Motoring Across America

With James "Alex" Alexander

with James "Alex" Alexander


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Blog 247: Dash to Denmark and Bosque Birds

Amsterdam to Billund

Jan and Mitzy drove me the hour trip from our Santa Fe campground to the Albuquerque airport. From there I flew to Minneapolis, then on to Amsterdam, then on to Billund, Denmark. Another hour drive brought me to my hotel in Aarhus, the second largest city in the country. A long, but uneventful trip.

After a shower and a couple-hour nap, I met my client for a six-course, four-hour meal. The conversation was fun and the food was outstanding. The next day I presented to and facilitated a group represented by folks from Denmark, Sweden, USA, Singapore, UAE, China, Brazil, France, and Germany. Things went great.

I was looking forward to the photo ops of the evening itinerary, as it was to start with a walking tour of a village created by bringing in actual structures from the 15th and 16th century. What I didn’t count on was that it was pitch black as we walked the unlit streets, and the houses and shops we entered barely glowed by the light of a few candles. My camera never left my bag, but it was an interesting tour followed by another outstanding meal.

Up at 4 a.m., I was in a car by 5:15 heading back to Billund to take a flight to Paris, then one to Salt Lake City, and then Albuqurque, where Jan and Mitzy picked me up and drove me back to Santa Fe, arriving around 7:30 p.m.

Chilly Santa Fe
It was cold in Santa Fe, getting down into the 20s. Mid-morning one day after my return we took a beautiful drive up into the mountains into the Santa Fe National Forest and Pecos Wilderness. We took a wonderful hike through the snow and mud up the mountain with a tributary of the Pecos River flowing alongside our trek.

Santa Fe Forest

Pecos Wilderness

Trailblazer Mitzy

Festival of the Cranes

Santa Fe Skies RV Park to Bosque Bird Watchers RV Park

After a three-week stay (at least for Jan and Mitzy) we departed Santa Fe traveling the 140 miles south on I-25, skirting over to the little town of San Antonio, and then south six miles to Bosque Bird Watchers RV Park. After settling in and after “world famous” green chili cheeseburgers at The Owl Bar and Grill, we drove into the Bosque Del Apache Refuge. Our arrival was in the heart of their annual Festival of the Cranes. As you might have guessed, Bosque is famous for its cranes (and snow geese), as tens of thousand of each species fly south from the North country to eat the corn and hay and rest and relax at this protected sanctuary. If you like birds, this place is heaven. We drove the circuit, scoping out locations worthy of sunrise shots.

We were lucky enough to spot two roadrunners up close and very fortunate that one of the usually skittish birds allowed me to take some pics (my first).


Roadrunner Profile

As sunset approached we stopped just south of the Coyote Viewing Platform, listened to the commotion, and viewed the interesting behavior of lots of birds in really close proximity.

Next morning we left in the dark, with me carrying coffee in one hand and a flashlight in the other. About 40 minutes before sunrise I was in position on the Coyote Viewing Platform. After setting up my tripod, most of my actions consisted of walking in place, rubbing my hands together trying to keep warm--I later found out it was only 19 degrees! As the light finally fell, first on the mountains, then on the hills, and finally on the birds on the water, I shot for a solid hour as birds squawked and blasted off into the skies as the morning colors shifted from grays to pinks, and then oranges and reds.

Early Reflections

Incoming Snow Geese

Golden Moment

Getting Ready

3 Flying Cranes

Blurry Cranes, Cub Scouts
We drove through the refuge one last time, spotting a couple of Big Blues out hunting for breakfast. Here is one a little perturbed that a fellow photographer moved a little too close.

Testy Heron

Blurry Cranes in Flight

Cub Scouts at Bosque

Just a Pup

See you soon.

Blog 246: Rutting Bulls and Vortex Clouds

To my readers: Please note that this blog entry was intended to go before the last one but got out of order.

Chatfield to RMNP

Chatfield State Park is a wonderful place to stay, with miles of trails, lots of water, and a great dog park. The campground is loaded with rabbits, and our Mitzy took it upon herself to help the management get rid of the bunnies (or at least make them move a few feet).

Campsite Bunny

From Chatfield State Park we drove north and a little west to Estes Park, and then on to Rocky Mountain National Park. We had been in the Park in late spring and it was beautiful as always. However, lots of snow on the mountains provided a graphic contrast to the blue of the sky, the granite color of the mountains, and the brilliant yellow of the remaining aspen. We drove up Trail Ridge Road as high as we could go (ended at Many Parks Curves) because the large snowfall closed the pass.

Cloud Cap

Cloudy Mountains

Family at Look Out

In a Rut
We were quite fortunate that the elk rut was still taking place. We spent hours watching the big bulls round up their herd, fend off challengers, and listening to the Big Guys bugling--no sound like it!

Herding Bull Elk

Bull Elk Close-Up

During our stay at the park, we took several hikes. Here is a sunrise that started our day, some aspens along the way, a chipper chomping on the side of the trail, and a pine marten sticking his head out of his retreat (this was the first one of these cute fellows I’d ever seen).

RMNP Sunrise



Pine Marten

The Vortex
On our return trip to Chatfield, we came across a strange cloud that reminded me of a vortex. Take a look.

The Vortex

Great to be back in Colorado.

Here are a couple of pup pics.


Dog Park Pup

Old Signs
Here is an old sign

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you soon.

Blog 245: Quick Trip to India and Saudi

Albuquerque to Atlanta

Atlanta to Frankfurt

Frankfurt to Mumbai

At 4:00 a.m. I received a text alert from my friends at Delta saying that my 8:05 a.m. flight from Albuquerque to Atlanta was delayed a couple hours or so--not good news, as it made me making my Atlanta to Paris connection very improbable. So I called Delta to explore options and found that there were not many choices and most were not desirable. However, the good news is that the agent found that if I re-routed to Frankfurt I could get to Mumbai just an hour later than originally scheduled. The bad news was that instead of the choice seating I had on the Paris flight, there was only one seat left on the Frankfurt plane…oh, well.

The three-hour Albuquerque to Atlanta flight went fine, and after a three-hour layover, the eight-hour Atlanta to Frankfurt leg also went well--I got a good five hours sleep, arriving feeling well rested.

Another three-hour layover started quietly…and then the excitement began. About an hour before flight time at the first sighting of a gate agent, almost all of the 300-plus people at the waiting area stood up, gathered their belongings, and moved toward the boarding area like politicians at a fundraiser: Mothers and fathers trying to corral their screaming children, with 100 loud conversations going on in scores of languages.

The area was a sea of colors in the mostly Indian crowd--women wore traditional, brightly colored saris and scarves, while the men wore sherwanis and kufis, accented by the grays of the occasional flowing beard that spotted the landscape of people. The noise level rose at least 30 decibels as passengers bombarded the Lufthansa staff with thousands of questions (some related to the flights) while others tried to convince them that they needed to bring on all the bags (and sacks and boxes) that they carried, or hauled, or pushed along.

When the agent announced, “We will now board those in wheelchairs and all those needing extra time,” the crowd surged ahead like kids jostling for position at the ice cream truck. I later asked an agent if it was always like this, and she replied, “Only on flights to India.” Just amazing.

About 40 minutes after the boarding process of our Boeing 747-400 was completed, an announcement sounded stating that the delay was caused because they had to escort a drunken passenger off the plane, and regulations required that the drunk’s checked luggage had to be found, taken off the plane, and then inspected. All in all, the flight was delayed an hour and a half.

My seat, 57J, was not designed for comfort, so I decided to catch up on action movies. I watched “Mad Max Fury Road,” and then my video system froze up. Luckily I had a good back-up of audible books and listened my way to landing.

After de-boarding the full plane, going through passport control and immigration, exchanging some money, and taking a taxi to my hotel, it was 2:30 in the morning. At the perimeter of the hotel my taxi was stopped at a large iron gate where men in uniforms carrying automatic weapons came out and searched the cab before opening up the gate. Stepping out, both my luggage and I went through security. I felt like I was visiting Uncle Joe at the Big House. By then, all I wanted was a hot bath and to go to bed.

The six people at the reception desk (yes, six young men just for me, the only person in the lobby) very politely found my reservation. When the young person behind the computer looked up at me then over at his colleague, the “oh, boy!” alarm went off in my head. Soon the night manager came over and started to apologize…my room was “broken” but being “fixed” and was not quite ready. The dialogue went like this:

Night Manager: I am very sorry, Sir, there was a problem with your room…it is being fixed and will be ready for you soon.

Alex: You are kidding me, right?

Night Manager (looking at the floor): No, Sir.

Alex: You have no other rooms?

Night Manager (hesitating): No, all other rooms are occupied.

Alex: (No words…I just gave him “the look.”)

Night Manager (starting to blush and perspire): I am very, very sorry. Please come with me to the dining area and have something to eat…anything you want…on me, of course. Whatever you want. Here is the Internet passcode so you can go online while you wait for your food. I am inviting you to our lounge as my personal guest later today. I will personally come and let you know when the room is ready. I am sure it will not be long.

Taking advantage of his chance to get away, he then sprinted over to the closed kitchen where they were preparing the breakfast buffet and told the guy in charge to give me a menu.

The good news is that I was hungry, the chicken-something was filling, and what the heck…no one was hurt. I was in my room by 4:00 a.m. and slept until 2:00 p.m. the next afternoon.

Taj Mahal Hotel

Down to Business
I had two, very full days of business with a longtime client. Very smart group, very interested in the topics, but very, very talkative--they liked to challenge concepts, explore other options, give opinions, share life stories, expound on theories. They loved the session. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of energy was invested in the effort.

Exploring Mumbai
I had one day to explore Mumbai, a task that would take at least a month to give it justice. So I targeted a personal tour with a few things that I felt would help give me a feel for this city of 19 million.

Washing Men
Steven, my driver, picked me up at my hotel at 6:00 a.m. and drove the 45 minutes in the dark to the south part of Mumbai. My tour guide, Neelima, met me at the first stop, Dhobi Ghat, near the Hahalaxmi railway station. An intelligent, gentle soul, she was a delight to talk to.


Here I watched as hundreds of men called dhobis (only men) soaked, scrubbed, flogged, rubbed, twisted, and hung up clothes from Mumbai’s hotels and hospitals in this huge, open-air laundry. Twelve hours a day, six or seven days a week, they toiled…wow.

Outdoor Laundry 1

Outdoor Laundry 2

A Sea of Flowers
The next stop was the Dadar wholesale flower market. Indians love fresh flowers to wear, to decorate their homes, and to use in offerings to their gods. The Festival of Lights was coming soon so the normal hustle and bustle was ramped up another notch as the buying and selling came to full bloom. The bright colors and sweet fragrance of the flowers, compounded by the sounds and smells of the moving mass of people made for quite the experience--just walking through the market required dexterity, fortitude, and lots of apologies as one had to be “aggressive” to make one’s way.

Flower Market 1

Flower Market 2

Flower Market 3

Fishing Folks
Next came the fish market at Sassoon Docks where men brought in their catch at dawn, and women sorted, graded, and then left to sell the fish and other seafood to restaurants throughout the city. Also, hundreds of trucks were in the nearby parking areas, most of them painted in bright colors.

Fish Market

Fancy Truck

Gateway of India
The most visited location in all Mumbai was our next stop. The Gateway to India overlooks the Arabian Sea and was erected to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder when they visited India in 1911. Nearby are the yacht club, the navy yards, and the Taj Mahal Palace.

Door of India

My last visit before Steven took me back to my hotel was Mani Bhavan, the house where Gandhi initiated his civil disobedience that eventually led to India (and Pakistan) gaining independence in 1947. The museum was filled with photographs and detailed with items from his life, including the sparse room where he lived. The original letters that he wrote to both Roosevelt, to ask for support of India’s independence, and to Hitler, asking him stop aggression, are two of the powerful documents on display.


Side Note: In order to get his parents’ approval for the young Gandhi to go to England for college, he vowed to give up wine, women, and meat. No wonder most of the people I know were not educated in England!

How to Drive in India
Based upon my observation of driving behaviors, the marked lanes and street signs appear not to be rules to be followed, but suggestions left up to drivers to interpret and obey, or not, depending upon their mood. Three lanes often turned into six, the distance between vehicles often shrank from yards to inches, and the reaction time needed to avoid contact with other cars appeared to require NASCAR capabilities. The constant beeps of horns warned other vehicles of upcoming actions, showed irritation of slow drivers, but mostly demonstrated the joy of being able to make noise. My guesstimate is that the beeps per vehicle per unit of time surpassed that of Mexico City, Bogata, and New York City.

Neelima shared with me the three things you must have to drive in India:
1. Good horn
2. Good brakes
3. Good luck

I am sure that she is correct.

My tiny experience with India was extremely positive. Long trip, a few hassles, but definitely worth exploring more.

On to Riyadh
Next, I flew to Riyadh to continue working with my client at their Middle East office. I had thought that central Nevada was bleak, but miles and miles of sand with no vegetation made Nevada look like a plush oasis.

My sessions went great with my participants from Saudi, Jordan, Algeria, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Eqypt, and the United Arab Emirates. It was quite interesting talking during breaks and lunch with people with very different backgrounds from mine as we politely discussed the weather, our families, and a little bit about politics. I was told the weather in the low 80s was extremely mild during my trip (it gets up to 130 degrees in summer)…I was also advised to watch out for the sandstorms that roll through the area without warning.

I can sum up my activities this way: airport to hotel, hotel to client, client to hotel, REPEAT. I had no desire to explore or take pictures--Saudi Arabia does not make my list of 10 best places to vacation.

I had no drive to explore--just do my job and no more.
I am glad for the learning, yet no desire for returning.
Glad to have completed this chore.

A long journey home, but I am very happy to be back.

Riyadh to Paris

Paris to Salt Lake City

Note: I was fortunate to get out of Paris before the terrorist attacks.

Here are a couple of pup pics from the Pup Reserve.

Pups 1

Pups 2

Old Signs
Here is an old sign for the Old Sign Reserve.

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from the Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you soon, after I rest up.

Blog 244: Back to the Old West

Zion to  Monument Valley

Leaving Zion we toured through Hurricane, skirted around the Kaibab Tribal Lands, went by beautiful Lake Powell close to Page Arizon, and then through Kayenta to our campground at Gouldings Campground Monument Valley.

Monument Valley
We took an afternoon trip to scope out our planned trip to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribe Park. As we were heading home, Jan spotted a wild goat eating weeds along the road. Here is a picture of the handsome critter.

Monument Valley Goat

The next morning we were up super early, hoping to watch the stars. However, clouds stopped that plan, but those same clouds helped shape the colors of a gorgeous sunrise.

Monument Valley is the location of many John Ford westerns, including John Wayne’s breakthrough role in the 1939 movie “Stagecoach.” As a youngster I recall many a-time watching this and other westerns in black-and-white on a little TV in the living room with my dad. Monument Valley was often the background for the action. As one gazes out at the horizon you can almost see the dust rising from the rumbling wagons, smell the sweat from the galloping horses, sense the pilgrim fear that Apaches were right around the next rock with knives in hand, greedy for scalps. This is how the Old West is supposed to be! Wonderful place.

Monument Valley

Almost Monument Valley Sunrise

Monument Moment

Monument Pup

Snarly Monument View

Vibrant Monument

Stagecoach Movie Poster

Natural Bridges

Monument Valley to Natural Bridges

The same day of our visit to Monument Valley, we drove up 163 through Mexican Hat and Bluff into Blue Mountain RV Park in Blanding. After settling in, we took an hour trip to visit Natural Bridges National Monument. On an uncrowded road, we took the scenic tour stopping to walk and view the three natural bridges (formed by water erosion, not arches, which are formed by wind erosion). Here is a photo of one of the bridges.

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge 2

Back to Colorado

Blue Mountain to Chatfield

We continued north on 163 to 191 and headed past Canyon Lands National Park and Arches National Park near Moab. We hooked up to I-70, spent the night near Breckingridge at Tiger Run RV Resort, and then continued east the next day to our destination at Chatfield State Park.

Busy, but fun!

Here are a couple of pup pics.

Pup 1

Pup 2

Old Signs
Here is an old sign

Old Sign

Old Trucks
Here are four old trucks.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Old Truck 4

See you soon.