Strangely Beautiful Electro Latin Pop by Juana Molina

Source: album cover

I recently stumbled on “Un Día” by Juana Molina at my local library. The strange cover art caught my eye, and after a bit of investigation with Google I conclude it is a real photo of the artist with a doll’s face superimposed. Clever!

This is not just another latin pop album. Each track is a layered soundscape with ostinato and drone elements. She skillfully blends acoustic and electronic instruments that support her chant-like vocals nicely. On the better tracks this leads to an organic mixture that approaches the sublime. My favorite tracks are Los Hongos De Marosa [listen], the Vive Solo [listen], and ¿Quién?.

Her earlier albums (Son, Tres Cosas, and Segundo) are also good. The songs have a more traditional structure and some are straight-up ballads.

Summer Vacation – Hike and Bike!

We set out to see parts of the Eastern US we’d never been to. [photo gallery] Our secondary goal was to find hiking and bicycle trails along the way. It turned out to be very difficult to identify acceptable cycling trails on the Web. The various “trails” websites, etc. are frequently misleading. For example, we were looking for paved trails in natural areas as far away from traffic as possible. You can’t really search for that in a generalizable way. Most hits were either mountain bike or urban commuter trails. The one exception appears to be trails based on old railroad rights of way. We were ultimately successful as you can see below. We put the folding bikes in the back of my car and hit the road…

To start with we visited family in Athens Georgia, and rode the local urban bike trail, which was very nice. From there it was on to the mountains of northern Georgia and Black Rock State Park., where we had great views, deep forests, and strange fungi—not to mention a twenty degree drop in temperature!

We crossed over into North Carolina on a very windy road through the Cullasaja River Gorge and stopped at Dry Falls.

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Leaving the gorge we came onto the Blue Ridge Parkway late in the day with clouds and rain all around. There weren’t may photo ops but the scenery was spectacular in its own un-photographable way. We returned to the parkway the next day were I took these HDR panoramas.

As an interesting side note, we found the side road to Vesuvius Virginia where I climbed the Blue Ridge on my bicycle in 1976! The road was marked with a 76/bike sign and was even steeper than I remember it!!

Our next big outing was cycling the Historic Battlefield at Gettysburg (map source This was surprisingly pleasant. The traffic was light and we had the smooth blacktop parkway mostly to ourselves.

We parked in the shade of the trees where Lee’s army massed before Pickett’s Charge. Then proceed to climb part of Big Roundtop and the flank of Little Round Top where Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain made his famous flanking maneuver. We then made our way winding through Devil’s Den, The Wheat Field, and The Peach Orchard. We ended up at The Angle and saw the spot where Gen. Armistead died.

We reached our halfway point in upstate New York near Albany and again visited with family. We crossed over to Massachusetts to ride the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.

We spent a few days relaxing and went swimming several times in Kinderhook Creek (near where Cathy grew up).

Old Kinderhook” (referring to Martin Van Buren) may be the origin of the universal expression “Okay“.

Next we headed west to cycle part of the Erie Canalway Trail. This was our first unpaved “rock dust” trail and the bikes performed well.

We could see the remnants of the old Erie Canal in several places. There were also many different roadside flowers including Thimbleberry and Purple Loosestrife (shown above). The latter turns out to be an invasive species and a cause of some concern.

The next day we took the back roads down into Pennsylvania and discovered the Pine Creek Rail Trail near Ansonia, PA. This was the best yet (!), completely isolated, following a lovely stream between thousand foot bluffs. Apparently there are numerous waterfalls in the area. The surface was rock dust and well maintained. We had a treat both coming and going—a flock of female Common Mergansers slowly moving upstream and feeding as a group.

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Our last full day of touring was a leisurely drive through the state of West Virginia. Our target was the unique little Beartown State Park.