Tag Archives: Travel

Happy Saguaro Sunday

This weekend, I opened my front door and saw snow. That’s right, SNOW, right here in Tucson, Arizona. And not just ordinary snow.

I saw:

  • snow in the desert
  • snow next to tall saguaro cacti
  • big, flat snowflakes. They were about 1 to 2 inches in diameter and looked like little flying saucers
  • snow on 9,000-foot tall mountains
  • an icy-cold stream flowing down from those mountains, and I waded through it!

Here, have a look:

Saguaro National Park:
Saguaro NP Snow 1

Saguaro NP Snow 2-2

Catalina State Park:

CSP Snow 022319 5

Happy snowy saguaro Sunday!

 

Just Gelato

 

I needed a break from the news, a break from the work week, and a little break from writing today. I decided to just stare at this photo of gelato for a while.

gelato

Unfortunately, the gelato in the picture is long gone. I consumed it last September while visiting Florence, Italy (the birthplace of gelato).

I’m feeling more chill now. I may be able to write again tomorrow.

This photo is dedicated to David Ellis … to further entice him to visit Florence as soon as possible.

nanopoblano2018-notrim

 

 

 

Spirit of Spontaneity

One year ago, I was a tourist in Florence, Italy. I’d just visited an old cathedral, San Miniato al Monte, which sits at the top of the highest point in Florence. I’d sat through a long sermon, spoken entirely in Italian by an elderly monk, and I’d snuck out during Communion so I could commune with nature outside. The view of the city from that spot is breathtaking.

Hill-2.jpg

As the sun began to set, I left the church grounds and began the walk downhill toward the city. It was on this hill that I happened to pass a man who was blowing huge soap bubbles. I pulled my cell phone from my purse, swung around to face him, and took a picture of the bubbles, hoping the image would be in focus and that I wasn’t too late.

It turned out better than I’d expected. My upturned camera happened to capture not only the bubbles, but the cloudy near-twilight sky, as well as the tallest gate in Florence, the Gate of San Niccolò (Saint Nicholas).

DB790BAD-24FE-4C45-AD90-E6F1CE3AE7AE

Sometimes the best moments are totally spontaneous.

For example, I just discovered (when I did a little research for this post) that San Miniato al Monte (the cathedral on the hill) was built in 1018, making it exactly 1,000 years old. Another surprise! Happy birthday, old church.

More fun facts: The Gate of San Niccolò in my bubble photo was built in 1324. It’s 60 meters (about 200 feet) tall, and it originally served as a watchtower as well as a gate. It had wooden doors and was attached to a wall that surrounded the city until the late 1800s, when the wall was demolished. People can climb the 160 steps inside the gate to get a 360-degree view of Florence.

nanopoblano2018-notrim

All That and Apples, Too

(This post is in response to a writing prompt from Lorna over at Gin & Lemonade. The prompt was “A Fall/Autumnal Food Memory.” Here’s mine — an adventure I’ve never shared in print before. And once again, thanks to Lorna for jogging my memory.)

 

For most young people, autumn signifies a return to school. But for me, in September of 1971, the cooler temperatures and colorful foliage of upstate New York were telling me to leave college, spend $90 (in other words, half my life savings) on a train ticket, and make my way west to California.

I had a little adventure with apples along the way.

In 1971, American kids were dropping out of college in droves. They’d read On the Road; they’d listened to California Dreamin’. They wanted to get back to the land and find themselves. So did I.

I’d planned to take a train from Toronto to Vancouver, and then a bus south to Santa Cruz, where my friend Sharon lived. I was sure I could find some sort of job (or perhaps gold) once I got to California.

At the train station, I met two women who also were heading west. We boarded the train together, and by the time we’d gotten to Winnipeg we’d decided to get off the train and hitchhike the rest of the way.

Call me crazy, but back then I believed it was safe for three 20-something ladies to hitchhike through the Canadian wilderness together. After all, the Canadian government was practically promoting it. They’d erected billboards all over the country telling drivers to “Pick Up a Hitchhiker.” And it was cheap, too. You could stay overnight at a youth hostel for only 50 cents a night.

But before you get too jealous and try this at home, don’t. My traveler’s checks went missing after a night at one of the hostels. Even worse, I had to talk my way out of a #metoo situation, and I managed to outsmart another potential perpetrator. Whew. I was lucky those times. So again, just don’t.

But I hitchhiked with the young ladies through Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and half of British Columbia, and we survived unscathed. We made it as far as Cranbrook, B.C., where they decided to stay, since one of them apparently had met the love of her life named Colin. (For some reason I remember his name and not hers.) I decided to move on. Colin drove me to the Creston bus station, about an hour down the road, so I could safely get to Vancouver by myself.

Creston is a small, fairy-tale village set in a valley in the foothills of the snow-capped Canadian Rockies. It’s blessed with a clear blue lake, a nearby hot springs, and a lot of apple trees.

I was standing in the Creston bus station when a cute (in a teddy-bear way) long-haired blond French Canadian named Ernie approached me and said, “How would you like to pick apples for a while?”

To this day, I have no idea what he was doing in that bus station, or why he came up to me and asked me that question. And I have no idea why I said yes. But suddenly the whole idea of just parking myself in that beautiful little town to “pick apples for a while” sounded pretty appealing.

There was a cabin in the orchard where the apple-pickers could stay for free. It had two beds, a table, a couple of chairs, a wood stove, a parachute hanging on one wall, a collection of Cracker Jack toys, and a gentle, silver-colored German Shepherd named Mr. Morgan who was said to be part wolf. And of course, Ernie was staying there, too. He said I could stay there, no strings attached, and there weren’t any … until there were.

Each morning, we’d get up early, put on our apple bags, climb our ladders, and pick apples in the sunshine. At lunchtime, the owner of the apple orchard came by with tea and homemade baked goods, and we all had a wonderful picnic under the apple trees.

A neighboring farmer once left some turnips for us on the cabin doorstep. We roasted a turkey in the wood stove for Canadian Thanksgiving.

We made friends with a married couple who also picked apples and owned a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, and the four of us took off one day and drove all the way to California and back. We slept on the beach one night, and at a friend’s party another night.

When we returned from California about ten days later, the weather had changed. The snows were coming, and the cabin wasn’t made for winter. We had to leave. Ernie’s mom lived in Vancouver, so we moved in with her temporarily. His mom was lovely. I had my own pink room with a single bed and a chenille bedspread.

I found work in Vancouver as a waitress, and rented a tiny, furnished basement apartment. Ernie and I were doing well as a couple. I applied for permanent residency. I had no idea that you were supposed to do that before getting a job. I naively thought having a job would help me get residency.

The man at the government office told me I had gotten it backwards and that my residency was denied. I burst into tears on the spot. My parents wired me the plane fare and I was back home by mid-December.

Of course, this was before the advent of cell phones, email, or skype, and long distance phone calls were too expensive. Ernie and I communicated by writing letters throughout that winter and spring. He was a good letter-writer. I knit him a sweater for Christmas and mailed it off. We made plans. He was going to come east and we were going to bicycle our way around the Maritime provinces that summer. I would try again for Canadian residency.

But in the back of my mind, I must have known it was just more dreamin’, because when I received his “Dear Jane” letter in May I was disappointed but not surprised.

In spite of the way things turned out with Ernie, I’ve never regretted my adventure in the fall of 1971. If nothing else, I know what it’s like to live in a cabin, to climb a ladder and pick fruit in the crisp Canadian sunshine, to have an orchard picnic with tea and homemade baked goods, to eat a gift of turnips left on my doorstep, to cook a turkey in a wood stove, to travel to California in a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, to sleep on a beach, and to live with a gentle, part-wolf, dog by the name of Mr. Morgan.

I had all that, and apples, too.

Pepsi Shambo

One of the most touching sights during my 5-week cross-country road trip was this one, a brick honoring the life of someone’s beloved dog:

Plattsburgh-3

I just love the name “Pepsi Shambo.” It’s got a nice ring to it. But don’t you wonder why anyone would give a dog that name?

Wondering this myself, I looked up “shambo” just now, and, according to the urban dictionary, I learned that a shambo is “an efficient and fool-proof mechanism for resolving minor disputes, a/k/a rock-paper-scissors.”

I wonder if good old Pepsi Shambo was used in that manner during his or her lifetime. Perhaps, in the midst of a family argument, someone would shout out, “Why don’t we let Pepsi Shambo settle it!” Pepsi Shambo would trot in (or, in its latter years, perhaps he or she would shamble). I can hear it now:

“If Pepsi Shambo barks once, you have to get a job. Twice, you can just move out.”

No, I doubt that anyone who’d name their dog “Pepsi Shambo” would be that lazy, or that mean. On second thought, maybe the conversation went more like this:

“Honey, I know you really, really want to buy that house, but I’ve got an idea. Let’s let Pepsi Shambo decide! One bark means we’ll buy it, two barks means we’ll just wait until you wear me down, and we’ll buy it then.”

No, that sounds all wrong, too. I’ve got it! I think Pepsi Shambo got its name at the dog pound.

“Let’s let this little shambo decide which dog we take home. Hey, wait a minute, maybe we should take it and name it Shambo!” … “But Dad, that’s what we did last time, and we’ve already got a dog named Shambo, remember? Let’s call this one Pepsi Shambo so we can tell them apart.”

But why Pepsi? My guess is that the dog was the exact color of Pepsi Cola, or perhaps it was the owner’s favorite drink. We’ll never know. But in my mind’s eye, I’m picturing a very dark brown dog with a very bubbly personality, solving all the world’s problems. Boy, the world sure could use the help of old Pepsi Shambo right about now.

And I could, too. I’m currently in the midst of a minor crisis, trying to decide on whether or not to move back to upstate New York. I love it here in Tucson, but I miss my family. My spouse prefers the Pacific Northwest, though, so we’ve got a bit of a dilemma. Are any of you named Shambo, by any chance? Bark once for upstate New York, twice for the Pacific Northwest, and three times for staying in Tucson.

In any case, here’s to Pepsi Shambo, faithful dog. May you rest in peace, free from disputes of any kind. And by the way, congratulations, you’re now on the internet!

Photo credit (dachsund): congerdesign@pixabay.com

 

 

 

 

Do You Like Ike?

In the midst of all the turmoil surrounding #45, I’m thinking today about a different man: #34. What would he have thought of the current state of American politics?

Dwight David Eisenhower was the U.S. President from 1953 – 1961. He defeated Adlai Stevenson in a landslide. (The electoral vote was 442 to 89.) His campaign slogan, “I Like Ike,” caught on because, by and large, it was true. Ike was a very likeable guy.

Did you know that he had six brothers, and that all seven of the boys were nicknamed “Ike”? For some reason, his was the only one that stuck. It’s a good thing his nickname wasn’t “Dwi.” “I Like DWI” may be true for some people, but it isn’t a very good campaign slogan.

On our recent road trip from Arizona to New York, we stopped in Abilene, Kansas (Dwight’s hometown) after eight hours of driving. Just before entering the town, we passed a billboard advertising the Eisenhower Presidential Library.

DDE Library

Only a week or so before, our friends Kathy and Ray had mentioned that we should check out presidential libraries if we ever came across them in our travels. We decided to take their advice before leaving Abilene the next day.

But first, we had dinner at Joe Snuffy’s Old Fashioned Grill. If you’re ever in Abilene, Kansas, you really should grab a bite there. For a family diner, they have excellent wine! And food! And most of all — service! I can’t say enough about old Joe Snuffy’s. My favorite part was our teenaged server, who, like Frank Mills in the musical Hair, “resembles George Harrison of the Beatles.” He (our server) was very sweet, standing next to me while I took the first bite of my meal to make sure it was okay.

But back to Ike. At the Eisenhower Presidential Library, I learned a lot about #34’s life as a boy, man, and world leader. I even got to tour his childhood home, complete with all the original furnishings.

DDE Home 2

On the tour, I learned some surprising facts. The family was far from wealthy (they’d moved to Abilene with only $24 to their name). His mother was a former Mennonite who was opposed to war. His family valued education highly, but the only way Dwight could attend college was by going to a military school (West Point) where tuition was free.

The boys were assigned rotating chores, all learning to cook and to sew. Here’s the “dough box” where the Eisenhowers placed their bread dough to rise.

DDE Home 1

Although I know his Presidency is probably not without controversy, here are some of the positive things Dwight D. Eisenhower (a self-proclaimed “progressive conservative” and a Republican) managed to accomplish while President:

  • continued and expanded New Deal social programs
  • helped end McCarthyism
  • signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (and sent Army troops to enforce school integration)
  • authorized the Interstate Highway System
  • promoted science education
  • emphatically expressed his concerns about what he called the “military-industrial complex.”

In spite of all his achievements, Eisenhower once said that “the proudest thing I can claim is being from Abilene.” You’ve got to like that, especially when humility is in such short supply at the White House these days.

Colorado Rocks

Colorado always seemed like a distant idea to me: a concept, as opposed to a real place I’d ever get to visit. I’m not sure why that is. I’ve traveled all across the country and back. I’ve been to each of Colorado’s neighboring states. I’ve also been to Hawaii. Hell, I even hitchhiked across Canada (back in the 70s when it was a little safer and I didn’t know any better). But until last month, I’d never set foot in Colorado.

Well, I’ve just returned from a five-week-long road trip with my husband — more posts about that to follow — and I can finally say, “I’ve been to Colorado.” By the way, Colorado is AWESOME. I’m sorry it took me so long to get there.

As I crossed the state line from New Mexico into Colorado, though, it was pouring rain, and the sky was a dull, drab gray. An even duller, drabber highway sign announced, “Welcome to Colorful Colorado.” It looked something like this:

Welcome to Colorado BW

(Photo credit: marchinileo0 via Pixabay)

“Colorful?” I asked myself. “What’s so colorful about Colorado?”

Well, a little farther down the road, we came to Trinidad, Colorado, and the sun started to come out.

Garden of the Gods 5

I could see the potential and hoped for more color as we traveled on.

That night, we stayed in Colorado Springs, also known as “Olympic City USA.” That’s because the headquarters for the US Olympic Committee, the US Olympic Training Center, and the US Anti-Doping Agency are all located there.

Speaking of drugs, Colorado was one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use and sale. But I didn’t need to visit one of their green stores to appreciate the place. You can get high just walking around admiring the scenery.  John Denver knew a good thing when he saw it.

We had a little spare time the next morning before continuing on our journey, so I googled “Top 10 Things to Do in Colorado Springs.” Garden of the Gods popped up as #1, so that’s where we went. Here are some photos I took while there:

Stay tuned for more photos of our trip in my next post.

 

 

 

 

Hanging Out with Bats

Tucson has a large bat population. In 2008, there were about 200,000 bats living here. Who knows how many more there are now. Most of them migrate north from Mexico in April and stay until October.

By day, the bats hang out under bridges, emerging en masse at sunset for their nightly feeding frenzy. People gather near the bridges to watch the bats take off. Bat-watching is excellent and cheap entertainment.

Several years ago, a small group of folks in Tucson came up with the slogan, “Keep Tucson Shitty,” in response to Austin’s “Keep Austin Weird.” They did it as a joke, and it was embraced by another faction who were upset about the sudden gentrification of the scrappier parts of downtown. But “Keep Tucson Shitty” never caught on. Too many people were appalled and resented anything resembling a put-down of their beloved “Old Pueblo.”

I can understand why they would be appalled. I love Tucson’s beauty, its character, its blending of cultures, its mountains and sunsets and desert flowers. The last thing we want people to think of when they think of Tucson is excrement.

However, I think I’ve come up with a solution that will satisfy everyone. How about the slogan, “Keep Tucson Batty”? It might just be the compromise this town needs. On the one hand, it lets others know that Tucson’s a nature-loving town that values its bats and supports sustainable lifestyles, while on the other hand it recognizes the scruffiness that sets us apart from Phoenix.

I’ve even written a song (well, the lyrics, anyway) to go with the slogan. It’s sung to the melody of that Cuban classic, “Guantanamera,” with apologies to Jose Martí (Cuba’s national poet who wrote the lyrics originally used in the song).

I call my version “Guano-tanamera.”

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 1:

I am a bat on a mission

For tasty bugs I am wishin’

Rather eat flies than go fishin’

Can’t drive, I don’t have ignition

Can’t fry an egg in the kitchen

But I have perfect night vision

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 2:

We bats cannot go out shopping

For tasty tacos and toppings

That’s why each night without stopping

Out from the bridge we come popping

Over our guano you’ll be hopping

Or all your floors you’ll be mopping

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 3:

Although I look kinda scary

I’m just a little bit hairy

My name’s not Tom, Dick, or Larry

But I can fly like a fairy

Over the town and the dairy

And City Hall where folks marry!

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera.

 

Bite Bite Bite

I was wandering alone in Florence (Italy) recently. It was the last day of my vacation, and I decided to get as much as I could out of it. Lunch at a sidewalk cafe seemed just the ticket. After a quick glance at the menu, I took a seat and ordered lunch #5. A nice little bite to eat and I’d quickly be on my way to the cathedral a few blocks over, right? Ma, no!

The primo piatto (first plate) was pasta.

Delizioso.

Next, the secondo piatto (second plate) appeared.

Dio mio. I managed to eat most of it.

And then … dolce (dessert). And not just any dessert, but my absolute favorite dessert, tiramisu. And this tiramisu was out-of-this-world good.

I enjoyed every last bite.

P.S. Today’s post was brought to you thanks to today’s Daily Post prompt, which is the word “bite.”

On this 27th day of the November daily blog challenge otherwise known as Nano Poblano, I found myself coming up blank. I’ve already used songs, haiku, personal confessions, humor, autobiography (disguised as fiction), history, and photography. What else was left? I don’t have a cat, so a cute kitty meme just wasn’t possible. I had no other choice but to post photos of what I had for lunch!

Saturday Night Flight

I’m traveling tonight from Tucson, Arizona to Albany, New York. During my 3-hour layover in Chicago, I passed the time by writing a song parody, to be sung to the tune of “Chicago” by Fred Fisher:

Chicago, Chicago

I’m charging my phone,

chrome table, I’m able

to sit here alone

On my way to New York, I plunge a fork into

salad, raw salad,

waiting for connections is just the time to

write ballads, (like this one)!

I’ll soon board

and move toward

that row in the back,

grab aisle seat, throw luggage on the rack

(packed)

settle in now, sit back, close my eyes

soon I will fly in the friendly skies of

Chicago, Chicago and then New York!

(Below: Tucson International Airport, Chicago O’Hare Airport)

Here’s the original version of the song:

https://youtu.be/NoKn7vkSMBc