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.

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.