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August 2018

A pause in the Blog… August 31, 2018

 

We are headed off into the wilderness of Mesa Verde and Southern Utah National Parks… We will have limited internet access for the next several days, so you will not be hearing from us for a while…

Stay tuned!

Phil and Lynda…

2018-08-29 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 11 – Silverton

We were up early and out the door at 6:00 am.  We hitched a ride with another Airstream couple, and safely arrived back in Durango.  We parked, found the depot, and picked up our tickets.  A visit to Starbucks for some early morning fortification was also in order…

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Then we waited for the arrival of the… Bus!

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Yes – we had to take the bus to the train…

Durango was organized in September 1880 to serve the San Juan mining district. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG) chose the site on the Animas River for its depot following a brief and most likely perfunctory negotiation with Animas City, two miles to the north. 

The railroad arrived in Durango on August 5, 1881 and construction on the line to Silverton began in the fall of the same year. By July of 1882, the tracks to Silverton were completed, and the train began hauling both freight and passengers.

The line was constructed to haul silver & gold ore from Southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, but passengers soon realized it was the view that was truly precious.

This historic train has been in continuous operation between Durango and Silverton since 1882, carrying passengers behind vintage steam locomotives and rolling stock indigenous to the line. The ride today offers a view of Colorado’s mountain splendor  inaccessible by highway.

So after about 30 minutes we arrived at Rockwood station, the OTHER train depot.  It seems that mudslides this past July (due to wild fires) have damaged the tracks between Durango and the Rockwood station; this is where we found the train.

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We boarded the train and found our seats.  We opted for an open car so that we could take photos…

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But the enclosed cars were very nice as well…

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The train takes about 2 1/2 hours from here to get to Silverton.  It uses 10,000 gallons of water for each round trip.  We will stop twice to take on water… It also uses 6 1/2 tons of coal (hand-shoveled) to make each round trip…

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As we pulled out of the station the view was less than spectacular…

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Then we turned around and saw what going on on the other side of the train…

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For the next 2 2/1 hours we had views like this – mountains, the Animas River, bridges, rocks… I have 5,000 more photos if you are interested… I’ll try to be gentle here…

Here we are stopping for water… The spigot is ingenious – as the fireman on the train pulls down the spigot it mechanically opens the valve to let the water flow…

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We soon came to that part of the river that has still not recovered from the toxic waste “spill” that the EPA intentionally released into the river about three years ago…

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As we approached Silverton we saw the remnants of an old mine…

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The town of Silverton is the county seat of, and the only incorporated municipality in, San Juan County, Colorado.  Silverton is a former silver mining camp, most or all of which is now included in a federally designated National Historic Landmark District. The town population is about 600, and it is at an elevation of 9,318′

The town is about as old west as it gets – many streets are unpaved, buildings are, or look like they are, very old, very old west “architecture”.  Most buildings are gift shops or restaurants, plus the marijuana dispensary…

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We ate lunch at Handlebar’s Restaurant and Saloon…

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After strolling the streets of Silverton and looking at all the junk for sale in the gift shops we returned to wait for the train…

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We boarded and enjoyed the same trip as earlier in the day, only backwards…

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After we de-trained we rode the bus back to Durango, then rode back to the RV Park.  We crashed… and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-08-28 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 10 – Durango

We had a free day in Durango.  We took it easy and caught up on a few chores…

We drove into Durango, about 6 miles away.  We checked out the location of the train depot and parking – tomorrow we will be riding the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Rail Road to Silverton, about 45 miles (driving distance) north of here….

After being satisfied that we could find the depot tomorrow morning at 7:00 am, we walked up and down Main Avenue…

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For lunch we stopped in at Ken and Sue’s Restaurant.  Very nice contemporary cuisine – what we most often like.  I had fabulous angel hair pasta with shrimp and sun dried tomatoes and Lynda had a very innovative pot pie.. We shared a nice bottle of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir…

Back at the RV Park, we relaxed and did nothing.  At 5:00 we had another Fandango, where we enjoyed happy hours and met two more Airstream couples.

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We turned in early; we need to be ready to go in the morning at 6:30 am…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-08-27 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 9 – Traveling to Durango, CO

We are on the move today!  We are driving about 200 miles to the northwest, to Durango, Colorado.  Along the way we are traveling through an ever-changing landscape.

We started out in the New Mexico desert…

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We stopped at the Echo Amphitheater, where marvelous echos can be heard…

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We pulled in, and we were the only people there…

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We were soon joined by other Airstreamers…

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And they kept on coming…

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To make room for others, we soon moved on.  The landscape continued to change to  mountain forests…

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We soon entered Colorado…

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We had lunch at Kip’s Grill and Cantina, in Pagossa Springs.  Then we continued further inbto Colorado.  The mountains and forests continued to change…

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By the time we reached Durango the rocks were bright red…

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We added our Colorado sticker to our map… The Villa has been in 29 States so far…

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Happy hours ensued, and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-08-26 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 8 – Los Alamos

Another free day in Pojoaque.  We had a relaxing morning, then headed out to see Los Alamos.

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As most of you know, Los Alamos was the site of the Manhattan Project during World War II, and it continues to be a large research center even today.

In 1942, when FDR decided to consolidate all nuclear research into one, top-secret location, there was no Los Alamos.  There was an exclusive boys boarding “prep” school, The Ranch School, plus a dozen or so homesteaders who farmed these mesas in the summer.  The US government instituted eminent domain proceedings and gave the residents about two months to vacate the premises, with an insistence that the reasons for leaving must be kept secret.  It’s hard to understand what it must have been like to abruptly close a school, and be unable to tell anyone why…

What drew the leaders of the Manhattan Project to this location was the infrastructure of the school itself, which included water supply, electricity, and buildings. Another reason was the geography and the remote location.

Los Alamos is located approximately 35 miles to the northwest of Santa Fe.  The elevation is about 7,320 feet, and total land area is 11.14 square miles, most of which was already owned by the Federal government.

Los Alamos is located on flat mesa tops separated by steep canyons.

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This relative inaccessibility was a key reason for its selection – to help protect the secret activities of the Manhattan Project.

Everything was top secret.  There were no radio broadcasts – the “radio” signals were hard-wired to each house…  Everyone shared the same address – Post Office Box 1663, Santa Fe, NM.  No one could tell their friends and relatives where they were and what they were doing.  It is all very hard for us today to understand what this must have been like…

Today, Los Alamos is a lovely little town.  All the research laboratories have been moved to an adjacent mesa.  Some of the original buildings, mostly from the Ranch School days, still exist, plus some houses used by some of the most prominent members of the community.

This is “The Lodge”, the Ranch School’s Dining Hall.  The newer wings were added after WWII…

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This is a cabin, originally used by the Ranch School founder, Ashley Pond.  It was moved to this site.  It was originally in a remote location, and was used for some early research activities…

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One of the houses used by scientist Bethe has been restored…

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The Guest House was used by prominent visitors.  Today it is the Museum…

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The Ranch School was founded by Ashley Pond in 1917.  The boys of the school built this small lake, and named it Ashley Pond… All the original research labs were built around the pond.  It is the centerpiece of a city park today…

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Los Alamos now has a proper Post Office.  Residents no longer need to share one P.O. Box in Santa Fe…

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We returned to Pojoaque; we had another Fandango, and at 8:00 pm we had a Drivers Meeting to review tomorrow’s drive as we move to Durango, CO, high in the Rocky Mountains

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

2018-08-25 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 7 – Taos

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Today we traveled to Taos, about 45 miles (1 1/2+ hour drive…).  As usual, the landscape around here is stunning…

Along the way we stopped at several small towns and villages to see some of the local color…

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In Taos we enjoyed another unique lunch at Lambert’s…

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We looked around Kit Carson’s house…

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Kit Carson was born in the early 1800s and spent most of his life exploring the wild west, enduring many dangers and surviving them all.  He died in Taos at the age of 59 of a burst aneurysm…

Taos has many nice shopping streets, but on a much smaller scale than Santa Fe…

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After enjoying all that we could, we headed back to Pojoaque, taking a detour to see the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge…

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The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, locally known as the “Gorge Bridge”,  is a steel deck arch bridge across the Rio Grande Gorge 10 miles northwest of Taos. Roughly 565’ above the Rio Grande, it is the seventh highest bridge in the United States.

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while recall that we recently visited the Cold Springs Canyon Bridge, near Santa Barbara…

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While the Rio Grande bridge is taller, the span of the Cold Springs bridge is longer… It is also more fun to walk under a bridge like this than to walk over it…

The road back to the main highway turned out to be a little more adventurous than we had expected…

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The drive along the “Low Road to Taos” is quite beautiful.  The river is well used by rafters, tubers, campers, and people like us, just enjoying the scenery…

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We had an uneventful drive back to Pojoaque.  An enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018-08-24 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 6 – Chimaya and Santa Fe

We began the day with a short drive to Chimayo and the Church of the Dirt…

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Legend has it that the dirt beneath the chapel has healing powers.  The Community that has grown up around this church is quite ancient, and a little ramshackle…

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There is much lovely art…

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And the countryside is beautiful…

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We joined the other Caravaners for lunch at Rancho de Chimayo Restaurante, a highly rated “destination” restaurant, even in this remote part of the world…

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As we left the restaurant after lunch, we beheld a a sight familiar to all caravaners…

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After lunch Lynda and I returned to Santa Fe to do some serious shopping.  As we shopped Lynda was stopped by several people who commented on her new shirt:

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(If you can’t quite read it, it says, “Carpe Manana”…)

We bought Lynda some “cute” earrings…

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And, if you are wondering, the turquoise is not “natural”, we did not get a certificate of authenticity, they are not signed by the artist, and they were not made by local Indians.  But you must admit they are cute…!

We also checked out the Meyer Art Gallery.  They are the local representative of the sculptor Dave McGary.  His specialty is sculpting bronze Indians…

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These are “miniatures”, about 36″ – 48″ tall.  He also does “life-size” statues, at 120% life size, in which the Indians are about 7′ tall, with the headdress, spear, etc., making the whole sculpture over 8′ tall…

Back in the olden days, when I was working, I did a custom house, for a German client, in Palm Desert.  He had one life size Indian in the house, in a space custom designed for the statue, another life size on a rotating turntable in the back yard, and a miniature in a niche inside the house.  These are really spectacular pieces of art.  It was nice to see some of them again…

We returned to the RV “Resort”…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-08-23 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 5 – Santa Fe

We traveled as a group to Santa Fe today.  Besides some detours on the highway and some miscommunication on where we were to meet, we all finally boarded a tourist trolley to get oriented in and around Santa Fe.

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We had an interesting guide/driver who told us of the history of Santa Fe and showed us the various neighborhoods and significant buildings around the town.  After about 1 1/2 hours we were let off to explore the city on our own.

As usual, I was most interested in the architecture.  Everyone knows “Santa Fe Style”, right?

The regional architecture from which the “Santa Fe Style” draws its inspiration is primarily found in Pueblos of New Mexico and other southwestern States.  In the 1890s, architect A. C. Schweinfurth incorporated Pueblo features into a number of his buildings in California.  Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter’s Hopi House (1904) in Grand Canyon National Park drew heavily on the Pueblo style. The Pueblo Revival style made its first appearance in New Mexico in 1908 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where UNM president William G. Tight adopted the style for a number of building projects during his tenure. 

At the time, Santa Fe looked like Anytown USA, with French, Italian, Victorian, Bungalow, and Carpenter Gothic buildings, mixed in with New Mexican Territorial styles common throughout the State.  In an attempt to attract tourists and the railroad, the city fathers remodeled all of the prominent downtown buildings to resemble what would be known as the Santa Fe Style.  In 1957, a committee drafted Santa Fe “H” Historical District Ordinance No. 1957-18, commonly known as the Historical Zoning Ordinance.  This ordinance mandated the use of the “Old Santa Fe Style,” which encompassed “so-called Pueblo, Pueblo-Spanish or Spanish-Indian and Territorial styles,” on all new buildings in central Santa Fe.  To be exact, the ordinance require all buildings be earthy brown, include rounded edges, room-block massing, and protruding vigas.  This ordinance remains in effect, meaning the Pueblo style continues to predominate.  The point to remember is that the Santa Fe Style is not something indigenous to Santa Fe, but something made up (by Anglos, not Mexicans or Indians or Spanish) to attract tourists.

So here we have it:  Vigas, Brown, block massing, rounded edges…

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Even giant buildings follow this style, which is more suited to small buildings…

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Even parking garages follow the style…

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The Territorial style shows brick cornices and a little more exposed wood, but otherwise is quite similar…

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I like regional architecture as much as the next guy, and I have commented on how well the architecture here addresses the harsh sun.  My only pet peeve is the religious-like adherence to arbitrary rules, despite all evidence that the rule should be modified or abolished.  Nothing exemplifies this idea better than the vigas.

As I showed in my earlier blog, authentic vigas are extensions of roof beams, projecting through the adobe walls…

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Today, vigas are rarely structural, but are only decoration tacked on to an exterior stucco wall.  There is one problem:  In this dry, hot climate, exposed wood rots:

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This has led to attempts to protect the wood with sheet metal – hardly an elegant solution…

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On the other hand, not ALL buildings have vigas, and they look just fine to me…

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Certainly historic buildings need to be accurately restored.  If the wood rots, replace it with wood.  But if you must have vigas, even fake vigas, why not use steel or some other weather resistant material?

One reason why new buildings, or additions to existing buildings, in Santa Fe’s historic district should sometimes employ modern materials, and even a few tastefully contemporary design elements: A century from now, 2018 construction should be distinguishable from that of earlier times. And if the architecture is exceptional, it also may be prized alongside the old.  It shouldn’t mimic the old so perfectly that you can’t see the evolution of the style.  As soon as everything looks the same and you can’t date it, it’s dead. It’s the vocabulary that’s important, not the material or the technique.

More reasons why the wood vigas, protruding through the exterior wall, is a bad idea:  they break the thermal envelope of the building, allowing cool air to escape in the summer and warm air to escape in the winter. They also break the waterproofing envelope, allowing moisture into the building, creating the potential for mold and other water-related issues…

So enough of my rant about Santa Fe style.  We actually had a very good time in Santa Fe…

We saw the country’s oldest house, built in 1646…

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And we saw the country’s oldest church, built in 1610…

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We saw the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi… The interesting story here is that while the church was under construction they ran out of money.  Bankers in the Jewish community loaned them the money to complete the construction.  After many more years of struggling and being unable to pay on the loan, the Jewish bankers forgave the loan as a gift to the church.  This is memorialized in the top arch stone over the main doors with the Hebrew scrip and the triangle.  Also, the doors have 20 panels in bas relief telling the history of Santa Fe…

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We saw the Loretto Chapel…

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And we saw the quaint shopping and gallery district on Canyon Rd…

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We spent some time shopping in the blocks around the plaza…

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We learned that the New Mexico flag has a circle representing the sun and the Indian’s cultural belief in the circle of life.  The four groups of four rays symbolize the four cardinal directions, the four seasons of the year, the four times of the day and four stages of life…
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And we had time for lunch at The Shed…

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After more window shopping we returned to the RV “Resort” in Pojoaque…

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We enjoyed another Fandango”, meeting new Airstream friends.  And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

2018-08-22 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 4 – Moving to Santa Fe

This morning we found that there had been a little rain overnight…

Today is a travel day, so we started by doing a little laundry, cleaning up, and hitching up The Villa.  We pulled out of the RV park about 9:30.  Today’s travel is to the Pueblo of Pojoaque, just north of Santa Fe.  It is only about 85 miles from Albuquerque… An easy drive…

We stopped alongside the freeway after about an hour to stretch our legs and to keep our Apple watches happy…

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Since we could not check into the next RV park until after noon, we took a detour to chase down the two Frank Lloyd Wright houses in New Mexico…

A few miles north of Pecos is the Alfred Friedman House, “Fir Tree” (1945).  The good news is that we found it easily; the bad news is that it is not visible from the street and it is a private residence, not open to the public…

We respected their privacy and did not pull The Villa up their driveway…

We turned around at the next wide spot in the road, getting mud all over The Villa.  We headed into Sante Fe and looked for the “Pottery House”, 1984.  Obviously, this was built long after FLLW’s death; he did the design in the early 1950s; the lot and the plans were purchased by a builder, who modified and enlarged the house.  It may or may not be a “real” Frank Lloyd Wright house – but we’ll never know.  We could not find it.

So on we went, to the RV park in Pojoaque.  We set up (in the rain…) and walked around.  It is very sparse and bleak in the RV park, but the surrounding high desert is quite pretty…

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Tonight we enjoyed a dinner with the caravaners at Gabriel’s, a very nice New Mexican restaurant near by; we rode along with caravan neighbors from Houston…

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We returned to The Villa, and enjoyed a lovely sunset…

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An enjoyable time was had by all…

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