Wherein California and I have a Come to Jesus meeting

California, I want a word with you about your driving conditions.

Your Highway 1 is gorgeous. So pretty that it took me all morning to go 50 miles because I kept stopping to look at misty morning views like this:

And this:

And then this, up in the cliffs high above the sea.

Breathtaking. I got so enamored with the view that I drove past that sign that said “highway 1 closed 37 miles up ahead” without taking a moment to consider those implications. I had a passing thought that I would have to reroute when I got to the closure but I didn’t think any further about it.

California, I know. That’s my fault. Stay with me and I’ll get to the part that’s your fault.

I got those 37 miles up ahead, passing the only inn/gas station/restaurant for 50 miles, elated with the views and the weather and the ocean only to encounter a construction guy with a stop sign. He stopped each car and talked to them individually after which cars turned around and headed back down the mountain. Then he got to me:

Construction guy: Hi there miss. Where you going?

Me: Monterey

CG: Nope.

Me: Nope?

CG: Nope. A rock slide took out the road. Highway’s closed. You’ll have to go back down. Where’d you come from?

Me: Morro Bay

CG: Right. You’ll have to go back there, well, almost back there and take 46 and go over the hill to 101 and then take 101 to Monterey.

Me: Back. To where I started. This morning. 2 hours ago.

CG: Sorry about it. But this highway’s all in the sea now. It’ll be closed for awhile.

And so I turned around and drove back down the mountain, less elated with the gorgeous views and wondering how much more time it would take to get to Monterey. As I passed the inn and looked at my gas gauge, I figured I’d get some gas since it would be awhile before the next town.

$5.49 a gallon.

CALIFORNIA! Your prices are high but that’s a dollar higher than your highest price down below. Isn’t that gouging? I’m not entirely sure what gouging means but I think this is it and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal!

I bought 3.5 gallons to get me to the next station and it cost me $20 with taxes!!!

After this assault, I drove back down the mountain, finally found 46, drove merrily along and then stopped dead because the road turned into an alternating one way street due to unadvertised road work. After getting stuck for an undetermined number of minutes and then driving through the construction, I drove the rest of 46 only to get to 101 and find one lane blocked off with traffic cones for 5 miles for NO REASON. No construction, no guys working, no ripped up pavement, just cones, some of which were now scattered in the only working lane by motorists deciding to disregard them and use the blocked off lane anyway!

California, you still listening? Because I’ve finally gotten to the part that’s about you. Pray attend:

1. If a rock slide closes a highway, that’s useful information to know before I get there. “Road closed” won’t stop motorists the way “Road missing” “Road vanished” or “Road fell into the sea” will.

2. If there’s no alternate route close to said rock slide, and you had the time to post a sign that the road is closed, it would be helpful to also note that I’m passing the only alternate route before I go 74 miles out of my way!

3. If the only alternate route for 100 miles is undergoing road work, isn’t that important information for me to know before I whip around a blind corner and nearly slam into a stopped line of cars?

4. If you need to close a lane in the road, at least put construction vehicles on it so you look busy and productive. Otherwise we think you’re kidding and we’ll drive on it anyway.

That’s all. Yes, you can go. Please do better next time.

Geez… some people’s kids. Sorry you all had to be around for all that.

More tomorrow. With less griping.

See you then.

Tinker Town and the vast New Mexico sky

Driving through the panhandle today. Lots of this:

And this:

And the sun is HOT. I got sunburned just sitting in the car driving. But the wind is cold, sweeping over the plains in giant gusts that make picture taking almost impossible because I can’t hold the camera steady. I’m forever pulling over to the side of the road and waiting interminable minutes while trucks pass so I can photograph the horizon and remember what everything looks like.

Today the terrain changed a lot. I left Amarillo early and then gained an hour once I got over the New Mexico border; so, although I had a lot of driving, the day felt relaxed. As I drove through northern New Mexico, it got more mountainous with a giant sky and clouds but still the same cold wind and hot sun.

Disconcerting combination as I’d get hot driving in the car and need a jacket when I get out of it. I drove up into the Sandia Mountains on my way north of Albuquerque and arrived here about noon:

I didn’t know what to expect, and rarely do, but this place blew my little mind. TinkerTown houses the collection of all collections by collector and artist, Ross Ward:

It seems the Ross Ward’s collecting habits and his wood carving grew up together and this little town is an outgrowth of his collection. Creatively, the most impressive section is the world he created which is incredibly difficult to capture on film when it’s behind glass so here are some crappy pictures:

And an enlarged example of one of the figures.

This town is a fantastical version of the Old West with all the requisite establishments – saloon, candy store, general store, blacksmith, Chinese laundry etc. – all peopled with figures carved by Ross Ward, painted by him and dressed in clothes made by him doing things with accessories made by him on top of platforms and inside buildings created by him. He built this entire world from the bottom to the top from recycled wood, fabrics scraps and discarded items. Some of the pieces are animated and when you press buttons they move up and down or jump or fly or whatever. It’s literally thousands of little figures.

And that’s just the beginning of Tinker Town! The museum portion is an indoor/outdoor place with wooden pathways lined with cement walls inset with bottles that look this way on one side:

And this way on the other.

But each twist and turn of the pathways holds stuff. If you name it he collected it and then he painted it or plastered it or attached it to something else to create a mobile.

Around each corner is a shrine:

Or a sign:

Emphasizing a live free or die attitude that shines from every corner of this place. I love some of the quotes he chose to display, namely:

If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.

And my favorite:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely…broad, wholesome, charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one’s little corner of the world. – Mark Twain

I met Ross’s sister-in-law Mary and his wife Carla:

Who now run the place as Ross died of Alzheimer’s a couple years ago. They were delightful and told me stories of his early collecting and his time traveling with the carnival. He sounds like a fascinating man and I wish I’d met him. I’m glad this place lives on in his memory.

Tonight I’m here:

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch up in Abiquiu visiting my friend Greta and it’s magical.

I have a million pictures and I’ll take more tomorrow and post them. But here’s the moonrise from tonight:

I don’t want to live up here but I can see why she did.

More tomorrow.