Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day Trip to L.A.

So close, yet so far away...I literally never go to Los Angeles, the first big exception being a couple of weeks ago when I joined some friends for an all-day excursion. Our destinations: Bergamont Station in Santa Monica, specifically, Hiromi Paper International; and the Fowler Museum at UCLA to see "Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley." Above, an art car at Bergamont Station, site of many small art galleries and the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

Hiromi is a tiny store packed with handmade paper from all over the world. I came home with treasures for future handmade poetry books: above, Thai banana paper, background; from left, Red Walnut from Cave Paper and two sheets of Mexican Amate Solid. Below, from left: orange and tan Yucatan (huun) paper; Bhutan Jute and Bhutan Dekar; and Indian Khadi.

After a fine lunch at the Bergamont Station Cafe, we were off to the Fowler--a place we never would have found without Tobi, who knows L.A. like the back of her hand. As you can see, it was a perfect spring day, but it was certainly no sacrifice to spend an hour or two taking in an amazing exhibition of African masks and other ceremonial paraphernalia--plus video footage of various ceremonies ca. 1960s and 1970s.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Route 66 Near Amboy

On our trip to Cadiz a couple of weeks ago, we traveled on the old Route 66 for a short stretch east from Amboy. We knew there was stuff to see there from a book my cousin Roger recently sent us, The Complete Route 66: Lost and Found by Russell A. Olsen. Thank you, Roger--this is is a fabulous book! Olsen covers the entire route, and each featured spot has a photo from the past alongside one from the present.

Our first stop was Road Runner's Retreat, nine miles east of Amboy. This was a restaurant and gas station that opened in the 1950s. According to Olsen, this spot was extremely popular with truckers. The new interstate bypassed this section of Route 66 in the 1970s, marking the end of an era. The roadrunner art on the former restaurant building is surprisingly intact.

Next we stopped at Chambless Camp, a real old-timey spot that dates back to 1932. In its heyday, it had a service station, cafe, grocery store, and cabins. Today there is not much to see--the property is fenced off and vacant, though Olsen says that the cabins are sometimes rented to workers in Cadiz. The property is tidy, and someone is definitely keeping those tamarisk trees pruned.

El Clampus Vitus has put a plaque about Route 66 along the route right across from the Chambless buildings.

The view from here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cadiz Ranch

Last weekend we attended an event at Cadiz Ranch to benefit Sky's the Limit Observatory and Nature Center. The ranch is located off the old Route 66 just east of Amboy, about an hour and a half's drive from home. Signs like the one above point you along the way. It's out in the middle of nowhere, with dark night skies ideal for the astronomically inclined.

Cadiz Ranch is an unexpected oasis in the desert--an organic farm with hundreds of acres planted to lemons, table grapes (which are dried on the vine for raisins) and row crops like squash. The view above is across the rows of squash--that green wall in the distance is the beginning of over 300 acres of lemons.

The vineyards were first planted in 1986. What makes all this abundance possible is a gigantic underground aquifer. Seven wells pump 2,000 gallons a minute, 24/7. Hard to believe we have so many water problems just 90 miles west of this site. And get this: all of this pure water comes out of the ground geothermally heated--around 90 degrees. Apparently the plants love it, especially in the winter! There are plans in the works for Cadiz, Inc. (a NASDAQ-traded company) to construct a pipeline and sell this water to the rest of Southern California. Note: this would be a really bad idea. For information about why, click here

The event consisted of ranch tours, a barbecue, and various astronomy displays and viewing scopes. JPL scientists were on hand with a life-size replica of the Mars Rover. Above is the ranch briefing office, event central. (BTW: Event parking was on an airstrip next to the briefing office.) Below is Bill looking through a sun scope that provided a detailed view of the sun's surface.

Out of the Blue, a bluegrass band from Lake Isabella, played some outstanding music. We went to this event with around a dozen friends and had a wonderful time--brought home some free lemons, too!