November 26, 2014

Week 27: Crossing Panhandles

Downtown Oklahoma City.

(All photos by the author).

If you’re like us, you’ve made that long drive across the state of Texas many, many times. The state is larger than many countries, and in fact was a nation long before joining the U.S of A. Anyone in the U.S. Air Force is familiar with Texas, as basic training starts off many a military career. [Read more...]

Week 26: Of Peppers, Parks and Plutonium in Santa Fe

A first: A snow-frosted Astroguyz mobile.

(all photos by the author).

Well, we headed northward in our trek across New Mexico this week, and winter weather was there to meet us.  We knew it would happen sometime, and the gloves, hats and jackets are now out in full force.

Luckily, the town of Santa Fe, New Mexico was a friendly one and easy to get around. We based our operations out of the Courtyard Marriot, a dog-friendly establishment with apartment style accommodations. And we were happy to have decent workout accommodations, as temperatures and the wind chill for running outside approached our cutoff of 0 degrees Fahrenheit! Yes, our old cutoff was -20 deg F, but we’re hardly carrying the gear to run in that now. And it’s also worth noting that our vehicle isn’t winterized for below zero operations.

The historic downtown train depot.

Our first mission of exploration was the train park in downtown Santa Fe. A dog-friendly romp, the park features filled-in tracks laid in parallel to make an interesting set of paths through the center of town.

Santa Fe also has a rockin’ restaurant scene as well, from the outstanding Thai Vegan, to the Caffe Greco and Café Fina located in the northern foothills of town… and don’t miss the alien burger at Second Street Brewery: it’s a green pepper, bacon avocado burger that’s out of this world!

Mmmmm… alien burger…

We also made a brief afternoon journey to nearby Los Alamos and the Bradbury Science Museum. IQ averages and PhDs per capita rise sharply in these parts, and my vision of Los Alamos has always been something akin to the SyFy series Eureka, and town of the same name. The Bradbury is great place to trace the history of the Manhattan Project and the birth of the Nuclear Age. And, curiously enough, we seem to be on what we would term the “Tourist Nuke Trail” of the southern U.S., as historical sites and fascinating museums from the Atomic Era abound.

A antique “U-glass” artifact seen at the Bradbury Museum.

Back in town, don’t forget to check out Georgia O’Keeffe museum for an incredible look at the Salvador Dali of our generation.

We also had a great visit with our friend Michael Zeiler of Eclipse-maps fame. We plotted world domination as we approach the T-minus one thousand day mark from the 2017 total solar eclipse this month. Check out his gear, swag and all things eclipse-related over at the GreatAmericanEclipse.com.

The lunch counter at Cafe Fino.

From Santa Fe, it was an icy crossing to Amarillo, Texas as an early snow storm blanketed the region. I know that folks up north often wonder how a few inches of the white stuff can paralyze a city down south, and here’s how: most places fail to prep for major storms down south, as they’re fairly rare. This means less sanding of roads and snowplowing. Couple all that with drivers who have never crossed icy roads, and it’s literally a perfect storm. Still, old up north driving reflexes prevailed, and we arrived (or slid) in Amarillo safe and sound and ready for adventure as we now strike out eastward.

The cathedral in downtown Santa Fe.

More to come!

 

 

Week 25: Seeking Secrets in New Mexico

Climbing the dunes at White Sands National Monument.

(All photos by the author).

New Mexico is one of the most clandestine states in America. The first atomic bomb was detonated here at Trinity Site in 1945, and most of the drama of the Manhattan Project at the end of World War II played out here. More recently, the F-117 Stealth Fighter called Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, New Mexico home before its retirement in 2008. [Read more...]

Week 24: Yearning for Yuma

A U.S. Army launch vehicle on display at

Yuma Proving Grounds.

(All photos by author).

You just never know what you might find in your own backyard. This past week saw us transit from our Arizona adventures in Tucson to the town of Yuma. Located far in the southwestern corner of the state, Yuma sits right on the border with San Luis in Mexico to its south, and the town of Winterhaven, California to its west. [Read more...]

Week 23: Return to Tucson 2014

Eclipse!

All photos by the author.

I remember well the first time we laid eyes on Tucson and the desert southwest of Arizona way back in late 2001. As we came up over Texas Canyon from New Mexico and the expansive basin ahead stretched out before us, we were greeted by a terrain that was both alien and bizarre, as cacti replaced trees, and road runners and rattlesnakes seemed to be the dominant life form. [Read more...]

Week 22: Back on the Road and into Arizona

Astro-sculpture sighting:

Urania, the Muse of Astronomy in Salt Lake City

(All photos by the author).

They say that you can never go home again, but sometimes, you can still visit those old stomping grounds. This past week we’ve been heading in just such a direction as we crossed the border from Utah back in to Arizona.

Not that our stay in Salt Lake City wasn’t a much needed respite from the road. We actually used our week of ‘down time’ to write like the wind and catch up on those essentials, such as laundry, oil changes and bill paying. Yeah, those sorts of glamorous things tend  to follow you, even on the road. [Read more...]

Week 21: Eclipse Chasing Across the Nevada Desert

Hanging with Astro-Lab at Cathedral Gorge!

(All photos by author)

You just never know where the next saros cycle will find you.

We managed to wrap up the Nevada leg of our current journey over the past week and have since stopped briefly in Utah for a minor rest cycle. Of course, when travelling, this merely means that we’re taking the opportunity to stop long enough to catch up on chores and errands such as laundry, bills, oil changes, etc. Life doesn’t stop, even on the road. But we did manage to cram in some exciting visits in the past week: [Read more...]

Week 20: Flying High Over the Sierra Nevadas

Flight! Taking to the air with Soaring NV.

(All photos by author).

You’ve never truly flown until you’ve taken to the air in a glider.

This past week saw us cross the state of California from west to east, and depart Santa Rosa after last week’s adventures and cross over the Sierra Nevadas into the Silver State. Like most Americans, we’d “been to Vegas,” but soon found that we hadn’t truly been to Nevada. [Read more...]

Week 19: Redwoods, Red Wine and Winding Roads

Along the rocky beaches of northern California.

(All photos by the author).

You get a whole different perspective on the state of California approaching it from the north. I liken it to our experience with Italy, versus our first impressions of Egypt or Thailand. Frequently, a traveler’s first experience with a country is exiting the airport at a major city like Cairo or Bangkok. This is an assault on the senses, and one must often struggle to get at the rural heart of the country beyond. In the case of Italy, we had the chance to enjoy the rural countryside of Lago di Garda before venturing into the heavily touristed cities. [Read more...]

Week 18: Spanning Oregon

Taking flight at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum.

All photos by the author.

Have you been to all 50?

We checked off another U.S. state on our “life list” this past week, as we traversed the state of Oregon from north to south. It was a whirlwind trip that was perhaps one of our fastest tours of any state thus far this summer… [Read more...]

Week 17: Crossing the Cascades

Trotting across Long Beach…

(All photos by author).

Coming to the U.S. Northwest was strangely like coming home.

The past week of our travels saw us slow down a bit, as we crossed from the central part of Washington to its Pacific coast. You could almost smell the flannel in the air as we journeyed to the Mecca that is all things Grunge. [Read more...]

Week 16: Into Washington State

A waxing gibbous moon rises over the fields at Cherrywood Vineyards.

Think Washington is exclusively rainy skies, overpriced coffee and grunge rock? Think again…

Well, this past week we’ve wrapped up our Idaho adventures after a brief journey eastward to Wallace and the Center of the Universe and crossed the Evergreen State.  And while Seattle gets all of the press, we can vouch for the fact that approaching the state from the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains can give you a whole new perspective. [Read more...]

Week 15: Shooting the Rapids and More in Northern Idaho

Running the Payette River…

(all photos by author).

“Get set to get wet” should’ve been our mantra over the past week, as we journeyed north of Boise into the Idaho panhandle. Of course, we always thought of the northern stem of the state as more of a chimney, but hey, if you think of a pot hanging from a rack on its side… [Read more...]

Mathematical Curiosities by Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann

On sale now.

Today, we’ll delve into the exciting and exhilarating world of mathematics. Wait, wait, come back…

This week we’ll be looking at Mathematical Curiosities: A Treasure Trove of Unexpected Entertainments out from Prometheus Books by Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann. [Read more...]

Week 14: Dunes, Craters and Dark Skies

A ‘heiligenschein selfie’ at craters of the Moon, Idaho.

(All photos by author)

Think you know Idaho? If you’re like us, up until about a week ago, you had visions of Idaho as the “other” potato growing state. But this past week has taught us otherwise, as the state hosts mountains, deserts, lava fields, and almost every other conceivable type of terrain… OK, we haven’t found the ‘jungles of Idaho’ yet! [Read more...]

Week 13: Crossing the Continental Divide

The Wyoming Infrared Observatory atop Mt. Jelm.

All photos by the author.

Ever wonder where east meets west, geographically speaking?

This past week saw us hitting the road once again and crossing the great state of Wyoming, nicking Montana for a couple nights, and then entering the state of Idaho for the first time.

An old model-T car at the Carbon County Museum.

But first, we spent a night in Rawlins, Wyomingin pursuit of a little historical eclipse research. Edison made his way to the dusty frontier town in 1878 to test his new fangled tasimeter on the corona of the Sun, and the eclipse was also famously known as the planet Vulcan’s Last Stand. The Carbon County Museum has an exhibit dedicated to Edison, and a curious mural remains on the side of the Keg Saloon on main street that commemorates America’s most famous inventor as well.

Edison’s mural in downtown Rawlins, Wyoming.

We also had a chance to visit the Wyoming Infrared Observatory on Mount Jelm outside of Laramie. One of the first large telescopes dedicated to infrared astronomy built in the late 1970’s, WIFO’s 2.3 metre classical Cassegrain telescope is now mostly devoted to visual observations. Research is still being carried out from the observatory, and the University of Wyoming welcomes daytime visitors by appointment. And they very occasionally hook up an eyepiece to the ‘scope for general night time viewing sessions!

Reaching the new highs along the path of Interstate route 80.

Next, our adventures saw us cross the Continental Divide Basin and the heart of Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park. Hey, we had to cross off an eruption of Old Faithful from our life list, and it was worth the one and a half hour wait. (That “it erupts exactly every hour, on the hour,” thing they told you in elementary school is a myth).

Entrance to the park was spectacular as the colorful semi-desert terrain of central Wyoming gave way to the Grand Tetons. Our America the Beautiful annual pass has already paid for itself many times over, and we found that the Park Gate Lodges Explorer cabins in West Yellowstone Montana just outside the west entrance of the park were a great spot to relax and explore from.

Ziplining with helmet cam.

We made a day of checking out the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center and running the ropes at Yellowstone Aerial Adventures:

And be sure to check out the menu at the Branch Restaurant and Bar. Located on the site of the old train station, their cauliflower steak and beet salad make for a total veggie-fest!

Headed into Idaho, we were able to get another stunning view of the Grand Tetons from the other side. We were pleasantly surprised by the small town of Driggs, Idaho, complete with its new Geotourism Center, Thai (and Korean!) restaurants, and free downtown wifi. And hey, Driggs is also right along the path of the 2017 total solar eclipse

The grandeur of the Grand Tetons!

Our current base of operations is the Sleep Inn in Idaho Falls. We always thought that the name “Sleep Inn” was a curious double entendre, but hey, we’re swiftly becoming a fan of the chain, as they offer uber-fast wifi and a splendid soup and salad supper…

What’s not to love?

Week 12: A Cheyenne Respite

Buffalo roam(ing)… All photos by the author.

Not all days on the road are created the same. We discussed this phenomena early on in our current sabbatical, of how movement days versus exploration days versus maintenance days stack up. [Read more...]

Week 11: High Plains Drifting in Cheyenne, Wyoming

The Yellowstone Supercomputer…

All photos by the author.

Quick, what’s the highest U.S. state capital? We’re talking, of course, in terms of altitude that is… If you’re like me, you would’ve answered “Denver” (there’s that double entendre again) at least until about a week ago. [Read more...]