Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for Zilker Gardens in Austin, Texas

A gate at the beautiful Zilker Gardens in Austin, Texas. If you are ever in Texas's capital city, be sure to visit there. 

I'm so glad you stopped by to visit my blog during the A to Z Challenge. It's been fun sharing some of the places my wife and I have visited.

A gate at Zilker Gardens
Park bench, Zilker Gardens

Water lily

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park, I am told, is one big volcano waiting to erupt either today or a thousand years from today. And when it does, one is probably better off somewhere on the other side of the world.

Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for Texas

"All my exes live in Texas. That's why I'm in Tennessee." 

--Sanger and Linda Shafer

Dang, iddn't that cute? My mom and my three older brothers were born in Texas. Mom came from the tiny central Texas town of Paige, population Not Much. All of us spent most of our lives in Massachusetts, but Mom clearly missed her childhood home and the fields of springtime bluebonnets. Now that my wife and I are retired, we live only a short drive from the Texas border and the city of El Paso, where I go once a month for my writers' group meetings.

Rio Grande in the Big Bend area. Mexico is on the left bank.

Cholla cactus and bird's nest, Big Bend area.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for Mount Washington

As with all of the places mentioned in my A to Z blogs, one or two photos don't do justice to Mount Washington, the tallest point on the eastern seaboard of the US. I know of three ways to ascend this monster: the cog railway, the road, and hiking. We have done the first two and wouldn't even dream of doing the third. The weather can turn from summer to winter in moments and kill the unprepared hiker. Mount Washington holds a world's record for strongest surface wind ever recorded, at 231 miles per hour. We rode up in a van one September day and saw ice-covered boulders on the way.

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Vermont

Stone house, Chester Depot, Vermont
My wife's father was born in the sleepy town of Chester Depot, Vermont, known for its stone houses. Her grandmother lived in Manchester, Vermont until age 102. There was a sturdy woman. We motored up Vermont-way many times over the decades that we lived in Massachusetts.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Utah

When we first visited Utah, it seemed as though every which way we turned we found another national park. Heck, I had never even heard of Canyonlands National Park, and suddenly there we were, completely taken in by its beauty. We've returned a few times, once to visit Antelope Island on Great Salt Lake. Virtually nothing lives in that lake, we were told. It's much too saline for fish. The only life seems to be tiny shrimp that are noticeable for the odor of their tiny little carcasses and the tiny bugs they attract.
On Antelope Island, Salt Lake, Utah
where the antelope play
But wait, don't let that stop you. A causeway connects the mainland to the island, where antelope and buffalo abound. If you ever have the chance to visit Utah, for goodness' sake do it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Taos, New Mexico

San Francisco de Asis, near Taos

A lovely, quirky little town north of Santa Fe. Images of the San Francisco de Asis church have been captured on canvas by Georgia O'Keeffe, on film by Ansel Adams, and on digital cameras by thousands of people like me. It dates from the late 1700s. If you visit Santa Fe, try to make time for Taos and the Taos Pueblo, a community said to have been occupied for over 1,000 years.

Curio shop, Taos

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Shiprock

Any fan of the wonderful Tony Hillerman novels has read about Shiprock, the majestic rock formation that stands out in northwestern New Mexico near the Four Corners of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. It is a holy place for the Navajo, who don't want people to get too close to it. Listen closely to the wind, and perhaps you will hear the spirits of Tony Hillerman and his detectives Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn wandering across the desert landscape.

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Rio Grande Gorge

If you follow the Rio Grande southward, it changes dramatically. The Rio Grand Gorge is near Taos and has carved a path through rock that's hundreds of feet deep.  The Gorge Bridge is nearly 600 feet above the river.  But we folks are thirsty in the Southwest. We dam up the river at Elephant Butte and Caballo Lake, we drain it off, and we drink it up. The river depends heavily on Rocky Mountain snowmelt, so when the snows don't come, the water flow is greatly lessened. By the time you reach my home city of Las Cruces over 200 miles to the south, the water can be completely gone. You can walk across a dry river bank without wetting the soles of your shoes.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Quebec

We visited Quebec several times and have always loved the place. Montmorency Falls lies on the north side of the Saint Lawrence River just across from Quebec City. There is a lower, more modern part of the city, while the walled upper part, Haute Ville, is centuries old and was a battle site in the French and Indian War. The building is the elegant hotel Chateau Frontenac, which oversees a boardwalk and the river.

Chateau Frontenac Montmorency Falls

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Pompey's Pillar National Monument

We had never heard of Pompey's Pillar National Monument, which sits alongside the Yellowstone River in Montana, until our visit to the area last year. Carved on the side are Native American petroglyphs and the signature of explorer William Clark. I walked to the 150-foot summit using the stairway you see in the photo. Although I saw some of the carvings, the lighting didn't lend itself to decent photos.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Organ Mountains

The Organ Mountains are a rugged, gorgeous mountain range separating Las Cruces, New Mexico from the White Sands Missile Range. Wikipedia says it's 85 miles long, though I would not have guessed it was nearly that long. Anyway, it provides a perfect backdrop for the city. When we were new here and still trying to find our way around, we always knew we could get home by heading toward the mountains.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for New England

My wife and I grew up there, so it's natural that we have a lot of New England photographs. This is a lighthouse with picket fence in Newburyport, Massachusetts. I took it in the summer of '04, the year before we heard the siren call of the Southwest.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Mount Shasta

Until well into middle age, my wife and I had never been to California. Since '99 we started making up for it, visiting San Francisco, Yosemite, Napa Valley, and much more. A few years ago, we drove our RV up the west coast as far as Oregon. On our way back we stopped near the utterly gorgeous and how-could-you-possibly-miss-it Mount Shasta. When we registered at the local RV park, I asked the clerk where I could get the best view of the mountain. She told me she had no idea, that she had lived near the mountain for so many years, she had stopped seeing it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Little Bighorn

View from the top of Little Bighorn
We visited Little Bighorn National Monument in eastern Montana in the summer of 2009. Here in 1876 a band of Lakota Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne led by Chief Sitting Bull annihilated the outnumbered U.S. 7th Army cavalry regiment led by General George Armstrong Custer. The photo is taken from the top of the hill where the battle took place. Later, markers were placed where bodies had been found.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Kerouac Park

Beat poet Jack Kerouac lived in Lowell, Massachusetts, and the city created a small downtown park in his honor. It has beautiful granite slabs such as this one with his poetry and excerpts from his prose. It's free and open to the public. Kids enjoy skateboarding there.

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Johnson City, Texas

We discovered Johnson City on our long drive from Las Cruces to Austin back in 2007. A very nice lady there bought a whole passel of my books to sell in her gift store. She sold them all and asked me for more, and then did it again. (And then, alas, the recession hit.) Can you understand why I am partial to this pretty town? The photo shows a Halloween hay bale just outside of town.

Incidentally, it was the boyhood home of President Lyndon Johnson.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for Idaho

Idaho Falls, Idaho 2013
I don't know much about Idaho, but we drove through last year and found it beautiful. In particular we enjoyed the city of Idaho Falls. This photo taken near the downtown shows why the city is so aptly named.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

H is for Home in New Mexico

Home. There's no place like it.
Oddly, I didn't come up with many interesting places we've been that begin with H. Luckily, there is always Home. We moved into our little adobe abode back in aught-six, and barring our winning a lottery we don't even play, I expect we'll happily stay here. We do have our windy season, though. Maybe one day a Mega Millions ticket will blow into our yard. I will pick it up to toss into recycling, never realizing it is the unclaimed billion-dollar winner. Alas, because of our missed chance we will be relegated to living out our pleasant lives in our pleasant Home.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

G is for Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon, South Rim 1998
We've been lucky to have visited the Grand Canyon at both the north and south entrances. Whatever praise you may have heard lavished on it is amply justified. My daydream is to ride down into the canyon on a burro, but I'm probably a little to heavy for the animal, and I confess to be a bit squeamish. I can imagine the awe Ferdi Grofe must have felt that inspired him to write the Grand Canyon Suite, which nearly does the canyon justice.

Grand Canyon, North Rim 2010

Monday, April 07, 2014

F is for Front Yard

Here's a place other bloggers haven't been, although many of you would be welcome. Today, F is for my Front yard, which I selected only to show off this lovely cactus Flower next to my driveway. This is one of many reasons I love the Southwest, even while I miss Massachusetts for its greater floral variety.

Since you've stopped by, please leave me a note in the comments section. I'll make a point of returning the favor.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

E is for El Paso

Copyright  © 2010 by Maritza Neely
E is for El Paso, the West Texas city that until my retirement I had never expected to see, let alone visit once per month for the El Paso Writers' League. To its north, it's smack up against the Franklin Mountains; to its south, the Rio Grande and Ciudad Juarez. My friend Maritza Neely painted this wonderful impression of the city back in 2010, and it captures the essence of El Paso and its cultural connection to Mexico.

Since you've stopped by, please leave me a note in the comments section. I'll make a point of returning the favor.

Friday, April 04, 2014

D is for Deming

D is for Deming, New Mexico, an hour's drive west of Las Cruces on I-10. It's small and quiet, and exists, I believe, because it was a convenient place for trains to stop for water. On the outskirts of town are the remnants of an old WWII army base and POW camp. Nothing much of it remains. But the city has the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum, which is worth an hour of your time if you're passing through town.

Since you've stopped by, please leave me a note in the comments section. I'll make a point of returning the favor.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

C is for Chihuahua Desert

Poppies in bloom near Deming, New Mexico
March 2012
Since 2006 we've lived in the Chihuahua Desert, which extends from the Mexican state of Chihuahua into west Texas, New Mexico, and eastern Arizona. No one photo captures a typical scene, but the photo on the right suggests both its harshness and its beauty. It's a far cry from New England, where I lived most of my life.

Since you've stopped by, please leave me a note in the comments section. I'll make a point of returning the favor.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

B is for Beantown

John Hancock building, downtown Boston
Continuing with the theme of places I've been, there are so many possibilities: Bedford, Beverly, Billerica, Burlington, all places I knew in my salad days. But I'll go with Boston (aka Beantown), Massachusetts. Boston is called Beantown for a reason I had to look up, and it has something to do with the city's part in the 18th-century slave trade if you believe the Internet (and who doesn't?).

The city has changed a lot since as a 12-year-old I took the B&M train into the city to meet a pal. There was a hole-in-the-wall diner called Joe and Nemo's, the combat zone with its offerings we didn't dare approach, Scollay Square where we heard the burley shows were. We were both too poor and innocent to check out any of those places. But we did eat lunch at Durgin Park, where the food was plentiful and the waitresses infamously brusque.

The streets downtown are rumored to have been laid out by cowpaths, which seems as good an explanation as any for the lack of a sensible grid. Today the city has a new look with buildings like the Hancock and the Pru. The old Boston Garden is gone, where the Celtics and Bruins used to play. But Fenway Park hasn't changed in a century, and the Boston Pops still gives free summer concerts along the Charles River.

Now we live more than 2,000 miles away, but Boston will always be my favorite city.

Since you've stopped by, please leave me a note in the comments section. I'll make a point of returning the favor.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A is for Arizona

Zzzz...Huh? Oh, hello. I'm just waking up from hibernation in time for the A to Z Challenge. Actually, I'd originally been planning on writing about books, but at the last minute I changed my mind. It should be more fun to write about places I've been because the pix will be prettier. Okay, I haven't figured out Z yet, but there's time.

Arizona was the first Southwestern state I ever visited, back in 1997. We went to Tucson in February of all months, and the temperature was warmer in our home city of Boston. Television weather reports said that the roads to Sedona were snowbound. We went into a Burger King in Apache Junction, a city noted for its retirees, and all the customers seemed to have white hair. There was a news account that a young kid tried to rob a Burger King (not while we were there), and an 80-year-old man took out a gun and shot him.

At Sky Ranch in Sedona
Welcome to the Wild West. But we were still entranced by what we saw, and we came back in better weather. It was the beginning of our love affair with the
Southwest; less than a decade later, we moved to next-door New Mexico and take fairly frequent trips to Arizona. We've parked our RV next to orange and grapefruit trees ripe with fruit, and we've seen breathtaking landscapes. No doubt we'll keep going back for many years to come.

Since you've stopped by, please leave me a note in the comments section. I'll make a point of returning the favor.