Monday, January 7, 2013

Back to California

After a great course and marvelous hospitality in Houston we packed up and cruised the scenic Texas interstate back up to Grand Prairie.  It is truly amazing how barren I-45 can be.  The landscape is nothing exciting but a pleasant roll through the occasional stand of pines.  This is basically where east Texas begins.  The man-made side of things however is seriously disappointing.  I understand economy - the idea that you don't spend money you don't need to in order to accomplish something - but does no one ever even think of aesthetics at all?  There is some depressingly ugly stuff on this highway.

Amazing Texas Architecture
Just like St Peter's
Who knew boats could fly?
Nuff said
Anyway, we spend a few days with Pat in GP wrapping up and saying our goodbyes and head out for west Texas.  It's a whole other country - from just regular Texas.  We wind up at the Gage Hotel in Marathon for the first night.  Great old hotel resurrected by J.P. Bryan in the early 1980's.  In fact the last time we stayed here was 1989.  Nice place with a great bar where we communed with the locals and a few travelers.

Also headed out for another unsuccessful attempt to view the Marfa lights.  Check it out if you are unfamiliar with the phenomenon.  I have been there three times now and have yet to see anything.  JoAnn has seen them many years ago but I am beginning to think the spirits don't like me.

From Marathon we head into Big Bend.  Texas is truly an amazing place.  Out in the middle of what is basically a desert, a mountain range pops up and a river runs through it.  Beautiful.  Great time of year to be here as it is not too hot and not too many people.  As usual we manage to find the hot springs and have a nice afternoon.  Finally we wind our way back to Ft Davis and find yet another perfectly acceptable no-tell-motel for the night.

The next day we devote completely to McDonald Observatory.  What a place.  Got lucky on the weather as well.  Did the the whole tour and the star party at night.  Just got to look through the telescopes before the weather rolled in and shut things down for the night.  Yea, I think I coulda been an astronomer.

The big guy
David graciously giving the guide some instruction

Waiting for evening

Home sweet home in Ft Davis
We wake the next day to almost snow.  We hit the road early and as we head up the hill the almost goes away and we have real snow for the second time in Texas in the past two weeks.  Who would have figured?
Driving 118 out to the interstate was a bit nerve racking as we made fresh tracks but it was worth it.  Can't say I was sad to finally see I-10.

As El Paso is not the most scenic part of the southwest, we put the hammer down until we made Tucson.  What a surreal night.  I guess I might have driven a bit too long with too little food but our usual good karma let us down as we were looking for a place for the night.  Finally wound up at a La Quinta - first time we did the chain thing on the entire trip.  Dinner at Cracker Barrel and off to bed.  Interesting evolution in urban planning.  All of the chain places are clustered together, sharing brightly lit parking lots.  It feels as if they are circling the wagons for protection.  Not sure from what but there is definitely a sense of isolation and defensiveness to the arrangement.  Weird.  This IS America, right?

Next day we escape Arizona and make it to the promised land.  After marveling at the pumping stations where LA steals water from the Colorado river we turn north and drive through the Joshua Tree National Park.  What a great place.  We are treated to a thunderstorm right at sundown for a great show.  That night we wind up in the Harmony Motel where U2 stayed while recording Joshua Tree.  We got to stay in Bono's room - nan a nan a nan a.  I hope is wasn't the same color of purple when he stayed there.  Could explain some things.

Josha Tree

Bono's room

Next day, with a rocket in my pocket we fly down the highway back to Carmel Valley.  Seems like we've been gone for years.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Diamond Way New Year's

With Santa come and gone we head for Houston to a New Year's gathering with the Diamond Way Buddhist Center there.  Travel teachers Olga and Jamie are up from Guatemala and lead several splendid sessions.  The idea behind this course was to bring as many of the America's folks together as possible.  We got to meet new folks from all over and see old friends (even from Portland!)  Good people and, of course, a great party on NYE.