The tattered past is framed in the window in this house in Bodie, California.
Thursday morning, I woke up too early and got up early and still didn’t get on the road till after 7:30. Picked up Layne and we got on the road about 8:30.
Uneventful trip, we stopped off at Cadillac Ranch and looked at the cars. The spray paint on them is in layers inches thick. There are spray paint cans by the cars, there are two dumpsters filled with empty spray cans. The paint chips off in chunks with layer upon layer of colors.
We crossed into New Mexico and stopped at the visitors center to get maps and they also had books laying on the counter. Layne and I picked up a couple of them and were flipping through them and the lady said “You can have those. Or those. Or those.” We each picked up several books, and some of them are nice hard cover art books. We felt like we were robbing the library.
We drove into a storm.I love a storm in the desert but not so much when you have to drop to 40 mph and follow the lights of the truck in front of you. But it washed the Xterra clean. And after we got through the storm, about 5 minutes later, I looked at the hood and it was dried.
Finally got to the camp and caught the end of supper. After a little confusion on where to park we got settled in. The little cabins are about 10 feet by 8. They have two bunk style beds, one on each side, they fold up against the wall if one person wants more room.
I got settled I and got my dragonfly lights hung up and my bed made and went to bed.
I didn’t sleep that well and finally woke up around 7.
I got dressed and headed to the main house to use the bathroom. I was partway there when I heard someone yelling “don’t walk this way, go back!!!!” There was a bear in front of the house! And it was a stubborn bear, it did not want to move on. It took someone driving a car over to make it run off. And I was halfway to the house when it came back. At that point, I figured the house was a better bet so I approached from the side and made it in.
We finally got it to leave the area by honking car horns and a bear horn.
So breakfast was a little late and I was totally unprepared for workshops. But it all turned out ok.
Our morning workshop was metalworking with Dale Janssen. The first project was making night lights with a sheet of copper. She had several templates to choose from but I had found a dragonfly stencil and used that. We punched holes and bent the metal and smoothed the edges and she flamed them for us. We used epoxy to put the clip for the light on it and today we will put it all together and see how they work.
Suzie Monday did a talk on using the iPad to make art on. Then we played a little with AirPlay and Airdrop.
After lunch was a workshop on linocuts and collagraphs or you could work on your nightlight again.
After two bad nights sleep I was having trouble seeing straight so I played with pictures on my iPad for a while before getting out a little piece of linoleum and doing a design.
During the evening gathering on the porch, we watched the birds, identified several of them and talked about many things. After dinner we had a campfire. Stories were told and marshmallows were roasted.
On the schedule for today is to go see some petroglyphs. They are accessible to the public but you have to have a guide. I know he got frustrated by the various speeds of various women.
The site was incredible! Lots of symbols, some common and some unique.
On the way back, we stopped in Mountainaire for a box lunch and to browse the stores and galleries. Things were bought and carted back to camp. I found a wonderful animal shapes necklace to buy.
The afternoon’s project was to make a luminaria with Dale. I used designs from the petroglyphs and drew them freehand on the copper and when we were finished punching, we flamed them and then painted some chemical on them to turn the copper green blue.
The bear made an appearance again at the main house and was finally scared off.
Dinner was pulled pork and the debate about Black Headed Grosbeak versus Spotted Towhee continued. (This was finally resolved by determining both were present)
After breakfast today, we went on a nature walk around the camp. Of course, we had to pose for a group picture before we left, and another one on the walk.
We saw lots of interesting stuff including where a bear did what bears do in the woods. He seems to be eating something with lots of tiny seeds.
After the nature walk, a few of us walked down where a house burned in a forest fire 8 years ago. We found melted glass, bits of rusted metal and a long snakeskin. Good encaustic additions.
For one of my encaustic efforts, I used things I had picked up on my walks. It looks pretty cool. For another one, I used some Chinese writing on paper and alligator juniper sprig and bark.
Then it was time to get back to Dale’s metalwork. I have rolled the cylinder for my luminaria and it has been sprayed with clear coat twice now. It’s ready to rivet together tomorrow.
Our dinner was planned for the peak of the mountain. Having 4 wheel drive, I volunteered again.
The road goes on up past the camp to a camping area and fire watchtower at the top of Capilla Peak.
We watched and heard a storm roll in and got dinner eaten and then had to drive down in the rain. I put it into 4 Low, 1st gear and overdrive off to keep my foot off the brake. The road was slippery in places and had water running down it. Thank you Brian for teaching me how to drive offroad!
I expect I will sleep well tonight. I hope. At bedtime, it’s still raining and cool enough I put another blanket on the bed.
This morning, we finished our luminarias and started the next project. I chose to do a small box and as it worked out, I used 6″ flashing, so I made two, each 3″ high. One turned out better than the other. I used upholstery tacks to fasten these together instead of rivets. The better of the two will be for Daddy.
Today was the day to finish all projects and get everything wrapped up. It’s the last full day.
Suzie has many decks of cards so after dinner we did a group reading, everyone choosing one card from three decks. After that, I chose a random card from a random deck.
Tomorrow, it’s time to say good bye and leave this wonderful place.
By the time brunch rolled around, half of us had already gone. So the art show and tell was small and we all fit around the table for eats. Suzie had cooked the most amazing cheese grits with New Mexico peppers.
About 10, I had finally gotten all my stuff, Layne’s stuff and Junanne’s stuff all loaded up and drove out.
The drive went smoothly and about 30 minutes out of Tucumcari, I called a friend in Amarillo and made arrangements to spend the night.
We had a lovely visit, went to bed early and visited again in the morning.
I got away from there by about 10 again and finally got home at 4. It was a long day.
All in all, it was a wonderful adventure, I learned more about making art, met some wonderful people, some of whom I will see again, saw some beautiful scenery and had a grand time all around. I also added 6 birds to my life list.
I will do it again next year if can.
Out last trip to Big Bend, we got to take a float trip down the Rio Grande River. One of those bucket list days. The river was high, light clouds, not too hot or too cool. The river flows through some narrow canyons in this area.
And nothing says narrow any more than a slot canyon. The top of this one is accessible from Texas FM170, which in my book is the most scenic drive in the state. The bottom end of the canyon is accessible where it runs into the Rio Grande. The only way to get all the way through is to be an experienced rock climber and have gear with you.
I love looking up at the night sky in the desert of Big Bend.
My father, Walter and his friend Tom were in the Army together 60 years ago. They were stationed in Germany and did a lot of sight seeing and travel in the area of Mainz where the base was. They became best friends and kept touch through the years with visits with each other every few years.
Then the years between became longer and longer. Then health became a limiting factor.
I decided the two friends needed at least one more visit, face to face. So, I started making suggestions and hinting strongly that we needed to plan a trip. I poked and hinted until they finally agreed on a time and with a little more urging, the place was selected. Biloxi it was.
This is the story of that trip.
I get up at almost normal work time and get moving, and get on the road by 8:45. I get to DeKalb by 11:30 and we go to the Junction for the fried catfish basket special for lunch. Then load everything into Daddy’s car and start driving.
Alexandria, Louisiana looks to be a good stopping place and I book a room on the fly using my Expedia app. We stay at the La Quinta and have a good room on the 4th floor. Dinner at Cracker Barrel and it was adequate but not good. Noisy night in the hotel and people kept waking me up.
Our room turned out to be facing east and we woke up soon after the sun did. Breakfast in the lobby and hit the road again. I try to avoid interstate highways when at all possible so we went down Highway 71. Daddy said he watched a piece of that highway being built when he was a boy in Arkansas so there was a link to the past he liked thinking about. I was using a travel app, Waze, and it was determined it would get me back on the interstate at all costs, telling me to turn at every road we went by for a while and then seemed to settle into grumpy silence when I ignored it.
The road was a good choice. The traffic was light and the landscape more interesting. This was the old road from Alexandria to Baton Rouge. There were several old Greek-revival style houses with alleys of oak trees, some a hundred years old or more judging by the size of the trees.
We had to pass two tractors and one something else that stood so high in the center I could have driven under it instead of going around it.
In planning where to have lunch, a friend had recommended a place in Long Beach called Darwell’s Cafe. So I located it and got directions from Siri. We got there and found it was a hole in the wall kind of place. But it was one of those places that the locals know all about and kinda want to keep it a secret, at least until Guy Fieri came along and featured it on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Seems they are famous for the cheese grits and I had them with shrimp and Daddy had them with brisket. Roll your eyes and groan kind of good!
We then drove the few blocks to the beach and sat and watched the waves and water for a few minutes, then headed toward Biloxi. We had a pleasant drive down the shoreline and got to the hotel and parked to register, wondering if Tom and Jean had gotten there. We barely stood up out of the car when a van pulls up behind us and honks….it was them! Timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
We get checked in and end up two rooms apart. We visit a little bit and then start thinking about dinner. I look on my Foursquare app for a place to eat. I find a seafood place called Taranto’s and we go there, Jean and I had snow crab legs and Tom and Daddy had fun watching us eat them. Back to the hotel for more visiting and then finally, bedtime.
I had made a woodcut with the Biloxi lighthouse and printed tshirts of it for everybody and handed them out Sunday night. They were a great hit. We wore them today. We got comments from some of the locals and looks from more.
We got moving and took the scenic route to the beach and drove through Ocean Springs by mistake. It was a happy mistake as it was a pretty drive. We found the right road and drove down the beachfront to the lighthouse and visitor’s center where we were greeted by a couple of friendly and pleasant ladies who made the morning even more cheerful. They had an exhibit on some of the history of Biloxi and we wandered around for a while and then crossed the street to see the lighthouse. The lighthouse is one of the oldest still functioning. It is made of cast iron and has survived 18 hurricanes.
By then, lunch time is nearly here. I found a seafood place on Foursquare, the Half Shell Oyster House, and the wait wasn’t too long even though it was Mother’s Day.. Lunch was good, and the next place planned is Beauvoir.
Beauvoir was the summer home of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy. It is very well preserved, especially considering the damage from Hurricane Katrina. The storm surge was one foot above the floor with waves much higher. The ceilings are very high with ornate painted details on the walls and ceilings. It is very elegant but much smaller than you would think.
There had been a wedding the night before on the lawn and it had been partially cleaned up and then left. The flowers were still on the tables and the chairs were scattered around. I took a few pictures.
After touring the house and library we drove back to the hotel for a bit of a rest and then went looking for supper. We ended up at the Mellow Mushroom for pizza which was very good. Tom and Walter did a lot more reminiscing and funny stories were told. Back to the hotel and more visiting and dulcimer playing before bedtime.
Up and moving again, this day’s destination is Bellingrath Gardens in Alabama. It’s a little over an hour’s drive over there. An old house surrounded by acres of gardens and woods. We missed the azaleas blooming but it was still beautiful. We enjoyed a tour of the house and walked around the different gardens and had lunch and then walked some more.
We got back to the hotel about 4:30 and rested a bit until dinner time. I found a place on Yelp with seafood which is where the locals eat. Even for a Monday night, they were busy. It’s called Mikey’s on the Bayou. Walter had never had oysters, so he tried some grilled. He said they were good, but he didn’t need to have them again. Done that now. After dinner, it was too early to call it a night so Jean and I said we hadn’t had a chance to get our feet wet yet so we drove to the beach where she and I walked in the edge of the water and picked up some shells while the guys stood and talked. The sun set behind the clouds and the casino lights got bright and we called it an evening and went back to the hotel and we went to their room for more conversation and dulcimer music.
I had seen a museum in the visitors guide that was called the George Ohr/O’Keefe museum and thought I read that Georgia O’Keefe paintings were part of the exhibit. When we got there, it turns out, she wasn’t. It was just Ohr. He was the Mad Potter of Biloxi. We saw a number of his pieces which were beautiful. It is a Smithsonian affiliate and since I am a member, we all ended up getting in free. The architect who designed the buildings is the same one who designed the Experience Music Project we saw in Seattle.
Then lunch and a visit to one of the tacky souvenir shops where we all found something to buy. After that, there was a walking tour of the old part of Biloxi and we never did figure out exactly where it started but we visited an art gallery on the way that had interesting things.Then we parked by the beach and walked down the pier opposite the lighthouse and sat a while and watched the waves.
Then back to the hotel for a rest then dinner. I found tonight’s dinner destination on Yelp. Then off to the Biloxi Lugger Restaraunt. We detoured around road construction coming and going and pretty much had the place to ourselves. It is on the bay behind town. We got there in time to see the sunset and enjoy the second of the two best meals I had on the trip.
Some goodbyes were said and see you in the morning.
A last breakfast together, and last goodbyes to say. A promise of meeting again even though nobody believes it will really happen. Hugs all around and maybe even a tear or two.
It’s over now, time to head home. We have plenty of time, no hurry. So I plan a stop at Vicksburg to visit the Civil War Battlefield. It was interesting and informative and we spent a little over two hours there.
We spent the night in Monroe, LA. It seems to be Duck Dynasty country. Life-sized cutouts are in the hotel lobby. I look at them and keep walking.
Most hotels that offer breakfast have waffle makers. The man at the next table made his waffle then took time carefully buttering it. Then spreading it with peanut butter. Then pouring syrup over it. I wondered if it would take him less time to eat it than it took him preparing it. We left before he was through so I don’t know. This is the last day traveling. It only takes us three hours to make it to DeKalb in time for lunch and I figure after all these miles, only three more hours to home so after lunch, I hit the road home. When I get home, the cat is happy to see me only for as long as it takes me to let him outside. Hubby, however, is very happy to see me. Now I have two more days off until I have to go back to work. Oh, joy.
I really enjoyed this trip, and it gave me a chance to get to know Tom and his wife who I met many years ago, when I was a kid. It gave some more time together with my dad and his brother-from-another-mother as the kids say now. Memories were told and questions were answered. Brotherhood was renewed. Some bad jokes were told and laughed over. Music was played and listened to. Good food was eaten.
And a good time was had by all.