Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Taormina! and the BamBar!

As we were waiting – and waiting – and waiting to actually take this tour, the three long years of COVID, we spent time doing research on various aspects of the itinerary. One of our very favorite resources was Gary Bembridge’s Tips for Travellers, and his amazing cruise ship videos.

Gary Bembridge and his partner really like Oceania for it’s passenger service and care, and for the dining options they offer, and he says that for people who are destination serious, the line that has the best tours and onboard lecturers for content and information is hands down, Viking.

My Mother had a great sense of humor; she once said “have you ever noticed that people with good taste seem to have tastes that agree with your own?” I’ve never forgotten that. As I recommend Gary Bembridge and his videos, it is my OPINION that his opinions are really great, but it is probably because I agree with most of what he says.

He says it is important (I am paraphrasing here) to know who you are and to know what you like and know what is important to you as you choose a cruise line. Do you want entertainment? Do you like casinos? Do you want to take your children?

He compares ship packages – tours, drinks, ship credits and helps you find what is right for you. He advises on choice of cabins, cabin locations, and cabins for people inclined to sea sickness. If you have never cruised, or if you have had a disappointing cruise but are willing to try again, Gary Bembridge and his videos can help you make choices that will be a great choice for YOU.

We also watched a lot of YouTube videos about Taormina (and Barcelona, that’s how we narrowed down our choices for our short time there.)

We are the bane of a tour director’s life, AdventureMan and I. We prefer to wander off on our own. I like to take photos not crowded with people. I have some attention deficits; I can only listen for so long, and I can only absorb so much.

So we signed up for a tour called Taormina on your Own, and it turned out to be very right for us.

It was getting close to 1:55 and we headed for our bus. Our friends Alan and Ed came on board, too; we had met them in Barcelona and they sat behind us and we got to know each other a little better. They said mostly they had been eating and catching up on sleep. 

Before we got out of Messina, we got stuck in the middle of a very cultural moment; school got out and parents, drivers, and taxis were all very aggressively picking up students from their schools. There was no regard for lanes, and there were cars coming straight at us in our lane! There were students stepping in front of the bus, knowing we would stop! It was chaos, and it happened every single day in Messina.

Here is a policeman, doing nothing.

Our guide, Julia, gave us all sorts of great information on Messina and Toaramina as we drove the twisty roads en route to Taormina.

The day was already fading as we arrived at a giant parking lot and Julia explained how to get into town and where we would meet to return to the ship. She said we would meet at 5:30, but we were supposed to be back on board at 5:30. She said, oh no, that the ship wasn’t leaving until seven, so we had plenty of time. OK.

AdventureMan and I headed out, and it was familiar territory from all the YouTube videos we had watched. We found there were not too many tourists, and the light was beautiful.

We had learned, from YouTube, of a Taormina legend dating back to early times where a princess had a lover who was unfaithful. She cut off his head and used it as a planter for her basil, which thrived. If you know the legend, you see the planters commemorating this legend everywhere,

Pomegranates! And a pomegranate juice maker! I wish I could stop, but we are headed for the BamBar, and their famous Granitas.

We quickly found the Twin Set where we headed right and strolled down to the Bam Bar. There was one empty table waiting for us.

We ordered granita; chocolate for me, pistachio and brioche for AdventureMan, and hot tea for me. The chocolate was divine, thick and intense, probably full of calories, but how often are we in Taormina?

We continued down the main road and went outside to look at the old Roman Ruins.

On the way back, we headed to see the Greek Theatre, but the gates closed just as we arrived.

It wasn’t a great loss to us; we’d seen it so often on YouTube we felt like we’d been there, and we had other panoramic opportunities to view Toaramina.

These musicians were very good. I can imagine they made good money from tips from appreciative tourists.

Back in Pensacola, pre-trip, a not un-typical conversation:

AdventureMan, hollaring from his office “Hey, there’s an airport up on the hill. We could hike up!”

Me: (thinking why would I want to hike up a hill to the airport? Looking at the map – I can see that it is not an airport. It is an old fort.) “It’s NOT an airport!” I holler back.

AdventureMan, coming into my office with a very confused look on his face: “What do you think I just said?”

Me: “That we could hike up to the airport on the top of the hill.”

AdventureMan, laughing so hard he can barely stand up: “Arab Fort! Arab Fort! Not Airport, Arab Fort!”

We still laugh about that one. We had a great view of the Arab Fort from the BamBar.

We also got to see Mount Etna spewing lava in the distance.

It was another gorgeous day on our trip. We met up with our group, getting to know some of our fellow passengers a little better, then headed to the bus.

As we departed, the moon came up, giant and blood-red in the distance, truly glorious. Arriving back in Messina, at almost 6:40, there was a long line to get back onto the ship, but they had facial recognition programs that identified us and allowed us to process quickly. 

We got to our room, changed our clothes, and took our dinner and a bottle of wine out to our balcony.

We were eating and chatting and watching the passengers straggle back, and at some point, the ship silently pulled away from the dock and it was so gently done we didn’t even notice until we were about ten meters away. We still have a full moon!

What a lovely way to make a departure. The temperature was so warm that we were perfectly comfortable out on the balcony watching as we departed Sicily, faced toward Italy until we lost the view and we retreated back into our cabin.

January 20, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Chocolate, Cultural, Food, Italy, Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

First Stop: Messina and Taormina

We had a surprise, learning our Taormina on Your Own tour will not be leaving until 1:55, but we sailed right into the heart of Messina, past the beautiful Christ blessing ships at the entrance to the harbor.

I’m such a kid, I love watching the pilot boats arrive to escort us into port.

The early tours depart.

We have a quiet breakfast out on the Terrace and learn that not everyone is getting off the ship; some people are staying aboard. It boggles my mind. This is an amazing itinerary, it’s why we chose the trip. How can you stay on the ship?

I am beginning to find my way through the buffet. I can have oatmeal – AND smoked salmon. Much to AdventureMan’s disgust, I can also have pickled herring. The Swedish part of my heritage goes deep.

The Norwegian Star is about five times the size of the Oceania Nautica!

Once the early tours are gone, there are no problems walking off the ship, so we decided to go into Mesina to see the church with the horological clock, the biggest in the world. Exiting the tourist terminal, there were many people offering taxi rides, but they were not overly aggressive, and we were able to escape quickly. We crossed the street with a Sikh and his wife who very agreeably told us we needed to be more aggressive and to “think like Italians.” They were very kind. 

The church was mere minutes from the ship; we could see the ship many times through the streets to the waterfront.

At the church, there were few people, hucksters selling cheap souvenirs and Indian-made shawls, and two open Hop On Hop Off kinds of buses. We asked about one, and it had a 45 minute tour for 10 Euro, so we bought tickets and five minutes later along came a bus. It was almost full, but there was one seat, and, as it turned out, I was on the good side for taking lots of photos. 

Behind me was a woman who said “Quick! Look up! There is a great photo” so I looked up and it was.

She and her husband were New Zealanders, newlyweds, who had intended to take a cruise for their honeymoon when COVID struck. They decided when COVID ended to take their trip, but in the three years, added several other loops onto the trip, and it ended up being three months full of adventure. They were having a wonderful time; they were on the Norwegian Star, parked with the Nautica on the waterfront.

There were all kinds of Messina tours on offer.

I love this view; you can see how close Sicily is to the mainland of Italy. There is a ferry that goes back and forth; it is common to live on one side and work on the other.

Lots of representations of Poseidon/Zeus, God of the Sea

Just before exiting, we saw a very old church with wonderful stonework, so we decided to take a look. The church was partially built into the old Greco-Roman wall around Messina, squat and sturdy.

AdventureMan said “Look, we can go in!” and I said no, but he kept saying he thought we needed to go inside so I agreed. Great call, AdventureMan.

Annunziata dei Catalani Church

Oh, what I would have missed if I had not gone in! It was a very old church, and in the back was a handmade Messina-specific creche, with all kinds of villagers convincingly portrayed. It was one of the most elaborate creches I have ever seen, and I was thoroughly enchanted.

The church is thought to be the oldest church in Messina, with Arabic influences in the stonework, probably it was once a church, then a mosque, and is now a church again. Entrance is free – there is a small box for donations.

As we walked back to the ship, we learned we were supposed to have photo ID with us. I had my driver’s license (our passports were on board the ship) but AdventureMan had nothing. Then, suddenly, he realized he had photos of his passport page and other ID, which he showed the customs police, and it sufficed. There were others who had nothing, and it was a big problem for them to get through the Border Guards and back aboard.

There was also a woman just catching up with the Nautica. Her husband, and the bags, were stuck at the immigration shack. She and a bag were trying to get on board. She was very tired and very annoyed. “Worst start of a cruise EVER” she told us. It turns out there were twenty couples from England in the same situation, some of whom didn’t catch up until we got to Haifa. 

We had been disappointed to be leaving so late for Taormina, but it turned out to be a really good thing. We really like exploring on our own, and had a wonderful time exploring Messina, and meeting people from other cruises, other countries, and other ways of life. We loved the funny little Hop On Hop Off bus and its one-hour circular route allowed us to see Messina and get back to the ship in time for our tour to Taormina.

We had a quick lunch at Waves, the outdoor grill. We had the panini, and it was a lot, so we saved half our sandwiches so we could just eat in our room at the end of a long day without needing to order from room service.

January 20, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Italy, Living Conditions, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

At Sea On U.S. Election Day

It is wonderful to be at sea in the turmoil of this year’s election. No one is talking about it onboard. What a relief.

We are told there are passengers from 39 nations on board, and crew from more nations. The entire day, we hear not a word about the American election.

The demographic is very much our age group. If anything, we are younger than most. Hard to say, but we see some very old but still adventuresome travelers, which gives us hope for our own future travels.

We were wide awake before seven. I got up and went to get some coffee. We can have it delivered to the room, but on these relaxed days at sea, we don’t like to commit to a time and it is just as easy to go get my own cup at the dedicated coffee bar. Actually, coffee is available in many places on the ship, and the smell of coffee early in the morning wafts everywhere.

We had decided to try The Grand Dining Room for breakfast, wanting to be less formal in a very formal environment.

The waiters are all white-jacketed and very pleasant. The menu is lovely – the tastiest item was smoked salmon with cream and capers and white onion, a great way to start the day. AdventureMan shared with me. The fruit platters were large enough for two; I cut most of mine into small pieces to stir into my virtuous oatmeal. Don’t you think smoked salmon is virtuous too? I think I prefer virtuous tasty smoked salmon to virtuous oatmeal. 

I am not complaining. I eat oatmeal every day at home. As a diabetic, it is great for keeping my blood sugar levels down. The Nautica had really nice oatmeal. And oatmeal just pales in comparison to all the lovely choices available for breakfast, all the beautiful pastries, croissants, breakfast breads, all the lovely foods with a lot of fats and sugars. Yes, even on a cruise, I pay attention. I will try not to whine again.

After breakfast, I grabbed some of my hotter weather clothes to iron – the compression bags puts some serious wrinkles into linen clothing.

The laundry room is much smaller than it appears on the ship map, but the iron was hot and efficient, and there were other passengers doing small loads of washing and drying. It is handy that it is all free. There is a laundry on board, and although we have laundry service I prefer doing my own laundry. We have a line in the shower where we can hang items we have hand laundered in the sink, and we found little detergent slips on Amazon that are very compact and efficient for hand laundry.

Then we walked the walking track, windy, invigorating; we have a lovely sunny day, warm enough but sometimes the wind was so strong it blew me into AdventureMan. I am happy we packed some of our cool-weather gear; when we are at sea, it can be windy and chilly. We checked out the gym, where AdventureMan found mats available for stretching as I look eagerly at the outside spa overlooking the bow of the ship. Heaven!

Back in the room, AdventureMan naps as we wait for the eleven o-clock enrichment lecture on the Origins of the First Crusade, in preparation for our time in Sicily and Israel. I am excited we will be going to Acre, the old Crusader stronghold, the day we arrive there.

 The lecture was well attended, probably four hundred or so passengers.

And then off we went to lunch at The Terrace restaurant.

We have found a table we love; sheltered by a small wall but still with a good view out over the aft of the ship. The Terrace is the ship’s buffet restaurant, except that it is not like a buffet where you dish up your own portions. There are very pleasant wait-staff every few feet who put food on your plate. You can say “a very small portion, please” or “could I have a little more of that?” and they will give you exactly what you wish. Don’t you love having choices?

It all feels so indulgent.

After lunch, I read while AdventureMan attended an afternoon lecture on How Man Learned to Navigate by the Stars, which he said turns out to be very complicated. Here is the truth, I will admit it, I needed a nap. I am not yet fully adapted to the time change. The little couch is a perfect size for me, and there is a soft sea-green throw I can cover up with and I am out like a light.

Dinner this night is at the Polo Grill, and, sadly, while these reservations are greatly coveted, by dinner time I don’t care. I don’t much want to dress up; I wish they would just deliver the dinner to the room, but this is part of the Oceania experience and so we dress and go up for dinner. The code is “country-club casual.” There are many interpretations of what that might mean. Here is ours.

I had a shrimp cocktail, tomato salad, and lobster, AdventureMan had the Lobster Bisque, Fois Gras en Croute, and the lobster, and we split a Creme Brûlée. The Creme Brûlée was very good.

It is a lovely kind of evening, and we enjoyed ourselves because we do this so rarely. The night is sweet and warm, the moon is full, and we can’t resist a lap or two around the walking track before we go to sleep.

January 20, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Diet / Weight Loss, Eating Out, Food, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Barcelona, A Breast Cancer Run, and Sagrada Familia

I slept lightly but slept from 10 p.m. to 7:45 a.m., so good enough. We keep expecting jet lag to kick in, but I think we are so busy we are sleeping well at night from sheer exhaustion. We took our time getting ready and headed down to breakfast. What a surprise! Different, but beautiful and tasty and plentiful. I had a little cereal, some thinly sliced ham and sausage, and an espresso, then another. AdventureMan had bread and sausages, with some delicious jam and four fresh orange juices. The room was full of cruisers, some from Princess, so I don’t know who will be cruising with us.

From our room after breakfast, we could see hundreds of pink t-shirted women running. I know this race! Where else do thousands of women race in bright pink T-shirts in October and November? It’s a huge run against breast cancer, and it goes on and on. Streets are closed.

Where we thought we would catch the HopOn HopOff bus is closed off. We have to walk a short distance to the next stop, but we don’t care. This is lovely, and wonderful! They were still running when we went to Plaza Cataluña and we had to cross them going to the plaza, then come back from the place because the buses had to be caught elsewhere.

When we got to the bus, I didn’t have a mask and had to go back to the hotel to pick one up. When we got back to the bus, it was perfect timing, we got a great seat up on top.

We got to Sagrada Familia just in time for our 10:30 tickets. I was surprised we had to go through security like airplane security.

(There are many places you can buy your tickets in advance. We bought our Hop On Hop Off tickets and our Sagrada Familia tickets directly from the operators. Sagrada Familia has a very nice website: https://sagradafamilia.org/en/)

Sagrada Familia was beautiful; beautiful lines, like a stone forest holding up the ceiling. The stained glass windows were stunning. The colors were like Matisse, but without images. We just basked in their loveliness. There wasn’t a huge crowd, and it was quiet and respectful. I can’t imagine what it might be like in high season. 

It is a gorgeous Sunday morning, and these people have the most amazing location, just across from Sagrada Familia. What a lovely place to have your Sunday morning coffee and newspaper.

I love the beauty of the statuary, and – look at the frame! It looks like giant teeth!

This has to be a metaphor for the abundance of the Earth . . .

Look how tenderly this (King?) holds this precious baby

It is an artist’s gift, I believe, to use earthly materials to express the inexpressible and barely attainable. Gaudi combines earthliness and Godly tenderness and compassion in a remarkable and awe-inspiring way.

AdventureMan was not wild about visiting Sagrada Familia when there are so many great places to visit in Barcelona. He went to please me. He was WOWED. He still talks about this visit with awe. Best visit ever!

January 14, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Breckenridge, 2 Perspectives

We love The Lodge at Breckenridge, and we love the beautiful room overlooking the valley where Spring is clearly coming.

We decide to dine at the Lodge restaurant. We have a wedding anniversary coming up in June and we might as well start celebrating now 🙂

We share a charcuterie board to start.

I have the Caesar salad for my main course – and I am delighted when it arrives with a real anchovy on top. I haven’t seen an anchovy on a Caesar salad since Doha.

AdventureMan has the Elk Tenderloin, and generously shares a slice or two with me – it is delicious.

I’m pretty sure we shared a dessert, too, but I can’t remember. I had a local port, AdventureMan had a Bordeaux and we floated to our room.

The next morning, we slept in a little – and awoke to five inches of snow. We could hear other doors onto balconies opening and people saying “Snow!”

We got through the mountain pass, and safely into Colorado Springs where we had a wonderful visit with my youngest sister and her husband in their mountain eyrie. We watched episodes of Joe Pickett (we didn’t even know the series, however short-lived, existed) and then they introduced us to Longmire. Her husband played some blues and boogie for us, and we all belted out “The Train They Call the City of New Orleans.” It was a great visit.

June 13, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Food, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Needles Canyonland Overlook

I don’t know what I would do without Google Maps; I use them to plan trips, I use them to calculate time and distance, I use them to find exactly where to make my turn, etc. And now and then Google Maps gets eccentric on me.

On our last trip in France, driving from Domme to Salers, Google maps had us on treacherous mountain tracks that were single lane, and timber trucks were coming at us. At one point, Adventureman said “stick to the paper map and major roads, no matter what Google Maps says” and he was right.

This time, taking the road to Needles Overlook, the Google lady kept telling us we had arrived and to turn around, the road had ended, when we could see it, paved and smooth, right in front of us. Weird.

We were so glad we persisted. The Needles Overlook is one of the most spectacular viewpoints we have ever seen. All told, you can probably see nearly 300°; not from one point but by following the paths to the different viewpoints. Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does.

OK, this is indelicate, but travelers know, take advantage of every opportunity because you never know when the next opportunity will appear. I told AdventureMan I was going to check the convenience, and he said “I hope they have toilet paper” and when I got inside, I just laughed. I’ve never seen so much toilet paper in one loo.

June 13, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Newspaper Rock, Needles and Canyonland

As AdventureMan reads through these posts, he delights in how much he has already forgotten, and he looks forward to reading about what he called “one of our light days.”

I look at him in astonishment. As occasionally happens, I remember things very differently,

“We got a relaxed start,” I begin, which in our language means we did not hit the road at the crack of dawn, but maybe around 0830, “but we were on the road until about 2:00! And it was some tough driving! No place to stop for lunch, we just had apples and oranges by the side of the road.” And water. Lots and lots of water. It was again in the 90’s, and very dry, and there are signs everywhere warning us to drink water.

We don’t have to start from Moab, we just reach SR 191 and turn south. The first thing we come across is Wilson’s Arch:

And another place called Hole in the Wall, but I can’t tell if it is a famous Hole in the Wall or an adventure outfitting place. There is an ATV perched precariously on the top of the cliff.

We turned off 191 to go to Canyonlands, and soon came to Newspaper Rock.

Early on, I mentioned how fragile and transient petroglyphs can be. We don’t really know who made them. We know that many of the earliest petroglyphs incised were written over, improved, by later early peoples. And then, modern day man, who had done the most damage of all – carving his initials over ancient glyphs, removing glyphs, defacing glyphs, rubbing glyphs (thus eroding their edges and making them more vulnerable to weathering elements), chalking glyphs to make them more visible, even touching glyphs leaves chemicals that damage the quality of the glyphs.

When we got to Newspaper Rock, we parked at the wrong end of the parking lot and ended up on a trail going entirely the wrong way. AdventureMan kept saying he thought we needed to go back, but the further along we got, the more I thought we were on the right track – until the track ended. We walked back, and just at the other end of the parking lot was the Newspaper Rock – near the road and protected by a large grill.

The thing is – I saw others, too, nearby. I am so thankful they protected Newspaper Rock, because through the years many of the incisions have been defaced. I am hoping that the others are being protected by the very lack of trails and signage, by the lack of publicity. It’s a pity we should have to protect the petroglyphs from our own citizens.

On the wrong track, but the track led to more surfaces

Back on the right track

I think of Newspaper Rock as a kind of scratch pad. Even Leonardo da Vinci, the great inventor, engineer and artist, made sketches before he executed a masterpiece. I can see traces of the Fremont peoples, and I can see scraps of petroglyphs we have viewed in Vernal.

AdventureMan found Newspaper Rock a very emotional experience. He felt connected to these early people. When I look at these footprints of all sizes dancing around, I feel their joy. And look at the hand – that is almost modern in it’s representation of a human hand; and I think back to the petroglyphs at White Mountain which may have represented the human hand or may have represented the terror of a bear claw. These feet are so happy, and, interestingly, so similar in form. I wonder how they were formed?

I’ve broken the wall into different panels with photographs; taken in total, it is overwhelming.

Much more modern era; we see horses introduced

Those lines – snakes? Rivers? Directions? A life?

I would guess this central figure is a shaman, with what coming off his headdress? Some kind of special decoration on his legs? The target symbol, as opposed to the spiral? The smaller horned man? All those animals – prayers for a good hunt? Celebration of a good hunt?

This one intrigues me – a scorpion? It is just weird!

A dancing bison? Look at the feet and . . . um . . . feet; they are very hoof like. An elk with a magnificent rack and maybe a spear in it’s side?

These last two are not with the others. I believe some well-meaning guide has chalked them so that visitors can see the faint traces.

And this is what the Newspaper Rock looks like in total.

We were no longer alone. Visitors from all over the world were coming, looking and photographing.

We drove to the end of the drivable-without-dire-warnings road. The scenery was increasingly arid and bleak, with it’s own terrible beauty. At one point, we were about to hike out to an old dwelling cave, and we looked at each other. It was noon, and signs everywhere were saying “do not hike in the hottest hours” and it was HOT. We drank some water, ate some oranges, got back in the car, reluctant to pass on an adventure, but happy to pass on potential disaster.

There was actually a ranch out here, and this was the last water we saw. It’s still Spring.

Just a half mile there, and a half mile back . . . we passed.

June 13, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Public Art, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Arches National Park and Moab

I love that Arches NP has gone to a reservation system during the busy months. Everyone has an equal shot; you can book a time a couple months in advance. We love the morning light, so we have booked a 7:00 a.m. slot and it is a gorgeous day. There is no line at the entrance booth. There are no crowds at the various arches. It is all so relaxed!

The morning is crisp, cool, and magnificent with a bright deep blue sky.

Please forgive me, I am besotted with the textures and colors and the shapes of the rock and I have yet to show you a single arch.

Our preference, at Arches, is to drive to the very end, to Devil’s Garden, and hike while it is still cool, and then stop at the other arches on our way back. But we always have to stop at the one on the way.

I think this is Delicate Arch from below

I love these rocks that look like Aliens; this rock is on the hiking route up to Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch for sure

A wealth of arches!

Because I can’t resist a good mountain 🙂

We hit the visitors center at Arches, then headed into Moab for lunch. It was around 11, so we were the first seated at Pasta Jay’s, where AdventureMan had a Caprese salad and Saturnalia pizza and I had a pizza Rustica, which was a garlic pizza base and Caesar salad on top. We split a Tiramisu, delicious.

Arches National Park Visitors Center

When we picked up our Thai food last night, we could smell the pizzas from Pasta Jay’s, so we really had no problem choosing where we would go for lunch. Pasta Jays!

The heat in Moab is so dry that it is still cool enough to sit outside to eat. The setting is delightful, but oh! The noise! The Main street of Moab is full of trucks with heavy rumbling loads, squealing breaks and loud engines. There are Vans pulling ATVs, trailers full of kayaks and canoes, a constant, endless flow of noisy traffic.

But the food is delicious.

Caprese salad

Saturnalia Pizza

Pizza Rustica – a Caesar Salad on a thin pizza crust

Fabulous Tiramisu

We are thoroughly satisfied with our lunch, and we are delighted also to head back to the peacefulness of our cabin.

So this is not like FaceBook, this is the real world. In the real world, not everything is perfect. We are really happy to have a beautiful, quiet cabin because with all the driving and hiking, AdventureMan’s back is acting up. It’s been tender a couple days. He insists that the hiking in Arches was actually good for his back, but when I bring up canceling our activity for tomorrow, he only resists for a while.

To me, it made sense to cancel, even though it was something we had really wanted to do, hike the Canyon of the Ancients in search of more petroglyphs. It would have meant a two-and-a-half-hour drive down, four hours of hiking, and a two-and-a-half-hour drive back. To me, that did not make sense with a tender back. Life is short. We can do the hike another year, hopefully find a cabin down in the Four Corner area where we can stay and do a more thorough exploration of several nearby areas. Once we canceled, we both felt relieved.

We also had dinner plans, a totally tourist thing, a Sunset Boat Cruise with Canyonlands, and included Cowboy Dinner. All we had to do was show up. It turned out to be really fun, and the dinner, all kinds of BBQ, was surprisingly good. Canyonlands guide Brandon was entertaining and full of good information, he showed us more petroglyphs and arches, and got us back in time for dinner.

Can you find the arch?

Petroglyphs along Potash Road
A couple more arches if you can spot them

A great ending to a great day.

June 12, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Environment, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: On to Trails End, and Moab

The drive from Vernal to Moab was pretty boring, but we had a memorable stop at the Outlaw Cafe in some small town, where we had surprisingly good salads.

We got to the cabin at about three, keys were waiting for us, and the cabin is quirky but had a lot of things we really like. Lots of space, a beautiful deck with a wide expanse of view, and although the temperatures in Moab are in the 80’s heading toward 90’s, the breezes in the Pack Creek Valley keep things relatively cool. The king-size bed is generous and firm.

The rules focus on quiet and mutual respect. We took a look at the pool and hot tub and had no interest. We loved the quiet of the cabin.

I’m a worrier. I love planning trips, and sometimes it feels like a high wire act. Will I be able to get the dates I want for the property I want? Will I be able to fly on the dates we need to fly on? And when I chose this cabin to stay in for five days, I worried that it wouldn’t be as good as the photos. Maybe it was too far from town?

The internet didn’t work, which was a good thing. We were so busy that we didn’t even worry about getting it fixed for the first three days, and that was a lovely blessing. And in the midst of “busy,” we had this lovely, incredibly quiet, beautiful retreat in the middle of our vacation. This was not a luxurious place, unless you consider privacy, simplicity and quiet a luxury – and we do.

You can see our food box on the table – everything we need except for fresh milk for my cereal, which I mix myself and bring with us. We will pick up milk later, at the grocery store in Moab, along with our dinner. There is a stove and oven, a full size refrigerator, a microwave, a coffee maker. There is a large sink, all the dishes, pots, pans, containers we might need.

Although the temperatures are in the 90’s, the cool winds keep us comfortable and we never have to turn on the air conditioning. I need to wash a couple things; I wash them in the sink, hang them on hangers on this porch, and within a couple hours they are completely dry. Sheer luxury.

Although I am not much for sunning, lying out on the bench to dry my hair was another luxury, the breezes faster than a hair dryer.

As I walked around taking photos, it’s a good thing I didn’t know about rattlesnakes. There was one coiled right by the back deck which slithered away while Adventureman stepped out on the deck. He took it in stride. I didn’t grow up with snakes; I might have had a different reaction.

The pool was lovely and we are happy enough in our little cabin and on our little deck.

We head into Moab to pick up dinner; it is Monday, and as is true through out the United States, many places are closed. AdventureMan picks a Thai restaurant, Singha Thai, and we order vegetable rolls, sate and Thai salad. We pick it up and stop at a grocery store for milk. The grocery store is disconcerting; we hear German, we hear French, it is packed with Moab tourists from all over the world looking for something for dinner. We buy our milk and hit the road; it is 20 minutes to our cabin, Trail’s End, at Pack Creek Ranch. We are at the foot of the La Sal mountains.

At sunset, AdventureMan sees twirling lights on a nearby hill. Like the petroglyphs, it is a mystery. We can see vans on the crest of the hill, we can see a human twirling (juggling?) something (flashlights? those balls with lights inside?) as the sun goes down and we can hear singing, but we can’t hear the words. We imagine it is some sort of sunset ritual.

The sunset is full of bird sounds; owl, turtledove, others which shriek a little, and the soft gurgling of Pack Creek. Once the sun is set, there is a stunning quiet, so quiet that your ears might ring with the silence.

The night sky is brilliant with stars.

The next morning, the light paints the distant rock hills with color.

June 12, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Living Conditions, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Tour of the Tilted Rocks

We leave the Wall of Bones to go back to the visitor center to pick up our car and hit The Tour of the Tilted Rocks.

Most of the visitors in this late May time frame seemed to be people in our demographic, 60s and older, people out exploring our country as singles and couples. We saw a couple of groups, and a couple of tours, but most of the people we saw looked a lot like us – retired, with the luxury of time to go exploring.

Most of these people were, like us, physically fit enough to climb the uneven trails, climb a few slippery rocks and hike straight uphill to view the petroglyphs. 

Leaving the Quarry Hall “Wall of Bones,” we got into our car for the “Tour of the Tilted Rocks” and spent the next couple of hours engaging with the spectacular scenery, helped along by both the brochure and the frequent guideposts along the way. We visited four separate petroglyph sites and countless sites of geological and paleontological interest. 

A wealth of petroglyphs! I can see similarities in these glyphs to the Fremont glyphs we saw yesterday, but these are more on the level of scratch sheets, practice for the advanced figures we saw at the McConkie ranch. You can see some elementary necklaces. I overheard in a passing group a person say that square heads are men and more rounded heads are women. I’m not sure that is true, but now I have more to evaluate.

Even the scenery looks a little like dinosaurs

This one is called Elephant’s Foot 🙂

Yet another site; love this . . . headdress? Or is it a jug with flowers – and legs?

The shoulder – waist proportion appears to be still evolving here. I can see a crescent moon and indications that some figures are probably men. Or maybe fertile women, with the moon?

So does the round head mean this is a woman? Her body seems more elaborately patterned than others. She appears to be waving. In some cultures, the spiral indicates long life, but maybe it can also mean a trail of life or a giver of life? More questions than answers 🙂

As the day heats up, these climbs seem more aggressive. We have hats, we have water and the dry heat sucks the moisture out of us.

So, a square head with elaborate patterning, maybe slaying a deer? So no, elaborate patterning is not a female thing.

This site has a lot of lizards

A piper!

I would love to know what this is about. An altar, with celestial bodies above? I wish I had a clue.

On the way back to Vernal, we had lunch at the Naples Country Cafe. I ordered the Naples Country Breakfast, and thank God for a helpful waitress who asked me what kind of gravy I wanted over it all. I hadn’t read it very carefully, just saw that it had a couple of eggs. She advised me to get the Junior version of it, and I asked for no gravy, no cheese. What arrived at the table was two eggs over easy on a plate full of hash brown potatoes, with a sausage, a slice of bacon and a piece of ham, and two slices of sourdough bread with homemade boysenberry jam. I was picky about what I allowed myself to eat, but I did eat all the jam, on half a slice of bread, because it was so irresistibly delicious. 

We got back to our room mid-afternoon to rest or nap a little, and to pack up for our drive tomorrow down to our cabin outside of Moab, Trail’s End at Pack Creek, which we hope will provide four nights of spectacular night sky viewing.

June 12, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, Public Art, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment