Morning Walk Albuquerque's Embudo Canyon

Indian School is an east- west Albuquerque boulevard that ends at the Embudo Canyon Open Space at the far east side of the city..

The parking lot, at the roads end, is the beginning of a city Open Space area that moves into the Cibola National Forest Wilderness. The nature walks and trails, at the cities edge, open at seven each morning and close at seven each evening. If you are bold, you can hike back as far as you want into the wilderness and camp out under the stars.

This morning there are vehicles in the parking lot early, which is unusual. Along our hike, there are numerous Apache Plumes, cactus, mesquite, and juniper trees, a huge city deep water well enclosed by a chain link fence and government signs stating statutes that warn bad things happen to those who trespass.Wildlife has hidden itself but you see signs they are close by if you are observant.We can see Mount Taylor, tallest mountain in New Mexico, sixty miles away. A few hot air balloons are aloft..

There are other hikers out this morning, and, as we pass each other on the trail, we all say our hellos cheerfully. Nature lovers are glad to be out even if seeing humans is not what we come out for.

By the time we return to the parking lot,more parking spaces have opened up and the lot is almost empty.

You would think there would be more people hiking with a city of almost a million right below us.

Nature isn’t part of everyone’s vocabulary,but am pleased it is in my dictionary.

It is a bit funny that we put Open and Close times on the Wilderness.

Wilderness doesn’t run by our clock.


Albuquerque Foothills in the Clouds one of those sunless days

On the average, Albuquerque sees the sun 280 days a year.The U.S. average is 205 days.

This morning the Sandia Mountains are hidden behind low lying clouds and visibility is limited. The clouds have no substance yet they hide the towering rugged peaks on our city’s east side.

If you ask Albuquerque people what they like about the city, most will say, most often, ” the weather.

Now that weather, however, has been ” politicized” it is much more difficult to navigate in conversations. We old crazies, at McDonalds, have debates about “Climate Change” and whether man is big enough to have such an influence.

This morning, the sun is on vacation and wisps of clouds have draped themselves over the mountains like your favorite beach blanket.

The weather man, on tv, will call it ” a cloudy day” with no wind, with a thirty percent chance of seeing the sun in the afternoon.

While we can’t always can’t always count on his prediction, for the moment, the weather is proving his prediction.

Walking the trail, I tuck up inside my jacket a little more.

We can talk about weather all we like, but we get what we like and don’t like of it on a regular basis, no matter what theories we have.



Morning Stroll in Arizona Lake in the center of Fountain Hills, Arizona

The landscape in this part of Arizona has few trees and even less water.

It has lots of jagged rocky hills that rise from the desert floor like turtle heads coming up out of their shell. The tallest vegetation, for miles, is the saquaro cactus that we first began seeing as our Arizona state highway took us from higher cooler elevations down to the torrid desert floor.

The saquaro, this morning in Fountain Hills Park,still look like banditos and some only have one arm and one six shooter pointed at me on my stroll.

 Fountain Hills is a sleepy bedroom community not far from Phoenix, a place to escape the rigorous winters of the East coast and Midwest, a place to leave big urban centers for roadrunners in your front yard and sometimes temperamental rattlers.

This man made lake, with its world famous water feature. makes a good quiet place to stroll as the sun comes up this morning and lets me see more of it. The fountain used to be the tallest man made geyser in the world till some prince in Dubai wanted to make his new number 1 geyser and made it happen.

This morning, the sun is coming up fast. Palm trees stand like men in lime jackets on an airplane runway waving flashlights at the sun as it docks into its assigned gate. 

Mining for memories is Scott’s full time, no pay retirement job.

I never thought I’d see anything that used to be number 1 in the world.

Most life I document isn’t on anybodies list but my own.




Arizona Cows On a dirt road to nowhere

Where country begins is ” when you start to see cows. ”

We are not in prime cow country in this high desert Arizona.There is much better grazing in Texas, and, even better, in Uruguay.The grass here is sparse amid cactus, junipers, washes, arroyos, ditches, and dirt roads. This land we are driving through, to reach Chip’s little piece of paradise, is open range and these cows have the right of way over both automobiles and humans.

These two critters give me the evil eye when I stop to take their portrait.

If they could talk they would be asking me what I was doing here, how long I intended to stay, and what my real intentions are.

They grow tired of me quickly and peacefully amble off.

When you get out of the city you see clearly the things you are getting away from and the things you left behind that you miss.

When I start trying to make friends with cows, who don’t even have watches to give me the time of day, I figure I have already been out here too long.

I love the country but miss my city.

Living a simple life, after all is said and done, isn’t very simple.




Museo of Amber Zona Colonia, Santo Domingo

Pat reminds me to dig deeper into amber, highly valued by Kings and royalty way way back when we had Kings and royalty.

Tunneling deeper, I start walking to the Museum of Ambar at 454 Calle Arzobismo Merino Street in the Zona Colonia. It is roughly four blocks from the Plaza Colon.

I keep watching street numbers increase, as I walk, and the numbers tell me I am getting closer to the museum. There is a 452 Merino street and 454 is just after 452, on a corner on my side of the street. Odd numbers on one side of the street and even numbers on the other seems to have some kind of universal mojo.

Brunilda, standing inside, at the front door, opens the front door and welcomes me, and soon gives me a fifteen minute personal tour of the museo and retail shop.

In my tour, I discover amber facts.

  1. Amber is tree sap preserved in the Earth, as old as 360 million years.
  2. Amber, under heat, turns into its original gummy state.
  3. Jurassic Park popularized amber with its premise of bringing dinosaurs back to life by extracting DNA from insects caught inside it, then using the DNA to create dinosaurs.
  4. Amber can contain bark, roots, leaves, vegetables, ants, termites, lizards, and most anything that crawled into it and couldn’t get out.
  5. The older a piece of amber is, the darker it becomes.
  6. “Blue Amber ” is found only in the Dominican Republic. If you hold ” Blue Amber ” up to light you see tints of blue.
  7. Amber,dropped into a saline solution, floats.
  8. Amber comes in many colors and shades.

Brunilda finishes our tour with a stop in the retail store.

Even though I’m sold on ambar, i don’t buy today.

I didn’t bring money with me on this trip, on purpose.

Not taking money when you go someplace is not always a bad travel precaution.





Jardin Botanico Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

A ten minute taxi ride to the north of the Zona Colonia is the National Botanical Gardens of the Dominican Republic.  

The gardens are huge and narrow city sidewalks are traded for wide foot paths to walk freely in wide open spaces This Sunday there is a long wavy line at the admissions gate, before opening time, and the charge to enter is just one hundred pesos -fifty cents U.S.

In the front entrance of the park, there is an orchid sale in progress and customers are loading them into wheelbarrows and transporting them to their vehicles in the parking lots. Orchids are delicate flowers and it is explained to me, by my taxi driver, that they are popular in the Dominican Republic. People hang them in their homes and grow them on outside balconies. Whether it is Cuenca, Ecuador or the United States, or Santo Domingo, people love their flowers.

I can hear the city around me, but can’t see it inside the park’s cocoon of trees. Like the Botanical Gardens in Montevideo, this is prime real estate. 

We urbanites need nature close to keep us balanced.

Outside the huge cities of the world, nature still swings a big bat though, and the places people don’t want to live, can’t live, or don’t have the resources to go to, are many.

Botanical parks, in the middle of big cities, suggest there is more to our world than cities.

Even in a world of seven billion people, there are places to escape civilization where you feel the need.



Fishing by the Napolitano Casino Fishermen rise early

Before seven in the morning, a kid passes me on his bicycle, carrying a five gallon plastic bucket, with bait and tackle inside, and a fishing pole resting on his handlebars.

When the kid, who just whizzes past me, makes a left turn towards the water, a block further down, I know he is going fishing and joining another fisherman where the water meets the land.

There are fishermen on this jetty every morning, just at sunrise, and sometimes in the evening, at sunset. While you can catch fish other times of day, fisherman tell you when the time is best to bait a hook, cast out, and wait for the fish to bite.

This Santo Domingo park, by the Napolitano Casino, will soon have its walkers and exercise people. City crews are putting down new sod and walkers, taking fresh air on a cool morning, can use a new swing set installed the other day by the parks and recreation department work crew. I watched some of the workers test the swing out, laughing, happy because it was almost quitting time.

At the end of the concrete jetty I am heading for, these two compadres already have their lines in the surf and are watching the sun come up over a not too distant shipyard.

Fishermen are eternally hopeful.

If you don’t try to catch anything, you won’t catch anything.

The kid’s bicycle is laid down close to him, and, if he is lucky and is using the right temptation, he will take some fish home for breakfast this morning, in his five gallon bucket.



Afternoon rain Zona Colonia Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

It rains in the Caribbean. This rain storm has blown in in early afternoon and sends me under a roof overhang on one of the streets in the ” Old City. ”

People, on motorcycles, wrapped in large plastic trash bags, zip through the streets and find shelter in nearby parking garages. Security guards have a leisurely smoke and dogs are nowhere to be seen as water puddles, rain droplets hit your outstretched hands like little needle pricks. 

Afternoon rains here seem to be regular in March.

It is nice to have a moment  when things stop and reset.

Staying dry is still at the top of most of my lists, most of the time.



Mama Juana Mixology

When I remark that I have a cold, Yuri asks if I want some ” Mama Juana? ”

” I don’t want marijuana, ” I answer.

” No, ” she laughs, ” Mama Juana. It is a local drink, good for colds. ”

Berluis shows me a jug which looks like it is filled with bark off a tree, which, it turns out, is. Research says this alcoholic drink was concocted by local Taino Indians who put rum, red wine,honey, herbs, and bark in a jug to make a happy time drink.The drink is good for colds, flu, digestion, circulation, and cleaning the blood. 

” It won’t hurt me? ”

Yuri shakes her head ” no” and Berluis pours us all a little into plastic cups, not unlike my golfing crew’s ” birdie juice ” cups.

We drink to the Dominican Republic, and, happily, no ill effects have been noticed.

The alcohol content is subdued and the drink is sweet, not unlike Jamaica Tea.

” You can’t say, ” Yuri explains, ” You have been to the Dominican Republic without trying Mama Juana. ”

People don’t need to have a health reason to drink but having a real cold makes this sampling real good for me.

Learning about local traditions is always a plus, especially when they taste so good.



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