Four Days, Three Nights in New York City – Cramming It All In

When I told Bob I wanted to take a girls’ trip to New York City to celebrate our granddaughter, Mia, turning 16, he was a pushover. We included her sister, Ella, and their mom, our daughter Dena. I was excited to introduce them to the Big Apple, and two weeks after our initial conversation, the four of us met at LaGuardia Airport ready to do this thing!

Traveling with my granddaughters was a treat, though New York City hotel life was surprising for them. They couldn’t get over how small the room was. Two queen beds and all necessities, including a street view complete with a dumpster for a construction project, didn’t impress them; but they quickly adjusted.

We stayed close to Times Square and were able to walk to the theater district. Mia has been in a couple of high school productions, so she was totally digging Wicked. Our balcony seats in the Gershwin Theatre afforded great views. She was a sponge soaking it all in.

After Wicked, we grabbed dinner from the local 7-Eleven, which I highly recommend for weary travelers who have had a big lunch. You may think that anticlimactic, but if you haven’t traveled with teenage girls, let me tell you it was the perfect dinner choice.

We rested until a half hour before sunset and then walked into a nearly empty Empire State Building like we owned the place (after we shelled out way too much money to, for all practical purposes, walk around on a rooftop). The views were magnificent, and it’s an iconic New York thing to do, so – worth it!

My granddaughters! So much fun traveling with them!

View from the Empire State Building

 

I wasn’t sure how impacting the 9/11 memorial would be to the girls, but they had learned about it in school and wanted to go. I’m glad we made it part of our trip.

The 9/11 Memorial is a must-see. Spending some time thinking of all those who lost their lives on that awful day, reading their names, and being thankful for our country.

We all had a different M.O. for touring the city. Dena is aggressive like her dad but, unlike her dad, loves museums. Sadly (wink, wink), we got rained out that day. Mia likes a slower pace, taking it all in. I’m somewhere in between them, except for the museum part. I can only do so much of that. Ella had the most unique method of touring. She literally ate her way through the city. She didn’t meet a street vendor she didn’t love. It became our goal to photograph Ella eating as many different things in as many different places as possible.

Ella and Mia – Ella is eating the first of many pretzels from street vendors

A rare healthy snack choice for viewing from the Empire State Building. We have to keep up our strength.

I think she is polishing off a bag of spiced nuts in this shot, i.e. shot like picture not shot like the police came because someone got shot.

Ella snacking again and contemplating why people would stand in line to touch weird places on the Wall Street Bull.

Waiting for Ella to finish her lunch before we tour Trinity Church where Alexander Hamilton is buried.

We took a ferry to view the Statue of Liberty. It rained on us so we had to get a snack inside.

Ice cream cones before it rained.

 

 

 

Mia joins in for a caffeine fix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York pizza by the slice. Dena wonders if Ella will share.

As for our rained-out museum day, we knew it would rain; it had earlier. That is the reason why we were sitting on our ponchos as we rode atop the double-decker tour bus, to shield us from wet seats. We felt an errant raindrop here and there, but there was a lovely breeze and we were quite comfortable. That is why I took my hair out of its ponytail and let the wind blow through it. This was the closest I would ever come to doing a hair product commercial, so pleasant. And so short-lived.

Out of nowhere, the sky opened up and an insane amount of rain dumped onto us. Dena, who was on the other end of the seats from me and had fallen asleep (we started our days early), was rudely awakened. We were all trying to get up and pull our ponchos out from under us, but they didn’t cooperate. Being the least coordinated of the group, I got the most wet as I had my hair sticking to all inner surfaces of the poncho and my head through an arm hole and my purse not wanting to go under. We looked like drowned rats. It went from hair commercial to before-photo in one instant.

It seemed like a good idea to get off at next bus stop, which was for the museums, so like drowning rats, we jumped off. Reality hit us as we stood there, dripping, staring at each other – we were too wet to do anything but jump in the river, which I’ve heard is a bad idea.

That is why Uber was invented. We went back to the hotel, dried off, took a nap, and found some more food for Ella.

Our last day, we took the subway to Chinatown and Little Italy. I told the girls the following true story:

On a prior trip, Bob and I were roaming around Chinatown with three other couples. We were on the look-out for purses. Bob and I were lingering outside of a shop, waiting for our friends when we were approached by an unassuming-looking Chinese woman. She pulled out a folded poster with pictures of more purses than I could have imagined.

I think I let out a little gasp! Yes, we were interested and we had to act fast – no time to wait for our friends. We followed this stranger around the corner where she met a man leaning against a van. He took us off her hands and walked us into an office building. This was what we had heard about and hoped to experience. We’re stupid like that.

Once in the office building, an elevator opened and once again we were passed off to a new stranger. Up we went to who knows what! When the doors opened, we were in presence of the purses! There were thousands of them. We called our friends and told them how they, too, could be escorted through dubious channels of strangers and reunited with us in the purse place.

They thought us crazy, but I say – crazy like a fox!

Some of our friends joined us while, I’m assuming, the others prayed for our safe return.

Return we did, and we had lots of cheap purses as the reward for our risk.

I’m not sure why I wanted to do this. I guess it felt like a New York thing instead of a possible abduction thing. Plus, I rarely ever change my purse, so the whole thing was ridiculous. I could never recommend doing this, but it was strangely fun.

This time while in Chinatown with my girls, we were solicited by purse people. Traveling with my precious grand-daughters caused me to resist. That may mean that I’ve either gotten more street safety savvy, have come to respect brand names, or I didn’t want to have to buy purses for everybody. I’m not sure, but the girls seemed relieved.

We went to Little Italy instead where we shopped from actual stores and finished our day in Chinatown doing a little window smelling. And that’s how we ended our trip.

Ella didn’t ask to eat anything here.

Lots of fresh food

Perfect way to end the day – crackers in bed.

I understand there is some wonderful cuisine in New York City. We didn’t eat much of it, but we sure had fun.

Beach Jerky

Clearwater Beach on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico is becoming my go-to beach. Our first day there we gazed out the window of our seventh-floor condo and were amazed at all the birds. I felt like I was watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie. They were having feeding frenzies up and down the beach. I had to get down there!

We were a little hesitant to swim. So many birds feeding can only mean one thing. Fish. There were thousands of them. We stood knee-deep in the water and gazed down as they swam past (and sometimes into) us. Of course, large schools of little fish mean bigger fish had to be around, but we only saw a few, and they weren’t the kind that eat you. We were cautious because we are familiar with the food chain. We didn’t want to meet the guys at the top of it.

The feeding frenzy lasted a few mornings. By Day #2, I decided to throw caution to the tropical breezes and fulfill my quest to be in the 86-degree water. Plus, I figured I may never get a bird-watching opportunity like this again. I could be right out there with the gulls, the least terns, and the pelicans.

Majestic brown pelicans flew in formation just a foot or two over my head. I became quite chummy with them – not to be confused with the kind of chum that one uses while fishing. One older guy (you can tell by the white on his head and front of his neck) seemed to enjoy floating near me as much as I enjoyed being close to him. I could have reached out and touched him, but I didn’t. He’s a big boy. Did you know they have a wingspan of 6 ½ feet? Plus, at 50 inches high and having the webbed feet that I lack, he’s nothing to mess around with. We studied each other for half an hour. We chatted, well I chatted. He just listened.

The pelicans have much more self-control than the gulls and terns. Those two breeds seem to live to eat while the opposite could be said of the pelican. The pelicans were also non-imposing with a kind of live-and-let-live mentality. The gulls would land on top of the pelicans during feeding frenzy and try to take food from their mouth. They were real jerks.

The least terns were cute. In my mind they made eating a game and didn’t take life too seriously, unlike those jerk gulls. They would dive right next to us to snatch up some bait fish. It was quite a show.

While watching all of this, I kept an eye out for dorsal fins. I thought the water was too warm for sharks, but you never know. My big hope was to see a dolphin up close. We saw them from our condo, but I wanted more.

And I got it. I was floating around and a beautiful Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin swam right past me, not 10 feet away. I almost wet my pants! I was in the water so you’ll never know! By the end of the day, that dolphin or one of her buddies swam past me three times. None quite as close as that first time though.

On occasion, I had to leave the water to hydrate and reapply sunscreen. Once, I fell asleep in my chair, clearly exhausted from keeping up with all that nature. After a few minutes, I jerked awake, looked out in the water, and saw the dolphin and her calf swim past again. Bob’s convinced I have a dolphin-sense. Maybe he’s right! I saw them daily – from the room, from the beach, while in the water, and in the causeway as we drove over the bridge. I saw them when nobody else did, which called my dolphin-sighting integrity into question, but I would never feign finding a dolphin. I wouldn’t have been surprised if one was waiting for me in our pool when we got home. Okay, I would have been a little surprised.

We also came upon beds of sand dollars when we swam out to the sandbar. I kept wondering what was so rough below my feet. I used my toes like tongs and came up with one after another. They were everywhere. Most of them were the size of a quarter, and we put them back. Picking them up was like eating M&Ms – it’s hard to stop once you start. When my toes cramped and our hands turned yellow from what looks like sand dollar pee and we began to feel like those jerk gulls bothering other sea life, we took that as our cue. By the way, did you know it’s illegal to collect live specimens from the beach? We should have known that, but we did not. We didn’t get into trouble, but we could possibly have contributed to the delinquency of a minor in our sand dollar excitement. I’m not saying we did, but kids like to look at sand dollars. It was an educational trip. I’ll leave it at that.

High in Colorado

The final destination of our Arizona trip was Colorado Springs, where we were going to meet up with family. That was what gave us the thought to go to Sedona and check it off our bucket list, you know, as long as we were in the area. By “in the area,” I mean some place out west.

We traveled via rental car from Sedona to Colorado, thereby allowing us to check off another national park from our national park list. We like lists. Be they bucket, national park, grocery, to-do, birthday, or Christmas – we are very pro list.

We were given a welcome to Colorado which was worthy of any westward-ho band of travelers. I loved their sign and the view in the distance. I wish I could tell you the route we took because it seemed to be off the beaten path, but alas I have no idea where we were. Frankly, I didn’t care. I left all that to my trusty engineer who loves maps almost as much as he loves me.

I wonder if people in Colorado notice its beauty on a daily basis. I hope they don’t take it for granted like I sometimes do the palm trees and beaches where I live. Maybe that’s why it’s extra special for those of us from flat Florida. Any hill is a novelty in Orlando, so those Rocky Mountains almost put me on my face. Gawking at the scenery was a huge part of the trip.

The reason for our specific route was so we could stop at Great Sand Dunes National Park. It contains the tallest dunes in North America. From a distance we could see the dunes lined up along the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. As we drove closer, we could see the clear demarcation of mountainside, dunes, and water.

Dunes in the distance

You have to cross Medano Creek to get to the dunes.

The temperature was still much lower than normal, and the wind was making it feel even cooler. These things combined made the decision to look at instead of hike through the dunes an easy one. We watched children floating along Medano Creek as others waded through it to get (to the other side) to the Dunes. We grabbed our sandwiches and sat at a picnic table shivering and enjoying the view. It was a quick visit, but it counts!

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Colorado Springs, and may I say I highly recommend it. Plus, the weather finally caught up with the calendar and I began to thaw out. The time spent with family and friends there was memorable. The views of the mountains would have been enough for me, but when you add in golf for the guys and spa time for the ladies – it doesn’t get much better than that. Unless you get daring and stretch yourself out of your comfort zone.

Most of our group decided to go zip-lining at Seven Falls, which I believe is now owned by the Broadmoor. Bob and I had hiked around Seven Falls during a past trip with our son and his family, before this zip-line existed. I had zip-lined before, and I thought it might be fun to do it again, but what I did before barely prepared me for this course. This course includes 5 zip-lines, 2 rope bridges (over canyons, way over canyons), and a 180-foot assisted rappel, which felt more like being lowered, but that was freaky enough for me.

Bob and I in our gear

The adventure began with a van trip up a mountain where they pulled off the side of the road and dropped us off. We hiked down to our practice area where we were outfitted with 15 pounds of gear and given a ten-minute instruction followed by a 10-second practice zip-line. Then we climbed the ladder to our first zip-line.

The first three were fun and easy, but they simply prepared you for what was ahead, which was two terrifying-looking rope bridges and two more zip-lines across the canyon above the tree line. These two zips are so far from start to finish that you cannot really see where you are going, but we followed our trusty guides (one in front and one behind).

New zip line adventure awaits at Seven Falls in Colorado Springs

photo credit: gazette.com

At the bridges there is a point of no return. We lost three of our group at that point (not the tragic type of loss). They were happy to have done the three zip-lines and happy to take pictures from below so they turned back.

Surprisingly, I was not one of the three. I maneuvered across the rope bridges even stopping to look down at the canyon and do some bird watching from the bird’s point of view. I cannot say enough good things about our guides. They really put me at ease. We were told to maintain three points of contact across the bridges at all times. No problem!

After the rope bridges came the two main zip-lines. The guide would take one of the lines which was attached to us, remove it from where it was hooked on the center post of the platform (which has no railings, by the way), and attach it to the zip-line. She repeats the process with the second line so we are always secure. The first guide soars across the canyon and waits as one-by-one we leave the security of our elevated platform to soar across the canyon. The second guide follows the last person.

This takes a bit of time as they recheck all of our equipment and send the group of 6 or 7 of us across individually. When I was waiting on the platform, I was pretty calm but I did become best friends with that center post to which I was attached.

The final zip-line is a quarter of a mile long. It takes about 45 second to cross it and it was exhilarating! I loved it.

The most awkward part was the rappel. You had to kind of step and lean out off of the platform before you (slowly) plunged to the ground. It wasn’t bad once I figured it out. But it sure felt strange.

Fins Course

The rappel down. Photo credit: gazette.com

I’ve included about 17 seconds of the 45 second glide that was the last zip-line. That tiny spot with the greenish/blue shirt is me. By the way, you’re traveling about 45 mph on this course. Did I mention it was awesome? It was!

 

Thanks for coming along on my adventure!

The Sun Finally Sets on Sedona

Our last hike was through Red Rock State Park. We joined a two-hour guided tour being given by a park ranger who took a little too much time with the flora when I was more interested in the fauna. I do enjoy some good flora, but it was a bit much for me.

The parks that we have visited in the Southwest are not so chocked full of animals like in the Northwest. While mule deer, javelina, coyotes, and bobcats are normal visitors, we saw none of the above. We saw a stray jackrabbit, and a few people at the end of our group saw a rattlesnake – shudder! That was it except for birds.

The park has a songbird feeder area at the rear of the Visitor Center. This was just below where our tour began. I was so distracted with the birds that I’m not sure what I was supposed to learn at the beginning of the tour, but I knew exactly what I was going to do at the tour’s end.

After hiking through the park, we went to the car, placed our Diet Cokes into can koozies, grabbed a bag of pretzels, and headed to the bird area. We joined another couple with whom we had an immediate rapport. They, too, had their Diet Cokes in can koozies and were enjoying the birds. It was like we were twin couples separated at birth, only to be reunited by the use of can koozies and a love of bird watching.

Here are a few of my many shots of the birds:

Female Northern Cardinal

Hummingbird – Arizona is a premium place to see hummingbirds. I can’t ID the different species.

Western Tanager

Hummingbird in flight

“Poser” Hummingbird

Unknown and it’s driving me crazy

Jim and Pat were from Colorado and we spent an hour with them talking about birds, where we live, and the churches we are a part of. It was like we’d known them forever, which was proven the next day when Bob and I were sitting on a bench in town enjoying the mountain views and they walked by. I yelled, “Jim and Pat!”

They said, “Bob and Bonnie,” and came over and we hugged and talked some more. She laughed and said a passer-by would think we were long, lost friends. This time we exchanged info and we look forward to meeting up with them again sometime. Note: The most amazing part of this story is that we remembered each other’s names.

Something about this sign seemed inconsistent to me

Our last day in Sedona was a designated rest/shop/golf driving range day. Part of that day was visiting the local bookstore. In Sedona, the shelves are what you would expect except for the extra-large section of books about crystals, vortex info, psychics, well-being, metaphysics, and new-age material.

We found these types of things in many shops around town, and while we were not interested in them personally, a lot of people flock to Sedona for just those reasons. Plus, it’s beautiful there, so there truly is something for everyone.

There was one man we met who really stood out. He worked at our resort. After talking to him for a while, I asked him, “Out of all the people you talk to, what percentage would you say tell you that you look like Ted Danson?”

“Almost 100 percent,” he replied.

What do you think?

 

Ted Dansen doppelganger

In closing, I need to tell you something we learned about the sunsets in Sedona. Between the rain, clouds, and our naiveté about the area, it took us a few days to realize that we were looking in the wrong direction when trying to watch the sun go down. We would find a nice area with unobstructed view and, of course, look westward. That’s a rookie mistake in Sedona. You look east toward the mountains. When the sun reflects off the smooth rocks, that’s when you get the show. It was spectacular.

Sedona Sunset Looking Westward

 

Glistening Sunset Looking toward the East

They both are lovely, but the way the sun bounces off of the rocks was quite magical. What do you think?

And that’s a wrap of Sedona. Hope you enjoyed it and hope you get to go there. A lot of folks have told me it’s on their bucket list. If you go, be sure to look for our friend, Derek, I mean Ted Danson.

Even More Sedona!

Our next day’s destination was Fay Canyon. It is rated an easy trail and was just what we needed as we made the adjustment from Orlando’s sea-level to Sedona’s 4350-foot elevation. Throw in jet lag and a head cold, and we chose well for our second hike.

Fay Canyon is 2.2 miles round trip (out and back) and only has an elevation gain of 150 feet – perfect. It was scenic and quiet. One could take the challenge of scrambling up to an arch, but we literally took the easy route. Frankly, I felt great success in getting out of bed, what with the vortex having its opposite effect on me!

Along the Fay Canyon Trail

We talked with several hikers, including a family who did the scramble up to the arch, but my favorite people were Jazz and Janelle.

We met Janelle quite a bit before we met her husband, Jazz. We almost passed her as we were hiking back from the end of the canyon when she said, “If you see my husband, tell him I miss him.”

She tried to just keep walking past us, but I had to know more – how would we know him and what was his name. She assured us we’d know him.

Several minutes later, a man walking the cutest puppy came into our view. I said, “Jazz?”

He gave that startled, confused look that told me I’d found my guy.

“Your wife says she misses you.”

He chuckled as we pet his dog, and then another person went by and told him, “Your wife says she loves you.”

I can only imagine how many people delivered messages to Jazz, but in his defense, when you’re walking a fuzzy little puppy, people don’t let you make too much progress on your hike.

The end of the trail, or at least the end of the trails you don’t have to blaze yourself.

We felt pretty good after our easy hike and thought we had one more in us. Spoiler alert: We were wrong.

We started the hike to near-by Doe Mountain. It was a mere six-tenths of a mile one way, but it was rated moderate. Beautiful 360-degree views of Sedona’s red rocks were promised for those who made it to the top. I will have to assume that was true, because by the time we had hiked straight up (or maybe very steeply up) for 45 minutes, I knew in my heart that I would never be able to verify that fact. When I say I knew in my heart, I mean it! I will tell you that the view from halfway up was stunning enough for me. We enjoyed sitting along the trail and taking it in while catching our breath and hydrating.

The breath-taking view from Doe Mountain

 

On the way back to our resort, we passed this McDonald’s. Sedona is located in what is called the Verde Valley. Verde means green, and Sedona is very proud of its green which complements its red rocks and amazing blue sky. Even though we experienced a lot of clouds, rain, and even some hail and snow, I can say that the glimpses of blue sky that we caught were amazing. All of the colors are magnificent, but I’m not sure what McDonald’s was thinking when it tried to blend in with the green. I definitely think they should stick with golden arches. That shade of green made me suspicious that something was amiss with their meat. But, that’s just me. I got a cheeseburger there anyway, but of course that was only to check my theory!

Tune in tomorrow for just a little more on Sedona. Thanks for reading!

More Sedona!

The uniqueness of Sedona is not limited to its landscapes. Yes, there are crazy red rocks everywhere and breathtaking sunsets, but the people that you meet when you’re hiking down the street, or the trail, also add to the fun.

First thing Bob and I did was the Discover Sedona tour (an overview done via mini-bus), our tour guide told us about vortexes. He also showed us highlights of the town that we could return to and filled us in on interesting Sedona facts. For instance, there were many spaghetti westerns filmed there, including Angel and the Badman with John Wayne (1947) and Broken Arrow with Jimmy Stewart (1950). More recently, The Karate Kid (1984) was filmed in Sedona.

His emphasis on vortexes (or vortices, if you love grammar) struck me as most unusual. If you’re asking yourself what is a vortex, join my club. It was explained to us that a vortex is a swirling center of energy. Many people come to Sedona to experience the heightened energy and well-being emitted from them. Our guide told us that sometimes the energy in Sedona gets too much for him, and he has to leave town for a few days to escape it. My first thought was, this is the place I have been searching for all my life.

I’ve never considered myself a high-energy person – quite the opposite. My low energy doesn’t usually inhibit me from doing what I need to do, but I have to resist the temptation to give in to it. So, Bob and I sought out a vortex where I could absorb all that energy. I wondered if there were vortex storage containers. Wouldn’t that be a great souvenir!

Our first encounter with a vortex was a little nebulous. We hiked out to an area in Crescent Moon Ranch, part of Coconino National Forest. We were armed with a map to the vortex, which was at one of many viewing areas of Cathedral Rock. (If you’re a regular reader, you will rightly assume that Bob, my map-reading engineer, directed us.) Still, even for Bob, the area was vaguely marked. The map didn’t exactly use the never-failing X-marks-the-spot.

Along the way, we found a lot of cairns, which are stacks of stones. Traditionally they were used as memorials, but now everybody is getting in on the action. If you want to mark something significant with a cairn, something that will tell a story, you may want to rethink it. They are akin to the locks over the Paris bridges, except I think they’re cooler looking.

Here a cairn; there a cairn; everywhere a cairn, cairn.

There must have been some people close to us, because we saw their trusty guard dog watching over their belongings.

We came to an area of slick rock (smooth, wind or water polished rock). We knew this was the place. I stood still gazing at stunning Cathedral Rock and waiting for an influx of energy while Bob re-checked our bearings. We had arrived.

Cathedral Rock

Not wanting to miss whatever was in store for me, I tarried. There weren’t a lot of people there, so we were on our own. Finally, Bob told me to summon my inner vortex and experience the energy.

Trying to encounter the correct twirl to join in the vortex energy fun

I felt nothing but silly as a hiker passed by, and then I felt the calm quiet that always fills me while in nature. Just being in the forest and taking in all the beauty that God created was enough for me. The rocks, the streams, the trees, the quiet. It doesn’t get much better than that. The only thing that was missing was the energy.

I didn’t care. When my doctor gives me a B-12 shot, which is supposed to give energy, I typically get very tired for a couple of days. Thinking about this, I realized that the energy of the vortex must have been quite strong, because I don’t remember when I have been as tired as I was while in Sedona. Yes, I am the anti-energizer. I’m okay with that.

Even More Sedona coming tomorrow!

 

Sedona!

View of Cathedral Rock

We arrived in Sedona expecting a cooler-than-normal time here. That is, cooler than Sedona’s normal, which of course would be cooler than my Florida normal this time of year and cooler than Sedona’s summertime normal, but it was supposed to be at least on the warm side. To sum things up, this Florida girl has been freezing.

It has been a surprise to me to look at the beautiful red rocks and experience the crisp air and long for humidity and heat. Perhaps the problem is that my Florida winter clothes have not cut it here, but even the locals are put out over the cold. I have resolved to move past it.

Therefore, I have spent more time in the Coffee Pot than I might have expected. It is adorable and packed with western charm. Behind it is the Coffee Pot mountain formation for which it is named. The Coffee Pot has been around since the 1950s and is going strong. Their coffee, though, is just right. Goldilocks would approve. 

The building was formerly owned by Jane Russell, which is part of its claim to fame. It’s popular with locals and tourists alike. I tripped down a ramp and ended up chatting with a lady named Lilliamm, who made sure I was okay (I was). She has been going to breakfast there for 30 years. Impressive. Another claim to fame for the Coffee Pot is their 101 omelets. I figured by now Lilliamm would have tried them all, but she doesn’t even like omelets. I had an immediate connection with her. The food is amazing and the staff is friendly. It’s right on 89A. We could have walked there from our resort, but like I said, it’s been too cold for me to ruin breakfast by taking an early morning walk in the cold. 

Do you see the coffee pot?

I encountered some great faces in their gift shop. I had to share them with you. They’re part of the charm of the place. What do you think? Have a favorite?

Sedona is very unique and has a different feel to it than any place I have visited in the US. I’ll share more of that soon. Thanks for traveling with me.

Crossing the Country with Four Kids

Bob and I have traveled a lot, but it took us a while to get to the point where we went somewhere besides visiting family. When you’re raising four kids you tend not to be able to afford hotels or to want to stay in them with your children. And I hate camping. That said, our first big trip was a camping event. Sort of.

We planned on four weeks on the road to go from Florida to Washington State and back with an intermission in the middle. At that point Bob would fly home and work a week or two, leaving me with the kids to have some sister and cousin time off the road. Then he planned to fly back to join us and resume the trip. This was back in 1995 before everyone used the internet.

We were closing in on our early June departure date when Bob got the word that his company was closing its Central Florida division and he was suddenly out of a job. We had purchased a used pop-up camper to pull behind our big blue Dodge conversion van. (This was as close to real camping as I was willing to go.) The front two weeks of our trip were planned and reservations made. We decided to proceed as planned except for the intermission, and why not make it a six-week trip.

Bob would be drawing unemployment and we could pick up newspapers as we crossed the country for him to apply  for jobs along the way. Aside from the obvious loss of income, it seemed like a pretty good plan.

Then things started to fall apart. Literally. First, our dishwasher broke. It was old and not worthy of repair. As we debated over spending money to fix it or not, the air conditioner in our house went up. There would be no debate. You don’t live in Florida without air conditioning. We had to replace the entire unit. Ouch.

I’m not one to look for signs, but we started to question whether or not this trip was a good idea. Both Bob and I had done similar trips as kids and we always wanted to do this with ours. Our kids ranged from 8 to 16, so we knew we were running out of time.

It was then that the freakiest thing happened, the metal standard that held up our basketball hoop and was cemented into the ground, fell over. Boom. Just like that. It looked like acid had worn through it. We blame this on our dog PJ. The pole was his favorite place to pee. We considered taking him to be checked out at the vet, but that would be another expense and how would we explain to our vet that the dog’s urine had eaten through a metal pole, so we left that one alone.

Ultimately we decided that since our window was closing, we better just make the trip before something else went wrong, so off we went.

I’m so glad we did. This trip remains a highlight of our life with the kids. We traveled through 22 states and logged 10,000 miles on our car. Our kids developed a deeper relationship with each other just at the point when they would be pulling more towards their friendships than siblings. It was a win in every way except for laundry. Doing laundry on the road was challenging but we managed. People have been using laundromats for years and when you can do several loads at once, it’s not so bad.

Our children are now all married. Our daughter definitely has the road-trip gene. She and her husband also have four children. Two years ago they traveled across country with them and when they came to the Oregon Dunes, she remembered being there as a kid. She remembered her brothers and her acting like they were lost in the desert as they climbed the dunes. So, she reenacted it for us. I hope you enjoy the picture as much as I do.

 

My four kids at the Oregon Dunes in 1995

 

Dena’s four kids doing the reenactment. She has three girls and a boy, just the opposite of Bob and me.

Have you ever done a long trip with your family? If not, you may want to consider it. It was a bonding moment and an adventure that we will never forget.

 

This is Post #26 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

 

A Few More Things about Salzburg

My husband Bob was very disappointed that I neglected to share a few facts and pictures from our Salzburg trip, so this post is for Bob, but I hope you read it, too.

I’ll start with his favorite discovery. The church where the wedding from The Sound of Music was portrayed was Basilica St. Michael in the Mondsee Lake District. Only the inside of the church was used. I’ll give you three shots of the church altar area, each getting closer. Notice the area behind the candles. What do you see?

This is a little closer up. What do you see behind the candles?

If you said human skeletons, you’d be right. There are two on each side of the altar and they seem to be dressed for church. While getting the site ready for the foundation, four skeletons were uncovered. To my knowledge, nobody knows who these people were, but it was decided that they should be included inside of the church. They are preserved behind glass. We don’t know who came up with that plan, but it sure is different. We have seen thumbs of saints and heads of saints preserved and on display in duomos (cathedrals) in Italy, so this is not as strange as you might think. Oh, it’s strange, just not as much as you might think.

I also neglected to give you a shot of what the inside of our hotel looked like in Salzburg. This is very different from its American counterparts, but I like it. I like the idea of each of us having our own blanket as I am usually cold and Bob is always on the warm side. Actually, maybe that’s the problem – I need to be on the warm side.

And I forgot to show you the view as we traveled to our hotel. Our mouths were open in awe during our entire trip.

You really need to go to Mirabell Gardens if you’re in Salzburg. It’s breath-taking.

Bob in the gardens.

When we were at dinner with our new friend, my sister mentioned that she was coming down with a head cold. Robert said he had just the thing for that. He served up a round of schnapps for us, on the house. He said it would help clear her head. She downed it before he could warn her it was a little strong. This picture is our reaction to my sister who came out of her seat when the smack from the schnapps hit her. And, by the way, it did its job of clearing her head!

Hope you enjoyed a little more of Salzburg and hope even more you can visit there yourself sometime.

 

This is Post #12 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post each day in April.

Salzburg – We Needed to Spend Some Time with You

Full disclosure, I had this post without pictures in my drafts to complete since Bob and I went to Europe with my sister and her husband four years ago. When today’s blogging challenge writing prompt suggested a travel post, I thought maybe it was time. I enjoyed reminiscing. I hope you’ll forgive me for waiting four years to post this, but better later than never.

Salzburg

 

When I came to realize that the Sound of Music was set in Austria, I knew I had to go there.  Maybe it was the lure of the mountains, maybe it was the leiderhosen, maybe it was the fact that the highest point in Florida is just above sea level, I don’t know.  But if those hills really are alive with the sound of music, by golly I was going to hear it.

The Sound of Music tour was fun.  Picture a bunch of strangers and strange people on a bus being led around by a cute, young English lady in traditional Austrian leiderhosen.  In between stops we would sing along with the movie score. It was there that I discovered that my sister, Chris, who was traveling with us, could yodel. She’s very talented!

Sound of Music Tour

We visited the lake in the back of the house where Maria and the children, while dressed in curtains, fell out of the boat. The lake was not at the actual back of the house used in the movie.  They filmed in two different locations.  This would have been where you would have expected to see the gazebo where 16 going on 17 was sung, but that has been moved to a different area.  It used to be in a private backyard, but the people who owned the house grew weary of strangers leaping around in their backyard at all hours of the day and night so they donated it to the city, who moved it to a park.

Bob and I were actually dating when I was 16 going on 17. We never had a gazebo to dance around in though.

Of course, the church where movie Maria married the Captain was spectacular, as was sitting in a cafe eating apple strudel during a break in the tour.

This church was chosen for Maria’s wedding to allow for great views from above of the long train on her wedding dress.

We also visited the lake district even though it is barely featured in the movie.  It offered some of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.

Bob and I in the Lake District. For some reason we keep singing and raising our arms.

A highlight was Mirabell Gardens, which we visited while waiting for our tour bus.  I came to realize that these beautiful gardens were the ones featured in the movie.  Our April visit was perfect for the commencement of spring flowers, which added to our enjoyment of the park.

After the tour, we wandered around the old town and found ourselves in an area that looked more like Rodeo Drive than Salzburg.  There was even a Starbucks there.  It seemed wrong.  So we pulled out our trusty Rick Steves Guide and sought out a place to eat.  Rick always encourages his readers to go to Europe through the back door. The door we went through seemed to open into a different city altogether, so we were happy to put our hands in the hands of the man who travels Europe for a living.  We found our way back into the charming Salzburg that we had so quickly fallen in love with.

Mozart’s birthplace. No pictures allowed inside.

First time we stopped at Mozart’s house, it was closed. I tried knocking but nobody was home.

Just down the way from Starbucks was the house where Mozart was born, and thanks to Rick, nearby we found a restaurant called Gasthaus zum Wilden Mann.  We felt like we had entered someone’s private home.  It was rustic and charming.  The owner, Robert, greeted us as we entered.  I offered my “Gruss Got” greeting, and then inquired if I had used it correctly.  He smiled and said, “Yes, we always like to praise the Lord when we greet people.”  Gruss Got literally means God is good.

We sat at the corner table under a crucifix.  So we had a bar in one corner and Jesus in the other.  Antlers were on every wall. Robert sat with us and helped us choose our dinner. He said, “You need to spend some time with me.” We heartily agreed and by the end of our meal, we felt like we had been with an old friend. He sat with us for our entire dinner. It was as if he had nothing better to do.

This was a great example of hospitality and slowing down to smell the roses, or in this case sausages and beer. Thanks to Rick Steves for showing us the back door.

“You need to spend some time with me.”

 

This is Post #11 in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.