Saturday, November 5, 2016

ROADTRIP: Roger Williams Park

Soundtrack for this roadtrip: 96.9

Since Roger Williams Park is so close to me, it might not technically qualify as a roadtrip, but if you're not in the Providence area, it's definitely worth the trip.
More photos

On more than 400 acres, you'll find some serious New England beauty -- especially this time of year. Fall color hasn't been the greatest -- the poor trees around here were decimated by gypsy moths (I'm not sure if they tried to do anything this year, but they've been a scourge since last summer) and a series of storms has taken many of the remaining leaves -- but you can see where this park would shine no matter what the season.

One reason this felt like a roadtrip to me was because I'd wanted to visit Roger Williams Park every time I passed the exit. I knew there was a zoo, and Providence friends have told me there are trails, but I didn't realize until getting the meeting location for the New England Carnivorous Plant Society (NECPS), there's also a Botanical Center.

Although I will go back for the many other attractions in the park, the Botanical Center would have been my first stop regardless, and it didn't disappoint. The NECPS has a carnivorous plant bog in the Botanical Center -- the first permanent installation I've seen. The center also has a wonderful collection of "house plants"; I wonder anew every time I see these home store staples in a much more natural setting. I rarely have more pleasure than when I'm reminded that the most commonplace things shine beautifully when they aren't removed from their place in nature.

The park also houses a museum and planetarium, a carousel and swan boats on one of the copious ponds. Be very careful of runners; honestly, the setting is so gorgeous, getting distracted is easy.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

ROADTRIP: Rhode Island Circle

Soundtrack for this roadtrip: America's Test Kitchen

Because my commute in Nevada was as long as the whole state of Rhode Island, I tend to think getting anywhere doesn't take long. But yesterday I had several fun choices, and decided to make a roadtrip out of the day. And because of the way Rhode Island is shaped, I went through two other states.

My original plan was to head to a park in Westerly, and then stop by Newport on my way to a presentation in Bristol. I didn't realize how much longer it takes to go south to north by way of the peninsula, so my route was altered somewhat, but I still ended up making a big circle and hitting everywhere I wanted to go, and seeing most of Rhode Island. The trip ended up being almost exactly 100 miles. My original probably would have been fewer miles, but again, I didn't look at the times before I left. Ignorant.

The first stop was Wilcox Park in Westerly, one of the southernmost towns in Rhode Island. The town is gorgeous, and in the middle is the Westerly Public Library and Wilcox Park. The University of Rhode Island Master Gardeners host tours of the gardens and arboretum pretty regularly, and this particular tour was a look at the Champion Trees. I should have been taking notes, but of course I was too busy taking photos, so I know some of these and none of the flowers (that's later in the month).

So, going up and around the Bay through Providence and back down to Bristol, I attended a meeting of the New England Carnivorous Plant Society, and a presentation by a wonderful young man from Harvard who is researching the coloration of pitcher plants. I have often wondered why pitchers or traps are different colors, often on the same plant -- research is ongoing. I also came home with a new baby -- Drosera spatulata -- whose name cracks me up. Whoever named it is my kind of literal. The meeting was held at the Rhode Island Audubon Society, a beautiful facility that's now on the list for whenever my mom visits. I'll probably be tired of seeing wild turkeys by then, but maybe not. They're pretty funny.

The drive from Bristol to Newport was the most beautiful, leaving me with some notes about where to hit again, including Wyatt Road and the Common Burial Ground -- a network of graveyards in Newport that seem to be segregated by religion (something I hadn't really realized about graveyards until my grandmother's funeral a couple of months ago). There are graveyards everywhere here, and I can't wait to start documenting the ones I see -- and figuring out how to take better photos of them.

Getting home from Newport, another beautiful old town I need to explore more, included crossing the Newport Bridge and lighthouse sightings -- another relic in abundance here, which I can't wait to explore more.


Route map

Sunday, March 22, 2015

ON THE RADIO: Answer Me This!

As the Answer Me This! jingle says, you can ask Helen, Olly and Martin any question and they will -- or attempt to in the funniest way -- answer it. Sometimes the answers seem researched and sometimes it seems like there's a lot of guessing going on, depending on what category the question falls into. Of course, funny is the point here as much as answers, and that's always delivered. This one is definitely rated R for language and subject matter, so adult roadtrips only (or when the kids inevitably fall asleep).

Thursday, March 5, 2015

DEATH VALLEY: Sand and household cleaning products

Looking at the picture on a box of 20 Mule Team Borax is one thing; standing next to a seven-foot wagon wheel, imagining the animal power needed to haul the thousands of pounds the wagon this wheel is attached to would hold, is quite another.

Every once in awhile, it's fun to stand in a huge open space and contemplate how the hell people did shit before the internal combustion engine.

Luckily sodium tetraborate is kinda just laying around on the ground out here, but still, there was mining and packing and hauling to be done with little or no motorization. And all in heat most of the country never experiences. Heat that has death associated with it.

The teams (actually mixed mules and horses) hauled 20 million pounds of borax ore in 16-foot wagons made of solid oak, weighing almost 8,000 pounds empty. The wagon trains consisted of three wagons, two with borax and one with water. They would pick up supplies along the way, left for them by an "empty" wagon train coming back the other way. Each wagon train was 180 feet long and managed to get about 17 miles every day. Basically, sheer will got borax out of that desert.

The mule teams were only hauling borax out of Death Valley for about six years, from 1883-89, until the railroad could be built to carry the powder. But the image was so powerful that the Pacific Coast Borax Company put mules on the box, where they still haul borax today -- for Dial.