Monday, February 23, 2015

Stories Old and New

The photos for this post are all from a set of experiments with a special program.  Let me know what you like or don't like.

Himalayan Blue Poppies, Perth, Scotland

View: Valley of Fire, Nevada

Hieland Coos, also called Hairy Cows

Old Mission Santa Barbara

Our GPS Says to Us: Damn It, Do It My Way (A New Story)

       On our recent trip from Las Vegas to Death Valley, Lizzie Our GPS had a wee tantrum when she couldn’t get her way. After a nice breakfast at Mom’s Diner in Pahrump, Nevada, we wanted to go to Death Valley. There are two routes into the valley from the east (the Nevada side): the south entrance heading into Furnace Creek and the north entrance into Stovepipe Wells from Beatty, Nevada. We wanted to go into Death Valley from the south—that created the problem.
       As we left Mom’s we were heading north on Hwy 160 toward Beatty and wanted to turn off on Bella Vista Road to Hwy 190 towards Furnace Creek. As we approached the turn-off a couple miles out of Pahrump, we knew Lizzie was planning a route through Beatty. Sure enough, as soon as we made a left (west) off Hwy 160, Lizzie said, “In point two miles, turn right on 33rd Avenue, and then turn right.” She was trying to get us to go back to Hwy 160. But we weren’t listening. A few blocks further she said, “In point two miles, turn right on Melrose Place, and then turn right.” Again we weren’t listening. In a couple more blocks she said (only this time I could swear there was a grunt prefacing her comment), “In point two miles, turn right on 42nd Avenue, and then turn right.” We just laughed at her audacity. In another couple of blocks, with some viciousness, we were sure she said, “In point two miles, damn it, turn right on McGuire Street, and then turn right.” We sort of apprehensively chuckled, but kept going straight. There was a slight pause, then Lizzie took a new tact and sweetly said, “In point two miles, turn left on Bradford Way, and then turn left (please).” We knew we had gained the upper hand.
      Lizzie, our faithful GPS, got the last word though. About a half mile past her last direction, with an exasperated sigh she said, “Continue straight on for 35 miles.” We could hear in her undertones, “You will do it my way.”
Iris, Branklyn Gardens, Perth, Scotland

New York New York in Las Vegas

Canadian Geese in Flight
    The next two stories are samples from our latest book, THE RAMBLING ADVENTURES OF A TRAVELER AND GOLFER, which is only weeks away from publication. It will be available on and and a Kindle version will follow shortly.

The Good and the Bad of a Travel Dinner

      On a Saturday night in September we ate at the Brasserie at the Townhouse Hotel in Melrose in the Scottish Borders. Supposedly the restaurant is rated the #1 restaurant in the area by Trip Advisor. The food was excellent--we shared a fish cake as a starter and I had pan fried duck breast as a main. The service, though, didn’t match the food.
      Our waitress was not local (Polish or Romanian most probably) and was new to the job so we could forgive some things. We had a difficult time making ourselves understood and she didn’t do things she was supposed to--give us bread, check that our meal was right, see if we needed anything. She basically took our order, disappeared, brought our food, disappeared. At the end I had to get the manager to get our bill. When she brought the bill I asked about the lack of service. The manager said all those things should have been automatic, but she blew it too. She didn’t apologize for the poor service and made no effort to correct or make up for the problems--a free coffee or dessert or adjustment of the bill would have been nice, but we didn’t even get a “sorry about that.” She did say she would speak to the girl, but that’s no consolation for us.
      Oh, well, so far about 57,000 people have read my Trip Advisor review of the good (the food) and the bad (the service) of our Townhouse Hotel dinner.
Campbeltown, Scotland


Festival Dance, Loch Fyne, Scotland
And Where Is Canmore GC?

      We arrived at Canmore Golf Course just outside Dunfermline at the edge of Fife in Scotland. They weren’t ready for us. The manager whom we had made arrangements with wasn’t there. The pro shop was closed. Luckily the girl in the clubhouse lounge was flexible. With our email confirmation for comped golf she got us on behind a group of locals. We could find only one functioning trolley, so Anne took that one and I carried my clubs (after lightening my bag by five clubs). Only once or twice I didn’t have the club I wanted, but I managed to adapt fairly well. I loved the weather--cool and slightly foggy--but Anne thought it was miserable. Of course, I won our match.
      That’s not the real story; it’s just the set up for the rest. Earlier in the year we planned a road trip (Love road trips!) to Alberta Canada to see Lake Louise and the surrounding area. We booked in at our Worldmark timeshare in Canmore, Canada next to Banff National Park. Before our Canada trip I worked on planning the fall Scotland trip which included trying to book into the Canmore GC near Dunfermline. I sent my usual email and a few days later got a surprising response: “Your books sound interesting, but I think you’ve sent your request to the wrong Canmore GC. Our club is located in Canmore, Alberta, Canada. If you are ever in the area I’d love to comp you golf for your book. Regards, Secretary Canmore GC, Alberta, Canada”
      I checked back at my email and could see that I’d pulled the Canada course instead of the Scotland track. I wrote back an apology and said, “By the way, we’ll be in your Canmore in about two weeks and would love to bring you a book for a round.”
      So now I know where Canmore GC is. At least two of them. We’ve played them both and I can highly recommend them both as well. 

Abandoned in Beattie, Nevada

Wet Lily

Truro Cathedral, Truro, Cornwall, England

Wary Cat

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Tale of Two Valleys: Valley of Fire and Death Valley

We had never been to the Valley of Fire about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, but we had been before to Death Valley.  On our most recent trip to Las Vegas we managed to go to both valleys.  
Valley of Fire Visitor Center
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

The Valley of Fire, Nevada’s first state park (1935), is an area of ancient sandstone and sand dunes at an elevation of between 2000 and 2600 feet.  The valley has been often used for both TV and movie filming: “The Professionals” starring Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin and “Star Trek Generation” were filled there.  
Valley of Fire Landscape

Big Horn Sheep in Valley of Fire

      Prehistoric users of the valley include Basket Maker people and later the Anasazi (Navajo for “Ancient Ones”) Pueblo farmers from nearby Moapa Valley.  

Sun and Pinnacle on Mouse's Tank Trail
Native peoples used the Valley of Fire from about 300 B.C.E. to 1150 C.E. for hunting, food gathering, and religious ceremonies.  One of the main features of today’s park is the rock art found particularly along the Mouse’s Tank trail and Atlatl trail.  
Anasazi Petroglyphs Carved on Rock varnish

Symbols for Shaman and Circle of Life
We spent time photographing the scenery and especially the petroglyphs along Mouse’s Tank trail.  The Tank refers to two natural potholes in the sandstone rock part way down a waterfall (usually dry) at the end of the canyon that hold water longer than other places.  
Ceremonial Dancers and Big Horn Sheep

Petroglyphs along Mouse's Tank trail

And it’s called Mouse’s Tank after a southern Paiute Indian named Little Mouse who hid in the area to avoid (unsuccessfully) a lynching party.  The trail is one of the riches areas for petroglyphs—symbols carved into the surface of rock varnish or desert varnish (glossy black, brown, or orange-brown layer of natural chemical deposit on rock surfaces, mainly in the desert).  
Petrified Log in Valley of Fire

View from Rainbow Vista in Valley of Fire State Park
Besides the Anasazi carved symbols, the area is rich in geological splendor.

Death Valley, California

Nopah Mountain Range at the South End of Death Valley (from the east).

Nopah Mountain Range

In Death Valley (California) we stayed at Stovepipe Wells Village in the north end of the valley.  The motel provides decent and relatively inexpensive accommodation as well as a small grocery store, gift shop, bar, and restaurant (average at best).  On this trip we had some good photo opportunities with sun, clouds, and clean air one day—the next day was much hazier.  
There is plenty to see in Death Valley and on this trip we tried to do things we hadn’t on our last visit.  Before we dropped into the Valley at Furnace Creek (Hwy 190) we drove the three miles dirt road (easily passable by passenger cars, especially if they are rentals) of Twenty Mule Team Canyon.  
The Road through Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Twenty Mule Team Canyon

The eight mile paved road called Artist Drive is also great for photographers.  
View on Hwy 190 above Death Valley

A highlight for us was Salt Creek—a boardwalk along a small stream which is home to the rare pupfish and several species of small birds.  
Sunset at Salt Creek

On the way out of the park we stopped at the ghost town of Ryolite on our way to Beatty in Nevada.  
Ryolite ghost Town Relic

Even Beatty, NV, Is Starting to Look Like a Ghost Town

The two valleys are great places to explore and photograph, but always in the desert caution is necessary.  Be safe, especially in extreme heat, and be aware of the fragility of the desert environment and the artifacts left by the “Ancient Ones.” 
Rock on Hwy 374 Near Titus Canyon in Death Valley
Feedback Please: Let me know your favorite photo from each valley--tell me which photos I should mount up and frame for sale.