Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Beauty in Your Own Backyard

We often believe that traveling is the way to view the beauty and mystery of the world but that is the furthest from the truth. One need only to look in the backyard to realize that much we love to look at and appreciate is within walking distance from the back door.

Living in the High Desert of Southern California, we do not have the same plant and tree species as other parts of the country where the elevation is lower and rainfall more frequent. No, in the Mojave Desert there are freezing winters, blistering summers, and less than 10 inches of rain per year. Not a great place for greenery without the use of drip systems and other landscaping aides. But even with this somewhat hostile environment for plants there are, as nature provides, opportunities for the most hardy of plants to flourish and prosper.

One such plant is the Yucca brevifolia - or commonly known as the Joshua Tree. This plant, it is not considered a real tree since the root system is different, grows in abundance in the Mojave Desert. In fact, it only grows wild in the southwestern portion of the United States and nowhere else on earth. It is found in California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada (southern sections of each state). It grows at an elevation of between 1,300 to 5,900 feet, can reach nearly 50 feet in height and can live hundreds of years given the right conditions. There was one tree which was recorded at 80 feet and almost 1,000 years in age. Getting the age correctly is difficult since unlike an actual tree there are no tree rings in which to deduce the age. The way to tell the age of a Joshua Tree is to measure it's height and calculate the average growth cycle which is usually around one half to one inch per year.

The plant received its name from the early mid-nineteenth century Mormon setters who made their way through the area on the way to the "promised land." The settlers believed the strange looking 'trees' reminded them of Joshua from the old testament standing in the open with his hands stretching to the skies in prayer to God. The name stuck.

Being fortunate to have two acres as our main base, we have Joshua Trees on our property and the vacant acres to the west, north, and south of us. With spring just a couple of days away, we decided to photograph some of these marvels of nature while they are blooming.

The photographs are breathtaking - but don't take the word of this writer - you be the judge and  enjoy.

For further information concerning the Joshua Tree -


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cinematic Trailer from the Novel: Hunted

A few years ago,  John R. Beyer, of J and L, wrote and published a novel called Pursued. It received excellent reviews and limited success, and recently gained the attention of Black Opal Books. They were interested enough in the characters and story to encourage John to revisit Pursued and create Hunted. Those of you who are familiar with Pursued will find much to appreciate in Hunted. Those who are not at all familiar with any of his earlier work, can enjoy this new suspense thriller anew.
A Little Sip of Hunted
The Longer Version with a Scene from the Novel


A killer without remorse, burning with pride, and having the time of his life, Zachary Marshall is unstoppable - until Detective Jonas Peters unexpectedly arrives in the midst of one of Marshall's heinous crimes. After a bank robbbery goes from bad to worse and leaves three dead - including a little girl- Marshall finds himself the target of the most intensive manhunt Riverside, California, has ever witnessed.

Detective Peters becomes frustrated and half-crazed as the case falters due to lack of clues and evidence. Ordered to take a vacation from the department before he drives all the other detectives crazy with his constant tirades, he reluctantly agrees. But an innocent remark to the media changes the entire scenario - now the hunter becomes the hunted.

Detective Peters takes this homicide case especially hard, having seen his own young daughter murdered during a bungled convenience-store robbery years earlier. The pain of the darkness is too deep, and the spirits are waiting to remind him; they will not forgive him, and he cannot forgive himself. There will be no rest until Marshall is caught.

Hunted - Release date May 18th 2013 in bookstores everywhere.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Peruvian Tale of Friendship (Part One)

When traveling we occasionally come across interesting fellow adventurers who are not content with sitting at home but want to hit the high road and see what is on the other side of the mountain. That is how, we at J and L, feel people should spend their lives. Exploration is what makes humans so successful among their fellow creatures in an often challenging earthly environment.

With this in mind I would like to take the reader back with me to the sprawling mountain village of Cusco in the beautiful South American country of Peru. That famous capital of the mighty Incan empire before the Spanish arrived and chased the remaining native souls to the hinterlands and one of final hideaways in Machu Picchu (a topic we have covered previously).

It is in that very city, Cusco, that Laureen and I met a wonderfully interesting and educated man. But a man of great mystery as we learned some time later.

His name was Carlos and he was an officer in the Peruvian military. We will, at this time, not mention what he did in the military except to say he was in charge of an anti-terrorism special operations team which worked in the Amazon and other locales in this vast and varied countryside.

We were in Peru for the first time, to visit the ruins of Machu Picchu and then move on to Lake Titicaca (the highest navigable lake in the world) to visit the floating reed islands. Here we were going to tour Sun Island (which was actually in Bolivia), and take a drink from the fabled  fountain of youth and receiving a blessing from a local shaman. That meant we had to get from Cusco to Puno.

Of course, to get to Puno, the tiny Peruvian town on the coast of Lake Titicaca, we had to take a six hour bus ride from Cusco. Now, to put the trip into perspective, a six hour drive for a Southern Californian is nothing more than a long trip for a good meal.

That idea was short lived. The bus, 'First Class Transportation', from Cusco turned out to be a voyage from hell.

It was great fun!

We started early on a cool winter morning (it was summer were we lived in North America) leaving the magnificent city of the Incans for the semi-short drive to Puno when suddenly the route was blocked by construction. Large earth moving machines munched dirt like a starving person eats whatever is in their reach. Knowing no one on board the large transport bus, we sat and chatted between the two of us knowing we would probably fall asleep while the driver bore down the long dark asphalt vein that would end at our destination.

Sleep never came.

Our bus driver, a rather tall and skinny older fellow, decided that he had had enough at one of the detours on the highway and jumped out of the still running bus and began chasing two construction truck drivers swinging his fists and knocking one poor worker to the ground nearly unconscious. The people on our bus were in shock to witness such a show of animal brutality but Laureen and I sat and watched and made a financial bet to see who would finally win.

We were from the United States. Betting on violent spectator sports was in our blood.

Laureen won the bet as the driver, now sweaty, dirty and swearing climbed into the driver seat and lurched the bus backwards and then forwards toward a narrow but high cement curve. He was taking this bus full of passengers up and over this slight obstacle to the flat and even dirt road which the innocent construction workers he had just beat up were trying to pave.

This is where I would get my money back.

"He's going to high center this bus." I smiled at Laureen.

"No, he knows what he's doing."

The bus climbed a couple of feet, dropped less and was stuck teeter-tottering on that cement divider. I smiled knowing we were even with our bets - so far.

With what I believe was an attempt at a chagrined countenance the bus driver had us exit the bus so he might be able to un-wedge the vehicle from its perch.

"He won't be able to do it," I said.

Laureen did not take the bet.

He couldn't and we knew there would be at least forty-five minutes of head scratching, more swearing, and finally a solution in removing a five ton bus from a short concrete wall. Our fellow travelers stood around the bus for the next several minutes while the genius behind the wheel and nearly a dozen other men pondered the situation. Being the explorers we were, the idea of standing around watching the ruckus with the bus didn't sound like our cup of tea, so we walked off and found a small roadside shop for a cold beer and a Pepsi. After refreshing ourselves, we slowly made our way back to where the bus was still lodged off the ground. Trucks and men pulled and tugged on the bus until finally it was free. Our Ark had bested the wall  and we were finally on our way to Puno but without the benefit of an exhaust pipe. We were less than two miles from the bus station but it was just the beginning of a wonderfully funny and pathetic story.

Only 386 kilometers to go.

And we had not even met Carlos yet.

To be continued.