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Posts tagged ‘American Southwest’

1-day drive in the US Southwest: Georgia O’Keeffe country

Above/featured: Ghost Ranch: Chimney Rock is in shadow at centre-right. Photo location: 36.31882 North, 106.48006 West.

This is the start of a series on day trips and drives from our time in the American Southwest. The following takes place entirely within day 7 (of 15) in New Mexico between Santa Fe and Abiquiú.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is known as one of the best known modern American artists. Born in Wisconsin and educated in Chicago, her art came to light in New York City where her name and work became prominent. While teaching in Texas, she visited New Mexico for the first time in 1917. She fell in love with the landscape of New Mexico on subsequent visits in the early 1930s, and in 1949 she moved to the Abiquiú area where she would live for the rest of her life.

As fans of her art, we’re taking the day to drive up from Santa Fe to the town of Abiquiú. We wanted to see Georgia O’Keeffe country: the landscapes from which she drew inspiration, and the land that nurtured her spirit and fuelled her creativity.

Before our guided tour of O’Keeffe’s Abiquiú home, we stop at the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm next door to have a look. We like it so much we return after the guided tour to the farm’s café for a snack. We then make the short drive northwest onto the Ghost Ranch property to check out the ancestral lands of the Navajo Apache and Tewa pueblos. O’Keeffe recognized the importance some of that history, as she related in an 1967 interview for the Los Angeles Times’ “West” magazine:

When I think of death I only regret that I will not be able to see this beautiful country anymore, unless the Indians are right and my spirit will walk here after I’m gone.

On our return drive to Santa Fe, the sun sets over our section of the Southern Rocky Mountains, and I swear the late-afternoon breeze whispers the spirits of the Chama river, Georgia O’Keeffe, and all the souls who’ve inhabited the area.

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Bumble Bee Ranch Adventures, Bumble Bee, ghost town, Sunset Point Rest Stop, Black Canyon City, AZ, USA, fotoeins.com

Small towns in the American Southwest

Above/featured: I-17 Sunset Point Rest Stop, near ghost town of Bumble Bee: Black Canyon City, AZ – 17 Oct 2018 (X70).

A memorable road trip through the American Southwest included over three-thousand miles of driving through Arizona (AZ) and New Mexico (NM). We encountered many small towns: some of them were easy to pass through, while others were “must see”. We wanted to stop in as many as we could, but time and itinerary were as always the usual culprits. Guess we’ll have to return.


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My Kicks on NM State-68: Classical Gas Museum

I’ve always been mesmerized by highway signs and fascinated by the history of big highways. There’s also big nostalgia, because Dad loved highway driving and road trips. He was the sole driver on the Trans-Canada highway between Vancouver and Calgary or on US Interstate-5 to Bellingham and Seattle. How obvious is it then, that a deep yearning for open roads comes directly from my father.

The following is a part of day 8 (of 17) in our drive through the American Southwest.

We set out on a day trip from Santa Fe to Taos and Taos Pueblo, with a scenic drive on New Mexico highway NM-68, the “low road” or “river road” along the Rio Grande river between Española and Taos. With low light in the morning hour, we didn’t see it when we drove north to Taos. But on our mid-afternoon return on the low road, we found the Classical Gas Museum in the small town of Embudo. We pulled into an open sandy rocky patch, marvelling at the collection in front of rusting gas pumps and a wooden building resembling a historic gas station.

The Classical Car Museum is owned and run by Johnnie Meier who is a retired scientist and former employee at the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory. His interest and collection grew to the point where he needed more space. Reading about the museum is one thing, but it’s no match for seeing in person his extensive collection of memorabilia, including whole and partial gas pumps, highway signage, oil cans, gas company signage, license plates, a miniature-model gas station, a working vintage Coca-Cola cooler, a classic car or two parked on the premises, an entire pre-fabricated diner building, and a mascot for a once thriving restaurant-chain. From within the building, it’s the glow which provides further fuel for interest, and once inside, the neon and warm illumination of symbols and signs combine for the inevitable “wow!” Altogether, it’s a broad mix of elements from mid 20th-century American history which is all about highway-driving and open-road nostalgia. There’s a saying about how someone’s junk is somebody else’s treasure, but the entire collection deserves careful cataloguing and a larger permanent building. A new museum would be fitting somewhere along the old US-66 highway. Santa Rosa, NM is a leading candidate, but other cities in the state are also possible.

For now, the museum is located next to highway NM-68 in Embudo; the coordinates are 36.209102 degrees North, 105.951658 degrees West. The museum sits on 0.81 hectare (2 acres) of Meier’s land, and the museum building is 93 square metres (1000 square feet) in size. There is no admission charge, though donations are most welcome, especially for the local animal shelter. You might want to call ahead (505-852-2995) to see if Meier is around in case the building is closed.

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The Pi(e) in Pie Town, US-60

Above/featured: Welcome to Pie Town. The 2018 Pie Festival was held on 8 September.

The two words reach your eyes and enter your brain.

Pie Town.

The questions are immediate.

What? Who? Why? How do I get there? Is there really pie?

A sense of calm eventually prevails, and that’s when planning begins. Because there’s firm promise: “oh there will be pie.”

Fast forward to our drive through the American Southwest over three weeks in October 2018, and our adventure is drawing to a close.

With morning sun and excellent conditions, we’ve departed Tucson for a long drive for which there are three goals. One, we must arrive in Santa Fe by tonight to catch our flights out the next day. Two, we have to stop in Albuquerque for a return visit and chomp on a spicy stuffed sopapilla at Mary & Tito’s Cafe before they close at 8pm. Three, we’re desperate to visit Pie Town which by design is on the way to Santa Fe. We’re on the road for over 300 miles (480 kilometres) through Arizona, into New Mexico, and to Pie Town, and that’ll be followed by another 220 miles (350 kilometres) to Santa Fe.

The car continues to roll along the paved undivided two-lane highway on a stretch of lonesome landscape with short stubby hills and tall grassy fields for company. US-60 is nowhere as famous as its northerly US-66 counterpart; both are historic national highways. As some have noted, driving present-day US-60 comes very close to similar conditions on US-66 in the latter’s bygone heyday.

The miles add up, and the hours tick by. Isolation is punctuated by farms, ranches, and small towns. We’ve made notes about the towns, because there’s always a need for fuel: gas for the car, snacks and drinks for the occupants. Small towns may not look like much on first approach, but I know the welcome greeting and warm atmosphere are in store as soon as we step inside a shop or restaurant.

Our destination in New Mexico isn’t “nowhere.”

Because there, pie awaits.

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Grand Canyon National Park: The North & South Rim

Above/featured: West-northwest from Mohave Point – 15 October 2018 (HL).

The Grand Canyon National Park has very different timescales: over 100 years of human inscription as a national park, but over 1 billion years of geologic history.

European colonizers and settlers recognized protection was required for the big dramatic landscape. On 26 February 1919, U.S. Congress passed legislation “An Act to Establish the Grand Canyon National Park in the State of Arizona” which was signed by President Woodrow Wilson. With official designation, the national park encompassed over 1-million acres (almost 405-thousand hectares) and several thousand years of history of habitation in the area by indigenous peoples, including the Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi, Navajo, Paiute, and the Zuni, who consider the Grand Canyon as their ancestral birthplace. UNESCO inscribed the Grand Canyon National Park as World Heritage Site in 1979.

The geology at the Grand Canyon, however, is far older than 100 years. By geologic standards, the Grand Canyon itself is relatively “young” with the Colorado River carving into the rock about 5 to 6 million years ago. However, the Vishnu basement rock in the Grand Canyon is over 1.7 billion years old; “only” 38 percent as old as Earth’s oldest rocks at 4.5 billion years old.

We spent three days in October 2018 exploring parts of the Grand Canyon National Park. After our drive from Flagstaff to Vermilion Cliffs, we pushed forward to the North Rim and the winding scenic drive took us to Point Imperial and Cape Royal in time for the day’s final illumination. With a night spent at the beautifully serene Cliff Dwellers Lodge, we retraced our drive back to Cameron, then turning west to Desert View and parts of the eastern end of the South Rim. With our new ‘base’ established in Flagstaff, we drove the following day to the main entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park (via Valle and Tusayan), and we spent the day in the western and central parts of the South Rim. The 1126 km (700 mi)# we covered over the three days was 22 percent of the entire 5049 km (3138 mi) we accumulated through parts of New Mexico and Arizona.


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