Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Snowy Spring Day

Yesterday we had a little snow that persisted on and off for much of the day. But it was light and was only sticking on the ground a little. But this morning we woke up to a much heavier snowfall which didn't let up until sometime after noon. It was a beautiful snow fall and made the landscape look wonderful. So I decided to take a few pictures to remember this late snow that we received.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

NM Highway 63: Dalton Canyon, Holy Ghost, and Cowles

Today Thomas and I took a road trip up to Pecos for a chance to get out of the house and meet up with a friend. One of our friends was camping out by Dalton Canyon and had invited us to come up for the day and hang out. So we left Santa Fe and drove to Pecos and then turned onto NM 63. From NM 50 in Pecos we drove north on NM 63. I have been on this road before but only a short distance. I have visited Monastery Lake and the Lisboa Springs Fish Hatchery on a couple of drives out there. But that is as far along the road as I had been. Today would be different - we were going to drive the entire road up to Cowles.

We arrived at Dalton Canyon around noon and hung out with our friend and his buddies for a couple of hours. Before you arrive at Dalton Canyon you pass Dalton Picnic Area and Dalton Fishing Access Site. We didn't stop here, we just continued to meet our friend. He and his buddies were camping just off NM 63 on Forest Road 123 (Dalton Canyon Road) next to a small creek. We walked around the area for a while and I took some pictures. Then we left Dalton Canyon and continued up NM 63. Our next stop was at Holy Ghost Campground. We parked and walked for a bit along the creek here. It would have been nice to do a hike but we weren't prepared to do that so we just enjoyed our short walk. From the campground we returned to NM 63 and continued our drive. We passed the Terrero General Store and made our way to Cowles. Here we walked along the Pecos River for a while and then spent a little time walking around Cowles Pond.

We left Cowles and headed back down NM 63 and made our way home. It was a great afternoon driving in a beautiful area. I think we will have to make another trip to the area and do some hiking.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Boston, Leominster & Boston

[November 11, 2016 - Friday]
On Friday Thomas and I left Santa Fe and traveled to Boston, Massachusetts. Our flight was early in the morning and we had a layover in Denver before arriving in Boston around 4:00pm. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel (Westin Waterfront Hotel) and got checked in & settled in our room. Around 6:00pm we decided to go out and find something to eat. We walked from the hotel to Seaport Blvd. and strolled up and down this street to find a meal.
We had looked on Yelp before we left the hotel and found an Italian restaurant on the list so that is what we were looking for. But I guess that the restaurant had closed because we couldn't find it. So Thomas used his phone to see if there was another Italian restaurant in the area. We found one on Seaport Blvd. but in the opposite direction from the way we were walking. So we turned around and made our way to Salvatore's. We had a great meal and some wine and relaxed from a long day of traveling. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel to get some rest for tomorrow.

[November 12, 2016 - Saturday]
Saturday morning we woke up early and got things ready because we were taking the train to Leominster to visit our friends Dave & Deanne. I had misread the train schedule and was glad I rechecked it because we would have missed the train if we had used the time I originally noted. When I noticed this mistake we only had forty-five minutes to get to the train station.
North Station - Boston
I didn't think we could make it by walking or taking the subway so we grabbed a cab. We arrived with 15 minutes to spare. They were working on the tracks going toward Leominster so we had to take a bus from North Station to Lincoln and then transfer to the train there for the rest of the trip to Leominster. Dave & Deanne met us at the station in Leominster. We went to their house and got settled and visited for a bit and then headed out to their church fair. They were manning a booth selling raffle tickets for cash prizes. The fair is an annual event to raise money for maintaining the building. Thomas and I walked around the fair while they worked and then I took Deanne's place so she could have a break. Around 3:30pm we left the fair and went back to their house and relax. Then at 5:00pm we went to their friend's house for drinks. We spent a little over an hour visiting and then we headed out to dinner. We ate at one of their favorite places - The Columbia Tavern. After dinner, we returned to their house and just talked for a couple of hours. Then Thomas and I headed up to our room to get some sleep.

[November 13, 2016 - Sunday]
On Sunday morning Dave cooked breakfast for us and we had a nice visit. About 11:00am Dave & Deanne took us back to the train station so we could get back to Boston.
USS Constitution
So we took the train to Lincoln and then the bus into Boston. Once we arrived in Boston we headed over to Charlestown. We wanted to see the USS Constitution (at this time of year it is only open Thursday - Sunday). So we checked in at the Visitor Center and the I got my National Park Passport Stamps. Then we had a fifteen minute wait until we got a guided tour of the ship. I wasn't impressed with the tour. It lasted only about 15 minutes and we didn't really see much of the ship. I also felt the tour guide was a little full of himself. Once we finished the tour then we walked over to Bunker Hill.
Bunker Hill Monument
Our goal was to climb to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument. We arrived at the monument and talked to a Ranger and then headed to the stairs. We had to take our time to climb the 294 steps to the top. At first, I was feeling really old and out of shape but then we noticed that everyone was having trouble. The views from the top were amazing. You could see all around and I was able to get a few good pictures. Going down the steps was much easier and faster. We went back to the Ranger and I got my National Park Passport Stamps. Once I finished stamping we went outside and found a bench so we could sit and rest for a while. Both of us felt like our legs were made of jello. Finally, after about a half hour we were ready to start our walk back to the hotel. While walking we kept our eye open for a good place to eat dinner as both of us were hungry. We had been walking along Atlantic Ave. following the harbor and we turned on Seaport Blvd. to head toward the hotel. When we got to the other side of the bridge we saw a restaurant that we decided to try for dinner. We stopped at The Barking Crab and I was really wanting a lobster roll. And that is exactly what I had for dinner and it was delicious. After eating we decided to look for a letterbox. You can read about that part of our day at A Tiny Stamp. After the letterboxing, we continued our walk back to the hotel. Once there we relaxed and read and planned for the day tomorrow.

[November 14, 2016 - Monday]
This morning Thomas needed to attend a meeting at the conference so I was on my own. I had made some plans that included letterboxing, National Parks and the Freedom Trail.
So I left the hotel and started walking. I did some letterboxing throughout the day and you can read about that at Letterboxing Along the Freedom Trail Somewhere along the line I took a wrong turn and ended up heading in the wrong direction but I realized what I had done and corrected it quickly. I arrived at Boston Common on the side near the Capitol Building and entered Dunkin Donuts to get something to eat and some coffee. I took my breakfast sandwich and coffee to the Visitor Center in Boston Common and found a bench where I could sit and eat. When I was done I went into the Visitor Center and got a map and some information about the Freedom Trail. But before I started the trail I wanted to do something else first. I headed out of Boston Common and walked along Joy St. to the Boston African American National Historic Site. I first got my National Park Passport Stamp and then I took a guided tour of the site. While doing all this I was also working on the Junior Ranger Booklet for the site. When I finished the tour and walking through the exhibits I met Thomas out in front of the building.
Make Way for Ducklings
We walked back to Boston Common and ended up walking all around Boston Common and then we headed over to Boston Public Garden. During our walk, we saw the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Central Burying Ground, Make Way for Ducklings, the beautiful bridge over the lake, George Washington Statue, and the Ether Monument. After our walk, we decided we needed something to eat. Since we were in the area we decided to eat at Cheers (previously known as Bull & Finch Pub). After we ate we looked for a letterbox and then started The Freedom Trail. I had already Been to the Visitor Center which is the beginning of the Trail so we just headed to the next stop - the Massachusetts State House. Then we continued along the trail visiting Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King's Chapel, King's Chapel Burying Ground, Benjamin Franklin Statue and the Boston Latin School, Old Corner Bookstore, Old South Meeting House, Old State House, Site of the Boston Massacre and Faneuil Hall. Along the way,
King's Chapel
I collected National Park Passport Stamps at some of the locations. And I worked on the Boston Historical Park Junior Ranger Booklet. The sites that are part of the Trail as well as part of the National Park System, are Old State House, Old South Meeting House, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, Bunker Hill Monument and USS Constitution. We arrived at Faneuil Hall around 3:30pm and we debated about continuing on or calling it a day. We decided to take a break and get something to eat. Since Faneuil Hall is full of different places to eat we walked around and until we found something we wanted. Then we found a spot to sit and we ate and talked about what to do next. After eating we walked to the Paul Revere House but they were closing up so we decided to head back to the hotel and call it a day. As we were walking we came across an Italian grocery store (Salumeria Italiana). We decided to stop in and get some nduja. This is a spreadable salami and is delicious. We had it in Calabria, Italy back in May (you can read about that trip at Southern Italy & Sicily). Thankfully the store had some so we bought it and then headed back to the hotel. We relaxed and read and talked about our interesting day in Boston.  Tomorrow I am on my own, not sure what I will do.

[November 15, 2016 - Tuesday]
Thomas is busy all day today with his conference so I am on my own to do whatever. We woke up to lots of clouds and a good chance of rain for the day. But I was determined to finish the Freedom Trail. So I left the hotel and walked to Seaport Blvd. and then to Atlantic Ave. as I made my way to the Paul Revere House.
Copp's Burying Ground
There was a light mist by this time and I was glad to have a break by going inside for a bit. I got my National Park Passport Stamp and then took a self-guided tour of the house. Then I continued on the trail going to the Old North Church, Copp's Burying Ground and then on to Charlestown. It was drizzling on and off during my walk and by the time I got to the USS Constitution Museum it was raining much harder. At this point, I was going to look for a couple of letterboxes but it was way too wet to do that. So I decided to have a look around the museum and I could also work on completing my Boston African American NHS and Boston NHP Junior Ranger Booklets.
USS Constitution Museum
By the time I left the museum it was raining harder. Thankfully I had a raincoat and an umbrella so I was covered. I still had a couple of things to complete in the Junior Ranger booklets and then I needed to turn it in at Faneuil Hall. After leaving the museum I walked to Faneuil Hall and found a bench to sit on and finish the booklets. Then I went to one of the Rangers and turned in the booklets and got my Junior Ranger badges. Now it was time to head back to the hotel and I debated about getting a cab or just walking. And since I was already damp I decided to walk. I had talked with Thomas and he was done with his meetings and was in the room waiting for me. When I got back to the hotel I decided to shower and change into some dry clothes and then get some things packed for the drive home. Since it was still raining (and I believe it had gotten worse) we decided to eat at one of the restaurants in the hotel. After dinner, we returned to the room and packed as much as we could before calling it a day. We read and relaxed and then went to sleep. Tomorrow we head to the airport for our flight home. We had an incredible trip but we could have used a few more days to see some things we missed. Oh well, I guess we need to plan another trip.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

An Article from the Huffington Post

White, Conservative, Christian Friends — I Wish You Really Were Pro-Life 

John Pavlovitz
Pastor and Writer

You tell me that you’re voting for Donald Trump for one reason: because you’re pro-life.

Despite everything you’ve seen and know about this man (much of which you openly lament), you say that you just can’t support someone who doesn’t share your burden, and that you’re voting solely this issue.

Life, you say is the ultimate deal breaker for you.

I wish that were true.

I actually don’t believe you’re pro-life, I believe you’re anti-abortion, which is a far more selective and convenient defense of Humanity. From where I’m standing it seems as though “Life” for you, comprises a very narrow demographic — one that bears a striking resemblance to you. The unborn are easy to advocate for because you can idealize them into something palatable to you, something benign and comfortable, something in your own image.

You see, it’s not that you’re really pro-life, you’re pro-straight, white, Christian fetuses.

I can tell by how often your heavy burden for the sanctity of life evaporates upon delivery. In so many cases this compassion really has a nine-month expiration date, as if life begins at conception but ends upon leaving the birth canal. The completion of that third trimester is actually the shelf life of your passionate regard for much of the living.

From where I’m standing it seems as though ‘Life,’ for you, comprises a very narrow demographic — one that bears a striking resemblance to you.

Because if that life you say you so treasure, one day converts to Islam, you label it dangerous, you see it as a threat, you applaud suggestions of its expulsion, you deny it open worship.

If that life eventually comes out as LGBTQ, you condemn its soul, harass it in your workplace and church, try to prevent its marriage, tell it where and when it can use a public bathroom. You bully it and drive it to suicide.

If that life has brown skin and wears baggy pants and gets gunned down during a traffic stop, you not only have little grief over its loss, but readily blame it for its own execution.

If that life is strapped to a prison gurney and pumped full of drugs that will cease its lungs from expanding while its terrified mind comprehends it all, you celebrate the occasion as justice being served — after a last meal you resent having to pay for.

If that life has to endure its formative years in overcrowded, grossly underfunded public schools, you tell it to “pull itself up by its own bootstraps,” while nestled in the cloistered, privileged gated community of a Suburbia where bootstraps come with a birth certificate.

If that life has working parents who can’t make a living wage, you label it a lazy, unproductive drain on society always looking for handouts and trying to work the system to its advantage.

Because if that life, you say you so treasure, one day converts to Islam, you label it dangerous, you see it as a threat, you applaud suggestions of its expulsion, you deny it open worship.

If that life needs health care because its undeveloped heart can barely beat on its own, you’re suddenly empty of empathy and low on generosity — unless it can pull its own weight and pay the premiums.

If that life doesn’t eat enough fruits and vegetables because it lives in urban areas where such things are scarce and financially prohibitive, you ridicule its obesity and sickness as signs of cultural overindulgence and gluttony.

If that life is sexually assaulted you want to blame it for its promiscuity and immodesty, and wonder why it didn’t just keep its legs closed and why it can’t just move on and why it is so easily offended by “locker room banter.”

If that life is one day sent overseas to defend liberties here — separated from spouses, children, and parents and placed directly in harm’s way, you’re far more cavalier exposing its vulnerability and far less concerned about whether or not it is sacred.

If that life doesn’t reside in the continental U.S. or speak English and comes here fleeing oppression, poverty, and war you’ll never understand, you ask it to go back and “go through the proper channels”, instead of the barely sea-worthy makeshift raft or the stinking, stifling storage container it nearly died in trying to get here.

I wish you were pro-life, my friend — I really do.

I wish all human beings mattered as much to you as caucasian embryos do. I wish that once these diverse babies are thrust out into a violent, difficult, painful world; many enduring disadvantages, obstacles, and trials you will likely never experience — that you actually gave more of a damn about them.

I wish that once diverse babies are thrust out into a violent, difficult, painful world you actually gave more of a damn about them.

Because if you did, Life would be far bigger to you.

You would want to do more than prevent abortions.

You’d want to prevent hunger and poverty. You’d want to prevent illiteracy and child mortality and forced prostitution. You’d want to prevent racism and bigotry and homophobia. You’d want kids in the “bad neighborhood” to have great schools and teachers just like your kids have there in the “good neighborhood.” You’d want to support single parents and the terminally ill and the mentally ill by helping them carry their oversized burden.

You’d want religious freedom even for people who aren’t Christian. You’d want LGBTQ people to live and work and worship and love as they desire. You’d want people of color not to have to fear law enforcement and not to be disproportionately incarcerated. You’d want fewer guns in the hands of kids and criminals and those with mental illness. You’d want to prevent violence and workplace termination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. You’d want a living wage for all people who work hard, and healthcare for their children that won’t have to replace their daily meals.

I am a person of Life. That is what my faith calls me to be.

I don’t celebrate when a woman terminates a pregnancy (I honestly don’t know anyone who does), but my advocacy for life also goes well beyond the womb, and includes a far more diverse swath of Humanity than only those who look, speak, or worship the way I do. It includes immigrants and Muslims and Atheists and my enemies.

I wish we were partners in that wider affirmation of the living, because that would be cause of celebration and reason for hope and a visible sign of America’s greatness.

I wish we were partners in that wider affirmation of the living, because that would because of celebration and reason for hope and a visible sign of America’s greatness.

I am pro-all life because it is all sacred; not only when its heart begins beating, but as it beats and when it struggles to beat and up until it ceases to beat. I defend all life equally.

I celebrate it all fully. I protect it all passionately.

I really wish you did too.

Originally published on

Friday, October 7, 2016

It Comes to an End - We Are Home

This morning we left Le Pecq, Paris and France to make our way home to Santa Fe. It all started very early. We got a wake up call at 5:00am and we got showered, dressed and finished packing. We put our bags in the hallway at 5:30am and then headed to the restaurant for breakfast. We met Deanne and Dave for a last breakfast on the ship and then went back to the room to get our carry-on bags.
Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport
At 6:30am we headed to the bus for the trip to Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport. Before we got on the bus we had to identify our bags and then they loaded them onto the bus and then we were able to climb aboard. The bus left the dock in Le Pecq at 6:45am  and dropped us off at the airport where we met a representative from Viking River Cruises. She walked us to the terminal and then checked us in at a kiosk. We got our boarding passes and luggage markers. Then she directed us to the counter where we needed to turn in our bags and then head to security. At this point, we said our goodbyes to Deanne and Dave and a few other people we had met on the cruise and then headed off to begin our day in airports and airplanes. We checked in at the counter and then walked toward the gates. We turned a corner and went through an archway and encountered a snaking line to customs. We zig-zagged our way through the line and 40 minutes later we were at the customs window. This part was quick and then onto security. Security went faster, it only took us 20 minutes to get through. After getting our shoes back on and computers put away we headed for our gate. We had a few euros left so we stopped and got snacks and water for the trip. We arrived at our gate approximately two hours after arriving at the airport. So glad the Viking shuttled us early from the ship. At the gate, we only had to wait about a half hour before we started boarding. Thirty minutes later we were settled in our seats and the plane was heading down the runway.

The flight from Paris to Salt Lake City was to be about nine and a half hours.
So we relaxed and started reading. I finished reading The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel. We watched movies and TV shows, read some more, ate, tried to sleep, journaled, ate, filled out the declaration form, read and ate some more. They fed us a snack, lunch, another snack and then dinner. By the time we reached Salt Lake City we were both restless and ready to get out of the plane. In Salt Lake City we got in line and scanned our passports and got our receipts. Then went to the customs window and turned the receipts in and got through with ease. Then we picked up our luggage and then turned it back in just twenty feet away. I have to say that coming back to the States has never been easier. Usually, the TSA and Customs Agents are rude and grumpy. Today, though we had very friendly and helpful agents. The whole process took only 20 minutes and before we knew it we were at our gate for our flight to Albuquerque. I was glad about that because we only had an hour and fifteen minutes between flights and we made it to our gate with about 15 minutes to spare. On the flight from Salt Lake City, I read a little but mostly leaned my head back, closed my eyes and rested. We landed in Albuquerque about 30 minutes earlier than expected and thankfully our bags were one of the firsts ones out.

Once we had our bags we went out to the shuttle area for the bus to Airport Parking to get the car. We loaded the car, paid our tab and then headed home. It was 5:30pm when we got to the house. We unloaded the car, unpacked, took showers, ate a small meal and now we are headed to bed. It has been a long day and a great trip but we are tired and happy to be home. I really enjoyed Viking River Cruises. The cruise we took was Paris and the Heart of Normandy. Everything about the company was excellent. From the informational calls I made to the company to signing up and scheduling to them arranging the flights to the comfort and beauty of the ship to the excursions to the friendly and helpful staff, everything was perfection. We definitely will be using them again.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Château de Malmaison and Paris - Our Final Day in France

Our ship is still docked in Mantes-la-Jolie but today is our last day in France so at some point, the ship will leave here and return to Le Pecq. Tomorrow we start the day early to get to the airport for our flight back to the States. This morning our alarm went off at 7:00am. We got up, showered, dressed and got things ready for the day. We still had a little time before breakfast so we took out our luggage and started to pack some things. At 8:00am we met with Deanne and Dave in the dining room for breakfast. After a relaxing breakfast, we returned to the cabin and continued with the packing. We received some luggage tags last night so we went ahead and attached those. Then we took a little time to fill out surveys.
At 9:30am we stopped at the reception desk and turned in our surveys and got our cards.
Château de Malmaison
Then we headed out to the dock for an excursion to Château de Malmaison. This was the home of Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte. I am not sure how long it took us to get there but time seemed to go by quickly. Our tour guide took us around the Château and gave us history and obscure facts.
Napoleon's Library
The Château is not a castle or anything like that, it is more of a large mansion. And I thought it was extraordinary and beautiful. The place was filled with beautiful furniture (most of which was not the Bonaparte's but was of the time period) and paintings. I was hoping we would have time to walk around in the gardens but by the time our tour guide finished we had to get back to the bus for our ride back to the ship.

It was close to 1:00pm when we arrived back at the ship. We went to the cabin and reorganized for an afternoon in Paris. Once we were ready we all met in the Aquavit Terrace for a quick lunch buffet. Dave decided to stay on the ship and just relax while Deanne, Thomas and I took the shuttle into Paris. The shuttle left at 2:00pm for Paris and the ship left Mantes-la-Jolie for Le Pecq as our bus pulled out of the parking lot.

The shuttle dropped us off in front of Petit Palais and this is where we needed to return at 5:00pm for our ride back to the ship.
Walking the Champs Elysees
We had two things to do in Paris and then the rest of the time we could do whatever. Deanne needed a shirt for her god daughter and I needed some safety pins (my suitcase was ripped at one of the seams on the flight over). So we walked from Petit Palais up Avenue Winston Churchill to the Avenue des Champs Elysees. We turned left and headed toward the Arc de Triomphe. Near the Arc we were able to find stores that had what we needed.
Petit Palais
Once we had purchased our items we headed back toward Petit Palais. We ended up going into the building and walking around a bit and had some coffee and relaxed. Then we headed out and walked along the Alexander III Bridge. All of this took up our time and we returned to the bus at 5:50pm. As we got back to the dock in Le Pecq and exited the bus we watched as our ship pulled up and docked. We had to wait about 15 minutes until we could get on the ship. Thomas and I went to the cabin and got cleaned up for dinner. At 7:30 we headed to the dining room for dinner. We sat with a couple from San Antonio (Jim and Patty) and head a great time.

Tonight we had an excursion back into Paris - Paris by Night Tour. So at 9:15pm we got on the bus and headed into Paris.
Eiffel Tower
For most of the tour we were just on the bus as we drove around to see all the major sites. It was beautiful and magical - the city is perfection at night. Glittery and romantic, peaceful and shining. I took quite a few pictures but I don't think they came out all that well (we will see when I upload them to the computer) since I was shooting through glass. I did learn on this trip that my camera does have a setting for taking pictures through glass and I did use it, so we will see what happens. When we arrived at the Eiffel Tower, the driver parked the bus and we were able to get out and get some good pictures. We also were at the Tower at 11:00pm, which the tour guide had arranged so that we could see the Eiffel Tower sparkle. The Tower flashes for a few minutes at certain times and I am glad we got to experience it. It was amazing. After about a 20 minute stop we were all back on the bus headed back to the ship.

Once we arrived at the ship Thomas and I took showers and then finished packing. Tomorrow we have to have our luggage in the hall at 5:45am. So we have a wake up call for 5:00am. It is now 1:00am and I think I need the four hours of sleep before our long day of flying home.