Photo Of The Day – Arizona Desert

The Arizona desert seduces. When I was a kid, my grandparents collected a magazine called Arizona Highways, which featured honest-to-God, awe-inspiring vistas of the Grand Canyon State. (As you can see from the link, the periodical still exists.) I wouldn’t get to Arizona until I was 25, barreling down 93 from Las Vegas and crossing into New Mexico quickly. Those highways didn’t look like the highways of Arizona Highways. It would take a few additional visits before I got to see the intense beauty that filled the pages of my grandparents’ back copies.

Flickr user Styggiti captured this curious geological object on a hiking trail in Camp Creek Falls, Arizona.

Upload your favorite images to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. We choose our favorites from the bunch as Photos of the Day.

Barbed Wire Museums Take On A Prickly Subject

I’ve always loved museums on obscure subjects because they teach you how overlooked objects can have a big influence. Barbed wire is one of those objects.

While various inventors started experimenting with barbed wire in the 1850s, the founder of barbed wire is generally considered to be Joseph Glidden, whose 1873 design soon stretched across the American West. Before then, it was nearly impossible to enclose the vast rangelands of the West. There were constant fights over whose animals were on whose land. With the advent of barbed wire, land became enclosed, and the fights turned to passage rights and boundary disputes.

It’s often said barbed wire tamed the Old West, and while that’s true it also led to its demise. The West became more organized; freedom of movement suffered, and bigger and bigger ranches began to enclose huge swaths of land. Barbed wire was a boon to some and a curse to others. Many called it “the Devil’s rope” or “the Devil’s hatband.”

There are three major museums devoted to this humble but important invention. The Joseph F. Glidden Homestead & Historical Center in DeKalb, Illinois, is devoted to the inventor of barbed wire and his carefully restored home, barn and blacksmith shop. The museum has a blacksmith who gives live demonstrations of his traditional craft including, of course, wire making.

%Gallery-155001%The Devil’s Rope Museum on Route 66 in McLean, Texas, has a huge collection of barbed wire. The original design inspired countless variants and supposed improvements. Also, thefts of barbed wire led manufacturers to design specific wires for large companies and ranches. Hundreds of these variants are on display, as well as art created from barbed wire and a room devoted to the history of Route 66.

Over in LaCrosse, Kansas, there’s the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum, which has more than 2,000 varieties of wire as well as wire-making tools and displays of barbed wire being used in peace and at war. It’s the headquarters of the Antique Barbed Wire Society, one of several societies of collectors and historians. Yes, there are collectors for everything, and with so many variants of wire and so much history for each one, the hobby has attracted some devoted followers.

Lots of historical societies and pioneer museums have small displays of barbed wire, so the next time you pass one on the highway, stop by and check it out. Just remember: look, but don’t touch!

[Image courtesy Coyote Grafix via flickr]

Hit the Open Road

Doug McConnell is an expert on exploring the back roads of the American West. Now, he wants to help you — and have you help him — search for adventure in the region. To that end, McConnell recently launched OpenRoad.TV, a traveler’s guide to the American West.

To begin, McConnell pre-loaded the site with much of the video, photos, and insights that he’s compiled over the past 14 years of producing and hosting Bay Area Backroads. Now, it’s your turn to add your own stories, photographs, and videos — like Tina Martinez’s descriptive Moab Motorcycle Touring or Bill Buchanan’s adventurous Dances With Orcas.

In short, the site aims to be a comprehensive resource for people who want to explore, share, and celebrate the American West. Personally, since I couldn’t live much further from that part of the country and still be IN the country, I really enjoyed my virtual tour through the area.

Now I just need to get out there, shoot some video of my own, and add it to the site. Maybe this summer I can hit the open road.