Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Bottoms Up!

This is from this morning’s news on AOL. It calls drinking the biggest drug problem in America.

Americans are drinking a lot – and it’s scaring researchers

 

If you’re an American and you drink alcohol, you’re not alone. In fact, there are more people like you now than in the past. But with increased drinking comes increased health consequences – so much so that researchers are calling it a public health crisis.

Specifically, the portion of Americans consuming alcohol during a year has increased 11.2 percent from 2001-2002 to 2012-2013 (65.4 percent to 72.7 percent, respectively). High-risk drinking ticked up from 20.2 million Americans to 29.6 million Americans during this period, and those diagnosed with alcohol use disorder rose from 17.6 million to 29.9 million Americans.

High-risk drinking was defined as four or more regular drinks on any day for women, five or more for men, and exceeding those limits at least weekly during the year. A person was considered to have alcohol use disorder if they met criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year.

The study took into account about 80,000 people’s individual interviews between several surveys, and was published earlier this week in JAMA Psychiatry.

Women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities and people of lower income and education levels saw the largest increases, save for a few exceptions.

 

“These increases constitute a public health crisis that may have been overshadowed by increases in much less prevalent substance use (marijuana, opiates and heroin) during the same period. … Most important, the findings herein highlight the urgency of educating the public, policymakers and health care professionals about high-risk drinking and [alcohol use disorder], destigmatizing these conditions and encouraging those who cannot reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment,” according to the study.

And it’s not just the study authors who are concerned.

“This should be a big wake-up call,” David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Bloomberg. “Alcohol is our number one drug problem, and it’s not just a problem among kids.” He was not a part of the research.

It’s estimated that 88,000 people die every year due to alcohol-related causes, reports the Washington Examiner – and people can’t seem to agree on how to get a handle on them.

Why is this happening in the first place? There isn’t one root cause, Bloomberg reports. Researchers suggest economic stress post-Great Recession could play a role, in addition to the improved accessibility of alcohol at retailers and restaurants and weakened alcohol tax impact. Today, alcohol is cheaper than it’s ever been since at least 1950 in relation to average income.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cold Drinks, Community, Cultural, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

The Upgrade from Hell

Somehow, I have officially become a “million miler” although I have never kept track, and if I did, the total would probably be closer to three or four million, considering our trans-oceanic travels started when I was young, and were especially frequent in my college years.

Every now and then I really screw up. Does that surprise you? It surprises me; I tend to be careful about travel reservations to the point that you could accuse me of being meticulous, but this time, I had been looking and looking and finally I found something that was great! Super! Almost too good to be true!

When something seems too good to be true (my prejudice) you’d better watch out. When something is too good to be true, there is probably a flaw somewhere.

I thought I had booked a 10:30 departure, arriving in Pensacola at 8:57 the same day.  About a week after I had paid for it, and printed out the itinerary for AdventureMan, I saw, to my utter horror, I was departing at 10:30 AT NIGHT and arriving at 8:57 the following morning.

I hate Red-Eye flights.

When I was an undergrad in Seattle, my routine was to pack up as I studied for my finals, and after the last final (or after my sister’s last final when she joined me at university) we would head for the airport and sign up for space available to Philadelphia. We always got the red-eye out, arriving in Philly early in the morning, usually awake all night. We’d catch the military transport to McGuire, where military, state, and government dependents were gathering from all over the country to fly home to where our parents are.

(Let the wild rumpus begin!)

At McGuire AFB, it might be days before we would get out. We’d have to check in, get on the stand-by list, and show up for all possible flights. There were endless bridge games, guitar playing, partying in the airport, and, if we had enough time between flight calls, we could go to the pool. We’d see friends from high school, friends from other assignments, meet new friends and exchange addresses for “if you’re coming through” meet-ups.

Travel isn’t so much fun, now.

So I heard my name called as I was waiting to board, and they had given me an upgrade to “comfort” class.

AdventureMan and I have a rule – if a flight is longer than five hours, we book first or business class. I never book comfort class; it’s the same three-seat-across configuration, shoulder to shoulder and sharing armrests, for a couple more irrelevant inches in front of me, on a flight where I intend to be sleeping. But oh well, I take the new seat assignment.

When I get aboard, my heart sinks. My seat is right across from the lavatory. For the four hours to Atlanta, the door opens and closes and opens and closes. I am jostled. The smell of the disinfectants makes me sneeze. I manage to sleep through some of it, maybe an hour. It was purely the worst, and I regretted having accepted it. I think of it as the upgrade from Hell.

In Atlanta, I have a favorite coffee shop, out of the way, quiet, with fresh-made croissants and really good coffee, and a book store. I pass some time, then go to my gate, which is (a first in Atlanta) close by. Another upgrade. I’m almost afraid to take it, but these are small planes and I think I’ll be safe. This time, I have a whole very quiet row to myself, and I snooze all the way to Pensacola 🙂

You’d have to see the Pensacola Airport to know why I love it. It’s so small that Pensacolians can actually wait outside to pick up their arriving passengers, as long as they don’t leave their cars. AdventureMan actually parks (it’s nearby) and he and our grandson are waiting for me. It is a joyful reunion, and once home, I nap for a couple hours before unpacking and catching up.

It’s been a constant annoyance that some people started calling it Pensacola International Airport, so pretentious. Not a single international flight lands here, except one that one time landed here by accident. Now, I noted, the airport is called the Reubin O’Donovan Askew Airport, after one of the best governors of Florida. It just feels right. I wonder how that happened?

August 9, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Survival, Travel | | 2 Comments

No Trips To Damascus This Week

AdventureMan and I are currently on an austerity program.

When we say that, we laugh. God blesses us abundantly. We have food to eat, we have a good roof over our head, “two cats in the yard” to quote Neil Young, life is good. We’ve had a full season of unexpected and thoroughly normal repairs, however, including replacing an air conditioning system (expensive) and replacing an irrigation system (expensive) and in our other house, replacing a roof and it’s supports in our other house (expensive.) We have “enough.” We are blessed.

We’ve always had a policy of living below our means, supporting the church, investing and saving, and it has served us well. Even in retirement, we are loathe to touch our savings, even though the savings are for our retirement. We don’t know how long we’re going to live, or what kind of health care system we are going to have, so we keep all those little nuts in case winter is coming :-).

Meanwhile, I wanted to go to Mobile for lunch to day at 7 Spices Mediterranean Grill, one of the most delicious places in this part of the world to eat, and when AdventureMan and I counted out our money, we found that we could – just. AdventureMan looked at me and said “How about we go in August, and I’ll take you over to the beach to eat today” and I said “OK” and he said “No Trips to Damascus this week.”

When we lived in Amman, Jordan, our favorite trip was up to Damascus. It was only about 3 1/2 hours, longer if there was a line at the border, or is someone wanted to screw with us, as they sometimes liked to do with embassy people. We had friends in Damascus; we stayed with them, they knew all the best restaurants, and all the best places in the souks. Damascus was still very French, so I could do just fine there, and it was also Arabic, so AdventureMan could also do just fine.

We were young, we didn’t have a lot of money, but Iranians were fleeing Iran, stopping in Damascus to sell their carpets, and carpet buying was our avid hobby. For all of us, we all loved the beauty of the carpets, and their stories. We learned quickly to buy the carpet, not the story. The carpet sellers knew us all by name, and the foreign population was so small that they took our checks and those checks would go over the border to Lebanon and were cashed quicker than our checks cashed at the embassy. The carpet souks, the gold souks, and the copper souks all welcomed us, and shopping was a leisurely thing, you’d sit and drink a little tea, the shopkeeper would tell you how business was going, and you’d swap stories as you haggled over whatever it was you were purchasing.

Or not. One of my friends, a very funny woman, took a carpet home on approval – it was done all the time. Every time I would visit her, the carpet vendor would remind her she needed to pay for it or bring it back, and they would negotiate. She was a shrewd woman, a devilish bargainer, and the vendor wouldn’t meet her price. At the end of her two year tour, after having the carpet in her house almost the entire time, she returned it because they couldn’t agree on a price! She was a legend in the embassy community.

The 7 Spices restaurant has food that seems very Syrian, and has tapestries with scenes from Damascus on the walls. Sigh. No trips to Damascus this week.

(The photos are from our last trip to Damascus in 2007. Sigh. Ten years ago. Yes, I am feeling nostalgic.)

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweet Land of Liberty: Religious Rights and Jury Duty

 

Every now and then, God, in his infinite mercy, sends an abundance of blessings, covers us with blessings. In a time in which I have found myself uncharacteristically  depressed and anxious about the path our country is taking, for one brief moment, the last few days, all depression has lifted and all anxieties have calmed.

One source of anxiety has been a personal matter, a family matter, and that has resolved itself graciously, happily, with a great feeling of relief and gratitude.

For Sunday, July 2nd, our priest had prepared us for a new set of studies, kicked off by an examination of Democracy and Religion. There were rules – 1) Be nice (that’s what they say in the South for ‘be civil’) and 2) Try to see the issue through the eyes of someone with whom you disagree.

The church hall was set up with twenty-four chairs. A half hour before he was due to start, people started pouring in, and we started pulling out more chairs, and more chairs and more chairs. He actually started off early with a reflection on our Old Testament reading, the story of Abraham and the almost-sacrifice of Isaac. (My Moslem friends correct me; they tell me it was Isaac. Let’s just agree that it was Abraham and a son, and perhaps the details will come clear on the other side of the great divide.) More people arrived, more chairs put out until we were out of chairs. Toward the end of the discussion on Religious rights and Democracy, I did a quick count of chairs and people standing and figured we had over ninety people – and one of the best Sunday School classes ever.

Our priest took a Socratic approach, asking questions, bringing in current topics. In these times of divided opinions, there was, surprisingly, a lot of laughter. My favorite moment was when we were discussing limits on religious freedoms, and things that there are laws against – live animal sacrifices, bigamy, sale of alcohol on Sunday before 11 a.m. – then one of the lawyers added “How about serving liquor to minors without checking IDs every Sunday?” That got a big laugh. It’s what we do; we use real wine in the communion cup, it’s Anglican / Episcopalian tradition. And yep, even young children get to take a sip. Oops.

As divided as we are, as it turns out, we have a lot in common. It takes a lot of courage to open up such a topic to the congregation. We all behaved. I think we all came away thinking we need more of this.

The very next day, yesterday, I was at the County Courthouse for my first ever call to jury duty. Well, this was my first ever call where I actually was living in the United States and able to show up. While we lived overseas, I would have to get on my VOIP late at night when the Clerk’s office opened and tell them I was living in (Germany. Kuwait. Qatar. Saudi Arabia. Jordan. Tunis. Take your pick.)

Jury duty is an exercise in tedium. At one point when the large selection pool left a courtroom, one of the potential jurors was going “Baaaa baaaaa baaaaa; we are all like sheep.” You park in one place and get on a trolley to the courthouse, you line up to enter the courthouse, you gather in a room and you wait to be called. You get instructions, you watch instructive videos, you get pep talks on your civic duty.

I had my eyes opened in a lot of ways. First, that I would guess more than two hundred people showed up, and this was a Monday between the weekend and the Fourth of July holiday. Many had to take time off from work to show up. We were supposed to be in “business’ dress, but this is Florida, and I guess ‘business dress’ is a matter of interpretation.

Groups would be called to go before judges for jury selection. There were many cases, so almost all of us were a part of one group or another. From my group, juries were being chosen for three trials, so they asked a lot of questions up front that would pertain to all three trials, then the lawyers for the prosecution and the lawyers for the defense would ask questions.

The questions surprised me. They named the witnesses, and the defendants were there in the courtroom; they asked if anyone knew the defendant or any of the witnesses. They asked about our prejudices for or against law enforcement officials, and could we overcome our prejudice to listen to the evidence fairly. They asked about our own court experiences, and they asked about our convictions for drug use, and other things. Many of my pool had served many times on juries and knew how things went. Many were reluctant, yet, there they were. Serving. Doing their duty.

Here is what really surprised me – at least in Florida, the defendant, who is sitting there through all the questioning, gets a say in who will be on his jury. I had no idea! We don’t see a lot of jury selection on TV (although the lady sitting next to me said I need to watch a show called Bull, where jury selection is what the show is about.)

None of the defendants wanted me, and I can understand why. They want people on the juries to truly be as close to their peers as possible, people who can identify with being arrested, maybe even convicted of a crime. They want people who might give them the benefit of the reasonable doubt.

How often have you been arrested? My son, who has been a part of the system, once told me that there are Americans who never have a brush with The Law, other than maybe a traffic ticket or a DWI. Now and then, I ask my friends. None has ever been inside a jail, but these days, a friend or two has a child who has become involved with heavy drug use, and has spent some heart-breaking time in the system.

It was a long day, full of tedium. I thought about the judge, and the lawyers, who go through this day after day, asking the same questions, looking out at groups full of people who maybe don’t even want to be there, going through the process to insure that our system is as fair as possible, day after day, month after month. I had no idea that the wheel of justice ground so finely, so relentlessly, on and on. I had no idea what stoic determination it takes to be a part of that system, and trying to make sure that while the state makes the case, the defendants rights are protected.

I’ve lived, as you know, in countries where justice prevails – occasionally. I remember living in one country, which was peaceful, and thinking to myself that they were educating a lot of people for positions they will never be able to fill, because they are not in the elite.

We have all seen, in every country, that those with the money to buy the best legal protection can often escape the consequences of their crime, but there is hope, for me,  even in making them stand trial.

I had no idea how proud I would feel at the end of the day, being a part of this huge effort, seeing how many of my fellow citizens, at great sacrifice to themselves, showed up. I had no idea what an education it would be for me. I had no idea how often those who least want to serve are those chosen to serve – and they persist. They show up.

I was in a room with maybe two hundred people from all walks of life. We were really just numbers, there to fill a systemic need. Some may even be, like me, a little cynical about how much justice our system really delivers . . . and we show up.

One of the defense lawyers yesterday asked us “Do you know what we are here about today?” and while we were all thinking about the charges, she answered “we are here about this man’s liberty. We’ll be deciding where he will spend his time in the next weeks, and months and years. We’ll be deciding his liberty.”

I’m glad I showed up.

Happy Fourth of July 🙂

 

July 4, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Transparency | , , , , | Leave a comment

New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company, New Orleans

What did we do before Google?

We have finished at the World War II Museum and are about to head back to Pensacola. We have a big party to attend tonight, and I promised I would bring beignets. I need a LOT of beignets. While AdventureMan is pursuing his bliss at the museum, I see if I can find a source of beignets nearby.

I love Google. I find the New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Factory close by, and in a place I am really comfortable with, on Saint Charles, and very near to the Creole Creamery, with it’s truly divine ice cream. All I have to do is plug in the address and Google Maps takes us there, follow the little blue dot.

Sometimes, when we are entering a new city, and I am navigating, things can get a little tense. You know like “Oops, we were supposed to turn left there,” that sort of thing. I have discovered I can turn on the voice, and the voice can guide AdventureMan, and if she screws up, oh well, not MY fault. We both get a good laugh at that.

Having said that, the one we are going to at 4141 Saint Charles is not exactly on Saint Charles, but AdventureMan is wise to the ways of New Orleans, and when I look in despair at where the New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company is supposed to be – and isn’t – he suggests it might be just around the corner, and I breathe with relief, there it is. Even better, there is a parking lot! Parking for a shop on Saint Charles street! There is a free parking space!

Inside, we know we are home free. I order beaucoup beignets, a lot, and it is going to take a while, so we order a small order for ourselves, with coffee, and as it drizzles outside, we are safe and warm inside, smelling wondrous smells, drinking coffee, eating beignets. You have to grab these small perfect moments and treasure them.

Moments like this, we wish we were living in New Orleans.

When the beignets are finished, they are huge, and pillow-y, about 4 inches by 6 inches, the biggest, softest beignets I have ever seen. They are boxed so perfectly that when we get to the party, they are still warm. We drive all the way from New Orleans to Pensacola with the smell of freshly cooked beignet in the car; the smell is mouth watering, even though we have just eaten fresh beignets. The New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company gave me two huge glasses full of powdered sugar to insure that everyone had a huge splash of sugar on each beignet. They were still warm! I can hardly believe it.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Hot drinks, Living Conditions, New Orleans, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

World War II Museum Re-Visit

Ah! What a difference a day makes! We do not have the museum all to ourselves, but we have room to breathe. The lines are short, there is no huge din of voices in the cavernous spaces. We are so glad to be here!

There is something very special about this museum, something we are finding in our visits around the United States, and that is the vision of the volunteers. There is something so lovely and so meaningful about how these generous souls are leaving the workplace, and then working, free, because they believe in something. The World War II Museum couldn’t function without it’s cadre of volunteers, and these volunteers are treasure troves of first hand knowledge about the displays and equipment. Bravo! Brava! to all the Valiant Volunteers at the World War II Museum!

See all those people? This is nothing compared to the day before!

 

We hurried to the Nazi Propaganda display. It was terrifying. A “Strong Man” takes over using simple, strong phrases, telling the voters that only he can solve the problems, and blaming foreigners and “the other” for the nation’s problems. He wins, and chaos ensues.

Oh? Pardon me, my politics are showing.

 

 

 

 

AdventureMan has a ball. I poke around, but WWII is not my era, and I have some reading I really want to get done. I find a bench in the ship displays, and have a quiet couple of hours to read while AdventureMan pursues his bliss. Hey, it works for us.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, Generational, New Orleans, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Values | , , | Leave a comment

Two Chicks Restaurant, New Orleans

Google “best breakfast in New Orleans” and you will come up with some delightful possibilities, one of which is Two Chicks.

First, Two Chicks is not as easy to find as you would think. The address is 901 Convention Center Boulevard, but as it turns out, there is a sort of square OFF the boulevard, with other shops and restaurants around a kind of square, and, close to the Mexican consulate, is a small mall, in which is 2 Chicks.

Life is irrational. I love this place. I had a Cafe breakfast, like eggs and sausage, with fruit, and I didn’t eat a croissant; I wish I had.  The food was delicious, fresh and well put together. From the minute I walked in I had an immediate emotional response:  Edith Piaf was belting out “Je Ne Regrette Rien,” and the waitress, who knew all the words, was singing right along with her as she folded cutlery into napkins. I was beside myself with quiet joy.

The wall paper is French. The music is French, and from all eras. The coffee is really good. The food is French in that it is lovingly and thoughtfully prepared. Have I mentioned lately how much I miss France?

You have to have a key to use the restroom in the little mall, but what a surprise the ladies room is – 15 foot ceiling with marble walls, and gorgeous tiles. Who puts this kind of attention and lovely finishes in a restroom? The whole experience was irrational and lovely.

Service was attentive and efficient and we have eaten well and are out the door just in time to find a parking place at the Museum and be among the first inside.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, France, Hot drinks, New Orleans, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Herbsaint in New Orleans

One thing leads to another, and while we just finished a large adventure to the glories of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, we also need to get to New Orleans before the Nazi Propaganda exhibit at the World War II Museum finishes. Fortunately for us, there is a three day weekend, New Orleans is a close drive, and there is a new hotel we are eager to try.

Our trip is short, peaceful and GoogleMaps gets us where we need to be, and there is even a parking space. We start to pay the meter, but friendly New Orleans types passing by say “You don’t have to pay today! It’s a holiday!” We have a restaurant all picked out, Marcello’s, Italian, and the web page says it is open, but when we get there, it is closed.

Right next door to it, however, is Herbsaint, and we had just passed to to get to Marcello’s. We really like the look of Herbsaint; it looks French, it looks casual-elegant. As we go in we are greeted and seated quickly, and our waitress shows up with menus. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain, but you just like the FEEL of a place. Herbsaint was a place we liked the feel of.


 

We used to know a lot about wine, but now there is so much wine, so many labels, we don’t know anything anymore. We do know what we like – dry, red and complicated. The waitress recommends a wine, when it comes, it is exactly right, a red Zinfandel from California.

The menu has soups, salads, small plates and entrees. We grinned. We could eat at this restaurant many times; there are so many options we like!

I started with a roasted beet salad; it was marvelous.

 

AdventureMan had the spring green salad, and he said it was equally satisfying.

He then had the Homemade Spaghetti with guanciale and a deep fried farm egg, which he said was awesome. The guanciale is a thin slice of pork; you can see it at the right, and the mass in the middle is the deep fried farm egg. We tried to figure out how they did that – they must have poached the egg, then breaded and fried it. It was interesting, but my husband says the best part of this dish was the sauce, which was delicious.

I had the Sicilian beef with capers and anchovies. I know, I know, some of you are retching, but I am odd, and while I don’t care so much for beef, I adore capers and anchovies, and with that and all the dill, I even loved the beef. This is what a small plate is all about to me; you don’t need a lot of food when the flavors are so tasty and they dance together.

We can’t wait to revisit this restaurant. Every single thing about it was to our delight. The service was cordial and informed, there was a home-baked crusty French bread on the table with great butter (yes, it matters). We loved the high ceilings and the subdued decor, the artful simplicity in the presentation of the dishes, and the excellence of the wines. Stumbling across this restaurant was a highlight of this trip.

Herbsaint is near the World War II Museum. You can find it here:

Herbsaint

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Zion National Park to Monument Valley: AZ or UT?

“Look! Look! Grab your camera! Grab your camera!”

“It’s just turkeys,” I grumble to myself, I’m not even settled in the car, I don’t even have my seat belt on and AdventureMan wants me to take photos of turkeys? I take a couple shots, then we head to the lodge and check out.

This time, the camera is in my hands. This time, when we see three turkeys, and two of them are male, trying desperately to get the turkey chick to give them the time of day, so to speak.

 

This was actually a great way to start a day which will have a lot of driving before we reach our goal, Monument Valley, which is sort of in Utah and Sort of in Arizona, or at least the hotel where we are staying is in Arizona, but the road to get to it starts in Utah. Because it is Navaho Nation, they have gone on Daylight Savings Time, in spite of the technicality that they are in Arizona, a peculiar state who does not go on Daylight Savings Time.

Farewell, beautiful Zion.

 

This is the route we will be taking today. Our maps tell us it has some scenic routes. Remember, cell phone coverage is spotty in this area, and physical maps are a really, really good idea.

 

We know where we will stop for breakfast – The Thunderbird, In Mt. Carmel Junction, where we had lunch the day before. It is right on our way. Actually, I had a healthy breakfast, but I had to order this cinnamon roll, which AdventureMan and I nibbled on, and then took the rest with us in case we were stuck somewhere in a remote place and needed some sugar-energy. This roll had a lot of sugar-energy.

 

On the road, after the glory or Arches, and Bryce Canyon, and Zion, we are spoiled. It is harder to appreciate normal beautiful vistas. As we drove through a forest, however, AdventureMan spotted a deer running, not a pronghorn, not a mule deer, we don’t know what it was. I am sorry it is fuzzy; he was running!

Maybe it was a mule deer, now that I see the ears. I am not sure.

We stopped to look at this vast overlook, and I was sort of thinking “ho-hum” when an Asian family drove up, a dad and his three daughters, and the daughters all had iPads and were taking photos and one of them said to me “Just look! This is right out of the old West! Can’t you just see an enormous herd of buffalo stretching all the way to the horizon, and what if they get spooked and stampede??”

And then, I saw them, thousands of buffalo in the valley below, nibbling on the new green grass, stretching to the horizon. I owe that girl. She gave me a great gift, a major shift in perspective.


AdventureMan said “Why are there so many contrails?” and he was right, there were contrail everywhere. We were close to the Northern side of Grand Canyon, which is still closed at this time of year, so maybe they were planes coming and going out of Phoenix? Maybe the air is so cold that the contrails form more easily? I don’t know, but he is right, the sky is streaked with them.

I think these are the Vermillion Cliffs, fabulous, but . . . we are jaded after the glories we have seen. We drive on.

 

 

We stop for gas in Kayenta, and we go into the Basha Market to buy water. Two things, one is that we have this totally deja vu feeling, like we have been in this shopping area before. AdventureMan says we had lunch at that Subway store, and I kind of remember. Second, all the people in the market, mostly local Navaho, have carts full of sugary foods, sodas, sugary cereals, snacks and candy. It’s like the don’t know that sugar is the new poison, that it leads to obesity, that it rots your teeth and inflames your gums. Or they know, and they don’t care.

But we are starving. We see Amigos on the side of the road as we are heading to Monument Valley, and decide to give it a try. As soon as we get inside, we know we are in the right place. There are local people. There is a lunch special up on the blackboard. The smells are wonderful.

AdventureMan had Tostada and Enchilada. See that salsa? That salsa is one of the best salsas we have ever eaten. In the photo it looks red, but it actually was very green.

I had two tacos. The tacos were enough, I didn’t need the rice and beans and I left them, but I did ask for another salsa, it was so good.

We liked Amigos so much that we came back here again for dinner the night after we had been out all day in Monument Valley.

 

The name of our hotel is The View. It is a Navaho owned and operated hotel in Monument Valley proper, where all the tours start. We chose it for so many reasons, for one, because every room has a view, for another, that it is Navaho owned and operated, and last but not least, they advertise that they have some of the best star-gazing because there is no light from nearby cities; there are no nearby cities (Kayenta is about 30 miles away.)

At check-in, we are delighted; the lobby is lovely! It is light and bright and full of art works. We are also chagrined, the receptionist is rude to the people in front of us, and not at all welcoming to us. She wasn’t rude to us, just very businesslike and unsmiling. Maybe she was just having a bad day.

 

This is the area where people met up with their tour guides for the morning, afternoon and evening tours.

 

This is our room. It was lovely. We loved the art work, we loved the very spacious bathroom, and oh my, we loved the view.

 

 

The view, straight out:

 

The view to the right

The view to the left

 

As the late-afternoon sun begins to mellow, the colors morph and darken

 

 

Staying in this hotel is SO worth it.

 

The hotel has a fabulous gift shop, full of lovely jewelry, art items, artifacts. AdventureMan looked at a beautiful knife for our son; the cost was over $500. Oops! They also had more affordable things, one of our grand children’s favorite gifts was a bag of colored rocks, LOL. They had some good books, with Indian legends, written for children, and of course, T-shirts.

 

We ate dinner in The View restaurant, it was packed, full, with lots of families with young children and lots of tourists, some in groups. The servers did their best, but it was chaotic. AdventureMan had the “famous” green chili stew, which he said was not very interesting, and I had a taco salad, which was equally not very interesting. Our breakfast there, the next morning, was equally not very interesting. It was a breakfast buffet with a very limited selection.

There is another downside. During the day, the hotel facilities are dominated by the day-trippers. The hotel area is sort-of separated from the more public areas, but the feeling is chaotic. It all calms down dramatically when the last bus leaves. Wait to visit the gift shop after the teeming hoards have departed.

The upside of The View is the view. The upside is that the view at sunset is gorgeous. The upside is that it truly is magnificent star gazing. The upside is that the sunrise is beyond magnificent.

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moab to Tropic, Bryce Canyon And a Wonder-Filled Detour through Capitol Reefs

We are still on Pensacola time, so early rising is a piece-of-cake. Quick breakfast, quick departure. We had looked at the options the night before, we could go directly to Zion via fast roads, or take a southern route which would take considerably longer. AdventureMan had looked at the map and suggested a third route, which took longer, but not so long as the southern route, and took us through a place I have never even heard of, Capitol Reefs.

We’ve lived in so many wonderful places, and, because AdventureMan’s job was always so demanding, I took care of trip-planning, finding places to stay, creating routes to travel and choosing sights to see. This way is so much better, AdventureMan has the leisure to look at the maps, and he has good instincts. This day was another best day of the trip.  🙂

(Yes, I know, technically, they can’t all be best days. Toward the end we had some more boring days, but each day brought wonders and joys, and this is one of those best days, honest.)

One thing we never want is to find ourselves miles from a gas station in a remote location. As we are filling our tank, leaving Moab, I see one of our contemporaries loading up for his own adventure. This is what I love about Moab, you are free to pursue your own adventure.

If you are thinking about taking this trip, or a trip like it, you need to know that our phones had no service much of the time. Fortunately, we had maps and are good at reading them, mostly. It is really important to have some kind of back up when you are in remote locations. If you rely on your phone, and there is no service, you will have a harder time.

The scenery, even along the major highways, can be distractingly spectacular. This is, I believe, along I-70, which we take for a short time to get to the scenic road we want to be on to get to Capitol Reefs.

What we didn’t realize was that the greenery near the cliffs in Capitol Reefs indicated a river. I discovered it as I was making a pit-stop. I was headed to a private spot when all of a sudden, I realized I was not alone. By a stroke of luck, I had my camera in my hand. I whispered to the Mule Deer that I meant them no harm, and they calmly grazed as I took a couple photos.

Can you see why I am considering this another of the best days? I love happy surprises, and this day is full of happy surprises, even a few flakes of short-lived snow.

Good thing we stopped where we did. Just another quarter of a mile down the road is a major stop, with a beautiful walkway, so people can view Petroglyphs!

So, can you see the petroglyphs? I bet your eyes are getting better at it. You learn to look a little higher than you would think.

There are so many places where petroglyphs have been lost to natural breaking off and erosion.

 

This is a piece that has broken off, but remnants of the original petroglyphs remain.

This is the beautiful walkway they built.

This is the sign. It is a little obscured, but we are always thankful for good signage.

I want you to know how very brave I was. I was about to lean on the railing to steady a shot when AdventureMan said “You’ll want to look before you do that,” and when I did, I saw a thousand creeping caterpillars. They were falling out of the trees, and covered the walkway. I made AdventureMan check my hair, and my hoodie, then I covered my hair completely; I looked like a total dork. Back in the car, I made him check me again, to make sure I wasn’t carrying an unwelcome guest with me. But no matter how much I was creeped out, it didn’t stop me from taking these photos 🙂

“This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be thankful in it!”

Shortly after finding a gas station, and looking for a restaurant that was open and might serve more than hamburgers and beer, we found the Capitol Reefs Cafe and Restaurant, which suited us perfectly. It had a unique gift store – I found the only petroglyph soap, black with etched petroglyphs – of the entire trip, perfect for a three year old, or even in the tip of AdventureMan’s Christmas stocking. Alas, there was only one, and I gave it to the three year old.

Look at that! Cloth napkins, and in a beautiful local textile.

AdventureMan had a fabulous corn chowder, and these Shrimp Tostadas.

I had a smoked trout salad, the only one I have ever had in my life. It was unique, and wonderful.

At Larb Hollow overlook, you could see for miles, maybe hundreds of miles. We could see Lake Powell. In the highlands, it was still very cold, and we had occasional flakes of snow.

This stop was hilarious. We thought it was some kind of big deal but it was a very little deal. It reminded us very much of Germany, with a rural forest feel, a walk around a large lake, people with those walking picks that give me the shivers – “No! Don’t point that pick at me!”

We stopped at a rock shop, where I bought a T-shirt I loved. He said it was last year’s color, and gave me a great discount, but it was a much more subtle color, a desert deep rose color, and it has a 70’s peace sign in gold, so elaborate that you don’t necessarily even see what it is. I love it. Then I went to take a photo of these cows, which AdventureMan thought was hilarious. “You’d be surprised how many people stop to take photos of those cows,” the owner of The Rock Shop told him.

Arriving in Tropic, we are assigned to this cabin. Of all the places we stayed on the trip, we loved this cabin the best. It was a lot of fun, spacious, clean, very private, great beds, and the least expensive place we stayed. This was the Bryce Canyon Inn, in Tropic, which also has a coffee shop and a pizza restaurant in the same complex.

We took a short rest, then headed out to do a reconnaissance of Bryce Canyon, finding one of the major sights on our way. I think it was called Mossy Grotto, or something like that. Honestly, they give names to all these hikes, and while the hikes are great, I can’t remember the exact names. These are all late in the day, some times the sunlight is perfect and some times it has already disappeared due to landscape features. We needed a good hike after spending so much of the day with our only exercise getting in and out of the car.


This is one of the features, and I couldn’t really figure out why. I think in winter it has huge icicles hanging from it. It is moist and water weeps from it. I think it is the mossy grotto.

It looks like these rocks are kissing 🙂

 

We headed back to Tropic around dinner time, ate at the pizza restaurant. AdventureMan did the smart thing, he ordered a pizza. I saw halibut and chips on the menu and the Alaska-girl instincts kicked in, oh, halibut and chips! I got two small heavily breaded pre-frozen little lumps of fish, tasteless, what a waste of halibut. 😦  Learned – re-learned a lesson: if you’re in a pizza restaurant, order pizza.

We slept wonderfully in this cabin 🙂 Every day so far exceeds 10,000 steps 🙂

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Eating Out, Exercise, Faith, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment