This Week In Awkwardness

I left Arizona and have now made it across New Mexico and half of the Texas panhandle.  I-40 parallels Route 66 through this area so even though I’m not on that road I’m passing through the same towns, most of which still embrace their Mother Road history with many hotels and quirky tourist traps from that era, and of course plenty of memorabilia.

I feel like the land is getting progressively flatter and emptier as I go.  Still looking forward to trees.

I woke up at 5:30 one morning to a nearly complete lunar eclipse that I had totally forgotten about.

I’m always surprised by how many abandoned buildings there are on the plains.  Maybe it’s just because they’re out there in the open, not hidden by plant growth, but they seem to be everywhere.  Trespassing has never been something that bothered me much, but these places always feel so exposed I can never bring myself to explore them.  I get questioned by the police often enough as it is.


Book Finished:

The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan

This was a fascinating look into the sudden rise of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the everyday lives of its residents.  The town grew up around the nuclear enrichment factories that were part of the Manhattan Project, an organization so secretive that most of the workers had no idea what they were actually working on.  Many of them were women out on their own for the very first time.  The stories were a little heavy on the women noticing how many single men there were around them, but I guess if that was what was going on, that was what was going on.  Amongst the experiences of the female employees and their feelings about the work they were doing, Kiernan does a good job of explaining the history and science behind the rise of the Manhattan Project and its role in World War II.

Favorite Quote:

“And if you got your M voltage up and your G voltage up, then Product would hit the birdcage in the E box at the top of the unit and if that happened, you’d get the Q and R you wanted.  It was that simple.” – they seriously had NO IDEA what they were working on.


Crossed Off the Travel Map:

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Destination: Petrified Forest National Park

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Unfortunately for me this isn’t really a hiking sort of park.  There were a couple of short trails but it seemed like one of those places were you drive through, stopping at pull offs to see a few things.  A few minutes there, a couple of pictures here, on to the next.  I read in their guide later that “off the beaten path” hiking is apparently OK in some places, but I had seen so many signs telling me to stay on the paved paths that it just got confusing.  Anyway I never really know what to do in these kinds of places.  Like am I supposed to dive out of the car to examine every single one of the bazillion petrified logs that are laying all over the place?  They’re interesting, but they’re not THAT interesting.

There were some things that I DID find really interesting, like the petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock and a handful of other pull offs.

The park is arranged as a 28 mile drive between the Painted Desert Visitor’s Center at the north end and the Rainbow Forest Museum at the south end.  I started at the south end, but either way is fine.

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I stayed about 20 miles away in Holbrook.  It’s one of those desert towns with a profusion of Route 66 memorabilia and goofy dinosaur statues.  (I loved it)

Route 66 was replace by I-40 long ago, but once upon a time it ran through where the park is now.  The pavement is gone, but the telephone poles remain, and there’s even a rusting Studebaker to mark the spot.

Prints of the black and white versions from this series are now available for purchase here.

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Gallery: V-Bar-V Heritage Site

V-Bar-V gets its name from the ranch that used to occupy the land.  Having been private land for so long, the petroglyphs here are remarkably well preserved.  The site is believed to be a solar calendar – the sun falls on certain drawings at certain times of the year, telling the people who made them when to plant & harvest crops, or when to expect rain.

This Week In Awkwardness

I learned how to throw spears using an atlatl during V-Bar-V Heritage Site‘s Archaeology Discovery Days.  After a half-dozen throws I was getting halfway decent at it; my last spear actually hit the board, although not any of the ground sloth targets painted on it.

I discovered a PBS show called Time Team America that follows a group of specialists helping out on archaeological digs all over the United States.  They spend three days on a site, using high tech gear to help the group conducting the dig accomplish a specific goal, like finding evidence of a building they’ve been looking for.  The show covered a wide range of topics from throughout history – everything from 13,000 year old Paleo Indian sites to Civil War era prison camps.  If you’re into history or archaeology it’s definitely worth a look.


Crossed Off the Travel Map:

Clark Memorial Clubhouse, Clarkdale, Arizona


Added to the Travel Map:

A Train Wreck in the Woods, Near Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

RKK Energiya Museum, Korolyov, Russia – space museum.

Museum of Soviet Arcade Games, Moscow, Russia – pretty much exactly what it sounds like.

Star City, Russia – once secret cosmonaut training/residential facility.

Gallery: Crescent Moon Recreation Area

Crescent Moon is a small but very pretty recreation area just outside of Sedona, right along Oak Creek.  In hot months it would be good for swimming.

Other people’s trash that I packed out:

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Prints of some infrared photos I took at Crescent Moon are now available for purchase here.

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Gallery: West Fork Trail (Call of the Canyon)

This is easily one of my favorite hikes.  The trail follows the west fork of Oak Creek for almost three and a half miles as it flows down through the canyon.  The trail is fairly flat, with soaring cliffs on each side as a backdrop to the forest.  All along the trail were signs of flood and fire damage, and even a few patches of snow.  It crosses the creek 13 times, including several that require wading through ankle deep (and ICE COLD) water.  The first ford turned back at least two large, obnoxious groups of hikers, so I wasn’t too broken up about having to get my feet wet. >:D

Prints of photos from this series and others taken at Oak Creek Canyon are now available for purchase here.

Other people’s trash that I packed out:

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This Week (and Last Week) in Awkwardness

I attended the Sedona St. Patrick’s Day parade & festival (which is apparently a big deal, even though I’ve never seen a single reference to anything Irish anywhere in Arizona before) where I saw this gem of a float, labeled “Flags for Freedom”:

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Book Finished:

Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi

I was generally aware of the Manson Family murders but had never studied them in depth.  Bugliosi prosecuted Charles Manson & a few of his followers in the trial of their most famous crime spree, the Tate-LaBianca murders, so the book is an in-depth, mostly first person account of one of the most sensational events in recent history.  I didn’t expect to be genuinely creeped out, but the idea of one crazy person so thoroughly controlling his followers is pretty terrifying.

Favorite Quote:

“‘I think historically the easiest way to program someone into murdering is to convince them that they are alien, that they are them and we are us, and that they are different from us.’ [Dr. Joel Hochman, psychiatrist for the defense.]

Krauts.  Japs.  Gooks.  Pigs.”


Crossed Off the Travel Map:

West Fork Trail, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Arizona
West Fork Trail, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Arizona

Sedona Heritage Museum, Sedona, Arizona


Added to the Travel Map:

Memphis, Tennessee – just because I’m heading that way I guess.

Mojave National Preserve, Kelso, California – sand dunes & whatnot.

Fort Carroll, Edgemere, Maryland – abandoned, now a bird sanctuary.