Posts Tagged ‘historical sites’

Chaco Canyon Is New Mexico’s Machu Picchu (Day 125)

November 21st, 2009 2 comments

Well basically.

Was gonna make some joke about Count Chocula, but I’m kind of sleepy.

Chaco Canyon is this place in Northwest New Mexico where they have these ruins left by the Chaco people, who abandoned them in like 1200 AD. 2,000-3,000 people lived there. It’s a cool valley. Not sure where they got food. Probably should have read more signs. One cool thing: you get to climb in and around a lot of the buildings. And the one big set of buildings is called Pueblo Bonito, which if I know my Spanish translates to “Tunaville”.

Buildings were kind of the same color as the cliffs behind them, which makes it harder for the photos to convey the grandeur. Tja.

chaco-canyon_single-wallSometimes the buildings stuck up above the cliffs though.

chaco-canyon_ruins-cliffThe color’s a *little* different.

chaco-canyon_interior-wallsSome interior walls!

chaco-canyon_walls-windowWindow and wall.

chaco-canyon_me-doorThey were, apparently, a people small in stature.

chaco-canyon_two-wallsIt’s basically the same ruined walls everywhere there.

chaco-canyon_pueblo-bonitoThen I walked up to the mesa so I could look down on the thing.

chaco-canyon_new-altoThen if you hike a little further, you can see *these* ruined walls.

chaco-canyon_sunset-roadThe road out of town, with sun.

It’s a cool site, seriously. I’d say it’s a little less amazing than Machu Picchu, but it’s big enough and impressive enough to deserve at least the comparison. Supposedly it’s the largest archaeological site in the US, which, yeah, I’d believe (pending a better understanding of the word “site” in this context).

  • It’s a 20-mile dirt road to get there.
  • They close the whole thing down at sunset.
  • The ranger way over-estimates the length of time it takes to go on the hikes.



12 Majestic Lies! (Day 122, Part 2)

November 17th, 2009 5 comments

If there was ever a town that rues the box office failure of the second X-Files movie, it’s Roswell, N.M. Obviously. OTOH, if David Duchovney ever needs a free drink, I’m guessing there are some folks there willing to chip in. Oh well.

Went here:

roswell_museum-exteriorFolks are lined up for miles to get in!

Yeah, I dunno. I didn’t take a lot of photos inside. Sadly. Mostly, it was temporary plywood walls with text-heavy documents and news clippings posted to them. A lot more reading than I had in mind for myself on a windy afternoon. But I appreciated the scientific deference that the curators exhibited in the displays as exemplified by words such as “some believe” and “may have been”. And clearly I should have taken a photo of the crash site diorama.

But they had artwork like this:

roswell_museum-artAnd nicely displayed I might add.

Most of the artwork just made me yearn to play XCom: UFO Defense, though. I know: it wouldn’t feel the same as it did in the old days.

The museum is also trying to build a new facility. They have the land just a few blocks further up Roswell Main Street (which may not actually be called Main Street — but it should be). It looks ambitious, like the kind of project that never gets past the artist’s rendering stage. Sadly.

roswell_touch-alien-headNo explanation necessary.

I think the fact that the Air Force offered three different explanations at three different times empirically proves that a UFO crashed near Roswell in 1947. Meanwhile, I just gotta keep hoping that UFO: Alien Invasion is indeed an appropriate successor to the original XCOM.

Keep watching the stars skies!


The San Antonio Missions Aren’t Just a Baseball Team (Day 117)

November 12th, 2009 Comments off

Finally got out to see something in SAT. Fortunately, I realized early in the day that my lens was set to manual focus and got that corrected. Unfortunately, it took many, many hours before I figured out that the camera was set to 1600 ISO. Man.

You’d think the constant 1/1000ths exposure times at f22 would’ve tipped me off. Meh.

So there are all these old Spanish missions in San Antonio. Basically the same as the one in Capistrano, except there are more of them, they’re bigger, they’re not as crowded, and there are none of those stinkin’ swallows.

Actually, I guess most days the Alamo is probably more crowded than the Mission SJC. Ah well.

missions_san-jose-exterior-2Mission San Jose

missions_san-jose-interiorInterior de San Jose

missions_espadaMission Espada

missions_san-juanMission San Juan

missions_san-juan-bellsCampanas de la Mission de San Juán

missions_concepcionMission Concepcion

missions_concepcion-courtyardPlaza de Concepcion

missions_san-antonio-de-valeroMission San Antonio de Valero — but nothing interesting ever happened here.

The Texas independence story is pretty cool, actually — I’d kind of forgotten any of it I might have ever known. It kind of makes you wish you had some claim to it. Oh well. Most importantly: Santa Anna was a tool. The Alamo itself is kind of less impressive than the other missions, at least in terms of its size. And there’s not much inside. Nicely maintained, though.

Since I was in the area, I went down to the San Antonio tourist date area:

san-antonio_riverwalkTourist women scan the river for ducks at which to throw pennies.

I liked San Antonio. It’s unpretentious, but it has a lot of real history and culture behind it that it could’ve been pretentious about if it wanted to be. I left the place thinking Austin *wishes* it were as legit as this. People were pretty friendly there also — I actually had three different people greet me in parking lots. When else does *that* ever happen?



Natchez Trace Route: Still No Sign of Bandits (Day 107)

November 4th, 2009 1 comment

I’m getting close to as behind on blog posts as I’ve been all trip. Woot!

More photos from the Natchez Trace Parkway. It continued to be a road with stuff to see on either side of it. Day 107 wasn’t rainy. We had peanut butter and jam samiches for lunch. What else is there to tell, really? I know, you’re just here for the photos. Punks.

natchez-trace_tishomingo-lillypadsTishomingo lily pads.

natchez-trace_tishomingo-bridgeThe nearly-invisible swinging bridge.

natchez-trace_trace-sunI can’t tell if this photo is interesting, unsettling, or just bad. I guess none of those are mutually exclusive from any of the others.

natchez-trace_meriwether (1)Meriwether Lewis died here.

natchez-trace_fall-hollow (1)Fall Hollow Falls.

natchez-trace_jackson-fallsJackson Falls.

natchez-trace_tenn-farmsTennessee countryside.

I should probably do some sort of study about blog post quality and previous-night sleep. It was about 35 degrees last night, but mostly both my hips are sore from — I dunno. Lying on the ground without enough padding, I guess, and that’s apparently my personal COG.

Wishing you a safe, lucrative Guy Fawkes Day tomorrow,


Fort Raleigh, Then Durham (Day 89)

October 16th, 2009 1 comment

North Carolina strikes me as a lovely place to live, but kind of an odd place to visit. Heading west from the Outer Banks, I figured Ft. Raleigh sounded interesting enough. I always wondered about those Croatoan people, so — right. Here’s what there is to see at Ft. Raleigh:

fort-raleighAnd a fine location for Frisbee golf, too!

Yeah, well, I suppose I knew it was a lost colony. From there, headed west to Durham, where they have the REI. Having finally tired of my GPS’s incompetencies, I took it back. I’m starting to see a lot of upside to REI. I had that thing misguiding me throughout the country for 2.5 months, but REI had no problem taking it back. Go REI!

For dinner, met up with my ol’ Clarion buddy Alex in Carrboro, where we had some great detox food at the co-op.

Then I drove out to Statesville where I found a surprisingly clean hotel, with breakfast, for $29.99+tax. Go Statesville!


Some Headline about Kitty Hawk or Kill Devil Hills (Day 88)

October 14th, 2009 1 comment

If you’re an aviation fan, Kill Devil Hills is holy ground and a must-see location. If you’re not, it’s a field of grass with a mound at one end. The Wright Brothers chose the location because it was windy and sandy. I’m so ambivalent toward this state right now it’s palpable. I liked the Wright Brothers stuff. It’s cool to see where Orville landed and to try and picture what the scene might have looked like. Except I’m always seeing people who are sepia toned.

It was definitely windy there. The sand is now covered with grass, but sort of only barely.

kitty-hawk_first-landingTha’s right, bro, you numba one!

kitty-hawk_wright-monumentThe mound from which they did their glider tests in ’01.

kitty-hawk_launch-railThe rail they launched from.

Per the signs at the historical site, it took the world a few years to realize the importance of the event. As I become ever more luddite-ish, I’m guessing I’ll start having mixed feelings about it myself.


Colonial Williamsburg, Historical Jamestown, Passable Blog Post (Day 87)

October 12th, 2009 3 comments

Maybe I’m over-selling the blog post.

I thought Williamsburg was absurd, fun, totally absurd, and worth a day. It’s wacky to walk around with a bunch of other tourists and then have all these ren-fair types also there talking about the revolution currently underway. I stood in line (for ten minutes!) so I could sit in an originaly, 18th-century house wherein two guys dressed up as British colonels talked about what it was like to currently be under house arrest, how they were being gawked at by locals, and how surprised they were to see the entire Continental Army amassing in town, including that short French fellow. I should have gone to the event called “Loyalist Travail”: a Loyalist doctor and his family are harassed by citizens as they try to slip out of town. I bet that one was rich.

Ah, but it was fun and absurd. Just absurd. I miss it already. It was sad walking back over that bridge into the lousy, freakish 21st century. Age of Enlightenment, *that’s* the epoch for me. Oh well.

All of Virginia and only four cells for felons!

I feel like I need to go back to Williamsburg — I could do it so much better next time around. Again, oh well.

williamsburg_bridgeAs you cross the bridge from the Visitors Center to town, you travel back in time!

williamsburg_underpassSo imagine my surprise when, despite being in 1781, I had to walk under an underpass with cars flying by overhead. I suspected witchcraft.

williamsburg_palace-greenThe Continental Army had arrived Friday night. Seriously. If I’d been there Thursday, these tents wouldn’t have been around. Sunday night, they “marched off to Yorktown”.

williamsburg_governors-palaceThe governor’s palace. I think the governor was on his way back to London, though.

williamsburg_courthouse-coachThe county courthouse. The most common offense was skipping church.

williamsburg_washingtonGeneral Washington surveys the… tourists. If you look lost, he’ll offer to help, but will probably end up just pointing somewhere and saying “that way”.

williamsburg_capitalThe capitol. This is where the House of Burgesses met, when it pleased the governor. And then once they got rid of the governor, it’s where whatever the Va representative government called itself at the time met.


williamsburg_rochambeauThe short French fellow (Rochambeau), I think.

One of the coolest things about the experience is that, if you want to, you can avoid introductory sessions and not read much and instead just walk around town and try to figure out what’s going on, why there are soldiers camped out on the lawn, why there’s a guy dressed up like Washington running around on a horse, why there aren’t (m)any redcoats around. There are also other interesting details you can pick up on if you want to — there was a guy with a team of oxen and a cart with what looked like a coffin in it. He paraded it around for most of the morning, but in the afternoon, he made his delivery — to the jailhouse. Absurd and fun.

The only problem I had with Williamsburg is that it took me a while to figure out what the game was. It’s a cool game, though. I’d like to go there again some day.


As for Jamestown — I’d always wondered why they decided to start their town in a malarial, bug-infested swamp. Now having been there — it’s not only a bug-infested swamp, but it’s a bug-infested swamp with no fresh water sources. Crazy. They founded the colony there because the river was deep enough close to shore that they could tie the ships on to trees. Walking the plankway over the swamp to Fort James, there were clouds of bugs — clouds, like you couldn’t breathe without inhaling bugs. Right: crazy.

There’s not a whole lot to see there (I just went to the Parks Service part — I figured I’d seen a solid display of “living history” at Williamsburg) given that the town was basically abandoned in the 18th century when Williamsburg became the capital. Actually — it’s kind of nice to have this abandoned, broken, archaeological site around and in such proximity to Williamsburg. Two sides of the same coin, interesting contrast, etc.

jamestown_graveyardThe graveyard inside of Ft. James at Jamestown.

jamestown_john-smithJohn Smith, looking longingly back to England.

John Smith seemed like an interesting character. Was a prisoner of war in Russia while serving in the Hungarian army, then escaped prison and returned to Hungary before becoming the guy that sort of led the Jamestown expedition and then colony. Apparently also sort of a jerk, although the display wasn’t very specific about that.


Ol’ Virginny Home(s) (Day 85, Part 2)

October 12th, 2009 Comments off

Yeah, I know, it’s supposed to be Old Kentucky Home, but I’m not probably going to be visiting any old mansions when I’m in Kentuck, ergo this.

I keep going back and forth between thinking I’m doing too much on this trip and thinking I’m not doing enough. Day 85 turned into the latter, so I decided to compensate by driving to dots on the Rand McNally road atlas. The first was Scotchtown, Patrick Henry’s home northwest of Richmond. It was fine. You have to take a tour to go in. I was the only one on the tour when it started — which would have been great, since it probably could have wrapped up in 20 minutes that way and there was nothing in that house that deserved more than 20 minutes of observation. But then some older couple joined in while we were in the dining room and then I had to hear all about where the cabinets were made and discussions of southern Virginia “famous families” that I’d never heard of.

I get the sense that Southern Virginia is like Utah — there are “prominent families” that everyone wants to say they know or are related to. It’s not my favorite part of Utah, either.

patrick-henry_kitchenThe tour guide leads the other tour participants toward the kitchen, where they will be killed and eaten.

patrick-henry_houseThe actual house. When Patrick Henry’s wife went crazy, he made her live in the basement until she died.

Here’s the rest of what I got out of the tour:

  • Patrick Henry had 17 children.
  • He was the first governor of Virginia (I’m not sure in what sense this is true — he was certainly not the colony’s first governor).
  • He didn’t collect much stuff.
  • When the slaves brought food into the house from the kitchen, they were required to whistle the whole way because if they were whistling, then they couldn’t be picking food off the plates and eating it.
  • At one time the house was occupied by a goat-tending hobo whom the neighborhood children feared.
  • He didn’t like to write — he was an orator. Patrick Henry, I mean. Possibly also the hobo — we don’t have any of *his* writings, either.

Of course, I had to go to *Williamsburg* to learn that Patrick gave his Liberty-or-Death speech at a church in Williamsburg. Or was it Richmond? Eh. It was definitely a church.

Then I went to the Shirley plantation, which is south of Richmond on the James River. It was owned by one of Virginia’s prominent families. The tour guide was good-looking, but a little too urbanized and professional to be giving tours of some plantation home. I think she’s under-employed. If I still had jobs to give out at Toshiba, I might’ve inquired as to her math skills. Ah well.

shirley_gateThat’s not the main house on the left there. It’s the kitchen, I think. The main house had bad lighting and wasn’t all that exciting anyway.


Supposedly this is the world’s oldest plantation that has been in continuous operation. It’s owned by the Hill-Carter family. Surely you’ve heard of them. It’s in its eleventh generation of ownership. The current heir lives in the top story. He’s used to having tourists take tours of the main story — that’s how he’s always known the home. When any woman in the family gets proposed to, she’s supposed to test the diamond by cutting something into the living room window. Etc.

It was a great day for being outside. Warm, but not hot, clear skies, gentle breeze. If Virginia were always like that, it’d be a hard place to not want to live, I figure.



Everything I Learned at Monticello (Day 84)

October 10th, 2009 Comments off

It’s a pretty house, I learned that.

monticello_back-lawn-viewIt’s maybe too centered in this photo? Whatever.

  • The c in Monticello is pronounced “ch”.
  • Thomas Jefferson was six-foot-two.
  • He was pretty eccentric — more eccentric than I am even! — and didn’t seem to equivocate much, even when it seemed like he was wrong.
  • It didn’t seem like his slaves were living as luxuriously as I might have thought.
  • He was really good friends with James and Dolly Madison.
  • They moved into one of the out-buildings (one room upstairs, kitchen downstairs) while the main house was still being built.
  • Jefferson defied conventional wisdom by building the house on top of a hill.
  • Most people in rural Virginia during Jefferson’s time had never seen a map before.
  • Ronald Reagan’s library is more impressive than Monticello. Of course, it has the advantage of having been built as a museum rather than a house, but, inasmuch as you can compare a museum to a house, Reagan FTW.
  • The Monticello tour is a little claustrophobic.

I think that’s about it. Or at least, that appears to be all that’s stuck with me over these two long days since I was there.

monticello_garden-longJefferson seems to have planted corn and other crops in his front yard.

Also went to Appomattox Court House on Day 84. It was a little lame. Here’s a picture so you can see how lame it is.

appomattox-court-houseI should probably just stop visiting Civil War sites. The photo itself probably doesn’t come off as all that lame.

And here’s what I learned there:

  • Appomattox Court House was the name of the village where the armistice was signed. It was not signed at the courthouse (pictured above), but at some guy’s house (not pictured).
  • The modern town of Appomattox moved closer to the railroad once the courthouse burned down.
  • The guy’s house that is currently set up at Appomattox Court House is a re-creation. The real one was dismantled and taken to DC, where it disappeared or something without ever having been exhibited as planned.
  • The guy who gives tours through the house is sort of cranky to people who don’t know they have to be led through it by him, even though there’s no indication anywhere that they’re not allowed to just walk into the house like they can every other house at Appomattox Court House.
  • It’s hard to use three words in spelling Appomattox Court House.

I didn’t take the tour. It’s probably a fantastic site if you’re into the Civil War. They also had a guy dressed up as a union soldier who acted like he was stuck in 1865. It probably would have been more convincing if he hadn’t been ethnically Indian (from India). I mean — the illusion’s pretty well broken before he even tries to talk to you about how expensive the tavern is, which makes playing along sort of stressful. He also has all his teeth and lacks powerful body odor, which should probably also have been illusion-breakers.

Looking forward to kayaking around the Outer Banks. I think that’ll help.

Oh, and I also went to Chancellorsville, another Civil War battlefield. I took one photo:

chancellorsville-battlefieldDespite plenty of trees to hide behind, Stonewall Jackson died here.

But it was getting on toward evening, the rangers were closing up shop, and so I pressed on. The campground I slept at that night is probably one of the ones on the western part of the map in Fallout 3. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. And I think I saw a super mutant while I was there — but, sadly, I found no jet, mutfruit, stealthboys, or railway spikes. They had a shower, though.


3,654 Americans Dead, One Day (Day 81, Part 2)

October 9th, 2009 2 comments

No, they didn’t die on Day 81 of my trip. This trip is not that powerful or deadly. OTOH, the intensity of death per day at Antietam relative to size of the USA+CSA was 15,000 times the intensity of Iraq (I wrote about this once). Of course, Iraq is no Korea. Oh well. It’s a pretty battlefield. Antietam, I mean. Had to drive back into Maryland to get there, but it was worth it, I think. Nice skies, grain, fences, and a whole lot of dead people.

Civil War. It was a battle in the Civil War (the Battle of Antietam, sometimes referred to as Battle of Sharpsburg) and a fairly important one I understand. Somehow this sort-of win made Lincoln feel good about issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all the slaves except for those living in states that Lincoln was actually president of at the time. Well, basically.

antietam_ny-monumentThis is the New York monument at the battlefield. I like the idea that the three people on the right are monks going to their, I dunno, holy obelisk. Makes it seem more like an Anton Corbijn-directed Depeche Mode video. If only it were in black-and-white.

antietam_fence-roadWatching the approaching Yankees from the Rebel position.

antietam_connecticut-monumentI think this was the Connecticut monument. The guy on it looks like he’s 12. It’s situated alongside Bloody Lane, a sunken road that was sort of advantageous for the Southerners to be in until it wasn’t.

antietam_bloody-laneBloody Lane.

antietam_golden-grainPaved road, not bloody.

antietam_cloudsClouds, plus one of those fences they always set up around Civil War battlefields.

So I thought it was kind of a pretty battlefield. Nice clouds, for example. It makes you kind of sad to stand there and think about it. I mean, that’s a lot of dead guys. And then I remember that my relatives left the country 15 years before the Civil War to see if they could get a better deal in Mexico. So that makes it only as sad as a horrible, bloody civil war happening in someone else’s country. Someone else’s country that had recently annexed you. It’s slightly mitigating is what I’m getting at.


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