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!

Advertisements

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.

0921181417 (1)

Street performers in New Orleans. They were good.

 

0921181403 (1)

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”.

0925181310b (1)

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.

1538071514434

0927181205a (1)

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.

0927181947

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…

View original post 254 more words

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?

A Really Different Kind of Cruise

It all began about a year ago around this time. My music of choice is Smooth Jazz. Over the last so many years, I would receive emails about Dave Koz (a saxophone player) cruises.  But, every time I would click on the link to find out more about it, it would be sold out.  For the next year!

So, I happened to get one of those emails while Jim was sitting there playing on his iPad. Once again — sold out!  I mentioned to Jim that every time I got notice of one of these cruises it would be too late.  And that it was so frustrating.

Fast forward a few months to my birthday.  As I sat there opening my gifts, I was knocked back on my butt by my gift from Jim.  We were going to go on the Dave Koz Smooth Jazz Baltic cruise. Are you kidding me?  It was sold out.  How did you get this booked?  It turned out after my comment, he called the agency coordinating things and they had a cancellation and there was one cabin available.  SOLD!

So in early May, we flew off to Copenhagen to begin our cruise. Having never sailed on one before, we didn’t know what to expect and hoped we’d get our money’s worth. I’m not much of a fan of cruises, but this one was in a class by itself as far as I was concerned.

Once again, I can’t be effusive enough about transportation systems in Europe. After retrieving our luggage, we made our way to the machines to buy our 3 day city passes. We hopped on the bus that would take us to our hotel and wow! … the bus stop was right across the street from our hotel. Talk about convenient! We arrived three days early to allow for some sightseeing and we were sure glad we did.  We loved Copenhagen.  Well, not the prices so much. I’ve since learned that Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in Europe. For about $32 each, we had unlimited use of the buses, trains and metro for 3 days which we decided was a real bargain.

Waiting to check into the hotel, we struck up a conversation with a couple who were going on the cruise too … their 6th. We could tell this because they had the Dave Koz luggage tags.  And a mountain of luggage. The cruise had several themes going each day … all white night, 50’s night, prom night.  We like to travel light and chose not to add the additional clothes to our luggage, not to mention additional bags. These new friends assured us we would love it even more than we expected. We took their word for it.

Off we went to explore. Can you believe bike paths along the streets that were wide enough for a compact car? Lots of bike riders. And church steeples … lots of them and very artistic. And old. Very old. And water.  Everywhere. And great beer! The one I especially liked was (Something)Master Blonde. I haven’t been able to find it listed anywhere on the Internet.

 

Tivoli Gardens and people out enjoying a nice sunny day.  Jim got flashed by a girl pulling her straps back up.  And there was a young girl who was topless, but she kept her arms crossed over her chest. I suspect she wasn’t quite ready for this adventure.

0512180840

  And yes,  the trampolines were built into the sidewalk along another canal. Cool! Notice the bike in the background with its basket.  Sometimes children would be in it and sometimes an adult!

 

Some of those steeples I mentioned.

0512180859

Our favorite neighborhood, Nyhaven, where we had an enjoyable lunch while people watching. We especially enjoyed the group of guys who imbibed a little too much and were having a great time.

Finally, cruise day arrived.  Excited! We had to wait to check-in until all the musicians were checked in … wow! There were sure a lot of them. Hmmm … this should be good. As we boarded we all got a baseball cap.

0606182115a (2)

At sailing, we all gathered pool-side for free champagne or whatever elsethey were passing out. We took them all.  While we were imbibing, all the musicians were introduced, like we weren’t already fans and didn’t know most of them on sight.

In our room, we found a memory book with bios of the musicians, pages for autographs and vinyl pages for photos. A line up of all our choices of venues and musicians were all listed in bold black so as to make it easy to decide who we wanted to see. Sometimes we have a hard time deciding as we needed to be in two places at once.monday lineupmonday lineup2

Our first port of call was Stockholm, Sweden. We liked it, but not as much as Copenhagen. We did manage to happen upon the changing of the guard as we were walking down the street. And we found a cute street to shop and people watch, not to mention catch a beer.

 

Back to the ship for more entertainment and on to our next port, Tallinn, Estonia. I had read that Tallinn was a favorite city of a lot of people and it didn’t disappoint.  I loved it.

 

I would go back there in a minute. It took us awhile to get our bearings once we got off the Hop-on/Hop-off bus.  We didn’t know which stop we got off and ended up walking through a huge park, but finally managed to find our way into the Old Town section. While we were there, we kept hearing music and wondered where the bar was.  Rounding a corner, there the music was!  Saxophonist, Vincent Ingala and percussionist, Arthur Thompson were riding in a pedicab playing as they rode through town.

We probably shouldn’t have had that one last beer because we just made it back to the ship in time. Luckily there was a group of women who were even later than us — well, truth be told — we walked faster down the wharf. Whew! Are you getting the idea that there was an abundance of beer drinking going on with us? How else to people watch?

More musical entertainment on the ship while we sailed on to St. Petersburg, Russia. If you went on an excursion with a group, you didn’t need a visa. And without a visa, you couldn’t wander around by yourself.  Since the issues between the U.S. and Russia, what with expelled diplomats and such, and with Russia closing the U.S. Embassy in St. Petersburg, you definitely didn’t want to chance getting separated from your tour group! I kept a watchful eye on Jim as he has a history with getting lost.

While there would be a lot of historical stuff to see, I think we all found our guide to be interesting.  We woman were most interested in how she managed to walk in those shoes all day. I know my feet hurt in my sneakers by the end of the day.  I think the men just liked looking at her.

0517180454 (2)

We signed up for an excursion that lasted 10 hours. We were most interested in seeing Catherine’s Palace and the Amber Room. The place was huge!

CatherinePalaceNorthSide

It seems when Peter the Great married Catherine, he constructed a more modest palace for her. He had been married before, but when he saw Catherine, he thought she was the most beautiful woman.  Based on her portrait, I didn’t share that view.  So, he put his first wife in a convent, (convenient) so he could marry Catherine. Ladies, if you husband ever develops an interest in convents — get out of Dodge.  Quickly. Their daughter, Elizabeth, was the one who enlarged it to this size. You can never have too many rooms, I say.

Elizabeth used 100 kg (about 220 pounds) of gold on the exterior. Real gold, folks!  Boy those were the days. The inside was no less extravagant. The Amber Room was so impressive.  I thought amber was a gem or mineral, but it is actually fossilized tree resin formed over a long time.  Who knew? Well, my friend, Paul, probably knew.  We weren’t able to take photos in this room, so I had to use one from online on the St. Petersburg tourist website.  I couldn’t find any way to give credit for this photo, so I hope I don’t get arrested and put in a gulag.

amber-room-at-catherine-palace-in-tsarskoye-selo

Another interesting place we stopped to see, but couldn’t get very close to, was the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. It was built to memorialize Alexander II following his assassination in 1881. While riding out in public, a bomb was thrown at his carriage, but didn’t kill him.  With the carriage in ruins, the rebels took that opportunity to place another bomb under the carriage, which then killed Alexander. This church was very colorful.  The Germans, while bombing St. Petersburg, did not have luck bombing this church since the domes had all been painted black.  But, by some luck, an undetonated  bomb did fall on one of the domes which was not discovered until renovation began on the structure.  Imagine the worker’s surprise when they looked up and saw a live unexploded bomb above their heads. Run! Luckily, it was diffused successfully.

0517180708

Our last stop was Peter and Paul Cathedral where the tsars and their families are buried. The altar was beautiful. And big.0517180907W

We dragged ourselves back on the ship, ready to sit and be entertained with the best music.  And we were! Those musicians who weren’t playing were usually in the audience enjoying.  Usually, they couldn’t handle just observing and would borrow an extra instrument and join whoever was on stage. What fun!

Next stop, Helsinki, Finland.  I didn’t take any pictures there.  We were only in port for 5 hours. We took the shuttle into town, but found we were there too early for shops, etc to be open.  We needed to be back on ship at 1:00 p.m. and since we were in the downtown area, it was like any other downtown in the world.  😦

As we left port, we knew the next day would be an at sea day and our last day before departing in Copenhagen. And what an at sea day it was! One of my favorite guitarists, Peter White, had his own pub named for him on this ship.  Not in real life, but for this cruise.  It was a little small and always filled to capacity if it seemed he might be playing unscheduled. I did manage to worm my way in on this Helsinki night as I was determined I would not leave this ship without seeing him.

Our last night, for the big concert, whoa — Peter White!  What an ending! So many other musicians joined him on stage and they were enjoying themselves so much that it made us feel a part of it all.

peter white et al

Left to right:  Vincent Ingala, Jay Gore, Peter White and Dwayne Smith

That week I fell in love with Vincent Ingala, Jonathan Fritzen, the Peet Project aka The Bad Boys of Budapest, and Jay Gore.  Jim fell in love with Mindi Abair.  When she played Summertime, she won him over — big time.

The Dave Koz Smooth Jazz Cruise for 2019 will sail around Australia.  Jim and I decided we were not interested in going to Australia for that one.  But, once home and realizing how much fun we had, I put us on the waitlist. Both weeks had sold out while on the ship. We’ve done so many cruises and they have all been the same.  Silly games to occupy the time.  Or cooking demos.  Ship entertainment is usually crew members … and only at night.  This one was truly special.  Music went on all day. These were the real deal.  The Grammy award winners.  Keeping my fingers crossed we get to go to Australia.  And hopefully managing to save for it so I don’t end up in debtor’s prison.

No, I don’t want to go to Turkey!

Since I’ve known Jim, he has bugged me about wanting to go to Turkey.  He was stationed there during his military service and loved it.  My response was always, “No.” But … that was before I saw the Rick Steves travelogue on Turkey. Cappadocia, in particular. Those weird rock formations and the caves within them that people actually lived in until the mid-80s, made me change my mind.   I wanted to see it for myself.

I could have knocked him over with a feather when I called him to tell him I would go. Then in mid December, I got an email from Gate 1 Travel about an escorted 10 day trip including airfare, hotels, guide, meals and flights between cities for just slightly over $1000, so we jumped on it. And am I ever glad we did.  It really is great being retired and not having to request time off. What a trip!

We were met at Ataturk airport in Istanbul by our guide, Ikut. I think we all liked him immediately. He had a great personality, which is important if you are going to be with someone for 10 days. On the ride to our hotel, he pointed out some of the sights we’d be seeing and best of all, he thanked us for coming to his country. It seems Americans are afraid to travel to Turkey and it has affected their tourism business.  But people from the Far East have been picking up the slack.

We had the rest of the day free, so Jim and I went to lunch.  We couldn’t figure out their system, didn’t know what we were pointing at to eat and then didn’t know how to go about paying.  But we persevered. Eventually, I just took the bull by the horns and gestured that we needed to pay. And managed to get someone to let us!

After that, we held up the line trying to figure out how to buy our transit ticket. We seem to always have this issue. Some kind man … or maybe he was frustrated and in a hurry … did it for us. We boarded the tram and made our way to Dolmabahce Palace.  This was built for Sultan Abdulmecid I, between 1843 -1856 during the Ottoman Empire. In today’s dollars, it would cost $1.5 billion. It was really impressive.

As we were almost finished with the tour, I noticed every one had blue booties over their shoes.  But not Jim and I. After that, I was worried we were going to get arrested or something for messing up the palace. We managed to get out without incident.  Jim and I really need a keeper. I still don’t know where those booties were when we entered.  No one else didn’t seem to have a problem finding them. tsk. tsk.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped in a place for dinner.  What a great time we had with the waiters!  The scotch helped, I supposed.  They seemed to want to talk to us Americans. The head waiter was a Trump fan!  Believe it or not.  It didn’t matter to him when we told him we were not.  He liked Trump’s stand on immigration.  I’m guessing it had something to do with Syria.  Good thing he can’t vote for Trump in 2020. He was not supportive of their President (or Dictator since he has been consolidating his power) and his stance of taking society backwards, most notable with regards to women.

The next day bright and early and I do mean bright and early, we began our day of touring the Blue Mosque (it was closed for renovations), Hagia Sofia (just some renovations), the Basilica Cistern (where they stored water), Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome (where the chariots raced), and ending at the Grand Bazaar. I think we walked just under 1000 miles. Hello … Istanbul!

The Grand Bazaar has 61 covered streets and 4000 shops.  Yikes! Jim and I made our way quickly on the main street from Gate 1 to Gate 7 and went on a quest to find a place to have lunch.  We found a place to have beers. I should have gone to the bathroom before leaving the place because when we got to the meeting point outside the bazaar, I knew I needed to go. And I didn’t have that much time.  Oye!  Back into that maze of a bazaar. Desperately trying to find a bathroom and trying to remember all the twists and turns I was taking, I finally saw a WC sign.  But, then it didn’t guide me much past that point.  Mindful of time ticking by, I walked up to two men and asked for the restroom.  Restaurant?  No restroom.  Restaurant?  Bathroom?  Heads shaking.  WC?  More heads shaking.  Finally, I did what any language deficient person would do … I squatted. “Ah, pss, pss.” Laughing at me, as well. Who cares? I got my point across.  I headed off where they sent me, but where the heck was the bathroom? Stopping by a woman sitting on a step, she directed me one door down. Luckily she spoke English. Then I needed a 1 Lira coin.  Found it.  Waiting in line, a woman attempted to get in front of me.  Didn’t happen! Exiting the bathroom, I used every bit of brain power and navigational skills to get myself back to the main street and on my way out. Don’t panic, Irene.  Stay calm.  Finally, I saw Gate 7. Rushing out, there was the entire group waiting for me.  I was late. Sorry. I never asked him, but I would guess that Ikut thought I was lost for good in the maze.

Early the next morning, we made our way back to the airport for a flight to Ismir. Here we toured Ephesus, Hierapolis, and Pamukkale. What history in this country!

Ephesus was built in the 10th century B.C.  The Temple of Artemis, built around 550 B.C. was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia mentioned in the Book of Revelation.  It’s believed that the Gospel of John may have been written here. We visited what is assumed to be the house of the Virgin Mary, where she lived out her last years.

To top off our visit there, Jim and I each rode a camel.  Now, camels aren’t indigenous to Turkey.  But, this was obviously a tourist attraction and we succumbed.

Hieropolis was an ancient city next to the hot springs in what is now called Pamukkale.  These hot springs have been used since the second century B.C. Can you believe the history of Turkey?  Wow!

These hot springs flow out and form calcium pools down the side of the hill.  At one time, hotels were located at the top, but interfered with the flow of the water and created issues with the calcium, so the hotels were forced to move down into the town. It’s now a protected area with just a portion where the public is able to walk and dip toes into the water. Step onto an area you shouldn’t and you’re likely to get whistles blowing at you.

Our next big adventure and the whole reason I said I would go to Turkey … Cappadocia! We elected to take the balloon ride, so we had to get up at 4:30 a.m. Yeah, I surprised myself with this.  We rode the shuttle to the offices of the balloon company, ate a very nice breakfast, and waited for the go ahead.  It was all dependent on the wind.  The previous three days, they were not able to go up.  As our guide, Ikut, said, “If the wind is too strong, we will end up in Syria!”  Yay!  The wind cooperated and off we went to board the baskets of the balloons. Being afraid of heights, I wasn’t sure how I would do. What I discovered was that the scariest part was climbing the ladder to get in and out of the basket.  I hate ladders. What a wonderful experience. I video taped a good bit of it, but when I went back and reviewed, I found I didn’t understand recording and pausing.  As a result, I have a lot of my underarm, where I had tucked my iPad, and the inside of the basket.  Duh! Electronics!

We got to attend a ceremony of Whirling Dervishes.  I was not aware that this was an actual way of worship for those who follow the Sufi order, a mystical branch of Islam which was founded by Rumi in the 13th century. They dress in white and whirl with one hand raised up reaching for the divine and the other down to the earth. As they whirl, they get into a trance where they aim to give up their ego and try to reach the source of perfection. It was beautiful to watch.  We were instructed that this was a worship service and we were not to clap, talk or take pictures.  It was not to be viewed as a performance. Once they were done, we were told we could take a few pictures, so we did.

The next day, we flew back to Istanbul for our last remaining days. We took a boat tour of the Bosphorous River where we viewed both the Europe side of Istanbul and the Asian side.  Istanbul is the only city in two continents. After a visit to the Spice market, Jim and I wandered around the streets and found ourselves in very crowded shopping areas.  Were they part of the Grand Bazaar?  We didn’t know but it was most interesting.

IMG_0270.JPG

That night we had our final dinner where Jim was presented a cake to celebrate his birthday, complete with song.

1523640334735

It was with regret the next morning to leave this great country. We had a wonderful time. I encourage everyone to put Turkey on their bucket list. You won’t regret it.  No, we never felt unsafe. We weren’t concerned about terrorists. They genuinely gave us the impression that they were glad we came.

IMG_20180413_085935_319

Ikut, our guide, paying homage to his new American friend, Jim. Those two got along too well. Birds of a feather, I think.