OSF. The heart Of Robin Hood

OSF. The heart Of Robin Hood

Golden Gates

Golden Gates

Morning on top of mark

Morning on top of mark

Avenue of the Giants

Avenue of the Giants

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013. Ashland- Jacksonville

The rain started at night. It was badly needed; it washed - finally - the smoke from the air, which is now crisp and clear; there are still puddles on the asphalt, and more clouds are gathering in the east, but it is still blissfully warm.

We took the backstage tour, which was as always, fascinating. Our guide today was Eduardo Placer, a young actor of Cuban origin who has just joined the OSF this year. He plays Guy of Gisborne and Bishop of York in The Heart of Robin Hood. I also saw him in "My Fair Lady" - he was one of the four dancer/singers.... He daces well... And as Gisborne, he stands out in that cast. Of course, John Tafts is delightful as Robin Hood, but ... I am still mourning the absence of Eddie Lopez...

After an almost 2 hour-long tour we drove to Jacksonville. We were very lucky to arrive just in time for the trolley tour, which is indispensible when you are visiting with elderly parents - or, in my case, a friend with a swollen anckle.

Our evening performance is "The Heart of Robin Hood." It is staged in the Elizabethan theater, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it would not rain. The forecast says rain and thunderstorm at 8 p.m.!
It might add to the performance, though. We are determined to see it anyways - we are lucky to hold tickets to row L, which is the last one covered by the balcony; row K gets rain on your feet, and closer then that - you are open to the elements...

I love the opening scene to "Robin Hood" -John Tafts performing some aerial acrobatics in a hoop on the second floor of the stage - he looks moody, sort of the man on the moon...

Saturday, August 24, 2013. San Francisco- Ashland.

I could not sleep this night, and instead I perched myself by our window on the 16th floor of Mark Hopkins and just watched the  city and the bay. It seemed that there were lots of other sleepless souls - the hum of traffic, occasional sirens and beeping, horns sounding over the water and lights, lights, lights everywhere.

In the morning we saw the city in a different light. From the Top of the Mark we could see the fog lifting and the sun flooding everything in a soft golden light. It was a pity to leave... but we had to be in Ashland by the evening.

The road to Asland was blissfully uneventful. We drove through fields and hamlets, stopped in maxwell to admire the gorgeous stagecoach - I wish the museum were open! Sadly, many fields stood brown and dead - wilted sunflowers and stubby dry stalks of corn, miles of these. Mount Shasta barely had any snow. As we rose higher, the drought seemed to abate. The clouds were gathering on the horizon when we approached Weed.

Ashland was somber, wrapped in clouds. We took a short stroll down the main drag - and then watched "The taming of the Shrew" at Angus Bowmer theater. This version was stylized after fifties fashions and today's technologies and sensibilities. Petruchio was a tattoed guitar-playing rocker; Katarina was a tattoed scream-fest working in her Daddy's hot-dog stand. Bianka was hilariously retarded, and Tranio as played by inimitable John Taft stole the show from Lucentio.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013. San Francisco.

We started the day well – with a fantastic breakfast on top of the Mark… One could choose from two types of omelettes, three types of smoked fish, dim sum, waffles, French toast, curds, porridge, you name it! My favorite is their fruit smoothie.
After breakfast we went on a city tour. Our guide, Malcolm, spoke some Russian, and was very pleasant. He also spoke Italian, and the tour was in two languages. Good for me – I suddenly remembered a lot of forgotten Italian words… It was a very different tour from what we had with my parents – the bus was small, there were only 5 of us, and we could go to less touristy places. I was happy to see the house of Janice Joplin, for example. I really enjoyed the Alamo square, and my husband loved the City hall square with it majestic, imperial architecture and large open spaces.
We were also happy with the bay cruise – we passed under the Golden Gates bridge and could see infamous Alcatraz from every angle. But the most exciting part was to watch the show run of gigantic catamarans on the bay. Later we walked through the America’s Cup grounds and took some photos of yachts, boats and schooners.

We  walked along Embarcadero, went through the Fisherman’s Warf Market, crossed the business center and slowly made it back to our hotel. As luck would have it, Lyuda twisted her ankle stepping out from the bus – and walking was quite painful for her. We got elastic bandages in a Walgreens next to the hotel and kept our fingers crossed that there was no serious damage. Now she was awarded a title "Lamefoot Sibirian"... (Chromonozhka Sibirskaya).

Thursday, August 22, 2013. Crescent City - San Francisco

We got up early and ate our breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant. When we were just checking in, they handed us a hotel card with the number of persons eligible to eat at the hotel’s expense on it. Believe it or not, but they did request that card – and actually took it from us… What if you decide to stay longer? And then again, why would you decide to stay longer in Crescent City?
The breakfast itself was plentiful. The only tricky part was that the waitress was to bring you a big plate to be filled up at the smorges bord…And our waitress gave us two plates for three people. Well, I had to straighten that. The ambience is a surprising one: it feels like you are permanently frozen in Christmas time: wood panels, Christmas lights – and even fake Christmas garlands around the perimeter.
It took us about 15 minutes to get to The Trees of Mystery in Clamath, California. Paul Bunyan was still greeting visitors like two years ago. It was still cold and misty. The trees were still tall and mysterious, like they were supposed to. We went up the sky trail just for the fun of it, even though the view was concealed by the mist. It gives you the feel for the height of the trees, though.
Next stop was in Trinidad. The wind was mercilessly cold. We almost ran into the shelter of the seaside restaurant. It welcomed us with the din of many voices, fire in the fireplace, and the aroma of  home cooking. We ate clam chowder and fried halibut… Hot tea and honey…  And then the sun came out! We went back to the pier and watched the fishermen feeding gulls and sea lions with leftovers… The sun painted the bay with deep green and blue; the fog burned off and suddenly we could see the rocks jutting out in the bay – some shaped like fantastic animals… and dozens of small fishing boats…
From Trinidad we drove about 40 miles to the entrance to the Avenue of the Giants. The most exciting thing about it is that one can actually walk in the forest. We ran about, climbed fallen trunks, measured gigantic sequoias, took tons of pictures and had fun!
We passed Benbow Inn and got more gas in Garberville. Here Ivan got behind the wheel. We still had about 200 miles to go. The road was not very easy, it cut through the mountains, and had too many sharp turns to my liking. Eventually we made it to Mendocino county, and drove among vineyards and small sunny towns.
We crossed the Golden Gates Bridge already in the dark.  The toll gates now use only electronic tolling – we were a bit shocked, but hey – Seattle has “Good To Go” system on 520 bridge, too. Driving in the dark on a Friday night in San Francisco is an adrenalin rush enough for anyone, and I would not call my husband an adventurous person. And Mark Hopkins sits on top of the hill! We were very happy to get rid of the car and collapsed on our beds.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Seattle-Crescent City

This is the longest stretch we will have to face this trip. With two people driving, it is quite tolerable. But beware if you are driving alone: from Grants Pass to Crescent City the road is narrow, windy, and extremely precipitous.  You have to be well rested – and by all means, try to make it before dark!!!
We introduced Lyuda  to American rest areas. She was very happy to find out that one does not need to relieve herself in the Nature; now she understands why grandpa calls these restrooms “upside down restaurants” or just restaurants.
We had a picnic in a pleasant rest area between Eugene and Roseburg. As true Russians, we had baked salmon, fried chicken, eggs, potatoes, stuffed eggplants, two types of cheese, mayonnaise, butter, Ciabatta bread, cucumbers, blueberries and Coca-cola. Was it easy? Well, according to our friend Adrew Kriegel: ”Whose life is easy nowadays?”
After Eugene the air became oppressive, there was so much smoke from the forest fires, you could barely see the hills around. We felt dizzy from so much carbon dioxide; I was beginning to feel for aliens who would have to breathe foreign atmosphere.
There were lots of police patrols everywhere, and they were all occupied; still, lots of crazy people continued driving way above speed limit or way below… Lyada told us that in Russia, impatient drivers constantly  zooming from one lane to another are called “chess players”. There were plenty of those. One drove barely two feet behind us, demonstrating how slow ad dumb we are; finally, he passed us on the right – and, alas, got stuck anyways between the car in front and a truck on the side. He gained probably 10 feet of the road… Let him tell the trucker how slow he is.
It was no sooner then 30 miles to Crescent City when we felt the air was beginning to clear  up; it was also getting cooler. The forests rose on both sides of steep mountain slopes, there was a mountain rivers on one side, and dark looming cliffs on the other side of the road. Encouraging signs like “Danger! Rock slides!” etc. kept us – at least me – rather awake.
And the, without a warning, we drove into the redwoods forest. Suddenly we were dwarfed by the black trunks of the gigantic pines. I had to stop! We had to take pictures!
Crescent City laid just at the exit of the National park. It is a dismal looking grey little town with lots of trailer parks, hotels and Mexican restaurants. When I asked about historic buildings, the young clerk at the counter giggled nervously and explained that all their historical buildings were washed away by the tsunami of 1962, and the embankment and bouleward were washed away by the tsunami 2 years ago. All that is left are piles of concrete. Work is going on, but it would take some time… What they still have, though, is worth seeing – a small historical landmark, a lighthouse at the Battery point. It was about 2 miles away from our hotel, and we just walked there and back. The colors of the early evening were absolutely surreal: just shades of gray and a touch of very dark somber green: fog from the ocean, steely waters, silvered floatsome on the shore and dark, gloomy, tortured pinias…
It was low tide, and thousands of birds were looking for food in the intertidal zone, with much flapping of wings, cries and screehing; gulls, herons, sandpipers, cormorans, pelicans, all loudly protesting an attack of an osprey.
We took a lot of pictures… Came home, ate, swam in the swimming pool (indoor), and collapsed.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013  Grandmother’s birthday

We took Lyuda to see the most iconic tourist spots: we made it to the top of the Space Needle, we walked through the sculpture park, we had lunch at the Anthony’s restaurant, walked along piers to Pike Place Market, and went back by monorail.
As a result we were 40 min. late to grandma’s. There were reasons for everybody to be unhappy. Grandma thought we forgot about her; my husband and son were unhappy that Grandma decided to add her best friend Nadya to our group, Grandpa was unhappy hat I did not want to order wine ( 92 bucks per bottle, thank you very much), I was unhappy that my Mom was giving a public show to unwilling and captive audience. In the end, I solemnly swore this is the last time I am paying for something like this.
We came back and proceeded packing up for the trip. I barely slept…

Monday, August 19, 2013. Lyuda arrives in Seattle

OMG!!!! My best friend came to Seattle! We have been friends since our first day at school in 1963!!!! 50 years!!!
We got her white and pink roses and drove to the airport. She was very happy to arrive on time. It appears that Delta refused to assign her a seat on the plane from Amsterdam to Seattle till the very last minute; shaken, but happy, she fell into our arms . We drove through downtown on Aurora, we showed her our home, her new quarters, exchanged presents and talked. Surreal!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday, August 12, 2013. Ely, Nevada.

It took us about 4 and a half hours  to reach Ely (ee-li) from Las Vegas. The road led us through the desert at the average elevation of 6 thousand feet. There were salt marshes and fresh lakes and brooks, marked by trees and shrubs, and very dry areas, as desolate as a moonscape. Near Ely we entered a Humbold National forest, consisting of hardy, stocky short junipers. We did not stop to eat (ther were only 2 dismal-looking rest stops - and there were no gas stations. We were lucky to make it to our destination with 3 gallons of gas still left.

Ely is one of the most forgotten small American towns. It has a few streets, a few casinos, and a few mom-and pop businesses. Plenty of gas stations and motels, though. they are mining copper here, so I guess there are lots of truckers passing through.

We were recommended a small restaurant "Silver State" - family owned, very simple, but the food! Oh, the food was delicious! Dad and I had ribs!!! We shall eat those for the next three days, I imagine...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013. Las Vegas

One of the main attractions at Bellagio are the mosaic-tiled pools. There are warm, cold, hot pools for any taste. I would probably never have enough of those…

The pools are open from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m. They do ask to show your room card at the entrance, and then you are completely taken care of. You can get as many towels as you want. You do not need to give them back, just leave them on your lounger. You can order a non-alcoholic beverage or a cocktail; there is also a pool-side café if you are hungry.
We stayed at the poolside till half past 2, and then left because it was getting a bit hot.

Today we ate lunch/dinner at the buffet, after which Grandpa said: “To the circus, you will have to roll me. Of course, people might be slightly shocked; on the other hand they might assume we are part of the act.”  I agreed: I had snow crab leg, turkey, prime rib, self-created salad, lox, flan and chocolate mousse. I could not eat a morsel more even under a gun.

We walked to the Mirage through Cesar’s palace and then watched “Love” at the Mirage at 7:00. Unfortunately, our consierge gave us wrong time for the show  - 7:30. It was just sheer luck we came there at 7:05. They collected more strugglers like us and let us in at 7:10. Our seats were on the balcony, and it was a somewhat different perspective then the first time I saw this show. This time I could see what was going on above the canvas that they spread over lower rows. The bed with the kids goes up almost to the ceiling, and then the canvas billows like waves of an ocean. Next, aerialists descend from the ceiling, and an image of the yellow submarine is projected on the waves. The end of the scene is spectacular, with the canvas mushrooming upwards, and then collapsing with the bed and actors into the pit and darkness.
My favorite act today was “Lucy in the sky with diamond”. I still love Mr. K on the swing, but my heart stopped to watch his act. I was glad when it was over. And, of course, the trampoline acrobats in “Revolution” are fun to watch. Grandpa loved Julia’s act, and Grandma Mr. K.

I am wondering if we shall be hungry tomorrow…

Saturday, August 10, 2013. Sedona - Las Vegas

I am sitting in our room in Bellagio - gorgeous room, nice view, awful internet service. But - let's not talk about sad things.

We left beautiful Sedona early in the morning, about 9:30. It was easier to drive down this winding road then it was going up. I already remembered the tricky narrow parts, and went super slow.
In some stretches of the road there was barely space for two cars to pass, and the most dangerous thing was that some people rounding the corner drove in the middle of the road. Luckily, that was only for  about 6 miles. After that we just drove through the sunny, dry pine forest, spread over gently sloping hills, a very Russian kind of countryside.

After Flagstaff we basically drove 75 miles per hour on interstate 17 through Arizona's high plateau. At first we could see pines, then pines became shorter,  interspersed with brushes. As we went lower the ground became more and more dry, and  cheerful woodland gave way to the desert. Before long we saw nothing but sage, yuccas and Josua trees. Closer to Hoover Dam the rocky hills rose barren and gray. From one of the scenic stops we could glimpse a stretch of Colorado river, and later passed by lake Mead. Hoover Dam also marks the border between Arizona and Nevada. Lots of people were walking across to see the dam.

Immediately we could see casinos everywhere - in Boulder city, in small towns, and lo and behold - 15 miles away from Las Vegas we could already see the giganic hotels of the strip. We drove safely to the main entrance, got valet service and a porter and proceeded in style to our room on the 27 floor.
I even managed to make it to the pools for a good long swim.

Today I took my parents to see Aria-Vdara-Crystals complex. Last time they visited Las Vegas these buildings were still under construction. When I visisted last, they were so brand new, there were hardly any people. Now the complex is teaming with crowds of people, some art chaged (for worse), Elvis is gone, his show is replaced by Zarkana, and even his effigy is banished. Too bad.

After late dinner I left mom and dad to rest and just walked around, soaking in the sights and the sounds of this exciting place.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday, Agust 9, 2013. Sedona, Arizona

Today we watched the sunrise from our balcony. Fantastic sight!

A blissful day by the pool... Grandma spent 15 min. sunbathing and declared that she got a sunburn.
But - I was prepared: I had lidocain burn relief lotion!
By 2 o'clock she revived enough to go on a tour. We got lucky: there was only one more person with us on the tour - a charming black lady, a pediatric nurse from New York. We got on a very small bus, and our guide Steve drove us around on the narrowest roads to really nice places one would not even suspect existed behind all that tumbling forest. We went down to the creek at the bottom of the canyon, and then steadily climbed up to see views from all the famous vantage points.

We used the shuttle service (2-3 bucks tip is expected) to get to the village below. We went to eat dinner at Ken's Creekside cafe. The terrace in the back where we sat is, indeed, above a creek. The food was good and abundant. I had a Margarita with cactus juice (yum!) and mom and dad tasted local beer. All in all - a good day!

Casas de Suenos, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Aug. 7, 2013

The Night has embraced me with soft purple whisper
acacia boughs and myriad lamps
cicada, a childhood friend, brightly chirping
keeps close by my side in the pool of soft grass.
I am on an island: my chair, my computer,
a round glass table
we float away
no sadness, no parting, no tears for departed,
no memory, loss, no deceit, no regret;
I follow the clouds that streak the dark surface
of warm southern sky and I drink in the sight:
unreal, mysterios, casas de suenos,
a dream of a girl that is lost to the Night. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013. Albuquerque - Sedona, Arizona

I wonder who calculates trip times on Trip Advisor... I say, one should always add a couple hours to their calculations. First, there are always parts of highways under construction/reconstruction/improvement, with speed limits plunging to 55 and sometimes to 25 miles per hour. Next, people need food and restrooms, and cars need more gas.

We left Albuquerque with sadness - Casas de Suenos treated us to a very nice breakfast, with main dish custom made - we chose omelets... We looked again at the art on the walls and in the garden and said goodbye to Julia, our hostess. (Who, by the way, studied in Finland).

We drove through dry empty land, slightly sloping down. Pale green shrubs and red clay, with occasional outcropping of striped red rocks. It was hard to stay awake, so Grandma got a task to talk to me. She was up for the challenge!

The last 20 miles were the most trying. The road was winding and twisting at insane angles. Grandma was swearing that this is her last trip. But the views were astounding! We arrived in Sedona at 4, and immediately went to the pool. We had our lunch on the way, and here we just snacked on the terrace, enjoying the gorgeous view.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013. Albuquerque, New Mexico

This is the table where I am writing this entry. It is around 11, and there is a very slight breeze, which feels good after the dry scorching heat of the day. Next to me there is a small fountain, its soft mumbling mingling with the song of a cicada; so warm, so lovely...

I am in the Casas de los Suenos; it is a small boutique hotel, whose owner is a dedicated arts collector. Each room, each nook and corner both indoors and outdoors is filled with art: paintings, watercolors, prints, sculpture, some maybe too modern and some maybe painted in the 40s of the last century...
I love it all. I am drinking in this summer night, the stars that so rarely could be seen in Seattle. The closest to the feeling - I  am 15 and I am  back in Tashkent.... 

Back to the road trip: I hardly noticed the road to Albuquerque - it took us less then an hour. We arrived to our hotel around 11, but they took us in immediately - the rooms were ready. We got a short tour of the hotel  and a little art talk... Our suit is called I-66. It has a kitchen with a gas stove, full size refrigerator, a coffee maker, a kettle, plates, cups, silverware...

The sitting room has a TV and a sofa bed; the other room is a bedroom with a queen size bed. There is a closet for suitcases, and a bathroom. Everywhere one notices little art pieces - traditional tiles in the bathroom, hand woven pillow cases on the couch, original paintings on the wall.

The Old town is about 300 feet away - literally, one crosses the intersection of the Central Ave, walks to the end of a small block  and turns right: old town! Here you gasp entering the plaza and facing San Felipe Cathedral for the first time. The screeming bright colors overwhelm you: the deep indigo of the skies, burning yellow of the walls of the cathedral, intense green of the trees and accents of red, turquoise, white, orange everywhere - cheerfully painted window frames, bundles of chili peppers, embroidered blouses, shiny glazed pottery...

We wondered in and out little patios that brim with art galleries, little chapels, small cafes. Dad got a metal flask that says New Mexico, and Mom got two hand woven Navajo pillow cases that look like they could have been made in Turkmanistan. We had lunch/dinner at the High Noon restaurant. The building dates back to mid-18th century. Food was excellent, ambiance - beyond compare. 

I also managed to run through the Art Museum, worth seeing!

Later we took a car ride about the city - we wanted to see the downtown, some real houses... what are the schools like, the streets, the office buildings... It was a good thing - now we understand that Albuquerque is a normal big (1,200 million people) American city. When you are in the Old town you forget all about it - and are transported 200 years back.

One and only disappointment: the ABQ trolley was not working till August 13. Their web site is impossible to navigate, you hit "page cannot be found" at every step; their telephone is not a way to communicate - you can only hear when they do not operate. Oh, well... we survived!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 Santa Fe

Today we took a city tour. A small open trolley circled an 8-mile long web of narrow streets. Our guide was Swedish, with a French wife. (I have yet to see an American in Santa Fe. And I do not mean Native Americans, for there are many.) I find it a perfect way to start getting familiar with a new place. Let a professional tell me about the history and interesting facts.... one thing I have learned : in 1912 the city issued an ordinance that no building should exceed 3 floors in height - so they would not be taller then the main cathedral of St. Frances de Assizi. Also those buildings should preserve traditional adobe Pueblo style. A gallery owner complained that when her artist painted a mural on the gallery's wall, the city made them destroy the artwork. After the tour we took a  walk around the town, taking in sounds, smells, sights... We spent some time inside the Basilica - in the La Conquistadora Chapel, that houses
the oldest image of the Virgin in the US. It arrived to Santa Fe from Spain in the end of the 17th century and is believed to have helped to regain mutinous city without violence.

We had a nice lunch in The Atomic Grill - there was nothing atomic except tattoos on the arms of our waiter/server/cashier who spoke with a heavy British accent. Luckily, he was not the cook, and the food was delicious.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday, August 5, 2013.

Today we drove from Mesa Verde to Santa Fe (about 280 miles) - it took us about 6 hours. The slowest and the most challenging part was the descent from Far View Point (8 250) down to the gates of the park (7 000). We immediately felt better - dizziness and nausea were gone. I remembered how dizzy I was in Mexico City until we climbed the Sun Pyramid. Our guide explained that strenuous exercise fills blood with oxygen. I did climb down to the Ciff palace, so I was feeling better, but mom and dad had hard time breathing.

We stopped in Aztec for gas and icecream, and then followed I-160 to I-550. We had lunch in Cuba, that is, dad and I had lunch, and mom threw a fit. She decided she wanted pepsi, but when dad got coffee she wanted his coffee. Dad gave his coffee away, but mom announced she would not eat or drink at all, because we  torture and disrespect her. We ended up throwing coffee and her food in the trash.

When it was time to turn to I-25 our GPS system trew a fit just like grandma. It made us wonder around country roads, making u-turns. It appeared it does not recognize roads under construction. We made it after 3rd try. Then it made us pass Santa Fe - instead of exit 284 it urged us to exit at 290, 14 miles past the city, then made us  do a u-turn.... We were happy to have maps and written directions.

By 5 we were in our room in Garret's Desert Inn. I went on foot ( alone) to explore. Old santa fe is really charming, but somehow slightly fake, like Disney Land. Too many restaurants and and too many jewellery stores, I guess. On the other hand, on the left from our hotel stands the oldest church in the USA, built in 1600...

We had dinner in a charming open-air cantina on the roof of an old adobe building. I ordered beer for my parents which put them in a good mood. And I... I had 2 Margaritas. I felt I deserved those today...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Today we watched the sunrise from the top of our mesa. Mom and I stumbled out into the darkness and walked hrough a prettyish little wilderness in front of our cabin. I thought about rattlesnakes, but I also thought about cool pictures one could take. Pictures won. We were rewarded for our dedication by the stunning celestial display of gradual shifts from cold pale violet to rich buttery gold...

I walked around the lodge grounds and it was all dejavu- pioneer camp Geolog, 45 years ago... same dry warm fragrant air, elevation, shrubs and precipitous slopes, and long, long vistas.

In the afternoon we joined a guided bus tour around the most important sites of the cliff dwellers. The Ancient Pueblo people (Anasazi in Navajo language) lived here from 100 BC to 1200 AD. They started on the mesa top, hunting, domesticating corn, beaans and squash -  and turkey - and eventually creating hundreds of small settlements along the cliff sides. Some were small, and housed one big family, others - up to a hundred people. With the drought in the 1200 the settlements were abandoned and the people moved to Rio Grande valley, eventually mixing up with local tribes.

One can easily spend a week here - there are plenty of guided hiking tours, some extremely challenging, some less. I did my own hike to the Cliff Palace. It was not too strenuous, but rather exciting - the carved in stone passages, roughly hewn stone steps and breathtaking views are fascinating by themselves, but then you turn around the corner and --- a-ah! the whole gigantic complex of structues is glowing in the afternoon sun as if truly one enetered the lost city of gold.

The story of the cliff dwellers is somewhat similar to the story of Maya civilization - depleting soils, erosion, deforestation, loss of water, game... The studies showed steady decline in the diet of cliff dwellers who once ate elk and in the end consumed forest rats. Instead of juniper wood  they burned sage...

We finished our day in style - we went to the restaurant and had some delicious food and local beer!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

August 3, 2013. Salt Lake City - Mesa Verde, Colorado

I could not help myself - I had to venture out for a walk in the Salt Lake City. I knew we have to leave for Mesa Verde as early as possible, but... And so, after an early breakfast I ran along familiar streets. The only difference from 2009 are the finished hotels facing the Temple Square. it is still warm, sunny, dry air fragrant with so many flowers everywhere.

There were at least 8 weddings in process in the Temple's yard.The mormons believe that a wedding in the Temple means a union for eternity. So, they are busy there.

This time I was fortunate to visit the  historical Beehive house, the residence of Brigham Young, the founder of the city and the prophet of the church of LDS. That was a highlight! The tour lasted 20 minutes. Two absolutely charming young girls - they call themselves sisters - took us around the house that boast every luxury a Victorian home had to offer. The formal dining room and a music room, beautiful personal quaeters of Brigham Young and his wife, a nursery, a parlour, a library, a kithen, etc. Some of the wooden furniture was handcrafted by Young himself, who was a trained carpenter. An interesting detail: there is a smallish bell near the front door above the entrance to the sitting room. Brigham Young used it to call his family together twice a day - for conversation, discussion of plans and prayer. To the point that he would drag officials and merchants to his home in time for the evening meets...

We left firendly Mormon capital at 11. By 4 we were up on the hill at Crescent junction at the same spot where we stopped four years ago with Larissa.... I took a nostalgic picture with the willows, they are still there...

We could not resisit a temptation to glance at the Arches -  and so we drove through through the park for an hour. Then - to Moab, I needed gas. The main drag changed quite a bit. Mexican restaurant now is a sports bar. Ice cream palour where they served hand-made icecream is replaced by an Italian restaurant, only the chequered tables reminded us our favorite spot. We still had ice-cream in a small coffee shop on the other side of the Main street.

By the time we entered Colorado it was already evenong. I rushed as much as I dared to make it at least to Cortez before the sunset. We were lucky: we made it all the way to the gates of the Mesa Verde park before the nightfall. GPS gave up on us at that point. It does not know about the Far View Lodge. There were no friendly rangers at the gates, and no signs. We stopped at a camping site and inquired at the store there. A kind soul, a waitress explained to me which turn to take, told me not to worry, not to hurry and gave me a hug. We still had 11 miles to go. I was actually glad to drive in the dark, as I could not see the precipices openingon both sides. Adrenalin did wonders to mt parents: mom's cheeks were positevely glowing. By 9:30(!) we finally made it in complete darkness.

A super-helpful young man at the desk - he happened to be  a Bulgarian, Georgi, told us encouragingly that some guests arrive as late as 11...

Well, I am certainly glad I am on a bed in a cabin. I took two pills of Valerian root and fully intend to not dream about serpentine roads and endless  orange road work markers.

Friday, August 2, 2013

August 2. Boise, Idaho - Salt Lake City, Utah

After the storm, the morning was crisp (59 degrees) and clear. We decided to take a walk about the central part of idaho's capitol city. We visited the Capitol building that has a small exibition about the state, its history and prominent citizens. What I have discovered was somewhat disconcerting: Idaho belonged to Native Americans according to the treaty sighned in 1861. By 1863 white settlers flocked to this country attracted by the rumors of gold. And when gold was really found, there was no stopping the settling of the land. Even the US army could not prevent settlers from illegally moving in, building permanent housing - and mining! In a couple more years US government de facto assumed Idaho is US territory and who cares about Indians? Two more years and Idaho territory became three states - Wyoming, Montana and Idaho....

One of the largest groups to settle here were Mormons. They were frowned upon by folks of other  faith and ... several laws were made to prevent Mormons from voting. The last remains of restrictive legislature against Mormons were  reversed only... in 1984.

Boise is also home to the largest Basque communty outside Basque territory in Spain. We walked past their cultural center, and  friendly Basques were trying to make us come in .... They have a museum, a cultural center, and a whole block of late 19 century structures that is called Basque quarter.

We left Boise at 11, and immediately faced stark dry hills that  keep rising all the way to Rattlesnake pass. There were very few villages, with at least 40 miles in between - in small valleys where they could get water for artificial irrigation. We crossed the Snake River at least 3 times... hence the name, I imagine. On the other side of the pass there was a bit more vegetation, mostly grasses and twisted, gnarled, stunted junipers. We made a stop close to Utah's border, and I ventured out into the juniper grove lured by the sticky aroma of conifer pitch I remember since childhood - oozing in the dry heat, the needles, the tiny fruit and the cracked bark  needles emanated peace and happiness. Too dry, though.

We arrived to Salt Lake City around 6. The hotel - Double Tree Suits by Hilton - welcomed us with fresh artesan cookies. Delicious! This hotel looks like a transplant from Hawaii - or Cancun. The  same plan - a circle of rooms surrounding an inner courtyard with a fountain, trees, plants, tables.... a restaurant, plus conference spaces. They have a nice small swimming pool and spa.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 1, 2013 Kennewick-Boise

Kennewick as a city does not entice a traveller; Kennewick Best Western Plus is a horse of a different color: super friendly, they even served guests complimentary dinner of soup and hot dogs. Premises are  spacious, with nice furniture in rooms and in lobby/breakfast room. Our refrigerator was not working well, they... changed it! Installed a brand new one within 15 min. after I spoke to the reception desk! They also have  a great (and warm - 80 degrees) swimming pool where you can actually swim laps... a swimming pool that does not stink of old chlorine...

I spent a blissful morning swimming in peace and solitude... Then - a fantastic breakfast ( I had to take a picture: waffles with freshly made strawberry jam, scrambled eggs and bacon, hashbrowns, uffins, etc.
I finished my breakfast with fresh grapefruit slices.

What was sorely lacking is tourist attractions. Even though the famous Kennewick man was discovered well, here, the remains are in Smithsonian. The small museum is supposed to have some amazing petrified trees floor - but the hours are 12 to 4 pm. Hardly helpful!

We left Kennewick at 11. The gusting wind chased us up the slopes of the approaching Rockies. Then the lightning soundlessly ripped the sky. And then torrents of rain came down from heavens like the great biblical deluge. I could barely see the road. I could not let my parents see how worried I was, so I just continued talking to them calmly, and gradually slowed down to 55 and changed to the right lane.
Passing cars were making it almost impossible to see, and the road that was steadily climbing was flowing with rundown waters. It felt as if we were swimming.... Then a brief respite, about an hour, past Powers in Oregon. We stopped at 2 o'clock at a rest area, but were forced to leave quickly because of the  storm  wind. The rain again caught up with us the minute we stepped into the car. The next hour I was again driving in a grey haze of rain, whipped up by the passing trucks into a dirty mist.

The rain left us on the border of Idaho. We crossed into a well tilled, beautifully laid out farmland, with fields of potatoes, wheat, corn, and sugar beats as far as your eye could see. Here everything looks cleaner, newer, more expensive then in Oregon.  More traffic. Last 22 miles to Boise we drove on a 4 lane highway (one way, and 4 more the other way) in heavy traffic.

Boise met us with a dust storm. It settled don by night. We can't complain: we are staying at Hampton, and they have a salt water pool... Mom and I went for a splash...

I love these movies!

  • The Fall, directed by Tarsem
  • Amelie, directed by Jean-Pierre Jennet
  • Lord of the Rings, directed by Peter Jackson
  • Moulan Rouge, directed by Baz Luhrman
  • Moonsoon Wedding, directed by Mira Nair
  • Australia, directed by Baz Luhrman
  • Despereately seeking Susan, directed by Susan Seidelman
  • Miss Pettigrew lives for a day, directed by Bharat Nalluri

Favorite books and authors

  • Boris Vassiliev, historical novels
  • C.Cherryh, Morgaine Sagas
  • Ch.Dickens, The Bleak House
  • George Martin, The Chronicles of Ice and Fire
  • Gregory Frost, Shadow Bridge novels
  • Heinrich Mann, Henry the IV
  • J.R.R.Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
  • Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma
  • Robert Jordan, The Wheel of Time
  • Sir Thomas Mallory, Le Mort D'Artur
  • Ted Williams, Green Angel Tower
  • Terry Goodkind, Magician's First Rule and the following books in this saga
  • Thomas Mann, Joseph and his Brothers