Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Covered in Snow - Rockies Route 285

Sites along northbound Highway 285
It is amazing how it can snow in the Rocky Mountains, and by late-morning on a sunny day, the road conditions can be back to bare pavement. I drove from Monte Vista back to Fort Collins via Highway 285, and made quick stops to specifically catch photographs of hawks, a few other birds, and Mule Deer and Rocky Mountain Elk. Snow covered everything in northern San Luis Valley through South Park and the rest of the way to Denver. Over the five hours of driving it was easy to see the upper reaches of the Rio Grande, Arkansas, and the South Platte 
More Highway 285 views
Rivers. Colorado is the high ground from the middle of the continent, and many waters flow out of here. The only song birds I saw were two Dark-eyed Juncos, the rest, larger birds like the hawks, one Common Raven, numerous American Crow, and the occasional Black-billed Magpies that crossed over the highway in front of me, and one in a thicket of trees who wouldn't let me get close of a clear picture, but gave calls from its perch. It is a curious phenom that these animals can survive in this environments. Along the way toward the upper end of the San Luis Valley, water was being released from a well to a creek, and Mallard Ducks were making the best of single digit temperatures with snow on the banks.

Rough-legged Hawk
American Crow against the mountain
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Common Raven
Mule Deer
Black-billed Magpie
Mallard Ducks

Monday, February 3, 2014

Long Southern Colorado Drive - Highway 160

Mount Mestas (R) and Rough Mountain
It was a long drive to Buena Vista today, but I love seeing the different views of Colorado. Fort Collins to Denver, Denver to Pueblo, Pueblo to Walsenburg, Walsenburg to Alamosa, and then Buena Vista. Highway 160 up over North La Veta Pass at 9,300 feet elevation, and down into the San Luis Valley. Southern Colorado Rockie Mountains - Spanish Peaks covered with clouds and snow, as is most of the ground - it is still over 7,300 feet here in Alamosa. When coming up the east side of the pass, a Black-billed Magpie cruised by the opposite direction parallel to the ground with the blanketed white hill slope with snowed-covered trees as background contrast - a perfect photograph in my mind, and if I could paint, it would be staged like one of those Judy Leach hidden horse scenes with Indian ponies camouflaged by their background.

Calvillo's Restaurant
There are not many towns along the way from Walsenburg to Alamosa - watch out for the unmarked police cars in the few towns that are: Fort Garland and Blanca - pay attention to the 35 mph signs that punctuate the otherwise 65 mph highway speed. Alamosa is worth the journey just to sample Calvillo's Mexican Restaurant - many reviews, four stars. Their rojo sauce has a smoky flavor, similar to what I have tasted at a new restaurant we tried and liked in Fort Collins - maybe this is a Colorado style different than we have had in Oregon and Maryland.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

PDX Enroute Stop - Coffee People Choice

Second Third Place
Starbucks is my favorite Third Place of choice - if I am to use one - but the Coffee People at the entrance to Concourse E at PDX is the most available watering hole when flying on United Airlines (my preferred carrier for frequent flying miles membership). My regular choice: Cafe Mocha Decaf with whipped cream (that sounds like a line out of You've Got Mail (1) - staged in New York City, but where Starbucks has penetrated the metropolitan giant with small pieces of the Pacific Northwest coffee culture that  sustains residents there through the ten continuous months of cloudy weather and rain).

Customized cafe mocha decaf
For health regulations, the concoction has to be handed over to the customer in a paper cup with the generic, non-biodegradable cap in place, upon which receiving I put on the generic brown paper sleeve to serve as a heat insulator, step over to the service bar where the nutmeg, cinnamon, and chocolate shakers are available for customers like me to custom adulterate the hot drink by sprinkling the spices on top of the crushed whipped cream, to then carefully reattach the non-biodegradable cap, and then gather up my carry-on bags and waddle my way to my gate carrying everything and thinking about that first sip of my coffee drink.
(1) Line from You've Got Mail when Joe Fox says: "The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino." A book is specifically written about Starbucks culture in America that draws commentary by newspaper columnists, not unlike what the Frank Navsky character would write in the movie.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Arena Lullaby - Cowboys and Hoops

Arena's jumbotron
The sights and sounds at the National Great Western Stock Show's rodeo are familiar as any other large gathering, but different. Big crowds, lots of moms and dads with kids, but with a western flavor: boots, hats, livestock themes, bar-b-que - this is Denver, Colorado, not Annapolis, Maryland. The indoor rodeo is like any other sports event held within a large arena with spectators sitting in fold-up seats, the row numbers marked on the aisle seats along the ascending concrete steps that lead up to the nose bleed sections at the top. A jumbotron crowns the central ceiling area above the dirt-filled ring - a similar substitute that is not all that different than he scoreboard in Moda Center in the Portland Rose Quarter where hardwood planks cover the arena where the NBA Trail Blazers run back and forth between the rims identified with numbers on their jerseys, in contrast to the horses, bulls, and steers that are pursued by cowboys with similar goals as the agile leapers playing round ball with their desires to win their competitions, but with numbers pinned to the backs of their long-sleeved western-style shirts.

The pavilion where the rodeo is housed is a long ways from the range, and even Denver, the city on the edge of the Great Plains, has intrinsic aspects that are many degrees of separation away from its livestock heritage, just as the singer of a modern cowboy lullaby sung in distant Massachusetts - dreams of moonlight lady fairies, snow-covered turnpikes, and glasses of beer. Maybe J.T. will sing this song when he appears May 30th at the Moda Center.

Competitors - horse and man

Sweet Baby James by James Taylor

Well, there is a young cowboy he lives on the range
His horse and his cattle are his only companions
He works in the saddle and he sleeps in the canyons
Just waiting for Summer, his pastures to change

And as the moon rises he sits by his fire
Thinking about women and glasses of beer
And closing his eyes as the dogies retire
He sings out a song which is soft but it's clear
As if maybe someone could hear

Goodnight you moonlight ladies
Rockabye sweet baby James
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose
Won't you let me go down in my dreams
And rockabye sweet baby James

Now the first of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Though the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go

There's a song that they sing when they take to the highway
A song that they sing when they take to the sea
A song that they sing of their home in the sky
Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep
But singing works just fine for me

- Chorus -
So, Goodnight you moonlight ladies
Rockabye sweet baby James
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose
Won't you let me go down in my dreams
And rockabye sweet baby James