Phoenix in February 

We headed out to Arizona from southern California in mid February. 
We had a few days before our busy schedule in Phoenix to see some beautiful desert / mountain country in a remote part of southern Arizona near the Mexican border. 

Organ Pipe National Monument encompasses a vast area of some of the most beautiful desert country we have seen so far on our tour. 
The Saguaro Cactus are huge, up to 60 feet tall.
The Organ Pipe Cactus grows in a small area of the Sonoran Desert from southwestern Arizona to western Sonora, Mexico.
The hikes & camping were great here, as was the weather. 
The benefits of being in this part of the country during the winter gradually began to sink in. 

Then on to Phoenix where we had one of our busiest weeks so far, playing 6 libraries in Phoenix and 1 library in Prescott before heading out to Nevada.
The libraries in this area continue to be a great venue, both large and small.
Each library having their own unique characteristics, offerings and architecture.
The librarians here are all tuned in to their communities.

We were fortunate to have good friends in the Phoenix area, Dwight & Sandy who generously offered us a place to stay during our time in Phoenix.
Dwight is also a fantastic bass player / musician, and both of us had played with Dwight back in Colorado in the 90's.
He has played music in this area for about 15 years and he & Sandy have watched and experienced the incredible growth in the Phoenix area.
Dwight told us that the diameter of the metro area has grown to around 150 miles across at this point.

We began to understand the nature of commuting in this huge megapolis. 

Despite the increasing population here, Phoenix still has a unique environment with rugged, spiny mountains rising up from the valley floor which separate neighborhoods and areas of Phoenix.  The sky is very predominant here as most buildings are low.

There are many pockets of undeveloped land within this huge metropolis with some irrigation, & man - made lakes providing a more hospitable habitat & shelter for birds, animals, fish, plants, grasses and trees.


We ended our time in Arizona going to Pleasant Lake, one of Dwight and Sandy's favorite places to camp and to take their boat out.
And sure enough, this lake and surrounding environs was very pleasant indeed!

We camped in a nice private spot near the lake, built camp fires, roasted marshmallows and ate "S'mores" using the best dark chocolate.
Soooo good, Hershey's no more with S'mores!  We listened to cowboy music and jazz, howled at the moon and saw wild burros.

Thank you Dwight & Sandy for your great hospitality and fun weekend on Lake Pleasant!


 

January - Early February 2015 - Music & Poetry & travels in SoCal, Salton Sea 

We developed a new set of music / poetry pieces for our winter presentations during our time in the desert.
Our new favorite poem music piece is called “Blue Ophelia”.
The music is by our friend Mark Miller and poem by Shirley Graham from Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada.  


We project the poems with some images behind us while performing.


We wondered if seeing the poems and imagery would take away from a personal experience of hearing the sung poems.
The general consensus seems to be that seeing the poems and images enhances the program.

We made 2 treks to San Diego & LA from  Desert Shores near the Salton Sea to perform in 9 libraries through the month of January.
During this time, we were able to enjoy lots of beach time and camped in several of SoCal's State Parks right on or near the beach.
Many of these State Park Beaches are right in town, and a few are more remote like one of our favorite's, Leo Carillo State Park north of Malibu.
Colleen's favorite beach house, Encinitas, CA

The weather was pleasant & perfect for beach camping.

The integration of camping and performing has worked quite well for us - sometimes we book a motel on the night of a performance, but otherwise, we mostly camp in our van.


The library venue has become one of the best venues for us for many reasons.
First, librarians are great, we love the librarians, and their communities love  their librarians and libraries too!
Second, those who come to these concerts are great listeners and ask great questions.
More reasons:  We love the music & the poems and find ourselves finding new ways of expression through this form.
The acoustics are almost always quite good, sometimes superb.
Sometimes we play right in the library amongst the "stacks", and often, the libraries have community rooms and sometimes very nice state of the art auditoriums.

Last night, we played in the most beautiful library on our tour so far, in Redlands, CA.


As we walked around the library, every perspective was unique and beautiful, including the grounds.
Daniel is the adult programs and reference librarian and he gave us a tour, including a private tour of the library tower. 
There are many comfy nooks and crannies in this old beautiful library to sit down with a book.
Our performance was in a beautiful old room next to one of the 2 gardens.
There is great art on the walls, including original signed lithographs of Norman Rockwell paintings of Huck Finn in the children's library room.




Daniel told us of the history of this library and the effort made by prominent citizens of the day and especially the effort of A.K. Smiley back in 1890's.
Today, this library continues to have great support from the community and excellent leadership & stewardship from library directors.

Daniel, like many of the librarians we have met, has a keen interest in all people from the community, including the homeless.
The public library is a space where people can still share in the best of what our society supports.
Our libraries are the great equalizer, bringing us all together, rich & poor, young and old. 

Most librarians are acutely aware of the great needs of folks with mental illness and homelessness who often times spend their days in their libraries.
There is a consensus among librarians that the libraries fill an important role for these folks and that they are welcome.
And for those unemployed & underemployed, there are resources and access to the internet to keep them abreast of potential training & education programs and to keep up with the constantly changing computer / internet world.

SALTON SEA

We were fortunate to have a home base from which to travel to San Diego & LA.
Colleen's brother Jim lives right next to the Salton Sea, the largest body of water in California. 

Jim care takes a community park & he graciously invited us to come and go from here as much as we would like.
We pulled up near Jim's trailer and dubbed our encampment, " Camp JimO " .




This area is quite unique and a place where there is much debate about how to save the Salton Sea.
The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline, endorheic rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault, predominantly in California's Imperial and Coachella valleys.
The lake occupies the lowest elevations of the Salton Sink in the Colorado Desert of Imperial and Riverside counties in Southern California.

There is a lot of pollution from agricultural run-off, and the sea is shrinking precipitously.
Sometimes the smell from the lake is overwhelming, but most times, it is reminiscent of the smells from the ocean.
The "beach" is mostly made up of bones from die offs of fish and birds.


At first we were overwhelmed by the degrading sea, and during a rare wind-storm, the dust became unbearable at times.
But, we gradually became more attracted to the Salton Sea for there is a beauty here unlike anywhere else.
The birds we have seen on and above this lake are impressive.
They are so graceful and seem very content & relaxed in this environment.
They seem to have plenty of food from the sea, mostly Tilapia, which has so far survived the salinity of the water.



Our favorite time to walk next to the sea is near and just after sunset.  The sea often times takes on a pink glow along with the sky creating an ethereal, dreamlike world.


It has been wonderful to hang out with Jim and we thank him for his kindness, gentle spirit & the great support he provided for this part of our tour.

We're heading out today on the 3:10 to Yuma!


 

December in the Desert 

We had a break from our library performances in December, so we decided to take some time to see the deserts in southern California / Nevada. The contrasts, colors, geology & desert plants reveal a stark & prickly beauty.


Hiking in these deserts at this time of year has been really incredible.... showing us how diverse & beautiful the desert can be. 
We even saw our first tarantula in nature in the desert near the Salton Sea.
In the Anza - Borrego Desert, there are 6 types of rattlesnakes. 

We've seen a few rattlers on our hikes and we are relieved that they are not at all aggressive, and will not likely bite unless closely disturbed ie: if we picked one up or stepped on one...we hope to avoid both:)
.
We are practicing our mindfulness meditation walking in these deserts.

Our favorite areas to hike are the slot canyons, sand dunes and in or near oasis and wetland areas.


One of our favorite oasis areas so far is China Ranch just outside the SE corner of Death Valley NP. ( Chinaranch.com )

China Ranch has a fascinating history and walks both in the oasis and in the desert outside of the oasis are incredibly beautiful with a great variety of terrain & landscapes, including a slot canyon. 

The following picture we took looks almost like a mural, but this is how it really looks when looking out towards the desert from inside the date palm groves.



There are at least 12 types of dates grown on the organic date farm at China Ranch and we sampled each and everyone...umm...delicious sweetness!
China Ranch makes the best date shakes we've ever had and taste the best after our hikes in the desert!


Just outside this oasis, the desert floor is surrounded by mountains with rock falls that are carried down to the valley floors.
The incredible range of colors in the rocks of this area are outstanding.
We learned that many folks come out to these areas to look for rocks, crystals and we met amateur to professional geologists fascinated by this area.


The Amargosa River runs through China Ranch and Tecopa.
This area is one of the few places along the Amargosa where the river is above ground, except during heavy rains and floods.
It seemed as if we had this valley to ourselves as we hiked several miles into the valley until the trail was engulfed by willows & cats claw....ouch!

We were fortunate to find a desert bungalow near the town of Tecopa, CA with the help of our friend Dana back in Boulder.

The weather became chilly in December so we are very happy to have our little bungalow to stay warm and to use as our base of operations in exploring the surrounding desert & to have a place to prepare for our upcoming performances in January.

Tecopa area has several hot spring choices from natural pools in a wetland area of the desert to the county park hot spring pools which are currently offered free to the public.  How lucky can we get?


Tecopa is a remote little town and one of the most unique towns we've been through on this journey.
There is a tiny library, and a small community center where the spotty local wifi is centered.
There is no cell coverage in this area, so this month did remind us of what it was like before all our connectivity through the internet.
Unplugging was a nice change.

The only restaurant in town is Pastel's Bistro which happens to serve up great tasting food. 
John is the Bistro's chef extraordinaire and his partner Shelley is the hostess with the mostest.
They create a homey, comfortable environment, almost as if you are coming to dinner at their home.

The Bistro is part of Tecopa Hot Springs Resort which offers lodging, hot spring soaking pools, art gallery, labyrinth, camping, hookups for travel trailers and RV's, star gazing and campfires at night. 

We played a well attended concert towards the end of our stay at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort Art Gallery.
 - this pic was taken inside the gallery before the performance.
The Gypsy Time Travelers were holed up during our time in Tecopa.
We were happy to be able to see a couple performances, and we agreed that their vehicle was way cooler than ours.


"Michel Olson and Christy Horne are the husband and wife team who have history ringing in the ears of millions of people across the USA!
They travel all across the United States in "Florence" their Recreational Castle, Blacksmith Shop and Stage Rig. 
They combine fabulous storytelling with anvil accompaniment and have created an award winning Stage Show that has been called "The Best in Family EDUTAINMENT."

We traded travel stories with Michel and just as we were leaving Tecopa, Michael came over to our van and gave us one of his lucky horseshoes he had made to carry along on our travels.  Kindred Spirits!

Tecopa Public Golf Coarse
Ken developed this spot when he could no longer afford the fees @ Pahrump Nevada's golf course.
He shares the course with anyone who would like to hit balls out into the desert, as long as they will go and retrieve them...watch out for the scorpions and snakes!


Tecopa Community Church.
Tasty selection of draft beer @ Death Valley Brewing.


We were fortunate pick up a gig at Death Valley's Inn @ Furnace Creek about 70 miles NW of Tecopa.
What a beautiful old hotel!

We were treated to a 2 night stay, including food and spirits for 2 performances.
One for the managers holiday luncheon and one for Christmas dinner.

Wow, lovely old hotel & beautiful gardens in this oasis paradise.
The historic Furnace Creek Inn was built in 1927 by the Pacific Coast Borax Company as a means to save their newly built Death Valley Railroad.
The Inn opened for business on February 1, 1927 with 12 guest rooms, a dining room and lobby area. Room rates were $10 per night and included meals.

All materials were local and workers came from around the area, including Shoshone Indians, who made the tiles for the roof of the Inn.
For us, it had the feel of Timberline Lodge, not in architecture certainly, but in the feel of the place and artisan touches.
Old rail tracks were used for much of the rod iron work made into light fixtures and beautifully designed rod iron fences.

Travertine Springs were tapped for electricity and water for the swimming pool.
The spring water is still used for irrigating the Inn’s gardens and flow-through pool.

We had this beautiful pool to ourselves.  The water reminded us of Eldorado Springs Pool back in Colorado, but warmer.
Of course we made use of the saunas right next to the pool.


After Furnace Creek Inn , we headed back to Tecopa for our last week in our desert bungalow.
We waited for the coldest morning to go to the natural hot springs just outside of Tecopa, it was 15 degrees out.
The water was nice and warm - the sunrise was beautiful, a great way to start our last day in Tecopa.
Time to move on down the road!

Happy Holidays! 

Wishing you a Joyous Holiday Season and A Very Happy and Peaceful New Year!Furnace Creek Inn, Death Valley, December 25th, 2014

Ojai California 

Down the coast we went.

As the coastline becomes more populated with one town after another, we hug the coastline until we find ourselves in areas we have not traveled through previously.

We were surprised to see a number of oil rigs off the coast near Santa Barbara & the Channel Islands. 
In fact, our friends from Ojai say that the petro industry has a huge presence and long history in this area of California.  

As we leave the coastline, we head up into the rugged coastal mountains between the coast & Ojai and notice significant areas of agriculture here in the valleys and on hillsides.  

We are told that this is one of the few areas with it’s own water supply due to a good water table and lots of springs.
The town of Ojai is quite old & beautiful with mostly Spanish architecture set against mountain ranges & canyons.

We played in the tasting room of an organic vineyard, Casa Barranca, in downtown Ojai on the day we arrived in town.
We were happy to see Dana, Colleen’s niece and her friend Mike @ Casa Baranca.
They graciously hosted us for an overnight stay after our library presentation @ the Ojai library, Thanks Dana & Mike!!

During our 2 sets, there was a friendly gentleman who appeared to be an avid & appreciative music listener sitting right in front of us.
To our pleasant surprise, he happened to own the ice-cream shop right next door and his tip was to give us 2 ice-cream waffle cones whenever we chose to come in and ask for them.
Of course we took him up on it the next day - it was warm and sunny and when we were just hot enough, we walked in and ordered our waffle cones & then crossed the street to enjoy our cones in the beautiful courtyard across the street.
We also met up with Meg who is a sister to one of Chris' childhood friends.
Meg is the proprietor of  "Nutmeg's Ojai House", a very fun and interesting store with great cards, crystals, and per the stores info:  "offers American-Made, Fair Trade, Recycled, UpCycled, Spiritual, Organic, Green & "Functional Art."


 

Next stop - Salton Sea!









 

Arroyo Grande Library 

Arroyo Grande library is a beautiful library, very busy, and we played in their main room.



They have an area with comfortable big chairs in the center of the library where we performed.

We felt like we were joined in a circle with everyone as the chairs were arranged in such away that we would complete the circle with our instruments.  

This was the best set-up we’ve encountered so far.
It provided a space and intimacy for an inclusive performance, as if everyone there were part of the performance.

The librarians did a great job promoting this event as evidenced by the turn-out and enthusiasm of the folks attending.

Next stop - Ojai, California!

 

PIsmo Beach - Week 14, November 10th - 15th 

At this point, We still have another week before our next performance in Arroyo Grande, just east of Pismo Beach.

We were glad that an old school friend had a place in the area and had invited us to stay in their guest house.

Unfortunately, as time grew near and several attempts made to reach this friend failed, we thought, well, this is another part of the experience of being out on the road - and what could we do but go find some hot springs - just south of San Luis Obispo - near Avery Beach.  Ahhhhh - just what the doctor ordered.

Then on to Pismo Beach area where we found a place to camp for  about a week.
We found a a great camping spot with spacious campsites just south of downtown Pismo Beach at a really nice State Park called North Beach Campground.
Our spot had a short trail from our site over a low grassy sand dune which led right onto the beach. We could walk to town easily from here.  

We had stayed in Pismo Beach on another tour many years ago, and remembered we had liked this town.
We still like it!

Pismo has an air of the 50’s about it.  Lots of neon signs and some art deco styled buildings mixed in with newer buildings with Spanish architectural influence.


Pismo has a nice sandy beach, great for long walks.They have many affordable restaurants, wide streets with lots of room for bicyclists and pedestrians.
We walked on nice boardwalks over sand dunes and into groves of coastal eucalyptus.

We were fortunate to see hundreds if not thousands of Monarch Butterflies clustered and hanging off the Eucalyptus leaves which they use for protection from the wind and colder weather.

We learned from a State Park Volunteer that Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountain Range overwinter in California along the coast. There are many roost sites along the California coast. The coastal forests provide a similar microhabitat to the mountains in Mexico where the monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains overwinter.We learned that the west coast Monarchs are not as threatened as Monarchs which migrate up from Mexico east of the Rocky Mountains.

http://www.monarchbutterfly.org/faqs/

Our week in Pismo seemed to go by quickly as we prepared to leave for our next performance.
But before moving on, another observation since being in California.

We’ve noticed through California that there are still a lot of folks camping in tents compared to anywhere else we have been.  Maybe it’s the better & generally warmer weather, but we have seen more tent campers than RV’s in many areas.

It’s been heartening to see young people i.e. college age students and young families out there setting up their tents, cooking over camp stoves and kids playing in the great outdoors with no cell phones, computers or such to distract them.



 

South of Big Sur 

Heading out of Big Sur we came to an area where several cars were pulled off Hwy 1 viewing ‘something’ on the beach & in the water.
We decided we wanted to see what was up, so we pulled off the road into a small parking area above a narrow beach and, woooo, here’s what we saw:

The ones snoozing on the beach appear to be quite lazy, but we learned that most of the time, elephant seals are in the water and working very hard to catch their food.  The snoozing on the beach is needed to rest up to go back at their way of living.  Male elephant seals are much larger than the females and they make deep — guttural sounds.

Hunted nearly to extinction for their oil-rich blubber, elephant seals have made a remarkable comeback. Protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, they are expanding their range outward from remote islands and are now colonizing selected mainland beaches such as Piedras Blancas in the southern range of Big Sur, near San Simeon.

Elephant seals come ashore and form colonies for only a few months of each year to give birth, breed, and molt. The rest of the year the colonies disperse and individuals spend most of their time in pursuit of food, a quest which involves swimming thousands of miles and diving to great depths.

For more info elephant seals, check out the following link: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=1115





 

Big Sur 

We headed down highway 1 into the Big Sur coastline of central California....wow!

We've driven through Big Sur a couple times in the past, but did not take the time to fully immerse ourselves in this wild part of the California Coast.
This part of the coast is even more dramatic than the northern coastline along Hwy 1.

We spent 5 days camping our way down this coast and spent our 1st night in a pull - out along Highway 1.
We had been informed by a retired trucker that this is allowed along this section of coastline and 'relatively safe'.

We had one of our best nights camping along the coast with an awesome view of the ocean.
The evening was warm, no wind and as we had prepared to be out for several days, our food selection on this 1st night was close to gourmet.

We listened to music into the night from Chris' carefully selected tunes & compositions. ( Now numbering into the thousands:) 
This music is stored on a hard drive we carry with us.  On some evenings, the random selections seem to be a perfectly planned sets of music as one piece flows into another.


Heading on down the coast the next day, we stopped at one of the few Inns along this part of the coast.
Lucia Lodge.  These little cottages hug the cliff a few hundred feet above the ocean.

The day was brilliant and warm.  We talked with a couple folks who work there and they asked if we would like to play on their deck in the afternoon in exchange for dinner and drinks.  "YES", we said, "of course! " What a day it was.  And their food was exceptional.

We also met a a group of people either taking part in and or supporting a bike ride from Canada to the tip of Baja to raise awareness for a specific child developmental disability.
We turned down another invitation to play the next day to spend a day in the area of Kirk Creek where we were camped.
Kirk Creek Campground is right above the ocean, each site is spacious, some are very private, and all have great views of the ocean.

Our last stop in Big Sur was @ Plaskett Creek - we camped here for a couple nights and had great access to the beach and nice hiking along their headlands.
The person who camped next to us had just taken his first solo hang gliding flight.

He told us he was a bit nervous because he had just completed his hang gliding lessons the previous weekend where he had witnessed another hang glider fall to his death while testing a proto type of a smaller hang glider.

We actually saw our neighbor on his first solo flight gliding above us while we were out taking a walk on the headlands.

It turns out that he has a program on TV with his brother which is partly sponsored by Disney & National Geographic.

The program is called "Motion"  "Motion started when two unlikely worlds came together. Two brothers with completely different backgrounds -- one was a TV producer and photographer and the other was a pro-mountain guide -- created a unique kind of outdoor show that captured America's wild places."

We were able to take a look at a couple programs - and really enjoyed them. 
If you would like to take a look, go to: http://livewellnetwork.com/Motion/bio/6747477.


Headlands near Plaskett Creek


 

Cesar Chavez Library - November 4th, 2014 

Caesar Chavez Library, Salinas California



Before heading down the Central Coast on Highway 1 through Big Sur, we went inland to Salinas to play @ the Cesar Chavez Library.
This library is more modern and architecturally more interesting than the other libraries we’ve played in.

The library is packed with kids & adults and seemed like a beehive of activity.
Most folks here speak Spanish, so we felt a bit ill-prepared to offer a relevant program.

Our listeners were mostly from the after school program, kids about 6-12 and a few mom’s and a college student writing a  review of this performance. 
( hmmm, we wonder what she wrote: )

The kids always love the improv of Gary Snyder’s poem “Wave”, especially with Chris on box drum and the part about “racing zebras”.

There were also some great questions asked about the instruments, the vibes in particular.
Most folks everywhere we have been do not seem to know what the vibes are.  
Most seem to know about the xylophone and and some know about the marimba, but not the vibes.
This gives Chris a chance to talk about these instruments and distinguish one from the other. ( he loves this )

During the performance, some kids giggled, but a few were so intent in their listening and response to the music through their body movements.

Chris can rarely look up from the vibes to see responses, but Colleen always loves watching the uninhibited responses of children and could see that a few of these kids were blossoming musicians and or dancers. ( perhaps poets too! )

 
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