Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More Points to Ponder

  • Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They should both be changed regularly and for the same reason.
  • There will always be death and taxes; however, death doesn't get worse every year.
  • Brain cells come and brain cells go, but fat cells live forever, and I am a nutritional overachiever
  • I plan on living forever. So far, so good.
  • The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
  • Life not only begins at forty, it also begins to show.
  • It's better to regret something you HAVE done than something you haven't.
  • The reason people blame things on the previous generations is that there is only one other choice!
  • Today is the first day of the rest of your life, but so was yesterday and consider how you probably messed that up!"

Monday, September 29, 2008

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold

She spent the first day  packing her belongings into boxes, crates and  suitcases.  On the second day, she had the movers come and collect her  things. On the  third day, she sat down for the last time at their beautiful dining room table by candle-light, put on some soft background music, and feasted on a pound of shrimp, a jar of caviar, and a bottle of spring-water.

When  she had finished, she went into each and every room and deposited a few half-eaten shrimp shells dipped in caviar into the hollow of each of the curtain rods.  She then cleaned up the kitchen and left.

When the husband returned with his new girlfriend, all was bliss for the first few days. Then slowly, the house began to smell.  They  tried everything; cleaning, mopping and airing the place out. Vents were checked for dead rodents and carpets were steam cleaned. Air fresheners were hung everywhere. Exterminators were brought in to set off gas canisters, during which they had to move out for a few  days and in the end they even paid to replace the expensive wool  carpeting. Nothing worked.

People stopped coming over to visit. Repairmen refused to work in the house. The maid quit.  Finally, they could not take the stench any longer and decided to move.

 A month later, even though they had cut their price in half, they could not find a buyer for their stinky house. Word got out and eventually even the local realtors refused to return their calls. Finally, they had to borrow a huge sum of money from the bank to purchase a new place.

The ex-wife called the man and asked how things were going. He told her the saga of the rotting house. She listened politely and said that she missed her old home terribly and would be willing to reduce her divorce settlement in exchange for getting the house back.  Knowing his ex-wife had no idea how bad the smell was, he agreed on a price that was about 1/10th of what the house had been worth, but only if she were to sign the papers that  very  day.
She agreed, and within the hour his lawyers delivered the  paperwork

A week later the man and his girlfriend stood smiling as they watched the moving company pack everything to take to their new home. 
And to spite the ex-wife, they even took the curtain rods!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Worthy Quotes to Ponder:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. 
-- Margaret Mead

The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.

-- Margaret Atwood

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
-- Rachel Carson

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is. --
Yogi Berra

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself. -- Johann Sebastian Bach
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world -- C.S. Lewis

Writing is like prostitution: First you do it for love, then for a few good friends, and then for money. -- Moliere

You see things and you say, "Why?" But I dream things that never were and I say, "Why not?" -- George Bernard Shaw

In every human being you encounter, there will be far more to celebrate than to denigrate. -- Elie Wiesel

We are always the same age inside. -- Gertrude Stein

A learned man is an idler who kills time by study. -- George Bernard Shaw

The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention. -- S. Morris

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bikes, Blues, and BBQ...

... Motorcycle Rally, 9th Edition, is in full swing in Fayetteville, Arkansas, this weekend, so we went to check it out. The local news claimed it is 3rd largest biker rally in the country after Sturgis and Washington DC, and the town certainly is inundated with noise and activity. The main action is on Dickson Street, so we went for some music and food.

It was interesting seeing so many having so much fun with what is obviously their passion, but their version of biking just doesn't appeal to me. From what I gather, half of them cruise around on their bikes looking at the people on the street-sides, while the other half sit or walk around the streets watching the others ride by. I half expected a bell to ring and the 2 groups to exchange roles, but that never happened. We saw choppers and Suzukis and Yamahas of all types as well as bikers of all ages and shapes and sizes, and they all were into what they were doing. The food booths seemed to be doing well, but our $30 investment in 2 sandwiches, fries, and drinks were mediocre at best, with the meat cold and the drinks warm and diluted, so after an hour or so enjoying the frenzy and noise, we left...

... and went biking ourselves. Our version. On mountain bikes. On the backroads of Fayetteville, past farms and ranches and housing developments and the finished new water treatment plant. On the ride, Ellen rescued a turtle halfway across Broyles and in imminent danger from the speeding autos which now use the newly-opened Broyles extension as a throughofare from 6th to Wedington...

... but she was too late to help this poor armadillo whose shell was cracked by a passing car.

It felt good to get out on the bikes again after a month of camping/rafting/canoeing/hiking/backpacking. Oh yeah -- I just checked -- today's 16 mile ride put me over 2000 miles for the year, a personal record.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fayetteville Surprise

When we arrived at Ellen's yesterday, I noticed the new coffee table and couch in the family room and commented on how nice they were, as seen here...

... and I further lauded the purchase after a refreshing 1 hour nap on the new couch today. At supper tonight, I was further surprised as I found out she had ordered the new pieces last April after I had returned to Wauconda a week before she drove up to rejoin me, and the furniture was delivered when she came back to Fayetteville to attend to some business in June. It seems I had been complaining a bit that we had no TV tables to eat from as we watched the evening news, so tonight as we sat down to eat, she magically lifted the coffee table top and it became a dining table as seen here!

Pretty nifty! And a very practical furnishing!

Back in Fayetteville, Arkansas...

... at Ellen's, where we'll stay about 2 weeks before heading back to Wauconda. It was a wonderful 6 week tour of the southwest, but it's always good to get home again, and really nice to see all the greenery! I think we both have had enough of the high desert sand for a while!

Speaking of which, today I tackled the cleaning/reorganizing of the hiking, camping, cooking, biking, and paddling gear, hosing the sand out of as much as I could, though I'm sure we'll be finding sand in stuff for some time to come. When I get home, I'll have to deal with the tent's 2 messed up zippers, which the REI lady in Santa Fe assured me that REI would fix or replace.

Meanwhile, Ellen went after her somewhat jungle-like backyard foliage, cutting, wetting, and pulling over-growth the lawn guys didn't tackle.

As we went through all the clothes and gear and stuff, we "found" several items that had managed to hide themselves from us in the cavernous van, so apparently the only thing I lost during our excursion was 5 pounds!

We already dealt with grocery shopping and many loads of wash, but still have to hit the books -- financial that is -- and get all the bills, banking, and receipts taken care of.

And some time this weekend, we'll partake of Fayetteville's annual charity drive -- Bikes, Blues, and BBQ Motorcycle Rally. Tens of thousands of bikers have descended on this otherwise quiet community to benefit local charities. More on this later this week.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Biking Oklahoma City's River Trail

The trail runs on both sides of the river -- for 6+ miles on the northern bank and 7+ miles on the southern bank -- and we biked the entire 15 miles on the southern side. All roads and train tracks have underpasses for the bike trail, allowing hazard-free pedaling. A number of parks provide parking for riders, and crossover routes are well marked to get from one side of the river to the other. You can get info and download a map here.

The Oklahoma River is always just a few feet away and the views are unobstructed. We passed a skate park which was empty, so we biked a few of the obstacles, and the trail also passes the heavily fenced Dell Computer complex as well as 2 dams. Here's a view of the river...

The downtown and Bricktown are both on the north bank just blocks from the trail, so you could bike to them, too, including the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

This is Oklahoma, so it isn't surprising that the trail corridor has signs indicating you are alongside pipelines for gas, crude oil, and petroleum, and we even passed three rigs pumping oil just off the trail...

This paved 12' wide trail traverses nice scenery and is almost completely level, making it a fine ride for beginner bikers, but even hard core bikers could have good ride here by doing both sides round-trip, all without a road crossing.

Oklahoma City National Memorial

On April 19, 1995, the worst "home-grown" American terrorist act occurred, the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, 19 of them children. In addition, over 700 were injured, including people in over 40 surrounding buildings.

The purpose of the Oklahoma City National Memorial is summed up in these words found on the entrance to the Memorial:

"We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity."

The two gates to the Memorial are called the 9:01 and the 9:03 Gates, the former marking a time of still-innocence, the latter marking the start of chaos and the end of innocence, and between the 2 gates lies the Memorial, honoring those killed and changed during the intervening minute of 9:02 am. The photo below shows the 9:03 gate in the distance, the reflecting pool, and on the left, the "Field of Empty Chairs" tribute to the dead.

Here's a close-up of the chairs. Each represents a victim. They are arranged in 9 rows, representing those killed on the 9 floors of the building, with the 5 western-most chairs representing the 5 killed outside the Murrah Building. each bronze and stone chair rests on a glass base, lighted at night, and etched with the victim's name. The field's perimeter is the footprint of the building and it is lined by a granite path made from granite slavaged from the debris. Particularly poignant are the 19 smaller chairs representing the children. (Click to enlarge photos.)

The "Survivor Tree" is a 90+ year old Elm that survived the blast and stands as a symbol of human resilience.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Visiting David and Anna in Santa Fe

We're on our way home from our 6 week loop through CO/UT/AZ/NM and stopped for 2 days in Santa Fe to visit David and Anna. For those back home who haven't seen our globe-trotting cousin for a while, here are some pictures for you. David drove down from their mountainside "house-sitting" home to meet us in the Plaza...

Then David and Anna came to our motel on his Suzuki motorcycle to lead us up to their place, which we never would have otherwise reached on the maze of mountainside roads. David will be stopping in Chicago next month on the way home from a wedding on Cape Cod to pick up his truck and drive it to Santa Fe, realizing the bike would be a very cold ride during the winter.

We enjoyed Pina Coladas on their deck before going out to dinner, and also enjoyed the marvelous view of the area and a stunning sunset from the deck. They have even moved their bed out onto the deck so they can sleep under the stars each night. (One of Anna's jobs is with a wilderness survival school, and I think she is gradually getting David to appreciate the outdoors! She has him hiking with her, too, and even shopping at REI, and he's now talking of doing a backpack trip with her. Way to go, Anna!)

Today David and Anna showed us some of the sights in Santa Fe, including the oldest house (c. 1200) and church (1610) in the country, and also led us on an hour-plus hike at the Randall Davey Audubon Center located at the very end of Upper Canyon Road, at an elevation starting at 7500 feet.

Supper was at the delightfully quirky Cowgirl Hall of Fame Restaurant. And here, in this mecca for Mexican food and BBQ, I had a wonderful supper of bratwurst (one of the traditional pork and beef and the second a combination of buffalo, venison, and elk and named Mountain Man Brat) with sides of spaetzle and sauerkraut!

This visit with David and Anna was one of the highlights of our trip and we are grateful to them for fitting us into their schedule and sharing their beautiful city with us.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Monument Valley

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park straddles the Utah/Arizona border and features sandstone masterpieces that tower at heights of 400 to 1,000 feet above the desert floor. In 2008, the entry fee was $5 per person. Camping is available at $10 per night. You can take a guided tour or drive your own vehicle along the unpaved 17 mile scenic drive, where you encounter views such as these...

... and if seeing these photos give you the feeling that John Wayne is about to appear on your screen, you aren't too far off...

... as Ellen discovered. Dozens of movies ranging from westerns to Clint Eastwood's "The Eiger Sanction" have been filmed in Monument Valley, and across the highway from the park entrance is Gouldings Lodge which has a free museum chronicling life in this area in the early 1900s and documenting the films made here the last 60+ years. This photo demonstrates how close they are to Monument Valley...

The famous photographer, Josef Muench, made his first trip to Monument Valley in 1935. He met and befriended the Gouldings and returned to the area 354 times to photograph the formations, and many of his photos appeared in the magazine "Arizona Highways." He presented the Gouldings with a black and white album of his photos which they showed to the famous movie director, John Ford, and that's how Ford came to shoot "Stagecoach" here followed by numerous other films after that.

Poem # 38: Spirits of Canyon de Chelly

Ancient Ones,
Anasazi and Hopi and Navajo,
beckon us --
come visit our once-stately homes
and view our fading rock art --
envision our way of life
and respect our life ways.

Many come, look, and leave,
but the spirits urge lingering,
whispering to all --
remain a while.

Hear the echoes of our voices,
feel our canyon winds,
smell our sweet desert fragrances,
taste our falling raindrops
and watch our arid sand
briefly harden, then billow again.

Feel the shade of our cottonwood
and marvel at our sudden waterfalls,
discern the wild presence
of our unseen mountain lions and coyotes,
then rest beneath our shade houses
and find respite from heat and troubles.
Camp within the embrace of our spirits --
so long departed
yet ever-present.

Osmose our culture emanating from cliff dwellings
petroglyphs, and pictographs,
absorb through every pore the presence
of Anasazi and Hopi and Navajo.
Revere our land as we did
and become briefly, joyfully,
one with our canyon,
our canyon that vibrantly
resonates our culture,
reveals our spirit
regales our history --
of good life lived
and good living yet to come.
Join in it.

Come toss your dream coins
into our de Chelly wishing well.
Contemplate as your ripples
grow ever outward,
broadening and deepening,
as knowledge of our ways
broadens and deepens
your understanding.

Then feel your spirit dreams soar
on our canyon breezes.
Feel our moods change
as it frenzies from breeze into fury,
lashing rain torrents from towering cliffs,

and feel us suddenly retreat
as blue skies and billowy white clouds
just as quickly replace
ashen skies and lightning.

Revel as our ancient spirits
exit our ruins
and invest you with

Traverse our canyon paths,
descend our Twin and Crack-in-the-Rock Trails,
labor up Yei Bi Shei and White Sands Trails,
trod where we trod
and sense us smiling
as you honor our ways.

Cherish the pony whinnies and coyote howls,
trace the circling flight of majestic golden eagles,
delight in our profuse bouquet
of cacti and wildflowers.

Tuck into your heart our stories and songs
and infinite wisdom --
of Mother Earth
of Father Sky
and Great Spirit --
hurdling you backward in time
but forward in personal growth.

And come back. Return often.
Bring others.
And begin your life anew,
now copiously enriched.

copyright 2008 by Chuck Morlock

Canyon de Chelly Ruins and Rock Art

Canyon de Chelly is one of many locations in the four corners region containing Anasazi Ruins, pictographs (art work painted on rock), and petroglyphs (etched or carved into rock.) Antelope House Ruins was one of the first we hiked to in Canyon del Muerto (click to enlarge)...

... and it derived its name from the many antelope pictographs found there.

Standing Cow Ruins similarly got its name from the standing cow pictograph.

Ledge Ruins received its name from being up high above the canyon floor. Ruins can be of 2 types -- living quarters or simply granaries to store food safely from animals such as bears, from enemies, and from the weather.

These canyons are somewhat unique because of the lengthy habitation by the Navajo long after the Anasazi had abandoned the area, due, according to one theory, to prolonged drought. The Navajo also built granaries, though theirs were more rough-hewn structures, and their pictographs were more colorful. Also, since the Anasazi never encountered horses (which were brought in by the Spanish) these pictographs are obviously Navajo.

Turkeys were another favorite subject for pictographs. Experts admit that only the artist can truly explain the meaning of rock art, so though conjecture runs rampant, no one really knows what any of the art truly means.

White House Ruins in Canyon de Chelly is one of the most famous and derives its name from the white coloration of the upper structures.

Here's a close-up shot of the extensive stonework in one of the ground floor walls. Quite a design and construction project!

I must have a hundred or more photos of ruins and rock art in these canyons, but those above are a representation of all that we saw. This final photo is of a sacred place far into Canyon de Chelly -- Spider Rock -- an 800 foot tall sandstone spire...

... where according to Navajo legend, Spider Woman lived atop the spire and possessed supernatural power at the time of creation, when Dine (Navajo) emerged from the third world into this fourth world. She preserved their people, so the Navajo established Spider Woman among their most important and honored Deities. It was Spider Woman who taught the art of weaving upon a loom and through many generations, they have always been accomplished weavers.


Photos of Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Poem "Spirits of Canyon de Chelly"


Friday, September 19, 2008

Canyon de Chelly National Monument: A Sierra Club Outing

Canyon de Chelly National Monument (pronounced d'SHAY) has been inhabited for over 5000 years, longer than anywhere else on the Colorado Plateau. The first people who left a major mark of their existence here were the Anasazi or Ancient Ones. Hundreds of locations in the canyon have rock art and ruins of the Anasazi or Navajo residents, and photos of some ruins, petroglyphs, and pictographs can be found here. The Hopi later spent summers in these canyons until the Navajo, or Dine, became permanent residents. The National Monument was established in 1931 to preserve the wealth of archeological ruins and thus preserve the history.

The Monument is actually comprised of two canyons -- Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly -- as well as numerous side canyons. Following the Treaty of 1869, these lands were returned to the Navajo and remain their homes to this day, so you can only hike or drive the canyons when accompanied by a licensed Navajo guide. Our guides were Daniel Stoley and his son, Donovan, and our 5 nights of camping in the canyon were on land owned by them and other Navajo families. Experiencing the canyons for an extended stay such as we did is best done with a group like Sierra Club which has the connections to arrange the myriad details of camping, eating, and touring under Navajo guide direction.

We began our six day trip (about 40 total miles) by hiking down Twin Trail into Canyon del Muerto, where for 2 days we hiked to various ruins and rock art locations, including Antelope House Ruins, Standing Cow Ruins, and Ledge Ruins. A special treat was a half-mile walk after supper on night two to Catherine's house, where she showed us how she carded and spun wool from her own sheep using hand spindles, then how she dyed the wool different colors from various plants or rocks, and finally how she created magnificent Navajo rugs on her loom.

The next day we climbed back up to the mesa via the Yei Bi Chei Trail which required hiking up 600 feet in elevation gain on slickrock, sometimes with the aid of foot holds and hand holds chiseled out of the rock, and occasionally with low railings or cables to hold onto. Here are a couple shots of our somewhat treacherous climb up (click to enlarge)...

After a trip across the mesa, we looked down into the awesome Canyon de Chelly seen here...

... into which we then descended 800 feet in elevation via the aptly named Crack in the Wall Trail, a steep climb to the canyon floor on boulders and more slickrock, while avoiding the poison oak and poison ivy growing there.

These climbs were real adventures and were definitely highlights of the trip, but they are certainly not for the acrophobic. Another strenuous climb was up to Window Arch, about 400 feet in elevation gain, but again, the view was well worth the strenuous exercise...

Our final night, we were entertained by National Park Service Ranger William Yazzie, who sang songs of the Navajo, Hopi, and Apache, accompanied by his own playing on drums and flute. He also taught us several dances which we practiced around the fire, and all the while he wove into his presentation the historical and cultural significance of the music.

As with all Sierra Club outings, everyone takes turns preparing meals. A special treat this week was a demonstration by Cheryl, a Canyon de Chelly resident, on how to prepare the dough and make Navajo tacos on fry bread. Here she shows us how to shape the dough for frying...

They were delicious -- another highlight of the trip!

Hikes to White House Ruins and the Spider Rock came the next 2 days, sometimes on the sand road and sometimes on trails up on the hillside to avoid walking through water in the numerous crossings of the de Chelly Wash, usually a dry wash but wet from the rain several days earlier.

It is open range, so small herds of horses and cows occasionally watched us hike past, and a very energetic dog "adopted" our group and put in many miles with us the last 2 days, including our climb up Window Arch and our final 700 feet elevation gain climb out of the canyon on White Sands Trail.

Here's the entire group:

(L to r) Front row: Rich, Barry, Dallas,
Middle row: Daniel (guide), Gayle, Randie, Linda, Ellen, Shannon, Donovan (guide)
Back row: Martha, Mike, Greg, Mary, Mel, TJ (our leader), Janet, Chris, Chuck
Not pictured: Andy (co-leader)

At first I was a bit put-off by the "in-holdings" -- all the privately held land within the national monument -- but after meeting the Navajo people, hearing their stories, seeing their love of the land, and learning of their culture, I am pleased that they were able to negotiate to have these canyons returned to them 140 years ago, and I am equally pleased that we outsiders are permitted to visit their beautiful canyons and learn of their history. They are closely connected to the landscape and it is their tsegi ((SAY-ih) -- their spiritual home as well as their physical home. Maintaining balance with Mother Earth is key to harmonious living, and though the Navajo are now a bi-cultural society living in America, they continue to lean on their traditions. I highly recommend that all come to visit and learn here.


Slideshow of Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly Ruins and rock art photos

Poem "Spirits of Canyon de Chelly"


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Glen Canyon Dam

The final stop on our 400 mile journey today was Glen Canyon Dam, near Page, Arizona. The dam is 710 feet tall, only 6 feet shorter than the more famous Hoover Dam, and it is 350 feet thick at its foundation and 25 feet thick at the top. Lake Powell is the name of the impounded water, honoring John Wesley Powell, the explorer who first traversed the Green and Colorado (then called Grand) Rivers starting in 1869. The lake extends for over 150 miles and has covered over 90 side canyons in addition to Glen Canyon.

The bridge carrying traffic over the river is also a marvel, soaring 700 feet above the river and with a roadway measuring 30 feet wide and 1271 feet long.

Tomorrow we meet our Sierra Club group and begin our 6 day backpack trip in Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Photos and comments will be posted next weekend after the trip ends.