Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Close Country Ramble to Harpers Ferry

We may have finished our cross country road trip, but I decided that doesn't mean I can't add a few closer countryside rambles to my blog every now and then.  Yesterday I felt the need to escape from the tragic news of the horrible shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas and the inability to understand why anyone should be able to buy an automatic weapon.

So, for some calming scenery and autumn color, Doug and I headed along the C&O Canal Path and across the Potomac River footbridge to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
We've been here many times over the years, but autumn is definitely the most beautiful season.

We climbed these steps carved into rock...

...and passed two friendly hens, who are quite adept at camouflage.
 Can you find the hen in this photo?

The view from Jefferson's rock...
Notice all the arches in this photo, including the train tunnel in the distance across the river.
As we walked back across the bridge, a CSX train was traveling the opposite direction.
This time we noticed a number of padlocks on the bridge--something I had missed the first time.  When I stopped to ask this young woman why she was trying to remove them, she told me about "Love Locks" (also known as Love Padlocks).
"A love lock or love padlock is a padlock which sweethearts lock to a bridge, fence, gate, monument or similar public fixture to symbolize their love.  Typically the sweethearts' names or initials are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away to symbolize unbreakable love." (From Wikipedia)

The young woman in the photo above told me she removes the padlocks once the initials are washed off the locks because they become eyesores and can actually damage the bridges if too many are attached.
How did I miss all the padlocks on my first trip across the bridge?  I suddenly began noticing them everywhere, including this cluster of padlocks, hooked together--which begs the question: If one of the relationships represented by a padlock breaks up, does that mean all the other relationships hooked to that "love lock" will break up, as well? I think I may have a short story brewing...
                                                                                                                                                                                     When we reached the end of the bridge, we passed a troop of Boy Scouts who had just completed a 12-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail.

And here we're back on the Maryland side of the Potomac just at the spot where two railroads tracks enter the same tunnel.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Home Sweet Home! (And what this trip has taught me about myself, my marriage, and life in general.)

It has taken me several days to get to this final post of our cross country road trip.  Once home, I quickly slipped back into my old routines, as well as putting my house in order and packing away camping equipment.  Now that I'm sitting down to write, I first want to say that I'm sending positive thoughts and prayers to all those families and businesses facing the horrifying danger and destruction of fire in California!  Just two short weeks ago, Doug and I were driving through some of those areas and admiring the landscape.

In seven weeks and five days, we have driven 10,805 miles, visited 22 states and 2 Canadian provinces, and have come full circle back to our home in Maryland.  What a trip it has been!

The final two days, we traveled through Tennessee and Virginia in the more familiar Appalachian Mountains, catching glimpses of early autumn colors.

 Here, we are crossing the Potomac River not far from Harpers Ferry, WV and only twenty minutes from home.
Now that it's over, it feels as if the trip passed in a flash, and I'm glad to have this photographic journal to remind me of all the miles we covered and the beautiful places we visited.  Here are some random thoughts on what I've learned along the way:

About myself...

  1. If it weren't for missing family and friends, I could probably be happy making a home most anywhere in the US--except for high traffic areas.
  2. It's important not to forget you're pulling a trailer when you try to park your car.
  3. Everything tastes better when cooked outdoors on a campfire or campstove, even Dinty Moore Stew from a can, topped with Bisquick dumplings.
  4. Camping in the rain is miserable.
  5. Camping on a clear night with a wide view of a starry sky is magnificent and humbling.
  6. It's strangely fulfilling to have to heat water over a fire to wash dishes.  It's also a great way to warm your hands on a cold morning.
  7. It's important to consciously take the time to live fully in the moment, soaking in the small details through all five senses.
  8. Don't ride a mule when you're my age.
  9. It's really good to take a respite from political news.
About my marriage...
  1. The wife of a photographer must have patience, but it helps tremendously if the wife is a writer and has pen and paper handy.
  2. The husband of a writer must have patience and enjoy a good cup of coffee, especially when the wife is trying to write blog posts and needs to find "wifi" cafes.
  3. Fortunately we both found out we don't like to drive all day, day after day.  Our future long distance trips will involve flying to the location, setting up a base camp ( i.e. campsite/rental house/hotel), and exploring the area in more detail.
  4. Laughing always makes a miserable, cold, wet night more endurable.
  5. We're still happily married after being closed up in a car and/or small tent camper everyday for eight weeks!
About life in general...
  1. Politics not withstanding, the vast majority of people are friendly, interesting, accepting, and ready to smile.
  2. It's heartwarming to see how many international visitors we have in our country, especially in our national parks.  And they, too, are ready for a smile and greeting from Americans.
  3. I always knew the United States had an amazing variety of landscapes, but I didn't understand their full impact and beauty until I stood on the rims of Crater Lake and the Grand Canyon, viewed Mt. Rushmore up close, walked the wide sand and rocky beaches of the Oregon coast, smiled at the sunflowers along the lonely roads of Nebraska and South Dakota, stood next to a 150+ year-old Saguaro cactus, was up close and personal with a bison trudging along the road in Yellowstone, listened to bubbling geysers and raging waterfalls, and looked at towering, craggy peaks through smoky skies.
As I said before, it's been quite a trip.  Thank you to my readers for traveling along with us!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Heading Home... (Oct. 5-6)

Well, nearly all of the last two days has been spent driving.  We've traveled from Hobbs, New Mexico to West Memphis, Arkansas.

The roads of Texas were mostly flat with long, straight roads...
and an occasional cotton field or oil fields...
Today in Arkansas, the scenery turned greener and hillier and more forested.  We took a side trip to Hot Springs National Park, hoping to take a nice walk and perhaps put our feet in the hot springs.  
However, the loop road to the tower and the springs was closed, and the Visitor Center and much of the park were in the center of town with no space to park while pulling a trailer.  Very disappointing, but it did look like a nice place to come back to sometime.  We passed a number of beautiful old hotels and spa bath houses similar to this one.
Tomorrow we plan to drive the length of Tennessee from Memphis to Bristol.  And on Sunday we'll be on the last leg home along I-81, which is familiar territory.

My next post will be from home.🙋

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Flagstaff, Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, South to Tucson, and more... (Sept. 30 - Oct. 4)

I've been away from wifi for four days now, so I'm playing catch-up on my blog.  We've seen so many beautiful sights, it's hard to keep them all straight and chronological in my mind, but I'll give it a try...
When we left the Grand Canyon on Saturday, we headed south to Flagstaff and saw the first true signs of fall--the beautiful golden aspens on the mountains...
Then we drove on through Oak Creek Canyon.  The roads were narrow and winding with no room to pull off for photos, so these were taken from the window of a moving car...

But we did have a lovely stop for lunch in Sedona with all its glorious views of red rock...

We stopped for the night just north of Phoenix and the next morning continued south to Oracle, Arizona, where my brother and sister-in-law have a new home at Saddlebrook Ranch, north of Tucson...
 The entire community has gorgeous views of the Catalina Mountains--Mount Lemmon, in particular!
On our drive to a restaurant the first night, we added to our wildlife count by seeing an elusive Gela Monster (pronounced "He-la"), a fast moving roadrunner, a quail, and a coyote.  The only one we managed to catch with the camera is the Gela Monster...

For the next two days, Frank was our tour guide and chauffeur around the greater Tucson area.  We started out by visiting the Biosphere 2 (FYI: Biosphere 1 is "Mother Earth"), now owned and operated by the University of Arizona as a research center.

The building of Biosphere 2 began in the late 1980s, and in the early 1990s, eight people were closed in there for two years, planting, growing, and raising all their food and producing their own energy. 

 It was amazing to see their rain forest and ocean...

One of the most interesting sections was the giant lung, which helped to equalize the air pressure as it heated and cooled throughout the sphere...
Here's an example of malachite on the outside grounds of the Biosphere...
In the afternoon, Frank drove us to the far side of Mount Lemmon, so we could drive to the top of the 9,000 foot mountain, named for Sarah and John Lemmon, botanists who visited the area in the 1880s.  These are some of the HooDoos and views we saw on the drive up...

Our second full day included a visit to Saguaro National Park (pronounced sa-Wah-row).  The Sonoran Desert is the only place the Saguaro cactus grows.  Here's an interesting chart that shows how large and how old a mature Saguaro can be...
And some views in the park with the Rincon Mountains as a backdrop...

Just to give you a perspective of the size, here's a photo of Doug taking a photo of a Saguaro...
Those little holes in the trunk are often homes for Gela Woodpeckers, Desert Wrens, or Owls.

In the afternoon, we had a lovely visit with Joanne Ellis, a cousin (but more like a sister) to my mother, and Joanne's friend and helper, Nick.  It's been years and years since I've seen Joanne, but we keep in touch through letters and by phone.

Thank you to Frank, Sharon, and their son Russell for a lovely visit!  

We hated to leave on Wednesday morning, but it was time to move on toward Carlsbad Caverns in southern New Mexico.  These huge boulders were near Dragoon, Arizona.

And here's a view of Las Cruces, NM against the backdrop of the Organ Mountains.  A closer view would show how the mountains actually look like the large pipes on an organ.
 This roadrunner was not difficult to catch on camera...
We later were caught in a very long and tiresome traffic jam while traveling through the pass in El Paso, Texas, so by the time we reached the Guadelupe Pass, it was dusk and too dark to photograph the beautiful rock outcrops.  And by the time we reached Carlsbad Caverns, it was totally dark.

 All the campgrounds and hotels (even in the town of Carlsbad) were full--not with visitors to the caverns, but with oil field workers.  Apparently, the time to visit the caverns is on the weekends when the oil workers go home.  We had to drive an additional 75 miles to find a place to stay for the night.  And this morning we've decided not to back-track to the caverns.  They will have to wait for another trip.

At this point, we are seven weeks and two days into our cross country adventure and ready to head for home.  This photo of the map brings us up-to-date...
 And, like the roadrunner, we are headed to the region we know best...
P.S.  The car should be facing east for home.