Category Archives: Travel

The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota

I am not much into dream interpretation, being a Dust-bowl empiricist sort of psychologist by training. My dreams are pretty understandable, not scary, just annoying and mundane, usually fueled by anxiety. My most recent stupid dream concerned the band in which husband and I play doing a gig at the Vatican, and I couldn’t get my bass guitar amp to play loud enough during Mass. How dumb is that?

Our sojourn into Indian Country has taught me, though, that when a person has a dream concerning American Indians, it is wise to sit up and take notice. Dreams are important means of communication in the Native community.  I have heard many a Native person say to someone “I had a dream about you last night. Thought I better come and check if you are ok.” I had a very strange dream a while back about Linda, one of our Native friends we were going to meet up with at a pow wow. The dream, which seemed strangely real, involved Linda, in great distress, trying to contact me to tell me that she wasn’t going to make it to the pow wow because she was ill.  In the morning we drove up to the pow wow grounds. I asked about Linda and was told that she was ill and was staying home. That was a really odd experience.

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The photo attached to this post is of the Hopi Corn God.  We purchased him at Mesa Verde, in the National Park gift shop. He isn’t made by the Hopi, but by Apaches for the tourist trade. I think that Kachinas are too sacred to the Hopi to make and sell. I set him in a place of honor in the living room when we got back home. One night I had enough of husband’s snoring (this was pre-CPAP) and I bunked up on the living room sofa. That night I had a horrific dream that the kachina was really, really angry. It seemed very real, and it was again hard for me to decide if it was a dream or if it was really happening.  He was about 50 feet tall and was moving toward me, stomping and stomping with his big feet.  It felt that he was going to stomp me to jelly. I woke up and found some dried field corn we had for the squirrels and sprinkled some around the kachina’s feet.  I haven’t had any more dreams about him, but I wonder what it was he was trying to tell me that night.  Probably that even Apache-made Hopi Kachinas are too sacred to be used as an ornament. I probably need to ask some our Native friends what I should do with him and how I should properly dispose of him if they think that necessary. Be careful if you have an opportunity to purchase Native artifacts.

You may have dreams.

What is your most worrisome artifact?

Celestial Contact

Today’s post comes from Anna.

I have touched the moon.

No really. I touched the moon. Well, part of the moon. Okay, fine, a rock from the moon. A little piece of rock from the moon. For the record, it was very smooth and shiny, not at all like I expected a piece of the moon to be.

My lunar adventure began with a trip to Houston for work. The co-worker I traveled with is a huge NASA fan and has been to a couple other NASA sites. I will not pretend that a trip to Johnson Space Center was not part of the motivation to fly in early to our conference. With a little work from our hotel’s concierge, we were set up with a rental car for the day and off we went, into Houston traffic, after being warned by the clerk at the rental car agency that something like 1 in 4 drivers in Texas does not have a license. Did I mention that Houston traffic is crazy and there were traffic jams by my hotel well into the evening? Yeah. This wasn’t like driving to Duluth.

In the never-never land between Houston and Johnson Space Center (and Not-Quite-Galveston) there isn’t much. Several purveyors of boots. Various and sundry “adult” businesses. More boots. The previously mentioned crazy traffic. Another place to buy boots.


And then, the Space Center. We got there too late in the afternoon to take the tram out to see the building that houses “mission control,” but we did get to climb into the cockpit of a shuttle (decommissioned, sliced off, and all the fun buttons behind plexiglass…so no button pushing for me, dang it). shuttleinteriorA piece of the control console from the Apollo era is also on display with an explanation of the work necessary to change a single button to do task B instead of task A (makes you appreciate how much computing power you likely have in your pocket or purse…computing power you use to play games and check blogs, perhaps more power than was used to get us to and from the moon). There was a progression of space suits and re-creations of the International Space Station – all sorts of good stuff to make a space nerd happy.

And then, yes, tucked back in a corner of the visitor center is the tiny bit of the moon that you can touch, shiny from all the fingers that have grazed it. touchingthemoonI met the man who brought that piece of the moon and he was about as unassuming as the rock he brought back. Harrison Schmitt – the only professional scientist to have gone to the moon and one of the last to stand on its surface (he was on the last Apollo mission). He was in the Twin Cities a couple years ago for an event and apparently didn’t have the patience to wait for his official autograph time at a table, so wandered the floor of the event chatting with folks. I am sure his politics and mine are not at all similar, but he brought back a part of the moon. And I have touched it. And that is a pretty cool thing.

When have you had a brush with the stars?

Big Hole Remains Vast

I’m here to report that the world-famous Grand Canyon in northern Arizona lives up to its billing and is undiminished by time.

In fact, time, which gradually dismantles you and me and blunts the overall effect of abslutely everything else,  only increases the canyon’s grandness.

Such has been the case for either 6 or 70 million years, depending on which creation story you happen to believe.  In a remarkable double-reversal, the old theory is that the canyon is new, and the new theory is that the canyon is very much older, having formed as a by-product of an earlier river that flowed in the opposite direction – as a result of a powerful, rock-cutting  runoff from mountains that no longer exist.

And that mountain range existed in the basin where Las Vegas sits today.  What are the odds?

Name your favorite natural feature of the Earth’s surface. 



Climbing the Family Tree in Philadelphia

Header image by Dave Z (Flickr: CITY HALL PHILADELPHIA) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s post comes from Jacque.

In early October Lou and I travelled to Philadelphia for a long weekend in the City of Brotherly Love to see the sights and climb some ancient branches of the family tree.   We made our plans with my sister and her husband, who wanted the climb the family tree with us.

We were scheduled to leave on Wednesday. Tuesday, my sister and her husband were packed and ready to head North from Iowa. She picked up a knife to scrape a label off a can. The knife slipped. A perfectly positioned ½ inch cut at the base of her thumb severed the tendon. She called from the Dr.s’ office to report that instead of going to Philly, she was going to surgery. The surgery appears successful, but her hand and arm are swathed in an enormous splint because it is of great importance not to move the thumb while the tendon heals. Not only did she miss the trip to Philly, she can’t even drive in Iowa. She called SW airlines, cancelled her plane tickets and put them on hold for another trip.

We left for the airport early, early Wednesday morning; 530 am early, to arrive in time for a very delayed flight—plane repairs. The layover in Chicago was even more delayed—more plane repairs. That plane they finally just replaced after 2 hours of waiting. HMMM. In what condition does Southwest Airlines keep their planes? So our ETA of 12:55pm stretched to an actual arrival time of 5pm. Argh.

We arrived famished and tired. However, we were delighted that the train into Philadelphia was simple to locate and right on time, zipping us right into the Center City area. Yippee. We were on our way. We walked to our B and B through the beautiful neighborhoods surrounding Rittenhouse Square, noticing an array of restaurants with really great looking menus. Philadelphia is a fabulous city in which to be hungry. It has great restaurants, one of my favorite parts of travel. My first meal of crabcakes was delicious.

Highlights of the sightseeing and family tree climbing are as follows:

  • A tour of Independence Hall which revealed that the Founding Fathers rented the space to meet from the Colony of Pennsylvania. The USA owns it now, but we did not own it then!
  • The National Jewish Museum which provided me with a list of Jewish Geneology sites and which confirmed the presence of many Jewish soldiers from the Philadelphia area in the American Revolution. Maybe my 7th great grandfather, Michael Klein/Kline/Cline will reveal himself there.
  • I was blessed by a cardboard Pope Francis in City Hall.
  • Reading Market—a fabulous Inner city market with more great food (see sandwich picture).
  • Rittenhouse Square—a lovely park that hosted a wonderful art/craft show over the weekend—is filled with jugglers, mimes, families with children, dogs and musicians.
  • The Betsy Ross House where I learned a lot more about the Free Quakers from whom I am descended. And there I learned that my cousin, Timothy Matlack, was the scrivener of the Declaration of Independence. His grandfather, Mark Stratton is also my 7th great grandfather whose grave I located at the Medford Friends Meeting Cemetery, 20 miles from Center City Philadelphia in New Jersey.  And I had not heard of this man before.
  • LaReserve B and B. We had a comfy stay there with excellent breakfasts.
  • And did I mention the food? The Osteria on S. Broad was the highlight.

What a great city to tour! I would do it again; however, I will not fly Southwest again. We arrived back at the airport early Sunday morning to fly home, where we found the Southwest computers all down and the agents printing and collecting tickets.

So we arrived home late. The flights were delayed due to computer failure. Of course they were. Sigh.

Some Hot Air Over Albuquerque

I don’t own a boat because having a little bit of fun on the weekend shouldn’t require that much work.

But I just had the delightful experience of attending the last few days of the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and now I’m wondering what it might cost to buy a sturdy two person basket and an acre of cloth specially sewn to resemble of a fire hydrant.

Yes, it was a hoot to walk among the giant puffed up gasbags as they lifted themselves off the ground with the help of propane, fire, and human determination. At one point, there were so many oversized shapes looming over me, such a collection of bulbous forms that were seemingly oblivious to my existence, I felt like a four year old who had gone to the department store with his mother.

Here’s a giant cow, lifting off.

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You can see why this celebration is one of the world’s most photographed events. With all the color, motion and charm the balloons and their crews bring to the field, mixed with the interplay of fire, clouds and light, it is quite a challenge to take even one bad picture.

What will make you stop and gaze skyward?

The Cruise

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

The final part of our trip to France in the spring of this year was an 8-day Viking River Cruise. (I am saving the 2nd leg of the trip for Veterans’ Day.) Imagine our delightful anticipation, having seen all of Viking’s TV ads showing the glorious scenery and culture that is yours while on board this vessel. We were to meet the cruise ship at Avignon in southern Provence – a wonderful place by any measure.

The cruise went like this:

Because of high waters on the Rhone R. (early snow melt on top of ample rains); authorities wouldn’t let cruise ships travel under the bridges, and our cruise ship was unable to GET to us in Avignon. Viking put us up for the first two nights at Hotel Novetel; there was a lot of complaining from previous cruisers about the hotel’s food, a mere shadow of what we would finally experience on Viking. We were able to do our walking tours of Avignon and Arles – we traveled by bus instead of boat to Arles the second day.

We were, on Day 3, bussed to our stranded ship in Vienne, where we got to unpack in our cabins, and started to at least experience the luxury of the cruise ship, even if it was stationary. They did allow us to cruise upriver on Day 5, from Vienne to Lyon – we were ecstatic, but learned the following morning that we were stranded again, this time in Lyon.

Cruising was wonderful for the four hours we got to do it. Food, drink, and life on the boat were fabulous, and we met some great people. We did see almost all the other scheduled sights by bussing from either Vienne or Lyon.

But lots of riding on busses. Hmmmmm.

Tours and sights:   Palace of the Popes in Avignon (plus a lot of wandering on our own, since we were there a day and a half on our own). Arles – Van Gogh territory and a Roman Amphitheater. A winery or two, Vieux (Old) Lyon, and they’re not kidding about the Vieux… 15th century homes, and traboules (detailed in my July 15 post). In Beaune, we got to see the original Hotel Dieu, which I will write about some other time.

When have you spent too long on a bus?


Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee.

My daughter is a traditionalist. She wouldn’t admit to this of course, but just ask her what she wants to do on vacation and that will tell the whole story. You’ll end up with the same vacation you took last year. And the year before.


So it didn’t surprise me that when we settled on Colorado as our vacation destination this summer, she wanted the same trip we took 3 years ago. I got the big glossy state tourism booklet in the mail and I asked her more than once what she wanted to do, but I’m not sure she looked at it. Same campground on the way out, same campground in Larkspur (south of Denver) and same activities on her list (Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Aquarium in Denver and the Wildlife Sanctuary in Keenesburg).

Generally I’m OK with this, but after a rocky start to our trip (bad news from home on our second morning), I was just itching to make the trip a little different. After flipping through some of the pages of our glossy book, I asked Young Adult if she wanted to go rafting. You’d think that most young folks would jump at the chance to do something new and exciting. Nope. I had to talk her into it!

That little hole-in-the-wall post-rafting pizza place

It was a slightly overcast morning, which turned out to be perfect – not too warm. We had wetsuits and helmets and “flotation devices” (they don’t say “life preservers” anymore), lessons in how to lean and lectures on what happens if you end up in the water. We both stayed in the raft, although not all our raft mates were that lucky and didn’t end up too sore from paddling. Then we had lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall pizza place up the street.

Since Young Adult hadn’t been super-enthusiastic prior to the rafting to begin with, I was happy to hear her say that the trip could have been a little longer. Of course this means that now rafting will be part of the tradition and any vacations to Colorado in the future will have to include it!

What do you like to do on vacation?