Thursday, April 29, 2021

Petrified Forest National Park


When you travel across eastern Arizona, there is one must see attraction - the Petrified Forest National Park. It is an amazing place, full of things that found almost no where else.

The Petrified Forest National Park is a thin ribbon of a park, that stretches forty miles north to south, while varying from one to twelve miles in width. The north entrance of the park sits along Interstate 40, about 70 miles west of Gallup, NM.

When you come into the park from this entrance, the first thing you will find is the Painted Desert. This part of the park is particularly beautiful.  225 million years ago, this part of North America was covered by a sea. Over millions of years minerals and silts were carried into the water, where they settled out. The weight of the new sediment caused those below to change from mud to rock, but they kept the color of the minerals that they were made of. Today, that sea has disappeared, but the rocks it formed are still here. As you drive through the Painted Desert, you can see the different layers of rock, as the hills are colored with wide stripes of minerals, painting the landscape.

The first inhabitants came to the area around 12,000 years ago. They were a nomadic people, following the availability of animals to hunt and plants to harvest. By around 8000 BCE they were building seasonal camps, and staying for longer periods. The first permanent settlements were constructed around 1000 CE, and for the next 600 years, the ancestors of the Pueblo and Hopi peoples lived here. Last week I wrote about Homol’ovi State Park, where you can explore the remains of of these settlements. One thing that these people did was to create petroglyphs and pictographs in areas that, we believe, had religious and spiritual significance. Archeologists believe that these carvings and paintings represent animals, and spirit guides that were important to people who created them.

The real draw of the park is the petrified forest for which it is named. When dead trees washed into the ancient sea, some of them sank to the bottom and were covered by mud. This prevented oxygen from getting to the wood and causing decomposition. Instead, minerals from the water infiltrated the wood, and as the wood broke down, the minerals crystalized, taking the shape and striations of the tree. They formed the rocks that you can see today, shaped like trees, but in beautiful colors. There are many places to pull over and walk among them.

A trip to the Petrified Forest National Park is a unique and beautiful place to visit. It is worth the detour off of the interstate. 

Nuts and Bolts:

Getting There -
Westbound: Take I-40 to exit 311 for the Park’s north entrance.
Eastbound: Take I-40 to exit 285 (Holbrook) and drive 19 miles along route AZ-180 South to the south entrance of the Park.

Fees: a 7-day auto pass is $25 for one car and all passengers.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Route 66 - Winslow Arizona


One problem with driving the old Route 66 is that, in some places, it has been completely swallowed up by the interstate. That is true as you cross the state of Arizona, especially between Flagstaff and Gallup New Mexico. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t still cool stuff. In 2014, I took a trip across the state, and open most of day in the area around Winslow AZ, where I found a lot to see.

Winslow AZ

Winslow, Arizona was incorporated in 1900, primarily as a stop and fuel depot for Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. It became a main stop along Route 66 sitting about 130 miles west of Gallup NM, and 220 miles east of Kingman AZ. The La Posada hotel in town was built as a “Harvey House,” and the town served as a full service station for steam engines in the early 20th century. Today, Winslow is probably best know from the song “Taking it Easy” by the Eagles, which includes the line “Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.” A corner in the center of town has been made into a tribute to that song.

Meteor Crater National Landmark

If you travel 18 miles west along I-40 and 6 miles south along Meteor Crater Road, you will get to one of only 30 clearly identifiable meteor craters in the United States, at Meteor Crater. The crater came to the attention of scientists at the end of the 19th century, as European Americans began to carefully survey the area. In 1903, Daniel Barringer, a mining engineer, was the first person to posit that the crater was made by a meteor impact. He placed a claim on the area around it, and began to develop the area as a tourist attraction. By 1929, scientists accepted the theory that it was, in fact made by a meteor, mostly due to the finding of many meteor fragments in the surrounding desert.

Meteor Crater is 3900 feet in diameter, and 560 deep at its center. The wall around the crater rises 149 feet above the Arizona plains, and looms in the distance as you drive up to visitor center’s parking lot. The Meteor Crater is still owned by the Berringer Family, and they have created a wonderful collecting of space memorabilia and scientific displays on astrogeology. The center piece is a 1400 pound meteorite found nearby. There are several viewing platforms inside the crater, from where you can look down into the crater.

Homol’ovi State Park

Around 800 years ago, the area of eastern Arizona was settled by ancestors of the Hopi and Pueblo peoples. Today, the remains of several of their towns are left, and one of them is at Homol’ovi State Park, just a few miles east of Winslow. The settlement is on the fertile flood plain of the Little Colorado River. When you visit you will find the foundations of many of the structures that were built around 1200 AD. I even found some shards of broken pottery from the time. Recently, the name of the park was changed to remove the term “ruins” at the request of the Hopi as their belief is that the area is still spiritually active. It is a fascinating walk through history.

Nuts and Bolts:
Meteor Crater National Landmark does NOT require advance purchase of tickets, although they do offer a $2 discount if you do so.
Price - Adults(13+) $22/ Juniors (6-12) $13/ Seniors (65+) $20  

Homol’ovi State Park is open 7 days/week. Fees $7/car with up to 4 people. $3/person or bicycle

Friday, April 16, 2021

Alexander Calder at MOMA


Recently, the NY Times ran an article that celebrated something I have saying for months - MUSEUMS ARE EMPTY! Between limited entry, timed tickets, and a lack of tourists, new York city museums now offer the chance to see their artwork up-close and personally, without having to jostle for space. I took advantage of the chance to visit the Museum of Modern Art to see the new Alexander Calder exhibit.

Alexander Calder (1898-1976) is probably best known for his large kinetic sculptures, also known as mobiles. However, he worked in many different mediums. This exhibit offers examples of his paintings, wire sculptures, and smaller pieces. Here are some of the pieces I loved most.

The first gallery has several larger metallic statues. I particularly liked “Black Beast” which is there in its full size, along with the maquette he made in planning the work.

Black Beast

Black Beast - maquette

Calder made wire sculptures throughout his career. He twisted single pieces of wire to form faces and bodies. My favorite was his sculpture of Josephine Baker. I particularly liked the way this piece was hung and lit, giving as much play to the shadow as to the piece itself.

Josephine Baker

Painting was another area of Calder’s expertise. He created abstract works with vibrant colors and shapes.


Calder’s statues are very open. They have pieces that extend in many directions. As a result, they produce amazing shadows when spot lights are used, an effect that I love.


While I was at MOMA I stopped in to see another exhibit of work that they represent so well. “Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented” looked at the changes is art in Russia and Eastern Europe between the World Wars. It presented the ways artists used new technologies and political identities to move their art from decorative to ideological. The words in the title are the ones used by the artists to describe themselves as they adopted and created new visual styles such as modern lithography and photomontages. The artists worked in in advertising, theatrical design, and propagandists fro political parties. This was a fascinating exploration of a period of art that soften overlooked. While the actual exhibit is now closed, it is available at MOMA’s website here.

Soviet posters celebrating women workers

The struggle for polytechnical school is the struggle for the Five-Year Plan - Elizaveta Ignatovitch

Cover for 10 years after Lenin by Mikhial Rezulevich

The Hand has 5 Fingers for the KDP by John Hartfield

COVID will continue to affect our ability to be out and about for a while yet. But if you can get to a museum, take advantage of the empty space to enjoy some of the artwork it is often difficult to see.

Nuts and Bolts:
MOMA requires timed tickets, ordered in advance. 

It is open 10:30-5:30 seven days a week. 

Entrance fees are: adults $25/ Seniors and people with disabilities $18/ Students $14.   

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Two museums and a hike in Westchester County

Cross River Reservoir Spillway


When I travel I always look for small, interesting museums. I have also been doing the same thing in New York City, where I live. But recently, I started looking north, to Westchester Country, where I have found a new group of places to visit. This week, let’s travel to two museums and take a quick hike.

Horace Greeley House - Chappaqua NY

Horace Greeley House

Horace Greeley (1811 - 1872) was a progressive newspaper editor and founder. He lived a life at the center of American politics in the middle of the 19th century. He was born in New Hampshire, and grew up in Vermont. As a youth, he apprenticed to a local printer, learning the trade. At the age of 20, he moved to New York City, where he worked at several print shops. He also started working with the state’s Whig Party. In 1834 he began publishing a literary magazine called The New-Yorker (not connected to the current magazine of the same name). He used this forum to promote the Whig party’s positions calling for more worker’s rights, and for the burgeoning capitalist class to take the needs of their employees into account. During the recession of 1836-37, he wrote one of his most famous editorials, saying “Go west young man, and grow with the country.” This was a call for the unemployed to move out of the east coast cities to this growing ones around the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. 

The Greeley family. Popular Graphic Arts, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1838 he became editor of the state-wide Whig newspaper, The Jeffersonian, and helped to elect William Seward as Governor. In 1840, the newspaper played a key role in William Henry Harrison’s victory as president. After this election, Greeley decided to create a daily paper in New York City. The Tribune, under Greeley’s editorship became a national voice for pacifism, equality for women, and an end to slavery. He even hired Karl Marx as a European correspondent. As the Whig party fell apart, Greeley supported the new Republican Party, and then the Radical Republicans, eventually running for president against Ulysses S Grant.

The Tribune. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1854, the Greeley family chose the village of Chappaqua as a place to build a summer house. The original location of the house in on a hill that over looks the village center. In 1864, they moved to a house that was closer to the main road because Mary Greeley was tired of being in the woods. The family lived in the house until both 1872, when Mary and Horace both passed, about a month apart. Their daughter moved to a nearby house in 1873, and leased their parents home to a series of families for the next 50 years. The house was sold in 1926, and in 1940 it was converted into a gift shop for Greeley memorabilia and town history.

In 1998, it was saved from demolition by the New Castle Historical Society, who renovated it as a historical site and new office. In 2000 it opened to the public. Today most of the rooms have been restored with period era furniture and art work and photos from the family.

The Story of a Summer, written by a cousin of the Greeley Daughters

Katonah Museum of Art

Katonah Museum of Art. Ɱ, CC BY-SA 4.0  via Wikimedia Commons

After visiting the Horace Greeley House, head 10 miles north on the Saw Mill River Parkway to the town of Katonah. Here you will find the Katonah Museum of Art. The KMA is a non-collecting museum, which means that it has no permanent collection of its own. It produces 3-4 exhibitions every year, geared to the visual arts. They span a wide range of artistic disciplines. On my visit, they were hosting a show titled “Still/Live”. They presented many new takes on the staid tradition of still-life art. The pieces include paintings and photography, but also a robot that uses AI to create new still life pieces every day. The is ingenious use of computers that allow visitors to interact with pieces, creating their own works. 

The KMA is not large, housing three galleries and an education center. In conduction with its exhibits, KMA also hosts artist talks, musical events and family oriented activities.

New Orders, Evertime 01 by Ori Gersht

Seven Days: Birthday Party by Chuck Ramirez

Human Study #2 by Patrick Tresset. A robot that creates still life drawings


Cross River Reservoir and Dam

Just 400 meters north of the KMA, along route NY-22, is the entrance to the Cross River Reservoir Dam. This is a chance for a short hike (0.5 miles each way) from the parking area. It is a lovely walk, and the view from the top of the is beautiful. If you don’t feel like taking the stroll, you can drive up to another lot, near the  top of the dam.



New York City offers a lot to see. So does the surrounding area, and it is great to visit the towns in Westchester.

Nuts and Bolts:

The Horace Greeley House - Open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday, 1PM-4PM. Free Admission, but advance tickets are needed due to COVID.

Katonah Museum of Art - Open Tues-Sat 10AM-5PM, Sun 12pm-5PM. Advanced tickets are needed due to COVID. Admission is $10 adults/ $5 seniors, disabled, and students