Day 17: Mountains & Mini Towns

Gorgeous day — many, many miles covered.  Little one and two shot towns.  If I was a landscape or cloud photographer, I would have taken thousands of photos today.  But I took less than 100.  A normal day, I shoot about 150 or 200.  About 99% of them are used either at the blog or the website.  I don’t futz around taking different angles of things.  I just stop, hop out, take one or two photos and back on the road.  Signs I usually only take one photo.  Buildings usually two.  But for something complex, I might take five.   For a one-photo stop, I’m usually there for 30 seconds.  Sometimes, like today, I’ll drive an hour or two just for that 30 second photo.  Nuts, huh?

But despite the low volume of shooting today, I’ve got a bunch of photos for you.  The day started in Salida — so let’s begin there.  Maybe the smallest Elks sign I’ve ever seen — usually they’re two or three times as big:



Also Salida and another fairly small sign.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a forked arrow tail like this one before:



Moving on to Alamosa.  Probably repainted a time or two — and there must have been neon there, too.  I’m guessing that the pole on the right was what I call a “light stick” with flashing bulbs running along its length:


On the building itself — this imprisoned neon sign behind wire mesh.  I believe this protection solution preceded today’s plexiglass:



I have to include this one simply because I had a Chihuaha named Spuddy.  He came with the name.  Whereas this sign was obviously changed from something else TO Spuddy:



From Fort Garland:  a Tastee-Freez cone sign lopped off from its horizontal text sign and reused here by Old West Cafe:



Also Fort Garland — this place looks like it’s been closed for a while.  I’m glad I got to see it before it gets repainted into something lifeless:



On to Alamosa.  The “Campus” is a reference to the nearby Adams State College.  We all know two signs are better than one.  The restaurant is on a side street and I guess they thought this would help make them more visible:



A funky Safeway sign & building:



Gabe’s was originally a hunting & fishing store — hence the fishie inside the circle:



Another wire mesh encased sign:



Moving on to Center.  This street light is located smack dab in the town square.  It doesn’t work anymore but I guess the town is attached to it.  The lettering on it looked 1930s or 1940s.  Seems like a crazy amount of mechanisms for what it did:



Also in Center:  a nice Art Deco number – the Haskin Medical Building:



A great freestanding neon arrow:



A quick little foray into New Mexico for some stuff that was too remote for the spring trip & closer to Colorado.  From Antonito, NM:  Cano’s Castle (aka the Jesus Castle and the Beer Can House).  Folk art obsession using hub caps & other metal stuff.  Sucky time of day to shoot it.



While in Antonito —  this was a bit of a mind-blower.  Like the clock had been turned back 150 years or so.  Now, I know nothing about trains — but this was very impressive.   Seemed to be pulling a load of coal. The engineer (that is what you call them, right?) blew the whistle (I think that’s right) LOUD and there was all this smoke and craziness for a few minutes as it chugged through the intersection.  Wow!  You can ride this thing or just go visit the trains:



From Chama, NM.  The Y Motel is at a Y intersection.  Hard to shoot with the pine trees:



From Tierra Amarilla — what’s left of a Valentine diner.  Completely gutted inside.  Very sad:



From Dulce, NM with the dark clouds moving in:



We arrived at our final destination of Pagosa Springs, CO in mixed weather.  Rainy one second, sunny the next.  Guess that’s life in the mountains.  Neat double-outline neon:



And I found a big field for the kids before we called it a night.  I got this gigunda Chuck-it toy before this trip.  It comes in really handy for the hard-of-seeing Nik when the grass is deep.   It’s very light but hard to throw with my kids’ sized hands — so I mostly use it as a kickball.



And Fixie decided to pass on this outing.  “You guys go ahead, I’ll just wait here.  I’ll hold it til you find some real grass.”



More mountains tomorrow.  Probably two or three more days in Colorado and then on to the Wyoming part of the trip.  Since we arrived early, I banged through Flickr & this post and am off to bed just after 11 pm.  That’s a first!

10 thoughts on “Day 17: Mountains & Mini Towns

  1. I don’t understand the traffic light, either. Was the light functional? Looks like a vertical turbine pump underneath, which would have a long impeller shat below the ground (used for example to pump water fom a reservoir to say an elevated tank). Yet, the large discharge pipe is capped off. Maybe it is a fire pump? Note the smaller valves which might fit fire hoses. If so, maybe the light is used when it is in operation. Or, maybe they needed a heavy freestanding light support and the old pump assembly got recycled to ballast the frame?

    • No. the light was not operational. Hmm, yes, maybe a pump of some sort. So maybe it’s an art assemblage. Though I don’t know if they HAVE art in Center. Very tiny town and not artsy at all.

  2. Hi… The car behind the steam engine is called a tender. The tender carries the coal that is used to run the engine. It must have been really strange to see it.

    You have a great eye for the remnants of the past.

  3. Great post! Love the shot of the Cumbres & Toltec, I’ll get back to that in a minute.

    That traffic light/whatever-the-heck-it-is is certainly interesting. I know of a small town in Illinois that has a water pump right in the middle of the intersection! If you ever go through downtown Waukesha, Wisconsin (my advice: don’t, unless you have a trained guide to get you through some of Waukesha’s wacky intersections), you will find a five-point intersection; someone once had the bright idea to put a gazebo right smack in the middle of said intersection! At the time, all the streets were one-way; thankfully, common sense prevailed, the gazebo got moved closer to the Fox River, and all streets are now two-way — though you’ll still find scars in the streets from the angled parking that once necessitated the one-way traffic… Regardless, while you won’t find the gazebo in the intersection anymore, there are a couple neat things in downtown Waukesha worth noting, such as the neatly restored Gettelman Beer (now known as Miller Lite) sign on the side of a building, an IOOF hall, and the lettering on the Waukesha State Bank that would make a rather dramatic photo if I ever have the time, conditions, and equipment all lined up!

    Anyways, back to the C&TS: I once had a boss who was very fascinated with the C&TS since it is NARROW GAUGE, i.e. the distance between the rails is a mere 3 feet, as opposed to the 4’8½” of pretty much every other major railroad in North America. As mentioned above, it is the tender that is hauling coal as a fuel source for the steam engine; the tender also carries the water for making the steam. The coal is transported into the firebox by way of the fireman, who shovels the coal from the tender into the firebox; some newer engines used a stoker, an auger-like device that somewhat automatically moved coal from the tender into the firebox (and made the fireman’s job a lot easier). And yes, it is the engineer who gets to blow the whistle.

    • I have been to Waukesha at least a couple times. Some things that I have shot: a former A&W:
      John's Root Beer
      the bank you might be talking about:
      Waukesha State Bank
      and at my website, I know there’s a giant cow, the now demolished Bartles-McGuire gas station, and maybe more. Try a key word search (bar at the top of every page) for more Waukesha stuff. In case you weren’t aware, it’s:

      I don’t normally shoot painted wall signs, street lights, or trains. They are not subjects for the website. But I sometimes shoot them for the blog if the light is right, they pop up in front of me, and the mood moves me.

      If you have other suggestions, please send them to my email address: rather than a lengthy blog comment. Thanks!

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