Along the Natchez Trace

Saturday, October 31, 2015


My last post was about the Panama Canal.  Our cruise lasted 10 days and had 5 stops.  The canal was actually stop #3.  

The first stop was in Aruba...
The water in the Caribbean is so beautiful... blues and greens and all shades in between.  The various depths and reefs create gorgeous colors.  The beaches here are lovely as well.  This is a view from our balcony as we were arriving into port.

Bill & I had spent time in Aruba in the past so chose to just walk around town rather than take an excursion tour.  I took this photo of Bill as we were heading to an internet cafe.  When I got on-line I found that there was a geocache hidden at this site.  So..  of course I had to return here to find it.... it was hidden in the back of the heart...  wooohooo...  another find!

Had we wanted to take a tour there were lots of different buses, taxis, and type of transportation.  I thought this Banana Bus was pretty neat.  Kinda reminds me of those hippy buses of the 1970's.

We wandered about town for a while...  stopped in this bar.
Those are bottle caps of the kinds of beer they have here.  Isn't this a unique way to decorate?  And...  do you see those dollar bills taped up on the bar?

There were hundreds of them - all over the walls and the ceiling.  Most were American dollars but there were other types of currency as well.  Many of the bills had the name of the "donor" written on with a Sharpie.  Sure hope the place doesn't catch on fire...  might be legal tinder instead of legal tender.

We didn't just stop in the bar to see the decor...
Had to have a local beer while in port...
That's Bill having breakfast....  with our ship in the background.

Actually I had another reason I wanted to walk around town...
I lost one of my earrings when we were in Maine this past summer.  (how in the world does a person lose a screw-on earring?)  Anyway, no tax or duty to pay here, so we got a mate to make a pair again.  

We didn't see many birds on this trip.  The usual pelicans and various sea gulls.  But we did see quite a few Boobys.  (do I hear some wise-cracks?)

We only spent a few hours in Aruba, but with temps in the 90's, sunny skies and beautiful scenery, it was just fine.

Back on the ship...
These shots are some of the dishes served each night.
In some cases, the presentation was nicer than the food itself.  We were a bit disappointed at times...  tough meat, under toasted toast,  french toast like leather...  some dishes without much taste. 
Usually cruise food is outstanding...  this time not so much.
So...  how did I manage to gain 6 pounds in 10 days?

That's All For Today!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Panama Canal

We got back last night from the cruise  - now we're busy doing laundry, grocery shopping and all those things.  It was a 10 day cruise and while the ship stopped in Aruba, Cartenaga Columbia, Limon Costa Rica, and Grand Cayman, the reason most folks were aboard was the visit to the Panama Canal.

You may be familiar with the layout, but, if not, I'll describe a little about how it works.  Coming into the canal from the Atlantic side (Caribbean Sea) you enter the locks that raise you to a higher level into Gatun Lake.  This is a series of 3 locks (there are 2 separate channels allowing 2 lanes to travel at the same time)....  after traversing these, the ship is now in Gatun Lake...  which is 50 miles long.  There is one set of locks somewhere in the middle.  At the end of the lake, the ship travels through the third set of locks that put you into the Pacific Ocean.

A lot of cruise ships only go through the first set of locks, into Gaton Lake....  then moor long enough to allow any passengers going ashore to board smaller boats (the ship's lifeboats) to tender into shore.  The ship then turns around and goes back through the locks it just came out of.  The passengers board buses or other land transportation for their tours and those buses will return them to the city of Colon, which is where the ship will be moored that evening.

Most folks take excursion tours to various parts of Panama, and the tour Bill & I chose to take took us to Panama City.  So...  here are some photos of our adventure...

Arriving at the locks....
A lot of passengers started gathering on the outside decks just before daybreak.  We were "scheduled" to start our passage around 7am, but that is dependent on how many ships are in line ahead of you.

The decks were very crowded, and that and the tinted glass made it difficult to get good photos.  I snuggled my camera in between people, panes of glass or whatever I could to get some shots.

I did manage to get some decent shots...  like this one which shows a military ship going through the slot on the left.  You can see that it is already in the lock and the water has been raised to take it up to the next level.

Another view....  taken through glass, but it shows that ship at the next level.

These engines, called "mules", hook cables onto the ships and pull them through the water into place.  A big ship like our cruise ship has only 2' space on each side when inside a lock.

In this photo our ship has entered the first lock.  The water level is being raised to the next level.  The 3 levels of the locks can all be used at the same time...  the gates that hold back the water can be opened or closed to change the water levels.

We're in the second level here and I'm looking back behind us.  There is a ship coming into the lock behind us, and a Container ship coming into the lock on the left.  

Our ship went through and into Gatun Lake.  We disembarked and met up with the bus that would take us on our tour.

A new set of locks is in the process of being built...  completion is scheduled for next year.  This set of locks will be able to accommodate much larger ships (the original Panama Canal was completed in 1914) and those big ships will no longer have to sail all around South America to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Those new locks are very close to the old ones.  We could see construction from our bus.

Another shot from the wrong side of the bus...

Our tour took us for a tour of Panama City, but then...  we drove to the set of locks at the other end of Gatun Lake....
The Miraflora Locks are about 50 miles from where we were that morning.  While constructed exactly the same way, it was interesting to see the process from another perspective...  land instead of water.

Do you remember that photo up above of the Container Ship entering the locks to our left?  Well, it made it across the lake by late afternoon and was entering the lower locks.

You can see the "mules" hard at work, getting that ship into position and moving it into place.  It takes several mules on each side to move the big ships.

There was a large museum at this locks, explaining all about the planning and construction of the Panama Canal.  Look at all the people wearing Panama Hats!  They are a big item in all the gift shops.  Hey...  look at the far left...  that's Bill, sporting his new Panama Hat...  nice!

Also at this end of the lake is a large dam that helps control the water level of Gatun Lake.  

And, just in case you were wondering if there were any Geocaches hidden here, well....
Not hidden, but in plain sight!
A Virtual Cache...  just post a photo of yourself holding your GPS at the locks, and ... woooohoooo...  got another country under our geocaching belt.

That pretty much explains our trip through the Panama Canal...  I'll blog more about the other places we stopped...  but, in closing...
I do believe that's Panama Jack Bill, enjoying a beer.... brewed and bottled right in Panama!

That's All For Today!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I'd give you the shirt off my back..

Okay...  so most of the time this is true...  but...  here's the thing....

I love blogs and one of my very favorites is Joanne's blog..  "Cup on the Bus".  I've read it for a long time...  absolutely love Joanne's way of telling stories about her family.  She's a wonderful story teller, but the best thing is that you really feel like you know the folks she writes about.

You can read her blog, and I hope you do....  one of these days I hope to get up to NE Ohio and meet her...  walk through her town....  see the pig in her flower bed....  check out the new roof on the town hall building and really see that huge willow tree.

But...  one of the neat things is...  Joanne's a weaver.  Okay, so she put her talents on hold for a while...  raising her grandkids and all...  but now she's at it again.  She actually sent me a gift of tea towels that she wove...  and I use them every day.  

Nothing would do but I had to have one of her hand woven shirts.  She made me laugh....  I like things BIG and roomy....  she convinced me that I didn't really need a Large, that a Medium shirt would be fine.  (she was right)

I had hoped for green, but purple was all she had in stock right now...

Okay...  purple is high on my list of favorites....  we e-mailed back and forth...  today, look what I got in the mail...
 I know....  the tag is still on....  
But I couldn't wait to try it on...
Isn't it gorgeous?
Another view...

We'll be flying off to Florida come Saturday...  going on a cruise...
What nicer attire could I choose?

And you might have to fight me to get me to give you this shirt off my back!

(If you want, you can check out Joanne's other items...  I believe she has an Etsy site as well as being on Facebook)

Thank you, Joanne, for such a lovely shirt...  I think you'll be hearing from me again.

That's All For Today!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Trips and Travels...

Last week we were at the Albuquerque, NM Balloon Fiesta...  having a great time seeing all the activity.  And catching up with some family...
There's Bill and his sister, Alberta.
That's Rylee, Celeste's dog on Bill's lap.  Rylee travels well in their 5th Wheel, and gets to go along with Celeste and Victor in their travels.

Bill and I left ABQ on Monday, heading south...  stayed a night in Roswell, then on to Carlsbad Caverns.  We've toured the caves before, but neither of us had been there when the bats were.  They'll be migrating (probably to Mexico) very soon, and we wanted to watch them fly out of the cave entrance (or exit?) in the evening.  No cameras or other electronic equipment was allowed so I don't have photos...  We were seated in the amphitheater at 5:45 pm and around 6:15 the bats started out...  in a steady stream...  thousands of them!  Their departure takes about 3 hours in all...  so I suppose some folks can get bored after an hour or so...  but we watched them until the combination of fog rolling in and dark coming on got to the point we could no longer see them.  There were streams of them...  just dark lines in the sky...  as they headed out for their night's foraging.  I wish I could have taken photos...  

Carlsbad Caverns is located in SE New Mexico, and after that we headed back to Glen Rose, Texas.  No easy route...  
Lots of straight, two-lane road until we got on I 10 at Big Spring, TX.

The main industries are oil wells and cotton fields...
Sometimes the two sharing the same area....

We saw lots and lots of oil/gas activity, but very few "gate guard" motorhomes.

We did see this huge refinery...
The company is "Alon", one I'm not familiar with, however we saw several Alon service stations in SW Texas.

There was road construction along the way.  That made for some slow travel at times.
But we weren't in a big hurry...  in fact, it took us over 3 days to get from Abq. to Glen Rose.  We missed most of the rain...  kind of stayed ahead of it, so it went pretty well.

We did see this in a Roadside Rest area...
I don't know if dogs really use this, but I suppose they do if it's already been marked by another dog.  Heck, wonder whose territory it really is?

We got back to Celeste and Victors place in Glen Rose.  They won't be back for another day or so...  but I got caught up with laundry, cleaning and the such....

And Bill got caught up with...
This is Victor's dog, who didn't get to go on this trip.  Jack likes to mark his territory much too much...  Celeste would have to put that fireplug in their rig to keep him happy.
Being the bulldog that he is, Jack loves to play fetch.  However, he does not like to give back the toy to be thrown again.  As you can see, Bill can pick him clear off the ground and Jack will hang on to his prize.

We left Texas this past March, so it's kind of nice to be back here again.  But we'll be here only until next Saturday then fly off to Florida to board a cruise ship that will take us through the Panama Canal.  That is a 10 day cruise...  then back to Texas for a few weeks before we head out again.

Life is just one adventure after another!

That's All For Today!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Catching Up With a Good Friend....

Several years ago when Bill & I were volunteering at Sevilleta NWR (located about 60 miles south of Albuquerque on I 25), we were asked to man the Federal Junior Duck Stamp booth at the NM State Fair which was in ABQ.  Of course it was an assignment we were more than happy to do as we not only spent a few hours each of 4 days at the booth, but we were able to wander around the fairgrounds and take in the sights.  One of the attractions was the Native American pavilion....   Native dances with authentic attire, exhibits of art and crafts, and jewelry.   A silversmith was crafting some beautiful jewelry as we watched.  I had a bracelet that had belonged to Bill's grandmother and it was too big for my wrist.  We asked the silversmith if he could alter it.
That began our friendship with Greg Lewis, a Native American of the Laguna tribe.

Greg lives about 50 miles west of ABQ in Paquate where his family has lived for several generations.  He was born while his father was in the military, but he returned to the area after learning the silversmith art from his grandfather in California.  

As you turn off the highway to drive out to his place, there is a big sign giving directions to his and his son's metalsmith shop.  Yes, one of his sons has followed in his footsteps.

As you get closer to the second turnoff you'll see this older sign...
The Arrowhead is Greg's trademark.  It can be found on every piece of jewelry that he makes.

Greg wasn't expecting us and we found him at his studio, hard at work...
He had made this pendant and was making the silver beads that will go on the chain that holds it.  A man had a photo of his grandmother wearing a beautiful pendant and he asked Greg to duplicate it.

Greg has won awards for his jewelry all over the USA.  While he's very proud of his work (here he's showing us his photo album of some of his pieces).. and rightly so...  you'll see Blue Ribbons hanging from the ceiling and other awards stuck in picture frames and on the walls.  He's well known in the Native American art world, but you'd never guess it until you talk a while with him.

You can see that his studio isn't very big, but it fits Greg and his personality just fine!

Greg does all his work by "special order".   A few years ago Bill asked him to design a Bolo tie that would depict the Four Corners area of NM.  (Bill was born and raised just a few miles from there in Farmington)   Greg did a fantastic job of crafting not only a Bolo tie, but a matching belt buckle....  each state of the Four Corners had a stone or design indicative of that area.  (I'd include a picture, but right now that set is in our safe deposit box in Ohio).

Here's some of the jewelry he made for me...
At the left is a bear tooth I found in Maine.... he mounted the cap and turquoise stone to make it into a pendant.  The middle is a turtle... the turquoise is from Nevada.  At the right is a claw and turquoise stone which his son made.

In the course of our visit this time, Greg showed us various pieces of turquoise he has....  and then a bear claw from Alaska.  Lots of times he'll make a cast of a claw (like an eagle's talon) and then add the silver replica to his piece...  but sometimes he makes a piece out of the original.
This claw is from a bear on the Kenai...  and that's where Bill & I lived for 4 months in 2001.
Guess I couldn't live without it....  here he is, writing up the order for my newest acquisition.
The claw is just to the right of his hand.  He drew up a design we both liked....  he has some other work he has to complete, but I'll show y'all what the finished piece is when I get it in a month or so.

We left the studio to see his new home...
This collage shows some of the pictures and artwork there.
Greg's family is most important....  that's a painting of him holding his son at upper left; his wife's mother at upper right.  In the middle is a painting of Greg in front of his studio.  The lower right and left are pictures I took of him showing us photos of his grandparents and other members of his family.

We had a great visit...  
It may be a few years before we see him again, but Bill & I both smile just thinking of him when we wear his creations.

That's All For Today!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Balloon, and more Balloons!

 The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is continuing this week, but Bill and I left yesterday and headed south.  We had a great time...  got to visit with two daughters, Bill's sister, some other relatives as well as meeting some other bloggers and RVers.  We did catch up with someone else who is very special to us, but that will be another blog.

A quick recap ....  some photos of what we saw...  (the header shows a few of the hundreds of balloons we watched...  so many colors and shapes!)

These balloons were all landing just in front of us...

Gorgeous Colors!

Fun to watch other folks taking photos...

Evening Glow....

Fantastic Fireworks!

I still don't know what this  is supposed to be...  never did get to see a full front view.
Any ideas?
Looking up from the ground into the balloon...

And...  the next couple or so made me think of Judy, the Bird Woman...
If you read her blog, you know why....

The "Three Birds" Balloon....
Top one is kinda blurry, but you get the idea...
Now...  I wonder how this one would be IDed...  a Triple-headed, tri-breasted,  multi-colored mutant bird?
We'd been to the Fiesta a few times and I've taken a balloon ride in the past, so while we had a wonderful time, 5 days was enough this time around.  

Of course I have several hundred photos of those 5 days...  including a few restaurants, some family shots, and various other things, so they just might show up in the next week or so.

That's All For Today!