Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister · Uncategorized

Coolifornia

I’ve traveled …. a lot.  Close to home – Canada and Mexico close to home.  Every state except Hawaii and North Dakota  Most of the banana republics of Central America and the Latin States of South America.   17 island nations of the Caribe, islands of French Polynesia, Great Britain and some places that I can’t even remember the names of, just vignettes of incidents that blend in my mind to make me thankful for the colors I’ve seen and experienced.

Among my very favorite places is California – swimmin’ pools and movies stars, right?  And it’s somewhat true – you can’t have that many folks in the entertainment industry in the same place without bumping into some – yesterday I rode the Air Train from rental car return into the air terminals at SFO with Eric Bana.  I recognized him and we chatted casually – he was on his way back to NY and I was returning to NC.  Thank goodness I didn’t try to address him by name since the only thing that popped into my mind was Liev  Schrieber.  For once I didn’t stick my foot in it, but my sense is that he would have thought it funny.

My California isn’t so much of the south, though I have family in and around San Diego and have spent some time around Laguna Beach,  but of the northern half, with family there too.  One most excellent summer, my father was free from work, (a supportive union was out on strike and he didn’t have to report for work until the ironworkers ended  their walkout}.  I’ve taken to calling it “The Summer of Creedence”.      We rode horses in the foothills of the Sierras, played endless games of pool in the garage, snuck drinks of Jug Wine (think Boone’s Farm in fake ceramic jugs) and endlessly listened to CCR’s Green River album, “…Walkin’ along the river road at night, Barefoot girls dancin’ in the moonlight….”, The Carpenters, and tried to grow up.  That California is pretty far removed from the LA/Valley scene, even in the names of the towns –  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   Cool (really), Dew Drop, Secret Town, Yankee Jims and the everlasting Grass Valley.   During that summer, Grass Valley was the habitation and habitus of “them hippies”, according to my Dad and Uncle Buck – also affectionately known as “Uncle Blob”.    Grass Valley has retained its flavor with newer influences evolving the scene.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Freeway billboard along the 101

My Coolifornia has a few palms scattered here and there, but it’s a place of dry hills, sprinkled with Cedars and other relatives of the Sequoia, Live Oaks and the various Elms – American, Chinese, Siberian and the more uniquely named, Zelkova.

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I-80 Rest Area scenery

Take time to visit my California – take I-80 north from San Francisco, get off this highway that wanders from two to six lanes, which does NOT improve traffic flow, at Auburn and enjoy the Old Town – think old Key West still with a gold rush flavor.  Head west and south out of town on Hwy. 49.   The road twists and turns, like the Blue Ridge, down canyons to the American River, with plenty of turnouts to enjoy the views – and take note of the various weeds, something far too many overlook when traveling – the Star Nettle and many others .

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California Star Nettle
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Along the Salmon Falls Rd near Pilot Hills, CA

 

Drop down across the American and climb the switch backs on the other riverbank.  Pass through Cool and wind your way through the opening land to Folsom.    And, holy cats, don’t fail to watch for reminders of California’s more recent past…..

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The Prison is still a major presence there with sprawling lands, bordered by the Johnny Cash Art trail and Folsom Lake.

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American River Gorge

Finally, for the painterly, this is a chance to visit Northern Italy without the bother of international travel – landscape, scenery and the lemony blue light.   I’ll be going back, all things staying equal, to Coolifornia, to visit, paint and again feel the wonder of my youth.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister · Uncategorized

Back in the U.S, back in the U.S., back in the USSR – (U Sleep Slightly on Return), and a Taste of Maine

Sorry, this is not about Moscow girls, Leningrad girls or JoJo, who hasn’t been on my mind.

First, indulge me in a comment on Airline Economy Class upgrades- some are nothing more than the vehicle to charge you more for a seat that has some, real or suggested, advantage –  “oh look, I’m four whole rows closer to the deplaning exit..” (but  you’re still in row 30 instead of 34).   But the airlines DO have some wicked cool names for your freedom to pay more for essentially the same, well, everything –  American Airlines can allow you to upgrade from Basic Economy to Premium Economy, United has Standard Economy to Premium Economy, Delta from Economy to Comfort, and so on.

Darth

However, one basic upgrade level I can recommend is Virgin Atlantic’s “Economy Delight”..( skyrockets in flight, economy delight…).   Yes, this whimsically named upgrade has some real benefits.  First, since if you are flying, say Boston-Heathrow – 5-1/2hrs and 7hrs on the return, the extra 3.5″ of leg room is great, especially compared to the 2″ additional on some other carriers.  Next, you board with Premium instead of the cattle call and have guaranteed overhead storage.  Seats are roomy with  excellent curved headrests and worth the $ spent.   As they say onboard – “Economy Delight – look for the Champagne coloured seats..”

vs seats

We flew LHR-BOS on Sunday, had our baggage collected & were in the rental car by 6 p.m and headed for Maine.  After traveling 4000 miles into the headwind, and inevitable delays on the taxiways of Beantown, the 90 minute drive up Rt. 1A and I-95 to our friend’s house in Maine was kein problem!  We would spend only that night, the next day and the following morning in Maine before driving back to Boston and flying back to North Carolina.

Maine is a world apart by almost any measure.  The year-round population of just over 1.3 million is almost exactly that of Charlotte and Raleigh, NC without their suburbs.   More than 75% of the state is wooded and 13% of homes are totally heated with wood.  In fact, Mainers are leading the way with decreasing dependence on oil for heating purposes, with almost 7% switching to wood between 2009 and 2014 alone.  Yet, far from Utopian, Maine has about the same per capita population of folks who are finding comfort, and hellish lives from Meth and Heroin.

For all that, after moving away 19 years ago, I would still like to live in Maine….from April through October.  I’m not lazy – I would just rather not spend every minute of free time shoveling snow, ice, slush and other various forms of increasingly solid water states for about 5 months out of the year.

I would rather again live right near the ocean, especially during the non-tourist times to walk on the beach in the morning, pick up hen clams after a storm and catch the “they’ah gonna be heah any day now”, stripers.            OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                         A crowded spring beach in Maine

And if you’re a water sport, you never know who you’re gonna catch a wave with…

MOOSEONBEACH

I’m back in NC now, back to some recreational and non-stop grass mowing, whacking away with paint on canvas and maybe throwing some mud on the pottery wheel.   But part of me is always traveling……..

MB

Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister

The Stay’s the thing….part 2

With absolutely no apologies to the Bard of Avon;

“……Tariffs me to not scam me.                                                                                                        I’ll have the grounds, and the house                                                                                            No more relaxitive than this. The stay’s the thing                                                                      Wherein I’ll catch the relaxation of a king….”

Every so often you run across “the real deal”.   Most often when we use that expression, we mean, “the genuine article”, the superlative, the sublime, etc.    As true would be, the added quality of value.   Our recent stay at Lois Barns, near Wincanton, Somerset, UK qualifies in spades.   I’ve written an informal review of the lodging, which is a renovated swine barn of many years ago, (no trace, or smell, of a piggery now!).  In that initial missive, I included some photos of the exterior of the place and have received several requests for photos of the interior – which follow.

Here’s where the value readily manifests itself.  I’ve used Air BnB, Homeaway.com, VRBO and other lodging booking services many, many times, both domestically in the U.S. and abroad, since I greatly prefer the relaxation of a home stay, not to mention the convenience of having actual cooking and most often, clothes washing capabilities.  I pack light (most of the time) and don’t mind having a libation while the clothes are in the wash.   These items are available in almost all rental homes.  What is much less common are the qualities of the hosts.  Which is why I’m writing about Chris and Tanya, owners and operators of Lois Barns.

tanya_chris                                          Tanya and Chris Peatroy, owners of Lois Barns

Quietly witty, forever patient with the questions of the insanely curious – “How does your septic system work out here in the country?”, “why are there numbers painted on the sheep?”, and “is the nearby pub really not good for a meal?”  Add to this, being hospitable and friendly without being intrusive.  These qualities are actually, in my experience, rarely found in hosts/operators of rental properties.  In fact, I’ve rented several houses and have never even met a live person – just received an email telling me where the key is and please mind the new kitchen countertops!

All of that, packaged with a completely comfortable and relaxing home with thoughtful attention to what short stay tenants will need, and want – makes Lois Barns a winner!

Max’s lodging long and short of it (mostly short):

  • 3 bedrooms sleeping six, all can be configured as king beds or oversized singles.  All bedrooms, (2 up, one down) feature original wooden beams with whimsical cross ties in the upstairs bedrooms.
  • Full kitchen with four burner stove (cooker) and oven.  All needed table service, cooking utensils and table seating for six.
  • Two baths, one up and one down.  Downstairs is 3/4 bath with a nice shower cube, upstairs has an excellent soaking tub with hand shower and plenty of hot water for that nice soak.
  • Large living room with wood stove and entertainment center featuring a couple of hundred channels for the video-dependent.
  • Very nice outdoor seating on the rear patio with table and seats for six under a grape-arbor. Additional benches and charcoal grill.
  • Excellent rural views all around with horses, cattle and sheep-oh my!
  • No noise made by anything other than soothing animal sounds – (this is a refined working farm).
  • 7 minutes to Wincanton with it’s truly excellent Wincanton Fish Bar (say hello to John and Wendy, the 14 year proprietors, for us)
  • Central and reasonably close location to very many desirable sites and activities
  • and finally, Tanya and Chris – for all the reasons mentioned above and far more

Without further much ado about nothing –

 

You can contact Chris and Tanya – and get tariffs and availability here:   http://www.loisbarns.co.uk/

 

 

Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister

Left to our own Dervizes..

The town of Dervizes, located in Wiltshire, U.K., is as is so many in Britain, a historical market town that has a great many sites to explore and enjoy – one of the notables is the Wadworth Brewery, a relatively “new” company that has only been producing a line of brewed potables since 1875.   One touch of class is that they deliver to pubs in a 5 mile radius of the brewery in their own horse drawn wagons, powered by a couple of their Shire draft horses, Monty, Max and Archie and Sam.   When not on the beer delivery route, the horses serve as sometime taxis, are entered in shows and as you would suppose, as well known in England as the Busch Clydesdales are in the U.S.BYX7Tf8s

Wadworth provides tours and tutored tastings of their product line, which we will be availing ourselves of on our next visit.

This trip, we were making a flying stop on our way to Heathrow, to see the famous locks.  For those born in areas without meaningfully navigable waters and after the advent of video games, this type of lock is not something to secure a place, nor something placed on someone else’s lips, but a series of doors in the water that will lower or raise a boat to the level of the water found up or downstream of the lock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the case of the Dervizes “flight” of locks, 16 in number descending Caen Hill, dropping, (or raising) a total of 247 feet, are all powered by….humans.   As seen each lock has two doors.   The boatman, or more likely, his wife, climb out of the narrow boats usually seen in this area, places the largest muscle in the body against the white beams and leans back against the boom,  moving it in a 90 degree arc to parallel the water, which opens the door to enter.   Once the boat is inside the lock, the outgoing door is opened, after water is let in or out, to raise or lower the boat to the next level.   There are some Olympic quality backsides and legs in the area!

These locks, 29 in all, were completed in 1810 and are still in daily use, many, many times.    The area is beautiful and well worth a visit, even by the video driven souls…

MB

Feed the swans – tuppence!

The native narrowboats are often to hire, by the day or for even extended stays and can be used to get from one side of England to the other via the various rivers and purpose dug canals.

Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister

An ode to the unknown Master fisherman

George Edward the 10th, (more commonly known as Buddy), and I went for our last fishing outing in England this morning as tomorrow this time, we will be at the Gate at Heathrow just about to board our flight back to the U.S.  And of course, we are flying Economy Delight on Virgin Atlantic, my dear!

So, we arrived at the lakes fed by Sweatsford Water, a tributary of the Avon in Hampshire, around 8 a.m.   The lake’s visibility was marginal, but it was a terrific morning, cool at first, steadily warming as the sun rose higher in the sky and we could see ocasional trout rising to take a snack from the surface here and there.   We waved our 9′ rods to and fro with little result – a few “follows” and no takers.   As we were changing flies, and leaders, an older gentleman came along on his way to go chill his fish..which he had four of.  (Somewhat embarrassing).   Noting his patch that said, “British Masters Champion – 2014”, with all the good will and politeness I could muster, asked, “Might I know what sort of fly you were using?”  He showed me a dark blue damsel.   Before I could ask anything else, he dug into his well-worn fishing vest and handed me a fly clearly tied at Hollywood & Vine, or on Time’s Square, or somewhere else you would find the epitome of tackiness.   It was large and gaudy with a black body, wrapped and with tail “feathers’ made from golden mylar that twinkled in the sun.  “Now, young man”, he said, “you just cast that out, particularly if you see a trout rising, throw it right at ’em, and let it sink for 10 seconds or so.   Then, just you strip it back in like this.” (Making short, jerky motions with his hand, miming retrieving line from the water by hand).  “you do that, me friend and you’ll catchem!”   Acknowledging my thanks and disregarding my offer to pay for the Imperial Gaudy Fly, he wondered off.

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The Master Fisherman, with his 5th of the day.

The short version of the rest of the story is this – I did exactly as he instructed, just so, and caught this very chunky 2-1/2lb Blue Trout.

 

My thanks to the unknown Master Champion, your Kung Fu is formidable!

I’ve been fishing, sometimes daily, for over 55 years, this day will stand out as one to be kept right in the front hall closet of my memory palace!

For those who may be unsure of the suitability of keeping the fish we caught, the waters we fished this trip are NOT catch and release, but are declared No Release waters.  This is to ensure that no fish are returned to the waters in an injured state to die a slow death and bring possible contagion to the pristine waters.   And, we eat them!

Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister

The lions and loins of Longleat..

You’re paying good money to go see history while in England.   You might go to any of the dozens, or even hundreds of sites maintained by the English Heritage organization…they even, for we Yanks and other “furriners”, have an “Overseas Visitor Pass”, pay one price and gain entry to over 100 historical sites – about $40 USD.  Or, you can pay the same cost and gain entrance to a place that sounds like part history, part Disneyland, and the remaining portion of a road side zoo.    And yuou would be right  to do so, ..and wrong

Longleat is a fine example of an Elizabethan grand country home purchased for the Marquesses of Bath in 1541, formerly a Chapter House for the Augustinian Priory – (holy DaVinci Code!).   Burnt badly enough to be razed and rebuilt to its current splendor in about 1580.  The eighth Marquess still lives there, now in his eighties and in poor health.  He is surrounded in old luxury and a 10,000 acre game park inhabited by lions, tigers, bears, (oh my), wolves and various African species…including a very large troop of monkeys that could get employment in any auto wrecking yard in the U.S.  When you drive, foolishly, into the monkey enclosure, after immediately and completely ignoring all advice for folks in the know, and the very pointed warning signs at the entrance, the first thing you see are the trophies taken in the park.  Not lion’s heads, nor Cape Buffalo horns and skulls, but fenders, countless window wipers, hubcaps, bumpers and various other car parts.   We got off very easy indeed – (rest easy Budget Car Rental agents)..kF9NvRDi (1)

A single, rather than dozens, female monkey hopped on our car, scrambled onto the roof and only ate small chunks of the rear mounted radio antenna.  After a few gentle, sort of, pumpings of the brakes, she was off and watching for her next victim.  The rest lay in the tall grasses, huddled together to ward off the chill of the brisk wind.

The house should be seen -The details are too numerous and detailed to mention, but for those who have not seen it, think Biltmore House on steroids.   This is the sort of grandeur that Vanderbilt had in mind, but did not match, when he had Biltmore constructed.

longliet house   Something else that old George V couldn’t match, and undoubtedly wouldn’t want to, was the reputation of the current Lord of the Manor,  Alexander Thynne, the seventh to inherit the place and the title,  now past his former glory, or lack thereof.  But during his heyday he was the very epitome of  the artistic hippie, techno beatnik, right down to the whole rap he espoused, which included incidentally, to have the traditional wife and offspring to inherit, but also upto 75 “wifelets” to address his other interests and outlets.\

Bhj8FcyW  Alexander Thynne, 7th Marquess of Bath then

Xu3XhJTZ    and now……….

Lest I dwell overmuch on the eccentricities and lasciviousness of this artful dodger, let me say this – Longleat is well worth visiting, with its animal park, the Great House, the adventure park, the boat rides into a freshwater lake inhabited by seals and gorillas on an island and many other features.   It should feel like a tacky,  State Highway attraction, but still manages to come off with the class that only the passage of centuries can bring.

Travel and Art with Max Bowermeister

“Be an opener of doors”

“Be an opener of doors” -Ralph Waldo Emerson, a man I’ve always thought of as someone really smart, who cast about looking for something to latch onto and, sadly, never really found it.  That said, at some point of my dimly remembered youth, I read those words and

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Port Isaac

they stuck with me.   In my youth, I boldly rushed in, whipped the door open without consideration of consequence and took some nasty falls.   I still open doors when presented with the opportunity, but I “count the cost….” first – most of the time..<g>  Here’s a collection of doors, with their real and imagined stories behind, seen in the last few days.

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury (several following)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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And for those who prefer their entrances a little more pretentious, nay, grandiose…

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To close this one out, and even though I don’t espouse all that he has to say, it may be interesting to consider the words of Mark Rice, a Scottish rocker with Metallic Dreams.  Mark speaks of a, or the, definitive moment in his youth……

“I was ten when I heard the music that ended the first phase of my life and cast me hurtling into a new horizon. Drenched to the skin, I stood on Dunoon’s pier peering seawards through diagonal rain, looking for the ferry that would take me home. There, on the everwet west coast of Scotland, I heard it: like sonic scalpels, the sounds of electric guitars sliced through the dreich weather. My body hairs pricked up.  To my young ears, the sound of these amplified guitars was angelic (although, with hindsight, I don’t suppose angels play Gibson guitars at ear-bleeding volume). A voice that suggested vocal chords of polished silver soared alongside razor-sharp overdriven riffs. I knew that I was hearing the future.”

And, of Isaac Asimov:  “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”

May you find the essential door, or someone who appears at your own, to change your future for the better –

MB