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…


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.


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


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.


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.



Week 277 July 20, 2019

At the start of this week Loren and I were still in Nebraska with Loren’s cousins. We enjoyed four educational days at the county fair with them this visit. We have always seen their many prized trophies earned over the years from 4H (Head, Heart, Hands and Health), and more recently FFA (Future Farmers of America), and this time we had the opportunity to experience firsthand what the trophy earning process is all about. We found it impressive! Loren’s cousin’s grandson earned not only first prize for showing one of his aunt’s goats, he also earned a coveted first place in a judging content. 

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You can see this aunt, who is Loren’s cousin’s daughter, being remembered by the local museum which had a booth at the fair. This is a photograph of her earning a prize for showing one of her chickens at the fair some years ago.


Our cousin’s daughter also coached our five year old cousin, who is a potential future 4Her, to show another of her goats. She has already learned well to always look at the judge as she parades the goat around the arena, one of the aspects of showing that the judge looks for, and, she was well prepared to answer the judge’s questions about the animal. He told us he was amused when she told him the goat was “…a pain in the butt,” however, he also said he has heard worse.

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Other aspects of the fair included cheering for competing teams in such fun contests as bobbing for apples, searching for a toy chicken in a haystack, nailing nails into a board, and rolling enormous tractor tires end-to-end across a field. The evening concluded with a “Bohemian tractor pull” in which our cousin’s son-in-law took the lead on his team. He and his daughter had returned from Kansas City from a three day softball competition to participate in this brand new contest at the fair. Another first time event at the fair on a different evening was a team contest to catch a greased pig.


Our cousin’s granddaughter did not show animals this year — the first time in her life to not do so since she joined 4H. Her softball team team won the tournament. Then she and her dad stopped by at Loren’s cousin’s farm for a short visit between a private pitching lesson in Omaha and the start of an upcoming softball camp at Wichita State University.


Once the fair was over, it was back to farm work as usual for our cousins. I should clarify, the animal care chores were also accomplished on fair days, now the more time consuming work of checking and harvesting alfalfa could be attended to as well.

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I had to snap a photo of the enchanting view from Loren’s cousin’s house of a neighboring farmhouse, a view I never tire of seeing when we visit the farm.


On our last evening in Nebraska, we enjoyed playing the card game, Pitch, with several members of the family. We went to bed with the weather report of “slight chance of thunderstorms” but we woke up to an ominous sky. As Loren’s cousin drove us to the airport, we encountered rain, which they do need for the crops, and which did not cause any delays or disturbance with our connecting flight through Denver to San Francisco.

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Once back in the Bay Area, we had a lovely evening and dinner visit with Loren’s sister. As I was checking the battery in our van for integrity after it had sat idle a few weeks in front of her house, Loren received a message from our AirBnB host to not lock our bedroom because the lock was malfunctioning. We were surprised at the late hour of notice as we had been due to check in at 3pm. We were then grateful to Loren’s sister who invited us to stay overnight. The next day the lock was in working order. We enjoyed a dinner out with another AirBnB guest who we had become friends with from our previous long stay. Her sister manages the restaurant where we ate and it was nice to see her again too.


Then Loren and I were on the road again, this time heading for Clear Lake, northeast of Napa. It was nostalgic to see the blooming oleander along the more rural freeway. It struck me that all the freeways in the bay area had had roads similarly decorated when I first moved to California. That lasted until the increases in traffic necessitated removing them in the more densely populated areas, to make additional lanes for the people.


We had invited friends to join us at our AirBnB and they arrived not long after we did. We four spent today driving around parts of the lake where we all have memories. Most notable are the houses and apartment complex that one of our friends’ father built in the 1970’s, which are still in excellent condition.

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We took along a picnic lunch and stopped at a roadside park to enjoy it. While there we had a different view of the most prominent feature of the lake – Mount Konocti. A few weeks ago I read something in the New York Times about spending 2 hours a week in nature… actually, I think we should spend 2 hours a day in nature when we can.


Week 224 July 14, 2018

Still on Loren’s cousin’s farm in Nebraska at the beginning of this week, she drove me by a house/what was once a Bed and Breakfast of their Aunt Hazel, and we reminisced over the names we could remember of Loren’s grandparents’ several siblings, like Weda, Alta, Martha… Then we were back to the regular work of the farm. I could do little but observe with greasing the heavy equipment or watering down an overheated newborn calf. But I was able to help with filling water buckets for goats, stacking packages of feed and collecting fresh laid eggs! 

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And, it was fun to try to photo the farm pets – twin gray kittens and a watchdog – who are all so active that it is hard to capture a still photo. Then there is the adorable house kitty.

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So far their crops are doing well this summer – corn, beans, alfalfa for hay, though there is a threat of more flooding if the dam up stream continues to be opened. Farming is so dependent on the weather – having enough rain but not too much, nor experiencing the devastating hail that has already occurred in Colorado this year. But with the new tariffs imposed, the prices of what the farmers will earn for their crops are terribly affected.


Then I said my sad farewells as had to be on the move again. The first thing that I noticed as I drove the interstate west was a meaningful license plate, admonishing “Go Forth.” I found that the state of Nebraska is much wider than I had realized. After three hours driving I stopped at the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center, Grand Island, Nebraska. I could have easily spent a few hours here, though I pushed on after a good respite. 


I made it to Denver, Colorado in time for dinner with more of Loren’s cousins in their lovely back yard. I was totally impressed with the homemade handiwork of our table!

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Graciously hosted overnight, we had another nice conversation in the morning before I was once again on the road. 


Driving north to Wyoming, I passed the Great Continental Divide – and again for a second time once I was in Wyoming as it turned out. I learned that this is one dividing line is separating the waters specifically that flow to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico from the waters that flow to the Pacific Ocean. I also made a stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats, west of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Stopping here so reminded me of when Loren and I had visited Badwater Basin in Death Valley, California some years ago. 

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I did not have a next location booked to spend the night. I had intended to camp in West Wendover, Nevada which is half way between Denver and the San Francisco bay area. However, it was so light out and given that I had had coffee both in the morning and on the road, I was energized to continue westward when I arrived. A beautiful sunset and a meaningful audio book kept me company as I continued.


I then had set my sights on Reno to stop for the night. Yes, it was dark when I reached Reno, but, finding a place to stay in the glitz had little appeal. Sacramento was the next major city on the road signs, so I decided to push on. I have a friend near Sacramento who I was interested in contacting for a possible breakfast date. However, as I reached Sacramento, I realized how close I was to San Francisco, and not being sure I could see my friend on such short notice, and with the help of the coffee still energizing me, I pushed on once again to arrive at our AirBnB at about 4am or so. 

It is wonderful to be reunited with Loren again! He has been spending nearly every day visiting his mother while I have been away. Sometimes he took her to a nearby lake for coffee where she enjoys seeing the geese. He has also treated her to a salad of cicoria – Italian for chicory, that he has fond memories of from childhood.

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A fun book that Loren and I have been poring over this week is the Italian textbook his mother had saved from Loren’s independent study college course 40 years or so ago, which included finding a clarifying note of his. 

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I will finish this week with a quote from Papa Francesco/Pope Francis that resonated along my drive: Peace is not just the absence of war. It is a condition in which a person is in harmony with herself, nature and with other people.



Week 161 April 29, 2017

Loren and I started this week still staying at an AirBnB in Moffat, Colorado – in the San Luis Valley. The home was built using straw bales for insulation in the walls, not unlike the Earthships’ tires. On Earth Day we attended a memorable fundraiser with drumming, flute, and movement at nearby Joyful Journey Hot Springs.
The next day we visited in Crestone, which is halfway between Santa Fe and Denver. It is hailed as a peaceful area, near wilderness and the mountains. One writeup of the place claims, “An ancient spiritual-scientific reason the land is so sacred, so powerful is it is at the convergence of ley lines – part of the Earth’s electromagnetic energy system like at Sedona and Mount Shasta, which creates vortexes of powerful energies for healing and higher states of consciousnesses.” Loren and I had a pleasant time here, hiking a little and enjoying a light meal at the local brewery. I was hearing Rocky Mountain High in my head, especially after noticing a sign for a particular new local retail outlet here. That evening we were treated to a glorious sunset.
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We continued to see more wildlife this week – butterfly, hare, rabbit,
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eagle, raven, prairie dog,
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even yak and a snake! It is always a great pleasure to have time out in nature.
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We then drove to Longmont to visit dear friends from our home UU congregation, who we had not seen for 17 years. We spent a fun evening enjoying good conversation and catching up over a wonderful dinner they prepared. We stayed overnight, and in the morning had a great walk at Lake McIntosh. I was especially taken with artwork there that was made to represent leaves. Our friend explained that there are 52 peaks over 14K feet in Colorado. We had views of Mount Meeker and Longs Peak, Longs being the northernmost 14Ker in the state. We hope to see these special friends again before another 17 years elapse…
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We then visited more friends also in Longmont, and also formerly – though much more recently, of our UU Fellowship of Sunnyvale, California. We enjoyed a lovely overnight visit with them, including a walk around Longmont’s downtown. We did not know this couple well before we left on our journey and it was very sweet getting to know how much we found in common, and, how close they had become to several of our friends at home too. We hope to have more good visits with these friends again too.
Then we spent a wonderful two nights’ staying with cousins in Littleton. A delightful though too short time together with thesegood-hearted family members!
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From the Denver area we drove north to Kearney, Nebraska to see the founders of one of Loren’s former manufacturers, and their long time employees. It was another too short though meaningful time together with special friends.
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Before leaving Kearney, Loren and I toured both the Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA), and the Archway Museum of Transportation. The latter spans from early Native American style to the modern Internet superhighway. Now we are enjoying visiting more friends from Loren’s work in Salina, Kansas…

Week 160 April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day! It is also spring with colorful daffodils, tulips, and other vibrant flowers blooming. Loren and I spent most of the week around the “Enchanted Circle” of northern New Mexico. We have seen numerous ravens and even heard the whoosh of their wings overhead several times. No wonder Raven is such an important figure in Native American culture. Another commonly seen bird here is the magpie, dressed in formal black and white, even sporting black tails. They somehow remind me of the Chinstrap penguins we saw in Antarctica, and, of Magpie the friendly cat at our AirBnB.
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One afternoon we hiked to the Rio Grande where Loren had a soak in Black Rock Hot Springs. We had planned to visit Manby – also known as Stagecoach – Hot Springs where I would have soaked too, but the day wore on more quickly than we anticipated and it was too cold in the shadows for me to consider it. On Easter Sunday I took a special yoga class at Aura Fitness, which was gaily set to Gospel music to celebrate the holiday.
Afterwards Loren and I attended Sunday service at Taos UU, where we felt right at home. We had lunch at Taos Pueblo near Red Willow Creek, where we ate “Indian Tacos” – meaning taco ingredients on Fry Bread. It was delicious! That evening we walked a half hour from our AirBnB to visit Shree Neem Karoli Baba Ashram, also named Hanuman Temple, built by the followers of Majarajji. While we enjoyed a vegetarian dish, the faithful were practicing Kirtan with chants, bells, gentle movement, and a lot of candles.
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On leaving Taos, we had a picnic lunch at scenic Rio Grande del Norte National Monument before deciding not to camp or hike here – it felt too wide open, with no trees for shade anywhere.
That was a significant spontaneous decision because near where we did camp for two nights we saw a mixed herd of Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep, several times! And, we were content as we camped under a canopy of trees.
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We then hiked in Columbine Canyon, between Questa and Red River, New Mexico. The trail criss-crossed and ran along Columbine Creek, which we understand is at its fullest ever. The trail also took us through mountain meadows, affording lovely views, and was perfect for lunch and meditation breaks.
While there I composed a poem, can you see the character of my writing on Loren’s hat?
     Bemusing Butterfly
     In grad school we were assigned to read
     “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”
     about some symptoms of brain injury.
     Today after a picnic we encountered
     A Butterfly Who Mistook a Hat for Nature,
     making us wonder at its unusual behavior.
     Surprising us by riding along quite a ways
     as we hiked the gentle sloped trail
     until we reached where two creeks join.
     Our bright butterfly friend then joined
     other butterflies flitting to Aspen saplings,
     at what I decided to call Butterfly Junction.
     Claire Adalyn Wright
The next day we hiked two miles up to Lake Cabresto before our check-in at Phoenix West Wing Earthship. Loren was quite interested to visit this community in Taos, for its peculiar Biotecture, an experimental architecture, sustainable, off grid. At the end of the day we drove nearby to take a photo from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, where we heard the unmistakable and delightful long descending trills of the Canyon Wren.
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Similar to Paolo Solieri’s Arcosante buildings and community in Arizona where Loren and I stayed overnight some years ago, Michael Reynolds’ Earthship housing is focused on reducing impact to the earth and increasing sustainability. For example he combines solar, thermal and wind energy, provides for independent food production within the dwelling, and, uses a four part water reclamation concept. We browsed books and watched DVD’s about his unique style, which can produce wildly imaginative and sometimes beautiful design. One of the documentaries we watched is Garbage Warrior, describing his effective use of discarded tires, bottles, cans, and plastics for building materials. We toured one home under development to learn more. As we know, some people’s trash is other people’s treasure, and he recycles waste into fortune. Incredible!
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We next crossed the state line into Colorado where we camped two nights at Great Sand Dunes National Park, which is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America. It is often windy in spring in the southwest, and this has been our experience for these past few weeks. With the over 13,000 foot snowcapped peaks nearby, it was more than a little chilly overnight, and at times the wind howled and rocked our van. Here we saw several deer, but none of the black bear that we were warned about.
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We hiked partway up the dunes, which was a little like hiking in soft snow, but decided to forego summiting the tallest, for the fierce pricking of grains of sand in our faces that the wind whirled up. It reminded me a little of the winds on top of Mt Washington in New Hampshire, and that relentless sand storm in the Sahara desert. Instead we returned to our camp for a 20 minute nap – that stretched into an hour, and awoke to an inviting afternoon outside before we hiked into the Sangre de Christo which translated means Blood of Christ, Wilderness. We enjoyed a most memorable time here!
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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.