The Land of Rock and Cactus, Part I: Looking Up

Sunset at Canyon de Chelly, Chinle, Arizona

“Where are you going THIS time?”

My friend was kidding, but we are traveling again for the fifth time this year, and it’s not getting old.  THIS time, we’re traveling into the land of enchantment, the land of mesas and long horizons, the land with dirt that coats your shoes and pant legs and gets into your pores. This is the land of rock and cactus, a land of exceptional beauty, the jewel of America, the Southwest.

Bombing down I5 through the Central Valley, we were happy to turn east through Bakersfield instead of  crawling through El Lay Basin for five hours. In Palm Springs, we stopped at a small but delightful botanical garden called Moorten’s which boasts the World’s Largest Cactarium. The yucca and ocotillo sprawled with joy across hand-lettered signs. The greenhouse was full of rare variations: cactus with hair six inches long and soft to the touch, cactus that grew downward from a hanging pot, and even cactus that stretched like a pile of snakes along the ground — “Grows Horizontally.”

In Redlands, a small college town on the east side of San Bernardino, the “fast food” joint called Red Panka, begs to be franchised.  The theme was Peruvian food and my quinoa shrimp saltado salad was virtuous and delicious; the fried plantains for dessert topped it off beautifully. I jotted a note to my Post-Traveling Self: Convince someone to open a Red Panka shop in Castro Valley! Continue reading “The Land of Rock and Cactus, Part I: Looking Up”

First Car

Chip in for gas, friends!
My car goes where I aim it.
Just us. No parents.
–First car haiku

Our 21-year old has just purchased his First Car.  I thought it would happen sooner, but then I’m the one that always said you don’t need a car until you graduate from college. And, truthfully, he’s not been keen on driving since he got his First Ticket blowing a stop sign in front of a patrol car one foggy evening after a late shift at his First Job at McDonald’s (the last day before returning to school).  It made him skittish; it made him hitch rides with us and his friends as often as he could. But heading into graduate school in Southern California, the reality of needs set in. He had to get his own car.

In America, the first car is a rite of passage, though it wasn’t always so. A hundred years ago, cars had just been invented. My grandparents didn’t own cars until well into their thirties; my grandmothers didn’t technically own the cars at all. My parents didn’t have a car until they were in Europe when they were working overseas after college. My brother and I didn’t have one until we were out of college as well. Continue reading “First Car”

Castles & Abbeys & Jigs, oh my—Southern Ireland

I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
Crossed the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Travel, I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere

–Johnny Cash, played on our Backroads tour bus

You’re very welcome to my final blog about our 16 day trip around the Emerald Isle – I became fond of that Irish expression so much warmer than the generic “Welcome to…”. We went to Ireland to pursue an authentic experience of the culture and the forty shades of green and were not disappointed. Across the southern half of the country, we traversed lakes and mountains, wandered through castles and ruins aplenty, and soaked up enough local music to keep my feet tapping days later.

Not another bl*dy castle

20170510 kilkenny castle
Kilkenny Castle

It became the standing joke of our little tour bus by the time we had gone in and out of Kilronan Castle, Kilkenny Castle, and Blarney Castle. But American history is too young for castles, so we find them fascinating. We do have forts among our American National Parks, so I found Charles Fort Kinsale Harbor a more familiar site. The fort design is a classic star shape with well protected views of the picturesque harbor. My favorite view, however, was of the local Cork resident practicing his hurling with his dog.

20170510 hurling @fort
Hurling practice at Charles Fort, Kinsale Harbor

Continue reading “Castles & Abbeys & Jigs, oh my—Southern Ireland”

The Right to Know Plus Canada

No blog today. Instead I will share a painting and important caption from Norman Rockwell from 1968.

Norman Rockwell, “The Right to Know,” 1968

The text which accompanied the illustration in Look magazine read:

“We are the governed, but we govern too. Assume our love of country, for it is only the simplest of self-love. Worry little about our strength, for we have our history to show for it. And because we are strong, there are others who have hope. But watch closely from now on, for those of us who stand here mean to watch those we put in the seats of power. And listen to us, you who lead, for we are listening harder for the truth that you have not always offered us. Your voice must be ours, and ours speaks of cities that are not safe, and of wars we do not want, of poor in a land of plenty, and of a world that will not take the shape our arms would give it. We are not fierce, and the truth will not frighten us. Trust us, for we have given you our trust. We are the governed, remember, but we govern too.”

Continue reading “The Right to Know Plus Canada”