Stories and pictures from my travels in (North) America--California,
the Southwest, Utah and other states, plus a little bit of Canada and Mexico
(more about my travels in America)

Heartstone, La Cienega, NM

Every picture is biographical.

Back in 1996, I was living in Santa Fe. My then-girlfriend and I were out for a drive through La Cienega and (as usual) we were bickering about something.

As the argument escalated, I suddenly spotted this church up ahead, and the tombstone practically jumped out at me. I took the first shot through the windshield, the second on the ground.

We made up.

Bodie, CA

"Ghost town." The words evoke images of dusty streets with tumbleweeds rolling down them, the batwing doors of a barn flapping in the wind, rattlesnakes scuttling under wooden sidewalks at the approach of the thirsty traveler.

But not every ghost town resembles the set of a cowboy movie, or dates back to the days of the buckaroos.

Although Bodie was, in fact, a boomtown founded in the middle of the 19th century, it didn't become a "ghost" until well into the 20th.

At its peak in the 1870s and 80s, it had "two banks, four volunteer fire companies, a brass band, a railroad, miner's and mechanic's unions, several daily newspapers, ... a jail [and] 65 saloons..." according to the Wikipedia article. It also had a red-light district, a Chinatown complete with a Taoist temple, and of course a cemetery.

As the boom faded, it matured into a family-oriented place, complete with two churches, a school, a railway from south of Mono Lake, and electrification.

In 1912, the last newspaper closed, signaling the beginning of the end. The town hung on, though, until the last mine closed in 1942, by order of the U.S. government as a wartime measure that halted all gold-mining operations. The post office closed the same year.

After that the place needed to be protected from vandalism, with the owners of the town placing caretakers there.

It became a state historic park in 1962.

All that's left of The Bodie Bank
Shell Gasoline
Interior, Boone Store and Warehouse
Note the tin ceiling

El Santuario de Chimayo, NM

El Santuario de Chimayo was built between 1814 and 1816.

It is famed for the small hole in a side room which contains "holy dirt." Numerous cures have been attributed to it.

The site became a focus-point in 1810, when Don Bernardo Abeyta, a local "Penitente" (member of a flagellant sect) saw a light shining out of the ground. (It was Good Friday night, and he was out performing "penances" nearby.) Approaching the light, he dug down on the spot until he found a crucifix.

Other locals came to witness the miracle, and the priest in nearby Santa Cruz was summoned. He took the crucifix (in procession, of course) back to his church, where it was placed on the main altar.

The next morning, it was gone, having returned during the night to Chimayo.

A second and third time the crucifix was removed and returned, until it became clear that the "Lord of Esquipulas" wished to remain where he had been found, so a small chapel was built; the one we see today was an enlarged version built just a few years later.

(I have heard this story of a "flying crucifix," with variations, told about statues and paintings all over the Southwest, as well as both statues and bells in Japan and China.)

As for the healing dirt: People rub it on ailing parts of their body, or mix it in water and drink it. There is an anteroom filled with canes, crutches, and written testimony of healings. As the earth is taken away constantly (statistics indicate 300,000 visitors a year at the Santuario), the hole is frequently and unabashedly replenished from a pile of "blessed" earth outside the building.

No one seems to mind.

If you know me, ask me sometime about how my father was "healed" at Chimayo (and my mother and I almost died--laughing--as a result).

Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL

I once had a girlfriend who worked for Nestle. We took a few trips, she at company expense, me tagging along. One time we went to Chicago. (As I recall, it was my 40th birthday weekend in July of 1995 when I lived with the Urichs in Utah.)

Anyway, while the gf was working, I scooted around central Chicago visiting museums, and the famous "Bundy Fountain."

My favorite place, though, was the Field Museum of Natural History. I've always been a sucker for that kind of thing.

Here is my favorite view inside the museum:

Who looks more astonished, the brachiosaurus at seeing the woman? Or vice versa? (And who is that woman anyway?)

I've read that the dinosaur is no longer there, having been moved to the airport to make way for Sue the T. Rex. Chicagoans: true?