Friday, November 27, 2009

Downtown Holiday Fun

Over the past several years of spending holidays in Austin some new traditions have been evolving. First up is the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. One year when we did it the temps were frosty. Last year we all dressed way too warm. And this year it was a perfect day. The 5 mile 'trot' is staged from Waterloo Park and that's the Capital in the distance.

If you look really closely at the back of the crowd to the left of the street light you can see me and Katie waving to Bernie taking pictures across the street.

Several thousand people do this run/trot/walk. The serious runners are at the front of the crowd and walkers bring up the end. Everyone loves to participate in this tradition. Many many families, kids in wagons and strollers, wheel chairs, more dogs than you can imagine, some turkeys (really!), and even an older guy with a walker. That's the starting line down the street and the Longhorn Stadium in the distance.

Kathleen graciously invited us to dinner that afternoon. Her boys are in San Diego and Africa, it was fun to have them join us via Skype. Pai floated flowers in the fountain.

The Christmas Parade is on Saturday following Thanksgiving. I had the perfect parking plan for my van, the only glitch was the fact that Congress Street was closed for the parade. That meant parking on the east side of town. It was happy serendipity though because it was a nice walk from Red River past Congress Street which was empty with the Capital in the distance.

On down to the end of First Street is the Bell Tower.

We planned to meet at the Farmer's Market on Guadalupe. I was so happy to find squash blossoms! The farm that was selling these told me they harvested all because they were afraid of a freeze next week.

Pai had a bird's eye view of the parade. She is almost toooo big to ride on B's shoulders!

When the first balloon came by she said "Look at that! It's a huge balloon! I want one!".

This year there were TWO horses in the parade!

As always many bands and singing groups. These are the "Beehives".

We watched the parade across the street from this building. The sky was filled with fluffy clouds most of day. But not cold. Lunch at a local Ethiopian restaurant ended a very fun day!

And now it's almost time for the Christmas bazaars.....the Blue Genie, the Armadillo, and Keep Austin B1zarre are the three biggies. There are so many talented people selling their creations and continuous music. I can't wait!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Time-out for Shopping

Shopping at Central Market is always fun and today I was tickled to see precious grapes from home carefully wrapped in tissue paper. No, I didn't buy any at that price!

But these local grapefruit from the Rio Grande Valley were amazing.

Back Down the Trail

At the end of the walking tour of the pueblo we were offered several choices.....catch the bus for ride back down to the Cultural Center, meet with vendor 'guides' for shopping, or walk back via a trail down the mesa.

View from the west end of the pueblo from the edge of the mesa. It really is an edge, pretty much a straight drop off to the valley.

And the Cultural Center...

I bet you guessed that I would choose to take the trail back down to the valley! The first section is a stairway.

The main part of the trail is carved from the rock. Notice the handholds on the left. As the trail became very steep I was happy to use the handholds.

Around the corner it becomes more of a ladder than a stairway.

Looking back up through the cut in the mesa washes out in the bright sun.

It's probably not quite a 400 foot climb down. It was actually kind of spooky but I was glad nobody else came along. And I kept a close watch for rattle snakes on in those narrow spots.

The rock looks more like living tissue than a solid mountain. (some would say it 'is' living)

There were several examples of the fifties influence in building style. These windows reminded me of my front door at home!

Hope somebody is planning to do more to restore this one than just these braces.

After the initial descent from the mesa the walk back across the valley to the Cultural Center was really nice. I got to soak up the feel of the country and spend some time imaging life in a different time.

The cafe has all kinds of interesting choices. R had a traditional Indian fry bread taco. The bread was light and fluffy, so good! Mine was pinto beans and a vege tamale filling. Both were outstanding.

Excellent museum visit after lunch. Gift shop has lovely selection, but expensive!

We had intended to spend a couple hours at Acoma. By mid afternoon, after closer to 6 hours, we were sorry to be leaving. One last look back at the pueblo.....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Acoma Pueblo

In the 30s a film company built a road up the back side of the mesa that is still in use today by residents, utility trucks, and the small tour buses. The streets/roads through out the pueblo, while rough and not paved, are solidly packed dirt. Several cars and trucks were parked at residences the day we visited. Dumpsters, coolers, and portapotties are next to traditional ladders and outdoor ovens. No water or power.

While this is a real community, not all the people live here full time. Many visit their 'family' home for special occasions and festivals. Several families were selling their wares, pottery, some jewelry, and homemade fruit pies.

Our guide, Conrad, took us to visit the church first. It is an amazing building with walls several feet thick. No photos allowed inside. The history is similar to the rest of the southwest, native people dominated by Spanish with some unique twists. ( if you are interested, please check it out on the net).

All of the material (dirt, straw, lumber, water) was CARRIED up the steep and narrow paths to the top of the mesa. (more on the trail in next post!)

These views are from outside the fence. The church has two bell towers, but I think only one bell. Unbelievable as it seems, the priest traded four Acoma children to the Mexicans for the bell!

In the church yard is a very old cemetery. It has FIVE layers of buried people. It's the fifth and last level in this pic. All the dirt again for these layers are carried this location from the valley floor.

A hole was built in the south wall so the spirits of the children traded for the bell could return to their home.

Though out the pueblo is a mixture of old and new construction. This one was being restored with respect to traditional look. Many were not. It was common to see the lower levels repaired with modern finished while the upper levels are still very rustic bricks.

There is very little color in the pueblo. This turquoise is just about the only one used. I wish I had asked Conrad it's significance!

Thanks to R for pointing out this shot for me. It was the closest I came to nothing modern in the pic. But if you look closely behind the ladder on the right you will see a bit of a white car.

These folks were celebrating Halloween!

Every building has at least one and often several ladders. I didn't see many piles of fire wood. Maybe because it wasn't really cold yet.

Two good sized cisterns catch rain water. They had been empty until just recently and clearly are not nearly full even after a good rain. This is the ONLY tree on the mesa!

Traditional outdoor oven and less than traditional 'outhouses'.

This carved and painted beam is one of the most colorful structures in the pueblo.

And here is R at the entrance of one of the oldest structures.

I liked the contrast of the old and new. There was no effort made to pretend it was all authentic. In spite of being a tourist attraction, it is a real town here. I saw a young girl delivering a hot dish to an elderly woman. And I just realized we didn't see inside a single building, other than the church.

These lounge chairs on a roof were facing the west. Can't you just imagine the fabulous sunsets?!?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Acoma Cultural Center

The Acoma (a ka ma) Pueblo is about 15 miles south of the Sky City Casino on 40. It's a good road in through the reservation, the signage leaves something to be desired, especially at night, but that's another story, and there will be no complaining from me!

The first views of the pueblo are from the far side of the valley before dropping down the hill. The elevation is right around 7000 feet with another 400 up to the top of the mesa. The pueblo is on the third layer in this shot, kinda fuzzy, just wanted you to get a feel for the geology of the area. On the far side of the pueblo mesa is another big valley that was cultivated for dry farming.

We passed these amazing rock features on the way across the valley but didn't take any pics until the return trip out...... after purchasing a camera permit.

Check out the perfect 'door' into this one...

The photo permit was required to be hanging on my camera at all times.

The Cultural Center is very new; has a museum, cafe, gift shop, maybe a library and various meeting rooms. It's a gorgeous building with those big doors that open on a central pivot with the slightest touch. This is a look at the back....

Beautiful sculpture in courtyard. Note chimney in far background.

And here is a closer look at the smoke stack, very cool!

A ladder to a kiva (scared place) on an upper level.

We had just a few minutes to absorb this beautiful building before the bus arrived to take up on the mesa for a guided tour of the pueblo. BTW, for those who might be as confused as I seems like the terms 'Sky City' and 'Acoma Pueblo' are used interchangeably for the pueblo. The casino and hotel (located on 40) are clearly 'Sky City.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Getting Started

My route east always includes a stop at Murrey Farms just outside of Bakersfield before heading over the pass. Last trip it was spring with cartloads of sweetpea bouquets for sale. This time it was a cistern full of pumpkins!

We had lunch in the city park in Techachapi with this old tree stump turned into a cute frog.

And a rest stop with dinosaurs.

Next up...Acoma Pueblo....