Week 293 November 9, 2019

Last week, Loren and I were leaving Nevada headed eastward. All the way as we passed through the northeast corner of Arizona through Utah and into western Colorado we were entertained on all sides by high desert vistas of sage brush and sand that turned to amazing red rock formations and deep canyons. I only snapped one photo as we briefly stopped, I could have easily taken a few hundred more to share…

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At the suggestion of our cousin in eastern Colorado, we stopped for two nights in Grand Junction to spend time at Colorado National Monument. Just as it had been in Nevada, it was unseasonably cold there. I must emphasize how cold we felt. I was grateful I had purchased a pair of inexpensive gloves at a pharmacy in Las Vegas and wore them with my other winter outerwear with gratitude. As was also suggested, the next morning we waited for the day to warm up a bit before heading to the Monument at mid-morning to beat the crowds. We arrived at the perfect time. We first hiked to see Devil’s Kitchen,

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then hiked to First Pool on No Thoroughfare Canyon Trail. We were disheartened throughout our time in Colorado to not see any fall colors as all the leaves were frozen on the trees and turned brown from a previous unusual cold snap in September. We did see wildlife after we were alerted by another couple hiking this trail to look up for big horn sheep on a mountain above us, We decided skip a hike through Echo Canyon and instead drove on further through the Monument.

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It turned out we spent the entire rest of our day driving along the main road of the park relishing its unique scenery. We barely made it into the Visitor’s Center at the far end of the park at 4:45 to see a brief informative film before they closed their doors at 5pm.

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On further recommendation we drove to the quaint town of Palisade, famous for peach and cherry orchards, and vineyards that compare to California’s Napa Valley. We were too late for any wine tasting but at a bar in town Loren tried whiskey tasting, which included peach, pear and apricot brandies.

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As we left western Colorado the next morning, I was again moved to snap a last photo of dramatic scenery along the freeway.

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The next two nights were spent with our special cousins near Denver. They treated us to dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and introduced us to the Chocolate Therapist. The second evening their daughter, her husband and one of their daughters joined us for a delicious home cooked meal. Their other, slightly older daughter was at a ballet rehearsal for an upcoming performance of The Nutcracker.

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Once again we were on the road heading east. Through much of eastern Colorado and into western Nebraska we drove through heavy fog. I snapped a photo where you can still see on the lower left the remnants of ice that Loren had scraped off our windshield from an unusually early frost. That evening as we stopped for gas before we reached the farm of our cousins in Nebraska, I was surprised to find three California PG&E utility trucks filling up. I still wonder what they were doing in Nebraska…

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Loren and I were again warmly welcomed by more dear cousins of ours and had another wonderful visit. They showed us around the area, which included a drive by the local corn harvest pile, and, their low, or what they call “bottom,” land that they were never able to plant this year because it is still underwater from the record flooding they had had early this year. They had been surprised to even discover pelicans grace those waters this summer. 

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During our short visit Loren and I were able to provide helping hands to setup part of an electric fence to enclose the remains of a corn field. It will be further cleaned up by cattle during ensuing months. Harsh northerly winds picked up that interrupted our work before we could finish the job. The bulls are currently in yards with the cows, doing what bulls do when then are with cows. Surprisingly though one of our cousins’ new young  billy goat has had a hard time with discovering what he is supposed to do with the does.

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The next day we helped — or maybe more accurately observed and assisted where we could — with cleaning the combine, as our cousins had completed their harvest the night before we arrived.

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Throughout wonderful meals, running errands, attending to daily chores and visits with other family members that sometimes included playing cards, we enjoyed much laughter  and meaningful conversations. I just wish I had taken more photos of our visit.

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Week 158 April 8, 2017, Year 4 begins!

This week we celebrated both my 60th birthday, and, our anniversary of leaving home in 2014. We have not lived in our house for over 3 years as of this week… This is a perfect time to again extend our deep appreciation to our family members and friends who encourage us in our dream-turned-reality. Two longtime friends recently emailed,
     “…How long are you going… You may be looking at a Guiness book of records…”
and
     “…I want you to know how special I believe your trip is. Enjoy what I think of as your
     journey into humanity.”
Thanks to both! As Loren says, the beauty of our journey is that, “We have no end date.” I doubt that we will break any records, other than our own definite learnings about humanity and the world. I think that a bumper sticker I saw this week sums up what I am confirming has been my belief in our purpose on this planet to be.
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Outside Flagstaff, Arizona at the start of this week, we stopped to see Meteor Crater, an amazing result of astronomic activity. There was a girls’ high school physics class visiting from Manchester, England, touring it at the same time we were there. It was fascinating to imagine that a little chunk of meteor in the photo with Loren is just a small piece of what slammed into the earth, some 50,000 years ago creating a huge indentation…
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We then stood “on the corner in Winslow, Arizona,” a la the Eagles’ hit song. More songs we were entertained by this week were the Chuck Berry and Nat King Cole recorded versions of the Route 66 R&B song.
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On our way to Albuquerque, New Mexico we spent most of a day at Petrified Forest National Park. This included many opportunities for taking in Painted Desert views, as well as seeing some tree fossils that are millions of years old. They were not frightened to death – just transformed and well preserved into mineral and rock by forces of nature!
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In Abq – as the locals abbreviate it, we joined our AirBnB hosts for dinner and watching a Warriors’ basketball games together. Loren relished in taking twice daily soaks in their hot tub. We also attended a UU Sunday service at a vibrant congregation, where, being the day after April Fools the service was a fun one, centered all around Fools! Yes, that is a donkey in dialog with the minister. Like usual when we visit with UUs, we felt right at home. We attended a small group mindfulness meditation after the service where we picked up tips on how to be mindful on a hike, then we enjoyed a spaghetti lunch offered as a fundraiser for their UU Kids Camp. We had hoped to see the friends from our home congregation who have moved and attend there, instead we had a nice conversation with their father over lunch. 
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It was a scenic drive from Abq to Santa Fe on the Jemez Mountain Trail. We passed Jemez Springs, Jemez Pueblo, narrow red rock valleys with colorful steep walls, logging tunnels, Soda Dam – naturally formed by minerals, Spence Hot Springs which we hiked to but found they were not very hot actually, and a volcanic caldera, before we dropped down to Los Alamos.
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In Los Alamos we visited the Bradbury Science Museum which displays historical nuclear weapons and research artifacts. It was most sobering to see this graphical depiction of the extent of contamination from nuclear testing before the still controversial WWII bombs were dropped in Japan. 
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We took a scenic day trip to Las Vegas, New Mexico – not to be confused with the infamous Las Vegas of Nevada, to see the historic Pueblo of Pecos, the ruins of Fort Union where the Santa Fe Trail wagons stopped for supplies and repairs, and, we had a soak in the free to all Montezuma Hot Springs.
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We were even treated to seeing a herd of Pronghorn Antelope along the side of the road!
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We have driven on and off Route 66 these past couple of weeks, through Arizona and New Mexico. It was known in a bygone era as the “Main Street of America,” but is no longer contiguous. A part of it even once ran through the Petrified Forest NP. I was surprised to learn that mid-20th century mapmakers actually removed it from their maps when Eisenhower’s Interstate System was established. Steinbeck had dubbed Route 66 “The Mother Road” in his The Grapes of Wrath, and museums we have visited along the route have displayed different quotes from his writing to help explain the history.
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Here is my latest Haiku, about this week.
     Santa Fe
     Claire Adalyn Wright
     If “All roads lead to
     Santa Fe,” it is here, for
     now, that we will stay.
We noticed several familiar – at least to us – city or street names as we drove in and around Abq and Santa Fe, like, Santa Clara, Los Altos, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Coronado, San Mateo, El Camino Real, San Diego, Alameda and Santa Ana. But, we knew for sure that we were not in California anymore!

Week 157 April 1, 2017

Loren and I started this week still visiting our dear friend in Orange County. We went for a picnic at Laguna Beach, then visited Wyland’s studio where I immediately recognized his wall art as what I had seen on a building in San Francisco. That evening we joined our friend and her daughter for a local theatre production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Hilarious! Before bidding our friend farewell for now we went on a local morning walk to see blooming wildflowers in the area.
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We then had a delightful lunch date at a restaurant in Temecula with cousins. Afterwards we had coffee and ice cream at their home in Murrieta.
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We camped that evening at Dixon Lake before a memorable Day of Meditation at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Deer Park Monastery. Exiled from Vietnam years ago, Buddhist monk, nicknamed Thay, is known for his mindful teachings. In the Dharma talk by one of the nuns, we were advised to be Mindful (Smrti in Sanskrit), Concentrate (Samadhi), and to be open to Insight or Wisdom (Prajna), as well as to Stop, and, Look Deeply. Loren and I hiked the peaceful grounds together after the silent lunch. That afternoon we drove by a road named “Sunday Drive,” then were enthralled under a blue sky, over green clad mountains, across green grassy meadows, and through green dressed canyons. Umm!

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Loren and I then visited Anza Borrego Desert, the largest of State Parks. I understand Borrego means Big Horn Sheep, who make this park their home. The only ones we saw were through a researcher’s telescope, because, with the heavy winter rains, they can remain high in the mountains for water for now. We camped three nights in our van – two at “primitive” sites, the third at a campground with no showers. We slept under a vast array of stars, more visible due to the low light pollution of the desert. It was hard to sleep the first two nights due to a persistent, fierce whipping of wind, that, besides the irregular patterned sound, frequently rocked our van all the long nights into morn. In the morning we drove around Galleta Meadows to see several metal art sculptures.

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While staying at the park we had three wonderful day hikes. Two were led by a volunteer naturalist, Ted, who was a wealth of information with a fun sense of humor. On the first hike in Tubb Canyon I wore three layers under my coat the whole time to keep warm, as we were at a high elevation. On each of the hikes, including Palm Canyon Trail and Hellhole Canyon, we saw desert oases. Beautiful!
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And there is more! We arrived for the week after the peak of the “Super Bloom” of Brittle Bush, still vibrant and plentiful. In addition we saw an incredible variety of blooms:

     Acacia (Cat Claw)
     Agave
     Apricot Mallow
     Barrel Cactus
     Beavertail Cactus
     Bladder Pod
     Blue Dicks (Wild Hyacinth)
     Brown Eyed Primrose
     California Evening Primrose
     Cheese Bush
     Cholla
     Chupa Rosa
     Creosote
     Desert Apricot
     Desert Dandelion
     Desert Lavender
     Desert Lily
     Desert Milkweed
     Desert Mistletoe
     Desert Poppy
     Disodea (San Felipe Dogwood)
     Dune Evening Primrose
     Dune Sunflowers
     Fiddle Neck
     Fiesta Flower
     Golden Eyes
     Ground Cherry
     Hedgehog Cactus
     Honey Mesquite
     Indigo
     Jumping Cholla (Teddy Bear)
     Lupine
     Monkey Flower
     Mormon Tea
     Ocotillo
     Phacelia
     Pin Cushion
     Purple Nightshade
     Rock Pea
     Sand Verbena
     Sugarbush
     Sweet Bush
     Trixus
     Whispering Bells
     Wishbone Bush
     Yerba Santa
     Yucca

among more that Ted had named that I did not capture, can you believe that long list? We also learned about the “not willow” trees: Desert Willow and Seep Willow. As well, we heard the calls of Canyon Wren, Desert Wren, Mockingbird, and Scott Oriole. Finally, we saw several of the large Sphinx moth caterpillar. A memorable three days!
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Seeing the Sand Verbena reminded me of a Haiku that I wrote at Monterey Bay many years ago:
   Pink and Yellow Sand Verbena
   Claire Adalyn Wright
   Pink and yellow Sand
   Verbena is Vera, with
   Ben in between her!
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On our drive to Kingman, Arizona Loren and I stopped at the Salton Sea, drove through California’s Mecca – who knew we had such a place here, and, along Box Canyon Road where the Sonoran and Colorado deserts meet. We reminisced along this stretch of an Indian Reservation over similar drives we have had through Titus Canyon in Death Valley and Burr Trail Road in Utah years ago. Box Canyon Road is a great place to ride bicycles, but since we do not have our bikes, we went for a mid-morning hike!
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Once we crossed the state line into Arizona we drove over the old London Bridge that spans the Colorado River in Havasu, then we drove to the nearby California border to pick up Route 66 near Needles. We had a stop at historic Oatman, Arizona where wild donkeys roam the period street representing life during the early settlement of the west.
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In Kingman we visited both their Route 66 Museum and Mohave County Museum, drove past houses with both our namesakes on the National Historic Register – Williams House built in 1887 and Wright House built 1912, then ended our time in Kingman having a pleasant conversation over coffee with a Kingman local who is a friend of a friend of ours from Lower Lake, California.
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We finished out this week with me taking a safari ride through Keepers of the Wild Animal Park in Valentine, while Loren relaxed and snapped photos of passing trains on Historic Route 66. Oh, and I should mention how I accidentally locked the keys in the van, where Loren’s spare key was also locked. From the generosity of 9th generation residents of Ash Fork, Arizona who tried to help, we waited two and a half hours for roadside assistance from Prescott to arrive. While it briefly snowed, the 10 year old daughter of our helper made some snowflakes from scrap paper to entertain us all!
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Week 147 January 21, 2017

This week felt very full! We drove west across New Mexico through Arizona – surprising us in that it included driving through recent heavy fallen snow, as well as other beautiful vistas.
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Then we were into Nevada at sunset and for the moonrise, to reach Tecopa Hot Springs in southern California, which is next to Death Valley National Park.
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We were fortunate in that the forecast was clear for our stay, because this area had been deluged with a week of rain – which is very unusual for the desert. Other than the nuisance of mud-caked shoes, some wind, and winter cold, the major concern was for potential flooding… We enjoyed so much – the view from our “bedroom” (in our van!) on awakening,
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a morning soak in the mineral baths, a hike, and, as our visit to Tecopa included staying Saturday night – when the new owner, who is a drummer, and several other musicians -performed their songs outdoors during the evening hours. Many of the visitors and the locals turned out for it at his family’s Bistro, a nice addition from our previous visits here. Fortunately we did not experience any flooding!
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We then had a full day of driving north to arrive in Castro Valley. We stayed first with Loren’s Mom and sister, who still live in the house where Loren and his sisters grew up. Loren’s sister owns an inflatable double size bed, which fills up to the height of a mattress and box spring. It felt similar to sleeping on a water bed. We have very much enjoyed catching up with them. So far here, we have celebrated Mom’s 91st birthday,
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enjoyed a hike with Loren’s sister, and I have taken daily Bikram Yoga classes while Loren has gone on daily bicycle rides unless it is raining, then he joins me for yoga.
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We had a delightful dinner with some of our friends in this area, many of whom Loren has known since his primary school days.
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We also attended the San Francisco Movement Arts Festival, an endeavor and lovechild of Loren’s friend, who has put on such annual events for some years now. This time it was held in Grace Cathedral, where it was awesome to see dance and movement artists at the “Stations of the Dance.”
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During the week we moved in to our AirBnB with a lovely family, where we will stay for the remainder of our time here. Outside our bedroom window we see a festive sight, both day and night! On the personal side we have attended to some errands and so far visited the first of the several routine doctor’s appointments that we have lined up.
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We look forward to seeing more family and friends while we are near home, and, mainly, spending much time with Loren’s Mom, starting with brunch later today.

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REPOSTING in Progress: Weeks 2 to 109

This place holder is for the entries from our original blog to be added, eventually. Please check back – this re-creation is a labor of Love and will take a bit of  t-i-m-e- which, while still traveling, we do not always have a lot available to devote to this.

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