Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rock Of Ages

The past few days we have been exploring the Anasazi ruins of Wupatki and Mesa Verde National Monuments. I was quite impressed with the ancients stone laying abilities. Not only are the stones laid with a great technical proficiency but there is a true artistic sensibility to them also.

Even a playfulness in some cases it would seem. They just built around anything they couldn't move and would even throw in an odd colored rock here and there to break up the pattern.

This particular wall is at Wupatki and I just loved how they flushed up their wall with the line of the natural stone foundation so perfectly. It's like the laid stonework just grows out of the earth.
Just beautiful.

This is at Canyon De Shelly, pronounced like Canyon De Shea. A absolutely beautiful place but with horrible history. I felt odd here. This was the start of the Canyon del Muertos (Canyon of the Dead). I believe so named because this is the area where Kit Carson and his men slaughtered so many Navajo as he was trying to drive them from their land. He finally did drive them off to another state, then, the federal government decided the land wasn't worth anything anyway and so they let the remaining Navajos come back. Seems the logic and efficiency of our government hasn't changed much over time.

And this is the ever famous Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde. It was impressive but this is the closest you can get unless you pay the park rangers $50 a head. You can walk through a couple of the other sites by yourself though. You will also hear a lot of French and German being spoken at these sites as those countries seem to have an almsot cultish obsession with our ancient southwest. I found that very curious but the phenomenon is large enough that it has even been written about. Who knew?
We also made a trip through the Navajo and Hopi Reservations an a quest for me to find Honan, the Badger. The Hopi reservation is smack in the center of the Navajos so I had to go through them to get to the Hopi. It was very interesting though and the Hopi are very kind and friendly. The Navajo a little less so but we had a great time. We finally stumbled upon a little store on Second Mesa and met a wonderful Hopi lady and her husband, an Anglo. We talked with them and browsed their store for over an hour I bet. As the Hopi do not like photographs to be taken, I have no pictures but I have recorded the experience in my heart as they say we should. I will introduce you all to Honan the Badger when I return home.
Tonight we are in Durango, CO and will head out for Aztec and possibly Chaco Canyon tomorrow. From there I'm not sure. We are getting tired and missing home a little at this point but are still having a great time and seeing so many wondrous things. Oh, we finally got to try Indian fry bread; it is very good. Something like our southern funnel cakes if dunked in honey.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bright Angel

You that have been to the Canyon may remember that Bright Angel is the name of this trail, the one that I descended to some depths on. It is also the name of a song performed by Paul Winter on an album he and his group actually recorded in the Canyon some years ago. They rafted down the Colorado, stopped here and there to record various pieces. It is one of my favorite albums and now that I have been there, it really does capture the feeling of the place. If you enjoy soulful, instrumental earth-type music you may enjoy it also. Check it out.

This is also the trail that the mules use but did not pass any coming or going. After I came back to the rim I did see a mule train below. I was slightly surprised at the size of the mules. I had in my mind the smaller slim breeds that I remembered from childhood but these are the larger, stocky mules that come from crossing with a Belgian horse. You can tell partially by their coloring and their very striking Roman nose, in addition to the size. They still have a 200 lb. weight limit on who can ride the mules though. I thought this was interesting. I wish I had gotten some pictures of the mules when we passed by the barns. As we crossed through that area I looked up to see a tall man approaching. He had a white beard with a cowboy hat pulled down slightly over his eyes. Very handsome in a rough kinda way. I thought to myself, 'that's the mule handler'. Turns out I was right, as I later saw him organizing the mules for the trip.

Another thing that I thought was interesting was that anytime we were out on the rim trails, where you had to do a lot of walking, you rarely heard English being spoken, only foreign languages. And many, many different ones at that. However, whenever we passed by the eating establishments, or when I was down in the Canyon on the trail, you heard English. That was interesting also. And not to say there were never any foreign visitors near the restaurants but the Americans seemed to flock there.
This was on the way down Bright Angel. There were a couple of these pass-through rocks. I was also surprised, although I'm not sure why, at how close to the edge of the canyon you could get. Of course, they can't block everything but you know how sue-happy people are and afraid of everything these days. But you could just walk right out on the edges and if you slipped just a little...well, nice knowing you. They actually had a sign up that said very few people fall over the edge but there has been about 600 people die in the Canyon since it became a tourist destination. They have actually published a book about it although most of the incidences are quite grisly.
If you look close to the lower center of the pic you my see some hikers who were coming up the trail as I went down. You can see how close I am to the edge and how far it is but there were only a few times that I felt uncomfortable and that was on the rim above, not on the trail.

Well, we are still in Flagstaff just enjoying a day of rest and milling around town. We are also planning where to go next. Probably Mesa Verde or somewhere similar.

Mountain High, Valley Low

Well, these pics are just not going to do these places justice. I know I keep saying that but it's true. You just have to experience this place. These first two were taken in the Painted Desert/ Petrified Forest National Park. This place was very cool. Well, actually, it was quite warm but you know what I mean. We enjoyed the area very much, taking most of the day to wander through it..

We went on about a mile, mile and a half hike near Blue Mesa. That is my favorite area. I think it was the most colorful and there were quite a lot of the petrified tree remains there. Reading about how much of the Petrified Forest was scavenged and destroyed before it became a national park was somewhat disgusting though. This place would have been literally covered up with trees were it not for profiteering white people.

The remaining photos here are of the Grand Canyon. When I first looked out over it my eyes literally could not seem to take it in. I could not focus on what I was looking at. It seemed too much. Gradually though, I adjusted and things became clear. I hiked down about 1 mile into the Canyon. I would really love to hike all the way to the bottom. I believe I could do it and hike back out. You must camp at the bottom though; you can't make it up and down in one day. This pic was taken on my way back up.

The rim of the canyon is very noisy and crowded, as you would expect, but the further you descend the fewer people you encounter. This was nice. After I had gone down about 800 feet there were often times when I could not see another human. I sat down several times to rest and take it all in and then it struck me. It was completely quiet down there. There was the ever so subtle rustle of the wind and every rare once in a while you might hear a bird but other than that, it was so peacefully, tranquilly quiet. I did not expect that for some reason. It was hard to make the decision to turn around and go back up to the people.

I will put some more photos of the Canyon up, I'm sure. Maybe when I get home. We spent the whole day there and even watched the sun go down.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'll Take The High Road

Here is one more photo of Santa Fe, in from of the Palace of the Governors, I believe it is called. Many of the native artists from the local pueblos will come down and sell their work to the public. Of course, the are scads of high price galleries in town that many of the preeminent native artists sell through but most people would have trouble affording much in those places. I do agree that most of the work warrants such prices however. The technical precision and expertise of their work, especially the pottery , is astounding.

The remaining pics are of Kit Carson National Forest. Always has pissed me that these places are named for the white men that exploited them and not for the native people that revered them.

I fully expected to see some elk or something but we didn't.

This place was gorgeous. We took a short break here and enjoyed the creek.

This is towards the end of the park.
Well, we are in Flagstaff tonight after visiting the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest all day. What a site those places were! I took loads of photos but I will not inflict too many of them on you all! Tomorrow we are off to explore the Grand Canyon and hope to hang around here for a couple of days.

The Way To Santa Fe

Yeah, I know that is supposed to be San Jose but we are going with that! Sorry about these crappy pics but me and this laptop and Blogger are about to go 'round and 'round, so I'm going to quit before I kill something. I don't know why this thing is being such a butt. Anyway, I had a few more pics of Santa Fe but maybe when I get home I can post those. This was a parking deck! I just thought that was so cool. We never build parking decks that look this nice.
Santa Fe was very nice but also very expensive and exclusive. We spent one day and night there before moving onto Taos, which we enjoyed much, much more.

The was part of the Rio Grande on the way to Taos. The high attitude in Santa Fe was also taking it's toll on me. Well, both of us I guess but I felt especially bad. I had to sit down several times during the day just from walking around. I felt like I couldn't catch my breath. It was very odd and somewhat disconcerting.

Taos was very nice, the weather was beautiful again and the people were very nice. We said we would like to go back there and stay for a week or more. It was a much more relaxed place and not nearly as crowded, even with a art fair going on. But there was still loads to see and do.

This was one of the many side streets with shops and restaurants. We ate at a place near the end of this street. Very good food too.
We stayed a day and night here also and then drove out through Kit Carson National Forest. That is a beautiful area. I have pics of it too and will try to get those up if Blogger will cooperate. We are in Gallup right now, about to head to Flagstaff, AZ I believe. Just one note, if you are ever in this area, don't stay at the Roadrunner Hotel. We thought we were going to pull a smooth one by staying at a small, mom and pop place, just to sleep basically. Save some of his points for Flagstaff and later. Eeeeeeh. So far we have not heard any gunshots but the trains running all night long were interesting! well, got to go! The Grand Canyon awaits!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Going Down Slow

Hey Folks! I'm writing this from Santa Fe, NM tonight. Wasn't sure for a while if Blogger was going to let me but it finally went through and let me load these photos. After we left Big Bend we headed up towards Carlsbad Caverns. Kinda just a giant hole in the ground that you can't see the bottom of. It was quite a hike, took a little over an hour but was way cool. . Then, once you reach the bottom you hike for another hour or so to see the rest of the caves. There were not too many people there, which was nice.

This is another place that these photos just don't do justice. We also had a nice chat with a couple of the Rangers here. This photo was taken down in the cave a bit but where you can still see out. This is also the entrance where the bats fly out in the evenings. And you can tell by the smell.

This is way down in the caverns. We spent most of the day here just tooling around and then had lunch above ground and browsed through the bookstore and photography exhibit of Ansel Adams' work.

The rain we picked up in the Chisos followed us up to Carslbad and when we came out of the cave it was raining again.We made it out of the park okay but really got into some rough stuff in Carlsbad proper. Apparently, they don't build storm drainage systems into the city streets like we do back home and it makes for some interesting driving. There was a couple of times that so much water washed over the windshield that we were completely blind. Fortunately, everybody was going pretty slow and no one stopped, which could have caused us all to stall in the water.

We eventually made it out of town and out of the storm. One of my first good sights in New Mexico was this full, double rainbow. You could see the entire thing stretched across the valley. It was quite a sight. There was a smaller, double part on this end but it may not show up on the photo and I could never get the whole rainbow in one shot.
We stopped overnight in Roswell, NM and puttered around there a little this morning taking in some alien sights. It was fun. Roswell is a much larger city than what most people imagine.
So, we are going to spend a couple of days in the Santa Fe area and then head for Flagstaff, I think. I'm kinda confused about itinerary at this point and what day it is. The 7,000 feet elevation is also interesting. It is making us a little tired but the extremely low humidity here feels wonderful. We are still having a blast and enjoying each others company. Oh, and I saw a bunch of antelope by the highway on the way here. We also saw several of those God-forsaken cattle feed lots too. I am going to try very hard to change my beef consumption after seeing that. I knew what they were like but it's disgusting to see in real life.

*Eric Clapton

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bedrock Cathedral

Hey Everybody! I intended on posting abut San Antonio next but time and circumstances just got away from us so you are going to get Big Bend next. I might try to put up a few pics of the Riverwalk later. We spend half a day and all night in San Antonio ad had a fabulous time there. Also had the best tamales I have ever eaten. If you have never been to the Riverwalk I would highly recommend checking it out. We had a lot of fun and ate way too much.
So, we took off for Big Bend National Park next and even though I was highly impressed with San Antonio, Mother Nature always has a way of upstaging anything man can build and this was no exception. What an incredible wonder this park is. I have seen Mt. Hood in Oregon, the Hudson Valley in upstate New York and various other places but this was like nothing I had ever experienced before.

This was the view from our campsite in the basin. It just doesn't come close to the real thing though. This was taken very early in the morning as the clouds rolled over and down the valley. We had planned on staying two nights but rain started coming in and we were really not prepared for camping in such.
We spend the late afternoon yesterday doing some short hikes around the area and then went on about a 5 mile round trip hike today, to Window Rock, a vista that looks out over the desert valley. We did not encounter any lions or bears thank goodness. I did hope to see some javelina but didn't get to. We did get see a few other odd critters though. If I get time I will put up some pics. OOOh, and on the way out, going down the highway to the park, which is just long stretches of desert and arid countryside, I saw this thing run across the highway in front of our truck. A little scurrying thing.  It was a spider! A freakin' spider big enough to see from a moving vehicle! That just ain't right. God help if I were to see one right next to me.

This was about half way to Window Rock. You can see that many of the peaks stayed shrouded in the clouds. On our way back it started to get a little warm but basically was fabulously cool and sunny.

This is the view right at Window Rock. If I'm not mistaken, the area waaay in the distance is the desert that you must drive through to enter the park from the north. It takes about 2 1/2 hours maybe to get from Fort Stockton into the park. If you love hiking and places such as this, I would most definitely say. go here! You really need about a week to see the majority of the park though. As I said, we were going to stay another night and hike at least one more trail but the weather turned kinda ugly. The ranger we talked to said the rainy season was supposed to be over in August but some of the hurricanes had brought in some unusual moisture.
Well, we are off to Carlsbad Caverns and New Mexico next. This has been an incredible amount of fun so far.
I hope I'm being as good a sport about things as he is. Well, I'll be posting again as soon as I can.
*Paul Winter / I think this is the correct name his song but I'm guessing and don't feel like looking it up.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Come Again

I basically finished the weathervane today so I just have to get it ready for transport tomorrow. Just a few things left to do so I don't have to be present when the vane is actually set and then I can use Thursday to get ready for the trip. One of the last things is to add a new ball bearing to the bottom of the main pole, so I stopped by an industrial supply on the way home today to purchase said piece. It took them a while to correctly size it but I believe I got something that will work.

Thanks for all the suggestions of things to see in Texas and Arizona. I will definitely check them all out and see if I can get them in our route. If anyone knows of any other great places please let me know. I am planning on hitting San Antonio, Big Bend National Park, Carlsbad Caverns, Sedona, Flagstaff, maybe Taos, Winslow, the Grand Canyon but the trip home is still up for grabs. If I am passing near to your location and you want to meet a half-crazed female construction worker, just drop me a line and maybe we can do lunch, as they say.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Enjoy The Ride

Well, I did manage to get a little done on the house this weekend. I got the rest of this siding run on the clerestory wall. I needed to run a full 12' length of siding over the windows, which also has notches cut out for the rafters, and such a piece is very difficult to install by yourself. Having a second pair of hands was very helpful. I also got over half of this area caulked but didn't finish that or get the other side of the clerestory sided.

More and more wildflowers keep sprouting up around here. It's kinda funny that they seem to be getting closer and closer the the house. I don't remember seeing these flowers just outside the kitchen windows before. It's sort of like the house is drawing the flowers to it. I know, that sounds all woo-woo. Well, so what.! Sometimes I'm kinda woo-woo.

I have a little more work to do on the weathervane tomorrow and then hopefully I can start packing for the trip and getting that in line. I so need this. It is all like a dream come true.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pure Morning

Another one of my failed attempts to capture the ethereal quality of the morning light here. You just have to see it in person I guess. I went out for a quick morning walk today, before I get started with some work. It is a little muggy but still a nice day, although it may get rather warm later. I hope to get the last little bit of siding up over the clerestory windows this weekend before I leave on my road trip.

And the black-eyed Susan's are blooming again. I like them because they bloom in the spring and again in the fall here. Lots of flowers are blooming right now actually. Ugghhhh, I dread winter. I know it is still a ways off but I hate cold weather. I am definitely a southern girl. I wold shrivel up and die if I had to move to a northern climate. When I get back from my trip I am going to have some spend some serious time and effort splitting firewood.

Restoration on the weathervane continues. You can see here where I have cleaned and straightened this piece and am applying a new coat of sealer, which is just beeswax and linseed oil. The upper part that looks darker is where I have finished. I hope this church is happy with what I have done. I think it is going to look good. I have to install new ball bearings for this thing to rotate on and finish the sealer and it will be done. I spoke to our general superintendent and he said as soon as I complete this project I will be laid off again for a time but we do have some work on the horizon at least. They want me to help set this piece back on the roof of the church, which should happen Wednesday or Thursday and then I am off and free to go on the road.

Hopefully I will have some small progress on the house to post soon also. Hope you all have a great weekend too!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Catch The Wind

This is my new project that I started on today. Biggest freakin' weather vane I've ever seen. It will be about 20 feet tall when I am finished. Did the cleaning today and straightened out some of the bent up places you see. It's a combination of stainless steel, bronze and copper.

A big storm did this. It's not taking near the time I thought it would so I may be finished with it by Friday afternoon. If I do finish it early and they have no immediate work for me, which is very possible, I have decided that it is time for a very big adventure. Everybody say, "Road trip!!!!"

Best I could do to show the whole thing. It's a very interesting piece. When I restore an original sculpture like this I always try to take the care with it that I would want somebody else to take restoring a piece of mine after I'm gone. I think it is going to turn out well.

This afternoon when I got home, I felt compelled to walk down to the spring, just to see how things there were doing. When I got there I was a little surprised to see that the water was so clear, you could see rocks about 18" below the surface.
Been a long time since it's been that clear. As I crept closer to the edge about 8 little frogs jumped screaming into the water, probably peeing all the way. Oh well.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The More Things Change....

It's that time of year again and the sun made it's annual return to the house on Sept. 1. Just this little sliver is coming in now and it's gone by about 11:00 a.m. I'm always a little sad to see it return to the house although it does add cheerfulness and warmth. I finally have come up with a decent idea of how to finish that plywood wall and I think it will be pretty darn cool (actually warm) and be functional also. The architect wanted me to cover the wall with a fine grade of plywood and stain it in a grid pattern. This would look nice but be quite expensive and take a great deal of time. I think instead I am going to make it into a heat well by installing dark corrugated metal decking furred out about 2 inches from the plywood with small vents cut in the upper portions. The dead space between the decking and the plywood will collect the heat when the sun shines on the metal and it will then vent out the holes further up. It will go up rather quickly and be much more affordable. Even if it doesn't heat a lot it will not hurt at any rate and I can still install some grid shelving over the decking to display sculpture and pottery.

Some of you may have noticed that this is posted when I should be at work but we had a little glitch about being able to get to the weather vane on this new project, so I will start tomorrow. Kinda nice to have a little holiday and I am almost finished with the pantry cabinet and ready to pour the countertop.

Ok, here is a little snakey for ya'll to help me ID.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Appalachain Morning

I hope the weather has been as beautiful for you all as it has been for me here this weekend. The weather has been absolutely sublime the past few days and I have actually been able to enjoy it as we took Friday off in addition to having Monday. The air has been so cool with very little humidity. It's that feeling that only comes with the arrival of fall. I haven't had to run the air-conditioning since Thursday and slept with the windows open last night. Gawd, what luxury! Wonderfully cool temps, a new, comfy bed and fresh, silky sheets to slide into. It doesn't get much better. I love the feeling of this time of year but am sad for the departure of summer. Well, that's life I guess. Each season has it's joys and sorrows.

We finished the job so much so that we really didn't have much to do after Wednesday. I worked half a day Thursday and came home. Unfortunately, we don't get paid if we don't work but we had made enough hours the previous days to actually have a full week. I did get called to go to another job and look at a project that I will be working on next week. I have to restore a 20 foot weather vane for an old, historic church in downtown Birmingham. It looks to be a very interesting project, albeit short. At least I'm not laid off yet.

I have been working on the pantry, trying to get it completely finished. I completed the staining and finishing of the cabinet there and will be preparing to pour the countertop soon.

Seems like there was something else I was going to tell ya'll about but can't think of it now. Oh well, if I remember I'll come back.

*Paul Winter

Friday, September 03, 2010


You know the old saying, "Say 'when' ", when you get enough. I'm feeling like maybe I've had my fill at this point. These are pics of the Youth Wing we just completed for this large 'church' in town. I made the mistake of calling this the sanctuary for some time but they corrected me when I saw the lettering above the doors that read 'theater'. I agree that is more appropriate. And no, that is not dust or smoke you see in the shafts of light coming from the stage, that is fog from the special effects machines.
I find this building, and the 'church' as a whole, repulsive on various levels and actually feel some moral consternation that I helped build this abomination but that is not all of what this post is actually about.

Whatever the moral or spiritual implications, we did a beautiful job, and in 8 months to top it off. We brought this building in 100% complete on the exact day they wanted it, Sept. 1. The evening these pictures were taken they had their first service in the new theater. And all this after the church sat on their ass for 4 months and would not give us the approved drawings to start because they just were not sure they had completely made up their minds about everything. Of course, when they did finally give us the drawings they still wanted the building finished on the original completion date and all the while making changes anyway. Oh, no,, they wanted 30 days early! That's right, silly me. And we did it. We. Did. It. And not one sorry sonovabitch from our office or this church had the balls or the f***ing decency to just come out on the job and say "thank you" for your hard work. We didn't even get a damn Coke. Well, one of the many Saturdays we worked the church did give us some biscuits and fruit. But they had someone else bring it over. They wouldn't be bothered with actually speaking to us themselves.

Sorry for this incredibly horrible photo but I just had to show this. It's bad enough that they have a coffee shop in the youth section, a Starbucks no less, but the coolers are stocked with nothing but candy, sweets and soda. Ummm, and this country is experiencing a diabetic epidemic right now? Hello?? This is just how uncaring these people are that they will help destroy the health of their young people just to get them in the door. It's all part of their propaganda to me. All that caffeine and sugar keeps those kids so freakin' hyped up they can't think straight. And when you can't think straight you will let other people do your thinking for you. Couple that with the mind-numbingly loud music and you got pure, unadulterated emotionalism being used for mind control. It makes me sick and I don't think I can do it anymore.

This is where we tied the new addition to the existing structure, which is on the right. Looks like it grew that way doesn't it? Except that column on the left; it is not bent like that. Must be something in the camera. Oh, and by the way, there is another Starbucks just around that corner. We took down 4 existing tilt panels to make the opening. Oh, I did forget; one of our execs did call Daddy Rabbit and tell him to tell us that we did a good job. Oh wow. Never mind the fact he attends this damn place and could have come out here himself. I ask you, what would be so fucking hard about shaking our hand and saying wow! what a damn good job ya'll did! We realize you risked your life building this so fast, you spent all those weekends away from your kids and family and you ground your body a bit more in the hole towards pain and immobility but hey, you did a good job and now these people can suck more money and life out of the people.
And a lot of people would say, well, ya'll get paid money to build these things and that is your reward and yes, we do. Although they are doing their damnedest to drop our already low pay to below cost of living wages. See, this is one reason why I am so against this materialistic, disposable, fucking Mal-Wart saturated society we live in. When a people become so obsessed with cheap, disposable products it doesn't take long before people start becoming those cheap, disposable products and true craftsmen are shoved out the door. Their good labors are no longer valued. We are nothing more than a consumable product to be used up and thrown out, to society like this. 'Wow, this is a cool building, now get the hell out the door and don't come back.'

Well, I guess I'm still a bit pissed off by the whole experience but I knew it was coming to this. See, used to, many clients and even our superintendents would arrange lunch for us a few times throughout the jobs to show their appreciation. Any metals scrapped during the course would be used to buy the workers a meal. I mean, it's just a little something to say thanks. Let me say it this way, when you are working out in the rain, or snow, or 100 degree heat with mud up to your knees and you just busted your knuckles on a piece of steel or slit your forearm open on tie wire and the blood is running everywhere but you still have to finish your job because the concrete is already set up for 5:00 a.m. in the morning and they DON'T reschedule, knowing that the client or even your own fucking company appreciates your efforts really is encouraging and you work hard. I know a lot of guys now that don't feel so inclined to work that hard anymore.