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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Since you Klub members have enjoyed the photos and maps in the Reptriation thread, why not have more here? I'll try to avoid spoilers, but explain as we go.

These first photos are what Ana might have seen in her first day on Earth. This is the University of Texas McDonnell Observatory.





Don't ask me why ladybugs congregate here. They've been there every time I've visited.



After Ana was rebuffed, she ended up leaning on a railing wondering what she was doing there. She might have been right here. This is looking south, toward Alpine, 30 miles away.



The astronomer's office is in this building. This shot also figures in at the very end of Distant Cousin: Reincarnation



The first time we meet Matt, he's just covered a wedding (on horseback) at this restored cavalry post in Fort Davis, just below the observatory.

 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
MORE ladybugs. Every time, I tell you!



Here is the plaza in the historic town of Mesilla, old stage coach stop, now just outside Las Cruces, New Mexico. The Mendez family lives maybe ten miles south, along the Rio Grande (see maps in the Repatriation thread).



Here's a popular restaurant in Mesilla. The Medezes eat there in Distant Cousin: Reincarnation. It's way over 100 years old.



It's a colorful place. If you ever go there, you'll like the ambience and especially the food!





They have, or they had, at least, piranas in one of these tanks. Ugly and sluggish critters they were, too.





Here's a couple more shots of the area around the plaza.





 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
These shots are various spots between El Paso and Alpine. Our characters travel this strech several times.

This is the highway heading to El Paso. The Franklin Mountains (the southern end of the Rockies) end right in the city (creating the pass, "El Paso," where the Rio Grande flows through and the mountains in Mexico on the opposite side). You can see the Franklin Mountains on the horizon, but they're a good 60 miles away. Ana probably became impatient to actually reach them. I certainly did as a kid, many, many times. THey're the small mountains on the right. The more obvious mountains on the left are in Mexico.



At one point in Distant Cousin, Matt and Ana take a break at the Pecos River bridge. They watch the buzzards wheeling below them. You can see the buzzards if you look hard.



This is a shot from the same place, but south. You can barely make out where the Pecos joins the Rio Grande.



On another trip down this same highway, they stop at Langtry to visit the Texas State Park that preserves Judge Roy Bean's offices and bar.



On yet another trip (in Distant Cousin: Reincarnation) they stop at a rest stop north of Van Horn. Ana's fascinated by cactus growing almost below the ground.

 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The tip of the Franklin Mountains, elevation one mile, divides El Paso in two. Actually, the city is shaped like a Y, with its longest leg following the Rio Grande, and the mountain range splitting off from it. The municipal airport is out one branch of the Y and Las Cruces is forty miles beyond the other branch. Fortunately, there's a short cut from one branch tip to the other, the Trans-Mountain Road, which the Mendez family invariably takes any time they go to the airport. This is the approach from the southern side:



Here are two views from the lookout at the top of it. This one looks to the northwest, toward Las Cruces. Note the river valley across the middle distance.



This one looks more westerly. The mountains are in Mexico. It's hard to get the scale from these. The distances to the horizon are huge, and so is the height of the camera. The farthest mountains are probably 150 miles away. The Rio Grande valley is hard to miss here.



This shows the city of El Paso from the lookout at the southern end of Mount Franklin. You can easily see Interstate 10, heading south. That figured in Distant Cousin, volume 1.



Turning a little to the right from the previous shot, here's downtown El Paso with Ciudad Juarez beyond. This area is important in the fourth Distant Cousin book...which will be out before long.

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Let's take a closer look at El Paso, since a lot of events in the books happen near there, and a few there.

The dark area sticking down from top center is Mount Franklin. That's what makes a Y of the city. The left part of the Y leads to Las Cruces, out of the picture to the top 50 miles. Interstate 10 comes south from Las Cruces and heads on through the city, more or less following the Rio Grande, to the left of the roadway. Before El Paso, it separates Texas from New Mexico. At El Paso, it separates Texas from Mexico. The dark green stripe in New Mexico, upper left, is the Mesilla Valley. The Mendez family lives there, but closer to Las Cruces and out of this photo.

In the upper right is El Paso International Airport, and above it (out of the picture) is Fort Bliss, the Army base where Ana was interrogated. Spoiler about Ana:
she would have run south, parallel to Highway 54, to Interstate 10, and then south to the city limits, quite a run.

The fine-grained area at the bottom is Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Those are tiny, crowded blocks of tiny buildings. In the winter, many residents heat with charcoal or other fires. You can see a bit of pollution lying over the area in the picture of downtown El Paso, above. (That picture was taken from the lowest part of the mountain, just above the tiny yellow "Texas Avenue" label.

 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Kathy said:
Wonderful pictures. Wow a lot of ladybugs.
We've had numbers of ladybugs at our house 750 miles south east of this observatory. Oddly enough they too congregate at the highest point in the house. Who knows why?

Anyway, thanks. I forgot to add my favorite picture, that suggests a whole scene or even a story all by itself. It's up now. Better late than never.
 

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Thanks for the photos.  I am going to have to move Distant Cousin up in my "to read list"!

For those of us not from the desert it is very difficult to imagine what it looks like.  Your pictures bring it to life.
 

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Al these are great pictures. Your love for this area shines clearly through both your words and your pictures.

Love your work.

 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
wilsondm2 said:
Al these are great pictures. Your love for this area shines clearly through both your words and your pictures.

Love your work.
Thank you for that. I do love the area. I miss the mountains. For those who haven't been there, it's a great place to visit if you're not expecting Disneyland or Las Vegas. The land and the sky sort of puts things in perspective. For anyone contemplating a visit, let me reassure you that while it's a beautiful as seen in No Country For Old Men, that is fiction. I never heard of a serial killer wandering around out there. I've made this recommendation elsewhere, but you can get a good look at the landscape and a feel for the folks who live there in a simple, sweet movie, "Dancer, Texas." It's an indie movie. I love indie movies! And books!
 

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Here's another good movie - Tommy Lee Jones wrote and directed it:

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada - very very good. Filmed in Lajitas, Van Horn, Big Bend, and other areas around there. It is a film about friendship, honor, justice, and keeping your word.





 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
It sure is a good movie, wilsondm2. I should have remembered it. The scenery in it is west Texas all the way.

Here are a few more. There's a shot of the pecan orchards along the Mesilla Valley in the other thread, but here's one showing how they're watered. A jillion pecan trees take a LOT of water. They flood them from the Rio Grande. Local laws pertaining to water use are centuries old. For a movie about that, filmed not too far away, try The Milagro Beanfield War (or read the book, Kindlers!).



Now, back to west Texas. In one of the books, Ana sees ocotillo just after a rare rain. (She notes the crisp smell of ozone.) Lots of desert plants bloom the day after it rains, or even the same day. Ocotillos are just stalks with thorns, normally, but after a rain tiny leaves pop out, with flowers at the ends of the branches. We used to have some in our yard, and you sure didn't want to run into one.



Here's a not-so-beautiful shot from El Paso, showing an afternoon dust storm. Normally at this time of day the sky would be deep blue, with the sun disappearing over the mountain, as it was in the first book, chapter 8. Spring, usually the best season most places, is often the worst in west Texas, because of frequent dust storms or sand storms. You could stand to be outside during a dust storm like this one, barely, but a sand storm stings the eyes and leaves grit all over you (and also frosts auto glass after a couple years).



One more. This is from the Chihuahuan desert 20 or 30 miles west of Las Cruces. We used to go camping down in this very place, Kilbourne's Hole. The sloping sides of the hole are crumbled lava, but this isn't a crater. I can't remember the term geologists have for it, but it used to be a sand hill around which lava flowed. Then the wind carried the sand away, leaving this "hole." Campers out here need water, obviously, but also very important: SHADE!

 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Beauty in a desert is a matter of scale, large--the mountains, sky, and distant horizon--and small. There are flowers, in spring sometimes, but you have to look for them.

Here's a bird of paradise near the observatory. I don't know if this is the same variety that makes a tree in wetter climates, but it isn't a tree in the desert. At best it's a bush.



Each kind of cactus has its own, usually spectacular, blossoms. There are websites devoted to such. This is a cholla, another cactus not get too close to, around the observatory:



One of our flower books says this is a Stewart Gilia:



I pulled off the highway to shoot these Dogweed. In south Texas following adequate winter rains, wildflowers carpet everything. I've never seen that in the desert.

 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
A desert is defined as a place where the rate of evaporation exceeds the average annual rainfall. Where I live presently, in south Texas, it's not quite a desert, averaged over several years, but this year has been terribly dry--two inches of rain at our house since September, which is desert-like. Our spring yield of flowers was pathetic, like the desert. But we average better, or we have. For several years in a row, recently, we've had decent rains.

Above are pictures of desert flowers. Here are some shots from around here, when we've had rain. The difference will be obvious.

Indian pinks and bluebonnets:



Huisache daisies:



Galardias:



Mexican hats:



Primrose:



Bluebonnets (the Texas state flower):



And more bluebonnets, huisache daisies and yuccas:

 
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