Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Chasing Petroglyphs: White Mountain, Eden and the Pilot Butte Ponies

Route for May 22, 2022

This morning, we slept in. Well, 0830 is sleeping in for us, it’s 9:30 in Pensacola and we are up and ready to hit the day. It is a quiet Sunday morning. We have a quick breakfast at the Outlaw Inn, and head out with our friend Google Maps to find White Mountain, and our first petroglyphs of the trip.

It’s an easy drive, just turn right outside the Outlaw Inn and then turn right onto a pretty good County Road. It’s a dirt road, but well maintained. Then we turn onto another county road, a road less travelled. And then Google tells us we’ve missed our exit to White Mountain. What?? There was not a sign of an exit! Not a road sign, not a track, not a visible indicator of a way. We back up. We get out. Oh. There. Faint tire marks turning off the road. AdventureMan goes further on foot to make sure the road continues.

The tracks are more visible once you are actually out in the field. We have an AWD vehicle, we have experience – so we decide to continue on the track. We continue for about half a mile, and the ground is softer. We have visions of being rescued, elderly, dehydrated, because we’ve bogged down out of sight of any road . . . we turn back and decide to follow the county road.

We are so glad we do. Just a couple miles further, we see signs for White Mountain Petroglyphs, and then come to a legitimate turn-off, a marked turn-off. Part way to White Mountain we see those tracks join the road, and we are glad we are not still out there in the field, worried about getting stuck in the sand, no shovels, no cardboard, nothing to help us free ourselves.

Although remote, there is a parking lot, a long-drop toilet, and a clear trail to the base of the mountain, and a clear trail – straight up.

Although Rock Springs is not as high up as Denver, we are still adjusting to the altitude and the dryness of the air. It is still cold, we are glad of it, because the hike heats us up and we take it at a comfortable pace because the air is so dry and our lips and faces are chapping.

Totally worth the hike. While these are not the best-preserved petroglyphs we’ve ever seen, they are original and intriguing. There is also a lot of modern-day petrographic activity of the high school demographic.

Elk

Bear Eating Deer?

The standard rule with petroglyphs (carved into rock) and petrographs (drawn onto rock) is NO TOUCHING. No rubbing, no outlining with chalk, nothing which might degrade the incision or erode the lines. Someone has used chalk, probably a guide, to help viewers understand what they are seeing. If you know anything about petroglyphs, you know that we can speculate, we can ask modern-day First Nation people, and in the end, it is all speculation. Are they celebrating a triumphal hunt? Are they imploring the spirits to be available for the hunt? Are these incised bear claws a tribute to the bear’s strength? A brag about a bear-clan strength? We can only guess.

Is this a birth petroglyh? Is it celebrating a real event or is it a metaphor? So many questions!

An idea of hands? Bear claws?

Impressive. Deep bear claw impressions – how long did it take to make these?

The zigzag – is that for long life? A direction to go for game?

Some are really hard to see on the rock faces, depending on the light and angle

View from White Mountain of Boars Tusk and Killpecker Sand Dunes, the largest living sand dunes in the USA

Boars Tusk is the remnant of an ancient volcano thrust 400 feed above the plain; an instantly recognizable landmark for hikers (and people looking for White Mountain.)

Boars Tusk with Killpecker Sand Dunes in background

We are pumped. We’ve spent a couple hours traipsing around the mountain, seeking out these obscure petroglyphs, trying to decipher what they were meant to communicate. Bottom line – we don’t know, but we are exhilarated and delighted to have found this site.

The county road loops back around to the main road to Farson, and we know that just short of Farson is the Sweet Water Smoke, a barbecue restaurant we’d like to try. We are famished. Hiking and cold fresh air will do that to you!

We find Sweet Water Smoke and are delighted. It is small, and four of the five tables are taken, which leaves one for us. The entire time we were there, people were coming and going, take out orders rolling out the door, this place is humming with activity.

And no wonder! This is not ordinary barbecue! Their cole slaw is Sriracha cole slaw. They offer roasted brussel sprouts as a side, along with more traditional baked beans, macaroni and cheese, etc. I was just blown away to find roasted brussel sprouts as a side in a small Wyoming town. We remember one time traveling through Wyoming when we felt desperate for vegetables and were told to go to this “wonderful restaurant with a salad bar.” The steak was delicious. The salad bar had potato salad, cottage cheese, jello salad, and macaroni salad.

Sweet Water Smoke changes out two additional entrees every week and features a goat-cheese cheesecake with chocolate ganache. Who could resist?

There is a route we want to follow next, the Pilot Butte Road, which is supposed to be challenging, but I think they may have improved the road since we read the warnings because it was easy with our AWD. Having said that, we passed another group busy changing a tire; the road was dirt and gravel and some potholes. Not what we would consider challenging, but a road where we took care.

We were looking for the herds of wild ponies.

Petrified log alongside the guide sign

No wild horses in sight, but some mind-blowing expanses of scenery along the track. There were inescapable signs of wild horses, piles and piles of signs of wild horses, but we never saw a single wild horse.

Pilot Butte, after which the trail is named

In front of us is a valley where Interstate 80, the old Lincoln Highway, runs. It is also where the Pony Express trail ran before the coast-to-coast railroad took over prompt mail delivery. It makes me sad to see that prompt delivery of mail is no longer a priority for the US Mail system. Here also ran several of the migratory trails as America moved westward. What courage and initiative it took – blasting away hills, bridging canyons and rivers, tunneling through mountains and building across swamps – feats of imagination and engineering. We are in awe of the minds that solved these problems.

June 11, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Geography / Maps, Restaurant, Road Trips, Survival, Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Joe Pickett Guides Us Through the Red Desert, Wamsutter and the Lincoln Highway to Rock Springs, Wyoming

The sun wakes us early the next morning, streaming in our window. The temperature is 22°F and there is a light frost on the ground. All we brought in are our backpacks, so we grab a quick breakfast from our supplies and head out.

It’s a beautiful day at 22°F

“Why would you want to go to Rock Springs, Wyoming?” asked my new brother-in-law with genuine bewilderment, at the end of our trip as we were spending time with him and my sister.

I didn’t know he had been born there, and still has family there. No, we had chosen this obscure route because of a series by C.J. Box about a game warden named Joe Pickett, a series we have both read from book one to book 22. In Off the Grid, Joe is tracking a crazy bear into the Red Desert when he finds a bunch of terrorists and naive young people putting together a magnetic pulse bomb to create havoc in the civilized western world. (Honestly, I don’t even know how to describe the plot to you, sometimes it doesn’t have to make a lot of sense, you just sort of have to roll with it.)

I had never heard of The Red Desert before, and I had driven that stretch of Highway 80, the old Lincoln Highway, several times. It was always just a place to get through, but this time we would be looking at it with different eyes.

It all started in Qaqortoq, on our Wake of the Vikings trip (just type in Wake of the Vikings in the search window of this blog if you want to more about that trip). In Qaqortoq, AdventureMan asked me what I would do if I lived there and I told him I would learn to spin wool, something I’ve always wanted to do. He said “If I had to live here, I would kill myself or drink myself to death.”

On this trip, we passed through several towns about which he felt the same. We like being remote on trips. He doesn’t like the idea of living remote.

The field irrigators are on, and the spray etches patches of fairy ice onto the grass.

It is a beautiful day, and we stop often, just because we can. It is cold, but it is also beautiful. These rocks, we learn, are called fortification rocks, because in territorial wars people could use them to strategic advantage.

note the bullet holes. Bullet holes were everywhere.

There were mountains in the distance capped with white snow. We began seeing pronghorns, and at one point, when we stopped to take a photo, I almost stepped on a dead elk, probably hit by a car. There was no smell, probably because it was still so cold.

Pronghorn

Baggs, Wyoming, is at the border between Colorado and Wyoming and is at the southeastern tip of The Red Desert. Baggs was where AdventureMan said he would kill himself if he had to live in a town with 411 people.

AdventureMan mentions there are routes into the Red Desert coming up, and I counter saying that they are tracks, not routes, and if we were to go in, and get into some trouble, it is very remote and we might be those tragic elderly people who foolishly thought they could survive, but couldn’t. Honestly, I would love to see the Red Desert AND I know we are not the people we once were. I think we could survive a lot, being who we are, and I also know it is not wise, at our age, to tempt the fates. I can’t really tell whether he is disappointed or relieved by my response. My best guess would be – both.

That’s the tip end of The Red Desert in the background. If you look at the Google Map of today’s journey, you will see a big empty space in the middle, a biblical “trackless waste.”

Just around lunchtime, we enter Wamsutter, a boom-and-bust town with several past lives. AdventureMan finds the Hacienda Mendez, where we have our first taste of cactus salad – it is delicious.

Dining area
Bar
Crispy chips and tasty salsa

Cactus Salad – Nopal Salad
Mexican Burger

Shrimp Tostadas

And on we go, down the Lincoln Highway toward Rock Springs, the Red Desert to our left with high tabletop plateaus guarding the tracks leading to the interior, and the Great Divide Basin to our right, along with the Killpecker Sand Dunes (Wikipedia calls them the largest living dune system in the United States. I didn’t know that – did you know that?)

We head into Rock Springs and find our home for the next couple of nights, The Outlaw Inn. I could not resist the name.

They gave us a really great room, with two bathrooms, one with a toilet and shower, one with a toilet and tub. Just pure luck.

Calamity Jane in one of the party rooms

Dropping our gear, we headed out to explore Rock Springs. We wanted to find the college museum, but when we found it, nothing was open. In Joe Pickett’s world, this was where his daughter April went to university, a rodeo college. What we did find was a wonderful museum, the Rock Springs Historical Museum, and a wonderful docent who was willing to answer all our questions. This museum was wonderful. It included a full jail, and a padded cell as well as well-curated exhibits of communications, health care, etc. through the earliest history of the county.

I am eager for tomorrow, when we have a real adventure, searching for the White Mountain Petroglyphs!

June 9, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Safety, Social Issues, Survival, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: A Day for Blizzards En Route to the Elk Hunting Capitol of the World

From time to time, we have a moment of reckoning. We love adventure. We always have. It is wired into our beings. And every now and then, we catch a glimpse of who we might also be, people in their seventies, “elderly” and vulnerable. We realize that today is risky. The weather forecasts are dire. Should we cancel?

We load up the car and head for Snooze, a popular breakfast stop, where I stoke my engine with an oatmeal covered with fruit, and AdventureMan has an omelette with cheese and bacon and hash browns. We stop at Trader Joe’s for an empty liquor box which serves for the rest of the trip as “The Food Box” and keeps our things from rolling around.

Google Maps gets us out of town, on to I-70 and we begin to see little specks of something that might be snow, but we agree that as long as the roads are clear, we are good to go. We do forego the very track-like road for an exit with a more used road, and head north, to Craig, Colorado, The Elk Hunting Capitol of the World.

The higher we got, the colder it got, but lucky for us, it just stayed that way until we left I-70 for highway 40 going north and west through Steamboat Springs to Craig. Here, on the two-lane highway, things slowly got a little dicey. Cars coming toward us were covered with snow. The sleet had turned into a light snow, and the temperatures had now dropped down into the 20’s.

We went through several mountain passes, the snow getting heavier, and beginning to accumulate on the highway. We slowed down. Fortunately, most of the other drivers were also slowing down; you can’t always tell where the ice patches are forming just by looking. We knew we had come through the worst of it when, after the last pass (where I almost felt like I was having trouble breathing) we saw trucks pulling over and taking off their chains, a really good sign.

We were so glad to get to Steamboat Springs. Our short drive had taken four hours, crawling along with low vizibility.

Steamboat Springs is a ski town, with high-end gift shops. This one had a full dinosaur skeleton leg for sale. I could see it in some nouveau-timber-lodge with high ceilings, but I shudder at the thought. We grab sandwiches, enjoy a walk around the town, and head off the few remaining miles to Craig. For a this leg of the drive, we even see some blue sky.

“Why are we going to Craig?” AdventureMan asked, “even though it is the ‘Elk hunting capital of the world?” 

About five years ago, we made a change in our travel habits. I grew up in a family that got up early, drove hell-bent-for-leather as far as we could go, sometimes 12 or 14 hours straight, a habit my husband never loved nor developed. Finally, I figured out there were other options, and we decided on “shorter days and longer stays.” Now, we are much happier travelers, and our adventures have fewer cross moments. 

“Craig is about halfway to Rock Springs,” I responded. “I knew we could drive the whole distance in one day but it would kill us. So I broke the day up, and Craig had these interesting cabins, Wild Skies Cabins. I’m interested to see what they are like.”

I often take a chance on something a little out of our lane, just to see how it works out. Then, I worry that it isn’t going to be a good thing. We found the cabins, and just as we started to unload our bags, we were hit with a furious flurry of snow.

The cabin was simple, and warm. We bundled the minimum necessary inside and AdventureMan just grinned. It’s just what we like. It isn’t large, but it is cozy, it has wood carved furniture, wood-paneled walls, a refrigerator, a microwave, and wi-fi. He loved that the comforters and sheets had fish and bear and canoes; he says it reminds him of boy scout camp. It is not fancy, but it is very private. From our deck we can see a herd of pronghorn deer settling in for the night. By the way, not a single elk in sight.

Don’t you love those sheets and comforters? The sheets are flannel! AND, we have some of the best Chinese food, still chilled and plentiful, to warm in the microwave, so we don’t even have to go out into the snow.

It’s always exhilarating to survive an adventure 🙂

View of our cabin as we leave the next day.

June 9, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Climate Change, Geography / Maps, Road Trips, Survival, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Outfitting and Play in Denver

Even sleeping in, we are up early, due to the one hour difference in our body time from Denver time. We need a little breakfast, and head over to La Fillette for coffee and breakfast rolls.

Next stop, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, one of our favorite places in Denver. AdventureMan wanted to see the visiting Egypt exhibit (and said it was a total WOW) and I wanted to visit the nature exhibits and see the visit to the Solar System, so we split up with an agreement to meet up for lunch.

Everlasting Storm on Jupiter

Rings of Saturn
Colorado Wildlife

There are several school groups in the museum, which I suppose I could count as Colorado Wildlife, but they were all so good, and I love to see children enjoying museums.

Sale of Egyptian Glass bottles as part of the Egyptian Exhibit

AdventureMan has had a spiritual adventure, viewing the Egypt exhibit, so he is ready to indulge me – I want to drive back downtown to the Union Station area and have Chinese noodles.

I grew up eating good Chinese food, in Seattle. When we were moving to Pensacola, our son sat us down and told us he had some bad news for us – there is no good Chinese restaurant in Pensacola. Nor in New Orleans. I am guessing that the deep south is not ready for the exotic tastes of real Chinese food.

But Denver is another story. We find our way downtown, and search the Union Square area, where a concierge tells us how to find it – just next door to Union Station.

Union Station Front Entrance

Union Station Interior – lots of restaurants, and a hotel, too.
Union Station tracks going to other places in the USA

ZoMama Interior
ZoMama Ordering
ZoMama Dan Noodles

ZoMama Cool Sesame Noodles

This is living! The noodles are house-made, the tastes are fresh and delicious. My noodles are cooked, but cold, perfect on a hot summer’s day. We eat outside, because although it is hot, it is so dry we can manage the heat and we like eating outdoors. AdventureMan strikes up a conversation with another vet, a security guard, making sure the homeless do not intrude on the meals of the customers.

We find our way back to the parking lot, which is really expensive, and it takes us so long to figure out how to get out that our charge goes up again.

We are off to outfit for our trip – hitting our favorite Denver Target, we pick up our car staples – water, apples, oranges, crackers, peanut butter, and AdventureMan’s specialty, two kinds of snacks, a box of thick, chewy brownie bits and another box of lemony madeleines. He chose well; having only one or two a day, they lasted right up to the last day. We also invested in insect repellent and sun screen, which we never used. Our clerk mentioned the incoming blizzard.

Blizzard? We hadn’t heard of it. We headed back to the VRBO and our hosts were busy moving pots and pots, concerned that their lushly blooming garden will take a bad hit from freezing temperatures and snow and hail, the alder branches can break from the weight of the snow, all the blooms will freeze, and who knows what will survive?

We sort, we repack, and we take a nap. We have a great conversation with our hostess and say goodbye in advance; we have decided to leave early the next morning hoping to escape the worst of the storm. That night AdventureMan indulges me for a second time – this time we go to Q’s House on Colfax, get an outside table and oh-my the menu is short but fabulous. I have the Chong Qing Chicken and AdventureMan has Duck Lo Mein. We both have way too much, no matter how delicious it is. We decide to take a chance – we have a refrigerator and tomorrow should be really cold – so we pack it up and take it with us.

Chong Qing Chicken
Duck Lo Mein

A perfect ending to an excellent first day.

June 9, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Climate Change, Cultural, Food, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Shopping, Survival, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

I Stand Corrected

Today is the coldest day we have had in Pensacola this winter. As we headed out for early church, the temperature was 30 degrees F., there was frost on our roof and the bird bath had a skin of ice on it. “A good day not to exercise,” I said to myself. After church, I spent a couple hours prepping for dinner and making up my oatmeal mix for a couple weeks to come, as I am running low. (Separate blog entry 🙂 )

I’m an early person. If I am going to get it done, I need to get it done early in the day. By five at night, when I need to be thinking about dinner, I just don’t care. I know, I know, I am a bad woman to admit to such a thing, but trust me, I am legion. I’ve learned to think about dinner early in the day, and to prep.

But it’s Sunday, and it’s cold (yes, yes, I am rationalizing) and I swam three days last week and I have all my prep done so I make an executive decision to give myself a break today. And no sooner had I given myself permission to sit myself down than AccuWeather alerted me to an article about the importance of exercising in cold weather, which I will share with you now:

What you need to know about ‘brown fat’ and exercising in the cold

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer & Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer Copied

AccuWeather’s Dexter Henry talked to a veteran fitness instructor and the creator of Fit N’ Play Mama about ways you can stay active this holiday season.

The shift to colder, winter weather often makes us feel lethargic and deters our motivation to go outside. 

But before you pull over the blankets or curl up by the fire to watch your favorite show, you should consider the potential benefits of cold-weather workouts. 

Aside from helping to ease fears of potential winter weight gain, exercising outdoors in colder weather has numerous health benefits. 

New York City native Alec Barab gets in a morning run in the snow on 12th Ave. in Denver’s historic district on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

While many avoid the cold, outdoor winter workouts are a great way to take in small doses of sunlight. The sunlight can help to improve mood and help with vitamin D intake, according to the American Heart Association (AHA)

Winter exercise boosts immunity during cold and flu season. A few minutes a day can help prevent simple bacterial and viral infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Shivering, a mechanism to produce heat, also burns a significant amount of calories. Studies have shown that people expend five times more energy when shivering, compared to when they are resting. 

CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APP

Regardless of exercise, studies have shown that being outside in cold weather can transform white fat, specifically belly and thigh fat, into calorie-burning beige or brown fat. 

Brown fat’s purpose is to burn calories to generate heat. Brown fat is often referred to as the “good” fat because it helps to burn rather than store calories. It is typically found in areas around the neck and kidneys.

AccuWeather National Weather Reporter Dexter Henry recently sat down with Nataliya Galifianakis, a clinical assistant professor of biology at New York University to learn more about how brown fat is beneficial during the winter. 

NYU Clinical Assistant Professor Nataliya Galifianakis explains the effects of exercising in cold weather and how that generates brown fat in the human body. (AccuWeather)

“Brown fat can actually create heat,” Galifianakis told Henry. “Brown fat cells instead of using calories to make energy, it uses calories to produce heat.” 

One of the signals for the activation of brown fat is exercise, Galifianakis said. 

In addition to making new brown fat because a human body exercises, the generation of brown fat is also increased because someone is exercising in the cold weather, she explained. 

“Brown fat could be activated by cold,” Galifianakis said. “Chronic cold exposure activates your brown fat cells.” 

A 2014 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showed people have more genetic markers for brown fat in the winter than during the warmer months. This could signal slightly more calorie burn in the winter as the body insulates itself.

“Browning fat tissue would be an excellent defense against obesity. It would result in the body burning extra calories rather than converting them into additional fat tissue,” study author Dr. Philip A. Kern said in a release.

People run in the snow across the Williamsburg Bridge, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

While the cold weather may deter some from outdoor physical activity, working out in the cold has several advantages over warmer weather workouts.

There is no heat and humidity to deal with in colder weather. Winter’s chill might even make you feel awake and invigorated, according to the AHA.

In the cold, your body can regulate its temperature a little better. This means you can often exercise farther or longer; therefore, you can potentially burn even more calories, according to AHA.

Exercising in extreme temperatures, hot or cold, has shown the ability to enhance endurance and mental edge. However, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and proper safety precautions before venturing out.

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So me again. I stand corrected. I know I need to go out for a swift walk, and shiver in the cold, burn that brown fat! And here I sit, in my toasty warm house, watching Fareed Zacharia and chatting with you . . . . Most days I exercise early, and it actually gives me more energy; I accomplish more during the day when I exercise early. If I miss that first-thing-in-the-morning slot, it’s a lot harder to get to it later. I’m thinking about it.

January 10, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Blogging, Cooking, Exercise, Food, News, Quality of Life Issues, Survival, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

Hurricane Coming

This morning, as I was doing my morning readings, I checked the weather and saw this:

Very calm, very direct. Don’t get crazy, but there is a hurricane blowing in and you might want to take precautions. I really do appreciate the warning.

I zipped over to the YMCA to get my laps in. I have achieved my lifetime goal; I did 51 laps last Monday, and today I was only able to do 42. More swimmers in the pool, more turbulence, slower laps. I really try not to force myself to meet any goals; that I am there, that I am exercising, that needs to be enough. If I keep pushing myself, it takes the joy out of the fact that I actually swim these laps three days a week, and I am already achieving more that I ever dreamed I would achieve at this point in my life.

On my way home, I could see palm trees along the Bayou, already two or three feet under water. In front of the storm, the water is already rising dramatically.

I called to AdventureMan as I entered the house, “Come take a walk with me down the Bayou; I want to take some photos.” (He loves walking with me.) We were halfway down the drive when I said “Oh! I need to go back! I have to get my FitBit!”

He just laughed his head off. “So no point in doing a walk if you don’t get credit for it?” he teases me.

“No! You’re exactly right!” I respond. It isn’t an insult if it is true, right?

 

 

I had thought we would walk further, but at this point, it started raining really hard and I was using my real camera, not my iPhone, so I needed to quit to protect the camera. You can see the water over the dock at this house, and a little lagoon where no lagoon was before.

I did a poll at the Y. No one seemed very concerned. “Will you be covering your windows?” I would ask and they would all say “No, we’re just going to get a lot of rain.” Me, I worry, because it seems to me a hurricane  can wobble, but I have only lived here ten years, and there is a lot I don’t know. The rise in the Bayou concerns me. AdventureMan is not concerned, but did mention that we need to have a practice with our shutters so we know what to do when a real need arises.

Poor Louisiana! Poor California! Poor United States of America! What a year of troubles this is.

September 14, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Birds, Cultural, Exercise, Fitness / FitBit, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Lumix, Pensacola, Safety, Survival, Weather, YMCA | Leave a comment

No, No, I Won’t Let Go!

AdventureMan and I make a great team. He is making sure the outside and the garage sparkle, and I am taking care of the inside, except for his office and his personal clothing. He likes to manage those himself, and I can’t blame him.

There are mornings I can barely face another day of packing, and then I remember Fort Leavenworth, when my riding boots arrived, packed without wrapping, in a box with my evening dresses. There was a part of me that felt outraged, dishonored. Who would do such a thing? And another part that empathized with the worker at the end of a long day, packing for a privileged woman who had riding boots, and evening gowns, and saying “what the hell.”

I learned a good lesson. If it matters to you, pack it yourself. If you can’t pack it yourself, have a special crate built for it.

We were so young, but we saved our money and bought a bird cage from Monsieur Samouda, in Sidi bou Said, Tunisia, and had a crate built for it. We’ve had it for forty years now with many moves and no damage.

I have packed a lot of boxes in my life.

I’m finding that there are some things I can part with easily. And then some things I can’t let go.

 

We met and spent our early married years in Germany. This was our wedding candle, lo, those many years ago. I had to stop burning it on our anniversaries when it started to collapse. It still makes me smile. I can’t let go.

My Mother and Father were in the Wednesday night bowling league in Germany, and they were very good bowlers. They were also on the admin board of the league, and were in charge of the prizes, which they often won. Texting back and forth with my sisters today, I learned that they served on that committee to insure that each of the daughters received an identical crystal cookie tree, which my Mother won each year in the final tournament. Post-war Germany was a wonderland for Americans who lived there. I’m not ready to let this go. One sister let hers go long ago, the other is using hers to hold her jewelry.

I know I should let this pot go – I think it is a fish poacher – and I can’t. We bought it in the Souk al Hammadiyya in Damascus. I can tell I have cooked in it once or twice in the forty years I have owned it, not enough to make it valuable for its utility. The reason I can’t let it go is because of the artistry of the handle. Not even that it looks so beautiful, but the bird handle fits perfectly in your hand. It feels GOOD. I’ve never had any pot or pan that had such a sensuously lovely handle. Someone who made this handle really knew what he was doing, and created it with heart.

When my husband came home today, the first thing that happened when he saw the pot was that he reached for the handle, and then asked “are you thinking of parting with this?” I said “No, I can’t.”

I wish you could put your hand on this bird handle. It’s that special.

We have a family message thread with my son and his wife, who are moving to a larger home as we move to a smaller home. I often take photos and say “would you like this?” maybe with an explanation, and they say yes or no.

This time, AdventureMan texted back immediately: “Not the Kuwait Teapot from the Blue Elephant!” and I immediately packed it to take with us. When we first got to Kuwait, he planned to take me out for Valentine’s dinner, not realizing that it was one of the hugest date nights of the year in Kuwait. On Valentine’s Day, he called everywhere looking for reservations, but there were none to be had.

Being American, we like to eat earlier than Kuwaiti people, so I suggested we dress and go to the Blue Elephant, a favorite restaurant at the Hilton Hotel on the beach, where we were known. When we got there, there were only a few other couples.

“So go in there and beg,” I suggested with a grin, “Tell them we will eat quickly and be out in an hour.” I think he did exactly that. I don’t know what he said, maybe a little money changed hands, but very soon we were ushered to a table, and reminded that we needed to be out by eight, when the table was reserved.

We had a lovely dinner, at the end of which he bought me the little elephant teapot. What I love is that I am not the only one who can’t let go.  🙂

 

 

May 11, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Germany, Kuwait, Marriage, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Survival, Tunisia | , , , | Leave a comment

New Normal at the YMCA

“You think it’s safe?” my good friend asked me, not hiding her concern. “It’s not too soon?”

“It might be,” I replied, “And I really NEED to swim.”

There is a new system for the new normal, I discovered as I arrived a little early for my reservation. Yes, reservations open two days in advance for a 45 minute swim in the lap pool. Today, when I walked in, past the blue lines marked on the floor to keep us six feet apart, there was a man waiting at the door with a little thermal gun-like object which he pressed close to my forehead (I was holding my mask in my hand, LOL), before I could get through to the membership card kiosk. Chatted briefly with a friend who recently lost her husband (old age, not Covid) and then headed for the main desk, to check in for my reservation.

She pointed out the new entry for the pool, a door I had never seen anyone use before, and when I got into the pool area, I was greeted with more information on the new way things were being done. I dropped my bag, marked my lane with my equipment, and showered.

Even though I arrived early, there were two swimmers there before me, and it was still fifteen minutes before the reserved time – no one waited. We all went right to swimming.

 

I felt so blessed. This morning, as I opened my shades, the huge Flower Moon was setting over toward the west, the sky was clear and it was glorious. Now, in my favorite lane, as I swam toward the far end of the pool I swam into shimmering sunlight, and then back into the darker area, back and forth. My first lap was a little rocky, I lost my breath. It’s been two months since I last swam. With the extra 15 minutes, I might come close to my mile, a goal I had reached earlier this year only after months of build-up.

Slowly, the rhythm returned, and I was going back and forth, in and out of the sunlight, and building speed. Around eight, an old swimming comrade arrived and signaled to ask if it was OK if we share a lane. He is always considerate, and sensitive to boundaries, and I was happy to be sharing with him.

Six swimmers in four lanes, and two women exercising in the nearby exercise pool – eight people total, sharing this wonderful, clean, sunny space. What luxury. I felt safe.

I came so close! I came within one lap of completing my mile. It was 8:45 and while no one was pushing me out, everyone else was leaving, so good little lamb that I am, I left too, so the crew can do whatever it is they need to do before the next swimmers arrive, for the 9:00 slot. I didn’t go into the changing room, just dried as best I could and wrapped a Zambian kikoy around me for the drive home, using my towel to protect the seat of the car.

This is not me, this is a photo I found online to show how kikoy can be worn to get one quickly and modestly home rather than having to dry off and change.

I thought I would be tired, exercising hard after two months of no swimming, but no! I had energy! I tackled the linen closet, organized medical kit, linens, boxes of supplies for the upcoming move, and boxed up excess for people who might need them.

May 8, 2020 Posted by | Africa, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Exercise, Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues, Hygiene, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Survival, YMCA | , | Leave a comment

The Dordogne: Lost in Space, Font de Gaume and L’Augerie Base

That night, at Domaine de la Vitrolle, in the middle of the night I heard a bumping sound and my husband was not in bed. I said “Is that you?” and my husband’s voice came back saying “I’m lost! I don’t know where I am!” It was SO dark in our room that somehow, he had missed the bed and was off wandering in the sitting part of the suite and couldn’t orient himself.

It was dark, and it was quiet. I turned on a little flashlight, and he laughed at how disorienting it was to be in a strange space and not to know which way to turn.

The next morning, I was awake early (we sleep so well when it is dark, and quiet) so I took a bath in the great big tub and watched the day dawn through the stained glass windows of the bathroom. I had the windows open, and could hear the birds awake, and some tractor off in the hills head up to harvest the last of the grapes. It was so peaceful, and so lovely.

First, I need to tell you how very kind all the French people have been to us. We are often asked if we are not afraid the French will be rude to us, and I think maybe once or twice in the many years we have traveled in France, maybe someone has been having a bad day or was rude, but nothing I can remember. Mostly, we are delighted by how very helpful the French are with us.

Many times, I am taken for French. People stop me on the street and ask for directions, and I laugh and tell them (in French) that I am a tourist, and an American, and they just laugh.

On this trip, information is gold. The limo driver who took us to the train station told us to gas our car at the Intermarche or Carrefour, not at the regular gas stations, because the gas stations charge a lot more. We listened! He was right! The hotel manager at Domaine de la Vitrolle told us about the super markets, so we didn’t have to eat every meal out, especially at night when we would have to eat late. What luxury, to eat French foods in our own room, at our own pace, and as lightly as we chose!

Martin Walker/Bruno, Chief of Police particularly mentioned Font de Gaume in Les Eyzies, one of the very rare opportunities to see original cave art, which moves me greatly, and is a priority for me. But Font de Gaumes only allows a few people in every day, under strict conditions, so our breath, body temperature and sweat won’t impact on the fragile cave art.

I try to reserve tickets online, but it says it is not possible, so we are up, have breakfast and out the door by nine to be sure we are first in line and get to see Font de Gaume. Sadly, what I didn’t know was that we would have to leave our cameras outside, you can’t even take them in.

We get to Les Eyzies, and Font de Gaume way before it even opens, but we are far from the first ones there. They have benches with seat numbers on them, and we are close to the very end, like 48 and 49.

While we waited – and this line was just a line to get a number to buy your tickets, I saw this frieze over a door on a house across the street:

We got a number, and were told that there was only one English speaking tour and it was at 11:00, in 45 minutes. Or there was another one late in the afternoon. We chose the 11:00 tickets, thankful just to be able to get in.

At around 10:30 they said we could walk up to where we would meet our guide. We walked up and there was a group, but the guide said “This is a French group, you are in the next group!” and she was right – she already had 18 people.

In our group, it was interesting, there were only six real English speaking people, two from Australia, two others from the US, and us, and the rest were all other-languages – Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, etc. but people who could speak some English and who didn’t want to wait until later in the day to take the tour. We all had a really good time.

Here is a map of the cavern we will enter and the sights we will see:

 

The setting is spectacular. These mountains and hills and caves are thousands of years old.

And here we are, me with my bright shining face because we are going into Font de Gaume. I will share with you a secret – I am mildly claustrophobic, but I know how to keep it sort of under control. But I was glad to have this photo in my camera – all cameras had to be left in a special locked space – in case there was some kind of disaster, and they needed to be able to identify those trapped in / destroyed by a collapse in / etc. the cave. Drama drama drama I was glad what might be our last photo showed us smiling and happy.

We had a superb guide. She spent a lot of time showing us detail. She had a great group, we asked a lot of questions, and the more we asked, the more detail she gave us. It just kept spiraling, and we were all really serious and awed by what we were seeing. I could have stayed forever, and I just wish I had been able to take a photo for you, but we were in almost total dark, only the guide had a little (infrared?) (Ultraviolet?) (both?) flashlight with which she could show us the drawings. As we would go through some sections, she could turn on very dim lights, and she had to warn us constantly to watch our heads for outcroppings of rock.

Visiting Font de Gaumes was a thrill. I wish the same thrill for you. Here are a couple images, not my own, I found on the internet:

 

 

There are many bison, some deer, wolf, horses and mammoths.

Our wonderful guide is showing us the primitive kinds of pigments used to do the drawings in the caves, colors from stones, chalk, ashes, some mixed with liquid, some made into powder and blown onto the wall – and it must have been almost pitch dark. Imagine . . . .

 

In one of Martin Walker’s books, Bruno and his friends gather for a wedding feast at L’Augerie Basse, a restaurant built into a cave in the side of a mountain. You have a short hike to get there, but oh, what fun. (I want you to see where L’Augerie Basse is, and where it is in relation to Les Eyzies and Le Bugue)

 

 

Once again, people were very kind. Most of the people in the restaurant were working people, or locals. There was a constant hum of arrival and greeting, departure and farewells. Many people didn’t even look at the menu.

The restroom was not actually in the restaurant, but across the walkway, and I think it was all just bathrooms, not male or female except that some had urinals, but I think you could use either. I didn’t ask, it was all very clean and mostly I wanted to wash my hands. My husband excused himself and before I had a chance to tell him where the bathrooms were (it was not obvious) he left . . . and was gone a long time. He had trouble finding them.

Here is what I ordered:

Here is what my husband ordered:

Mine was pretty much the same, except I had one duck confit, and salad.

Best of all, I found a wine Martin Walker / Bruno Chief of Police recommended, a very local wine I wanted to try. I loved it! Pecharmant:

This was (another one of) the most memorable meals of our trip.

We had a wonderful lunch, and we needed to pack, but neither of us were ready to face that task quite yet. So I said “why don’t we go see St. Alvere, the truffle town? It is just on the other side of Limeuil?” and AdventureMan, always up for an exploration, agreed.

Did I mention the day our marriage survived a two and a half hour drive that ended up taking a whole day? Getting to St. Alvere was like that. I was navigating with Google, and we got on the tiniest, most remote roads. It took a long time to get to there. I never saw a truffle, but it was a gorgeous day, and a beautiful town, and indications that it, too, was on the pilgrimage route to San Diego Compostela.

On our way, we passed farm after farm filled with geese!

 

Thousands of geese!

The little road of the Pilgrims, above, in St. Alvere.

 

 

 

 

 

Now it was my husband’s turn to make a request. He had been very uneasy about our tires; there was a symbol on our dashboard that implied our tires needed more air, and as we were making a longer drive tomorrow, he wanted to add air, and put gas in the car. We headed back to Le Bugue, to the Intermarche, where we knew there was a gas station, and a place where you can clean cars.

We gassed up the car, and then found the car cleaning place. There was a man busy cleaning his car, vacuuming it, and we waited until he was finished and then asked if he knew where there was a machine which added air to tires.

He looked at us as if we were crazy. “It is right here,” he said, pointing to the machine with which he had been vacuuming.

These are the things that try men’s souls. It is not intuitive. Jeton means “token” but does it also mean coin? How does psi translate in French, how will we know how much air to add? We are consulting the car manual, the side of the driver’s door, the machine . . . eventually, we were able to add enough air, without adding too much air.

It is amazing what a major relief accomplishing this simple task gave us. We felt mighty! We had prevailed! We had conquered!

We celebrated with French tartes, little pies, peach for my husband and raspberry for me. AdventureMan discovered the Lego set we bought the day before is now HALF PRICE and he is hopping mad. I speak French, but I do not have the language skill set or the energy, at this point, to try to explain we want a refund. It is late in the day. I convince him to just . . . let it go. 🙂

It is a beautiful afternoon, almost the end of October and we are in short sleeves. We head back to Limeuil to take some shots of the Vezere river joining the Dordogne.

 

 

We drove across the Dordogne to take a picture of Limeuil from the other side:

Thank you, Martin Walker, and Bruno, Chief of Police, for intriguing us to visit this gloriously vivid and picturesque locale, with so much to do and to see. Below is the Vezere River joining the Dordogne River.

 

 

 

January 2, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, Food, France, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, History, iPhone, Language, Restaurant, Road Trips, Survival, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seven Years In A French Village

 

Sometimes I tease my husband about going on and on about a series he watches. He watches a lot of programs and movies via the internet. I tend to read books. I mentor a class requiring a lot of reading, and I run a book club. OK. I’m “bookish.” I always have been. I own it.

 

He went on and on about A French Village, until he had to skip Season 3 because he couldn’t access it, and went on to Season 4 and had problems understanding what was going on because significant events had happened in Season 3.

 

As I was trying to find a way to work around it, or find the most economical way to watch it – for him – I started watching the first episode. AdventureMan joined me. The beginning is full of events, it moves fast and – did I mention it is entirely in French with English subtitles?

 

I speak French. Well, I used to be fluent, now I am slow, and have forgotten a lot of little grammatical details. I can still speak, I can still understand, when people will speak more slowly. A French Village was so French it took my ear a long time to regain all that I have lost; I had an idea what they were saying but was not really tracking with accuracy. I needed the subtitles.

 

The first year, the first episode starts off with a normal day in the village; the population knows the Germans are miles away, approaching Villenueve, a fictional village in the Jura, close to the Swiss border. No one seems very concerned until all of a sudden, the Germans are there, in the village, and all hell breaks lose. We meet our main characters, Dr. Larcher (who becomes, by default, the village mayor) and his wife, Hortense, Lucienne, a school teacher, Raymond Swartz, his wife, Jeannine, and his lover, Marie, and several more characters.

 

People are herded into the church, where Dr. Larcher tends to the wounded under chaotic conditions, and during which he also agrees, without enthusiasm, to become mayor and to try to create some way to protect the people of the village from the demands of the Germans.

 

It is confusing – a lot like it would be in real life. At the beginning, it is a struggle to figure out who all the people are, but . . . you have seasons and seasons and episodes and episodes to figure it all out.

We started watching on Amazon Prime, for seasons 1 – 4, then subscribe to Mhz ($7.99/mo) for season 5 and six, but for season 7, we had to pay Amazon Prime $14.99 for these final episodes. Mhz was a good find for us; it has several foreign mystery and dramatic series – and movies – and is right up our alley. The Amazon payment was annoying, but we figured was the cost of lunch for one person, not such a large sum for seven episodes.

 

There are SEVEN seasons of A French Village. The first five years have 12 one hour episodes each. Seasons 6 and 7 are shorter, and deal with tying up loose ends.

 

What we love about this series (as well as the sheer French-ness of it all) is that the characters are allowed to be textured and layered. No one is all good, or all bad. They make mistakes. They have human failings and weaknesses. They have some moments of heroic goodness. They are very real people. Well, maybe very real French people; there are a lot of complicated love interests throughout the series, some of which are inexplicable and to me improbable, but I just shrug my shoulders and say “It’s a French production,” and guess that their ways are not our ways.

 

It’s a quick education to the experience of WWII, The German blitz of France, of Belgium, of the Netherlands, Poland, and the dread among German officers of serving on the eastern front. It’s horrifying to watch the passive response among the French to the round-up and eviction of the Jews (read a little of our own history before you go getting all judge-y), the petty competition for foods in the black market, the role of “renunciation” and anonymous letters accusing friends and neighbors of dark deeds, and the endless bickering which went into the cooperative operations for the French resistance.

 

 

Who collaborates? Almost everyone at one point or another; the consequences of standing on your principles are often fatal.

 

It is a little uncomfortable seeing Americans through the eyes of the French. They are not so impressed with our efforts in North Africa, they are not so happy to have Americans in their town. One episode of rape in Villeneuve involves American soldiers and a French girl.

 

We cannot wait for evening, when we can watch two or three or four episodes. We are slowing down a little in Season Seven, not wanting to series to end. It has been a wonderful excursion into a whole new and different world. At the end of which, I am understanding the French-spoken-at-normal-speed much more easily, and even spotting a small flaw or two in the translations.

 

There are two episodes I love. One involves a parade on November 11th. The other involves the execution of two Villeneuve inhabitants, one an unscrupulous and despicable mayor and the other a heroic leader of the Resistance. I know, I know, you’ll have to watch it yourselves to see what I mean.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Entertainment, France, Interconnected, Social Issues, Survival | , , , , , , , | 13 Comments