Monday, October 27, 2008

Are we in Sim City?

Those of us who spent far too many hours playing Sim City 2000 will be familiar with the term Arcology. Arcologies were these huge self contained structures with thousands of unseen inhabitants. Some were pleasant looking with greenery, others seemed dark and sinister.

We wondered at the time where the term came from. Now we know. It was coined by Paolo Soleri, a combination of ARChitecture and eCOLOGY. Soleri is an architect and visionary, and his vision is partly realised here in Arizona, in Arcosanti. We visited today, and it is why we are in nearby Prescott.

Arcosanti is out in the arid desert, and his book (purchased at the gallery) says that this is part of the plan. If you can do your living in the arid areas and keep the productive land for producing, this is a better way.

About 75 people live there, and the site funds itself through sales of its cast bronze and ceramic wind bells designed by Soleri. They are indeed beautiful. We went on a tour and saw the innovative architecture. What was most impressive was the way the work spaces are largely open, huge apses, oriented to make best use of sun and shade according to the seasons.

We went on the short tour, given my an almost uninterested young man with multiple piercings. His most enthusiastic comments concerned the very modern swimming pool. He pointed off into the distance at the vegetable gardens, and announced with pride that he didn't eat vegetables. (I class this comment in the same category as those who for some reason take pride in announcing that they don't read fiction. Let's reject Shakespeare and Dickens, shall we?)

We went expecting some earnestness and ideology. There was none of that.

It was very Italianate, with cypresses and olive trees. Soleri is Italian and this obviously reflects his culture.

The aim was to have five thousand residents.

The philosophy behind it is very compelling, and the book makes very interesting reading. I can't help thinking that where I live offers some of the advantages proposed by this architecture. The dense inner city offers community, resources such as libraries and hospitals and schools, restaurants (akin to communal kitchens?) yet privacy, all within walking distance, no reliance on the demon automobile. It is certainly a far cry from suburbia and its sprawl totally dependent on the car.

You certainly need a car to get to Arcosanti though! It is in the middle of the desert.

A selection of the windbells which are everywhere, and which form the business basis of the community:

The ceramics apse

The large community apse, where community meetings are held:

Living quarters, and some of the infrastructure spaces such as library and archives:

They even have their own manhole covers, presumably cast in their own foundry:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where is our pedometer?

Those of you who read of our adventures in Greece this time last year will remember our obsession with the pedometer and achieving more and more steps each day. So where is the pedometer this time?

It is here, safely packed away. I would be too embarrassed to record the few pitiful steps we take each day. This is the USA, not Greece. We don't walk anywhere here. If we can't park outside the front door, we go somewhere else. Today we went to a mall, and it was pretty spread out, so we drove through the parking lot from one store to another. In Grand Canyon we drove across the street to the restaurant and the coffeeshop. It is sad, really, but somehow the environment just isn't conducive to walking anywhere.

I shudder to think what the scales will make of all this.

Grand Canyon to Prescott, Arizona

Another travel day today. From Grand Canyon we drove through Sedona and Jerome to Prescott. I did all the driving - it wasn't that much of it, and it was through utterly spectacular scenery. We had one or two stops, so there aren't too many pictures.

Sedona features wonderful red rock formations. Jerome is an old copper mining town built on a mountainside, and it is very picturesque indeed. The drive took us through forests and by the side of a river, with trees in their autumn colours. We drove on State Highway 89A which goes over Mingus Mountain on a very precipitous route with lots of switchbacks.

I enjoy using spas and pools in the various hotels, if they are available. Often I am the only one there, but last night at Grand Canyon there were several people - tattooed pierced Okies (described as such by them, from Oklahoma.) There was the usual exchange of 'where are you from'- Grand Canyon is like a United Nations. One of the young men recommended Sedona, so that's why we went. I asked one woman where she was from - 'Arizona, unfortunately.'was her response. I was a bit taken aback, and said I thought Arizona was pretty damned impressive. So much natural beauty. I asked her where she would rather live. In my mind I wondered - Japan? Australia? Scotland? Bali? She responded "Colorado." I had to laugh. What is to choose? Now when we see fabulous sights, like the red rocks of Sedona, we remark to each other that it isn't as good as Colorado.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Monument Valley to Kayenta and then Grand Canyon

Man, one's shoes get dusty tromping around in the desert!

We'd gone to the Trading Post at Gouldings and bought some lovely things, gifts for ourselves and others, then to the Grocery store for dinner supplies. I made fresh sweetcorn (white) with some of the butter left over from the baked potato from the night before (how many meals does that make out of those leftovers?) plus some corn tortillas sandwiched with pastrami and cheese, buttered on the outside and pan fried. Pretty good. Ice cream for dessert.

The next morning was travel day. Kayenta was definitely on the agenda and the menu. We had an apple and banana for breakfast, with huevos rancheros at the Amigo Cafe in mind. We arrived in Kayenta at about 10.15, ready to eat. Found the Amigo Cafe. Closed. Hearts and stomachs fell. It looked pretty abandoned, but the sign out the front said it would open at 10.30. We drove around a little, got some petrol, looked at a few of the sights of Kayenta.

That took five minutes. We drove around some more, then back to the cafe. It opened as scheduled at 10.30

We were the first customers, but as soon as we sat down and ordered our huevos rancheros, the place filled up, mostly with Navajo Indians, as this is their land. It was delicious, divine, as remembered. We cleaned our plates with much satisfaction. We also enjoyed the reading matter provided - "How to cope when you are surrounded by idiots - or if you are one. " Sample true/false question: cats like to relax in a gunny sack while floating in the canal." I cracked up over that one. I'll spare you more.

We drove on, past the Elephant's Feet

and stopped in Tuba City (Tony Hillerman country) at Van's Trading Post
to get refreshments and change drivers. There was a small supermarket, a pawn shop (for real pawn, like silver and turquoise) and a trading post with Pendleton blankets and jewellery and so forth. To borrow from my daughter's idiom there was a whole rainbow wall of wool skeins.

I'm always on the lookout for wool, and this was not where I expected to find it. The wool itself came from Mitchell, Nebraska, and was either pure wool or a wool/mohair mix. $4.95 per skein. I bought four, (navy, bright blue, lilac and cream) and spent many a happy mile wondering what I will knit with it. Hats? An afghan?

We bought a Tony Hillerman CD to listen to, and were slightly disappointed that extraneous descriptions of the countryside had been edited. That was what we were interested in, really, as we were there.

We stopped at another scenic spot with a mini-canyon, and ran the gauntlet of the bead shops. Michael reaches bead-point long before I do, but I am there now. There is just so much STUFF! We took some snaps, then headed on.

The Grand Canyon is high on the plateau, and the scenery changed to forest. We stopped at the Desert View point, with the stone Watchtower, and took some snaps,

looked around. Then decided that as we had no hotel booking we would press on and secure accommodation, then do what else time allowed. We went to Tusayan, at the south entrance to the Park, and got a room at the Holiday Inn Express. Feeling comfortable about having a room, we returned to Yavapai Point to take pictures of the canyon at sunset. My parking karma was good - there were a lot of people there. Kinda missed the sunset, but enjoyed looking and snapping. I am still coming to grips with my new digital SLR. There is a lot of new stuff to learn about it, and I am enjoying it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Monument Valley

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Nearly twenty years ago Michael spent a year in Utah. I met my mother and my sister (with her two boys) in San Antonio, and we did a road trip up through this whole area. We have many happy memories of (in no particular order) Mesa Verde, Pagosa Springs, Carlsbad Caverns, Taos, and Kayenta, just outside Monument Valley. We drove past Monument Valley, and stayed in Kayenta nearby. In that town was possibly the best Mexican food I've ever eaten. We ate dinner there, and breakfast the next morning. Back then, in 1990, we pressed on to Logan, Utah. Michael and I got married there. I suggested then a trip to Monument Valley, but there wasn't the time or inclination. This is that trip.

We woke to a cold morning, and this is the view from our room.

Breakfast was leftover baked potato with a salad of corn, black beans, green chile and red peppers. Mmmm. We had booked a tour which started at 9, so off we went. Up and down very rough dirt roads, it was simply sensational. Again, the pictures speak for themselves, I can't add too much commentary.

I learned from my trip to Egypt in 2000 that you really need to have people in photographs in order to show the scale. Here is an example:

Moab and Arches National Park

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Breakfast was the all-you-can eat American breakfast at the Chinese restaurant in Moab. Then we retraced our steps to the Arches National Park, and drove around going ooh and aah. Drove to the end of it, then walked for a while. We saw many of the eponymous arches and it was just awe-inspiring. I think I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

It took the afternoon to drive to Monument Valley, where we arrived at dusk. Magical views. I couldn't resist stopping every so often for pictures. Why resist? Isn't this why we are here?

We are staying at Goulding's, where John Wayne used to stay. Just glorious. Our room has a fabulous view:

Dinner was at the restaurant here. The mini Navajo frybread appetizer was anything but mini. The mains were huge. We took the leftovers home and they were both breakfast and lunch the next day. Six meals for the price of two!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Greeley Colorado to Moab Utah

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A 6 am wakeup call got us going early. A sticky icky cinnamon bun and a hard boiled egg for me and cheesy omelet with sausage patty for Michael.

We were at the Greeley Museum at its opening time of 8.30. A cold and very foggy morning, and the air redolent with cow. The museum is a lovely old building, and there was plenty of stuff on the Union Colonists. Greeley himself only visited once, after lending his name to the place.

Nathan Meeker, it turned out, was killed by the Indians (who he was teaching to farm instead of hunt), when he ploughed their favourite horse-racing field. Two of his womenfold were held captive by the Indians for 23 days. Seems his idea of utopia was not the same as that of the Indians. There was a lot of information in the museum on sugar-beet farming, and also on irrigation. That must have been a real priority in this arid landscape.

Once done with the museum we set forth.

What a fabulous drive, through such amazing scenery. From the Colorado high country through Denver, through the mountains and down to the spectacular scenery of Utah. We are staying only one night at Moab, because we are on our way to Monument Valley, to a booking at Goulding's for two nights. That couldn't be changed, and was on our must-do list. If it was good enough for John Wayne, it is good enough for us.

Our breakfast kept us going until a quick stop at Georgetown for an apple, a Pepsi, a Snickers bar, and some dried fruit. Michael had similar, with two Butterfingers instead of the Snickers.

Moab is definitely a tourist town. One of the things on my list of possible purchases was a fancy belt. The cheapest I've seen was $1800, and the most expensive over three thousand! Um, maybe not this time.

We just ate Mexican for dinner. I make better tamales, but I don't do them very often as they are very labour intensive. Same for chile rellenos. Yum. We are very happy now.

We are staying at a Ramada, which doesn't appear to offer free wifi. However the list of networks tells me that the Gonzo Hotel has an unsecured network, so that's what I am using.

And now time for some photos. Such varied and glorious scenery. The high mountain passes had snow, and we drove through a few flurries. Frosted fir trees, golden aspens, the sparkling Colorado River. Some of the time Michael was driving, so I took the pics. Sometimes I was driving, so begged Michael to use my camera to take some. "Twirl the lens off macro to infinity." "Turn the polarizing circular filter so the little white notch is at the top, so you get blue sky." "Look through the viewfinder, it doesn't have a screen for taking pictures." "Turn the lens so you frame the picture." Etc. My two rules for taking good pictures are 1) have your camera with you, and 2) take a lot of pictures. Im adding a third - 3) look through the viewfinder.

See if you can tell whose photos are whose....