Day Trip to Wineries and a Lebanese Restaurant Near Lubbock, Texas


Yesterday,  Martina, my exchange student from Italy, and I drove to Lubbock so I could say goodbye to Venty, the young woman from Indonesia, whom I co-sponsored at Texas Tech University in conjunction with the teachers’ sorority Alpha Delta Kappa.  She received her Masters in Applied Linguistics recently.  She will return to her home in what used to be called the Spice Islands later in June.

First, we decided to try something new for lunch.  Neither had eaten much food from the Eastern Mediterranean area so we went to Manara.  For appetizers we ordered falafel, dolma, and baba ganoush, none of which they had eaten before.  After enjoying these appetizers, two of us ordered the kafta kabob dinner and one ordered the chicken.  Although the salad was rather ordinary, the saffron rice was heavenly.  The kabobs had somewhat different spices than the kabobs I have previously eaten but were fine.  They were served with two sauces:  garlic yogurt and another which was quite spicy.  We enjoyed both. If you want to try something different while in Lubbock, I recommend this restaurant.  I would go there just to eat the saffron rice.

Second, once I discovered that Venty did not know there are vineyards and wineries near Lubbock, we decided to take a run over to Caprock and Llano Estacado Wineries.  Llano has recently opened an expansive new tasting room.  Caprock is still called Caprock Winery, but the wine produced there is called English Newsom Cellars.  The following photos were taken at Caprock and Venty’s house.

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Argentinian Adventure–The Road to Wine Country


Late on a Monday morning, Gaston’s parents and I headed toward Cafayate, a relatively small town at the edge of the sierra which grows some of the best wine grapes in the world.  It is a long drive through incredibly varied landscapes.

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One of the first towns we drive through is Jesus Maria.  As in many Argentianian cities, trees line many streets.  Here acequias provide water for the trees.

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Except where cleared for farming–giant soybean and corn fields, much of the land through which we drove looks like this.

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Taken as we sped along, this photo show soybeans in the distance.  Since it seemed relatively dry here, I asked if they were irrigated.  Gaston’s father told me no, that they had developed a type of soybeans that require much less water.

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When I first saw this out my window, I thought maybe water, but no, this was the beginning of miles and miles of salt.

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Another photo taken looking through my window.

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And then we speed into the cloud forest. I was astonished my whole time here.  I had to idea there was such a thing in Argentina.

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We climbed higher and higher and stopped at a visitor’s area where displays explained the flora and fauna which live here.

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This area is a subtropical jungle.

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Often we drove through clouds or along the side of rushing mountain rivers. And then as suddenly as we arrived in these mountains, we were on the other side where it was dry.  The selva–jungle–stopped almost as suddenly as it began.  One side of the mountains lush and green with ocelots, all sorts of other wildlife, and on the other semi-arid country, equally beautiful but so astonishingly different only a few miles away.

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A Tribute to My Dad, Doyle Lightle


Dad lived his entire life, 90 years, on the farm which my great grandfather, Gottlieb Werth, homesteaded in the middle 1800s.  Gottlieb Werth came to the United States from Switzerland when he was 18.  Even though Dad lived in the same place all his life, he liked road trips.  The first occurred when I was three.  He drove us all the way from Northwest Missouri to Monterey, Mexico.  I still have photos of us wading in the Gulf in Texas before we crossed into Mexico.  Thereafter, we almost never missed at least one road trip a year between wheat harvest and the start of school.  Sometimes instead of a summer trip we took one around Christmas, like the year we went to Florida when I was in elementary school.  I skipped school a couple of weeks, took my work along, and came home ahead because the flu, which I missed, put everything behind.

By the time I was six, I had probably covered half the continental United States and, of course, been to Mexico.  I do not remember some of those first trips but the later ones I remember well, like the summer we spent in Crested Butte, Colorado, when it was still a mining town, and another in Placerville, Colorado, down the road from Telluride.  Then it was just a nowhere place, filled with the Victorian houses of its mining heyday.  Dad joked later that he should have bought one of those houses when it was cheap.

One year, the year between my junior and senior year in high school, we took a one month trip and drove 6,000 miles, from home to the Black Hills, where we had relatives, to Vancouver, to Vancouver Island and then to Victoria.  We visited every national park along the way,  Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Olympic, then drove up the Columbia and cut back across Rocky Mountain National Park and through Colorado. On an earlier trip we went to every park in Utah and Northern Arizona and Mesa Verde.

Dad’s interest in and curiosity about everything seemed endless.  He tried the latest agricultural methods in his farming, was an avid conservationist, wanted to check everything out on these trips, talked to people about what they were doing.  At home he read National Geographic and Scientific American and endless books.

Because of these trips, his sense of wonder, his propensity for intellectual activity, my friends in college were always shocked to find out he was a farmer.  They often thought, originally, that he was a college professor.

He moved into this house where I grew up when he was ten.  After Mom died, Dad and I were at her grave on Memorial Day when a man came up and starting talking with Dad.  I learned that the building in the foreground of this photo, before it was used for livestock and storage, was used for dancing during the Depression. The sheriff would send out deputies to make sure no illegal alcohol was consumed. I took this photo four years ago when I took a trip back.

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There used to be woods to the right of this photo but someone bought the land and bulldozed down all the huge oak trees.  The tall douglas fir tree in the middle was tiny when we brought it home on one of our trips out West.

I will forever be thankful to Dad for instilling in me a love of exploration, wonder, and curiosity.

 

 

Two Kinds of People


The novel I finished yesterday described one of the characters as “the kind of man who would find his place anywhere because of how he interpreted the world.”  He was the kind of man who saw the world not as a system of barriers but rather a place of common ground, a man with an openness to the world, an openness to the unfamiliar, a man who welcomed the unknown.

This made me think of people I know and how they react, to where they want to travel, if at all, to what they desire to explore, to know.  Many of my friends travel little and rarely, if ever, outside the United States.  Others, like me, desire to visit places and cultures totally different, unfamiliar, to “know” the unknown.

This lead me to question how these two different types of people come to be.  In my case perhaps it started with family road trips, the earliest of which occurred when I was three and my dad drove from northwest Missouri all the way to Monterey, Mexico, and back.  I still love road trips.

Which kind of person are you?  Why?  Is it upbringing, heredity, environment?

 

Spring Break Adventure-1


Yesterday I left Canyon, Texas, headed for Alpine.  If you decide to drive south to the Big Bend area from the Panhandle, be prepared for a rather long and boring six hours of driving.

First, you pass at least an hour of looking at camel colored dry grass in all directions.  I had not realized the grass fires had reached south of Amarillo but in one area burned grass stretched across both sides of I-27 and on the medium in between.  I would not have wanted to be driving down the highway while this was on fire.

Close to Lubbock the cotton fields begin. With spring planting approaching, most of the fields were already cultivated ready to plant.  This “scenery”, except for driving through Lubbock, continues for at least another three hours.  About 1/2 to one hour before the Odessa/Midland area, you hit the really ugly.  Since I am one of those people who can find beauty just about anywhere, if I say it is ugly, most people would find it even worse.  Miles and miles of nothing but mesquite, brush, and oil rigs stretch endlessly in every direction.  Why would anyone want to live here?  Money, money, money.  Apparently, they expect to make even more soon because new drilling rigs popped up within sight of the road everywhere.  In the short distance where I cut off on a two lane highway to get from I-20 to I-10, I saw five new drilling rigs.  The scenery does improve a bit in this area because you can suddenly see the Davis Mountains looming large not too far away. It reminded me of my childhood when my family would head across eastern Colorado and how excited we became when we could see our destination, the Rockies, in the distance.

Once you drive two minutes or so on I-10 and then cut off south toward Fort Davis, the scenery becomes dramatic, something to really see and enjoy.  Although it is too early for the grass to have become very green, the cottonwood trees have leafed out and what a sight they are.  Huge is an understatement.  It would take the width of at least six of me to make one of these impressive trees.  Apparently, I was not the only one who viewed them as something special.  People were driving off the highway to stand by them.  One woman stared up into the newly green leaves, a look of wonder on her face.  I thought I was late to meet friends in Alpine so did not stop.  In the end we arrived at Alpine at the same time for our yearly get together–friends since college when we were roommates with her husband who went to college with us and another friend.

After a fabulous dinner at the old hotel here, we retired to our rooms to get ready for the real adventures of this week:  the Observatory-today’s goal, Marfa, Big Bend.  I really tried to sleep late, but alas I should have known better. Here I am writing away early in the morning.

 

 

 

Ethiopian Journey–From Addis Ababa to Debre Birhan


Addis is the second highest capital in the world.  Only La Paz, Bolivia, is higher.  To a large extent, altitude determines climate in Ethiopia.  Addis and the surrounding area, much of which is high altitude farmland, receives a lot of rain this time of year and looks totally unlike what a lot of people think of when they hear the word Ethiopia–not desert but rather miles and miles of green.

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We had not driven far from Addis when we crossed a river, an area of which is considered healing.  Many people had come for priests to bless them and to experience the healing power of the water.

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I saw only three tractors in ten days of criss crossing farmland.  Why so few?  One reason is rocks.  Many of the fields remain rather full of rocks in spite of many having been removed.

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Therefore, they farm the “old fashioned” way; horses or cattle pulling plows with a human behind.

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Houses in the villages in the farming areas demonstrate old ways alongside new.

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Winnowing the way we did in the USA a century ago.

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Much of the farmland is a picturesque patchwork quilt of browns and greens.

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Before dropping down to lower country, we drove by Menelik’s Window.   The drop off here is steep and far.  I did not go near it–I had not yet become used to the endless drop-offs or even realized that I would need to do so.  This is one of four places in Ethiopian where you can see gelada baboons.  They are extinct elsewhere. Menelik was an Ethiopian emperor.  This “window” allows one to look from the high country for miles and miles to the landscape beyond.

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The large tufts of grass provide food for the gelada which are grass eating herbivores, the last of the grass eating primates.  All others are extinct.  This same grass is used by the locals for roofing material so boys stay in these areas all day chasing off the baboons.

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To keep themselves busy they weave woolen baskets and hats to sell which they display in the grass.

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This ten year old boy happily donned the hat he had made.  I bought it for my grandson who was the same age when I took the trip.

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Except for the different vegetation, driving down the mountain looked a lot like driving through Colorado.

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Down from the mountain the landscape appears quite different and considerably drier.  We drove through several smaller towns on our way to Debre Birhan where we stayed the first night.

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Driving in Ethiopia requires navigating around animals.  Everyone drives their cattle, camels, horses, all livestock down the road whenever possible.  The roads are generally very good.  Many, built by the Italians, have stood the test of decades.

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Along the road we saw many of these “apples”.  My friend told us how they played with them as a child.  However, the adults all warned the children not to touch their eyes when they did–it will make you blind.  They are called Apples of Sodom–so many things in Ethiopia have symbolic meaning.

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These fruit could be seen all along the road and even on the road.  After driving through this drier area we rose above a huge valley with miles and miles of grass.

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A semi-nomadic group brings their immense herds of cattle here in the rainy season to graze.  When we drove further on above the valley, I saw the first tractor working a field as big as this grazing land.

 

 

 

Family Road Trip–Day Three


Today we awakened earlier that we usually do on vacation in order to get to the train station in downtown Albuquerque to take the Rail Runner to Santa Fe.  Apparently, we worried too much about missing it because we arrived really too early and sat around for more than 45 minutes waiting and watching.  I walked around and took several photos of my grandson waiting and of one of the numerous murals one sees in downtown.

 

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I was surprised by the number of people using this train.  It takes one and one half hours to get from downtown Albuquerque to Santa Fe depot because there are quite a few stops on the way including one at Sandia Pueblo and another at Kewa Pueblo.  Photos are forbidden while traveling through Kewa.  The route basically follows the Rio Grande Valley.

I took a few photos from the train and several in Santa Fe.  Good friends, Dino and Zuriash, were already in Santa Fe and picked us up at the depot.  We went to the Chocolate Maven for brunch–my daughter totally loves this restaurant because they have crepes.  We walked around the art exhibits by the church near the square, stopped in a few shops, and just before the return trip on the train, went to Jalapeños for drinks.  A wonderful day with family and friends and a little train trip, my grandson’s first.

 

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Family Road Trip-Day One


This afternoon, my daughter, grandson, and I headed toward Albuquerque on our first family road trip since last summer when we went to California.  We started late due to the rain causing a leak in a hallway in my house, not just any leak, a very large leak.  Whenever it rained–and it kept raining off and on, so much water accumulated that rapid drips fell to the floor from a dime sized hole in the ceiling.  Now a big black bucket resides on the floor underneath it.  Finally, I found someone to come out and take a look so he at least has some idea what the problem may be.  Nothing toward fixing it will occur until next week.  This will be no tiny project; first the facia has to come off part of the roof so they can locate the cause.  Then, well, it depends on what they find.  The young lady watching the house and caring for Isabella and Rosie can empty a bucket as well as I can so we decided to go ahead and take our weekend road trip.

This storm system covers a wide swath.  Rain signs all the way here, hail enough in one place to cover the sides of Interstate 40 like a light snow, and a deluge coming down from the pass into Albuquerque.  I hate driving in a hard rain; thankfully, my daughter was driving.

We went to dinner about 6:30 at our favorite Italian restaurant, Cabo’s.  I know it seems strange that any visitor to Albuquerque would eat Italian food here.  We discovered this restaurant years ago and always return every time we visit.  We even have certain memories of happenings there–like the time an amusing guy at another table “hit on” one of my handsome exchange students.  Our other favorite restaurant here is only slightly off the square in Old Towne; I have no idea its name.  I go there for the fry bread/sopapillas.  I order other things, but that is really what I want.  Theirs seem different in a subtle, indescribable way.

Now I sit here writing at the hotel swimming pool.  I cannot imagine what my grandson would do in a hotel without a swimming pool.  It remains his first desire anywhere we stay.  He did survive a recent trip to Austin when it was too cold for the pool outside.–perhaps because he discovered the Dragon’s Lair, a little bit of heaven for gamers who love Magic.  His ten year old self is now on the third Harry Potter book.  He informed us at dinner how he deals with life when he is “grounded” from all electronics–he goes into the magic of his imagination.

 

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At the Italian restaurant a couple of years ago during Christmas holidays.

 

 

Family Roadtrips


During my childhood, my father took us on regular road trips.  The first one occurred when I was three.  He actually drove all the way from northwestern Missouri to Monterey, Mexico, via Padre Island and back.  Every year we took at least one, sometimes two.  Later in life, I truly realized the value and magic of these family road trips.  Although my daughter, grandson and I take short road trips to New Mexico in particular, we had never taken a really long one until two weeks ago when we left Amarillo, Texas, headed for Carmel, California.

At our first stop, Old Town, Albuquerque, for lunch, we experienced a most refreshing and delightful drink which I plan to duplicate the next time I invite friends over for dinner.

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This feast for the eyes and mouth consists of water infused with pineapple and strawberries.  It tastes best after letting it set to allow the fruit to meld into the water.

We spent the night in Gallup, but arrived too late to visit the galleries and shops so headed to a little Italian restaurant where my grandson, D’mitri, donned a black shirt which reads Got Mafia.  Friday morning we headed to Window Rock, capital of the Navaho Nation.  Since D’mitri’s great grandfather was Navaho, D’mitri’s interest in this stop remained high.

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After strolling around the park here, we stopped to visit the ladies selling the jewelry they were making on site.  As a person a bit obsessed with corn plants, I could not resist a pair of turquoise earrings that look exactly like tiny ears of corn.  D’mitri had to have a necklace with a soccer ball pendant which he wore the rest of the trip.

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After the morning at Window Rock, we drove off across the Navaho Nation and the Hopi, headed for the North Rim.  We stopped off and on to visit vendors along the side of the road.  The dwellings throughout the Navaho Nation seemed scattered across the landscape with many hogans next to or close to what appeared to be a main house.  Horses roamed in the semi-arid fields.  The Hopi area, however, held a different view with no scattered dwellings.  Everyone seemed to live in villages along the way and I never saw a horse in Hopi country.  Finally, we crossed the mighty Colorado River at Navaho Bridge from which I took this photo.

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The road follows the base of the cliffs of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.  We could see them looming large long before we arrived.  Huge rocks appeared to have tumbled off the cliffs and lay near the road.  I kept wondering if they ever fall and hit cars.

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We finally made it to the Jacob Lake Inn near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  We arrived too late to go to the Grand Canyon  so took a hike through the ponderosa pines supposedly headed to a lake.  Dry, hot weather apparently turned the lake into a mere puddle.  We barely made it back before dark, disappointed.  The next morning we drove the forty some miles through heavy woods interspersed with giant meadows to the North Rim.  If you have never been to the Grand Canyon, its size and grandeur remain impossible to convey via photos.  Perhaps due to the rather warm, dry conditions, a heavy haze hung over the Canyon all day.  We took a few tiny hikes, only to discover just how very much out of shape we are.  Additionally, the altitude affected D’mitri quite negatively, making him more tired than customary.  Nevertheless, determined to not miss out too much, I took several photographs from Imperial Point.

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Flowers exactly the same as grow where I live on a little canyon in the Panhandle of Texas grew along the path.  We spent another night at Jacob Lake and then continued toward Las Vegas.  The fastest route drops off the Kaibab Plateau rather dramatically with spectacular long views, the depth and breadth of which no ordinary camera can capture.  We ate a late breakfast in Hurricane, Utah, a bit after the infamous Colorado City, Arizona,  where the houses appeared quite large with high walls around many of them.  Then off to Las Vegas, Nevada, to meet an elementary school classmate, Craig Prater,  whom I had not seen in years.  He treated us to a fabulous lunch at the Mandalay Bay, took us to a shopping area down road, and he and I attempted to catch up for all those years while Ema and D’mitri shopped.  We marveled how two children who attended a rural school (at first it had only one room and then later two) eighteen miles from any town of more than a couple of hundred could attain what we have attained.  He produces films and travels all over the world.  I have lived, worked,  and traveled to many different places.

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After Las Vegas, we drove to Mojave, California, for the night. The only  scenery on this drive is through a canyon on the Interstate.  We experienced high winds and a sand storm and arrived after dark.  The next morning we solved the mystery of the hundreds of red blinking lights on the hillsides, wind turbines.  From there it is a rather short drive,  a couple of hours, to the Trail of 100 Giants in Sequoia National Monument.  To say we experienced amazement is an understatement.  What a magical forest so wet and dark and alluring after miles and miles and miles of hot desert.

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SAM_1207My daughter, Ema, and her son, D’mitri really enjoy clowning around and what better place than surrounded by the largest trees in the world.  The squirrels here also “talked” a lot and we tried to get close.

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Usually, I frequently dislike photos of me, but this one is an exception.  Although not large, this tree stood out as so unique I could not resist a photo shot.  Even with the best camera, I doubt a photo of an entire sequoia tree is possible.  You have to see them to obtain the full effect.

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We wanted more time with the trees, but needed to make it to Carmel by evening so headed down the mountain toward California Hot Springs.  Altitude is everything here.  In ten minutes the golden hills replace giant trees.

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Then, in an hour or less, we were driving across the Central Valley past miles of vegetables and at least three types of trees in huge orchards or groves.  The only tree species I was able to identify was almonds.  I wanted to take pictures, but did not desire to arrive in Carmel at my college roommate’s house in the dark so I kept driving.  No quick road exists that crosses California except way to the south.  This still astonishes me.  Two lanes with heavy truck traffic take a long time to get from one destination to another.  We decided to cross on 198 through Coalinga to San Lucas which resulted in a fun, scenic drive with lots of twists and turns.  Much to our surprise, huge pine cones lay everywhere beside the road.  It seemed strange that these cones came from a tree much smaller than the Sequoia.  Ema and D’mitri collected some to display at home.

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Finally, just before dark we arrived at the Rinaldo’s.  Suzy and I roomed together at Grinnell College at the ages of 18-19.  David attended Grinnell also.  We only see each other once or twice a year but can pick up conservations as if it were a few moments ago.  They live in the Santa Lucia Preserve.

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Every morning this deer casually ate California poppies and ran away only if I went outside too quickly.  One morning I took a long walk up one of the few roads on the Preserve.  I love the live oaks and learned they are very fire resistant so residents are allowed to let them grow close to their houses.  Everything else, except for a few native grasses and plants–no trees or brush, must be cleared for 150 feet all around any house.

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I commented on the radiant red colors I saw in the leaves of an attractive plant only to find out it is poisonous oak and if I touched it, the result would not make me very happy.  It must love this particular environment because it grows everywhere.

One of my favorite restaurants is at the Hacienda at Santa Lucia Preserve, not because of the food, but due to the impeccable service and enchanting atmosphere, what I imagine to have existed in old California.  D’mitri says it is his favorite fancy restaurant on the trip.

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In the dark, driving back home to David and Suzy’s, we saw a bobcat, several deer, wild turkeys, a skunk, and another animal we could not identify.  The next day we ladies went shopping in Carmel while David and D’mitri took a ride in the Porsche and swam.  No one can go near Carmel surely and not drive the glorious drive south to Big Sur.  D’mitri loves water so we stopped at two different places along the way.

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D’mitri became quite alarmed when Suzy told him many of the bushes along the path are poison oak.  David informed us that a really wonderful beach existed down the road if we could get in.  Off we drove to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.  They only allow so many cars into the park at once so we had to wait until someone left.  It was worth the wait.  This beach does not allow swimming; people have drowned here.  Nevertheless, who cares; the drama of crashing surf, giant holes in rocks worn by water, and trees shaped by wind and erosion make it magical.

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SAM_1250You cannot go down highway 1 without stopping at Nepenthe.  This restaurant’s views alone are worth going there, plus a gift shop full of finds from all over the world.  The wine list and hamburgers finish off the list of why you must stop here if you are anywhere near Big Sur.

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Time seemed to run rapidly; with only one day left, we decided to head to Moss Landing to see the seals.  Much to David’s astonishment, not only did seals lay all along the beach, but a large number of sea otters were playing in the water, rolling over and over, splashing.  David had been there many times and never seen anything like this.  The sea otters delight the watcher with their playful antics.

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Unlike the ever playful sea otters, the seals just lay still like large rocks along the beach.

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Early on a Saturday morning, Suzy and David fed us waffles to fortify us for the long drive to Flagstaff, nearly 700 miles.  We crossed over to Salinas, then down 101 and finally through Bakersfield where we found a delightful, rather elegant Italian restaurant for lunch.  The good looking waiter chit chatted and provided excellent service, three pluses when you go out to eat.  As we cut across the middle of California, headed for I-40 eventually and neared Tehachapi, Ema decided to call D’mitri’s other grandparents who have a house there. When we went the other direction almost a week before, they had been vacationing in France.  To our surprise, they answered and asked us to stop for the night.  D’mitri’s excitement was contagious.  He expressed special delight to have his grandfather to himself for hours instead of needing to share him with other grandchildren.  The Herreros live on a hillside with a breathtaking view for miles.  Unfortunately, the haze prevented proper photography so I gave up on the idea of capturing the endless panorama.   However, this presented itself as the perfect opportunity for family photos.

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The California desert never comes to mind when I think of California.  I always fly to San Francisco or Oakland and visit friends or conduct business.  Unlike the glorious red rocks and drama of southern Utah and northern Arizona or the saguaros of  southern Arizona, the California desert maintains an endless pale tan color with only a few tiny plants.  Thanks to air conditioned automobiles, you can drive for miles, escaping the intense heat.  When we finally stopped at a Dairy Queen for a refresher, D’mitri and I stepped out of the car and were nearly knocked over by the hideously hot wind.  In general, I like heat, but this seemed overwhelming.  When we drove off, I asked Ema about the temperature.  She looked it up on her smart phone, 118.  The only truly beautiful I sight I saw (and I think nearly everywhere possesses some sort of loveliness) occurred when I drove over the mighty Colorado River, surrounded by the only green for miles.  After this heat, the cool, green beauty of Flagstaff enchanted us.  We settled into our hotel room, then drove off to our third Italian restaurant in two days, Oregano’s.  Instead of the usual coloring books, puzzles, etc. offered to children, this place gives them pizza dough to mold.

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As we drove home, I noticed how terribly dry it is once we dropped out of the mountains around Flagstaff.  Off and on we crossed areas where there had been enough rain to create a pale green.  Apparently, it had not rained west of Albuquerque because it still looked like brown winter just as it had eleven days before on the first day of the trip.  East of Albuquerque we encountered such an intense downpour with some hail that I could not see to drive.  I pulled off the road and waited. From Albuquerque to Amarillo, in the eleven days we were gone, it had rained enough to make the mountains, foothills, and high plains a lovely soft emerald.   We had missed the hot, 100 plus week and came home to rain and cooler weather that lasted several days.  In one week, the weather had changed from record highs to record lows, the typical extremes one learns to live with on the Llano Estacado.