Friday, September 19, 2014

Uncompaghre Peak in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado


          The hulking form of Uncompaghre leans into the sky like the prow of a ship at sea, and every time I gaze at this 14,309 foot peak I imagine it animating and sailing off into the clouds.
          But Uncompaghre isn't going anywhere just yet—a good thing for those who want to climb it and stand atop the San Juan Mountains.

Uncompaghre (the "tall ship" in the center of the photo) dominates
the skyline near Lake City Colorado.

          Uncompaghre is described as a "walk-up"—no technical climbing skills required—although a near-vertical section of loose scree near the top requires some hand-and-feet scrambling.
          Nerves of steel are required, however, to drive the rough and rutted four-wheel drive road to the trailhead.  After arriving safely at the trailhead it's another four miles and 3000 vertical feet to the top of Mighty Unc.  Braving the climb to the top of Uncompaghre's wide and level summit I feel like a pioneer, arriving in a brand new world; layers of peaks and valleys stretching to the horizon with no roads, vehicles, buildings or towns in sight.

Less than a mile from the trailhead Uncompaghre bursts into view,
allowing unobstructed anticipation of the destination.


As we neared the summit we turned around to see the trail far below.
The yellow arrows point to two areas of the trail.


Tim navigates an area of loose rocks near the summit.


View from the top.  This is a great place to linger on a clear day.

          September is the perfect month to climb Uncompaghre.  The next time you're in Lake City, Colorado, grab a guidebook to Colorado's high peaks and discover new lands for yourself.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference in Corte Madera, California

“It’s not a story until something goes wrong.” 
                                                                 ---Tim Cahill 

         
          Acclaimed author Tim Cahill's quote is but one piece of advice I received at the Travel Writers and Photographers Conference in Corte Madera, California.
          Held at Book Passage—an independent bookstore—the conference boasts a faculty of noted travel writers, editors and photographers.  Don George, Editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler, chaired the 23rd annual conference.

         This year’s conference featured informal gatherings and lectures, as well as interviews with travel celebrities such as Tony Wheeler, author and founder of The Lonely Planet Guides, and Deanne Fitzmaurice, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer.
         I attended several sessions covering such topics as:  Finding Your Story on the Road, Creating a Website, Finding and Creating Freelance Opportunities, Twitter’s Hidden Treasure, and Food and Wine Photography.

         Fellow attendees and the faculty of this conference were overwhelmingly focused on foreign travel.  I discovered that many writers and editors consider travel within the United States safe, tame and familiar—and therefore not prime, publishable "story" material.  That sentiment is supported by the Tim Cahill quote above.  However, I believe a good writer can craft a compelling story about any locale, foreign or domestic.

        Whether you’re writing for pleasure or for profit, the four-day event dished out a healthy serving of information and learning opportunities.
        A short list of tidbits gleaned from the conference:

         For Photographers:

  • Find the perfect setting and then wait for something to happen to get the ideal shot,  e.g. an eagle flying across the sky, a shaft of sunlight illuminating a subject’s face.
  • Good photography is timing and “seeing”; know your subject thoroughly by returning to the same place every hour of the day.

         For writers:

  • Editors are looking for writers who have a presence on social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.  
  • If you’re pitching a story to a magazine or newspaper, many of them won’t consider something already published on a blog. 
  • Look for an angle to your story; if you’re going to a destination where tens of thousands of travelers have already gone, search for something unique and fresh to write about that particular place.
  • Know your audience:  Who is your audience; what message do you want the reader to walk away with?
  • If you're writing a personal essay, relate your travel tale to something that's happened in your life.
  • If you're writing an impersonal narrative, keep yourself in the background to give readers a sense of place.  Don't start your story with "I", and avoid the dreaded diary rehash.


                                                                          ****
          Additionally the conference offered advice on the craft and structure of writing—narrative arc, creating the perfect intros (ledes) and endings, using dialog, avoiding cliches and so on—all helpful pointers for anyone who writes, even if you’re not considering selling or publishing your work, even if your stories will only ever be read by you, your friends or your family.

         One final piece of advice, agreed upon by all faculty members at the Book Passage Writers and Photographers Conference:
  • Whether your passion is writing, photography, or both—love what you do and have fun with it!



The bookstore is located in a plaza in downtown Corte Madera.
We enjoyed dinner the first night, and breakfast and lunch every
day on this plaza.  Both the weather and the food were excellent.

         Read about the conference on the Book Passage website at this address:
http://www.bookpassage.com/travel-writers-photographers-conference











Monday, August 25, 2014

Dolphin Watch Sunset Cruise on "The Spirit of Cape May", Cape May, New Jersey

        Bottlenose Dolphins live and frolic in the ocean near Cape May Point during the summer months and, for guaranteed dolphin sightings, book a cruise with Cape May Whale Watcher.

        Captain Jeff Stewart Sr. pilots the boat.  During our July excursion Captain Jeff maneuvered the boat near several small groups of dolphins while his son, naturalist Jeff Stewart Jr. provided narration on dolphin behavior and habitat.   500 bottlenose dolphins spend their summer vacations in the waters around Cape May, returning year after year to the Jersey Shore—as does my own family.

Notice the dolphins (lower left- center) close to the shoreline of
victorian Cape May, NJ.  The smaller fin may belong to a calf, swimming
alongside its mother.


HIstoric Cape May Lighthouse on the point.


This pair of bottlenose dolphins surfaced near the boat.


Entering the Intracoastal waterway we passed the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.
The ferry has been transporting people and cars across the Delaware bay
for 50 years.

         The two hour cruise flew by as we hurried from one side of the boat to the other, watching the playful cetaceans.  And, as if to assure passengers that this was indeed a sunset cruise, the south Jersey coast treated us to a brilliant red-orange sky as we returned to the marina.

Pulling into the Miss Chris Marina after
a successful dolphin-watching excursion.


       Cape May Whale Watcher offers cruises at various times of the day from March through December.
        Learn more by visiting their website:  http://capemaywhalewatcher.com
        To read about another wildlife watching excursion on the other side of the continent, click here.

The Spirit of Cape May.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Get Your Kicks at the 66 Diner on HIstoric Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico


          Imagine a time before Interstate highways, before tens of thousands of miles of concrete and mind-numbing homogeneity.  Imagine a time when driving across the country was an adventure, when one could drive through real towns—full of character and intrigue—instead of bypassing them at 75 miles per hour. 
         Those days are long gone, but part of the excitement lives on when listening to Nat King Cole sing about the nation's most popular highway, Route 66, on this 1946 recording.




         Makes you want to hit the open road, doesn't it?  Albuquerque, New Mexico claims the longest intact section of historic Route 66 remaining in the country and I experienced the thrill of that long-ago time recently while lunching at the 66 Diner.  What a place!  Neon everywhere, and the diner is decorated with 40’s and 50’s memorabilia, including hundreds of pez dispensers and an entire display case devoted to Elvis and his pink cadillac.  The 66 Diner boasts the best milkshakes in Albuquerque and, after a sip of our chocolate chip mint and Dreamsicle shakes, my parents, twin sister and I would have to agree.


Two icons of the pre-interstate era—Marilyn and Elvis—welcome
visitors to The 66 Diner.

Hungry yet?  The luncheon sandwiches were quite tasty but the
milkshakes were out-of-this-world delicious!

The tidy stainless steel lunch counter, the teal-clad wait staff, and the
50s decor invite one to linger at The 66 Diner.

Dine with Betty Boop, alongside the grill of an old Plymouth at
The 66 Diner.

          Historic Route 66 has been mostly replaced by Interstate highways, but various segments of the old road still remain and some are undergoing revivals and renovations.  Learn more about Route 66 in New Mexico by visiting the New Mexico Route 66 Association.  Also, now on display at The Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles and continuing until January 4th is the exhibition Route 66: The Road and the Romance.
         This August, whether on Route 66 or some other highway, get your kicks by leaving the interstate and rediscovering America's scenic byways.

Route 66 was established in November of 1926.
Here, my Dad—born two years later in November of 1928—is
ready for fine dining—sandwiches and a shake along "The Mother Road" .

This collection of roadway signs anchors the parking lot of the diner.
No doubt my parents passed by many of the older signs while
cruising the highways of their youth.





Monday, July 14, 2014

Lunar Love

Supermoon, July 12, 2014

Photo taken from our back porch in Price, Utah.
Canon EOS Rebel Digital with 500mm Tamron lens.
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I hope everyone had a chance to witness this super lunar event on Saturday evening.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico

         The first thing you see—rotating on a platter like the grand prize on a TV game show—is the 1987 winning Indianapolis (INDY) 500 car.  But the gleaming race cars are only part of the story at the Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  


This winning INDY car is front and center at the museum.
Read the story below to learn of the extraordinary history of this car. 

The museum’s docents are happy to share the rest of the saga—the family history of the remarkable racing Unsers.  In the 1930s Jerry Sr. and Mary Catherine “Mom” Unser moved their young family to Albuquerque where Jerry Sr., an auto racer whose real skill was fixing cars, opened an auto repair shop along newly constructed Route 66.  It wasn’t long before all four of their boys were competing in, and winning, races throughout the western states.


Where it all began.  Al and Bobby's father Jerry, ran a successful
auto repair business in Albuquerque, where the boys developed
their proficiency for auto racing.
  
Three of the four brothers—Jerry Jr., Bobby and Al—qualified for the Indy 500.  After Jerry Jr. suffered a fatal injury during a practice lap for the 1959 INDY 500 his twin Louie raced for several more years before retiring from racing to follow in his father’s footsteps, becoming an engine repair expert.  At the urging of “Mom” Unser, Al and Bobby continued racing... and the rest is history.  The Unsers have won INDY a combined 9 times, Bobby with three wins, brother Al Sr. with four, and his son Al Jr. capturing two trophies.


Talent sometimes runs in families.  Does your family
possess its own special talent?


                                                                        ****
 
        The museum showcases cars from the old Pikes Peak hill climbs, as well as IROC (International Race of Champions) cars.  The INDY cars are the highlight though, and I know you’re wondering about that car on the platter:  No, it wasn’t a game show prize, but it could have been—the car sat idle in a hotel lobby in Reading, Pennsylvania just weeks before the running of the 71st INDY 500.  
Al Unser Sr.—dropped by his sponsors and considered too old for INDY—found himself on the sidelines of the 1987 race.  When the Penske Racing Team’s driver suffered a concussion during a practice run Penske asked Al Sr. to fill in.  For a year he had been itching to drive the March race car sitting on display in Reading, PA and so that particular car was towed to Indianapolis and readied for the race.  Al Sr. would win that competition, becoming at age 47 the oldest INDY winner in history, and driving that hotel lobby car for 500 miles at an average speed of 162 mph.  Even if you’re not a fan of auto racing, can you imagine the concentration and skill required to perform such a feat?  
If you are a racing enthusiast, I highly recommend a visit to the Unser Racing Museum.  In addition to the main building which houses the Pikes Peak, IROC and INDY cars and their history, a newer building is filled with the Unser family trophy, artwork/poster, and car collection. 


You know how every elementary school kid's bedroom is filled with
trophies—just for showing up?  Well, you don't get a trophy just for showing
up at a professional auto race—you actually have to win the thing.
This room is full of trophies from the 200+ auto racing wins
belonging to the Unser family.



One of the posters in the "artwork" room.  I included this photo as a nod to
the short-lived Detroit Grand Prix.  I lived in Detroit for the inaugural run of this race.
Detroit is also the current home of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.



Al Unser Jr.'s 1994 winning INDY car is in the museum.
This model, under plexiglass inside the front door, is insured for
$1,000,000.


The Unser brothers built this museum, and Al Sr. is known to make appearances there on occasion.  Plan your vacation to Albuquerque today, and read more about the Unser Racing Museum here:  http://www.unserracingmuseum.com


The Unser Racing Museum welcomes visitors to sunny Albuquerque.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Price Canyon Recreation Area, near Price, Utah

           A cool mountain getaway lies hidden in the hills near the desert town of Price, Utah.  Price Canyon Recreation Area, half an hour north of town, invites you to drop by, inhale the pine-scented air, and linger for awhile.
          You'll feel far from dusty desert environs as you camp or picnic beneath the shade of ponderosa pines or hike the Bristlecone Ridge Trail.  Bristlecone Pines—the oldest living things on earth—thrive in this arid alpine location.  Several of these venerable trees stand alongside the trail, welcoming you to their mountain home as they've welcomed visitors for thousands of years.

                                                                          ****

          The following photos were taken on two separate outings to Price Canyon Rec.  On an October Saturday I hiked with an employee of the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and several other friends on a trail maintenance outing.  You can see the shovels and pick axes to the right of the picnic table in the third picture.
          The final two photos were taken on a September hike with family members visiting from Pennsylvania.  Notice the differences in fall colors, and in clothing choices, between the September and October hikes.

A Bristlecone Pine (left) frames the view from Bristlecone Ridge Trail.


Friends and dogs take a break along the steep path.


A post-hike picnic under the pines. 


Tim surveys the Central Utah landscape from a rocky prominence
along the trail.


The trail continues for several miles past the Bristlecone Pine ridge.
This meadow provides a quiet place for a rest stop.


If you're traveling south from Salt Lake and need an overnight campsite or a pleasant place for a picnic I highly recommend a stop at the BLM managed Price Canyon Recreation Area.  Read more about it by visiting their website:  http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/price/recreation/pricerec.html

Read about the amazing Bristlecone Pine Tree here:  http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/bristlecone_pine.htm