Thirstystone Coasters

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The ubiquitous beverage coaster.  Tossed with abandon as kids, set liberally about the newlywed’s new furniture.  Their use tends to lose urgency as my go-to table begins taking on the characteristics of my wooden floor.

In climates with near-zero atmospheric humidity to condense, yonder glass of iced sun tea with mint still rests upon a handsome coaster.  Decorative, maybe protecting … something.  Maybe from habit?

Made in the Southwest, cores of solid sandstone are cut to discs of this absorbent rock.  Then shaped and polished.  Natural cork backing and any logo or design you choose.  Painted and packaged in Gainesville, Texas.  

The perfect gift.  An unopened boxed set discovered at an out-of-the-way thrift store?  Definite collector’s item.  Stock up!  You’ll be retiring in style!

Sweet Springs, Missouri

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Smiles   Horses thudding along the old Pony Express from Socorro.  Northward I roll to happy honking horns and wide Kansas smiles.  Inching my velocity up to the speed limit, a Man Of Purpose, intent on beating dusk.  To the joy of traffic backed up behind me.  But there was so much to see!  Miles and miles of prairie, cattle, wheat, everything!

Monarch Highway   Motoring southward, I recall grasslands preserved for butterflies and the generous Kansas rest stop welcome, “Camping Permitted”.  This would be a rare planned stop amid our freewheeling northward meander in search of “what was”.  Road & wind are our only influences.  Stretching out for sleep fits in there as well.

The horizon has yanked itself up above the sun but the birds don’t know it yet. With plenty of light, we roll to a far spot, change into night duds (jeans, fleece top, bandana), and off to a soft spot under the trees.  Only a couple of rough blankets and a cushion, but it is heaven!  Dozing off to darkening skies, birds chirping … fading … fading … And wake up at first light, a solid unbroken eight hours of sleep!  Far better than any motel room, and 100% cheaper!  Where’s the tip jar?  We owe nature a fat one for lulling us with her perfect Kansas breezes!

The sun rises faster   Barely an hour into our morning I notice the Missouri sun seems awfully high in the sky.  Time zones aside, surrounded by farmland, I can see why a farmer gets up so early.  It is work from sun-up until sun-down; gotta leverage every minute.

The sun also reminds me of another issue:  hunger and thirst.  Sweet Springs is the first exit after I think of caffeine, so we take it.  Eschewing service station coffee, we delve southward and find Downtown.  Wow!  Jackpot!  Sweet Springs, platted in 1838.  We park by the Old City Hall c.1891 and smell food.  Right up the block, a business for all occasions.  The de facto City Hall, maybe?  🙂

Sausage, milk, flour, butter   Sausage gravy on biscuits made from scratch every day is a favorite, Parrish tells me.  A perfect start.  Last Chance Saloon is regular stop from here on out!

Individual Time   Grudgingly we re-enter the Interstate.  Missouri rolls by.  Windows down, crops and soil smell familiar.  Long walks amid barns and fields as a kid.  Driving Down The Highway.  Without radio, plenty of time to think.  New ideas.  Hmmmmm  Individual time:  I decide when I want it to be 5am, Noon, 9pm, whatever.  My clock is my own and computers figure out how to mesh my life with the world.  New songs.  New plans for new trips.  Missouri farmland smells like childhood.  Innocence.  Imagination.

 

Desert Botanical Garden

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What visit to the Southwest would be complete without soaking in native flora and fauna?  Whenever within earshot of the Papago Mountains, I motor into the adjacent Desert Botanical Gardens.  An early morning visit in late May sees perfect Phoenix weather ~ 80˚ with single digit humidity.  Past 10am, past 90˚ … Water Sunscreen Hat – Protect Thy Skin.  Dusk, 98˚ and 6% humidity. The Garden is Eden for members-only.

With thousands of plant species and individual plants totaling many times that (scientific records are kept on all of the thousands of individual plants), DBG is a destination botanical garden.  While we love lulling beneath the pines of The Arboretum At Flagstaff, DBG is a scholar’s garden, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (1983).

Viewing Garden images from the 1950s, one remarks how much it looks the same today.  A great vision, born in the 1930s, preserved and expanded by countless individuals with a passion to conserve the beautiful desert environment.

Jim Sudal Ceramic Design

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Returning to Jim Sudal‘s pottery gallery in Old Town Scottsdale, we find a fresh line of creation.  Pine trees in his signature style, his mastery of line and movement, across bowls.  And vases.  Candle holders and more!  We immediately recall parking the RV beneath towering pines of The Arboretum at Flagstaff.  The sight and sound of these towering creatures.  As Jim intended.  (See The American Road Trip)  Thanks for bringing it back, Jim!

His new design was created to adorn a wedding gift to friends marrying in Flagstaff.  So, the very pines I imagined were the inspiration for the new motif?  Yes!  Naturally, everyone wanted a copy.  The agaves are not gone, nor pushed aside.  Complemented?  Naturally!

JIM SUDAL CERAMIC DESIGN

Kansas Grasslands

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The prairie is an ocean on which no oar is dipped.

One in a continuing series of Road Trip essays . . . Taking a diagonal cue from the atlas, we look at I-35 thru Kansas en route to our intended two-lane destination, US-400 / US-54.  And discover the Monarch Highway.  Not asphalt, grasslands. The I-35 as Monarch Highway initiative is an example of a recent coordinated effort across six states – Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota – to provide habitat for the rapidly declining monarch butterfly.NWF

Camping is permitted.  Next time we’re entertaining area stretches of two-lane  relaxation, we’ll plan to pull in closer to dusk.  A piece of rough linen as sleeping cocoon with a seat cushion for our noggin, and we’ll slumber under the stars ’till dawn.  On part of the original prairie.

Kansas was a pleasure.  Kingman Kansas deserved more time.  Taco Delite in Pratt, locally owned and surrounded by chain fast food, Six Thumbs Up !!!  Grassland to the horizon dotted with cattle.  Wheat!  Corn, soybeans, milo, hay.  And of course oil, pronounced awwwlllllll, with a capital $$$$ at the end  🙂 

We continue 2-lane magic upon US-60 into New Mexico and Arizona, rediscovering Ira’s Bar and finally stopping for a perfect enchilada-stype burro in Globe, Arizona.

U J Ramelson

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Micro Woodcarving Tools

Since 1937 U.J. Ramelson of Newark, New Jersey, has been satisfying a niche unassaulted by cheap copies.  They make perfectly engineered micro-chisels at a reasonable price.  Good steel, reliable handles.  East to sharpen, easy to customize.

The prize-winning carved mallard decoy?  That amazing dollhouse display in the church basement?  Lifelike figurines for your nieces and nephews?  Ramelson likely had a hand ~ in giving you a hand.

While most instrument makers may consider a ½” or possibly a ⅜” chisel as small as they’d require, these Ramelsons are made far smaller.  My 2.0mm and 3.0mm sets have proven themselves, scraping and shaving me out of a jam, adding just the bit of grace for which customers look.

RO-ARK Leather

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Romance, Arkansas  From the beginning Man has used animal hides to improve his life.  The Art of Tanning is developed.  Jerkins, leggings, boots, gloves, satchels, and iPhone cases quickly follow.  The best of crafters are elusive.  These crafters bridge income disparities, turn trade to hobby and back again, set down needle and thread when returning to a previous career or duty.  Full-time production shops?  Not the same as a one- or two- person operation.  When you find a stand-out product, stock up for a lifetime of gift-giving!

A year back we covered the work of Michael Hicks Design, when they created the perfect minimalist wallet.  A business card case which accommodates my DL & CC, CIA ident’, and all-hours White House Pass.  Very handy bit of stitching, thin as a whisker.  Now a year old, hardly broken in at all!

With growing nephews sprouting like summer corn, I figure to start them out right in their early teens, and present another favorite after college.  Stack’o’leather, please, Mike!

Ro-Ark Leather obliged and made me eleven different bifold card cases.  I chose seven.  The fun is just beginning.  I’ll get the two boys to choose their favorites in turn.  Years down the roads, these adolescent decisions will come back to them as milestone gifts.