Grand Canyon 2019, Day 4

Tuesday, July 2

I have heard you wondering, “Dale,” you wonder, “what on earth possessed you to go to the Grand Canyon for the week of the Fourth of July?”

It’s a fair question, and you will recall that one of the items on my non-existent bucket list was to watch a lightning storm come over the Canyon. What does it look like? Have a look.

So I called out to the Lodge to make reservations so that I could talk to a person. After making sure he was actually in the Park and not in a cubicle in Dubuque, I explained my goal; he laughed and assured me that if that’s what I wanted, I was coming at the right time.

“But Dale,” you expostulate, “it’s the Fourth of July! What about the crowds? And the heat??”

Again, fair questions.

The Weather Channel app on my phone had a practical hardon for 100°+ temperatures for the week. Every day I’d check, and every day I’d check it to see if it had ameliorated its position. Nope: 104°, 102°, 99°, maybe some low 90s later in the week.

The other weather app on my phone (Hello Weather) claimed it was going to be much milder, but Weather Channel insisted: we were going to melt.

It was not until we began packing that Weather Channel gave up the pretense and admitted, well, yes, the whole week was going to top out at the mid-80s, with lows in the 50s. And so it has been: warm, but not hellatious, and cold enough at night that the Lovely First Wife thinks it’s perfect. (Once we got here, the Weather Channel continued its snark with warnings of rain that simply didn’t exist.)

And crowds? Not so much. Yes, the tour buses disgorge the daytrippers, and the area around the ice cream shop is sometimes crowded, but nothing like Disney World or Manhattan or the Vatican. And when the daytrippers get back on their buses, it’s more like a private resort than anything else.

You remember the Vatican, right?

So while your mileage may vary, we can recommend the week of the Fourth for a Grand Canyon vacation.

Today (Tuesday) we had decided that we would drive over to Cameron. The Lovely First Wife is addicted to travel books, and her book jocularly recommended Cameron as being not much more than the “trading post” and gallery. Sure, we thought, we’ll drive over to Cameron, look at the trinkets, then drive back to the Desert View tower and work our way back along the canyon.

It wasn’t until we had woken and were getting ready that we remembered that the Cameron Trading Post was where the all-day marathon tour from two years ago stopped on the way back to Tusuyan.[1] Oh well, might as well go check it out.

What I at least had forgotten was that the trading post had really nice stuff, mostly nicer than the run-of-the-mill gift shops (although they had plenty of cheap tacky fun stuff too). And the gallery is just that: high end jewelry and Native American artifacts worth a fortune. Like that Navajo cape? A mere $69,000. That kind of thing.

There is a lodge there, and since we were not on a tour schedule we explored the area. There’s a lovely garden behind the gallery, part of the lodge.

And behind the lodge, the beginnings of the Canyon, or at least a example of the early geologic processes that formed the Canyon.

(That’s not a road, it’s a wash.)

On the way back, we stopped by a still-under-construction roadside park, the Little Colorado River viewpoint. Here the Canyon really gets going.

Back at the Canyon, we headed to the first thing you get to when you come in the East Entrance: the watch tower, designed by Mary Colter. This gem was part of the whole tourism push by the gang back in the 1920s.

We’ve been here twice before, of course, but the interior is still stunning.

It is twenty miles away from the Village, so it would have been a literal daytrip for our predecessors. But it would have been worth it.

It is here that the Colorado River—for reasons still unknown—took a sharp right turn and dug a trench.

The Park Service does a very good job of providing context for what you’re looking at: geology, history, natural history. The view in this next photo is of Hance Rapids, one of the gnarliest passages on the river. It drops three stories in its flight.

Let’s take a closer look:

See the white water? Look at the rock layer where it starts. Follow the rock layer straight downriver. Notice where the river goes. That’s a ride.

A hoodoo, for you:

One of my pro tips for the Canyon is to drive out to the Tower, then drive back, stopping at every viewpoint. You might wonder what difference a mile or two makes. Trust me, it makes a difference even if you’re looking at the same piece of the Canyon. For one thing, the light will have changed even in the short time it took you to drive.

Here’s a hoodoo known as The Duck.

Once back in the Village, we decided it would be our nice night out. We dressed up and headed to El Tovar, where we had reservations in the Dining Room.

Pro tip: If you’re going to bring nice pants to wear for an evening out, remember to pack nice shoes. Otherwise, you have to fall back on city chic with jeans, white shirt, and jacket, to go with your sneakers.

I rarely take pictures of my food, but this dish: grilled trout with a pickled ginger sauce, jasmine rice, and snap peas. Oh my.

Sorry, no sunset photo today. We were busy wallowing in first class dining.

—————

[1] Although curiously I made no mention of it at the time.

Grand Canyon 2019, Day 3

Monday, July 1: It’s Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s 277th birthday!

I went out to sit by the canyon and work on yesterday’s post, but it was a little chilly so early in the morning, so I thought I’d mosey over to the lodge and type. (The Lovely First Wife was still asleep.)

But my way was blocked.

Two young mule deer standing in the parking lot, unsure of what to do next. “I don’t know, Becky, why don’t you ask him?” “No, you. Is that a tick on your flank?”

A trio of guys came up the other end of the parking lot. They stopped. The deer dawdled. Finally a car started up the lot, and they took action, springing away to… the nearest patch of grass.

After breakfast, we hopped the Blue Route over to the Visitor Center for the Critter Talk, a ranger-led chat for children. This one involved the pelt of a javalina, a smallish wild pig that flocks in the park. The main point was to leave the wildlife alone; we were reminded that the squirrels are the most dangerous. (When the children were asked to name the three predators of javalinas, they stalled out after mountain lions and coyotes, so I suggested squirrels. I was ignored.)

It was decided after the Critter Talk that we’d hop on the Blue Route and go see what the General Store had to offer. The first eight seats on the buses are reserved for the elderly and the handicapped, and if you’re sitting in one that’s needed you are expected to vacate the seat for the less young and healthy. This particular bus driver was eager to assist the elderly, apparently, because he told two young people to rise and let us have their seats. We informed him that we were not that elderly.

At the General Store, I was looking for a carabiner clip to make it easier for me to get my water bottle off my satchel, and the Lovely First Wife is always looking for something. The General Store has a complete collection of camping equipment, plus a grocery store, and you may recall that in Arizona they are sensible and sell liquor where it’s most convenient. So in addition to the clip I bought these:

They will have to wait until we get home for an evaluation. I’m not flying with open bottles of anything.

Of course, some believe that a suitcase full of cloth is not cushion enough; the Lovely First Wife went into the post office to buy bubble wrap, and while I waited, the surface of the bench I was sitting on attracted my attention:

The weathering of the wood reminded me of the topography of the Canyon, and it led me to a Deep Thought: the beauty of the Canyon is the result of a half a billion years of loss, not only along the main path of the Colorado River, but also from the tributaries along the way. Without the loss of those trillions of tons of rock and sand, now somewhere at the bottom of the Gulf of California, there would be no Grand Canyon.

I’m sure there’s a philosophical point to be made here. Maybe it will come to me.

More flowers:

And these:

The one on the right looked like it might be a relative of tobacco.

Back in the Village, our first stop was the Kolb Studio.

The Kolb Brothers, Ellsworth and Emery, were part of the first tourist booms in the 1910s and 20s, settling on photography as their thing. They built a small studio at the head of Bright Angel trail and sold photos of the mule trains to the tourists, more or less the same as the roller coasters at Disney World.

Not only that, but they boosted tourism to the Canyon by taking many of the first photographs of the Canyon, followed by movies. Their one-room studio grew to a five-story structure perched on the canyon wall, including a lovely home for Emery and his wife, plus an auditorium for lectures and movies. That room is now an exhibit:

The boat is a “lightweight” collapsible boat they designed for their trips down the river. It is worth noting that the first time they did this they had absolutely no experience as river runners. And the immense amount of camera equipment and film they had to schlep here and yon was confounding.

Also note the amazing PR that the brothers did for the Canyon: hooking up with Fred Harvey, the National Geographic Society, and others, to spread the word of the the Canyon (and therefore their business) far and wide.

Up the hill from the Studio is the Lookout, designed by Mary Colter. Here I’d like to rave about her architecture for a moment.

Here is the Lookout:

As many times as I have walked past it, it was only yesterday that I noticed:

There’s a system of terraces beneath it on the canyon wall, made from the debris from the construction of the Lookout.

Her whole thing was to grow her buildings out of the land, looking like part of the landscape.

The view from the Lookout:

Colter’s work is organic, natural, completely of its place, and beautiful.

Contrast this, then, with the Thunderbird and Kachina Lodges, built in the 60s (I’m guessing), squatting between Colter’s Bright Angel Lodge and El Tovar:

Why did anyone think Brutalist anything was appropriate for the rim? I keep thinking that maybe they were wanting to bring the Canyon “up to date.” After all, they were mining uranium at the time over near Hermit’s Rest—and are still cleaning up that mess. The only advantage I can see to these institutional hotels is that some of their rooms actually overlook the canyon. Still, the whole thing is sore-thumb tasteless compared to the rest of the Village.

A little flower:

Prickly pears in bloom:

El Tovar’s front entrance:

El Tovar is a lovely old pile, all timber and stone. Very Teddy Roosevelt.

We had lunch on the cocktail lounge veranda, meeting a nice couple from Madison, WI, and their two adorable sons, along with the wife’s father who now lives in Sedona. Of the five adults there, three of us were theatre majors and four of us were educators.

Another cactus in bloom:

I could not resist. You know who you are.

We decided to go check out the Shrine of the Ages, an interdenominational chapel next to the Park cemetery. When we got there, it was not open, but I could peer enough in to see that it’s just a plain auditorium without much to recommend it.

While we were waiting for the shuttle back to the Village, an elk began his afternoon munching. The Lovely First Wife got a few shots; I got this one from the shuttle. (Drivers always stop for elk photos.)

The sun began to set, and we decided to walk along the rim trail toward Yavapai Point to see the sunset.

On the way, the Lovely First Wife snagged this portrait of a lizard, species unknown:

—photo credit Lovely First Wife —

I would like to make a point with the next two photos.

These are the canyon edges, as in it’s a straight drop of a couple thousand feet right there. Nothing—I repeat, nothing—keeps you from walking right up to the edge. Common sense, perhaps. Humankind’s innate fear of edges of heights, maybe. But there are no constraints. Radical self-reliance, as we say in Burner Land.

Here’s an interesting photo:

Along the Rim Trail, as we said previously, there is the Walk of Time. One of the displays talked about about two billion years of missing geologic time: erosion simply wore away the surface of the earth, then deposited new stuff on the old. That’s what you’re seeing here. See the white stripe in the middle of the mesa, that just sort of stops short of the top? That’s where layers of rock were pushed up, as tectonic action is apt to do, and then the mountains that were created thereby (think the Himalayas, which are still growing) were completely eroded flat, becoming seabeds—and new layers were laid down on top of that.

That’s awesome, isn’t it?

We reached a pretty cool place to watch the sunset with a bunch of other people.

As usual, the Canyon is at its most seductive at sunset.

And the sunset was lovely.

We walked back in the dusk to the Village and had a simple supper in the Harvey Cafe at Bright Angel, then to bed.

Grand Canyon 2019, Day 2

When you go to bed at 9:30 a.m MST (1:30 EDT), then you’re apt to wake at 5:00 a.m. and encounter the sun.

The wifi here is incredibly slim and slow—the notebook in our room describes it as “variable”—which is not surprising, since we’re so remote that everything here has to be trucked in from somewhere else. (In the early days, they had to ship in water.) I have taken to prepping the photos for these posts at the end of the day and then let the laptop grind away trying to upload them overnight. Even then, the connection is spotty. Thank you for bearing with me.

You will see lots of plants today, because I like plants. I’d love to take a botanical tour of the area: names, uses, weirdnesses. Amazingly, the park does not have such a thing. I should retire here and volunteer, after learning the plants, of course.

First up, a thistle in near bloom:

Then this plant:

Close up you can see that it flowers, and then the flowers explode into these little Truffula trees:

They are quite beautiful.

Our main adventure today was to hop on the shuttle that goes out to Hermit’s Rest, the farthest outpost of most tourists. (Trails of course go on forever.) Regular traffic is not allowed out on this road, although you can bike it.

Have a map:

That’s the whole South Rim. Zoom in:

The shuttle stops at a series of lookout points along the way, which are also connected by hiking paths. That’s on the way out; the shuttle stops at only three stops coming back in, so if you’ve decided to hike it and then want to give up, you’ve got to struggle on to one of the pickup points to get back.

Here was our first view, from Trailview Overlook:

That’s the entire Village across the way.

Here’s the Bright Angel Trail zigzagging its way down. It was full of hikers and mule trains and, we heard later, at least one elk making his way up against the flow of traffic.

The Bright Angel Trail is a monster, a 70-mile hike from rim to rim. The Lovely First Wife did go down the first little bit for her morning walk, but it was the coming back up that confirmed our belief that the Bright Angel Trail is best admired from afar.

We continued our trek west. Maricopa Point:

More flowers. I like the way these little asters’ centers turned from yellow to maroon as they matured.

This is sage.

Ignoring the cicada, what interested me here was the belated realization that I was looking at the plant used to make smudge sticks for us hippies to use. I think I had not seen the plant when it was sending up these shoots, which are the part used to make the smudge. When I rubbed one, it gave off that wonderful incense smell.

Unidentified flower:

This was our first view of the canyon that did not include the parts we’re used to seeing, i.e., we had traveled outside the boundaries of the familiar.

—Click to embiggen—

Here’s a random shot.

You are less than 100 feet from the rim of the Grand Canyon. Look again. This is one of the remarkable things about the place: you can’t see the canyon until you are literally at the edge. It’s not like the beach, where you can catch glimpses of it between buildings or watch it get closer as you drive to your condo. It’s just not there—until it is.

More sage:

Since it’s a federal offense to take plants, animals, or animals from the park, I would never even think of plucking a couple of sprigs. How dare you suggest such a thing!

At Powell Point, there was what appeared to be a pagan altar where tree-hugging liberals sacrifice conservative babies. You know how we do.

Upon closer inspection, however, it turned out to be a monument honoring Major John Wesley Powell, the one-armed Union officer who led the expedition to explore the entire canyon in 1869. If you haven’t ever learned his story, take the time to find a video about the expedition. It’s pretty hair-raising.

More canyon. Always more canyon. This shot is of the Battleship, where the California condors nest. You can often see them riding the currents below you. Only once have I seen one above me.

Obligatory ‘where the sidewalk ends’ photo:

We walked the first three or four stations. Views as always were spectacular.

If you look carefully here, you’ll see one of my lizard friends. He was closer but scurried before I could get my phone out.

Here’s an incredible view of the great lower plateau with the river’s gash in the middle of the canyon:

And a broader shot:

—Click to embiggen—

Finally, after hopping back on the shuttle, we made it to Hermit’s Rest, one of the original buildings designed by Mary Colter.

It may astonish you to know that although the Canyon was made a National Park in 1919, it had been an extremely popular tourist destination for years before that. A couple of entrepreneurs built hotels, enticed the Acheson, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad (along with their restaurateur Fred Harvey (and his Harvey Girls)) to build a line straight into the area, and here we are.

Hermit’s Rest was built as a daytrip in the 1920s; you’d pile into the wagon and get taken out along the rim to this place, where you were served a meal in splendid isolation. You could then go even further to a campground if you liked.

Nowadays, Hermit’s Rest is a gift shop and snack bar. (You can still keep hiking if you like.)

Back in the Village, we opted for the “soda fountain” in the rear of Bright Angel Lodge, sitting on the stone wall at the rim to dine al fresco.

Later in the day, we saw this sign:

It was merely the most extreme of the signs warning us not to indulge the squirrels (although the one defining the beasts as carriers of plague was pretty stern).

So here is one of them.

Here’s another trying to eat my Lovely First Wife.

She was completely unaware she was about to be devoured. I shooed it away, but it was persistent.

Pro tip: If you blow in its little face, it will finally take the hint and go away.

At 2:15 there was a demonstration of Navajo music and dance outside of Hopi House, next to El Tovar. We went early to wander through Hopi House, designed by Mary Colter as a display/gift shop for Native American crafts. It was a replica/homage to Hopi dwellings (in stark contrast to El Tovar’s ‘rustic chic’) and it’s still a gift shop.

Upstairs is an odd little room, blocked off from entry, a Hopi “altar room.” You can peer into it; accompanying signage identifies its history (a white missionary collected and preserved native artifacts) but gives no clue as to what kind of “altar” it was, i.e., neither the kinds of rituals performed there nor the psychoactive substances that might be involved.

The Navajo demonstration was a sensitive blend of education and gentle reminder of American history vs. native history. (It was also a clever mix of entertainment and prompts for tips.) The narrator/singer/drummer’s father was a Code Talker during WWII, so the patriotic material was unforced; the narrator sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Navajo, quite well.

One of the prayers he sang, once he translated for us, turned out to be a Navajo song I have in my Book of the Labyrinth, with the recurring phrase “I will walk in beauty.”

His son and grandson danced a couple of dances. And then the son danced a hoop dance. Oh my. Here’s the first hoop:

In and out, up and down, he finessed that hoop over, under, around, and through his body in ways I cannot begin to describe. And then he started picking up the other hoops, one after another, slipping in and out of all of them, linking them with his body until he had all eight woven into a bloom or globe around his head. I have no photos of all this because I was too entranced. You’ll have to come see it yourself.

Afterwards, we decided to hop on the Blue Route shuttle and just ride the whole loop. We saw a great deal of the park’s infrastructure that unless you know where to look—or even what to look for—you’d miss it entirely.

We hopped out at the main Visitor’s Center, did some shopping at the Conservancy store, then went on up to Mather’s Point to—what else?—see the Canyon. It was shortly before sunset…

…and the Canyon was as usual unbelievably gorgeous.

Then, back on the shuttle to a lovely dinner at the Arizona Room, the nice steakhouse on one end of Bright Angel Lodge.

Another beautiful day at the Grand Canyon, topped off with a clear, brisk night and more stars than you need to keep from going insane at the grandeur of it all.

Grand Canyon 2019, Day 1, part 2

The flight to Phoenix was uneventful—my Lovely First Wife booked us first class seats! She was a little miffed when I dashed to the restroom before boarding, since it meant we were among the last of first class to board, and the whole point was to be one of those smug bastards already seated in our leg-roomy seats while the peasants file grimly past. I assured her there were plenty of peasants still to board.

Phoenix is a lovely little airport, not hard to negotiate. We got our rental car and headed north to Flagstaff.

Flagstaff is much as we left it a couple of years ago, with the Hotel Monte Vista right where we left it.

We ate at Bun Huggers, a burger place I knew about only because when I dropped my cello off for inspection at Vinylite downtown on Thursday, one of the guys there said he had lived in Flagstaff and helped build the it. (The Newnan Vortex™ strikes again.) The burgers were good. We recommend it.

Of course we went shopping: we bought chains for the silver pendants I made at Backstreet and a couple of books. All our favorite shops were still there, and I was sore pressed not to buy more sound makers from the shop full of singing bowls and things.

I loved this idea: the city has recycling…

…but look how they label the trash side:

You are committing to putting more stuff in the landfill. That’s a commitment none of us think about, is it?

The drive to the Canyon from Flagstaff is lovely, of course.

We passed on through Tusuyan, where we usually stay, and sailed through the park gate: lifelong Senior passes are the bomb. Once inside, we were almost immediately stopped by an ELKJAM!

These four were insouciant punk youngsters who were completely unconcerned that a) they were stopping traffic as they munched on grass next to the road; and b) they had their own crossing guard (a volunteer in a neon vest, whose picture we failed to get).

We checked in at the Bright Angel Lodge.

We lucked out and found a parking spot near our cabin, and as soon as I got out of the car, there it was, you guys.

My Lovely First Wife turned around, and I was gone. I had to go over to the rim. The effect is immediate: the sense of awe overwhelms you—you breathe more deeply—the immense complexity of the view has you in its grip.

We found our cabin, Cabin 6170.

It’s in a cluster of about a dozen cabins. Ours has its own bath, which apparently makes us royalty. Well, among the Bright Angel folk; real royalty stays at El Tovar up the road. When I booked this trip, there were rooms available at El Tovar, but none had windows overlooking the Canyon. I opted for the cabin. Also, it’s not air-conditioned, but does have a ceiling fan.

Soon we were back out at the rim.

See that last view? Look at this map.

See the little orange blob, where You Are? That’s the area of the Canyon you are seeing. THAT’S HOW BIG THIS PLACE IS, KENNETH.

For dinner we opted for snacks/drinks at the cocktail bar at Bright Angel. (That’s a Pomegranate Manhattan, which was more like a Cosmopolitan than not. A bit sweet.)

Then back out for a walk.

Click for a slightly larger version.

This is the centennial of the park, and the Park Service has done some improvements since we were here two years ago. One of these is the Walk Through Time, a look at the geology timeline of the canyon. Every meter or so there’s a little brass ring, indicating a million years of time. At the Village end of the trail, you start over 1,800 million years ago, and eventually you end up at the geology museum at the other end. (I think maybe you’re supposed to start there and work your way back in time.)

They have examples of rocks along the path, often tied to the view.

Every ten meters you get an update of how far back you’ve gone.

This particular rock demonstrates the immense pressure the rocks underwent during one period: that squiggly line was once a level layer of sedimentary rock.

Dead tree.

And then…

Sunset at the Canyon is one of the reasons you go there. We weren’t expecting a lot of this one, since there was a cloudbank, but one of the lessons of the Canyon is that you don’t just snap the photo and walk away to the next thing.

You wait.

You watch.

And then the sky turns to fire.

While below, the canyon begins to sink into monochromatic darkness.

Grand Canyon 2019, Day 1, part 1

And we’re off again![1]

This time we’re headed back out to Arizona to spend a week at the Grand Canyon, my second favorite place on the planet. (My first favorite is my labyrinth, of course.)

This will be our third trip to the Canyon and will be the longest time we’ve spent there, as well as being the first time we’ve stayed inside the park. This time we’re going because my very short bucket list includes watching a thunderstorm roll in over the Canyon while sipping a cocktail.[2]

We’re at the ATL, an hour before the flight leaves. Already it’s been an experience: when my bin came out of the security machine my hat was in someone else’s bin, and one of my shoes was four bins behind, all by itself. I’ve trained myself to bring a ziplock bag to put all my pocket stuff in, but I had to scramble because, mirabile dictu, even though PreCheck had failed to come through again, a line opened up right in front of me and I zoomed right into the bin area.

So I was flustered with the shoe and then with discovering that my little magnet thing that holds my glasses was missing, i.e., I had failed to remember to look for it since it didn’t get put into the ziplock bag.

Also my laptop.

Yep, I made it to the gate and sat down to write this blog post, only to discover I had no laptop. Somehow TSA had separated all my earthly possessions from the one bin and scattered them to and fro.

As it happened, it was no huge deal to get back to security to retrieve it. I mean, I did have to ask directions from no fewer than three people, but apparently this happens enough that everyone knows the drill. When I finally made it back to the main checkpoint, my laptop was sitting safe and secure at a desk you’ve probably never even noticed. I was asked to log in, and that was that.

Now to bear the unbearable miracle that is modern transcontinental flight. Next stop: Phoenix.

—————
[1] This is your customary warning that we leave the house fully protected. I always have to mention this since my Lovely First Wife insists that both readers of this blog are hardened burglars. You know who you are.

[2] You probably will need to keep that in mind as we mosey through the week.

The great message of spam you needed

I’m always excited to get an email saying there’s a comment that needs moderation because it means someone has read the blog and was moved to respond.

However, it’s almost always spam because—let’s face it—nobody really reads this thing. Fine. I continue to fill the universe with words it didn’t need FOR ITS OWN GOOD, KENNETH.

This time, the spam was brilliant in its ineptitude:

Undeniably imagine that that you stated. Your favourite justification appeared to be at
the web the simplest factor to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed
even as people consider issues that they plainly do not know about.
You controlled to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the
entire thing with no need side-effects , folks could take a
signal. Will likely be again to get more. Thank you

Is this not glorious? You’re welcome. “Hit the nail on the top” is now part of my lexicon. Probably “Folks could take a signal” as well.

Carry on.

(For the record, the URL of the commenter was bestbariatricsurgeon.org from Mumbai. And it was a comment on GinTonic No. 7.)

UPDATE, 3/24: Another spam message to be approved:

I felt any buzz from it, however, not off the wall. First,
you have to be experienced what unlimited hosting really means.
The instant their pr release released, the media frenzy began.

New Cocktail: the MDL GinTonic No. 7

I seem to have skipped MDL GinTonic Nos. 3–6. I’ll have to go back and try them again to make sure they’re worth posting.

However, MDL GinTonic No. 7 is a good one:

Half-consumed, but isn’t it a lovely color?

MDL GinTonic No. 7

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • .5 oz hibiscus-infused gin
  • .25 Violette syrup

It is distinctly floral without being sweet. I’m still thinking about bitters; I thought I had some 18•21 Bitters hibiscus bitters, but apparently I’m out.

Hibiscus-infused gin

This is stupid-easy: put some gin in a glass container, throw in some hibiscus buds, let it sit for an hour or two. Strain. Done.

Violette syrup

So you can see that this is kind of an Ultimate Gin gintonic, with three different approaches to gin all piling together.

Highly recommended.

New Cocktail: MDL GinTonic No. 2

MDL GinTonic No. 2

  • 1.5 oz London dry gin
  • .5 oz Galliano
  • .25 oz hibiscus-infused gin*
  • tonic water, lime wheel

Sweetness, then the floral bitterness of the hibiscus. This is a nice one.

* Dump a tablespoon or two of dried hibiscus into a cup or so of gin. Let steep for a couple of hours. It will turn dark red. (You could also do a light steep for pinker look, and that concoction is more drinkable on its own. The full steep is a bit much.)

New Cocktail: the MDL GinTonic No. 1

During our travels through Italy last fall, I was delighted to discover the European GinTonic: a gin and tonic with some differences, some tasty, tasty differences. First, it’s not served in a highball glass — it’s served in a big red wine glass. It’s got tons of ice, and rather more tonic than we use here in the States.

The big difference though is the palette that is offered by such a setup. Just as here, you have the full range of gins to start with — London dry, Old Tom, Plymouth, modern botanicals —and if you’re picky, the type of tonic water. Then you can add stuff: garnishes, other spirits, etc., and the sky is the limit. The result is a universe of flavors and sensations, and that is the universe I have begun exploring in a new series of cocktails. I’m calling them MDL GinTonics because my initials are MDL; it’s all about the branding, you see. I vacillate between ‘#’ and “No.” in the naming system, so historians, here’s your fair warning: there may be contradictory evidence in your research.

At the moment, I’m going with 1.5 oz of gin, .5 oz of some other spirit, and .25 oz of something else to add another layer. Stay tuned.

MDL GinTonic No. 1

  • 1.5 oz barrel-aged gin
  • .5 oz Amaro di Angostura
  • .25 oz Isle of Skye blended Scotch (slightly peaty)
  • tonic water
  • lime wheel

Stir the first three ingredients with ice, then strain into a balloon-shaped wine glass filled with ice. Add tonic water and lime wheel.

This GinTonic is very tasty, with the oak/woodiness of the gin forward, followed by the spiciness of the Amaro, and finally a return to the earthy/woodsy tones of the Scotch. It is now one of my favorite drinks.

Variation notes: I tried using Laphroaig instead of Isle of Skye, but the strength of that single malt was too much. I also tried bumping the Scotch up to .5 oz, but the drink is better, more subtle, at .25 oz.

Shopping notes: the Amaro Angostura is becoming more common in liquor stores catering to the cocktail crowd, but barrel-aged gin can be hard to find, and Isle of Skye is uncommon. Buy them when you see them!

UPDATE: Famous Grouse Smoky Black works as a substitute for Isle of Skye and is much more readily available.

Hey, Southtowne Marketing, can we talk?

Hey, Mark! Can I call you Mark? It’s OK if that’s not your name, because clearly you don’t know my name either.

How do I know that? Because you addressed the envelope like this:

That’s my first clue that you’re working off a database that only selects the first name, i.e., you don’t know me personally and probably only want me to give you money. Normally I can spot a computer-printed  “handwritten” address, but yours looked real enough. Sure, I thought, it’s possible that some minion out at Southtowne (to which I’ve been multiple times for minor reasons over the past few days) might have sent me a thank you note or a survey or summat. So I opened it.

Ah, a newspaper clipping! Sometimes local companies will do that, send you a clipping of something you’ve done that ends up in the Newnan Times-Herald. However, I haven’t done anything recently that has been in the paper. But this had a sticky note on it.

Again with the ‘Martin.’ And who the hell was ‘B’? Barbara? Bill? Burgoyne? At this point, it was clear that I had been scammed again. It was nothing more than an ad:

Sorry for the crumpled page. I was heading to throw it in the fire when I decided to blog about this.

So, someone sat down and went through a stack of Times-Heralds or other newspaper, tore this out, folded it, (artfully tearing the middle), wrote a sticky note, attached it, and mailed it to me?

Not quite.

If we look at the top of the page, we find that there’s no publication info. This is not from a newspaper.

Sure, it says it’s from ‘Automotive • D-6,’ but where’s the newspaper name? The date? This is clearly a fabricated ad.

Even more data:

It’s not even a real stock market report. It’s a picture of a stock market report.

So, Mark — if I can call you Mark — let’s talk.  Let me explain to you that far from making me want to hit your ‘sale’ (which is when, exactly? you give days and times, but no dates), this kind of thing makes me want to call out there and berate whoever answers the phone. It’s dishonest and scammy, right in line with those phone calls that start out with “DON’T HANG UP!” or “THIS IS NOT A SALES CALL.” You’re faking a personal connection to trick me into giving you my attention. It is fraudulent in intent. I have no beef with Southtowne — I love my Equinox, and my service rep (the inestimable Paul Hardegree) is a dream, and once I decide I need a new car, I will more than likely deal with the Southtowne sales staff than not — but Mark, you need to be fired. Your tactics are slimy and offensive, not what I’ve come to expect from Southtowne.

Sincerely yours,