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, 27 June 2015

Boiling Eggs at 9,000 Feet

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 The last time we were here the snow was 10 feet deep and the Park Rangers said we could go to the overlooks if we had snow shoes. We went back to Gunnison and priced snow shoes and decided to wait for some summer day in the far future.

 I try to hard boil some eggs using my usual method for perfect hard boiled eggs and the centers are gooshy. I also ruin some wild rice trying to cook it for 45 minutes in my normal fashion.

 The problem, of course, is that water boils at 190F at 9,000 feet as compared to 212F at sea level. So the eggs and rice cook very differently at altitude. I seem to remember the Armstrong limit which finds that blood, tears, saliva and other bodily fluids boil at about 63,000 feet, and altitude above which unpressurised humans cannot survive more than a minute or two.

 The canyon is one of the steepest and deepest in the world. Parts of the canyon recieve only 33 minutes of sunlight a day.

 The Gunnison river drops 34 feet per mile on average compared with seven feet a mile in the Grand Canyon. The rock is extremely hard so that the fast flowing river gouges out only about an inch every hundred years. Geologists believe that the 2,000 foot deep black canyon has taken 2 million years to develop.

 We've been  crisscrossing  the Rocky Mountains for several days. Our highest altitude in the RV so far is 11,400 feet. This is the limit of the Complete Compensatory Stage of hypoxia, (5,000 - 11,400 ft). Visual sensitivity at night is decreased by 30 percent at 10,000 feet. Performance of new tasks may be impaired due to memory issues.When I was flying c-124s we had to go on oxygen at 10,000 feet.

 A diversion tunnel was completed bringing water to the Montrose Area. 26 men were killed during the 4 year undertaking. The tunnel was finally completed in 1909, stretching a distance of 5.8 miles and costing nearly 3 million dollars. At the time, the Gunnison Tunnel held the honor of being the world's longest irrigation tunnel. On September 23, President William Howard Taft dedicated the tunnel in Montrose.

To get 2,000 feet down to the Gunnison, you follow the East Portal Road, which has slopes up to 16 degrees and a vehicles length limit of 22 feet.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Gunnison canyon was thought to be impenetrable.  However, two men navigated the canyon in eleven days on a rubber air mattress to survey the canyon in preparation for building the diversion dam and tunnel.

 Porcupines gnaw chunks out of the ancient Pinion trees. They seldom completely encircle the trees and kill them.

 This Pinion tree is about 800 years old. The Pinion Jay hides the Pinion nuts far and wide and can remember about 80 percent of where these were located. The other 20 percent are well situated to become new trees.

 Mr. and Mrs. Phred at the end of a long hike up and down hills at 9,000 feet...Notice my new "Mothers of Invention...Freak Out!" T-shirt....uber cool...

In case you didn't believe me about the altitude, Mrs. Phred took this picture.

The Gunnison diversion dam/tunnel is accessible via East Portal Road which is on the South Rim of the canyon. Although the tunnel itself is not visible, the diversion dam can be seen from the campground. The tunnel is ten feet high, eight feet wide and 5.8 miles long. Rafting or tubing below the campground is highly not recommended for amateurs.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Going up to Cripple Creek

Lake Pueblo State Park, Colorado

After seeing the works of M. T. Liggett in Kansas, we drive west all day and spend a night in Lamar, Colorado. We finally find some propane there. Lamar has the world's oldest building. It's a gas station constructed of 175 million year old petrified wood.

The next day we drive west again on US 50 to the Lake Pueblo State Park just outside Pueblo, Colorado. West Pueblo has seven cannabis shops, which Mrs. Phred directs me to bypass.

 In the morning I take a seven mile stroll along a paved park trail starting at 5:40 AM Mountain time. I see a mule deer, some rabbits and lots of desert wildflowers. It's harder than walking in Sarasota because of the constant elevation changes and high altitude.

The park has a marina, a big dam, a swimming area and a very fast-flowing river exiting the dam.

 The Arkansas river flows though Lake Pueblo and traverses the states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas before dumping into the Mississippi 1497 miles from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains.

 We decide to drive up to Cripple Creek, which was once a big gold mining area.

 Up on Cripple Creek she sends me
If I spring a leak she mends me
I don't have to speak, she defends me
A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one
-The Band

The route we take includes 27 miles of unpaved, one-lane road that drops off into steep canyons. The sign says four wheel drive and high clearance vehicles recommended. We decide that the people who make these signs are afraid of lawsuits from idiots.... It's an exciting drive and we are fortunate not to meet any traffic from the other direction or lose focus and drive into the abyss.

Cripple Creek is up about 10,000 feet. It's full of old casinos. We manage to find one with a grill and have lunch. Cripple Creek and the surrounding area was once a boom gold mining area.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

M. T. Liggett, American Folk Artist

Mullinville, Kansas

We wake up in Wichita, Kansas at 6 AM and set out for Mullinville (Population maybe 300) about 100 miles west on State Road 400.

We saw M. T. Liggett's work there seven years ago cruising across Kansas listening to a great FM rock station out of Dodge City.I've never been satisfied with the pictures I took of his work back then, so I decided to drive 500 miles out of the way and try once again.

We hit the Mullinville junction of State roads 400 and 54 and get detoured down 54. Mrs. Phred suggests immediately parking in the Mullinville truck stop, but I insist on continuing down 54 twelve miles, up county road 39 four miles and back east 8 miles on closed road 400. There we run into a total road closure. I suggest walking to Mullinville the next four miles and back in 100 degree heat, but Mrs. Phred is having none of it.

I eventually agree to unhook the Honda, do a U-turn and return 20 miles to the Mullinville truck stop. Mrs. Phred says that I always eventually do the right thing after exhausting all other possibilities.

We stop for breakfast at the truck stop and I ask the waitress if she knows M. T. Liggett. She says he comes in mostly for coffee. She says if he likes you he makes you a heart, if he doesn't he might make an ugly sculpture and put your name on it....she has four hearts.It's a small town. She says his doctor doesn't want him to work anymore...

I went back just now to look at my 2008 blog about M. T. Liggett. It's interesting that out of hundreds of sculptures that I seem to have selected many of the same ones...maybe those are the ones that seem very powerful to me?

This time I take 170 pictures. I try to compose them properly and use Picasa to crop them. Obviously a blog with that many pictures wouldn't work well so I pick only16...not should go and look yourself before all this original genius rusts away....this guy makes Picasso look a little unoriginal and repetitive...

"Evolution is wrong," declares another of his signs. "Only a miracle from the Almighty could have created the moronic dumbasses on the Kansas State Board of Education." - See more at:
"Evolution is wrong," declares another of his signs. "Only a miracle from the Almighty could have created the moronic dumbasses on the Kansas State Board of Education." - See more at:

There is an article on Roadside America about Mr. Liggett.

"In 1989, Liggett  began creating metal sculptures.   He uses a plasma arc cutter and an arc welder to turn old farm equipment, car parts, road signs, and any other odd bits of iron he can lay his hands on, into fantastic characters which adorn his property, on the side of Route 400 just west of town.  Most of Liggett's sculptures are brightly painted, and many have moving parts that spin and flash in the hot Kansas sun."

Hillary Clinton is, "Our Jack-Booted Eva Braun,” Mr. and Mrs. Clinton caricatures are labeled, “Pothead” and “Porkadolf”. Mrs. Clinton is done up with swastikas.

As you drive around Mullinville, you see Liggett's work everywhere....rust never sleeps...

He’s got one that equates Waco with Auschwitz. Janet Reno has her head stuffed up her butt. A right wing Republican has his thumb in the same position. Halliburton is represented by a dark pig’s head.

"Evolution is wrong," declares another of his signs. "Only a miracle from the Almighty could have created the moronic dumbasses on the Kansas State Board of Education." - See more at:
It’s tough to figure out Liggett’s political position. He seems equally pissed by just about everything and everyone, especially politicians.

Lots of the “totems” are devoted to M.T.’s old girlfriends, who he has immortalised in junk. You have to wonder about his relationships with neighbours. My money says he doesn’t much care much what other people think.

. "Evolution is wrong," declares another of his signs. "Only a miracle from the Almighty could have created the moronic dumbasses on the Kansas State Board of Education."
Putting aside intent, is M.T
- See more at:
At times Liggett's neighbors have not been pleased with his work....however,  he has made Mullinville famous.

Lots of hearts... Here is a video about the artist....check U-tube for many more....

Friday, 19 June 2015

Taos or Bust

 Mountain Home, Arkansas

We're camped in an Army Corps of Engineers campground on Lake Norfork in northern Arkansas.

I can hardly believe we've spent eight nights here. We'll wait one more than to let tropical storm "Bill" amble out of our way.  It's dumped a pile of rain here and a lot more on our path west though Oklahoma.

We go down to Conway with Paul and Diane and help Jason and Caroline a little with the remodeling projects. They've found some amazing stuff on Craig's List including a deeply discounted $8,000 bathtub that looks like a futuristic giant egg, a stove, a refrigerator and an entire unused gym basketball court floor.

One day Mrs. Phred and I drive up to see the little known Bull Shoals Cavern. It has been inhabited by Indians, Confederate soldiers, moonshiners and trout farmers...the trout farming thing flopped because nobody wanted to eat eyeless, albino rainbow trout.

Paul, Dianne and Chris running hard oak pieces though a planing machine.

You can see the seam where the basketball court floor is joined's a really nice floor, new since we were here last June...

The kitchen we were working on last year is mostly done except for a couple of minor trim items.

Jason at work.

The Bull Shoals cavern has every type of limestone formation found in any cave in America including the rare "boxwork" formation which is only found in one other cave in the U.S. (the Wind Cave in South Dakota)...we've been there too...I forgot to get a picture but here's a hyperlink

More cave pix....

Mr. Phred making blueberry pies....