Denver, a few boring stops, Georgia and home!

Our trip to Denver was supposed to be a non-event.  We even left a little later to  arrive when Jen was home.   It’s a beautiful ride on I70 from Grand Junction through Glenwood Canyon where the Colorado river flows right next to the highway.  Just 1 1/2 hrs. from Denver we came to a dead stop.  Nothing was moving.  We went about 5 miles in 1 hour.  After all the discussions about pros and cons traveling in a motor home I now realize the ultimate benefit of having a bathroom handy when you need one!

When the traffic finally started moving we passed an area where a cleanup had occurred.  Later we learned that a truck full of grapes overturned.  It made a bloody mess!

Margaritas!
When we finally arrived at Jen’s we were so ready for dinner and margaritas!

We spent 4 fabulous days with Jen and Bill. They introduced us to some new dining spots. We also saw a concert at Red Rocks – Lyle Lovett for the 3rd year in a row!

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Tailgating before the concert

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Getting ready for the show

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Robert Earl Keen opened the show. He was great! He and Lyle are old Texas buddies. REK came out several times and played with Lyle.

Dale Chihuly Exhibit - Denver Botanical Gardens
Our last night in Denver was drizzly and chilly but we still wanted to see the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Denver Botanical Gardens. It was well worth seeing at night when the sculptures are lit.

Dale Chihuly Exhibit - Denver Botanical Gardens

Dale Chihuly Exhibit - Denver Botanical Gardens

Dale Chihuly Exhibit - Denver Botanical Gardens
This isn’t a very good picture but the sculpture was massive and teeming with curly glass flames

Sadly it was time to head back east. We decided to head straight for home and take the shortest route. That made for 2 long driving days and 2 uninspiring stops – Kansas City and Nashville. We’ll have to visit them again to see the sights.

Bailey perches on the suitcase
Bailey does well in the car. This trip he decided that a perch on the suitcase was comfortable

We were happy to make an unplanned stop in Ellijay, GA to visit Skip’s sister, Nancy, for one night. She and husband Don live up in the mountains of Georgia full of lush forests and curvy, steep roads. It was so much fun to see them and take a break from driving.

Kitty? What kitty?
Kitty? What kitty?

We made it home with 1 more long day of driving. What a great trip! I especially enjoyed spending time with family. After helping Jen with a few projects she said that we could start a reality TV show where we drive around the country and help family and friends redecorate!

Canyonlands

We spent our last day in Moab touring Canyonlands National Park.  We got an early start expecting the same scorching weather and were pleasantly surprised with the cloud cover and cooler temps at higher elevation.

Canyonlands

Canyonlands was much less crowded than Arches.  It sits about 30 miles from Moab and is a huge park.  We covered the Island in the Sky section which is only a small section of the park.

Our first views at Grand View Point overlook were breathtaking.

Grand View

We followed a trail around the rim and each turn gave us impressive views.

Canyonlands

Grand View

It gave me butterflies to be so close to the edge!

Grand View

Green RiverOur next stop was the Green River overlook. You can see the river in the distance.

Upheaval Dome
This is Upheaval Dome. They’re not sure how it was formed – earth movement or meteor hit.

Flowers

Mesa Arch
Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch

Shafer Canyon
Shafer Canyon where jeeps and off road vehicles can take the spiraling road down. No thanks!

Edge on the edge
Edge on the edge

We got a leisurely start the next day for the trip to Denver. We didn’t want to arrive too early since Jen was working. As it turned out, we didn’t have to worry about arriving early. There was a big traffic mess on I70 where we only traveled about 5 miles in one hour. A truck full of grapes had overturned and made a mess on the highway.

We’re in Denver enjoying our visit with Jen and Bill. Sadly, Jackson is not with them any more. He was such a sweet dog and it’s hard to be here without him.

Jackson
I did a painting of Jackson – He was a sweetie

Arches

After leaving Alan to enjoy his new kitchen we headed north and east to Moab, Utah for a few days of recovery.  We love visiting National Parks and wanted to cross Arches and Canyonlands off our list.

Landscape Arch

We got an early start on our visit to Arches since it promised to be very hot.  It was already over 90 degrees at 9am!  Thankfully our longest hike of the day was partly in the shade.

Hiking Park Avenue
We hiked Park Avenue, a long canyon with tall rock spires that resemble buildings

Arches National Park
Rock skyscrapers

Arches National Park

Resting rock
Wedged rock

Rock swirls
Rock Swirls

I made it to Landscape Arch
I made it to Landscape Arch. It got too hot for Skip.

Landscape Arch
Landscape Arch

Ancient rock walls
Millions of years of formation make beautiful colors

Devils Garden
This spot is called Fiery Furnace

Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch is the most recognizable but this is as close as we got. It was over 100 degrees in the sun and we had no enthusiasm for walking that far.

Arches National Park
Red scenery

The park was crowded with mostly foreign tourists and families with surly teenagers glued to their phones. The foreigners are not at all friendly. Most have that pinched, pained look that I saw in France. I practiced saying bon jour to people and got a few responses and strange looks!

Resting in the shade
Skip takes a break in the shade

Turret Arch
Turret Arch

North window
North Window

Under North Window
Underside of North Window

Balanced Rock
Balanced Rock

106 degrees!
106 degrees back in Moab!

Our first night in Moab we found an amazing restaurant with the best sushi I can remember eating. Sabaku Sushi was so good we ate there the 2nd night too!

We spent today in Canyonlands and, thankfully, it was much cooler.  Tomorrow we’re off to Denver where I’ll post more photos.  The wifi here is painfully slow!

Before and After

When we visited my brother Alan last summer, he asked us for some ideas to spruce up his cabin in Strawberry, AZ.  I picked out paint colors and he fixed up the bathroom on his own.  This trip we planned to update his kitchen in 3 days.  Skip and I love this stuff!

A family project
Me and my little bro enjoying the finished project.  (The cabinets are blue, not purple!)

He sent me some pictures and we did some planning ahead of time.  I have to say that I was a little skeptical that we could pull this off.

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This is the ‘before’ shot. The room was very brown and looked dated.  It also needed some major Harriet-style cleaning!

Big improvement
Here’s the ‘after’ shot. A big improvement, so much brighter.

Kitchen project underway
This is what the room looked like when we arrived. Alan had already painted the walls and removed the cabinet doors.

Alan sands the doors
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On the first day Alan and Skip sanded the doors and cabinets

Cabinets painted, primer coat on the countertop
By the end of day 1 we had the cabinets painted, sink removed and primer coat on the countertop

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On day 2 we hung the cabinet doors after Skip installed new hardware. Alan and I did a faux finish on the countertops to make them look like granite. The Giani paint kit was very easy to do and came out better than I expected. We applied 3 different colors over the black base coat using crumpled plastic bags. Then we used small brushes to paint veins. The last coat was a clear topcoat. It was very easy and fun to do.

Second coat
Countertop with 2 coats of faux granite paint applied

Looks like granite!
This is after I applied the topcoat. Looks pretty good compared to the ugly formica!

Bailey is interested
Alan hooks up the new sink. Bailey is interested in the flashlight!

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Day 3 – Skip and Alan install new lights and fan.

Alan's spruced up kitchen
Just about done. Alan installed the blinds after we left and hung up some pictures. It looks so much better!  He found the hutch at a local shop.

New rug
We even got a new rug. Alan is going to look for new chairs and paint the door blue.

It was a tiring 3 days but very satisfying.  Alan was so enthusiastic and not daunted by any task.  He also was not too proud to let his sister clean his kitchen!

Taos treasures

I love the southwest.  For one thing, it’s dry and cool here.  What a difference from Florida and Texas! Oh, and the food is Amazing.

View on the high road to Taos
View along the high road to Taos

On the drive up to Taos we saw the temperature drop to 61 degrees.  Haven’t seen that in a while!  The high road winds through pine forests and between mountains.

It’s pretty much a single road through town.  Our hotel is within walking distance of the central plaza where most of the shops and restaurants are.  It’s fun to stroll around and visit the many art galleries and shops selling local crafts.

Taos Pueblo
One of the most interesting attractions is the Taos Pueblo. It’s considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the US.

An Indian guide gave us an excellent tour of Taos Pueblo. It was fascinating to learn about her community from her perspective. I can’t help feeling bad when reminded how much native people lost when we took over their lands. Her tribe has lived there over 1000 years. They don’t have a written language so their culture is passed on orally. The artisans in the community do beautiful work.

Newer church
The ‘new’ church combines Catholicism with the native religion

Ovens
Ovens used to bake bread

Original church
The original church was built in 1619 and destroyed in 1848 during the US war with Mexico

Taos Pueblo
People still live in the adobe homes without any modern conveniences

Red willow river is the life blood of Taos Pueblo
Red Willow creek is the life blood of the community.

Original church at Taos Pueblo
Taos Pueblo is surrounded by mountains

Another amazing site near Taos is the bridge over the Rio Grande gorge. You’re just driving along until you come to a huge gash in the ground. Walking over the bridge is dizzying!

It's a long way down
It’s a long way down

Rio Grande gorge bridge
Rio Grande gorge bridge

Overlooking the Rio Grande

Hollyhock
Hollyhocks blooming in town

We drove out to Arroyo Seco to explore and have lunch. It’s a small artist community about 7 miles from Taos. We found some excellent pottery there and some of the best burritos in recent memory at a place called Abe’s. The chicken burritos with both green and red chile sauce (Christmas!) were awesome.

Dinner at the Taos Ale House was also a winner. The green chile burger was delicious as well as the local brews. They had both duck fat and truffle fries on the menu. A double whammy!

Today we visited the Millicent Rogers museum which houses an eclectic collection of southwestern history. The exhibits covered southwestern jewelry, ceramics, weaving and art. It’s too bad we missed the Fred Harvey exhibit that’s scheduled to open in a few weeks since Skip’s grandmother was a Harvey girl. We still have a Navajo blanket that she got when working in a Harvey House.

Tomorrow we head to Strawberry, AZ, home of cogdog (AKA, my brother Alan)!

Finding the blues in Austin

We were here
Visiting Austin

Our focus of the Austin stop was to check out the music scene.  Luckily, we found a LaQuinta (dog friendly) within walking distance to 6th street where all the clubs are located.  It reminded me a lot of Bourbon Street, maybe a little less smelly.

The street is lined with clubs and bars, most with live music starting in the afternoon and lasting until the wee hours of the morning.  Of course we had to find a good barbecue place for dinner and Stubb’s fit the bill.  I had seen Stubb’s  listed as one of the top music venues in the country.  They didn’t have anyone interesting when we were there but the barbecue was awesome!

We started our next day with a visit to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library a short distance away on the UT campus.  The library underwent a major renovation a few years ago.  The exhibits were interesting and very well done.  The 60′s were more Skip’s era than mine but so many things brought back memories for me as well.

LBJ's pens
LBJ’s pens

Studying the presidents and their wives
Studying the presidents and their wives

LBJ
LBJ

Signed by Abe
Signed by Abe

Favorite memories of my youth
I loved Spirograph. My sister had white patent leather gogo boots that she let me wear sometimes. I have a picture somewhere…

Loved Twister too!
I loved Twister too.

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Here’s the evidence – playing Twister in our backyard with neighbors Peg and Doug and disinterested Alan.

We just read her book
What a surprise to see this display. We just listened to her book about hiking the Pacific Coast Trail on the way to Austin.  It was very entertaining.

We also visited the State Capitol building where most of the rooms were closed for renovations. Once inside I remembered that I had been here before, years ago when I went to Austin for work. I was not thrilled about that trip since I would be away for our 3rd wedding anniversary. The staff in the office I visited were very gracious and took me around after work to see the city.

State Capitol - largest in the US
Impressive Capitol and beautiful grounds

Rotunda floor
Rotunda Floor

Looking up
Looking up

Yes, we're in Texas
In case you have any doubt where you are

Old in new reflection
Old mixed with new

In the evening we heard a blues band play before heading over to Moonshine for dinner. Thanks Dan & Donna for the recommendation – it was great. Skip tried the cucumber mint moonshine. I stayed safe with white wine!

Today we drove to Clovis, NM. Tomorrow, Taos!

BTW, thanks to Chris and Janet who are staying at our house and keeping our pool from getting too lonely!

Road Trip 2014

We’re off again on our 2nd annual summer road trip.  Our first stop was Pensacola, FL, the new home of our beloved Moondance.  When I contacted Mark and Mary, the new owners, they graciously offered to meet up and have drinks on the boat.  I had mixed feelings about seeing the boat.  I still miss our sailing adventures and have great memories of living aboard.  In reality though, I don’t miss the maintenance and anxiety of dealing with the weather!

We originally planned to just stop for one night in Pensacola but when I did some research and discovered that the #1 attraction was the Naval Air Museum, I knew we had to extend our stay.  As a real treat, Mark offered to give us a tour of the museum.  He’s a former Naval pilot and gave us so much more insight to the museum.
Naval Flight Museum
The museum is loaded with planes from the earliest days of flight through modern times. The large plane in this photo is the first plane to fly over the Atlantic.

Naval Flight Museum
Flying Tiger

Home of the Blue Angels
This is the home base for the Blue Angels. They were having a show the day we left. Oh well, we just saw them last month when they flew over our house for the Vero Air show.

Mark shows the F14 - He used to fly them!
Mark shows us his ‘baby’ – the F14 – He used to fly them!

Painting the Pensacola Lighthouse
We also got to see the Pensacola Lighthouse getting a new paint job

Pensacola
And of course we had to see the beach!

Mark and Mary - New owners of Moondance
The highlight of our visit was having happy hour on Moondance with Mark and Mary. They plan to go cruising next year and I can’t wait to read her blog!

Bailey makes himself at home on Moondance
Bailey makes himself at home on Moondance. He even chased the birds away!

We left Pensacola this morning and ended up in Lake Charles, LA. It’s just a stop-over. Although we found a great restaurant and took a peek at the lake, it seems the highlight of this town is gambling (ugh!)

Tomorrow, we’re off to Austin, TX.

Luberon Villages

We spent our last day touring in Provence in the Luberon hills.  This is a beautiful area of countryside filled with small villages perched on high hills, vineyards, lavender fields and orchards. Perched village of Gordes Gordes sits in tiers on the hillside overlooking a vast valley Luberon Valley Roussillon Roussillon is known for its red ochre. You can see the various shades of ochre in the buildings Red ochre hills of Roussillon Red ochre hills Many different shades of ochre Many different shades. I bought some watercolor pigments here to try! Painted door Roussillon Beautiful colors on the church Roussillon Olive picking ladder

Olive picking ladder Roussillon Provence Julien Bridge Julien bridge – The only remaining Roman bridge on what was once the main road from Italy to Provence. It’s over 2000 years old and used until 2005. We had lunch in Lourmain and continued on to Cucuron which has a lovely lake surrounded by 200-year-old Plane trees. Cucuron Cucuron Laden cherry trees Cherry trees  loaded with fruit Ansouis Castle in Ansouis

Ansouis church

Ansouis church

Ansouis

I took so many pictures of windows

Our last stop was the Val Joanis winery near Pertuis. It’s one of the largest in Provence. We walked around the gardens before tasting their wines. We bought a bottle for dinner. I’m hooked on Provencal wines! Garden at Val Joanis winery near Pertuis Garden

We’ve been home a week now and I’m almost adjusted to the time difference. I loved everything about France – the food, wine, scenery, culture, art and people were wonderful. I can’t wait to go back!

Here are some notes I took about our trip (in case you want to follow in our footsteps):

Boat notes:

LeBoat was a very good charter company. Our boat was a newer model and everything worked well. Although they advertise that non-boaters can easily manage their boats on the canal, I think that it would be a challenge for someone not familiar with living on and handling boats.

We purchased the starter provisioning package which had a decent supply of food, water and wine. I was surprised at some things that were missing – soap (dish and hand), dish sponge, trash bags, only 1 roll of toilet paper per head, cutting board, a knife that you could actually cut something with! We ended up buying a corkscrew because the one on the boat was not very good and we were exercising it often.

It was chillier than I expected in May and very windy. We had 3 days of cool, rainy weather. Forget the hat and sandals and bring more jackets!

Provisions were good in Homps and Capestang. Sketchy in many small villages when you could find a store that was open.

We used the laundry in the Capestang marina. Don’t waste your money on the dryer – it didn’t work.

We paid extra for wifi on the boat and it was good in most places.

Secure your bikes in a place that would be difficult for someone to step on the boat and help themselves. The locks provided aren’t the greatest but you can make it difficult for thieves.

If you use the stakes to moor your boat on the side of the canal in high winds, go to the leeward side.  Even if your boy scout captain secures the boat, you may return from lunch and find it on the other side of the canal.

The cruising guides aren’t great.  I’m used to the abundance of information available when cruising the east coast and Bahamas.  LeBoat provides a book with some information but you should try and supplement it with more details about the various towns, locations of grocery stores and restaurants.  It would be nice to know where things were their operating hours.

Don’t be freaked out about the locks and bridges.  Once you do one, you’ll quickly get the hang of it.  Boats can’t go any faster than 5 knots and they’re surrounded with bumpers so you can’t get into too much trouble!

Aix-en-Provence and Cassis

The second day of our Provence tour included a walking tour of Aix and a visit to Cassis on the Mediterranean coast. In Aix we walked the narrow cobblestone streets of the medieval section. There are several markets to explore. We also visited the newer side where Cezanne was born, lived and studied.

Flower market
Street markets are open several days a week and are full of lush flowers, fruits, vegetables and local items. I wish I could shop like this back home!

Pretty garlic

PotteryLove these!

Lush cherries
We saw heavily laden cherry trees in the countryside

Look at the variety of fish
Look at the variety of fresh fish

Delicious sausages
Yummy

Melons
These small melons are delicious with Serrano ham

Tomatoes
I yearn for tomatoes like these

Entrance to the old city
Entrance to the old city – small for protection

Cathedral Saint-Sauveur
Saint-Sauver is a 4th century cathedral with ancient roman columns. It was built on a Roman site. Inside you can see the remains of a Roman road.

Cours Mirabeau
Cours Mirabeau is the central avenue and hub of the city. On market days the streets are lined with vendors

Heading to the Mazarin Quarter
Walking through the newer side of town, the Mazarin section was built during the time of Louis XIV for the wealthy to live

Fountain of natural ground water keeps the moss growing
This curious fountain is covered with moss because it’s fed with ground water

On the way to Cassis we stopped to gaze at Mont St. Victoire from the spot where Cezanne painted it many times. I still remember standing in front of his painting in the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Standing where Cezanne painted Mont St. Victoire

Mont St Victoire
What an inspiring view

When Sarah said that we were going to visit Cassis on the Mediterranean coast and take a boat ride my heart did a little skip. Boat ride? Oh yes!

Cassis
Cassis is located on the quieter end of the Mediterranean coast, away from the bustle of the Cote d’Azur.

We had lunch at one of the seafood restaurants that line the shore. I had to have mussels and fries again. This time, Rick-style with Roquefort cheese!

Lovely white wine
Lovely wine from a local vineyard

Mediterranean shoreline
I had to walk down to beach and stick my feet in the water. Chilly!

We took a boat ride out to visit the calanques, rocky inlets along the coast.

Safe harbor

Calanque
Secluded beach

To end a perfect day we stood on the top of the highest maritime cliff in Europe.

Beautiful shoreline

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This is hard to beat!

I’m in love with Provence!

Sunflowers

We spent 3 wonderful days touring Provence with Sarah from Discover Provence.  She picked us up each day and introduced us to the beauty of Provence.  Talk about no stress!  We didn’t have to figure out where to go, how to get there, where to park and what to see.  Plus, we were only with 2 other couples, not a herd of people.  We learned so much about the history, art and culture of Provence. I can’t wait to go back and see more!

Enjoying our tour with Sarah - Discover Provence
Enjoying our tour with Sarah. We highly recommend her tours!

Our first day’s theme was Van Gogh and the historical sites in Arles.  We visited places where Van Gogh painted and lived.

Van Gogh's Yellow House
Yellow House

Roman Arena
Roman Arena – They still hold bull fights here

Love the colors of Provence
Love the colors of Provence

Van Gogh painted here
Courtyard of a local hospital where Van Gogh was taken.

These are the only Van Gogh Paintings you'll see in Arles
Sadly, these are the only paintings you’ll see in Arles. Van Gogh became famous after his death and most of his paintings ended up in The Van Gogh museum in The Netherlands

We visited an olive mill and learned how olive oil is made.

Tasting olive oils
After a few tastes, we had to bring some home!

Roman Arch near Glanum
Roman arch near the archeological site of Glanum

Glanum
Glanum was discovered in 1927. Hard to believe they uncovered a 7th century B.C. Roman city that lay below the surface for a few thousand years. It’s only partly excavated because they ran out of money.

Glanum

Reconstructed columns that show the original height of buildings
Reconstructed column that shows the height of the original city

Glanum
It’s humbling to walk on an ancient site and think about the people who lived there

St. Paul Monastery
This is St. Paul Monastery where Van Gogh lived and did most of his painting. His painting career lasted only a few years but left a huge impression on the world

Van Gogh
He was not a happy man

View from Van Gogh's bedroom window
View of the gardens from Van Gogh’s bedroom

Poppies

Enjoying Van Gogh sites
We really enjoyed learning about Van Gogh today!