Thursday, October 31, 2019

Perot Museum

Waxing Crescent Moon

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas, TX is, like most good museums, expensive but worth it. There are five floors of exhibits to explore, featuring brilliantly presented lessons on astronomy, paleontology, Earth history, plate tectonics, petroleum geology, life science, and anthropology.

My two favorite exhibits were "Origins: Fossils from the Cradle of Humankind" and the T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall. The Origins story left me hanging, with several possible explanations for how the bones of "Neo" (Homo naledi) came to reside in the depths of a complex cave system. I want to learn more!

The Life Then and Now Hall was much more straightforward: cool dinosaurs! I love places like this that let you walk around and stare at reconstructed dino skeletons in awe like a grownup fourth grader. It's just good, clean fun.

To my surprise, the displays about petroleum extraction and hydraulic fracturing were the least imaginative and engaging. This part could and should be a lot stronger, especially in Texas. Is that all you got?

On the whole, though, this is a great, interesting museum that will keep you busy and learning for an intense afternoon or longer. The building itself is beautifully designed and landscaped and there is plenty to keep children and adults occupied and inspired. If I lived in the area, I would definitely become a supporting member.

Peace, Love, and Skeletons,

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Great North Texas Hobby Hunt

Waxing Crescent Moon

Yesterday, with Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos swiftly approaching, the time was ripe to make a road trip to the Texas/Oklahoma border. Juanuno, P. S. I Love You, and I piled into Juanuno's newly acquired Honda CRV, heading for Sherman, TX, McKinney, TX, and Durant, OK in search of small town gazebos and iconic bike racks. P. S. I Love You had feverishly researched potential locations with the help of Dr. Googlie. She made a list and a picnic lunch and we were off.

You may or may not know that I am moderately obsessed with these things and that I post photos of them online almost daily. I guess you can edit the word "moderately." Truth is, I am unduly, inexplicably, and doggedly obsessed with tracking down and photographing gazebos and bike racks anywhere in the country.

Sherman, TX was the first stop. It turned out to be a gazebo goldmine, yielding six worthy nuggets plus a couple of ordinary, but good racks. The public-art-quality bike racks are hard to find, but even "normal" ones are kinda sorta thrilling when you score. That's right, I said thrilling.

Also in Sherman, quite by accident, we found the weirdest, most elaborate, semi-disturbing Halloween zombie yard riot ever. These Sherman spook freaks go all out. I almost wanted to meet the homeowners, but not quite.

My brother, who up until yesterday I had always considered fairly normal, jumped right in there and hammed it up. I think he was a tad too convincing.

Next it was time to head north to Durant, OK. A light, cold rain messed with our picnic plans, but we bundled up under a nice, clean pavillion in a local park anyway. Picnic unthwarted, in town we found a really fresh 'zebo and a few plain, but functional bike racks next to some down home "Durant" benches. They also had horse statues and sculptures all around downtown. Pretty cool.

Re-crossing the Red River, we headed for McKinney, TX, but not before stopping in Melissa at Buc-ee's, a roadside phenomenon that is part truck stop, part amusement park, and part box store. Buc-ee's is HUGE and swarming with shopper-travelers. I was thoroughly stunned. You really should read about it if you can (you can thank me later).

McKinney provided a couple more gazebos to top off our six-hour, madcap, GPS-aided adventure. I would like to publicly thank P. S. I Love You and Juanuno for humoring me and for feeding my obsession -and for shivering in the cold while we scarfed up yummy P. S. I Love You Trademark Health Wraps. It was not a perfect day for a North Texas/South Oklahoma field trip picnic, but we persevered.

After that, scooting home to get warm and cozy was number one on everyone's agenda. Jigsaw challenges must be faced. Time to stare down this thousand-piece beast and make it behave once and for all.

Peace, Love, and Hobbies,

Thursday, October 24, 2019


Waning Crescent Moon

Hurray for Spugly! Spugly the Spectacularly Ugly Palomino Transporter has completed its latest mission improbable. How many 1987 vehicles do you know that could get 29.6 miles per gallon and only burn one quart of oil on a 2,000 mile trip? You don't have to answer that - rhetorical question.

Before leaving Wichita Falls, I stopped at Lucy Park to squeeze in a one hour walk and check out the facilities. Nice park! It sits right next to the Wichita River on 176 acres of gently rolling prairie dotted with lots of big trees and circled/weaved through by paved trails. Full court basketball, disc golf course, two gazebos, a duck pond, a dinosaur playscape, a suspension bridge - man, this place is loaded!

The river itself used to have a set of real waterfalls, (duh, Wichita Falls) but they were mysteriously destroyed by "progress" or so I was told. Ingenious civic minds created a fake falls along the riverside just before I-44 - giant stairstep rocks where  water can be directed to create a cascading waterfall for special occasions. Sorta like a Hollywood stunt fall, only in Texas. I was not moved to photograph this waterless and dubious spectacle, but I did snap one of this humorous riverside storm drain that looks like one of Donald Duck's nephews.

I guess my arrival from California was no big deal, judging by the dry falls movie set, but I didn't let it get me down. Insert winky face here.

I did, however, immensely enjoy my walk around the park. It relaxed me for the ensuing plunge into big city traffic on I-35E South and Belt Line Road, crossing through fierce suburban wheel-to-wheel combat. By early afternoon, Spugly was parked and cooling off in P. S. I Love You's driveway. Ta-Da!

A rambling, tumbling, far-ranging, 8-hour, kitchen-table, sister-brother conversation ensued. Great fun! Great trip!

Peace, Love, and Happy Motoring,

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Let's Do the Spug Lag Again

Waning Crescent Moon

After a great sleep in Room 127 at the Palomino Motel, I was back on the road and soon leaving the Land of Enchantment. It was like turning off a switch. Click. No more enchantment. Just like that, I was in my third time zone of the past 24 hours. It was so confusing that I likened it to a time warp or to jet lag, but in this case, maybe it was Spug lag. Then again, maybe it's just that time of year and I'm in Tejas.

The best part of crossing the prairie from the New Mexico border to Wichita Falls, TX was the tornado shelter/rest area on Hwy 287 near Hardeman. That thing was tricked out like a baby museum. I don't know who pays for that stuff, but it sure is fancy. Historical exhibits, videos, weather maps, restrooms like baggage cars - these Texas highway designer folks have been to college!

After a while, I passed by the exit for Paducah, TX, which brought back memories of Benny Goodman's orchestra with Carmen Miranda from some old movie back in the day. The "Paducah" song isn't about the Texas Paducah. It's about Paducah, KY, but still, it's a catchy tune that helps the prairie miles fly by. Of course, like just about everything else, it's on YouTube. Enjoy.

That's about it for today. Not exactly enchanting. I'm afraid Amarillo ain't no thrillo.

I'm looking forward to one more day of prairie hopping to end the eastbound part of this journey tomorrow at the gracious home of P. S. I Love You in Plano, TX. Rumor has it that a giant jigsaw puzzle awaits my arrival. Time to get down and solve that thang!

Peace, Love, and Hang On, Spugly,

Monday, October 21, 2019

Gallup Tucumcari

Waning Crescent Moon

This was supposed to be the day I finally went to Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico. I have always wanted to visit this famous culture center, but it seems like every chance I get, there is some sort of obstacle.

This trip, the obstacle was a cold front ripping down the Continental Divide toward northern New Mexico. High winds and temps in the low 20s were forecast. So I babied out. In my gut, I was confident in my decision, even though it's a big disappointment. How many more chances will I get to see it?

So today turned out to be simply drive across NM day. I made one stop for breakfast at Gordo's in Gallup - the chili verde is so good it is alarming. Fiery good. I thought my lips had burned off after the first bite. What would I do for the rest of my life without lips? Everybody else I know has lips. I'll be a freak, driving around lipless in a truck without paint!

Of course, that didn't stop me from cleaning my plate. I left beating my chest and breathing fire like a happy go lucky cartoon dragon. Lips are okay, no permanent damage.

Next year will be Gordo's 50th anniversary.

I also stopped in Albuquerque for a picnic-lunch-in-my-truck at the Bataan Memorial Park near U. of M. The memorial to New Mexico's fallen soldiers, like all war memorials, is sad and sobering. At the same time, it was beautifully and respectfully arranged. A quick walk around the park loosened me up for the rest of the windy way along I-40 to Tucumcari.

Part of the Bataan Memorial

I had one goal in mind for Tucumcari. That was to stop at the Palomino Motel and get out of the cold wind overnight. I have several photos of this place from previous trips and friends have sent me a few more. It was high time I sampled this regal establishment's hospitality. As you can see, this joint was custom made to showcase the bold lines of a Spectacularly Ugly 1987 Mazda B2200.

Loli the proprietress has been doing business here on Route 66 since Hector was a pup. Originally from Maine, she grew up on Hampton Beach in New Hampshire. When telling this story, Loli hints that teenhood at the beach may have been a little too much fun haha. A trip west settled all that out, I guess.

You may be wondering about my accommodations. The Palomino Motel is nothing if not classy.

A touch of Hampton Beach perhaps?

As the Sun was setting, the neon lights came on. This could be any decade of the last seven - time makes no difference when that sign gets lit.

Dean Moriarty might have slept here.

Peace, Love, and Neon Palomino,

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Five Star Weekend

Third Quarter Moon

Saturday and today were absolutely awesome. A cold, but beautiful sunrise at Homol-ovi Ruins State Park was followed by a hot cup of Peets Major Dickison and a warm bowl of Bob's Red Mill muesli to kick things off. Then it was time to rumble.

The Homol-ovi ruins are split into two locations, with trails that lead from spot to spot to highlight their history. The Homol-ovi folks (the Hisat'sinom, aka Anasazi) lived next to the Little Colorado River in the 14th century. They built two and three story dwellings with ~ 2,000 rooms mostly from sandstone and clay to house a good sized population, considered by the Hopi to be their ancestors. Repeated flooding from the Little Colorado pushed them north. 

Pottery sherds still evident at the site (don't even think about stealing them, Jethro) show the people's artistry and resourcefulness. Aside from the washout problems, this was a successful, civilized band of people for thousands of years.

After exploring the ruins, I stopped to hike a short trail between two small buttes. There are some pretty cool petroglyphs up there, but watch out for rattlesnakes. I got to see some wild burros kicking up dust, too, which just might be the most fun there is in a desert.

Next was the obligatory tourist stop in Winslow, Standing on a Corner Park. Sorry, no selfie. A nearby bar was blasting "Desperado" at 11:30 a.m. and oddball, weekend Harley Davidson folks were singing (yelling) along, already (or still?) toasted. This was both sad and funny. The Roaring of the Sheeple.

It's only about 50 miles from Winslow to Petrified Forest National Park. I stopped at the Rainbow Visitor Center and fell temporarily in love with yet another cutie pie Park Rangerette. She issued me a free backcountry pass which allowed me to park at milepost 24. The deal is that as long as you hike at least a mile away from the road, you can pitch your tiny tent anywhere you please. This park is the only one I know that allows this option. Five stars for certain.

I shook off Cupid's silly little arrows and picked my way cross country through littered bits of petrified wood and occasional biggo logs for about forty minutes. Then I camped in a wash at the head of a deep, dramatic arroyo and ate a cold-soaked dinner, enjoying absolute, perfect silence. No Harleys, no drunks, no desperation for miles.

I was awake at first light today and packed up for the quick hike back to milepost 24. Oh yeah, did I mention there was petrified wood all over the place?

The last time I was in this park was in 1955 when I was knee-high to Lanky Leo (my Dad). I remember how happy he was that day and how excited he was to tell me how petrified wood came to be. He had no idea what seeds he was planting on those trips back then. Or maybe he did?

I made a few more stops this morning on the way out to I-40. My favorite was Puerco Pueblo. There is a magically scientific petroglyph here. On the Summer Solstice at dawn (only then), a ray of sunlight strikes like a dagger of light right in the center of a solar glyph - a precise little celebratory calendar in the middle of the desert. The site is carefully roped off so you can't get too close, but this next picture is the rock. The ruins of the pueblo and the chunks of colorful petrified wood here were cool, too, but that Solstice thing and the other petroglyphs really captured me.

After that, it was on to Gallup, NM and a cheap room with WiFi. The cell signal was pretty weak in the park, about the only thing I experienced that wasn't absolutely awesome.

What a great, blessed, happy couple of days. 

Peace, Love, and The Ancient Ones,

Friday, October 18, 2019

Must See AZ

Waning Gibbous Moon

Getting out of Las Vegas in the daylight wasn't half as weird as last night's unplanned adventure on Dean Martin Drive. Lucky for me, I bailed off the highway quite by accident a few blocks down Deano's namesake service road from a not very cheap any more Motel 6. Sometimes being old and unusual works in my favor.  None of the strung-out, inebriated, deadend, um, self-employed uncitizens in the parking lot paid me any mind.

In today's morning light, I figured out I was right across the freeway from the Thomas and Mack Center, for what that is worth. I got the heck outta there asap. Soon I crossed Boulder Dam, and soon after that, I was in Arizona. I keep saying "soon" because the freaking speed limit is 75 mph, so Spugly was "sooning" all day.

Soon it was lunchtime and I stopped to "eat and get gas" in Seligman on old Route 66. The first place I saw was The Roadkill Cafe, which was busy and friendly, but not so authentic. At the east end of town, though, is the real deal - Delgadillo's Sno Cap Drive-In, a mystical little hobo burger joint magic trick junk art depot time warp celebrating its 66th funky chic birthday. This place is all fun all day all year long. You must go. I won't try to describe it any further. I'll just show you some hasty pictures and say you have to trust me. You really gotta go.

Thusly fueled and inspired, I continued to Exit 257 at Winslow, AZ. Yes, THAT Winslow, AZ. They even have a corner called "A Corner" for your very own selfieness and billboards saying, yes, "Take It Easy" just like you predicted they would.

So let's skip that part, okay? What is really cool is just outside of town - Homolovi State Park, where, for a measly eighteen bucks, I got a cozy campsite with a table, a clean restroom with a shower (!), a kickass sunset, and Hopi ruins to explore in the morning. It's going to be 35 degrees Fuh-fuh-fuh Farenheit overnight, but let's skip that part, too. Puffy jacket on, bag liner in, I'm snug as a bug.

Peace, Love, and Take It Freezy,

Thursday, October 17, 2019


Waning Gibbous Moon

Today had a certain flow to it, beginning north of Bishop, tumbling through Big Pine, Independence, and Lone Pine, sweeping up past Keeler and down into Panamint Valley, up and over the Panamint Range, gushing into and out of Death Valley, rushing past Pahrump, squeezing up over the nightmarish pass and down into Las Vegas. It was a good day, but I felt like someone other than me was in control. I just kind of went along for the ride.

Maybe the best part was the homemade 7-grain toast I ate with my eggs at Jack's Cafe in Bishop. Wow, it was good. A clear and close second was the Eastern California Museum in Independence. What a great resource for all things Paiute (the indigenous people of Owens Valley), all things Norman Clyde (perhaps the most famous Sierra Nevada mountaineer), and all things Manzanar (the WWII Japanese internment camp between Independence and Lone Pine).

I managed a short but beautiful trail walk from the museum to Dehy Park and back before the museum opened (lots of deer and coyote tracks in the desert sand).

Then I spent about 45 minutes looking through the exhibits and the selection of books. One thing I have been studying lately is trade routes between the different bands of native peoples. How did desert folks get sea shells from the coast over two massive mountain ranges? One book at this museum caught my eye. When I get home, I will try to get my hands on a copy.

I couldn't get comfortable with things in Death Valley this trip. I guess it is transition season in the parks right now. Lots of the best campgrounds are closed and it feels like the humble tent campers are being shut out in favor of the RV crowd and the resort folks.

I get it. Those people are way less likely to get themselves into trouble and to require dangerous, expensive rescues. But sheesh, Death Valley has become a drive-to-the-overlook-and-take-a-selfie exercise. Herded sheep. Helicopter shepherds. At least the scenery is still pretty cool.

Anyway, I didn't want to pitch my tent in the RV parking lot, so I kept going to Death Valley Junction and took a new (for me) route over the state line to Pahrump, NV. Somewhere in there it got dark and as fate would have it, I found myself and Spugly leading a long line of travelers through a nasty, convoluted construction zone on State Route 160.

Up and over a mountain pass we crawled against a constant flow of headlights from oncoming traffic and frequent, aggressive troopers screaming around with lights and si-reens. I did my best St. Christopher impression and guided the impatient pack of compact SUVs safely to the other side. Not one single Kiasubhondaravhyunduru waved thank you when it was over. Wussup widdat?

I drove too many miles today (obviously) and consequently,  the flow chewed me up and spit me out. I hope I learned my lesson.

What about Spugly, you ask? A whopping 29.6 mpg is a pretty good day's work for a thirty-two year old mini-truck.

Peace, Love, and 4 Cylinders,

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Mosey Through Yosey

Waning Gibbous Moon

The drive to the Yosemite entrance gate, 166 miles from home, was quick and easy. Spugly purred the whole way,  chalking up 26 mpg and running solid. So far, so good.

My hopes of scoring a campsite on the valley floor, though, were not realized. All the sites were booked, there were no cancellations, and every campground on the way to Tioga Pass was closed for the season. No big deal, keep going, it was a great day for a cruise.

I was treated to a grey fox sighting just before reaching the marker that read "Elevation: 8,000 feet." His or her bushy-bushy long fox tail was the last thing I saw when she or he slinked into the deep green forest.

I never get tired of the long views from Olmstead Point - the endless trees, the glacier-carved valleys, the muscular, soaring, exfoliated granite domes - I wish I could park up there sometime and camp just off the road when the Moon is big and bright. I don't think I would do much sleeping. Enchantment.

There was one open campground at Ellery Lake shortly after I passed the park boundary, but at 9,000+ feet, I chose not to shiver all night next to the water. Instead, I continued east down to Mono Lake and turned south along the Eastern Sierra on Hwy 395.

By this time, the Sun was fading a little bit, but no matter what time of day, that stretch of mountains between Mono Lake and Tom's Place is absolutely thrilling.

I may or may not have snuck up into some National Forest timber near here to pitch my roomy, classic Half Dome truck camping tent and to scarf up some yummy-tasty Mountain House freeze dried lasagna. Stealth-scarfing in the woodsy woods woodsy can be delicious for sure. I may or may not also be waiting here on guard to see if that furry grey fox might follow me to my sneaky little camp, hoping for a bite. No lasagna for you, slinky grey fox. Go catch a vole!

Peace, Love, and Bundle Up,