Tulip Rock Picture of the Week

Tulip Rock - A formation that I passed on the Grotto Trail that looks like a tulip to me.
Tulip Rock – A formation I passed on the Grotto Trail that looks like a tulip to me.

One of my loyal readers commented that she couldn’t see the rock creatures like me. If you’re like her, that’s ok. Maybe your mind isn’t wound up like mine, or you’re not on the same prescriptions. Whatever the difference is, I’m simply trying to show you the world as I see it.

This week, I have another Rorschach test for you. It’s a picture of a second remarkable formation I found while hiking the Grotto Trail. I call it Tulip Rock because I think it looks like a flower. It could be a rosebud, a daisy, or a dew-covered morning poppy. Don’t see it? As long as you don’t see the Prince of Darkness who’s come to cast humanity into eternal damnation, you’re alright. If that were the case, I’d suggest you consider a change of meds.

When I composed this image, I wanted to show a couple of things. The first is that most of the hoodoos in Chiricahua don’t look like sculptures; they’re ordinary. That uniqueness makes the formations like this and last week even more special. I found two examples (there are more) on my short hike on the Grotto Trail. Imagine the images I’d have if I had visited the Chiricahuas as a younger man.

The other thing that I wanted to show is the background. The higher peaks of this range are along the horizon, including the 9700-foot Chiricahua Peak. As you can see in this image taken in late March, they are still snow-covered. They’re part of the Coronado National Forest—sometimes called the Sky Islands. The forest isn’t contiguous—it includes several southeastern ranges separated by broad basins. I’m not aware of another forest like it in the United States. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

You can see a larger version of Tulip Rock on its Web Page by clicking here. Come back next week when we finally make it to the Grotto—a four-pillar room with a rock roof.

Jeff Goggin

It’s painful to type these words. Jeff Goggin—the other half of the Ballast Brothers Racing Team—died Thursday a week ago (7 April 2022). He was the last surviving family member and lived alone in the family’s Scottsdale home. Jeff’s mother lost a long degenerative battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s still untreatable. Several years ago, he told me that he was starting to show the same symptoms. Being the insanely practical man we knew, he ended his life to spare himself further suffering while he could still make his own decisions. Jeff is survived by his estranged partner, Paula Hoff.

Jeff was a brilliant, caring, funny man who loved good music, sick jokes, fast cars, fine art, a good scotch, and pretty women. Queen Anne and I miss the jerk.

Till Next Time


Don Roberts Regrets

I’m saddened that I have to share the news that Don Roberts passed away last Thursday. He was a long-time friend of mine. He succumbed to pneumonia complications at the age of 82. That’s too soon an age for a young minded man like Don to leave us.

Don was one of the first people that I made friends with when I moved to Phoenix in 1972. He was always quick to laugh at a joke and if he thought ill of anyone, he kept it to himself. As a couple, Don and Sharon were on everybody’s guest list, because their joy filled a room.

In the later part of the ’80s, I was fortunate to work with Don and other club members tasked to revitalize SCCA’s Arizona Region Solo program.  As president, his management style was refreshing. He would listen to and discuss any idea and if he thought they showed merit, he’d let you run with it. He gave encouragement and guidance as feedback and gave credit where credit was due.

Don was a racecar driver of eminence, but other people can tell that story better than me. As a competitor, he was never stingy with his help, but he always managed to do a little bit better than me. Sharon—Don’s better half—shared a link to an article that long-time motor sports journalist Bob Golfen wrote about Don in Classiccars.com if you’d like to read more.

Queen Anne and I both offer Sharon our condolences and best wishes. We’re certain that Don’s already organizing an event for us at the great Malibu Grand Prix in the sky.

It was my honor, Don — jw

P.S. If you have a favorite Don story that you would like to share, you’re welcome to post it here.

George’s Camp Picture of the Week

George's Camp
George’s Camp – Written words on the whiteboard sign note the passing of George, the painter.

Serendipity is a word that means finding something different from the thing you were trying to find. It was so overused back in my flower child days that I don’t like to use it. I wish there were a better term—but there isn’t—that describes what happened to Fred and me this week.

As I wrote in last week’s post, my project for April is to find exciting things to photograph in Nothing—the abandoned gas stop on Highway US 93. It’s a voluntary exercise to help improve my creativity. Nothing is in the middle of nowhere; I’ve been pouring over my maps the past week. I found that on the north side of the gas station, there is a sizeable lava flow. It’s spring, so there is new bright green growth on the desert plants, and that should contrast well against the black rocks. Even better, I found that the flow’s west side covered a wash or creek. Over eons, the water has opened a channel through the hardened magma, and it’s called Black Canyon (I know, there must be hundreds of Black Canyons in Arizona).

After deciding to try to follow the back trails and visit the canyon, I asked Fred if he’d like to sit shotgun. I figured that he could change a flat if needed, and he always carries his cell phone which might be handy. It surprised me when Deb permitted him to go out with me again, but only after I swore up and down that we’d be home by dark.

On Thursday we packed Archie and set out on a new adventure. We got a late start because I wanted the proper light, but the day ended in overcast, so I gave up on beautiful sunset pictures. The topo map that we brought showed a jeep trail, leading to the canyon; then we’d have a half mile hike up a pack trail at the end. As we crept along the so-called road, I knew that I had to stay left at each intersection that lay before us. The last turn put us on a rutted track where we maneuvered between boulders, but at its crest, we saw Black Canyon in the windshield which meant that we were driving along the pack trail. We would have done better with Fred’s ATV.

Well used Ford
Well used Ford – A parted out Ford truck is abandoned in camp.

As we descended to a wash we came upon a couple of sheds, and I thought, “Oh no! We’re reliving the night we spent at Stephen’s house.” You’ll remember him from our first outing where we got trapped inside private property. I got out of the truck and started calling. No one answered, so we walked around both sheds trying to find the owner. We saw the sign in the first photo that raised more questions than had answers. What Fred and I stumbled upon is—as I call it now—George’s Camp.

Macrame Tee Pee
Macrame Teepee – A hand made teepee provides a little shade in George’s front yard.

As we wandered the campsite, I wondered about George. Did he sell his paintings, had I ever seen one? How did he get groceries? What made him become a recluse? Of the artifacts we found, they seemed fresh enough to suggest that George’s passing was recent. If he had any property of value, someone had already taken them. It was apparent from the words on the sign that someone felt sad that George has moved on.

George's Cup
George’s Cup – Decorating a dead stump are a collection of household items. I wonder if George wrote the inspirational message inside of the cup.

We delayed our canyon hike long enough to look at the art pieces George had left. I tried to imagine the kind of soul that he was, and I got a bit sad that I missed meeting a fellow artist. Of the scattered yard art, the tree ornaments moved me the most, and that’s why I selected it as this week’s featured image. I call it George’s Cup. It already has a picture frame.

You can see a larger version of George’s Cup on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and next week; we’ll show another featured image from Nothing. Maybe by then, we’ll make it to Black Canyon.

Until next time — jw

Dan Gurney, 1931-2018

Dan Gurney photo in Autoweek story. (I wish that I had scanned my slides for a suitable photo of my own to put here.)

Every kid should have a hero; somebody they can look up to and emulate; someone they can put a target on and think, “I want to be like that when I grow up.” That’s why heroes should live to a higher standard; something that seems increasingly hard to do. Perhaps that’s why the age of heroes is dwindling.

I found my hero during a Southern California junior high school shop class. Shop—like the gym—were compulsory classes for a well-rounded education. I hated them. Because I was such a nerd I didn’t do well, and the other boys could smell my insecurity and would circle me, like sharks in bloody water. The cookie cutters that I made weren’t the perfect circles and stars like they made. I probably only got a passing grade because I showed up each day.

That was at the outset of the Southern California car mania, and we were all jacked up on pre-pubescent hormones and we substituted souped-up Fords and Chevys for unrequited sex. At least, those were the magazines allowed in the classroom. In class, I rummaged through piles of Hot-Rod and Motor Trend and found a single issue of Sports Car Illustrated, a car magazine about small European cars and racing more than just accelerating down a drag strip. I took it home and read it cover to cover. This magazine had articles about Jaguars, Porsches, and (drool) Ferraris—with their glorious high-pitched V-12 engines, “OMG; I have to hear that someday.”

It was the first time I read about the pinnacle auto racing circuit—Formula One. The magazine wrote about the European stars such as Graham Hill, Jimmy Clark, Jack Brabham, and a tall American—from California no less—Dan Gurney. That was a life-changing moment and I left drag racing behind and followed a different path.

I read about Dan’s career as he won Formula One races and then Le Mans. In high school one year, my friends drove out to the Riverside track and watched as he schooled NASCAR’s best drivers on a road course (five times in a row). On TV, I cheered his Indy attempts. He was the first driver to win races in Formula One, Indy Car, and NASCAR. His persona was more suited for the Indianapolis milk gulp than Champaign and that may be the reason he invented the inverted Champaign spray—an honored motorsport tradition. After he retired from driving, he continued in racing as a successful team owner and car builder. I admired him enough that when I got to pick out car number in my brief racing career, I chose number 48; as a tribute.

In my early thirties, I was working for a company that flew me to a morning seminar in Orange County. Since my afternoon was free, I booked a later flight and called my friend Gary Wheeler and arranged to have lunch. Gary worked for Dan’s company as an engineer at the time, so I was very interested in hearing about his job. After lunch, Gary took me back to the shop and showed me around. We even went into the boneyard where old racecar parts were kept. I wanted to snitch something for memorabilia, but I didn’t have a way to get it on the plane. In the middle of his tour, Dan came out of the office with an errand that he needed Gary to run. Gary said sure, and in return, he asked Dan if he could drop me off at the Orange County Airport. I was stage-struck when during the introductions anyway, but my heart leaped into my throat during that conversation. Dan said, “Of course, get your things.” I grabbed my briefcase and followed him out to—of all the exotic cars that I envisioned Dan driving—the shop’s Pinto. For me, the five-mile ride to the airport was a New York ticker-tape parade. My head was in the clouds.

Yesterday, my friend Jeff forwarded news that Dan had passed at the age of 86 from pneumonia complications. It’s a very dark day for motorsports worldwide and me personally. I will miss his soft-spoken voice and infectious smile, but I will always remember his triumphs. It’s a very sad moment in my life.

Thanks for the ride Dan.

Until next time — jw

It Is No More … It Ceases To Exist … Rest in peace, Harvy.

The months before we married, my ex-wife bought a 59-cent Schefflera from Berridge Nursery as an apartment decoration. It came in a green plastic pint container and was less than six inches tall with the same number of shoots having the characteristic radial leaf pattern. She put it on the counter under the kitchen window so it could get enough light. Her cat, Frodo—the contemptuous animal cat—ate half of the tiny plant’s leaves at night. It would have made sense for her to toss the plant and run down the street to buy another, but she scolded the cat and moved the half-eaten plant to a safer place.

Ten years passed, and my ex and I went our separate ways. When we divided the house, I got custody of the Schefflera. By now, it was a waist-high shrubbery living in a large pot. When I moved into my condo, I put it at the end of my couch by French doors. It looked good there. Even when Queen Anne moved in, she agreed and promptly named it Harvey, which was how she marked her territory. Between the high ceilings and southern exposure, Harvey continued to grow. Like kids and shoes, we constantly re-potted him. He rose to eight feet. When we sat at that end of the couch, his overhead leaves would shade us.

After another decade, we wanted a house, and as we looked for a place, one of our considerations was where to put Harvey. He needed space. With the help of a realtor, we found a home only five miles away, and after navigating all the paperwork, we hired movers to schlep our crap to the new house. Harvey was among the last to go, so he was in someone’s pick-up truck. We didn’t trust him with the movers, but as I followed behind, I watched in horror as the forty-five-mile-an-hour wind began to shred his leaves. He looked like a tornado victim when we put him in the new house. He went into shock, and the taller branches were wind-burnt, so we pruned and nursed him. He managed to survive, but he was forever stunted.

The next time Queen Anne had her seven-year itch, we were wiser. We wrapped Harvey in a sheet on this move and put him inside the moving truck. He didn’t go into shock, and he made it without damage. He was a bit stubbier but had new growth each year. We found a spot for him in the family room at the end of the couch, where he watched TV and listened to music with us for another seven years.

Our latest move was two years ago—to Congress and retirement. By now, we were old hands moving our pygmy tree. Even though we stayed in temporary housing for a month, Harvey took his place at the couch’s end and stood proudly when we settled in. As we neared our Alaska Trip, he looked scraggly, and we worried he wouldn’t make it, so Anne found a plant-sitter to look after Harvey and his siblings. Before we left, we moved everyone to the dining room, where the light was better and not as warm. The plant-sitters did an excellent job, and all the plants survived the summer without us.

Even though we’ve stayed home this year, we haven’t been as lucky. With the porch and large Palo Verde tree out front, the light in the living room is marginal. We’ve also been closing the blinds to manage the summer heat, which means less light. Harvey started losing leaves. We moved him to the dining room and in front of the guest bedroom’s north-facing window to get more light. Anne has rooted in the soil, trying to aerate it. His last leaf fell off on Tuesday. I think he’s root-bound and has slowly drowned. He looks like the summer mesquite—just leafless branches. I’m afraid our forty-five-year-old living room centerpiece has gone to the great salad bar in the sky. I suggested to Anne that we throw in the towel and replace him.

She turned, scowled, and barked, “He’s not dead … he’s merely resting his eyes.”

Till then … jw

Leonard Cohen – Leon Russell

Music is an important part of my life. I don’t have the talent to actually play an instrument, and as my grandmother once said to me, “You couldn’t carry a tune in a bushel basket.” I don’t even lip sync well. In spite of . . . or maybe because of that, I appreciate talented musicians.

My tastes deviate from the mainstream. I’ve commented on this blog about having found great radio stations on our Alaska trip, something seriously lacking in Phoenix. That wasn’t always the case however. In the early part of the 70’s under Bill Compton’s leadership, KDKB was a station that had a ‘free form’ radio format.  That was a radio style from San Francisco’s ‘hippie’ era. A set of music might contain The Beatles, followed by a classical cut, followed by Jessie Winchester, followed by someone obscure. Some of the sets were theme based while others were dependent on the DJ’s mood. It was KDKB that introduced me to Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, both of which we lost in the past weeks. Today’s commercial and computer generated radio stations don’t teach anyone about music.

If you followed folk music, you knew the songs of Leonard Cohen. Numerous artiest covered his songs; Judy Collins to U2. His voice was an off-put to some, but I found it gritty and honest. Besides, the songs weren’t lullabies.

It was March 1976 that I attended my ‘best ever’ concert at Phoenix’s Celebrity Theater. It’s a 60’s holdover theater in the round where the stage slowly spins and most of the audience is close to the stage. Because of its size, the acoustics are easily overwhelmed by amplification (Larry Gatlin was the example I remember), but it works for an intimate group like Mr. Cohen’s. It was the last stop on his tour, so all the road’s technical bugs were worked out and the performers were relaxed. Each song brought enthusiastic applause and there were multiple curtain calls. After clapping till our palms blistered, Mr. Cohen returned alone to the stage and apologized that he had no more songs. Then he explained, “This is the last stop on our tour, and we too hate to see it end. We have nowhere to go tonight. Would you mind if we did the show again . . . from the beginning?” As I already said, the theater is easily overloaded with loud noise. The second show was even better than the first; I think it was because we knew we were witnessing something special. The concert finally ended a 3:18 am.

Leon’s music I enjoyed on KDKB, but never enough to run out and pick up an album at the time. A couple of years ago, I was flipping through the used record bins at the record store and happened across one of Russell’s albums in the ‘R’ bin. I thought to myself, “This was part of my life.” It was only three dollars, so I bought it. When I got it home and put it on my system, I was at first amazed at the production quality. Then the music started to flow it disappointed me that I’d waited so long to add it to my collection. Only recently I read about his career and how he contributed so much to the music industry.

It’s sad for me to look around to find those who’ve joined me on my life’s journey are falling to the wayside. It’s inevitable, I guess. If you’re a reader from a younger generation, none of this must seem important to you. Too soon, you’ll find people who influenced you will be gone from your life and you’ll find your immortality vaporizing (also, take care of your teeth).

Friday night is the night that the Queen lets me enjoy my scotch and listen to my music. She doesn’t have the patience to sit, listen and study the albums, so she either goes to the library or out to her girlfriends. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. In addition to cooking a rotisserie turkey breast, I told Anne that my chore for the day was to assemble and tune the turntable. I already know Friday’s play list.

Till then – jw

Michael Reichmann – RIP

This morning, as is my usual routine, I visited the blog The Online Photographer, where I read the sad news the Michael Reichmann passed away May 18th at the age of 71. Michael was a man of many accomplishments, most significant to me; he was the creator of the Luminous Landscapes Website of which I was a regular visitor for the last thirteen years.

During my transition from film to digital photography, the Luminous Landscapes (also nicknamed LuLA) was my textbook for growing my art. Most important to me were the lessons on color management and printing techniques. I’ve integrated these ideas into my workflow and use them to this day.

My heart goes out to the Reichmann family and to his many fans that share with me this great loss.