Friday, July 31, 2009

Sight-Seeing in South Dakota

Today we hit several of the main "tourist attractions" along I-90 in South Dakota. We have traveled this route many times, but we usually don't take time to stop for sight-seeing. We did this time just to help break the trip up a little.

First up was the Corn Palace in Mitchell. We were interested to learn that the exterior is redecorated every year with several varieties of corn. We laughed to see the birds pecking kernels right off the building!
There were several permanent corn murals inside. I guess the birds (and the weather) can't get to those, so they don't have to be replaced every year.
Further down the highway we stopped at the "world famous" Wall Drug. Why is it world famous? Why, because it is advertised all over the world as being world famous! We even saw one billboard bragging that they have a sign in Kenya, Africa. Now, doesn't that just make you want to go there?
Our final destination for the day was Mt. Rushmore. We timed it so we could be there for the evening program and lighting ceremony.
It was a beautiful, cool evening. The perfect ending to a fun day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Relaxing in South Dakota

The past week has been a whirlwind of fun family activities. Not only that, we haven't had good internet access most of the time, so I am a few days behind in keeping you updated on our road trip. We got to our RV park this evening in time to relax a bit before bed time, and we have a good internet connection so I'm going to try to get caught up on my posting. I am going to back-date my posts, though, for my own purposes, so you'll have to read "backwards" to catch up with us! I hope it won't be too confusing!

The weather here is perfect! Sunny, gently breezy, and just mildly warm. Hope you're enjoying your summer wherever you are!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Family Camp

For part of our vacation we wanted to attend an old-fashioned campmeeting like Lyle and I remember going to when we were kids. There aren't many around any more, but we had heard about Mode Camp in Illinois where some of our college friends attend, so we had made arrangements to spend a few days there.
The campground is somewhat primitive but it is nestled on a shady hillside in the middle of farm country... and the grounds were meticulously clean and well-maintained. It was a relaxing setting and we were made to feel very welcome!
The services were uplifting and inspiring. We were challenged and encouraged.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Missouri

Another on-the-road day. We traveled from Kansas to Illinois, so spent most of the day in Missouri. It was familiar territory to Lyle and me, but the girls were impressed with the "big" rivers. They've seen the Missouri River in Montana, but it's not this wide up there.
Remember how much fun it is to spell "M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback-I"?
I think it's a tradition to spell it as we cross the Mississippi!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kansas Sunset

We have enjoyed a few days in Kansas visiting with Lyle's family... good meals, good fellowship, shopping for bargains, cuddling babies, playing with cousins, chasing barn cats, fun in the sun...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rose Creek Garden

My sister-in-law is an avid gardener. Thought you might enjoy a few glimpses of her pretty garden!
A vintage bicycle welcomes you to the garden.
She has heart-shaped stepping-stones engraved with the names of each of her children. (Yes, she has 9 children!)
I snapped lots of pictures of many of the dozens of different varieties of flowers that are currently blooming. I loved these cheery black-eyed susans.
A brand-new rose is about to bloom!
The liked the way this rustic bench looked against the cornfield fence. It's only big enough for one person... so it's not officially a "flirting bench"... but not to worry! There are plenty of other places for sitting and "smooching" throughout the garden!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kansas

This was one of our longer days on the road. We drove across much of Colorado and Kansas. We stopped in Garden City to eat lunch with a former pastor... and got to Lyle's brother's house near Wichita in the early evening. His parents and a few other relatives joined us for supper.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pikes Peak

The highlight of our trip so far was a drive to the summit of Pikes Peak... something Lyle has been wanting to do for a long time. See, he's a very serious driver! For him the experience was all about the drive... the view was just a side benefit!
It was cloudy when we started, so we wondered if there would even be a view. But this was the only day we would be in the area. As we went through the toll gate the lady warned us, rather dourly, "You're going to be in and out of fog up there, you know!" She acted like she thought we were crazy for going anyway.

Turns out, she was wrong. It didn't take long for us to get above the clouds and we didn't run into fog even once!

There are no guard rails for most of the length of the 19-mile road, and the sheer drop-offs scared me to death! I couldn't look out the side window! I took a bunch of pictures, though, by just sticking the camera out the window and snapping while looking the other way! This is the first one I took that way. After I looked at the shot I realized I hadn't gotten the camera above the glass! Lyle laughed at me.
Here's a shot of our GPS showing the upcoming switch-backs. (Side note: The travel ducks live on the dash of our truck. They are our road trip mascots!)
And here is a shot of the some of the switch backs from the next level up! Scary stuff!
After much gripping of the arm rest, squeezing my eyes shut, and holding my breath, we finally did make it to the top! It was only 45 degrees, even though it was a sunny mid-July morning
And then we got to drive back down again!
Now, wasn't that fun?

I'm curious. Have you ever been up Pikes Peak? I'd love to hear about your experience!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Colorado

We enjoyed the diverse scenery across northwestern Colorado. I was amused at the "Welcome to Colorful Colorado" sign as we crossed the state line from Utah. The only colors I could see at that time were gold and sage green! Not exactly shades I think of as particularly "colorful"!
But we soon got into a more lush region driving along rivers and lakes for miles.
The snow capped mountains in the distance were a little hazy but still very pretty.
The we crossed the Rockies on the Interstate.
We are staying in an older RV park in downtown Manitou Springs. It is very crowded, but surprisingly secluded with a pretty little creek running right behind our trailer.
Here's a map of today's route.
Tomorrow: Pike's Peak!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Northern Utah

We are still enjoying the rugged scenery of the American west.
Today's pictures were taken through the windshield, as we didn't stop much.
This leg of our trip took us from Twin Falls, Idaho to Vernal, Utah.
We got to our RV park late in the afternoon and are enjoying a relaxing evening. We'll have a longer drive tomorrow.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Eastern Idaho

Today we traveled south through eastern Idaho, through the Sawtooth National Recreation area. We spent the night in this rest area on the continental divide along the Idaho/Montana state line. (We had to drive east to Montana, then turned south, which took us back into Idaho again. Idaho is shaped funny, in case you hadn't noticed!) It was 58 degrees when we left the rest area this morning!
We plan to visit 10 states on our 2-week trip. I have been in all 10 of the states before, and I have to say, I'll be surprised if we see any scenery more spectacular than what is right here in Idaho! The Sawtooth Mountains were awesome...
...and Shoshone Falls near Twin Falls is amazing. They call it the "Niagara of the West." Of course, this time of the year it is not as dramatic as it would be in the spring, but it is still beautiful!
Yep, there's more than one reason why I prefer road-trips to air travel! Getting there is truly half the fun!

(Click on the pictures to see them larger.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

There and Back Again - An Adventure

"An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." ~G.K. Chesterton
The past couple of weeks have been, to say the least, an adventure! Last Tuesday I bought plane tickets for my daughters and to fly to Louisiana for my grandmother's funeral. We left on Thursday. Due to such short notice, the cheapest tickets I could find included 4 flights with lay-overs in 3 cities. Not only that, it was an overnight journey.
We left Spokane at 3:30pm. As I printed out our boarding passes we noticed that we had seats together for all the flights except the one from Phoenix to Las Vegas. I asked the ticket agent about getting that changed, but he said that the flight was full so he couldn't change it for us, but to ask at the gate in Phoenix. The girls enjoyed the novelty of the first flight. In Phoenix we talked to the gate agent, who wasn't able to get us seats together, but he moved us around a bit so we were closer together and with 2 aisle seats which made it more likely someone would be willing to trade as we boarded the plane. We were in the last group to board and it was so crowded that I didn't have the heart to ask people to trade with us, so I began to stow our carry-ons and tell the girls where to sit. I was so grateful when 2 ladies who were sitting in the row with one of my daughters offered to trade with us. I had the impression they were together, but they were willing to sit in different rows and give us their seats.

The funny thing about that flight, from Phoenix to Las Vegas, was how short it was. The flight attendants barely got the drinks served before they were coming through taking up the cups again. Another interesting thing was the sunset. It was dark when we left Phoenix, but as we flew west we watched the sun set again! It lasted for a long time, too. I suppose because we were traveling with it.

We knew we were in Las Vegas as soon as we stepped off the plane because of all the slot machines in the airport. We were to change airlines there, and we had a 3-hour layover. I did not see our flight listed on the Departures monitor yet, so I had no idea what gate to head for. I knew it was not the concourse we landed at, as those were all US Airways flights. We walked to the end of the A concourse and when we got to the security checkpoint I asked a security guard where the Delta gates were. He told me they were in D concourse, and to get there I needed to go through B concourse, then C, before I would see signs for D. We walked and walked and walked. Some portions of the airport were completely abandoned at that time of night. Finally we got to the end of the C concourse and while I could see signs for D concourse, I still couldn't find where to go. It seemed like every sign either pointed to a dead-end or had us walking in circles. So I asked someone else. Turns out there was a train we needed to ride, but the normal doors to the train were closed for construction and it was a quite obscure detour. No wonder I had such a time finding it. So we rode the train and walked and walked some more. I was beginning to wonder if it would take us the full 3 hours to get to our gate! It didn't. We still had plenty of time. The girls stretched out on the floor for a bit before time to start boarding.

The flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta was a red-eye. It was over 3 hours long. My under-the-seat bag did not fit under the seat in front of me, so I just put it under my legs for take-off, and then held it in my lap during the flight. It made a good platform to put my pillow on! Our sleep that night consisted of mostly cat-naps on that oh-so-very-long flight. I know, 3 hours is really not all that long... but when it's the middle of the night and you'd like to be sleeping, it seems endless.

The first order of business in Atlanta was to find a Starbucks. I felt much better after I had a cup of coffee. And I could tell we were in Atlanta because the airport announcer sounded just like Jimmy Carter!

Our flight from Atlanta to New Orleans was uneventful, but we were sure happy to get off the plane for the last time that night. As we stepped outside to wait for my mother to pick us up we were nearly knocked over by the heat and humidity that is standard summer weather in southern Louisiana.

We had a special time together with my dad's family the next few days. The girls stayed with my parents to go home with them for a visit, while I flew back home. My return flight was supposed to be much shorter, leaving New Orleans at 6:45pm CDT, with only one layover in Denver, then home by 11pm PDT.

As soon as I walked into the airport in New Orleans I noticed that my flight was already delayed by 45 minutes. Since I only had an hour to change planes in Denver, I was concerned about making the connection, but I knew that sometimes they can make the time up in the air. They didn't. We were nearly an hour late getting into Denver, and the last flight to Spokane for the night was the one I missed.

The airline put me up in a very nice hotel and gave me a $15 voucher for a meal. I would have much rather been home, but I decided to consider it an adventure. The meal voucher had to be used all at once. I couldn't use half of it for supper that night, and the other half for breakfast the next day. I didn't need $15 for one meal, but the restaurants would not give change. So I decided to see if I would be allowed to spend it at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory on candy. Sure enough, I was! So I blew the whole thing on chocolate to take home to my husband!

And I finally made it home by early afternoon the next day. Whew!

That's the end of that adventure... but stay tuned! We are setting off on another road-trip (our long-planned summer vacation) this evening, and I'm sure there will be many adventures along the way!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Girl I Used to Be

Being in Louisiana this past weekend has brought back so many memories of my junior-high years when we lived there. It is hard to believe that's been 30 years ago. The experiences I had there are still fresh in my mind, yet a lot happens in 3 decades!

I've been trying to remember the dreams and aspirations I had as a 13-year-old. Did I imagine myself in 30 years? I doubt it. How can a barely-teen-age girl possibly conceive of what it's like to be a middle-aged woman? I do know this much: being middle-aged is nothing like what I thought it would be. In my mind, I am not 43! But... it doesn't matter. Life is good, and I am happy with who I am.

As I've been contemplating these things I was reminded of this poem I came across several years ago:

She came tonight as I sat alone..
The girl I used to be....
And she gazed at me with her earnest eyes
And questioned reproachfully:

Have you forgotten the many plans
And hopes I had for you?
The great career, the splendid fame,
All the wonderful things to do?

Where is the mansion of stately height
With all its gardens rare?
The silken robes that I dreamed for you
And the jewels in your hair?

And as she spoke, I was very sad
For I wanted her to be pleased with me...
This slender girl from the shadowy past
The girl that I used to be.

So gently rising, I took her hand
And guided her up the stairs
Where peacefully sleeping, my babies lay
Innocent, sweet, and fair.

And I told her that these are my only gems,
And precious they are to me;
That silken robes, is my motherhood
Of costly simplicity.

My mansion of stately height is love,
And the only career I know
Is serving each day in these sheltered walls
For the dear ones who come and go.

And as I spoke to my shadowy guest,
She smiled through her tears at me.
And I saw the woman that I am now
Pleased the girl I used to be.

~Author unknown

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Family Time in Louisiana

I love living in the Northwest, but my roots are in the South. It has been 14 years since I have been to Louisiana, so in spite of the circumstances I am thoroughly enjoying my time here.

I had forgotten (or maybe just didn't appreciate before) how good the food is! We got here Friday morning and so far I have enjoyed fried catfish, boiled crab, jambalaya, and the most divine pastries! Mmmm...
It had been so long since I had eaten crabs that my cousin had to remind me how to get them open! We ate crabs til my mouth tingled! Mmmm...

I also hear my accent coming back. I know, some would say I have never lost it, but I know I don't sound as Southern as the people around here!

Getting together with family and rediscovering my roots is such an important part of life. We miss MawMaw, but we know she's enjoying Heaven, so we don't wish her back.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Evening Photography

We were in McCall, Idaho for the holiday weekend. We went to the lake to see the fireworks on the 4th of July. It was fun to experiment with some of the settings on our camera that evening.

The "sunset light" setting worked great for pictures of the actual sunset on the lake...
It didn't do so well for close-up pictures...
Then I changed to the "fireworks" setting and handed the camera to Lyle. His hands are steadier than mine.
I thought it was neat how it captured the fireworks with squiggly lines!
Of course, this is not what they actually looked like.
But I like the pictures anyway!
These 2 (above and below) are my favorites.

In other news, I have received word this week that my grandmother will be going to Heaven soon. My daughters and I are going to fly to Louisiana tomorrow night. I don't know if we'll get there before she slips away, but either way I just felt like I wanted to go be with my Dad at this time.

As I was posting the sunset and fireworks pictures just now I couldn't help but think about a song one of my uncles shared at my grandfather's funeral in 2007:
As I wander today, 'neath the setting sun,
I dream of the days long ago.
And it seems I was traveling home once more
with loved ones I used to know.

At sundown--I'm going home.
At sundown--no more to roam.
Sweet voices are calling, calling me
and I'm going home at sundown.

Now the sun of my life is sinking low
And my steps quicker grow as before
For my loved ones I know are waiting now
To welcome me home once more.

At sundown--I'm going home.
At sundown--no more to roam.
Sweet voices are calling, calling me
and I'm going home at sundown.

It's such a bittersweet time of parting and celebration... letting a loved one go. Kinda like watching the sun go down, and then rejoicing to see the sky explode with a riot of glorious colors.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Family Camp in the Mountains

For the 4th of July weekend we are heading to a family camp in the mountains. It's about a 7-hour drive on a 2-lane highway. But with scenery like this along the way, who cares?!?
This is our second year to attend this camp. We look forward to seeing my brother and his family, as well as enjoying some refreshing services in the relaxing mountain setting.

Hope you're having a great weekend, too, whatever your plans are!