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.

Monday, February 23, 2015

ROADTRIP: All roads lead to Virginia City

There are always attractions where one lives that residents view with disdain: too touristy, too expensive, crowded, no parking. The way Southern Californians view Disneyland, Nevadans the casinos, or Londoners everything in the city 100 years or older. I feel this way about Virginia City, and am surprised when everyone who lives where I do (i.e., anywhere in the West) doesn't feel the same way.

After a Fourth of July there two years ago -- in which The Boy had an uproarious time laughing at everywhere not having what I wanted to eat -- I swore I never needed to go back. Which is why now it seems to be a hilarious thing to have every weekend roadtrip somehow end up there. Every back road and Jeep trail in western Nevada leads to the freaking place! Last weekend, an innocent trip to Fort Churchill ended up rolling into VC from the east, and then this weekend we managed to find out way there north-ways from Fernley (and visited the Lagomarsino petroglyph site on the way back). And I have to say it's growing back on me a little, especially since they do have good barbecue.

But I do still enjoy listening to my roadtrip partners grouse about the parking.