Georgia territory

georgia3

Abiquiu in Northern New Mexico is the place where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted.

“When I got to New Mexico, that was mine.As soon as I saw it , that was my country”

georgia bright

The stunning, stark beauty of the high desert landscape had been her inspiration since her first visit in 1929.For 20 years she travelled from New York to Abiquiu each summer, often staying for six months in solitude, to paint the skies and desert, colored rock formations, distant mountains and Chama  river valley.

georgia32

georgia4

Smaller found objects like bleached bones and rocks, exotic cactus flowers and the wood and adobe structures also found their way onto her canvases. Three years after her husband’s death she moved permanently to New Mexico¬†and eventually owned two homes .

georgia34

The first in Ghost Ranch, was high and secluded. Nestled beneath 700-foot cliffs it looked over to the flat-topped Pedernal. “Pedernal is my private mountain” she said frequently.”God told me if I painted it enough I could have it.”

georgia8

The second, initially used as her winter residence, was in the small town of Abiquiu at an elevation ¬†of 6400′ and overlooked the Chama River with its ¬†green trees and fields.

georgia9

Both locations surrounded her with a wealth of imagery for her paintings.

georgia6

Visiting Abiquiu over Christmas I was struck at each turn of the road ¬†how recognizable the landscape is because of our familiarity with O’Keeffe’s work.

Driving north towards Ghost Ranch we knew we were getting close when Chimney Rocks came into sight.

Photographs taken quickly (with the phone!) out the window of the car amazed us with their color and clarity. Georgia O’Keeffe was quoted as saying that most of her art was done in New Mexico before she put her brushes to the canvas.

There is almost no tourist infrastructure in Abiquiu. An Inn with a small but good restaurant. A road house /gas station famous for breakfast burritos. Georgia’s home in town is only open for tours in the warmer months and her home at Ghost Ranch can only be toured via enquiries at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. Ghost Ranch, now owned by the Presbyterian Church is a retreat, conference center,geology museum and place of learning.Each year there are hundreds of classes to take, many residential.

What is there and intensely accessible, are breathtaking vistas that shock. Skies that amaze with crystalline blue beauty, the whitest clouds and nearly every night billions of sparkly stars.Every road takes you somewhere you want to explore:cliff dwellings, pueblos, monasteries and churches, rocks and petroglyphs and tiny adobe hamlets.

georgia35

We rented a little stone house and pinched ourselves every morning when we looked out the windows, across Georgia’s valley.

State of Enchantment , as marked on the car number plates…not really a cliche!

georgia5

http://www.okeeffemuseum.org

http://www.GhostRanch.org

http://www.abiquiuinn.com

Salvation Mountain

 

salmtn1

 

2 hours south of Palm Springs, on the desolate eastern shore of Salton Sea, there’s remnants of a WW2 facility¬†called Slab City.

Home to snowbirds and squatters, families on hard times and eccentrics,
it’s now famous as the home of Salvation Mountain, one man’s 30 year celebration of faith.

salmtn7

salmtn6

Desert detritus, (adobe, house paint, rocks, sticks and straw) fashioned to his greater good, Salvation Mountain attracts visitors from across the globe and casts a spell on all who visit.

salmtn9

salmtn10

Created by Leonard Knight , the installation is 3 stories high and 100′ wide‚Ķa swath of technicolor love.Cameoed in ‘Into the Wild” Leonard shares his belief in God and Love and tells the story of his conversion, his place in the world and his love for this remote, rundown location. ¬†

salmtn5

salmtn2

Described by Barbara Boxer, California’s Congresswoman as ” a unique and visionary sculpture. A national treasure, profoundly strange and beautifully accessible”.

It’s open from dawn till dusk everyday.

Not so far from Los Angeles….but a kindred surreal experience given the history of Salton Sea, the brilliant and disconcerting mash up of present day Palm Springs and the harsh Coachella landscape, and the lovely poignancy of this outsider artist and his legacy of love.

salmtn4

 

http://www.salvationmountain.org

Mission Inn

 mission 2

How many times did I fly by on the 91, intent only on Palm Springs grooviness?

Impatient for warm breezes, misting margarita nights and mid century fabulousness?

It took a visiting friend, and the chance to show off a piece of Ron and Nancy Reagan trivia that finally turned me off the freeway and into historic downtown Riverside. Home of the amazing Mission Inn.

mission3

The Inn occupies an entire city block. A fantastical melange of arcades and gardens and turrets and towers, it started life as a 12 room boarding house in 1876 and was “completed” in 1931.

mission7

Over the years guest wings were added, along with cloistered walkways and gardens, music rooms and galleries, chapels, spanish patios, towers and restaurants and it became a major tourist destination for wealthy east coasters and europeans.

During the 30 plus year construction the eccentric & visionary owner, Frank Miller traveled the world, collecting treasures and now the artifacts have been valued at over $5 million.

Days Inn it is not!

mission90

The St. Francis Chapel has 4 four huge Tiffany stained-glass windows and two original mosaics. The “Rayas Altar” is 25′ by 16′ across, carved from cedar and completely covered in gold leaf. And in the ¬†“Garden of Bells,” Miller collected 800 bells, including one from the year 1247 described as the “oldest bell in Christendom.”

There are so many artisan touches it’s an instagram blowout: spanish tiles, iron gates, chandeliers, windows, art and antiques.

mission4

To drop in is to experience a truly unique historic hotel.

mission g

Ignore the valet parking and park just down the street.This re energized downtown is full of historic Californian architecture and it’s shaded streets and businesses are the¬†cultural, urban hub of the Inland Empire.

With temperatures well above a hundred in summer, the cool, dark lobby and umbrellared courtyards are a perfect respite ….. the cafes are lovely.

mission1

It’s worth bypassing the outlets or leaving just a little earlier to allocate a gracious hour on your way home from the desert especially if you can’t bring yourself to pull over enroute to Palm Springs!

mission 9

missiontile

ps: Richard and Pat Nixon married at the Mission Inn and Nancy and Ronnie honeymooned there.

Road Trips Rule

road best

 

There is nothing so awful that can’t be improved by a road trip..( and not to trivialize truly tragic, awful things).

Give me that moment, the heightened sense of expectation as the car is loaded and the house is locked.

Time for an adventure!

The best place for a road trip is my adopted home, the US of A.

Along with great good roads, cheap gas ( and my baby Prius) , you can’t help but stumble upon mythic otherworldly landscapes, folk art extravaganza and weirdly quaint, niche businesses, cultural icons of every sort: the place where the movie was filmed, the star was born, the songwriter died, the poet or the president lived, the novel described.

Uber Americana as far as the eye can see!!

road 1 Note: The best trips start here in the West. (Sorry, but explorations of the green East are never as epic.)

From LA there’s a first long day of driving to get anywhere. Brutal moonscapes, big dry mountains, stretches of interstate, desolate and dissolute‚Ķlife slows and one becomes introspective. Alone, I talk to myself- animated arguments or rants, poetic and witty observation or sing at the top of my lungs, favorite songs over and over. ..and over and over again.

Bliss.

road nm
With a friend or husband, it’s hours of chat, sometimes a nap, but definitely a stop at the In & Out in Barstow, or at the bottom of the Grapevine. Opens at 11am, perfect timing to get that fast food monkey off your back AND in a social justice, sorta healthy way. From now on, it’s picnics,fruit and nuts and margarita dinners.

roadiburger Depending on the direction, the first night can be Grand Canyon or Chinle, Winslow or St George, Utah , maybe San Francisco or Tuscon. The West rules!!

hotel3
When it comes to beds on the road the trick is to alternate .Cheap as chips ( but clean, not scary) OR ultra splurgy .  The more remote and less traveled, the more meaningful the historic hotel/motel becomes.

Often the mainstay of what’s left in main street, they hold the stories, the economy, the history and the community within their walls. Think La Posada, Winslow or Hotel Capitan, Van Horn Texas, Price Tower, Bartlesville OK, Hotel Paisano , Marfa ‚Ķcool architecture and public spaces .

They are the historic beating hearts of their town.   hotel2The other useful rule of thumb:the further you are from a city, the better the Motel 6 ! Chatting to the chic woman in black at the concrete Motel 6 pool in Utah as we watched  kids swimming (yes,an editor of German VOGUE) I was reminded of how the Euros travel in the Southwest: clean cheap beds, bespoke tours and helicopters at sunrise.

road666 My necessities. A cooler on the back set with picnic stuff (fruit, salad and water), tea kettle and caffeine supplies ( hot, black tea w non fat milk & sugar for when I open my eyes), wine (not always available ), lots of paper maps to spread out and see the possibilities, story books to read and whatever device to photograph.

Sunglasses, swimmers, hat and sneakers. A phone.

An excuse to get in the car ( destination, baby) and at least a week or more… mmmmmmmm