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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Okay, keep the noise down.  I know, I haven’t written in a while.  Where have I been, what have I been doing?  Not much that was different from before.  I was just trying to manage my energy.  Sometimes fibromyalgia requires that.  So I have been doing the most urgent things and putting the rest out of sight and out of mind.  But my energy seems to be returning and I hope to be “spouting off” on a more regular basis again.

To begin, let me tell you where I am.  I flew to Florida yesterday to visit a dear friend in Leesburg.  I’ve written about him before though you would not have known it.  But he’s having tough times and needs to be cheered and encouraged.  I flew into the Orlando airport from the airport in Hartford, CT.  This is only the second time I have traveled solo; the prior time was last month when I went to SD for the blessing of my friends’ house on Pine Ridge Reservation.  I will say that was easier, even though I had to cross the entire O’Hare Airport to make my connection.  Both flights were pleasant enough.  The difference is driving.

There are far too many drivers for my liking in Florida — definitely more than in South Dakota.  I’m not a big fan of traffic!  But I made it safely and not too stresses.

The images I’d like to leave you with are the ones that greeted me as I drove from the airport.

The first was the sun.  It was just above the western horizon as I left.  It looked huge, at least three times the side the sun usually appears.  Due to the slight haze in the sky, it appeared as a gigantic orange ball.  However, it did not have the glare that the sun usually has as you drive toward it.  So you could actually look at it and appreciate the beauty.  I wished my camera was not packed.  The sky was amazing shades of blue and what we, as children, had called “sky blue pink” for lack of more accurate color names.  Perhaps you know the colors I mean.

As the sun was dipping in the western sky, the full moon was rising in the eastern sky.  It, too, looked immense.  It seemed to fill the sky.  It was simply beautiful and very bright.

I am a big nature fan and it almost felt as if these beauties were God’s gift to me for daring to take this trip and travel alone again.  I knew I was grateful for the gift.

I think it is so important to accept the gifts we are given, especially when we aren’t expecting them.  When ;you are a giver, it is important to remember how to receive.  It helps you understand the other person, the recipient of your own gifts.

Time to run.  But I promise there will be more to read now.  I’ve missed writing.  That too is a gift.

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Canadian Shorts

It has been a whirlwind couple of days to start this much needed vacation.  I am sitting in my hotel room in Calagary, Alberta, Canada this morning doing two things — trying to think about what I want to write and dreading going out into the cold.  Canada uses metrics, for the most part, so I’ve already spent the better part of two days watching temperatures of -15 to -20 degrees Celsius on the thermometer in the car.  Thank God for heated seats!

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Air Canada rocks!!  I have never been on planes that were so clean.  The attendants are totally professional and pleasant.  The planes have personal video screens with a large choice of programs:  TV, movies, sports, news as well as the GPS so you can see how far into the trip you are.  There are plenty of music choices as well.  Wish Air Canada operated between US cities!

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Courtesy.  It is one of the striking things about the Canadian people that there is so much courtesy.  I’m not talking about the stiff, rule driven kind of courtesy you find in some places.  I’m talking about the kind of courtesy that stems from one individual respecting and caring about another individual.  Doors are held for others.  Drivers in the parking garage after a hockey game let each other proceed.  Children who get into the elevator first will ask an adult “Which floor would you like?”

The one that really made be believe that it must be inbred was the 20-something man at the Calgary Flames hockey game.  I was standing at the condiment stand getting some ketchup.  He wanted to get some napkins, which were to my left side, as he was.  Though he could have reached in and gotten them without getting into my way, he actually said, “Pardon my reach,” as he reached in for the napkins.  Pardon my reach?!  I haven’t heard that since my grandparents were alive.  How refreshing!

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I really do love Canada and Canadians.

I will have more to say in the days ahead.

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Today was the last day of vacation, after a week of relaxing in Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area.  Yellowstone is one of my favorite places in the entire country — and having been to all 50 states, I have seen some wonderful sights.  But Yellowstone is a place that is continuing creation in a way, since it sits atop a volcano and has incredible geothermal features.  It has an inexplicable energy that permeates the park.  So I was rather reluctant to leave.
Another reason for my reluctance to leave was the long drive ahead of us.  We had to travel back to Salt Lake City, UT.  Tomorrow we will fly from Salt Lake City back to the East Coast . . . and home.  We decided to take the “low roads” back instead of the highways we had traveled to get to Yellowstone last week.  We prefer being able to take breaks as well as having more interesting sights to see.  We began by exiting Yellowstone through the south gate, which led us into Teton National Park.  The mountains there are breathtaking.
However, after a long morning of driving (we left at 8 AM and it was now 12:30 PM) we arrived at Afton, Wyoming.  We had taken this route on our first trip to Yellowstone and I remembered the antler arch that stretches across the street (see photo above).  The town is quaint and historic.  You can read more about it on Wikipedia (search Afton, WY) or at the town’s own website http://aftonwyoming.net .
This story is not about the population (about 2000), the income levels, unemployment rates or any other demographic statistic.  It is also not about how scenic Afton is nor about the activities available.  It is not even about the fact that Afton, WY boasts an Olympic gold medalist (Rulon Gardner).
This story is about people behaving well, showing kindness and compassion and bringing a warm smile to me after a long ride.
We stopped at the Burger King located in Afton for one of our stretch breaks and decided to have a quick burger to hold us until we got to Salt Lake City for dinner.  While my husband ordered, I chose a table and sat down.  I chose the right table as things turned out.
There were 3 elderly ladies in front of my husband.  As they got their orders, they were assisted by one of the Burger King employees to get their food to the table they chose directly behind me.  As the party went past me, I noticed that the Burger King employee who helped them was a young woman with Down’s Syndrome.  When the ladies realized that they needed ketchup, she offered to get it for them and returned with 3 small cups of ketchup on a tray.   After the ketchup was delivered, one of the elderly women tipped her (no, I don’t know how much) and she was so pleased.  So was I.  I admire a place that respects handicapped individuals and I respect people who do the same, as the 3 elders did.  They did not patronize this young women.  They treated her with respect.
It was the next event that really solidified my respect for the people of Afton.  After assisting the 3 women, the young woman sat at a nearby table to do a task that many would find tedious.  She was stacking numerous, loose little paper cups used for ketchup into a bin.  She was taking great pains to be sure the stacks were straight and neat when she accidentally bumped a stack, scattering several dozen paper cups across the floor near her feet.
The young woman was momentarily flustered.  I watched in both pleasure and awe as 2 children, obviously siblings, looked at each other and then went to work.  The boy and girl, in the age range of perhaps 8-11, picked up all of the stray cups off the floor and returned them to the grateful young woman.  Then they simply went into the playroom to meet a parent and left.
Perhaps it seems a small thing to you.  Or perhaps you expect unattended children to act like the ones I described.  Personally, I don’t expect it in this day and age.  I have seen far too many children who pay no attention to anyone or anything except their own interests and desires.  So frankly, I thought this was a big thing.  I thought to myself, “Those parents have done a terrific job of raising their children!”
There may yet be hope for the future.  If parents in Afton, WY can do it right, perhaps more parents can start to figure out how to raise children who are kind, compassionate and respectful.  I looked for the children and parents after I finished eating but they had already departed.  I really wanted to tell the parents how proud they should be of their children.  Since I couldn’t find them, I’m using this post to say what I would have said.
You must be very proud to have children who show respect and caring without being told to.  They did what was helpful and kind.  It may have been a small task but it was done without a second thought.  They didn’t debate if they should help — they just did it.  It really brought me joy to see it and I want to thank you for raising such “good” children. 
If the other children in Afton are raised as well as the 2 I watched, then Afton must be a special place.

 

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I am not in California but I have had my fill of California drivers.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I like people from California; I even have friends from California.

But California drivers DO NOT BELONG driving in the country.

I am on what should be a relaxing, pleasant vacation in Yellowstone National Park.  It is not my first time visiting Yellowstone.  I am back for the third time because it is one of my favorite places in the country.  I traveled all the way from the East Coast to be here.

Since I am familiar with Yellowstone, I am familiar with the “rules of the road” as well as “bear jams,” “buffalo jams” and “any other animal or interesting sight jams.”  Typically, people are relatively courteous about where they park and how they drive.  But not the California drivers we’ve seen in the past 3 days.

There are many RV’s and campers traveling through Yellowstone.  Yes, they can be a nuisance since they take up so much room on the roads and in the parking areas.  However, most campers are very courteous.  They use the many pullouts that the National Park Service has created to avoid traffic back-ups due to hill-climbing large vehicles.

Apparently, this rule of courtesy does not apply to California RV’s and campers.  The only vehicles we have had to follow at speeds well under the speed limit, often in caravans of a dozen or more cars, have been vehicles from California.  I’m all for taking the time to smell the roses but this time I could have walked ahead, picked a bouquet of roses and gotten back into the car when it caught up to me!

California drivers are the only drivers who have cut us off when pulling out of turnouts.  They are the only ones who have not signaled their turns.  I have seen California drivers nearly cause numerous rear-end accidents.  Some have done this by suddenly jamming on their brakes to see an animal.  Others have done it by paying more attention to the sights than the car in front of them.  Either way they have caused the kind of adrenaline rush that is not supposed to occur at Yellowstone.

Yesterday we were driving through a herd of buffalo – they were on both sides of the road.  There was a convenient pullout that most others had used to stay clear of the buffalo while still having an excellent view.  Then a car from California came barreling along.  The folks in that car jammed on the brakes at the end of pullout in the center of the road, jumped out of their car and ran up to within 50 yards of the buffalo.  You might as well wave a red flag in front of the bison.  Then they stopped, took pictures and literally ran back to the car.

It is the kind of moment that gives park rangers nightmares.

When you enter Yellowstone National Park, the ranger gives you a newspaper, which has really good information on how to behave around various animals, as well as information on their temperaments.  Either these folks from California cannot read or, more likely, they did not take the time to read and learn about what they were seeing.  If they did, they’d have known that buffalo can run as fast as horses, have hair-trigger tempers and fall tends to be mating season for most of the large mammals, making them more irritable than usual.

Today put the exclamation point on my opinion regarding the California drivers.  In the morning, on our way into the park, not one but two vehicles from California could not be patient.  They decided they had to pass the vehicle in front of them (gratefully we were behind them).  That would not seem to be very irresponsible — unless you saw that they were passing on curves!  They did just that.  Two fairly close calls occurred.

The topper was the young woman from California whom we followed out of the park this evening.  She tried to pass the first time but had to pull back into her lane because there was a curve and the road was quite narrow.  She passed three other vehicles, one at a time, all on curves.  She made a right turn from the left lane.  She attempted to pass again on a straightaway — right at a pullout where many cars were stopping to view the elk along the river.  Fortunately she was able to pull back into the lane before she hit the car that was several vehicles ahead of her.  It was making a left into the pullout and she’d have T-boned the driver’s side of the car.  She exited the park about 10 seconds before we did.

I was glad when we no longer had to follow her.  I could breathe again!

I will add a final disclaimer, of course.  I am definitely speaking about vehicles with California license plates.  They could be rental vehicles with drivers from anywhere.  But then why would it be only California vehicles making these rude and foolish moves?

Ah well, at least we know which cars to watch out for when we’re on these roads.

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Before I got into my concert review, let me preface this post by admonishing you that you should not, if at all possible, buy concert tickets months ahead and then plan to fly across country unexpectedly at 6 AM the next morning.  I say this from experience because that is exactly what I am doing.  In fact, I’m writing this in O’Hare Airport in Chicago as I try to stay awake between legs of my flight from Hartford, CT to Rapid City, SD.  But more on the trip another time.  Suffice it to say that, if you are 59 years old, it isn’t as easy to stay up over 24 hours as you recall from your youth.

Now – to the concert.  It was good.  Not great, but good.  Actually, 2 of the 3 bands were great and the one that wasn’t might surprise you.

Night Ranger opened the night.  I had not heard of them before (I’ve led a sheltered life, I guess – kidding!) but I am open-minded when it comes to music.  They were actually quite good, with plenty of energy and enough personality to warm up the late arriving crowd.  I particularly enjoyed a song titled “When You Close Your Eyes.”  Their set was not long, as you would expect for an opening act and perhaps deserved to be longer.

Foreigner, a favorite of my husband’s, performed next.  They were fabulous.  Yes, I had heard of them.  Yes, I like their music.  But they were even better in live performance, in my humble and musically uneducated opinion.  The energy they had was nothing short of phenomenal.  They hit every cue.  They truly entertained as well as singing their hearts out!  I would definitely go to see them again.

I had seen Journey in concert last year, when they were touring with Heart.  It had been a fabulous concert.  I would rank it in the top concerts I’ve been to.  Arnel Pineda was astounding in that concert – sounding so much like Steven Perry that you had to pay attention to remember that it was not Perry singing.  So of course I had high expectations for Journey last night.

Journey was a disappointment this time.  For all the running and jumping around that Arnel Pineda did, Journey lacked energy musically.  The songs they chose for their program were unfortunate.  They decided to include several new selections, which would have perhaps been okay had they not put them all consecutively.  The audience did not recognize them.  You could feel the energy that had been building in the audience dissipate like a rapidly deflating balloon,

The biggest disappointment was Arnel Pineda himself.  He was as bad last night as he had been great in the previous concert I saw.  He seemed to forget words, seemed to be singing at a different tempo than the rest of the band and seemed more interested in making contact with the ladies in the audience than in the music.  I mused about the possible reasons as they performed.  Fatigue?  But the rest of the band had been on the same tour.  Illness?  Possible.  I hoped so – because the third thing that came to mind, based on how he looked when they did close-ups of him on the video screens was that he was high on something that was not enhancing his performance.  Whatever the cause, the result was really bad music.

There were actually a couple of things that made an impression on me that were not related to the music.  One was the venue.  The concert took place at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA.  I had been there twice before, but not for quite some time.  It is an outdoor venue with a covered pavilion, additional uncovered seating and lawn seating, all in an amphitheater style.  I found that it was quite a climb uphill before heading back down to our seats in the covered area.  The seats were not very comfortable, which may be a good part of the reason many fans, who had paid for “seats,” chose to stand for almost the entire concert.  I had to switch seats with my husband after a short time because the man who was seated on the other side of me (with my fibromyalgia I cannot stand) was having a great time standing and dancing.  I, on the other hand, was not enjoying his butt in my face as he invaded my “seat space” with his dance.  I don’t begrudge anyone the right to dance and have fun at a concert, but I really didn’t enjoy his act.  There was a couple in the row in front of us who typified those who have no respect for others.  They stood for the entire show.  When people behind them asked them to sit, this couple told them they should stand too, if they wanted to see.  The fact is that many people like me have “invisible disabilities” that prevent them from doing that.  Exuberance is one thing.  Rudeness and disrespect is quite another.

There was some kind of fire that caused a foul odor and smoke.  No one was evacuated and I have no idea what was burning.  I do know that it was putrid.  The upper level rest rooms were abysmal.  The toilets would not flush due to weak water pressure.  After a while I’m sure they weren’t flushing for other reasons.  I didn’t go back to those rest rooms.  The lower level did not seem to have the same issue.

You may think me strange for saying this, but the thing that impressed me most through the night had nothing to do with musicians, fans or venue.  What impressed me most was the stage crew.

The sets for Night Ranger and Foreigner were different and required some changes but the changes were small – rearrange the stairs and instruments.  However, the set used by Journey was entirely different.  The crew removed every bit of the first set, right down to the mats on the stage, then replaced it with the video screens, signage and instruments that Journey required (I wished their music had been as well done as their set).  That doesn’t sound like a big deal for guys (and one gal) who do this for a living, I guess.  But the fact that it was all done in 15 minutes was amazing!!  That was it – 15 minutes and Journey could take the stage.  I wondered why the Commonwealth of Massachusetts cannot find road construction crews who work that quickly and that well!!

By the time we got home from the concert it was 12:30 AM today.  If I had gone to sleep, I’d have had to get up at 3 AM to get ready to leave for the airport.  I’d never have done it.  So I stayed up, finished packing and hoped to get some sleep on the planes.  Since I’m finishing this on the second leg of my trip to SD, you can see that “sleep on the plane” thing didn’t work.

I ought to sleep really well tonight!!  I think the concert was worth it . . . I think.

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I’m very excited!!  I don’t usually get to go out to Pine Ridge from the East Coast twice in one year.  But that’s exactly what I’m going to do! And actually, within about 2 months of my last visit.

I wrote not long ago about my Lakota friends who had been waiting so long on the housing list (nearly 1o years).  Finally they had gotten a house!  I was so happy to get that phone call.

In the weeks that have passed since that call, my friend has changed.  She is truly happy for the first time I can remember in the 6 years I have known her.  I don’t mean that she hasn’t been happy about things that have occurred before.  But it is different now.  She is a happy person now, not just a tired, worn person happy about getting a package or seeing her grandchild.

I can hear it in her voice.  I can see and feel it in her emails and Facebook posts.  She has changed.  I think she finally believes that something really good can happen in her life.

It’s amazing what a place to call your own can do for your soul.

They are so happy to have this home that they are planning to have the home blessed and to have a celebratory meal afterward.  Of course, my husband and I were invited.  But since we had just been there, it really didn’t seem to be financially possible.

A minor miracle occurred when my parents’ house finally sold and I recently got a very small inheritance.  Small – but enough for me to do some good things for people and still have enough to do a few things for myself, like fly back to South Dakota for this celebration.  My husband won’t be able to get the time off from work, so I’ll have to go alone.  But a month or so ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that it would be possible at all.  Thanks, Mom.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t at all nervous about traveling that far from home alone for the first time.  But it will be an adventure and there will be great joy waiting for me when I arrive.

There isn’t much more to say, except perhaps,

CELEBRATE!!

Sing it with me . . . http://youtu.be/3GwjfUFyY6M

 

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OK, I know I haven’t ranted in a bit, but it’s getting out of hand.

The current price of fresh green beans is averaging about $1.29, depending on where you live and what kind of market you shop in.  (Add about 20% if you live on Pine Ridge Reservation.)

I am writing about green beans because I wrote about them 3 years ago (have I been doing this that long?) and that post has more hits than any other single post I have written.  When I wrote, the price of green beans where I live was hovering around $3.49 due to bad weather in the areas where we typically grow them in this country.  To have them more than $2 over the price I recalled had been a shock.  But prices are not doing that now and still I am getting hits on that post!  People, the price of green beans (noted above) is where it should be right now.  It will go down a bit in a month or so as green beans become more plentiful in additional local areas.

You might ask why I am so annoyed about that post receiving more hits than anything else – and even if you don’t ask, I’m going to tell you because it’s MY soapbox.

I have written about many more important topics over the years than the price of fresh green beans.

I have written about the Third World conditions that exist in the USA on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

I have written about Independence Through Music, a wonderful program for youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

I’ve written about living and coping with fibromyalgia for 45 years and raising a son (now 29 years old) who has Asperger’s Syndrome.

I’ve written about crime, death, dying, family, health, housing, nature, travel, national news media, passion, depression, rape, values and laundry to name just a “few” more topics.

But what comes up most often?  The price of green beans.  I’m not sure why that cannot be checked when one does the marketing.  Is it that important to know before you get there?  Or are folks in this country getting that lazy that they have to let their fingers do their shopping before they even get to the market?  There can’t be that many kids getting the assignment to find out about the prices of produce – especially in the summer.

OK, I’ve just heaved a huge sigh.

Whatever got you to this post in the first place, I hope you’ll take the time to look up one other category before you leave.  My personal suggestion would be Pine Ridge Reservation because that way you’ll learn something really important and you’ll have a large selection of posts through which to learn it.

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