Showing posts with label oldBuildingsRuins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oldBuildingsRuins. Show all posts

Friday, April 13, 2012

An Incorrigible Kodger in Bisbee

Maybe Wayne was right the other day about beauty being available even in towns and cities. For instance the Mobile Kodger and I were walking through Bisbee AZ yesterday on our sojourn to New Mexico. Old mining towns -- even if they are tourist traps -- put me in a good mood regarding towns, cities, and -- dare I say -- even people. And I needed the advantage since I was walking through a funky town with the inimitable and incorrigible Kodger.

Those who have never had this experience might have difficulty imagining it. It took a few blocks for the Kodger to reach his stride. We started downtown, in the high-rent district: art galleries, gewgaws, baubles, trinkets, and bourgeois matrons. There really is a sad and noble beauty to the silent suffering of  any husband who is in tow in a place like this. The most humane and sensible matrons leave their suffering saints at home and do Bisbee with "the girls". In fact it might be a good idea for any man who is seriously considering marriage to take Honey Buns through Bisbee. If they are still on speaking-terms after an hour or two, the marriage might stand a chance.

Unlike the Kodger I was indifferent to people, and preferred old buildings and architecture. There were a couple times when my heart started palpitating and my eyelashes began fluttering. This was probably amusing to him. As we walked away from downtown the buildings looked more dilapidated, eclectic, and funky. One old wreck of a house seemed to be built out of the same rocks that were used in a multi-level terrace.

As a cyclist I perked up when I saw this store:

In case you didn't click it to enlarge it, it says "Bisbee Bicycle Brothel."

Each block up the hill and towards the canyon, the Kodger became bolder about getting the "story" from total strangers. I hung back and either blushed or acted annoyed and impatient. Was he just exercising a skill that he knew he was good at? Another scalp on his belt? Or was it actually beneficial to him or his interviewee? Maybe the interviewee just felt important; if that's all it was, the whole thing seemed manipulative, as everything in the social science racket is.

And yet, the Kodger is fundamentally correct in making an effort to see human beings as a valuable resource. One reason I'm involved with his experiment this summer is that it takes straight aim at the mistaken notion that boondocking and hermit-like behavior are inextricably linked.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Lost Love in Mining Town Funkiness

I hope to never outgrow an eyelash-fluttering susceptibility to dilapidated or funky buildings as seen in mining and desert rat towns. One of the best was a decaying stucco dump next to the bakery in Ajo. The friendly baker told me that it had been razed because it was 'ugly, dilapidated, and unsafe'. Yea well, So What, lady.

Who wouldn't love ocotillo-reinforced adobe? Ugly indeed! (But say one word in criticism of the bourgeois mindset that wants to destroy beauty, and readers will dismiss the blogger as a "cynical curmudgeon.")
Fortunately I've been finding some new dumps to replace this lost love. This one is certainly unique:

I didn't even know that corrugated tubes for under-road culverts came that big. Hopefully they've got some insulation in there! Perhaps the local building codes and ordinances limit culvert-housing to flat lots.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Into the Abyss...and Beyond

The month of May has found me as a professional tour guide, by my usual standards. Currently I am hosting the fourth RV-blogger visitor to the Little Pueblo. Quite early in the process I realized how difficult it is to be a good tour guide. My own interest in anything is primarily based on its experiential context, not on its purely visual appeal, and never on its appeal when looked at through a windshield. And say what they will, travelers tend to exist on a visual level more so than a resident.

Take, for example, a big hole in the ground. Its chances of being put on a calendar sold by the Sierra Club are not so good. But the terror I feel around old mine shafts makes it one of the most powerful experiences that I ever have in the great Outdoors.

I knew of a local legend, a steel net, that masked off a vertical mine shaft. It had taken two years to find it in the old mining area that stands over the Little Pueblo. During that two years, the idea of a bottomless mine shaft became my obsession.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tuff and Tolstoy

After visiting the dilapidated old hospital the other day, my visitor and I wandered over to a geologic oddity in our area, where a codgerish RV friend was camped. (And a high quality campsite it was.) Due to the sybaritic sleeping habits of a couple members of our conversational quartet, we arrived too late to get really good photographs of this interesting pile of giant boulders.

My first question at the visitor's center was: why here and not ten miles away? Well, cuz this is whar the rocks iz, the volunteer guide answered. (I rolled my eyes.) Let's try this again: what is so special about the local geology that spectacular rocks are found only here, and not over the entire local area?

Actually I'm just having some fun at the volunteer guide's expense. After a slow start he cranked up to give good explanations of how a local volcano deposited a layer of volcanic tuff over the area. Then they vertically cracked and eroded until most have disappeared; only in this one state park has the rock layer survived. Therefore all of this eye candy is just another example of decay, noble rot, dilapidation.

In a sense, these rocks are soul mates of the dilapidated fort of yesterday and of the Cliff Dwellings before that. One of the reasons that New Mexico is the Foremost of the Four Corner states is that we have more ruins of all kinds. Actually, my favorite ones are the most common: the century-old ranch houses, with rusted corrugated sheet metal roofs, and with adobe spalling off the walls.

There is an underlying theme to many of these disparate monuments of noble rot. Help me here, what was that famous quote by Tolstoy?; something about every happy family being happy in the same way, but miserable families being so in different ways. I was never really sure that I agreed with that proverb, but something like it applies to noble rot.

Every building or topographic feature that is modern is banal, mass-produced, sterile, and uninteresting. But when they age they become individualistic and beautiful in a quirky sort of way.

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's Only a Dry Beauty

My visitor and I wandered over to the old fort to check things out.

It was so tinder-dry around that area, and that made for unpleasant walking through dry brush. We avoided most of it since my companion lacked the sort of clothing that would have been natural in that area. (He wears shorts in the Southwest! grin)

It's probably a common thing to go somewhere to see something, and then finding the mind drift off to something quite different.

I wondered how I got sucked into appreciating the beauty of dry texture. Do you select a retirement area because you carry a latent image in your head, and then the land develops the image? 'Beauty' is different than mere prettiness of course. Did other people who live in this area get sucked into the same thing?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cliff Dwellings

After two and a half years of living in the Little Pueblo I finally made it to the local attraction, the Gila Cliff Dwellings. I was surprised by how interesting the scenery was on the way there: good viewpoints and deep canyons. In the background is one of the branches of the mighty Gila River, before Phoenix gets its paws on it. The "porches" faced to the south; very comfortable, all year around.

Just when the photograph was framed the way I wanted it, an interloper wandered into it. At first I thought he was some kind of New Age/Native American shaman. I dunno. I didn't know that Hawaiian shirts and shorts were sacred to the Native Americans.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chihuahua Hill

On our standard winter bicycle ride we pass this house on a steep street up to Chihuahua Hill. There's something about the curvature in that front porch that grabs my eye as I grind away on the mountain bike.

Maybe it just shows how some people's brains are geometrically oriented.

Towards the end of the ride we were at the usual coffee shop, enjoying a sunny wind-break from the building. A retired couple -- visitors from Juneau -- were asking me about the Little Pueblo. It was an innocent question and they probably wondered why they were being punished by having to listen to five times as many opinions as they really needed to hear. But I was delighted that they liked the funkiness of New Mexico, which is quite a contrast to the boring architecture in the other Four Corner states.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Big Valley

Our latest camp was high over little Jerome AZ, and the grand Verde River valley. This is about as far north as you can go in AZ and still be semi-warm. Winter starts with a vengeance in a couple days, and I don't want to surrender too soon to the moonscape of the Mojave.

The red rock cliffs of Sedona glow at sunset. I could enjoy this right from my trailer door:

I've never actually visited Sedona. I cling to my geo-bigotries as tightly as the old mining town of Jerome clings to the side of Woodchute Mountain. Jerome wasn't as tourist-kitsch as I feared; only the main buildings along tourist central are over-restored.

I took the dogs on a short hike, right from town. I was in a foul mood,  because of van maintenance problems, poor comportment by one of the dogs, and the claustrophobic road layout. If that weren't bad enough, we soon encountered volcanic rubble, my least favorite geologic layer. It had taken four attempts to find this miserable, gnarly road.

It went through a remarkable residential neighborhood, barely visible from the main highway. Most of the funky wooden houses were lived in. They weren't even painted, and the wooden siding was weathered by Arizona's sun and aridity into the color of a gray/brown cat. The yards, if small cliffs full of stickers can be called such, were full of esoterica evocative of the old mining days. Such junk was charming as a part of someone's home, although it wouldn't interest me in a tourist shop.

After hitting a dead end, I surrendered. Believe it or not today was a good outing, despite the fact that just about everything went wrong. I had been soothed by this funky little neighborhood.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Modern Lighthouse

Lighthouses in a landlocked state? Well yes, if you look at it right.

I'm probably not the only one who sometimes dawdles or procrastinates when they arrive in a new town. Sometimes there are so many choices, and they seem like such big projects, that you do nothing. That's why it helps to work for a dog. They have more sense than we do sometimes. They just want to get out there, and without thinking about it too hard. 

So we hike to the first cell tower or radio antenna site. These are more than the source of cellphone and wireless internet signals; they are navigational aids to the entire lifestyle of an RV boondocker. They are to me what an old-fashioned lighthouse was to a seamen. They don't look like each other, exactly, but they have other similarities. Both are tall edifices that stand out and emit powerful signals of electromagnetic radiation. The main difference between their respective "lights" is the wavelength, which is a million times longer for the cell towers.

Ahh but the old lighthouses are things of beauty, you say. A solitary lighthouse-keeper saved the lives of seamen. And the modern cell tower is merely a bland, utilitarian, tech-wiz gadget. But remember that in their day lighthouses on a sea coast were utilitarian, high-tech wonders too, with powerful lamps and Herschel lenses. They weren't put there to be picturesque.

Over the years lighthouses became icons of the postcard industry. Must something be obsolete in order to romanticize it? Will people at the end of this century flutter their eyelashes at the remains of cell towers of our own quaint and charming times?

The Bunk House of Silverton

Now that I finally knew the route to the old Bunk House (or Boarding House) on the cliff at the 12,000 foot mine, it was time to do it! I drove up a road that was really meant for ATVs or small jeeps, but the odds were pretty good that I wouldn't pass any other motor vehicles. Vacationers don't like early starts or dead end roads, and Labor Day was over.

Maybe this is why they invented ATVs and Jeep Wranglers!

I parked below treeline in order to enjoy hiking through it and into the open. We hiked the narrow footpath that presumably was used to build the tramway that sent ore down from the mine, and supplies and men up to the Bunk House.

It was no mystery how miners chose a spot to start digging: they looked for quartz veins at the surface. Gold dissolves in quartz at high temperature. Indeed you can still see such quartz veins.

This was the steepest face we have hiked on, this summer. My little dog enjoys scaring me by scampering by me, on the outside of course, and sending small rocks rolling down the side of the mountain. The outside corners of the trail reminds one of Roadrunner and Coyote cartoons, where cars go leaning out over the edge as they round the corner.

Finally we got our first view of the Bunkhouse. The fly fisherman of three posts past said that a preservation society landed a helicopter up there to re-roof the buildings. Where on earth did they land the helicopter?! Maybe it had to lower supplies with a rope. The trail approached the Bunkhouses about 100 feet above them. 

At first I was disappointed to see the trail end, leaving no way to get down to the Bunkhouses for a non-climber. But it was nice to see the Bunkhouse keep its aura of mystique. The Bunkhouse had line of sight to Silverton. My cellphone even worked.

Let's hope the miners could afford a brass telescope, and after a hard day in the mines, sat out on the porch and smoked their pipes, and passed the telescope back and forth. They looked back to town, and dreamed of all the blandishments on Blair Street, if only they'd get lucky this time.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

An Ancient Housing Development

Pecos Pueblo, near Pecos, NM.  A traveler in the Four Corner states has to visit a few pueblo Indian ruins, which usually come with a fine old Spanish church. I've visited a couple pueblos located far enough east to have traded with and fought with less settled tribes from the high plains to the east, like the Apaches.

Imagine what it was to be a Plains Indian seeing a five-story pueblo building for the first time. It must have been similar to a pony-mounted Mongolian, in Genghis's era, riding east until he got his first look at a Chinese city.

But what did the more settled and civilized Puebloans think of the Plains Indians? As a Plains Indian rode east, away from the Pueblo, perhaps some of the Puebloans looked at him wistfully and thought, Ahh, there goes a real man, living in harmony with nature.

The best part of visiting the Pecos pueblo was the chance to crawl down into a restored kiva. It's surprising that the Park Service trusts the public that much. (And where was the wheelchair access?)

The roof of the kiva was covered with soil. It was mercifully cool and dark down in the kiva, and warm in the winter, no doubt. Are we not foolish to live above ground? Living partly outdoors is one of my favorite aspects of being a full time RVer.

Behind the old Spanish church, and aligned with the protruding beams, is the high mesa that has been my home for 14 days. Much to my distress a new housing development is being built up there. Now modern McMansions can look down upon the decay of the Pecos pueblo, the housing development of an ancient day.

Many times the old churches steal the show at Indian pueblo ruins. Perhaps that's the final indignity for a conquered culture.