I opened the paper to this headline:

I knew it was coming, but here it was in big bold letters staring at me. I know a sigh escaped. We were not going anywhere for a long period of time. 😦

This was supposed to be our road trip summer. East and northwest were the goals of this summer. New areas of our country and Canada to explore were just on the horizon of summer. Then the pandemic landed and we were grounded.

I decided to create my own journey of exploration. This was the land I explored.

As I wandered the perimeter, a bit of blue wedged between the border rocks caught my eye.

Where is the nest?

Was this blown from the nest after hatching or before hatching?

I continued my journey. I looked up to discover a single thread shimmering in the sunlight. Undulating with the breeze, a spider’s highway overhead.

Looking deep into the branches of the arborvitae I find a thicket of limbs no longer living. Has that happened because the sun can’t reach them?

Slowly, I continue to wander and wonder.

This viburnum bush has a branch that doesn’t match the rest of the branches. Why? I looks like someone has been nibbling on the branch.

The branch on the left is a close-up of the branch on the right.

Each pause on this journey has left me questioning. Questions continue. What bird has lost such a long feather? Was this lost when charging at the squirrel? Or did it simply fall out and float gently to land in my yard?

So much of our yard is now shade, these conditions are conducive to grow hostas. Something has been nibbling. An interesting bloom has sprouted. Check out the close-up of the bud. I love the diamond layers.

The journey is nearly completed. I look up. The canopy shields me from the sun, but I see the branches as spokes on a wheel creating connections for creatures I cannot see.

The next time I take this same journey, I know the sights will be different even though the terrain stays the same. No mask required for this trip. I believe I will be spending lots of time this summer here, but I will be dreaming of travels yet to come (someday).

Tell your story too.

Nature Down Under

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What image(s) come to mind when you hear the word, Australia? I immediately begin to think about all the animals unique to Australia. What a thrill it was to see animals in the wild! Today, I give you a glimpse of the wonders of nature from Australia.

My first koala in the wild! This was taken on Kangaroo Island. Funny thing is we didn’t see any kangaroos.

This lorikeet paid no attention to the oohs and ahhs of the tourists mesmerized by the colors of the bird and the unique flower that was providing lunch.

The Adelaide Botanical Gardens did not disappoint. I wish we’d had more time to wander. I have a video on  my phone that I wanted to put here, but for the life of me I cannot figure out how to do this. The birds were not visible, but their chatter was deafening. Sorry 😦

A highlight of our trip was a tour along a portion of The Great Ocean Road. What a day! The Twelve Apostles were worth every moment of the long ride.

That is a wallaby in the photo on the bottom left. Can you see the baby in her pouch?

I love bird watching in Australia! Their colors are incredible!

The following photos are from several different wildlife preserves.

The top is a goanna. The bottom is a kingfisher, a wombat (I did see one in the wild, but didn’t get camera out fast enough 😦 ) , and a cassowary.

Top left is a Tasmanian Devil. I do not know what the birds are, but those legs are amazing. Bottom left is an echidna and the rock formation is in the Blue Mountains, The Three Sisters.

The butterflies were in the butterfly house in Kuranda. That is a fern growing in a tree (also in Kuranda).; The lizard fellow startled us in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens, it is a baby water dragon. The other photos are also from the Brisbane gardens. The larger one is a fig tree. Those are figs hanging on the trunk. The ground was littered with figs. I don’t know what the other tree is, but I loved the way it looked.

There you have it, some examples of the uniqueness of Mother Nature in Australia.

The People

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We boarded the plane at 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday. We disembarked the plane 8:30 a.m. Thursday, but in real time only fifteen hours had passed. Yes, we traveled past the International Date Line. We were now in Sydney, Australia waiting to be transported to our cruise ship which was to be our home for the next thirty days.

Our transportation delivered us to the cruise terminal, but it was too early to begin the boarding process. We were too exhausted to wander the quay so we found a bit of shade and waited as our tired eyes took in the sights of Sydney’s Harbor Bridge. Eventually we were permitted to enter the terminal to wait for our group number to be called.

Hundreds of people sat waiting. We found a couple of empty chairs. Gazing over the crowd, I wondered who would we meet and what was their story? We met some incredible people and the stories of their lives are amazing.

Dave and Roxie: They are from Wisconsin, not far from where my parents grew up. We met them as we waited in the terminal before boarding. They had been in Sydney a few days before the cruise, so they were not as brain dead as we were on that first day. We met up again with them several days into the trip and formed a friendship. We were both going to be on the ship for thirty days.

John and Daphne: This couple lives in Brisbane. When they were younger, John had worked for the government in various international cities. He had quite the tale to tell of being kidnapped in Brazil and left alongside the road stark naked when the kidnappers realized he didn’t have any money. Fortunately, the kidnappers left his car with him, but tossed the keys away so they could escape. John was able to find the keys and get back to the apartment parking garage so he could call Daphne to bring him some clothes. They were only on the ship for fifteen days.

Helen and Steve: They are from Liverpool, England. Music trivia was their forte. Every evening, they amazed us with their knowledge of musical groups. They would only be on the ship for the first fifteen days, then they were heading to New Zealand to visit her sister and tour the islands. They were not returning home until the spring.

After fifteen days, we sadly said good-bye to Daphne, John, Helen, and Steve. Music trivia was no longer fun without our new friends, plus our knowledge of song titles/groups was weak. Roxie, Dave, my husband, and I moved over to afternoon general trivia on the second half of our trip. That was a smart move.

Mo and Celia: This couple is from Perth, Australia. They were looking to join a trivia team and we welcomed them to our team. Two couples from the US needed an Australian couple for questions related to Australia. What a lucky day that was!

Mo was born in Yemen and moved to England when he was around ten when war broke out in Yemen. Celia lived in London. Mo was a teacher, Celia a nurse. They were tired of the dismal weather of England so they moved to Australia because Celia’s sister lived there. Mo was a storyteller. Everyday, after trivia we were entertained by his stories/jokes.

Fran and Steve: This couple lives in Maryland, but lived most of their married life on Long Island, New York. They are trivia aficionados! Occasionally, I was able to contribute an answer or two. Their knowledge enabled us to win  several times. How did we get so lucky to connect to such smart people? (Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of them.)

These people became our circle of friends on a ship of 1900 passengers. It’s amazing how stories of lives lived in different parts of the world connect. What a trip!


This Land of Ours (Part 2)

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After spending the morning at Arches (which is on the east side of Utah), we traveled across the state (340ish miles) to explore Zion National Park. As we were driving an unusual looking cloud appeared on the horizon.

This cloud was actually a snow storm.

Soon the ground was covered, but it didn’t stick to the road.

Eventually, we made it to our hotel. A good night’s rest was just what we needed before hiking the next day.

We stayed in St. George, so we had about an hour drive to get to the park. Everyone warned us how busy the park gets, so we arrived shortly after eight. We were able to find a parking place easily. After a short visit with a ranger, we had a plan of several short, easy hikes for our adventures.

Zion is rather unusual because the main road is only accessible by a shuttle bus. This bus is like a hop-on-hop-off bus stopping a places near trails. We decided to ride all the way to the end and work our way back towards the car. It takes about forty-five minutes to reach the end.

These canyon walls make one feel so small.

First hike was Riverside Walk (2.2 miles round trip). Canyon walls tower above as you follow the Virgin River meandering through this canyon. Weeping walls create hanging gardens.

Plants grow out of the cracks in the rock walls. Sadly, nothing was blooming when we were there.


Walking along the Virgin River. Seems more like a creek here.

A few interesting views of nature along the walk.

When you get to the end of the path, you don’t have to stop, but you have to walk in the water upstream. Of course you have to be outfitted with the right clothes: waterproof shoes, some kind of waterproof pants, and a large walking stick. To get to the Narrows, you need to allow six hours of hiking. Walking in freezing cold water was not high on my “must do” list. However, my husband now has a burning desire to do this hike.

Someone is wishing he could go further upstream.

On the return trip, we walked along the sandy edge of the river. Suddenly, a mule deer crossed the river oblivious of us.

Mule deer nibbling on new leaves for a snack.

Before starting the next hike we sat at a picnic table and devoured our snacks and drank a bottle of water in our backpacks.

This is my view while having my snacks or should I say lunch? Not bad, right?

After a few missteps, we finally found the start of the Grotto Trail (1 mile), which ends at the Zion Lodge. This led us to the Lower Emerald Pool trail (1.2 miles). It was a nice paved path, but it was a gradual uphill walk. I have to admit, I was starting to tire.

The easy section ends with a walk behind a small waterfall.

Guess the green water is why they call this the Emerald Pool walk.

After this walk, I announced I was getting worn out and I could feel some blisters forming on my big toe and heel. It was time to head back to the hotel for a shower and relax before dinner. Another day of great weather and beautiful sights.

A shower was calling my name, but when we got to the hotel, the front desk announced the water was off and they hoped it would be back on soon. I decided to wait for the water in the spa pool. That felt wonderful, however, the water was off another two hours. That was aggravating. Of course with the water off, there was no hot water for a while. Eventually, we were able to get showers and go out for dinner. Our adventures in national parks was over for this trip. Wonder where we will go next?


This Land of Ours (Part 1)

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The two items above (national parks pass and new hiking shoes) have kept me away from my computer and slicing for the last two weeks. Here’s where I’ve been . . .

An open two weeks from work and appointments meant we had some time to head west to visit our son and his family. Instead of zipping out and back, we decided to put that national parks pass to work before our visit. Arches and Zion (both in Utah) were the parks selected for this trip.

Shortly after lunch, we entered Arches, ready to stretch our legs from driving. Incredible rock formations had us speechless as we drove up the switch back road. I cannot imagine the reactions of the early explorers who first laid eyes on this land. These rocks were massive!

Top left is Balanced Rock (total height is 128 feet, rock on top is 55 feet). The top right is Courthouse Towers. Bottom left is Three Gossips close up, then on the right it is in the distance.

Delicate Arch was the first hike. It was listed as challenging. I had my doubts about my ability, but we set off. Halfway into it, I had to give up. It was too steep for me, but I sent my husband on. I slowly made it back to the car. While waiting, I took the map of the hikes and arches and created a plan for the rest of the day and the next morning.

Here are some of the arches .

Top left: Delicate Arch taken by my husband as he fought 50 mph winds. Top right: Landscape Arch, just over 300 feet long, it is the second longest span in the world. Middle right: North Window Arch Bottom left: Turret Arch Bottom right: Double Arch

The Fiery Furnace

A massive wall of rock called The Fiery Furnace is on the left, then turn slightly right and you see the field on the inset picture at the bottom.

Sand Dune Arch

To get to this arch, you have to walk through deep sand and a narrow crevice (pictured on the bottom left).

As we were leaving the park, something caught our attention. We had to turn around to get a closer look. Would you do this? I would not!

Thanks to the zoom on the camera, we could see this ant fellow climbing this rock.

What a fantastic park! I know there were arches we didn’t get to this time, but I bet we will be back. Next week: Zion National Park.


Other Worldly

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Turning a certain age this year allowed me (and my husband) to acquire a lifetime pass to national parks and we were eligible before the cost went up this fall. Now, the goal is to use these passes to visit and marvel at the wonders of nature found in our country.

For years and years, we have driven west on Interstate 40 and seen the signs for the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. “Someday we will stop there,” we said time and again, but we never did. On our way out, we were too excited and anxious to get to our destination. On our way home, we were too exhausted and just wanted to get home. Until this year . . .

Weather issues loomed as we planned our trip west in December. We decided to leave two days earlier to avoid snow and ice. This created the perfect opportunity to explore the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest.

We exited the highway and were amazed to find that the Painted Desert visitor center was just over the hill from the highway. The parking lot held only a few cars, no crowds today. The volunteer explained how the park worked and gave us a map to guide us through the park. Off we went with his recommendations and anticipation of sights to explore.

It was  windy and cold, but at least the sun was shining. We were not dressed to take any of the side hikes available. So as we followed the road, we stepped out at the vista points and marveled at the incredible landscapes that were so different from what was along the highway.

Several hours later, we reached the end of the road and found our way back to the highway to continue on our journey west. It was just the break we needed from the routine of driving west. Here are a few photos:

These red hills cannot be seen from the highway.

Look way down at the bottom, that’s a petrified log.

Here is a close up view of that log from above.

On our way back home, we returned to the park because the temperatures were better for taking one of the hikes and we were not in a hurry to get home to the frigid temperatures.

We returned to the Blue Mesa area. As we followed the trail, we marveled at the colors and land formations. Unfortunately, the camera didn’t capture the true colors. These hills (mesas?) really were shades of lavender, but at least you can get an idea of the color variations. Enjoy!

This is what the land looks like right before the Blue Mesa, flat and colorless. No hint of what was ahead.

Enter the Blue Mesa!

This is the trail that takes you down to the bottom of the Blue Mesa. You feel like you are walking around  another planet.

View from the bottom

Here is a close-up of the sides of the hills.

Another interesting view of the land in the Blue Mesa.

If you have the opportunity, stop and explore. It’s amazing!


Day 22: Booked It!

August is hot. August is humid. August is the start of school.

But, I’ve got a plan. I’m not staying home. Can you guess where I’m going? Here are a few hints:

  • “City of Lights”
  • Joan of Arc’s childhood home
  • Château de Chambord and Château Chenonceau
  • Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux
  • Garonne River to Cadillac

Did you guess? I’m heading to France with my husband. It will be a double celebration, our 40th anniversary and an early birthday celebration for me.

We are doing a pre-river cruise extension, four days in the Loire Valley. Then we will board a riverboat to explore the Bordeaux region on the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers. The cruise is named Châteaux, Rivers, and Wine, now that’s the way to finish off the summer.

Guess I need to lose some weight so I can find it in the pâtisseries we will visit at every turn of the rivers. I booked it and I can’t wait!


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Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Ding! My phone announces a text. A quick look tells me It’s from the airline announcing my gate has changed, again. While I was in the air they texted two different gates. Now a third gate, PD6. That confuses me. I am fairly good at deciphering the signs in airports, but this one has me stymied. I check the monitors. Yup, PD6. There is no sign for a PD6, so I stop at the Assistance Center.

“Where would I find gate PD6?” I inquire.

Blank looks return my questioning look. The lady behind the desk looks at me as if I am nuts. I quickly show her the text to prove I’m not crazy.

She looks up the flight number, she tells me A30 is my gate. I just came from A30 which was deserted. She is insisting A30 would be the correct gate.

Ding! Another text from the airline. New gate will be B13. The lady updates her computer and now she agrees B13. I have a feeling this gate 13 is not going to be a lucky one.

No sooner do I get to the gate, ding! You guessed it, another text. What’s this? It’s not a gate change but a time change! A three hour delay from the original departure!

As I am beginning to notify my son that I will be later, ding! What now?! Your flight has been cancelled. You are rebooked but the airport has changed. What!? I have a rental car waiting for me at the original airport.

What a nightmare!




Smart Mart?

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Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

For four years I have been driving to Warsaw, Indiana to be with blogging friends and attend the All Write conference. Every year it is a challenge to get through Indianapolis and find my way to Warsaw in a timely manner. I don’t think I’ve ever been the same route twice. I have used a variety of methods to plot the route: GPS, phone/iPad apps, a paper map. There is no major interstate that will bring one to Warsaw. It is a series of roads that meander through the countryside. I always felt like I was missing something in the directions. Fortunately, I have had a navigator, Kim, beside me to help decipher cryptic signs.

After eating lunch in Indianapolis, I unfolded the map on the table, located Warsaw, and slid my finger over the roads to trace the route. I then listed the numbers of the roads needed to reach Warsaw. Sounds like a great plan, right?

It was working like a charm until there was a detour. We followed the detour, this time. Finally we were back on the right route following our list of numbers made at lunch. Another detour sign appeared, but this time we wondered if it really was meant for us. Time was ticking away. I decided to ask at the Smart Mart about this detour that said a bridge was out.

I walked into the shop, it was deadly quiet. I could not see a single body. I worked my way through the aisles heading to the counter with the cash register. A young man was crouched down, stocking the cigarette shelf.

I began my inquiry, “Hi, I’m trying to get to Warsaw, but I see this detour sign. If I stay on the road will I be able to get to Wabash?” As I am talking, I see confusion passing over this young man’s face. He doesn’t know where Warsaw is, he’s probably having a hard time comprehending my English. “Is there someone else around that I can talk to?”

He goes to the nearest doorway and mumbles something. Another young man, carry an iPad comes out. I launch into my inquiry once again. This time hopeful he will understand me. He does understand, but he has no knowledge of conditions of the road to Wabash.

His solution was to have me travel down the road and go south (Warsaw is north of where I am) to connect to two different roads. He comes from Fort Wayne once a week, so he’s never been to Wabash. His directions don’t make sense to me, because I would be going backwards in my journey. I thank him and leave to report to Kim, that Smart Mart isn’t too smart.

We continued on the road and did discover the closed bridge (only it wasn’t really a bridge, but more like an overpass). With the help of Kim’s phone we navigated that stretch and arrived in Warsaw in time.

Before leaving the conference, I enlisted the help of those who live there to tell me the route to take to get back to Indianapolis. I am happy to report that there were no missteps on the return trip (thank you to Mary Helen and Dianne). Now, all I have to do is find a safe place for those route numbers so I can use them again next year.

Kindness Surprise

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Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

It’s the last day in the car. Five hundred fifty-two miles separated us from home. Our bodies were feeling the too-many-days-of-sitting in the car. At each stop, we stepped gingerly until the limbs remembered their path of movement. Thoughts of the comforts of home swirled through our minds as we ticked the miles away.

Passing through Oklahoma, we have two tolls to pay. I always get the money out miles before the booth is in view. We find the lane with the green light and shortest line. A quick stop to pay before we zoom down the highway.

We pull up to the booth, ready to hand the toll taker the cash. the gate rises, he announced, “The lady in the car ahead just paid your toll. Here’s your receipt. Have a good day.”

“Really?!” my husband exclaimed.

“Have a great day!” the toll taker said.

We pulled away marveling at the random act of kindness a stranger had bestowed on us.

“I should have paid for the car behind us,” my husband mused several miles down the road.

Another hundred miles found us at the last toll booth for this trip. The toll was $4.00, we paid our fee with a ten, but then told the toll attendant to take another four to pay for the person behind us.

“I haven’t had anyone do that in quite a long time,” the attendant exclaimed with a broad smile.

I hope a chain of kindness was created on this final day of our travels. Our bodies were weary of the travel, but our minds were savoring the kindness given to us, then passed along.