Thursday, October 30, 2014
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A First Reads giveaway from Goodreads, this was just a delightful mystery set in 16th century Japan. The plot is interesting and the setting unfamiliar enough to keep the reader engrossed. The second in a series involving a ninja warrior and a Portuguese Jesuit priest for whom he is responsible. In this episode, a high ranking clerk of the Shogun is found murdered and Hiro and Father Mateo are requested by the Shogun to find the murderer before the arrival of Lord Oda, an enemy of the Shogun. If the murderer is not found and punished before his arrival, it is felt this will show weakness on the Shogun's part an embarrassing vulnerability.
As Hiro and Father Mateo investigate the number of suspects increases and shifts from one to another, leaving them confused and stressed. Hiro is particularly uneasy for the evidence appears to incriminate his fellow ninja and close friend, Kazu. As the bodies pile up and Lord Oda draws near a plan to destroy the Shogun seems to be at the root of the mystery. Unraveling the clues while absorbing the mores and behaviors of the people of a different culture made this an enjoyable read. So much so that I immediately, upon finishing the book, went to Amazon and ordered the first book in the series, Claws of the Cat. While Blade is a stand alone story, I just wanted to learn the background of Hiro and how he came to be in charge of the protection of a Catholic priest in Kyoto.
View all my reviews
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of the books I picked up on my latest visit to Navajoland. My father told me about the Navajo code talkers years ago and I'm not sure if it was before the declassification of the code or before. I only know that I'd heard of them when I was much younger but it wasn't until a visit to Window Rock, Az several years ago that my memory of them was revived. During various trips to places on the Navajo Nation I'd chatted a bit with some of the Dine about their language and this inevitably led to at least a short discussion of them. There is a beautiful memorial statue to them beneath the actual Window Rock and somewhere, but not sure where, I had occasion to view pictures and documents about them, perhaps in the museum in Gallup, NM. Yet, for all that, I never bothered to pick up a book about these remarkable Marines and their story. I think because there are several volumes available in the various historic places in the Nation and I just never was able to decide which to read.
This year, my sister, on her first trip to Hubbell Trading Post purchased a Code Talker memoir. This got me looking more closely at the offerings and, finally, I made my choice, two books by Sally McClain. I've already reviewed what I consider her introductory volume, a slim book describing her research methods and experiences in gathering the information that she would then organize and weave into this volume.
The format of the book is very inviting and begins with the story of the Long Walk, the Navajo's displacement to Bosque Redondo in the north eastern portion of New Mexico. A terribly inhospitable place for those who survived the enforced march to attempt to survive. If one has not read her first book about the search for the talkers, the significance of this chapter is lost on the reader. Yet, in almost every interview she held with a Code Talker the first thing they spoke of was the Long Walk--an event so important to the individual Navajo that there is a sense of immediacy rather than historic revelation on the part of the narrator. This is something each of the Dine feel in their beings as having been experienced personally.
The second chapter is just as significant to the story for it tells of the conditions as they developed in Japan in the years between the world wars. Natural disasters, economic collapse and disease had reduced the country to one of starvation and homelessness. The military convinced the Emperor that only through the annexation of vast territories around the Pacific Ocean could the natural resources and food and labor needed for survival be obtained. And so, the Japanese set out to conquer the whole of the Pacific while the European powers were preoccupied with defeating Hitler and Mussolini. They also felt that their greatest obstacle to their plan was the United States Navy and so it was decided to annihilate it as soon as possible.
With those two chapters, Ms McClain defined the character and motivation of the major players in her book--the Japanese who, at all costs, including individual deaths, were determined to control a major part of the Earth and the Navajo Americans, who, through their devotion to Mother Earth and her protection, would become a major weapon of the USMC to prevent that from happening.
Step by step, battle by battle, the reader is carried along with the Marines and their Navajo Code Talkers through the Pacific campaign. I'm not a great military history buff and avoid reading many books on the subject because the minutia of the battle plan confuses me and gives me headaches. I just don't get into reading the maps and analyzing the dotted and solid lines of military movement or the arrows and colored zones ect. Yet, though the battles are described with some detail it is not overwhelming and throughout the narrative there are comments and recollections of the Code Talkers, their bodyguards and their other fellow Marines in the trenches as well as officers. These help to personalize and humanize the action and keeps the reader engrossed.
The conditions of places such as Guadalcanal, Iwo and Okinawa are described so vividly; the determination and stubbornness of the Japanese defenders bring home the difficulty facing the Marine invaders and their overwhelming steadfastness in achieving the goal of securing these islands for the eventual staging areas of a full bore invasion of mainland Japan is remarkably vivid. All through it, the amazing speed of the Navajo sending messages using the alphabet and vocabulary they developed without needing to code and decode is shown to be one of the major reasons any of these assaults were successful and shown to have been incredibly responsible for saving untold number of lives.
In the end, Ms McClain shows that these men returned home without any fanfare, carried on with thei lives without any special recognition and obeyed the order to refrain from revealing anything about their wartime experiences for over 25 years! Through her efforts, finally, as old age and in some cases,death, claimed these men, their remarkable contributions have been lauded and revealed.
Having read these volumes, my appetite for more information has been whetted and on my return to the Navajo Nation, several more of the books on these men will be added to my library. Too bad, in some ways we declassified the code, perhaps it would have come in handy in the various military actions we have engrossed ourselves in since 1945. On the other hand, had that been the case, a story about men, mistreated by their government, without the right to vote at the time, decided that Mother Earth needed protection, that Navajo Land is part of America and therefore America's call had to be answered, no matter the history of past relations.
May the Navajo Nation endure for all time to come!
View all my reviews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A slim volume tracing the research done by Sally McClain for her book, Navajo Weapon. It follows her meetings with surviving Code Talkers and/or their family members; her travels to Washington, DC to search Naval and other governmental archives for records about this top secret program to use Native speaking Navajo to form an alphabet and vocabulary that would be totally unbreakable by our Japanese enemies in the Pacific Theatre of WW II; her efforts to organize all the pieces of information she gathered over several years into a cogent story of the success of the progam; and the culmination of her work, a published book and a celebratory banquet in Gallup, New Mexico the night before the annual Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial. Absolutely absorbing and enticing. After reading this, I could not wait to begin Navajo Weapon, which I have almost completed.
View all my reviews
Monday, October 27, 2014
Monday October 27, 2014 Kitchen Counter Post Mills, Vermont
Bill laughs when I express pleasure at being home AT LAST! When we are travelling in winter I do everything I can think of to prolong the trip and avoid returning to Vermont. I must admit that there was some missing him in my anxiety to get home! There is, however, the added factor that returning to Vermont in late March, early April does NOT guarantee that winter is over or that snow is gone, no matter what the calendar says about the seasons. I can handle the delay of leaving for the warmth and sun until February but the return from Paradise to bare trees, snow on the ground and general deadly scenery is much, much more difficult.
On this trip, I wasn’t really anxious to get home until we were definitely irretrievably in the industrial East as exemplified by cities such as Erie and Buffalo, even Columbus and Cleveland. Once reaching that point of no return, I just wanted to be back with my B’s and the cats, in our cozy log cabin asap. Even Barb’s house, which I love under most situations was a trial—so close and yet so far from HOME.
Nonetheless, I did enjoy our last days wandering the Finger Lakes region and other areas of New York. No matter how long I’ve lived in Vermont and how beautiful I find it, my heart will always consider New York State home. The wider valleys, the wide pebbly streams, the foliage that is every bit as beautiful as Vermont’s, the two distinctly different mountain ranges, the Dutch influence in the Catskills, the vast forests of the Adirondacks, sprinkled liberally with crystal clear lakes, the mighty rivers that flow in all of its regions, the Hudson, St Lawrence, Mohawk, the variety of geographic formations and the fact that throughout my childhood and young adulthood I explored all of them numerous times with my family. Vermont can never fill me with love the same way, though I’ve explored every inch of it, as well. The last two hours of travel, then was quite pleasant though not on backroads but on I 90—the Thruway, that I hated as a child because we gave up using the Taconic once it was built.
We arrived at Barb’s around noontime on the 24 th and took our time cleaning out the car. Each time we brought in a load we immediately sorted through it, Barb put her things away and I packaged mine to make it easier to transport to Vermont. It is not that we bought a great deal, though Barb bought more than I since many places were places I return to and so can get things as I run out. Also she was buying things for my nephew and his family and again, I didn’t buy many things for Betsy since I already have her Christmas gifts and she has requested money for a trip to England and Germany in February. We took a break for coffee and another to just relax a bit. In time the pantry was sorted, the china closet emptied and things put away, the refrigerator ( cooler ) was one of the first to be emptied and what little food we had left put away in the real fridge. Our andouille from La was still frozen and put in the real freezer. Our cake from the bakery in La was checked –well, Barb’s was—I left mine wrapped until I got home. Her’s was a bit dried out but mine were in good shape this morning and Bill has already eaten at least three of his praline brownie today! By three o’clock, George, as we named the Red Vibe that transported us on our journey was picked clean.
Barb called Charlie and since he and Cheryl had to work all weekend she went down to pick up Damian around 4 ish. We were to go out to Olive Garden for dinner but I was truly tired and hoped we would not. She called around 6 to say she was picking up Chinese and would be home in about an hour. I was waiting to open the birthday gift she’d carried across the country and didn’t give me until we got home. Finally, I couldn’t wait any longer and opened it to find a beautiful scarf in rich blues and burgundy. I put it on, so that she’d see that I really loved it. Around 7: 30 I took it off and refolded it and got out one of my new books: Search for the Navajo Code Talkers by Sally McClain. It is a slim volume describing her research for her book, Navajo Weapon, which is the story of the development of the idea of using Navajos and their language to send coded messages in the Pacific Theatre of WW II, the recruitment of the men, the development of the alphabet and vocabulary of the code and the battles in the Pacific and the involvement of Navajo Code Talkers in each one. The first book was a quick read and I had almost half of it read by the time Barb and the wonderful Chinese meal appeared around 815. My first Chinese food in two months and just delicious. Watched Hawaii 5-0 and BlueBloods and I headed off to bed.
I got up late Saturday morning and was relieved to see that Damian had returned to his normal active, bright eyed self. He had been terribly subdued on Friday night and didn’t show any real enthusiasm for seeing me. I felt disappointed and somewhat alarmed and hoped that two months in a home with another dog and a larger family hadn’t somehow altered his personality. I should not have worried—he greeted me as always with a soft toy and the invitation to play ” tug of war, Damian wins”. It is one of his favorite pastimes! Barb had already started the laundry. We tore the Sunday papers apart and read just the comics and Parade magazine. Barb cut our coupons and went out to the store to get dog food for Damian. She brought back some apple cider donut holes which we demolished while reading. We folded laundry and switched stuff from washer to dryer. I gave her the notebook from the trip to photocopy and some CD’s to burn and then I headed in to take a nap. Damian did the same. When I got up around 5:30 we ate leftover Chinese, which was better than the night before. We then binge watched The Blacklist to catch up on episodes we missed because we never seemed to get the TV times synchronized with our EST TV watching biological clocks!! And so another day was gone.
Yesterday, I moved everything from my room to the living room so Bill could take it out to the car when he arrived. Took my shower and washed my hair, dressed and just as I was sitting down to coffee the doorbell rang and Bill was there. How good to see him! Barb had made bacon so we all gathered round the table and Bill and Barb immediately started talking houseplants—ugh! Eventually, Bill started loading the car and Barb and I finished up writing in the restaurant book she keeps. She’d given me a copy of the book but I always forget to take it with me and usually just photograph the menus, though I didn’t do that this time for some reason. Before long all was packed and loaded and so we hugged good-bye—still speaking after almost eight weeks on the road but glad to have a respite from our 24/7 existence. It was a good trip and both of us were sorry to have it over but we have lots of memories that we will talk about together and with others for a long time.
Bill and I headed North on the Northway, cut over through Ft Edward and Hudson Falls to Ft Ann, where they’ve torn down an old brick building that I’ve loved for more than 50 years—it is such a hole on the corner to have it gone. I wonder what will appear in its place? Then on through Whitehall toward Fair Haven. We stopped at the old apple orchard where we picked apples every year when I was a kid and where my parents took Charlie when he was little. Bought six of the most delicious apple cider donuts to be found anywhere in the world—fresh baked that morning—I look forward to them every year. On to Rutland, over the mountain and to Applebee’s in W. Leb where I bought Bill dinner. Turns out that Sarah, my favorite bartender there, not only shares many of my tastes in jewelry and Native American lore—she’s part Abenaki—but also my birthday!!!! We never knew that before so we wished each other a happy belated birthday before we headed home.
As we pulled in the driveway, I was delighted to see Betsy who was just leaving. She’d dropped by on her way home from Burlington on the off chance we’d be here. Hugged each other strongly and I gave her the few things I’d gotten for her and placed in a separate shopping bag. She was anxious to get going since she had to do her plans for today but she took the time to open her gifts, which I didn’t expect her to do. She liked her “ Cat “ magnet that I bought in Bozeman and the sign about teacher’s loving June, July and August as the best teaching months. She seemed perplexed about pecan oil but I think she’ll like using it in some of her stir fries. Then she was off.
I was amazed how early it was so I started to unwrap and put some of my purchases away. As you can see, most are foodstuffs. Bought Bill a new Buffalo Trace t-shirt, a John Wayne bottle opener for the fridge door and a new Buffalo Bill hat, to replace the one he left in a Donelson, La store several years back. I cannot seem to get a nice picture of the wonderful pendants we bought in Canyon d’Chelly, done by Ted Henry of the Ansel Adams’ picture of his Mom and brother.
I’m not going to bother with the wine etc until Bill goes to work on Thursday—I will do the bills then and go through the box of mail that awaits my scrutiny. I know I have some new books there, too and my other sneakers. But it will be better to deal with those things while alone.
Misty has gotten very thin, her hind legs are almost non-functional by the end of the day and she falls asleep sitting up. She sat in my lap for hours last night while I watched the two Masterpiece shows and the one on Scottish castles. Attila was here with Bets when I got home but very quickly took off to parts unknown returning after I was asleep and waking me about 1230 by taking a bath while pressed against my sleeping leg. He’d come in through the bedroom window sometime after 1130. Misty is very much more vocal now and wants to be in my workroom, which is off limits or in my kitchen cabinet with pots and pans,also off limits. She wanders aimlessly and gives an insistent raucous call for no apparent reason. I think her time is coming and I only hope it happens naturally—I truly don’t want to put her down. She is definitely in her second childhood and loves just being in your lap for hours.
So, after 10,634.0 miles, a little less than $5,000 dollars ( I brought home some money even with stopping at Perry Null and Grandmother’s Buttons) and 52 days ( to Barb’s –actually 54 days for me—2 days less than the 8 weeks I thought to be gone) I am home in Vermont. We had 12 free nights between Choice Hotels and Barb’s Holiday Inn points. We also spent one night at my friends’, Bud and Gloria in Belen, NM. That is always a trip extender though I have to start building up more for our next trip—down to 167 this time! I lost two more pounds on the trip and Barb lost 4 more so we ate thoughtfully for the most part. We are both pleased with that and my reward was the lapis ring I’ve wanted for two or three years at Perry Nulls, which never fit me til now.
The house looks great and the sun is shining. I’ve little left to put away and once the bills and mail are done I can start reading profusely again. I’m four books ahead of my goal of reading 52 books this year—actually 5 1/2 ahead, as of this morning, I did my first crossword and crypto-quip in two months this morning and it was fun. Now to start thinking holidays and planning for our winter trip. By February, I’ll be chomping at the bit to be on the road again. Thank you all for joining us in our adventure. I hope you enjoyed it at least half as much as we. The next train will be departing in a few months and I hope some of you will join us once more. Until then, Happy Trails, from the Homing Pigeon Sisters ( and especially from the Blogging Sister) Kathy and Barb
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Thursday October 23, 2014 Quality Inn Room 108 Rome, New York
Happy 72nd birthday to me! Started out at 930 this morning for Watkins Glen and the ride up the East side of Seneca Lake. Seemed very appropriate that we were driving the Catherine Creek Trail, considering it is my birthday. Quite a nice little stream it is, too.
Stopped in some small burg at a hole in the wall place called the Blue Ribbon Diner. Other than the waitress we were the only women in there—is it duck hunting season? They seemed to be in camo and obviously not working. Had a pancake for the first time in two months—with blueberries—tasted quite good.
At Watkins Glen we started out on the Finger Lakes Trail once more. Our first stop was Catherine Valley Winery where I purchased a bottle of Lost Irishman blush wine. It is a pleasant wine but I love the label more and it was reasonably priced. We continued on to Atwater Winery, where the lady offering the tastings told me she lived for 30 years in Burlington, Vt. Didn’t ask her how she wound up on Seneca Lake or what she did in Burlington—later, I was sorry I hadn’t. Bought a glass and a couple of bottles of wine, Vidal Blanc and Stone Bridge Red. Totally forgot to take a picture of the winery sign. Then it was on to Hazlitt Winery but nothing caught my eye. There was a group of people tasting at the bar there. It is a beautiful bar but the group of about six were a bit rowdy and it didn’t appeal to me to sit listening to them. One woman in particular was a bit loud and irritating. So we continued on to Penguin Bay. Some how they arrived shortly after us. I don’t think they knew each other but rather they happened to hit the tastings together and were getting to know each other as they sipped and began to get a bit tipsy. I don’t usually care for Muscato, find it too sweet, but this one is a bit drier and has a bit of a fizzy sense on the tongue. Quite good, especially very cold. Also bought a blush, Percussion that has a bit of peppery overtone. Had to have a glass with the adorable penguins and a towel that says ‘Today’s Soup is Wine” By then we were nearing mid-Lake and ready to head to Seneca Falls to search for the museum (s) dealing with the work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others as well as the time spent by Mark Twain in town.
We passed through yet again some little towns, such as Lodi in which there were several pastures of horses that looked like palominos with very very pale bellies. Then we came to Ovid with a high school, the back door of which is just as elegant as its front. There is also a small Mennonite community within it and so we competed with horse drawn carriages for the road. One driver pulled out in front of us as recklessly as any auto driver we’ve encountered on our long trip. Fayette is so painfully run down I could not photograph it.
The hawks are out in full force in this area of the State—on the limbs of bare trees, on the power lines. I discovered a feature of my camera I’d not realized it had. I can crop my photos automatically—so what was a distant shot of the hawk became a close up with no loss of sharpness. Holy cow, that makes a huge difference in many of my pix. I can go back through and crop before printing rather than cutting away lots of the hard copy. Always learning new things.
Eventually, we were in Seneca Falls—it is a confusing burg—there is a visitors’ center on the main drag and all kinds of directional signs to museums but the museums themselves are not well marked. Also the National Park appears to be an office, also on the main drag. I think the town has to be a destination in and of itself to find the things I’d like to see. As for today, it was already 2 pm and miles to go before arriving in Saratoga. Also, I’d like to dine on Duck L’Orange at Gould’s when I am dressed in something other than jeans and a casual top. It’s on my list of things to do soon.
Shortly after leaving town I saw the nests on high tension wires of the osprey and knew that we were close to Montezuma Refuge. So off we went for the drive—which takes us running adjacent to the Eastbound lane of the Thruway—I 90. Mostly ducks at this time of year though a good sized group of Canada Geese are also resting up for the next leg of their Southbound journey. One lone white bird, heron?. egret? left. All of them, very diligently preening and debugging—lol. I love the head standing ducks, particularly the synchronized swimming pair. The ballet dancers of the marsh. I’m also fond of the lone one leg standing sentry amongst the geese.
Looking at the map it seemed important to get back on the Thruway so as not to pass through the middle of Syracuse so we cut up through Auburn to Weedsport. We no sooner got on the Interstate than it started to sprinkle—it had been cloudy, very cold and very windy all day but no rain, for which we were grateful. Betsy called me at this point and we chatted through the Syracuse portion of the road. A nice visit catching up about school, our trip etc and her Happy Birthday to me. How I wish I was home with the B’s today but she said she’d be up next week to see me and have dinner with us. She says Misty is thinner, grayer and totally out of touch with what is going on around her. Do cats get Alzheimer’s? Sounds like she has it. So sad—hope she hangs on til I get home. She’s my baby cat.
Well, by the time we hung up the rain was coming down full blast, the trucks were throwing up sheets of road splash, cars were weaving in and out and the visibility was awful. Then a truck several cars in front of us blew a tire—pieces all over the road for miles. I suggested we just bag it and get a motel. Happens we were at the Rome exit and Bill and I are very familiar with the Quality Inn opposite Fort Stanwyk so called and got a room. Used all but 187 points of our free night points. Ordered Pizza and pepsi for dinner. Called Bill and he laughed ‘cause last night he said “ you’re not staying in Rome?” Well, guess what? Yes, we are staying in Rome. Tomorrow we WILL be in Saratoga!!! Until then, goodnight once more, from the Tired, but Dry and Relaxed and Safe Sisters, Kathy and Barb
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Wednesday October 22, 2014 Candlewood Suites Room 128 Horseheads, New York
We never left our hotel in Farmington until about 1130. After the long day of driving under horrible conditions we decided to just take it easy today. So lingered in the breakfast room over coffee with the newspaper, after getting up and leisurely watching a Constance Bennett movie. Then in drizzly, gray weather we cruised down rt 96 through several small towns including lovely little Phelps, until we reached 14 into Geneva, another neat place with great old buildings. Then it was down the west side of Seneca Lake, passing many wineries and small motels and resorts after passing the elegant frat houses of Hobart College.
Stopped at two wineries, PreJean where I bought a bottle of Tiger Lily wine and a semi-dry reisling as did Barb. We, of course, had to taste several before deciding which to buy. Then we drove about another half hour or so before stopping at Heron Hill to taste a few more. Here I bought a delightful Pinot Gris and Game Bird blush. Barb bought the Game Bird blush as well as Game Bird red. We also bought really pretty port glasses. All in all we tasted 11 wines—actually more, since we tasted each other’s as well. We got out some crackers to snack on as we proceeded to Watkins Glen. Decided to stop for the day so continued down to Corning to get a motel. Here and Painted Post were all booked but we were able to get a terrific suite here in Horseheads.
Ate a delicious meal at Outback, right next door. Tomorrow we will return to the East side of Seneca, a couple more wineries and then on to Seneca Falls, where I hope to find the womans’ suffrage museum before heading on to Saratoga. Barb’s wifi is turned off so I may not be able to finish pictures and/or blog until I return to Vermont on Sunday or Monday. Until then, good bye from the Tired, Thrilled , Still Speaking after Two Months on the Road Sisters, Kathy and Barb
Wednesday October 22, 2014 Comfort Inn and Suites Room 314 Farmington, New York
Yesterday found us starting week 8 on the road and going past 10,000 miles! Left Bellville in drizzle which turned to a torrential downpour around Cleveland. Thank goodness for the by-pass 271 and the express lanes on 90 once we hit the city outskirts. Still the rain wiped out visibility for awhile. As we cruised along Lake Erie it let up enough to make driving bearable but at Erie the skies opened up once more and the windshield looked as though we were driving under the Lake rather than past it. Let up once more as we headed toward Buffalo but at Buffalo we hit the cloud that had raced ahead of us and once more came the deluge. I swear the angels were just waiting to dump out the barrels they’d refilled during the lulls in the storm. We decided to try to get to wine country before stopping. I forgot that Rochester isn’t really on I90 so we had to go by it to Farmington to find a motel that wasn’t miles off our route. Fortunately, the Comfort Inn is just down the road from the exit, for, once more, those angels laughed with glee as they swamped us again!
We really cannot complain about the weather, for the most part our trip has been in good weather. Also, when we think about the arid, water deprived areas we’ve seen, we cannot wish for less rain. Sad that the weather is so extreme in places across this big country of ours. We are resting in the room for a bit this am before heading to some Finger Lake wineries and another and last night on the road. Tomorrow we will probably arrive in Saratoga. Then we need about a day to unload the car and separate our individual purchases. Not that we bought a great deal, but we did purchase some culinary items and a few gifts for our loved ones—lol
Will need to do laundry, too and retrieve Damian, who probably thinks Barb deserted him. Bill is working through Sat so can’t get home before Sun ( if it isn’t raining—don’t want to make him drive in it, when he’s tired from three days working ) or Monday.
Bye for now from the Soaked, weather Stressed Sisters, Kathy and Barb
Monday, October 20, 2014
Our first stop this morning, in the rain, Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Ky. I’ve been here five or six times. Blantons is probably the best known of the bourbons produced here. I love it as well as Buffalo Trace itself. I always have a bottle of each on hand. When we arrived Freddy, the man who has conducted all the tours I’ve taken, was just finishing up a tour. So I went back to the tasting bar to say hello to him. He is always so gracious—not sure he remembers me—but he always behaves as though he does but I KNOW he is pleased that I remember HIM and always stop by to say hello whenever I’m there. His father and grandfather worked here and he has been here for years himself—his family are fixtures here.
I bought a box of my favorite bonbons, a new tee shirt for Bill and a small Blanton’s bottle to use for bath oil. Then it was off north on Rt 127, which like yesterday’s back road started out wide and traveled and then became truly bucolic and rural. Took it to just south of Cincinnati, where we picked up I 71 north. We had enjoyed the tobacco barns with the quilt squares over the open doors revealing the curing tobacco leaves. There were fields of tobacco waiting to be pulled, fields full of dead corn stalks, more foliage and small towns. The rain had stopped as soon as we left Frankfort so fortunately we had clear skies and bearable traffic. Crossed the Ohio from Covington, Ky to Cincinnati and travelled almost to Cleveland, passing through Columbus, before the rain returned. Stopped just south of Cleveland in Bellville and ate at Der Dutchmen. Diner food, not bad, at fancy restaurant prices—not good. Interestingly, we had been here before and I sort of knew that when I saw the billboard on the Interstate. Claims to be the Gateway to Amish country—well, Amish neither work there, nor dine there so far as we could see. Perhaps, I’ll remember next time, BEFORE we eat here. LOL
Called Bill and told him there was no way we were getting to Saratoga tomorrow and that we need a day to empty the car and organize my stuff to take home. Since he works Th-Sat, we will take our time and do the Finger Lakes on the way to Barb’s. Then I’ll be ready for him to pick me up on Sunday—will have to celebrate my birthday late.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the hostess at Longhorn’s last night is studying Anatomy and Physiology—saw her musculature diagram she was studying. She has three tests this week—told her I’d help her if she had any questions while I was there. She said she’d ask if need be but as I left she said it was okay. She’s a sophomore in college and going to be a nurse. Just a delightful girl.
Anyway, we are ready to watch the Blacklist—watching a PBS show on woman’s suffrage right now. Goodnight from the Lifelong Learning Sisters, Kathy and Barb
Monday October 20,2014 Comfort Inn Bellville, Ohio Room 167
Started out yesterday morning from Bowling Green and decided to take off on back roads from the Interstate and head up to Bardstown, Ky which is the center of bourbon country. Initially the road was wide and pretty busy but as me moved closer to Bardstown it became narrow and very twisty turny. Since we missed foliage in Northern New York and Vermont we were quite taken with the colorful trees of Kentucky and the flowers still in bloom. We were particularly appreciative since Bill has kept us informed about the cold days and frosty mornings that have already descended upon home. Neither of us are looking forward to that dark, gray and dismal time so we continue to revel in cloudless blue skies and the contrails that show the euphoric flight of jets in the clear blue air.
When we reached Bardstown our first stop was Heaven Hill distillery. Elijah Craig, Legacy, Fighting Cock, Evan Williams are just a few of the brands they produce. I love the rick houses ( rack houses ) that are scattered over the hillsides of this part of Kentucky. They remind me of the refectory buildings and dormitories of monasteries. Perhaps, they were copied from those by the monks who distilled heady brews for centuries. The style of building doesn’t vary much from one distillery to another but the materials used to build them do. Some are brick, some beautiful gray stone and others are made with metal siding. But ALL of them are filled from floor to ceiling with kegs of bourbon aging to perfection –evaporating into the air and making it sweet with the odor of the angels’ share. We did not sample for several reasons, not necessarily in order of importance: one cannot sample without taking the tour and paying for it ( we’ve done that twice before ) and we were going to be driving to several distilleries—the operational word here being drive. Still, there are products at each that we have come to enjoy and which are not available at home. At Heaven Hill that includes a bourbon honey and apple bourbon basting sauce for meats. They also had a variety pack of bourbon bon bons that I’ve not seen before. I also picked up a four pack of bonbons for us to savor while driving.
Off we continued, again through small towns and neighborhoods, past pumpkin patches and horse pastures.I happened to look down at my light blue blouse and discovered that I’d dropped a huge blob of chocolate right on the front of it. We pulled over in front of a small Church with a for sale sign in front of it. Out came the Dawn detergent and an old bottle of water and I went to work to get out the stain. One can do laundry anytime, anyplace when one is prepared. Then we resumed the amusement park ride travel—laughing crazily at silly things—like Barb saying THAT road has been repaved ( I must mention the roughness of this narrow country road, too ) as we passed a branch off to the left with smooth, newly laid blacktop. I laughed and said, yes, but 15 minutes ago that was a DIRT road. Little things get very funny when you are getting dizzy from the curves and dips and hills. LOL
Soon we entered Lawrenceburg, which we were to see a few times coming and going. Our next stop was Wild Turkey. A new visitors’ center and tasting room, since we were here last, but we both loved the old cabin in the woods that was the original. The ladies said, oh, but it was too small for the crowds we get, like the 1000 people we had yesterday. Hm, I guess, but the ambiance is gone. Here I picked up a small bottle of Rare Breed and a shot glass to go with it. In my young single days, remember Jane?, my drink of choice was Wild Turkey on the rocks. Oh, the number I was able to drink of an evening. Now, after one, I’m ready for bed. In those days, we’d drink and dance and close the place down—Friends was a favorite watering hole, though there were others—lol
From there we headed to Four Roses. It is built in a California Mission style. As we walked in, Barb headed to the tasting room to ask about tastings. I proceeded to the welcome desk where I asked if one could taste without touring—the girl was answering me as she and the fellow next to her were eyeing Barb. She said no and that the last tour had started at 3 and we’d missed it. I said well, she’ll find that out and will be over in a minute. But the guy went hurrying off into the tasting room where Barb was speaking to the lady serving and he interrupted them to tell Barb she couldn’t be there—which is what she asked the lady who was just about to answer her. He was so brusque—don’t know what he thought Barb was going to do—overpower the lady and run off with the tasting bottle??? No class! I did buy a small two shot bottle of the Reserve to share with Barb as a nightcap. ( It was as harsh and distasteful as he! )
Passed back through Lawrenceburg and headed to Woodford Distillery. The way went through some of the most beautiful scenery of the day—horse country with manicured pastures, thoroughbreds grazing in the waning light and elegant fences and gates to tasteful homes. Even a private track for testing the prowess of those wonderful horses and to show them off to potential buyers. And the distillery is so classy. If it were not so late in the day, I would have toured here. The staff was wonderful The shop was closing in ten minutes but there was absolutely no evidence of impatience on the part of any of them. The young girl who waited on us chatted with me about turquoise and her desire to study silversmithing. I gave her Perry Null’s website to dream on. Here I purchased a mint julep syrup to add to my bourbon and picked up a two pack of mint julep bourbon bon-bons---wish I’d bought a box of those—delicious.
And the day rapidly drawing to a close we covered the remaining eleven miles to Frankfort ready to call it a day. Unfortunately, I could not seem to find my way to the motel and we drove in places of that Capitol town that I’ve never seen before. All lovely but none with the motel. Finally, I said let’s get on I 64 and head toward Louisville and see what we can find. Or else, let’s stop at a gas station and let me get directions. We stopped at a Shell station and I was told to get on I 64 toward Lehville and get off at the next Frankfurt exit and there it was—sort of—we couldn’t find it, but after turning around we discovered the Holiday Inn Express and after turning around ( I’ve never been in a car that makes as many U-turns on highways as this one!) once more we got in to confirm our reservation.
Went immediately to Longhorn and had a terrific steak dinner with malbec for $15!!! We had a $25 gift card and the manager gave us a 10% senior discount!! Returned to our fabulous suite, cracked open the Four Roses, the mint julep bon bons and watched PBS until 12:30. A terrific day and great night’s sleep. To be continued---Kathy and Barb
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Saturday October 18, 2014 Sleep Inn Bowling Green, Kentucky Room 210
The sunrise in Tupelo at 630 this morning was spectacular—opened the door to enjoy the quiet, cool morning beauty—then went back to bed for another two hours. We had checked motel availability in Nashville for tonight, at a motel close enough to downtown to assure an inexpensive taxi ride out and back. Nothing available at the Comfort Inn but there was a room at the Holiday Express for $399 for the night but they would not take points—those rooms were already booked up. Decided it wasn’t worth it so made reservations in Bowling Green.
Got back on the Trace just outside Tupelo and stopped almost immediately at the Confederate graves—I’ve only driven by once without stopping and walking in. When we first went in, the graves had Confederate flags—though I remember an American flag on one for some reason. The sign at the time also posited another theory besides those listed now and that was that these were Confederate deserters, executed when caught and that was the reason there was no identification on the original graves. I notice that theory has disappeared along with the Confederate flags. Ah, revisionist history—always politically correct. Whatever the story, I always walk in to say hi and wonder about the mystery. It is at this sign that I noticed I’d lost an opal from my engagement ring several years ago. When I got back to the car, miraculously, the tiny almost grain sized halves of the small opal were mixed with the grains of sand on my floor mat! They weren’t big enough to do anything with but was glad to find them. Had the stone replaced when we got home.
Continued on the Trace to Nashville but not much foliage to be seen most of the way. There was a 12 mile detour through the Alabama countryside and saw lots of cotton---Alabama snow!—and a crop duster who was having a ball making loops and turns in the sky. It was a joyful looking yellow plane and the pilot was terrific. As he approached our car with the window open and me madly taking pictures, he turned the spray off as fast as can be—only sprays the cotton fields not the roads around them. I could have stayed for hours watching the aerial show.
Crossed the Tenn-Bow waterway and then the Tennessee River. Both quite beautiful. As we neared Nashville the color was a bit more evident. Took Barb to the Puffy Muffin on Franklin Rd for quiche and ginger tea before hooking up with I 65 around the city and then on up to Kentucky. We were too full to bother going to Smoky Pig, but probably should have to pick up BBQ for tomorrow night. Too late I checked their FB page to find they close at 7 pm on Sat and are closed on Sun and Mon so no Smoky Pig this trip.
Spoke to Bill for a half hour. It doesn’t look like we’ll be home in time for him to pick me up before his three day stint at PC on Thurs-Sat so guess I’ll see him a week from tomorrow. Had hoped to be home before for my birthday but we’ll celebrate early the following week. Hope Bets can come for dinner. Bill suggested Mammoth Caves might be interesting for Barb but she doesn’t want to take the tours because they involve lengthy stair climbing and her knees don’t like stairs. We thought we’d go to the Butterfly Habitat at Lost River here in Bowling Green but it is closed by mid-September. So perhaps a visit to bourbon country is in the future—who knows?
At any rate, it is time to eat my poppy seed bread and cranberry from Puffy Muffin. Guess we are watching How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days—as I recall it is a cute chick flick—Kate Hudson and Matthew McConnahey—not bad. So once more, it is good night from the Southern Fried Sisters, Kathy and Barb
Friday, October 17, 2014
A pretty uneventful day of driving up the Trace. Green, green, green. No flowers, no flowering trees, no foliage yet. Few wildlife either—a doe and her fawn, some turkeys, some turkey vultures, a few crows. Lots of lovely yellow butterflies. In the first fifty to seventy miles there was lots of Spanish moss but by Jackson it had pretty much disappeared. The reservoir for Jackson was beautiful as always under an almost cloudless sky. The cypress swamp went by in a blur and I chose not to take pictures of the 2011 damage by tornado of a large swath of the bordering forests. I probably should have to show how the undergrowth is taking over the damaged area and how it will soon be grown over with little evidence of the broken toothpick-like trunks of the destroyed trees.
We stopped at French Camp, which I’ve always wanted to explore but which is always swarming with people when we pass through. Today it was almost empty. It is basically the site of a boys and girls school for children from poor or broken homes. It covers grades 1-12. It is religiously affiliated with one of the Protestant sects though I’m not sure which. We ate in the café and had a huge and delicious BLT called the Big Willy. More sweet tea, of course.
Our waiter was a literally beautiful young man with bright red curly hair and sapphire blue eyes; I’d say he was about 16-17. Told him I always wanted a red-haired son and asked if I could adopt him and take him north with me. He asked how far north. I said Vermont. Oh, no, ma’am , he said with a huge smile, that’s frozen tundra land, I can’t go north of the Mason – Dixon line. What a sweetie. He thought Vt had only those tall pine and spruce trees—I told him southern Maine for pines and northern Maine for fir and spruce but that Vt had lots of hardwoods and softwoods—along with white and red pine—beech, birch, maple, oak,poplar etc. He was surprised. But I said we DO have snow from Nov-Apr and he should visit at some other season but Vt winter.
After lunch we continued on to Tupelo and settled in for the night. Have to research Nashville hotels for tomorrow night and then TV. Goodnight from the Sweet Tea Swilling Sweet Sisters, Kathy and Barb
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Thursday October 16, 2014 Quality Inn Room 101 Natchez, Ms
After spending a restful second day in Victoria we set out for Louisiana on Monday the 13th of October. What hellacious weather from the outskirts of Victoria to the city limits of Lafayette, La!
We had taken 59 northeast out of Victoria and then cut north to the Interstate on 36 to pick it up before the madhouse of Katy. The wind and clouds were terrifying—they were swirling and I kept an eye out for tornadoes—not that I know what we would have done had we seen one! Passed a cute motel, called the Tepee Motel, somewhere on those back roads—the only thing is that I thought the units looked more like the sharpened end of a number 2 pencil!
It took us an hour from Katy, which is the Western suburb of Houston , to BayPort, which is the Eastern suburb. Actually, considering the rain, wind, road splash from semis and other mad drivers going 75+ in zero visibility, that really wasn’t bad timing. We chose to follow 10 right through the middle of town. I’ve used the loops but the traffic is just as crazy and the loops are longer, circling the city as they do. With the weather, I said, what the heck, let’s just go for it.
I think this is the first time I’ve crossed the Sabine River without seeing it! The bridge over Lake Charles is a bit hazy in my memory, too. Finally, we neared the exit for Lafayette in quieter weather but still darkened skies.
Tuesday was heavenly and we headed down to New Iberia and Konrico, where I buy my pecan oil and usually get some other seasonings and rice. Having been here so recently, the only thing I needed was the oil—though I wasn’t even sure of that, so called Bill from the company store porch to make sure. Barb went on the tour of the rice plant while I chatted with the owner’s wife and a couple from Denmark. We talked about languages and how some people are snooty about Cajun and Canadian French but how the Parisians are so gracious and patient with visitors who attempt to speak French there, no matter how poorly. We also spoke of different forms of a language within the same country. It was interesting to learn that almost all Danes speak English and that the teens there speak English among themselves. They will speak Danish to you but the moment you speak English, that is the end of the Danish. She said it is difficult for a person who moves to Denmark from an English speaking country to learn Danish because no one will speak it with you!! She and her family are looking to emigrate to Canada because her husband, who is currently working in Quatar, would have to pay 67% income tax if he moves home to Copenhagen, so he has only visited 15 days in the past year. They meet and travel in the US or somewhere else instead. He doesn’t pay the tax unless he returns to Denmark!
From Konrico we went to Avery Island, the home of Tabasco sauce. Barb again took the tour while I read in the car. I’ve been to both tours and once is enough. We visited the store, which is outrageously expensive. I bought a larger bottle of pecan oil, they didn’t have the larger bottle at Konrico, and will give the smaller one to Betsy. She loves to cook. We skipped the Jungle Gardens since they wanted $8 a piece to look at egrets which we could see along with many other wild creatures on our Swamp tour. Then it was off to Shucks for fried oysters and crawfish ettouffe with lots of sweet tea to wash it down. A cruise by Cajundome and LSU at Lafayette and we called it a day.
Wednesday we got out to St Martin Lake near Breaux Bridge for the 11 oclock swamp tour with Shawn Gutchereaux. His dad, Butch, runs Cajun Country Swamp Tours. This was my third time on the tour. We got out to the Lake around 930 and sat watching the egrets feed among the lotus leaves and some locals fish from the dock. Both Butch and Shawn had 11 oclock tours—at this time of year it is the first one of the day. Bill and I have taken a 9 oclock and the first year it was just us and Butch. This time it was a full boat. A couple from Oklahoma, their son and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren, including 10 month old Zeke with his improvised hat—a disposable diaper! A group of 8 French folk—a man, his wife and sister-in-law, her husband, a teenage daughter and younger daughter and son. They live on the upper east side of Manhattan but we didn’t get a chance to discover if they are with the UN etc. There were others farther back in the boat also but couldn’t really get to speak with them. The tour was, as always, just wonderful. Everyone is naturally interested in seeing Gators—especially since Swamp People etc have become so popular on TV. While I love them, too, I really like the birds and the trees of the swamp as much or more. The gum trees had fruits that looked like ripe olives on them –they are usually bare in Feb-Mar. No nutria this time and fewer big gators. In the Spring they are all out on logs soaking up the sun, lethargic after the long “ cold” winter. Now they are hiding or sliding off the logs quietly as we approach. They are really quite shy and non-confrontational despite the TV image.
After 2 and 1/2 hours we were starved so we headed out to Legneaux’s for lunch but they closed at 1 so we settled on buying some andouille for home and took off for Abbeville and Shucks once more. This time Barb had crab au gratin and I had duck and andouille gumbo with a sampler plate of oysters: creamed, candied, Rockefeller and bleu au gratin. They were all good but you couldn’t taste the oysters only the toppings. Didn’t have raw ones this time around. When I return in Spring.Washed them down with three huge glasses of sweet tea!! I managed to get us lost in the traffic trying to take a shortcut back to the motel—but, oh, well, saw a whole new part of Lafayette that I can share with Bill!
This morning it was up and over to Keller’s bakery before leaving town. Got half dozen of their whoopee pies and half dozen of their praline brownies for Bill. Have them all wrapped up good in saran wrap—they should be pretty fresh when we get home—I’ve done it before successfully. Then up to Opelousas on 167 where we picked up 190 east through Krotz Springs and over the new bayou bridge, onto the Morganza Spillway to Livonia. Then on 78 to New Roads and 1 North to pick up La 10 and across the John James Audubon Bridge—golden as it is. We have now crossed the Mississippi and have only the Tennessee and Ohio left to cross to get home. I’m getting used to JJ and it doesn’t frighten me anymore. Hated when they replaced the ferry with it but it is better for commuters.
Once across the bridge it is a quick jump into St Francisville and Grandmother’s Buttons. I bought two new pair of earrings and Barb bought some stuff. Then lunch at the Audubon Café and the biggest bacon cheeseburgers you’ve ever seen along with more sweet tea. Two huge glasses, this time. I love the stuff. Then it was north to Natchez on 61. I had hoped to make Jackson today but Barb didn’t feel well after lunch so we stopped early.
I read three issues of USA Today which I hadn’t read, uploaded the swamp pix, which I thought I had and got the blog done after chatting with Bill. Now I’ll do our finances, check out the calendar of events in Nashville for Sat night and watch some TV.
Have a terrific evening all—the Happily Homebound Sisters, ( tired at last ) Kathy and Barb
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Sunday October 12, 2014 Comfort Inn Room 202 Victoria, Texas
Good afternoon! I cannot believe it has been five days since I’ve blogged our adventures. The time is running so fast. Seems like only yesterday Barb and I set out and said “ Well, we have eight weeks ahead of us!” Now we have about two left. It has been fun and the weather, for the most part, has been beautiful. There have been places we wanted to go and see but were unable to for one reason or another. There have been others though that have made up for them and a few we had not planned on but discovered or rediscovered to our delight.
It has been fun to take Barb to places I’ve been and enjoyed in the Southwest and which she had not seen. One of them is the Bosque del Apache in San Antonio, New Mexico. As you probably noticed in the photos, especially those of you who have travelled there with Bill and me on other trips, the grasses are tall, the trees are full and the fields have been drained at this time of year. Gradually, the fields are being reinundated with water for the arrival of the cranes, which is happening pretty soon. In its present state, however, it was difficult to see into the canals. As a result, any heron or other wading birds were hidden from view. The only birds we did see were the ducks in the already flooded fields and a flock of Canada Geese in the south end agricultural fields. We didn’t see the deer or javelinas that I know are there but we did see the skunk that I always see ( as though it is the same one! ) on the other side of the refuge from its normal area! Nevertheless, I was, as I always am, happy to have gone there—with or without wildlife it is beautiful and peaceful and a favorite place of both Bill and me. We never go to Socorro without making a trip down –usually at daybreak, and in time for the early feeders and the fabulous sunrise. This time, we went at dusk and caught the beautiful sunset and the rise of the almost full moon, which was almost immediately hidden by heavy cloud cover. As a result the narrow country road that takes one back to the Interstate was pitch black. All of a sudden Barb hit the brakes and what appeared to be a barrier across the road barred our way. It took a moment to figure out that what we had before us was a flatbed with some Deere piece of equipment on it and no tail lights being pulled by a very high cab with hardly any lights though there were two rather small white lights high on two poles somewhere on the back of the cab or the front of the flatbed. Scared the hell out of us. Followed it, since it was too wide to pass—over the middle line—to the flashing light at the Owl Café. Fortunately, they continued to the little village north of San Antonio,while we turned left to the Interstate. Stayed in Socorro that night and early the next day headed to Carlsbad.
Went across to Carazozo past Trinity Site, which is the location of the first Atomic Bomb explosion. The gate was open though no sign invited visitors. I’ve heard it is only open once a year now but forget when. I doubt there is anymore at the actual site than at the road’s edge where the historical sign is located. A hawk lit on the top of the pole when we stopped to read the sign, so I took his picture—lol At Carazozo I told Barb to take a road that I never allow Bill to take because it goes over Capitan and looks high and winding. It does cut off some miles though when you are headed to Roswell. To my surprise it is a terrific road and even in winter with our studded tires should offer no problems. It goes straight to Hondo and then we pick up the road to Roswell. When I told Bill we’d gone over Capitan he exclaimed—the road you won’t let me take???? I want to go over that road. I said okay, we will! It was so beautiful that Barb and I stopped to grab a quick snack of Gloria’s yummy pretzels and a pepper jack stickster. Continued on to Roswell and then south through Artesia to Carlsbad and the night at the Econolodge, which wasn’t too bad, but never my first choice. There was the Ocotilla Sports Bar and Lounge attached so we went it and had steak and beer with the locals. Quite an assembly of characters, starting with the old broad barmaid, Bonnie. It was fun. Slept like logs and headed to the Caverns the next day.
I was to Carlsbad with Bill in 2008. At that time they were working on the new Visitors’ Center and all the facilities were in a series of trailers. This is a truly beautiful building with a restaurant, gift shop, museum, ticket office and information desk. Rangers all over the place with a few volunteers to supplement them. The young girl who sold us our ticket had spent a couple of years at St Gaudens NP in New Hampshire and visited Billings NP in Vt while there, so she was very familiar with my neighborhood.
We took the elevator down 1000 feet into the mountain and to the Big Room which is the size of 14 football fields. No matter how hard I try, I can never get photos that do the beauty of the formations justice. There are no words in my vocabulary adequate enough to describe the splendor and majesty of the place. Happily, the formations are illuminated by white light and not the colored lights that some other caverns have used. It was difficult to choose the right setting for the pictures but I finally settled on candlelight—it gave the best though not perfect results. On my LCD display on the camera the pictures look much better than on the computer. The numbers are for the tour guide so that I’ll remember what they were a hundred years from now, or maybe not.
At one point I was trying to take a selfie of me and Barb—an interesting attempt in darkness –with horrible results. A man and his wife came along and he offered to take our picture—then he had us move to different locations to get the best pictures. I was amazed and thanked him profusely—I think we’d still be there if I hadn’t said we really had enough shots of us. Nice couple.
It is funny how voices carry—they urge whispering but even that carries throughout the whole place. I chose to wait at the shortcut while Barb went down to the lower cave. She came back and said she could hear me speaking to someone—couldn’t tell what we were saying but knew it was my voice.
We were told not to touch the formations since our oils discolor them so, though I look as if I’m hugging my pal, there was no contact. Love the flying saucer formation, called lily pad by the park, where you can see the dripping stalactite forming it and knowing that someday there will be a pillar there. In the picture just following the shortcut sign, if you look closely at the fat stalagmite toward the top, you can see the face of the Cave Man. The beautifully illuminated cluster of white stalagtites ( draperies because they are wide and flat) is called the chandelier. Off in the far right hand corner of photo 3963, in the shadows, you can just make out the Totem Pole, which is 38 feet tall.
The self-guided tour is 1.5 miles long and the rangers say takes about an hour to an hour and a half. That must be running, not talking to anyone and not really looking at all the crevices and tunnels and holes in the ceiling and walls. Bill and I spent the better part of a day down there and Barb and I entered at 10 am and left at 2 pm. Speaking with the rangers that patrol to make sure all is well and with other tourists is half the fun. We didn’t stop the rangers in their rounds but two of them stopped to chat with us. One young man is from Utah, originally. He taught K-4 for four years—loved the kids, loved teaching, hated the political infighting among teachers, the parental pressures for kids to get excellent grades and the boring, fruitless meetings. Told his wife he had to find something else to do and went into the Ranger program. He left Carlsbad on Thursday and was heart-broken to leave. Headed to Rushmore for the winter. It is so sad to hear young people bemoan their experiences in education. The good ones have other places they can go and they do. But, I was happy to leave education for all the same reasons.
Eventually, we came to the end of our journey beneath the ground and emerged into the sunlight to continue on our way along the ridge culminating in the Guadalupe Mtns and turn eastward into Texas and our first farm road with the loss of an hour. We once more saw the washouts caused by the heavy rains of several weeks past. Most unusual for West Texas to be so innundated. This area of West Texas is oil rich and so all along the roads we saw brine, KCl stations, salt and fresh water stations, water reclamation areas producing non-potable water—all used in the drilling process. Odessa-Midland has the heady aroma of petroleum permeating the air—and flames burning off the gases released in the drilling and storing processes. Much like Laurel-Billings, Montana!
We took a bit of a detour so that Barb could see the birthplace of Roy Orbison, one of our favorites. Wink is literally a town that you’ll miss if you blink. I’d totally forgotten about it until Bill suggested that we might not have trouble finding a reasonable room available without competition in Wink.—I told him when I called that we had a room overlooking the Orbison museum—he knew it wasn’t true—there isn’t even a motel in Wink!!!
Eventually, we returned to civilization and discovered that all those wildflowers Mrs Johnson planted to beautify Texas have gone native in 50 years and in places completely taken over the landscape. As we approached Odessa, there was a huge traffic tie-up lasting several miles. Got past that accident and came upon another within a mile. Soon, as the sun started to set behind us we arrived at Midland.
The exit ramp, we soon discovered was two way traffic and we were in the oncoming lane! There was a large gap in the line we need to be in and it appeared the driver was allowing us in. As Barb looked in her rearview mirror to wave a thank you, she exclaimed that the young punk behind us had given her the finger. As the traffic edged to the light, he kept getting very close to the rear of our car and when it was our turn Barb flew through the orange light in a left turn. He stayed almost attached to us and as we moved to the left to make another turn into our motel, he stopped and flung something very heavy at us and hit my window. I don’t know how it didn’t break! He flew on down the road, we couldn’t get a plate or description of his vehicle. Don’t know what we would have done if it had broken. Very unsettling. But, we checked into the brand new Holiday Inn and had a restful night.
The next morning, we met the man who built the motel. He asked how we liked paying $179 a night for the room. We said we did not—we used points. He said there was an event coming up in the next week, that the rooms were starting at $700!!!!! a night, and that the hotel was booked already! Again, we’d gotten one of the last rooms—he said that oil is what brought the cost of staying there so high. We told him about the driver incident and he said that Midland had gotten very rough. Around the hotel is low income housing and the people come over and try to use the pool; they’ve had prostitutes try to rent rooms. He is from Lubbock and said the people there are much different. He is right—I love Lubbock. We will totally avoid Odessa-Midland from now on.
We left the place in our rearview mirror and headed out to Brady where we would make a decision whether to make a side trip to San Saba and the Pecan Company. Those who traveled with me and Bill last year will recall our 140 mile detour to buy Barb some of their peach, amoretto, pecan preserves last year. This time we were only going 86 miles out of the way. And we did.And we both stocked up on jars of various fruit and pecan jams. Then headed in the direction of San Antonio. Once more, tried to get a room in Fredricksburg for a reasonable rate—all over $125 and limited availability—as we went through we discovered there was some sort of festival going on. Spent the night in Kerrville, right on Route 10 and used points.
Yesterday began on I 10 doing battle with a wide load playing hopscotch for several miles before he passed us a final time and left us in his dust—either because he departed the highway or took a different route. We arrived in San Antonio and got through the city unscathed and found our way to the first of four missions we explored, laid out along the San Antonio River. The most northern mission is the Alamo, which we have visited on a prior trip to Round Rock several years back. Once you’ve seen it, it isn’t worth the hassle of in-town traffic to visit again.
It was raining as we found Mission San Jose, which has the largest of the Churches set up in these Indian villages the Franciscans established. The Natives of the South Texas plains found themselves living in these new communities that eventually became walled—to defend against the Apache raiders who rode upon horses obtained from the Spaniards, one way or another, and were now able to roam farther afield to hunt and gather and fight any who competed with them. The Spaniards, too, caused stress to the South Texas Indians by bringing European diseases against which the Natives had no immunity. Finding themselves beset by murdering marauders and unfamiliar disease, the people felt themselves deserted by their gods and willingly looked toward the new one offered by the brown-clad Franciscans. And so, they were converted to Catholicism, sort of—they still retained some aspects of their own religion such as the use of hallucinogens,such as peyote, for their religious visions. This practice and the dancing accompanying it was condemned by the priests. They also began to teach the people various trades such as building, forging, and planting crops. Some of the people left the walled villages and priests would search for miles for escaped converts and return them to the village. The entire complement of buildings, walls and church was built by the Indians. There were soldiers assigned to each of the towns and the Spaniards kept tight rein on the newest members of the Catholic Church. Despite this history what has been left behind is beautiful and the places are serene and pleasant to explore.
Bill and I had been unable to enter the Church at San Jose when we were here in 2008 since there was a funeral service going on. These four Churches, unlike the Alamo are still active parishes in the San Antonio diocese. Mission Conception is the most well preserved of the Churches and much of the original painting done by the Indians in the 1600’s is still present, although the paintings on the outside of the churches has long ago faded, eroded or been vandalized. I love the rosary bead room as I call it—with the painted beads along the meeting of the walls and over the ceiling culminating in the crucifix on one wall. I also love the bell pull in one ceiling that looks like the chain on an old flush toilet! LOL
Much of the Convento of Mission San Juan is missing so one has to use one’s imagination to envision the enclosure as it once existed. The church is also aligned in a different way than the others. The bell tower is over the entrance, but once you’ve entered, rather than having the body of the Church in front of you, you turn toward your left and it runs at a right angle to the foyer. I think this is my favorite of the four—especially the bell tower with its mismatched bells. The simpicity of the chapel appeals to me. When I was here last the statues were dressed in purple—it was Lent.
I loved the inventory of items from a sample pack train—saffron is still very expensive, the rosary beads are similarly priced today and there is chocolate that sells for $28 per pound—Vt chocolates and Godiva come to mind—but WHO was dressing those Franciscans? Armani?????
As we made our way to the last of the Missions, we were greeted by a couple of the local canines—very cute. While I’m mentioning it, the way among the Missions has become totally complicated—Mission Road has been torn up, eliminated in places and just poorly marked in others. For a National Park the map as well as written and oral directions are awful and signs are few and far between. Took us more time finding them than touring them. Probably will not be back again.
On the way to Mission Espada one passes the incredible aqueduct system hand dug by the Indians under the direction of the Franciscans. In each community the waters of the San Antonio were diverted by a canal system to the fields outside the village walls and to the villages themselves. The Aqueduct is as impressive if smaller than the ones used by the Romans in the time before Christ. We met an older gentleman in this park who was there with his son, from Salem, Ma and his grandsons gathering black walnuts. He was impressed by my using a paper map to navigate. Told him Barb and I were taught how to read a map at very young ages—Dad would take us out into the country, give us a map and have us give him the directions to get to a specific town. We’d have to tell him what roads to take and which way to turn at any intersection we encountered. We loved it then and we still love to use maps. He said his elder grandson is learning to read a map in exactly the same way. I hate those Tom-Toms etc though I have one and brought it on the trip—it is still in the trunk in its original box.
Mission Espada is undergoing maintenance and repair—so no entering it and it is totally wrapped in scaffolding at the moment. The convento was occupied by several priests in 2008 and they had a lovely courtyard with flowers and wind chimes. It is empty now—there is no regular priest in residence though there is a Scottish priest living at San Juan.
And so our day ended and we took back roads through Goliad and on into Victoria where we spent the night. Went out to Johnny Carino’s for dinner. I woke up this morning with a slight fever and intestinal distress. We opted to remain for another night. Our room was booked for tonight—there is a great deal of construction going on—new motels etc and the crews have the place booked. This is a brand new motel—Bill and I were among its first guests in March. We had to move to a larger king suite at the same price as our two queen room. Such a hardship. I didn’t take photos of the original room but this one is lovely. We have watched the weather go through several cycles of sunshine, drizzle, sunshine, downpour and back to sunshine.
We are in tonight with our leftover Carino’s skilletinis and Masterpiece Theatre. Spoke to Bill and Betsy today—they were having the harvest of the brussel sprouts event—Brussel Sprout Festival—with Misty and Attila today. There has been frost and the gardens and the porch crops are all finished for this year. So when I get home the porch will have taken on its winter theme of wood piled for the stove. Sigh!
If all goes well, we will go through Houston tomorrow and enter Louisiana heading toward Lafayette and fried oysters! Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!! Bonne Nuit, Mes Amis! Les Soeurs Heureuses, Kathy and Barb
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Just a little background on Acoma. These Indians, the Acoma, are what is known as Pueblo Indians, along with the Zuni and Hopi among others. They built stone dwellings and large communities with kivas, round many times underground chambers for ceremonies and rituals. The Navajo use sweat lodges and live in hogans, usually made of limbs and saplings covered by some form of vegetation. The Pueblo’s united for a brief time, despite being of many tribes and managed to repulse the Spanish and their blood thirsty quest for gold and human souls. They lived in freedom for few years before the reinforced Spaniards again attacked. The unity among the tribes had collapsed and the Spanish were successful in resubjecting the tribes to the will of Spain. The Pueblo Revolt is a very dense but interesting book telling the story of the brief success of these people to get out from under the brutality of these good Catholic people. Today most of the Acoma practice both Catholicism as well as their own religion but about 5% of them just practice the old religion of the people.
Having gone up on the Plateau with Bill, I did not pay to go up to the community again. The crowds were unbelievable—over from the Balloonfest. I read in the lounge and waited while Barb went up on the tour. So many vehicles up there—people staying over from the fiesta and others cleaning up from it. There are more people staying up there year round than a few years ago. The young lady who gave the tour owns one of the houses, since she is the youngest daughter and it is to them that the homes are passed down. She is responsible for her parents until their deaths. They live in the house though she does not. Her brother lives with them and he is allowed to stay until he marries at which time, she may throw him out.
From Acoma we headed to Belen—south of Albequerque. We know a shortcut which avoid the city—thank goodness—traffic has been horrendous. Had a long visit with Bud and Gloria. Had a wonderful chili dinner with homemade rolls and wine. Afterwards, Gloria gave us the option of watching TV or have a fire pit in the courtyard. We opted for the latter and she tried to rustle up some neighbors to join us.
At 7:30, it was amazing how many had already changed into PJ’s and were settled in for the evening. A lady named Barbara redressed and joined us as did Jan, who lives down the street. Next door Kim came by to tell us that his wife was under the weather so they wouldn’t be over. We sat around the fire admiring the almost full moon, enjoying the fire and laughing a great deal over things that escape me now. One story by Jan of a sighting of a strange object that she saw several years ago but had not revealed until last night for fear of being thought crazy, led us to decide that indeed she is. There was much hilarity several times over the situation. Just fun, fun, fun. Had brownies that Gloria had made topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and a cherry. Just a great time. The ladies left around 930. Gloria, Bud, Barb and I remained outside until about 1030. We all retired by 11.
This morning we watched some the Balloonfest on TV and had a great breakfast. Gloria had to take a neighbor to the hospital for a colonoscopy and left around 1030. Barb and I remained visiting with Bud until about 12. Got gas at the cheapest station in Belen and headed down to Socorro. Got the last room here—king smoking room Cindy was so upset that she didn’t have a suite or any other room to offer us. She immediately went to the kitchen and told them to bake us some chocolate chip cookies, which she delivered to our room She called to see if we wanted milk or coffee to wash them down. She was so devastated that she had to give us a smoking room. What a sweetie.
It is getting to be late afternoon so we are headed down to the Bosque to see it at dusk. Will post pix tomorrow. I’ve made a reservation in Carlsbad. again, getting the last room and another smoking, king room What is going on???? For now, we are off—all caught up but getting ready to add the next installment. Til tomorrow—goodnight from the Tired, but Thrilled Sisters, Kathy and Barb
On Sunday, we chatted with a young couple from Munich in Bavaria. They are camping on their travels. They flew into Vegas, rented a car and were having problems trying to prioritize where they were going—so much to see and only three weeks. He’d been here before and so wanted her to see the Guadaloupe Mtns and she wanted to go to Austin to visit relatives –so they were sort of playing it by ear. Sounds familiar.
We backtracked 43 miles to El Morro and Inscription Rock. The Ranger immediately called out to us as we entered the door. She said she’d checked out Acoma and it indeed was closed today but would be open again on Monday—the next day. We said we figured that. She set up the video for us immediately and other tourists were giving us a look—we felt like celebrities she was so attentive. It was a bit embarrassing , though very heartwarming to have her be so friendly and attentive. We walked the half mile trail enjoying the flora and fauna as well as the many inscriptions on the rock dating back to the 17th century Spanish conquistadores and priests, through the 18th century pioneers, soldiers and army explorers, to the late 19th century Union Pacific railroad surveyors.
We then drove through the cinder and lava fields of a very early volcanic eruption of Mt Taylor—one of the Navajo Sacred Mountains. Returned to our motel and did the laundry—we’d procrastinated as long as possible. We got comfy on the couches in the lounge and had coffee while watching TV. Met another lady doing her laundry. She and her husband live north of Boston and have been travelling in our wake, since they left a week after us. They are returning home by the 23rd so now are leading us—they are going by way of the coast—Georgia and the Carolinas but we will be more inland. Watched Masterpiece and turned off the lights by midnight.
After leaving the Canyon on Friday, not Saturday, we headed down to Hubbell Trading Post but we arrived quite late in the afternoon and so they were closing. We decided to return on Saturday. So we backtracked about 50 miles. We stopped first at Window Rock, which is the capital of the Navajo Nation, which is as large as the State of Rhode Island. There is a lovely park and an impressive statue representing the Navajo code-talkers of World War II. Des had told us the day before that until the War the Navajo language was strictly oral, that is, not written. Des and his family speak it mixed with both Mexican and English words. The Marines recruited to send messages among American forces developed the written language that is now used in Navajo schools—they created new vocabulary—such as the Navajo words for floating and islands used together to mean the Phillipines. Des says he can speak but cannot read the language. He also told us of a Navajo Marine captured by the Japanese. He was brutally tortured in an effort to break the code, but he was not a code talker and had no idea what the code entailed. He could not help them, even if they tortured him enough to break him.
We went out to Hubbell and then returned to Gallup, went to the ATM for cash, our first time since leaving home. We’d paid Mr Henry cash for our pendants—that left me with $1.00 in cash and Barb not much more!!!! We continued over to Perry Null’s where I renewed my acquaintance with Mel, who told us that Acoma was closed to non-Natives this weekend for a fiesta. He said that the Navajo Fair in Shiprock was open to the public and he was headed up there after work. We said, nope, it’s in the wrong direction. Karen had left that day for a trip to South Africa. I got a couple of rings and a bracelet. Quite modest for me. Barb was a bit more extravagant—but then, I stop every year and this is her first visit.
I then took her to El Ranchero for lunch. It is an elegant hotel dating back to the heydey of Hollywood and is located on Rte 66. A few people were at the large lobby table and it seems they were gathering for a banquet to celebrate their 60 th high school class reunion. Had a few pleasantries with them, wished them health and happiness and then took off toward Grants by way of El Morro. Guess what? After 4 pm so they closed the trails—said we’d be back the next day. Also mentioned that Acoma was closed for the weekend. Ranger said she didn’t know that but she’d check it our and let us know the next day.
Made our way into Grants and found that my reservation was somehow for the next night and they were totally booked. The week long balloon festival in Albequerque was just starting. Cancelled that reservation and went across the road to the Quality which the guy at Comfort called. They had one room left—smoking with a king bed on the second floor. Got over there and gave the girl my membership number and miraculously a non-smoking , two queen on the first floor was available. Considering we had to backtrack yet again we decided to book for two nights. And so it was, that we crashed, tired but happily settled in a comfy room.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014 Comfort Inn Room 315 Socorro, New Mexico
So busy the last few days and so many lovely places we’ve seen and people with whom we’ve spoken.
Saturday we left Holbrook early in order to reach Canyon de Chelley early enough to take a tour of the canyon floor in the cool of the morning. Past a white stallion who wanted to cross the road but decided to go back among the shrubs to play hide and seek with us. He had a couple of other horses with him and later in the day we learned that these horses are NOT wild—they are owned by families and are branded but they run free range. Periodically, they are corraled and those branded get returned to owners and those not branded are destroyed. The horses are not ridden nor used for work. Motorized vehicles have made them just decorative fixtures on the landscape.
Arrived at the Canyon by 9:30 or so but got talking with the silversmith in the visitors’ center. His name is J. Ted Henry—we called him Mr Henry. He told us of living in the canyon with his family, going to school from the clifftop, since they diidn’t send busses to the floor. He was in boarding school and came home only on holidays—he was homesick. By high school he was attending the public school in Holbrook and again home only on holidays. He enrolled in a work study program there and worked with a silversmith. It was his first contact with Hispanic and white kids. He had fun. When he was finished he came home and started to work for a silversmith but eventually went our on his own. He has taught his brothers, nephews and sons and many of them also make jewelry etc.
There was a black and white picture of a Native woman holding a baby on a cradle board hanging over his work space. It hung from a nail by multiple strands of yarn. He said he grew up with it hanging in his home. On a visit to California with his wife his eye was caught by a coffee table book that had a black and white picture of the Canyon on the cover. He started to flip through the photos and nearly dropped the book when he came upon the picture of his mother with his baby brother. Two pages later he came upon a shot of his sister as a young girl standing in the doorway of their hogan! The book was a compilation of Ansel Adams’ photos of Native lands that eventually became National Parks or Monuments. AA had been commissioned by the government to take photos of the Native lands and the people living on them. Since that time, Mr Henry has sought out books with his mother’s photo. He has a stack of them. Not one cent to his mother or family. How much has the Adams’ estate and the publishers and authors of these books made on those photos???
At any rate, Mr Henry now makes pendants—on one side it a cutout of his design depicting his mother and brother in cradle board and on the other a patchwork of semiprecious stones and sterling silver stars in onyx representing Peliedes. He made one for each of us as we watched him work and talk and we perused his books. He gave us a copy of the photo under which is another photo of his mother, 40 years later, holding the book open and standing in the exact same location in the canyon. The original was taken in 1942, his brother had died by the time the new photo was taken and his mother lived to be 100 years old. He signed the card and said it was our certificate of authentication. What a wonderful experience and what a delightful man. I’ll have to add a photo of the necklace later.
Before we knew it the time had flown and it was 1:30. We had not yet arranged for a tour. The Thunderbird Lodge through which Bill and I had arranged a tour on the top of a large army truck has been renamed to the Sacred Spirit Lodge and no longer offers tours. So we chose the first listed Jeep tour, AZ Jeep Tours and arranged to meet the gentleman at the Sacred Spirit. He arrived, said his name was Deswood Yazzie and we could call him Des and we were off. If any of you EVER decide to go to this Canyon and take a Jeep tour—let me tell you—this man is a font of knowledge—turns out to be Mr Henry’s cousin. Des’ mother and Mr Henry’s father were brother and sister! Both Des and Mr Henry have hogans deep in the canyon though they both live “ up top” . We laughed, learned things, asked questions and bounced along the canyon floor absorbing the sights of fabulous cliffs and ruins. We also learned that about two years ago, one of those Army vehicles lost steering control on the top of a seven foot cliff. The driver could not keep from going over the edge, one person killed and several injured. Lawsuits all over the place. The Thunderbird closed and only recently reopened under new ownership. Scary.
After three hours we returned to the car and headed out of Chinle and on toward Gallup as the sun was setting over the city. To be continued………….
Thursday, October 2, 2014
Thursday October 2, 2014 Quality Inn Room 120 Holbrook, Arizona
Poor Barb was a bit disappointed and angry this morning because the Monument Valley excursion was not meant to be. She decided we were heading home so I directed her to take I 40 east out of Kingman. And off we went—I took a couple of shots just outside Kingman to show how quickly the desert seems to end. It doesn’t really but there are larger areas with enough water to support taller and wider plants. Then you come to stretches just as dry as the real desert but by the time you reach Flagstaff and the San Francisco Peaks you have gone through a couple of sizeable conifer forests.
As altitude decreases and you get on the leeward side of the mountains, dryness reappears but there is little cactus or succulent growth. We traveled in silence until we reached Holbrook when Barb asked if the Petrified Forest was worth seeing. I said I thought so, that she wouldn’t see anything like it anywhere else. And so it was, that the ice broke and we entered the National Park. On Blue Mesa I whipped out the map and showed her that Canyon de Chelley is still doable and if we get there early enough tomorrow we should be able to do a half day tour, see Window Rock and Hubbell Trading Center and spend the night in Gallup. I mapped out some ideas for the days following and she agreed. So all’s right with the world once more. It is hard to have your heart set on seeing something and not be able to get there. I still haven’t seen the aquarium in Monteray and will probably not get there—makes me sad and disappointed but there are so many beautiful places to see and we can’t do them all.
Since we are travelling from the West these pictures are, again, in reverse order from those I posted a few years ago when Bill and I toured the park. Beautiful in either direction. Good opportunity to play with the camera using different white balance and different colors. Like the ones using the sunset setting—picks up the colors the best. The black and whites are interesting, too.
Met a volunteer at the visitor center who is a retired Naval pilot and commercial pilot for Delta. He then was an instructor for Delta. He and his wife volunteer at various NP and really likes it.They will spend several winter months in a wildlife refuge in Alabama this year. Nice and interesting man—quite handsome, too—bet he was one of those Top Guns the women swarmed around. LOL
Holbrook is not what once it was in its Route 66 heyday so we are trying to figure out what we want for dinner tonight. Maybe pizza—there is a pizza hut here. Haven’t had that in ages. Hope I can manage to stay up to watch Jeter on Fallon tonight and still get up early tomorrow—but then, I can sleep on the way to the Canyon—NOT. Oh, well, goodnight from the Snippy now Serene Sisters, Kathy and Barb