Tag Archives: Utah

Our Big Sky Adventure

28 Jul

We just returned from a trip to the Big Sky Country where we made our way through South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah. There was beautiful landscapes and a variety of wild animals everywhere we went.

We saw Bandlands National Park and the carvings – both Rushmore and Crazy Horse – of the Black Hills.

We rode up to Devils Tower but did not see any alien spacecraft landing.

We visited the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.

We made our way through Yellowstone National Park, where we stayed at the Old Faithful Inn. We saw geysers, bison, elk, a wolf and massive waterfalls. However, the best part was watching Old Faithful erupt and the sun rose over the horizon. It was just Necole and I watching a sight that usually attracts thousands.

We rafted the whitewater of the Snake River in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Along the way, we saw otter playing in the water and a bald eagle perched on the limb of a dead tree.

We glamped on the shores on Bear Lake, a natural lake that covered 109 square miles and straddles the border of Idaho and Utah. We floated the waters and took in the blueness that makes Bear Lake the Caribbean of the Rockies.

We drove the length of Wyoming on the return to Rapid City, South Dakota. On the route, we crossed the Oregon Trail and the Bozeman Trail. We passed by Teapot Dome, the namesake of a massive presidential scandal. We went through Johnson County, the location of a range war that made its way into the pages of history.

It was a lengthy trip, and a detailed account would take up post after post. Instead, I have decided to portray our excursion with my favorite photograph from each day. Be warned that they are mostly landscapes. I have been told that I am better at capturing landscapes than I am at capturing people.

Day 1 – Mount Rushmore

Day 2 – Devils Tower

Day 3 – Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Day 4 – Yellowstone Falls

Day 5 – Snake River

Day 6 -Conestoga Ranch

Day 7 – Bear Lake

Day 8 – Plains of Johnson County

It was a great trip that created a lot of fantastic memories. One of these days, we will make it back to Big Sky Country.

“Travel America” and Me

20 Feb

The other day, we were flying to Arizona, and I picked up a magazine to read on the plane. Travel America lists over 250 places to visit in the United States. As I skimmed through the pages, I began to count all of the ones that I have visited. I have been lucky enough to travel to all 50 states and have seen some great stuff. This is a list of places that Travel America and I have in common.

Wait, here is a picture that I took on the trip to get you in the mood. It is in the Superstition Mountains.img_2279

Massachusetts

Paul Revere House

Old North Church

USS Constitution

New York

Central Park

Madison Avenue

Statue of Liberty

Empire State Building

Broadway

Niagara Falls

Pennsylvania

Independence Hall

Liberty Bell

National Constitution Center

Rhode Island

The Breakers

Florida

Walt Disney World

Kennedy Space Center

Everglades National Park

Miami Beach

South Beach

Georgia

River Street

Buckhead

Georgia Aquarium

World of Coca-Cola Museum

Kentucky

University of Kentucky

Louisiana

Garden District

Lafayette Cemetery

French Quarter

Louisiana State University

Mississippi

Ground Zero Blues Club

Delta Blues Museum

Natchez Trace

North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Biltmore

South Carolina

Harbour Town Golf Links

Tennessee

Beale Street

B.B. King’s Blues Club

Graceland

Ryman Auditorium

Country Music Hall of Fame

The Hermitage

Union Station Hotel

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Alum Cave Trail

Cade’s Cove

Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial

Arlington National Cemetery

Old Town Alexandria

Mount Vernon

Illinois

Michigan Avenue

Indiana

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Michigan

University of Michigan

Missouri

Gateway Arch

North Dakota

Badlands

Fort Mandan

Ohio

Progressive Field

Warehouse District

Oklahoma

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

Cattleman’s Steakhouse

South Dakota

Badlands National Park

Wall Drug

Mount Rushmore

Crazy Horse Memorial

Custer State Park

Saloon #10

Mt. Moriah Cemetery

Arizona

Tombstone

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Grand Canyon

Canyon de Chelly

Goulding’s Lodge and Trading Post

Sedona

Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Montana

Billings

Pompeys Pillar National Monument

Little Bighorn Battlefield Indian Memorial

Beartooth Highway

Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Nevada

Death Valley National Park

Luxor

Excalibur

Venetian

New Mexico 

Carlsbad Cavern

Palace of the Governors

Inn of the Anasazi

White Sands National Monument

Texas

Sixth Floor Museum

South Congress Avenue

Sixth Street

River Walk

The Alamo

Utah

Bryce Canyon

Temple Square

Wyoming

Snake River

Grand Tetons National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful Inn

Yellowstone Lake

Old Faithful

Lower Falls

Yellowstone River

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park

Denali National Park

California

Universal Studios

HOLLYWOOD sign

Grauman’s Chinese Theater

Walk of Fame

Rodeo Drive

Golden Gate Bridge

Chinatown

Redwood National Park

General Sherman Tree

Sequoia National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls

Pacific Coast Highway

Hawaii

USS Arizona Memorial

Lanikai Beach

Volcanoes National Park

Waimea Canyon

Oregon

Haystack Rock

Columbia River Gorge

Mt. Hood

Historic Columbia River Highway

Crater Lake

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park

Four Corners – All the States at Once

16 Aug

Today, we held our annual tradition of starting the academic year with faculty meetings. I say that because my colleague in history said that my last post left him in suspense. He had to know what my wife and I argued about. Well, here it is.

She wanted to start the next day with whitewater rafting. I knew that we had a long drive through desolate territory ahead of us and did not want to get a late start. This went back and forth for a while on the sidewalks of Durango, and, at some point, I brought up the wine that was served on the train. That is when my stepdaughter and her friend walked off and left us to our discussion.

The next morning, we were back at that same spot to go whitewater rafting.

Our guide arrived on his motorcycle, and the girls went kind of googily eyed. His name was Paden, and I immediately wondered if he was named for Kevin Kline’s character in Silverado. That probably means I have seen that movie too many times.

It was a good ride. We hit a enough rapids to make it interesting, but it was mostly a smooth ride. Paden talked about going to college and about life in Durango. I never did ask him if he was named after a character in a movie.

After the boat ride, we headed further down Highway 160 and passed through towns like Hesperus, Mancos and Cortez. After that, we did not pass much, and my wife began to realize why I wanted to get off to a good start. When we arrived at our destination, she admitted that she was hoping we did not have a flat tire.

Despite the desolation, we were not out there alone. A bunch of cars were on the road, and many of them were going to the same place that we were going – Four Corners.

When I was a kid, we went to Four Corners, the place where four states come together. I remember that my dad could not find it, and we drove back and forth for a while. When we finally got there, it was a round slab with the borders outlined. There were not many people, and you could walk around on the slab.

Now, Four Corners is completely different. They charge to get in, and an entire complex has been built. The state borders are in a theater type setting that can be used for ceremonies, and booths filled with Native American wares surround it all. On top of that, you have to stand in line to get a picture at the Four Corners.

Like everyone else, we stood in line and got a picture. I am pretty sure that I am standing in Utah. My wife is in Colorado, and the girls are in New Mexico and Arizona. image-42

At least, I am standing in Utah if that is the correct Four Corners. I did not tell anyone, but there is a chance that the real spot is somewhere in the distance.

Oh yeah, we took this picture, too.image-43

We left Four Corners and made our way through the Navajo Nation. I have been through different parts of the Nation, and I always wonder the same thing. How do people make a living out there? I know that poverty is everywhere, but, in my mind, reservations are the epitome of the problem. On top of that, I do not see many people speaking in support of Native Americans. I guess it is out of sight, out of mind.

After hours of driving by me and hours of worrying by my wife, we made it to Tuba City, Arizona and turned off Highway 160 for the first time in a few days. From there, we made our way to our ultimate destination – the Grand Canyon.

When my wife asked me to describe the Grand Canyon, I could not do it. I told her that she had to see it for herself. When arrived just before sunset and had to drive through the park to get to our hotel. There was enough light to stop and look at it. That is when they understood what I had been saying. The Grand Canyon has to be seen.

We took pictures, but they are not as good as the pictures we took the next day.

 

Get Away From Magazines

14 Jul

I have to stop going to the grocery store because I always buy some “Special Edition” magazine. “Special Edition” is the code for something that costs more than a regular magazine. Yesterday, I got one called Great American Getaways that was put out by LIFE.Getaway

I read it and decided that the money spent meant that I should do more than that. Therefore, we have a post.

This is going to be simple. List the getaways. Write if I have ever been to them. Yes or no answers will suffice.

Mount Desert, Maine – No

The Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts – Yes

Franconia, New Hampshire – No

Block Island, Rhode Island – No

Mystic, Connecticut – No

Sag Harbor, New York – No

Tanglewood and Williamstown, Massachusetts – No

Stowe, Vermont- No

New York City, New York – Yes

Cape May, New Jersey – No

Cooperstown, New York – No

Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, No

The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. – Yes

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – Yes

Niagara Falls, New York – Yes

Sea Island, Georgia – No

Walt Disney World, Florida – Yes

The Florida Keys – No

Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia and North Carolina – Yes

Horse Country, Kentucky – Yes

Columbus, Indiana – No

Mackinac Island, Michigan – No

Nashville, Tennessee – Yes

Chicago, Illinois – Yes

New Orleans, Louisiana – Yes

Ozarks, Arkansas – Yes

Sand Hills, Nebraska – No

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota – Yes

Santa Fe, New Mexico – Yes

Land of the Anasazi, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico – Yes

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – Yes

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Yes

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona – No

Alta, Utah – No

Glacier National Park, Montana – Yes

Las Vegas, Nevada – Yes

Death Valley, California – Yes

San Diego, California – Yes

Yosemite National Park, California – Yes

Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada – Yes

Oregon Wine Country – No

Mount Rainier, Washington – Yes

Big Sur, California – Yes

San Francisco, California – Yes

San Juan Islands, Washington – No

Redwood National Park, California – Yes

Volcano National Park, Hawaii – Yes

Lanai, Hawaii – No

Glacier Cruise, Alaska – Yes

The Brooks Range, Alaska – No

That is 29 visits out of 50 places.

Now, I promise myself that I will not buy more “Special Edition” magazines…until I go back to the grocery store.

 

National Parks and Me

27 May

On our recent trip to New Mexico, we visited several places under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, and those visits made me wonder how many I have visited.Park

This post is simple. It is a list of the ones I have visited with a short comment about each. Oh yeah, they will also be listed by state.

Alaska

Denali National Park – a beautiful view of Mt. McKinley

Glacier Bay National Park – eagles, bears, whales and calving icebergs.

Arizona

Canyon de Chelly National Monument – an interesting ride into another culture

Grand Canyon National Park – a big hole in the ground

Montezuma Castle National Monument – cliff dwellings by the river

Petrified Forest National Park – trees of stone

Saguaro National Park – the insects make a weird sound, but the cacti are awesome

California

Death Valley National Park – hot does not describe it

Golden Gate National Recreation Area – the bridge is not golden

Redwood National Park – a bunch of big trees

Sequoia National Park – another bunch of big trees

Yosemite National Park – one of the most beautiful places on earth

Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Monument – it is a heck of a climb to the top

Mesa Verde National Park – unfortunately, I had to correct the park ranger

Georgia

Jimmy Carter National Historic Site – Plains never had it so good

Hawaii

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – we visited before they started erupting

Louisiana

New Orleans Jazz National Historic Site – it is a room behind Cafe Du Monde

Mississippi

Natchez Trace Parkway – it is a cool drive but do not speed

Vicksburg National Military Park – this is what a siege looks like

Missouri

Harry S Truman National Historic Site – my favorite president to visit

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial – otherwise known as the Arch

Montana

Glacier National Park – it is my heading on Twitter

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site – a real ranch is better

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument – my favorite battlefield to visit

Nevada

Lake Mead National Recreation Area – made famous by Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson

New Mexico

Bandelier National Monument – climb the ladders

Carlsbad Caverns National Park – walk in and take the elevator out

Chaco Culture National Historic Park – kivas are everywhere

El Morro National Monument – the most awesome collection of autographs ever

Fort Union National Monument – not much left of the fort

Pecos National Historical Park – exists due to the generosity of Greer Garson

Petroglyph National Monument – a victim of urban sprawl

White Sands National Monument – it is like visiting another planet

New York

Statue of Liberty National Monument – she has big feet

Oregon

Crater Lake National Park – bluest water I have ever seen

Lewis and Clark National Historic Park – this is where they stopped before turning around

Pennsylvania

Independence National Historic Park – they signed some sort of document around here

South Dakota

Badlands National Park – it took some bad people to survive here

Mount Rushmore National Memorial – where are the rest of their bodies

Tennessee

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site – it does not matter that he was impeached

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – it has some great hiking trails

Shiloh National Military Park – the tragedy can be felt in the air

Stones River National Battlefield – it is right down the road

Texas

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park – remember the Alamo

Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park – walk among the hoodoos

Virginia

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial – it looks down on the eternal flame

George Washington Memorial Parkway – we had a nice lunch along this road

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park – you do not want to be around when it erupts

Washington, D.C.

Korean War Veterans Memorial – truly haunting at night

Lincoln Memorial – covered with people

National Mall – it is bigger than you might think

Vietnam Veterans Memorial – touch the wall and feel the loss

Washington Monument – they play softball all around it

White House – it does not look as big as I thought it would

World War II Memorial – try to find Kilroy

Wyoming

Devil’s Tower National Monument – did not see any alien spacecraft

Fort Laramie National Historic Site – several broken treaties signed here

Grand Teton National Park – what does that name mean in French

Yellowstone National Park – the jewel of all national parks

 

Looking at the Future Through a Glass Filled with Jack Daniel’s

29 Aug

What happens when you mix cold medicine, Jack Daniel’s and a dystopian movie? Last night, I found out.

I have been under the weather for the past few days, which sucks because classes started over those same few days. Luckily, it was all about going over the syllabi. I am not a big medicine taker, but my wife convinced me that I needed something. I am certain she was right.

Reason #32 to get married = There is someone around to make you take drugs when you are sick.

She also thought that a little whiskey might help. Before you start thinking that she was trying to kill me by mixing medicine and whiskey, I need you to know that we have a happy home. Whiskey is an old remedy for colds and such. Grandmothers used to give it to kids. Of course, that is the old days. Today, that would be considered child abuse and somebody would call the government.

Reason #14 not to trust the government = They make you stop taking home remedies for sickness and make you buy health insurance.

I don’t know if whiskey cures a cold, but it certainly makes you think the cold is going away.

So, I was filled with cold medicine and drinking Jack Daniel’s when I got the urge to watch The Last Chase, a movie about a bleak future. Being a movie made in 1981, that bleak future was supposed to happen about ten years ago. It’s always weird to watch a movie depicting a future that is currently the past. That’s why movie makers and religious leaders who predict the end of the world should follow the same rule. When you envision a future of destruction, set the date a long way into the future.

Anyway, the movie stars Lee Majors, Burgess Meredith and Chris Makepeace.

It was supposed to be the transition of Majors from television star to movie star. That didn’t happen. Instead, he was making this movie while Ryan O’Neal was stealing Farrah Fawcett from him.Farrah Fawcett

At least, that is according to an interview with the director.

Burgess Meredith was not far from the success of Rocky, and I wonder why he signed up for this.

Chris Makepeace was the Jesse Eisenberg of the 1980s, playing the intelligent kid who did not fit in with everyone else.Chris Makepeace

He was in a couple of hits like Meatballs and My Bodyguard, and I began to wonder whatever happened to him. A quick Google search didn’t tell me much. According to the Internet Movie Database, he last appeared in something in 2001. There is a Chris Makepeace tribute page, but it is lacking, as well.

Now, back to the movie. Gas shortages and a plague sent the United States into a tailspin. In the future, the government has clamped down and declared no privately owned vehicles. Everyone is controlled by public transportation. Franklyn Hart is a former race car driver who longs for the old days. He rebuilds his car and plans to drive it across the country to California, which has gained its independence.

A young kid from a boarding school doesn’t fit in with his classmates and spends his time hacking government computers. He hitches a ride, and the two head out.

The government tries to stop them by getting a fighter pilot to chase them down and kill them. He wants to be a free as they do and sacrifices himself so they can make it to their destination.

I have watched the movie a bunch, but this was the first time I have seen it with drugs and alcohol in my system. This is what I picked up.

In the coming apocalypse, our cities will not be destroyed by bombs or rising sea levels. They will be overcome by matte paintings.

Taking drugs and drinking whiskey will make you feel numb.

In the future, Smokey the Bear is still fighting forest fires.

Speaking of smokey, it would be nice if cops of the future really drove black and white golf carts.

When our society breaks down and we abandon the heartland, the Native Americans will take their land back.

Only in the movies can the guy find a woman in the woods to hook up with.Alexandra

The kid learning how to drive in a race car is like taking a driving test at the Indy 500.

The government will stop trying to control Utah and Arizona. Apparently, they are too difficult to deal with.

The future will have sex clubs and promote group sex. The government much think that mass sex is the same a mass transportation.

Even in the future, the government will find a reason to massacre Native Americans.

In the future, a plane can be refurbished in a couple of hours.

For some reason, the look of boarding schools never change. Just ask the X-Men.

Coca-Cola still has a fizz after twenty years in the can.

Combining cold medicine and Jack Daniel’s is an enlightening experience.

Speaking of Jack Daniel’s, it is timeless and will continue to be produced in the future. Same label and everything.

Computer technology will regress to look and function like computers in the 1980s.

Colonel Steve Austin could have ran to California on one leg.

Lee Majors ages more gracefully in the movies than he does in real life.Lee Majors

By they way, he took his stage name from Johnny Majors, who played and coached football at the University of Tennessee.

Since it is football time, that is probably a good one to end on.

Imagining the West

5 Jun

When the United States completed the Louisiana Purchase, a question arose among politicians and citizens around the country. What exactly did Thomas Jefferson buy? Some of it was known, but, frankly, a lot of it was a mystery. Like today, mysteries led to wild rumors and speculation. Some thought that the land was filled with mammoth. Others theorized that giants walked the land. Even the reports of Lewis and Clark did not quell the wild stories about the land that they traveled through.

This began a long fascination with the western landscape among Americans. While some ventured into the region, the vast majority was content with staying in their comfort zone and leaving the visions of the West to their imaginations. While they read dime novels exaggerating the exploits of the people in the West, they were also fed exaggerations of the images of the West.

It is easy to see how someone in the 1800s could incorrectly imagine the West as they read a book that was designed to be as adventurous as possible. The visuals were left up to them, and they only knew what the writer wanted them to know. However, the 1900s brought the invention of films. Now, the story could unfold in front of their eyes. No more imagining. They could see the real West.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the way it happened. The first “westerns” were filmed at Thomas Edison’s studio in New Jersey. I’m not even sure it was in western New Jersey. When the motion picture industry moved to Los Angeles, things did not get much better because movies were filmed close by. In other words, a story that was based in Texas was filmed in California. As people watched, they began to assume that Texas, and the West in general, looked like the place they were seeing on the screen.

Last night, all of this came into focus for me as I watched television with some friends. Longmire, a new show about a modern-day sheriff in Wyoming, premiered on A&E, and I had been looking forward to it. To my disappointment, it was a weak attempt to copy th success of Justified, but I digress. My friends, who have never been to Wyoming, were talking about the scenery and how beautiful it was. I have been trying to convince them to take a trip to the West instead of their usual beach excursion, and they began to get excited about going to Wyoming and seeing this beautiful place.

Wyoming is beautiful. It is one of my favorite states. However, if my friends want to see the landscapes of Longmire, then they will need to go to northern New Mexico, the filming location. I thought it looked familiar because I was just there. Anyway, I had to explain that westerns are not always filmed where the story takes place and that it has confused audiences for decades. I wondered how many people will watch the show and think that Wyoming looks like New Mexico.

Today, another example of filming that confused the audience popped up on my television. The Searchers, starring John Wayne as Ethan Edwards, is one of my favorite movies. It follows a loner who goes on a decade-long trek to find his niece who was abducted by Comanche. I could write about this movie all night but need to focus on the scenery in which the action takes place. The director, John Ford, used his favorite filming location, Monument Valley, because of its grand vistas. In fact, I used a photograph of Monument Valley for the banner above.

The problem is that the story takes place in Texas while Monument Valley sits in Utah. Through the years, I wonder how many people think Texas, an iconic locale for western stories, looks like that. I can promise that it doesn’t.

People have always imagined the West differently. In the 1800s, misconception was understandable because technology and transportation did not offer easy opportunities to see it. During most of the 1900s, a trip into the West was also difficult for many. However, today, with interstates and internet, there is not excuse for imagining the West incorrectly. I urge everyone, if provided with the opportunity, to travel through it and see for yourselves.

Wyoming does not look like New Mexico, and Texas does not look like Utah. However, each of those places and all of the rest have a beauty all their own. Don’t be fooled by the movies and television because the West is more magnificent than they can show and you can imagine. Plus, it will all be in the right places.