THE STACKS Travel Diary

Wandering the West


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On Today’s Menu:
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** Share some icebox cake for a polar explorer’s birthday.
** Linger to ponder over the joys and pains of moving house!
** Savor a last ½ cup peeking into some long-abandoned homes.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

First Sip:

An adventure is
what you dream about
at home in your comfortable chair;
But out on the adventure,
you wish you were home in your comfortable chair.

– Thornton Wilder,
very loosely quoted 1


Slice of Cake:

Not a life lost
and we have been through hell.

Soon I will be home and then I can rest.

Ernest Shackleton
letter to his wife
August 1917

The goal was to be the first explorers to cross the entire Antarctic continent.
Yet their ship never even made landfall.
Instead, their journey became something even more astonishing.

The ship was named Endurance.
The crew was 27 men, plus a stowaway boy.
The captain was Ernest Shackleton.

The Endurance

On December 5, 1914, they set out from a rough whaling station on South Georgia Island.
It was the last civilization they would see for more than 500 days.2

After 44 days sailing, the Endurance became caught in the ice. Really caught.
282 days later, they were forced to abandon ship. The Endurance, crushed between ice floes, broke apart and sank.
For 164 days they camped on and sledged across ice, pulling three lifeboats. Reaching open water, they set out in the boats.
After 5 days they reached tiny Elephant Island. 22 men stayed behind, camping on the beach as best they could, while 6 men went back out on the water.
It was 16 days in an open boat before they reached South Georgia Island. They landed on the wrong side. Leaving 3 men camped there, the other three men, including Shackleton, struck out overland to cross a mountain range previously thought to be impassable.
It took 3 days for them to reach the whaling station. (The place they’d sailed from 18 months ago.)
That same night, a boat was sent back to rescue the 3 men on the other side of the island.
But it took 106 days of dogged persistence before Shackleton was able to recruit a ship and crew to sail back and rescue the 22 men left behind on Elephant Island.

What made Ernest Shackleton an extraordinary leader
was that he never lost sight of one objective over all: Keep every man alive.

All 28 men returned home to England.
(Including the young stowaway, who had become a crewman and steward.)4

The men’s homecoming led them straight into the crossfire of World War 1.

Within half a year of their return, sixteen of Endurance’s crew ended up
on the frontlines, where most were killed.

So it is not a happy story, and yet it is so compelling. Similar to the stories about the Titanic, it’s hard to stop thinking about such multi-layered drama, determination, and sacrifice—
all the more unforgettable because it is true.

Happy 145th Birthday
** Ernest Shackleton **

born February 15, 1874
in County Kildare, Ireland

Linger Awhile:

When you’re going through hell,
keep going.

– Unknown3

I’ve been thinking this week about the stress of moving.

Thirty Years Ago.

Thirty years ago this week, I left my native California for Michigan. I had never lived in snow before. I had never lived so far away from my family before. And when I flew into Detroit, I’d never been that far East before.

The next morning there was a foot-long icicle hanging outside the window. I thought: Where the hell am I?

The Drive.

Fast forward twenty-seven yearsand seven moves later.

Stretching my legs
in Nowhere, Nevada

Two summers ago, Prof B and I left Tucson for Salt Lake City.

Friday (two days before we were supposed to leave): B’s back went out. Ouch.
Saturday: the movers came for our furniture.
Sunday: (day we’re supposed to leave): B said maybe if we delay a day, it might let his back recover.

So we spent Sunday (and Monday morning) cleaning up and clearing out. All those last-minute chores that come up—especially when leaving a house we’d lived in for 12 years.

B helped as much as he could. His back was better, but not much.

Monday early afternoon: I packed suitcases and 4 or 5 book boxes into the car.

I wasn’t happy. I’d planned a two-day layover so we could have an adventure: I really wanted to see the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Prof B wasn’t happy. He thought we should be traveling lighter and faster.

B: That’s a lot of boxes. Why didn’t they go in the moving van?
Me: I can’t bear to trust everything to the movers! I’ve lost things that way before.
B: We really shouldn’t be trying to have a vacation in the middle of moving.
Me: I heard the North Rim is even more beautiful than the South Rim. And it’s way less crowded—because it’s so far off the beaten track. Unless you’re driving from Tucson to Utah—then you drive right past it! Almost.

We locked the door to the Tucson house and drove away.

B tried driving the first shift. His back was having none of it; he lasted less than an hour. Even riding as a passenger was going to be extremely painful.

I was tired. I was anxious to get through the mountain passes before nightfall. And our motor lodge in Bitter Springs was still 360 miles away.

(Yeah, yeah. You’re thinking how you’ve driven
twice as far in half the time. I know. Shut up.)

By late afternoon, I didn’t know what was going to give out first:
B’s back, my sanity, or our marriage.

We pulled into the motor lodge right as the sun was setting.

Me: I’ll unpack the car. You go get us—
B: You don’t have to unload more than the suitcases.
Me: I’ll unpack the car. You get us a table at the restaurant and order me a—
B: You can just leave the boxes—
Me: I’ll unpack the car. Get us a table and order me a drink.
B: We’re parked right outside the door of our room, there’s no need unload everything.
Me: I didn’t haul these things from Tucson to let them get stolen out of a parking lot!
Me: Get us a table. Order me a drink.
B: You mean alcohol?
Me: Yes! Alcohol!
B: What kind?
Me: AL. CO. HOL.

He left, heading toward the restaurant across the way.
I unloaded the suitcases. I unloaded the boxes. I took a deep breath. I was exhausted. But I also wanted food. And a drink.

As I started for the restaurant, I glanced up at the sky.

There was a ridge, a mesa of red rock, that rose above me. That would have been spectacular enough. But there was this notch in the ridge. Like a small step down. The notch was glowing. My walking slowed. The moon—full, gigantic, honey-colored—pulled itself straight out of that notch. I stood, stunned. Then I turned and starting sprinting across the parking lot.

Me: B!! (I burst into the restaurant.) You’ve got to come see this moon!
B: I just ordered you a—
Me: The moon! Now!

I hustled him outside. We stood in the parking lot, gawping at the sky. B put his arm around me.

It was the most romantic moon we’d ever seen.

Funny coincidence.

The next day B rested his back. I drove to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

It wasn’t that close. Almost four hours of driving round-trip—on my day off from driving. But I needed to see the Grand Canyon.

And it was magnificent.

North Rim of the Grand Canyon
(photo by me)

I ran into some friends from Tucson!

They were having such a lovely time, they said.
How was the weather for your drive? they asked.
Weather was fine, I said. Outside the car, I muttered.
We went to watch the solstice moon rise last night, they said. Had you heard about the solstice moon?
No…, I said.
First one since 1967, the Summer of Love, they said. We found the perfect viewing spot. We packed a picnic and had an expensive bottle of wine, they said. But there was cloud cover. We didn’t see anything.
We’re hoping for better luck tomorrow, they said.
Us, too, I nodded. Us, too.

Then I drove back to my motor lodge and dinner with B.


“Half Cup More”

The world is full of abandoned dwellings—
places where people have lived and left.

Here are a few I visited
on a road trip around central Arizona
March 2014

Cliff Dwellings at Tonto National Monument

The Salado abandoned these cliff dwellings early in the 1400s.
No one knows why they left.
No one knows where they went.

photo of Jerome, AZ
by Prof B



Jerome, AZ
mining town

During the Copper Boom of the 1920s,
had a population of
more than 10,000 people.

Today the population is 450.




photo of Biosphere 2
by Dennis

Biosphere 2
research facility

For 2 years in the early 1990s,
eight “biospherians” lived inside a closed system.

Their work advanced our understanding of agriculture, nutrition, atmosphere, and the ecology of interdependent systems.

No longer lived in, Biosphere 2 is still in business as a unique (and very large) laboratory for ongoing science research by the University of Arizona.


Take-Away Box

One more song about moving along the highway…
I sure hope the road don’t come to own me.
There’s so many dreams I’ve yet to find.

– Carole King

Thank you for reading!
Kelly J Hardesty

Thoughts? Questions?
Scroll down to the endand you can leave me a note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.

You Can Read More…

notes & footnotes:

Thornton Wilder said in an interview:
“The test of an adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it,
you say to yourself, ‘Oh now I’ve got myself into an awful mess;
I wish I were sitting quietly at home.’
And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when
you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventures.”

Start reading
Endurance: The true story of Shackleton’s incredible voyage to the Antarctic
by Alfred Lansing
and you will not be able to put it down.
(Be sure your copy has photos and maps.)

A 2002 TV miniseries with Kenneth Branagh called
Shackleton is quite good.

This quote is often attributed to Winston Churchill.
The Quote Investigator says: Probably not.

Photo credits:

** The cliff dwellings photo is either by me or Prof B. Let’s
just leave it at that, shall we?

** We had our three kids with us at Biosphere 2.
The photo of me there was taken by Dennis.

** Frank Hurley was the photographer on the Endurance voyage.
His B&W photos of the ship and its crew are astounding.


Someone asked about the Endurance’s stowaway-turned-steward.
At age 18, Perce Blackborow was too young to be hired,
but two of the crew smuggled him aboard anyway.
He hid for 3 days.
The story of how Shackleton reacted when Blackborow was
found is well worth reading.
You can read wiki’s version of events here:

stowaway & a friend

Though he suffered gangrene, and had to
have toes amputated during the
long wait on Elephant Island,
Blackborow—like all the Endurance crew—survived to return to England.
He lived into his 50s.

He and Mrs Chippy
(the shipwright’s cat)
even got their picture on an official postage stamp of South Georgia Island.

Photo source:

Another note: The Tucson friends I ran into
at the Grand Canyon were Patti & Ken.
Here’s a photo of Patti and me, taken that day by Ken.

happy coincidence


Please note:
Whenever you click on ‘Post Comment’ your comments always come to me first. Then I post them below.
If you’d rather they stay between us, just let me know.
© Kelly J Hardesty 2024

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