Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Travel Somewhere Amazing

Look at This!

Update 5-22-2013 Thank You Everyone! 
552 backers from 24 country's funded Ms. M's Kickstarter $25,880 
Hinges Arc 1 "Clockwork City" is now assured to become a beautiful hardbound book.  

My hit counter informs me that Roadboy now averages nearly 1,500 hits a month. Sheesh! I never dreamed I'd host so many visitors. Thank you!

Roadboy gives me the freedom to take you with me wherever I go, sharing whatever happens along the way. 

But, the places I go all start with very real journey's, whether via foot, train, plane, bicycle or automobile.

This visit I want to take you to a place far more spectacular and difficult to reach. Make no mistake it exists. And after you arrive, you may have trouble returning. It is the land of "Hinges" and it is spectacular. 

So click here for a short visit to Clockwork City. When you are through exploring, please travel one more place. It is a place where you can make someone's dream come true. That someone is my daughter who would like to publish the whole 100+ richly illustrated Hinges series. So now please click here. 

And think of it. Wouldn't a lushly illustrated and autographed first edition copy of Hinges go a long way to making you a hero when someones's graduation or birthday comes around or save it for holiday gifting?

Personally, I want one all for myself. 

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The West Fork of Oak Creek

Sedona's Perfect Family Hike

Sedona is 2 hours away from America's 6th largest metropolis. This results in a sometimes overwhelming hoard of visiting Phoenicians. 

In winter they seek the magic of snow dusting Sedona's red rocks. In summer Sedona spells immediate relief from America's most extreme metro-urban heat sink.

Of course what Phoenicians also find are overpriced hotel rooms, a lot of good (and some not-so-great but frequently very jammed) restaurants, crowded narrow streets filled with shops pitching candles, t-shirts, art glass, crystals, and made in China kokopellis.

But, the good news is that the real Sedona is still there. You just have to venture away from the roadways and wear good shoes.

A wonderful easy hike for families is the West Fork of Oak Creek in the Coconino National Forest. It is a 9 miles miles north on 89A. It is Sedona's most popular trail (for good reason.) It is served by a parking lot that fills up early. The daily fee is $9 / car (includes 5 hikers) or if you walk in the fee is $2 per hiker. A couple of $40 annual passes are also available covering all of Sedona's various trails.

The west fork trail starts with a bridge over the creek. It then meanders past an old apple orchard (which was blooming this week) and the ruins of an original homestead. The trail then moves into the deep slot canyon. The trail is easy and well marked. There are numerous places where you must cross the creek so water shoes are a good choice. Bring sunscreen and snacks, and (in summer), maybe a swim suit under hiking shorts to enjoy the cool spring water. The developed trail takes you about 3 miles in the canyon (so 6 miles round trip.) The actual trail runs 14 miles, but much of that is in wilderness areas where the trail is simply a walk (sometimes a swim!) in the creek.

In summer there is a lot of poison oak along the way, so beware.

Remnants From the Homestead 

Zane Grey's Inspiration for "The Call of the Canyon"
(It is Hard Not to Look Up)

A Great Slide Rock 
(A Great Stop WIth Kids, About a Mile In)

Lots of Fragrant Pines
(A Friend Clued Me In - The Bark Smells Like Butterscotch!)  

Crystal Clear Water

This is a hike that is just made for families. Go and enjoy! Phoenicians can leave home by 8:00 am, drive, hike, and easily be home in time for dinner. 

Of course if you can spend a day or two hiking and perhaps camping, well thats even better!

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

DC's Delicate Necklace of Blossoms

The Backdrop For Three Striking Memorials

The beautiful cherry trees that grace Washington DC have quite a legacy. The history involves Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore (the first female board member of the National Geographic Society), Jokichi Takamine (the Japanese chemist who discovered adrenaline), Marian Fairchild (the daughter of Alexander Graham Bell), and first lady Helen Herron Taft. 

I won't try to recite the whole (somewhat involved) origin of the trees here. Lets just say after much lobbying, and a few false starts, the efforts of many resulted in the planting of thousands of cherry trees along the reclaimed Potomoc tidelands from 1912 to 1920. 

Today, Washington DC's annual Cherry Blossom Festival attracts visitors from all over the world. And when their delicate blossoms burst open it creates a magical world particularly along the Tidal Basin.

The Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms
The Washington Memorial (Undergoing Earthquake Repairs) Beyond

Up Close

A Canopy of Color

The blooming trees provide visitors and residents alike a special time to enjoy a picnic, rent a paddle boat, or just snap loads of pictures of the photogenic blooms. The blooms also result in thousands of visitors experiencing the three beautiful memorials that reside along the Tidal Basin. 

The most prominent memorial is the iconic Jefferson Memorial which dates back to 1943. Due to WWII the bronze sculpture of Jefferson was not cast and installed until after the war in 1947. The memorial, based on a design by architect John Russell Pope, was completed during the presidency of Jefferson's admirer Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Nearly 50 years later a new 7.5 acre memorial dedicated to Franklin Delano Roosevelt took its place along the Tidal Basin. The series of outdoor "rooms", designed by the celebrated San Francisco landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, features water cascading from one room to the next. As it flows into each room the waterfalls get larger and more complex symbolizing the increasing challenges posed as FDR moved through his presidency. 

Tour Guides describe the symbolism of the water as follows:
• A Single Large Drop - The Wall Street Crash
• Multiple Stairstep Drops -  The creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority
• Chaotic Falls - World War II
• A Still Pool - Roosevelt's Death
• A Wide Array Combining Earlier Waterfalls -  A Retrospective of Roosevelt's Life

The Crash and Great Depression

World War II

FDR's Expression of Fear For A Post War World

FDR's Beloved Scottish Terrier Fala

The FDR Memorial is beautiful anytime, but especially so when the nearby trees are in bloom. I also love the way this remarkable memorial is illuminated at night.

The newest memorial is dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. This memorial, designed by San Francisco's ROMA Design Group, was selected from over 900 entries from 52 countries. It was dedicated October 16, 2011.

The memorial slices a "Stone of Hope" from a "Mountain of Despair". The stone of hope steps forward and contains a powerful, larger than life, sculpture of Dr. King. The Sculpture gives the impression he is looking across the Tidal Basin toward the horizon. The memorial site is framed by cherry trees that will bloom each year during the anniversary of his death.

A 450' inscription wall contains fourteen excerpts from King sermons beginning in 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott and ending in 1968 just four days before his assassination. 

The King Memorial 

A Stone of Hope

Sculpture Detail

While the official description states the Dr. King is looking at the horizon. My own feeling is he may not simply be looking at the horizon. Perhaps he sees the Jefferson Memorial whose construction closed a whites-only swimming beach. Hopefully he can see the nation we can finally become.

Roadboy's Travels © 2013 

Friday, April 12, 2013

From Better Mousetraps to Masterworks

The National Portrait Gallery and 
Smithsonian Center for American Art

Now and then, when scheduling business travel, I slip in a spare day just for me.

This week I engineered a spare day in Washington DC.

I happen to love our capital and this week the cherry blossom's reached their zenith (which will be my next post)! Of course with all those delicate blossoms come lots (and lots) of tourists and this week the District was hopping. In fact I don't think I've ever seen DC with such total gridlock before, streets jammed up by 3 PM and stayed jammed till about 7:30 PM.

Fine with me, I just applied good old shoe leather.

Since I've checked off most of the usual sights in Washington I decided to go to the "Spy Museum."

It is just steps from the Gallery / Chinatown Metro stop. As it turns out the Spy Museum is more of a privately operated tourist attraction than a "museum". But it was well done and (albeit a bit expensive) a lot of fun. I spent about two hours in air conditioned splendor reading about the espionage exploits of everyone from Benjamin Franklin to Marlene Dietrich and Julia Child. It also has a very cool gift shop. Alas they do not allow photographs, so no post from there.

As I left the Spy Museum it was just coming up on 3:00 PM, so I still had lots of time to explore. And in looking across the street I saw the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Having spent some very enjoyable time in London's portrait gallery I decided I'd at least pop in for a peek.

The Museum is Seemingly Guarded by Luis Jimenez' Vaquero (1990)
(Jimenez Died While Creating the Terrifying Mustang at Denver's Airport)  

It turns out that the Portrait Gallery is actually one of two compatible Smithsonian museums that have been carefully fused together. The official title of the building is the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.

Immediately after walking inside I was smitten. The building itself is spectacular and it contains a collection that I found rich, diverse and completely fascinating. After 4 hours I had only explored the first two floors and was just on my way to the third floor. Upon arrival on floor three I was alerted that it was already 7:00 PM (this realization was provided by a friendly gallery guard who assisted me in finding an exit.)

The 330,000 square foot building was completed in 1868 to serve as the United State's Patent office. Even prior to completion it played a role during the civil war as a hospital and a venue for Lincoln's second inauguration. Until 1949 it housed America's "Temple of Invention" a great hall filled with some of the very cool models submitted for patents (some are still on display today).

A "Better" Mousetrap Patent Model

By 1950 the abandoned building was threatened with demolition. Happily in 1968 President Johnson deeded the building to the Smithsonian Institutions who in 2006 invested $226,000,000 in a careful and thorough renovation. To complete the upgrade Sir Norman Foster (the British Museum, Millennium Bridge etc.) was retained in 2007 to create a skylight enclosure for the building's courtyard to knit the building together. His new indoor courtyard is a quiet, sublime oasis, complete with a very nice cafe with internet access.

Foster's Courtyard 
And its Scrims of Water

The museum's permanent collection is one of the few uncrowded places left in the world to view seminal works by artists like Winslow Homer, Georgia O'Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Thomas Hart Benton, and Albert Beirdstadt (just scratching the surface.)

It also stages wonderful special exhibits. While there I viewed submissions for the 2013 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. In this exhibit I was delighted to see Winslow Arizona's Tina Mion and her submission "PiƱata".

Upcoming Exhibitions include: Dancing the Dream opening in October 2013 (the art of dance and the evolution of a modern American identity) and American Cool opening in 2014. While exploring I particularly enjoyed the current special exhibition "One Life" devoted to Amelia Earhart.

Roadboy's friends know I was very frustrated a few years back in my attempt to view Edward Hopper's Nighthawks at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was away on loan. Then later I fought crowds to see his works in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.

So, here in a museum I entered on a whim, I walk into a gallery and find myself staring at Hopper's Cape Cod Morning. And..... I had it all to myself.

Cape Cod Morning 
Edward Hopper (1950)

Literally a few feet away was Georgia O'Keeffe's raucous Manhattan.

Georgia O'Keeffe (1932)

As I ventured further I encountered two remarkable paintings by another favorite, Thomas Hart Benton. One is epic in size and the other is the highly personal self portrait he painted just after he married his wife Rita.

Achelous and Hercules
Thomas Hart Benton (1947)
(This Painting is 22' long - Click it For Detail) 

Self Portrait With Rita
Thomas Hart Benton (1922)

Moving on I came across two small elegant Winslow Homer watercolors including Boys in a Dory.

Boys in a Dory 
Winslow Homer (1880)

The Struggle for Justice Gallery drew emotion. I found myself stopped dead in my tracks at the Eunice Shriver painting created to celebrate her role in the formation of the Special Olympics. Here was a woman, who to the end, was defiant in living in the moment.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver
David Lenz (2009)
(Note: This is Only the Right Half of This Wonderful Portrait)

I also found myself completely mesmerized by a painting of Marian Anderson casting a determined look away from the viewer. I may never know who she was looking at, but her eyes convey everything I need to know about strength and dignity and what it means to be truly heroic.

Marian Anderson
Betsy Graves (1955)

Another painting that I found powerful was Maynard Dixon's "Shapes of Fear". Created at the height of the depression this portrait conveys, with power, the despair of the era.    

Shapes of Fear
Maynard Dixon (1930-32)

I close with the two huge Chuck Close Photo tapestries of President Obama in the rotunda. Again I feel our president's soul is conveyed in his eyes.

President Barak Obama
Chuck Close

I know there are many, many wonderful sights competing for attention when visiting Washington DC. I always find it hard to prioritize my time there. Nonetheless, Roadboy strongly urges anyone visiting DC to add this gallery to your list. 

It is zero hype, no crowds, offers flawless AC, a stunning courtyard, lovely cafe and a super museum store. In most galleries you are welcome to take photos. And, amazingly, it is still completely free!

I can hardly wait to go back and see the third floor.

Roadboy's Travels © 2013