The Church of St Francis of Assis. This beautiful spanish church in Taos, New Mexico, is made from adobe ("biblical brick") and the straw is visible if one looks close. Georgia O'Keefe made the St. Francis of Assis one of her favorite subjects and consequently this is the most photographed church in the world. My photo is backside of the church.
Tonight we stay at the Rancho Arriba, Turca, New Mexico - 8,400 feet in the Sangre de Cristo mountains to the east and the Jemez range to the west. The ranch was built by Curtis Franks in '65, and became a b&b in '78. The kids fall in love with the dogs (I call Eitan the "dog whisperer"), and Madeleine continues her infatuation with horses. Sonnet and I have a drink on the porch watching the sunset over the mountains, listening to the dogs bay. This feels like Mexico to me.
Tuesday, August 29
Who can forget grape soda? We spend the day driving through Carson National Forrest (most of the remaining land is made up of Spanish and Mexican Land Grants). This photo taken in fron of the Santuario de Chimayo church, whose soil is believed to have restorative powers. Inside the adobe is a sobering hall with crutches and photos of the deceased or injured, including a wall dedicated to our troops in Iraq.
Saturday, August 26
This self portrait surounds me with the Sangre de Christo mountains in the San Louis Valley, about 20 miles from the New Mexico border. It took me one hour or so to hike the largest sand dune, which was a similar sensation to the stair-master (plant foot, feel slip). The view in any direction is dramatic - westward rolling sand-tops and northeast spikey snow-caps.
From CO, we drive through the Sangre De Christo mountains over the La Veta pass on HW 160 to 150 at Ft William, on our way to Taos, New Mexico. In Taos, we stay at the El Pueblo hotel, and explore the historical plaza, settled by the Spanish in the early 1600s and where Sonnet buys a pair of cowboy boots. Dinner is newmex at Orlando's and we are buffeted by an alpine storm complete with lightening and hail balls.
The walk to the dunes is about one mile, then they reach upwards to 750 feet (26/8/06). Eitan was keen to climb to the top with me, but petered out to re-join Sonnet and Madeleine who are walking at a slower pace. From mid-way, the kids roll down sand embankments of 50 feet, screaming with glee. The temperature today is a pleasant early fall-like 85 degrees - during summer's peak in July the sands reach 140 or higher. Afterwards, we visit a roadside cafe called appropriately "The Oasis" and have a late lunch including home-made cherry and coconut cream pie. Yum.
We drive back to Beecher's cabin in Cachara, and the kids fight in the back of the car, forcing me to pull off the side of the road to swipe at them. They remain "wired", and I take them through a series of yoga deep breathing excercises to calm them down. Both kids have been sleeping soundly, especially Madeleine who seems to devour it - waking up sometimes at 10AM, sleeping on average 12 hours a night.
From the back of a post-card: "Great Sand Dunes, National Park, CO. 1920 Sand dunes towering 750 feet (214m) above the valley floor and covering over 50 square miles (130 sq. km) are swallowed by the huge scalae of the San Luis Valley and the 12,000 to 14,000 ft (3700 to 4300 m) Sangre de Cristo mountains. Prevailing southwesterly wind pile the sand at the base of three low passes in the mountains. Strong northeast winds occassionally roar through the mountain passes, reversing the usual direction of sand flow and piling the dunes back upon themselves building "chinese walls". In 2004, Congress made this area a National Park and so protected (since 1920 the dunes were a National Monument)."
Sonnet's Aunt splits her time between Denver and her ranch near La Veta. Now retired, she taught in the CO public kindergarten and secondary schools, which formed her political views from first hand experience (she is a Republican in a split state). Martine is unafraid to share her opinion with Berkeley-ites like me or her liberal sisters Silver and Robin. Martine's husband Bill is a cowboy and horse whisperer, when he is not selling insurance for State Farm or preaching episcopalian part time. Bill also had a baseball scholarship to CU and has a cracker fast ball. Together they make a cutting vision of the Southwest.
Friday, August 25
Sophie and Eitan at the Big Trees rec center. One thing is for sure: these kids love water. Nestled in the white pines and fir trees, the 25 meter and kiddie pools are well-used from Memorial Day to Labour Day weekend. A 15 minute "adult swim" takes place each day at 1400, which elicits an earnest groan from the younger crowd - despite 6-8 hours of aquatic activity throughout the day.
Eitan, not to be out-done by Madeleine, strikes a pose (or two). Behind Beecher's cabin is an alpine field with mountain flowers and rolling hills of pine tree and the mountains behind. Today, we will drive to the Colorado dunes, about 100 miles from La Veta. The sand dunes are some of the biggest in North America, and I plan to take some pictures. Unfortunately I am out of black & white film, and unable to find any film where we are. My cheap Olympus Camedia does a fine job for my needs, but does not match the quality or texture of the b&w. Any case, I will post what I see.
Thursday, August 24
Madeleine at Beecher's cabin (23/8/06). She is excited by the return of Sonnet following her trip to New Mexico, and to be alive. Madeleine's imagination runs free and often, and in this case she is a "super cow-gal". She is a joy to watch, unless her wrath directed at you - then good luck!
This photograph taken from nearby Martine's ranch. I correct my below entry regarding the mountains and their creation. According to wise uncle Ray, the Spanish Mountain range is not volcanic, as reported. Rather, when Colorado was five miles underground "drain-pipes" formed from the surface to undergound water and mineral reservoirs. Over 26 million years of erosion uncovered the pipes. Where did the dirt go? Texas, Arizona, Nevada.... According to Ray, geologist from around the world study this unusual and unique formation, with many other "spouts" still buried hundreds of feet below.
Eitan wears his cowboy hat, bought for him by Aunt Martine in Santa Fe, New Mexico (23/8/06). Madeleine has pink. Eitan is involved in the South-Western lifestyle, and gets angry when I call h im a cow-poke ("Cowboy", he exclaims testily). We will stay in Cachara for another day, and then play to head to Taos before Denver and home.
Eitan and Madeleine await Charlie, Buckwheat, Nugget, Prailine and the other horses for a riding and carrot or apple feeding. Today, we drove to Walsenburg, CO, so Eitan and I could have a haircut, and then had lunch at the local diner. Sonnet is in New Mexico with her mom and aunts Robin and Martine so Grandpa Stan and I amuse the kids for three days. Activities include play-time at the La Veta park, where friends have been made with kids from Walsenburg, Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul, as well as La Veta. We also take advantage of the trailheads from Martine's house, but this met with considerable resistence ("Rattle snakes, Dad!"). A nice break is spent in front of the televisions watching Square Bob Spongepants and other incomprehensible characters before Stan makes dinner or the Dog Paw for burgers.
Tuesday, August 22
Sonnet's aunt Martine and her husband Bill Minnis own a horse ranch in the middle of the Rockies (closest town: La Veta). They are surrounded by some of the most dramatic hillside I have ever seen. The mountains are volcanic, from a time when Colorado and the US were under an ocean. Of interest is the treeline, which stops sharply at 13,000 where there is not sufficient oxygen for them to grow (this can be seen in the photo on the right). The clouds roll in quickly in the afternoon bringing explosive thunderstorms and rain. The first snows arrive late October, I'm told. I had a difficult time chosing a blog photo as the vistas and constantly changing weather offer equally dramatic selection.
This photograph taken at Beecher Stanfill's summer cabin in Cuchara Colorado (pop. 30, if).
The altitude is 8,600 feet and I feel the lack of oxygen immediately, especially when clowing with the kids. Cuchara is located off Route 12, the Highway of Legends, and 10 miles from La Venta or the next nearest town with a drugstore and library. Cuchara looks like something from a Clint Eastwood Western, with a saloon called the 'Dog Paw' and general store selling awful (but strong) coffee. Next to Beecher's is the Dogetown creek, which is soothing for us and tempting for Eitan and Madeleine.
Thursday, August 17
Sonnet, Mary, Sloan and Katie
We left the Sierras Monday following a long hike with Katie and Mary, who took us thru a number of Boston Consulting Group case studies which I failed horribly. I met Mary at Columbia, where she was a stand-out from day one. Prior to business school, Mary was a public school teacher in NYC, which is where she met her husband Amado. From business school, she was hired at BCG as a Consultant, and is now one of 30 female partners, a number she is trying to grow - equal opportunity remains a main motivation of her work (Nb Mary was one of two Consultants to be promoted Partner from her intake year of 20, and on occasion has received ovations from grateful corporate boards).
On the drive to Berkeley, everyone was a bit sad but excited to see Gracie and Moe and their cat "Sweetie Pie" with whom Madeleine has fallen in love.
Wednesday, August 16
Tuesday, August 15
Rob and I met thru my sister Katie, who studied with him at Columbia's international affairs program (CIPA) following his work with Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. He also obtained an MBA, which is when we got to know each other. Today, Rob runs the Crecera Finance Company, which he founded three years ago in San Francisco. Crecera provides trade finance to Latin American growth companies, and has attracted $200M of equity and debt from leading global investors. Rob has gained first hand valuable experience of a pig farm, a slaughterhouse and other similarly intriguing businesses. In addition, he is a die-hard Ohio State fan with big expectations for '06 - the Buckeyes being ranked #1 by USA Today (Cal is twelth as at today).
The evening is spent roasting marsh-mellows and making s'mores. Etymology from the web: "S'more appears to be a contraction of the phrase, "some more", as in "Please, give me some more of that delicious treat." The informal nature of this term reflects the environment in which s'mores are traditionally served. Some have jokingly surmised that the name originated from people who were so busy eating the tasty dessert that they did not have time to speak in complete sentences, or alternately, that their enunciation was compromised by the fact that their mouth was still full of the aforementioned s'more. Any case, the expression dates to the 1927 Girl Scouts handbook.
Wednesday, August 9
Beloved Route 4, an east-west highway, begins in Hercules, Calif. at the I-80 junction as part of John Muir Parkway. The road is an expressway from its starting point until it approaches Martinez, at which point it becomes a full freeway (the California Delta Highway) passing Concord, Pittsburg and Antioch. After Antioch, the freeway turns northward to become State Route 60, and Route 4 separates to become a suburban and rural road passing through the Bay Area's outermost eastern suburbs (Oakley and Brentwood). Route 4 continues to Stockton, where it briefly joins I-5 and then enters a separate freeway routing almost directly through downtown Stockton. The route then multiplexes with State Route 99 before running eastward into the Sierra through Angels Camp and Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The route runs through the 8,050 ft. (2,454 m) Pacific Grade Summit on its way up to the 8,730 ft. (2,661 m) Ebbetts Pass and ends at State Route 89 ten miles west of Topaz Laek, on the California–Nevada border. The portion from Arnold to its terminus is designated the Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway.
Through the mountains, Route 4 is not suitable for large trucks, buses, or RVs, as it becomes very steep and narrow (sometimes with no center dividing line), with tight twists and turns. This portion is also often closed in the winter due to snowstorms and snowpack. Additionally, the segment between Bear Valley Mountain Resort to Monitor Pass near Markleeville is completely shut down through the winter, until the snowmelt. (from Wikipedia)
Monday, August 7
It is hard to appreciate the magnifisense of these gentle giants unless standing directly underneath one. The trunks, exceeding in some instances 30 feet in diameter, stretch upwards to 150 feet or more before branching and then topping out at 250 to 300 feet. They instantly compare to a whale or 747 and seem friendly somehow. Their earthy pine smell is perfume to the forrest, and happily they have been protected since 1932 from logging or otherwise.
Photo taken during a hike thru the giant Redwoods. This afternoon Eitan takes hold of my digital camera and instantly falls in love. He snaps away at our ankles, mid-sections, rocks and tree trunks "look dad! Your feet!" staring at the viewfinder image. Of course tensions rise when Madeleine wants her turn, and the solution is to share time to the minute.
Chas and I met in Providence, Rhode Island, in '87 and spent two summers painting the exteriors of some 100 houses in Barrington and Providence for CollegePro Painters. I owned the local franchise while at Brown. Our second summer, with Chas the Production Manager, saw our business net over $250K while I was selected "Manager of the Year" from a pool of 105. The stress and general absurdity of CollegePro (or any job for that matter presenting similar responsibility to college-going kids) is now re-lived whenever Chas and I, and the other members of the Providence outlet are together. These stories fyi I consider some of my most cherished treasures taken forward into middle age.
The Eagle One from 1974's Space: 1999.
Mass: 31,551 KG
Size: 34 meters
Thrust main: 990 kN
Thrust hover: 495 kN
I still wonder the outcome of the Eagle One versus a Tie-Figher, though believe the latter would have proven superior given its greater maneuverability and canon. Plus Luke loaded R2-D2 in for added sensory feedback and performance while the Eagle's computer systems would struggle with 'pong.'
Kate and Chas in Big Trees, where our families spend the weekend together. On Friday, Kate's company Real Girls Media attracts $6M in her series A round with Walden and 3i the institutional limited partners. Kate is an hold-hand in the start-up game having founded and sold Lot21 in 2002, then the leading online advertising agency. The Thorps have three kids and a dog, live in Northern California and generally lead the good live in our sun-baked, sunshine culture. This photo taken on the stump of Old Sherman (diameter: 28 feet), chopped down in 1853 by Pacific Sierra Logging; Conner in the background.
Chas and I met in college when we painted houses together in Providence. During those miserable summers I contracted and he became my production manner, freeing me up to do what I enjoyed or was good at - selling the business. Chas concentrated on keeping the workers stocked up with paints, brushes, Kodiak and Marbreds. He also planned out the summer's schedule which we maintained in the "action room" of his top flooer flat - pictured a wall of calanders mapped by house and crew. Because of Chas, the summer was butter and we painted 52 houses, if I recall correctly. We also received various recognitions while our summer business made >$200,000 in two and a half months.
Friday, August 4
A self-photo I like. How quickly I revert to California. In London, which is way more formal, I am confined to professional attire and certainly would not consider facial hair for God's sake. When I founded my internet company in '99, I was tempted to throw out my suits & ties, but fortunately Sonnet prevailed and I kept several which I now use when travelling or with clients. I must believe that our Act III will be played out on the Pacific Coast.
This photo from earlier summer '06 and taken during Friday "movie night", where the kids pick one special DVD from the library. Generally, TV is allowed Friday and Sunday morning for cartoons, but this may expand depending on my and Sonnet's level of generosity (or more likely fatigue). Here, Eitan shields me out as I take a shot; beloved Doggie and Teddie are happily tucked away for the screening.
Eitan shot using my Olympus Camedia with 3.0 mega-pixels. While not a SLR or semi-pro camera, I find that the device takes adequately clear pictures and matches my need for convenience and storage (the memory card holds about 200 images). Plus it was cheap. This shot taken mid-day, under an awning at the cabin and the light against the cherry redwood plays nicely against Eitan's colours. While I try to include hands and appendages in all my photos of children, the close-up portraits I was after prevents this.
This photo at Big Trees state park in Calaveras county, California (4/8/06). After buying groceries at the large town Arnold (pop. 4,107), we drive route 4 to the park entrance around susnet so that I can take black & white photographs during the prime light. The trail wanders through the ancient sequoia grove for three miles. Fortunately for Sonnet, looking after the kids while I disappear for several hours, Eitan discovers my digital camera "Look! Look! I love to take shoots (sic)" - of mostly feet, mid-sections and out-of-focus objects but hey, this may lead to a joint hobby and lifetime affair together.
Wednesday, August 2
The past two years I've had two fund clients in Paris - Astorg Partners and Edmond de Rothschild (11/11/05). When visiting this favorite place, I stay at Le Faubourg near the Place de la Concorde and Jardin Toulouse. I make a point of knowing at least one museum or gallery each pass, and my early morning runs take me thru the Louvre and up the Seine to La Cité and Notre Dame cathedral. This photo taken on a dreary winter morning from the Champs.
Sonnet, Madeleine and Grace, representing over 120 years of one gene's earthbound journey, pose on the deck of 2501 Shashone Dr. Grace covers the kids with love and attention, baking a apple pie, peanut butter cookies and strawberry shortcake - all from tried-and-true recipes I grew up with. She is careful each child receives equal attention while Sonnet and I appreciate what we miss from the U.K.
The kids soak up the sun, and this photo taken durina a sun and pool "time-out" (we spent 7 hours at the Bear Valley rec center yesterday). Swim lessons begin at 10AM sharp, and both Eitan and Madeleine enamoured with the older, teenage lifeguard instructors who use words like "dude" and "totally". Eitan practices his Californian tongue but so far with little success.
This is Bru (19/5/06). Bru is Sonnet's cousin and son of Missy, who I met in London in '98. He lives in Rome with his Italien girlfriend Manuela, and has two flats next to the Piazzo Campo dei Fiori not far from the French embassy. From upstate New York, Bru followed the Greatful Dead for a number of years, then applied to Cornell where he received his undergraduate degree. A room-mate introduced him to the Vatican, where he worked in the bursor's office reimbursing Cardinals and Bishops their expenses. Bru's expressive personality is best suited for the Mediterranian, and we have taken joy visiting him on several occassions in Rome, where he has opened the city to us. This photo taken in Colorado at Maire's wedding by Stanfill M. Stanfill - and demonstrates one interpretation of 'cowyboy chic.'