Monday, May 4, 2015

New Mexico's Ancient Ruins...

One thing New Mexico has a lot of, is ancient ruins...They really do a great job of preserving them and reconstructing them as much as possible.  One such area is the Aztec Ruins National Monument outside of Farmington on I 550.  It's a 900 year old ancestral Pueblo Great House of over 400 masonry rooms.  They did an outstanding job in reconstructing the Great Kiva, showing you how huge it must have been!  It always amazes me how well things were made, from clothing to houses, all done by hand with simple stone & wooden tools.  Plus, they had to spend their days catching and preparing their meals and caring for their families...when did they have time to sleep? 

Many of the materials that they used, much of the wood and even some of stones, were brought from many miles away (some as far as 50 miles) because they wanted specific kinds.  They used them in doorways, as roofing material, ladders, special T shaped doorways, etc.  They have lasted these 900 plus years.  They also used, in certain areas only, rows of "green" bricks.  No one knows why though. 

The day we visited, it happened to be "Earth Day" (who knew?  We never pay attention to the calendar) so admission was not only free, but there were all kinds of activities going on, including the local tribe doing dancing demonstrations for us! 

It was a beautiful day, filled with lots of sunshine and fun.  A great day to tread through the past...

 The Great Kiva
 Inside the Great Kiva
 Two bands of green sandstone run along a West Ruin wall. Their purpose is a mystery
Dancers performing for Earth Day

A couple of days later, after we had a chance to settle into our campground in Bernalillo, we took a drive through Jemez Valley and ran across another stone ruins, Jemez State Monument, San Jose de los Jemez.  These ruins of a 500 year old Indian village and the San José de los Jemez church dating to 1621. The village of Giusewa was built in the narrow San Diego Canyon by the ancestors of the present-day people of Jemez (Walatowa) Pueblo. The name Giusewa refers to the natural springs in the area. 

In the 17th century, the Spanish established a Catholic mission at the village. The mission was short-lived, and, in time, the people abandoned the site and moved to the current location of Jemez Pueblo. The massive stonewalls were constructed about the same time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. The heritage center contains exhibitions that tell the story of the site through the words of the Jemez people. They are still in the process of building the trail & monument, so don't charge (but accept a donation) a fee. 

The Nave is really impressive because it is so tall!  They give you a booklet that shows you what it would have looked like (amazing).  Again, such an undertaking to build something so big, in the middle of nowhere, out of mud and stone and hand.  I admire the dedication these people had. 

 Jack in front of the church
 Inside the church
 Side view, showing the Bell Tower
Priest's quarters

...kicking back in New Mexico,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at: 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Back on the road again!

Did you miss us?  We've been on a kind of a hiatus.  At least it seems that way...  We certainly hadn't been traveling!

I had to have some surgery done to my right flew off to our "home base" of Tacoma Washington where most of my family lives.  My days were filled with lots of Dr. appointments, labs, squeezed in family visits, then the surgery, more appointments until I was finally able to fly back to San Diego where Jack had been staying for the three weeks.  While I was "keeping busy" in Washington, he was helping a friend in Valley Center California build a second story deck onto his home.  Two old codgers tearing down a nearly falling down 35+ year old wood deck, about 8' wide by 40' long, replacing it with a new one to be made with steel and cement!  Phew!  Quite a job, but they got it about 90% done (all but the re bar put in and cement poured) by the time Jack had to pick me up at the airport.

Between the pain of the surgery and the pain of the building project...we both needed some R&R, so we spent a week at our favorite spot in San Diego, Mission Bay RV, to visit with some friends and family before heading out to meet up with friends in Utah.  A week is never enough time to catch up with our friends and family in San Diego, but we had long ago set up the date to meet up with friends in Utah and show them Bryce Canyon.  Before I found out I had to have surgery, we had planned on spending the entire month in San Diego together.  Jack working on the deck while I tootled around visiting.  You know what they say about "best laid plans...".

Anyway, all that was to explain why it's been so long since I've written!  Now...we are back on the road again...and glad of it!  Yea!  First stop, Bryce Canyon Utah!  Now, this is not the first time we've been there, but this time it was different...this time it had snow!  Well, only a little...but it looks different when it's sprinkled with it!  And this time, it was with friends...friends who had never been to Utah, who had never seen Utah's beautiful colors, or incredible forms.  Until you've seen them for yourself, in person, you just can't imagine the majesty.  It's almost overwhelming.  It's really fun to watch one's face light up when they see it for the first time.  I never get tired of looking at the beauty of the canyons myself.

The three "amigos" Marie, Deloris, & Judy

Bryce Canyon Utah
We spent a wonderful week in Utah with our friends, eating, drinking, laughing, catching up, making plans for future camping trips together.  When we left there, we took the Markagunt High Plateau Scenic Byway, towards Lake Powell.  What a beautiful route!  It had snowed while we were in Parowin the week before, but a few days of sunshine had cleared the road, so we were in luck.

Cedar Breaks
Navajo Lake

We were able to stop at a scenic pull-over to see Lake Powell from up above.  A beautiful spot to really see the lake and it's surroundings.  It really showed how much the drought has lowered it, like all the areas in the west.  That hasn't seem to stop people from camping here though, as we were only able to get a site for one night, so couldn't spend any time getting close to the lake like we had wanted to.  Guess we will just have to come back!

Traveling on towards New Mexico (our destination) through Arizona,  sure offered more beautiful sights along the way...

Shipwreck Rock, Utah

And, of course, one has to stop at the "Four Corners Monument"!

...On the road in New Mexico,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at: 

Monday, March 16, 2015

It's not all fun and sunshine!

Life on the road isn't always "fun and sunshine" even though it appears like it is from my blogs.  Like life itself, it has it's ups and downs.  Lucky for us, it's mostly ups...but when the downs do come, yuck, they aren't fun!

Take this last week for instance...It started out just fine.  We headed out of Florida, heading towards Dallas to see my son and his family for a couple of days before heading to San Diego/north county for a month (Jack, that's another story).  We had to make it quick because we needed to be in San Diego by end of the first week of March at least.  That gave us about two full weeks - no problem!  Plenty of time to stop in Dallas for a couple of days and stop in Glendale AZ to visit friends there as well.  Easy peasy...

One of the "codes of the roads" RVers live by, is the weather.  You check it daily, sometimes, several times a day, if you have to, depending on the time of the year.  As we traveled west the weather started getting worse and worse.  Each day the Dallas area's weather report got worse, so by day three of the trip, it wasn't looking good, and we knew we were going to have to turn and forgo Dallas and head toward Houston.  Dallas was snowing.  We don't do snow, ice or hail.  I was heartbroken.  I was going to miss seeing my grandson crawl for the first time...something I had been looking forward to for months.  They sent me a video.  Next best thing...I guess.

On to San Antonio we headed.  Colder and colder it got, but "ok" so far, so off to Ft Stockton the next day.  Oh my, that's when it hit!  Snow & ice, yikes!  Not fun.  By the time we pulled into the RV Campground, our windshield was three quarters covered in ice, and of course the wipers were only partially working.  Thank goodness Ft. Stockton RV Campground has a great little cafe attached that serves nice hot, homemade meals - which half the camp was there taking advantage of!  When we pulled in, 3 more RVs were right behind us, in the same condition we were in.  As we sat in the cafe that evening, we all shared how much fun (not) the drive had been and how (most of us) were headed west as fast as we could! 

We decided to go ahead and leave the next day and head out to Las Crusas  NM, it turned out ok, but it took until almost mid afternoon before we hit "dry freeway".  That night rewarded us with a beautiful New Mexico sunset to help us forget the last harrowing days.

The following day, the Arizona sun was a welcome relief from all that cold.  It was to be a quick visit with our friends in Glendale, then on to Yuma for a couple of days, that's all.  That was the plan anyway. 

We were all set to pull everything together, and I'm pushing the button for the last slide in...and guess what?  It doesn't come in...again!  Ugh.  This has happened once before, so we know what the problem is.  Jack tries to fix it, but no luck...and guess again, it's Sunday, no less.  That limits our options on getting a mechanic out to fix it.  Several phone calls later, and Ron's Mobile Service will try and make it out, but most probably it will be the next morning at 8:30.  So, we are stuck in Yuma another day.  We can't really go anywhere because "Ron" just might be able to make it...

Monday morning comes, and Ron shows up right at 8:30!  By 9:30 he's on his way again, and we are pulling everything back together and getting ourselves "outta here"!  I'm doing the final check, behind the rig, making sure the lights are working etc. and not looking at the ground (hey, the lights are up at the toad & the rig!) and don't see this guy's "decorative" bricks sticking out from his mobile unit, and trip over them.  Down I got, splat face first onto the tarmac!  Ouch!  Took the skin right off one of my hands, my knee and bruised up my leg and other hand pretty good too.  Nice.  So then spent the next half hour cleaning it up and bandaging myself.  Jeez, all I wanted to do was leave!

Sometimes the joys of "the road" is just finally arriving safe and sound where you were headed for in the first place!

...kicking back in California,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fun and Friendship in Florida! - Week two...

With a "down day" in between to have the condo cleaned and restock the kitchen, Jack and I prepared ourselves for our next couple of friends flying in from San Diego.  Lew and Lupita wanted a more laid back, easy going week.  Lupita had to work part-time so she would be tied to her computer part of the time as well, and was just happy to be getting away for a few days. 

The weather had turned cooler, so we decided to wait a day for it to be a bit warmer, filling in with an indoor visit to the Titanic Museum.  Lupita is a big fan of anything having to do with the famed ship, and after checking it out, it seemed pretty authentic, so we ventured forth.  They actually did a pretty decent job, showing over 250 authentic artifacts recovered from the wreck site of Titanic, as well as extensive recreations of some of the most famous rooms from the Ship. 

The "big thing" on their agenda was EPCOT!  So, once the sun decided to show it's face, we took advantage of it, and raced our little bodies right over!  Jack and I had been three years before, so kind of had the "lay of the land", and we have a brother-in-law who is a big fan, who I had contacted and asked his advise on the best way to tackle the park.  He said "to go through the international exhibits first, clockwise as most people tend to go counter-clockwise", that's what we did.  It was perfect, just what everyone wanted to see and experience.  We walked and ate and took lots of pictures...well, this time they took more than I did (I had taken so many the time I was there before, I didn't need to take quite as many this time).  I did have to chuckle, every time I turned around, I'd loose one or both of them as they were off (mostly in different directions) taking pictures!  Now I know what it's like traveling with me!  Somehow we did manage to catch almost all of the shows the various countries put on before collapsing by the end of the day.

Lupita and I did manage a day to ourselves...a fun day getting all our nails done!  I just love those chairs where they vibrate all up and down your back, and after a long day at EPCOT, it sure felt great!  Plus, sparkle pink toes afterward, who could ask for anything more?  Lupita and I used to work together, way, way, way back, so it's always fun to play "catch up" on who's where doing what now...

Our last night together was a planned "Cuban" affair.  She had some research for me.  Jack is a plain meat and potatoes kind of guy, so whenever I can get some company to experience some fun food, I love it!  I knew my friends would be up for it, so I put them on the search.  She found Cuba Libre Restaurant in Orlando, and it just fit the bill!  They started with traditional Mojitos, while I had a Sangria.  Then came the Mariquiatas Cubanas (appetisers): Guacamole Cubano (they add pineapple & roasted jalapeños and serve with crispy plantain chips) and Tropical Chips and a Trio of Dips: Plantain and malanga chips. Black bean hummus, Haitian eggplant salad and Cuba Libre salsa.  All YUM!  Then...dinner came!  I don't remember what anyone else had, but I had the Vaca Frita: Tender braised and crisped-shredded flank steak, roasted onions and citrus-garlic sauce. White rice and Cuban black beans.  Delicious!  ...and I ate the whole thing!

All good things come to an end...and so did our second week.  The four of us packed up our things, cleared up the condo, gave each other lots of hugs and made arrangements to see each other again San Diego.

We drove them off to the airport, then returned the car to the rental office and hooked up our little Toyota to our "home" and drove out of Orlando and headed to see family in Texas!

...on the road,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Fun and Friendship in Florida! - Week one...

(Phew!  Having a computer on the fritz, sure puts you behind!  So, am trying to "catch up"!)

Every now and then it's nice to have company along the way, don't you think?  No matter how one travels, it's always nice to stop awhile and have some friends "join in on the fun!"  We had an opportunity to have that happen while we were in Florida for a few weeks.  You see, besides the RV, we own a timeshare, so, we decided to book it in Orlando for a couple of weeks and invite some friends in to share it with us!

The first week, was with our friends Pat and Taylor who hosted us on the Big Island in Hawaii last year.  What fun it was going to be for us to be able to show them around this time!  As Pat had done for us, I sent her a long list of places to see and things to do, to choose from, so that when they got here, we would have it all (well, kind of, anyway) planned out.

First up was the Kennedy Space Center!  In all the trips we've made to Florida, Jack and I had actually never visited here, so this was new to us too.  What a fun-filled day it turned out to be!

Just as we arrived, I couldn't help watch a mom with her young son in tow, all dressed in a complete space suit.  Boy, was he ready! I had to stop and talk to them a minute ( the grandma in me), he was 6 (same as my grandson, who also wants to be an astronaut) and he was going to be meeting with one of the astronauts today (you can make a reservation to do that), something his parents said he had been looking forward to for a long time.  It set the mood for the day. We were ready for our adventure now!

Off we went on our bus ride through the NASA complex, with a great guide, pointing out all the various buildings, rockets, launch pads, etc. Back at the museum, there were videos, and displays, memorabilia, and of course the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Taylor and I slid down a very long exit slide (fun!) while the other two opted to use the stairs...

I think all the kids had fun that day! 

Taylor is big fan of drag-racing and had read that Don Garlits Museum wasn't very far from here, in Ocala, so asked if we could go there...of course!  So off we went.  Jack and I have been to a number of car museum's, but it's even better when you are with someone who really knows a lot about the sport.  Taylor does!  As we followed him around, he would share "who, what, when & where" on just about every single car there was in the was just like being at the races with the drivers, wow!  Pretty cool.   That night we "topped it off" with a dinner theater at a speakeasy, called Capone's Dinner Theater.  A fun way to end a great day!

Well, Taylor had his day, then it was Pat's & my to Universal Studios to see Harry Potter!  Both Pat and I are big fans, and could hardly wait!  It had been three years since Jack and I had been there, and this year the new Diagon Alley had opened, so it was going to be an extra thrill for all of us!  We all decided to buy the "early entrance" because we didn't want to worry about crowds getting into the park, etc.  So, off we went at 7:30, bright and early!  The weather was clear and beautiful and we were as excited as little kids on Christmas morning.  It was everything we had hoped it would be...and more.  Both Pat and I just kept walking around with our cameras kicking away, saying "oh my, look at that!" over and over again.  I'm guessing the guys just smiled at us...I really have no idea what they were up to for the most part.  Once we got our fill of pictures, and got our "Butterbeer" we finally settled down to taking the rides.  When we finally boarded the Hogswarts Express Train, I kept thinking "I wonder if they will notice if I just stay on this and ride it back and forward a few times?"  ...I just didn't want to leave.  Of course, eventually, we did have our fill of both sides of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
and moved on and enjoyed the wacky world of Seuss Landing, the silliness of Toon Town where Betty Boop flirted with the guys (big time!), enjoyed all the big heroes in Hero Island, and even met Lucy in Hollywood.  But when the day is done...let Disney have heart belongs to Harry...

Before we bid our friends goodbye, we needed to take them to one more of our favorite spots in Orlando, and that is Bok Tower Gardens.  This garden is such a lovely, peaceful place...and so unusual.  They were able to catch the afternoon carillon concert from the tower, which is so lovely.  The garden is undergoing some renovations, so a number of the plant areas were not in bloom, which was disappointing, but overall it's still beautiful. 

Afterward, we made a little visit to see the Monument of States in Kissimmee.  The four of us always try and find an "unusual local attraction" to see, and this was it!

All to soon our friends needed to head back to sunny San Diego, so with big hugs and lots of wonderful memories we sent them off with promises to see them again soon.  As for this week...

...kicking back in Florida,  Marie

Friday, February 6, 2015

St. Augustine...then and now

What do millionaires, pirates and Spanish sea captains all have in common?  They all thrived in St. Augustine Florida!

St. Augustine was officially established on September 8th 1565, making it the oldest continuously occupied city in our nation.  This was the day of the arrival of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, founder of St. Augustine, Father Francisco Lopez, and their crew.  They constructed an alter made of stone and wood.  Father Lopez held his cross high over the alter and conducted the very first Catholic mass in what would become the United States of America.  Now, in truth, Ponce de Leon, while searching for the Fountain of Youth, landed near this very site in 1513.  Awed by the splendor of the lavish greenery, Ponce called this land "La Florida" or the Land of Flowers.  But...he didn't do anything "official" about, the date of 1565 sticks.  To bad for Ponce, I guess "no guts, no glory".

All that aside, there is a ton of things and places to see here in St. Augustine!  We set aside 11 days for our visit here, and boy are we glad we did.

First up, was the St. Augustine Lighthouse.  Built in 1874 and what a beauty is is too!  We don't always climb up to the top when we visit the lighthouses travel to, but we decided to this time...all 219 of them! never know just how much you are out of shape until you climb 219 spiral stairs, let me tell you!  We are...ouch!  It took us two days for our legs to stop complaining.  But, as they say, the views were well worth it!  It was a clear, sunny day and we "could see forever" from up there.

The next big adventure was to spend the afternoon at the Castillo de San Marcos.  This is the "main attraction", I'd say, in St. Augustine.  It's their fort, built in 1645.  It's huge, and really quite a sight to see!  Of course they have costumed interpreters throughout and cannon firings from time to time to help you imagine things.  Jack, of course was enthralled.

Days later, we visited their "other fort", the tiny Fort Matanzas that you take a short boat ride to get to.  What a hoot that was!  It did it's job tho.  You see, this area with it's sand and sea shells has what they call "coquina".  It's a combination of those two, sealed together like a fine cement, with air holes.  They learned that you can build with this stuff like bricks - and the best part is, that when
cannon balls hit it, it doesn't destroy it, it absorbs the balls...they just kind of sit it.  So, the Castillo de San Marcos never lost a battle - it changed hands due to treaty exchanges between countries, but never due to war.  How about that!  Many of the old buildings around St. Augustine are still standing today because of this "coquina".

Being located where it is, St. Augustine was destined to be raided again and again by pirates, so it only makes sense that they have a museum about them here!  It was kind of fun, a little hokey too, but that's okay.  The town is built with a lot of zigzag streets which is a common practice of places that have pirate challenges.

I haven't forgotten the millionaire!  He came the late 1880's.  Henry Morrison Flagler changed a great deal of how St. Augustine looked after he and his family arrived here.  He, along with John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company and later, on his own created the Florida East Coast Railway.  While here though, he built several hotels (because they didn't have any decent ones).  He wanted to make it the south's playground for the rich and famous.  He envisioned grand hotels and old southern charm for its guests.  If the property he wanted already had buildings (church) on it, he just bought them out, built them another one, and built his hotel where he wanted it!  When his first wife and daughter passed, he built a huge lavish memorial church.  It's the only one with a bell, since he had built the other two churches in town, he made sure they didn't have bells! 

His hotels are now used as the college and a museum.  There was one other wealthy man already in town when Henry Flagler arrived, and that was Franklin W Smith.  He had built the Villa Zorayda for his home inspired by a visit to the Alhambra Castle in Granada Spain.  It's definitely "fantasy architecture".  Henry Flagler offered to purchase the home, but Smith declined, so that's why Flagler built his own hotel.  There is no comparison.  Smith and he competed a couple of times, but Smith could never keep up and Flagler ended up buying him out.  He eventually sold the Villa to another gentleman years later as well.

What would it be without at least one "factory-type tour"?  And, St. Augustine has one...a genuine distillery!  It's only a little over a year old, and it's small, but it's "mighty"!  They are currently distilling vodka, gin & bourbon with rum being in the near future.  They bring in all their supplies locally and handcraft everything.  It's a great little operation and a fun tour...that gives wonderful samples afterwards!  We drank to that!  Yum!

Believe it or not, this town is not a very big one, but it sure packs a lot in it's footprint!  We were so glad we took the time to stay awhile and learn it's history and see some of it's beauty...well worth it!

...kicking back in Florida,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at: