A Long Weekend in Tuscon

The Wednesday night before the United States became crazy about their toilet paper because of the Coronavirus, we boarded a Southwest flight to wing our way south to Phoenix where we planned to rent a car and drive to Tucson for a four day weekend. Our plane was full with kids going to baseball tournaments and adults wanting to see spring ball. By the next day spring ball and all the kids tournaments were cancelled. We continued on with our plans to go to Tucson. We had no clear agenda from the beginning. The weather in Tucson is so inviting in the spring, it is easy to stay outdoors and away from others.

Thursday, my husband picked up the rental car from the Phoenix airport. Rentals are expensive (or were when we started because this is high season). We chose the “managers special” to save money. That means you get whatever car is available. We got a new Jeep Compass which was a great car for touring the countryside. On our way out of Phoenix, we stopped by the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. The Casa Grande site is a tribute to more than 650 years of irrigation in the desert. Archeologists are not sure of the purpose of the site but the monument houses the remains of the largest earthen building in North America. Civilization in this location lasted over a thousand years until about 1450 C.E. The location was abandoned. Without written word the people responsible for an elaborate irrigation, farming, and trading culture remain a mystery.

When we arrived in Tucson we checked into the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort. The Wyndham is located in the Sonoran Desert. When looking for a hotel in Arizona make sure to pick one with outdoor pools, and places to sit. The sunsets in Tucson are gorgeous and free. There’s nothing like sitting on your balcony after an afternoon soak in the pool with a glass of wine and watching the sun set in a colorful sky.

Friday we headed to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. The drive took us through the Saguaro National Park. Named for the large saguaro cactus, native to the area, we had our lunch sitting on a rock looking at the grand landscape. The afternoon we toured the museum which is actually an outdoor adventure showcasing native desert plants and animals. I particularly enjoyed the hummingbird exhibit. If you have kids with you, plan your trip to see the raptor flyover scheduled once a day right now.

Saturday we headed to the Sabino Canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains. There are 30 miles of trails in the recreation area. Once again we took a picnic lunch to eat outdoors. We had bought tickets to go on the tram which proved to be an open air crawler. Because of recent rain in the area, we were only able to get to the dams and see the flooding, rushing river. In dryer seasons, the crawler takes you all the way up to two glorious waterfalls.

Sunday we met friends. But by Sunday, the country was awash with alarm over the Coronavirus and things were starting to shut down. We were literally one of about 10 people on the usually bustling University of Arizona campus. If you were traveling during more usual times, I would recommend you plan Sunday to drive to Tubac about 40 minutes south of Tucson. Established in 1752, Tubac is a charming artist colony with gorgeous colors and eclectic items in all their stores. On the way down or back stop at the Mission San Xavier del Bac, meaning White Dove of the Desert. The Mission was built by Spanish Franciscans in the 18th century and sits on the Xavier Indian Reservations. You can’t miss it’s rising dome as you drive by on the highway.

Monday we headed back to Phoenix and an amazingly uneventful flight home. The plane was packed. As we walked through an empty Boise airport, we saw 6 or 7 people waiting for a plane to San Fransisco, one of the hot zones for the virus.

At some point, life in the US will return to normal. Americans love to travel abroad as witnessed by the lines at the 13 funnel airports this weekend. But we have wonderful sites here in the states. If we have to stay in our country’s boundaries for while so be it. We live in a glorious, mysterious place.

Flight of the Snow Bird:Tucson in Winter

We just spent the past few days with long-term Wyoming friends in Tucson. Our friends used to escape Wyoming’s long hard winters in Tucson but now they have sold their Wyoming home and moved permanently to Arizona. They live in a Robson community for 55 plus seniors called Quail Creek near Green Valley, Arizona. The advertising says, “Living here is like being on vacation every day.”

Desert Beauty is all around one in Tucson

We spent our mornings drinking coffee on the veranda, swimming in the heated outdoor pool, and going for walks. We spent our afternoons exploring the gorgeous desert landscape and viewing Native American and cowboy art. We ate wonderful food at exotic restaurants ranging from a five course Valentines dinner to a lunch on the patio of the resort used to film the movie, “Tin Cup”. We spent an afternoon in the quaint community of Tubac. We saw kitschy art and gorgeous Native American Art. We were stopped by American soldiers driving back, checking for drugs coming into the country. One afternoon we attended a lecture on “Asylum”. The politics of the wall and border are very salient in an area less than an hour from the border.

The temperatures hovered in the low seventies during the day but dropped drastically at night to the 50’s requiring jackets.

I go every year to visit my friend who I have known for thirty years. I would visit her if she lived in Alaska. But over time, I have come to welcome this break from Idaho’s winter. We enjoy the sunshine but we enjoy each other’s company more. As I age, I have come to appreciate the joy of shared memories. We laugh spontaneously over silly things we did in our youth. It’s great to be in vacation land but it’s better to be in vacation land with our very good friends.

Good friends make every trip more fun

Santa Barbara Holiday

We just spent the last six nights seven days in Santa Barbara (SB), California. We were treated to gorgeous sunny days in the low seventies though one day hit low 80s. Late January early February is the off season for the California coast. High season starts in May and continues into December. We chose California to get out of Boise, Idaho’s gray season. We could have gone to Hawaii but the draw of a shorter flight and cheaper accommodations made our choice easy. Also I’m still recovering for surgery last fall and can only walk about 2 to 3 miles a day on flat surfaces. Sand is a no for me. SB has a wonderful walk way/ bike path right along the beach. Folks without a handicap were out enjoying the pleasures of the beach including swimming, paddle boarding and surfing.

With the warm weather, we spent out mornings out walking and our afternoons napping and swimming for me. My husband, Pete, always goes to the YMCA for a couple hours anywhere we go. The report from Pete was the Y in Santa Barbara is large and new. The advantage of going to Ys if you belong at home is you can get in at no cost. Usually the facility has excellent equipment, sometimes pools and activities for kids.

We stayed within a half mile of the SB beach at the Inn by the Harbor. The Inn offers cooking facilities in the rooms, continental breakfast, wine and cheese early evening, and milk and cookies late evening. Free bikes are available. The bikes had gears and looked like nice cruisers. I just wasn’t able to use them. The Inn also has a nice pool and hot tub. The Inn was full the entire time we were there with Canadians who apparently knew each other because they gathered in the small lobby every evening for wine. We knew they were Canadians because their cars were parked outside. I think you could stay at the Inn and never rent a car. We rented a car because of my handicap.

Breakfast at the Inn was a mundane continental with cereal, fruit, juice, yogurt, muffins, and bagels. But by having a breakfast provided, we could afford more elaborate dinners. Every meal we had was excellent. All of them were along the beach and we found them through Yelp. We pieced lunch together with left overs and fruit from breakfast.

Looking for a sunny long weekend in the winter, SB may be for you.

McCall Winter Carnival: The Happiest Place in Winter

Snow Sculptures at McCall 2020 Winter Carnival

Friday, January 24 was the start of McCall, Idaho annual Winter Carnival. This family centri event is bound to please all the snow hounds in your household with everything from gorgeous snow sculptures to fireworks, parade, dog sledding and mongrel racing. Of course there are all the snow events; downhill skiing, skating, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and sledding. We go almost every year and I am always amazed by the local creativity and work that goes into the sculptures.

We go every year. I remember the kids finding the big piles of snow to crawl on better than the sculptures. Their dad is still delighted by snow. He likes to knock it off our cabin roof. He loves to chop wood and fill the wood stove to make our cabin really cozy. The Winter Carnival offers something for everyone, a place to make family memories of good times in snowy weather.

Dead Ends

Recently, my sister encouraged me to start streaming a series on Acorn TV entitled “800 Words”. The star of the show, George Turner (played by Erik Turner) is a writer who turns out weekly columns of exactly 800 words. He originally lived in Sydney, Australia.  On a whim, George sells his house, buys a new home sight-unseen in Weld, New Zealand, and moves he and his two teenage children overseas. The rationale behind the move is that in a place he cherished as a child on family vacations maybe he and his children can find solace and eventually heal from the sudden accidental death of his wife.

The show is a human interest comedy so not surprisingly in the first episode his decision, which everyone including himself questions, is fraught with humorous accidental encounters, snarky real estate deals, natural disasters and extreme bullying of his teens  as they try to get acclimated to a new school.  George has unwittingly bought the wrong house in  need of massive repairs without the promised view. The rental car is destroyed by a random piece of art, resulting in a major community event.  George insults the entire village by writing about how Weld is a “dead end”.  George rescues himself only by attending a community gathering and stumbling through a message about his dead wife and how a dead end can serve as a new beginning.

The theme of dead ends providing new directions reminded me of a stickie note, I keep posted on my computer.  “The farthest road to take is the road back to yesterday.” Our antecedents no matter how accomplished, guilt riddenaumatic and/or regretful are behind us never to be recovered.

In this week’s Bible Study, the irretrievably of the past reached out from the Old Testament story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Lot’s wife is ordered not to look back at Sodom as she and Lot escape destruction.  Yet even with a stern warning from God, she can’t comply. Because of her backward glance, Lot’s wife is turned to stone, symbolic retribution, a rock stuck in the proverbial “hard place” unable to choose the future. Part of the human condition  is to cling to traditional patterns and past habits.

Rationally, we know we can’t recreate or return to “Happy Days.” But emotionally, moving forward when faced with life’s challenges may be the hardest calling each of us faces.  Alcoholics are asked to give up drinking and this may mean giving up friends and changing life patterns, such as transitioning from socializing in bars to extreme sports and regular meetings.Women in violent relationships may need to flee their homes in the dark of night with their children and nothing else to a shelter and uncertain future hoping to find safety.  Refugees cram into small boats sailing to  unknown places that promise a better future. The boat may capsize. Too many foreigners may have come before.  The welcoming vision may transform into  a nightmare of fences with barb wire surrounding camps.  Life’s journey is thwart with the possibility of dead ends and the siren call to return to what one knows, no matter how intolerable.

Human progress can be traced to those who are able to see what appears to be a dead end as a culdesac, a bend in the road, an opportunity to move in new untried directions.The miracle of human creativity is our ability to seek new directions when all seems hopeless. We have created a term for this ability, “resiliency”, the ability to overcome adversity and move on. We do not have to remain rooted in one place  emotionally like a stone or spin wildly out of control as if we were clinging to a rubber raft launched on white water without any  oars or life jacket. We can make choices even bad ones and recover. We can’t go back but we can stride forward in an uncertain world with a hopeful heart.

Jurni: providing a seat disguised as a bag

My family and I have travelled to the Orient, Europe, England, Ireland, Scotland, Mexico, Canada, Alaska, Hawaii and extensively in the U.S.  Our number one rule is that you have to pack so you can carry all your gear on the plane.  I have traditionally carried everything I need for up to ten days in a roller bag meeting airline carry-on regulations, a backpack and a fanny pack. I strap the fanny pack to my waist with my phone, money, and passport and only take it off at night to make sure my valuables and I are never separated. In a pinch, I can get the fanny pack into the backpack so I meet the two bag requirement of the airlines.

My two kids have been responsible for pulling their suitcases and  carrying their back packs since they were old enough to travel. Fortunately, bags and backpacks come child- sized. Kids don’t bring many clothes. The ones they bring are tiny. When the kids where younger, their clothes went in the roller bags and their backpacks were full of entertaining objects such as coloring tools, paper, Gameboys, and playing cards. All of this has become passé with the advent of  smart phones and iPods which entertain my children for hours. I see very young children playing with in airports now.

We made the decision  to wean down our wardrobes and keep our luggage with us because of lost luggage leading to problems at our destination. Now we travel with our luggage to assist in making connections if we have to change itineraries, reducing the problems of dealing with lost luggage and trying to keep the price of travel down. Taking four us to Spain or Hawaii and paying luggage fees for everyone becomes extremely costly.

Recently, I have become the drag on our traveling caravan. I have a very rare neurological disorder. I can walk just fine (for which I am very thankful). But I can’t stand for any period of time without my legs starting to shake. At the same time the lines for airport security are growing, my ability to stand is diminishing.

When my son and I travelled from Florida to Boise in March, I had trouble at the Pensacola, Florida security check. We had waited a long time. I told the screeners I had trouble standing but I couldn’t get them to listen. When I walked through the scanner, the equipment showed me carrying weapons all over my body i.e. in my arm pits, waist band, bra, anywhere that moved as my legs shook. After a humiliating body check, I complained to the supervisor who said I should have told the initial TSA worker. I had, of course, done this. In fact, I had told two workers but they were too busy to listen. Given this experience, I decided I needed to take matters into my own hands.

Flying home from Seattle a month ago, I received a text from Alaska Air that the lines at Seattle International Airport were two hours long. I asked for a wheel chair when I got to the airport. Once in the wheel chair, we zoomed right through the crowd. However, I was physically in better shape than the kind woman pushing the chair. As soon as I got into the boarding area, I was up walking around. I felt uncomfortable being pushed around when I’m perfectly capable of walking. Given the Florida and Seattle experience, I have done two things that I hope will improve my air traveling experiences.

The first is that I am now on the TSA priority boarding list. For a long time, I routinely got priority boarding but recently I have not. I am obviously not in a position to hope for the luck of the draw. I paid the $80 and scheduled the time to be fingerprinted. The next time I fly, I will enter my number TSA number and be able to skip the longer screening lines.

The second thing I have down is purchase the Jurni, a bag designed to  be a carry-on but also to sit on (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/jurni-the-ultimate-sit-on-carry-on-suitcase#/) My daughter, Kayla, found the bag online when the luggage was still only a concept on a go fund me page. If you put in the funds to help develop the proto type, you got the bag when they were ready to be shipped.

My bag arrived this week. As promised, I can pull it easily  behind me and sit in it like a horse and scoot around the house. Now, rolling around a crowded airport may be a different thing altogether. Sitting on it like a chair is tipsy. I feel like I’m riding a rocky boat or I had too much to drink, a disconcerting feeling and the wheels can go out from under you throwing you to the floor. Thus, the bull rider approach with my legs anchored around the Jurni, I am in control of its movements for short distances. In other words, I would propel me along in a line.

 

The bag is tiny. I can see why it is designed for teenagers. My 16 year old daughter wears an extra small in most clothes and a size 0 in jeans. Until Kayla grew into these sizes, I actually thought they were pretend sizes to finish off the clothes rack. I remember standing in the Abercombie store when she shouted over the dressing room divider that the zero was too big and she needed a double zero.  Really,  a double zero! I wasn’t that small in grade school. Kayla could easily put a week’s worth of clothes into the little compartment designed for clothing.

I am not Kayla. While I am not enormous, I have grown heavier with age. The possessions I notice that now take up the most room are my bras which have grown geometrically since giving birth and breast feeding. The movement up to a D was bad enough but now on the downward slippery slope of aging, my circumstance is 2 inches bigger and I need wire armor to keep my cascading physique in place. The same is true of my swimming suit which used to be teenie weenie but now takes up the space of a small sea monster in order to pull me in all the right places and hold up those previously mentioned descending  upper body parts. Deciding what to take and purchasing travel clothes that meet all your needs while fitting  everything in small compartments takes significant planning.  My first thought when I looked in  the Jurni was I was going to need to  work on loosing more weight and buying a new  smaller traveling wardrobe (double zero, here I come!)

The good news is that the Jurni knows it’s packing compartment is tiny and for an extra cost has included zip bags to scrunch all my jumbo items into the size of my daughter’s size small. I tested the feasibility of utilizing the Jurni for a real trip rather than riding around my living room by laying out the wardrode I took to Mexico in January and seeing if I could fit it in the case. Much to my amazement, I got 3 pairs of long pants, 3 long sleeved shirts, 4 short sleeved shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, the iron maiden bra and sea monster swimming suit plus rash guard jacket, my traveling pjs (light weight), my wash out panties (3 pairs) seven pairs of white cotton socks ( I always wear socks with my hiking shoes) and  a pair of flip-flops. I actually called them thongs (my daughter was horrified). Appparently, thongs were shoe wear in the seventies but are strickly underwear in the twenty first century.

The little plastic buttons on the Jurni that serve as openers seemed a little stressed by my wardrobe. I am now on the look-out for a band to go around the Jurni once packed. The company sells a check-in strap and lock. But the strap goes from top to bottom and prevents you from utilizing the pull up handle. I would also be sitting on the buckle which  seems weird to me. I want something that goes around the middle, doesn’t interfere with the handle but guarantees that the iron woman underwear is not strewn all over the run way as I board a miniscule Alaska Airline plane where all carryons are actually always loaded under the plane.

I can’t provide a full evaluation of the campabilities of the Jurni until it actually goes with me on a journey. That may be a few months off. After jaunting all over the world and the U.S. the past few months, we are spending our summer in the Mountain West. Afterall, why go any place else when you are already there.

Frank Church Wilderness
Frank Church Wilderness Area, Idaho

 

 

My son and I discover serendipity on spring break in the South

My son, Scott (age 22) and I just spent Spring Break together in Destin, Florida and New Orleans, Louisiana. We chose Destin because my son has several friends, Stephen and Jake, who are recent college graduates, commissioned naval officers and stationed in the Destin area. Once our travel plans were underway, I remembered I had snowbird friends, Lynn and Phil from Wyoming who were wintering in Destin.

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My friends, Lynn and Phil from Wyoming who winter in Destin every year.

When I contacted my friends, our visit coincided with their last week in Destin.  Finally, a female college friend,(not girl friend of either Scott or Stephen), Christina, flew from Idaho to Destin for the week. I found her good humor and positive conversation a pleasant addition to the young men. As you can see, our merry band of friends of all ages provided for a positive mix of activities and conversations. St. Patrick’s Day was the Thursday of spring break and while none of us is Irish, my son and I did experience a wee bit of the luck of Irish by the cohesive way all the pieces all came together without any planning.  This coming together in a positive, spontaneous manner is also sometimes labeled “serendipity”.   The Princes of Serendip is the story of three princes who travelled together and shared many great unplanned experiences.  Thus, the word serendipity.  Our spring break was full of many of these moments.

 

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Destin is graced with beautiful white sand and blue water.

I paid for Scott and I to rent a small condo near the beach and a rental car. We could have stayed free with our respective friends but then we would have spent no time together. This way we got the best of both worlds shared family time and visits with friends. Having friends in the area significantly improved both my son’s and my vacations. In another example of serendipity, our condo was not only a block from the beach but walking distance to both Scott and my friends houses.

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Entrance to the Destin Beach, across the street from our condo.

 

Destin is known for it’s white, soft sandy beaches and bright blue water. The first day at the beach, I heard a little girl exclaim as she ran on the beach, “Look, Mom, it’s covered with baking powder!” The geologist in our group explained to me that the pure shiny white crystals is because the sand is almost entirely quartz ground up during the ice age.

This was spring break for thousands of college students from Southern schools. Some of the beaches and rolling waves were packed with writhing, undulating bodies enjoying the sun and water spaces  designated  by Greek and/or school flags. There was enough partying  for anyone’s taste with extra law enforcement patrolling the beach and roads. My friend Lynn pointed out the college kids travel in packs of at least 10 or 12. You can spot them by their sun burned limbs, dazed glazes covered by dark shades and  unruly hair. Unfortunately,  we saw ambulances and revival units on several occasions, signifying the good times had taken a dark turn.

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Destin Harbor view at end of day

Because Destin is not as warm as some other Florida destinations, we were able to find places on the beach to spend time out of the college mosh pit. I walked a couple miles every morning on practically empty beaches. On those occasions, I was treated to beautiful  birds, seagulls, seashells on the shoreline and dolphins out at sea. We had several great sea food meals in restaurants fronting the oceans, watching glorious sunsets and boats sailing in the harbor.

 

On Friday morning my son and I left Destin for New Orleans, a four hour drive on Interstate Highway 10. We were treated to torrential rains, making driving difficult. We knew Highway 10 was closed on the Louisiana/Texas border. We weren’t sure what we would find otherwise in New Orleans. As we drove into the city, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. We spent a glorious afternoon walking the French Quarter. There was live jazz on every corner, sprinkled with street entertainers performing magic, drumming, writing poems and verse on demand, painters, and mimes. We wandered the French Quarter Farmer’s Market complete with real alligator parts for sale. We ate beignets and café au lait on benches watching the harbor.

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Sitting outside sipping café au lait is part of the French Quarter mystique.

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Beignets are a New Orleans pastry

A beignet is the French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux pastry and no visit to the French Quarter is completed without getting covered with powdered sugar from this local delicacy. Just as we were heading back to our lodging the rain started again, perfect timing or kismet.

 

I had decided to spend the extra funds to stay in the French Quarter.

Jean Lafitt House
Jean Lafitte House in the French Quarter, renovated condos provide a great place to stay and walk.

Our original plans had included Stephen joining us. I rented a two bedroom two bath condo which could sleep six. Since Christina had to fly out Saturday, Stephen said he couldn’t come along. I tried downsizing but I had literally gotten the last room in the inn. On Friday, demonstrating the spontaneity and exuberance of youth, Stephen and Christina decided to drive to New Orleans when Stephen got off work. They picked up the unsuspecting Jake in Pensacola. Lucky we had the large condo because everyone had a place to crash.

 

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New Orleans Cityscape from our condo balcony

 

We stayed at Jean Lafitte House on the eastern edge of the French Quarter. Jean Lafitte, the notorious pirate and patriot of the Caribbean, is the inn’s namesake.  Originally built in 1831 as a single house by Lafitte’s fierce captain, Rene Beluche, the inn is a series of restored  condos on the edge of the quarter. Parking is offered for a small extra fee.  The living areas have been elegantly furnished.  Lafitte House provides a relaxing place to stay before and after exploring the rambunctious streets of the Quarter. The inn’s host, Jason, was full of information about local places to eat and where to find great music.  The beauty of the inn is, it is within walking distance of everything in the quarter. While the building is old, the bathrooms have been remodeled, the beds were superb and the thick walls were quiet even in a thunderstorm. The younger members of my group spent most of the night trolling Bourbon Street wrapped in plastic bags because of the rain. But I was cozy using the free WiFi to watch Netflix. Because of the mixed nature of the group, the younger members started calling themselves, The Gumbo Squad.  Gumbo is a stew that originated in southern Louisiana during the 18th century.

On Saturday, we all went to breakfast and had another serendipitous moment when we found a neighborhood breakfast place called Burnt.  We were able to get in almost immediately, enjoyed great Southern food and watched the crowd build up outside waiting to get to get tables.  After brunch, we went our separate ways. Scott and I finished walking the Quarter, just beating the rain. Christina flew out of Pensacola on the red-eye to the University of Idaho and Scott and I drove back to the Fort Walton airport for an early morning flight on Sunday.

On our way home, we were   routed by American Airlines from Fort Walton, to Charlotte, North Carolina to Phoenix, Arizona and finally to Boise. Over our spring break given the bazar flight route we visited seven states or more than 10 percent of the continental US (Utah, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Arizona).  We had many spontaneous,  special occasions. Like the three princes of Serendip, Scott and my spring break was full of  exceptional friends, good karma and serendipitous experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talkeetna, Alaska has a Cat as Mayor

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June 2014, we took a 7 day road trip through Alaska.

We travelled to Alaska in June, 2014 on a family vacation. While many of our friends have seen Alaska on cruise ships, we chose to fly into Anchorage, rent a car and see the country side up close and personal. I had seen a driving trip outlined in Sunset Magazine that we used as our guide. The Sunset Magazine described a 10 day Grand Tour.  Since we only had 7 days, we opted for our own self-guided “Taste of Alaska” tour. I booked everything in advance. During the tourist season spontaneity in terms of lodging is not a good idea. We flew into and spent our first night in Anchorage.  You know you are in Alaska when there are signs on the walls going into the motel, “Watch out for Moose!”  This was at a Clarion Inn in the center of Anchorage.2014-06-06 08 30 00

 

Over our seven day adventure, we drove from Anchorage (one night ) to Denali (3 nights), Denali to  Talkeetna (1 night),  on to Seward (2 nights) and back to Anchorage (1 night ) out early the next morning on Alaskan Airlines.  We did not want to spend our entire trip in the car so we cut Fairbanks out of the itinerary.  Anchorage to Fairbanks is a full day’s drive as is Denali to Seward.  From Anchorage to Denali is a 5 hour trip.  Time estimates are based on regular driving.  Since we had gone to see Alaska, our travel times took much longer as we stopped regularly to take in majestic views, watch animals, or visit Alaskan communities.

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Alaska is visual delight!

 

We saw many gorgeous sites and dined on delicious food. After all, who couldn’t like fresh salmon every night unless you are a vegetarian? While I may choose to share with you other parts of our fabulous trip in future blogs, this blog is focused on the fickleness of the Alaskan electorate. It seemed appropriate given that the presidential primaries are in full swing.

While traveling Alaska, we learned why Sarah Palin was such a popular Governor of Alaska. One small community in Alaska has elected a cat their Mayor for the past 19 years running.  Given Alaskans elect house cats at the local level, not surprising they would elect a mountain lioness like Sarah-Governor.  Claiming to be able to  “See Russia from your porch” is formable campaign rhetoric, especially to a population that thrives in vast expanses of unfenced territory where there are more wild animals than people.

Talkeetna (population 876) is a historic village at the base of Mount McKinnely.  The community serves as  the take off point for climbers who plan to scale the mountain.

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Mount McKinnely in Denali National Park

The town is presided over by Mayor Stubbs, a cat.  Stubbs is 19 years old and has been honorary Mayor since he was kitten.  Town lore is that Stubbs was elected Mayor by write-in vote when the citizens of Talkeetna did not like the human candidates.  Those of us watching the Republican Presidential Primary season can certainly understand the populist rebellion against all the candidates. Stubbs long retention in office is  attributed to his appeal to tourists (30  to 40 people visit him every day).

When we went in Nagley’s General Store where Stubbs resides, we were told we could take pictures but couldn’t bother him because he gets tired of all the attention.  Stubbs has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, and CNN.  The media’s obsession with Stubbs, demonstrates  the media will do anything to generate political stories.

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Mayor Stubbs in his prime.

Stubbs got his name because he does not have a tail (though he certainly has many tales). Like many politicians, Stubbs has had his share of burdens from constituents.  He’s barely survived an attack by a canine, placing him in the animal hospital for 9 days and resulting in donations from all the world to pay for his care.  He has also been shot at by BB gun-wielding teenagers.  Taking the ole’ saying out of the pan into the fire literally, he has fallen in deep fryer (which thankfully was turned off at the time).

If you are experiencing political discontent over the current presidential primary cycle, think about writing in your favorite cat when you vote. After all, the domestic cat has shown throughout its long history that it is able to learn, problem solve, adapt to their environment, acquire new behaviors based on new situations and communicate effectively.  These characteristics sound like excellent skills for any politician.

Your other alternative is to act like a cat, ignore primary season and plan an early spring trip to Alaska. If you go, you will find yourself creating wonderful memories of glaciers, mountains, wildlife and unique Native cultures.

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We saw both brown bears and Grizzlies while in Alaska.

If you happen to stop by Talkeetna to meet Mayor Stubbs, take the time visit Talkeetna Spinanch Bread, an airstream trailer serving great grub. e932f5e2bf61e9854bea92862568f4cd Your stay wouldn’t be complete without breakfast at the Road House, known for it’s bigger than life pancakes for almost a 100 years.

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Breakfast plates stacking up at the Road House.

What is your International Travel Quota?

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Ten day trip to Spain sorted out the adventuers from the mere travelers. There wasn’t a tourist with us

I am traveling with my family through Spain for Thanksgiving week, a total of ten days. We spent three nights in Madrid, three nights in Barcelona and today we flew to Bilbao for three nights before flying home on Monday to Boise. There are three of us in our group; my husband, Peter, my daughter, Kayla (age 16) and myself. My son, Scott is spending a semester in Bilbao with the University of Idaho exchange program. He is a senior majoring in finance and accounting with a minor in math.

When he was getting ready to leave Boise, he warned us that he might not have time to see us. But it turns out he only has classes Monday through Wednesday with four day weekends. He has used his long weekends well traveling with friends to Portugal, Barcelona, and Amsterdam.

Last weekend he took a five hour roundtrip bus trip from Bilbao to meet us. He stayed in a hostel near our three star hotel.  His visit led me to the theme of this week’s blog. To travel well and happily you need to know yourself.

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Scott is a true adventurer, traveling through Spain, Portugal, France, and Denmark on a limited buget. He uses public transportation, hostels and carries everthing in a backpack.

Scott has turned into an adventurer. He carries what he needs in a backpack. He is facile with apps on his phone for directions, tickets and other travel necessities. He uses mass transit or Uber everywhere he goes. He finds ways to do things on the cheap utilizing hostels or crashing with friends. He has made trips all over Europe on a limited budget.

Pete, Kayla and I are travellers. Kayla and I have travelled extensively, Pete not so much. But a traveller has a distinctive style. We all carry a single bag that meets airport boarding standards and a backpack. The rule is that you have to be able to handle your own luggage easily. The three of  us spent 13 days in China with a large group. We managed with our roller bags while others piled up massive suitcases to load on the buses. Pete and I actually put everything in the overhead when we went to Prague and Vienna a number of years ago.

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Pete, Kayla and I are travellers. We spend unstructured days but stay in nice hotels and have our travel booked.

Travellers have some explorer in them. They will take off without a firm schedule. But unlike the true adventure, a traveller wants to know they have a room at night and  skip the line tickets for the big tourist showcases such as the Vatican.

The final category is tourist. This is the individual who wants every detail planned to the last second, excursions planned before you leave home and no worries about transportation or luggage size. Most foreign travellers are tourists. We see buses full of tourists where ever we go. The cruise tour is the ultimate luxury for the tourist, one doesn’t even need to move their baggage during the entire journey. I doubt I will go on a cruise in my lifetime. As a traveller, I would find it confining.

All of us have a little of each of these wanders in us. When my family went to China as tourists, I felt confined by the buses but would have been uncomfortable in the jammed streets with the  foriegn language and street signs without a guide.

Last spring in England, my sister and I rented a car and drove through England, Whales, and Scotland. We were mainly travellers because we had a destination each night but during the day we were adventures left to the mercy of the GPS. Fortunately, we know English.

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My sister Jane and I on a driving trip of England, Whales, and Scotland. Here we are a Loch Ness. The winding narroe road tested our adventurer spirits.

I am thrilled my son has turned into an adventurer. He plans on skiing in Southern France for 4 days for $200 to $300 Euros including room, lifts, equipment before returning to Idaho for Christmas. He will borrow clothes though he owns some of the best ski equipment in the world back in Boise. As an adventurer, who knows what places he’ll go or sights he’ll see.

I am pleased to be a traveller. I savor the freedom of an unplanned day where we can take a siesta, eat late, outside on a Spanish square with heat lamps going.

But I understand the tourist with their need to control their trip and keep their possessions with them.

The key to successful foriegn journeys is understanding: “Are you an adventurer, a traveller, or a tourist?”

Putting an adventurer on a tourist excursion will lead to great discontent for the tourists and adventurer.   A tourist on an unscheduled adventure will probably suffer great anxiety. There is no correct adventure quota but knowing who you are and the styles of your fellow travel partners will result in a much more successful trip.

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Puppy at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. Who knows what dites you’ll see!