Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Work in Progress and Happy Halloween .....

Butterflies and Heart Songs ....

This blog design is a work in progress.  With my friend, Dave, I'm learning and changing as I go.  Comments re:  changes in appearance (and content!) of blog are accepted and, hopefully, appreciated.
Seriously, my original intention for becoming a blogger was to document those aspects of my life and experience I'd like for my grandchildren to know.  It is still an important goal of this blogging experience.  However,  I'm also 'meeting' and 'making' so many new friends, in addition to recording for my family, the whole thing continually 'morphs.'   Who knows where it will end?

Happy Halloween to All and My family's "Halloween"

Having been raised in the Catholic Church, I was taught that Halloween is the celebration of All Hallows' Eve, the night before All Saints Day, November 1st, which is followed by All Souls Day, November 2nd.  When my children were growing up, Halloween was only surpassed in excitement and anticipation by Christmas.  We observed the yearly holiday with many family traditions:  homemade costume creation by Mom and kids together, traditional Halloween dinner of MP's Lasagna.  Of course, as young children, there was Treat or Treating with Mom and / or Dad, later to be experienced with friends, etc.  There were occasional parties, but nothing like those involving my grandchildren.  For my 5 thirteen-year-old grandchildren (Malia, Samantha, Spencer, Tate and Avery), I'm guessing that the parties before and on Halloween are the most important activities.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the tradition of simply Trick or Treating has lost much of its oomph!

El Día de Los Muertos or All Souls' Day .....

While living in Guatemala during two yearly celebrations of El Día de Los Muertos, November 2nd, I'm more familiar with their Hispanic / Maya traditions of the holiday than those in Mexico.  It is a very important day in both the cultural and religious traditions of this little Central American country.

There are innumerable parades with magnificent floats that are taken out of storage and marched through the streets of Antigua (where I lived), not only on November 2nd, but around that date, too.  But, the tradition I most associate with Guatemala's traditions is the whole day of November 2nd, the Mayan tradition is that the entire family (that's a lot of people!) goes to the cemetery to honor the departed.  They do so by flying elaborately designed and built kites while in the cemetery.  The belief is that if one flies a kite over the grave of a dearly departed, his/her spirit will be lifted to Heaven.  These celebrations take place in cemeteries all over the country; it's an incredibly spectacular event.

There is also a traditional culinary extravaganza called "Fiambre."  There are probably as many ways to prepare it as there are ways to create a Thanksgiving dinner in the US.   The word, fiambre, actually translates "cold cuts;" and the presentation can be from simple to unbelievably lavish.  My first year's experience took place during the six months I lived with a 'middle-class' Guatemalan family; I define their economic condition only because Guatemala is a very poor country - their tradition is not necessarily universal.  María Isabel and Beatríz (housekeeper/cook) spent days and days working with meats, fruits and vegetables ... cleaning, chopping, marinating, cooking, smoking, combining, creating a feast sufficient to feed 30 or 40 people for, probably, days!  The kitchen in their house is very modern, by Guatemalan standards, housing a refrigerator, gas stove and oven, microwave, sink, counters.  The majority of families live in houses without electricity or gas and very often without running water; but, does that stop them?  No way.  The sometimes outdoor wood-burning fireplace-stove is going for days.  I'm sure the tradition of marinating and pickling is due to the lack of refrigeration available.

I will post photos when I can find them; hopefully, in time for November Second.

Today I'm off to visit Old Town Albuquerque.  Be back later...

Mental Wanderings in New Mexico ....

State flag of New Mexico:

An ancient symbol of the sun as found on a  water jar from Zia Pueblo 
A "Zia" and is centered on a field of yellow - it represents the circle of life  - Four is the sacred 
number of the Zia - four points radiating from the circle - representing:
              *North, South, East, West. 
              *Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter
              *Sunrise, Noon, Sunset, Midnight 
              *Childhood, Youth, Adulthood, Old Age
              *Development of a Strong Body,  Clear Mind, Pure Spirit, Devotion to the Welfare of People 
                 and Family
The red and yellow colors are the colors of Isabel of Castilla brought to the continent by the Spanish Conquistadors.

Great Seal of the State of New Mexico:

I decided yesterday that today would be a stay-at-home-get-lots-of-learning-done on things like blog design, template and layout.  I'm not yet satisfied with the overall look of Butterflies and Heart Songs; so, this morning I made up a "test blog" to try out lots of new design ideas.  We'll see how it goes.

How this day started and is progressing ...

Well, first of all, I didn't sleep well last night - could it have been the double chocolate gelato I ate at about 9:30?  I wonder!   So, I was happy that we all slept in until almost 8 this morning; I get no complaining from my traveling crew when I decide we should sleep in!  When we did get moving we found that, not only was it darn chilly inside Floribunda, but there wasn't any hot water, either.  Oh, oh - I immediately felt another learning experience coming on:  I'd forgotten to check the LP gas level before I parked and set up the rig a couple of days ago.  Guess I'd better add that little note to my 'pre-travel' checklist before taking off for a new location.

So, I disconnected everything outside, cleaned, packed and stowed all inside, moved Petunia out of the way, and found out from Bill, the manager, where I could buy propane.  Off we went, only about five miles east on the historic Route 66, to Country Gas, where they filled me up with 18 gallons.  The guy explained that, although Floribunda has a 24-gallon propane tank, you never want to completely fill it.  Just something else I hadn't known before.  By the time all was said and done, I'd used up about 2 and a half hours of my day.  Oh, yes, I'm retired.  I keep forgetting!

I think I've mentioned that I've visited Santa Fe previously; so I won't return there - at least not on this go-around.  I've checked out some points of interest and will probably head into the downtown area tomorrow.  I'm not up for any big museum hopping; I'll visit Old Town and check out a few galleries and shops.  But the thing that peaked my interest - and here I'll have to admit that I understand that my fascination is a little skewed - the Albuquerque  International Rattlesnake Museum.  I am totally fascinated with reptiles, especially snakes.  That's not to say I don't have fear.  Yes, I do; but I also have a keen curiosity.  I'll try to get some good photos of the resident species and I understand I may qualify for a "certificate for braving this large collection of rattling reptiles," according to the New Mexico Vacation Guide.

A little more on the subject of snakes ....

Years ago, somewhere around 1990, I visited New Orleans, accompanying my husband on a business trip.  He was participating in a big Data Processing Conference, I don't remember which one.  While he conducted his business I spent several wonderful days sight-seeing, taking cooking lessons and generally having a good time.1  However, I also spent time at his convention and met Jim Fowler, host of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom," after the death of Marlin Perkins, its original host.  Mr. Fowler was an attraction at the conference/convention; he brought with him several animals featured on the TV show.  I was fascinated with all of them and had several pictures taken, as mementoes, with individual animals, and Jim Fowler.

My favorite picture is of Jim and myself with a 25-foot python wrapped around our shoulders.  Was I fearful?  You bet.  But Jim explained that pythons are very docile -  when well-fed.  This guy was heavy and very quiet.

Another experience was when visiting India's Taj Mahal.  After having toured the palace and grounds, we returned to our mini-bus to leave Agra.  As I was waiting in the bus for the rest of the group to return, I noticed a 'snake charmer' right outside my window.  He 'charmed' three 'dancing' cobras in a large basket that was sitting in a highly populated tourist area.  I surmised that the cobras had to be harmless so I exited the bus, to the consternation of my co-travelers, to check out the performance.   Yes, they'd been de-fanged and were harmless as well as mesmerized by the flute he played.  My friends thought I was crazy; I think it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get close to a cobra, or three - safely.

Time to get to that book .....

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Almost Albuquerque

Albuquerque, New Mexico at sunset

Monday Evening - October 28, 2013

We enjoyed a lazy morning at our site in Walmart's parking lot in Gallup, NM, along with about 15 other RVs and a whole passel of commercial trucks.  I spent $40 in the store yesterday afternoon and figure if that's the case with all the other campers, it's a pretty sound financial move on the part of Walmart to allow camping in their lot.  

So far, I've had absolutely no bad experiences using Walmart lots for my RV park of the day.  I occasionally talk with other campers, enjoy the fact that the lots are well-lighted and clean, and do so like not paying rent even if I am spending some bucks I wouldn't have if the store weren't so handy.

We finally got ourselves going and took off from Gallup at about 11.  I'd checked the Passport America booklet and found an RV Park outside of Albuquerque (east of the city) that honors PA for seven nights.  

Arrived here after fooling around with my google maps GPS that told me the park was directly in front of me - which was I-40 E!!!!!!!  I called the manager and he talked me through the kind of convoluted directions.  But once I got here I was happy.  It's rustic and out of the way, but quiet and in a very natural setting.  Most of the sites seem to be long-term users.  Leashes seem to be optional so Lacy is happy.  I thank my lucky stars that she can be let loose without a leash, as she returns when I call her.

Tuesday morning, October 29, 2013

Getting close to that magic day this week.  When my kids were young it was our second-favorite holiday - after Christmas, of course.  I'm going to have to "think" about costumes for the four of us!  Maybe I should just buy a cat or dog mask and let the 'kids' go as themselves!

I'm heading to Albuquerque later, mainly to do a lot of errands I haven't been able to do 'cause I've been fairly remote from large enough cities to have things like an Apple store, etc. 

A couple of other things I'm contemplating buying are a lounge chair (non-gravity) and an inverter to charge all my electronic play things while I'm not hooked to electricity.  Any words of wisdom / suggestions re:  brands appreciated.

Recently I'd asked for suggestions for places to camp along I-40E and I got some great suggestions from Dave.  Thanks so much, Dave.

I'll have photos later today.  Oh, and I think I've partially 'solved' the missing iPhoto missing pictures.  When I tried out Adobe Elements, I think I may have moved my iLibrary to that application.  After the 30-day trial period I decided to just stick with iPhoto for the present.  I'm going to fool around with my now non-usable Elements to see if I can retrieve my Library.  If I can't without buying the application, I'll buy it!  I see the photos there but haven't taken the time yet to fiddle with retrieving them.

Well, folks, I just continue, day by day, to live and learn!

Monday, October 28, 2013

New Mexico - The Land of Enchantment

Monday morning, October 28, 2013

We came in to New Mexico yesterday afternoon and stayed at the Walmart parking lot in Gallup last night.  It's located right next to I-40 and the Santa Fe Rail System - a very busy railroad in this part of the country.  I'm lucky in that I'm not bothered by noise and slept well last night.  For those wishing more ambient silence, this would not be a good choice for boon docking.

I just made a reservation for Leisure Mountain RV Park outside of Albuquerque in Tijeras (translation= a pair of scissors!).  It's a Passport America park that honors PA for seven days.  I'm not planning to stay that long but was impressed when the man told me.  I've so far not had great luck with my PA discount; it seems that lots of parks seem to 'decide' when and how they'll accept it.

I've visited New Mexico a few times, but usually by flying in to Albuquerque and renting a car to head straight to Santa Fe to visit friends.  I'm enjoying the scenery from Floribunda.  It's a continuation of the Arizona high desert - elevation 5000'+ - so far with a change in rock color schemes ....

Once again, taking photos through the windshield!  We're welcomed to 
New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment

 Not the clearest shots!

I'm may not go to Santa Fe, as I've visited before; but I'd welcome any suggestions for the Albuquerque area.  From here I plan to follow I-40 east.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Arizona High Desert and Petrified Forest National Park

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Yes, this is high desert - you'd think there's not much to see ....

Entering the 'city' of Holbrook - population 1,852

 Not too much for photography, one would think.  But, what about all those snakes, insects, mice, etc?
 There's a lot of life out there
 Mile(s)-long trains parallel I-40 several times a day - I love the sound of the whistle

We're staying in OK RV Park on Navajo Blvd in Holbrook.  $28 / day.  It's flat and level and they have an interesting way of setting up the sites.  At this time of the year, the lady tells me, they like to place RVs only every other site; and, since the length of each site is about 80 feet, they have every other RV either pull to the very front of the site or the very back of the site.  So, as I look out my window, the nearest neighbor in five sites away.  Such a nice privacy trick when they're not too crowded.  There's a cement pad for each site and about 4 sewer / electrical / water connections for each too.  I only need about 5 feet of sewer line to connect!  Also, the laundry room, showers and other facilities are excellent.  The view is as above but the amenities are great.

Yesterday, Lacy and I drove about 23 miles to Petrified Forest National Park and the newer section of the Park - Painted Desert.  So, from the landscape above it was just a curve in the road to this ....

The Painted  Desert

From moment to moment the light changes - and the landscape becomes new again

The drive through the Park is 28 miles long.  I entered at the North entrance (off I-40) heading into the Painted Desert and exited (onto Hwy 180) heading back into Holbrook.  The total distance driven from RV park, and back to it, was just about 80 miles.

Lots of areas for hiking
This is a restaurant in the middle of the Painted Desert.  The menu is gourmet - we didn't try it!

Generally speaking the colors are more subtle than Bryce and Zion, but this is also a spectacular gift from Nature to enjoy

 Lacy rather reluctantly agreed to pose at Lacey Point

Midway through our drive, we crossed over I-40 and into the Petrified Forest.  I don't exactly know what I"d expected but when I first saw the landscape I thought it looked eerie, but familiar.  As I continued to drive through I realized I'd probably seen these views in any number of Star Trek episodes ....
 The striations of color are the result of eons of temperature, water and wind erosion and 
changes - spooky!

The forests of 15 million years ago  were buried in sand, rock, minerals.  As erosion continuously takes place the petrified trees are identified within the rock formations ...
 The color differentiation in the tree-rocks is dependent on the minerals in the silica that have permeated the wood itself.  
 Again, as in Zion and Bryce, unusual rock formations caused by millions of years of erosion

Miles and miles of rocks formed from Fir trees.  The weight of these 'tree rocks' is impressive - some weighing over 200 pounds per 1 foot by 1 foot square piece

I watched this crow land on the sign - and he stayed there until after I drove away

Some of the colors are not so subtle in this petrified forest

 We need to say 'good-bye' to the  Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert - a wonderful excursion.  As we near Holbrook, this time crossing over I-40 and the railroad tracks ...
I like to remember that I-40 is also the old Route 66!

That's all for now!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bobbi's Birthday at Lake Powell, Utah and Arizona

Just tossing this cute view of Petunia in the back up camera.  She just follows us wherever we go!

Wednesday October 23, 2013   Page, Arizona  7PM

After a nice “free” night of camping at Walmart Super Center in Page, I wake up to a bright blue sky over this high desert area.  My friends, Bobbi and Skye, call this morning to caution me about driving to where they’re boon docking at Lake Powell.  The terrain from the highway to the lake itself is only paved part of the way down to the water and the rest is gravel and sand.  I tell them that I’ve decided not to drive Floribunda to camp with them, but just take Lacy with me in Petunia. 

This is a photo of the morning sky over Walmart parking lot in Page - it's a little dark but the cloud formation is interesting

I remember where the sign for "Lone Rock" is from my trip into Page last night.  It's about ten miles north right off Hwy 89.  Bobbi and I have shared a few phone calls about driving in to the area where they're camped.  From the rest room building to the water is simply a mass of tires tread marks in the small gravel and almost powdery sand.  I really can't tell which path they suggested I follow but there are a few vehicles in front of me so I choose to follow behind them.  I make it to within about 300 yards of the water; then spin spin spin.  Yup, I'm beached - stuck in the sand!  I climb out and can see immediately the best part of valor will be to walk to their campsite at water's edge and when I'm ready to head out, ask for information on how to get out of this rut!

This is the view of Lake Powell as seen from Petunia's view stuck in the sand!  The two campers next to each other are where I'm heading

Bobbi and Skye are avid sportspersons, so this morning they were going for a nice long kayaking tour around the area of Lake Powell known as Lone Rock – because there’s a lone rock in the middle, of course!  Since they, and their dog, Django, live in Kanab, about 60 miles from beautiful Lake Powell, they tell me that they head here about once a month, especially at this time of the year – when it’s still pleasantly warm during the day (70s) and there are significantly fewer tourists.  With them today are Kanab friends, Marcia and Tom, and Sue and Don.

This is Lone Rock to the left in the shot.  If this lake looks like a big river, you're correct.  It meanders through Utah into Arizona to the Glen Canyon Dam at Rainbow Bridge where it then becomes the Colorado River that heads towards the Grand Canyon.

It’s fun catching up with Bobbi and Skye and their friends; they're such enjoyable people.  Bobbi and Skye are transplants form Northern California to Kanab, where they chose to live when they retired, he a Psychologist and she a Marriage and Family Counselor.  Their friends, Sue and Don, are native Utans from Salt Lake City, each about 6th or 7th generation; whose families came West with the pioneers of LDS.  Marcia and Tom lived for years in California in various locations, but came to Kanab about 20 years ago and haven't looked back!

They hadn't told me it is Bobbi's very important 65th Birthday today - there was a nice BD party with 'cake' [coconut / black walnut bread pudding with whipped cream and cointreau]  Yikes!  Delicious!

Bobbi trying on a BD present of hand made apron

Bobbi and Skye and Queen for a Day Bobbi

Sue's dog, Sheila, and Lacy monitoring the mallard action in the water

 That's Sue in the blue tee and Marcia in the background organizing Bobbi's 'throne' 
Tom and Don have no problem with the special birthday cake

At the end of a lovely afternoon with fun people, it's time to tackle the little issue of Petunia.  She kind of looks like a sea turtle on land, scratch, scratch, scratching but going no where!

We all dug and dug, but she didn't budge; so Skye went down and brought his truck camper and a strong rope and towed Petunia to safety

Thanks to all my new friends, we're saved yet another time.  I carefully wend my way off the beach and back to the paved road 'home' to Walmart in Page. 

 But, first we stop at the Glen Canyon / Rainbow Bridge Visitor Center to learn a little more about this monstrous project and it's 50th birthday this year

View of bridge and dam from visitor's center parking lot

Yes, I'd say, something thrown from this height would be monstrous a thousand feet down!  Something like 32 pounds per second per second!

Views from Rainbow Bridge

Sample river boat at visitor's center 

Looking back at Lake Powell from the visitor's center parking lot

After a wonderful day with great friends, here's a shot I call
"Sunset Over Wallmart" - our second night in Page, Arizona

The very same sunset as dazzling Floribuda

That's all for now