Category Archives: Travel

Now you see them…

Today’s post comes from Jacque.

We pulled away from the curb to leave. I turned around to wave at the grandchildren just in time to witness our 8 year-old granddaughter racing across the street behind our car, running behind it yelling, “Good-bye, I love you!” She ran for 2 blocks.

“Oh, dear,” I said to Lou, who was driving. “She is following us. It’s so hard to say good-bye to them.“

We had spent the weekend playing games with the 3 kids, primarily the card game Uno, a great game for many ages and abilities. Our 6 year old grandson, who got to nail his dad with a Pick-up 4 card, was jumping up and down and shaking with excitement. All three kids seemed to notice us in a new way that weekend. As in, “Oh, this is fun. They are not just old people!” And for our part, we found their delight and antics adorable!

Six months later, after our next visit, our Granddaughter ran after our car again, this time joined by our Grandson. It was clear that these kids wanted us around. The allure of those Uno games, to which we added Spot It was undeniable. So my husband and I made a decision to visit Arizona more. We scraped together our funds and some courage, and decided to purchase a small condo near Phoenix, in the exurban community of Fountain Hills, just east of Scottsdale.

Cloud shadows

This is a lovely town surrounded by the Superstition Mountains to the East. It is more like Northern Arizona than the Phoenix area. As our granddaughter said, “I feel like I am in a different state than Arizona.” We are here now. My blogging plan was to document the mountains with pictures from our balcony, demonstrating to you how these mountains appear to change colors, shapes, and sizes with the weather. Last week, however, they disappeared entirely during 5 days of rain. Gone. I couldn’t even find them to TAKE a picture. The El Nino weather pattern that dumped many inches of rain on drought-stricken Southern California, extended into Arizona, dumping heavy rain and sleet here, and now in the mountains. People told us rain like this had not happened since 2007!


Finally on Saturday, the clouds cleared and we could see the mountains again, covered with new snow. So here are the pictures of the fascinating and ever-changing mountain view. Meanwhile, we spent last Sunday evening with the kids and grandkids watching the Vikings beat Green Bay, playing Uno and Spot it while talking football smack. After all, their Arizona Cardinals are really good this year. This coming Saturday, two of the three kids may be over for the afternoon while their parents work.

I am no fan of hot weather, so our time in Fountain HIlls will be limited to winter. This year we will return home to Minnesota in February while some renters occupy the condo. We will come back to Arizona for a week of mountain views and Uno games in April. So in the meantime I will have to just look at the pictures of the mountains.

What do you rely on that just disappeared?

Embracing Rush Hour

With so many people and (lately) nations agreeing that we have to reduce our carbon output to preserve life as we know it on this planet,  it is reasonable to expect that we will all be driving less in the future.

Except that there’s no way we’re going to be driving less.

Humans, especially American humans, are too much in love with their cars and the ease of personalized combustion-engine-powered travel to give up these convenient machines anytime soon.

Technology may make our cars “cleaner”, though even the most advanced electric vehicles simply trade emissions created at the tailpipe to emissions created at the power plant.

And while computer-driven cars will certainly be more fuel efficient thanks to the removal of the lead foot from the equation, there is some thought that unless we get the laws right, autonomous vehicle technology could result in more miles traveled (and gas burned), not less.

Here’s a startling look at Rush Hour from a director named Fernando Livschitz and his company, Black Sheep Films.  Livschitz did the opening credits sequence to Stephen Colbert’s new show on CBS.

RUSH HOUR from Black Sheep Films on Vimeo.

Hilarious and terrifying, in that it feels like someone is going to die but you’ve gotta love the music and the timing.

Describe a close call you had on the roadway. 

A Weekend Getaway

Although there’s no real reason to want to escape on this mild December weekend in the heart of what is already one of the busiest travel times of the year, we do have the opportunity to transport ourselves to Pluto today, thanks to new images released by NASA.

I would not have guessed even last year that I’d be able to sit in my living room on a sunny Saturday morning and do a flyover of Pluto. The texture of this distant terrain is fascinating, but not so much that I’d like to see it first hand.

The heat source is a bit distant for my comfort.  I’m fine watching from here.

The image above is of Pluto’s moon, Charon.  They’re calling the dark smudge at the top of the moon “Mordor”, which sounds like the first bit of travel marketing for this far end of the solar system.

No doubt the Plutonian Tourism Agency (PTA), when seeking to book tour groups, would have a big challenge in closing the deal, with an average surface temperature of -384 F.

One time honored tactic is to show impossibly beautiful people having fun in the location being advertised.  But its hard to see those models when they’re sealed up inside their spacesuits.

And for outright fun, how about “surviving”?

What travel marketing tricks work on you?



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.

image003 (1)

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.