Monday, September 23, 2013

Lander Wyoming

Lander is a wonderful small town at the confluence of Highways 287 and 789 kind of midway between Jackson and Casper Wyoming, a city Jackie has been wanting to see,  but we were beat and decided to spend the night in Lander along the way, a really good choice.

This is the view from the rise in the highway leading into town.  There is not much behind me, and the vast forbidding mountainous wilderness ahead.  Not so long ago this was all there was for 50 miles in any direction and getting anywhere took courage and strength.  Lucky for us there was a good Mexican restaurant in town, and no shortage of bars.  The one below was also a micro-brewery to the left and the little wooden attached structure to the right was an ice cream stand.  What more could you ask for.

Why there's someone ordering a scoop right now.  Before we left town, we stopped in the Lander Art Center and saw the well seen paintings of someone who seemed to understand the emptiness that surrounds this place.

Loved the paintings, bought the poster, had some coffee and left town traveling east toward Casper.  I know I didn't take enough pictures of Lander, but I guess when you are just passing through, its just what catches your eye, and I did walk through town and that's all I saw (on the sunny side of the street anyway). 
As we left town, we passed through the suburbs...

and a few miles further down the road, a book seller who realizes that if you are going to make it out here, you have to diversify!!!

Don't even ask.  I showed this photo to a friend who loved it and asked about the person running the shop.  I felt badly that I had no idea.  I was so thrilled with the photo, and we did need to move on, that I never even thought of checking it out.  And I am a person who haunts used book stores.  


Sunday, September 22, 2013

On to Jackson (Hole)...

Don't know if I will be successful, but I am making an effort on this leg of the journey to remain more or less sequential, unless there is some breaking news requiring reportage.  So leaving the Falls, we entered Wyoming heading toward Jackson on Highway 26/89 passing through the southern end of the Tetons...

passing through the low end of the range and a few small mountain villages that didn't seem to catch my eye photographically.  Stopped for gas, a bit of food, and a bottle of Jim Beam in Hoback Junction and we sat or a while eating those little 99 cent pies and watched the trucks go by.   Not too long after we got back on the road, we were in Jackson...

Jackson is a lovely town and a great place for the well off to ski and/or act out their cowboy/rugged individualist fantasies which comes at a price.  I was in this apparently rugged western shop admiring this pretty nice looking rawhide jacket that was me.  If only I had the $1, 750 that faux authenticity seems to cost out there.  It was the same story all over town, so we ended up with a couple of post cards and refrigerator magnets.

We stayed at the Lexington Hotel at the edge of town and liked it a lot.  Got talking to a guy with New York plates who came from Sullivan County, one of my favorites.  Told me he wanted to fly out, but his wife wanted them to drive so they took Interstate 90 here, NY to Chicago non stop he bragged, with a short visit to Rushmore and the Grand Canyon or something, and after the family event they came for, would take Interstate 80 back.  The next morning I was amused to hear him telling some other older guy what a great experience it was to drive across the country (on the interstates!!!).  As I always like to say, "The interstate highway system is a wonderful thing.  It lets you drive all over the United States, and never see America!!!).

That's the Lexington on the left, and I always like a good motel sign.

As I said, the cowboy thing is real big out here, and for some people it really is, for others, it is a cup of coffee and a shot of red eye at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar...

As I was standing there taking this last picture, there was a Japanese tourist near me with a massive black Nikon SLR taking all sorts of pictures of this and that, but never looking up.  I tapped him on the shoulder, not knowing if he spoke English, and pointed to the cowboy sign.  He seemed quite pleased and nodded thankfully and took a few shots.  When we were at the Grand Canyon a few years ago, there was a busload of Japanese tourists looking out and quite animated in conversation.  I asked Jackie if they were saying to each other that if they had just fought a bit harder during WW2, this could have all been theirs, and they could charge those stupid Americans $25 to see it.  As always, Jackie refused to se the humor in this, but I'm sure I did see a stifled smile.

I guess I am yammering on because  while Jackson was quite upscale well manicured and a fun place to spend a few nights , I didn't take many pictures.  We had some very good Italian food at Nani's Cucina on Glenwood St. around the corner from the Lexington.   Can't remember what I had, but I liked it a lot.

I took this at the corner of E. Delony and N. Cache on August 22 and if you squint as you look past the pricey shops, as you look down the street heading out of town, you can see the Lexington Hotel on the left. 



Saturday, September 21, 2013

Idaho Falls...

It is August 21 and I am standing at the corner of Park Avenue and A Street in Idaho Falls, where we spent the night.  From the remnants of what is left of the city before they tore much of it down to make parking lots, drive through banks, and roadways along the river, it is easy to see that this was once a vibrant, thriving productive place with a number of large hotels, now abandoned or turned into SROs, empty abandoned department stores, and 3 or 4 other square blocks of other vacant or repurposed buildings that provide a sense of what once was in this largely eviscerated city desperately in search of a purpose.

Park and A are the center of "The Historic District", a euphemism that old cities across the country use to describe the few blocks of the old part of town that somehow managed to miss the wrecking ball.  Since I am such a good photographer, I have managed to make the situation look more hopeful than it is.  In reality, all that is left are tattoo shops, pawn shops, a few bars but very few because it is cheaper to buy a bottle and share it with friends in the alley, a couple of upscale restaurants, like the Snake Bite in the white corner building, for people tired of Olive Garden and brave enough to venture downtown at night, a used book store, bike shop, some consignment stores, drop in rehab centers (meth is big out here), a beauty salon or two,  and a couple of good bakeries.  If you need shoes, clothes, housewares, drugstores, Walmart, a Subway/McDonald/Burger King, or any of the modern amenities of life, you need to drive way down 17th street where you will find the malls, fast food, and Olive gardens that are the glue that holds it all together for us.  If you want to pawn something, come downtown.

The one bright spot which seems to be a nexus of upscale easy, unbothered activity that draws a crowd is the Great Harvest Bread Company on A a few doors down from Park that is quite good in all ways midwestern.  The bread is excellent and varied, and they are not afraid to cut you a big chunk, buttered for you to sample.  The soup was real good and Jackie loved their chicken salad and that says a lot.

The staff is smiley helpful and generous and it is one of the best things in town.  On the way out of town on our way to Jackson, Wyoming, we passed Scotties Drive In.  Great sign, but the building was in the shadows.

If I sound angry, and seem to be taking it out on Idaho Falls, sorry, its just the result of built up frustration about the poor overall state of old midwestern cities that have been basically abandoned in favor of the malls, box stores, and chain restaurants that have built up on the access roads leading to town, and have drained them of purpose and activity and left the now irrelevant "historic districts" to fend for themselves and struggle for relevancy when indeed it has been stripped from them.  There is no longer any reason to go downtown.  Idaho Falls has fared a lot better than Chattanooga, Des Moines, Omaha, Toledo and a whole list of places in which entire square blocks, many many of them have been leveled and turned into vast parking lots for cars that no longer have any need to use them because there is no need to be down town.  Its all at the mall.

Don't get me wrong, I liked Idaho Falls, what there was of it, there just wasn't much of it.  But its the same story just about everywhere.  I just needed a place to stop and vent for a moment.  Thanks.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Idaho at last or is that 4th from last....

I have never really mentioned it before, but I retired early a few years back, not because I was particularly old or disliked my job as a forensic psychologist, which was actually more interesting than most, and impressed the hell out of other people, making me the life of the party where people couldn't get enough of my pulp fiction sagas of the blood and gore depravity of the criminally insane, a generally innocuous and mundane group who required a certain degree of creative fabrication on my part to breathe a menacing level of evil into them.  No, I left this enviable position because I was becoming bored, irritable and twitchy, sitting behind a desk in a state mental institute when there was a whole country out there that existed only in maps and photographs by Walker Evans and Edward Weston and Stephen Shore and Danny Lyon et al, that was calling out to me and which I feared may no longer be there if I waited much longer.  I needed to see  America, more particularly the lower 48 states into which I had been born and to take pictures of what I saw, which is what this blog has been about.  I was at first depressed and dismayed to find that the America I dreamed about no longer existed and thought I had missed my chance.  But slowly my eyes opened to the America left to me to see and document, and so I have.  I went in search of America, and I found it!!!

On August 19, 2013, we flew into Boise, rented a car, and headed east on Highway 20 along the southern quarter of the state, past the smoldering aftermath of the massive Sun Valley forest fire to begin our journey thought Idaho (Wyoming already visited), and Montana, the  45th and 46th states in out quest.  Since we didn't stay in Boise initially, my only photo from there was this one taken at the airport.

Someone else's photo idea, but I couldn't have said it better.  As I mentioned we got the car and headed east on the 20 to spend out first night in Idaho Falls.

A number of years ago, we were traveling were traveling along Highway 50 along the Great Basin in Mid Nevada, a road called the loneliest highway in America.  It may well be, but over the years, our ambles through Nebraska, Wyoming, Texas, Montana and now Idaho, have brought us upon many roads that are equally desolate and vastly devoid of life that might challenge that title.  Highway 20 was certainly one.  The first town on the map about 40 miles from anywhere was Hill City.  I was an abandoned collection of 5 or 6 commercial structures, all empty and back lit, so I couldn't get any satisfying photo of what was there, but I was not too disappointed since they not that old or of any great historical interest.  In fact the only structure well lit was this phone booth, although the dangling wire did not bode well for its availability in an emergency.  So be informed that for all intents and purposes, Hill City does not exist.  Nor does dependable cell phone service, so have a full tank and plenty of water, good advice for travel through much of the mid west.

As we drove between Hill City and Fairfield, the next dot on the map, there was little evidence of civilization, but at one point we came across these now abandoned markers of human activity in close proximity to each other indicating a town, but there were no signs or markings indicative of where we were.

The next dot on the map was Fairfield, 40 miles down the way, a moderately substantial town where you could buy groceries and gas, have a beer or two, mail a letter and get a hamburger, shake and some pretty good onion rings.  I don't usually take pictures of food, although I sometimes think I should, and in the case of great pizza in unlikely locations, I do, but in this case, you will have to take my word for it.

That's Jackie, ordering a hamburger, vanilla shake, and onion rings.  They were all were pretty good, and better that we expected at this point.

Main Street, Fairfield...

And as a collector of examples of great American Architecture, how could I pass up a photo of this gas station at the edge of town.
Leaving town, our last stop before heading to Idaho Falls, where we are to spend the night, was the Craters of the Moon National Monument which was a vast field of the charred, cindered, black ashen remains of ancient volcanic activity incongruously in the middle of this otherwise golden, sunlit, pastoral landscape which the next photo by Jackie shows me trying to grapple with.  I am not good with landscapes.

Photo by Jackie, of me trying futilely to capture the vastness and incomprehensibility of this prehistoric natural wonder beyond comprehension. 

A vast, black, other worldly place the can not be contained in a photo.  So the best I could do was to fall back on tried and true devices to organize things in the short time we were there, but to no avail.  If you get the chance to get there, you won't be sorry.  On to Idaho Falls.