brad's blog

Too old for Tik-Tok. Too lazy for YouTube.


Memorial Day (US) 2024

05/31/24 - In the US, we celebrate Memorial Day in remembrance of those who gave their live in service of our country in armed conflicts. We also have furniture sales, car sales, and thank others who while deserving, are not part of the original intent of what was formerly called Decoration Day. I have a lot of veterans in my family and thankfully all of them came home, so how I spend Memorial Day is to go to a local graveyard and look for veterans who's date of death corresponds to a conflict that corresponds with their service and thank them for their sacrifice.

Grave marker of James Lee Riter, USN who died in the Viet Nam war.

This year, I came across the grave of James Lee Riter. James died on 20th December 1970 in small arms battle near near Ben Tre,Kien Hoa Province,South Vietnam. He was an Electricians Mate Third Class (EM 3) with Seal Team 1. He was on his third tour and was awarded Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and numerous other medals and commendations. He grew up in Gallon,Ohio and then moved to Phoenix in 1957. He joined the Navy right after high school. His nickname in the service was "Gasman" and while I have not yet been able to find out what that was in reference to, I'm thinking it was a term of endearment. I'm including several links to sites with more information about James. I'd encourage you to click through and find out more about a high school kid who made the ultimate sacrifice.

specialforcesroh.com page for James
Wall-of-Faces page for James
navysealmuseum.org/memorial-wall page for James

Interstate 19 in Arizona

05/24/24 - Interstate 19 in Arizona is unique. It is the only Interstate in the US that has distances marked exclusively in kilometers. It is approximately 102 km (63.3 mi) long. At first glance there does not seem to be anything different about it and depending on where you get on, you might not have a clue about the differences at first glance. If you start at the northernmost entry point, there is a sign alerting you to the distances being in km, but if you get on at other points, you will have to pay attention to the 'km' on the road signs and the 'mile' markers. The exits correspond to the km markers, so exit 4 is 8 km from exit 12. If you are thinking miles in your head, that next exit going to come up a lot faster than you expected.

Interstate 19 sign

The Interstate was completed in 1978 and was originally outfitted with standard signage. In 1980 the switch to metric was made as there was a brief period of time when the US actually considered moving to the metric system. Only distances were converted though. According to the sources that I found, the decision to exclude speed had to do with concern that the metric speeds would be a higher number and might have lead to drives exceeding the then 55 mph national speed limit by 33 mph if they mistook the 88 kph for mph. It's one thing to think the exits are closer than they seem, it's quite another to go that much faster than the speed limit. There was a proposal to convert back to mph but local opposition seems to have put the brakes on that.

Distance to exit for Pima Mine Road, in kilometers.

By itself, it's really just another stretch of US Interstate highway so it's not much to see on its own, but it is a curiosity and if you find yourself in Tucson or Nogales (or in-between) it might be interesting to you to see it in person. There are two stops of note along the way so you might be going to them as well. There is the US Titan Missile Museum, which will be featured in another post as well as the Mission San Xavier del Bac, which I have yet to get to. I'll link to a video on YouTube about Interstate oddities. I-19 has a short mention at 4:00. Check out that channel if you want to find out more about the US Interstate system.

Roadside distance marker, in km
The 10 Weirdest US Interstate Oddities (video)

Pie Town, NM

05/17/24 - Driving home from Santa Fe, I had a little surprise for my travel partner. We would detour across Route 60 and have lunch in Pie Town, NM. With a 2010 population of 186, it's a blink and you miss it kind of place, but if you do, you will miss the pie! I spotted two places along the way. We stopped at the first as I remembered going there on a previous trip. We stopped at the Pie-O-Neer Homestead. It turns out that the old owner retired, but the new folks really kept the spirit of the old place alive. As we skipped breakfast, this was an excellent place to have a lunch time treat.

Exterior front of the Pie-O-Neer cafe

The decor is what I think every TGIFridays or Cracker Barrel is going for, but this place seems genuine. Hardwood floors, tables and booths, and a counter where you go up to place your order. The currently available pies are on display, with the cold pies in an adjacent cooler. The menu changes quickly so if you see one you want, order it quickly. If it's no longer available, there is probably an equally satisfying alternative. Make your order, take a seat, and in minutes, a server brings you your pie. (and coffee, tea, etc.) You can also get quiche, and I think they may make sandwiches, but you really have to have pie.

Slice of coconut cream pie

I broke my dairy free diet and had the coconut cream pie and it was marvelous. They had an apple/hatch chile pie too and while I planned on a second slice, the first one filled me up so I decided to keep that one for the next trip, or maybe a mail order pie. We asked about the recipes, and while the current proprietors did not have theirs published, the original owner did and they shared that information with us. Also located along that stretch of Rt. 60 is the Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Telescope facility. I'm one to take the road less traveled as opposed to another trip on the dreaded Rt 40 when I get the chance, so this detour was worth it for me. It's pretty barren otherwise but it was not the most deserted road I've been on and the scenery was pretty good. Consider a detour to Pie Town if you are in the area.

Interior shot of the Pie-O-Neer cafe Pie-O-Neer Cafe website
Pie-O-Neer Cafe Facebook page
Pie Town Pies: Making Pies with the Pie Lady of Pie Town
VLA website

Bandelier National Monument

05/10/24 - Bandelier National Monument is located northwest of Santa Fe. It is an extensive series of pueblos, rooms, and trails that lets you explore the incredible life that people once had here. It was occupied from 1150 to 1550 (approx). The houses were literally just carved into the sides of the mountains. Of course you can't just have a place to crash so they farmed, gathered local plants, hunted, and domesticated animals too. When the area could no longer support them, they moved to other areas. The great thing is, that the land is preserved for us to explore now and to see this fascinating history basically as it was left behind. The park has over 70 miles of trails, but if you want to see the most with the least effort, the Pueblo Loop Trail is the one to see. It's about 1 1/2 miles long with 21 numbered stops along the way. There are some stairs, and they have handrails and it's not fully accessible for the full loop. I'd allocate about an hour for this trail, depending on how crowded it is.

View of cliff dwellings along with stand alone adobe buildings

In addition to the cliff dwellings, there is also the massive Tyuonyi structure which had over 400 rooms. It was most likely used to store food according to the parks website. Renderings of it in the museum support this as the individual rooms were accessible through the roofs, so it did not support moving about from unit to unit as one might expect in a dwelling set up for humans. Another structure in the park is the Long House. It was a series of homes built along the base of the cliff that is simply massive. You can only see the foundations but that in it self is enough to appreciate the enormity of the dwellings that were once there. There are a lot of petroglyphs there too, so stop along the way and pay attention to the detail.

View of the Tyuoni structure foundations.

If you are in or near Santa Fe, and this kind of history is your thing, I highly recommend this National Monument. I'm rocking the Senior Lifetime pass so it cost me nothing. If you are a single vehicle, it's $25.00. You can buy an annual pass to this site for $45.00, but if you go to more than one National Park per year, I recommend the America the Beautiful - National Park and Federal Recreation Lands Pass for $80. Granted, the pass has a little more juice out west than back east so you have to do what is right for you. I'm just saying if you went to this site (25), the Grand Canyon (35) and Yosemite (35) you can save some $. Plan accordingly. Would I go back again? Sure. We left a lot or trails unexplored and even without the incredible history, it was a beautiful site. Also, they had a cafe and a pretty decent gift shop with some pretty good and atypical merch.

Ladder leading up to a cliff dwelling.
https://nps.gov/band/index.htm

Meow Wolf

05/03/24 - Driving into Santa Fe, we saw a couple billboards for Meow Wolf. They had no indication of what it was. (I incorrectly guessed a cannabis shop). Once we got settled, we went online to discover that they billed themselves as an immersive art experience that "...opens portals of possibility." and "redefine(s) the paradigm of art and storytelling to make a positive difference in the world." There is a video on their web page that gave a hint of what we were in for so we decided to give it a shot. I'm always up for something random, new, or weird and this looked like it checked all of the boxes. We did a drive by and saw a few large sculptures in the parking lot so we decided to give it a go.

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When you enter the building, there is a reception area, a gift shop, and a cafe. When you go inside, your first stop is what looks like an old Victorian house. Inside, the rooms are filled with random weirdness, like a dining room table with an oscilloscope and what may or may not be someone's manifesto. Each successive room got a little weirder and you can see that the randomness is purposful. This is art, just not your father's art. (Unless your father was really cool. Oh, and that thing that looks like a fridge, it's a door to somewhere else. Follow it and see where you end up. It took us to a larger area, ostensibly outside of the house, but still in the building where there were a series of different areas with more random and seemingly unrelated artwork. One area was a black and white room covered in illustrations. One area was an office which looked like a conspiracy theorist's lair, with a working computer that you could launch the files on the desktop to see those images. And another area was a sea of day glow trees with fish hanging from the ceiling.

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As always, art is in the eye of the beholder, but this was what I can best characterize as 2020's pop art. It was a truly immersive experience. It is an unguided tour. You just walk around and observe and intake the creativity. It is hard to know where you have been and what is left to see, but I think that adds to the experience. It's creative, random, and different. There is so much detail in all of the displays, that I'd go back again, next time I am in the area and I'd go to the other 4 locations if I am ever in those towns. I'd recommend it if you are at all interested in what I can best call "non-traditional" art. Not sure if that is offensive to the artists, but it's not meant to be. They had a stage as part of the display and it seems that they host musical events there too. I'd not heard of any of the bands, but I'd see a show there just based on the vibe of the space. Two thumbs up and my recommendation to see Meow Wolf if you ever get the chance.

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Meow Wolf

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