Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Saturday, 17 November 2018

If a Coyote Crosses Your Path

Antelope Canyon, Navajo Tribal Land, Arizona

I'm a little nervous about offending anyone on the Navajo tribal lands, so I brush up on do's and don'ts. The problem is that there are hundreds so I memorize a few of the most relevant. Most of them seem sensible or whimsical.

The Navajo guide leads us into the otherworldly slot canyon.

If a Coyote crosses your path, turn back and do not continue. If you keep traveling, something terrible will happen to you. You will be in an accident, hurt, or killed.

Don't point at a rainbow with your finger. The rainbow will cut it off or break it.

Don't throw rocks at a whirlwind. It will throw them back and chase you

Don't call whirlwinds a name. Evil Spirits will get you.

Do not roll a rock from a mountain. The holy people put them there and it will be bad luck.

Do not watch a river flowing swiftly, or you will get dizzy and fall in.

Do not run over a snake in your car or you will have a bad life.

Do not talk to dogs or other animals because they might talk back and you will die.

Do not say, "I wish I had some meat" when you have the hiccups or your livestock won't grow.

Do not eat frogs because you will have bad luck or bad breath.

Do not eat the heel of a loaf of bread or you will have lots of children.

Do not bite on roasting corn and then put it back or it will get cold and ruin the rest of your crop. Also, your teeth will fall out.

Do not burn blood from a nosebleed because you will get headaches and your head will split.

Do not have three people comb each other's hair at the same time or they will get stuck.

Do not turn pages backwards or you will go blind.

Do not peel potatoes or apples when you are pregnant or the baby will have a flat face.

Monday, 12 November 2018

The Great Banana Peel Hoax

They Call Me Mellow Yellow

The barbecued bananas were excellent. You grill a whole banana about five minutes until the skin turns black and the juice starts running out. Then carefully peel back the skin and lace the hot fruit with cinnamon and lots of whipped cream. It’s kind of like banana cream pie but not as chunky and without any crust.

I’ve read you can lower your blood pressure with lots of fruit and vegetables in your diet.

I examine the blackened banana peels as if they were chicken innards. They appear at first to have some form of writing on the inner surface and perhaps a miraculous Elvis head image. One peel says 11111011100, which is 2012 in decimal. The other has a perfect Elvis head image. I remain skeptical about banana peels even though the Mayans (who used base 20 numbering) thought the world would end in 2012. What does a banana peel know? And why would it use binary? It all resolves into randomness from the cooking process. Than it comes to me where I've seen blackened peels like this before.

It’s 1966 in San Francisco. Mrs. Phred and I are visiting an apartment to see her friends. It’s the weekend and I’ve driven down from Navigator school in Sacramento to be with her.

Some of the people have painted their faces blue on one side and green on the other for some reason. There are lots of mattresses on the floor so that it appears that lots of people live here. The conversations seem weirdly disjointed. The talk is about the teenyboppers that are moving into the district and ruining the ambiance.

Jimmy is a friend of Mrs. Phred. He opens the apartment’s little gas oven and shows me hundreds of blackened banana peels that he is drying on trays. Word is circulating that you can get very high smoking dried banana peels.

It seemed unlikely to me. I remember hoping that they had eaten the bananas first. This became known as the Great Banana Peel Hoax of 1966. If you do the barbecued banana thing, tell me what the inside of the peel reveals.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Mt. Washington Cog Railway

Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

The Mt. Washington cog railroad was approved by the New Hampshire state legislature in 1866. It was the world’s first cog railroad. Some state legislators hooted and suggested approving an extension to the moon. However, the railway opened in 1869 and President Ulysses S. Grant brought his family to take the ride two months later. A lodge at the top offered the affluent cool summer views.

I stick out my head to snap some pictures and end up with tiny coal chunks in my hair and on my face. These locomotives look like a fire on the mountain from ten miles away. They burn over a ton of soft (bituminous) coal on each ascent. They force a huge amount of air through the burning coal to produce the steam and blow black smoke and coal chunks up through the stack... After a mile, we stop to take on water.

The Appalachian trail intersects the rail line near the summit. The New Hampshire segment of the trail is considered the most rugged and difficult for hikers. There are hundreds of stone cairns along the trail here. We see one lone hiker. Hikers have been known to “moon” the trains but this hiker disappoints us.

As we approach the summit visibility drops to 30 feet. Winds today are forecast at 50 to 70 MPH. It is cold. I remember the rule of thumb from flying that the temperature drops two degrees centigrade for every thousand foot of elevation gain.

The coal-powered steam cog train grinds to the top at 6.288 feet in just over an hour at an average speed of 3 MPH. We have ridden cog trains in Scotland and Switzerland but nothing with such archaic engines.

At the 20 minute stop at the summit, 75 old men from two trains head for the three urinals and two toilets. Time passes slowly. I can only shudder to consider what the women must be enduring.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Hot Dogging in Urgup

hot-dogged, hot-dog·ging, hot-dogs Slang To perform daring stunts or ostentatious manuevers.  The next day, two of these balloons collide and the upper balloon tears a hole in the lower balloon. In the crash 3 die and 22 are injured. This confirms my impression of a general cavalier disregard for safety and prudent separation.

Mrs. Phred took almost all these pictures. I was paralysed with fear and afraid to move from the centre of the gondola, which I had both arms wrapped around and no hands free for the camera.

There are 90 to 100 balloons flying over Cappadocia this morning. Each balloon holds 12 to 25 tourists. Our young Turkish pilot is skimming the gondola along though this narrow valley of pointy rocks. He's bumping other balloons in what he calls his "morning kiss" and staying mostly inches away from  (and often below) the surrounding  terrain.

The balloon in the picture above resulted in a number of injuries, broken bones and three fatalities. It happened the morning after my flight when this blog was already written and published.

230 years ago, in 1783, a chicken, a sheep and a rooster made the first ascent in a hot air balloon. King Louis XVI thought it would be a good idea to use condemned criminals as the first human pilots, but Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis Francois d'Arlandes got him to change his mind and let them try it out with animals. When the chicken came back alive, they decided to try it themselves. They lit up a disgusting mix of burning straw and stinking manure in an attached burning pot and off they went.

They landed in a French vineyard, and while the farmers were debating whether to immediately surrender or first make a half-hearted pitchfork charge, the two pilots had the wit and foresight to produce bottles of champagne, a tradition which continues unabated to the present day.

Here the young Turkish Hot Dog pilot makes a balloon bumping a ''morning kiss". Later, after landing the gondola precisely on a waiting trailer, he produces a bottle of champagne and twelve glasses.

We spend almost an hour skimming the  "Chimneys" in the valley, often just inches from the strange eroded lava formations

They ballooned here 334 days last year. The scenic rock formations make this place either the number 1 or 2 place to balloon in the world, depending on what you Google..

Cappadocia is considered perhaps the best place in the world to take a hot air balloon ride. Today about 2,000 tourists took a daybreak  ride. Tomorrow three of them do not make it back alive.

Later, after the long flight at low altitude down the valley,  we shoot up to an altitude 2100 meters (I think, or maybe feet) to try to catch winds that will bring us down in the right place.

The balloons below heading for the strange rocks.


Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Further West on 66

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada

We took our RV into Kingman Ford to get the dash air-conditioner looked at before heading to Death Valley. The Service adviser has good news and bad news. The bad news is that the failed compressor hose is a Fleetwood part, so he can't help me. The good news is that there is no charge for the diagnosis.

We pull out of Kingman, heading West on I-40, and pull over on an Interstate exit to Google Fleetwood dealers. Eventually we find one in Las Vegas and make an appointment for today.

After a series of wrong turns in the desert, we find ourselves again on Historic Route 66 heading for Bullhead City, a lucky break.

The route begins with 20 miles of desert valley. We come to a mountain range and stop at "Cool Springs" to get cold drinks and ask about the sign that warns us not to take a vehicle over 40 feet in length though the mountain passes.

The proprietor of "Cool Springs" has an incredible collection of photos of wrecked semis and motor homes that failed to negotiate the hairpin turns leading to Oatman. He says we should be ok if we take the hairpins wide. He tells us about a man who stopped for advice but didn't know how to drive an RV. He tried to stay in his own lane an dropped his rear wheels and towed jeep into a gulley, blocking the highway completely for days.

It's a really lovely drive with grand vistas and lots of chollo cactus. Hard to believe that this was once the main route west and east from Chicago to Los Angeles. There are many working and abandoned mines along the drive. We pull off at a the 3,500 foot pass to take some pictures.

Oatman is a surprise. As we pull into town, the road is completely blocked by the High Noon gunfight. Jackasses and people fill the street. I can't back up so I turn off the RV in the middle of the street and send Mrs. Phred up to take pictures. Eventually, the crowd breaks up and we ease though town at one mph, waiting patiently for the feral jackasses to amble off the dusty road.

We pull into a Lake Mead campground about 4PM. The main slide won't extend. I review the documentation that came with the RV, but the part about the slides is missing. Eventually I find the relays. The slide that works clicks and has a green light that comes on when you push the button. The other relay is dead. I try replacing the fuse, but no luck. Mrs. Phred points out that the relay cannon plug is cock-eyed.. When I push it in the slide goes out.

The right turn signal on the towed Toyota stopped working. I put the voltmeter on the wires going back from the RV jack and see no signal. Probably there is a break in the wire. They get a lot of abuse.

This is a lovely place with multi-colored sandstone mountains and islands coming down to a huge blue lake. I'm saving the pictures for another day. We'll probably drop off the RV early and wander Las Vegas today.