Tag Archives: Journey

Arches National Park: Over the Rainbow

Arches National Park, 2010
Photo by Helene Lohr, Arches National Park, UT, 2012

“Before we had airplanes and astronauts, we really thought that there was an actual place beyond the clouds, somewhere over the rainbow. There was an actual place, and we could go above the clouds and find it there.” ~Barbara Walters

Dark clouds boil across the horizon. A flock of ravens coughs out the last of their calls towards the oncoming storm and flies off towards the thinning blue horizon to the east. I’m in a “scenic” pull out on the side of the road Arches National Park, UT, and things are about to get ugly.

Thunder rolls down through the canyons, lightning spikes through the heavy air. A spattering of raindrops becomes a torrent. The rain falls so hard it stings my fingers. Tourists quickly flee for the shelter of their cars. Other photographers flee en masse, shielding precious lenses against the suddenly wasted day. I almost laugh- it’s practically a scene from an “Armageddon” style movie, without the inevitable end of the world, of course.

I make a hasty retreat to my trusty 4Runner, swing open the door. Using the running board to launch myself inside, I slam the door against the pelting rain. I take off the sunglasses I still have on my head, uselessly try to wipe off the droplets with my wet shirt. The rumble of cars pulling out of the lot gradually dies down as the others filter out back towards town, towards mouth watering burgers at Milt’s and a tasty microbrew at the Moab Brewery. It’s my decision, do I turn left onto road and follow the crowd out of of park? Or turn right and drive deeper?

The rain pelts the windshield so hard and fast that all I can see of the twisted road is a vague blur as the back and forth whine of wipers strains to keep up. Its a half an hour drive until I reach the signs for Balanced Rock. The white noise of the rain on the roof soothes, bringing on a Zen-like state where time doesn’t matter.

A beam of sun announces that the deep blue of the desert sky is reclaiming some of its’ territory. The rain recedes into the distance. I roll down the window. The clean scent of wet desert earth washes up through my nostrils and breezes into my lungs. Everything feels lighter. Cleaner, better. The clouds range high above to the southeast, piled up on top of each other. The sun shines down, reflecting through the water vapor. The smooth vibrant tones of a Rainbow form behind the rock. The car door swings open with a slight creak. Canon in hand the rainbow pulls me forward. The cracked red plain feels cool under my feet.

Photograph, Arches National Park, UT
Photo by Helene Lohr, Arches National Park, UT, 2012

 

The rocky plain warms up in the sun. Rivers of water are dying quickly to rivulets, the cracks in the rock of the desert floor drinking up their life blood. Pools of vanishing water reflect the dramatic sky. I shoot for hours, barely noticing as the occasional car makes a hum in the distance – people slowly filtering back in to explore the park.

I reach the trailhead to Delicate Arch as the sun swings low down the horizon. The sandy trail is perfect. I throw my shoes into my backpack, swing it up onto my shoulders, nestle tripod into the notch of my right shoulder. Some of the tourists have ventured back into the park and I nod my way past surprised looks as I run barefoot up the trail past them. Bare toes digging deliciously into the wet sand soil, I book it up the trail towards Delicate Arch as the sun sets behind me.

The sun beats me up the trail. At the Arch a raven struts along the smooth golden red bowl below. The gold fades to yellow, then gray. The crowd sifts away. I’m left alone with a brilliant splash of stars and the dark silhouette of the rock surrounding me. I don’t have my timer for a long exposure to capture the stars, but that doesn’t matter now. Now is not the time for photos… I lay back into the rock, rest my head against the rough stone and soak in its’ warmth. I have my headlamp, my gear and my backpack. In a few hours, I’ll head back down, check in at the friendly little Rustic Inn. But now? I’m over the Rainbow… This is as good as it gets.

 

 

You Won’t Meet Charlie

Charlie: Traveling with music in your heartYou won’t meet Charlie if you speed on by.

If you book your regular cushy first class seat on the plane you’ll cruise above him at a cool 30,000 feet. Cruising along the Interstate you’ll blaze right on by without a moments thought. Even if you pull off the highway and do run into him, most likely you’ll look right through him – just one more hippie biker in Garberville, CA – just one more person you don’t trust enough to interact with and don’t really have time for anyway.

You’d be missing out.

Missing out on music that touches your soul. Just try it. Sit on a curb outside the 76 station. Breathe in the sensation of it. The curb is gritty under your fingers. Hear high notes swirling all around you– a man playing for the sheer joy of it. Close your eyes and take it in. The sharp smell of gasoline and grease, the slightly warm cement of the curb supporting you, feet in the gutter, your ears grasping to capture every sound. You lean into the music. No tickets, no crowds, no seats- your own private concert.

Video: Charles Ervin Keys: Traveling with music in your heart

I’ve noticed that it’s so damn easy to miss out on the good things in life. So easy to opt for the comfort of anonymity, of minimizing contact and risk, the convenience of speeding through our lives to get the the parts that we think matter. I’m not saying you have to give up these conveniences, just be aware what you are doing- and that you might be missing something of value.

My advice?

Next time slow down and wake up to your own life. Are you really living it or just speeding through?

A Bridge to Everywhere

Bridges to Adventure, Photograph, Navajo Bridge, AZ
Photo by Helene Lohr, Navajo Bridge, AZ, 2010

I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within. ~Lillian Smith

Travel is a bridge to everywhere. Not just to the spaces on the other end of the road. Not just through the woods and across the ocean. If we let it, it can be a bridge that reaches within as well as outwards into the world. If we live it, if we dare to truly experience other places, other people, other languages and cultures with an open mind we must expand our way of thinking.

As your mouth hesitantly tries out the slippery syllables of a new language, as you roll a new taste across your tongue, as your eyes drink in the world around you, you become wider, larger, simply more, than you were a moment before. The adventure is not simply “out there” but also within yourself.

Truly letting yourself experience the world around you will inevitably open you up to different ways of thinking, of questioning lifelong assumptions, of realizing that not only could you be wrong, but that you often are. Tolerance, understanding and an odd peace take root in your soul. If you’re lucky you can tap into that understanding in the future. Travel can be a bridge to everywhere… if you let it.

 

 

 

One Scoop of Heaven

Sorbeteria Castiglione: heavenly gelato in Bologona

A scoop of utter delight. A Cioccolato so rich and dark, that I’m sure it’s the true essence of chocolate melding with my taste buds in utter ecstasy. It’s one of those moments that you remember, when all your senses become more intense. The buzz of mopeds whizzing by, the sunlight reflecting warmth off of the golden red buildings and down into the alleyway, and my heavenly first taste of chocolate gelato from La Sorbetteria Castiglione in Bologna. Oh yeah, it was that good. Angels should be blowing golden trumpets, because I’d arrived at the pearly gates.

Gelato is a uniquely Italian art. The original traditions, techniques and machines for making the perfect gelato were developed in Italy. The flavors themselves are like the italian people- both serious and mischievous, with passion and subtlety all rolled up into one. If you’ve had truly good artisan gelato, it’s an experience that you will remember.

At Carpigiani Gelato University, just outside of Bologna, my dear friend Gina (@suuperg of Gitanablog ), the awesome @jeanettekramer of Latitude Travel and I got the chance to dive into this wonderfully addictive world of icy sweetness. Even though I’ve sworn off of sugar in all other areas of my diet, for real Italian gelato I’d decided to make a very special exception!

Our lovely guide Valentina smiles and gestures into the large work bay, explaining the Carpigiani philosophy: the entire mission of the University is education in the making delectable artisan Gelato, in the spreading of the Italian culture of good taste and the choice of quality ingredients over ‘fast food’.

Gelato University Carpigiani, Bologna Italy

Unfortunately the fast food culture has reached even into the arena of gelato. There are a lot of “fake” gelatos out there. Many companies use substandard materials, using unnatural ingredients to boost flavor, fillers to thicken the mouth feel, and preservatives to increase shelf life of their “product”. Carpigiani University of Gelato has entered the fray to combat this trend with their long history of sweet excellence. At Carpigiani, the makers of gelato are true artisans, crafting new favors in accordance with traditional principles of respect for their ingredients and their craft.

We walk towards the classrooms through a corridor above the factory floor. We pass machines old and new- a walk through the history of the craft from machines powered by hand cranks to the latest digitally controlled models. The long tradition of the company is reflected along the hallway.

In the lecture hall Gelato Professor Luciano Ferrari picks up a glowing yellow lemon from a table absolutely covered in vibrantly fresh fruit. My mouth waters. He holds it up for the students and tosses it lightly into the air. It will be their mission to transform this fruit into delicious gelato using a combination of scientific formulas and pure unbridled creativity. As professor, he will be the one to judge them on consistency, flavor, texture and presentation. (Sort of like a of an “Iron Chef-Gelato” competition).

Luciano Ferrari, professor at Gelato University Carpigiani, Bologna Italy

Luciano paces at the front of the room, occasionally stopping to write at the easel. With lively gestures emphasizing each of his points, he discusses the true essence of gelato. Behind the simplicity of the fresh ingredients, there’s a complexity of factors that go into making truly mouth waiting gelato: science, art and cultural understanding. True gelato is dense and flavorful, with natural components, no preservatives. Its fresh ingredients lasts no more than a week.

Science and art are happily married at a true gelateria. The focus is on creativity and passion combined with quality and precision. Students must ingrain the formulas for melting points, the effects of alcohol, the amount of sugar, cream, fruit into their brains. How to make gluten free, sugar-free and a whole host of gelato varieties and still make them equally tantalizing is a key concern. Any ingredient can be used, but one must consider its unique physical and chemical properties… Mouth feel, melting point, color and texture are all critical.

The class breaks up for the lab section and the air is filled with the chatter of a dozen languages. The program is filled with mix of Italian and International students sharing their enthusiasm for this Italian art. When they open their own gelateria they will become ambassadors of Italian gelato culture, good taste and quality food all over the world. Carpigiani’s plan to spread gelato culture worldwide has already proved wildly successful. Enrollment has doubled in the last 3 years and graduates are opening up artisan gelateria from California to Singapore.

Amazingly fresh fruit gelato ingredients

 

We watch as the fresh ingredients are transformed. Examined, picked, chopped, blended to a smooth and creamy consistency, churned and chilled to the perfect temperature. Did I mention before that my mouth was watering?

Luciano’s laughing eyes become serious, considering, as he tastes the gelato offerings of the students. You get the feeling that, for him, enjoying gelato is not only fun, but also a matter of pride, of true dedication. He offers critiques: “Good starting flavor, but unpleasant aftertaste… Good overall taste, but too cold and hard… Not enough pistachio… Too much pineapple”, and finally, (In response to a hazelnut gelato that nearly made my knees go weak) a “Perfecto!”, accompanied by a broad smile.

The many moods of Gelato Professor Luciano Ferrari

This is the essence of slow food, an ultimate delight. It is a celebration of pure fun, pure joy in the intense flavors. The tart flavors of lemon, tangy raspberry, sweet pineapple and tantalizing pistachio all melt in my mouth. This is a real treat: the chance to savor passion and creativity in every spoonful, every mouth watering bite a treasure to be discovered and enjoyed as the complex flavors dissolve on my tongue.

Gelato University students (and @suuperg on the right) master the art of the perfect artisan Gelato

 

At the end of the day, Valentina drives us home to our apartment in the heart of Bologna. As the sun sets orange and red on the Piazza Maggiore late in the evening and the laughter of friends echos across the square, we all know it’s time for just one more gelato. Delizioso!