Boy, I Wish I Had Your Life!

This is something I imagine those of you who love to travel hear quite often.  Or at least. those of you who will spend more than your last dollar on a trip.  This line was said to me on our return from a trip to Italy in February. It was the same one we took last year.  We did some different things and some of the same things. And I learned what I did wrong when I tried to duplicate the anchovy and capers pizza. You shouldn’t use the whole can of anchovies!

Prior to leaving, I was having some health issues. After seeing a specialist, I was given a regimen to follow and an appointment to come back in a few months.  The day before we left, the office called to set up an appointment ASAP. Well, heck, I wasn’t going to cancel the trip.  So I went and assumed it would be my last trip … ever.  I’m a terrible patient and was convinced I probably only had a few months to live. So I drank a lot of wine!

I went to the doctor the day after we got back and got scheduled for additional tests.  Then two days later, came down with the flu. Kind of got over that and went for the new test.  The result? Nothing major wrong.  Go enjoy your life!  Yea! Well, I guess I can stop writing my eulogy and get back to my blog post.

Enter a teenage granddaughter and all the angst, trouble, worry and bad attitude only they seem to be able to create. So now I find myself on a new set of worries.  Am I having fun yet? Not quite, but I’m trying. Really trying. I must remember — I was never promised a rose garden.

So back to the Italy trip. Our first night in town, Montecatini Terme, we went to the pizza place where I got hooked on the anchovy-capers pizza. Had it again and studied it fully.  I haven’t tried it at home yet, but I have my can of anchovies and the cheese. I had it again in another restaurant for our Valentine’s dinner. Romantic, huh? I saw it on quite a few menus, so I guess this is a common pizza in Italy, much like Hawaiian pizza is here in the U.S.  Not the most popular, but on most menus.

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We did a day trip to Florence again. I love that city but this time I wanted to wander around and shop, which caused a lot of whining from Jim. We didn’t wander so much as we were lost. We had a little map we bought, but it was obviously beyond our ability to follow it. We’d go straight when we should have gone left. Went left when we should have gone right.  You get the picture. We were trying to find a particular open air market.  It might have been easier if I hadn’t left the tour book I borrowed from the library in the seat pocket on the plane. I couldn’t remember the name of the market or exactly where it was located. I had to try to rely on my memory. Yeah, that worked out real well for us. 

Finding ourselves almost back where we began, we decided we needed to have some wine and maybe some food.  We happened upon a place on the back side of the Duomo. We were able to people watch and a group of musicians set up shop and entertained everyone for a while. Bet you think they were playing Italian songs! Nope. Irish!

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After our consumption of food and drink we decided to head back to the train station feeling sorry for the fact we were unable to locate the market. We got up and after a little discussion … should we go left , right, up or down, we chose up and left.   Lo and behold, there was the market. Finding a really cute purse, I talked the guy down to a really good deal and was pleased with my crack bartering skills.  I plan to use the purse sometime before I leave this Earth. I just am not one of those women who change their purse much.  I pretty much carry the same one until it falls apart. As I was putting it in my closet back at home, I decided I probably could have bought it at Kohl’s for the same price! Haha! Let’s just think of it as a souvenir.

We made a return trip to Lucca, having liked it when we were there before during a rain storm. Since it was a nice day, we figured we could enjoy walking around without getting soaked.  And walk we did.  Stumbling on our way out of the old walled city, we happened upon an outdoor cafe and decided to once again, have some wine and food. Something felt familiar about the place and then I realized we had eaten at the same place the last time, except we ate inside because of the rain!

The next day, we took a taxi to Montecatini Alto, which sits high on the hill above Montecatini Terme.  There is a funicular (incline) that runs up to it, but it didn’t operate in February. We had heard some good things about it and it was well worth the afternoon visit. We walked around the little streets and found the ambiance enjoyable.

Once again, time for libations. And some food. And I must say, the proprietors were always very charming.

That night we were attending a dinner, olive oil presentation and wine tasting at a local farm.  There were about 40 of us.  We might have had too good of a time because regardless of the amount of wine consumed there, we met back at our hotel and had more until 2:30 a.m. Our immature behavior caused us to have to forgo our plans to go to Sienna the next day.  Irene couldn’t get out of bed early enough to get the train for the 3 hour trip there and then back again.  No Problem. We decided to go to Pisa, which was much closer.

Rick Steves said Pisa was just too touristy, but we didn’t find that to be so.  We really liked it. On our last trip a number of people told us they liked it, so we figured maybe Rick was wrong.  We were glad we went. It was quite a walk from the central train station to the Leaning Tower, but we really liked the shopping area we passed through. Lots of shops and cafes. I stepped into a little shop to get a pin for my visor (a Leaning Tower) and the gentleman in the store was so charming.  He had a million questions about the U.S.  It was his dream to some day come for a visit. How can you not love these people? We continued on our way and there was the Tower in the distance.  Very impressive.  It sat right next to a huge church. The whole complex is called Campo dei Miracoli. It was getting a little late and the crowds were pretty great, so we chose not to go to the top.  Not that we would have even if there was no crowd.  Our stair climbing days to that extent, are definitely over! I don’t know why I was surprised, it is true in most places nowadays around any monuments, but the guards with their guns highlighted the fact that it’s a different world, sadly.

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I knew we had seen it in the distance as we were coming on the train, so rather than walk back to the central station, we made our way to the station I had seen it from on our way there. Well, as we are wont to do, we disagreed on whether there was a train station that way.  But being the very adamant person I tend to be, we pushed on and there the station was. Not being sure what train to take we asked a couple and the fellow looked it up on his phone and told us to take the same one they were taking, which necessitated changing trains in Lucca.  Meh. Well, we saw a train going to Florence and chose to take that one. Don’t ask me why … remember I was hung over. We got on the train heading in the wrong direction. We ended up back in the main central Pisa station. Jim insisted we were going the right way while I insisted it was the wrong way. It wasn’t too long before he agreed. Too late!

The stations we were stopping at didn’t look very nice and we didn’t want to get off and wait around for a train to take us back where we came from, so we decided to just stay on and once we got to Florence we’d just get a train back to Montecatini. Boy how I wish we had taken the train to Lucca. It got dark and the train got crowded. And I began to worry about a conductor coming through.  We very seldom saw them on the trains checking tickets, but they do pop up every so often.  I knew we didn’t have a ticket to Florence and I didn’t know what the repercussion might be. Well — he came by! The tickets we originally bought to get from Pisa to Montecatini cost $12, I believe. Well, he told us there would be a little adjustment to the price to Florence. Ha! It was $24 more dollars. Damn! But, what the heck, we eventually got back home.  Our only regret was that it was dark and we couldn’t see the countryside!

The next day, we made our way on the train to Milan to catch the plane back to JFK. Four of our favorite drinking buddies were staying in the same hotel, the Ibis Milano Malpensa Aeroporto. We had a good last night partying with them and the restaurant, which didn’t open until later, turned out to have great food.  Jim said his lasagna was the best he ever had!  Who would have thought?  Both couples were flying out in the morning … one to Nashville, TN and the other to Santa Barbara, CA.  We weren’t flying out until late afternoon, so we didn’t get to fly with them. Maybe, we’ll catch up with them on another Gate 1 trip.

Back home, fun and games were over.  Back to reality!

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It’s the Small Things, Really

It was just after Christmas and my son, grandson and I decided to tour Historic Oakwood near downtown Raleigh to see some of the decorated historic houses. We’re so used to developments where all the houses are one of a choice of a few models, it was so interesting to see variety in architecture like these house styles.

It was still daylight, so if any had elaborate lighting, I was not privy to it. The simplicity of the exterior decorations were delightful.

But first, I had to meet them in the Historic Oakwood Cemetery. I know … my grandson wanted to go there. Go figure. It isn’t the kind of place you think a nine year old would want to go. It was my first time there and it was huge. And I think I drove every inch of it looking for my family. Finally, I made the decision to text them to get a clue. “Where are you?” I still wasn’t sure where to go, but luckily I happened upon them. Since they weren’t near their car, they jumped in the back seat. Once we exited the cemetery, I parked the car and we began our exploration.

I must say, I enjoyed it more than I expected. Some of the houses had no decorations, while others were noteworthy. One even was over the top … one my grandson said was inappropriate for Christmas. It had a huge dinosaur about 10 feet tall, with a reindeer in it’s mouth. I had to agree. I didn’t take a picture of it. Dang.

As it began to get colder, we made the decision to head toward my son’s car. My grandson was cold and tired of walking around. So as I left them, I refused the offer of a ride back to my car. After all the goodies I had eaten over the previous few days, I needed the exercise. As I was heading back, it dawned on me that I had no clue where I had parked. Now what do I do? At this point, I knew my son would already be out of downtown. And it being the end of the business day, I didn’t want him to have to turn around to get me, so I just forged on. Down this street, over onto that street. Dang, where the heck was I?  I knew if I could find the dinosaur house, I’d be able to find my car. Unfortunately, nothing looked familiar. I began to have visions of calling 911.  Do they send help to senior citizens who have managed to get themselves lost? When what to my wondering eyes should appear? The house with the dinosaur eating the reindeer! Ho! Ho! Ho! I turned left and voila! This was the street. I’d seen these houses before. Heading down the block, I felt the urge to give my car a hug. Or at least a pat. After getting in my car and driving off, believe it or not … I got lost. But this time, I had GPS. Whew!

 

And the trip goes on …

You might think when we arrived in Laguna Beach, CA we chose to spend our time sitting on the beach, jumping in the waves, etc. But, you would be wrong. When I moved to San Diego in 1980, I entered the Pacific Ocean and my feet and ankles froze. The water was frigid! In July, no less. How did they film all those movies with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon cavorting in the ocean?  Needless to say, I never went back in again. So, on this trip, I held to my conviction.  No, I did not go in the water.  Jim did attempt to convince himself that he was mistaken on our last trip out there that the water wasn’t as cold as he remembered.  He was wrong.  It was.

So, we wandered around town, did laundry, went shopping and mostly sat on our deck and watched the goings on at the gas station across the street. 0930181558[3053]If you think that last part was boring, it was not. Actually, there were two gas stations … one on each corner. One was much busier than the other, both on the same side of the street, and both had the same prices. The one that had been renovated and had a newer convenience store was the busier one, even though many of the people did not enter the store. We even watched one man wash his entire car from the bucket that holds the windshield scrubber brush, with the brush!

After a week of rest and with clean laundry, we packed up the car and headed north along the coast. We chose to take the Pacific Coast Highway up to San Francisco, rather than the interstate. Our first stop, Santa Barbara.  When I lived out there, I had a hard time liking this city.  I have no idea why, but it took me years to decide that I did, in fact, like it. And it is a great city.  Having been disappointed at how Santa Fe, and Taos, NM had changed, I was worried about how we would find Santa Barbara.  Would it be filled with all the chain stores and restaurants?  Would the wharf still have its character? It did!1004181525a1004181525c1004181523a[3051]The chains were around, I suppose.  But, not in the downtown historic area. Since it sits on a hill, facing the ocean, it wasn’t surrounded by 2018 sameness. We loved it and enjoyed the wharf. If we hadn’t had so much territory to cover before we got back home, we would have stayed here some additional nights.

Much as we hated to leave, we knew if we didn’t continue on we would still be on this trip at Christmas. We wound our way along the coast and then … Big Sur! IMG_0996You absolutely cannot visit California without driving Big Sur. It’s a must see/do. I happened to be the driver which gave Jim the opportunity to take pictures and say, “Wow!” A lot! I had always been the passenger in previous trips. This was an experience for me too! All those curves and narrow turns. Enough to make me car sick! Even so, I felt disappointed when we got to the end of this stretch of Coast Highway. I’ve read recently that it’s most fun and scary to drive north to south because then you are actually driving with the cliff on your side.  For us, we were on the inside lane, against the hill. I didn’t have to worry about falling off the cliff, just scraping the side of the car on the dirt and rocks.1005181136b

As we came into Carmel-by-the-Sea, I didn’t recognize it. I still can’t figure out where I had wandered around before.  Nothing looked familiar. We didn’t really stay long. Lots of traffic and parking was difficult.  And … lots of tourists. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I dislike places that are filled with tourists. Yes, I know I am one. I’m not really into shopping, which was a good part of the activity in town. I think when I was younger I liked shopping much more.  Now I think of where am I going to put it?  Or will I really wear it? Really takes the fun out of it. And I’ve never been into window shopping.  Online retailers love me! So we looked around for a bit and then headed out. It’s a very scenic place and if you’re ever in the area, I encourage you to visit it. Don’t let my issues dissuade you.  It was actually a very lovely, charming place.

On to the Bay area.  We decided to call ahead to reserve a room in San Francisco.  The image of us being able to just pull up to the hotel front door and get a room, as we had been doing, was unrealistic.  My son lived up there for years and I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Wow!  Most all of the chains we called were either booked up or only had rooms in the high $300 to low $400 range. No, thank you. So we reserved a room in the East Bay on the BART line, which is the rapid transit train system to get around the area. We decided it would be easier to take the train into the city instead of trying to find and pay to park.  Boy were we ever glad we did! What a breeze! I didn’t have any trouble buying our tickets at the kiosk, but I did have a bit of difficulty figuring out how to get the turnstile to open.  Luckily, Jim was watching other people while I was being thoroughly confused and holding up the progress. Voila! Once he showed me what to do, no problem.  I’m a quick learner!

When we came up out of the train station, we were shocked! What a crowd of humanity! Why were there so many people there?  Then we found out.  It was a 3 day weekend–who knew?  When you’re retired, you don’t pay attention to things like that. And it was Fleet Week and the Blue Angels were performing that afternoon. We can really pick our times to visit, can’t we?  Could anything else have been going on then? And it was hot! Too hot!  As I remember, the Bay Area was seldom hot. We found ourselves walking in unison up the street with the millions of others who were doing the same. Jim hates walking and I hate walking in a crowd. So, we decided to catch a bus to take us up to Fisherman’s Wharf, but every one that came by was full.  Eventually, one came by that had room. Thank you, Jesus!  As we were waiting, three latter elementary – middle school age children were sitting on the only bench at the stop — in some shade.  I kept thinking their dad would use that moment as a “teaching courtesy moment” and offer the bench to the senior citizens.  But, no dice. If that had been my son, I would have smacked him upside the head and told him he was brought up better.  Hah!

We went into a restaurant and had beers while we waited for the Blue Angels to start their performance.  We threaded our way to the front of the crowd (pays to travel overseas where you learn to push and shove) and were rewarded with a spectacular view of a wonderful performance. They never cease to impress.  Absolutely remarkable!  None of our pictures turned out because they flew by too fast.

We decided to take a Hop-on-Hop-off bus (knockoff) to have an easier time getting around the city.  Wrong!  There was so much traffic that the bus couldn’t move. And couldn’t move. Suddenly, we heard our driver say, “What the f**k is that M***f***r doing?”, at a car blocking our path.  We surmised that he had forgotten he was mic’d or maybe he just didn’t think it mattered.  Actually, he did a fair bit of yelling out his window at people. But, I can tell you it was the funniest part of our trip.  I still laugh when I think of it. It was a good day despite the crowds. We got back to our hotel late; tired but happy, but not before I scared the bejesus out of the bus driver.  We weren’t sure what stop we needed to get off.  Things looked different at night and reversed. So … I walked up to ask her to tell us when to get off and when she felt me beside her, she jumped out of her seat.  We had a good laugh then, with me apologizing profusely. We still had some money left on our transit passes and didn’t want it to go to waste, so I handed them to a lady to use.  She didn’t speak much English and I didn’t understand Portuguese or whatever, so I did my best to pantomime.  I wonder if she ever got what I was saying and did she use the passes.

Revising our route, we headed back south to Yosemite National Park.  If we had kept to  our original plan, we would have encountered snow along our original route. And that I did not want. This turned into a long day. Once again, crowds. On the roads! Hey, this was off-season.  What must it have been like during the summer?  We drove along in a line of cars and were rewarded with some spectacular scenery and views.

I watched an interview later with a park ranger who said fewer people were taking multi-day trips. Now they were visiting on day trips. And they were! We stopped at a gas staion so I could use the bathroom.  As I was walking back to the car, an Asian woman was trying to get Jim to understand what she wanted.  When I got there, she rushed over to me with her park map.  She wanted to know which direction to go to see the sights in the big pictures at the top of the page.  I didn’t have the heart or the language skill to tell her she’d never get there before dark. She didn’t understand a word of English. I hope she asked someone else after we left.

As we made our way out of the park, I realized there wasn’t a large enough town neaby that would have a hotel for us to stay in for the night. So we had to drive a little longer than we wanted and spent the night in Mammoth Springs. It was dark, a Sunday, and a lot of places were closed so we didn’t have many choices for dinner.  We found a sports bar and had what turned out to be a more expensive meal than I imagined sports bar fare to be. When I think about it, most of our dinners were costly. Maybe it was the scotch and wine that contributed to the bill.  Haha!

Our plan was to go to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.  In studying my beloved maps, I couldn’t find a route that wasn’t on those really skinny black lines that showed a road, but you just knew you didn’t want to go on any of them.  I’m sure you know the ones I mean.  So we let the Garmin map the route. We had to go further south, which bothered me because Zion and Bryce were north.  But, hey, we threw caution to the wind! Sometimes you just have to give up control!

South of Bishop, CA we turned east at Big Pine onto Ancient Bristlecone Pine Road.  This took us through the Inyo National Forest.  There is a tree called Methuselah that is 4850 years old.  It isn’t marked so as to prevent vandalism.  Sad, isn’t it that we need to protect things like this from vandals? At any rate, we weren’t high enough to encounter it.  1008181127[3023]If we weren’t kissing our butt on the curves or slowly navigating through one lane blind curves, we were on flat, far as you could see straight ahead, roads.  Jim loved it!  I think I let him get up to 90 mph, but I wouldn’t agree to 100 mph.  It’s all he talked about for days. I guess in hindsight, I should have let him do 100.

After heading south to Las Vegas and then north again, we spent the night in St. George, Utah in a brand new Hampton Inn. We drove to a Walmart where I stocked up on heavier clothing. I’m glad I did because I sure needed them as the days progressed. The hotel was serving complementary snacks when we got back from our shopping expedition, so that was our dinner. This was a good thing because there wasn’t any other option nearby. I think it was Jim’s night to pay for dinner.  Dang!

Next morning, Zion!  If you have never been there, it’s a must see! Just beautiful! I must say, we have such a diverse country. IMG_1194 (1)There were several tunnels we had to drive through.  The first one we encountered, I was driving.  The Park Ranger who was directing traffic, made me stop. I was first in the new line.  There was a crosswalk on the pavement and I stopped too far forward … about a foot.  She made me back up that foot.  There weren’t any people walking around because there was a cliff on one side and a hill on the other. But, I backed up the foot … or 6 inches.  Hey, she was in charge.  The only reason we could see for traffic to have to stop was that it appeared to be one way going through the tunnel when a large RV needed to come through.  The tunnel opening wasn’t so high or wide, so the RV would have needed all the space. Interesting. 1009181326[3019]1009181224a[3021]The scenery was various shades of red, as were the roads. Just beautiful! 1009181217We weren’t into hiking (see above) so other than stopping to snap some pictures, we just worked our way through it.

Onward, James, to Bryce Canyon National Park. Obviously, tourism had discovered this park, big time. So many more places to stay than I remember and now you could take a shuttle bus through the park instead of driving yourself around. I was there last when my brother helped me drive across country when I moved from California to North Carolina in 2002. There were nice lookouts built that I don’t remember having been there before.  I remember climbing up dirt hills, etc.10091815571009181622b[3014]1009181555a

I was shocked to see the hoodoos. When we were in Cappadocia, Turkey we marveled at the fairy chimneys, which were hoodoos, really. I hadn’t recalled the similarities. But, there they were in all their colorful glory! Another beautiful park that is well worth a visit.

After consulting my map, we decided to head up to I-70 to spend the night in Richfield, Utah.  Once again, I was driving.  The speed limit was 75 or 80.  Jim wanted me to take it up to 100.  Are you kidding me?  Why would I want to do that?  So I could say I did!  No thanks. Maybe I did 75 or 80 tops! Jim was disappointed in my lack of adventure. Sorry!

When we checked into our hotel, the front desk clerk suggested a steak house right down the road that had very good food.  I’ve gotten a little leery of suggestions from people who have grown up eating fast food as to what constitutes good food. But, it was. And to our surprise, they were playing smooth jazz! So after some good food, good wine and good music, we paused on our way out to take a few dance steps. Life isn’t all about national parks, you know.

Making our way toward Colorado the next day found us driving some very curvy roads, once again, as we made our way through Bears Ears National Monument.  A fair amount of it looked like Zion and Bryce Canyon.  IMG_1253[3067]IMG_1243 (2)Utah sure is colorful. We stopped at the Colorado River to take some pictures and hit the port-a-potties. We met a couple from California, and we swapped picture taking with them. Soon, we entered Colorado.

This turned out to be dicey because there weren’t places out in the boondocks to stay.  We had been driving through forests etc. most of the day and it appeared we would have more of the same for hours yet. As we came to the end of a road and had to choose left or right, I made the decision to go right to Ouray, CO.  It looked like a shorter distance than going left to Montrose.  Wrong decision. Ouray was a very nice town, known for it’s natural hot springs, but it had been raining and we got there after dark.  In desperation, I chose a hotel off of hotels.com or booking.com just so we’d know we’d have a place rather than stopping here and there. The place I chose was adequate. Period. And the only place in town still open was a bar.  So, that’s where we ate.  I ordered beef stew because it sounded good, but it tasted like Dinty Moore’s beef stew.  You get the idea.

The next morning in a cold drizzly rain, we headed north to Montrose and as we were heading out of Ouray, I happened to look to the side and there it was … a pot shop.  Jim made a u-turn so fast I almost toppled out of the car.  As you entered, you stepped into a locked anteroom and had to show your ID to get buzzed in.  Whew!  It was smelly!  I didn’t know marijuana smelled so strong.  I mentioned to the girl that it really smelled and she replied, “I know.  Doesn’t it smell great?” Hmmm … not so much. We explained we knew nothing about marijuana or what to do with it.  Did we want to smoke it, bake with it or vape it?  Who knew? I thought you could do anything you wanted with it.  Guess not. Then she gave us instructions which I knew we’d forget.  Don’t they have printed instructions? I can’t rely on memory so much anymore. There was no one in the place when we walked in, but by the time we left there were about eight people in line Jim happily danced out of the place. Success!  I just walked. We continued on our merry way in the drizzle.1011181206 (2)

When we got to Montrose, I realized this was where we should have spent the night.  Nice town. Lots of options. As we headed east, Jim decided to take a nap. As I was driving, I saw a sign … the kind that lights up and flashes.  ICY ROADS. DRIVE WITH CAUTION. Are you kidding me? Why me? I haven’t driven on icy roads since I left Ohio in 1980! Up to that point there had been some snow on the tops of mountains off in the distance. 1010181120[3012]I guess we had arrived. So I immediately started sweating and talking to myself.  Jim was still sleeping. I started watching the temperature gauge.  Outside it was 47 degrees.  Okay, if it doesn’t get much colder, we’d be okay.  Correct that, I’d be okay.  As we began to climb, the temperature started to drop. Oh Dear. Then it kind of leveled off. All right!  No problem.  I got this. Then we began climbing again. Cars were blowing by me.  I rationalized that they were Colorado drivers and were comfortable with this stuff. The temperature was now down to 39 degrees. And the snow outside was a little deeper on the side of the road. We kept climbing and the temperature kept dropping.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and announced to Jim that he was missing everything. He was sure surprised when he opened his eyes and I’m sure, quite nervous with me doing the driving. We kept climbing and eventually the temperature dropped to 28 degrees.  I noticed a little way back that the road had been salted and sanded. As we reached the crest, with snow blowing around us, I saw the salt trucks.  Now we had to get down the other side. Yikes!  What if we slide off the side of the mountain? There was a pickup truck from Texas pulling a small trailer in front of me going rather slowly, so I just stayed behind him. Some cars were passing both of us on those curvy roads, but we just kept our speed.  Let them pass, the fools! The temperature started rising and the road became a little drier and we began to breathe a little easier. Finally, we were down.  YOU GO, GIRL. Damn I’m good!

We spent the night in Pueblo, Colorado where Colorado became flat. Hooray! Once more we could drive 70-75 on flat secondary roads, having the road to ourselves.  While passing through a town, we came upon these trailers for sale.  I want the pink one. 1012181411a[3007]We eventually got back on I-70 to Kansas City, Missouri where we spent a few nights with some of Jim’s family. Homeward bound!

The morning we left them, I plugged in an address in Nashville, Tennessee.  I don’t know what the Garmin or whatever the navigation system is called in a Honda Oddyssey, but it drove us from Kansas City, Missouri to Kansas City, Kansas back to Kansas City, Missouri where I recognized a street his daughter had driven us on one day sightseeing. Slightly over an hour and we were finally out-of-town.  Whew!  That was hell! Nashville here we come.

Once again, I was driving while Jim was sleeping.  We were on State route 50 … a very nice divided road.  The Garmin changed the route just before Jefferson City because of congestion.  Really? And then the fun began.  We were going on small country roads and through towns so small if you blinked you missed them. We’re losing time here, folks. Once Jim took over driving I was able to get out my beloved map and see where the hell we were.  In the middle of nowhere, that’s where! Going to nowhere. Dusk was settling in and in a panic, I was leafing through my AAA tourbook looking for someplace for a town that might have a place for us to stay. Finally, I found a Comfort Inn in Willow Springs, quite a drive away. Once we got there, the Garmin was directing us to this rundown strip type motel or office building.  WTH?  We couldn’t find it.  We drove all through the town, which wasn’t very big.  Deciding we had nothing to lose, we drove out the original way figuring there was a large divided highway that way and we might find something along there, when lo and behold, there was the Comfort Inn. The waypoints from the satellites were wrong.  It was pretty new and very nice.  The desk clerk recommended a Mexican restaurant back in town … or the four corners as she called it … and had a good meal, but no margaritas.  No liquor license.  Bummer. We needed a drink after that stressful day.

The next morning we decided to get ourselves onto I-40 to Knoxville, Tennessee.  Nashville would have made the drive for our last day too long. Things were not too bad until we came to a point where I-75 merged with I-40.  It started to rain and it was getting dark.  And here came the trucks.  There were trucks before that, but now it was multiplied by 10. And once again, I was driving.  Why me? There were probably six or seven lanes (or so it seemed to me) and I  couldn’t see the lines delineating the lanes with tractor trailers throwing water all over the windshield. It was quite dark. Jim was looking for an exit that had hotels on it that we could get off on. I wanted off this road, right now! Traffic opened up enough that we were able to get off, but the hotel chain we were wanting, we couldn’t locate.  We could see it, but couldn’t find our way to it.  There was a place called Baymont Inn that looked really nice right next to a Carrabas. And it wasn’t as expensive as some of the places we had stayed.  I was never so happy to get out of the driver’s seat as I was then. I recommend you try this place if you’re going to be in the area..

Our last day.  The only issue we had that day was getting through Boone, NC.  There was some construction in town that had traffic down to one lane.  But, eventually we got through it and got home.

This trip took 29 days and 6,000 miles on Jim’s car. We decided the next trip like this we’d do northern U.S and southern Canada. We’ll see if it happens.  It was fun and we’d do it again in a minute. We had a great adventure. But, there are still so many places we haven’t seen. Like the Amazon!

Go West, Golden Oldies, Go West

It all began with Hurricane Florence.  Jim and I had planned to take a road trip out west for my timeshare week in Laguna Beach, California at the end of September. Then Florence hit town.  Jim had to evacuate from SC, so he came to NC to my house.  After moving all my furniture off my deck and anything that could become a flying object, we awaited Florence’s wrath.  There were a few other evacuees from the coast of NC staying with friends in the neighborhood, so we all had an impromptu party. And we placed our trip on hold or cancel, depending on how things turned out.

After several days of rain, it began to settle down with no problems in my ‘hood. Jim had no problems in his ‘hood either. But roads between here and there were flooded or washed out. He couldn’t get back home. While worrying about how his house survived, his neighbor called to assure him that his home was fine.

Ultimately, to get south and east, he would need to go west … way west.  Like Tennessee west. North Carolina was closed.  So we did what any self-respecting retired couple would do,  we figured if we had to go west, we’d go way west.  But first, clothes.  Jim needed clothes.  Off to the store we went.  Once back home, we threw things in the suitcases and off we went.

Now, I had been planning and mapping the route for a few weeks, but Jim doesn’t like planning, so we loosely followed a route. Sort of. Well … not at all. This was a definite fly by the seat of our pants. IMG_20180908_073544_690Our first stop was south of Atlanta.  We had encountered heavy traffic in Atlanta at rush hour, so we lost a bit of time. I won’t mention the Arnold’s bread truck that ran us of the road. After that and a wreck we saw the next day whereby one car was in pieces, really, we decided interstates weren’t any fun.  We took secondary roads as much as we could. Which was most of our trip, actually. Surprisingly, you could drive just as fast on most of those roads, as they had little traffic. Many times we had the roads to ourselves.

Our first deviation from our loosely held plan was to head to Biloxi, MS.  This because Jim likes the Beau Rivage and he got comped a room.  This might have ended up being a long trip if I hadn’t been able to get him away from the tables and machines. But, he was a good boy. Alleluia! From there we made our way to New Orleans, through many of the places devastated from Katrina. They had been rebuilt and looked to have rebounded.

I know I’m going against the grain here, but I did not like New Orleans.  I never felt inclined to go there and wish we hadn’t this time either.  It was dirty, crowded and too touristy. We left town after lunch, but not before Jim got a parking ticket. Double hate. Not much else to say.

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Street performers in New Orleans. They were good.

 

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I liked the guy in the cowboy hat with the skirt and vest. I think the lady did too.

We progressed on to Austin, TX.  I love Austin and I was not going to miss this city, no matter what.  Silently, I was hoping it wasn’t going to disappoint and would be pretty much as I remembered it. After getting lost (even with the GPS), we found the hotel and got checked in. Anxious to get in the action, we made our way to 6th Street or Avenue, whatever it is.  It was football Saturday and Texas Christian University fans were everywhere.  The street was closed off with vendor tents down the middle for several blocks. It had a real carnival atmosphere! We had a beer here and a beer there and then wandered past a club with good sounds emanating from it. We were sure glad we squeezed in because we had so much fun at that club called “Friends”.  We were the chaperones of the place, I believe.  No one else had white hair. We tried to blend in but I don’t think we fooled anyone. The band was really good and I gave the beat a 9.  The house was packed, but eventually we seniors had to squeeze our way back out and head back to our room.  Seniors can only handle so much fun in one night with people less than half their ages.

 

On our way the next day through Hill Country, we happened upon the neatest town … Llano, Texas.  It’s about 65 miles NW of Austin. We just had to stop and wander around a bit.  We drove across the river and found a great park … a really great park … where we stopped for our lunch.  Two women were there with their children and we got to talking.  Turned out one was from Rock Hill, SC., originally. What a wonderful little town! As a side note, it was recently reported on the news that the Llano River flooded.  I sure hope that town made it through okay. I would go back there again.

 

After leaving Texas, we passed through Roswell, NM. We stopped to see if we could find any UFOs, but we only found aliens.

 

We continued on our journey and stopped at Big Springs, NM for the night. It was a bigger town than we thought, but not big enough for a good restaurant; at least not at the exit we chose.  I think if we had gotten off the previous one , it would have been a different story. Our hotel room had some issues and the next day the manager called to say she comped the room. I don’t think I’ll keep that town on my map, regardless.

On to Santa Fe, NM.  One of my favorite cities.  Oh no! It was taken over by the major chains. Malls. And interstates. It was so changed. I was disappointed to see that civilization had encroached upon such a great place. I know the people who live there have to shop, but … I wasn’t sorry to leave.  And I did so with a head cold. It didn’t have that ethereal feeling it used to have. The historic plaza area didn’t even feel the same.  But, then again, I was comparing it to a 30 year old memory. Now I know how my friend, Paul, always felt when he went to the beach in SC and it wasn’t the same.  He would always comment, “They ruined it.” Yep, now I know the feeling. On a positive note, we had a great dinner at a place called “The Shed”.

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On to Taos, N.M. — my other favorite town. After checking into our hotel, we headed to the drugstore for some cough drops and Sudafed. As we drove into town, it was another, No! Not this place too? Tuesday Morning? Now that’s going too far. Okay … so far we liked Austin and Llano.  This trip better stop surprising me.

On our way out of town, we stopped at the Taos Pueblo. We had a good time talking to some of the residents who turned out to be Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers fans.  Well, more North Carolina University at Chapel Hill, than Carolina Panthers. Who would have guessed? I bought this pine cone thing from them but I forget what it’s purpose was.  The car smelled like pine for most of the trip. It doesn’t any longer.

 

While we were wandering around the Pueblo, there was a group of men repairing the adobe.  So I walked over and asked how they did it and got a very nice demo.

We passed over the Rio Grande Gorge on our way out of town.  I hope the Rio Grande is larger in Texas.

 

With me sneezing, coughing and blowing my nose, we proceeded on towards Mesa Verde National Park, with an overnight stop in Durango, Colorado. I’m not sure about the whole city, but the part we were in was as I remembered it. It was most enjoyable. As we were walking from our hotel, we passed a “smokehouse”.  Jim was convinced that since we were in Colorado and pot was legal, we should go in and buy some. I had the hardest time convincing him that it was just a BBQ place.  All through dinner, he wasn’t accepting my take on it.  As we were walking back, the smoker was going behind the place and he was finally convinced. But, he never got the legal pot out of his mind. If I went into a store to buy water or something he’d always tell me to ask where we could buy marijuana. Are you serious? I’m not asking anybody where we can buy pot. You ask. Bear in mind, he’s 77 and I’m 75 and we had never tried it. He guess he realized there was something he missed out on in life!

On to Mesa Verde! This park was established in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt and is the largest archaeological preserve in North America.  The Ancient Puebloans called it home for more than 700 years from 500 A.D. to 1300 A.D. During that time, they built over 4,400 sites including 600 cliff dwellings before suddenly leaving the land. In looking at these dwellings, it was hard to imagine how they were able to climb into them. Even with the ladders. Very impressive and worth stopping to see.

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We stayed in Flagstaff, Arizona that night. Lest anyone think that Sudafed and cough drops rid one of a cold … nope.  I was miserable and my eyes were killing me. There was a Sizzler across the parking lot where we had dinner. I had soup in the hope that chicken soup did have magical properties. When we got back to our room, I sent Jim down to the lobby for some tea bags.  I had heard tea bags made irritated eyes feel better.  Well, they did for a little while. While they were on my eyes.

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You gotta admit, this is pretty funny!

We realized that night that if we hoped to make it to Laguna Beach, CA before my timeshare week was up, we needed to get a move on. The next day, we made the decision to interstate it again, which can be no small feat in CA. We made it to Laguna that evening and felt staying in one place for the better part of a week was going to be heaven.

To be continued………

#Ibelieveyou

From one of my favorite bloggers …

Aging Gracefully My Ass

don'tcare

While AGMA has never been sexually assaulted or raped, I grieve along with the tens of thousands of women who have had that horrific, life altering experience.

I grieve that so many of them have felt too terrified to tell their stories and their attackers have gone unpunished.

I grieve for the women who have summoned the strength to tell their stories at great personal risk, but have been summarily dismissed as ‘troublemakers’.  Like Dr. Ford.  And their attackers have gone unpunished.

I grieve for the women whose rape kits are sitting in law enforcement labs gathering dust.

I grieve for the women who have been so damaged by sexual assault/rape that they could not function after their assault/rape.  Some have not been able to finish their education, hold down a job, have a healthy physical/emotional relationship with a partner and and and…

I grieve that the unaddressed, unacknowleded, unresolved…

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Planning the next trip

The other evening I was watching Mark Twain by Ken Burns on PBS. I missed some of it because of a phone call I received, so I will have to stream it again. But one of the things I got out of it was … I think I should write like Mark Twain. Yes, I actually thought that. You may say I’m a dreamer … well, yes I am. I used to say I could be a brain surgeon if I wanted.  But, I realized it would require a lot of science courses, which was not acceptable to me. So anyway, back to Mark Twain.

After quite some thought, I came to the conclusion that if it was so easy to write like Mark Twain, there would have been a whole lot of Mark Twains over the years. You would have to not only write like him, but think like him as well. So, I decided it would take too much effort, not to mention another lifetime, for me to try to do so. Bottom line? I’d just write like me.

Over the summer, I really didn’t do anything of consequence.  A few day trips here and there, some babysitting, (if you can call hanging with a 15 and 9 years old babysitting), and then just plain avoiding the heat outside. I hate the heat and seldom venture out unless absolutely necessary. What I have been doing is planning.  For a trip out West.  Around the West, actually.  There-in lies the headache. The West is huge! Just in case you weren’t aware. I have seen a good bit of it, but Jim has not. There are some places that rank among my favorites, so I want to hit them again.  Santa Fe, Taos, Big Sur to be more specific. And then there are all those other places! Too many other places!

Zion Nat’l Park, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Big Sur, California

I’ve got a timeshare week scheduled in Southern California, so I’m planning a northern route out, coming down the coast and then the southern route coming back home. Jim and I seldom do well on a road trip.  I like secondary roads where you go through small towns, etc.; he likes interstates and cruise control. Can you see where this is heading? Is one of us going to be dropped at an airport to fly home? I’m thinking interstates between areas with nothing much to see.  I’m not saying flyover states, here. I’m saying where you drive two hours and don’t see a house. And since it’s the west, there will be a whole lot of secondary roads, which we’ll need to take to get to some of the sights we want to see.  Win/win.  Back to my maps. I’ll get back to you next month with a wrap on this.  Wish us luck.

I Just Don’t Understand

Why have we become so ugly? So mean? So prejudiced? So unaccepting of each other?  I am sad beyond sad. Is that possible? And it’s not a difference of opinion.  We’ve always had a difference of opinion with people.  It’s that people can’t discuss anything without being hateful. Without name calling. Without labeling with the intent to diminish. We’re ugly, folks. Yes, you and me.

I’ve always loved politics.  My first foray was in the 7th or 8th grade when I was the campaign manager for a black girl running for student council. I mention that she was black because I had never encountered any until I went to junior high. But, her blackness didn’t prevent me from feeling she’d be a good addition to student council. I think she lost because I made the mistake of memorizing my speech and when I looked out over that auditorium of people, I forgot a line and silence followed until I got my act back together. There were even a few snickers, as I remember. Sorry, Elnora.

Then, I stuffed campaign literature in envelopes for JFK. Back then, it was all about mailings. After that, door to door for a Republican friend who ran for the PA State Legislature.

I voted for Barry Goldwater and then Jimmy Carter.  I don’t always pick the right one. I sent way too many telegrams to the White House protesting the Vietnam War, much to my husband’s chagrin, since he was paying for them.  I wanted to join the Civil Rights marchers, but I had two small children and a husband who traveled.  So I had to take care of my own responsibilities.

I voted for Reagan and campaigned for John Edwards. (Boy, Edwards was a monumental wrong call on my part. Huh?) I campaigned for Bernie Sanders, switched to Hillary Clinton and would have voted for Jeb Bush had he been the Republican nominee. I did not vote for either of the other Bushes. I liked Jeb after watching a town hall on C-Span where he answered the questions honestly and as they were presented to him. He didn’t bob-and-weave.

As you can see, I never voted party lines. Neither party has the monopoly on doing the right thing. Or even for what they stand for. There are good and bad, crooks even, in both parties.

So when did we start down this ugly path?  I think it was when Obama was elected. At that point, I began to see absolute hatred toward Obama that I had never seen before from people I knew. And it shocked me. I’m not talking about them disagreeing with his policies or positions. I’m talking something more than that. Racism? I don’t know.

Around that time, I joined Facebook. This is when I really began to see the ugliness.  I unfriended a number of people, not because of their views, but because I didn’t feel posting memes with Michelle Obama or the daughters with monkey faces and teeth were people I cared to be friends with. Those ugly kinds of things offended me. And then we really began going down that awful path. It seemed to be okay to go against everything our parents ever taught us and we began to let our real selves out.

And then the Republican primary.  And Trump. And this I don’t understand.  I have supported people and voted for people who I admit was a mistake. But, there appears to be a fervor among his supporters that is beyond my understanding. I wonder — is he the anti-Christ?  It all kind of fits the description, as I recall. And when I have asked why people don’t hold him accountable for his words and actions,  I am called names and accused of being a poor loser because Hillary lost. I never get an answer that isn’t full of bashing rhetoric. Trust me, I would have voted for Jeb Bush!  My heart is not bleeding for Hillary. But, I was shocked that Trump won. I don’t deny that. I just would like to know why he is given a pass. Just because he’s a Republican?  That doesn’t make enough sense to me.

Why is it okay for him to tell such bold-faced lies? All the time! Why is CNN, or NBC or CBS all fake news that is not to be believed, but Fox News is gospel? What takes it out of the “media” category? It appears to be media to me. Or maybe, it’s that it supports your opinion. What exactly do the media haters consider media?  Definition from the Dictionary: media (usually used with a plural verb) the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet, that reach or influence people widely.  I just don’t understand. And I want to.

Why do my friends post so many things about their Christianity while simultaneously condoning how he treats people?  It’s wrong to be a bully in school, but okay to be a bully as President? I was brought up to believe, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. What does it mean to be a Christian nowadays?  Is it just to spout Bible verses? Does the Golden Rule no longer apply? Does caring about humanity matter at all? What would Jesus do or say if he was walking beside you?

I was told that Born-again Christians don’t have to do good works. God doesn’t care. You can be a murderer on death row and if you choose to believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you go to Heaven. That’s not the kind of Bible I was taught growing up. Didn’t Jesus feed and take care of people?

Now is when I tell you I am an Agnostic.  I’ve been a Methodist, a Catholic, an Evangelical United Brethren, a United Methodist, a United Church of Christ, a Presbyterian and then I gave up. Am I going to get into Heaven?  I don’t know.  Does anyone, really?

In the meantime, I’m going to continue to do good works. And I’m going to hold a man like Donald Trump accountable for how he treats people; how abusive he is. I’m not willing to accept his rhetoric that all black, brown and every color in between are people who want to rob, kill, or rape me. I employed many of them and found them honorable, good people. I don’t live in fear of immigrants.

I have principles I’m not willing to abandon.  An extra few dollars in my paycheck over the year is not enough for me.  My price is much higher. Way higher.  What’s your price?  It is high enough?