Let’s Go West

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith all it has to offer, Houston is a great place, but from time to time it’s fun to leave the big city behind and go exploring.  Come along and let’s go west.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom Houston to San Antonio, there’s not a great deal to see, but once past  San Antonio, scenery changes dramatically.  First comes the rolling Hill Country, quite different from Houston’s flattness.

IMG_6243In no time at all that gives way to wide  open spaces and an 80 MPH speed limit which means making pretty good time on the road.

IMG_6250About the only thing dotting the landscape is hundreds of wind turbines which make Texas the largest provider of wind power in the country.

IMG_6406First stop on this adventure is Marathon, 8 hours from Houston and quite a bit above the sea level we are used to.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Marathon’s main attraction is the historic Gage Hotel and its excellent restaurant.  It is the reason most folks choose to stop in Marathon and reservations are often hard to come by.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat being the case, we opted for Eve’s Garden, a funky B & B.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith all its bright colors and unique architectural features, Eve’s struck me as a west Texas version of Gaudi.  It was astonishing to learn that the construction is of bricks made with recycled paper, clay and water.  That made me think all that paper I recycle is worth something!

Eve’s provided many an opportunity for photographs as everywhere there was something to catch the eye.   I doubt that Bernie left this sign behind, but it was interesting to think his appeal reached even the smallest of Texas towns.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs night fell, the rooftop proved a great place to capture the waning sun,  a sight seldom seen in Houston.  Such color made me think about how it could be incorporated into one of my woven pieces.  Nature provides such great inspiration for creativity.

With morning came a delightful breakfast, made so by a colorful presentation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst on the menu was a grapefruit topped with an impressive meringue.  How could I not find out how to do this!  Once the meringue is heaped on the grapefruit, it goes in the oven for about 4 minutes.  Sounds easy enough, huhn, but I forgot to ask about temperature!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext came a fragrant frittata, and if one desired a little kick there were lots of hot sauce choices.  Who would have guessed there were so many?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith appetite satisfied and glimpses of Marathon in the rear view mirror, it was time to move  on to Big Bend, a national park you won’t want to miss so stay tuned.

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Through My Eyes: Quebec City

When you look at a map of the U.S. the northern part of Maine looks like it could be part of Canada, so that’s the first clue that it’s a pretty easy trek to places like New Brunswick, Montreal or Quebec City.

MaineAt the last minute the hubby and I decided a trip to Quebec City would be a great way to wind down our time in Maine. It’s little more than a 5 hour drive through small towns and beautiful wooded areas with the Kennebec River running through them.  

IMG_5275In places, one could almost feel as if nothing had ever been there except for the moose which motorists were warned to be aware of. Though Maine is said to have lots of moose, would you believe I’ve not seen a single one!

Quebec CityOn to Quebec City and the old town where French is the language of choice though on this trip it seemed that folks were a little more open to speaking English. Exploring the area is an absolute delight.  The streets are narrow and cobblestoned meant for pedestrians only.

There’s quite a lot to do there, but you can find out about all that on Trip Advisor or in a guide book.  What I’m going to share with you are the things that caught my eye.

Window boxes which no doubt change with the season.

Shutters, the kind that remind me of Provence.

Clever signs outside every shop and restaurant.

Art in unexpected places!

Quebec CityMurals so lifelike you felt like you’d entered another time.Quebec CityRooftops with their differing lines and colors.

Quebec CityThe market filled with local produce, meats, cheese and prepared goodies.  No way can I pass up a good market!

Quebec CityAnd, of course, the Frontenac Hotel built in the late 1800’s by the Canadian railway cannot be overlooked.

Quebec CityLocated high above the old town, it reminds of chateaux built in the 14th and `15th centuries in the Loire Valley.  No matter from which angle it is viewed, it is extraordinary.

So there you have it, my view of Quebec City.  If you’ve been there, please share what caught your eye.

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On the Road….Again!

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.

Charles Kuralt

road tripThe car is packed,

MaizyMaizy is curled on the back seat and we are ready to begin the long road to Maine.

road signsThe few times we’ve driven Houston to Maine to Houston we’ve made an adventure out of it, but this time we hit the road, kept going until we got to Rockport and didn’t see a thing.  Well, that’s not exactly true as there were hundreds of signs identifying gas stations, motels, McDonald’s, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, Cracker Barrel and the like.

IMG_4341The highlight of the trip? A stop at a Virginia KFC where all thoughts of healthy left my head when I learned this one still serves chicken livers. Not many people must order them because I was served enough for 3 people!

IMG_4344Short nights were spent at dog friendly and near the interstate hotels, all of which had the same breakfast menu.  I have to confess that the biscuits with sausage gravy weren’t all that bad.

road tripLong days on the road were bad enough, but when cars and trucks were lined up in an unmoving caravan for more than 2 hours things got a little testy.  We never did find out what the holdup was, but my guess is it had something to do with an 18 wheeler.  Good thing we had audio books which kept us entertained while we waited for wheels to start turning again.

Rockport HarborThe good news is the trip is over, and when we at last got to Rockport, we were greeted by a rainbow, God’s way of welcoming us home.

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Texas In Bloom

Office View HoustonLiving in Houston, a fast paced, sprawling, big city, it’s easy to forget about other parts of Texas that really characterize what this state is all about.  

wildflowersThis time of year is especially good for doing a little exploring. It takes about an hour to get away from city sights and sounds and start noticing fields of bluebonnets, Indian paints and other wildflowers blooming along the road.  

bluebonnetsWe Texans can thank Lady Bird Johnson for thinking that Texas highways would be a lot prettier seeded with wildflowers.  How right she was!

wildflowersLovely though the highways are, it’s not until you get on the back roads that it’s possible to stop and enjoy the magic.

wildflowersSeeing a fluttery butterfly feeding

wildflowersor a tiny bug using a petal as a bed are such simple pleasures.

wildflowersThere is surprise to find startling colors peeking among thorny cacti

wildflowersor here and there a solitary bloom reaching for the sun.

wildflowersMy favorite field of blooms? Right here, wild and untamed.

Taking time away from the city opens my eyes to a new sights that bring smiles.  Won’t you come with me again to do a little more exploring?

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The Long Road Home

Linda  058It’s a long way from Maine to Texas, and we don’t drive every year, but this is one of those when we hit the road.  Peering out the window for mile after mile, there are some things of which I become very aware.  Of course, there are the usual franchises, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Cracker Barrel and the like, but there is more.

barnThere are lots of wide open spaces in this country of ours, much of which is farmland.  Where there are crops or cattle, there’s a barn, and I found myself fascinated by how many there were in every state through which we passed.

barnThere are plenty of red barns.

barnNot all are in such good shape, but they add color to the landscape

barnand have interesting architectural details.

barnMost barns are wooden structures,

barnsome weatherbeaten but with surprising touches.

barnOthers are in such disrepair I wondered how they were still standing, but they add character to what’s passing outside my window.

barnSome barns clearly communicate their use.  There’s no secret here

barnor here where the barn appears to be a first class facility, I’m guessing for horses.

barnMy favorite barn?  This one at my daughter’s farm where we stop for a short visit!  More about that next time so do come back.

Next time you are on the road, start looking and see if you notice how many barns there are.   I’m thinking they would be great subject for a coffee table book, but the photos might be a little better not taken from a moving car!

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On the Road

From Houston to Rockport, Maine, are 12 states plus Washington, D.C. and a lot of hours in the car.  There’s probably a more efficient way to do the drive, but we had places to go and people to see which made the trip quite an adventure.

With my trusty camera at my side, I thought to pay attention to all that was outside my window and make some attempt to capture a scene that reflected the essence of place.  As the resulting photos show, the U.S. is a country of varying and interesting sights.

TexasIn Texas, early morning sun rises over refineries where work never stops.

bridgeThe Atchafalaya Bridge spans miles of Louisiana’s cypress swamps and reminds me of the time I ran out of gas on this bridge.  That’s another story!

MississippiHere and there in Mississippi are grand old mansions, symbols of another time.

tobacco barnIn Tennesee, tobacco barns are common sights in the countryside,

Smoky Mountainsand the Smoky Mountains live up to their name.

waterfallNorth Carolina is home to curving roads and rocky cliffs with tumbling waterfalls.

horsesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHorses graze alongside Virginia highways,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand the Blue Ridge Mountains are a  lovely backdrop to city scenes.

Washington DCPassing through Washington, D.C., it is impossible not to be awed by the beauty of this U.S. capitol city where the Washington Monument soars above all else.

New JerseySurprisiingly, silos and newly mown hay line New Jersey highways,

New York Cityand a little further north, standing tall, is the imposing New York City skyline.   I would have loved to stop there for a day or two, but the hubby wasn’t keen on driving in the city.  Can’t say that I blame him.

covered bridgeMoving through New England, there are covered bridges

Linda_  030and tranquil scenes reflecting a slower pace.

highway sign/MaineAh, what a relief to see that we are closing in on Maine.

MaineFinally, the most welcome sign

Maineand the sights that are so familiar.

Rockport HarborCrossing the bridge over Rockport Harbor, my heart sings……HOME!

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Tablescape Challenge

Traveling in an RV and setting an attractive table for six are not necessarily compatible.  The table in the van is only for two people so the rest of us had to eat wherever there was a sit down space.  One night, however, we were lucky enough to have a spot in an RV park that had a picnic table right outside the door.

Yahoo, we could all enjoy sitting together!

Before dinner treats were a must to be enjoyed with one of the wonderful wines chosen by the son-in-law driver.  While everything isn’t a perfect match, the tablecloth from Williams Sonoma adds a little color to the table as do the flowers that had traveled with us from Houston.  Nothing like those little touches of home!

Just so we wouldn’t have to eat off paper plates every night, I had brought these colorful melamine dishes picked up at Costco.  Not only are they cheerful but all the pieces mix and match and don’t seem to mind being paired with plastic utensils and paper napkins.

And, thanks to our El Paso Walmart stop we even had real glasses rather than plastic cups.

We also found these great plastic serving pieces at Walmart at the grand cost of $1 each.  They were a perfect match for the dishes and will surely come in handy again.

What fun to make something out of very little, and the best part was having the little girls get into the act.

Do tell me about some of your experiences making do.

Joining Tabletop Tuesday and Tablescape Thursday

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On the Road VI

Rolling, rolling, rolling to Las Vegas, another unplanned stop, but since we are ahead of schedule there’s some time to waste. Let me just say this about that, the best part of the stop was the Las Vegas Motor Resort, a really plush setup with a super overhead shower. Funny how you learn to appreciate the ordinary when you’re RV traveling!

Vegas was packed with people, the prices high and O a disappointment. Maybe that’s the way of things when expectations are high. In any case, the six of us decided Vegas wasn’t our kind of place, so as soon as morning light came it was on to Hoover Dam, high on the hubby’s list of places to visit. There was a moment’s tension when I was two minutes late hooking up with the hubby for the 9:30 AM tour, but we were allowed to catch up with the group so all was well. WHEW!

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The dam spans the Colorado River from Arizona to Nevada or maybe it’s from Nevada to Arizona.

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Astonishingly, the dam is designed and built to last 2,000 years, and when you think about it being constructed in the 1930’s with techniques far less sophisticated than today’s, that fact is amazing. How can you not wonder what this will say about the period to people in years to come?  Seven states–Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, California, Colorado–are served by the dam with the largest single recipient being California, specifically Los Angeles.

Since October 2010, a new bridge, crossing the river and bypassing the dam, has been open.

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The bridge’s name represents a person from each of the two states bordering it. Pat Tillman is, perhaps, the most famiiiar of the two men as his name is fresher in memory. He was an NFL player who gave up his career and lucrative contract to serve his country and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. I doubt that is how he wanted to be remembered.

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Again, thinking about the how of construction is more than this brain can comprehend.

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OK, Hoover Dam is done. We’re on the road again headed straight to the Grand Canyon. Now we are starting to get really pumped!

Three hours later, the girls are anxious for their first glimpse.

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Omigosh, AMAZING!

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We will try to capture it all!


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On the Road V

Hot dry wind causing nose bleeds and dehydration and blowing so hard we were rocking all over the place.  Our goal today: explore Highway 60, and we were glad to have the opportunity for a few stops, none of which were on the agenda.  Are you beginning to figure out our carefully planned agenda is changing at every turn?

VLAWe happened upon the Very Large Array (VLA) Center.

radio telescopeIf you saw the movie Contact you will recognize these huge radio telescopes that are spread across this flat, empty land.

radio telescopeAll of us were absolutely fascinated,

IMG_6118and the little girls loved throwing their voices via parabolic transmitters.

Magdalena signFurther down the road, Magdalena had little of interest but this sign gave a sense of just where it is located.

PietownPietown was a different story.  Just as we had hoped it had a place to buy pies,

piesdelicious homemade ones in many flavors.

piemakersNobody could decide what flavor so the piemaker suggested a “piepourri”.  When we got back on the bus, I was sneaking a bite of the peanut butter pie when I was caught and everyone had to join in.

gone! Tonight’s dessert never made it out of the box.  Fortunately, the daughter went back in and bought a just out of the oven pear/ginger pie.  Good thinking!

Next stop was to be the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, but deciding that 40 mph winds blowing sand into our faces was not a good thing, we blew on by (literally) and headed to Holbrook, Arizona, supposedly the night’s stop.  Arriving there, we changed our mind in a hurry.  Another Good Sam Motor Park in a wide open space with sand blowing in every direction held no appeal, especially since none of us had wanted to use the shower at the last Good Sam park.  The son-in-law driver was exhausted, but that park gave him enough motivation to go on down the road to Flagstaff where the RV park was vastly improved.

tini timeTini time and carnitas and we were in a much better mood.  On we go!

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On the Road IV

With Marfa not having taken as much time as anticipated, we hit the road, once again driving through miles and miles of nothingness until we reached El Paso.  Two days on the road and we’re still not out of Texas….did I mention Texas is BIG!

Though driving  this big ole bus in city traffic is a challenge for the driver, we did beg a stop  to pick up a few things we’d forgotten, like real wine glasses.  Fortunately, we spied a WalMart which we’ve discovered has the only parking lot big enough for a vehicle this size.  Thinking this might be a good opportunity to do my version of WalMart shoppers, I entered with camera in hand!

WalMart shopperPicture taking opportunity wasn’t so good, but we did find all and more of what we needed.

Planned destination this day White Sands, New Mexico, but being ahead of schedule we blew right on by, not stopping until we reached Truth or Consequences.  Anybody know how that name came into being?

Good Sam RV Park, huhn?  What our big bus got us was the choice spot at the park, so we were told.

Good Sam'sWhat that meant was we were parked on the high spot looking down on the other campers

view at Good Sam'sand out on miles of the desolate landscape we had seen all day!

Once settled in, we had to designate a turd tube guy.  If you’ve ever traveled in an RV, you know the job.  Guess who we chose?  Yep, the hubby who seemed to know more about this job than the rest of us.  We promised to make his job as easy as possible in days to come!

the wine

The job completed, we rewarded hubby and son-in-law driver, who has done a great job handling road challenges, with a good bottle of wine and settled down for ribs cooked slow.  We’re beginnning to realize how lucky we are to have brought that since it’s not easy to find places to eat when you’re driving a 40′ RV!

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