An Afternoon Visit to an Empty Church

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church sits along the San Juan River in Northwestern New Mexico, photo by author

The Church

The church was built in 1920 and still stands on a bluff overlooking the beautiful, aqua green-colored San Juan River. It’s a small building, but apparently the congregation has moved away or now attends mass somewhere else. I just happened across this place last Sunday and was struck by the awesome locale of the small church. Not far away is the Navajo Dam and behind that is the man-made Navajo Lake, but if you approach this special place from the south, you would never know that they were there.

The interior of this church captures the afternoon light on a spring day with great grace.


In the afternoon light, the church interior took on an almost mystical air, as the intense Southwest sun filtered through the small window above the altar and illuminated the sacred space with sunlight. Fortunately, the camera easily captured this event.


A vase with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe sits in one of the church windows, photo by author

Our Lady of Guadalupe 

According to Catholic Online the Virgin Mary first appeared to Juan Diego, a 57 year old Aztec man in 1531, near present day Mexico City. Even from the beginning Juan believed in what he saw on the hillside, but the priests at the nearest church were not so convinced. Gradually, over a few weeks, more appearances by the loved Saint along with a miraculous cure convinced the church elders that the Holy Virgin was present in Mexico.

Here she took on the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her likeness, which mysteriously appeared on a Spanish tilma back in 1531, has been reproduced and copied all throughout Mexico and the Southwest USA, numerous times. Many churches of the region, both small and large, bear her name as does this small chapel built in 1920.


This white dinosaur was spotted in the Gaspie region of Quebec, Canada on an extended bicycle journey
This white dinosaur was spotted in the Gaspie region of Quebec, Canada on an extended bicycle journey, photo by author


This white dinosaur (brontosaurus, I think) was spotted while touring through Quebec on a 15-speed Univega bicycle. I do believe that this creature is quite rare, because I have not seen one since, not even at Jurassic Park.


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Quebec Road Signs


Waterfront Warning In Gaspe Region Of Quebec
Waterfront Warning In Gaspe Region Of Quebec

This summer I had the privilege of making a solo bicycle journey from Boston, Massachusetts to Ottawa, Canada. However, I should mention that I did not take a direct route, as this picture from the Gaspe region demonstrates. As far as cycling goes, I have not encountered a more scenic route than the coastal highway 132 that runs from Sainte-Anne-des-Monts east towards Madeleine. Not only is the road very scenic, but also the route is flat, a definite plus for cyclists. The only drawback is a rare storm or rogue wave that might wash moving vehicles into the ditch. Here is a close-up of the sign.

Warning Sign In The Gaspe
Warning Sign In The Gaspe

I while I’m at it, here are some other similar signs that I encountered on my trip. The next one was found just south of Quebec city and was intended as a warning against a bump in the road, not low-flying balloons.


Ambiguous sign near Quebec City
Ambiguous sign near Quebec City

And finally last but not least, here is a tractor warning sign that was observed in the Petite Nation of Quebec, a small rural region, located just north and east of Ottawa.


Tractor Warning Sign In Le Petite Nation of Quebec
Tractor Warning Sign In Le Petite Nation of Quebec

Punks Who Write

Bowery Poetry Club photo by David Shankbone courtesy Wikipedia
Bowery Poetry Club, photo by David Shankbone courtesy Wikipedia

Patti Smith published her first book of poetry in 1972, three years before she released her first album, called Horses. Since those early years the poetress of the punk scene has steadily recorded and put onto paper her words and observations on life. As a result, it should be no surprise that her recent autobiographical literary effort would end up receiving a national book award.

Just Kids is Patti’s memoir about a poet’s life in Manhattan during the late 60’s and early 70’s. The work revolves around the experiences of the writer as well as her relationship with Robert Maplethorp, an avant-garde photographer, who died in 1989. Those who enjoy Patti Smith’s writing might enjoy the daily postings of her agent, Betsy Lerner. Ms. Lerner has obtained some literary success with her own book, The Forest For The Trees, which has become of a standard read with anybody wishing to learn more about the book publishing world.

On the other hand there is David Byrne, one of the founders of Talking Heads, one of the great post-punk or New Wave bands of the ’70s and ’80s, has been writing about bicycles. In a book called “Bicycle Dairies”, Mr. Byrne discusses his bike adventures in such diverse places as Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Baltimore, New York and Berlin. Along with his offbeat travel guide, the author includes some philosophy and observations on bike transportation in general. Though the band Talking Heads is past history, David has continued his musical career with solo releases, writing music scores for film and occasional  live performances. The first Talking Head album appeared in 1977, while his first literary publication did not appear until 1986 (True Stories). Although his books have not won any awards, his latest effort on bicycles has been very well received by reviewers.  Also, of interest is a blog  simply called “David Byrne’s Journal”, which has received a “Webby” award for its content.

Talking Heads Band 1978, courtesy of Wikimedia
Talking Heads Band 1978, courtesy of Wikimedia

Channeling Jack Kerouac

Kerouac Park in Lowell, Massachusetts
Kerouac Park in Lowell, Massachusetts

This has been a summer on the road for me, for I have abandoned my Portland (Maine) apartment, stored everything of value in a storage locker, gave away my desktop computer and headed for the open roads, fields and forests on my bicycle. It’s been quite a learning experience, but more about that later, for after spending two weeks enjoying the June hostel scene in Boston I quietly left Beantown one night on a 11 0’clock train bound with a one way ticket for Fitchburg.

Actually, I got off the train near Acton and spent the remainder of the night underneath an interstate bridge trying to get some sleep. Sleep did not come easy thanks to the hum of overhead traffic and my stony bed. By some quirk of chance I found myself nestled near a deer trail, for I glimpsed several of the creatures during the course of the night. In the glare of the streetlights they appeared like strange silhouettes.

Sunrise had me up and on the road and around 6 A.M. to see what I could learn about the great writer of the road from a visit to his hometown. But first things first – I had to stop at the Lowell McDonald’s for a large coffee and two Egg McMuffins. I imagine the Beats might have done the same thing – but that is merely speculation on my part.

Then came the bike tour of the city. No pretty tour guides to leave a group of tourists around, just me on my bike with a knapsack full of personal items on a summer Sunday morning that was about to turn into a scorcher.

A once-used factory building in Lowell, Massachusetts
A once-used factory building in Lowell, Massachusetts

Next came the big factory buildings. I have scene a few of the old New England factory buildings in my day but this one takes the cake. The sheer size of these brick structures was mindboggling. If I was looking for an explanation of why Jack had left town – but the truth was I just wanted to visit the place. I spent the next hour or so cruising beside the giant structures, like I was a shadow in a DeChico painting.

Finally, I discovered the canals and the Merrimack River. That added a little humanity and natural scenery to the picture but not much. Still, the canals were the nicest part of the whole visit  – not including the Egg McMuffins – I enjoyed riding past and stopping to look at the waterways that once powered this industrial dynamo.

And when I finally departed Lowell, I think I understood a little bit better the process the put Kerouac in motion and launched his writing career.

Lowell buildings reflected in a canal.
Lowell buildings reflected in a canal.

Bike Ride To The Coast

Sign for Wells Beach, Maine
Wells Beach Maine

Wells Beach is in Maine and it has a beautiful shoreline really. This is the just the sign you’ll find when you disembark from the Amtrak Downeaster that runs between Boston and Portland. The train depot is in the middle of the Maine woods, but I guess they had to put the sign there anyway, so that passengers would know when to get off the train.

Head east for a few miles and you will come across Highway 1 that endless ribbon of blacktop that runs from Maine all the way to Key West. On the other side of the highway is the real Wells Beach, complete with the rollicking surf of the Atlantic Ocean.

This week on a glorious autumn day, I boarded the train in Portland along with my trusty 10 speed and headed for the little depot at Wells.

Upon my arrival at my train stop, I exited the train along with my bicycle and headed for the town of

fall colors
The colors of fall

Wells. At route !, I turned right and went south with my final destination being the Ogunquit Art Museum in the town of Ogunquit.

It was an enjoyable ride down the highway to get to the small Maine tourist town. I did not encounter any wild animals except maybe this wooden sculpture of a bear by Bernard Langlois, a wonderful Maine sculptor, who lived and worked in Maine through much of the latter half of the 20th century.

This bear guarded the premisesof the Ogunquit Museum along with several other of Langlois’ sculptures. For those of you wishing to visit a wonderful, small, American art museum that sits right by the sea, you might appreciate this museum. The collection as well as the location are hard to beat. Be aware that like the Whitney in New York City, this institution deals exclusively with American art and artists. It’s a real jewel of a museum, especially on a colorful autumn day.

Wooden sculpture
Wooden sculpture of a bear

The view of rocky coastline and the ocean at Ogunquit is quite beautiful, as you can see here in the picture. It is a wild and windy landscape dotted with expensive homes, like the ones that are visible across the little cove. Nearby is Perkins Cove a picturesque Harbor where tourists flock to look at the boats and the shoreline or perhaps visit one of the several seafood restaurants to enjoy clam chowder and boiled lobsters.

Even though the day was overcast the woods were very colorful. In fact, the cloudy conditions only added to the intensity of the fall colors. Contrasted with the steel gray skies the colors just seemed to jump right out of the leaves.

Since the season was late the number of visitors and travelers were quite low, but the coast of Maine at Ogunquit everyone seemed content to ride around and visit the few shops and restaurants that were still left open. It was a good day for people who enjoy the peaceful view.

Maine Coastline
rocky coast at Ogunquit, Maine

The coast of southern Maine is noted for its rocky shores but actually in Southern Maine there are many places with wide stretches of sandy beaches. Obviously this is not one of them, but nearby at Wells one can find a wide sandy beach to stroll along.

All in all it was a very nice day to spend along the coast of Maine and it was a real pleasure to ride my bike through the small towns of York County, that small piece of real estate, located at the southern tip of Maine.

red autumn leaves
the fall colors


surface of a pond

pond surface in autumn
Line of small boats
boats on a grey day