Sunday, September 4, 2011

Post Vacation Photo - IN THE SAFETY OF OUR SUBARU!

Our friend, Bob, sent us a photo he took while we were 'caravaning' in Yellowstone. Here is the story I submitted to Subaru...

Taking photos of wild animals can be tricky. We were traveling through Yellowstone National Park and I wanted to be camera ready when the moment came to 'shoot' the buffalo or other animals in the park. Soooo, I stood on the car seat, opened the sun roof and there I was 'camera ready' for the next animal phot-op. Our friends in the car in front of us captured me capturing what may come along with my camera. Enclosed is the photo taken of me in action in my Subaru! Note: the sign says "CAUTION - WILDLIFE ON ROADWAY"

Monday, July 4, 2011

Our 6 week car trip is about to begin! 2011

Previously, I entered separate posts of various places along the way. Now, I am placing all entries into one post. It is now in chronologic order. To the right of this blog are links to PHOTO ALBUMS of this 10,000 mile trip.
========= The Journal begins..............

July 4, 2011
Our 6 week car trip is about to begin!
Al is busy looking at the Atlas, other maps etc and better defining this journey we decided to take - with the dog, Sunny! This year, we purchased a TomTom and installed the Hungarian Gramma Voice. She gets very upset if you take the wrong turns. One of her cries is "Oh God, now I don't know what to do!" Another is "Don't go too fast, it makes me nervous." She's a delight when she's allowed to guide us.
--Our tentative plan is Florida to Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakoda, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and back home to Florida. Watch for my 'traveling posts'.

July 7,  2011
 On the road a day earlier than expected!  Why?  Because the house air conditioner blew out.  Replacement will not be done till next Wednesday.  Why stay in a house in  Florida with temps between 85 and 95 !  The car is air conditioned, the dog is ready and Al took no time packing the car.
Plus we will be staying in an air conditioned hotel tonight.  I'll be keeping notes on my iPad and do a copy-paste when I have Internet connection.  We will stay in Dothan, Alabama tonight.
-- Just arrived in what is now going to be my favorite hotel. LaQuinta is very clean, very nice staff and they accept pets, no extra fee. I'm off to the shower.

July 8
 Sunny licks my face this morning, no alarm clock needed.  No deadlines today.  Granny (TomTom's voice) is programmed for Bowling Green, KY which is about a 7 hour drive today.  It's Shuttle launch time, the feeling in the car was tense until the launch was completed.  The kids (Marty and Fran) drove to Orlando last night, so they could drive over to Cocoa Beach today.  We thought of them being there to watch a piece of history taking place.  Al and I reminisced a bit about how the kids are adventurous and living life.  'Reminds us of our youth, when we ventured off together to experience life.  Of course, we barely had 2 pennies to rub together back then.
 We are on Hwy 65 viewing rolling green on the sides of the road and listening to Sirius radio, switching between finances, MSNBC for launch and now Blue Collar radio - comedy.
 Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.  Stopped for a hot peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream, we shared one as it was very rich.  Saw a Lemon Beagle for the first time.  What a beautiful beagle face.  According to it's owner, she barked very little.  Not!  As we passed their car, there was that typical beagle BAAAARRRRKKK.

July 9, Saturday
 Thanks to Marty and Fran's recommendation, we spent the entire morning visiting Mammoth Cave National Park and the American Cave Museum Pin downtown Horse Cave, KY.  I was very impressed by the ventilation systems in the underground passages.  Just coming to the entrance of a cave, a park ranger opened the door to let some tourists in and a woosh of cold air rushed past us.  It's 58 degrees down under.  To visit the the 365 miles of passages in 'Mammoth Cave is like visiting the Grand Canyon.  It's a very little speck you visit compared to what exists in the area.  I found the museum most interesting.  From water processes to food products to strange animals living in the darkness to the dramatic ventilation systems, all impressed me so much. Al was very patient as I spent time trying to digest the unique features of this land.  
 Now, late in the afternoon, we see the flat lands of Indiana.  Acres and acres of green corn stalks and soybeans cover the soil with blankets of brilliant green.  All the rains have washed the dust away and the greens are so much greener.

July 10, Sunday
 We're on our way to Okemos, MI where our friends, Dave and Sylvia Have their summer residence.  Al took time this morning to see the Duseldorf museum in Auburn, IN.  I stayed in the hotel ( LaQuinta ).  He spent about 15 minutes and if you know Al, that's a reasonable amount of time.

July 13 Wednesday
 Okemos, Traverse City, Gaylord, Suttons Bay were all points of  interest these past few days.  Dave and Sylvia guided us through all these places and made us feel at home.  Sylvia introduced us to a Michigan meal including the Michigan "pastie" (pronounced pahsty).  It's a combination of ground meat and chopped potatoes with good seasons encased is a pie type crust.  They were very hearty and with all the other food items, I was able to eat half.  Of course, I did not pass up the blueberry, cream cheese bread that was out of this world.  There was also abundant supplies of strawberries, blueberries and cherries, all in season now.  One of our stops included a stop at a fresh market where we purchased fresh cherries and blueberries that tasted like they came off the tree and bush the day before!  There was also a huge semi trying to backup to the building.  We guessed he was packing up the cherries to transport south.  
 Lunch was after visiting Dave and Sylvia's friends, Gene and Ruth Ann Kyle.  We met them in Florida where they stay the winter near Lakeland.
Their home here in Michigan is beautiful and overlooks a long lake.  They had a photo of four deer eating their foliage around the house.   Deer Populate the area.  All six of us had lunch at a very unique restaurant called 'the bearded dogg'.  No, that is not a typo.  The outdoor section has a big shiny chain link fence on concrete.  It looks like and is called the 'kennel'.

July 13
 Are we near the Monte Carlo, Monaco?  This town is so picturesque with huge floral baskets hanging from each light post.  The marina has lots of large yachts and there is a large amphitheater with grassy areas and concrete seating benches.  A couple was just bring their bikes up the boat dock, saying they came across lake Michigan from Green Bay, WI.  lake Michigan looks like the gulf in many areas.  I was surprised that there was a sandy bottom reaching way out, which makes the water so aqua blue green.
 Equestrian clubs, yacht clubs, golf clubs - the wealth is palpable!

July 13
Mackinac, St. Ignace, MI
 A full day on Mackinac Island.  This is a popular tourist destination as well as a wedding destination.  We took the ferry from St. Ignace with Sunny (our 10 pound poodle) in tow.  So far, we have had no problem with Sunny being accepted in hotels and transports.  The horse carriage ride (2 hours) took us around the island.  Our tour guide was a young man who obviously enjoyed his summer job.  Each guide arrives at the stables around 6:30 AM and grooms their own horses.  Josh filled us in on many historical details about the area.  One story was how a Dr. Biddle's daughter died while crossing the frozen section between Mackinac Island and St. Ignace during the winter.  She became separated from her father during a sudden snowstorm and it was too late when he found her.  She died later from pneumonia.  To prevent a tragic accident like this again, he had all the Christmas trees collected and then placed on drilled out holes to mark the pathway between the two land masses for the remaining months of winter.
  There are no cars on the island, so transportation is either horses or bicycles.  The weather was perfect.

July 14
Escanada, MI for the night and now, on to Duluth, MN.  Breakfast was at the Swedish Bakery and Cafe where we had sweedish pancakes.  The looked and tasted like crepes.  A deer just ran across the road about 50 yards in fromt of us.  We are in he wilderness, the road in good shape and both sides are lined with thick woods of pine and birch.  Logging is definitely one of the industries up here.  Few cars are seen, though lots of wood is transported via tranes and 18 wheelers.
  We are almost at the boundary between MI and MN.  A little town was having their 'produce day' with live radio feed, free ice cream, free hot dogs and special sales on produce.  'twas a nice stop.  BTW, the temp at 1:00pm is 68 and I know how hot it is in Florida!
July 15
One night in Duluth, MN.  Stayed downtown and travelled the Skywalk system where all the walkways were over the many highways that connect via a web of  'tunnels' above the streets.  I think we walked miles; but, at least we were protected from the strong, cold winds.
Okay, now go figure.  Between Duluth and Bemidji, our car compass broke.  Why on earth for that period of time?  The only thing we can figure is we were driving through iron ore country.  Did the heavy concentration of iron affect the compass or are we nuts?
 Al had some house buying processes that needed attention, so we stopped in Bagley, MN, found a library,  checked email, downloaded the PDF file, signed the documents, scanned them back into the computer and gmailed them to the bank.  Total cost: $6!  Al gave them an extra $4 tip for the library fund.  Amazing what the Internet can do.
 The weather is perfect, blue sky and puffy clouds, pasture lands with soybeans on both sides of the road. All rest areas in MN CLOSED DUE TO THE STATE SHUTDOWN over the budget deadlock.  
July 16 Saturday
 Somewhere in North Dakota, fog has lifted, temp 73 and expected to be 96 by this afternoon with rain and possible tornado warnings.  The rest area had a large sign on the door telling Minnesota bass fishermen  they are not welcome and cannot wash their feet in this restroom.  The fields are beautiful up here, some areas covered by lemon yellow blossoms and miles of what appear to be wild rice fields.  Last night was a challenge getting a hotel room.  because of the OIL BOON in ND,  all rooms are occupied by workers and the rates are $150 for nothing special.  We were turned down on several and had to stop early to get a room.  Got lucky with one for $90.
 Another notice posted on the McDonald's door in Devil's Lake, ND -- they will no longer accept personal checks for purchases effective July 1st.
 We are about 50 miles east of Minot, ND.  The road is about 2 or 3 feet above a water mass that goes as far as the eye can see!  This area had to be part of all the flood areas earlier this year.
 Had problems finding a hotel available in Williston, ND, so went to the iPhone - Internet and explored areas in Montana.  Lucky again, we will be staying in Wolf Point, MT for $79!
-- we are in the middle of NEW oil country!  Pulled in to what looked like a mega truck stop.  These trucks were water and oil tankers.  There are 168 new oil sites in this county alone.  The guy we spoke to said this is just the beginning, there is room for thousands more in this wide open space.  A truck driver can make $25-30 per hour guaranteed 70 to 90 hours per week just driving a water truck, which much of the time is spent waiting turns to dump waste water, sometimes up to 16 hours waiting his turn.  Workers are housed in motels 40 miles away or more.  Some have small huts or RV'S.  This reminds me of what the gold rush days must have been.  Men from trucking to piping to rigging and pumping and drilling are all needed to make this work!  Al is absolutely in awe of what's going on here.   I feel like I'm among the pioneers!  Instead of pioneer wagons, they have little huts set up to let the guys sleep between shifts.  
--  We met a young man bicycling from New York to Seattle.  He started on June 2 and hopes to arrive at his destination in August.
July 17, Sunday - Glacier National Park - Montana
 I see why they refer to Montana as the land of the big sky - miles and miles of grassland, only a few trees to move the eye to a focal point.  We've been on the road for almost two hours and have seen one vehicle.  As we smell the orange blossoms in Florida, here we smell the sweet scent of hay.  
 It was difficult and time consuming trying to find a place to stay near Glacier National Park.  Finally, we found a cabin on Lake Saint Mary which is about 20 miles from the park.  
 We've seen three trains today each hauled by 4 engines and the double stacked containers go for as far as the eye can see.  This must be a major transport system between west and east.  
 Currently listening to the local radio station from Belknap Indian Reservation.  Special time was given to teach the Indian language, a neat way to keep the Indian culture and language alive.  The music is definitely native Indian pow wow or so it seems to me.  I cannot understand the words; but the rhythms are familiar.  Not sure, but it sounds like they are singing about the whiteman's taking over their lands.
 Every once in awhile we pass some serious bicycle people with heavy packs on both sides of their bikes.  It must be their worldly possessions as they travel from coast to coast.  This straight highway is quiet and probably lends well to their trekking.
.... Tonight, i'm pooped out!  We spent all afternoon driving through the most awesome Glacier National Park.  Snow, glaciers, waterfalls, high peaks, lakes and rapids presented at every bend in the road.   We also saw three white mountain goats cross the road from one glacier patch to another.  One of the roads - Logan's pass was cleared of snow about a week ago.  It opened July 11, so we managed to travel the entire length of the ROAD TO THE SKY.  We have now settled in to our cabin on Lake Mary  -  6 miles long.  NOTE: no TV and no internet and no air conditioning!  i should feel lucky since while trying to find a place to stay, one owner asked "ya gotcher campin gear"?  
While sitting out on the deck, we see ski boats, pontoons and fishing boats.  The air is filled with tiny patches of what appears to be cotton floating along and then coming to rest like snow flakes on the lake.  I just took my ventolin inhaler as the coughing started to creep in.  The sun is going down and all is very peaceful.   Tomorrow, I turn 66 on Lake St. Mary in Montana!
July 18 Glacier National Park - Montana
We made a return trip to Glacier National Park today just to experience the wonder of it once more.  It takes about 3 hours to go through the park, lots of stops for pics, road crews working on damages done by the winter and speed limit of 25.  Chances are we will never return to THE ROAD TO THE SUN again.  That is the name of the major road through the park on the US side.  I'll put some pics up when I get a chance.  There was a small group of horses each with a colt lying under the mother's shadow.  They were being protected from the high heat today.  We are back at the cabin about an hour from the park, watching the sun go down behind the foothills tonight.  Darkness does not come till after 9pm.  The lake is very calm.  I was taken aback by the color of the glacial lakes in the park - a bright aqua.  Not sure of the reason for this;  but the color is beautiful.  The white water rapids sections are pristine white.
July 19 Idaho Coeur d' Alene
The roads between MT and ID are quiet and oh so beautiful.  There is a mix of pine covered mountains, long lakes and rivers and blue sky.  Al just had a "European" experience.  Out in the very middle of nowhere is a big sign - ESPRESSO.  He suddenly makes a U Turn and drives to this little bitty cabin like structure with a DRIVE THROUGH WINDOW!  The owner said her husband is a hunting guide during the season and a fishing guide during the summer. She and Al chatted for awhile until the next car came up to get their java.
July 19 continue Coeur d' Alene
'Stopped in a small town  -  Wallace District, ID.  Internet discovered, so decided to upload my journal entries while I had the chance.  It's nice being able to enter data on my iPad while on the road and then upload when near a WiFi. Will upload pics when I have a lot more time.  This town had an increased number of all terrain vehicles, apparently they are having an ATV 4 day event this weekend which includes races, challenges and competitions.  sorry, we won't be able to stay.  

 Two days in Coeur d' Alene.  We arrived too early for check in, so it was a perfect opportunity to stop at the laundromat.  Downtown area is alive with out door cafe's.  We counted 30 people in line last night for a simple hamburger at Hudsons.  They have no French fries or any additions to their hamburger which is served with onion and pickle whether you want it or not.  This cafe has been noted in USA today and the Wall Street Journal.  XCdA as this city is referred to is a top destination for vacationers.  There is a beautiful  lake that wraps around the city.  Large sculptures adorn many street corners, which have huge price tags in case one is inclined to make a purchase while in town.  Just returned to the hotel (La Quinta again) and will prepare for Portland Oregon tomorrow.
-- July 19 Idaho Coeur d' Alene
The roads between MT and ID are quiet and oh so beautiful. There is a mix of pine covered mountains, long lakes and rivers and blue sky. Al just had a "European" experience. Out in the very middle of nowhere is a big sign - ESPRESSO. He suddenly makes a U Turn and drives to this little bitty cabin like structure with a DRIVE THROUGH WINDOW! The owner said her husband is a hunting guide during the season and a fishing guide during the summer. She and Al chatted for awhile until the next car came up to get their java. 
July 20
Traveling through upper Idaho, no trees, desert look, sage brush and here we are at a rest area with free coffee!  OMG the temp is 64 and it's 9:30am!  And this is when much of the country is under a heat wave warning.  The lake across the road has white caps.  Sunny made his pee stop quick!
Now in Washington - strange land contrasts.  A small very green field with watering machine in one area and adjacent to it is rock and dry sage brush. Just passed the 4,000 mile mark on the trip meter.
Just saw AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN.  The wind here in Oregon make the grain fields move in beautiful waves.  We stopped at a large produce building which housed many of the local produce.  There were tasting stations for watermelon, cant elope, apricots, bing cherries, Washington cherries, blueberries, and many more.  We left with pears, blueberries, bing cherries and peaches.
Moving along the Columbia river. WInd farms as far as the eye can see again.  A semi just passed us with ONE WINDMILL BLADE which was about 100+feet long - looked very strange.  One windmill seems to dwarf those high power lines that stand so large by themselves.  Still seeng white caps on the Columbia river.  Dozens of wind surfers are little colorfuls spots on the water.  Some are connected to parasails.
July 22
When Al stepped out of the car to pump gas, a young man scurried up to him and said "I have to pump your gas".  Al was shocked to learn the state of Oregon has a law that requires station employees pump gas, not the car owner.  
 Our trip today took us to the scenic route around Mount Hood, part of the Cascade mountain chain. Timberline lodge was the high point.  I have never seen so many fully dressed skiers in my life!  Each person was adorned with tons of various clothing items and gear. For $56 a day, each skier could enjoy the slopes that are open year round.  Snow was everywhere.  We walked from the car to the lodge in 53 degrees and without jackets!  Lunch was a buffet with unusual foods.  For example, arugula salad with hazel nuts, fresh mozzarella, blueberries, strawberries and olives.  The meat was hazel nut encrusted pork loin, mmmmmmm!  A professional photographer put his equipment down and took our photo with another snow peaked mountain in the background.  They gave out little sample pacs of Oregon hazel nuts.  Sould you decide you would like to spend a night at the lodge, you may do so for up to $400 per night.
** I'm enjoying my iPad.  It sits nearby and I pull it out each time a thought comes to me for my "Travel Moments" I just start typing on the app called OFFICE.  This is one of the few apps I paid for.  
 Multnomah Falls, OR the closer I walked to the falls, more pieces of the area appeared.  Children were playing in the cold water running over round rocks.  The falls actually became two very different cascades of water.  The lower cascade was not visible until I came closer to the actual lookout area.  The falls are about 600 to 700 feet, another wonder for the eye to see.
July 23 Saturday
What a wonderful day!  First stop was TIllmook Cheese factory and here I learned the story of how Tillmook cheddar cheese is processed from beginning to final packaging.  There were observation decks to observe everything.  
Someone had advised us to eat at Moe's; but when we stopped in Lincoln City, there was no parking and the wait time was 40 minutes or more.  Thus, we traveled to a restaurant named Tidal Raves and it was beyond a wonderful lunch of dungeness crab cakes and garlic shrimp platter.  A nice couple sitting next to us struck up a conversation and before we knew it, we were invited to their home just a couple of streets away which overlooked the pacific ocean and gave a 180 degree view of the coast.  There were whale watching boats waiting to view the grey whales that stay close to shore and feast on the shrimp In the kelp fields.  I noticed a beautiful picture of Christ holding an African child in His arms. Linda and Fred were missionaries in Africa.  They have a quilt of the world on their wall which depicts all of their family members who have served as missionaries in various countries of the world.  Their Mormon heritage was presented throughout their home. Linda said they have an interest in genealogy and were interested in our friend Marsali's maiden name.  I'll send her an email later.  This was another high point of our vacation.  
The pacific coast has one breath taking vista after another!  I'm having trouble remembering each town's name.
July 24 Sunday
We're staying two nights in Newport, Oregon.  An entire section of this city is a working fishing port.  There is a sidewalk down by the port with names on special tiles - a man's name and a year.  One section had three men named and the year 1984.  It appears these were men lost at sea.  This morning, I spent a wonderful few hours at the Newport aquarium.  Al knows how I like browsing slowly, so he dropped me off and I phoned him when I was ready to be picked up.  We had clam chowder at the famous Mo's fish cafe.  The one in Newport is the original.  there night there were lines waiting, lunchtime today there were only 2 in front of us.  This area by the docks has one fish market after another, fish eateries and fish processing plants.  Fishing boats line up and stacks and stacks of nets, ropes and crabbing equipment are ready to 'go fishing' again.
July 25 Monday
The morning was heavy fog and felt like a light drizzle falling, not really rain; but, the wipers needed to keep the wet off the car windows.  In spite of the fog, there were some mystical views like bridges appearing from nowhere.  The seas were very rough and dangerous to be near the shores.  By noon, all cleared, the sun came out and warmed the air.  We had lunch on the boardwalk near the boats.  Sunny was welcomed and a bowl of water provided.  Many places are dog friendly up here.  'will be staying in Bradon, OR tonight.  Room rate - $150, most expensive so far; but Al asked for a room with a view "just for Marleen."  Rocky shores are now changing to huge sand dunes.
 Periodically, there is a road sign displaying Tsunami Hazard Zone or leaving Tunami Hazard Zone.  Instructions show what to do if you feel rumbling in the ground.
 We stopped in the area of Oregon Dunes - dune buggies everywhere.  There were groups with expensive looking Play toys.  These are excellent vehicles for broken arms and legs, especially when they tip over on top of you.  You can have one for about $6,000 according to one of the guys with a broken arm.  I was brave enough to walk up one of the dunes, Al just corrected me by saying I only walked up about 50 feet.  He can spoil a good "story"!
Today, we also learned about Myrtle wood.  It comes from a certain evergreen tree only found in two counties near Coos Bay, OR.
July 26
'Leaving Bandon, OR.  The Oregon coast offered so many dramatic changes of landscape and shoreline.  The view from the restaurant last night showed an outcropping of boulders beyond the shore.  The largest was called FACE ROCK.  The legend goes an Indian maiden was told not to go in to the waters as it was dangerous.  She did so anyway and was turned to stone.  You can see her lying off the coast looking up to the stars.  My retelling this legend is greatly lacking detail!
There are some serious bicycle boys and gals on Oregon 101.  These inclines and declines are very steep.  Some bike alone and others go in small groups.  There is a specified bike trail along the entire coastal highway.
It's 11am and sea fog has rolled in blocking out the view of the ocean; but is not obstructing driving.  When I see fog at home, it seems to settle in one area and not really move.  This fog rolls and moves quite rapidly.
Turn the radio off, open the sky light window and ride through some of the ancient redwoods.  Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is one of the older redwood parks.  Hard to imagine how long they have been around.  Near one huge hollowed out tree, I gathered 4 girls in their riding gear and posed all four of them inside the tree, along with each bicycle next to the rider.  I will email them with the shot.  They were very appreciative.
Shhhhhhh, there are elk over here!  Slowly, I got out of the car and was able to capture the elk as they were feeding along the road.  There were about  30 elk in the herd.
Our odometer just passed the 5,000 mile mark for this trip!
July 27,  Wednesday
Eureka, CA during our walk last evening, we saw a beautiful Victorian mansion with another smaller Victorian house across the street.  The main mansion was built in the 1800's for a lumber baron named Carson and he built the smaller house across the street for his daughter's wedding.  Both have been restored.  The large mansion is now a private club and gated to prevent riff raff from coming in.  The smaller house is occupied by attorneys and architects.
Now, driving through a section of hwy 101 where there are red woods on both sides.  This presents a different perspective than when we were traveling through the redwood Forrest on a dirt road.  In the forrest I felt so small, from the highway, the trees seem so big and tall.
Highway one begins in a very WINDING fashion through the mountains.  It looks like it follows an old Indian trail, one hair pin turn after another.
-- Can any coast be more beautiful than the Oregon coast?  Yes, the California coast!  Again sea fog rolls in and then disappears.  Rocks jut out from the shore.  Cliffs provide drastic contrast from the sand and waves.  We drive under some trees that have a strong pleasant smell.  Eucalyptus?
-- Stopping for two days in Gualala, CA.  Looks like a quaint little seaside town with beach just a few steps away.
July 28, Thursday
The fog is heavy this morning, so it looks like a good laundry day.  Our beds have a VERY THICK Feather liner under the sheets.  In fact, it was so thick I slept on the edge of the bed to keep from having my back bowed out from the ridge in the middle.  Al said his was comfortable.  Housekeeping will remove mine today.  While I am at the laundromat, guess where Al is.  Yes, there is a grocery store across the street.  He likes to browse grocery stores like I enjoy shopping.  Sylvia gave me some Purex laundry sheets at the beginning of this trip.  They were so nice, I bought a box to continue doing laundry on the road without needing to carry liquid soaps and softener sheets.  The Purex is all in one sheet, going from washer to dryer.  I did need to use shout max on the stains, since we both dribble when we eat which seems to worsen with age.
--- Marcia L, this note is for you.  100 steps up to the tallest light "station" on the California coast.  Port Arena is called a light station because the living quarters were adjacent to the light section.  If the living quarters were part of the light structure, it would be a lighthouse.  This light station was reopened in 1906 after the earthquake.  It is now operated by a private lighthouse keepers group.  The last ship wreck in this area was in the 1960's.  Now the shipping lane has been moved 40 miles further out.  Satelite and GPS has replaced the need for working lighthouses, though this one is fully operational and in the tower, I could see the light revolve in it's case.  The light is on automatic operation.  I took bunches of pics in this location as it exemplifies the rocky coast in so many places.
--- Finished a nice walk along the pathway at the back pf the motel.  At first I was not going to venture down there; but, when I did I saw a wide expanse of sandy beach with lazy waves rolling in.  The pathway was lined with many variations of wild flowers.  It ended up being a nice stroll.
July 29, Friday
It's 56 degrees outside at 10 am California time, ocean is probably 53 and there are scads of surfers out en masse waiting for the waves here on the Sonoma coast near Bodega Bay.  We'll be turning inland soon and the weather will change.
-- Yup, now heading toward Modesto, CA.  Temp is climbing and is now 96!  We are going to spend some time with Al's 89 year old uncle Artie and aunt Jane.  We are seeing lots of wind farms and cross country electric lines.  Land is the color of hay.
July 30, Saturday
Yesterday and today we spent time with Al's family.  Uncle Artie and aunt Jane are the oldest relatives and it was good catching up with them.  Their son, Jerry, was able to make it from Reno.  Got some good family pics and will send them some hard copy photos when I get home.
-- 320 million dollars worth of almonds were processesd this past year in the county where Modesto is.  There are also 120 million dollars worth of walnuts processed during the year as well.  There are special methods of irrigation that involves flooding the entire grove of trees.  The water is fed through a system of canals.
July 31, Sunday
Off to stay in Placerville, CA with our friends, Marsali and Bob.  We met them many years ago while traveling in Russia.  We have since visited many parts of the world with them.
August 1, Monday
I wish my camera could capture the views of all the humming birds and little finches just inches away from the window.  Bob and Marsali have feeders and bird houses arranged to enjoy these little creatures while we sit at the table and enjoying morning coffee.  This morning was an added surprise when a mother deer and her two very young fawns came walking into their back yard almost as close as the birds.
-- Sunny went to the dog groomer today and looks like a poodle once again.  Bob purchased a new  Macbook pro and we are in the process of getting Lion installed.
August 4
The past few days have gone quickly.  Enjoying relaxation at the Caldwells, with friends over for desert and conversation.  We were on a cruise with Clay and Ellie, so it was good to see them again.  Bob's friend, Ed and his wife came on another evening and we were heavy into computer issues.
Bob and Marsali took us to some very good restaurants with low prices and fantastic food!  The casino where we had one of those good lunches is also owned by local indians and looks much like the casino in Tampa.
August 5, Friday
We are going through the Sierra mountains which look different than other mountain ranges.  Lots of rock and dry grassy areas.  'Will be stopping at Jackpot, NV tonight and tomorrow, will be on our way to Cody, WY for two nights.
-- Now, just ahead of us are the many hotels for Reno visitors.
-- The rest of Nevada is straight roads in the valleys and winding roads through miles and miles and miles of brownish green rolling landscapes.  The temp has ranged from 50 at the top of the Sierras to current 87 on the east side of NV.
August 6, Saturday
Traveling through Idaho today.  Acres of farm land, mountains in the distance and crossed over the Snake River which was lined  by very deep walls of rocky cliffs on both sides.  A wind farm is being built off Hwy 86, you can see the actual construction of towers being constructed for placement of the hub and blades.  Close by, there was construction for high power electric lines.
-- Bob just called to point out the distant high peaks of the Grand Teton Mountains, still with lots of snow about midway.  These peaks are about 13,000 ft high (don't quote me on the exact height).  Bob and Marsali are traveling in a separate car and we will travel 'together' throuh Cody, Jackson Hole, Salt Lake City and then we will part ways in Utah.  They will return home to CA, and we will continue eastward.
--  Nearing the entrance of Yellowstone Park.  We will use our golden age passport which admits us into any national park free.  The pass used to cost $10, but they do not issue them anymore.  This passport has come in handy this trip.
--  I'm pooped!  The air is thin up here and there is a litttle jaunt required to see each of the spectacular sights here in Yellowstone.  I'll post photos of the geysers, springs, waterfalls and rambling Brooks we saw today.  It's awesome to think this entire area rests upon one of the largest volcanoes below the surface.  The dramatic changes in landscapes makes me tingle.  Some of the area has a resemblance to the Grand Canyon on a minuscule scale.  Yellowstone lake is 340 ft deep and 25 miles across.  The shore line has waves lapping on the rocks.  Acres and acres of stripped grey pines stand as ghosts from previous forrestation.  Some of it looks like fire damage and some look like maybe winter snow avalanches.  60% of Yellowstone are pine trees and most of it is still green.
August 7, Sunday
Cody, WY.  This small town of about 9,000 is a rest point on the eastern side of Yellowstone.  All the rooms were filled with bikers going to the Sturgis bike rally.  It was cool seeing so many bikes in one place.  I spoke with a couple who shipped their bikes from Milan, Italy to Salt Lake City and are riding through the country on their way to Sturgis.  The Milano Group looked pretty large in number.  There were many foreign speaking people in town.  The highlight of yesterday was visiting the Buffalo Bill Historic Museum.  At first I thought the visit would take about an hour of our day.  NOT!  This was a full day with lunch and nap squeezed in the middle!  The museum is made up of 5 separate sections of a very large 3 story building.  It reminded me of a small sized very new Smithsonian.  My favorite area was the plains Indian wing.  The exhibits were so realistic.  Lots of historical information delivered in so many different ways from photography to movies, to still presentations and on and on.  The other sections were: western art. Firearms, Yellowstone and Buffalo Bill.  BB's home town was Cody and he brought the wild west shows to America and Europe.  The motel accommodations left something to be desired for a price of  $100 per night.  I did not know they could make soap bars so tiny!
August 8
Long day going through another section  of Yellowstone.  The landscapes are soooooo different.  We walked over hot sulphur pools via a boardwalk.  
We caught pics of bison and Pronghorn Elk.  I was able to squeeze my body and my camera up through the sun roof of the car while Al drove, sort of like a real safari, haha.  On the way to Jackson Hole, WY, we travelled along the magnificent Grand Tetons which are very high jagged peaks.
August 11, Thursday
Stayed in a nice cabin in town, most expensive; but roomy and could walk downtown Jackson Hole, WY.  The past couple of days we returned to Yellowstone and the Teton mountains.  The landscapes cannot be compared to the eastern part of our country and more often than not, photos do not do justice to what the eyes see.  The town of Jackson Hole is filled with many tourist shops and many cabin and hotel accommodations.  Much of it looks new.  They maintain many of the sidewalks with wood planks to give it that old west feel.  Al dropped by Jerry Spence's law office; but, they would not take his case.  Spence is the famous attorney who defended Amelia Marcus and has never lost a case.  We had dinner at the Bar J ranch where we ate off tin plates, took our own dishes back to the cowhands and watched a western show with old cowboy songs.  Here i learned cattle on this ranch are raised as breeders and then the calves are sold to eastern feedlots to fatten up.  They are then sold to eastern processing plants and the meat is distributed throughout the US.  The original ranch that sold the calf now buys the meat and sells it at the dinner show.
-- just crossed 7,000 miles.  We are now slowly making our way down the mountain ranges.  We have seen the bison, deer, elk and antelope.  This whole landscape changes with the seasons.  There are clusters of small flowers showing patches of purple and yellow and gold.  'saw enough sagebrush to last a lifetime.  Pine trees and quaking Aspen trees are in abundance.  Marsali and Bob have patiently given many explanations to what we see while traveling this segment of our trip.
-- Our Subaru outba k has been a good traveling car.  For this trip, we have averaged 30.6 miles per gallon.  Many horses graze in the fields.
--  We have left the green hills and snow covered mountains and are now looking at dry sagebrush and rocky hills and cliffs.  On one side runs the Green River where many immigrants crossed going west in the 1800's.  An unusual sight to see are long wooden slats created to hold the snow from drifting onto the roads.
--  entering Utah.  I just read there is a website that has a searchable database of all Federal and state public land --  Noting more outcroppings of red rocky cliffs.
August 12, Friday
Salt Lake City, arrived last evening, met Marsali's sister, Cathlin and her husband Dan and their son Rod.  All went out for an Italian dinner, then over to their new home which sits high above SLC (Salt Lake City).  From their deck, we could see the entire city and the salt lake for which the city is nAmedeo.  The sun set behind the mountains while we were there and the city lights slowly came on and twinkled for all to see.  This city was layed out by the founding Mormons and is divided in grids all relating to the Temple - north, south east and west numbers.  There was a beautiful new white temple all lit just above Cathlin's home.  High on the Temple's peak was the angel Moroni.  It was, indeed a very pleasant evening.
August 13
You do not need to be Mormon to be inspired by the Mormon Temple, Tabernacle, conference center, beautifully landscaped grounds - all 35 acres.
Cathlin and Dan took several hours out of their schedule to show us all the corners of this vast complex.  There are some areas not open to the public; but the parts we did see was very impressive.  We watched a movie of the early history of how the Mormon church was formed by Joseph Smith and later settled in Salt Lake City.  I was touched by the persecution this group of people suffered.  There are small minded people in every decade that choose to assume people they are not familiar with should be considered a lesser people and not worthy of respect.  There are as many as 40 or 50 marriages take place EVERY DAY at the Temple.  Each marriage takes place separate from the other; but, many of the wedding parties are seen on the grounds all dressed in finery from adult to child.  It must be a true work of dedicated coordination for all the ceremony rooms to be to be timed precisely.  The family is valued and children are plentiful and well behaved.  I got the impression all individuals are welcomed in this church no matter your background.
We had lunch at the Hotel Utah owned by the Mormons. Al put his foot in his mouth when he ordered coffee immediately realizing Mormons do not drink coffee.  They do not serve it at the hotel.  We did have an appetizer of fried dill pickle spears which were very good.  They tasted a little like fried green tomatoes, but with a stronger bite.
--- We're traveling through some mountainous areas in the distance and cattle land and more sage brush areas.  These landscapes cannot be compared to anything near Florida or North Carolina.  I'm looking forward to seeing my familiar landscapes at home.
--  Spent today in Bricknell, UT and travelled through Capital Reef which is a 70 mile long national park off hwy 24.  Butch Cassidy used to hang out in this region.  The landscapes are cliffs and boulders of multicolored sandstone.  This was formed when one part of the earth buckled beneath the part next to it.  There are specific names to the various colors.  Navajo is the top white domes, then a greenish color, then deep dark brick red all blend to make dramatic variations in shapes and size.  We saw some petroglyphs which are Indian carvings in the sandstone in an area one wonders how anyone could reach.
--  Tonight Bob and Marsali part ways with us, they travel home to CA and we continue heading east, eventually making it back to FL.
August 14, Sunday
They say the air is the cleanest up here on this 7,000 ft elevation plateau. I have seen 5 very large white plastic covered quanset hut buildings that at first looked like fairly large homes.  They all turned out to be elaborate, ventilated green houses.  These are short seasons up here and to be self sufficient in this part of the country, they farm year around inside these structures.
--  8,900 feet elevation here and the vista looks like the bottom of an ocean bed with peaks and valleys below us.  Now it is dry and arid. A deer just crossed in front of us.  The hills are all green with juniper tree-bushes which seem to thrive in this climate.
--  Arches National Park,  like sculptures standing along the road.  To think salt from previous oceans settled into the sandstone and over 300 million years formed the various designs in the stone.  The various colors sit in stark contrasts from layer to layer.  The visitor center explained in detail how these formations occurred.  Visitor centers out west are not just for handing out maps.  Each one is like a mini museum of that area, expelling the terrain as well as the culture and animals.
--  a coyote just watched us as we passed by.  Also, not too far back, a deer crossed in front of us.
--  Colorado river is on the left and again massive rock cliffs zig zagging in front of us.
--  8,000 mile marker , Al says that's about a third of the way around the earth as the crow flies.  We just went through a high cliffed gorge or pass.  People are white water rafting on the Colorado river.
--  Beginning to enter ski country.  Cooper ski run about a mile away.  We are coming in to Vail, CO 8,150 feet elevation.  Mountains surround us.  Everything now verdant green with houses dotting the slopes.  Periodically, we see ski runs, no snow at this time of year.  There are multiple places that appear to be different skill levels for skiing.  Some runs are way up high on the mountain and look like only professionals would risk those.  Now we are seeing large patches of snow.  The elevation is 10,663 feet which will be the highest for us.  The surrounding mountains with the snow are 13,000.
August 15
we have left all the mountains behind and are entering the flat plains of CO and KS.  The rocks, deserts, sagebrush, conifers have been replaced by golden fields from my eye to the horizon.
--  What we see of Kansas are fields and fields of corn and-or sorghum.  Fran, Marty and I saw some sorghum in Cherokee.  'Not sure what it is used for.  There are some oil pumps here and there pumping away.
--  There is something graceful about a large field of stark white and very tall wind mills all standing erect and arms circling slowly while gathering the wind to convert to electricity.  At ground level, the cattle continue grazing on the greenery.
--  Eisenhower library, visitor center and museum, Abilene, Kansas.   This is the first presidential library complex we have ever visited.  The visitor center presented a 23 minute biography of his involvement in America, via serving in the military to the many accomplishments during his two terms as president.  Some notable accomplishments were signing Hawaii and Alaska into statehood, firing  mcCarthy, granting voting rights to African Americans, ending the Korean war and building the interstate highway.  He and Mamie and their first born son are buried on the grounds near the original site where he grew up.  The house stands where it always has.  The museum presents every detail about the era he lived in and the prevailing issues which are not too different from today.  There were a total of ten cars with visitors while we were there.  
--  it's very windy here and the museum staff said the wind is usually much stronger.
August 16,
Independence, Missouri.  Early up and almost the first couple to visit Harry Truman's library and museum.  Harry was married and buried here in Independence.  I liked the large poster that said FREE SPEECH DOES NOT MEAN CARLESS TALK.  He served 8 years, following F. Roosevelt.  Some of his notable actions were providing the way to the end of WWII, supported Israel in becoming an independent state, ordering the drop of the atomic bomb, formation of the United Nations and developed the Marshall Plan for reconstruction of Europe after the war ended.  Since he lived in this town,  various markers are spread throughout this town.  Visiting these two presidents' libraries prompts me to want to someday visit more as they are historical both to the president and to the time's in which they governed.
--  Joan (guest in our Highlands home) inquired how Sunny (our favorite poodle) is doing.  Sunny has been the perfect travel mate.  Only once In this six week trip did he get in trouble for barking in the hotel room.  Actually, he has made our trip more enjoyable, almost like bringing an exceptionally well behaved grandchild or a soft Teddy bear.  I think I needed more potty stops than he did.
--  Just crossed over 9,000 miles with 1,100 miles left to reach home sweet home.   We are passing through St. Louis, not sure if we can ,make it home tomorrow with 1,000 miles to go.  We had a very hard rain with poor visibility which allowed us down.
--  It's 5:30pm and 824 more miles to go.  'Have travelled through MO, IL, KY and are now headed to TN.  Our goal now is to reach home sweet home by tomorrow.
August 16
10 hours away from home!  We can now remove this from our bucket list.  Though we did not visit all of the National Parks, we did get to quite a few.  Among them were Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and lesser known parks in Washington state, Oregon, California and Utah.  It was awesome seeing such diversity in landscapes this country has.  The Arches in Utah stand in sharp contrast to the snow covered peaks in Glacier, Mount Hood and the Grand Tetons.  The Mormon experience in Salt Lake City was enlightening and gave us a better understanding of a religion we did not know much about before this trip.  We cannot say it better than:  "This land is your land, this land is my land from the Redwood Forrest to the gulf stream waters.  this land was made for you and me!".
10,122 miles to home after 42 days.  There is no place like home!
NOTE:  please forgive all misspells and odd phrases as this was written on the iPad in the car, going down the road at 70 miles per hour.  PS: I was not driving.  Al was behind the wheel the entire trip.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

At Home This Winter

Travel does not always mean away from home to exotic places. This winter, we stayed at home in Florida, and 'traveled' to the surrounding areas. Clearwater, FL has one of the most beautiful beaches in the U.S. That's where Al and I met 40 some years ago. I was vacationing and he came up to me and asked me to take his photo. Cameras have been one of my toys ever since!
This winter, we took time out to remove the carpets in our house and replace with stone tiles. Sometimes, you can come across an individual who has the gift of his trade, be it carpentry, tile installation, photography and so on. Not sure why we did not do this sooner.
Our kids had some major reconstruction done on their house this winter, which has given a much roomier feel. Sooooo, staying home can be an adventure, too!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cruise to Norway, Iceland and Ireland

See photos here: Norway Iceland Belfast, Ireland
July 31, 2009
Easy day, Bill took us to the airport. Stop! The day does downhill from there. We initally had an hour and a half to transfer in Atlanta. NOT! Bad weather delayed us from leaving Tampa and therefore gave us a window of 5 minutes left over in boarding the plane in Atlanta. We wondered then, if our luggage got on board. The plane sat idle for another 45 minutes, so we thought, no problem - luggage and the Salo's are headed to Gatwick airport in England. We and about 20 other families waited and waited at the luggage area and NO luggage for any of us. So, the forms were filled out and here we are on the ship, no clothing or personal items. This is the only time in our many travels that we get to experience this side of the travel adventure.
Good news - the Crown Princess provided a toilet kit for each of us, so our teeth are clean again. They will also launder the one set of cloting we have on our backs during the night while we sleep. We will also receive $25 per day starting tomorrow, compliments of Delta. Woopee, how far will that go? We have a sea day tomorrow, so nothing will arrive unless they send out a helicopter, I don't think so! Do you know how to launder undies when in a situation like this? Well, let me tell you. First you take the shampoo that was dispensed in your toilet kit, make a sudsy solution in the sink and launder them yourself. Then, you hang them on a hanger and use the hairdryer until thoroughly dry. That's all there is to it. After a nice shower, all is well again :).

August 1, 2009 SEA DAY
Another day of wearing the same outfit. Low tolerance on my part. 'Ended up purchasing a couple of outfits from the ship's shop - expensive! And, nothing looks good with a clunky pair of tennies. I bought a pair of Princess Cruise rubber sandals which look slightly better. Obviously, we will skip 'FORMAL' attire tonight and eat in the casual buffet area. Our friends, Bob and Marsali are quiet accomodating. We'd do the same for them, I'm sure. I'm a little worried that we have not heard anything about our suitcases. If they were found, they should have notified our ship to expect them in our one and only port with an airstrip, Bergen, Norway, which will be tomorrow's stop.

August 2, Sunday
At 6a.m. Al carted our few pieces of dirty clothing to the laundry on board. Still no luggage :(. No department stores open for shopping.
Stop today is Bergen, Norway. The largest ciy in Norway. City is surrounded by rock faced mountains and trees. Quite beautiful. Some people took the excursion to the top of one of the mountains and saw the great vistas in all directions. There are 300 island formations in and around this area. Such magestic images of mountains formed by glaciers many years ago and waterways cut deep into the land. These water fissures are deep enough to allow these huge shipe to pass without problem.

August 3, Monday
WOW! 60 miles into one of the longest Fjord in Norway. We woke to see a picture on our TV screen which Al thought was a postcard. No, there was a vehicle moving. Photos cannot describe such a splendid view. Mountains surround us in every direction. Large patches of snow sit high above. Long cascades of white water falls break the verdant green fields and trees. Near the bottom of the mountains along the water lies little colorful homes, one street of shops and little boathouses which they use to pull the smaller fishing boats in during the winter. The temp is 70 and dry. About 80 inches of rain falls in Norway, so that explains how green everything is. While walking in the town, lots of bees kept buzzing around the tourists. There were lots of flowers everywhere, so the bees are beneficial, I'm sure; but, bothersome.
We did a little shopping, yes, little. One pair of black slacks cost $100! No, I did not buy two pairs! Al bought himself a pair, as well, so at least we do not need to do laundry every night. Also a few undies. We'll keep our receipts in case we get some kind of reimbursement. Can't let this ruin our trip. We will be out on deck this afternoon as we leave the little harbor and make out way of of the Fjords 60 miles. It's almost dream like.

August 4, Hellesylt and Geiranger, Norway.
Woke this morning about 5:45am and went out to the open deck to experience a slow weaving through two Fjords. We moved near a tiny village called Hellesylt where some people left the ship to take a $200 per person land tour to Geiranger and then our pilot turned the ship around to move the rest of us through the second Fjord to Geiranger via the waterway. This fjord is about 900 feet deep and stretches about 9 miles – 2,000 ft elevation of mountains bordering both sides. This fjord is considered by many to be the most beautiful in all of Norway. Snow still shows large patches on the mountain tops. We could see a portion of the largest ice field in Europe. 'Field' stays in one place, 'Glacier' moves like a river.
Every little village has a white church with it's steeple and surrounded by beautiful cemeteries. Each head stone no mater how long ago the person died still has beautiful live floral arragements. One could almost tremble seeing such beauty. It reminds me of standing on the shores of the Atlantic ocean and having that sense of wonder of how massive this planet is and how awesome the creator must be.

August 5, Aalesund, Norway
In 1904 a massive fire destroyed 800 buildings in this city and Germany's Kaiser came with relief and aid. The rebirth of this town is now one of the prettiest ports in Norway. Colorful, art nouveau style buildings, canal waterways make wandering the streets a pleasant experience. We did see the largest jelly fish I've ever seen in that was not in an aquarium. He looked as if he was feeding on the greenery along the chanel edge just below a small foot bridge - almost close enough to touch.
Each of our ports have been very relaxing and non-hurried. This afternoon, we found ONE of our TWO suitcases in our stateroom. Yes, it had Al's stuff in it and some of my dressy tops, makeup, deoderant, toothbrushes, etc. NO second suitcase and they do not seem to know where it is. Since my shoes are in the lost suitcase, I will continue to wear black socks as if they are ballerina shoes. I don't think anyone has noticed. None of my casual clothes are found, so I'm still relying on my airplane outfit which was worn for comfort, NOT style!
We have left port and are now set for one sea day on our way to Iceland.

August 5, SEA DAY
Just talked to the other couple who lost their luggage. They now have all four pieces and are quite upset. All of their stuff is sopping wet and has mildew spots all over. She was taking some of the stuff to the ship laundry to see if they will launder okay. She had me feel some of the clothing and, yes, WET. She said some of the pieces could actually wring water out. Our suitcase that was found has the new plastic outer covering (well protected from the elements); but, the one that is still in neverland is cloth-canvas. That one may be in the same shape - wet and mildewed! At least, it is not ruining our cruise.

August 6, Akureyre, Iceland
Colorful buildings - bright royal blue, sharp yellow gold and green-green. They create a nice contrast in the city. Flower boxes abound throughout the streets. Many of the homes have a collection of pretty things on display in the windows. Orchids seem popular in these windows, as well as glass items and statuary. Al found an AA club and spoke to some of the guys; but declined going to the meeting as the language Icelandic. It was a pleasant day walking around the town and the weather has managed to be nice to us. This part of the world has a lot of rain. Mountains are not as high as Norway; but, some still have snow patches up high. We've been getting off board after a leisurely breakfast, walking around to the different sites, then returning for lunch and later a nap.
The entertainment has been very good. Tonight was a young woman from Scotland and her voice was beautiful. She sang songs to please any of the crowds on board, while also playing a flute and picalo. She did a rendition of Michael Flatley (?sp) River Dance - lots of energy. You could almost see them dancing. Her mother is Scot and her father is Irish. The ship has lots of different countries represented - mainly Brits and Americans, but many others, as well.

Aust 7, Reykjavik, Iceland
Today is port for the largest city in Iceland. We got up at 6am, took a bite and got off the ship in the first group. Al and Bob rushed to the first taxi and negotiated a private tour around the countryside. It was about $60 per hour for all four of us and he (Steffan) was perfect!!!! Perfect English, perfect charm, perfect humor, etc. The cost was a FRACTION of taking any excursions from the ship. We have Steffan's name in case anyone decides to come this way and needs a special driver. He took us to see a huge volcano crater filled with water. This 'island' is riddled with volcanoes, most of them inactive. It has 3 very large glaciers - one of them is the largest in Europe. We saw one of them stretch across almost a third of the horizon. There are also multiple geysers and steam vents scattered about. He took us to the geyser that erupted twice while we were standing there! There were also about a dozen steam vents you could walk around. Iceland harnesses the steam and hot water which is transported in huge pipes that zig-zag across the land. The zig-zag is so the pressure does not burst the pipe. When the water arrives in the city and in the individual home, it is still about 160 degrees hot!! Some of the country side farms have their own little steam factory to provide energy for their farms. Farming is mainly grasses, hay, etc. They also had domed hot houses where they grew vegetables. Summers are short here. These hot houses provide veggies year around.
The trees are very sparse. Steffan says if you get lost in a forrest, just stand up . The land has mostly grasses and moss and is very rocky from volacnoes and earthquakes. Parts of this land looks somewhat like Iwo Jima and Clint Eastwood filmed 'Flags of our Fathers' here. Steffan was hired as a personal driver for the crew. He was very impressed with Clint. He knew his American movies.
Culture: highly educated, no illiteracy, 5% unemployment because of the severe recession here. Young people do not go to church.
There are herds of a very special breed of horses here. No other horses are allowed on the island and if a horse leaves this country for any reason, it is not allowed to return. They are noted for a unique way of riding unlike any other horse in the world. It's front legs can high step while its back legs walk. They are not used to labor; intead they are for sport and competition and pleasure riding. Horses are in abundance and look different - with shorted legs and stocky bodies.
Lastly, we went to a huge waterfall - maybe not like Niagra; but, the power was just as magnificent to watch. The river that carries this water to the sea is cut deep and sharp. Awesome.

August 8, SEA DAY
Still no return of lost luggage for bag number two. I made it through this far without a LOT of items. Thanks to Al, he got up 7am twice on this cruise just to get to the washing machines before the rest of the 3,000 people did. Now, he tells me, he had to leave one laundromat and find soap in another laundromat on a different floor! Picture Al in a bathrobe furnished by the ship - one size fits all - barely wrapping around so as to hide his willey. Yes, this is my husband! Luckily, no one was up to see the spectacle. Because of his ealy morning wandering, my clothes were clean. Talk about 'same old', 'same old'! I did manage to complete a lost luggage items list so we'll persue the issue with DELTA when we return to the states.
to look okay for formal night - only no shoes, just black socks - quite comfy!

August 9, Belfast, Ireland
What a difference from our last visit to Belfast. A few years ago, we hired a taxi and were taken to a street that was covered with political murals. At the time, it was explained to us the political upheaval of the 'troubles' were over and we thought this muraled wall was the extent of the visual explanation of the terrible turmoil of 30 years ago.
Today, we were enlightened! Again, we hired a taxi to take the four of us around Belfast and give us some guidance and history. We now see hundreds of murals scattered about the city on both the Protestant side and the Catholic side of Belfast. This city is severely split between the two. Each side has their own businesses, schools, cemeteries and taxis, etc. The taxis on the Catholic side will not transport any person to the Protestant side and vice versa. Catholic schools teach Galic as one of the languages, the protestant side does not. Our young driver explained many things. If a catholic and a protestant come together in a relationship, they are forced out of both sides of the city and must live in the country. The two sides do not mix except in certain circumstances. The hospital is on the protestant side but all are welcome to these services. The police force is about 60 Prot, 40 Cath. We were taken to many of the murals scattered about both sides of the city. They portray fallen 'heroes' who fought during the upheavals many years ago. They portray the political philosophy of each side. Our driver explained that much of this fighting was done by groups driven by power and money. Much of the killing was done by directed focus, infiltrating the other side and identifying where the people of power were hanging out. The person who killed one of these leaders from the other side had a higher standing within their own group. It almost sounded like the Mafia days in our country many years ago. The individual businesses on each side were obligated to 'pay for protection', this was one means of each group raising finances for their causes. The underlying animosity is almost felt. Around 8PM, gates are closed around the Catholic part of the city and only one avenue remains open for people to move through - that's within the heart of Belfast. There is also a 'peace wall' about 30 feet high which protects both sides from having objects thrown to the other side.
Tourism has increased with the painting of the murals - our drive says these paintings are kept fresh looking and have over time become less violent in nature. One can still see the force of oposite thought and philosophy. I left this experience wanting to learn more about the 'troubles' as it is now called.

August 10, SEA DAY
Pack today and home tomorrow night! I'm ready, though this has been a wonderful cruise with such magnificent terrains! This will go down as one of my favorite cruises.

After completing all of DELTA's required documentation for lost luggage, our missing piece of luggage was returned! All was in perfect condition. It was like Christmas - finding my fancier clothes safely at home again.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Spring Blooms in Highlands

The second week of May, we ventured back up to the mountains for Spring. As we drove up to our house in Highlands, NC, an array of blooms welcomed us. Rhododendrons are making their debut for the season. They surrounded the walls and wrapped the edge of the driveway. Last fall, we purchased about 25 bushes hoping they would make it through the winter. Someday they will make a beautiful wall for privacy and beautiful blooms. Upon our arrival at the house, we planted some geraniums and border flowers with names I cannot recall. Highlands shows off its colors throughout the year. Even the gray winter days prepares the soul for the budding of life in the spring. My goal is to find those special 'flaming azaleas' that are unique to the area.
The mist and rains are part of what makes Highlands, North Carolina, the beautiful rain forest it is. The Mountain Fire bush has shed its' white flowers and issued the flaming leaves that follow.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cruise from Tampa, FL to Santo Tomas, Guatemala

Cruise Holland America from Tampa, Florida to Santo Tomas, Guatemala

Midway through cruise already. Key West was 'cleaner and more spruced up' than I recall from the last time we visited there. Maybe it was because of the cooler weather. Very nice strolling weather. We stopped at Jimmy Buffet's and had a Pellagrino and enjoyed the music. They have a HUGE screen showing Jimmy at various concerts and playing all his favorite songs. Since we had already seen Hemingway's home and taken the tourist trolley, we opted to just stroll on foot and enjoy the laid back mood. Then one sea day - llllaaaaazzzzzyyyyy! ho, hum

Today, is Belize City, Belize. Al has been to the island before; but, not to Belize City. We tendered in and the ride from ship to tender to shore was very smooth. There were lots of men offering taxi, bus, tours, etc. One man started walking with us and he was so 'Belize' that Al let him stroll with us, knowing he was expecting a 'touring fee'. He said he was father to 4 boys and 7 girls and 7 of the children still lived with him. He was proud of all the children he had and NO WIFE. He said no one should ever marry a Belize woman or they would need aspirin every day. Then he laughed. He also said he was celebrating his 60th birthday. Al rewarded him with $20. Yes, this is Al's form of tithing (?sp) - the angels keep score. Our 'tour guide' did take us to the oldest church (Anglican) that was built in 1814 by slaves who were not allowed to worship in the church. They had to stand behind some rocks outside and listen to the services.

He also pointed out all the boats anchored in the canal. They were lobster 'diving' boats. This month is off limits for lobsters as they are 'multiplying' this season. The larger boat goes out carrying about 8-10 stacked row boats that then go from the mother boat and take the lobster diver to a separate areas. I bet it would be very picturesque to see them all come in heavy with lobster catches. The literature made note that the Belize people would give negative statements about Guatemala and sure enough - the lady at the church made mention that there are still British soldiers on the island protecting them from the Guatemalans. This church lady also came up to us and asked us if we were millionaires and if we could help restore their ancient church organ. I think if Al had the money he would have written her a check. He was touched by this.

This note was written upon return to the ship from Belize, after a nice lunch and a wonderful nap! Al is nowhere to be found. We have both been perfect in NOT eating any cookies, desserts, breads or ice cream! I did Tai Chi on the day we did not walk the ports. Life is good!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Highlands Fall Moments

Fall is beginning to spread her yellows and reds onto the forrestry which is so abundant here in Highlands and surrounding mountains. It's October 4th and I would anticipate the 'peak leaf season' this year to be about 2 weeks from now. Each day, there are noticeable differences in color changes.
Today, mist hangs over the distant hills, rain comes and goes gently hour to hour. A perfect day presents itself as a time for relaxation and curling up with a favorite book. I'm hooked on T.C.Boyle right now and just finished After The Plague, a collection of short stories. We are taking turns between the noise of the TV and silence for 'written words.'
There is a consignment shop here which is fun to visit. Knowing any purchase goes to funding various projects here in Highlands makes that 'unique find' almost a duty. The shop is made up of all volunteers and accumulated funds are given to various organizations in the area. Today, we bought two sets of dishes for the 'new house' for a grand total of $17.00! They were not complete sets; but, the combination of the two match nicely. One set is Mikasa with a pretty floral print and square shape to the plates.
Al is loving Highlands more and more. Framing of the new house has been delayed till next week. There needs to be a termite treatment prior to laying of the floor. Patience is required for any building project. We'll be staying another week and then head home - 'hope it's getting cooler in Tampa.

Cliffside Lake and VanHook Glade
A first attempt to take the trail to Cliffside Lake ended up in a side jaunt to VanHook Glade. On highway 64 between Highlands and Franklin, there was a little road just a half mile or so prior to Cliffside where we turned in. There, we saw campsites with tables full of breakfast or lunches and signs stating no food on premesis. Always black bear issues exist. Even barbecues and picnics were easily visible. We started on the trail that said VanHook Glade thinking it was the trail that would take us to the lake. At first, all of us took the trail; but, then, we came to a paved road. After flagging down a driver who gave us friendly directions, we turned to go back to the car. However, Fran and I were more adventursome than Al and Marty. She and I veered off of the trail onto another side trail. On we went further into the woods and the trail path started narrowing. It's easy to see how one could get lost if he/she ventured off the designated trails. Sense of directions can get clouded in the dense forrestry. As we returned to where the guys were, we heard "MARCO" echoing through the trees. Safe at last, we echoed "POLO" back to reassure the boys we were safe and sound.
Just a few minutes onto Highway 64 again, the sign CLIFFSIDE RECREATION showed us where to go to take the lake trail. We have a book with all the local trails that are listed by levels of difficulty. Cliffside is number 12 out of 62. (VanHook is listed as #10). We thought the trail around the lake was fairly easy if one watched for the multitude of tree roots protruding above the soil. The eye needed to focus where the foot trail was going. Pauses along the lake provided many beautiful vistas. Children were swimming, people were fishing, others were resting in lawn chairs and there were many places to be very alone with nature. There's a TV station up here dedicated to Highlands which recommends taking a hiking map with you when you venture out. I think that is very wise!