Saturday, April 19, 2008

Fort Myers

April 15-May 24. We arrived back in Florida and stopped on the way to Ft. Myers to pick up some of our belongings and the mail at Sandy's mother's. It was great to get back to Ft. Myers and actually be able to unpack everything!!

On Friday we drove up to Siesta Key to visit with some relatives: Sandy's mother, June, and his brothers and sister and spouses: John and Diane, Scott and Amy, and Linda and Jay. We had a great visit and a lovely day for the beach.
A week later Sandy drove up to June's to drive her north for the summer. He then flew home from Albany. They had a great drive and nice visit with his sister, Gail and husband, Dale, in Virginia.

I took a couple of days when he was away and visited my mother in Largo. While I was there my brother flew down from Toronto to also visit her and then we all picked up Sandy at the airport and came back down to Ft. Myers. Bruce hadn't been there before. We a very relaxing visit. We read, swam, and did some sightseeing. We all enjoyed the Calusa Nature Center where we took a tour and saw our first albino raccoon. And Bruce enjoyed his short trip to the Edison Estates.

A week later our good friends, George and Carol McGeehan, from college, came to visit for a few days. We hadn't seen them in a couple of years so we had a lot of catching up to do. One night we went to the Fort Myers Beach for dinner and saw the moon rise. We also saw a great example of how our Florida frogs blend into the pastel color of the house. Another day we took a trip to Pine Island and visited an area where the Calusa Indians lived. There we saw many osprey. George and Sandy played golf and we all just enjoyed visiting. We hope they come back to visit us again in the winter.

I started taking golfing lessons which I've enjoyed so far. I have 2 more to take in October.

I also started taking yoga which I love. I'm hoping to get Sandy to do it with me. All those positions and stretches are great for everyone!

Next post: Summer in New England.

Tyler, Texas and New Orleans

April 10-14, 2008. After we left Santa Fe on I 40 toward Amarillo the landscape went from mountains to plains. We took 287 out of Amarillo and even saw an enormous cattle ranch with literally thousands of cattle. Just west of Wichita Falls, TX we were pleasantly surprised to see trees and grass on the side of the road. There was a strange sight just east of Electra, TX: a ranch with 12 or so camels! We finished up a really good book on CD called Bancroft Strategy by Robert Ludlum.

A few years ago we reconnected with Jane Vander Muelen Hoover, a friend from Hope College. When we started planning our trip we knew we had to make a stop. We're so glad we did. Jane and her husband, Andy, live in Tyler, TX, just east of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We had such a fun visit. They have property on Lake Tyler where they built a boat house (and little kitchen, and living room/dining room/bedroom, and a separate bathroom). Plans are in the works for building a "real house" for their retirement. We took a boat ride around the beautiful lake and an adjoining one with their neighbors Jim and Karen Jordan. They also joined us for dinner. It was relaxing and the company couldn't have been better. Thanks Jane and Andy for a wonderful visit!

Here are a few homes on the lake, some old, some new, and many large.

The lake's one claim to fame is that the Home and Garden network built their "Dream Home 2005" on it. Unfortunately the winner found he couldn't pay the taxes so had to sell it. Too bad, it was beautiful!

We crossed a river that obviously had had a bit of rain added to it recently - not sure if this was the Atchafalaya River. There was a nice, small visitor center at the Indian Bayou where we took a short hike along the Atchafalaya River and saw the ever present bald cypress. The river had a lot of algae in it too.

On our way out to Arizona we toured a plantation outside Baton Rouge. This time we decided to do a tour of New Orleans. We took the "Historic New Orleans Walking Tour" from the Bourbon St. Cafe Beignet at Legends Park (where you see these statues). (The tour was well done and gave lots of information.) We loved the French architecture with the wrought iron balconies. Some buildings are still in the process of being fixed up. (I think everyone knows by now that the French Quarter had no destruction from Hurricane Katrina. But we still saw some blue tarps from the highway.)

I loved this tropical courtyard at the St. Louis Hotel.

The St. Louis Cathedral is quite dramatic. It faces Jackson Square where there are often outdoor events. (In the picture they're taking away the stage from a weekend function.) On the other side of the square you walk up stairs and you see the Mississippi River, way up high, and the St. Charles trolley!!

We really need to come back to New Orleans and spend a couple of days. There are a number of museums to see (not on a Monday, though), take the Garden District Tour and ride the trolley.

Sedona, Flagstaff & Santa Fe

April 7-10. We said our goodbye's to Jim and Sylvia Beck and Julie (maybe we'll see her again in July) and headed to Interstate 40 to 89 to Prescott, AZ where we were spending the night. NPR and a book on CD made the time fly. At the CA/AZ border we decided we should drive some of historic Route 66 for the heck of it. Well, it was pretty scenery but it was a very winding road which I drove so there are no pictures! (And it took a lot longer than if we had stayed on I40.)

Tuesday we drove Route 89A north through Sedona and then Jerome, formerly a mining town, set on the hillside. (See the J on the hill.) We wouldn't want to drive some of those streets when there's snow!

What great scenery in Sedona. It's famous for its red rocks. As much as we love to hike, we decided that we'd make 2 other stops today so just drove up Airport Road for the view. We'll have to come back again and hike.

The drive north on 89A toward Flagstaff was through beautiful Oak Creek Canyon. When we finally got to Flagstaff we saw a surprising scene right ahead of us, snow on Humphrey's Peak! (Sorry for the fuzzy picture.) (This was a warning of things to come in Santa Fe.)

We saw many, many trains along I40 between Albuquerque and Flagstaff.

Meteor Crater, on I40, is privately run by the Barringers, the family of Daniel M. Barringer who, in 1902, first correctly identified the crater as being formed by the impact of a large iron meteorite. It's in the middle of nowhere but it's very impressive. Just imagine, it was created about 50,000 years ago by a meteorite traveling about 26,000 miles per hour! It's 550 feet deep and over 4000 feet across and is the best preserved impact site on earth. The museum gives information on meteorites, asteroids, etc. They also give guided walks in the morning and afternoon. Unfortunately, the afternoon one was canceled because it was too windy (and therefore dangerous to be walking on the rim).

Next stop was the Petrified Forest within the Painted Desert. Unfortunately, we had spent so much time in the Meteor Crater that we didn't really have time to actually see the petrified trees except a few from the car. The Visitor Center had good information though on the 225 million year old fossils. Next time we'll plan at least a few hours and do the drive between I40 and Route 180.

We awoke to a very cold, windy, and gray day in Santa Fe. It was only about 45 degrees and it definitely felt good to have our warm fleeces on. Santa Fe has a very well organized Museum Foundation that publishes a brochure on all the museums and the events/lectures and special exhibits for each. You can also buy tickets for multiple museums and save a few dollars. Our first stop was the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture on Museum Hill. It was excellent! It was organized differently than other Indian museums that we've been in. It had sections on Ancestors, Children to Elders, Architecture, Language & Song, Plants & Animals, Travel & Trade, Survival, and the Arts. One thing that made it particularly meaningful was that there were quotes from Indians regarding each section. Here are some examples. A Pueblo said, "Shelter is not just a place to live but an extension of the natural world. The roof is the father which protects and nurtures. The floor is Mother Earth which embraces us when we die." A Hopi said, "Treat the earth and the environment with respect, humility, and a sense of cooperation, and it will in turn provide for you." A Pueblo said, "Pottery reminds us of the sacred earth bowl within which we live. Designs help us remember the mountains, clouds, lightning and plants upon which we depend for our physical and spiritual survival." Apaches/Hopi have no word for art. They make pieces of life to see, touch, and feel that connects them to their creator. There were also some videos like one woman talking about what it was like to attend the compulsory boarding school where they couldn't talk their own language or practice any of their customs.

It was really fun to have lunch with Kendra Lyons at the Santa Fe Baking Company. We've known her parents, Paul and Paula Lyons from a softball league for about 30 years maybe. And Kendra was also in plays with Julie. She's a junior at the College of Santa Fe majoring in Musical Theatre although now she thinks she'll go the LA movie/TV route. She looks great and she loves school. We had a great visit and a delicious lunch too!

After lunch we went over to the opposite end of the courtyard to the Museum of International Folk Art. Alexander Girard contributed his immense collection of over 135,000 items from over 100 countries. The museum houses the largest collection of folk art in the world. We were lucky to be able to get a docent-led tour before we set out on our own. It was just amazing to see so many objects in one big room from so many different countries. It was very interesting! There was also an exhibit of textiles: fiber, weaving, lace and batik in the Girard Wing. I was especially excited about the exhibit of Gee's Bend quilts. I had seen a very interesting PBS special on the women quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama and how their work came to the world's attention. It's really unique. Besides all the wonderful quilts there were also videos of the quilters talking and some men that helped them make prints of their quilts. Mary Lee Bendolph (kind of the leader of this community of quilters) said that she prefers quilting with older fabric because "old clothes have spirit and she can't leave the spirit out of a quilt. The spirit is all we have to lead and guide us."

When we came out it was snowing!! No-o-o, this is what we've been trying really hard to avoid! But, after all, Santa Fe is at 7000 feet so . . .

The next day there were still flurries in the air and snow cover in the foothills on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It was about 20 degrees with the wind chill, another good day for a museum. We started with the Palace of the Governors (State History Museum) the seat of the government, built in 1610 when New Mexico was a territory of Mexico. It was added to and changed over the years as different groups were in charge. Santa Fe was founded in 1607 and is the second oldest city founded by European colonists. New Mexico finally became a state in 1912. The museum had a really nice, huge timeline which was helpful in getting the big picture of the history. There were also things like a stagecoach, tools, etc. The natives have always used the front area as a trading post. Now it's mostly items to sell to tourists. (See how bundled up everyone is.)

Santa Fe downtown is a real mix of architecture. I'm sure there's an ordinance against really modern structures right here.

However, the new state capitol building, a few blocks away and built in 1966, is quite modern. There was New Mexican Travertine marble inside and it was structured in the round but I didn't think it really went with the rest of the town. There was a self-guided tour but there wasn't too much to see. There was modern art on the walls and a special exhibit of New Mexico quilters. I liked the quilts best. Some looked more like paintings than traditional quilts. "Flamenco Fantasy" by Michelle Jackson was my absolute favorite. Right outside the capitol was some forsythia in bloom (on April 9) and snow on the grass. As Kendra said it's typical for Santa Fe after one day of clouds and rain or snow the sun will come out, i.e. they have more sunny days than Amherst. We just saw the outside but didn't go in to San Miguel Chapel, built in 1610, which is the oldest church in the US. (Obviously it's been renovated as it looks in good shape.)

We really liked Santa Fe and need to come back again!

Last stops before Florida: Tyler,TX and New Orleans.