Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest – Crossing into Arizona

Leaving Albuquerque, we are delighted to be taking I-40 going West; it’s like everyone else is on I-40 coming East. The drive is smooth, a little road work here and there, but nothing that holds us up in any major way. We cross the continental divide (where all the rivers on the east side flow to the Gulf of Mexico, and those on the West side flow into the Pacific) and we wonder what the divide is called, if anything, that divides rivers flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from rivers flowing into the Atlantic?

We are driving along the old Highway 66, too, which is fun, seeing the nostalgic old signs and relics from the 40’s and 50’s, when Route 66 was in its heyday and there weren’t big interstates fully functioning.

From Carlsbad, where we saw temperatures up to 99° F, we have dropped considerably, and hit the road with a temperature around 45°, which rises as we drive toward the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. When we arrive, it is in the 80’s (F) and a bright, partly cloudy day. The colors and the scenery are unimaginable.

I included this one because it made me laugh. These signs are necessary; Americans are inclined to wander off the trail, it’s in our nature, and we need these signs to make us more careful where we are stepping 🙂

As we leave the Painted Desert trail and head into the Petrified Forest area, the weather starts getting seriously complicated and the temperatures start dropping:

I’ve never seen a toilet like this before. It’s amazing:

At the risk of giving you too much information, whatever goes into the toilet evaporates due to the constant wind action. Whoever sits on the toilet has the unusual experience of having a wind-dried bottom:

We start moving a little faster, not lingering as the weather changes:

Can you see how the light has changed? Just after taking this, huge raindrops started falling and we continued on to the end of the Petrified Forest. The temperature dropped to 45° (F)

Advertisements

April 29, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Road Trips, Weather | , , , | 5 Comments

The Magic of Back Roads – En Route to Albuquerque

I love interstate driving, it gets the job done. We love having all that room and zooming down a highway, especially if the highway is empty. We were born to drive.

I also love the backroads, and the USA has some great backroads. Today is almost all backroad, and oh, what a fun driving day it is.

Leaving Roswell, New Mexico, we take a route to Albuquerque through cattle country, and through Billy-the-Kid country, and Smokey-the-Bear country. We come across a giant lava flow, it goes on for miles, with vegetation finding a way to survive – even thrive – in the formerly molten rock:

We find a restaurant with old Homer Simpson in front:

When we were kids, everyone knew the song about Smokey the Bear:

And along this road, we went through Smokey the Bear’s home town!

We merge onto the interstate into Albuquerque, and this time, I successfully call a real Fairfield Inn and find a room for the night.

Now I rarely do this. If there is a place we eat and don’t like it, I just won’t say anything. This time I will say something, because this place, The Quarters, is listed in the Marriott recommended list of nearby restaurants. Hey, and it’s barbecue.

We found it, there aren’t a lot of restaurants around, and this sign was about 2 feet by 3 feet:

Less than a BBQ restaurant, it is very much a lounge, and as soon as you walk in you see men sitting alone at the bar, looking like they’ve been planted there for a century. There isn’t a lot of jolly conversation, just men silently drinking.

There is a separate area for dining, and I will say this, the servers are doing their best to make the best of a bad situation. The dining area has a mixture of bar mirrors and old quilts hanging. We ordered from the menu, and when my BBQ Turkey came, it was like Publix sliced turkey, the kind you buy in a package, on a normal hamburger bun. Their BBQ sauce was good, but this sandwich – it was like you would throw together with scraps you had left over in your own kitchen.

The Quarters has seen better days. It is dingy. The furniture is in bad repair. The carpets are in bad need of cleaning. And it’s Albuquerque – I am sure there are better places to eat. Don’t go there.

April 29, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Geography / Maps, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 4 Comments

Thank You, AdventureMan

This is a shakedown trip for the new iPad. I love the way it travels, and that it is bigger than an iPhone for picking up e-mail, and I have a keyboard, so I can write.

It is a lot harder to blog. It is harder to crop and manipulate photos, it is harder to integrate the photos into my blog entries. It was so much more difficult that I just didn’t do it. I had a lot of ideas and a lot of photos, but not enough time (you know how it is when you are traveling) to figure out how to get the job done.

AdventureMan very generously offered to let me use his computer to upload my photos and integrate them into blog entries. Thank you, AdventureMan!

April 28, 2012 Posted by | Blogging, ExPat Life, Experiment, Interconnected, iPhone, Marriage, Relationships, Road Trips, Technical Issue, Travel | Leave a comment

Check it off the Bucket List: Roswell, New Mexico

Years ago there was a wonderful TV series called Roswell, with a young Kathern Heigl and others. Why did I like it so much? It was about teenagers living in Roswell, NM, and one of them was really an alien. That delighted me, because what I remember best about being a teenager was how alien we all felt, how uncomfortable, and how we wondered how we would survive in the real world. Roswell was all about surviving, and the problems an alien has trying to live among Earthlings. Like, what if you are in an accident and taken to a hospital in an ambulance, but you don’t want them to take your blood because it is green? and Alien?

Plus, Roswell is the center of all kinds of alien conspiracy theories, and an Air Force district (49) where people think UFO’s really landed. So – I wanted to see Roswell, even just to drive through. I know there aren’t really any aliens, but something in me wanted to go through Roswell, New Mexico.

There is an alien museum, and aliens outside of local businesses. AdventureMan found a wonderful restaurant, where we had a truly delicious meal:

There was a good crowd in the restaurant, and an interesting menu. I ordered the small fish soup and a fajita salad. The soup was large for a small soup, and delicious. I know fish soup – I even make fish soup. This was complex, and fresh and very hot. I loved this fish soup:

My fajita salad (delicious):

AdventureMan had a Tostado Platter, and said it was yummy:

If Roswell is on your list of places to visit, and if you like Mexican food, real Mexican food, good Mexican food, than Amigos is a great stop. Right on the main route through Roswell.

April 28, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 1 Comment

The Carlsbad Cavern Desert Trail

Here’s the thing . . . I’ve kind of lived a life a little on the edge. We’ve taken chances. We were young, we took risks we didn’t even know we were taking.

The result is that while I am still determined to live my life to the fullest, there are things I won’t do. Jump out of a perfectly good airplane, even with a parachute. Walk out on clear platforms over the Grand Canyon. Go in bat caves. Go into just about any confined space – I just don’t do it. There are things I don’t like doing but I do them, but there are things I just won’t do, and I’ve stopped doing caverns and walking close to the edge in very high places.

So we went to Carlsbad Caverns, visited the visitor center, then took the Desert Drive.

We are here at an awesome time of the year. Things are blooming, and we are awed at the persistence of life. The temperature has hit ninety something (fahrenheit) by 10 in the morning, but these plants are thriving. So thriving that one plant burrowed through two layers of cloth and into AdventureMan’s flesh!

These are old familiar plants, the Prickly Pear. I first saw them when we lived in Tunisia, and they were used as boundary borders, and a formidable boundary marker they are – tall and tough and very prickly. The Tunisians used the prickly pear to make jelly, but they also used the leaves, trimming off all the prickles, peeling off the tough outer skin, pounding the fibrous center into submission and then, I think, breading them and frying them. I love it that something so tough and which grows so persistently can also provide nutrition to hungry people.

I’m just throwing this one in because it cracked me up; the stick looking a little like a snake by the sign:

April 28, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, ExPat Life, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Riding Across the Wild West

We just figured this was going to be a rough boring stretch, driving I-10 across West Texas to New Mexico, but, as so often does, magic happened and the day changed totally.

AdventureMan had a little allergy, so I did the driving across the wilds of west Texas. It wasn’t anything like I had expected. I’ve read lots of books set in Texas, and seen movies. I expected No Country For Old Men. What I got was a long empty highway with hardly any fellow travelers, some spectacular scenery, hardly any speed limit at all, and lots of time to think and enjoy the ride. Wooo HOOOO on West Texas!

Turning north at Ft. Stockton, we entered Hackberry Holland country (James Lee Burke) with those long empty landscapes punctuated with endlessly pecking derricks, whirling dust, endless pick-ups and tankers, and not much else. The scenery went from those plateaus and arroyos to Qatar flat and white desert, from Texas wildflowers to succulents. Then, just around Pecos, Texas, as we are in the end stretch toward New Mexico, it turns more golden, like Kuwait, with some elevations. Across the border, I asked AdventureMan (now awake and feeling good again) “where is the red tint we see in all the ‘Visit New Mexico’ brochures?” Within half an hour, the iron-oxide tint shows up and we see the red glow start to appear.

We know we want to visit Carlsbad Caverns, so we spend the night in Carlsbad, and eat at Mi Casita. Here is what the desk clerk told us:

“I can’t eat at Mi Casita because the food is too spicy, but everyone who really loves Mexican food eats there.”

We loved it. I ordered things I don’t usually order, enchiladas and beans and rice, and it was so GOOD.

As we left, we went down to the city park and took pictures of the river, and AdventureMan fed the hissing geese some of his peanut-butter and crackers that we carry along in case we might starve or something ;-).

As soon as I can get these photos transferred from my iPad to my computer, I will put in the photos and this will be a much more interesting entry.

April 28, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, color, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Jordan, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Road Trips | Leave a comment

Snockered

“Think you can move on?” AdventureMan asks me, and no, no, I am not ready to move on. I am still mad. So I am going to tell you about it so it will not happen to YOU, and then I will move on.

Outside of Carlsbad, I used my handy-dandy iPhone to find out if there were any Marriott Hotels in Carlsbad, and there was a Fairfield Inn and Suites, one of the Marriott Brands. We like Marriotts. We like their culture of CLEAN and SERVICE.

So I googled “Fairfield Inn and Suites in Carlsbad, NM” and wow, there was a phone number! I called the number, but when the lady answered, it was all sort of scratchy, maybe we had bad reception . . . or something. Anyway, I told her I was a Marriott Rewards customer and we wanted a room at the Fairfield Inn and we would be there in about an hour. She said “Oh so sorry, there are no more rooms at the Fairfield Inn. We can find you a room somewhere else, in fact, it is the last room in town, everything else has been snapped up.”

This has happened to us before, when we were heading into Louisiana, and every Marriott we walked into was fully sold out because of “the convention” or some such, and once before when the area had been hit by a tornado and the hotels were full with people living there.

So we said “Oh! What is the room?” and she told us about a nice room at a hotel we had never heard of and it was the last room left, did we want it? So we said ‘yes’ and gave her our credit card number to reserve it. When we got to the hotel, the desk clerk gave us a receipt for forty dollars less than the person I had called had said it would cost, so I asked about it, and was told I had gone through a booking agent who charged $40. I was livid. I checked again on the iPhone, and sure enough, the small print was some website – NOT the Marriott, even though the header was Fairfield Inn – Carlsbad, NM. Oh arrgh.

Here is what makes me so mad. I think they deliberately deceived me. I kept telling them how we loved Marriotts, thinking I was talking with Marriott people, and assuming they were helping me out because they were full, finding me this other booking. OK, OK, my bad, yes, probably the reason I am partly angry is that I am angry at myself for being so easily taken, but I was. Totally taken.

The room was nice enough, but I am willing to bet there would have been a room at the Fairfield Inn. I think this booking lady lied to me about the Fairfield Inn being full, and I know she lied about this being the last room in town – we could have gotten a room just about anywhere, and a lot cheaper.

Yes. I am embarrassed. That’s why I am writing this, so it won’t happen to you. Check whether the web site is the chain you are calling or a booking agency.

I don’t have any problems with a booking agency when I know it is a booking agency – like in Fredericksburg, the agency that handled all the B&B’s. That’s all aboveboard. It’s when you think you are calling a certain hotel or chain and they let you keep thinking that, oh, it makes me so mad.

OK, now I am moving on.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Communication, Customer Service, Entrepreneur, iPhone, Lies, Road Trips | Leave a comment

Fredericksburg, TX; an Unexpected Pleasure

We are headed west, and our friends suggest we take a route which will take us through Fredericksburg, TX. From the time we get on the road, we are surprised – good fast roads, even the backroads, wildflowers along the highway, and, soon, a wonderful store where we found Mayhew Jelly:

20120424-195711.jpg

20120424-195913.jpg

20120424-200048.jpg

20120424-200110.jpg

Continuing on, we arrive in Fredericksburg just about noon, after driving past countless tempting wineries and farms, all with great old German names. We find a place to park and look for a place to eat, finding the Lindenbaum and oh – they have Zigeunerschnitzle, schnitzel Gypsy style, which we love. Actually, when we lived in Germany, we sort of stopped eating schnitzle because it is meat and then deep friend meat, with fattening sauces, but it’s been years, and we couldn’t resist.

20120424-200550.jpg

20120424-200654.jpg

Oh! It was so good!

We decided we need to stay the night in Fredericksburg; there is the Nimitz Museum which is calling my husband’s name, and there are little shops calling mine. As we are eating lunch, we find a place in a Fredericksburg Magazine, The Austin Street Retreat, but to book there, you have to go to a place called the Gastehaus where they have a bunch of B & B’s and you get the reservation through them and then go to the place, which is a really good thing because some of them are a little hard to find.

20120424-201201.jpg

We book Annie’s cottage – and when we get there, we are delighted. It is very French, a cottage all to ourselves, quiet, private, a great retreat:

20120424-201324.jpg

20120424-201341.jpg

20120424-201402.jpg

And then AdventureMan heads off is his direction, and I in mine, both of us finishing up about the same time and heading back to the cottage to rest and plan our next day’s travels.

Dinner was at Mamacita’s, a very popular place with both local people and tourists, and reminded me of Chevy’s Fresh Mex – they made their own chips, and our server was very polished and attentive; we really liked the way Jason took care of us:

20120424-201702.jpg

20120424-201715.jpg

20120424-201727.jpg

20120424-201747.jpg

20120424-201807.jpg

20120424-201830.jpg

20120424-201842.jpg

This is the schnitzle from Lindenbaum, but I can’t figure out how to get it in the right place.

20120424-202318.jpg

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Friends & Friendship, Germany, Health Issues, Road Trips, Shopping | , | Leave a comment

Hell Bent for Texas and the Country Kitchen

(This is my first blog entry done from an iPad, and I still have a lot to learn about how to make the same technologies work that seemed so easy on my computer. Bear with me!)

We could have taken more time, but we decided to make it all in one day – Pensacola to Bryan/College Station, Texas, to see old Texas friends. We made it out the door at exactly seven a.m. – a miracle, and chat chat chatted our way across the remaining few miles of Florida, flew across Alabama, zipped across Mississippi. About when we figured we were half way, and were hungry for lunch, we found ourselves back in familiar territory – the Atchafalaya Basin, Bayou Teche and serious Cajun country. And – we also needed gas, so drifting into the gas station on fumes, we breathed a sigh of relief and focused on our next project – what to eat, where to eat.

20120424-192419.jpg

An answered prayer – The Country Kitchen. As we drove into the parking lot, AdventureMan lowered his window and said “Can you smell that??” The smell of smoking meat pulled us happily inside, where we ordered BBQ chicken. I did something I never do – my phone rang and I had to make a quick decision on a side, and I went with cornbread dressing. What a blessing of fate, while it is something I probably should not eat much of, it was SO delicious, hot, spicy and sweet. It was hard to resist. I also had the sweet peas – they were out of green beans. AdventureMan had very much the same, except with rice.

20120424-193340.jpg

SO Good.

If you find yourself outside of Lafayette, LA, find this gem. The cooking is all real food, probably not the healthiest, probably they use fat in just about everything, but it is oh, so delicious.

20120424-193709.jpg

Now Google tells us that the quickest way to get to Bryan, TX is to get off the Interstate at Beaumont, TX, just after crossing the state line. This road is hilarious – two lanes, with speed limits of 70 on several stretches, churches along the way with names like Cowboy Church and Lonesome Dove Chapel, and a stand set up selling Mayhaw jelly.

It was a very very long drive, and, at long last, we arrived at our friends’ beautiful, serene house, spent the evening laughing and catching up, with never a silent moment, we all just had so much to say. Finally, exhausted, we fell into bed, only to rise ready for more chat the next morning. Aren’t old friends the BEST? No matter how much time has passed, you can pick right up, share your hearts and you can talk about everything.

It was a joyful breakfast, again full of tears and laughter, and then, the painful parting. We have this wonderful memory though – just as we were about to leave, we asked about those Mayhaws. what were they, and then we asked about a song AdventureMan can almost remember, “Way Down Yonder in the Paw Paw Patch,” which our friend knew and sang, and as we left we were all laughing once again.

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Eating Out, Friends & Friendship, Road Trips | , , , | 2 Comments

Saudi Disinformation on Qatar Coup

Thank you, John Mueller, for contributing this fascinating piece on the reported – and then unreported – ‘coup attempt in Qatar’. We were there when this happened the last time. It was bizarre – there was nothing. No increased military or police presence, just the same quiet and relaxed day-by-day. It was all a lie, created to stir the pot, and to create a perception – based on nothing.

BREAKING; Qatar Military Coup “Rumours” Stir Bad Blood With House of Saud

by Finian Cunningham, April 17, 2012

The rumour mill is churning in the Persian Gulf with unconfirmed reports of a failed military coup against the Qatari ruler.

There were even media reports that American military helicopters had whisked the Emir and his wife to a safe unknown destination in the aftermath of the failed putsch, said to be have been attempted by high-ranking officers.

Saudi news channel Al Arabiya reported earlier today a coup bid against Qatari Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani. However, by midday, the story appeared to have been removed from Al Arabiya’s English-language website.

Iranian news channel Press TV toned down its early headlines of a coup and later speculated that Saudi-owned Al Arabiya may have been engaging in disinformation to undermine the Qatari regime, indicating a power struggle between the Houses of Saud and Thani.

The FARS semi-official Iranian news channel, however, insisted that sources within the Qatari royal entourage had confirmed earlier this week that there was a foiled coup in Doha.

Not surprisingly, Qatari-owned Al Jazeera news site ran no information on the alleged plot.

Whether the reports of this week’s failed coup turn out to be rumour or something more sinister, there is nevertheless no disguising the fact of underlying bad blood in the Gulf Arab enclave, both between and within the Gulf monarchies.

That may at first seem at odds with the “thick as thieves” appearance of the six states that form the Gulf Co-operation Council: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman. All are Sunni monarchies that have aligned with the US-led NATO powers’ aggressive policy of isolating Shia Iran.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have emerged in particular as militant allies of US/NATO geopolitics across the Middle East. They played instrumental roles in paving the way for NATO’s aerial bombardment and regime change in Libya; and they have been most strident in denouncing the Syrian government of Bashar Al Assad, calling for his overthrow and arming mercenary forces that are accused of committing atrocities and sabotage.

But herein lies the potential for rivalry and enmity. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, and Qatar, the number one exporter of liquefied natural gas, are bankrolling mercenaries and jihadis from Iraq, Libya, Lebanon and elsewhere in a bid to be top dog in a fissile region. The region is being inflamed with sectarian tensions precisely because of self-serving Saudi and Qatari power politicking.
The Gulf monarchs have also been funding election campaigns of Islamist parties in Egypt and Tunisia, aligned to the conservative Muslim Brotherhood, in line with Western powers using these same parties to shunt and blunt popular calls for greater democracy.

The rapid growth of Saudi-backed satellite TV channels broadcasting across the region – several of them spouting Saudi theocratic rhetoric – is indicative of a rivalry for influence with Qatar, which originally pioneered the Arab medium with the Al Jazeera station.

While on the surface, Riyadh and Doha may appear joined at the hip in terms of advancing the US-led Western imperialist agenda for hegemony, that service generates tensions between and within the royal houses.

In Qatar, there are reported tensions within the Al Thani ruling family and other powerful clans over what critics of the Emir call “his excessive alignment with US foreign policy and breaking of Arab ranks”. There are also domestic problems of corruption owing to the Al Thanis monopolising Qatar’s lucrative property market.
And despite the apparent alliance with Saudi Arabia, the present Qatari Emir will be mindful that the Saudi rulers have been implicated in previous suspected coup attempts against him in February 2011, 2009, 2002 and 1996.

The present Qatari ruler came to power after he led a coup against his own father in 1995 while the latter was holidaying in Europe. The following year, the Saudi and Bahraini rulers backed a failed counter-coup to reinstall the older Emir.

In 2010, the coup plotters were released from jail by Emir Hamad after a request was made by Saudi King Abdullah.

So in the Arab enclave of the NATO camp, all is not as cosy as it may seem. Washington and the other Western powers no doubt think they have a clever Arab cover from the Gulf autocrats to redraw the Middle East political map according to their imperialist designs. But in all such intrigues of deception and power lust, the band of thieves have to watch their backs.

Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent
cunninghamfinian@gmail.com

April 19, 2012 Posted by | Lies, Middle East, News, Political Issues, Qatar, Relationships, Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment