If only all that ivory could tell stories. What sweet music did they once play? Was it mostly love songs, classics, jazz or something edgy? Whose fingers caressed them?
It takes a bit of imagination to think of these relics as something more than dusty pianos in a pseudo museum in the middle of Baja California Sur. In the literal sense, that is what they are – old pianos on display for 20 pesos (about $1) in the town of El Triunfo at the Museo de la Musica. But what were they like in their heyday?
There was a time when El Triunfo was a bustling mining town of more than 10,000 people. (Today there is just more than 300.) Music in the 1800s, like today, was a way to unwind after the work was done. Some of the pianos date back to then. The building is also from the 19th century. Europeans and Asians came here to work, some trying to get rich in the silver mines. They brought their culture, which included their music and instruments.
Museo de la Musica, which opened in December 2003, has an organ, horn and string instruments, and old records to complement the pianos.
One display says in English, “Monarck piano: Manufactured in 1880, appertaining to Verdugo family. This piano was kept (covered and hidden) by fear to the revolutionary army that was in a war from 1910. Stayed hidden along five years, and later was rescued and gotten ready to play again.”
A Wagner from 1937, a Steinway from 1857, a Wurlitzer – are all part of the display. The latter was donated by Carmen Romano de Lopez Portillo, first lady of Mexico from 1976-82.
Some pianos are simple, some more elaborate. With a little care, the wood could shine again. Fully restored, a single piano could be worth six figures in U.S. dollars. Most keys need some attention. Undoubtedly they all need tuning. While it’s understandable the public is asked not to touch these artifacts, a little attention might bring them back to life. More information would be helpful to understand their history.
Next to the display room is a concert hall of sorts with a grand piano on a stage three steps up from the main floor that is filled with folding chairs set for an audience. The museum on occasion hosts concerts. No schedule was available.
So much potential exists to make this museum a destination instead of an afterthought, especially with it being on the main road through town.
Note: This story has been updated since it was first published on Jan. 4, 2019.
Driving through El Triunfo it’s hard to believe this was once the largest town in Baja California Sur. Today there are about 300 residents. In its heyday in the late 1800s there were more than 10,000 miners. They came from the United States, Europe and China to strike it rich in the gold and silver mines.
Like so many mines of yesteryear, when the work was gone, so were the people. (The town was first settled in the 1500s.)
A series of mines once dotted the landscape. Today the major visible remnants of the past are the two smokestacks.
For the past few years there has been a concerted effort to bring the history of El Triunfo to life. It started with a private-public partnership to restore the nearly 155-foot-tall smokestack known as La Romana, while the other brick edifice is called Julia. While people claimed La Romana was designed by Gustav Eiffel, that has since been proved false. A sign near the base has been erected to help erase the myth. In part it says, “… there is no record of this structure in the Eiffel archives in France.”
The Museo Ruta de Plata (Silver Route Museum) that opened in November 2018 tells the story of this pueblo from 1750-1930. Interactive displays, oral stories by local residents, photographs, and stagnant artifacts spill forth in what becomes an interesting history lesson. Information is in Spanish and English.
Watching the short film (also available in both languages) is a good launching point for the main exhibit hall that is across the grounds.
The demise of mining in Baja California Sur is in part tied to the United States. The passage of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1890 saw the price of silver go from $1.16 per ounce to 69 cents. The legislation was eventually repealed in 1893. By that time, though, the effects were felt in Mexico, too.
Mexican miners also had to contend with other economic travails, devastating hurricanes, and the remote location of their spoils. Most mines in the Baja California Sur area had closed by 1920.
Since the museum opened, a trail to the smokestack and other remains has been created. It’s a fairly easy walk, with good signage. Informative panels in Spanish and English explain more history not contained at the museum. “The chimney was designed to achieve high temperatures for the wood fires used to process silver and gold, and to disperse toxic smoke away from the valley’s inhabitants to reduce public health risks.”
A tour of one of the mines is available, though a minimum of four people is required. This is arranged by calling the number on the sign outside the locked gate and waiting 10 minutes. With only two of us there that day, we didn’t get to go inside. We did keep walking the path that led to a wonderful view of the smokestacks and town. Headed in the other direction is the English cemetery, with large above ground structures and no markings to know who rests there. Chinese and Mexican graveyards are on the other side of town.
While mining may seem to be in the past, the resurrection of mines and exploration of new ones continues in Baja Sur. Mexico City-based Invecture Group with Vancouver, British Columbia-based Frontera Mining Company owns the Los Cardones open-pit gold mine near Todos Santos. The project has been in and out of the court system because of its environmental documents. Many locals are opposed to the project, fearing what it will do to the landscape, the flora and fauna in the sensitive and protected biosphere of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains, and the eventual impact to the town’s water supply that originates in those mountains.
- From Todos Santos, take Highway 19 toward La Paz. Take Highway 1 toward El Triunfo. (It’s well marked.) The highway goes through town. The museum is on Calle Ayuntamiento.
- Closed Tuesdays. Open 10am-5pm.
- Cost: non-residents 100 pesos, BCS residents 75 pesos. Annual memberships available and other pricing based on age.
- Restaurant and gift shop onsite.
Traditional chaise lounge? Chair resembling a bird cage for two or for one to stretch out in? Swinging cabana on the beach comfy enough to nap away the afternoon? Secluded chairs in the corners? Dining area? Float in the pool? Cement chair in the water in front of the bar? Those were the difficult decisions to be made – deciding where to hang out.
Resort-style lounging without the expense or the need to be in overcrowded, pricy Los Cabos. That’s what El Faro is all about.
Veterans of El Faro who got there before us knew to stake out multiple locations, including the front row at the pool. No problem. We learned quickly, taking chaise lounges in the second of two rows and a bird cage by the pool.
As we were getting comfortable a waiter brought us a menu and took our drink order. Pampered is what this day felt like, even without a massage. Attentive staff made sure our needs were met without being intrusive. No pressure to order anything. The only thing to do was relax, read a book, wonder what the rest of the world was doing.
Ample umbrellas provided relief from the hot sun.
While the pool is inviting, it is on the cool side. Too chilly to sit in the water at the bar.
It was the cabana on the beach that was the most difficult to leave. I would have gladly paid someone to gently push this bed of sorts to make it swing. The waves rippling onto the sand chased away all other sound. Add the slight breeze and canopy, sleep would have been an option had it been earlier in the day. Next time I would spend more time here; plus, it was away from the smokers.
It was the chain smoking Europeans who chased me away from El Faro. The pool area should be non-smoking, with smoking as far away from the majority of people as possible.
For 300 pesos (about $15) people can spend all day at this beach club and spa. Cost includes a towel, the pool and private beach, though this section of the Pacific Ocean is not recommended for swimming. Spa treatments are closer to U.S. prices so we passed on that option. No lodging exists here, though it is tied to Guaycura Boutique Hotel in Todos Santos. Those staying at the hotel may use El Faro’s amenities for free.
While reservations are encouraged, there is no guarantee of a poolside lounge chair – or any cushy seating. A good reason to get there early.
What can add up is the food/bar tab. Only water is allowed in from the outside. The margaritas were good, but cost more than at most restaurants in town. Sue indulged in the scallop tostada, saying it was yummy. I would recommend the French fries, which for those who know me, says a lot.
- Telephone: 612.1750800
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- El Faro is between Todos Santos and Pescadero at kilometer 54.
It seems like most days there is a huge cruise ship anchored in the bay at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. While there are days without a ship, they are becoming fewer.
In 2018, the port at Cabo San Lucas saw just more than 431,000 cruise ship passengers. This compares to five years earlier when the number was just less than 186,000.
Some of the ships having Cabo as a port of call include Royal Princess, Carnival Miracle, Seabourn Soujourn, MS Eurodam, Disney Wonder and Norwegian Bliss.
The ships are big money for this sector of Baja California Sur.
“For the entire 2014-15 cruise year, the estimated 211,410 cruise passengers who visited Cabo San Lucas spent a total of $18.2 million (U.S.) in Cabo San Lucas,” according to Business Research & Economic Advisors. That same year the 41,100 crewmembers who visited Cabo spent about $2 million.
Business Research & Economic Advisors conducted surveys of passengers and crew to ascertain the data for various cruise locations. While Cabo is growing in popularity with the cruising public, the Caribbean remains the No. 1 destination in the world.
The firm studied 35 ports in 2014-15, discovering that “cruise tourism generated $3.16 billion in direct expenditures, 75,050 jobs and $976 million in employee wages.” The report goes on to say, “The $22.4 million in total cruise tourism expenditures in Cabo San Lucas generated direct employment of 373 residents of Cabo San Lucas paying $2.5 million in annual wages.”
The area benefits from cruise ships paying port fees, taxes, needing navigation services, utilities and supplies. Collectively, the ships in 2014-15 spent $2.2 million in Cabo.
Those opting for a ship with a stop in Cabo are mostly from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada; with the average age being 59, and more than half being older than 65. Average income is $104,500. This is all data from Business Research & Economic Advisors for the 2014-15 season.
Passengers in Cabo must take a tender to shore. There is no cruise terminal at the dock, as is common in other locales. Passengers come out at the marina where they are confronted by an array of entrepreneurs hawking their wares or offering excursions.
Ninety percent of the passengers and 33 percent of crewmembers in 2014-15 got off the ship in Cabo to visit the area. The study found that they spent $22.4 million on “cruise tourism expenditures.” Most of the money was spent on shore excursions, food and beverages, watches and jewelry, and clothing. Most of the excursions are in the Los Cabos area, but some ships offer bus trips to Todos Santos for the day. While there are organized outings by the ships like scuba diving, plenty of people put together their own excursions.
Screaming. It’s what riding a roller coaster is all about. That exhilaration when it drops suddenly as though it’s in a free fall, or turns upside down again and again making it impossible to know where the sky or ground should be.
I don’t know when I rode my first roller coaster, but the last time is fresh in my memory. It was last month for my birthday. It had been years, probably decades, since I was last at California Great America in Santa Clara. It used to be a place I would visit most every year when growing up in the East Bay. (It opened in 1976.) Darla and I would run from ride to ride. We stopped to play the games of chance. One year we each won a huge stuffed animal. Not sure whose parents were driving that day, but we managed to fit our winnings into the vehicle.
In September, I was there with Sue, a self-proclaimed non-lover of roller coasters. Still, she was a trouper. Had it been up to her, we would have stuck to the water rides and the 4D holographic journey. Both were fun, but they aren’t adrenaline pumping, oh my gawd that was so outrageous let’s do it again rides. Rip Roaring Rapids was a must-do on Sue’s list. Oh, my, the before and after pictures are telling. Dry in the first, soaked in the second. The other two people in this oversized inner tube of sorts were also wet as we disembarked.
Don’t be fooled by Gold Striker. Even though it’s wooden, it’s modern. It opened in 2013 and to this day remains the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in Northern California. Every year it has been named one of the world’s Top 10 roller coasters by Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards. If you like the Giant Dipper at Santa Cruz, you will definitely want to ride Gold Striker. It goes 53.7 mph, with a height of 108.2 feet.
While Sue indulged me on this birthday outing, the photos of us on the rides clearly showed who was having more fun and who was more scared. I was all smiles; she never had her eyes open.
It’s hard to decide which coaster was my favorite. All are different in their twists and turns, whether it’s more or less jarring, if feet are suspended or inside the cage.
The first ride of the day I did alone – Flight Deck. It debuted in 1993 with the name Top Gun. This is how the park describes it, “Riders soar through a 360-degree vertical loop, two 270-degree after burn turns, a full-circle wingover and a zero gravity roll. If that’s not enough, you take this 50-mile-per-hour flight in a floorless coach, suspended below the coaster’s steel track.” It was awesome.
The smoothest coaster we went on was Rail Blazer. Instead of sitting next to your scared friend, there are individual seats lined up in cars of eight. The track looks so narrow. This is because the cars are straddling it. It opened in 2018 and is the newest coaster at the park.
The Santa Clara City Council in 2017 approved a new master plan for the park. This means more rides are coming, some will be replaced, and hours of operation will expand.
Going on a Saturday in September was ideal – it wasn’t crowded, the wait time was reasonable – for rides and food. Now through Nov. 2 the park has special haunted nights in celebration of Halloween. Be sure to visit the website, as the park is not open year-round, and pricing is better online.
If it weren’t for one particular garage in Palo Alto, the world might be a very different place. It is considered the birthplace of Silicon Valley.
This is where Bill Hewlett and David Packard in the 1930s formed Hewlett-Packard, aka HP. (A coin toss decided whose name would come first.) Both were students at Stanford University.
Packard and his wife were living in one of the apartments, while Hewlett resided in a shed on the property. Together they used the garage to develop their products.
Driving by it would be easy to assume this was just an ordinary neighborhood in the Peninsula. The large sign out front proves otherwise. It says, “The garage is the birthplace of the world’s first high-technology region, ‘Silicon Valley.’ The idea for such a region originated with Dr. Frederick Terman, a Stanford University professor who encouraged his students to start up their own electronics companies in the area instead of joining established firms in the East. The first two students to follow his advice were William R. Hewlett and David Packard, who in 1938 began developing their first product, an audio oscillator, in this garage.”
Walt Disney was the first to recognize the two were onto something, deciding to use their initial product, an audio oscillator, in select theaters showing “Fantasia.” The duo came out with their first computer in 1966. The handheld calculator followed in the next decade.
California recognized the significance of the garage at 367 Addison Ave. in 1989 by naming it a state historical landmark. It was in 2007 that the garage was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The detached garage sits back from the road and house, but is easy to see from the street. The sign is near the sidewalk.
Beer, burgers and hot water all in one stop.
This is what one finds on Old Hot Springs Road in Carson City – Shoe Tree Brewing Co., Sassafras and Carson Hot Springs. One Saturday in September we enjoyed what the three distinct businesses had to offer.
With such an array of beer choices, Sue and I opted for two rounds of tasters. A flight of four is $12; each being 5 ounces. We indulged in the Muscle Powered Pale Ale, High Desert Brown, Coco Burrito, Wicked Shifty, Brunswick Blonde Ale, Atomic Ale, Shoehorn, and Ash Canyon Amber Ale. My favorite was the High Desert Brown. The brewery describes it as “notes of coffee, roasty & toasty.”
Brothers Paul and Jeff Young opened the brewery in March 2017. According to their website, “The brew system is a 7 barrel (217 gallons) brew house with a four fermenter farm able to produce 600 barrels (13,950 gallons) of finished beer annually.”
While food isn’t served at the brewery, plenty of choices are available next door at Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint. If they aren’t too busy, they will deliver food to the brewery. We shared a burger and roasted beet salad – perfect amount of food, and great quality.
With so many beers on the table, it was hard to know what paired best with our lunch. I’m a believer you can never go wrong with a beer and burger.
Still, the restaurant isn’t just a burger joint. There are pizzas, grinders, cold deli selections, and specials that range from Cajun Mac & Cheese to Shrimp Tacos to Salmon Sriracha. It is definitely eclectic.
Sassafras has its own beer menu and has a full bar. With plenty of seating, it is a destination in its own right.
Next door are the hot springs. The Washoe Indians were using these waters in the 1800s as an undeveloped site. It was in 1880 that Thomas Swift bought the area and added amenities like a clubhouse. It has been known as Carson Hot Springs since 1910. New owners in 1999 added two Jacuzzi tubs, though they were not operational when we were there.
“Natural mineral water flows out of the ground at 121 degrees. Air spray and evaporative cooling are used to lower this water temperature when pools are drained and refilled during each day. No chemical or city water is added,” according to the hot springs’ website.
The main soaking area looks like a normal, rectangular pool. The difference is there is no chlorine and two overhead spigots are regularly delivering hot water. One is so powerful it is aptly named The Hammer. It’s an intense massage of sorts.
An added convenience is the springs provide noodles as flotation devices, which is nice since the depth goes to 6½ feet. The shallow area is where most people were hanging out.
While we enjoyed all three businesses at this location, each is worth a visit without the others.
Similar, yet different. This is one way to describe the photography of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.
Each captures the landscape surrounding them in a way that draws the eye to examine every detail. The play of light, lines and natural beauty beckon one to admire what their lenses captured. As with all great photography, it goes beyond the equipment. It’s having an eye for the subject and the patience to capture the moment.
A sampling of their works is on display in the exhibit “West X Southwest” at the Cantor Center on the campus of Stanford University.
“This installation explores how Weston and Adams expressed content and navigated aesthetics during early and formative moments in their careers. It considers how the artists sharpened their modernists visions through a selection of images created in the place that biographer and curator Nancy Newhall (1908-1947) called each artist’s ‘Paris’,” Elizabeth Kathleen Mitchell, curator and director of the Curatorial Fellowship Program, wrote of this exhibit.
Adams is known for his work in Yosemite and the Southwest, while Weston explored Mexico.
Together, in 1934 they were founding members of Group f/64, a San Francisco Bay Area photography collective. They had met in the mid-1920s; then crossed paths at various times. It was Weston who introduced Adams to Death Valley, while it was Adams who showed Weston Yosemite and other parts of the Sierra.
Adams said, “(We) had both come to be sympathetic to each other’s work, though we were never on an identical wave length.”
This sentiment is obvious as one walks through the exhibit. What I learned is that in 1941 Adams was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Interior to photograph national parks, mostly in the Southwest.
Having been an admirer of Adam’s for years, it was his photographs that captured my attention the most. This exhibit includes his iconic “Moonrise” at Hernandez, New Mexico. Before reading the description for “Dune” I thought the photo was a winter scene of plants struggling to survive in the snow. Instead it is an image of White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.
With the latest trend being printing on canvas, seeing an exhibit like this makes me wonder what the future of photography will bring. To me, this is real photography and a better representation of an artist’s craft.
- Exhibit is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 11am-5pm; Thursday from 11am-8pm.
- Exhibit ends Jan. 6, 2020.
- Cantor Arts Center is at 328 Lomita Drive, Stanford.
- Cost – free.
- More info is available online.
Meandering around, the cacti tower overhead, others are closer to the ground, some are in bloom. They weave together, making it difficult at times to know if it’s one or multiple plants. Dead limbs look like firewood.
While there are plenty of cacti in the desert of Baja California Sur to look at, the Cactus Sanctuary puts so many of them in one place.
The park opened in 1997, with development by the Intercacti Group. A sign out front says visitors will find: a high density of cacti, nurse plant system, zoochory processes, pseudoephiphytic growth of cacti, primitive cactus, cacti with monster growth, and seed germination in situ.
Species include baron cardón, sweet pitaya, pitaya sour, garambullo, pereskia, biznaga, nopales, choya, old man and more.
Not being an entomologist or a cacti expert, I’m not sure if we saw all of the above.
I first went to see the cacti last October with friends who were visiting from Arizona, then a month later with my mom. It’s one of those places that I wouldn’t go to just for the cacti, but it is a good side trip when visiting El Triunfo. Part of this has to do with the upkeep, or rather lack of. The signage is sketchy, with some being faded or damaged – so not readable in English or Spanish. Plus, the entire place is overgrown and not well kept.
Reports are that the sanctuary looked a lot better before Hurricane Odile struck in 2014.
On the first visit a man tried to show us somethings as we had already made the circular trek through the sanctuary. Then we realized he just wanted money and didn’t appear to actually be working there.
If there were tours, or some way to know what we were looking at (some claim there is a 500-year-old cacti there), it would have been more enjoyable.
Despite the lack of upkeep, it was still worth the walk because of how peaceful it is – very much like a sanctuary in that respect. Plenty of shade also made it inviting.
The sanctuary is on the way to El Triunfo off Highway 1 when approaching from Todos Santos or La Paz. It’s off to the right, down a so-so dirt road for about three miles. It’s by the tiny town of El Rosario. Sometimes there is someone there collecting money – about $4 a person. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know where the money is going.
It is striking how drab artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s wardrobe was compared to her vibrant paintings of flowers and the landscape of New Mexico.
While she preferred to be dressed in black, the garments were not shabby by any means. In some ways, her clothing was artistic as well. Many of the dresses she made, especially early in her career. The cream colored silks are simple, yet exquisite.
The dress above is described as, “This two-piece outfit is a fine example of O’Keeffe’s skills as a seamstress and a designer. The ingenuous design allowed her to put the dress on over her head, eliminating the need for buttons, belts, or zippers. The jacket also lacked buttons or closures and was designed to lie smoothly under or over the draping collar of the dress.”
This is one of many of O’Keeffe’s articles of clothing on display now through mid-October at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. Titled “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern,” the exhibit is a history lesson of sorts. The clothing shows an evolution in styles. With O’Keeffe dying in 1986 at the age of 99, she lived through several fashion periods.
Mostly, though, she wore what she wanted. In this way, the exhibit also brings a human element to this renowned artist that isn’t necessarily revealed through her work. While the world has known O’Keeffe’s individuality through her paintings, now all can understand her in deeper way through her wardrobe and how she posed for the camera.
It was interesting to see the actual dress and later pants next to a photograph of O’Keeffe wearing the outfit.
One section says, “From her early years on, O’Keeffe had a soft sport of Japanese kimonos and put together a personal collection of them to wear around the house as bed and bath wear. In her later years, she adopted a kimono-like wrap dress as her signature outfit. Travelling to Hong Kong in her seventies, she bought off-the-rack garments and accessories, and ordered custom-made coats and dress suits in local silks, incorporating details like mandarin collars and frog button closures.”
One thing about this exhibit that is also unusual compared to showings specifically of her work is the number of photographs of O’Keeffe. Of course there were ones by her famous husband Alfred Stieglitz, but also pictures by Ansel Adams, Philippe Halsman, Yousuf Karsh, Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol, Bruce Weber and Todd Webb.
Interspersed among the clothing are paintings by O’Keeffe. The contrast of color compared to the clothing is striking. To me, it shows an artist wanting her work to be the focus and not herself.
- Location: Nevada Museum of Art, Reno.
- Exhibit closes Oct. 20, 2019.
- Museum open Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm.
- General admission – $10.
- This is the only U.S. West Coast exhibit.