Author Archives: roadsrus

About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey.

National Park Service Sites and Delaware

Ruth & I had not taken the time to explore Delaware, so in 2013 we spent several days there and learned much about this small state. I read today that Delaware has the fewest National Park Service sites. Having been there and seen many candidates for inclusion, I doubted this, checked, and found a state with only 2. Delaware still needs more National Park Service involvement, and I’m wondering how its future in this regard will be influenced by the fact that the sitting President considers himself a resident of Delaware? Joe Biden was born in Scranton, PA. How will that affect his Presidential Library?

Delaware was the first of the 50 states and it proudly boasts, “It’s good to be First.” Its 4 National Park Service sites include 2 National Trails, a watershed, and a National Historical Park. The 2 trails are the Captain John Smith Chesapeake that Delaware shares with 4 other states and Washington, DC and the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route that it shares with 8 other states and Washington, DC. Also included in the National Park Service are the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and a site about Delaware’s First State status. Delaware also shares the geographic fact of its coastline on Chesapeake Bay with Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. It acknowledges its first state designation in a National Historical Park with Pennsylvania, where a lot of the work affecting the founding of the United States was actually done. Delaware was certainly the first state to ratify the US Constitution.

Perhaps what Delaware needs is a National Park. I don’t think that an abundance of cobblestone streets qualifies it for National Park status, but it does have other possibilities. Dupont was founded in Delaware and is a big presence. Many US companies are officially registered in this business-oriented state, so perhaps this would be of interest to the National Park Service and tourists. Delaware has 2 state capitol buildings in Dover, its capital city. It has something called The Great Cypress Swamp in Sussex County, one of only 3 counties in this state. I recall driving through a lot of water every time we got near a coastline.

New Hampshire is the state with only 2 National Park Sites. It shares the Appalachian Trail with many other states from Georgia to Maine. Its other NPS site is called Saint-Gaudens. In Cornish, NH, Saint-Gaudens celebrates one of America’s great sculptors. Several of his sculpted works are on view. Many of the other states that have very limited NPS sites are smaller, but not all of them. New Hampshire’s neighbor Vermont, for example, has only 3 NPS sites. Two of them are trails, The Appalachian and North Country, which wends its way through seven states as far west as North Dakota. Its only other NPS site is a National Historical Park called Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller in Woodstock, VT. Three states have 4 NPS sites. They are Delaware, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. I do not consider Wisconsin a small state. Its 4 sites include 2 scenic trails, a National Lakeshore, and a National Scenic Riverway. One of Rhode Island’s sites celebrates its founder, Roger Williams. The states of Connecticut and Rhode Island are not jumbo, but North Dakota is not tiny. It and Connecticut have 5 NPS sites each.

A side note. Oregon has 10 facilities under the NPS umbrella including a National Park, Crater Lake. One of the 10 has a degree of personal interest to both Ruth and me. The Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail honors an ice dam in Idaho during the last Ice Age. Glacial Lake Missoula was behind this blockage. When the ice dam melted, the torrent of water released affected what are now 4 western US states including Oregon. Ruth’s father Bill bought property in Oregon that includes a lake that was created by this flood. It’s destined to become a visitable park bearing his name.

Hank


Trees of Arizona

It’s a common misconception that Arizona is only about cactus plants. Many types of trees are native to and thrive in Arizona. Because there is a great range of elevations from sea level to 12,000 feet in this state, there are many different habitats for trees. Five types of oak and 6 varieties of pine do well in Arizona where the state tree is the beautiful Blue Palo Verde. They grow all over the Sonoran Desert.

Noted plant lover Ruth picked up a guide to the common trees of Arizona at the Tuzigoot National Monument. It gives information about 47 different trees that do well here. I learned a lot about this state’s trees at Montezuma’s Castle in the verdant Verde Valley.

Native Americans knew their trees well and prized them. They especially liked the ones that grow along streams, like the Velvet Mesquite. Native Americans ground its seeds into meal and baked the meal into cakes. They made candy from the mesquite’s sap. They learned to treat eye and skin ailments and the common cold from parts of this tree. They also prized the Arizona Sycamore seen just below, its white bark, and its star-shaped leaves. They used sycamore wood to make roof beams in their cliff dwellings. The residents of Casa Grande ate mesquite pods and cooked and ate many varieties of beans. They relied on cottonwoods and willows to make baskets, ropes, blowguns, and flutes.

The 5 most common trees in Arizona are the Blue Palo Verde, the Cat’s Claw Acacia, the Desert Ironwood, the Desert Willow, and the Foothills Palo Verde. Hackberrys and mesquites are the 2 species that follow these five. The Ironwood grows hairy pods and is found along washes. The Blue Palo Verde is known for its blue-green bark, and the foothills variety has yellow-green bark and is common in desert settings.

Hank


Tucson’s Future

Since Ruth & I have been traveling, Tucson and Phoenix have grown into major tourist cities. Tucson has especially blossomed into a fine destination. Once the 2nd city to visit in a hot state, Tucson has grown into a first class attraction that is booming with construction and new activities. I began to wonder why and came up with far more than 10 reasons for this explosion in my interest.

The main 8 follow. Despite the fact that all indoor attractions are currently closed and will remains so until at least September, 2021, unless there is a big reduction in new cases of COVID or a change in the border situation, Ruth & I had no trouble filling in almost 3 days there recently by exploring previously unvisited outdoor attractions.

Tucson has developed an aggressive in a good way staff of city supporters. Visittucson.org regularly sends me its publication that is filled with reasons to visit. I really enjoy and benefit from looking at their Visit Tucson Official Travel Guide that appears regularly in our mailbox.

Over time this city of more than half a million people has developed many fine attractions. Among the best are Tohono Chul, only one of its botanic gardens, a 2 part National Park called Saguaro, a new neon museum, many really fine downtown murals, the Mini Time Machine Museum, and much more. This is far from a complete list of them.

Tucson is an easy city to get around in. This time we stayed near the airport and learned about it. Tucson International has the potential to develop into a major hub. Still a regional operation, it now provides nonstop service to 20 destination airports. However, we flew into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor and drove down to Tucson, which is only 113 miles away. Tucson has Amtrak, streetcar, and bus service, and Ruth and I discovered many attractions between these 2 cities.

The University of Arizona has a fine campus with many activities for visitors and 18 Varsity teams for the sports minded. Tucson has a professional ice-hockey team, and there are an abundance of professional sports teams in Arizona now including some baseball spring training.

Feeding yourself is no problem in Tucson. Our favorite restaurant Feast is out of business but there are many other old and new and ethnic, especially Native American, cuisines to try.

Tucson has become a town of almost monthly street fairs and festivals. The latter celebrate books and local writers, Native Americans, science, and films. There was a Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase advertised in one of the Visit Tucson guides that was sent to me.

There is a broad range of accommodations available in and around Tucson. We learned about B & B’s, resorts of every type, all manner of hotels and motels, guest ranches, and RV parks. There are golf courses, casinos, hiking trails everywhere, and many locals seem to thrive on bicycling.

Tucson has a vivid downtown and many lively neighborhood districts like The Presidio to explore.

Of course, every destination has its downsides. Tucson is very hot in the summer and the extent to which its closeness to the disputed US border with Mexico and how this will impact the city is yet to be determined. Ruth and I have seen the way that social unrest has undone the once great city of Portland, OR. It would be a shame to see Tucson turn into another Portland. We were told that many attractions in this city are using their downtime to improve their offerings so that Tucson will emerge as a better travel destination before 2021 ends.

I hope that this city which has a past that has not been destroyed and is now being celebrated will grow even stronger in the return-to-travel world after social unrest and more than a year of COVID disruption have ended.

Hank


Rio!

It occurred to me that I was seeing a lot of towns in the US with Rio in their names so I counted them. As it turns out, I can only find 15 of them. There are not so many Rios in the USA, but research provided some mild surprises. Lots of towns have watery names that include the words spring, lake, river, creek, brook, fountain and so forth. For geographic reasons, Arkansas and Florida both seem to have lots of them. However, actual Rios are rare and not especially near centers of Spanish culture that would explain their names.

It’s a fact that 10 of the towns named Rio are in only 2 states, California and Texas. Both states have large Spanish speaking populations. Two Rios are in rapidly growing Arizona.

There are 2 Rio Grandes, but neither is near a grand river and both are in surprising states. Rio Grande, NJ is close to Cape May in the far southern part of the state, and I can find no river near it. Rio Grande, OH is rear Raccoon Creek but not so close to the grand Ohio River. Then there’s a Rio Grande City. It’s not too far from the famous Rio Grande River in Texas near the US/Mexico border. However, the Rio Grande River is so controlled now that it’s never a truly grand river.

I figured that Del Rio, TX near the Mexican border would be the largest US town with Rio in its name, but that proved wrong. The largest town named Rio is a suburb of Albuquerque, NM. There are close to 90,000 people living there not too far from the real Rio Grande River, which is the longest stream in the state of New Mexico. The somewhat strange Rio Grande River begins in Colorado but flows entirely across the state of New Mexico from north to south for almost 2,000 miles. The sight of it near Taos in a deep canyon is an exciting tourist attraction.

The other 3 Rio cities in Texas are Rio Bravo, Rio Hondo, and Rio Vista. Rio Bravo is near Laredo, Rio Hondo is near Harlingen in the Rio Grande Valley near the Rio Grande River’s mouth, and Rio Vista is south of Fort Worth. None of them are large communities although Rio Bravo has a population close to 5,000.

The 5 California Rios are Rio del Mar near Gilroy, El Rio near Ventura close to the LA area, Rio Dell, Rio Linda, and Rio Vista. The largest of these California Rios is Rio Linda with more than 15,000 people. It’s a suburb of Sacramento.

Hank


Alavans, Teparys, and Adzukis

There are 400 types of beans in the world. Some of them are what are called cultivars, a new word for me. The Basque bean is a cultivar, a plant variety that has been bred for a particular culture. The Basques of Spain and France are a particular culture, and Ruth and I dote on Basque beans. Over time they have been called Alavans or Tolosa Calubias.

I have seen Tolosa Calubias on bags of Basque beans that we have bought in Boise and so assume that, although they began as a type of pinto bean, the Basques developed a unique type of bean, a real cultivar, over time and gave it a new name. Ruth & I first bought Basque beans in the Basque Museum in Boise, ID. We have purchased their beans several times over the years and love cooking and eating them. They have a unique taste.

Now we have tried Tepary beans. They are the Native American beans we bought in Arizona. Teparys were once a wild species growing in the Sonoran Desert. They are said to be the world’s most drought tolerant beans. Although they do not have a totally different taste from the common beans we are used to, the Teparys we tasted are said to be higher in fiber and protein than other beans. We had a choice of buying either white or brown Teparys and randomly selected the darker beans to cook and eat. The white variety are said to be sweeter, and the brown ones are thought to be nuttier. I have not tasted the white ones, but I would describe the browns as having a typical bean taste. Black Teparys are said to be both rare and recent. They are available somewhere, but I have never seen them. Ramona Farms is a good source for Teparys. Ruth has compared costs and judged them fairly priced on the Ramona Farms website if you want to try them.

The next bean we are interested in trying are called Adzukis. They are widely available in Japan but originated in China. These beans are popular in Asian cooking in general. They are apparently not the same as the red beans typically found in American supermarkets. Adzukis are commonly used in Asian cultures in desserts. They
are said to be an excellent source of protein and a weight loss aid. They seem to have originated in the Himalayas. Boiled, sweetened, and pounded into paste, Adzuki beans are used to make many desserts, including a type of ice cream. They are cooked without the typical soaking and are said to go well with brown rice and vegetables. They are said to have a mild and nutty taste and are, Asians believe, an incredible superfood.

I will provide the bean soup recipe that Ruth & I invented using Tepary beans if there is a demand for it, so let me know if you want to take a look at it.

Hank