“There’s no place like home” Dorothy Gale

Okay, so you may have figured out that I am moving faster than my blog.  In fact, I arrived home on Wednesday, June 6th, at midnight.  While on the road, I was having internet issue, it is true.  What is also true is that I was having so bloody much fun, I didn’t have a lot of time or energy to mess with my iPad.  Blogging on the road just isn’t easy–so I must say that I’m totally impressed by my fellow bloggers that do it so well.  (Marion, you know who I’m talking about.)

Guess who got a window seat for the ride home?  Of course, I had a window seat on the way there too.  The view was spectacular for most of the Albuquerque to Denver flight.  I won’t bore you with the many other photos that I took of the terrain.  I found it fascinating, but realize that not everyone else would be as easily entertained as I am.

It kept getting better and better.  I scored an upgrade for the Denver to Newark segment.  Oh, I’m so going to miss my “elite” status when it goes away next year.  Without all those business trips to get me points, I’ll be back in steerage with the rest of the regular folks.  (On balance, I’d say it’s the better deal–free time vs elite status–no contest.)

First class also was a window seat, but I was quite busy during this segment.  Ruby slippers didn’t get me home, but some ruby colored liquid sure made that yellow brick road roll along more smoothly.  (Can you tell The Wizard of Oz is an all time favorite of mine?)  It was just as well, because we were heading into darkness.  Sure did look pretty with all the lights, though.  By the time I took this shot of Newark at night, the photo wasn’t the only thing that was fuzzy and out of focus!

For anyone wondering what happened between the road trip and the plane trip, the rest of the blog is for you.

Once we hit Albuquerque, our road trip was finished.  The one hour drive to Santa Fe was nothing after the 2,000+ miles we had logged during the prior 8 days.

Our last “on the road” breakfast at the Nativo Hotel was truly memorable because brought me back to my post college days.  Back then, I was working for Harper & Row, covering parts of the Midwest as a “college traveler”, which meant I spent my days talking to professors about textbooks.  In the late 70’s there weren’t many women in sales, especially in jobs requiring overnight travel, so I was frequently the only woman eating breakfast in a crowded hotel restaurant.  How weird that it was happening again, almost 35 years later, but with a few major differences.  Back then, the men were in the 30-50 age range, wearing business suits, and felt it was their right (and duty) to stare at any unaccompanied female, which, I can assure you, felt quite uncomfortable.  One of the greatest advantages to getting older is that no one ogles me any more, so that wasn’t the difference. It was the men’s ages and attire .  They looked like escapees from the nearest nursing home.  Except few nursing homes have a 30 to 1 male to female ratio. More the other way around.  This place was a little old lady’s dream…sort of.

Here’s the reality.  The night before I happened to catch a couple of the guys out of their civvies, in their full regalia, waist ropes, cowls and all.

Yup, we had managed to stumble into a hotel hosting a conference for Friars (or were they brothers?  I forget the correct terminology.)  It sure made for a quiet, peaceful stay!

But I digressed.  Back to the trip.  We couldn’t get into Greg’s apartment until 4PM, so we decided to make the most of our time in Albuquerque, by visiting the Botanical Garden and Aquarium.

I just couldn’t get enough of those blooming cacti.  (I just knew two years of Latin would be put to use one of these days ).

I wish the bee had been more cooperative, but she refused to pose for me.  Just when I thought she was perfectly framed, she moved faster than my shutter finger.  Oh well.  I was surprised to find so many water lilies in a desert botanical garden.

If I could only choose one, which shot would be preferable-the close up or wider angle?  I’m trying to be more discriminating in my shots, so would appreciate opinions — and I know there are lots of great photographers among my fellow bloggers.  I’ve seen the magic you create.  Plus I never tried out poll daddy before and am curious to see how it works.

The garden was not without wildlife. These fish were almost domesticated, gathering at the pond’s edge when they sensed a human was nearby.  They came close to leaping out of the water to get food, and their size attested to their success.

More wildlife.  Mom was close by, but I cropped her out.

As the late, great Harry Truman once said “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the garden and visit the aquarium”, or something to that effect.  So we did.

I wasn’t sure my Panasonic Lumix would be able to capture the jellyfish, given the low light, but hey, with digital, it doesn’t cost anything to give it a try.  So I did.

I loved the colors of this creature.

It ain’t snorkeling, but it almost as thrilling,  wandering among the tanks of tropical fish.

For the next couple of days, Greg and I hung out together, enjoying Santa Fe and his really cool apartment until I met up with my dear friend, Shirley.   How lucky that Greg got an internship in New Mexico, close to one of my favorite people to visit.  Not only did I  experience 10 memorable days with my son, but I also got a mini vacation with a great pal.  Her husband was out-of-town, so staying at her gorgeous home was like having a girl’s weekend at a five-star resort, with a very talented and creative activity director.  Two of the visit’s highlights were the  Petroglyph National Monument and Ojo Caliente Spa.

The park ranger suggested that we experience the more difficult trail.  She said “you girls will have no problem making that climb.”  I don’t know what tickled us more–her confidence in our athletic abilities (that assessment proved to be accurate), or calling us “girls”  (which clearly was not).

There are hundreds of these in the hills surrounding Albuquerque.  Here are a couple that I particularly liked.

The view alone was worth the climb.

Can you stand another poll?  What do you think–which shot is better?

“Us girl’s”, successfully recruited a fellow hiker to take our photo.  I think he was more skilled with a camera than my Oklahoma friend, Charles, don’t you?

Next day was the Ojo Caliente Spa. Who knew that sitting in a pool of arsenic was supposed to be good for your digestion?  If that particular pool doesn’t grab you, not to worry.  You can also go to the iron pool, the mud bath pool, the soda pool or a few others that we didn’t sample.

The surroundings were lovely, the treatments were heavenly.  I could quite easily become addicted to the spa life.  Only my lack of funds (plus other priorities) keeps me from a life of facials, mud baths and massages.  But it sure was a great finale for an amazing trip.

A couple more photos of New Mexico, taken from a moving car.  Why don’t all highways look like this?  Let’s hear it for the artists that make all our lives more beautiful!

Only 11 days till the next adventure–bike trip in Italy. Thanks for visiting, and please come along for the ride through Tuscany!

Big, proud, and quirky…Texas, we’re talking about y’all

There aren’t many states that construct grills in their own image, at least none that I’ve encountered yet, other than Texas.

It might be hard to have a Texas shaped lunch or dinner, but fear not.  Breakfast has y’all covered.

Given that I was traveling with a “native born Texan”, (and yes, there ARE bumper stickers that say just that, or at least there were back in the days when we lived there, ) I feel I can safely poke a little fun.
We hadn’t had enough of Route 66 yet, so we caught a few more of its notable sights. I don’t think this one made it into any guide books, but I happened to like it. Besides, Italians make a big deal about THEIR tower, so why shouldn’t WE do likewise.  I give you the Leaning Water Tower of Route 66.

Groom, Texas has the biggest cross in the USA, visible for miles around. Greg once again was put to work as my point of reference. His 6’3″ body is the dark smudge at the base in the photo.
Here’s a close up of the sculpture of the Last Supper. Not sure why there are only six apostles. Did the sculptor burn out? Run out of money, take artistic license? No explanation was given.

Our very favorite Texas experience was at the Cadillac Ranch, located just outside of Amarillo. Here’s the view from the road.

As you can see,it is in the middle of nowhere.

Greg was the first to realize that this was participatory art, and quickly went to work.

The finished work:

I also left my mark…hey, mom is a lot easier than Shelley, that’s for sure, especially when the wind is blowing spray paint droplets back at ya.

Next stop, Albuquerque.

Gettin’ our kicks on Route 66

Route 66, one of the first highways in the USA, extended from Chicago to Los Angeles. Knicknamed the “mother road”, Route 66 dates back to 1926; it has since fallen into disrepair, after being replaced by interstate highways. Parts of Route 66 run parallel to route 40, providing the opportunity for a sentimental journey back to the early days of automobile travel. Oklahoma visitor’s center had a very helpful publication that described points of interest along the road, coded to a pull out map. We had everything that we needed for this next leg of our journey so we set off to experience more Americana.

First stop was Red Rock Canyon State Park, where we met Charles, who offered to take our picture.

He was a very sweet soul, but I’m thinking photography is not his forte.

Well, at least those photos give you a glimpse of the red rocks for which the Canyon was named.

Next stop was Weatherford, Oklahoma, where we were able to get up close and personal with a 122 foot wind turbine blade. Wind power is understandably very big in this area.  We could FEEL the wind pushing the car as we drove this stretch of the highway.

As usual, I asked Greg to get into the photo to provide a point of reference for size.

One photo just couldn’t capture  that enormous monster, so here’s another.

We would soon be eating the very best bison burger ever.  Okay, so in the Northeast, you go to a tank to choose the lobster you want. I wonder if this place works the same way?  Could that be why this big guy is refusing to make eye contact?

If he’s not here when we leave, I’ll have my answer.

Unlike Robert’s, The Cherokee Trading Post was wonderful, very clean with delicious, reeasonably priced food.

Talk about luck…the Oklahoma Rout 66 Museum reopened just days before we got there.

It’s a small museum, but very well done, with rooms arranged by decade. Pressing a button on each room’s wall started recordings of music popular for that time period. Admission was a mere $4 per adult, for about an hour’s worth of entertainment.

Some numbers to put things into perspective.

The last room was devoted to the late 60’s. I have friends that owned a vehicle like this one. (you know who you are…no need to mention names.)

The museum is located across the street from this motel, whose claim to fame is that Elvis stayed there multiple times. Being a superstar in the 50’s and 60’s sure isn’t what it is like today, that’s for certain!

Could the state of Oklahoma have more than ONE Route 66 Museum? It could, and did. To avoid showing favoritism, we felt compelled to stop. This one had a great little village, with yet another perspective of days before microwaves, cell phones, Internet and cable TV.

My mother used to tell my sisters and me that it hurts to be beautiful. I’m eternally grateful that this home permanent contraption was way before my time.

But this refrigerator wasn’t. I actually remember having a refrigerator like this! How did my mother feed all of us kids? No wonder Campbell Soup was um, um good!

Oklahoma City

The Oklahoma City National Memorial was on my “must see” list. It made for a memorable and very moving two hour visit.

The chairs beside the reflecting pool are arranged in nine rows, to correspond to the nine floors of the Murrah building. The number of chairs in the row indicated the number of people who perished on that floor. What was particularly heart breaking was the second row with the nineteen small chairs representing the children that died in the bombing.

I thought about all the times I dropped Greg off at daycare and started imagining the unbearable pain those parents must have felt standing outside, waiting and praying that their child would come out of the rubble alive. It was particularly poignant,given that I was visiting with Greg. I reflected on how much happiness he has brought into our lives and how lucky I am to have him as my son. How do parents find the strength to recover from loss of a child?

The bombing showed us both the worst of human nature and the best–as demonstrated by the first responders and the outpouring of love and support from around the world.

We needed something to lighten the mood, so next stop was the Cowboy and National Heritage Museum. The building and grounds are absolutely beautiful.

Where else can you find an entire WALL filled with cabinets of “devil’s rope”? Every one of the handles in the photo below is attached to a pull out display of barbed wire. But wait, Oklahoma–Texas can do you one better. McLean, Texas has a its own Devil’s Rope MUSEUM!

The replica of the western town was fun, especially the saloon. Here was my chance to belly up to the bar, just like a western workin’ gal. I didn’t have the proper attire, or hair ornaments,the light was low, and I couldn’t use a flash, so this was the best I could do to immortalize the moment.
Oklahoma City was the starting point for our Route 66 adventure, so we headed west, planning to dine at one of El Reno’s famed establishments, Roberts.

You can’t always judge a restaurant by its exterior, so we ventured inside. The interior consisted of a counter, with about 10 stools, some torn. Mine was wobbly enough to test my balance. Can you see why we decided to beat a hasty retreat?

Back to Oklahoma City for dinner and lodging.

While in Oklahoma we experienced a wide range of human emotions: sadness, empathy, revulsion, excitement, then later anxiety, as we listened to the tornado alarms, and finally relief that Greg was smart enough to park his car under the hotel canopy. We watched hailstones ricochet off cars in the parking lot and felt grateful that we were not the owner of this Mercedes.

Once we figured that we were not in the path of tornado, the evening took on a festive air, as we huddled with other travelers under the canopy to watch the storm pass by.

Time to ease on down the road

We decided to forego Little Rock in favor of more time in Memphis. Although Bill Clinton’s library would have been interesting, we opted for a trip back to the 60’s via Stax Museum, but first we needed to sample another fine Memphis eatery, Huey’s.

Those toothpicks, blown into the ceiling by customers, will all be taken down and counted. Huey’s is sponsoring a contest for the benefit of the Memphis Zoo. For $1 per attempt, customers can guess the number of toothpicks, with the three closest to the correct number winning gift certificates. The ceiling gets cleared, and it starts all over again. Pretty creative, no?
Huey’s encourages it’s customers to leave their marks on the walls, so of course, I did. Why didn’t I think to bring along markers, like Aunt Stacy?

Next Stop, Stax.

The introductory video was well done, and truly was a trip down memory lane for me. Growing up, I boogied to Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Booker T and the MGs, Sam and Dave.

The museum included memorabilia from other artists, including Ike and Tina Turner.

I would have had trouble WALKING in those shoes, never mind dancing in them!

Greg particularly enjoyed Isaac Hayes’ Shaftmobile. Don’t know what was the best part–the shag carpeting inside or the sign in front.

There was still lots more to see in Memphis: The civil rights museum, Sun Studio, the Rock and Soul Museum, the art scene, but we needed to move along.

Here’s what was noteworthy enroute to Fort Smith.

To end on a positive note, the view got progressively better.

Next up, Oklahoma City.