Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Arches National Park

Almost every day of this trip, we would look at each other at the end of the day and say “This was the best day of our trip!” Arches National Park was one of the very best.

We got up early to grab a quick breakfast and then go to get in line to be in Arches as the sun rose. We had a map, and we had a plan – to see the famous Delicate Arch, then drive to the far end of the park and work our way back. We had our hiking shoes on. Big surprise – there is road work going on in the park and we can’t even get on the road to get in line – we have to wait until the park opens at 0700.

We watch carefully, and as soon as the guard starts letting cars in, we are there. We are car number seven.

 

There are three ways to see Delicate Arch. One is a long hike across a marsh and then up a rock mountain. We didn’t do that. Another is a short, easy walk to a viewpoint where you can see Delicate Arch way off in the distance. The third way is a hike up a steep path, mostly rock. We took the third way, and by the time we reached the top, I was gasping. I stay pretty fit, but the altitude kicked me; and I felt like a fish, gasping for air. I would love to say that it was so beautiful, it was worth it, but actually, the light was flat, we had early morning clouds and no sunlight, so it was a little disappointing.

We drove to the end of the park, and hiked to the end of the path, about a mile, to Landscape Arch. The air was crisp and cool. Everywhere we looked was another beautiful sight. Arches National Park was a thrill to the senses. And we had logged 10,000 steps before nine in the morning.

We kept meeting up with interesting people, people our own ages, people who have done a lot of traveling. One couple gave us a hint about a trip up the Irrawaddy, another man talked about the mess in Washington. These were all really fun people.

Forgive me for putting in so any photos, but this park was inspirational, so beautiful.

And, just as we started to leave, it started snowing. Just a few flakes, and then that cloud passed, but we laughed, so far – we’ve had snow every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took the walking path, which ends here. The path continues, and as you can see here, it goes straight up steep rock. You can see people who are willing to tackle the rocks climbing.

 

There are a lot of port-a-potties at the entrance to the walk into the valley. This sign was in the bathroom. It cracked me up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May 26, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Exercise, Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ramadan Kareem 2017

What can be bad about devoting 40 days to thinking about God, thinking about his holiness, his compassion, his generosity, his mercy? What can be bad about fasting in his honor, renewing personal attention to family and close friends, to reading the word of God? Ramadan was my favorite time when I lived in Qatar and Kuwait, full of amazing surprises and grace. May your Ramadan be blessed, my friends, with unexpected abundance and joy.

May 26, 2017 Posted by | Kuwait, Qatar, Ramadan | 2 Comments

Denver to Moab: Snow and Ice, Sun and Heat

 

Sometimes an early start might not be the best choice. We loved the easy access to the highway, and the quick Google Earth designated by-way that helped us avoid all but four or five minutes of the Denver morning traffic, but as we headed into the mountains, I had a pit in my stomach seeing a long red stretch between Denver and Glenwood Springs, and not a lot of options.

 

The sights of snow, truckers putting on heavy chains, and then a big sign that tells us the tunnel is blocked due to an accident, none of these are good signs. Our rental car is low to the ground, and not heavy. We watch the temperature drop as we rise higher, and tell ourselves this is the beginning of a great adventure, and every adventure entails a little risk, it adds spice. Right?

We see cars that have slid off the road, and it is starting to snow heavily. The temperature falls below 30 degrees (F) and we watch for ice, and black ice. Fortunately, there are not a lot of people on the road. We are guessing they know better. Worse, many, like us, have California plates, a sign of a Denver rental car.

“No one on the slopes,” AdventureMan observes.

“The snow is too sticky,” I reply, instincts still strong from my Alaska days.

We think we have passed through the worst, when we come to Vail and take a break for a stroll and a cup of coffee. We were enchanted. If we didn’t already have reservations for tonight, we would get a room in one of these very German, very charming hotels.

 

Safe in Glenwood Springs, where we stayed two years ago on our way to Denver, where we took the plunge in the sulphery spring fed pool. We look for the Italian restaurant where we had a great meal, but it is closed. On the other hand, there is a great barbecue place, looking open, looking warm. Smoke is where we are meant to be 🙂

 

 

They have five different kinds of barbecue sauce. We order a starter of onion rings so we can taste test all the sauces.

 

AdventureMan is really cold; he needs tea to warm him up inside and out. He wraps his hands around his hot hot cup of tea.

Very quickly our meals arrived. AdventureMan ordered a barbecued pork sandwich with a side of baked beans. He said it was as good as anything we have eaten in the South, very tasty.

I had the pulled chicken with cole slaw, and there was so much chicken I couldn’t eat it all. I couldn’t even eat the bun at all. So much food, I hate to waste it but we have miles to go, and we are heading into hotter temperatures, so we leave all the left overs behind.

As we leave Smoke, a few snow flakes catch up with us . . .

 

 

Interstate 70 is a piece-of-cake now, snow and ice free, temperatures rising. Very shortly, we come to the turn-off to Moab, and then, the turn off to Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands. AdventureMan says it is one of the best $15 we have ever spent; suddenly we are in a new world, full of natural glory.

 

 

 

 

What is really fun is that the next afternoon, we were down, way far down, in this same canyon, searching out petroglyphs.

 

 

 

 

This reminds me of decades ago, in Tunisia, where villages would be built atop cliffs like this. The rock formations on top look a little like the ghorfas, storage caves, except there are no TV antennas.

 

 

The sun is getting low by the time we are ready to stop hiking around, even so, we keep stopping for one more glorious sight. But now, it is time to check into our hotel, another Fairfield, this one bills itself as “the closest hotel to Arches National Park”. Our room is spacious, and clean, the whole hotel is very very new. The beds are wonderful . . . except once again, they have this crackly plastic cover that makes for sleeping hot.

Moab is a lot of fun, full of energy. There are a lot of athletic looking people going hiking, going boating, going biking, going rafting, going rock climbing. They are all ages, and from all kinds of places. We drive up and down the main drag, looking at other hotels and motels, and really get a laugh at the one TripAdvisor kept telling me was right for us; it is a little dive with tiny rooms and limited parking lot and looks very very noisy.

We had heard the Twisted Sista was our kind of place, and when we got there, we believed it. After our hearty lunch at Smoke, we wanted light. We both ordered French Onion Soup and the Mediterranean (or was it Greek?) Salad, and the soup was fabulous (we did scrape off all the cheese, there was really a lot of cheese) and the salad even better. We had dessert; AdventureMan ordered some chocolate bombe, and I had a puckery lemon sorbet, just what I love! So tart, and just a little sweet.

The Mediterranean Salad

After dinner, we took a drive, figuring out where we wanted to go the next day, and caught the last gleam of light on the hills as the sun went down.

 

 

May 26, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Eating Out, GoogleEarth, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, Weather | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Road Trip Ever

“So when are you going to write up our trip,” AdventureMan asks, lolling on my office day-bed on a lazy Friday morning. He’s heading out to do a thankless, endless job – weeding. Meanwhile, we are catching up and making plans.

“I read your trip reviews and I think ‘what a fun woman! I’d love to travel with her!’ and then I realize I was on the trip, too! I was with you!”

We’ve been back a couple weeks now, but this is Ending Time, you know, the end of the school year, a semi-closing down of the church year, lots of events and goings-on. On the day of my last class, a class in religious history, I came home and did what I have done ever since I hit university. Before I took exams, I cleaned my space. I need order and structure and clean to focus on my exams. Old habits die hard; now I can do a little quilting, but first . . . clean my office space! Out with the old! Space for the books! Organize those scraps! It all takes time, but I am seeing the end of the tunnel, and I need to write up this trip.

It was the best trip ever. Oh, did I already say that?

Shorter Days, Longer Stays

After all these years of trip planning, we’ve had to come to some compromises. AdventureMan wasn’t raised getting up at “the crap of dawn” as he calls it, hitting the road, stopping for a quick breakfast, hitting the road, bat-out-of-hell on the road until we reach the destination. No, that is not for him. Nor (sigh) is it for me. Ageing has caused me some real re-evaluation on travel style. We decided on “Shorter days, longer stays.”

The first day of our trip was sheer joy. Our flight didn’t leave until nine in the morning, not like six in the morning when we are headed for Seattle. We boarded a local hop to Atlanta, transferred to a bigger flight to Denver, where Little Diamond lives with her two little diamond sparklers, her twins, whom I have hungered to cuddle. Our flight attendant asked all the DaVita travelers to raise their hands – it was almost everyone on the flight, headed to a big conference, party atmosphere.

On landing, I got a message that our car was waiting; we went straight there, got a Denver map, headed for our hotel, a very odd Fairfield Inn in a great location, just off a major highway, where we checked in and called Little Diamond, who was there in about fifteen minutes. Oh, what joy! We’ve missed Little Diamond! All those years she would come stay with us, in Doha, in Kuwait, in Germany. There were times she would come and we would leave her in charge, and now, here she is, a professor, an expert, a grown woman with delightful little children of her own.

We did what we always do – we hit the Target. It’s what we always did when she came into town, too, we are a peculiar family with particular tastes. AdventureMan and I needed to stock up on water and car snacks for our upcoming road trip, and some sunscreen, which came in handy later on. Well, when she would come into town, we hit the Sultan Center, or the Lulu, depending on where we were living, but same idea – to be comfortable traveling, it helps to have some of your favorite things around.

We had so much catching up to do, and then – where to go for dinner? It’s always good to know a local, Little Diamond had some great suggestions, and we had one of the best meals on our trip at True Food, in the Cherry Park area.

True Food was really interesting, fabulous menu with unique and tasty offerings, very good wines, and uniformly beautiful wait staff. I know, it’s an odd thing to say, but it’s as if there were a template that included looking clean and well-groomed kind of beautiful, natural beauty. The food was the same, natural ingredients, put together with imagination and flair. And maybe seasoned by our joyfulness at all being together, we “killed the fatted fig.”

 

Actually, while all our appetizers were a variety of vegetables, I had salmon, and it was marvelous, served on quinoa on a bed of . . . parsnips? It was perfect.

We had time after dinner with the kids; in the interest of protecting their privacy I will forego posting their photos, in addition to the fact that, at three, they are moving so fast it is hard to capture them clearly in the evening light.  🙂 We left Little Diamond and the little little diamonds with big smiles on our faces, knowing we would see them again at the end of our trip.

The night at the Fairfield Inn was quiet and peaceful, even though we were near a busy highway. The cooler temperatures helped us sleep, in spite of the noisy plastic covers they are using to cover their mattress. The mattresses are really good, but the plastic covers makes them “sleep hot” and they also crackle. It’s a small thing, but it affects our sleep. We are up at an early hour and hit the road after a quick breakfast.

May 26, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Blogging, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Hotels, Kuwait, Photos, Privacy, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | 2 Comments

What to Tell Your Senator About Health Care

God bless the League of Women Voters! They register new voters, and they keep a sharp eye on issues, and how they will effect us, the people. They do their homework, and they share what they learn with others. Today I received a notification about telling our US Senators how we feel about health care, and that we want protection for the poor, those with pre-existing conditions, and for women.

Remember – the promise was that any replacement was going to be even better, and cheaper, and that all would have access. The bill passed by the house penalizes women, the poor, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

The League shares words we can use:

 

LWV FLORIDA SUGGESTED LETTER TEMPLATES

Dear Senator ____, I join many Americans to oppose the Senate from adopting a health care bill that was not good enough for the Congress that passed it and not good enough for Congressional staffers who work for Congress as the newly passed bill, American Health Care Act (AHCA) exempts these two groups of people from its coverage. They get to keep Obamacare for themselves while they force an inadequate product on the rest of us.

Perhaps Congress gave itself preferential treatment because it wanted the better, broader, and less expensive health care overage that Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided.

Perhaps Congress and their staffers did not want to be threatened by the new bill’s potential for skyrocketing costs for pre-existing conditions, and for the elderly who are often on fixed incomes.

Perhaps Congress wanted to shield themselves from the new bill’s threat that their state may seek a waiver and choose not to keep costs for pre-existing conditions within the reach of most Americans.

Or, perhaps Congress and their staffers did not want to be part of the 14 million Americans who would lose insurance in 2018 due to President Trump’s new health care bill.

I know my__________ who has diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancer and these family members and friends will suffer dire consequences and may not survive if their health insurance or Medicaid is taken away.

Bottom line, if the newly passed AHCA is not good enough for Congress, then it is not good enough for me and other Americans. Vote no on the new health care bill.
I usually paraphrase a little, but these are really good guidelines. So now, get busy.
Remember Resistbot, too – text Resist to 50409.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Bureaucracy, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

News Fatigue

I had a group of women delegates from a variety of countries, some were elected officials, all were active in their countries. It was a fast-paced visit, with many meetings at colleges, with groups and with activists, and by the third day, we knew each other well.

At lunch, as I often do, I asked them what surprised them most about their time in this country.

“The news!” the representative from Australia said, without hesitation. “Your news is so exciting! In our country we have news, but nothing so exciting as in your country. Sometimes we don’t even pay any attention, because nothing that exciting is happening. Here, something is happening all the time, and you get glued to your television.”

The others chimed in, stating similar opinions. They talked about how the election had affected women in their own countries, how the shock resonated still.

AdventureMan and I just got back from two weeks visiting a wonderful part of our country, the four corners, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Much of the time, we had no service on our phones and woeful wifi in our rooms. We were unconnected. It was, frankly, wonderful.

This current president likes attention. He creates drama. Other presidents get down to the hard work of leading and working their agenda through congress, he attempts to unite a diverse population behind him. This president does what he pleases, and says what he will, with no regard for his position. He claims to be a very smart man, and yet he has a pattern of saying very stupid things, and behaving in a disorderly manner. It’s like watching a disaster about to happen. It’s riveting, but you reach a point where you say “enough!” We were relieved to be disconnected.

And now we are back for the busiest and most event-filled news week so far. Arrgh.

(I will write up the trip as soon as I can upload my photos. My computer says I don’t have enough space to store all the photos I took, so we are working a solution . . . )

Yesterday, we saw this bumper sticker:  Elect a clown, expect a circus.

This is America. I am legally allowed to say these things about our leader. 🙂

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Cross Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, News, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Rants, Road Trips, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Women's Issues | , | Leave a comment