Saturday, October 26, 2013

The cycle of life...

Do you remember the movie "Four Weddings and a Funeral"?  I feel like my year has been "Two Funerals, Two Weddings and a Promise".

Spring began with the ending of my brother's life cycle.  Many tears were shed because he had brought so much joy to so many lives for so many years, and isn't that what life should be about?

Summer brought the joy-filled wedding of my son, bringing into our family a lovely new daughter-in-law and great happiness to us all.

Fall began with another wedding of a dear friend's son whom we've had the joy of watching grow up over the years.  As that wedding drew to an end, we received notice that my brother-in-law's life had ended.  This too was a blessing, as he had lived a long life, once filled with joy and love but ending with years of great pain.  He was now at peace.

As winter begins, so does new life.  We end the year with news that our new daughter-in-law is expecting their first child next year.  So life goes on, as the seasons turn, one onto the  other.

As I write this, I am in Washington,  looking out at all the beautiful trees.  Some still green, some yellow, orange, red and some already have dropped all their leaves.  When we lived in San Diego, the changing of the seasons was so mild you hardly felt it.  Traveling around the country, it's so much more noticeable, and I love it.  I especially love watching the trees because they don't "die", they just "change" as the year passes by.  The tree itself is alive and hardy with the trunk standing tall and the branches reaching out towards the sun.  As the seasons change, the leaves develop, sometimes flowers come, then as time goes on, colors change, then they drop, and later it all starts over again...but that same tree stays tall and hardy.  Beautiful.  Life is like that, I feel.  Birth, aging, death, they are just "changes", our soul is our tree, it goes on, tall and hardy.

My brother John
Jessica & son Aaron
Melinda & Ian
My brother-in-law Bob

...kicking back in Tacoma Washington,  Marie

Monday, October 14, 2013

Looking out our window...

When we first got our motorhome, one of our dear friends exclaimed "what a view you have out your front window!"  She said how wonderful it was going to be to just look out it as we drove and to be able to see so much, so far & wide...and she was right!  Sitting up high and with a large wide window it gives us a wonderful full view of this beautiful country of ours.  I share a lot about the places we stop and visit, but there is also so much we see just driving along!  I have a laptop pull-out table at my seat, that I tried once, but I found it to distracting, there was just to much to see out the window and I didn't want to miss one minute of it!

It seems that the scenery changes from minute to minute too.  There are times, of course that it doesn't, like the vast plains in West Texas or South Dakota, but so many more times when one minute it's full of trees, then the next it's a deep canyon with jutting rocks of multiple colors, or a river twisting and turning or perhaps a farm filled with wheat.  Fields filled with cattle, horses or sheep.  Deer sneaking their dinner off of the farmer.  Big, beautiful ranches and small simple farms.  Ranchers herding their cattle in by horse or by ATV.  Farmers plowing their fields or picking their crops.  People fishing by boat or along side the creek or river.  Children jumping off the sides of the banks & bridges into the river for a cool dip on a hot day.

We usually take the back roads, the" scenic byways".  Less traffic and less commercial business to deal with, more "historical points" to pull over to, more beauty to see and enjoy.  We like that.  More small towns, that's always fun too.  Always makes us wonder what people do, living way out in the middle of "nowhere"?  Pondering...we have fun with that too.

Our latest drive was a fast two day trip from Utah through Idaho to Montana.  We don't usually breeze through states like that, but the weather is turning and we have a wedding to attend and we didn't want to get caught in a snow fall, and didn't really want to take the big freeway if we didn't have to...and it turned out we didn't have to and saw some of the most beautiful countryside yet!  So...enjoy!

Early morning frost along the farmlands as we left Utah
First signs of fall on the hills of Utah
Even beautiful red colors added to the Utah hillsides
A Utah farmhouse surrounded by golden hills
For miles, each side of the Hwy was lined with flowering Rabbit Bush!
Snake River Canyon Idaho
Along the beautiful Salmon River Scenic Byway, Hwy 93, Idaho
Herding cattle the "old fashion" way!
Craters of the Moon, Arco Idaho

...kicking back in Montana,  Marie

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Few Days With Friends...

 Well...looking over my posts, I discovered I never posted this one! Sheesh!  Don't know how that, here we are back in guess it's as good a time to post it as any!

Missoula is always a favorite stop for us because it means we get to spend time with dear friends.  As many times as we have made the stop we haven't really strayed much.  This time, being summer time, and a few more things going on, we did...

An afternoon trip took us to the Daly Mansion in the Bitterroot area.  Marcus Daly was the local copper magnate, who, as an Irish immigrant, started out as a silver miner.  Later, married one of the owner's daughters and worked his way into part ownership of a silver mine.  He sold that interest and bought another silver mine that later hit a vein of copper.  Copper was just coming into use for telegraph wire and electricity.  Daly was friends with Hearst, and more than once he had helped him with financial backing.  He did again with building a smelter.  By 1890, the copper mines of Butte were producing over seventeen million dollars worth of copper a year, and Marcus Daly, although a junior partner in the Anaconda venture, had become a very rich man.

The mansion, as you can imagine is beautiful.  They didn't allow any pictures, so I was only able to sneak a couple, but the tour was fun and a great treat with our friends!  Over the weekend the Celtic Festival was in town sharing their wonderful music, dance and food with the locals (and us tourists).  We were able to catch the Missoula Irish Dancers who did  a great job, especially those wee little ones!  We spent most that day tho enjoying the local Farmer's Market.  One of the real joys of traveling the way we do is to take advantage of local grown food.  That's the up side, the down side is that often times it's sold in such large quantities (for canning or big families & refrigerators) or at small roadside carts that don't have the space for rigs like ours to pull over.  Such was the case as we drove around Flathead Lake en route to Missoula (beautiful lake, by the way).  Their local cherries were being sold all along the road - but there was absolutely no place where we could pull over!  So, I was on the 'look out' for those cherries!  Well, wouldn't you just know it, they were all sold out by the time we got there!  As it turned out, not all was lost, I was still able to find some, near where we were camped and they were well worth the search, "local Flathead cherries" are sweet and delicious, like none I've tasted before, yum!

Our friends are nose-deep in wedding arrangements with their only child, so we had a couple of days on our own - but with plenty of suggestions to keep us busy while they tasted cakes & made plans!  One such place was the St Ignatius Mission.  From the outside, it looks like just another quaint brick Catholic Church, nothing to catch your eye and stop for.  Not so.  The church itself was built in the late 1800s, and built well with local hand made brick.  That's nice.  But it's what's inside that blows your mind.  Seems that among the Brother's that ran it, one was the cook, but in his "spare time", he liked to paint.  He never had any formal lessons, but, non the less, "with God's guidance", he did...and did he ever!  He filled that church with some of the most beautiful frescoes this side of Italy!  Brother Joseph Carignano painted 61 scenes on the church walls with religious similes: a pictorial study of scripture stories and symbols of the liturgy. His intent was to inspire people to imitate the lives of the saints and reflect on the teachings of Jesus.  Breathtakingly beautiful.

Always time for a stop at our favorite haunt, Rockin Rudy's and some new finds at a couple of great books stores that we lost many hours in and came away with an armload of more good reading material, and swoosh the weekend was gone! 

A nice dinner and a warm goodbye for now, as we will be back again for the big wedding in  October!

 The Daly Mansion
 One of 7 fireplaces at the Daly Mansion
 Marcus Daly's Office
 Missoula Irish Dancers
Missoula Celtic Festival
 Flathead Lake
 Flathead Lake Cherries
St Ignatius Mission
Frescoes in  St Ignatius Mission
 "Triptych, The Visions of St Ignatius"

...on the road in Montana,  Marie 

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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Utah Rocks!

We have visited Utah a number of times in our life together, but we never really got around to visiting any of the National Parks, and Utah has some really great ones!  So, true to my promise to myself to see as many National & State Parks as we can this year, we decided to see as many as we have time to, in Utah.

Coming down from Washington and Idaho, we started at the top of the state and (finely) visited the Great Salt Lake!  We'd been to Salt Lake City before and visited the area around it, but had never gone over to the Salt Lake.  We weren't sure what we would find, as all I had ever heard about it was that it "had a lot of salt".  Big deal.  I was a bit hesitant to actually see it, as many years ago, Jack and I took a drive out to see the Salton Sea in California...and it was awful.  The "lake" was barely one, low, smelly, very windy and all the signs of an idea to build, gone bad.  We could see why; not any place I would ever want to live, no matter how cheap!

So, with that experience in mind, we set out to Antelope Island State Park, where access to the Salt Lake is.  What a wonderful surprise!  The island and the lake were lovely, and big!  The whole island is pretty much the State Park and so, maintained well.  They have a herd of bison along with mule deer, big horn sheep and other various animals that go along with the environment.  All we saw was one bison and a few of the deer.  That was ok since we didn't come for the animals.  The lake was so big you couldn't see the other side, and a beautiful clear blue.  After visiting the Visitor Center and filled with maps and postcards we set out to drive around the lake and walk into the beaches where we could.  The day was lovely and not many visitors, so we had no problems parking.  The beach was made up of fine gravel rocks along with larger rock shards vs sand & shells.  I stuck my toes into the water, just to say that I had, and it was cold, clear and really no (salt) smell.  In the past, there have been efforts to have a fancy hotel along the shore, but repeatedly had problems with fire & flood, so the last attempted building is now only being used as a summer entertainment location.  Beautiful building tho.

Moving down the state, we ventured on to Zion.  We took two full days to see the Park.  They only allow their shuttle bus inside the scenic drive, but one comes about every 5-10 minutes, so it was fine.  The "spots" were great and allowed you to see the general cliffs and canyons, which were beautiful, of course.  But, the images that we've all seen, with the swirling rocks of the slot canyons, well, that you have to hike to.  Not just a little hike, no, hikes that were 10, 15, etc miles.  Sorry, to much for us, so no "cool slot pictures".  Darn, that was disappointing.  Weather was beautiful, clear and not to hot (as long as we brought plenty of water!).  We had been forewarned to bring our own water bottles, as they don't sell them in the park, but have "water stations" to refill yours at almost every stop.  Zion's Mount Carmel Highway route (on your own) was the best, we thought.  This area of the Park offered more water features, bridges, small hikes and even better scenery, we thought.  We took a full day to really enjoy this side of the Park, stopping and enjoying each of the pull-outs, hence my 125 pictures!

From Zion, it was on to Bryce.  We had viewed some of Bryce's Hoodoos from driving past it and doing a short stop at Cedar Breaks, but hadn't made it to the "inside" yet.  As all the pictures out there show, it's full of fun Hoodoos and sculpted cliffs and canyons.  As with Zion, the colors of reds, yellows, oranges never stop to awe you.  As with the others, we started at the Visitor Center and loaded up.  It's a self-driving option, which we chose, and a one way in/one way out 18 mile scenic drive.  The drive is along the edge of the Park, which is all along the east side, so you basically drive through without really stopping, then when you reach the end, you turn around and visit all the pull-outs along the way out!  Even though you don't do much walking through the Park, looking at or down on all the Hoodoos, canyons & cliffs, I think I liked it better than Zion.  It just boggles the mind & imagination how each one is different and fascinating!  Beautiful.

From Bryce we continued to travel south & east to Capitol Reef.  Capitol Reef is less known than the other two, but we found it was well worth the trip!  Like the other two, it has the same colored rocks, cliffs & canyons, but with the addition of purple, green & gray.  This Park is focused on a waterpocket fold, but it's so much more than that.  We saw some of the most unusual shapes & color combinations that we've ever seen.  There is a small scenic drive area that's part of the Park, but we continued on "out the other end" before turning around and coming back, affording us some additional sights.  Additionally, they have some historic houses and barns from the early Mormons, including one that they have added a bakery to that made a great afternoon snack-stop for a small pie or ice cream, yum!  

I had hoped to finish off the NP "tour" with Arches, but it's not going to work out on this trip, which is ok, because that gives us a reason to come back!  Utah has been a wonderful state to explore with lots of great sights that are so very different than any other state's.  We came into the state after Labor Day, so the crowds have been less and the weather has been pretty great over all (somewhat hot at the beginning and brrr cold at the end). 
We will be leaving the state with a short visit with some long-time friends that live in Parowan, which is the best way to end the journey!

Salt Lake, Antelope Island Utah
Marie at Salt Lake, Angelope Island Utah
Looking at Antelope Island, Salt Lake, Utah
Jack & Marie at Weeping Rock, Zion National Park, Utah
Court of the Patriarchs, Zion National Park, Utah

Mount Carmel Highway, Zion National Park, Utah
Bryce Point (Elev 8300), Bryce Canyon NP, Utah
Bryce Point (Elev 8300), Bryce Canyon NP, Utah

Natural Bridge (Elev 8627), Bryce Canyon NP, Utah
Petroglyphs Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef NP, Utah
Chinle Formation (Monitor Butte, Petrified Forest, & Owl Rock top), Capitol Reef NP, Utah
Wingate Sandstone capping, Capitol Reef NP, Utah

...kicking back in Utah,  Marie