Journal and photos of our travels in the West.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A quick trip through some desert extremes.

Palm Springs. We are having breakfast at an outdoor cafe on Indian Canyon. Seeking breakfast leftovers, blackbirds accost a fellow diner..a recent emigre from Cleveland. "I feel like Tippi Hedren, although I'd rather be Rod Taylor," he announces to all who will listen.

Palm Springs loves its movie stars. Nancy's Aunt Bell, who has lived there for over 35 years, piles us into her commodious Lincoln and drives us around to see homes of the rich and famous: High on a bluff, perched like a newly-landed starship, is Bob Hope's house; nestled below a cliff, behind a huge rock, is Sonny Bono's salmon-colored villa; and here, in the old part of town, behind walls of stucco and bouganvilla, is Liberace's place, complete with candelabra.


Along old route 66, on the north end of of a salt-encrusted dry lake, not much remains of Amboy, except for Roy's drive in and motel, which is periodically open. Last time I ate there I had a hamburger that had all the authenticity of a Taiwan-made moccasin. We camped there, tucked in among the black rock lava flow that brought a bit of Hawaiian ambience a thousand years ago. We head up towards the Mojave Preserve. There are now two robust shoe trees alongside the road to Essex.

Mojave Preserve

A large chunk of Mojave Desert east of Barstow is now more protected than ever before. The transition has brought the end of cross-desert motorcycle races, shooting at varmints, and even ATV's, much to the ire of some locals. Not that I have anything against ATV's. Actually, I think all automobiles in the L.A. Basin ought to be replaced by ATV's. the Freeways would be fun to drive on again...just like Disneyland's Autopia. We camp for the last night, at least 35 miles from any town. The sky is black and filled with stars. A pack of coyotes calls in the distance. Leaving the next morning, we drive through a forest of Joshua trees along the Mojave Road.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Desert Center, CA
(Jack) Camping in the Colorado
desert, 50 miles west of Blythe, we are in a dry lakebed, surrounded by mountains: Granite, Palen, Eagle. This desert bloomed profusely in 2005; now, the creosote bushes provide the only hint of living green. The desert is littered with the skeletons of plants that bloomed here in that wet year...the bird cage primrose is the most recognizable. We camp about a mile off the highway, along a dirt road that bisects the lakebed and heads another 3 miles through a low pass. the road becomes sandy, and I have chosen not to drive the additional miles and risk getting stuck in the sand. I could deflate the tires to 20 lbs and, with 4-wheel drive, no doubt negotiate the sand. But then I would be in quite a ways, and don't much care for the prospect of having to walk out for help. Besides, it is quiet and beautiful here. No one else around...not even any birds. Just the occasional car on the distant highway.We have spent nearly three days here, not driving around, just parked, camping, hiking barefoot along the sandy road. The november sun is still warm, but not scorching. This desert was too hot just a week ago.

I find a cd of old tangos and put it on, so that we can practice the few steps we know here on the sand dancefloor.

(Nancy) Today we'll go in to Palm Springs to visit World's Greatest Aunt, my Aunt Bell, and Kathy. I've wanted to visit them for so many years I've lost track, but until now was in such a rush I never made it. She's one of those amazing people who seems to inspire everyone she's with, and the time with her will be a treat. So grateful for the time, finally, to see our beloveds and not rush off to catch a flight home in a few hours. After Palm Springs, we we need to get home to figure out next steps... how to balance the financial with the needs we have to see the people we love more, and to get the precious whiffs of wilderness that keep us alive and interested in continuing to be.
This trip has been a sweet, welcome pause from reality, and one we'll for our whole lives be thankful for. It probably goes unsaid, but everyone should take as long a break as they can from the normal routine, to clear your mind and feed your soul. It's been amazing for me, the semi-workaholic, to just stop doing things for a while. To stop the urgency and the noise in my brain. To sit watching trees and clouds, climb a couple of mountains, read some books, laugh with people I love. Good medicine.

a couple of mountains, read some books, laugh with people I love. Good medicine.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Go East, young cat. Cookie demands a return to Santa Fe and green chile.

Nancy: Sad morning, as our neice and nephew get ready for school and we hug them goodbye. Clark is 12 and is a renaissance kid, an amazing athlete as well as a science/math wizard and a great writer and observer of human nature. Not to mention delightful to hang out with.

Erika, 10, is also athletic and full of imagination and glee. She's re-invented our camper as restaurant. You as customer "drive your car" up to the little sliding window and place your order with the charming and talented Erika, then enjoy the fabulous service and excellent imaginary food she prepares and passes to you. She loves our kid-sized house and has a great time cleaning it for us before zipping off to set up another game for who ever will play. Both them are the coolest kids ever and we'll miss them like crazy. Erika sends her hello to all of our readers! hi this is erika and i can play the piano.
Cookie unfortunately has had her fill of moving around and the lack of stability, and has become irritable towards other people.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Venice Beach

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A circle tour of Los Angeles, featuring some old neighborhoods somehow related to my past life here

West Adams/USC neighborhood

Vermont/Olympic/Western Avenue/Melrose, to West Hollywood

Sunset, Civic Center.

Way too much traffic. A tour like this would be good early on a sunday morning, around sunrise.

Cookie points the way south, and the Roadkids decide they like L.A. again

WE have gone from the solitude of rock and ocean to the megatropolis of Los Angeles, in order to visit friends and family there. Both of us having lived here in the past, we have held this place in low esteem for many years, for all the usual reasons that people like to bash L.A.

This time, however, the city is making us smile. Maybe it's the lack of smog..we can actually see the from the San Gabriel Mountains to Catalina. Perhaps it's the happy times we are having with friends and family. Certainly the visit to the Getty Museum helped. What an incredible work of architecture in a beautiful setting. I could easily spend our first visit admiring the sightlines and views without ever going in to see the galleries.

The result of all this is that we have decided to spend more time here, taking pictures, visiting galleries, playing with our people. And, digging L.A.; remembering that the traits that we criticize in others may well be those in us from which we hide.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Still in Big Sur. We hung out at the Big Sur Pub last night for open mike session and listened to some of the local talent. Pretty good for the most part. Today we hiked to the monarch butterfly winter sanctuary at Andrew Molera. The monarchs are jsut arriving, but already there are hundreds in the eucalyptus trees. hard to see them in the photos, because they look pretty much like dry leaves!