Ghost Ranch Adventure Ghost Ranch Adventure, 2015

Marguerite and Betsy's Ghost Ranch Adventure, May 2015

In May of 2015, Marguerite's sister Betsy McCaghren came to California for a three week visit that included a wonderful road trip through Arizona and New Mexico. Betsy had never been to this part of the country and Marguerite had only visited a few places briefly. Marguerite and George spent many hours planning the trip to include historic bed and breakfast accommodations, lots of sightseeing, and a four-day art immersion workshop at the Georgia O'Keeffe Ghost Ranch.

Beginning the Trip with Dinner with Friends

As a send-off Marguerite and George invited several friends who know Betsy to share dinner. Marguerite fixed salmon and herb-crusted tenderloin and our neighbor, Irv Erdos, provided a splendid cake for dessert.

First Day: 500 miles to Flagstaff, Arizona

Marguerite and Betsy got up very early, packed the car with way too much stuff, several bottles of wine, snacks for the road, and a loaded GPS with each night's stay already programmed. We stopped for lunch in Needles and ate fruit, cheese, and crackers at a bus stop (the local park had several vagrants napping and we were afraid to try to eat there).

We arrived in Flagstaff in the early evening and checked into the England House Bed and Breakfast for two nights. The proprietors had moved from San Diego to buy the home 13 years ago and have created a very comfortable Inn in a home that was built over one hundred years ago. We stayed in the Song Catcher room upstairs. Over 15,000 guests have stayed there during the past decade!!!

Their first recommendation was to visit a local historic home, the Riordan Mansion that was built for two families in 1904 in the "Arts and Crafts" style. The two ends are independent homes and the middle section is for shared living. The original owners were two brothers married to two sisters! It is now a State Historic Park and has many original furnishings including lots of Stickley furniture.

While in old downtown Flagstaff we found the Hotel Weatherford, established in 1887, with saloons on each of the three floors. The food was mediocre but the atmosphere was right out of the old West!

Grand Canyon

In the afternoon we drove to the Grand Canyon. It was cold, rainy, and windy so we didn't stay for long. The drive over was lovely and we even saw some elk grazing beside the road! WE did purchase a few things for the grandkids, of course!

Flagstaff to Albuquerque, Interesting Stops

First, we found La Posada, an old Fred Harvey Hotel that is now also an art gallery. It is in the little town of Winslow, Arizona, right next to the train track. Fred Harvey was an English gentleman who started a chain of eating house-hotel establishments along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad tracks in 1878. Over time he established 84 facilities including three still in operation: La Posada, La Fonda in Santa Fe, and El Tovar (Grand Canyon). There is a rich history of these hotels, including the "Harvey Girls" who were

"young women 18-30 years of age, of good moral character, attractive and intelligent, to waitress in Harvey Eating Houses on the Santa Fe rail line in the West. Wages $17.50 (about $450 in today's terms) per month, with room and board. Liberal tips customary. Experience not necessary."

These were respectable jobs for young women beginning in 1883, and continuing until the hotels closed or were demolished in the 50s and 60s. La Posada has also become the home of works by a gifted artist, Tina Mion, who now owns the hotel. It was built in 1929 by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, one of the few female architects of that time. It was also a party destination for many actors and celebrities of the twenties, thirties, and forties.

As we continued our journey, we stopped briefly at the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. Later we purchased pieces of petrified rock and stones from this area for the grandchildren.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

We arrived in Albuquerque in the late afternoon and checked into the Downtown Historic Bed and Breakfast in the old part of town. This B&B is now three homes, all built in the early 1900s. We stayed in the Freeman Room of the Spy House that was built in 1912. The Spy House is an Arts and Crafts style home that has had many owners. In 1944 it was bought by the Freemans who were approached by Ruth Greenglass, wife of David Greenglass, to rent a room. David was the brother of Ethel Rosenberg (wife of Julius Rosenberg, convicted Soviet spies who were executed in the 1950s). David was working on the atomic bomb at the Los Alamos "town that never was" . It was at this house that some drawings were exchanged related to the spying incidents. We were intrigued by this story and decided to visit Los Alamos while we were in Santa Fe later in the trip!

As is our usual practice, we took a City Tour early the first morning we were in town. Albuquerque is a very old town. The tour guide told us that Albuquerque now has 8 movie studios and is frequently used as a back drop for movies and TV shows. The current show being shot there is "Breaking Bad" (Betsy nor Marguerite watch this show so were a bit in the dark when they discussed it). There are old churches, an old town, and a town plaza where American Indian artisans sell their wares. Betsy bought a sterling silver necklace of Charlotte and the spider's web.

Ghost Ranch: Georgia O'Keeffe Painting and Writing Immersion, May 7-10, 2015

In January Marguerite reserved spaces for the sisters to attend a 4-day intensive workshop at Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch retreat center near Abiquiu, New Mexico. There were 10 participants and several faculty who stayed at the Casa del Sol up a long dirt road off of a gravel road off of a State Highway "out in the middle of nowhere" in the midst of 32 square miles of open space, red rocks, and breathtaking views! The Casa had been a family home at one time and was designed around an open courtyard. There was a large living/dining room and spacious kitchen. All food was brought up to the Casa from the main dining room down the hill at the conference center. There were several rooms and baths but only one "room with private bath" that we were lucky to get as we were the first registrants (Marguerite always does things way ahead!). The purpose of the workshop was to "walk in the footsteps" of Georgia O'Keeffe who lived off-and-on at Ghost Ranch for over 50 years.

Georgia O'Keeffe was an American artist who lived to be 98 years old (1887-1986). During her lifetime she created over 2000 works that are in Museums all over the world. She was born into a middle-class family in Wisconsin and began painting as a child. She took formal art lessons for a couple of years and then taught painting in a high school in Texas. A friend sent some of her drawings/paintings to Alfred Stieglitz in 1915 and the rest is history! She was greatly influenced by Stieglitz, a well-known photographer in New York who guided her work and to whom she was married in 1924 (she was 37; he was 60). They were married until his death in 1946, although the married years were very tumultuous with affairs, lots of parties, and long intervals of separation. One of the things O'Keeffe learned from Stieglitz was to use the "zoom lens" to view things up close. This approach led to her large flowers and some details of landscapes.

O'Keeffe loved the stark landscape, distinct indigenous art, and unique regional style of adobe architecture that inspired her work. At our workshop, we viewed many of the locations where she would have sat/stood to paint. We were able to compare these vistas to her paintings, thanks to the trip leader, Karen Butts, who works for Ghost Ranch and is an authority on O'Keeffe and her work. We also learned more about her from our Artist Advisor, Annie O'Brian Gonzalez, who shows her work at a gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe.

It was cold and wet much of the time we were at Ghost Ranch and we were not prepared with the right clothes! We did have "layers" and one day Betsy donned 6 layers to stand outside and paint a landscape with Annie. Betsy owns neither tennis shoes, hiking boots, nor jeans and was certainly the "fancy sister" at this workshop! Most of the participants are avid hikers and several also paint quite well. There were a variety of things to do and see during the four days and we enjoyed the company, good food, wonderful books, and educational offerings. We also learned a lot about O'Keeffe's life from a couple of faculty who had known her. A highlight of the trip was visiting her home in Abiquiu and seeing how she lived -- very simple, stark, and earthy. She had a small staff who cared for her, cooked for her, and archived and cataloged her works. This made it possible for her to focus on her painting. Sadly, she developed macular degeneration in her early 80s and at the end of her life was almost totally blind.

Santa Fe and the Inn of the Turquoise Bear

The workshop ended after lunch on Sunday and we were off to Santa Fe for three nights at the Inn of the Turquoise Bear. The Inn was originally built in 1886 as a private home. In 1918 it was purchased by Witter Bynner (1881-1968) who for almost 50 years was a prominent citizen of Santa Fe. He was a poet, translator, and essayist who expanded the property to be a rambling adobe villa. Bynner and his partner were famous - or infamous -for the riotous parties they hosted, referred to by Ansel Adams as "Bynner's bashes". The home was regarded as the center for the gathering of the creative and fun loving elite of Santa Fe and visitors from New York and around the world including Georgia O'Keeffe, Willa Cather, DH Lawrence, Edna St Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, Rita Hayworth, Martha Graham, Thornton Wilder, Igor Stravinsky, and many others. Upon his death, Bynner willed the estate to St John's College in Santa Fe who used it as a residence hall. In 1996 it was sold and converted to a Bed and Breakfast and in April of 2014 was purchased by the current owners, Dan and David. Dan provided sumptuous breakfasts each morning and we also got to know other guests (when full the Inn can accommodate 25 guests).

When we arrived we were upgraded from the Ansel Adams small room to the larger O'Keeffe room. Dan thought we would enjoy more space and we were thrilled to be moved to enjoy several reproductions of O'Keeffe's paintings, having just been at Ghost Ranch!

On the first morning we took a trolley tour of Santa Fe -- a wonderful old city with lots and lots of art and culture and several museums, including one focusing on Georgia O'Keeffe. We visited the town plaza and ate dinner one night at La Fonda, one of the Fred Harvey hotels.

One day we took a day trip to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. While in the Plaza we stopped in a shop with a plaque on the wall of "Number 9 Palace Avenue" commemorating the location for the link between Santa Fe and Los Alamos, "the town that never was." At this office, a woman named Dorothy McKibbon would greet people going to Los Alamos and arrange for them to get there. When we visited Los Alamos (less than an hour from Santa Fe) we learned that in 1942, during World War II, the Department of War began looking for a remote location for the Manhattan Project. They found The Ranch School for boys that included several buildings and homes for faculty. The school was closed when the government used its power of eminent domain to take over the Ranch School and all the remaining homestead that same year. All incoming truckloads were labeled as common items to conceal the true nature of their contents, and any outbound correspondence by those working and living in Los Alamos was censored by military officials. The mailing address for all of Los Alamos was PO Box 1663, Santa Fe, NM. The atomic bombs, "Little Boy" and "Fat Man", were developed there. After the Manhattan Project was completed, Los Alamos National Laboratory was established as a research government facility under the Department of Energy. Marguerite was particularly interested in this aspect because the LANL has been managed by the University of California for many years and former employees are members of the UC Retirement Associations.

We returned to Santa Fe after a couple of hours and later that day we walked to Canyon Road and saw many, many wonderful art galleries and outdoor sculptures.

El Rancho Hotel in Gallup en route to Sedona, Arizona

After leaving Santa Fe, we drove over 400 miles to get to Sedona, Arizona. On the way we happened upon the El Rancho Hotel and Motel in Gallup, New Mexico, where we got off the freeway to have a picnic lunch. Formally opened in 1937, the El Rancho Hotel was a gathering place for the famous and the filming site for many movies in the 40s and 50s. Going into the lobby was like stepping back in time! The Hotel is located on Historic Route 66, the major East to West highway from Chicago to Los Angeles, first opened in 1926. It was the "Mother Road" until the interstate system bypassed it in the 1960s.

When we got to Sedona, we stayed in a hotel in a central location and had dinner at a lovely local restaurant. The next morning we had breakfast with Janet Walther, a friend for many years who worked for George when she lived in San Diego. Janet is Director of Marketing for a jewelry company, StarBorn Creations, that makes beautiful necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and many other fancy items from natural stones. Marguerite was given a pendant several years ago that turns out to have been made by StarBorn! Janet took us for a tour of her business and of Sedona -- a beautiful town with lots and lots of red rocks!!

Phoenix, Arizona

We left Sedona mid-morning and drove to Phoenix where we stayed at a Hampton Inn for two nights. When we got there we were exhausted so decided to just relax, watch a movie on TV, and have dinner brought in. It was a lovely, restful, afternoon and evening.

The next morning we went to visit Marguerite's friend, Renee Walter, who is the Mom of Gar's friend, Rob Walter, and also travels with Marguerite and Gretchen's Atlanta group! Renee treated us to an absolutely wonderful day. First, we had tea at her lovely home and then we visited the Musical Instrument Museum for the afternoon. This is a remarkable place! The Museum was founded by the Former CEO and Chairman of Target Corporation after a visit to the Instrument Museum in Brussels, Belgium. The museum opened in 2010 and is the largest museum of its type in the world. The collection of over 15,000 musical instruments and associated objects includes examples from nearly 200 countries and territories. The facility has a wonderful interactive museum, a 299 seat theater for concerts, and a cafe where we had lunch. In the late afternoon Renee gave us a tour of Scottsdale and surrounding areas, then treated us to a delightful dinner at The Hermosa Inn, an old hotel and restaurant with a rich history.

Home Again, Home Again

On Saturday morning, May 16, we headed home to Escondido -- about a 7 hour drive. The trip had included 2315 total miles, with an average of 50 MPG in Marguerite's Prius, and 13 days of learning about and seeing lots and lots of red rocks, interesting places, and old friends. After unpacking, doing some laundry, and getting a little sleep, Marguerite and Betsy were off the next day for an overnight at Gar's house to celebrate a late Mother's Day with Gar, Chandi, Grace and Crawford....

Betsy returned to Orlando on Wednesday, May 20, with three suitcases full of clothes, souvenirs, and an old wooden lamp from one of our favorite antique shops! Thank goodness for Marguerite's 3-bags allowance on United that Betsy enjoys when she flies on a free ticket!!! We are already planning for next year's trip -- probably to the Pacific Northwest with a stay at Gar's cabin in Port Angeles, Washington.

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