Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Germany Bound

Headed to Germany in a few hours. Dusseldorf/Cologne. Going for Paul's photography show. Then on to Zurich for a few days to see some friends. Looking forward to my first time in the Cologne (Koln) area. Stay tuned.

Some photos from rooftop Berlin (October 2010) below. Looking forward to seeing more of Berlin in the future, and more of Germany in general. Get in touch with my German heritage...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cherry Season

It is cherry season.

The cherry is the state fruit of Utah. Many varieties of both sweet and sour cherries are grown here. 2 billion harvested annually. Another reason to like this place.

We moved to Salt Lake City last year into a house that has two cherry trees in our yard (and a small pear tree and two apple trees). Last June/July we were fortunate to have an amazing crop from those two trees. I picked the ones above right around this time last year - a little early as they continued to ripen for another two weeks. But they were still good. Last year for an Independence Day cookout I made cherry crisp with fruit from the trees. It was so good. I plan to make a lot of that this year. I still have frozen cherries in my freezer from last year's crop. Here is an interesting document about cherries, including tips for freezing, canning, drying, etc. them from the Utah State University Extension Program.

The cherries in my yard seem to be ripening a little later this year. They are still turning red. About another 10-14 days is my prediction - perfect because we will be back from our trip. Then I will be drowning myself in cherries.

Cherries are one of my favorite fruits. Where I grew up in Pennsylvania there were many fruit orchards, including cherries. When I was a teenager I picked cherries one summer for a job, briefly, because it was a fun way to hang out with friends and make a little money. It was A LOT of work for very little money. You got something like 10 cents per bucket - I can't remember the exact amount, but trust me, it was pitiful. It was a lot of work to fill a bucket. So, we were doing it more for the fun and the experience than the money. I have memories of being on ladders up in the cherry trees and cherry fights around the orchards. Fond memories.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spotted just now in the backyard

So cute!!

I thought we missed all the quail babies because they were already out and about and fairly big by this time last year. We haven't seen any babies this year until I just looked out my home office window into our back yard and saw this couple with one tiny little baby. They usually have a lot more babies so I wonder what happened to the other ones. I hope this little chick will survive.

Paul Hadley's Ambervision: Road Trips and Americana

Images photographed out of focus, resulting in dreamy, cartoonish landscapes that can look more like watercolor paintings than photographs. He calls it Ambervision.

Most photographs taken while driving behind the wheel of a car on some road trip adventure, typically in the western United States.

No images altered with photoshop - just the luck of capturing an image at the right moment and the right angle, with the setting just enough out of focus to retain the image, but give it the dreamy, water color feel. And all of this while behind the wheel, speeding down the road.

Check out a small sample of photographer/artist Paul Hadley's work on his website: www.paulhadley.com. More work will be posted on the site in the future and for more information, please contact the artist via his website.

He has a show - Road Trip - opening next week in Dusseldorf, Germany at the So What Gallery. You can find more information about it on his website or the So What Gallery facebook page. 

My Scenic Byway will be headed for Germany next week to attend the show and support my man. If you find yourself in the Dusseldorf area, please join us. The show opens on June 30, invitation only, and then opens to the public on July 1.

My Scenic Byway - Paul Hadley, 2008 - Limited Edition Print

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Morocco Memories

For some reason I thought about Morocco yesterday all day. A big memory from long ago on My Byway. Years ago (1997-1999) I worked with a solar energy company that was started up in Morocco. I was based in Washington, but I spent a lot of time out in the field. Our headquarters was in the capital, Rabat, and we had field offices in Sefrou and Taza areas out near Fez.

Morocco is a very beautiful place, but I never felt a love for it. I liked it, but I felt like I could take it or leave it. I did not feel a passion and connection there like I have felt in other places like Kenya and Sri Lanka. Perhaps if I had just gone for a brief vacation where you see all the highlights and stay in nice hotels I would have felt differently. But my experience came from spending weeks at a time there, several times a year, over several years - always for work and always with work people. It was a very stressful and intense time for me and I learned a lot. I have so many stories from that work experience and time in my life - some weren't very good or nice. Here are just a few memories that came to mind today about my experience. For some reason all of these memories just flooded into my head today. I haven't thought about Morocco or those times and experiences in a very long time.

Unfortunately all my photos are hard copy only and I don't have access to a scanner right now, so the photos to accompany these memories will come later.

When I would go to Morocco, my trips would be for several weeks at a time. I was very lonely during that time. I usually traveled over there alone. The staff were all nice, but would all go home to their families at night and I would be alone in the large house where we had our office. As a young foreign, blonde woman I did not feel comfortable going out and walking around Rabat by myself. I wasn't afraid, it was just that it would have been overwhelming and annoying - the catcalls and staring and harassment were just too much.

My french speaking skills were at their best at that time, but it was really challenging to work and be in that environment. The culture was very different. People would speak French and then blur into Arabic and I don't speak Arabic so it was really frustrating to keep up. And I never could master business writing in French.

I liked Rabat. It was a mellow city on the ocean. I never spent much time in Casablanca. I got to drive around to many cool places in Morocco for brief work trips. I spent my honeymoon there (an earlier marriage). I really loved Marrakech, Fez, Agadir, Meknes, but the small town of Ifran was my favorite. The Atlas mountains are rugged, huge, and amazingly beautiful. I remember the roads and the driving. The driving outside of the cities on the rural roads was particularly crazy. The aggression and the speed and the constant passing of cars and animals and people was insane. Driving there was often like one big game of chicken - you would pass as many cars as you could in the other lane while a car was fast approaching. It was madness. I remember there were dogs everywhere and they would always sleep right on the edges of the roads.

Our office in Rabat was in a large house in a very nice residential neighborhood. We had our office downstairs and we would stay upstairs in one of the bedrooms. The American Embassy was across the street. On the weekends, the loneliest times, I would sometimes catch some sun on that roof because it was private. I would listen to my CDs and stare at the goings on over in the Embassy compound. I bet the security situation changed a lot with that embassy since those days.

I was usually alone in the house when the staff would go home in the evenings and I would cook dinner for myself - usually scrambled eggs and sauteed zucchini and mushrooms, with bread and "la vache qui rit" cheese that I purchased from the one large grocery store in Rabat at that time. I would eat dinner in my room watching the only English language channel available on the television - Turner Classic Movies. I watched a lot of great old films during my work trips to Rabat, including finally seeing Gone with the Wind for the first time.

There was no central heating in the house, just a few space heaters. Even with a space heater in my room, sometimes I would be so cold at night during the winter that I would have to sleep in many clothes, blankets, hats, gloves. The rooms were so big, with high ceilings and stone floors and large uninsulated windows that the space heater did little good. I remember one night jogging around the house up and down the stairs (we had many levels) to get warm. That was not fun. Then I remember feeling the hottest I've ever been in my life one time out in the Taza area visiting some of our customers during the summer months. I remember driving in a truck with the windows down and the hot air blowing on us felt like a giant hot hair dryer. I drank water constantly, but still did not urinate for 24 hours. That is a sign of some serious heat and dehydration.

Once I had to spend the night out in a rural area at a customer's house with our whole team - some Moroccan and some American and all of them guys except for me. Moroccan living rooms typically have a large couch that goes all around the room, enabling many people to sit in the living room, and in this case enabling many of us to all stretch out and sleep on the couches. That was a long and weird night. In a hot room with all of those people, one talking and yelling in their sleep, feeling weird (never unsafe, but just weird) as the only woman there.

Our main driver had been working with the head of the company for many years. This driver lived just down the street from our office. His wife and her sister cleaned the office/guest house and did some cooking - coffee and lunches for staff. She did henna on my hands and feet once. One day there was this huge argument between the head of the company and her and she was fired and kicked out. I learned that he believed she had been putting things into my food. A reference to black magic and spells was tossed around. I was really freaked out. I never got any details. To this day I don't know if what she was accused of was true, and if it was whether her intentions in using magic on me were for good or bad. The driver was always a really nice little old man. I remember learning years later that he had passed away. Its weird when you find out that someone you worked with is no longer alive.

There was a Chinese Restaurant downtown that we would frequent often for lunch and a Belgian chocolate shop that I loved. You could walk to both of them from our neighborhood. I would get chocolates for myself and the office.

I loved the Moroccan mint tea. We would go to visit rural customers and they were always very hospitable, inviting us into their homes for tea or sodas or butter milk (which I do not drink). I loved the Moroccan food (the tagines, the couscous, the bread), but I would grow tired of it during long stays. I got violently ill once (on my honeymoon of course) from eating meat at one of the roadside joints that work friends took us to. I loved to walk in the market in Rabat, but the smell and the sights of the meat section of the market with all the lamb heads and parts and organs, was very hard to stomach.

Once while walking in that market with a really bad, bad American man who used to work with us (those of you reading this who worked with me know of whom I speak), a group of kids came running past us and in the blink of an eye they had stolen this man's passport out of his jacket pocket. I could not believe how fast it happened and how slick they were. I guess what goes around comes around sometimes. He was a mean man.

Thinking about all of these things has created an interest and a desire to return to Morocco to see it again after so many years and changes in my life, and purely as a tourist, not as someone trying to run a business. Also my husband has never been there and I would like to share that place with him. I guess I need to add it to my list of Byway places for future visits. Have you ever been to Morocco? What did you think of it?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

Happy summer solstice. Today is the longest day of the year. And it feels that way.

If you are a reader of my blog you know that most of what I write about is travel adventures and travel information. I write about other things too, but I typically do not just write about my day or my week, but if you will allow me a wee little whine today...

I should be happy. My life is basically really, really good. But I am having one of those blah days. You know you have them too. We all do. Actually I've been having a blah week. I blame a nasty tooth infection. And being doped up on pain medication for 10 days. This is why I, who typically blogs every day, has barely written over the past two weeks. The great news is that the infection appears to be FINALLY clearing up, I am FINALLY out of pain and I am FINALLY off the pain medication that while mildly pleasant still never completely took away all the pain and made me want to lay listlessly in bed or on the couch and watch episode after episode of Hoarders.

All of that caused me to basically lose a week. Now I am behind on work and not feeling the motivation I need to crank and catch up. I still want to lay in bed and watch Hoarders. And I am nauseous from the second antibiotic I am taking now - some crazy scary medication that I think is reserved for weird tropical infections and other hardcore nasty stuff. The warning label says long-term use of this medicine has caused cancer in mice and rats. Fantastic.

I have so much work to do that I can't deal with it. I am majorly lacking in motivation right now. And I can't afford to really be this way much beyond this morning. The nice thing about working from home is that if for some reason you can't get your work done in the morning, well you could always do it at night. You can do it any time, you just need to get it done. But, again, I want to run to my bed and watch Hoarders. For the rest of the day. Maybe the rest of the week...

This stupid infection screwed up all of my travel plans too. I was supposed to go to Liberia a week ago for work and then on to Germany for vacation. I was really looking forward to getting back to Liberia and working with our team on the ground. I am sad I couldn't do this trip. Now I probably won't be able to make it back to Liberia until August as my July is all booked up. And this means I have to do all the work I was going to do over there remotely, interacting with our team on Skype and email. I do it all the time, it just makes it more time consuming and less effective. I love telecommuting, but it is good sometimes to be able to sit down with people face to face. All of this has been demotivating to some extent.

Part of my listlessness is probably  due to the fact that I am still coming off of this infection and a week of taking more pain pills than I ever have in my life, and that I haven't exercised in weeks and weeks. I am wondering if my joints and muscles still remember how they are supposed to work? I would love to go for a walk, but I can't risk getting my blood pumping and inflaming the tooth.

Isn't it crazy how much havoc can be wreaked from one tiny tooth? As many have said to me over the past week - well messing with the teeth is a form of torture. Remember Marathon Man? I was living my own version of that. I kept thinking about that movie Castaway with Tom Hanks where he is stranded on that desert island and during that time he gets an infected tooth and it is so painful he has to knock it out with the blade of an ice skate. Just thinking about it makes me shudder, but yeah, I would have done the same thing. You can't ignore tooth pain. I am grateful for modern medicine and dentistry. Grateful for pain medication. I think one could probably have just died from an infection like this if you didn't have antibiotics and pain medicine. What a stupid way to go.

In spite of it all I have also been very, very grateful that this tooth thing didn't come on mid-flight to Liberia or in Liberia. I don't know that I could find a dentist in Liberia. You can barely find a doctor. I think they would have had to fly me to Europe for treatment. That would NOT have been fun. That is a travel adventure I really do not need to experience. It probably would have made for some interesting blog entries, but NO. Especially as this was such a bad infection and so painful and so long running. Today is the first day in 12 days I've felt that maybe I could get on an airplane and not have my head explode. I don't know how I would have left Liberia to get to Europe with that kind of pressure and pain. I can't think about it. It is too scary of a thought.

Sigh, sigh, sigh. Whine, whine, whine. Ok I am done. Sometimes I just need to throw it all out there to realize how stupid my whining really is. These aren't real problems. I know this. Last Saturday we were out running errands and my tooth was hurting and I was feeling sorry for myself, sitting there in the car. And then we drove past a park where there was a really long (I mean really long) line of people - old, young, men, women, kids. It was a soup kitchen set up in the park. They were standing in line for some food. A flood of emotions - shock and sadness at what I was seeing and at their circumstances, gratefulness for what I have, and anger at myself for spending so much energy feeling sorry for myself about stupid stupid things. That was the kick in the pants I needed to get perspective.

So...writing and remembering that sad Byway Scene has once again given me the kick in the pants I need and has readjusted my perspective. I have it good. And I am so very, very grateful. Time to get back to work. May you enjoy every minute of today - the longest day of our year.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How Buying Professional Hair Products is like a Drug Deal

Have you ever tried to buy professional hair salon products (in this case hair coloring for highlights) as a regular, non-licensed person? It is not an easy feat. We did it yesterday and it felt like what I imagine it is like to try to buy illegal drugs on the street. I could not believe how challenging it was to buy a bottle of coloring. Please note - I have never bought drugs, but I watch a lot of TV and movies so I "know" what buying drugs on the street looks like.

I am just a girl whose hair has lost its pizazz and would like to get some highlights. I have never bought drugstore over the counter hair coloring or tried anything like that at home. I have a great guy (a licensed professional) who does my hair, and has been doing my hair for years (including highlighting which I started doing a few years back) back east in Washington, DC at a great salon in Dupont Circle (Axis). He gave me the product names and formula to give to whoever might do my hair out here in Salt Lake. The problem is that I haven't found a replacement since I moved here a year ago. I know I need to do it, but up until now it has worked out with me making occasional trips back to Washington for work. I've been able to slip in and have my guy do my hair. I even made a trip back east before my wedding last September to have him cut and highlight. I was NOT going to find some new person to do my hair just before my wedding.

Lucky for me my sister-in-law, who is a real, licensed, fabulous hair stylist is in town visiting from California for Father's Day. She has agreed to cut and highlight my hair if she gets some time today. The only loose end was that we needed to get the hair coloring for her. I thought that would be no problem. I was wrong.

Yesterday I started calling hair salon supply places around Salt Lake. I finally got a nice woman who firmly said that no one was going to sell me this product without a license. Really? One bottle of hair coloring?  I just never imagined this would be a big deal or possibly not possible.

But we have connections. My husband called his hair stylist. She graciously called in an order for us to a local supplier, using her license number. See? Like a drug deal.

We drove to the place and all the windows were covered up with paper so you can't see inside, and you have to drive around back to enter. The door has a big sign that says "Licensed Professionals Only." Riff raff keep out. This is so weird. See, again, like a drug deal.

We realize we have to pay in cash. Cash only. So we are sitting there in the parking lot scrambling to see if we have enough cash to make the payment. My husband slips into the store and walks out with the product in a brown paper bag. Again, like a drug deal.

Who knew that securing Redken professional hair products could be such an ordeal? I realize the products involve chemicals. Is this a security thing? Can people make bombs with Redken hair products?  Kids burning other kids for pranks? People trying to do their own hair at home and really messing it up and then suing the product companies? Is the beauty industry trying to keep control of the products so that you are forced to go to professional salons? I hope I don't have to try to buy these products again.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jason de Caires Taylor - Underwater Sculpture Gardens

I am supposed to be working in Liberia right now, but instead I am home recovering from a major tooth infection. So instead of traveling on the Byway this week, I've been cruising the internet on my couch as I heal, and I discovered a place I would really love to see one day on My Scenic Byway.

Do you know about  artist Jason de Caires Taylor and his underwater sculpture gardens in Guyana and Mexico? Amazing. I haven't seen them in person, only photographs. But I am thinking that if I get the opportunity to see these underwater sculptures, I am going to take it. They are just too beautiful and interesting to ignore. I am posting some photos here - all photos are from his website: www.underwatersculpture.com.

Taylor is an English/Guyanese artist who grew up spending a lot of time in the coral reefs of Malaysia where he developed a love of the ocean. He started his first underwater sculpture garden in Moilinere Bay in Guyana, West Indies in 2005 - 65 sculptures scattered across 800 square meters. He also has works off of Cancun Mexico, near Isla Mujeres in the fairly new Cancun Underwater Museum where he is Artistic Director.

His sculptures are beautiful and take on even more beauty and intrigue as they are sitting at the bottom of the ocean. With this art he has created artificial reefs, providing structures as a base for marine life to grow in an area where the natural reefs were damaged by storms (in the case of his first garden in Grenada).  The sculptures are made from a special cement that attracts corals to grow on them. He got the idea to create artificial reefs while working as a dive instructor and seeing all of the destruction of the reefs. He wants to both provide resources for new reefs to develop and to attract underwater adventurers to see his art away from the other natural reefs to give them some relief.

The sculptures seem alone, out of place. I can imagine what it must be like to be swimming along and come upon them - like discovering a ship wreck or a lost city in the sea. They are an eerie sight. The artist describes it: "The light is very different and is affected by the surface of the sea. It has a lost feel to it, which I really like." And then when you compare the photos from when the sculptures were first placed in the water to later when the ocean begins to reclaim them - it is amazing. His works change as the sea and its creatures claim them for their own.

I've been to Isla Mujeres and my family goes to Cancun all the time. I will be there again this December so maybe I will look into how to see his sculptures there. I am not a scuba diver although I have snorkeled in the past - quite a long time ago. But this is the kind of thing that might encourage me to get out there and do it again, or even learn scuba. If you get a chance to see this amazing art, please do it! And please share your story. I would love to know what it felt like to be under the water and come upon these sculptures of people and things that aren't supposed to be on the ocean floor, and to swim among them and see how the ocean is claiming them for its own.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Neff's Canyon - Salt Lake City, UT

I was just looking at my photographs and remembered that one year ago today I was hiking for the first time in Neff's Canyon near my home in Salt Lake City. We moved here last May and Neff's Canyon was the first place I hiked in the area. Here are a few favorite photos from that hike.

Today was a lot cooler than it was a year ago, and I am in no shape for hiking right now having had a root canal yesterday and a painful lingering tooth infection that remains. So instead of real hiking, I am sitting here on the couch recovering and looking at photos of hiking instead.

Neff's Canyon lies south of Mill Creek Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains. It is the spur canyon that runs at the base of Mount Olympus. The address for the trailhead is 4175 East 4245 South, Park View Terrace Drive. You drive up into the Olympus Cove neighborhood and you will find the trail head at White Park. There is a small parking lot. No facilities. Dogs are allowed. There is a large water tank that sits up there storing water for Mount Olympus water company. There are a number of trails that intertwine through the woods and along a creek. I've hiked them a number of times, but I have never gone up to an end point. I've read that two miles/two hours up the trail (2450 to 8000 feet up) will take you to a meadow. When I finally do a longer hike I will let you know what its like. If you've got any recommendations for things to see and do in Neff's Canyon, please share.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I WAS HERE...and I left my shoes

Driving east from 29 Palms, California to Flagstaff Arizona, on either Route 62 or Route 60 (I can't remember exactly) in the middle of nowhere, we found yet another Shoe Tree...well actually this was more like a shoe fence. I think this is the first Shoe Fence we've seen. I know I keep writing about the Shoe Tree phenomenon, but I keep coming across new ones on my Byway travels. And I find it fascinating.

In an area that is about as hot, dry and brown and depressing as I've seen on my travels, on what had once been some kind of structure, perhaps a home, that was now burnt to the ground and surrounded by some kind of beat up wire fence, someone decided to start leaving shoes, and of course, you know what happens. Then everyone has to leave some shoes. Or a cooler or a lawn chair. Or a stuffed animal. Sometimes marked with names and dates. To let the world know that they exist.

I WAS HERE. And I left my shoes to prove it.

Living my entire life on the east coast of the US until now, living and traveling in both urban and rural areas all over the place, I had never seen a shoe tree. Have you? I think this is a western thing. A desert thing perhaps? I've only seen shoe trees in California and Nevada, in the desert, although I've read you can find them back east and in the south. They just keep appearing on our Byway travels.

My husband doesn't really care for these shoe trees and finds them creepy. I am delighted and fascinated by them. I liken the shoe tree to the rural version of urban graffiti. Out there in the middle of nowhere, there are no buildings to mark (although this site did provide some spray painting opportunity given that it had once been a structure), so what is a bored young person to do? I grew up in a rural area and I remember how bored I could get as a teen. With friends we would drive around aimlessly looking for something to do, some excitement. Where I grew up people would go out and tip cows. Yep, cow tipping. Next time you laugh about how dumb a shoe tree is, think about that. For the record, I have never and would never push a cow over. That is just wrong.

I find these shoe trees to be so symbolic of America. And the West. And youth and all of its dreams and angst.

Another phenomenon like this, that I spotted in Nevada along a very lonely stretch of road, was people using stones to spell out their names and their loved ones' names, and little messages along the sandy dirt incline that lined the road. So as you were driving down the road you passed miles of this to the left and the right. I've only seen that once so far and it was really fascinating given how far out in the middle of nowhere we were. No sign of life except for that. It was very poignant. A message out to the world from people who want you to know that while they may live out in the middle of nowhere, they still exist. I wish I had taken some photographs.

I find this urge that people have to leave their names at places - whether spray painted on a building or a rock out in the wild, or carved into a tree, or scratched into the wall of an elevator or stairwell, or on a bathroom wall, fascinating. I've seen graffiti in the craziest and most respected of places. I saw ancient graffiti on the rocks of ancient Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. So, discovering these shoe trees, and those miles of words from tiny stones out in the desert, just adds more examples to the intrigue. I love it.

If you have any shoe tree experiences or sitings to share, please do. See my earlier posts on shoe tree discoveries:

RIP Shoe Tree - You Shall Be Reborn

Have You Seen A Shoe Tree?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Driving I-5 south from Los Angeles to Oceanside, near the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, there is this place you can pull off and park where people go to feed the squirrels. Of course you aren't supposed to feed the squirrels and there are signs discouraging it, but I don't think it is possible to stop it. The cuteness factor and the desire to have little fuzzy things come up to you and eat out of your hand is just too much. For the record we did not feed the squirrels, but I couldn't help taking photographs.

Squirrels everywhere and some of them way too fat.

Lots of food stealing, or attempts to steal food, going on.

Bring some lawn chairs and a picnic lunch - free entertainment for the whole family!

Even with his cheeks full, he really, really wanted me to have food

Wondering if my toes might be delicious strawberries...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gilgal Garden - Mormon and Mason Symbolism in Salt Lake City

I am overdue to write about some Salt Lake City Scenes on the Byway. So, here you go...

Yesterday while out running errands, my husband took me to see this crazy little place called Gilgal Garden, also known as the Gilgal Sculpture Garden or the "secret garden" of Salt Lake.

Secret Garden is right. You would never find this hidden little downtown place if you did not know it existed and where to look for it. It is on a residential street in between two houses. The park sits back inside, so from the street it just looks like someone's yard, except if you notice the small sign. But you walk in and you find a beautiful, but very weird, sculpture garden. The world would be so boing without weirdness. I love weirdness, so I loved this place.

The garden was envisioned, designed and created by Thomas Battersby Child, Jr. (1888-1963). He started building the garden in 1945 in his backyard and he continued working on it until his death in 1963. He was a Mormon and a Mason and he created a retreat that spoke to his religious and personal beliefs, so the garden is full of Mormon and Mason symbolism. The name Gilgal has biblical meaning and is referenced in the Book of Mormon and translates into "circle of standing stones," which is fitting given that the garden has 12 original sculptures and 70 stones engraved with scriptures, poems and literary texts.

I bet most people in Salt Lake do not know this place exists. It is worth a visit for residents and tourists. The garden is small and really only takes 5 minutes to see it all, unless you want to spend time really absorbing the sculptures, reading the numerous engravings on stones throughout, or simply hanging out and enjoying the natural beauty and peacefulness of this secret little garden.

Gilgal Garden is open to the public and is located at 749 East 500 South in downtown Salt Lake, close to Liberty Park and Trolley Square. I posted a few photos below from yesterday's visit.

Sphinx with the head of Joseph Smith - hipstamatic image.

Not sure who this is or why he has an unfinished rock for a head - hipstamatic image.
Note the Masonry and Mormon references and the painted brick pants!

More Mormon symbolism.

Note the Mason reference.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Thunder Mountain Monument - Nevada

If you have the opportunity to drive across northern Nevada on Interstate 80 between Salt Lake City, UT and Reno, Nevada, I recommend making a stop to see The Thunder Mountain Monument.

Last month My Scenic Byway took us to Reno to see Elvis Costello in concert and we drove I-80 from Salt Lake to Reno. Approximately six hours west of Salt Lake, and two hours east of Reno, around the town of Imlay, we spotted something on the south side of the Interstate. It was like this weird, giant art project in the middle of nowhere. We had no idea what it was, but we had to check it out.

So, we took the next exit and turned back on a dirt road that ran parallel to 80 East and found ourselves at the site. There was one other car there - two women travelers who had stopped for a picnic lunch on their journey. When they left we were the only ones there. You walk through a gate and enter this very open but fenced 5- acre compound with the monument. The entrance is free, but there is a box for donations. There was no caretaker on site.

The founder and father of this place was Frank Van Zant. He was born in 1921 in Oklahoma. At 14 he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and later served in the European theater of World War II. He had a passion for Native American history and culture and believed he was part Cherokee, changing his name to Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder.

In 1968 he settled in the area where the monument resides and lived in a travel trailer. He started sculpting wet concrete into sculptures and into walls and buildings around the trailer. He attracted up to 40 followers at one time to join him on the compound, adding rooms around the trailer to create the large monument you see today. The Chief scavenged a 60-mile area around the monument, collecting trash and incorporating it into the main building's walls and its surrounding other buildings, old cars and sculptures. The art was on the outside - decorated walls, sculptures.This trash transformed into art and became the monument. He said "I am using the white mans' trash to build this Indian monument."

The height of the monument was the 1970s. By the 1980s, the followers had left and the Chief was running out of money. In 1989 his second wife and children moved away and an act of arson destroyed all the buildings except the monument. Sadly Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder shot and killed himself that year.

Since the Chief's death, his son Dan has taken on the charge of caring for the monument. He comes once a month and has others look in on the place. He tries to raise money to keep the monument maintained. He struggles to protect the site from vandals. Over the years things have been stolen or damaged. When you visit the place you will see how remote it is and how easy it would be for this to happen. Which is a shame. Because a place as unique, intriguing and weirdly beautiful as this deserves to survive and to be seen by many.

Smithsonian Magazine wrote a good article about the story of Thunder Mountain. Read it here. You can also read more about the monument's history and construction from its official site at http://www.thundermountainmonument.com/.

The place has some really crazy, creative, creepy stuff. For more images from the monument see my earlier blog entry Stuff of Nightmares.