We made a little road trip down south today in hopes of catching the poppy fields at Picacho Peak in full bloom. Because of all the rain we had this winter, we were expecting to see a thick carpet of yellow and orange creeping up the hills, but what was actually in bloom was kind of disappointing considering we supposedly arrived at the peak of the season (as verified by the Park Rangers). But it was still much better than the past few years we’ve gone.
In response to yesterday’s bout of Apple-induced Robopsychosis, last night Ben told me to charge my camera battery. “You’re going to need it tomorrow.”
I pressed him until I got an answer to what he had planned. “We need a day away from computers.”
And so we took a little road trip to Sedona. (I charged my camera’s battery, but didn’t take it; all these were shot with my iPhone.)
We didn’t really do much, but it was nice to get out of the blistering heat for a while and away from our laptops…
Ben and I were itching to get out of town, so yesterday we drove to Tucson where we met up with Bernie and Damon for lunch at a place we’ve been going to since I was in college.
The place hasn’t changed at all. Bernie said, “You almost have to look through the ghosts.”
And why is this so special?
Hamburger patty tacos. Yeah, I know it sounds bizarre, but they’re a South Tucson staple. They tasted a bit different from what I remember; the seasoning in the meat had changed, but otherwise they were still delicious.
If you’ve been considering visiting the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, think twice before plunking down the $12 admission fee.
First of all, when we went this past weekend none of her iconic works were on display, and only a few very bland paintings of her famous flowers were seen. Photography is prohibited in half the galleries, and the few pieces that you might want to photograph in the rooms where you can take pictures are all marked “No photography.”
I guess the museum doesn’t realize there’s something called the Internet, where I can get pictures of what I wanted anyway.
However, if you want to see lots of black and white photographs of the artist, by all means, go and knock yourselves out.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the only reason Ben and I decided to skip town for the holiday weekend. We both needed to get out of Denver and a road trip with a couple nights in a nice hotel was the perfect antidote for funk that both of us had been feeling.
But yeah, the museum was a big disappointment. We were expecting so much more.
Ben and I took a little road trip this past weekend.
I visited here back in 2007; at the time it was simply called The Atomic Museum, and when we decided to go to Albuquerque for the weekend I’d hoped to at the very least pick up a new “Einstein Simplified” T-shirt—one of my all time favorite shirts—that I’d gotten there seven years ago. Unfortunately they no longer carried them; not surprising since the entire facility had moved and renamed itself in the interim.
The original museum was full of 40s and 50s-era kitsch. The new place was much more straightforward. They also didn’t have the aircraft collection at the old location. While not nearly as impressive as the Air & Space Museum in Tucson, it still afforded several nice photographic opportunities.
To be continued…
I was looking at my Flickr page the other day and realized it’s been quite a while since I got out and did any photography. I think that’s partially because I’m at the point with Denver that I really don’t want any more reminders of this place. All I know is that every time I take my camera out with me I find no inspiration anywhere.
But photography is an itch I need to scratch every so often, and yesterday I really wanted to go somewhere and capture images of something. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t looking cooperative.
Ben suggested we head west and drive to the top of Mt. Evans.
I was less than enthused at the idea. Yeah, maybe if the sun was shining and dark rain clouds weren’t threatening in the west, but not with the way things were looking when he first proposed the idea.
After lunch the sun was starting to peek out in places, and he convinced me that we at least needed to get out of the apartment and go somewhere other than Starbucks. And since Sammy hadn’t yet been on a road trip with us, it might be a good chance to see how he’d react.
I agreed with the proviso that if my camera battery wasn’t charged all bets were off.
Amazingly, the battery in my camera was fully charged, so we set out on our little adventure, and I’m so glad we did.
Lots more here.
After hearing praise from John, we knew we had one last stop to make before leaving Arkansas.
So, after bidding adieu to our little home away from home…
…and grabbing breakfast, we were on our way.
No, not there, although Ben did get a great cut from Robert.
I’m talking about Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
I mean seriously, who knew such a fabulous place would be found in rural northwestern Arkansas?
We met up with JP ‘n Earl and were joined by Erik shortly after arriving, who took our picture…
Of course, while waiting I couldn’t help myself but take a couple sneaky pics.
Several 18th and 19th century pieces caught my eye:
But I really liked the 20th century pieces…
I also got some shots of the man I love…
And someone tried to molest me…
I could’ve spent way more than the 2 or so hours we were there. We didn’t even get to explore the grounds surrounding the museum; something I’d definitely like to do.
After saying our goodbyes and grabbing some lunch, we started our journey home.
Today was the day for which we came to Arkansas: I was getting inked by Erik!
But that wasn’t scheduled until after noon, so John, Ben, and I grabbed a quick breakfast at McDonalds and headed to beautiful downtown Bentonville to wander and catch a bit of the local ambiance:
If the store had been open, I so would’ve thrown my credit card balance to the wind and bought this…
We also went through the Walmart Visitor Center. (Hey it’s a small town and there wasn’t much else to do to kill a couple hours.)
Walmart has a visitor center, you ask? Indeed. From the website:
Visitors can look, touch and explore through a series of family-friendly, interactive displays. All the exhibits are designed as giant scrapbooks that tell the story of Walmart through words, images, artifacts and interactive displays like our virtual tour of Sam Walton’s old office and our map featuring information on customers, stores, suppliers and associates from around the world. We’ve even got Mr. Sam’s trusty old Ford F-150 parked in the gallery.
In other words, it’s a veritable warehouse of pro-Walmart propaganda.
The funniest things I saw were two items in the “returned merchandise” exhibit. Both pretty much sum up the entire stereotype of Walmart shoppers:
It was still way too early to head over to Erik’s studio, so we killed some time at Grounds for Thought and did what geeks do: we got coffee and brooded over our laptops.
Soon Calvin & Hobbes were frolicking on his arm:
I was next.
John had his return flight to catch, so shortly after I sat down in the chair, he was off. It was a great visit and Ben and I can’t wait until we see him again. Maybe next year a trip to the east coast is in order.
The good Doctor and his Tardis were a bit more involved, so it took a while longer…
Three hours later, it was finished!
It was everything I’d hoped it would be. Thank you, Mr. Rubright. I can never say that enough. It is amazing.
From there, Ben and I went back to the hotel room for a bit and then met Erik at Grub’s. Added bonus: JP and Earl were in town as well and joined us shortly after we arrived!
A great vacation got a little bit better!
I’d never met either of the guys, but had been following JP’s blog for some time. Like Erik, he’s exactly the same in person as online and we had a great time. Unfortunately, after three hours of getting poked, I was beat, and shortly after dinner Ben and I bid our adieus and headed back to the hotel.
We did make one stop on the way first, however. Andy’s Frozen Custard…
…and bug watching.
Yikes! Are you supposed to put a saddle on and ride that thing? It looks like something that crawled out of The Mist. (Mmm…Thomas Jane.)
But I digress.
Day 2 took us from Wichita to Rogers via Oklahoma.
You may be wondering why we took the “back roads” route instead of taking the much faster I-70 route direct from Denver. This is why:
Yes, these two fat kids planned their trip around a hamburger joint. If you don’t have Whataburger in your location, I feel sorry for you. We had them in Phoenix, but we don’t have them in Denver, and while I got to partake when I was in Arizona earlier this year, Ben had no such opportunity. So naturally we had to go.
We arrived in Rogers mid-afternoon and immediately met up with John, who had booked a room at the same Microtel we did. None of us had stayed in one before, and I was very pleasantly surprised at how nice it was—and I have to say that of the three places we overnighted on this trip, the Microtel was the best. (Avoid the Days Inn in Lawrence Kansas!).
One of the things we’d wanted to see on our trip was the Pea Ridge Military Park; not necessarily because of any great interest in the Civil War, but rather simply to get our Park Service Book stamped!
I’ll say this: it was beautiful. Arkansas is green. Erik told us it was very unusual for this time of year, but it was still amazing. In fact, that’s the one thing I noticed the most after we got off the highway and out of the brown fields of Oklahoma. And the green here was different than the kind of green we have in Denver. Deciduous versus coniferous forests, maybe?
Anyhow, we made our way through the park and stopped along the way to grab some photos…
Even though John and I had never met in person prior to that day, I felt an immediate kinship. Some people have no respect for historic sites:
Absolutely no respect:
(Although I’m sure it’s not the first time any of this had been done…)
And sometimes I happen to snap a few photos where everything just seems to come together:
Later, after heading back to the hotel to freshen up, the three of us joined Erik and his husbear Robert at Frank’s Hickory Inn for dinner. Afterward, we headed over to the infamous JJ’s for some adult beveraging.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Okay, maybe just one. You pick.
This One Turned Everyone’s Heads
The most interesting thing about the start of our journey was seeing the radar installations east of Denver.
Day 1 was punctuated by lunch at Taco John’s in Lamar. We’d never been to the chain before. I liked it. It reminded me of how Taco Bell tasted before it was swallowed up by KFC. Ben wasn’t as impressed.
The afternoon was full of endless fields, wind generator turbines, threatening skies, and one roadside warning found when we stopped to get gas…
Back in 2007, shortly after I’d celebrated my five-years-cancer-free anniversary, I got my first tattoo. I anguished for months over the design, and finally decided on a simple black tribal design consisting of two geckos head to tail, curving around a roman numeral 5. The design was perfect. The execution was a disaster. The artist I’d chosen in Phoenix decided to “improve” the design—without asking, and as he was in the process of inking me—by adding shadows and highlights. By the time I realized what he was doing it was too late, and my perfect design was ruined. (If it sounds like I’m still bitter after all this time, it’s because I am.)
There wasn’t much that could be done about the abomination that now resided on my left bicep, but I swore that from that point forward the only person who would ever ink me again was Erik Rubright. How or when this would happen had always been a question since we lived about a thousand miles apart, but if it was meant to be, somehow, somewhere it would happen. And if it didn’t and it meant I would never get another tattoo as long as I lived, so be it. It was better to live with that than risk ending up with another indelible piece of crap as a permanent part of my body.
Ben and I had the pleasure of meeting Erik and his partner, Robert, in person about nine months ago, and it cemented in my mind the fact that no one would put ink to my skin again unless it was Erik.
As my ten year anniversary began to loom large, I started thinking about what I wanted to do to mark its passing. Five years ago—prior to actually getting that rotten ink—I had anticipated adding to the original piece as the years ticked by, but now that I was approaching that ten-year mark, it no longer appealed to me. On the other hand, I couldn’t come up with any viable alternatives either—or at least nothing that appealed to me to such a degree that I would want to make it permanent.
Shortly after Erik and Robert were in Denver I ran across a piece of Doctor Who art that really spoke to me. It was an almost cartoonish picture of the Tenth Doctor (David Tenant) standing in front of a semi-stylized Tardis against a pale blue, star-studded background. It was the tenth doctor. It was my tenth anniversary. I’d found my next tattoo! I sent it to Erik and asked if he’d be able to do it. He responded that he could, and that he would file it away for such time that he would be able to personally apply it.
This has been percolating at the back of my mind for some time now, and when Ben and I started discussing possible vacation plans this year, a trip to Erik’s studio in Arkansas naturally came up. I ran the idea past John, an internet friend I’ve known for close to a decade but had never met—asking if he would be willing to join us in Bentonville. He jumped at the idea.
So last Sunday, John hopped on a plane heading south; Ben and I loaded up his new Kia, and headed east…
(to be continued)
I found this online and immediately thought, “I’ve been there!”
And I so want to go back. Maybe for next summer’s road trip…
Who would’ve thought that we’d find the best Mexican food since leaving Phoenix in a converted Long John Silver’s in Gillette, Wyoming?
It’s true. Last night we tried a place called Los Compadres (no idea if there’s any relation to the Phoenix chain), and except for cole slaw being substituted for the usual shredded lettuce, it had the Arizona Mexican food taste we’ve been missing all these months.
Today’s goal (and in fact, the whole reason for this trip) was Devil’s Tower.
Very impressive, even if we didn’t have any Close Encounters of the Third—or any other—Kind.
The boulders at the base of the tower are huge:
This is a wood ladder built in the 1890s:
And here is some crazy guy climbing the tower. He was about 2/3 of the way up:
Neither one of us was paying attention to the other when we got dressed this morning. It was only after we were about a half hour from the hotel that we realized we were all matchy-matchy. One of those couples. Ugh.
The baby is due any day now…
This picture gives you a better idea of how incredibly large the boulders are at the base of the tower. I was surprised—and a little disappointed—to learn that none of the boulders (or any of the columns) have fallen for the entire time the tower has been a national park (a little over a hundred years). Seeing one of those columns shear loose would be awesome:
And what would a road trip be without some sneaky pics?
It was around noon when we finished up hiking around the base of the Tower and Ben asked, “Want to go to Mt. Rushmore?”
We checked the travel time (about two hours), and since neither of us had ever been there, we thought, why not?
Not as impressive as Devil’s Tower (both of us were expecting it to be a lot bigger), but still worth the effort to get there.
I’ve also learned (somewhat belatedly) that my fancy-schmancy DSLR takes the best pictures when I set it on Auto or Programmed and don’t mess with it…
Ben has this week off for spring break, and I’ve finally accumulated enough PTO to allow a couple days away from the madness that has become my workplace (more on that some other time). So what were we going to do with this newfound freedom from responsibility?
But where? Four days is not enough time to go back to Phoenix, or even to St. Louis—a destination we’ve had our eye on since I passed through a few years ago on my way to bury my mom’s ashes in Wisconsin.
One place I’ve wanted to see in person since the release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind was Devil’s Tower, Wyoming. With all the years I lived in Phoenix or the Bay Area, it was always too far to justify the time and expense. Even when I went to Yellowstone back in 2007, visiting would’ve been a stretch since it was on the opposite side of the state.
But lo and behold, it was only about a six hour drive from Denver!
Day One: Where the Buffalo Roam
My initial impressions of the part of Wyoming we passed through? Lots and lots of rolling hills covered in light yellow grass and bovines of one type or another. Ben spent a lot of the drive today napping; he didn’t miss much.
One highlight however were the bright red roads in certain areas. Ben asked if they were paved with baby’s blood, and I responded, “Well, Dick Cheney is from here…”
Maintenance of this section of highway proudly sponsored by the Church of Satan.
Tomorrow should be much more interesting.