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If one accounts for the actual cost of living increases (not the government's bogus stats) and subtract government spending disguised as economic growth, it becomes apparent that we've been in a contraction for a generation.

~ Anonymous 

Second honeymoon, Day 6

Rural Revolution - Mon, 05/27/2024 - 16:11

We spent the night at our (very expensive) hotel room in Page, Arizona. According to Wikipedia, the town was founded in 1957 as a housing community for workers and their families during the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam. Now, it seems, it was little more than a place to stay for visitors of the dam. I don't think I've ever seen a denser concentration of hotels for a town of less than 7300 people.

That said, it was a tidy and clean community. Everything was neat and spruce. The hotel was great, the food was wonderful, and the scenery was stunning.

Before checking out, we wanted to walk across the bridge and see the dam up close. It was early, perhaps 7 am, when we left the hotel to see what we might see.

Before we got near the dam, however, we saw a sign for an overlook and spontaneously investigated. No one was around at that hour and we had it to ourselves.

We found ourselves on a crude path/stairway which followed the contours of rock to the overlook, and were greeted with this dire warning sign.

And oh my, the view was spectacular. This is looking downstream:

And this is looking upstream.

At this distance, the scale (710 feet high!) of the dam is hard to grasp, so here's a clue. See the bridge?

Here's a closer view.

That's a massive tour bus cross toward the middle-right (the long white vehicle with a black streak). That helps put some perspective on the size of both the dam and the bridge.

In fact, the bridge is as much an engineering marvel as the dam.

Whatever your views on the Glen Canyon Dam – and environmentalists lament, with justification, the natural beauty and habitats that were submerged by the lake – it's easy to see why this specific spot was chosen to construct the dam. Those steep gorge sides are remarkable.

We made our way back to the car and progressed to the bridge, which has a pedestrian walkway on it.

Closer up, the sheer scale of the dam is astounding – basically the height of a 70-story building.

Periodically there were covered cages over ladders down the cliff to platforms.

Using these ladders would require an excellent head for heights, that's for sure.

Access holes in the dam face.

Unbelievable engineering.

The downstream view.

On the rim, we saw the overlook where Don and I were half an hour before. Notice something in the top center of the photo?

Yes, it's a tour bus (possibly the same one I photographed earlier in the bridge). Evidently Don and I got the the overlook just at the right time.

For obvious reasons, access to the cliffs from the bridge is fenced off.

Satisfied with our glimpse of the bridge, we returned to the hotel to pack up.

While checking out, I noticed a huge poster on the wall featuring the famous Horseshoe Bend. "Is that nearby?" I inquired.

"Yes," the clerk replied. "Just five minutes up the road." Instantly we knew this would be our next stop.

Before leaving town, however, we stopped at a grocery store and stocked the ice chest with food. After our experience in Nevada with no dinner, we knew it was wiser to have something to eat on hand.

As promised, Horseshoe Bend was five minutes up the road. And oh my, it was packed.

It was about a half-mile walk to the cliff edge.

Can you see the crowds strung out along the rim?

There were signs everywhere requesting visitors to stay on the path. But of course there are those who think signs don't apply to them.

If the crowds were this thick a few weeks ago, imagine what they're like now.

Without question, Horseshoe Bend is stunning.

A single boat and multiple kayakers sedately traversed the water.

There was even a porta potty thoughtfully located in the talus beach at the base of the mesa.

A view to the side. Notice the people on the rocks at the upper right corner of the photo.

There were no signs warning about straying off the path – there certainly was no vegetation to crush – and people took advantage of the opportunity to climb higher.

Afterward, we headed southeast on Hwy. 98, then east on Hwy. 160. We were headed for Monument Valley.

Monument Valley was the one thing I wanted to see on the bucket list for this trip. Ironically we had traversed it 34 years ago during our first honeymoon after a dismal experience in Tuba City (which I won't go into), but it was in the dead of night and literally we had no idea we were even in Monument Valley. We chose our route this time specifically to avoid Tuba City.

Monument Valley itself was stunning, absolutely breathtaking. Every rock formation is incredible.

I took dozens of photos.

At one point, we pulled off to the side of the road.

We noticed the red sand was so fine, it was almost like dust.

About a mile beyond this stop, we noticed a beefy pickup truck towing a trailer, also stopped on the side of the road (no doubt to take a photo). Unfortunately the driver pulled off too far, and had sunk into the dust to his axles with both vehicles. Poor guy. It would take hours to get a tow truck there.

The scenery was the classic "Wild West" everywhere we looked.

At Kayenta, we took a roundabout and turned north on Hwy, 163.

We stopped briefly at a visitor's center. Across the way was a Hogan B&B, which we thought was kind of a neat concept.

A couple miles beyond the intersection, we stopped at Goulding's Trading Post and Lodge. Despite the tour bus that lumbered in close on our heels, this was a stop well worth it for the museum alone.

It was situated in a dramatic box canyon.

The museum was split between the history of the remarkable Gouldings, and the film industry that used Monument Valley as a setting for endless Westerns. The museum was located in the Gouldings' former home.

One display was fascinating. It was a perfect scale model of the entire Monument Valley, made in incredible detail, pinpointing where various films were shot. There were also endless loops of these films being played on a television in the room.

I didn't care so much about the filming locations as I did the scale model. When you see how broad the whole Monument Valley is, it puts things into amazing perspective.

A nearby structure was designated as "John Wayne's Cabin." In fact, while he was filmed coming and going from this building during various movies, the building itself was used as a root cellar by the Gouldings. Any interior shots of the cabin were filmed elsewhere.

Here's my handsome husband.

We poked around a bit. I don't know why I found it amusing, but the sign for the bathrooms were printed in multiple languages. It shows just how popular this stop is.

A picnic area with a to-die-for view.

We continued on our way north on Hwy. 163, admiring as we went.

The road passed through a rocky canyon.

We came out the other side and took a long road away from Monument Valley, satisfied we had seen its wonders.

But it had one more surprise for us.

Approaching what our paper road map (dating to 2003) called Monument Pass, we started seeing frantic warnings signs about people in the road and lots of traffic at something called "Forrest Gump Point." I've never seen the movie "Forrest Gump" so I had no idea what the signs meant; but sure enough, there were lots and lots of cars and people all over the road. What was going on?

We pulled over, got out of the car, looked behind us ... and gasped. Here was the classic view of Monument Valley, the image that appears on a thousand and one postcards. No wonder people were stopping!

Comically there was a young woman posing for a photo in the middle of the road. She looked like she was juuuuust about to lift her shirt and expose herself for her boyfriend when she happened to notice Don nearby, and yanked her shirt back down. Ah, young love.

We continued on Hwy. 163 and passed the tiny town of Mexican Hat. "What an unusual name," I remarked, as we crossed a small river and skirted the edge of the town, built along the foot of a bluff. "I wonder how it came by it?"

This was largely a rhetorical question ... until we skirted the bluff and saw this rock formation. "The Mexican hat!" I exclaimed.

Seriously,  this was one of the coolest rock formations I've ever seen. Apparently the top rock is 60 feet in diameter.

More beautiful scenery.

We passed through the small town of Bluff which, as the name implies, was built among bluffs.

Though we didn't stop, the town looked snug and charming. Its population hovers around 250.

Our destination for the night was Blanding, population about 3300. We pulled into literally the first  motel we came to, a motor court by the name of Prospector Motor Lodge.

It was unquestionably one of the nicest rooms we'd stayed in so far on our trip. Spacious, wood-paneled, old-fashioned, and clean as a whistle, it was exactly the kind of mom-and-pop establishment we wanted to patronize.

We walked to a restaurant about half a mile away for dinner, then retired to our room for the night, tired and satisfied.

Second honeymoon, Day 5 (supplement)

Rural Revolution - Sat, 05/25/2024 - 18:40

In yesterday's post, I hinted at a museum we stumbled upon called "Once Upon a Time in America Museum." It was not yet opened to the public (its grand opening should be no later than mid-June), but impulsively we pulled into the parking lot, hoping to take photos of the facade, before being on our way.

But then we had an extraordinary opportunity when one of the co-owners of the museum, Nicol Grossman, offered us a "sneak peek" tour. She and her husband Jason took upwards of two hours out of their busy schedules to show us around everything they were doing. (You can read a more detailed version of what we saw here.)

Don and I came away agog. This museum may not yet be open to the public – give it a couple more weeks – but the quality and quantity of exhibits should make it a premier destination for those interested in Americana. And I don't make that endorsement lightly.

Here are a few things we saw, with the understanding that not every exhibit was in its final form.

The building housing the collection is massive, upwards of 40,000 square feet.

The "Hall of Wonderment" has layers of displays. Along one wall are three-dimensional examples of the types of buildings that might be found in a frontier town, suitable for children to explore.

And yes, the stagecoach is real.

If you peek through the window of the general store, you'll see genuine items typical of a 19th century retail establishment. These items were the cherished half-century collection of an elderly woman. When she passed away, her son needed to put her house up for sale, and offered the collection to the Grossmans for an incredible price. Thus the collection can be observed and cherished for future generations. How cool is that?

On the other side of the hall is a massive collection of taxidermied animals. Many of these are donated, and some are grandfathered in. They are arranged by biomes – northern animals at one end, and graduating to the southern biomes. To prevent children from climbing upon the animals, a fence will be installed in front of the exhibits.

Elsewhere in the museum, you never knew what marvels you might see. This, for example, is the roulette table from Tombstone, Arizona, during the time of the famous shoot-out.

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This is an original Sioux Indian war club discovered at the fields of the Battle of Little Bighorn.

There was a massive collection of steins and decanters.

There was a whole gallery devoted to movie memorabilia. Most everything had original signatures.

A personal favorite:

A large section was devoted to the many Westerns filmed in the region. John Wayne featured prominently.

Here's his signature.

Other famous people such as Mark Twain were also on display.

And his signature.

(There was also another gallery devoted to music memorabilia. Yes, you can view hand-written lyrics by Elvis Presley, among much else.)

Possibly my favorite room was the Gallery of Documents, still being organized.

This held a breathtaking assortment of memorabilia of American heroes – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Paine, Hancock, Franklin, and other luminaries. Letters, receipts, deeds, treaties, broadsheets – all signed, documented, and authenticated, all on display for the awestruck visitor to see. They had the photos of both the Union and the Confederacy political cabinets, all with signatures. Signed photos of Medal of Honor winners. A hat signed by endless World War II legends – Audie Murphy, George C. Marshall, Alvin York, George S. Patton, Omar Bradley, William Halsey Jr., Chester W. Nimitz, etc. Signed photos of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Signed pieces by Samuel Clemens. They even had a lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair. It. Was. Stunning.

Possibly the most beautiful section of the museum was the saloon. When open, it will be a full-service restaurant. It was an incredible room.

A gallery revealed an upstairs...

The upstairs saloon is more modern. It will also have outdoor patio dining available.

But wait, there's more. How about an extensive car collection? (This photo shows just a small selection.)


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I have photos of other displays that are not open to the public, so I won't post them here.

This is Nicol and Jason Grossman. You'll never meet two nicer and more gracious people.

This photo tour barely scrapes the surface of what this museum has on display, and can't possibly do it justice. If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Kanab, Utah, the museum is about eight miles east on Hwy 89.

Don and I saw many wonderful things on our trip, but the Once Upon a Time in America Museum was one of the absolute highlights. We can't recommend it highly enough!

Second honeymoon, Day 5

Rural Revolution - Fri, 05/24/2024 - 20:42

Zion National Park! We had been to this amazing location on our first honeymoon back in 1990, and it was stunning. This time we planned merely to skirt the southern edge. Originally we didn't plan to see Zion at all (since we were trying not to "repeat" anything we'd seen before), but shucky-darn, it just happened to be on the road to the Glen Canyon Dam, so why not see it again?

So we took Hwy. 9 east to see what we might see. We stopped at La Verkin Overlook to take in the view (notice the high snow poles).

The dirt road was deeply potholed and we were conscious that we were driving a rental car. But the views were splendid.

Ever alert to roadside attractions (however campy), we pulled over to look at this one.

It was not yet open for the day, but seemed a decent place to entertain kids ... although I hope no child got entangled in the wall of prickly pear cacti lining one edge of the parking lot.

Yep, campy but cute.

And we agreed the view could not be beat.

Back on the road, large vehicles were warned about an upcoming tunnel.

The proximity of the Virgin River lent a sort of lushness to the otherwise dry terrain.

Here's the entrance to the park. If I remember, it was $30 for a driving pass.

Before passing into the beauty of the park, we passed through a small town called Springdale, literally bracketed by two arms of the park's boundary. We were curious to see it, and assumed (due to its size) that it would have some of the small-town charm we've come to expect.

But Springdale was no sleepy little rural town. Almost everything we saw was slick, brand-new, upscale, expensive and perfectly coifed. It was indubitably built for tourists, and for nothing but tourists (well-heeled ones, at that).

We stopped at the bank to get some change, and I must admit the views of the cliffs were nice.

But the town itself was awful, awful. If Springdale ever had been a sleepy little rural town, it had been gobbled up by tourist tat. I didn't take a single photo as we went through, it was that bad. It was with huge relief that we turned our back on the town.

Zion – even the southern edge – is awesomely, spectacularly beautiful. We pulled off the road at one point and took a short hike along a path by a stream bed.

I managed to snap a hasty photo of this western whiptail lizard. It was well camouflaged.

To give you an idea of the sheer scale of these cliffs, see if you can spot a tree silhouetted against the cliffside in the top center of this photo:

Here I've zoomed in to see it better:

I snatched a photo of a freaky-looking tunnel thingy in the cliffside, but there was no road to it. What could it be?

We soon found out as the road curved around and then traffic stopped. The tunnel warned about back on the valley floor was ahead of us. Traffic was restricted, so there was a line.

The freaky looking tunnel thingy I photographed above turned out to be openings in the cliffside – called galleries – put in place during the tunnel construction, both to provide natural light as well as ventilation. Considering the tools available in 1930 when it was made, the tunnel is an astounding feat of engineering. (Sorry for the blurriness, it was hard to focus between the dark of the tunnel and the light of the opening. Drivers were given strict instructions not to stop in the tunnel, for obvious reasons.) 

Here's a snatched view of the valley through one of the galleries.

Coming out the other end.

I tell ya, if there was ever a pedestrian option available for this tunnel, I'd walk it in a heartbeat.

Later we went through a small tunnel on the way toward the eastern edge of the park.

On the other side, we were on the rim rock of Zion – much less dramatic, but still pretty.

The rock layering was fascinating.

And this.

Outside the park was something called "The Get Outpost," though we didn't stop.

We continued east on Hwy. 9 toward Mt. Carmel Junction. At one point we saw a herd of bison – clearly someone's ranch animals – that just fit so well into the setting.

At Mt. Carmel Junction, we stopped to stretch our legs at the White Mountain Trading Post. This and a few other enterprises were doing a roaring trade – we're talking busloads of trade – taking advantage of its proximity to Kanab.

In the women's restroom, I saw this instructive signage:

We turned south on Hwy. 89. A few miles down the highway, we came across Moqui Cave, and stopped to explore.

The cave had an extensive Native American history, as well as more modern movie-related activity (since Kanab is famous for filming dozens of westerns mid-century).

It had a very nice museum in addition to the everything else. The cave goes surprisingly deep into the cliff. We spent a happy half-hour exploring the sights.

Afterward, we sat in the shade of some trees and ate leftover pizza for lunch, admiring the serenity of the surroundings.

These cliffs were pockmarked with small caves.

After this, we passed through Kanab and continued east on Hwy. 89. About eight miles outside of Kanab, we saw another roadside attraction: a massive metal building with a Western-themed facade. Impulsively we crammed on the brakes and pulled into the parking lot.

The sign proclaimed this was the " Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";} Once Upon a Time in America Museum – Opening Soon!" There were no vehicles in the parking lot except construction equipment and evidence of lots of activity.

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What followed was such an extraordinary series of events that I'm going to turn it into its own blog post. So, with that teaser in mind, let's fast forward a couple hours as we continue down the road toward our evening destination of Page, Arizona.

Here are some of the Vermillion Cliffs (there is another set of Vermillion Cliffs south in Arizona).

This part of the world is so chock-full of dramatic rock formations that it's hard to take it all in. Every curve of the road yields amazing sights.

We finally fetched up to the town of Page, Arizona, the service town for the Glen Canyon Dam. Instantly we were mired in a maelstrom of tour buses and rows of hotels. Once again, having traversed so many remote and lonely roads, we were thrown into culture shock. We inquired in a few motels and learned everything was sold out (and this was on a Wednesday weeks before Memorial Day weekend, no less!).

Finally we found ourselves staying at a Holiday Inn Express in a room that cost a gasping $200 per night. We were informed that was the minimum going rate in Page (except perhaps for the Motel 6 next door that was sold out), and frankly we believed it. So we swallowed our frugal pride and signed in. To be fair, it was a very nice room. We had a delicious dinner at an Asian restaurant called New York Teriyaki and retired back to our room, eager to see the sights on the morrow.

Second honeymoon, Day 4

Rural Revolution - Wed, 05/22/2024 - 17:52

We left Rachel, Nevada east on Hwy. 395 until it connected to Hwy. 93 toward the town of Caliente. We began to climb in elevation and began to see Joshua  trees, one of the most iconic trees of the southwest.

This seemed like the edge of their territory, and they hadn't grown very tall.

I first saw these last year when Older Daughter and I were returning from vising my parents, and detoured through Las Vegas. They're simply fascinating plants.

The road rose until we were driving through a canyon (bad photo, sorry).

By the time we reached the charming little town of Caliente, we were starving. (Remember, no dinner last night.) We found a place called Sidetrack to stop for brunch, and it was lovely. Beautiful building, friendly service, delicious food.

We were heading for Utah, but before we reached the state boundary, we got diverted by Cathedral Gorge State Park outside Panaca on Hwy. 93, and decided to explore. Our first stop was the visitor's center, where I photographed a lizard on the outside wall.

Inside the visitor's center, despite it being May, a "Christmas tree" of antlers was on display. Impressive.

We were interested in looking at the books and maps in the visitor center's store, but the bookstore itself was closed, so we proceeded to the park entrance. However – and to be honest, this annoyed us – the machine would not accept cash and only took credit cards. We prefer not to use credit cards if at all possible, so we retreated from the park and continued down the road.

However just about a mile beyond the park entrance, we saw a turnout for something called the Miller Point Scenic Overlook, and on impulse we turned in to see what we might see.

And oh my, it was gorgeous!

In some ways I think we had a better view than from the state park, because we were looking down from the rim rather than looking up from the bottom.

There was even a trail (with steps and handrails) that would eventually lead to the bottom of the canyon. We saw some hikers below us.

We followed the trail about halfway down, but no further. We couldn't linger too long, since we had an afternoon appointment in Utah (more on that later). So we said goodbye to the Cathedral Gorge.

Then, prompted by nothing more than curiosity, we continued a bit further north, climbing uphill on Hwy. 95 toward the tiny town of Pioche, which was located on a short loop road called 322.

The town overlooks Spring Valley, with the Wilson Creek Range in the distance.

A pretty-but-abandoned old building stood on the edge of town. In some ways it reminded us of our first home together (an old board-and-batten house built in 1875 which we loved to pieces).

As with so many Nevada towns, Pioche has a mining past, its heyday long behind it. In fact, this sign indicated that it was nearly a ghost town by the year 1900.

And yet here it is, a century-and-a-quarter later, still clinging to life. We walked up and down the sidewalks, found a few places open, and thought the town was charming.

We came across the Lincoln County Historical Museum and went inside. Manned by a dedicated woman who had been working there for well over 20 years, we spent a fascinating half-hour looking over the numerous displays and exhibits. Well pleased with our visit, we stuffed the donation box with money and thanked the nice lady.

Across the street was a sort of outdoor museum where elements of past industry – a water wheel, an assayer's shack, etc. – had been gathered. It was built onto a steep hillside with steep steps (barely visible on the extreme left) led us upwards.

We emerged onto an upper road full of older but obviously well-kept private homes with a splendid view overlooking the valley.

Far off in the distance we saw a large structure. I zoomed in with the camera and saw this:

Whether it was infrastructure for mining or agriculture, we couldn't tell from this distance.

We returned to our car and headed out of town, well pleased with what we saw. You see, this was one of the purposes of our trip: To explore the tiny backroads and towns of the Southwest to find what gems we might find. Pioche was one such gem.

We retraced our path heading downhill south on Hwy. 93, and caught a glimpse of the Cathedral Gorge or a branch of it.

At Panaca, we hooked a left onto Hwy. 319 toward Utah. We needed to make sure we made it to Cedar City in time for our afternoon appointment.

A few miles inside the Utah border, we passed a dot on the road called Modena. The glimpse of old buildings prompted us to pull over, turn around, and see what was there.

It seems Modena had a railroad past, and the splendid remnants of a hotel and general store lingered on.

Whenever I see abandoned buildings like this, I get the irrational urge to restore them to their former glory, even though these structures were long past salvaging.

The hamlet was by no means deserted – across the road from the abandoned buildings, a dog barked at us from a fenced yard in a home that was clearly occupied – but we saw not a soul. Based on nothing more than a gut feeling, was got "unfriendly vibes" from the place. Apparently the Righteous Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. a polygamous sect of Mormons, is based nearby, so perhaps that had something to do with it.

We passed this building on the way out. It might have been a school, it might have been a hotel. It looked well-maintained but we weren't sure if it was still in use.

After this slight discursion, we resumed our trip. The highway number had changed once we entered Utah, so we were traveling east on Hwy. 56 toward Cedar City.

We had an afternoon rendezvous with the only solid appointment we had on our entire vacation: An interview with a young woman named Sara who runs Red Acre Farm. An exploration of her website revealed an intimidating list of farming accomplishments on extremely limited space ("acre" is quite accurate; while she now has two acres, much of what she began centered around one single acre).

Driving through Cedar City (and later the outskirts of St. George) was something of a culture shock after days of navigating extremely remote highways. Don was driving, so we took the opportunity to pull over and let me take over. (Remember, "poliphobia.")

This is Sara.

We interviewed her at length about how she got started, what she grows, how she sells, and other details of her business. She started growing and selling things as young as 14, and her business accomplishments are incredible. There's no other way to put this: she's a prodigy.

After the verbal interview, she showed us around.

Being so early in the season, many plants were still in the seedling stage.

Garlic is a popular item.

This young woman is a towering example of entrepreneurship. The interview we conducted is for a future article, so I won't reveal much more. Let's just stay Don and I came away deeply impressed with her accomplishments.

We left Cedar City late in the afternoon and made our way south on Hwy. 15 as far as Washington, a suburb of St. George. It was jarring to be back in the city. The only reason we headed for St. George is we thought we had to conduct some business there, which turned out not to be the case.

At any rate, we holed up in a very nice (and extremely expensive) hotel room for the night.

Our room overlooked an RV resort. It was fun to watch people come and go from this facility.

As nice as our room was, however, the hallway had the ugliest carpeting I think I've ever seen.

However the hotel personnel were charming. We met a young woman named Lauryn working the breakfast room who was studying music education in college and had an opera-quality singing voice. As someone whose singing voice – ahem – isn't the greatest, I admire those with musical talent.

We left the city and looked forward to our next adventure: Zion National Park.

Second honeymoon, Day 3

Rural Revolution - Tue, 05/21/2024 - 18:41

Don and I enjoyed our stay in Austin. Before we left, he had an interesting conversation with a young woman who worked at the local gas station/food mart, which was right next to the Pony Canyon Motel.

She told Don that Austin has a school, K-12 (there are two high schoolers) and what really hit the town hard was COVID, since so much of the town's income is based on tourism. At the time she was working two jobs: the gas station, and a restaurant. The restaurant went out of business during COVID. They were talking about reopening the restaurant, but the building is so old, they'll probably have to knock it down.

Any services in town are a challenge. The gas station is, literally, the only "grocery store" in town, and of course it's limited to snacks rather than actual groceries. Don asked her where she goes for real groceries, and she said she goes to Fallon, about 90 miles away. (She has two refrigerators and a chest freezer.)

Don asked her, "Do you see any bright spots?" and she had an amazing answer. She said, "There's a geothermal plant that's opening up, so we may see more people moving in for that."

Geothermal plant! We hope, for the sake of the dying town, it actually happens.

Before leaving Austin, Don and I drove around the steep back streets.

Remnants of the town's mining past were everywhere.

A beautiful Catholic church dominated the skyline.

It was built in 1866 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Peering in the window, it's obvious services haven't been held for a long time.

Everywhere we went, we saw otherwise charming homes decaying and abandoned.

This motel on the main street was blockaded off.

Interestingly, while putting together this blog post, Don and I got on Zillow and looked for properties in Austin. Surely in a town of 75 but with unused homes in abundance, there would be ones for sale? But no, there were – literally – no homes available. The only properties for sale were in Kingston, about 16 miles down the road. We found that strange to the point of odd.

Why did Austin capture our interest to such an extent? It's hard to say. But we enjoyed our stay there, and sincerely hope Austin gets its geothermal plant. I'd hate to see the whole town abandoned.

We followed "the loneliest road in America" (Hwy. 50) up a mountain out of town, and stopped at a vista point to see the view. From this distance, Austin looked snug and prosperous.

The weather had also cleared, and we were promised sunny skies for the day.

A short distance up the highway beyond the vista point, we came across a sad memorial.

It was equipped with a seat for contemplation and solar lights focused on the cross. The sign indicated it was in memory of Cole Nicholas Thayer. I later looked him up and learned he was just 22 years old. According to this news article, "The driver of a Freightliner tractor-trailer was traveling at high rates of speed before crossing the double yellow line and colliding head-on with [Thayer's] Ford pickup-truck." The accident happened in August of 2022.

Rest in peace, Mr. Thayer.

We climbed over the Toyabe Range and started seeing scrubby pines mixed in with the sagebrush.

The view from the summit, as always, was splendid, especially under clear skies.

Yesterday's weather had left the higher peaks snow-capped.

From the top of the range, we were able to see the road we were heading for: Hwy. 376 south toward Tonopah.

It was a long stretch of highway through the Big Smokey Valley, where we had one stop we planned to make. Meanwhile, look at this view. This is why it's so magical driving through Nevada this time of year.

We were driving through the desert, minding our own business...

...when something nicked the corner of my eye. Pronghorn!

Don was driving when I spotted these fascinating animals, and he good-naturedly turned the vehicle around and retraced our path until we spotted them again. I'd never seen pronghorn in real life before, and was so excited to see them in the wild.

Often incorrectly referred to as "antelope," pronghorn are in a classification of their own. They're incredibly fast runners – upwards of 55 to 60 mph, easily the fastest animals in North America – but oddly, they're not active jumpers (like deer). To get around fences, they often drop and roll under, even at high speeds.

I crept across the highway, though I know they were aware of my presence. But I got photos!

A few were lying down, doubtless chewing their cud, until I disturbed them.

After a few moments, the herd started running away, though clearly not in much alarm, since they only ran a short distance.

After a couple hundred yards, everyone stopped to watch me.

Not wanting to disturb them further, I left them alone after that. But I was thrilled to see these beautiful animals in the flesh, and grinned like an idiot for hours afterward.

We continued down the highway...

...until our first stop of the day came into view: Round Mountain.

See the ziggurat-like steps? Yeah, that's it.

Round Mountain is a gold-mining location that started around 1906 or so. Essentially the mountain itself is gone, relocated dump-truck load by dump-truck load to form a new ziggurat-like mountain devoid of any of the precious ore.

In fact, the mountain has, you might say, gone into reverse, since it's now an open-pit mine.

But it wasn't the mine itself that interested us as much as the town that had grown up a few miles away, Hadley. The original town of Round Mountain was being crowded out by the mining operations, so in the 1980s, all housing was relocated to a new "company town" – Hadley. Hadley was what we wanted to see. There aren't many company towns left.

The location had spectacular views.

(And the occasional tumbleweed.)

While the term "company town" sounds grim (reminiscent of the cruel situations many coal miners found themselves in, essentially "owing their soul to the company store"), Hadley is anything but. According to Wikipedia, "Hadley has an elementary school, a high school, a football field, a library, an indoor swimming pool, a golf course, three baseball fields, a fitness trail around the gym and baseball fields, a post office, a grocery store, two gym facilities (one with a weight room, treadmill room, and two racquetball courts), a recreational park, a gas station/laundromat, a bed & breakfast, a few churches, a fishing pond, two tennis courts, a community center, a fire department, an E.M.S, a RV park, storage units, a nail salon, horse corrals, a restaurant/bar, and many children's playgrounds."

In short, it appears Round Mountain is doing everything possible to retain its employees by providing attractive family-friendly amenities.

We drove around Hadley, not knowing what to expect. Would it be dismal? Shining? Hostile? Friendly?

In fact, it was a very nice-looking planned community. Most of the homes were double-wide manufactured homes, but they were well-maintained and clearly personalized by the residents. Tellingly, we saw late-model pickup trucks in nearly every single driveway. These vehicles are not cheap. Round Mountain appeared to pay its employees very well.

Here's a Google Earth bird's eye view:

We stopped at the general store and bought a couple snacks (a small bag of pistachios for Don, and a candy bar for me; this becomes important later). The reason to stop at the general store was not because we wanted snacks, but because we wanted to ask a couple questions. The friendly check-out lady confirmed Hadley was a very nice place to live, and that the mine did, indeed, pay exceptionally well and had great benefits.

We came away from Hadley very pleased.

Our next stop down the highway was the town of Tonopah, population about 1500.

As with most Nevada towns, Tonopah was originally a boom town centered around mining. And, as with most Nevada towns, its heyday is long past. However it was thriving far more than poor little Austin, with many stores and restaurants appearing to do well.

Our first stop was the A-Bar-L Western Store. One of our few planned purchases on this trip was a straw cowboy hat for Don (his old one is battered and bent), and the A-Bar-L Western Store fit this plan nicely.

I did notice a number of taxidermied animal heads on the wall, including a pronghorn. Gotta confess, I prefer to see them in the wild.

Hat in place, we visited two remnants of Tonopah's former glory, its two incredible hotels.

The first we stepped into was the Mizpah, "the no. 1 haunted hotel in America." Yes, really.

The interior had been recently renovated and was beyond stunning.

We wandered around, noting some of the amazing details.

On the second floor, we passed an open doorway into one of the hotel offices where several employees were working. We stopped and asked about the haunted factor in the hotel. "It's very haunted, yes" one woman said matter-of-factly, and referred us to another woman who was apparently the expert on the matter.

"Mostly in the basement," she told us, "and upstairs on the fifth floor and on the third floor."

"What happened?" I asked.

"Well, so in the basement we have minors," she told us. "The kids play down there. Third floor is where the kids play most of the time, and on the fifth floor is the Lady in Red. She was murdered right outside room 502."

"You say 'kids play'?" I asked.

"So, there was another prostitute who worked here who locked her kids in the old refrigerator downstairs. The ice box. They died." [Insert exclamations of horror from Don and I.] "So yeah ... they like to take things. They're the most tricky."

A little stunned by this history, we thanked the personnel profusely and made our way back downstairs.

Our next brief stop was in Tonopah's other luxury hotel, the Belvada.

It, too, has stunning interiors.

It almost made us wish we had an excuse to stay in one or the other of these establishments! But alas, 10 am was not the time to select a place for the night. In fact, we already had plans for our destination.

The one thing we did NOT see in Tonopah (due to road construction we didn't feel like navigating) was the Clown Motel (dubbed "America's Scariest Motel") due no doubt to the fear so many people have of clowns.

We headed out of town east on Hwy. 6, passing these sadly abandoned buildings.

More distant vistas, but Don was tickled to be moving toward our next destination for the night.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with ... the Extraterrestrial Highway.

This is Hwy. 375 which starts at Warm Springs. The name derives, of course, from its proximity to the Nevada Test and Training Range, including the infamous Area 51 where, supposedly, UFO sightings have occurred and the remains of a crashed "alien spacecraft" from Roswell, New Mexico are stored and examined.

While we're inclined to take these theories with a huge grain of salt, Don wanted to stay at the alien-themed Little A'Le'Inn Motel, the only place on this trip we booked in advance. What the heck, it sounded like fun!

Visitors had plastered the highway signpost with stickers of various sorts.

Don posed under the sign in his new straw cowboy hat.

This junction at Warm Springs once had its own bar and cafe, long since closed.

It also had, as the name implies, a warm spring which fed a swimming pool, also closed.

I also photographed this bird on a wire above me. Flycatcher? Kingbird? Anyone know?

The Warm Springs junction also had the stony remains of some buildings and a corral, possibly for sheep.

We saw what may have been wild horses (the National Wildhorse Management Area is nearby). However I'm not sure about this. I've seen wild mustangs, and they're usually smaller and browner.

We followed the Extraterrestrial Highway southeast for at least 60 miles (there is hardly any journey in Nevada that isn't epic in scale)....

...until we fetched up to Rachel, home of the (world famous?) Little A'Le'Inn, our home for the night.

Oh, this was a fun place! I always like it when people capitalize in such a good-humored way on a local landmark.

Inside, the bar and restaurant were packed. We didn't expect to see quite so many people out in the literal middle of nowhere. Even more interesting, I don't think I've ever heard such a diverse mix of accents and languages in so small a space and in so short a time. We took a seat the bar and listened to German, Ukrainian, Spanish, and at least two or three other languages. We heard accents from England, Scotland, and Australia. And, from later discussions with the owners and the bartender, this was absolutely nothing unusual.

Everything – but everything – in the bar and restaurant were space-themed, with a cheerful mix of E.T., Star Trek, Men in Black, various alien-themed movies, and many other references.

People had written various spacey messages on dollar bills, which were then pinned to the ceiling.

Accommodations were modest. All "motel rooms" were bedrooms in 1970s singlewide trailers, with shared bathrooms.

But the room was squeaky-clean and very comfortable. And, since not many people were actually staying at the motel (most were passing through, many on their way to the "back gate" of Area 51), we could keep the outside door wide open and let the fresh air pass through.

After we checked in, Don and I returned to the restaurant and had a very good lunch while we observed and listened to the chattering clientele. Gradually the crowd thinned out as they made their way to see various points of interest concerning Area 51.

Then we were informed the bar and restaurant was closing at 3:30 (on Mondays and Tuesday, and it was Monday), so if we wanted anything before then, we'd better order it now. Don and I got a beer/glass of wine (our first adult beverage so far on this trip) and retired outside under the shade of some trees to chat with the off-duty bartender as well as some other customers who were staying.

We spent a lot of time talking with the off-duty bartender outside under the trees, as well as a young couple on their honeymoon (she was from Ukraine, he was from Spain).

It wasn't until we returned to our room that we realized ... no dinner. The restaurant was closed. However there was a gas station a quarter-mile away. We could at least get snacks there, right? We got in the car, dashed down there, and found the woman closing up shop (since it was, literally, three minutes after five o'clock).

Make a note, if we're going to be traveling in remote areas, we need to have food on hand. We had an ice chest, after all, but only had drinks in it. We retired to our room and had our "dinner"  – Don's little bag of pistatio nuts and my little candy bar we'd bought earlier in Hadley.

Later we went for a late-evening walk. Distantly, we saw some lights. These, it turns out, were the lights at the "back gate" for Area 51. All the time we were in the restaurant, we heard people asking directions for this location, so evidently that's where most people ended up.

Here's the signage for Little A'Le'Inn, lit up at dusk. (That's a flying saucer dangling from the end of the tow truck.)

Back in the motel room, we ignored how hungry we were and instead celebrated our alien-themed location by watching "Galaxy Quest" on my computer. ("Galaxy Quest" remains, in our opinion, one of the greatest movie plots ever conceived.)

In the morning (having slept very well), I woke up and was startled to see Don had a bloody wound on his forehead. What on earth happened?

As it turns out, he got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. It was pitch dark. He went through the connecting door to the area with the shared bathroom, turned and walked into what he thought was the bathroom door. It turned out to be a kitchen cabinet, which had been screwed shut. The screw stuck out a bit and he collided with it with his forehead. Ouch!

We took a few more photos of the flying saucer before we left.

(Ironically, I've been to Mystery Spot – depicted on the yellow bumper stick below – when I was about 8 years old in 1970.)

Satisfied with our stay at the Little A'Le'Inn, we set off across the desert for another day of adventure.

Second honeymoon, day 2

Rural Revolution - Sun, 05/19/2024 - 20:23

On Day 2 of our second honeymoon, we woke up to more rain. This was the snatched glimpse of the Snake River as we re-crossed it back into Idaho.

The only reason we were heading back into Idaho was because we were still following Hwy 95 south, and it was only a few miles away from looping into Eastern Oregon.

We passed this store front that startled us both.

Idaho Puppy Company? Really? As it turns out, yes. Here's the website. Kinda gave me the creeps, but whatever.

Along this last Idaho stretch of Hwy 95, the road took us through a series of quiet, charming farming towns. It was Sunday morning and looked like it. As the crow flies, we were only about fifty miles from the huge (to us) city of Boise, but you'd never guess it. Hwy. 84 is the busy east-west thruway that goes through Boise, and it's like Hwy. 95 (north-south) just gets ... forgotten.

Fine with us. This is the town of Parma on a quiet rainy Sunday morning.

A few miles outside Parma, we were startled to whiz past what seemed like an extraordinary pocket of serious wealth, completely at odds with the humble farming towns we had come through. The property has vast manicured lawns, expensive fencing, and a fancy entrance gate. The landscaping alone, we speculated, was a full-time job for more than one person.

We didn't stop, but we caught a glimpse of the name: Tree Top Ranches. Further research revealed the operation involves horse breeding and race training, among other enterprises. If the tone of the linked article are anything to go by, this wealthy family is well-liked in the region because of their "philanthropic efforts and involvement in the community."

We were still in the Treasure Valley, so the land was very flat. The occasional overpass yielded the best opportunity for any kind of vista. (That's the start of Tree Top Ranches on the right.)

In parts of the area, hops are a huge crop. It was like passing through a vineyard for beer-making. The trellises are huge, something like eighteen feet high.

This is the sleepy hamlet of Homedale. Remember, still Sunday morning, still quiet.

After Homedale, the land became far less populated and more agricultural. We were heading for the low range of hills called the Owyhee Mountains.

We were just noticing this pretentious pile on a hill...

...when all traffic (including the oversize load) came to a stop due to road construction.

Once past the traffic slowdown, we climbed through the Owyhee range. They're treeless and dramatic in places.

The summit had to be ground out of sheer rock.

On the other side, however, the views were spectacular.

Don, being a geologist, notices stuff like these rock layers.

This side of the Owyhee range is vast, wild, and undeveloped, except for Hwy. 95 slicing through it.

Or so we thought. A closer look revealed a house below us. Someone had chosen to live in this remote spot.

Here's the gate leading into the property.

Besides, as remote as these hills seemed, we saw range cattle everywhere.

Once over the range, we entered Eastern Oregon. The landscape became dominated by the ubiquitous sagebrush, which would accompany us for virtually the entire trip.

We hoped we were getting out of the rain, but no such luck.

We were entering the territory of vast road vistas.

We also saw dustings of snow not too far away.

It being Sunday morning, we hadn't yet found a place to stop for tea/coffee. However I knew of a spot in the tiny hamlet of Jordan Valley in Eastern Oregon (having stopped there before while traveling to or from seeing my parents).

Jordan Valley is where Hwy. 95 takes a sharp (90+ degree) jog. It has about 190 people and, this being Sunday, most seemed to be at church.

However the Rockhouse was open.

I stopped here for the first time a year ago when Younger Daughter and I were traveling, and there was a literal line of customers out the door. This little place has it all: Great tea and coffee, books, toys for kids, maps, trinkets and tourist stuff, things to look at, local gourmet specialties, etc., all topped by extremely friendly service. Highly recommended.

Outside the building is a signboard with distances to various locations.

It even had a sign for our next destination: Arock (more about that shortly).

At the top of a rocky outcrop on the edge of town, we noticed this star. No doubt it's lit up at night, either at Christmas or possibly year round.

There's something charming about Jordan Valley. It's tiny and isolated, but somehow gives off good "vibes."

Our next stop was the above-mentioned Arock. While researching possible places to see on the trip, Don stumbled across this minuscule spot, located three miles off the highway, and was astounded to learn this unincorporated dot on the map has its own post office. That alone was enough to trigger his curiosity, so we decided to pay it a visit (even though the post office would be closed).

The three-mile drive to the post office took us past a variety of homes, farms, and ranches.

Arock itself was quiet and deserted – not surprising, considering the weather and the day of the week – but seemed a snug enough place.

We passed a school...

...a church...

...a community chapel...

...and of course the famous post office.

After viewing the loose collection of farms and homes in the region, we better understood why a post office was here. Arock is vastly isolated, and doubtless some sort of central location for mail delivery was needed.

We turned to leave town, and were greeted with the site of a huge (or may two huge) burned tree trunks that almost had a statue-esque quality to them:

We also saw this beautiful stone building, now falling into disrepair, that may be part of the hamlet's Basque heritage.

On the way out of town, we passed a park with this prominent monument to Orville "Pete" Fretwell, clearly a well-loved member of the community.

So although there is nothing to "do" in Arock (if you're just passing through, as we were), it's clearly a well-maintained and vibrant little community. Good for them.

By this point our coffee and tea was finished and we were getting hungry. What was harder was finding a place to stop for brunch. We made it down to Rome, Oregon, which has exactly one amenity: Rome Station. But what an amenity it was! Like many businesses serving deeply isolated areas, it offered a little of everything: food, lodging, gas, and a tiny selection of groceries.

We even saw – shudder – an ice cream freezer. It's not that there was anything wrong with Rome's ice cream selection, as much as it brought back an unfortunate memory from our first honeymoon.

Slight diversion as we go back 34 years ago to just after our wedding. Don and I had driven around the southwest for two weeks for our honeymoon then, reluctantly, turned around and to return home to our respective jobs. We stopped for gas at a remote station somewhere in Nevada, and each of us purchased an ice cream from one of these freezer units.

Within an hour, Don knew he had food poisoning. I stopped the vehicle every few miles through the vast Nevada desert for him to violently empty himself out both ends. After hours and hours of this, we limped into the town of Ely and checked into a Motel 6, where I spent the night on the floor and he spent the night moving between the bed and the bathroom. The next day, I drove a sixteen-hour marathon shot straight home. He was weak as water for days after, and we jested that we had tested the "for better or for worse" part of our marriage vows sooner than anticipated.

As a result of that long-ago experience, we jokingly/seriously promised ourselves no ice cream anywhere on this trip. We stuck with that promise.

Anyway, enough discourse into the past. Rome Station had a reasonable menu, good food, friendly service, and decent prices. Well worth a stop if you're in the area ... especially since there is literally nothing else around.

After Rome, it was a lot of trekking across endless sagebrush desert. This may sound boring and uninspiring, but in fact the high desert is beautiful.

It's trackless and undisturbed, and – if you're of an introverted nature as we are – it's easy to see why early prospectors were lured deeper and deeper into the solitude of the sagebrush.

At the Oregon-Nevada border lies the town of McDermitt.

It's a scraggly place a long distance from everywhere and barely hanging on by its fingernails. Its one claim to fame, apparently, is it boasts the longest climatic record in Nevada, with data beginning in 1866.

We passed a so-called "moving sale" that looked about as permanent as it could be, but it certainly added local color.

On the edge of town was the Rocky View Inn (with bar and cafe) which looked conspicuously closed.

And that was all there was, apparently, to McDermitt. As a town, I hope it makes it.

Back to more high desert, with snow dusting the distant mountains.

We passed an area of sand dunes, somehow unexpected.

After an hour or so, Winnemucca hove into view.

I've been through this town several times while traveling to visit my parents. It's a literal oasis in a vast area of nothingness. It's actually a rather charming town of about 8,400 people, and my experiences here – however transitory – have been positive. However this time, when Don and I stopped for gas, I used the women's restroom, which was the filthiest toilet I've ever had the misfortune to experience. Ick.

Out of Winnemucca, we briefly got on Hwy. 80 east toward Battle Mountain. The weather continued to threaten rain, but the mountains started getting closer.

A small playa, flood from the recent rain.

Battle Mountain is a sleepy and agreeable little town of about 3700. We stopped to stock the ice chest with some ice and drinks, then headed south on Hwy. 305 toward Austin, our destination for the night.

Once we got on Hwy. 305, the scenery improved dramatically. I'd forgotten how mountainous the interior of Nevada is. Geologists (remember, I was driving with one) call this the Basin and Range, which is just that: high mountains punctuated by utterly flat and broad valleys. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

But it's beautiful in its way.

We thought we were out of the rain, but squalls still dotted the horizon.

Somewhere along this lonely stretch, we came to a deserted stone building on the side of the road and stopped to explore.

It had an easily breachable barbed-wire fence around it, but of course we didn't cross it. Instead, we noted the small flags along the fence posts, and one large and battered one on a pole.

Despite its deteriorating condition...

...the craftsmanship that went into its construction was impressive. Just makes you want to fix it up, doesn't it?

Later in the day, we saw a few other similarly deserted stone houses at distant locations, and speculated they must have been shepherd's crofts or housing for similar occupations.

The view down the highway from the building was splendid.

The area in front was marshy – that's standing water in the foreground – so perhaps the inhabitants of the building were guarding range cattle.

We continued on our way to Austin, admiring the scenery as we went. Interior Nevada is really quite stunning, especially at this time of year before it gets too hot.

Austin is almost bull's eye in the center of the state, and it's got an air of desolation and decline about it, although we were cheered by the sense of humor of its signage.

Here's a skeleton perched on top a saloon – a very active saloon, I might add.

A flock of chickens and a cat occupied a stray lot across from our motel, which I found charming.

We got a room at the Pony Canyon Motel: squeaky clean, reasonably priced, and with extremely nice proprietors who had been running the establishment for something like 30 years.

At their recommendation, we walked up the street to a restaurant for dinner. The town had a beautiful western look to it, though sadly many (but not all) of the businesses were vacant.

We wheezed and panted as we walked uphill to the restaurant. We're not in that bad a shape, and it took us a while to realize we were at elevation 6575 feet. That thin air got to us!

The restaurant was called "Grandma's" ("Austin's living room").

I'm not normally one who takes photos of food, but this was worth it ... and it tasted every bit as good as it looked. As with everything in Austin, the service and staff were terrific and prices reasonable.

At dinner we saw a few groups of working-class men enjoying their dinner. Clearly everyone knew each other. It was nice to see everyone greeting each other by name.

On the way back to our motel, we noted deer lingering near a building.

They were at the scruffy stage of change from their winter to their summer coats.

This was a house on a hill overlooking the main street. We thought it might be abandoned, but later saw a man grilling dinner on the large black grill in front.

The Wikipedia page for Austin says the population was 167 in 2020, but a woman we spoke to at the gas station – born and raised in the town – said the population was more like 75.

Obviously the town was once a lot bigger and more vibrant (as many as 10,000 people during the 1860s), but its boom times didn't last long. Mining kept it going in the past, and there is still some sporadic mining today. Attempts at capitalizing on tourism – the town boasts its location on "the loneliest road in America" (Hwy. 50) – had evidently come and gone.

Yet we liked Austin. We liked it a lot. A whole lot. The people were cheerful and enterprising, resilient and entrepreneurial.I told Don that if I had a zillion dollars, I'd rebuild the town and renovate all the buildings. To what end, he asked? Yeah, he's right. Renovating buildings won't bring the people back.

This banner on the edge of town somehow seemed fitting.

But there may be hope for this charming little remote place. I'll explain in the next blog post.

Second honeymoon, Day 1

Rural Revolution - Fri, 05/17/2024 - 20:00

Well here we go on our second honeymoon! Don spent several days prior to our departure accumulating a variety of our camping gear. While we planned to stay in motels along the way, the rental vehicle had adequate cargo space that we could bring a tent, sleeping bags, and other camping accouterments, just in case we found ourselves stranded or unable to locate lodging.

Originally we planned to rent the car on Saturday and leave Sunday morning, bright and early. But Don was eager to hit the road, so we left Saturday afternoon. We traveled south on Hwy. 95, past Moscow, past Lewiston, past Grangeville. The first stop we made was White Bird Hill Summit, which has a dramatic view. I'd seen it before on my trips down to see my parents in Southern California, but Don hadn't seen it.

There's a road off the turnout, and we traveled down it a bit just to see what we should see. As it turns out, there's a lodge up there. How cool is that? And what an incredible location; although at 4,245 feet, I imagine they get snowy in the winter.

Here's another view of the canyon. Notice a little whitish dot down the slope in the lower left corner.

I zoomed in with the camera.

It was the remains of a car or pickup, obviously decades old. We suspected someone had driven off the road in an inebriated state and rolled hundreds of feet down the very steep slope. I certainly hope the occupants survived. That's a long way to roll.

A prettier sight was the wildflowers. On the hillsides, the yellow arrow-leaf balsamroot was in full bloom (you can see the clumps on the distant hillsides, as well as the blooms closer to the road).

We also saw clusters of Indian paintbrush.

It's hard to do justice to the view, which stretched for miles and culminated in snow-capped peaks. According to our map, this region is called the Gospel Hump Wilderness.

We followed the Salmon River south. (Sorry about the squashed insects visible on the windshield.) The hills started to hem us in, closer and closer.

Here's a mine (the square black hole) across the river.

The scenery was beautiful, in a barren sort of way.

We passed through the tiny town of Riggins (population about 415), where the time zone changes from Pacific to Mountain time. The town is located in steep-sided canyons at the confluence of the Salmon and Little Salmon Rivers, and is primarily devoted to water sports. To attract the myriad tourists that come through, the town has a snug, tidy feel to it. It was Saturday afternoon and the place was packed with trucks pulling horse trailers, with a heavy law enforcement presence. What was going on? As it turns out, the town was hosting the Riggins Rodeo, which explained the crowds (and the horse trailers).

Past Riggins, the terrain became more treed, and we climbed in elevation toward New Meadows. As the name implies, it's absolutely a beautiful area, with lazy streams crossing meadows hemmed in by trees. Gorgeous. (Sorry for the poor photos.)

The road names we passed implied very old and well-established farms and ranches, with family names no doubt stretching back generations. There wasn't much to the town (which only has a population of about 500), just what it takes to service a rural community.

Further down the road we passed through Evergreen, which is not so much a town as a company.

Seriously, the highway bisects of one of the biggest logging yards and lumber mills we've ever seen ... and being in Idaho, we've seen a lot.

After Evergreen, we wound through the Payette National Forest downhill, until we rounded a curve and suddenly saw the Treasure Valley ahead of us.

As we drove through the valley, we kept hearing pattering on the vehicle windshield. We knew rain was expected that evening, but it wasn't raining yet. What was causing the sound? It wasn't until we pulled over to stretch our legs and change drivers that we noticed the incredible number of dead flies and mosquitoes on the front of the vehicle. Ah, mystery solved.

We'd hoped the rain would hold off, but by late afternoon as we crossed the Treasure Valley, it began moving in.

Lots of cattle in this area (the black dots).

Our destination for the night was Ontario, Oregon. Why this town? It's because it's one of the few places we could cross the Snake River. The Snake is a fascinating waterway. It goes through such a remote and steep canyon (the famous Hells Canyon) that it has, literally, something like a hundred-mile stretch that is unbridged between Lewiston and Ontario. How cool is that? Here's a blurry shot I snatched in the evening rain as we crossed.

We holed up in a motel in Ontario for the night, and ordered pizza. The poor delivery guy came to the door in the pouring rain, so we made sure to give him a generous tip.

Day 1, dear readers. Stand by for more.

Confession time

Rural Revolution - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 15:42

Dear readers, I have a confession to make: Don and I haven't been home since May 4. On that day, we left on a sort of second honeymoon. With the cows coming in at the end of the month, we knew we had a "now or never" window of opportunity to take a trip before we tied ourselves down with livestock care.

So we toured the west and southwest, similar to what we did on our first honeymoon (although this time we wisely rented a car). We didn't announce this trip in advance because we didn't want to advertise that Older Daughter was home alone.

We're pretty wiped at the moment since we just got home, but expect some blog posts over the next couple weeks retracing our steps and seeing what we saw through the medium of the 1,253 photos I took (I counted!).

Now we have to slam to get fencing and other infrastructure done before the cows arrive. But yowza, it was a good trip.

Stand by for details!

Camouflage art, come to life

Rural Revolution - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 04:58

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, an artist named Bev Doolittle suddenly exploded in popularity on the art scene.

Her paintings are beyond cool. Mostly western-themed, she specializes in "camouflage art," such as her most famous painting called "Pintos":

Or here's one called "Doubled Back":

I mention her work because the other day, we saw our very own Bev Doolittle scenario.

This is a small grove of black hawthorn trees we have on the edge of our property.

We were walking on the road when I noticed something unusual in the rocks at the base of the trees.

Here's a closeup.

Camouflage art, come to life. I see how Bev Doolittle gets her inspiration.


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