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June 30, 2004

BIG Grand Canyon Panoramas

These are all links to very large panoramas of the Grand Canyon. If you prefer smaller images, go here to my Grand Canyon album and select your prefered size.

grand canyon

grand canyon

grand canyon

grand canyon

grand canyon

grand canyon

grand canyon

Filed under Photography,Travel | permalink | June 30, 2004 at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

Airfares?

Mobissimo is a beta airfare search engine. It saves you the trouble of searching Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and individual airline sites to find the best price. Does it all for you. No charge. The drawback at the moment seems to be that the only data you enter is points of departure and arrival and date, not time of day. That's a pretty minor gripe if you're looking for the best airfare fast.

Filed under Travel | permalink | June 30, 2004 at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)

Rainbow Travel Club

I have neglected to expand upon the explanation of who I traveled with to Sedona this past weekend. It was the maiden voyage of the "Rainbow Travel Club" which is a part of the Desert Pride Center. The two women who are leading it are retired military and have traveled extensively. They seem to have a great grasp of when and how to get good discounts and great places. We got into the Grand Canyon for free, as an example!

On the trip home we brainstormed and voted on future trips. They are not limiting themselves to gray-head bus trips in the vicinity of Palm Springs. How about a Mediterranean cruise? Or Athens post Olympics? Sydney? Hawaii? For future events they are promising early access and significant discounts to Pride Center members...so, if you are interested, join the Pride Center (minimum $25) and you will learn everything.

You don't have to live in Palm Springs to join, but all the trips should originate here.

Filed under Travel | permalink | June 30, 2004 at 05:39 PM | Comments (0)

This Is How Things Get Started

flamethrower
Look at this clean-cut boy next door and wonder about this equipment he has. Is he devising a new way to dispense pesticides or herbicides? Is it something to clean clogged drains?

No, none of that. See that blue tank on his hip? That's a propane tank. Does that make you nervous? Don't worry, because the propane is nothing more than a PILOT LIGHT for what's in his back pack!

Oh, yeah, it's fun until someone gets all their skin roasted off.

I'd like to know where this kid lives...so I can stay away.

| permalink | June 30, 2004 at 11:02 AM | Comments (0)

Forestiere Underground Gardens

I'm putting this link here for my own benefit. Every time I go googling for "Forestiere Underground Gardens" the gardens' own website is buried on page 2 or 3 of hits. I think this is due in part to the fact that wherever the site displays the phrase "Forestiere Underground Gardens" it uses a graphic instead of text. Looks nice, but doesn't help people find your site.

Anyway, these gardens are located in Fresno, and I sure would like to see them someday, but they have a sort of quirky tour schedule.

Filed under California | permalink | June 30, 2004 at 10:07 AM | Comments (1)

June 29, 2004

My LifeCycle Photos - Highlights

For those of you who are not interested in paging through 445 AIDS LifeCycle photos in my Fototime album here are a few of the more interesting ones (I think). These links go to the original photos, some of which will be larger than your monitor, and there's no handy link to scroll from one photo to the next. But you pay for what you get:

Filed under AIDS Rides,Photography | permalink | June 29, 2004 at 03:28 PM | Comments (2)

June 27, 2004

Safety

I neglected to mention how delighted I was to find that along most of the south rim of the Grand Canyon the taxpaying tourist is free to simply step off the edge and plummet to his (or her) very immediate death. I had assumed this popular part of the Grand Canyon would be over-protected, over-fenced, over-padded, and over-supervised. Not so. I like it!

Also, I want to remind the reader that when bus passengers are admonished to hold onto something while moving about in the coach, they really mean it! We were in Quartzsite, Arizona, (of all places) when one of our travelers went tumbling into the stairwell, heels over head. It was pretty scary at first, lots of blood and weird body positions. Fortunately, we had at least two nurses on board, and the injury doesn't look like it's very serious.

But in the process we learned these two very pleasing things:

  1. Cellular 911 works!
  2. Quartzsite, Arizona, actually has emergency services that respond quickly and professionally.

One of the paramedics was asking the usual array of questions to determine if the injured party might have a bad head injuriy. Our traveler was answering well when the paramedic got to ask "Who's the president of the United States?" Our traveler paused and replied "That asshole!" The busload of travelers erupted into laughter, but the paramedic maintained an entirely straight face. It was, after all, Arizona, and we were Californians.

Filed under Travel | permalink | June 27, 2004 at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2004

Comin' Back

Yes, gotta come back to Sedona and do a jeep trip or two. Also Slide Rock, which I understand features a 50 foot jump into the river. Sounds dangerously high to me, but I haven't seen it yet.

So today was, as scheduled, Grand Canyon day. Every time I make that first visit to a place dozens of friends have described to me, I am so surprised to always find something there that is like the elephant in the corner, the big, weird thing that nobody mentions. And at the Grand Canyon it was how amazingly, simply amazingly close the roadway and parking are to the very lip of the south rim. We've all heard these stories of someone's sending his car crashing through a plate glass window because his foot slipped from the gas to the brake. How hard would it be to make that same mistake and send your car right over the rim. A divine justice, perhaps, but the Grand Canyon would bear the scar for it.

The Grand Canyon was the first place I really, really needed my semi-new semi-fisheye lens.
Family Overlooking Grand Canyon
Here I hover over a family and take his word for it when the son leans over the edge and jerks back saying "Oh my god, that's straight down!"

Mule Rider
This young man rides with a swagger that seems to say he is a British nobleman coming home from the fox hunt.
But he's at the tail end of a mule ride coming back up the Bright Angel trail. We took a very short walk down that trail and managed to encounter two trains (right word?) of mules coming up. I gotta go back and hike more of that. Would like to do the mule ride, but if our guide is correct, I have to lose some weight before being permitted to ride.

Ken and Me
No, that's not Ray Charles' ghost, it's Ken next to me, fisheyed, on the bus.

Filed under Photography,Travel | permalink | June 26, 2004 at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2004

Jerome, Prescott

Today's bus trip was to Jerome and Prescott and, really, I think it would have been better to have skipped them and done a Jeep ride out into the areas around Sedona. Nonetheless, it happened. Solid tourist stuff. Shops of nothing but things tourists are infamous for buying.

But, maybe the wonderful, wonderful twisty road up and over 89A between the two towns made it worthwhile. Very beautiful and scary, and nauseating for some. And there are vistas.

Clouds
For example.

And there's all the mining stuff all around. Old stuff, and brand new stuff like this facility we saw near Cottonwood:
Mining Facility
From a distance I was convinced it was an amusement park.

Filed under Travel | permalink | June 25, 2004 at 07:52 PM | Comments (0)

Late Night in Sedona

The coffee shop closed at 10 Thursday night, even though the sign said they would be open until 11. I asked if wi-fi continued after closing and the attractive counterman said it sure would, that actually they had nothing to do with it (there are signs on the doors claiming otherwise) but that it came from those towers (pointing to a cluster of towers on top of a hill at least a mile away) and went on to explain that "it just gathers here." I was going to make some comment about it being like a vortex, but people here might take their vortices seriously and not like to have them equated with mere 802.11g protocols.

So I headed outside and plopped down on some cast iron furniture. There were a couple of other guys that were there for the wi-fi, too. Both were using PCs and their equipment was huge. It looked like they were lugging piano cases. I was pretty pleased that my little Mac seemed so much more convenient. Eventually the other two guys finished up their business and wandered away, leaving me all alone on the sidewalk in front of this coffee shop until nearly midnight. It was really nice to feel safe, enjoy the warm air, and have not much more to worry about than the direction a certain palmetto bug would take.

Filed under Web/Tech | permalink | June 25, 2004 at 06:47 AM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2004

Sedona

I'm in Sedona, Arizona, right now. Some people in Palm Springs organized a gay & lesbian bus trip out here, and I came along to get to see a little bit of Arizona without having to make much effort.

We drove out here yesterday, reversing the route I drove in November to get to Palm Springs. I've been amazed this trip at how green and wet Arizona is. It seemed dry last November, but after several months in Palm Springs, Arizona seems to drip with humidity.

One of the highlight destinations for this trip was to be the "vortexes," (which I believe should be "vortices"). Try as I might I couldn't find a good description or definition of a vortex on the web. I knew it was something new-agey, but it didn't matter much. I was along to see the sights.

This morning we loaded ourselves on the bus and met our vortex tour guide, Blue Evening Star. During the drive she told us that before she moved to Sedona she called herself Blue Corn, so you can see her self image has improved. We drove to Montezuma's Well. During the drive she pointed out a few sights and explained all the vortices in the Sedona area. This one was electric, that one was magnetic, and here's a really special electro-magnetic one. I wanted to see a coal-powered one. I could hardly reproduce her rambling tale of vague terminology, but you've probably heard it before. It struck me as not all that different from listening to the Mormon's while touring their Temple in Belmont...except I think the Mormon's stayed on subject a bit better. I mean, I listen to this sort of stuff from these different beliefs and I just try to hear it and see if I can grasp how it all hangs together in some self-consistent way. I don't waste a lot of time trying to compare it to reality.

Montezuma's Well
Montezuma's Well.

The bus arrived at Montezuma's Well which is in a National Forest, and is indeed a water source, and supposed to be a powerful vortex. It had been an underground lake until a cavern roof collapsed, exposing it to the sky. Some Indians had stories about their tribes originating from the well. The water from the well flows goes into a crack in the limestone (called a "swallet" I learned) and travels underground a couple hundred feet to a nearby creek, where the Indians had guided it into an irrigation canal that paralleled the creek. We walked down some nice stone steps to a paved sidewalk (pausing along the way to ogle a baby hawk through a scope set up by a tourist who was not in our bus group).

Blue Evening Star had told us she thought the power of the vortex was stronger at the creek than at the well itself. Many of our tour members had gathered themselves in a large bunch around Blue Evening Star and listened raptly as she spoke...and spoke and spoke and spoke. It became, I'm afraid, "yammering." Vortex or not, I would have appreciated a bit of silence so I could have appreciated the place. I also wouldn't have minded if the group would dis-congest itself a bit so that I could squeeze by and see what was further down the path. But rather than cracking the crystal of the vortex by snapping at her, I walked back and uphill to where Ken and another trip member were resting. Neither of them had felt quite able to negotiate the steep and irregular steps down to the creek. I went up to give them a verbal description of what they might be missing, and hoped that while I was talking with them, Blue Evening Star's speech would come to an end.

When I got back down to the creek, the speech had indeed ended. Unfortunately, she was now singing. I wandered away again, and when I came back this time, the convention had broken up. People had scattered out along the path and were soaking their feet in the water of the irrigation canal, which I took to understand was supposed to have healing powers. Well, I could hardly pass up an opportunity to engage in foot-healing, so I took off socks and shoes and soaked. It was a beautiful, grass-lined little canal, and the water was fresh, fast and cool. After I pulled my feet out I intended to stand barefoot for a few minutes to let them dry, but when I stood up on the stone path I noticed no irritation or pain, so I just walked and actually went barefoot several hundred feet back along the path and up the steps to where Ken was resting. I haven't complained about my feet recently, but since LifeCycle I've had some irritation and pain. I don't claim any healing occurred. I'm just saying it was a pretty spot, and my feet feel fine.

From Montezuma's Well we bused over to Cathedral rock which Blue Evening Star told us was an electro-magnetic vortex where some Cosmic Entities resided and ran the world, or a switchboard to the universe, or something. It is also in a National Forest, and we had pay a whole buck to get in. Most of the women, and some of the men, gathered together to do some meditation. Sitting next to a hot parking lot and pretending to meditate, while the lovely scenery pulled at us certainly didn't appeal to Ken and me. So we gave in to the pull of nature and wandered along until we found another creek with another canal alongside. There was a group of very young kids with some adults who were trying to get them to body-slide on the mossy rocks into the creek. That was fun to watch for awhile, until we decided to plop ourselves down and bathe our feet in the canal, as I had done earlier. It was quite nice, and eventually the meditators caught up with us there.

From there we headed down into Sedona to a lovely little shopping plaza of restaurants and art galleries. Place had an Indian name that I won't be able to get down here. It had a brewpub too, which is something I've been needing. A couple of hoppy lagers put me in the right mood.

Tonight's sunset in Sedona was remarkably similar to last night's. From our motel we have a nice easterly view across the valley to some red buttes that reflect the light of the setting sun quite nicely.

Sedona Sunset
Sedona sunset

Tomorrow is more touristy, less vortexy. We go to Jerome and Prescott. Saturday is the big day, as we visit the Grand Canyon. My first time there, and I'm just going to bite the bullet and do it the terrible touristy way. Group bus tour, a visit to the IMax first, and then stand amid the crowds. Then maybe I'll have a better idea how I want to do it the next time I come over here. That's my only excuse.

We're staying at a Best Western which has only dial-up access, for which they apologized. The staff directed me to a nice coffee shop Ravenheart, just a block from the motel. This place has free wi-fi, so you know I'm a happy man.

Sidewalks roll up very early here. It would make Boston look like a party town. Last night Ken found himself without dinner at 9:00 PM and nothing open. He went to the motel staff and asked if there wasn't even a sandwich vending machine anywhere. The bellman (or man of all duties) graciously told him he'd be glad to drive him anywhere he wanted to go. They hopped in the van and drove away to find food. On the journey the bellman discreetly inquired if he might ask a question. He said that he knew Ken was part of the bus tour that had just come in and wondered if the rumor were true that we were a group of "gay swingers." How quaint! We've been having some fun today with that. This group is mostly gray (we have couple of people under 40, I think) and mostly coupled-up. We are looking for a playground so we can do some swinging.

Filed under Travel | permalink | June 24, 2004 at 09:18 PM | Comments (1)

June 23, 2004

A List of Other AIDS Rides

Looks pretty complete to me!

Filed under AIDS Rides | permalink | June 23, 2004 at 02:07 AM | Comments (0)

Even More Other LifeCycle Photos

Team Pineapple.

Filed under AIDS Rides | permalink | June 23, 2004 at 02:05 AM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2004

LifeCycle Photos by Andy Stein

Start here.

Filed under AIDS Rides | permalink | June 22, 2004 at 09:45 PM | Comments (0)

LifeCycle Photos Are There!

445 photos of AIDS LifeCycle 3 that you just can't live without are all loaded up. Or is that uploaded? Later, I'll provide you some direct links to a few of the best photos...but let me take a break for a bit.

At ALC 3
In the meantime, here's a photo that John got of me at the closing ceremonies.

Filed under AIDS Rides,Photography | permalink | June 22, 2004 at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

Day 7, Ventura to Los Angeles

Had to get up half an hour earlier Saturday morning in Ventura. They were going to open the route 30 minutes earlier today (as usual) to help the riders get ahead of Saturday morning traffic, and to help assure that most of them would get to Dodger Stadium before the deadline (which was 3:30 PM, I think).

This was the morning the cyclists found the easter eggs left by Chicken Lady. After sending the cyclists out for their last ride, we began to break down bike parking. Each step of the packing up was celebrated: "The last A frame on the truck!" "The last pole!" "Last sandbag!"

I drove the truck with Dan navigating. Out there on 101, our best moment was climbing a LONG pass. I don't know the name for it, but anyone who drives between Ventura and L.A. must know the one I mean. Our truck dropped to 15 MPH. After a couple miles of that, something happened to the engine and we began to mysteriously accelerate to 25 MPH, while still climbing. If there are any Ford diesel mechanics in the audience, I'd like to hear an explanation. I'd also like an explanation of the rocker switch on the dash labeled "IDLE" and "ENG." We couldn't detect any difference in either setting.

We were told to go nonstop to Dodger Stadium, but to arrive with a full tank of diesel. We got half of that right. From 101 to Dodger Stadium we saw only one gas station, and it was on the left side of the road. We kept going, counting on at least one on the right, and when we saw Dodger Stadium dead ahead, we didn't feel like making a u-turn and going back.

Dodger Stadium is, like most non-Fenway, non-Wrigley, non-Yankee baseball fields (I imagine) surrounded by a vast sea of asphalt parking lots, undulating over the hills, punctuated by palm trees. At the entrance we were told by a volunteer to follow the blue line, which was painted on the asphalt. A hundred feet later we were stopped by another volunteer who pondered and cryptically explained that 7 and 38 were both full. I stared at him. He stared at me. I wonder if he thought his words held any actual meaning for me. I snapped at him "Tell me where to go." He pointed over to his left, and we proceeded down that path which rolled and meandered around the stadium. Finally we fell back on what had worked so well at every stop along the way. We spotted the white tent over the check-in table, and then saw the "Bike Parking" signs.

We pulled into bike parking and the new bike parking volunteers reacted with the usual deadpan affect typical of L.A. volunteers. I don't know if it's apathy, or fear of what they've gotten themselves in for. Because, WE weren't setting up bike parking. My job would end as soon as I stopped the truck, and these virgins would have to figure it out on their own. We stopped, and someone with a walkie-talkie came up and said he would call for about 20 more volunteers (giving them a total about 30 people, nearly double the size of our team) to "come and help us." Oh, no. But as a retired federal employee, I knew well that the way to avoid work wasn't to argue about it, but to walk away.

Dan and I jumped out of the truck, unlocked the rear and pointed out and explained the wheelchair, which was the one thing I was willing to take full responsibility for. Fortunately, my instructions got through. Later, when I checked, the wheelchair was right there at the check-in table like it ought to be. The volunteer organizer seemed a bit at sea when looking at our equipment...I mean the stuff in the back of the truck. So I gave him a basic description. "That's a pole. That's an A-frame. One pole with an A-frame on each end constitutes a bike rack. Space 'em this far apart. You'll do well!" I beat a hasty retreat around the side of the truck. Dan stayed and gave him some more explanation, but he's younger and works in private industry.

Half an hour later, after resting a little, I did feel a bit guilty and wandered back to bike parking. They seemed to be getting the basic idea of it. I left them alone, so they could take full ownership of their success. I went and picked up my yellow "victory" t-shirt.

In the course of looking for a good spot to photograph cyclists, I wandered back along their route to their entrance into Dodger Stadium and a bit beyond that. I was maybe half a mile from bike parking. It put me at the top of their very last hill, so they were going slow enough I could get some photos and even talk to a couple of them. It was lonely, hot work (for me!), but anything to be able to be The First Person to say "Welcome to Dodger Stadium," like I was a parking hostess.

A roadie meeting was scheduled for 3:45, the real purpose of which was to get us together so they could herd us into the right spot for closing ceremonies, but they also took the opportunity for a last round of thank yous. After the meeting, we lined up alongside a roadway where the cyclists would ride into the closing ceremonies, which had been getting organized and crowded while we had been farting around all afternoon.

It was about this time that John Z. walked up. He had driven over from Palm Springs to enjoy the cool weather of L.A. and to meet me. He was here just in time for the fun part, which was seeing all the cyclists one last time as they rode into the closing ceremonies. This included some walking cyclists because either they or their bikes were no longer fully functional.

I don't know what happens at closing ceremonies before the cyclists roll in, because I've never been just a spectator. I think they play music, roll some video, make some speeches to get the crowd on their feet and then, voila, here are the cyclists rolling down into their midst. The crowd goes wild (while we listen from a distance) and then they do the empty bicycle thing, which is rather quiet and solemn. And then they are always a bit stuck with how to transition from the sad, empty bicycle to welcoming the roadies (who are hanging off in the distance). But this is Hollywood (almost), so somebody figures out something every year. This year, they just dropped right into happy music, and we walked up into the middle of the cyclists. Cyclists go wild, the crowd of spectators are, hmm, appreciative, but not nearly so excited at us wearing our mostly regular clothes and stuff. And then we get down to the working part of closing ceremonies, where the directors of the beneficiary organizations (LAGLC and SFAF) get up and make their speeches. Unfortunately, these go on too long for us standing in the bare sun, but there's a big video screen and a camera panning the crowd occasionally. And then they run a video. Finally, it all ends and we anti-climactically wander in all directions across this parking lot sea. John and I grabbed my bag and found his car, and then headed back to Palm Springs.

I slept a lot for the next 2 or 3 days, and didn't feel like going out in the sun for 4 or 5 days.

I've already signed up to RIDE next year's LifeCycle, so you should probably start saving your money now, as I'm going to hit everyone a lot harder for pledges for that ride. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Filed under AIDS Rides | permalink | June 22, 2004 at 11:54 AM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2004

Crunchin' Those Photos

I've got LifeCycle photos uploaded through Friday evening, Day 6, Ventura. That means I have only Day 7 to do, both photos and narrative.

Filed under AIDS Rides,Photography | permalink | June 21, 2004 at 10:37 PM | Comments (0)

Perfect Score

Zachary Olkewicz has recently earned the first perfect GED score in California in at least a decade! So it does seem to be true that a formal high school education is not needed...for 1 in 569,000 people.

Filed under California | permalink | June 21, 2004 at 09:33 AM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2004

Photos To Santa Maria

I've uploaded all the AIDS LifeCycle photos up through the arrival in Santa Maria, the end of Day 4.

Filed under AIDS Rides,Photography | permalink | June 19, 2004 at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

Mecca Hills in Summer

Organized hikes in Coachella Valley take a summer break from June until temps drop in September (?). I thought this was perhaps a bit over-cautious and decided to try an early morning hike in the Mecca Hills. I got out there about 7:15 AM and it was delightfully cool (which probably means 80s).

Mecca Hills & Ford
Here's the truck parked along Box Canyon Road.
You must remember, if you go there with anything but a 4-wheel drive, that when you leave the paved road you must keep your vehicle on the well-traveled tracks. It all looks like hard-packed sand, but when you drive off the track, you break through the fragile surface to the loose sandy soil below. You'll recover okay in a jeep, but if you forget (like I did this morning) you will have to draw on your old snow-driving skills to rock your vehicle out of the sand. No one will be there to help you.

I had a very nice hike. Heat was no problem, but at about 10:00 I began to become aware of it, and knew I should beat a hasty retreat before the full hammer of the sun could squash me.

The Mecca Hills are formed, I think, from what used to be the sea bottom...and not very long ago, either. The stuff that looks like stone there is just packed sand. Maybe it's sandstone. But it's all very fragile. In fact the hills aren't really hills. I think it used to be a relatively flat area that's now heavily gullied. The gullies can be deep (40 or 50 feet, even). It's these gullies that we call "canyons" and when you climb up out of the canyon you can get a vista across the tops of the "hills."

Mecca Hills 360
Check out this very large 360° panorama I did from atop the Mecca hills.
The lowest bit of blue haze (to the southwest) is the Salton Sea. You can see what I mean about the formation of the Mecca hills. Just gullies.

To get there, go to Mecca and leave town heading east on the only paved road in that direction. It becomes Box Canyon Road after passing the landfill. Box Canyon is simply the biggest gully into which all the other gullies dump. Drive into the hills and pick any random canyon. There must be a hundred of them, left and right. Park carefully and then start walking up your selected canyon. To find your way back to your car, just head downhill. Bring water, wear sunblock, don't fall, watch for snakes.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Photography | permalink | June 19, 2004 at 07:32 PM | Comments (1)