Saturday, February 25, 2012

Surprise guests

On Wednesday I got an email from my old buddy, Joe Moscatelli, that he and Carol Perry were visiting another old friend from the Honeywell days, Chick Jordan, and his wife, Shirl, in Phoenix. They thought they would come up to Sedona for lunch. I was disappointed that we hadn't gotten together with Joe and Carol before leaving so I was quite happy that he got in touch. They stopped by our place to relax a bit before we went out to L'Auberge to have lunch along Oak Creek

This is such a great spot for lunch. It was the first day that the outdoor patio was open but it was very comfortable in the warm sun. It is hard to beat the location.

After a walk along the creek, we took a ride out Dry Creek road to see some of the scenery in that neck of the woods. We stopped at Fay Canyon and hiked a little way into the canyon for a photo-op

After that it was getting near time for them to head back to Phoenix, so I just added a couple of brief stops. First we pulled into Centenial Park for a nice view across to where we had just been. Then, we drove down to Red Rock Crossing for another photo of the iconic Cathedral Rock.

As they had a long drive home and they still wanted to see the Chapel in the rocks, we parted ways and they headed down 179 for home. It was a nice surprise and great to see Joe and Carol and to reconnect with Chick and meet Shirl. We all enjoyed the day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

First Guests of the Season

Our friends, Ernie Gaschler and Carol Levine, just left after spending a fun filled long weekend with us. Ernie and Carol live in California during the winter and summer in Chatham. They arrived friday afternoon from Palm Desert bearing gifts of food and wine. Good way to start the weekend. After they had spent all day in the car, we just decided to chill and plan the activities for the next few days. We started with the Fay Canyon trail. Nice flat hike that ends at a box canyon. I suppose one could go further but I never have.

We left Fay Canyon heading for the ruins at Honanki but decided to take a detour through the famous gulches of previous posts. After climbing up out of the last deep gulch we came to the top of the hill and came across this charming young lady practicing her cello. She said she just loved the spot and has hiked in to play in the red rock ambiance. A friend suggested she have a tip jar which she has now. She camps near by and uses the tips for food.

Then off to Honanki, a site of Hopi Indian ruins nestled under a cliff. This is really a special place and we love visiting it. Besides the ruins there are tons of pictographs from the various inhabitants of the dwellings

We left there and took the "back road" through the wilderness. At one point a Toyota with Nevada plates came from the other direction and stopped us. He asked if I knew how to get back to the main dirt road. I told him to turn around and go back the way he came from, which was where we were heading. He told me that the road ended and there was nothing but a track where everyone turned around. I assured him that there was a road and finally convinced him to follow me. I had a tow rope if needed. I know what he was feeling as I had the same impression the first time I took this road. Click here for that blog entry. When we got through, his wife took a picture of us and we all went on our way.

This little adventure took us most of the day, so we went to take some photos at Cathedral Rock. It was beautiful late in the day.

On Sunday, Ernie bought dinner at the outdoor barbecue at Basha's which lasted us through 2 1/2 meals. We wrapped things up with a visit to more Indian Rock Art and the fascinating Montezuma's Well. On the way home, we had time for one more quick hike out to the cowpies on Schnebley Hill. Ernie took a photo of the Jeep negotiating a bit of the slick rock before we finally wrapped up the day and the weekend at the Oak Creek Brewery.

We all had a great time and look forward to more jeep activities on the beach in Sandwich this summer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Great news from the Sedona Art Center

I got news today from the Sedona Art Center that 3 paintings I submitted for their Annual Member Show were accepted. Go to for a bit more info. I was pleasantly surprised and quite happy.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

First Day Painting in Sedona

In case you are interested, I just posted an entry on my other blog, about my first day out with Michael Johnson and his students. Check it out.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Arrival Safe and Sound - update

Well, another trip under out belts. We left Albuquerque by 7:30 and crossed the line from Gallup into Arizona a few hours later. I know I'm getting close when I can see the San Francisco Peaks, north of Flagstaff. Even on an overcast day with a bit of snow blowing around, I could see the peaks from 70 miles away.

We got to 141 Purtymun Lane around 1pm. We unloaded the Jeep and relaxed a bit. The place was left in great shape by the owners, Linda and Jen. They left some chocolate covered strawberries for a Valentine's Day treat for us in the fridge. We had a Valentine's Day dinner at Heart Line restaurant. We don't usually do that. Their signature dish is Pecan Encrusted Trout which Judy ordered. Lots of trout out here. Steelhead Trout is very popular. It looks and tastes like salmon, but it is a trout.

Anyway, gassed up, again, and took a ride down Dry Creek rd to make sure it was open so I could check out some painting locations. I will be taking Michael Johnson's class down there friday. The road was open but in fairly rough shape, so it should be a fun ride for the class. The weather was still overcast and there was some snow at the higher elevations but it is still breath-taking.

The creek was pretty dry but will start filling up again when we get some snow melt from the Flagstaff area. The weather should be improving for the next few days. It is sunny now and will be in the 50-60 range. Probably not much warmer than Walpole, but a different look and feel.

Below is what the creek looks like when the water is flowing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Another day in the snow belt

We went to bed in Oklahoma City with a snow storm blowing outside. It had slowed down by the time we left in the morning and we were hoping for a smooth ride west on I-40. I wanted to stop at Washita Battlefield which is infamous in the history of Custer and his Indian Campaign in the late 1860's. There is debate over whether this was a legitimate battle with Cheyenne warriors or a massacre of innocent women and children.

Unfortunately, we hit sections of complete stoppages and saw many spin outs and multiple car/pickup accidents. Some of the vehicles were abandon, but many had the drives standing around indicating they had just happened. No injuries.

Here we are sitting for a half hour waiting for something to unclog.

We were behind by about 1 1/2 hrs getting to the Washita exit. So, although the snow and frigid temps didn't stop Custer from killing scores of Indian women and children and their chief, Black Kettle, it did stop me from making the 50 mile detour. Maybe on the way home.

But, eventually, the skies cleared and the driving became a little easier. Here we are somewhere west of Amarillo at one of our many fill-up pit stops.

Short day tomorrow to Sedona but the forecast is for a storm near the AZ/NM border, so we will try to get an early start.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Oklahoma City and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

We had our usual shakey night's sleep so we got a good start on the day for Oklahoma City. We decided we had enough time to make it to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. This is a terrific museum on the outskirts of OKC. Upon entering you are greeted by a cowboy who explains the layout of the museum and some of the rules. There is a great art gallery with huge paintings of the iconic landscapes of the west as well as works showing the daily life of cowboys and Native Americans. Of course there is a room dedicated to Remington too. No photos allowed in the gallery.

But there are a number of rooms with a wide variety of exhibits showing different aspects of western life, such as the rodeo, driving cattle and the U.S. Army in the west. One room has tons of artifacts of cowboys in entertainment. That was a lot of fun. Here are Matt and Miss Kitty

In the main entry way is a huge sculpture called End of the Trail that depicts a tired warrior either exhausted from a day on trail or resigning himself to the end of the trail for his way of life.

Well worth getting up early and hitting the road to make it before closing. BTW, they do sort of shoo you out at 5pm when the museum closes.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Asheville to Memphis - never a dull moment

We just can't seem to catch a break on these drives our west. Once again we had snow and ice problems crossing over the Blue Ridge Mountains from NC into TN.

We saw one rolled over van with a couple standing next to the lone police car. We assumed they were the occupants of the van and they were OK. Then a big semi began fishtailing from side to side in front of us that caused a bit of concern. But we made it through the mountains OK and headed west towards Nashville.

We thought we would do a bit of tourism so we stopped at the Andrew Jackson homestead, The Hermitage. We had stopped here a couple of years ago but got there too late to tour the estate. This time we were there early enough to walk the grounds in the freezing cold and take the guided tour in the main house.

We were welcomed by a jolly, fat man in period costume who talked about the floors, furnishings, souvenirs, wallpaper, etc. He said that, "during the Great War of Northern Aggression, not much damage was done to the estate." He looked around for a reaction and then said, "what, no Yankees? Can I get away with saying that?" I just raised my hand and he smiled at me. "Save your Confederate money boys, ....."

Jackson was quite a character in our history, responsible for some noble and ignoble ideas and deeds. The American Lion is a pretty good book about his life.

One of the most interesting things was the wallpaper on the second floor hallway. It had been painted over at one time and during the restoration, an effort was made to find the original paper. The factory in Paris where it was made was destroyed by the Nazis during WWII along with all the plates to make new prints. So, they put out a call to museums to try to find replacements. The Louvre contacted The Hermitage to say they had found someone in France who had that exact paper on the walls of his summer home. The estate sent a team to France to carefully remove the paper from the wall and then apply it to the walls in the Hermitage. And, interestingly enough, it was 20 years older than the original wallpaper. It looks brand new.

From there it was only another 3 hours to Memphis. We have another long day tomorrow to Oklahoma City but I've got a few side trips in mind, so stayed tuned.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Asheville NC - Biltmore Estate and Transvestite Bingo

We planned on meeting my sister and brother-in-law, Terry and Curt Hathaway in Asheville. This was a quick 350 mile jaunt from Harrisonburg for us. Curt and Terry live outside of Charlotte so it was only a 2.5 hour drive for them. We planned on visiting the Biltmore Estate together. When we got to the hotel, I left a message that they should call us when they arrived. We finally got a call, but for some strange reason, they were calling us from the ticket booth of the Biltmore, not from their room in the hotel. How did we screw that up?

Anyway, we met at the Biltmore ticket office. We were too late to take the last shuttle from the parking lot to the mansion, so they let us drive right up next to the door in order to get in on time. Nice. It is quite an impressive mansion. George Vanderbilt, who built it, wanted it to look like an English castle. It has many of the same features as smaller chateaux along the Loire Valley in France. It was completed in 1895 and has rooms for its 30-40 help, the extended Vanderbilt family and numerous guests.

If you take some of the mansions along the shore in Newport and quadruple them then you have the Biltmore Estate. Among the many impressive things are a number of huge paintings of the Vanderbilt family, the estate architect, Richard Morris Hunt, and the landscape artist, Frederick Law Olmstead by John Singer Sargeant and a huge painting of the Mrs. Edith Vanderbilt by Giovanni Boldini. (There are a few smaller Boldini paintings of Paris street scenes in the Clark Museum in Williamstown.)

The grounds, designed by Olmstead, are equally impressive but should be seen when things are in bloom. Although, with this winter, the daffodils were already blooming. It is also lit up during Christmas time like Newport and the French chateaux.

When we got back to the hotel (Rennaisance by Marriott), we passed through the convention area. There were several bars set up and a number of tables that were selling things that looked like little bottles. It turned out that the little bottles were "stampers" for bingo. It was bingo night at the Rennaisance. In fact it was Transvestite Bingo Night at the Rennaissance. We found this out after passing a 6' 5" well built bingo player in a long tight black gown coming out of the elevator. Then we came upon the VIP Transvestite reception on our floor where they explained to us what was going on. Transvestite Bingo til 10pm, followed by a show.

After getting a recommendation for a restaurant, the 4 of us went to dinner after passing once again through the convention area. We thought of eating in the French Bistro recommended by the hotel "concierge" (re: bellhop )but decided on a Mexican restaurant called Salsa. It was great. We all enjoyed everything.... talipia and crab quessadilla, pork rellenos, steak fajitas. The staff and other guests were quite friendly.

On the way back to our room we had to make one more pass at the bingo session

to check out some of the talent

before capping off the night with a glass, ot two, of wine in our room. It was all for a good cause as the night raised money for animal shelters.

Although it was a quick hit and run, we found Asheville to be an eclectic little town. It had its charm and funkiness but it was not unlike a lot of artsy places that still seem to support a seedier side.

New entries of 2012

Well, we are on our way for our trip to Sedona again. We left E Walpole on wednesday the 8th and spent the night with our friend Sandy in East Longmeadow. Sandy and Judy were college roommates. I had to perform a few chores for Sandy to earn our dinner. The next morning we left around 8:30 with an anticipate arrival time in Harrisonburg, VA, our destination, around 5:15. Googlemaps had us going into PA and heading down 81 through Gettysburg, but our Garmin had other plans. Before I knew it, we were on 95 outside Baltimore and then circling DC at rush hour. Then we had to head west through Manasas (scene of the Bull Run battles) to pick up 81, then south to our hotel. We got there around 7pm. Long day, but we are on the road again.

Hope to have you all follow our travels and make your observations and comments.