Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Homesick Already

I realized these past few weeks that, while I will miss New York and the friends and the food here, what I really do feel homesick for the most is Maine, and only really when the weather is nice.  Like most other visitors, I'm really not into the idea of spending a winter there.

I took a quick trip up to say some goodbyes.  I packed, as one might, for "April in Maine" weather.  April is usually what we call "mud season"- it's slightly warmer than winter, which makes a nice icy mud to stomp around in.

Not so much when I was there.  I never imaged that I'd get beach days in April, and I had to scramble around looking for things to wear that weren't heavy woolly sweaters or head-to-toe rain gear.

I love the fact that every time I visit home, I get to do fun things like drive a pickup truck around to the gardening place and a guy comes with a tractor and will fill the truck bed with dirt.  Then I get to go and shovel the dirt into the garden, mix it with peat moss and throw in some fat worms.  Wheee!  That's the most fun ever for a city girl.  Or, uh, maybe that's just me.

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The parental unit and the +1 was more than happy to let me go to town on this.  Seedlings got started, trees got mulched, the dog got a much-needed bath and I started in on an epic farmer's tan.

We took a nice walk in the woods.  This is in an area with a lot of old granite quarries, so there is always something interesting to explore.  It was pretty heavily forested as well, but now the woods are thick and most of the wildlife has returned.  The dog scares most everything away, but there are lots of deer, fox, raccoon, skunk, porcupine and fishers if you are quiet walker and have open eyes.

The fiddlehead ferns were almost ripe for the picking.  I love these things.  I'm always astounded by the prices in New York- every spring, I spy them at the markets for ridiculous amounts of money.  They are free if you're near a swampy area and know where to look.

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They are tasty, especially if you saute them up with a bit of salt pork or bacon fat.  They taste similar to asparagus.

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It was still too early there for there to be a lot of songbirds, but we did see signs that a woodpecker had been nearby.

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Just a word of warning- the ticks are horrendous this year.  The winter wasn't cold enough to kill them off.  We found several just while we were in the back yard.  The dog, who goes willingly crashing through low brush, is the worst hit.  Nightly checks are essential.  Hopefully, with the return of the songbirds, the tick population will suffer.  It makes it hard to enjoy the woods when your skin is constantly crawling.

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Monday, 23 April 2012

One more Vegas post for you....

How could I leave you off without a visit to the fountains at the Belliagio?  It really overdoes it- the lights, the music, the thunderous jets of water.  I love it.  

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I like the bizarre hidden spots in the big hotels.  Obviously, in the Flamingo, there is a Flamingo Garden.  It's a bit dilapidated and it smells like a water-bird enclosure might.

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And yes, like every other person from New York to come through here, we went to Rao's.

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It was overpriced, good but not great.  Kind of a letdown.  At least I went to Rao's once in my life though!  There were quite a few restaurants that were New York mainstays, but we managed to find a few good places.  The Cosmopolitan Hotel has quite a few.  As much as my travel companion wanted to, we didn't go to the Excalibur for their turkey legs and jousting.  You can do that in New Jersey!

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There was also a rockabilly convention going on while we were there, and there were lots of good greased pompadours and sweet vintage cars to check out.  The vintage clothing marketplace was amazing.  I have pictures somewhere.  I have to go deal with customs forms and pain and suffering now, but maybe I'll dig them up later.

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Friday, 20 April 2012

Hoover of the Damned

I don't think pictures really capture the enormity of the Hoover Dam.

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It's just not possible.  

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I know nothing of engineering.  I'm sure that if I did, the mystique would not be lost.  If anything, I'm sure that I would be more wowed.  

Viewed from the perfectly placed Pat Tillman Bridge is the only place where you can grasp the scale of it.  

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Although I would recommend going early in the morning if you don't want the bridge's shadow in all your shots.  Alas, Ansel Adams I am not.

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The Dam was constructed 2 years ahead of schedule, during the Great Depression.  It's 720 feet high and 660 feet wide at the base.  

On the Nevada side, the pathway to the Dam is marked by two identical Deco-style bronzes.  

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Giving the statue's peds a rub is said to be lucky.  The bronze has worn smooth from the millions of newly lucky visitors.   

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Over 100 workers died during the construction.  Apparently, none of them are actually entombed in the dam's concrete.  

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The chalky white line around the canyons of Lake Mead is a 30-year old high water mark. Confusing:  Arizona doesn't have daylight saving, so for half the year you will be an hour behind yourself just for crossing the bridge.  Both sets of the intake towers has a clock letting you know what time it is in that state.

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A nice dose of pure Americana to make my imminent departure all the more bitter sweet.

Red Rocks

I know I've gone on about this before, but I love the desert.

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I will amend my previous statement to include the fact that my love is conditional.   I love the desert when it's nice and cool out and you might feel the need to wear a light sweater.  None of this 100 degree nonsense.

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We took a nice trip to Red Rock Canyon, just a short drive outside of the city of Las Vegas.

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It's a Bureau of Land Management area, meaning we had a chance to see some wild horses or burros.  We saw signs of them (and tried not to step in it) but no such viewing luck was had.  We did see plenty of birds and tiny lizards, but it was probably too late in the day to expect any really good wildlife viewing.  Hello, no one gets up early in Vegas.  It's against the law.

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I love the color palate of the desert- the muted silvery sages and shades of gamboge to salmon pink.  The unexpected pop of wildflowers crop up here and there.

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There's a 13-mile loop road through the park that begins and ends at the visitor center.  There are plenty of places to stop along the way to hike or take in the view.

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We headed for an easy trail through the valley that ended up at a waterfall.  By waterfall, I mean a rather refreshing trickle of water splashing down on the rocks below.     

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There was also some petroglyphs nearby.
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See them?  It was hard to get a good picture with the sun high in the sky at that point and the barricade telling me I can't get any closer.