstate.  

  My cousin, Jim Wiley, said once that he knew I always wanted to be a cowboy.  I denied it because, I said, "I never wanted to work that hard."

  And that's the truth.

   Well, I'll be rolling down I 20 in the morning toward I 10 and El Paso.  Hope to be in Las Cruces, NM tomorrow afternoon.  

   Tucson awaits.

  Thanks to Professor Ted Pease for the quote, which I borrowed from his daily Word.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Noah would have loved Kentucky this morning.
Little Rock, Arkansas.  Monday evening:   Even the "mudders" stayed in the barn this morning in Kentucky.  Apparently, after sending a breath of spring the day before, God chose to water the grass today.  Big time, making life on the Interstate very interesting.  I didn't see sunshine till well after Memphis, TN. in the afternoon.

  Sunshine is better.


  Whenever I go to Cowboy Country, I never feel I'm in the zone till I cross the Mississippi.  I went over it at Memphis today, marveling at the grand river while thinking reasonably deep thoughts about Mark Twain, Huck and Tom, the pioneers and all those good things.  I'll push into Texas tomorrow, making it all the more official.

Mark Twain's Mississippi .. out the window at 70 mph.

  But you get a lot of time to think when you're driving long distance.  Some of 
it isn't very productive.  For instance--

Notes scratched on an old road map:

  •   Euphemisms bother me.  Why do they call it a "Rest Area?"  How about Stop and Go?
  •   I have noticed that you never need one of those places until the instant you have passed one by.

More interesting place names..all in Tennessee:
  •   Bucksnort.  That's what the sign said..Bucksnort, TN.
  •   Mousetail Landing.  At a state park.  I can't begin to imagine how that happened.
  And for those who remember Minnie Pearl:  Grinder's Switch Winery.  It's on I 40 between Nashville and Memphis.  If there really is a Grinder's Switch, it makes you wonder whether she was only kidding all those years.

  Ah, well.  Texas tomorrow,  Tucson Thursday.

  Wow.  It's neat out here.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lexington, Kentucky.  Sunday night, 3/10:  

  The temperature was just about 70 when I left Morgantown, WV around noontime. The sky was bright and there the illusion of a light green haze around the mountain treetops, a promise of even better days to come.  The beginning of an Appalachian 
Mountain winter is brown and gray.
Springtime is lush and green with blossoms everywhere.

  This time of year, you can see the forest floor and the shape of the ridges through the barren woods. Soon, if the promise is kept, leaves will cloak it all, giving cover to squirrels, deer, bear and the occasional fox. I love it.

   I 79 cuts vertically through West Virginia, running from the Pennsylvania state line to the state capitol in Charleston.  You pass places with names like Jane Lew, Flatwoods, Polemic Run and Muddlety...names that always make me wonder how they came to be.  A better traveler would stop and ask.  Today, I didn't have the time.

I 79 South on a bright new day.
At Charleston, I grabbed a road west, I 64, and was really on my way to Tucson, Arizona  In a total of five hours, plus or minus, I made Lexington, KY and called it a day.  There is a Marriott hotel here and it has a restaurant and bar and .. well, tomorrow's another day.  Who knows where I'll be this time tomorrow night?  I'll just take it it one scenic mile at a time.  

  Stay tuned.