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Saturday, November 11, 2017


One of the most amazing places in the world is PETRA,
an ancient site located in Jordan
and dating back to 300 BCE.
The rose color of this building, known as The Treasury, is one of many carved into the sandstone along with figures, and tombs, and other incredible carvings.
Visitors enter and leave through a slotted canyon named El Siq.  I walked down and rode back on a donkey.  

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


Leaving Cody, Wyoming we are treated to another eye-full drive.  We roll along part of the 146 mile shoreline of the reservoir formed by the Buffalo Bill Dam.  Like spider threads thrown off the water are irrigation canals for agriculture.  It makes the area bloom.

We don’t leave Buffalo Bill behind easily.  We make a stop at Pahaska Tepee, Cody’s hunting lodge, and it’s beautiful.  It’s the original building and so are many of the furnishings.  This is no rustic cabin. In the 1920s in one of the eight bedrooms upstairs, the Prince of Monaco slept.  I’m glad we didn’t miss this.  It's such a reflection of the man who built it.

This is the main room of Pahaska Tepee, Buffalo Bill Cody's hunting lodge. 
It's very comfortable with leather chairs and a huge, stone fireplace.
I got a kick out of the fact that Bill's own portrait hangs above the fireplace.
No visiting upstairs because of the wood stairs that they say is a safety risk, but the back room is a long dining room, almost like a banquet room.

Along the road to Yellowstone National Park is the strangest structure, The Pagoda.

This is known as The Pagoda.
It was started as a "weekend project" in the 1950s
and for one reason of another, the builder gave up at this stage.
Here is stands for all this length of time.

As we drive through the valley, we see Nature's sculpting ability
in the formations rising high above us.
Do you see the bear, the lion, and the blacksmith?
What else do you see?

The land is so beautiful.  In the far distance, the mountains don’t look real; they appear as a painted landscape.  There is an other worldly aspect to their beauty, and we are anxious to reach them as we drive through the Shoshone National Forest.

Beautiful, isn't it?
It's so rugged, and it looks like a painting as we speed past.

Our destination is Yellowstone National Park, a place with more geysers than New Zealand or Iceland, countries known for their geysers.  The Yellowstone we visit was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions so huge that the central part of the park is actually a 35 by 45 mile caldera.  If you have ever been to Volcano National Park in Hawaii and flown above to see the caldera of Kilauea or have climbed to the caldera of Diamondhead, you will literally suck in your breath when you think of the eruption that produced Yellowstone.

The geysers, mud volcanoes, fumaroles, hot springs and other thermal phenomena are caused by the still-active magmatic forces bubbling just below the surface.  You are above seismic activity.  If it should blow….

Just one of the many thermal wonders spouting the steam created
by the activity below the earth's surface.
Makes you really wonder about the earth on which we stand.

These thermal wonders as well as the magnificent wildlife, the beautiful trees and rugged mountains are what we see during our three days in Yellowstone National Park, and our excitement is practically palpable.

Actually, traffic moved pretty well along the park roads, one reason that we looked for a late season visit there, but one occurrence consistently stopped everyone dead in their tracks—the appearance of wildlife.  Here you can see what constantly happens when bison decide to cross the road!!!!  I don’t believe anyone minds however; the thrill of seeing them never fades.

Bison are incredible.
But it really isn't wise to get too close.
People really do get hurt.

All the traffic in the world doesn’t matter when you take the time to explore Yellowstone.

The gorge that is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is magnificent: the layered rock strata of blacks and browns dotted here and there with tenacious pine and worn away by the constant forces of rushing water cascading down the crevice creating rising mists at the base before it hits another drop and becomes a waterfall again. The sound of the roaring water does not lessen the beauty of the browns, blacks, greens and whites against a blue sky.  It is spell-binding.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Please follow the link in blue for a description of how this incredible canyon was formed.

This is only the beginning.  On to some of the great thermal sights in the park.  One thing to keep constantly in mind are the warnings about nature’s display.  It’s dangerous and tricky.

Other signs gave some of the numbers of people injured and burned.
Sometimes people are so strange.  We saw teenagers testing with their feet, and we saw, in another area, adults letting their children romp off the designated paths.
Wonders never cease.

We began touring the mud volcanoes, highly acidic and accompanied by pungent sulfuric odors.  The path is a boardwalk, and the different mud volcanoes bubble and spurt steam and gasses, rumbling at you as you walk by.  There’s nothing inviting here, but you cannot resist a fascination with the bubbly mud and the steam emanating and rising into the sky.

It's impossible to forget what is going on under your feet.
I wonder what possesses people to test the acidity and to disregard the warnings on the signs.
This is an incredible walk, and I wonder what happened to people prior to the boardwalk.
Mud volcanoes change.  In 1870, explorers were amazed at a volcano spewing steam and mud into the treetops and shaking the ground; two years later, the volcano had blown itself apart and became the muddy, bubbling sight that greeted us.  Some mud volcanoes, on the other hand, appear overnight. 

Some areas are quite beautiful, but we soon learned that the colors are caused, for the most part, by bacteria.  That sort of takes the edge off, so we just shake our heads in amazement at nature’s artistry.

Steam and boardwalks and vibrant colors.
It's almost difficult to believe that this is how it has "always" been.
It's also hard to believe that the vivid colors are caused by bacteria.
I’m glad we stayed in at the Yellowstone Lake Hotel in the park because as the clock gets closer to dinner time, there is a mass exodus of park visitors. Those are the real lines of traffic.  Hotels outside the park are quite a distance.  But there are other reasons that this hotel is so exciting. 

The beautiful Yellowstone Lake Hotel.
Travelers rode two days into the park to reach this hotel.
It is simple and grand at the same time.
Its atmosphere reflects the calm beauty of its enviornment.

It is 175 years old, and yes, it has been remodeled, the last time in 2014.  As a member of Historic Hotels of America, it is not allowed to install wifi although wired internet is in each room.  Nor are there televisions.  Board games are available if one desires, and there is a real attempt to preserve the atmosphere as it once was.  The original 300 rooms are now shrunk to 157 as bathrooms (thank goodness) ate up a great deal of space, so the Yellowstone Lake Hotel has a glamour of its own that makes a stay here utterly charming.

We walked down to the gorgeous lake and just reveled in its beauty.

Quiet and peaceful.
There is an overwhelming sense of calm down by the lake where some people sit, some stand, but all stare, overcome with awe.

Another magnificent day.  Awaiting to see what is in store tomorrow.

Saturday, November 04, 2017


Traveling through that engineering wonder, the Panama Canal.
Looking closely, you can see how little space is left on either side of a ship moving goods
and/or people from one ocean side to another.
Cruise ships like our Coral Princess must be smaller to go through.
We went on a repositioning cruise as the Coral Princess moved from its winter Caribbean itinerary to its summer Alaskan itinerary.  Most cruises do not go all the way through from one ocean to the other.
The three steps of the Gatun Locks, via gravity, each lower ships 28 feet to the level of the Atlantic Ocean.  You can see that how much lower the cargo ship is in front of us.
A great book about the Panama Canal is David McCullough's The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Yes, Virginia, there is a Walton’s Mountain Museum, and if you were a fan of that television show, it is definitely worth the visit to Schuyler, Virginia not far from Lynchburg or Charlottesville, Virginia.

More than two years ago while driving down to North Carolina, Rob and I passed a sign advertising the Walton’s Mountain Museum, and I’ve been anxious to go ever since.  We were passing through the Rockfish Valley at the time, part of the Walton Mountain’s locale.  It was kind of exciting that we finally did visit the museum.

I’ll be honest and say that I thought this would be a quick visit simply to satisfy my curiosity.  I loved that TV show.  But we spent two good hours in the museum throughout which time people constantly came and went.  It’s a busy place.  It is a good museum.  I’ll also add that Richard Thomas, the actor who played John Boy, the oldest son, was coming the following weekend to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the museum.  Events were scheduled, and I bet it was going to be nice.

So many discussions took  place in the Walton living room where people entered directly through the doorway
Walton’s Mountain ran from 1971-1981. We viewers watched this Blue Ridge Mountain country family make it through the depression and through part of WWII.  The children grew up, got their educations, married, and followed their dreams. We viewers were all part of it.  New characters were added, and some departed.

Decisions were often made around the family's kitchen table
Grandpa Zeb passed away when the actor Will Greer died, and Ellen Corby who played Grandma had a stroke and was out of the show for a while recuperating, unable to walk and barely able to speak. 

I learned at the museum that Ellen Corby really wanted to return to the show.  She was the long-time actress you might remember in It’s a Wonderful Life as the woman in the Savings and Loan whom George Bailey kissed when she asked for only a small amount of money. 

On The Walton’s, one of the most meaningful episodes for the writers as well as for the cast was when Grandma returns home from the hospital after her stroke, barely able to speak.  The family hustles about to do everything for her, continually asking her what she needs.  Finally Grandma says two words, “Need me.”  That says it all, doesn’t it?  Thematically it fits right into the series’ aim.

A visit to the museum begins with a video about the series.  It includes interviews with the cast members and their feelings about the show as well as their special memories.  We also get to see them as they were when the video was made, and it’s always nice to get the “Where are they now?” viewpoint.  Then there’s time for visitors to tour the museum.

That’s when I learned that Kami Cotler, who played the youngest Walton, Elizabeth, was so impressed by the locale (although filming was done in California) that she became a teacher and went to the Blue Ridge to teach for a number of years.  She then went back to California and opened a Charter School.

Schuyler, Virginia is actually a pretty little town where the show’s creator, Earl Hamner, Jr. grew up. His voice is the show’s narrator, ostensibly an adult John Boy.  The Walton family is based on Hamner’s own.  In the museum’s photographic displays, we see that the actors actually resemble their real-life counterparts.  Some of the locations for the show are still there in Schuyler, a tiny town of about 2,000 tucked away in a beautiful section of Virgina.

The picturesque Rockfish River  runs alongside Schuyler, Virginia
The road to Schuyler is only a bit more than six miles off Rt. 29, but it is slow going.  It follows the twists and turns of the Rockfish River, and though it is barely wide enough for two cars, the speed limit is 55mph.  As Rob rarely broke 35 because of the twists, turns, and narrowness, we joked that if a person really drove the speed limit, it would be a one time drive.  It was a pretty road, though, as it came into the town of Schuyler with its general store, homes, and churches.  “Country—After All These Years.”  (Chet Atkins)

The museum is housed in Schuyler’s former elementary school.  The former classrooms are decorated to replicate the series’ sets, so a visitor enters the Walton’s house and sees that famous kitchen and living room, visits John Boy’s room, Ike and Cora Godsey’s store and post office, and even has an opportunity to visit the Baldwin sisters’ living room and see a still where bottles of “the recipe” fill the shelves.  The still used in the museum is actually one “confiscated” but not working.  However, diagrams teach how one could put it back in action. It just makes me smile even to think back on it now.  It’s all there; no imagination needed.  An absolutely pleasant visit. 

Here are the delightful Baldwin sisters, those lovely Southern ladies who just loved to make "Papa's recipe."
There is a gift shop, of course, and I couldn’t resist sending a few post cards and taking a picture with Ike and Cora at the Post Office.  And I could not resist buying a t shirt.  It was a good day. 

I couldn't resist taking a picture with Ike and irrepressible Cora Godsy right in their store that doubled as the post office.

Schuyler was proud of its native son, and it honored Earl Hamner, Jr.

And with this final photo of my tshirt, I will give a Walton's line that every fan memorized:  

Friday, October 20, 2017


This is Virginia's Natural Bridge
It is 215 feet high, 55 feet higher than Niagara Falls
It is 40 feet thick and 100 feet wide.
Look at the people walking beneath to get some perspective of size.
It was created over time by the small Cedar Creek flowing toward the ocean
It belonged to Lord Fairfax who, in 1750, hired George Washington to survey. 

Washingtonscaled 23 feet to carve his initials in the stone. 
 Those initials can still be seen today.
Thomas Jefferson purchased Natural Bridge and surrounding lands on July 5, 1774.
The Monocan Indian Nation called it "The Bridge of God."
It has been mentioned in books such as Moby Dick, and it is the subject of many paintings by American artists.
Heading down Route 81 or Route 15?  Spend time here and its environs.