It Takes More Than Autumn Leaves to Get Me to Michigan in October

Hail, sleet, and snow in the midst of a thunderstorm – that was my welcome to Michigan. The date was October 20. I had left almost 90-degree weather, an atypically warm Orlando autumn. To say this was a shock to my system would be an understatement.

First stop after touching down was Costco, of course. It was as I pulled into the parking lot that the sleet began. I sat there in my rental car in awe of the sudden extremely different from Florida precipitation when it started to hail, accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning. Being a Floridian, I can drive in the worst of a rain storm, but this, I wasn’t so sure. Then, flashing through my mind, were those weird road signs that warn bridges ice before roads. I would be crossing bridges. I reminded myself that I could do this, but I didn’t wanna!

My first thought was, I needed a nap. I’d gotten up early to catch my flight and sleep on the plane, well, that doesn’t really count. But the thought of driving through this kind of weather did wake me up.

Of course, I didn’t have an umbrella, and the sleet was mixed with rain that was coming down pretty steadily. I needed to do my Costco run before making the two-hour drive to my son’s house. He and his wife were expecting their second child, and my grandmother calling was strong.

Neither snow nor rain nor cold nor gloom of Michigan autumn would stay this grandmother from the swift completion of her appointed Costco run. I decided to go for it – cold, wet weather and all. And then, it stopped.

I was so thankful! I bought my stuff and made the drive with only slight rain falling on the windshield. The temperature stayed above freezing, so the bridges were fine! The snow flurries waited until I arrived at their home.

Seeing my son, Joe, my grandson, and my very pregnant daughter-in-law was all the sunshine I needed. It was wonderful to be there. Now, the baby could come any time. He was due on the 24th. He had a plan of his own.

No grandmother I know has ever been so well rested while going to help with a new baby. After scheduling to be induced on November 1, Aubyron delivered a very healthy, 10-pound baby boy on Halloween. That was a Wednesday, and I was scheduled to come home on Saturday. We were really sweating out those final days, wondering if I’d get to see the baby at all, wondering if I’d be there to help with their three-year-old. Thankfully, I was able to push my departure back a couple of days and go home on Monday.

While we were waiting, I had the best time with my grandson. We built blocks, did puzzles, read stories, baked cookies, and played. I tried to pack in all the stuff that I don’t get to do on a regular basis with him. It was wonderful. We also saw all that their small, college town had to offer. We took walks. Many, many walks. My poor daughter-in-law was miserable and trying to do what she could to encourage the birth, and my son was getting a little anxious, too.

Let me give you a little glimpse of our tour. I was struck by the comparison of what a Michigan store stocks and what a Central Florida store stocks.

An entire section of things to keep the ice off your car. You can’t find this stuff in Orlando.

I mentioned they live in a college town. That should have given me a clue as to what this was all about.

Everything you need for beer-pong in one handy spot. I’ve never noticed that at CVS where I live.

They have a Family Video rental store, though I found no VHS tapes in there. The walls were lined with DVDs and I understand it is quite popular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, if that weren’t enough, they have real, live Fall up there. They don’t have to fake it by purchasing colored leaves and pumpkins. Those things are there naturally. It was beautiful.

But the most beautiful thing I saw there, showed up on October 31. Yes, all else pales in comparison. Welcome to the world, Oliver!

Grandchild #8. He’s so beautiful!

Now you understand why I haven’t posted lately. Love is very distracting and consuming in the best of ways.

Traveling with My Engineer

Travel. Bob and I are known for traveling a lot. Sometimes family or friends have traveled with us. That has resulted in a reputation that leaves some scared to do so. We are what you would say… aggressive. We make a plan that is so detailed that we have to write in time for rest. Seriously. This is what happens when you are married to an engineer, or at least it’s what happens with my engineer. We figure that there will likely be time for trips that are heavy on relaxing in our future (God willing). So, for now, let’s see how much we can cram into a vacation.

This last trip began because Bob became concerned about my state of mind. Excessive sighing, staring at the wall (of pictures), wandering through the toy aisle at Target. These were tell-tale signs that I was missing my grandkids and kids. I had not seen the Michigan group since Christmas. So, before I was reduced to weeping and gnashing of teeth, Bob scheduled time off from work and the plan began. (more…)

Oh, The Humidity!

So lovely – Moved to tears (almost)

I missed humidity something terrible while we were away in Utah. My eyes couldn’t even tear up in response to the beauty we were hiking through. I was unable to blow my nose and my skin with its alligator look reminded me of home. I could put up with that because my hair looked great, so who cares that I couldn’t cry and that my nose would bleed when I tried to blow it. That was a small price to pay for soft, silky hair.

Now that I have traveled extensively in the desert of Utah and Arizona (two weeks), I can tell you from firsthand experience that Florida doesn’t really understand the words “dry heat.” We understand heat from the dryer, but that’s the extent of it. We also know what dry heaves are, but I don’t even want to go there.

There are dangers in dry heat that we are unaccustomed to. It’s so extreme that one must be warned of the danger by signs like this:

We don’t see signs like this in Florida.

Floridians understand sweat. Furthermore, we are known for it. Yes, we are big sweaters.

As a kid, I never learned that you don’t talk to strangers. Talking to people, especially while we’re traveling, is interesting. We met a lot of people in Utah.  Nine times out of ten, when someone found out I was from Florida they would say, “Oh, the humidity!!!” It was like they thought we lived under a curse or something.

I gave up trying to defend our state. Yes. It’s humid. I work up a sweat on the way to the mailbox, but I can blow my nose. That should count for something! And my skin no longer has that alligator look. My hair – that’s another story. I’m back to frizzy, but at least I have tears again if I want to cry about it.

Run, Moggie, Run

I mentioned that Bob and I are traveling with friends. We became friends with Mike and Moggie back in the 1970s, and they are our Florida friends of longest duration (oldest friends, but I don’t like the way that sounds).

[/Bob and Me]

Here we are in Monument Valley where we took a three hour Jeep tour, which was awesome. Our guide was a movie buff and mentioned several movies that had been filmed there, including most of John Wayne’s early films directed by John Ford. Some of my favorite movies which were filmed there are Forrest Gump; Mission Impossible II; National Lampoon’s Vacation; and Back to the Future III.

After our tour was over, we took a smoother drive in our rental car and headed down Hwy 163 looking for adventure. We headed to Mexican Hat. Mexican Hat is easy to miss and I would certainly recommend that. We were looking for adventure and it was not to be found there. Time to enlist google to help us find something unusual, something wild, something dangerous – Forrest Gump Point.

Do you remember the part in that movie where Forrest had been running across America? One day, for no particular reason, he decided to go for a little run. It was 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours later when he stopped and said, “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.”

We were determined to find that point and google came through. It was the craziest place. No signs were posted, yet people were pulled off the sides of the highway risking life and limb to take their pictures where Forrest ended his run. Of course, we did, too.


Remember, this is a highway with 60 mph speed limits. Timing is everything in this sort of endeavor, especially since it is likely that a lot of folks just drive that road with no idea of the significance of an imaginary guy taking an imaginary run for no particular reason. They may not understand that fans of the film will want to re-enact that fateful scene despite cars zooming by at high speeds. Go figure.

I went first as I knew you would expect nothing less. Bob is my driver and photographer. (As I have mentioned before, never travel without an engineer, especially if you’re married to one. They come in very handy.)

Here is my triumphant pose. I must say it was exhilarating.


Well, not to be left out, Michael and Moggie wanted to get their picture done, too. Only thing, there was so much activity that they failed to hear us yell, “Car!” Eventually they ran!

I am happy to report that no one was hurt during the re-enactment. That’s all I have to say about that.

Antelope Canyon

The day finally arrived for us to do the Antelope Canyon tour. I was very excited because not only was the canyon reported to be amazingly beautiful, but it is also on the Navajo Reservation so we would have a local Navajo guide to take us through and tell us about it.

The day started out rainy and cold, cold even if you aren’t from Florida. We knew there may be closings of the canyons (upper and lower – we did the upper) if rain became an issue. The rain doesn’t have to be occurring at the canyon. If it is from up the canyon, flash floods can occur and that is no joke. We prayed that it would be sunny enough for us to enjoy the tour and that rain wouldn’t be a problem, so when we loaded onto their truck to be transported to the canyon entrance, we were grateful.

Our guide, Irene, was a woman about my age and she seemed like a no-nonsense kind of a gal. I discovered this when I tried to step up onto the truck without showing my ticket first. She was a bit gruff. I hate making a bad first impression, but oh well. We got onboard with ten other people and huddled together to keep dry and warm. I felt like we were being smuggled into the canyon. Cool!

When the back gate was lowered and we all were herded out, Irene cautioned us to stay together. I don’t think she was trying to scare us with her stories of people not heeding the warning to run when a flash flood was detected, but needless to say we stayed close to her. She told us of tour groups from other countries that didn’t understand what she was trying to communicate when she said to run and how she literally had to drag people out. Maybe too much Disney mentality – I dont know why people wouldn’t figure out they needed to get out. But I can tell you that our friend, Moggie, who is traveling with us, loved the stories so much that I thought she was going to throw up. But she didn’t.

When we entered the canyon the magic began. Disney has nothing on this. NOTHING! This is a slot canyon, so the walls are narrow, but not too much so – you can stand easily the entire length of it. The colors and the patterns on the walls are nothing short of breath-taking. The rock formations in the canyon could not have been constructed by man. We were in awe.

As for Irene, she was awesome! She had a great sense of humor and is a wonderful photographer and a bold one. She would take our cameras from us, adjust the settings, and take the best pictures these cameras and phones have ever generated. Bob and I got a new camera for each other for Christmas. Bob is the chief (sorry) photographer and I am the iPhone photographer. She called Bob grandpa, which in their culture is more respectful than ours, and she would take his camera and make it dance. We loved her! First impressions are only just that.

Today, I will use my title, Life on the Lighter Side, to show you a few pictures of the light in the canyon. Hope you enjoy them, and hope you can go to Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona, yourself sometime.

They Left a Light on For Us

Tuesday we arrived in Page, Arizona. Our Number One Goal: Antelope Canyon. But for now let me tell you about our first night in Page. We stopped at Glen Canyon Dam, on the Colorado River, and saw the whole dam thing. In this area it is dam this and dam that. We ate lunch at the Dam Cafe which was in the Dam Plaza, in the center of the dam town. You get the picture.

Our next stop was Horseshoe Bend where we hiked down to see the Colorado River make a, you guessed it,  horseshoe-shaped bend. It was another test of our prowess as we hiked along the steep trails of Navajo Sandstone with the wind whipping along the canyon spreading sand over our everything. Totally worth it! Here are a few shots to make you jealous. Not really. If you struggle with that just think about how my legs kept yelling at me for taking them for granted all these years. They are seriously not happy with me, but I continue to tell them who is boss (Bob, for making me walk when I’m ready to give up).

But the thing we were not prepared for, the thing that no pictures could capture, the thing we didn’t quite anticipate, was our hotel for the night. We planned on two nights but plans are made to be changed.

Disclaimer: I am a little picky. Okay, I am a lot picky.

I didn’t want to be the one in our group of four to object to the place, but of course I was, somebody had to. I was gentle though, because I wasn’t the one who made the reservations. I told the lady behind the desk, “We have reservations and I have reservations.” Desk ladies don’t have a great sense of humor.

The big draw of this place was it was cheap, and we figured that we would only be sleeping in the room as we would be enjoying the night life of Page. Spoiler Alert: There is no night life in Page. Once the sun goes down the show is over. So we retreated to our room. Here’s a picture of the room, forgive the mess; but there were no drawers, closets, lights to speak of, rugs, or quiet.

It was the noisiest hotel night of our lives. And we have traveled with our four children. Even now as I think back to times when we sneaked two of them into the room so we didn’t have to book two rooms, and we had kids lying all over the floor pinching each other, tooting, and giggling, those times were not as noisy as last night was.

As best as I can tell, all Page nightlife occurs in this hotel. That must explain the popularity of the ice maker, which was down the hall about two doors from us. Evidently people in Arizona need ice all throughout the night. I could almost here people yelling, “I need ice, stat!”

The next problem was that we apparrently were on the flight path to the airport.  It turned out that everytime someone started a shower near us, it sounded like a 747 was going through our room. I literally jumped out of my bed about three times before I realized there was no threat to us.

Someone close by had a German Shepherd and must have been unsuccessfully patrolling the halls making sure people weren’t taking too many turns at the icemaker. He likely was leading a pack of dogs through the corridor through the night as there was that delightful doggy smell.

The wind howling through our windows sounded like a coyote howling at the moon. I wondered if it bothered the pro-bowlers tour that was practicing while we tried to sleep. I am not sure how they managed to set up a lane in the hallway, but good for them. It must have been difficult with the cheerleading competitors practicing all around them.

So, we checked out. One night of excitement was enough for us. It is a good thing they left a light on for us, because we would never have found the switch. I will tell you about Antelope Canyon next time – after I get a good night of sleep and some decent wifi.

Oops (Zion National Park part 2)

So last night I published a post before I finished writing it. I thought I was saving and hit the wrong button. The worst part wasn’t that it wasn’t finished or that I hadn’t added pictures. It was that I didn’t put a period at the end of my sentence. Oh, the shame and humiliation! Please, don’t think poorly of me! I wanted to fix it but alas it was too late. Also, I had no strength after hiking about 14 miles in 2 days. So here are a few pics from Zion. Thanks for being an understanding group.

Bye for now.

The 2017 USA Total Eclipse of the Sun (for your safety, please read before viewing the eclipse)

Me preparing for eclipse viewing – practicing not seeing things in the dark

Oh, Total Eclipse of the Sun 2017, you’re so vain, you probably think this post is about you. I could deny it, but why bother. This is about you! Today, you’re the star! (I mean that metaphorically and literally.)

There is no need to fly a Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun. It’s not there this time. I could simply drive to South Carolina. But I won’t.

At 2:50:58 pm, from my very own, easy to get to, front yard here in Central Florida, 85.6 percent of the sun will be obscured by the moon. That sounds like a solid “B” to me. I will be satisfied, though a little sad, to stay home for this event. Even though I hate missing anything of this magnitude. And, the realization that just a short eight-hour ride up the road is a potential “A+” total eclipse (depending on whether the weather cooperates) might make me crazy if I let it, but I won’t. I don’t want to be a lunatic over a solar eclipse. That seems wrong.

I understand that (possibly) this is a once-in-a-lifetime event – a total solar eclipse going from coast to coast. I should be more excited. I should pack a cooler and my ISO approved solar viewing glasses and go. But the thing that I keep going back to is that I can’t actually look at it. Not even a little bit. So, the thought of hurrying north to not watch the eclipse confuses my thought patterns – especially when I realize that I am very tempted to go. I want to not see the sun and experience darkness in the daytime, just like everybody else.

Engineer Bob, my sweet husband, brought home a pair of the viewing glasses for me – a gift better than flowers (though not as good as jewelry). I think he knows how tempting it will be for me to look at the sun and he is looking out for me and, I might add, himself. Both of our fathers have gone blind in their old age, and Bob is hedging his bets to keep my eyesight. We look out for each other that way. We have seen the future and we want to be able to see in it.

So please enjoy not watching the eclipse. It will be a memory of something that you didn’t actually see that you will enjoy for years to come.

 

We’re On the Right Track (Europe Part 8)

 Most of the notable challenges during travel have involved trains.  Inside of the train terminals there are kiosks, which I assume you need some kind of higher education to operate.  Either that or you need to be a teenager.  Fortunately for us while we were trying to figure out our train from Salzburg to Munich, we encountered a group traveling together being led by a German teacher from Boston.  She had traveled to Germany many times and showed us the cheap tickets that allowed us to get to Munich and then have the rest of the day with free use of their transit system.  Unfortunately, she led us to believe that we could take any train.  This was not true.

This became crystal clear after we boarded our train.  Unlike every movie I have ever seen, there are not porters standing by the doors waiting to check your ticket.  You, and I mean we, are supposed to know which train we are  getting on and where our seats are on that train.  After all, it is clearly written (no it isn’t) on the signage.

We made our way from car to car and found the car with the bar.  There we discovered that we were in fact on the wrong train.  The bartender and a gentleman traveler interpreted our ticket for us.  We had boarded the fast train.  Oops.  A man who looked a lot like Dumbledore was watching us and speaking to the others in German.  It seemed he knew what he was doing and what we should do, but it did not seem like he spoke English.

After much discussion by the three men, they agreed that we should ride the train to the next stop, just five minutes away.  The bartender said, “The conductor won’t be coming by anytime soon.  Just stay on.”

Then Dumbledore spoke up in perfect English, “That is best.  Just get off at the next stop.  You will be fine.”

I knew this was the closest I would ever get to hopping a freight (even if that freight did have air conditioning, a bar and cushioned seats).  Plus we had the blessing of the bartender and Dumbledore.  We stayed on.  After all, it was only a five-minute ride.

Three minutes into the trip, guess who came through our car.  That’s right, Harry Potter.  No, the conductor.  My sister, who was facing that direction, had the color drain from her face as she whispered, “Here comes the conductor.”

I assured my co-conspirators that I would not implicate them.  As the conductor passed us, the bartender and I exchanged a look.  I mimed biting my fingernails.  Dumbledore gave me the thumbs up.

We pulled up almost to the station and sat for ten minutes.  There was discussion as to whether or not we should make a run for it, but we were cool.

As we disembarked, the train we were supposed to be on pulled up.  I looked back at our first train and there was Dumbledore, pointing us in the right direction and giving us a thumbs up.  And then he disappeared.  Okay, his train pulled away.  It was magic.

The Right Train

The Right Train

Winter Can Be Sneaky (Europe Part 7)

We were enjoying our car ride back to our resort in Pongau, near Salzburg, after a lovely day touring the castles of King Ludwig II in Bavaria.  By the time we got in our car, we noticed the weather had cooled and the wind had picked up.  Off in the distance we could see cloud cover begin to cloak the tops of the Alps.  I figured it might be snowing up there.

The scenery was unbelievable.  My mouth pretty much hung open the entire trip.  We were happy.  Bob, my husband, was enjoying driving along the mountain roads.  (Side note – If you ever go on a trip to Europe and plan on renting a car, consider asking Bob to come along and chauffeur.  He is amazing.)

I was getting cold.  I touched the glass on the window and knew the temperature had dropped.  The indicator on the dashboard read an external temperature of 11 degrees.  (Double the Celsius temperate and add 30 to give you the fahrenheit.  That meant it was 52 outside.)  Not bad, but cooler than earlier.  I watched as the temperature dropped to 9.  Then 8.  Quickly it was 2 degrees.

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Soon we encountered a few snow flurries.  How exciting!  My first Austrian snow.  It looked a lot like the snow we have in the U.S. except the flakes were enormous.  They looked like they could have been cut out of paper.  Now the temperature was zero (double that and add 30 – you get 30).

We were winding through the Alps.  It was getting dark.  The flurries had turned into a snow storm.  This Florida girl was not liking it.

We were about 45 minutes from our resort when the snow started accumulating on the windshield and the road.  The temperature held at zero.  The speed limit was around 80 kph, not that we were going that fast.  At one point a car in front of us stopped and Bob had to swerve around him to avoid a collision.  I think the other driver must have skidded and panicked.  We pressed on.

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We were heading down the mountain so we figured we would be driving out of the snow, but no.  It was picking up and now it was totally dark.  We were so thankful to pull into the parking garage at our resort and sleep safe and sound in a warm bed.

The view from our balcony April 22 in St. Johann at Pongau, Austria.

The view from our balcony April 22 in St. Johann at Pongau, Austria.

The next morning was beautiful and the weather had warmed up.  We could see the beautiful new dusting of snow on the roofs and trees.  The server at the cafe told us winter had decided to come back but it was gone again.  What a difference a day makes.