The Roads of North America: Part Two

Visiting Friends, Art and Natural Wonders

By: - Sep 23, 2010

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What you are reading here is the slightly edited transcription of my diary, which I kept for 33 days during our 6500 miles long journey crossing 10 plus States. Part 1 describes the first two weeks, and while counting the days in the diary I discovered that we traveled for only 30 days, but it felt like 33. That’s what we say ! Part 1 begins on May 7, Friday, and ends with May 21, also a Friday, on this fabulous and ‘eyes-and-ears-and-senses-opening’ trip. The next destination was Silver City, New Mexico, where our friends Astara and Stuart Matthews have been living for the past five years. They left the Berkshires ‘and never looked back,’ they said. We wanted to visit with them and discover the reasons for ourselves:

May 22, Saturday ~ Charles had the car checked and air conditioning filled up, after 3000 miles on the road. We drove Rt. 82/70 to Las Cruces, 25 N to Caballo, exit 63 – 152 W to Silver City. Route 152 W leads for 40 miles through amazing woods with high pines and dense forests. We drove mostly 10 to 25 miles per hour, a serpentine and spectacular road, but tough to drive. Charles managed the 8,200 ft. high pass in a sporty manner. Only dumb visitors to the area, like us, will take Rt. 152 W to Silver City ! We finally arrived, and negotiated successfully with the third hotel for a room and called Astara. We had dinner with them at the ‘Curious Kumquat,’ an exceptional restaurant in town offering a tasting menu.

May 23, Sunday ~ We are staying in Silver City and are enjoying Astara and Stuart, friends who left the Berkshires five years ago. I went on a walk with Astara in their neighborhood in the morning, a beautiful sunny morning. They live in a relatively new subdivision with several homes far apart, surrounded by steppes plants and cacti. Three of the nine properties were equipped with solar power installations – not bad, but hopefully the entire region develops more alternative energy projects in the future, there’s all that sun !

We walked around Old Silver City, a very nice 19th Century center of town with many commercial galleries, but closed on Sunday. Astara and Stuart took us on a drive to Hanover, the poorest region and Santa Rosa, a ghost town. Then, to the most expensive area, full of southwestern style big homes in a hilly region, far removed from town. Astara and Stuart have beautifully adjusted to their life in the South-West: “We never looked back,” they exclaimed.

Both work as translators, from Japanese to English and have been working with two companies in Japan for 30 years. Stuart’s business set up is impressive. He works with Japanese Sony computers only. One has an American alphabet keyboard. Another one is equipped with Chinese and alphabetical symbols. Stuart grew up in Great Britain and lived in Japan for more than a decade, where the two met. He is a serious linguist and is currently studying Spanish. He decides the final translations for their commercial work. I must say, he has a much larger collection of dictionaries than I do. He studied German and French in college. Astara is Japanese by birth and speaks and enunciates most beautifully the English or American language.

Astara, meanwhile, has been overseeing their investments directly, which is time consuming. She is also seriously committed to her art work, her paintings and drawings. We viewed nude sketches, oil paintings, aquarelle sketches, and enjoyed seeing her fine art work.

Astara prepared a delicious dinner for us and we enjoyed a wonderful evening at their home. Stuart is still very funny and the two men got along quite well. Astara and I have a special connection with each other, we both agreed. They were thankful, that we drove so far to visit them. They were lovely hosts, while also working all weekend. Business has deadlines !

May 24, Monday ~ We had planned to drive to Gila Cliff Dwellings, a two hour drive from Silver City. Instead we drove to Chinle, Arizona, at the edge of Canyon de Chelly, Rt. 180 N into Arizona. At Springerville, 191 N, to Canyon de Chelly, via 40 W, but we stayed on 191 N at the Chinle Holiday Inn.

May 25, Tuesday ~ We will visit the canyon today ! From Chinle, the entire Canyon de Chelly spans approximately 20 miles along the South Ridge. We stopped at several viewing points and took many photographs. A spectacular site, time and again. We had lunch in Chinle and drove on along the North Ridge (Rt. 64), where there are only a couple of lookout points. The North Ridge is Rt. 64 to 112 to 191 from TesNezla to Kayenta at Monument Valley. We stayed at a Holiday Inn, only one of two hotels in Kayenta, both by local ownership ($150 plus breakfast!).

May 26, Wednesday ~ From Kayenta, Rt. 163, we drove for 50 miles through Monument Valley. The first part of the valley is located in Arizona, then, at the Mexican Hat (Rock), Monument Valley is situated in Utah. We took  Rt. 162, then Rt. 41 to Colorado. There are exquisite rocks and rock formations, like monuments indeed ! - From Rt. 41 back to 160 and 160/491 N to Cortez, where we stopped at a Days Inn.

May 27, Thursday ~ From Cortez, Colorado, 9 miles to the entrance of Mesa Verde, then 20 miles to the Akanazi Cliff Dwellings. It is a very windy, serpentine road, which requires attention to driving. We went to the museum and the Spruce House Dwellings; there we walked up close to the dwellings. Later, we took the top loop and viewed early pit houses and the Sun Temple, from 600 AD to 1300 AD, when the clans left Mesa Verde after a 22 year long drought. They joined other tribes in New Mexico and Arizona. Mesa Verde is a spiritual, a very special place!!

We drove from 5000 ft. to 8,500 ft. high, returning back to Rt. 160 East - for the first time east again! -  to Durango and ended in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

May 28, Friday ~ We left Pagosa Springs after a good breakfast at the Junction Restaurant to drive 50 miles over the Rocky Mountains ! What a Ride ! The highest pass was at 8,600 ft., past a ski resort, totally deserted and locked. We drove to Walsenberg on Rt. 160 E, then 25 N to Colorado Springs. Before dinner we experienced the most beautiful city park we have ever been to. 'More rocks,' Charles exclaimed; but what a setting ! Big rock formations surrounded by trees and a variety of plants and flowers. Visitors from around the world, city park strollers and a wedding party all enjoyed a beautiful evening at ‘The Garden of the Gods.’

Charles then insisted and I obliged lovingly that we see the Celtics Game at the hotel’s bar and restaurant. The Celtics won against Florida and will go forward.

May 29, Saturday ~ Rt. 25 N – we will drive to Denver to see the Denver Art Museum. It’s Memorial Day weekend. We took the Denver City exit from Rt. 25, finding the museum was easy. The two buildings house some spectacular work. A huge American Indian Art collection and installations are magnificent. The new building resembles the Rockies and has many corners for special, small exhibitions. Great ! Contemporary and African contemporary and traditional art were juxtaposed. We enjoyed it immensely. After lunch, ate at a ‘Green Food Restaurant,’ back to Rt. 70 to Kansas.

May 30, Sunday ~ We will be driving Rt. 70 through several states now. Leaving the Comfort Inn in Limon, Colorado, onto Kansas – here we come… At 6:30 pm we stopped in Salinas, Kansas. We had seen oil pumps, 100 and more wind mills, and a herd of buffalos, all we did not expects to see in Kansas !  We passed Kansas City – the museum would be closed Monday and Tuesday.

May 31, Monday ~ Today is Memorial Day. We drove from Salinas, Kansas, Rt. 70 to Columbus, Missouri, just an hour away from St. Louis, where we will meet David Bonetti tomorrow. We stopped in Abileen, Kansas, home of General Eisenhower's Presidential Library and Museum. Abileen is a quaint town; the library was the first of Presidential Libraries, complete with Boyhood Home, Eisenhower Museum, Statue, and Place of Meditation.  - We had lunch at a fancy historical restaurant in town.

June 1, Tuesday ~ From Topeka, Kansas, Rt. 70 to St. Louis, Missouri, where David Bonetti hosted us for a couple of days and we stayed at the penthouse apartment in his building ($50). What a perfect day: 90 degrees and 91 % humidity. We walked with him around his neighborhood and looked at old, beautiful mansions, as well as T.S. Elliott’s home and Tennessee Williams’ hotel. (Williams was born in a hotel and died in a hotel. His parents were vaudeville actors.)  The neighborhood also claims William Burrows’ home, close by. I was surprised by several private streets with gates; early gated communities.

We had a lovely lunch and went on to the St. Louis Art Museum, where David gave us a private tour and showed us the best and most interesting galleries. Bonetti had recently resigned as the Art Critic of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and will soon move back to Boston. Half of the museum is under construction. Then, we viewed a fabulous sculpture park and a quick drive to the Arch, an amazing architectural feat. We ended the evening with the best pizza outside of Italy. What a fantastic day – Thx D!!

June 2, Wednesday ~ We had a bit of a hairy exit from St. Louis in the rain. Still had to find Rt.70; from 40 to 43 to 55 to 70 E. All day on Rt. 70 E: Missouri – Southern Illinois – Indianapolis, Indiana – to Englewood/Dayton, Ohio. We lost one hour of time again in a new time zone and arrived at 7:30 pm at a Comfort Inn, our favorite hotel chain.

June 3, Thursday ~ Since May 29 we have been traveling on Rt. 70 E: From Engelwood, Ohio, to Wheeling, West Virginia (10 miles in West Virginia), to Washington, Pennsylvania. Finally, we had a change in route and direction. 70 North, bypass Pittsburgh, straight to Erie, Pennsylvania (79/90). We made 6000 miles just before Erie, what a ride !

June 4, Friday ~ From Rt. 90 to 86 E, tried a short cut, 417 E from Allegany to Corning, but Charles lost patience. So we took Rt. 19 N back to 86 E. After Binghamton, Rt. 88 E, we stopped, by chance, at the Rainbow Inn on State Highway 7/Rt. 28 in Oneonta, New York. We stayed there three years ago, while driving to Cooperstown, New York, and we had a fine dinner again at the ‘Farmhouse Restaurant.’ This was our last night on the road !

June 5, Saturday ~ From the Rainbow Inn on Rt. 28 E, to Rt. 88 to Albany, to Rt. 90 S to 20 E to Pittsfield, and HOME !

Please note: As we already suggested in the Part 1 article of ‘The Roads of North America,’ my diary and a short slide show of the entire journey can be seen in an exhibition at the Eclipse Mill Gallery, North Adams, MA, 243 Union Street (Rt. 2E ). ‘Illustrious,’ a group show exploring the theme of narrative art and publications, will be open for two more weekends: September 25 + 26 and October 2 + 3 from noon to 5 pm. You are invited to see this beautiful and diverse exhibition. We are showing exquisite, fun and serious works of art for the entire family.