North American Tour-Day 40

We continued in Ivins, Utah @ the home of Ellen & Arnie. Having a lovely & comfortable home, they had originally built a casita or guest house for Arnie’s father, who lived with them until his death. This is now a guest house for visitors, like us. Has an eat-in kitchen, living room with a futon, & bathroom with shower. Very comfortable & we’re not intruding on their time or space.

Today we got an early start, drove through McDonald’s for some breakfast, & headed for Zion Canyon. We had driven through part of Zion Monday, but today, we went into the park. We took a very comfortable shuttle bus through the park to the last stop. This was a hiking path to the Narrows of the Virgin River. Since we got there early, the path was shaded & a very comfortable temperature.

On the path, we saw squirrels, a prairie dog, several deer, & assorted birds. There were sections where water was seeping through the rocks, running down the rock face, growing flowers & plants in unusual places. Then we got to the river & walked through the water on rocks & sand upstream for awhile. The water was really cold, made my toes numb @ first until I got used to it. Steve walked further than I did, up to where the canyon got very narrow. One can see why it’s so important to keep an eye on the weather in this area. People have died after being caught in a storm when the river rose suddenly-there’s nowhere to escape.

Listening to the conversations of the many visitors around us, one can hear numerous languages. And it’s fun to talk to people along the path & in the bus. Fellow riders/walkers ask where others are going & where they’ve been. We spoke with people today from Philadelphia & Atlanta. Also compared notes with a couple traveling around the country in an RV & another older couple traveling in a 1930-something Chevy.

We plan to leave early tomorrow morning & proceed to Wasatch State Park, still in Utah.

North American Tour-Day 37 through 39

Here we are @ Ivins, Utah @ the lovely home of Ellen & Arnie. Their home is located in the desert, close to mountains. What a scene to look @ daily! Their home is built to blend in with the landscape surrounding it, not blocking anyone else’s view. Little creatures abound, we’ve even seen a family of quail!. They’ve seen a bobcat family around their house & heard coyotes. Others have seen mountain lions.

Monday, June 25, Day 38, we went to Zion Canyon & the Grand Canyon.

Ellen & Arnie’s home

Ellen & Arnie. Ellen & Arnie have driven us all around the area. What a treat for us-they know where to go to see the best views of everything! One runs out of adjectives to describe all this-enormous, spectacular, dramatic, beautiful, haunting…

Today, Day 39 we went to Bryce Canyon. At the risk of blasphemy, I like Bryce better than the Grand Canyon!! It seems more approachable, more personal, less grand, but still more interesting in it’s scenery. All these carved stone structures, formed by water & wind. All different. All colors.

We’ll be here through tomorrow,Wednesday, leaving Thursday. And we have clean clothes again!!! Thank heaven for family that lets us do laundry!!

North American Tour-Days 30 through 39

I am way behind with my blogging!!

On day 30, we stayed in a motel in Abilene-I can’t remember much about it, so it must not have been too bad!  Steve bought a new helmet, so @ least he can see out of the visor! The next day, we rode to Caprock Canyon State Park, still in Texas, where we camped for 2 nights.

Caprock Canyon State Park is located just outside the town of Quitaque, Texas, pronounced “kitty-quay” by the people who live here. There is one restaurant in Quitaque & one in the nearby town of  Turkey, about 15 miles away.  We ate in both & had decent meals in each, plus the people here are very hospitable. This precinct is dry (no liquor!) though- much as we wanted a beer, we had to do with unlimited refills of Diet Coke! The land around here is very flat & the wind is unbelievably strong! We talked with a fellow camper/motorcycle rider who had a ranch not far away-he said they could see 35 miles in all directions!!

This state park is noted for a herd of North American bison brought here in the early 1900’s. They have free range within the park & number about 90. One never knows where they’ll be within the park & we did see one each day. There are also mule deer who graze in a nearby field, unafraid of us.  It’s been so hot here, it was good to have a day without a long ride.

On Day 33, we finally left the state of Texas! It’s hard to realize just how big this state is until you drive across it!! On the way through NW Texas, we saw a large number of wind turbines. I don’t know why they don’t put them all over the state, with the constant wind that blows here. You’d think there’d be an enormous amount of power generated! I don’t know how that works, though, maybe it’s too expensive.

On this day, we camped @ Clayton Lake State Park. They have a section of land with dinosaur footprints, discovered with the building of a dam. We did have time to walk through there & it was pretty cool! This, too, is a dry county, & we made do with unlimited refills of Diet Coke again!! Still very hot!

We’ve been riding through alot of small towns in Texas & NM. Believe it or not, most do NOT have a McDonalds’, so we’ve been out of touch by both cell phone & internet. They all DO have a Dairy Queen, though, so we’ve indulged in cool refreshments of one kind or another! And someone usually asks us where we’re from & where we’re going. They’re always very interested in our trip & some have suggestions on what to see in the area. If only we had the time to go to all these places (yes, we do have alot of time, but not THAT much!!) I’m always touched by how nice people still are & how lucky we are to meet them & to see what a beautiful country this is.

On Day 34 we rode into Colorado. Lots of green pines, mountains (some still with snow!), & clear streams tumbling over rocks (one can picture Brother Fred fly-fishing here!). We stayed @ a really nice place called High Country Lodge in Pagosa Springs. (I consider it a plus if they have china mugs for your coffee, which they did!!) We met some motorcycle folks who, along with friend Joe in Lima, urged us to do the ride from Durango to Silverton, through the mountains. It’s called the “million-dollar drive”.

So, after a good night’s sleep & free breakfast, we set off on Day 35 for Durango. The ride to Silverton was as spectacular as advised!!! High mountains, winding road, cool breezes. Although the narrow-shoulder-no-guardrail-long-drop-down-the-mountain scenery was a bit(?!) nerve-wracking for me!! I couldn’t look that way even to take a picture!!! And the town of Silverton is charming! It was once a mining town & has all kinds of restaurants & shops. We ate lunch at a place called the Bent Elbow that was once a brothel or “sporting house”.

We then rode back to Durango & on to Mesa Verde State Park, NM. We’ve seen alot of “trikes” or 3-wheelers on this trip. They have the 2 wheels either in the back or front. Lately, we’ve seen alot of Can-Am-trikes with the 2 wheels in front. Turns out they were having a convention in Durango. Talking to the riders, they love their 3-wheelers & consider the 2 wheels in front safer than in back.

That night, we camped @ Mesa Verde State Park, CO. This is where the cliff dwellings are located. The park has very nice facilities-nice gift shop that sells souvenirs & food, including wine (!), a restaurant that serves a pancake breakfast every morning, showers, &  coin-operated laundry. We rode around the park some that afternoon & evening & noticed smoke over the mountain @ one side. Turns-out this was the start of another Colorado wildfire! This was named the Weber Fire & was increasing in size hourly. Luckily, it was about 10 miles from the park. The park did have a big fire several years ago & the people @ the park reassured everyone that they were prepared to notify us all in the event evacuation was required. Here, too, there were many mule deer wandering around the campsites, unafraid of us. That evening, one of the rangers gave an interesting presentation about the discovery of the dwellings & people involved.

On the morning of Day 36, we took a tour of one area of Mesa Verde, Cliff Palace. This was considered the easiest of the tours & still involved climbing several ladders & up & down a number of stairs-not easy @ this altitude & temperature!! What an interesting place! That afternoon, we left for Fairfield, Utah. This was the worst day of the entire trip so far!!! The temperature was 106 degrees with a hot wind blowing us all over the highway!! We had a stretch of 106 miles on I70, passing through the desert, without any areas for services, other than pullovers for scenery (!!-who cared @ this point!!!) Steve even had his cooling neck scarf blow off! Luckily, we had plenty of water with us! That night, we stayed @ a motel in Fairfield. Everything ached-back, butt, knees!!! A shower felt like heaven!

Day 37-to Ivins, Utah to the home of Steve’s cousin Ellen & her husband Arnie.

Weber wildfire, Colorado

cliff dwellings @ Mesa Verde, CO

the Bent Elbow restaurant, Silverton, CO

Dinosaur footprint @ Clayton State Park, NM

North American Tour-Days 27-30

Steve’s cousins, Sam & Leslie, live in the town of Tomball. This was once a small town somewhere outside Houston. When folks were looking for more affordable housing, they discovered Tomball. Now, the once quiet town has lots of houses, people, stores, new roads & traffic! Sam drove us around the area & took us through the original town, just one main street, really. There is also a section with quite a few small shops that are busy with tourists & locals buying out-of-the-ordinary things. Looked interesting, but, traveling on the motorcycle does restrict purchases. Probably just as well, since all these souvenirs could be hazardous to my wallet!!?

The houses I’ve seen in both Dallas/Plano & Houston are very nice, almost all with enclosed back yards with high wooden fences. About 99% have sprinkler systems, so their yards are well-tended & green. I told them in Hagerstown, most homes don’t have sprinkler systems (I guess except the bigger, newer ones) & in the summer, when it’s hot & dry, we just let the grass go dormant. Yes, it’s brown & looks dead, but it greens-up when it rains. They were surprised. Last year, there were drought conditions in Texas, so water use was restricted & people could only water once a week. This year they’ve had some rain, so they are able to water more often.

We stayed @ Sam & Leslie’s until yesterday. Had nice meals @ some local restaurants & good dessert @ a yogurt place. The yogurt place had every kind of flavor & topping that one could imagine! You got a cup, put in whatever you wanted, then paid by the weight. Great stuff for those of us with a sweet tooth!

Leaving Tomball yesterday morning

Sam, Leslie, & Ollie’s home

Sam, Leslie, & Ollie

, we were headed NW to Guadalupe River State Park, only to find they were completely full! They directed us to a nearby RV park that did have camping space available. So, that’s where we spent last night. We headed out this morning, again NW, to Abilene, where we’re checked-in @ a motel.

It was a nice ride today, but we did run into a few showers. It didn’t get us soaked & it did lower the temperature a bit, thankfully. I like Texas & most Texans (I do love the South, they are alot more cordial than other parts of the country, I’m sorry, but it is true!), but it is way too hot here for me. It’s been in the high 90’s & up in to the 100’s since we’ve been here. We went through the hill country of Texas, & that’s been my favorite part, scenically. I do remember alot of the town names from when I lived in San Antonio about a million years ago! We were on secondary roads mostly & went through Boerne & Fredricksburg, which remain small, interesting towns. By the way, the speed limit on the interstates here is 75 & it’s 70 on secondary roads, which are all very well maintained. Tomorrow, we have to go to a motorcycle store to get a new helmet for Steve-the visor on his is almost too scratched to see through. There’s a Harley/Yamaha place just down the road from the motel, so that’ll be convenient. Then it’ll be onward west again.

North American Tour-additional comments

There are some things I forgot to mention along the way.

It’s long been the custom for motorcycle riders to wave to each other. I guess about 99% of riders do it, I think the others don’t because they don’t think it’s cool. I wave @ everyone, just sayin’!

When we drove from NY to Ohio’s Lake Erie, I was struck by the amount of land in the upper part of Pennsylvania growing grapes. Miles & miles on both sides of the highway with nothing but grapes. Steve said he thought alot of the grapes belonged to Welch’s. I don’t know.

My hair vs. the motorcycle helmet. When we went to Canada, Steve forgot to bring along his haircutting scissors. My hair was really long for me, past the usual haircut time. And after Canada, starting the motorcycle part of the trip again, whenever I took off my helmet, my hair was smashed-down in places & going every-which-way in others! What a mess! Finally, he had a chance to cut it in Ohio-it’s easier to do it outside, no hair all over inside. That was done @ dusk, so he’s had to take scissors to it a couple times since. Right now, it’s nice & short all over, so looks as good as possible after wearing a helmet all day.

I found it’s very difficult to take photos while riding on the back of the motorcycle. That’s why there aren’t many/any of scenery. I do have a chain attached to the wrist-cord, so I’m less likely to drop it. But, by the time I see something to photograph, turn the camera on, focus…we’re way past it!! Or a car/truck goes by just then! Oh well, I’m still trying.

North American Tour-some photos

Reina making pupusas

pupusas

some of us eating pupusas

Arleen & Joe’s home

North American Tour-Day 27 continued

We are now in a suburb of Houston. Had an uneventful ride from Dallas. I think we went by part of the Dallas downtown-it’s hard to tell, there are clusters of big buildings scattered around that area. Anyway, there were alot of big buildings with reflective glass in most. Jake told us one of the buildings is lit up @ night with changing colors that must be neat to see.

The countryside is interesting-fields of crops, scrub trees, forests, flat land with enormous ranches. We saw a couple of sunflower fields-sunflowers as far as we could see. Cool!

Speaking of cool, I about melted down here!!! Even the Texans say it’s too hot too soon!! Riding on the motorcycle, even the breeze is hot! 99-100 most of the time.

We are @ the house of Sam & Leslie, more of Steve’s cousins. They have a lovely home here & a sweet dog, Ollie. We went out to eat for my birthday-they took us to a South African restaurant. Great food.

As soon as Steve downloads my photos onto his computer, I’ll post more.

 

North American Tour-Day 27

Today we leave the Dallas/Plano area for Houston to visit Steve’s cousins Sam & Leslie.

Yesterday, we had a special lunch. One of the subcontractors working with Joe & Arleen is from El Salvador. His wife makes pupusas-they would be like a filled tortilla. She made pupusas for our lunch & used various fillings-they were delicious! Joe’s secretary, Margaret, joined us, but none of the other employees, nor Joe, could be there, so they missed a great meal. Luckily, there were alot leftover, so Arleen could use the remainder for her church group that evening.

We were @ Marty & Sylvia’s house yesterday when a big storm went through the Dallas/Plano area with golfball-sized hail. It missed their section of town, but Arleen called & said they had a yardfull of hail!!! Glad we weren’t on the motorcycle for that!

North American Tour-Days 23 through 26

We are now in Plano, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. It’s hot!!! In the high 90’s-just last week, I was freezing! We staying with, & visiting with, Steve’s cousins. These are relatives on his mother’s side-there’s Marty & Sylvia, & their daughter & son-in-law, Arleen & Joe. We’ve been visiting between the 2 houses, not far apart, & staying with Arleen. Also @ Arleen & Joe’s house is their son, Jake, who’s home from college for the summer & interning @Joe’s company. (Joe is in the home construction business, high-end homes) There’s a new addition to the family, Sako, a yellow, black-mouthed cur (dog) that Jake bought & brought home the same day we arrived. This is a dog specifically trained to hunt & corner wild boars. Jake is an avid hunter & fisherman, anything involving the outdoors, I think. Sako had a difficult couple of days adjusting to all the new people & living in a different environment, but he’s slowly accepting all of us.

This is a very busy household, even on quiet days like this week. The construction business is run out of their home, & Arleen has her own decorating business out of her home, also. Plus, they’re in the process of selling their house. They put the house on the market last Friday, had a bidding war between 2 buyers, & were under contract Sunday!! So now the negotiations begin-who has to do what. And, the process of buying another house has begun. Thankfully, they had found a house they liked before this one sold.

Plus, they belong to a very active & involved church & have meetings a couple times a week. They mentor a premarital counseling group & are involved in another couples group. Their church started small & is now huge, but involves it’s members in every aspect. We went to a service Sunday night. It’s a high-powered showbiz-y service, but the message was right-on & meaningful.

Tonight we’re staying with Marty & Sylvia. Also, Marty had cataract surgery yesterday-was very comfortable last night & was to see the doctor today. Then tomorrow, we leave Dallas to go to Houston to visit Marty’s brother, Sam, & his wife, Leslie.

What a blessing to be able to visit family.

So far, we’ve traveled 3912 miles, 2912 on the motorcycle. (1000 miles was to & from the Canadian fishing camp.)

The adventure continues after a brief respite .

(The lower photo is of Jake & Sako-I couldn’t get the caption to appear.)

Marty & Steve

Graceland

In  the mid-50’s, I was 11 or 12 or close. I liked Pat Boone @ that time, thought he was so cute. My Long Branch,NJ, cousins, Betty & Joan, said I just HAD to hear this new singer, Elvis Presley. What’s his name? my first question!! But, from the minute I heard the first song, I was hooked. I thought then, & still do today, that he was THE BEST!

I didn’t see all his movies, I didn’t buy all his records, but I did see & buy some. We bought 45’s back then & carried our collections to parties & friends’ houses (I still have mine!!). Later, we bought LP’s & I still have my Elvis ones of those, too. I saw his TV performances whenever I could, & loved the  special from Hawaii & the  ’68 special when he wore the black leather jumpsuit.

I’ve wanted to visit Graceland as long as it’s been open to tours. What a thrill to be able to go there on this trip. And to go with someone who wasn’t going to whine about it!!

And I really was thrilled. I enjoyed seeing the house & really wasn’t interested in much else that was there. I wasn’t disappointed & was touched to see a home where he & his friends & family would’ve spent their free time. Some people say it’s gaudy…if anyone else remembers that time & the home decorations we all had, it was all gaudy!! Avocado green & harvest gold appliances & that awful shag carpet that had to be raked!!! Graceland was a place that you could imagine was lived-in, not like some of the celebrity homes you see today-all decorated by someone else & uncomfortable-looking. By today’s standards, the kitchen was actually quite small.

In the ticket lobby, it’s packed with people of all ages, from all over the world. They run a pretty efficient operation. A shuttle takes people across the street to the house. Everyone is issued headphones with a special player & you push buttons as indicated for recorded tour information. Works better than trying to listen to a tour guide. I especially enjoyed hearing reminiscences by his daughter, Lisa.

I took photos of the gravesites, but didn’t post them-it just didn’t seem respectful. I actually got a little teary @ the memorial garden, but it is tastefully done. Elvis, his parents, & his grandmother are buried there. He had a twin brother who died @ birth-he’s buried elsewhere, but there is a memorial plaque there for him.

Graceland-it was all I could have wished for. I still miss Elvis.

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