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Saturday, September 20, 2014

A book worth reading

Occasionally one happens upon a book that changes the way she views the world. Continental Divide: Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall is such a book. It has the power to open your thinking beyond the fray of political parties.

Since the beginning of time, humankind has either accepted or rejected responsibility for the wildlife that shares our world.

Today, an issue that has become a political hot tomato is impacting the many species that make their home along the borderlands between the United States and Mexico.

In Continental Divide, author Krista Schlyer rises above the political furor to showcase the many forms of life that are being impacted by the newly constructed Border Wall.

Schlyer has spent most of her career photographing and writing about wildlife in the Southwest. Continental Divide, five years in the making, studies the impact the border wall is having on many threatened and endangered species. Through her beautiful photography, she tells the story of the everyday struggle for survival they face.

In 2007, she observed a rare wild herd of bison that journeyed back and forth across the border daily in their search for food and water. The wall threatens their survival as well as the lives of ocelots and other animals.

She led an expedition of the International League of Conservation Photographers to document what is happening. Many people who advocate a wall to divide the two countries have little or no knowledge of the ecological diversity of the region. Schlyer hopes to educate Americans to the real cost of the wall – a cost much higher than the billions of dollars spent on its construction and maintenance.

One has only to look at the photographs to gain an appreciation of the border states. Her eloquence with the written word provides a resounding argument of our responsibility to preserve our natural world. She calls for immigration reform that encompasses both the political and the environmental issues.

Continental Divide should be read by every thinking and caring American. Schlyer has given us an overview of a world whose future depends on intelligent conservation policies.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wine, Food and the Katy Trail

A sampling of Les Bourgeois wines

Do you think of Mizzou (the University of Missouri) when someone mentions Columbia, MO? The town has much more to offer.

Just a short drive west of Columbia, the town of Rocheport is home to the Katy Trail State Park, Les Bourgeois Winery, antique shops, the Lewis and Clark Trail and a beautiful landscape. The tour through the working winery gave us a comprehensive overview of the wine-making process, including the differences in processing red and white wines.  We learned that the oak barrels used for aging the wine can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,500 each.

Oak barrels

Afterward we enjoyed a wine tasting. I found a white and a red that I really like. Then we drove past the vineyard to Les Bourgeois Bistro, where we ate a delicious lunch.

The bistro sets atop a bluff overlooking the Missouri River and offers a great view - inside and out.

Les Bourgeois Bistro
Following lunch, we visited the Katy Trail and learned about the old stone tunnel, Lewis and Clark, and the history of the trail. The blistering hot day kept us from spending much time on the trail but it's definitely on our agenda for a cooler day. We stopped to shop at a couple of fabulous antique shops in downtown Rocheport (about a block long).

Antique Store in Rocheport

Dinner took us to the Flat Branch Pub and Brewery in downtown Columbia, a hopping restaurant that was filled to capacity. Good food and great company.

Looking forward to another day in Columbia tomorrow.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Route 66 in Kansas

Mater, from Cars

Although only 13 miles of the original Route 66 winds through Kansas, it offers plenty of history and is home to a fascinating man named Dean "Crazy Legs" Walker.

Labor Day Weekend proved to be a popular time for the short stretch of highway. If you travel west a few miles you reach Miami, Oklahoma; to the east it's only a hop, skip and a jump to Joplin, Missouri.

Kan-O-Tex Station

The sun was shining down from the bright blue sky and the summer heat was turned up high. My brother and sister-in-law had found an interesting Mexican restaurant in Galena and we decided to drive there from their home in Pittsburg, Kansas.


On Main Street, Mi Torito is in a brightly colored building that makes you want to stop and visit. The restaurant is charming, the food is good and the staff is friendly - a hard-to-believe combination is a tiny little Kansas town.

After lunch, I headed out with camera in hand. When I stopped at the Kan-O-Tex Station, I met a guy who, with several of his buddies, was on a motorcycle tour of part of the Route 66 route. As we looked at the old trucks, he told me that the station and the one old truck was the inspiration for Mater in the movie, Cars. I later discovered that Galena played a major role in the movie.

I took photos of an old bordello across the street from the station. Although Galena, in its mining days, was home to about 30,000, today's population is only
Galena mural
10% of that. After finding more photo ops, 
we drove on to Baxter Springs where a tornado ripped through the downtown area last spring. 

The town is still rebuilding and the Route 66 history is still alive. When I stopped at another station to take pictures, a man drove up and asked if I'd like to see the inside. The building houses a museum filled to the brim with Route 66 information and memorabilia.
Museum in Baxter Springs

The man, Dean "Crazy Legs" Walker, was the inspiration for the Mater character. You may have seen him on the Jay Leno Show a few years ago. Dean is the official Route 66 ambassador in Kansas. If you want information, he's the man to see.

Besides being the inspiration for Mater, Dean has another claim to fame. He can turn his feet around backwards. An Internet article said he can walk backwards but I didn't get to witness that feat - no pun intended.

When I returned home, I checked him out on the Internet and found I was lucky to run into him. His stories are still rolling around in my head. If you want information on Kansas and the route west, he knows it.

Kansas takes pride in its stretch of the famous highway. Don't dismiss it as just a few short miles because it offers a lot of history, interesting buildings and fun facts.

Why he's called Crazy Legs
Dean Crazy Legs Walker