Sunday, October 30, 2011

IKEA Trading Post

We ate a light complimentary breakfast at the hotel and set the GPS for The Cinnamon Lady bakery. Sadly, we arrived at an empty storefront. No longer in business.

So we headed out of town.

That's our hotel in the distance. For perspective, notice how many rooms could fit into Dave's nose. This town is actually bigger than it looks.

Goodbye Hesperia, Apple Valley, Victorville, and Joshua Tree.

Anyone know what this rusty red bush is? It looks like it would make a good fiber dye but I want to be sure it is non-toxic before I collect any to try.

Sometimes my speed-of-light photos have an artistic look--like a pastel where the blending of the colors makes the scene more abstract.

We stopped at Charlie Brown Farms in Littlerock, CA when we saw they sold eggs, jerky, goat cheese, farm products and 50-cent coffee. The website will give you a pretty good idea of what the store is like. It's really not a farm unless you count the life-sized plaster replicas of cows and dinosaurs.

I wish I'd taken a photo of the candy display. One piece of dipped chocolate probably weighs in at 1/4 pound.

We decided to wait to get lunch at IKEA, our final detour on our way back to Santa Barbara. Yes, we had the Swedish meatballs and mashed red potatoes. And we managed to only buy the things we actually needed.

It was good to be home with the family, unpack our things, and share our stories.

Thanks for joining us on this trip.

The Road to Hesperia

I have to admit that I had an anxiety breakdown Thursday night, trying to figure out where to spend Friday night and which route to take to get there.

I think it was either the creepy neon green lighting in the hotel, or the nearly fatal head-on accident I'd avoided earlier when a VW bug decided to pass a truck on a narrow 2-lane road without allowing enough time to get back into his lane before we met. My sudden turn into the gravel just before the bridge allowed him time to overtake the truck and sail on by, in my lane. Passing an occasional cluster of artificial flowers stuck into the ground alongside the road, I gained a more vivid understanding of just what that meant.

Anyhow, I scoured the Internet and referred to Yelp to find some place smaller than Barstow and larger than Joshua Tree to spend our last night. I finally settled on Hesperia (because it had a cinnamon roll bakery), but I was totally stressed out over how to get there. I-40 would get us there quickly, but what if there was nothing to see or do in Hesperia? How far away was Apple Valley? Victorville? Joshua Tree? How could we make these last two days interesting... not just a rush to get home? It would be a shame to waste the end of our trip. Right? But then I didn't want to get stuck out in the burning desert without water.

Dave suggested we go to Big Bear but then commented on the possibility of icy road conditions. Strike that one from this list!

I finally gave up and went to sleep.

Nothing was quite so scary in the daylight, although the hotel was still a little weird.

We decided we'd take a chance on the desert roads and called ahead to reserve our room in Hesperia so I wouldn't need to worry about finding a room. I'd found a bead store in Apple Valley I wanted to visit. I figured Apple Valley had to be a pretty good place to visit since it had 2 bead stores. My cousin Mary Lou grew up there, which means I'd probably visited there at some time in my childhood.

This bird was a good omen.

And the weather was perfect. Blessings and safe passage from these rock faces.

It really was hard to leave Arizona.

So much color and visual evidence of our ancient geological history.

And then we were in California.

Where they took away my last delicious apple--from the roadside stand in Sedona--but refused to take the bag with the banana peel and an apple core. Wouldn't they be equally dangerous?

We decided to take the desert roads, but wanted to get a full tank of gas before we headed out on the roughly paved road shown on our map.

Fortunately there are two gas stations at this junction.

Our first stop on the desert road was at the honey trailer.

This made me really happy that we'd chosen this route. It was self-serve. Put the money in the envelope, drop it in the box, and take your honey.

Then we stopped at the Desert Information Center for a more detailed map. The tourist adviser assured us that the road was safe and well-paved, but to watch out for snakes, scorpions, and spiders if we got out of the car to look for rocks.

We had plenty of water in case we got stranded in the desert. Cellphone coverage is limited out there.

But it turns out the road south to Blythe is popular with truckers, so getting stranded isn't a big issue.

Dave, of course, decided to search the next available dry stream bed for rock souvenirs. The guy at the information center said the stream beds are a rock hunter's paradise and the area is open to rock hunters.

I reminded him about the snakes, scorpions, and spiders but he ignored me and came back safely with a handful of rocks with various mineral compositions including some nice sparkly ones.

In addition to choosing the hotel and stressing out over the route, it's my job to take photos from a fast-moving car with dirty windows. Most roads we traveled had soft-shoulder edges so almost all of my photos have to be cropped to take out the "speed of light" smear at the bottom of the picture.

This is one place we did pull over to take some photos, look for more rocks, and snack on the bread and goat cheese left from our previous adventures.

The road ahead goes west toward Joshua Tree. Doesn't this look like the fake backdrop in an old western movie? I have a lot of photos that came out with this flat effect. It must be an atmospheric effect.

It didn't take us long to reach Joshua Tree.

We stopped for a vegan lunch (all we could find on Yelp were vegan cafes). It was a little disappointing--beautiful and well-meant, but bland.

GPS Lady tried to direct us into a field, so we backtracked until she'd recalculated us onto a course that actually existed. I wanted to get to Apple Valley before Desert River Beads closed.

Just before coming into Apple Valley we passed this monument to the modern desert.

We'd just read about desert varnish in one of our desert brochures. It's that black and reddish brown coating on the rocks. A thin patina of clay minerals and oxides of iron and manganese is cemented onto the rocks by microscopic bacteria that live inside and under the patina coating.

The bacteria absorb the oxides from the air and precipitate them onto the rock. The clay coating protects the bacteria from the dryness and heat of the desert. Manganese oxide blocks ultraviolet radiation. Desert varnish is a healthy living environment for these bacteria.

The varnish is used to help date landforms. Undisturbed varnish may be well over 10,000 years old.

Early people carved petroglyphs into the patina, revealing the lighter colored rock beneath the varnish.

Drawings painted onto the rock surface are called pictographs (often painted with a red dye). So the designs on the rocks above are modern day pictographs but more ephemeral than the ancient ones.

I was surprised to discover that Apple Valley, Hesperia, and Victorville have blended together, sort of like communities in Los Angeles. Apple Valley has a beautiful mountain backdrop and really well-stocked bead stores.

Traffic was heavy on the road to our hotel and fast food chains beckoned us from every corner.

This was our corner.

And on the opposite corner.

The good news--no neon lighting in the hotel lobby or halls and our room was comfortable and tastefully decorated. We ordered Papa John's pizza and buffalo wings to be delivered.

One more travel day.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Perfect traveling weather today.

We decided to visit Arcosanti, south of Flagstaff before heading to Kingman on our trip home.

Arcosanti is a planned urban village located in the desert between Flagstaff and Phoenix.

Architect Paolo Soleri conceptualized it as a solution to urban sprawl, which he felt was making people feel more isolated from their local communities and was not providing efficient use of our resources. He coined the term arcology, which combines the words architecture and ecology.

He began work on Arcosanti in the 1970s hoping to provide a model environment to draw a population of about 5000 people. Today there are fewer than 100 people living there, but they remain passionate about the vision.

We arrived just before lunch. We were invited to join the residents for lunch in the cafeteria. Lunch was prepared by resident volunteers. It was generous, healthy, and flavorful.

This chair gives you a sense of the reuse of materials seen throughout the site.

Efficient use is made of the sun's heat throughout the living and work areas, using passive solar methods.

The heat rises up four floors and vents out the domed ceiling.

When it's cold, they attach a wind sock and use the fan to move the warmer air back down.

Here is a dining nook, off the main dining room.

Here's the dining room from the outside.

Some of the residents are full-time and some are people who have come to attend workshops where they learn about the vision for Arcosanti and help with construction or casting Soleri's famous bronze and ceramic windbells.

A 5-week workshop is a prerequisite to becoming a resident. There is one couple who has lived here for 40 years. Soleri continues to live at Arcosanti but has passed his leadership role on to a new director.

After getting his degree in architecture in Torino, Italy in 1946, Soleri, came to the U.S. and spent a year and a half at Frank Lloyd Wright's school of architecture. In 1950 he was commissioned to build a large ceramics factory in Italy. That led to his development of the casting methods he uses for both the ceramic and bronze windbells as well as some of his building techniques.

Sale of Soleri's windbells help to fund the project.

These are bronze cast bells either acid etched to create a patina, or burnished.

This is one of the ceramic windbell designs.

All of the molds--plaster or formed in sand--are Soleri's original designs.

The tour met just after lunch in the gift shop on the top floor, up where the domed ceiling vent releases the rising heat and provides natural light.

Here is a model for the full design of the project. The parts in darker gray (at the center) show what has been completed.

The next phase is building the greenhouse apron along the front. The heat from the greenhouses will be channeled into the area under the living quarters.

The orientation of the buildings allows for maximum use of natural light and regulation of heat throughout the year.

This is the ceramics workshop. During the summer the dome shades the workers from the sun. In the winter, the sun warms the cement and the workrooms inside.

The cement dome, called an apse, was made with a combination of pre-formed concrete and concrete poured in-place over a plywood and silt structure, which was removed when the concrete dried.

Soleri uses slip made from chunks of clay soil soaked in water to make the silt he pours into his pressed sand molds or plaster molds.

The raw chunks of clay dirt are in the round pit at the center. After soaking, the sediment becomes the slip used to cast the bells.

These are the sand cast bells. Forms are pressed into the sand to create the molds and then slip is poured directly into the sand depressions. When the edges dry to the correct thickness, the liquid silt in the center is removed. As the bells dry, the slip shrinks away from the sides of the mold. When the bell is removed, designs are carved into it and then it's fired. They also use plaster molds for casting some of their bells.

This workshop area doubles as a performance amphitheater when center pit and the sandcasting boxes are covered with a stage.

Resident housing is integrated into the work areas. These homes are right next to the ceramics workshop.

There are also residential units behind this art studio.

A community meeting was taking place in this building so we didn't get to go inside.

Use of solar panels has been limited because they've been too expensive in the past. But you can see they are using some on this garden-type room.

The greenhouse guest cottages are here along with a large swimming pool. There are plenty of areas to hike on the property.

Anyone is welcome to come spend vacation time here. Room rates are currently $30 to $100 a night, with meals from $5 (breakfast) to $9 (lunch and dinner).

The area in the back, houses the building and maintenance workshops.

This front area used to be a work area too but has evolved into a meeting place. Morning meetings and special events take place here, like Solari's recent 92nd birthday party.

This passageway is the most used walkway in the community.

Most residents use it morning and evening to commute to and from their work areas. There is no need for cars in this community.

This is a heat tunnel.

It passes under the residences and will be used to draw in heat from areas that are still to be built, like the greenhouse apron. It is also an useful storage area.

Most of the landscaping plants are local drought-tolerant varieties. These herbs and fig tree are an exception. These are watered and used in the cafeteria.

In the past they've had more extensive gardens. They grew and sold garlic from the open space out beyond the buildings. However they are letting their planting areas rest while they focus on the greenhouse project.

This amphitheater hosts performers from around the world. Jackson Browne has performed at Acrosanti.

The rooms above the amphitheater are residential. and the spaces below are planned to be used for shops where residents can buy things they currently drive to Phoenix to get or to sell more of their own products to visitors.

On the other side of the amphitheater apse is this stargazing area.

The seating is angled so gazers can lean back for a comfortable view of the dark sky.

This is the area where our guide works, casting bronze bells.

These metal forms are used to create the shapes in the sand casting boxes.

Molten bronze is poured into the cavity created by the forms in these two boxes which will be filled with compressed sand.

They carve the design into the sand mold depression before the bronze is poured.

The cooled bells are given a patina bath or they are burnished. Here is a stack of bells still being processed.

This is the end of our tour.

We headed on to Kingman where we stayed in my least favorite hotel of the trip. The lighting had a Las Vegas feel, kind of a neon glow. The interior designer must a had a wee bit too much coffee.

Here's the hall carpeting.

Competing patterns and textures:

And what is this?

Maybe it will look better in the morning when the spooky neon lighting is turned off.