All posts filed under: Travel

Blanche Russell Rock Houses

A few years ago, after a visit to the Grand Canyon, we drove east on Hgw 64, then north on Hgws 89 and 89A. We crossed the Colorado River on the Navajo Bridge, and were on final approach to the Vermillion Cliffs when we were surprised to see some mushroom shaped rocks that looked like a group of Smurfs had built houses under them. We stopped to investigate  and quickly realized they really were ‘Tiny Houses’. A worn and badly damaged sign nearby told the story of  Blanche Russell  and her husband William (Bill), whose car broke down in the area in about 1927 (or maybe 1920)… The pair took shelter under the mushroom rocks over night. Blanche liked the area so much that she bought the property and built permanent structures. She lived there for about 10 years and operated a business. When I looked online for more information about the Blanche Russel Rock Houses, I found a number of  ‘folklore’ stories on several sites: “Around 1927, Blanch Russell’s car broke down as she traveled …

A Peek at Bourton-on-the Water

Bourton-on-the-Water is a village in the Cotswolds Area of Gloucestershire, England. The houses and shops in the village are constructed of the yellow Oolitic limestone that is found in the surrounding hills. Cotswold stone is easily split into blocks and is quite weather-resistant. The Cotswold hills cover an area that is about 40 miles across and 120 miles long. It is an extremely popular tourist destination. A peek over just about any hedge or stone wall will give you a glimpse of why at least 117 buildings within Bourton-on-the-Water have been listed as Grade II or higher. This designation means the building has ‘special architectural or historic interest’. The building’s owners have to apply for consent to do most types of work that affect their home. A peek inside this wobbly hedge! I sure wouldn’t want to be the one who keeps it trimmed. In old age, and having been sprained by the weight of snow over the decades, the hedges now wobble along, imperfect, but full of vegetable dignity… – Description of Walmer Castle …

Arizona, BC, Germany – Looking at Bridges

Bamberg is an beautiful example of an early medieval town in central Europe. It has a large number of surviving ecclesiastical and secular buildings. It is crisscrossed by many rivers, winding canals, and bridges. Some of the bridges are old and famous and some, like this one, are more modern, but don’t detract from the architecture of the surrounding buildings. Deception Pass Bridge is the common name for two, two-lane bridges that connect Whidbey Island to Fidalgo Island in the U.S. state of Washington. Pass Island lies between the two bridges.   Navajo Bridge – The original Navajo Bridge was completed and opened to traffic in January 1929. Prior to the building of the bridge, the only way to cross the Colorado River and its formidable gorge was at Lee’s Ferry a short distance upstream. Construction on a new, wider bridge began in May of 1993. The old bridge became a walking bridge.

RCMP – Law, Order and the Musical Ride

In 1867, Canada became a nation. This year (2017) is Canada’s 150th Birthday! Six years after the Dominion of Canada was formed, the Parliament of Canada established a central police force and gave it the task of maintaining Law and Order in the newly acquired western territories of Canada. The force acquired the name “North-West Mounted Police” (NWMP). By 1886, the NWMP’s first riding school was established in Regina and in 1887, the horses and riders performed mounted precision cavalry drills on several occasions. It wasn’t until 1901,  though, that the drills, choreographed to music, began to be performed for the public. In 1920, the name of the force was changed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Today, the Musical Ride consists of 32 riders (plus one leader) in scarlet jackets on beautiful black horses. The RCMP has bred and raised its own horses since 1939. The Ride tours throughout Canada and internationally between May and October. More Canadiana – Best Canadian Puns, Jokes and Observations. This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Order.

The Greenery of Arizona

You might not think of the word ‘green’ when you think of Arizona – but the State is more than just desert with a few cactus! The Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens is a showcase of arid-land plants from deserts around the world. This Dale Chihuly Glass Sculpture– Desert Towers welcomes visitors. It was installed as the entry-point to Chihuly’s first Desert Botanical exhibition in 2008. The installation was purchased by the Garden as a legacy to the exhibition. East of Phoenix are the Superstition Mountains. In the spring, they sport a coat of green, sprinkled with bursts of color when the desert plants bloom. The mountains rise steeply to an elevation of 5,024 feet, and are characterized by sheer-sided, jagged, volcanic peaks and ridges. North and east of Phoenix is the Water Users Recreation Site on the Salt River in Tonto National Forest. The Tonto National Forest, encompassing 2,873,200 acres, is the largest of the six national forests in Arizona and is the fifth largest national forest in the United States. North of Phoenix is …

Cabo San Lucas – Donkey and Pancho – Boats and Sea Lions

We were in Mexico last week – specifically Los Cabos, which is a municipality on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, in the state of Baja California Sur. Though we spent most of our time in San Jose del Cabo, the Cabo San Lucas Marina was the scene of the most excitement – if you like all the things that ‘bob’ on top of or ‘swim’ in water. This Marina has 380 Slips and 33 Megayacht Berths and just about every craft had a name!     The Sea Lion might have a name too. If you Google ‘Sea Lion Cabo San Lucas Marina’, you will find several items about ‘Pancho’ the bandit sea lion. The sleek dark beast demanded fish from every boat that came in to dock, and it would aggressively attempt to ‘take’ any fish it spied. A flock of brown Pelicans followed the sea lion, supplying diversionary tactics that kept the fisherman busy scooting the birds off the motor and the back of the boat. It was all quite …

Look Up – Waaay Up… The Picket Post Mansion, Arizona

Picket Post Mansion, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Arizona, USA – Picket Post Mansion, also known as the ‘Castle on the Rocks,’ was built by Colonel William B. Thompson – Construction began in 1923, it took 14 months to complete and the estimated cost was $20,000 – The Colonel founded the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and donated his house and the surrounding property to the Arboretum in 1928. The Colonel passed away in 1930. – When it became a financial burden to the Arboretum, the Mansion was sold in 1946 to Walter and Ida Franklin of Globe for $40,000. They operated it as a bed and breakfast. – The Building changed hands again and was eventually acquired by Rick and Tina Rose who gave tours. – On July 15, 2008, Arizona State Parks purchased the property to make the Arboretum whole again.

Your car knows

Idaho and Utah – Driving By the Numbers

Our trip home from Arizona to Alberta took 5 days (April 29 to May 3, 2016) to cover a distance of 2600 km (1650 miles). This year we drove Sadie, a 2002 SL500 convertible that gets 10 L/100 km (28 mpg) and loves to gallop along at 129 km/h (80 mph) on the I-15. One of our fuel stops was in Monticello, Utah – elevation 2,155 m (7070 ft) where Sadie dined on 91 octane. I bought 1 bar of dark chocolate fuel for myself – our glove compartment had 0 gloves and 0 candy bars.   804 km (500 miles) later, we were in Idaho Falls, Idaho. We stopped at the Army Surplus Warehouse (after Sadie got some more gas, and I refilled the glove compartment with chocolate.) There are many interesting things for sale there, including an M129 leaflet dispenser that is 2.28 metres (7.5 ft long) and 40 cm (16 inches) in diameter. Its empty weight is about 52 kilograms (115 pounds) and when loaded with leaflets it weighs about 100 kilograms (225 …

Utah – Calf Creek Overlook – Highway 12

Calf Creek Overlook on  Scenic Byway 12, south of Boulder, Utah. Unique panorama photos of this area are at Don Bain’s Panoramas. In 2002, State Route 12 was designated an “All-American Road.” Spanning 122 miles, and connecting Capitol Reef National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, it took almost 40 years (from the ’40s to the ’80s) to complete construction. The scenic byway crosses some of the most magnificent scenery on the Colorado Plateau: red-rock desert, mesas, buttes, cliffs, and even lush mountain forests. – Matador Network – Utah has the largest open-pit mine in the world. Visible from outer space, the Kennecott Copper Mine is nearly a mile deep and 2.5 miles wide. The mind is still in production and it takes trucks more than two hours to drive from the bottom to the top. – National Geographic – In the Fishlake National Forest in Utah, a giant has lived quietly for the past 80,000 years. The Trembling Giant, or Pando, is a enormous grove of quaking aspens that takes the “forest as a …

Egret, great blue heron, black crowned night heron

Trios, Triplet, Thirds – Photos of Three Things

Trio, triple, thirds say three. As do triad, ternion and  trilogy, Triptych, trine and trichotomy, Triangle, treble and trinity. – Margy – This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Trio.  I had no problem finding photos to fit, as I often compose a shot to include three elements. The idea of the number ‘3’ is also an important part of a photograph’s composition. The Rule of Thirds is perhaps not instinctive, nor obvious, yet it can make a dramatic difference in a photograph. Of course, rules are often broken. I was thinking Rule of Thirds when I cropped the following photos, but wasn’t that successful! Cactus blooms  – Arizona Egret, Great Blue Heron and Black Crowned Night Heron – Sun Lakes Arizona Golden Barrel Cactus – Arizona Tall Grasses – my yard, Alberta, Canada Three word street sign – Carefree Arizona Building with Three arches – Jerome, Arizona Three spruce cones – my yard, Alberta, Canada Before I was married I had three theories about raising children. Now I have three children and no theories. – …

inside church

Germany – Man vs Nature – Ornate Designs

It is a WordPress Photo Challenge and the topic is Ornate. Man has challenged Mother Nature. Mother Nature presented this work by Jack Frost who embellished this Campanula flower with spikes of white crystals. Man replied with this intricate metal scroll work on carved wood at Residenz Wurzburg in Germany. Mother Nature fired back with the work of Sylvia Spider who embellished some dead spruce needles with a fine web thread. Jack Frost then highlighted each element with a sparkling series of frozen droplets. Man said “Go big or go home” and presented the lavish decoration of the inside of Zwiefalten Abbey in Germany. Mother Nature confidently turned once more to Jack Frost and said, “Show them a close-up look at frost crystals.” Who will win this Photo Challenge? The choice is up to you! This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is: Ornate.

From Chaos to Order – Photos of Grids

Grid refers to a framework of spaced lines that are parallel and may also cross one another to form a series of boxes, normally squares or rectangles. It can also refer to a network for distributing power. Grids have the power to be visible, as seen in these photos. But they can also be less obvious, to downright invisible – like the layout of text and photos in a magazine or the composition of a photograph or piece of art. Grids are all around us – how many can you see from where you are sitting? To see these Grid Photos at their best, click on one of the photos to open a slideshow. To close the slideshow, press your ES-Ca-pay button (or the tiny ‘X’ on the top left of the screen). When the Great Fire of London destroyed most of the medieval city in 1666, Christopher Wren was invited to design a new one. Within days, he had drawn up an elegant grid of broad boulevards leading to majestic squares, but it came …

Maytag Matilda – A Horse From Every Angle

The Photo Challenge this week is to look at a subject from different angles. I’ve chosen a Horse sculpture that stands in Plaza Fountainside, Fountain Hills, Arizona. This horse, a mare, is called Maytag Maltilda. She weighs  5,000 lbs, stands 9 feet tall and  is 11 feet long. The fabrication artist is Dixie Jewett. In her workshop in Dayton, Oregon, Dixie pieces together bits of metal and garage sale finds to create one of a kind masterpieces. To see Maytag Matilda at her best, click on one of the photos to open a slideshow. To close the slideshow, press your ES-Ca-pay button (or the tiny ‘X’ on the top left of the screen). People respond to her work, Jewett feels, not only because the sculptures look so amazingly lifelike and animated, but also because “they can identify with all the little bits. They’ve got stuff like that at home.” She vividly remembers the reactions of one couple. “The wife was amazed by how realistic and alive the horse looked. Meanwhile, her husband was up close …

The Grand Canyon – Half and Half Vistas

Many of my photos of the Grand Canyon attempt to show the immense size and depth of this geological wonder.  The photos below, however, capture the half and half balance between rock and sky, or rock and trees. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about this aspect of composition when I took the photos. The WordPress Half and Half photo challenge made me go looking for photos, and this is what I found: Desert View Watchtower on the south rim of the Grand Canyon – this really is a half and half photo, isn’t it! Did you know that a woman, architect Mary Colter, designed this building? It was completed in 1932. Desert View Watchtower – really more of a thirds photo with sky, rock and trees. South rim of the Grand Canyon – the foreground is one half, and the background is the other. South rim of the Grand Canyon – a diagonal half and half split. When a man retires, his wife gets twice the husband but only half the income. – Chi …

From Arizona to Alberta – Grand Canyon

In the foothills of the Mazatzal Mountains in Arizona, the cool night time air has a moderating effect on the heat that climbs up from the desert in the valley. But as spring progresses, the heat becomes more intense earlier and earlier in the day. When we start to think it would be a good time to check out how the air conditioner is working, we know it is  time to leave the desert and head north to Alberta. So we packed up our Jeep and began a long and scenic journey home. The Car Guy was confident that the Jeep GPS System would guide us, but he packed a paper map book just in case. He had a number of maps to choose from, but selected the one put out by Harley Davidson because it highlighted the most scenic routes… for motorcycles. Early in the trip, the Jeep GPS declared a distaste for conventional routes, as if to say, “I am a Jeep – I want to feel the rocks and mud beneath my …

Why There are Back-seat Drivers

This is a story that started out with the Monarch Butterflies in my garden. I learned a bit about them and their remarkable journeys. It seemed quite natural then to discuss human journeys, directionally disadvantaged navigators, and why there are back-seat drivers. Some humans are remarkable navigators. Others – not so much. I call these people ‘directionally challenged’. Unlike a butterfly that can find the way from Canada to Mexico with only the sun and the stars to guide them, certain people are lost by the time they drive past the edge of their neighbourhood. My spouse, The Car Guy, is moderately directionally challenged. The invention of GPS navigation has been a godsend for him. He has a friend, 3P, who is both directionally challenged AND has failed GPS 101. 3P can get lost when he ventures past the end of his street. We discovered this on a recent road trip where 3P was the driver, and The Car Guy was the navigator. The ‘wives’ sat in the back seat of the vehicle. Neither wife …

The Quippery

Fly Air New Zealand

There are two critical points in every aerial flight—its beginning and its end. — Alexander Graham Bell, 1906 – Trouble in the air is very rare. It is hitting the ground that causes it. — Amelia Earhart, 20 Hrs 40 Mins 1928. – You land a million planes safely, then you have one little mid-air and you never hear the end of it … — Air Traffic Controller, New York TRACON, Westbury Long island. Opening quotation in the 1999 movie Pushing Tin – Don’t you wish all airlines were so creative!?