Friday, April 29, 2011

Simon says...

Simon is the name we call the little man who lives inside the GPS. He has an English accent, and is always very polite, even when he's telling us (for the third time) to "Please turn around as soon as it is possible."

Although we do our best to keep him up to speed by letting him on the Internet too, the updates don't always work, especially in construction zones. Sometimes those little diversions confuse him.

If you look at the photo above, you'll see that Simon seems to think we're off in a field someplace. Another time, when we were taking a ferry, the little blue VW that serves as our avatar appeared to driving over the water -- shades of Herbie the Love Bug!

While at first I scoffed, thinking a GPS was 'just another gadget', we would have been lost without him. And I say this quite literally, especially when we tried to find the place we planned to stop near Louisville, KY -- a feat that required crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky, then taking a complicated series of cloverleafs so we could get to a town in Indiana. Huh!?

But my next stop is one that Simon didn't have a hand in.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A century on

One hundred years ago today, my maternal grandfather, James Murphy, landed at Ellis Island.

He was only a teenager, but he came on his own from Ireland, trying to start a new life.

What if he hadn't had the courage to take that journey? Where would I be today? In fact, would I have been able to stand there next to him, holding his hand -- would I even exist??

Luckily, as you'll see in the next post, the journey we're on is so much easier.

Monday, April 25, 2011

This is the house...

...where Amelia Earhart was born.

I was able to spend several hours there today, looking around in rooms where Amelia once ate and slept and played.

Best of all, I had a wonderful conversation with Louise Foudray, who's not only the official caretaker of the museum, but a fountain of information. I just hope I'll be able to decipher all the notes I scribbled down, and that this day's visit will help inspire more writing about Amelia, as I want to expand the little group of poems that make up my chapbook, A: The Amelia Poems.


The next post is a little bit of a different kind of (even more personal) history.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Bunnies

These bunnies were sitting on a bench on the porch at one of the nicest RV parks we've visited. Their photo looked like a keeper for sending Happy Easter greetings.

Even though we're living in The Rattler, coloured eggs and chocolate are also part of the day.

Springtime greetings, and onward to an even nicer porch!

Friday, April 22, 2011

On the trail


We seem to be following the historic Santa Fe Trail.Today we made it to Dodge City, the classic Western cowboy town. The Boot Hill Museum here turned out to be lots of fun -- we even had a couple of sasparillas at the Long Branch Saloon.

The museum had an incredible array of displays, and was filled with fabulous memorabilia and information. Learning about the slaughter of the buffalo (numbers going from a million to a thousand in under a decade) was horrifying, especially with this being Earth Day.

We're ridin' the trail through Kansas, while the eggs boil up on the little stove, as we start to get ready for Easter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

No yellow brick roads


But plenty of yellow grass. And plenty of irrigation machines and oil wells.

The photo above shows the view I had as we drove away from last night's canyon-top campsite. Heaps of dust rising from the dirt road as we depart -- take a look in the rearview mirror.

After a night of dry camping, we were ready for electricity and plentiful water, so stopped at a 'proper' RV park. Cutesy as anything, everything is Wizard of Oz, right down to "Auntie Em's Laundry".

Cutesy or not, tomorrow will be another day for moving on.

Wasn't it Horace Greeley who said, "Go East, young man!" Or something along those lines...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In the tracks of dinosaurs

The hike was over five miles in -- and then all those same steps back -- but it felt worth it to stand in the tracks of dinosaurs, creatures from some 150 million years ago. The site? Picketwire Canyon, one of our last stops in Colorado.

I love the story of the name 'Picketwire' -- it comes from the French name for the river that runs there -- 'Purgatoire' -- in turn, named for Spanish treasure-seekers who died there without benefit of clergy (thus, relegated to the pains of purgatory). Somewhere along the line, somebody couldn't say 'purgatoire' and decided it sounded like 'picketwire'. If you say it with a movie-version cowboy-Western accent, it just about works. How many idiosyncrasies of language come about from just such mis-hearings, mis-speakings?

We dry-camped tonight, isolated on a ridge in the Comanche Grasslands of Colorado. Lying in bed, I stared out at an ocean of stars, and couldn't help but think that the light from some of them might well have originated the same time those dinosaurs were making their muddy tracks.

But now it's time for us to make our way into Kansas.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's a clean machine!

We've made our way through the last of the mountains. From here on in, things should be mostly flat.

Yesterday and this morning saw us poking about in Great Sand Dunes National Park. The photo I missed taking was capturing the lightning and thunder (and rain and hail and wind!) that paid a visit during the night. It was as if someone was taking our photo -- everything lit up -- "say cheese!"

After all that sand and dust and taking us safely through all those steep mountain pases, The Rattler had earned some tidying up.

Vacuumed and washed, what an improvement. Laundry this afternoon as well. Even the sheets are fresh and clean. Ahhh!

So, where do you suppose we go from here, but a place with big-time muddy tracks.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Four toilets?

For all of our spontaneous meanderings, one place I’d been set on seeing was the site marking the convergence of the boundaries of four states – Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Four Corners Monument is the only place in the U.S. where this occurs.

For a start, I have to say that it was disappointing to discover a gate where a fee was charged for entry. After all, it’s only open air, there’s really nothing to ‘enter’.

Sure, it’s only three bucks a head, but I wasn’t happy about it. Besides, it seemed contradictory that the nation doing the collecting is one that doesn’t purport to believe in notions such as lines dividing state from state.

Really, after seeing them collecting those handfuls of dollar bills all day long, I’d have expected more improvements to the site than just brick-and-concrete stalls for selling souvenirs.

And I’ll admit to being off-put by the thought of souvenirs. So many places where I’ve stopped to look for gifts, when I’ve examined them, they’ve held tags that read “Made in India” – as if that makes them ‘Indian’.

Instead of spending entry fees on building fancy sales stalls, what would be so terrible about replacing the Smell-o-Potties with a couple of proper restrooms?

Somehow, I don’t imagine I’ll be making a second visit here. And after all the dust around here, it might well be a time to do some clean-up.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

One month to Toronto...

The flowers above are tiny wild violets. I took the photo while we were passing through California. Anyone who's read Rattlesnake Plantain knows that I have a thing for wildflowers.

But it isn't wild violets that are leading us to Toronto, it's my new book, Shrinking Violets.

The launch event is set for one month from today: Toronto on Tuesday, May 17th. I love that it's being held at a place called 'The Supermarket' as the book's main character works in one.

So, how many miles is that from southern Utah?? I guess we better put the pedal to the metal -- or at least stop gawking at every red rock -- as we have a lot of country ahead of us.

P.S. Just consulted the atlas. Even the most direct route (which I know we never take) is 2,000 miles. And no, I don't want to even think of that in kilometres, especially if we need to make any 'rest stops'.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How do they do that?!

How long has that how-many-tons hunk of rock been balancing like that? Especially with that lean to the right, along a hillside at that... I'm just sure I don't want to be any place nearby when it gets tired of doing its trick.

Today, when we went in to Natural Bridges National Monument, we discovered that this is
National Park Week, so we didn't even get to use our fancy pass. Who knew.

But now, please forgive me, as the next post might seem like a commercial.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Touristical, but cool

After a couple of lazy days in Page, Arizona -- the Dear Man golfing while I puttered with books and words -- we decided to be brave little tourists, so we could see Antelope Canyon. Because it's on Navajo land, you have to go in with a group and a guide. A bit crazy to be there amidst so many people and languages, but memorable sights, that's for sure.

There are plenty more beautiful images of this probably over-photographed site, with everyone practically jostling to get the 'perfect' shot of the beams of light streaming down from above. Still, I'm happy with the weird little vision I got, looking up into some tumbleweed tangled near the ceiling.

But talk about things that are dangling...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Natural wonder overload


Even though the weather reports hadn’t been favourable, we’d both really wanted to see Bryce Canyon National Park. Happily, our day there was bright and sunny. But because there’d been so much snow, it wasn’t possible to do any kind of hiking around. We had to drive from viewpoint to viewpoint and see what we could.

Still, it was all pretty breathtaking.

Since still more snow was predicted for the following day, we took this as a sign to head a bit southward before we start moving towards the East.

And truthfully, I’m feeling as though my eyes (and brain) are nearly saturated with all this scenery! But wouldn't you know, there's more gorgeous stuff ahead.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The right day to be in Zion

As with so many stops along this tour of ours, someone was smiling on us when we went to Zion National Park.Even the shuttle bus drivers were getting out and staring up at the cliffs. They said that the combination of snowmelt on the high cliffs and the day's bright sun were creating a day of rare sights.

The 'sun' in the photo above isn't really the sun. My photographer buddy explained that it's actually just a 'lens flare' -- a technique that real photographers like to manipulate. For me, it was just a matter of blessed good luck.

But then, that's been the kind of adventures we've been bumping into all along our trail.

The video below is something just for fun. Because our vehicle is wider than a standard car, there's no room to squeeze past any oncoming traffic. We had to have the tunnel (over a mile long) cleared for us to go through. Of course, we led a few other cars, and we all had fun tooting our horns -- great echoes! Those sounds led us on to our next national park.
video

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Still too wintry for the mountain roads...

Although the roads down here in the valley were mostly clear, the mountain roads were too hazardous for us to venture out towards more national parks.

Both of us were glad that the U.S. government managed to get its budget squabbles resolved for the time being, as national parks would have had their gates locked. And here we are in Utah, a state that may have more national parks per square inch than other one in the union.

Besides taking too many photos of the incredibly varied landscape, the usual weird
sights along the way also caught my eye, like this sign. But an even better sign came my way today, as I found my first (ever?) four-leaf clover.

Exploring the nearby lowlands proved to be fun. And by the time we got back to town, things were melted enough that the Dear Man (die-hard that he is) got in nine holes of golf.

And all of this, I suppose was good preparation for our next stop.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Grand Canyon Days

How many people are lucky enough to spend almost two full days poking around the Grand Canyon! Heck, we even got to camp there for an overnight.

The object in the photo above is a Graflex View Camera -- just one of the many tricks the Dear Man carries around. It's a 4 by 5 camera, so each image it takes is captured onto a photographic plate that's 4 inches by 5 inches in size.

If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you might be able to see that the image in the viewfinder is reversed. The side-to-side aspect is tricky, but the upside-down sky is clearly there.

These images will be black-and-white, and likely processed in our little camper -- more of the magic tricks I get to travel with.

As for my own snap-snapping efforts, I took waaay too many photos. It's just a good thing
mine weren't on film -- or, on those hard to find 4 by 5 plates in the big Graflex -- especially with the weather we're about to contend with next.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A damn big dam!

Today was a driving day, but one with several great stops, one of which was the famous Hoover Dam. It was busy, with lots of tourists, and this is supposed to be 'low season'.

Today's miles were all in the name of getting us to our next stop, the Grand Canyon.

Further down the road, we ducked onto the Historic Highway 66. I got a kick out of the Burma Shave signs!
video

Monday, April 04, 2011

Viva Las Vegas!

At least the lazy way I'm takin' it. This is the night view of the spot where we're 'camped' -- smack in the midst of Las Vegas. Not very woodsy here, more like a parking lot. Still, it's pretty exciting being right in the thick of things. Crazy, eh.

The morning was time for laundry, and the Dear Man actually developed some black and white film (photos from Yosemite) in here.

Then, after an afternoon spent mostly poolside, reading and paddling around, it's time to head out for some sightseeing.

But first, there's a basketball game I plan to see. Go Butler!

PS After game comment and on to what comes next: oh damn.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

What a way to start a month -- and a new year!

Yesterday was the day I begin a new year -- not because of any fiscal calendar, but because April 1st is the day I was born.

I won't be forgetting this day of celebrating, as I spent it in one of the oldest national parks in the U.S., Yosemite.

What a place! Our next spot is going to provide quite a contrast...

Friday, April 01, 2011

Celebrating National Poetry Month!

Because I won't be in Canada this National Poetry Month, I won't be participating in any readings or other events.

So, I'm having an alternate celebration. My plan is to leave a book every day -- a book of Canadian poetry, or an issue of a Canadian magazine that focuses on poetry. Before we left, I filled up a bag with duplicate copies and other finds I gathered around the house.

I'm inscribing each book with a little note about Poetry Month, and including the address so people can visit the League of Canadian Poets' website to learn more.

Because the theme of this year's celebration is "Nourish/Nourrire" it seemed appropriate to start with a collection called Eating the Seed.

What will you do to celebrate National Poetry Month? But first, take a look at how I get to celebrate my birthday.