The last leg northbound 2019

I’m starting to smell salt air!!

But first, a few more pics of friends visited along the way:

Top left: Catherine’s niece Laura, her mom Kathe, and newly adopted 8-yr-old Dachsund, Jack meet us at the car for a quickie. Top right: The old CILT gang — Ing Wong-Ward, Catherine and Sandra Carpenter relive old victories together. Bottom left: Dear friend Audrey Cole met us in Kingston Bottom right: Laura and her longer-term pet, Pretzel.

 

Both of my travel-weary cats are scenting the salt air too, scanning the horizon for home!  But no, this is only Fredericton, NB.  The Saint John River is still slightly swollen from its spring floods, but has receded and looks calm and friendly now.  Great view from the Delta’s 7th floor windows.  

Pretty lobby with some interesting artwork. This painting commemorates the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival a popular annual Fredericton event.

 

And there has to be at least one moment like this in every trip. I’ve got him in my arms, but now I can’t get up off the floor!!

 

Chilly enough for a fire, candlelight, lobster rolls and wine. A great homecoming!

And that’s it for another year. Will we do it again? Heavens, I don’t know, certainly not tomorrow! But every year is different and the highlights are always wonderful and so worthwhile.

Huge thanks to Carla for her tireless driving and packing and a thousand little acts of kindness and thoughtfulness along the way. Huge thanks to Catherine for the photo collages, editing support, masterful trip planning and tolerance of physical discomforts and my many moods. And huge thanks to my blog readers for your patience. New posts were mostly not in actual synch with the trip, but I hope the whole thing made sense in the end.

See you all again when any Forward Motion happens in my life. Meanwhile, be as well and happy as possible and treasure the many gifts of every day in yours!

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Northbound 2019 Continued

Bentonville, Arkansas

21C

Each 21C hotel has its own colour of penguin. These charming creatures appear in unexpected places, moving throughout the day. I shared an elevator with the green one!

A tree of 40 fruits. An artist has grafted 40 different species of fruit tree to this little guy, and awaits a bountiful season! There’s some mythology behind it…

Crystal Bridges

One of the Walmart sisters has a great collection of art that she has decided to share with the local and travelling public. Again, free admission lures in the timid (or impoverished) and a true cornucopia of artistic delight is offered, both indoors and out. Catherine was lured by the stunning architecture!

Just a few samples of the museum’s determination to draw attention to missing voices in American art and history.

“We the People” spelled out in coloured shoe laces.

An accessible trail through beautifully groomed woods allowed access to startling and surprising sculptures strategically placed in the verdant landscape.

From the outside, the buildings remind me of armadillos arranged around a lovely pond. From the inside, the “ribs” of the structure rise in arcs overhead, flooding the art spaces and adjoining bridges with natural light.

“The Future is Female” is a travelling exhibit featured during our stay at 21C Bentonville in the hotel lobby.

Cleveland, Ohio

Our next stop was Louisville, Kentucky, where we visited with an old friend.

Hospitality “Chez Loy”

Then on we went to Cleveland to visit members of Carla’s extended family and to have a meal together at Edwin’s. Watch the little short movie (nominated for an Oscar last year) to learn about this wonderful experiment in prison avoidance and early release. The food was awesome!

Chatham-Kent, Ontario, CANADA!

Sisters, brother and brothers-in-law, cherishing the precious minutes and hours we get to spend together in each other’s company.

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Northbound 2019

I started writing this on Day 6, the first day I had enough time or energy to even think about blogging! So far, we’ve done Las Cruces (Night 1), Tucumcari, NM (Night 2), Oklahoma City (Night 3), Bentonville, AR (Nights 4 & 5) and O’Fallon, MO (Night 6).  Night 7 in Louisville, KY was a private stay with an old friend in her accessible basement apartment, usually inhabited by her youngest son. And tonight, Night 8, we will be in Cleveland, OH having dinner at Edwins!

But let’s back up a little.  Before we hit the road, we had one last visit to Saguaro East National Park, one last visit to Tohono Chul, and one last dinner with friends old and new.

The century plant and cacti have bloomed; Carla, Bill, Catherine, Patricia, Michael and Rick have consumed this year’s “last supper”. Bill, Rick and his other science students are ready to occupy the guest house for this year’s bat study. Our bags are packed, it’s time to go!

The first highlight of the trip came on Day 2 after we left Las Cruces: a little town named “Truth or Consequences“. We were intrigued by the name so detoured off the main road to check it out. It’s a spa town, with natural hot springs and some very nice spa hotels built around them. The strange name grew out of a contest years ago (1950) when the game show of the same name offered a prize to the town that would officially change its name to “T or C” in time for the show’s 10th anniversary. Hot Springs, NM became T or C, NM and that was that.

Later that same day, I realized that we would be going past one of Carla’s least favourite places from the 2012 Route 66 tour, McLean, TX, home of the world famous Barbed Wire Museum/Route 66 commemorative snack bar, written up 7 years ago, and frequently remembered fondly by the three of us. So of course we had to pay a quick visit to the town, although we didn’t visit the museum this time around.

Scenes from T or C, NM and McLean, TX

Oklahoma City was our next destination. Catherine had discovered a new chain of hotels which are also art galleries. Called 21C, these fascinating hotels are renovations of old factory buildings in towns that you wouldn’t normally identify as gallery towns, but if you’re ever passing through, do check them out. The one in OC is housed in the old Model T Ford assembly plant. The art is contemporary, edgy and challenging, but expertly introduced to the non-art-immersed visitor in simple readable language. Open to the public, free of charge, 24/7 — like public galleries should be but are not!

That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow you’ll see scenes from our 2nd 21C in Bentonville, Arkansas.

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2019 Update

Hi readers. I just wanted to share with you a couple of pictures from my life here in Arizona.

California poppies and purple lupines bloom on an uncharacteristically green desert mountain slope.
California poppies and purple lupines bloom on an uncharacteristically green desert mountain slope. Ω

Wildflower bloom time is a big deal here, especially when there has been lots of rain, as there has been this winter. Catherine and I drove up the highway to Picacho Peak on the weekend to get a taste of the season. Here we have California poppies mixed with little purple lupines. I say “little” because they truly are tiny compared to the robust version we grow in Nova Scotia! In wide shots, they barely register, although the little poppies do hold their own.

They all do pretty well, considering the heavy invasion of tourists who just can’t resist stepping off the pathways — some with dogs! — to take selfies amongst the blooms. Very little appreciation of the fragility of desert life.

And here’s another update on a different topic. I did finish the sweater I started in the car on the road. I decided I didn’t like it and will never wear it, but set it out on my work table to contemplate its future. Will I unravel it and make something else? Will I finish off the hanging strings, tidy it up and give it away? Or what?

A cluttered work surface with an open laptop, coloured markers, some papers leaning against a wine-coloured knitted object, upon which curls a resting black cat.

To my amusement, Lucky decided he likes it very much — makes a great day bed! So maybe that’s what I’ve made after all!


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Arrived!

 

And finally, we arrived.  Exhausted.  Carla and Michael had made sure we had everything we needed in our little casita.

Carla assists with a heavy one, Michael wrangles a four-wheeler while Hilary (aka Hercules) hefts a big box of whatever.

We had bee-lined from Marfa to El Encanto in Las Cruces, where the kitties decided that the answer was NO!!  NO MORE DAYS IN THE CAR!  Hil and I tried, but it took an expert, Ricky the maintenance guy, to “convince” them otherwise.  Thanks Ricky!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day after arrival in Tucson, Jane, Hilary, Catherine and I visited Tohono Chul, a local park that we all four know to be manageable, welcoming and easy — a five-minute drive from Home 2.

Played Taboo in the evening and crashed early.

 

 

 

 

 

On Day 2, our first plan, to re-visit a local tearoom we had all enjoyed, was thwarted — the tearoom is no longer in operation — so we visited instead our favourite local up-scale mall, much of which is outdoors, and where the merchants don’t mind if you don’t buy anything, you can just hang around and enjoy the bougainvillea and the orange trees, maybe get a gelato if you feel like it, visit the Apple store if you feel like it, or just gawk in the windows, which was about all we could manage on residual energy.

 

Then home for pizza and a game of “Cards Against Humanity” for a change of pace.  It was fun, but the very best part was a burst of energy after consuming some pizza and salad, during which Hilary tried to teach me some of her line dancing steps, and we tried to remember how to waltz and cha-cha, with dubious success but with a great deal of laughter!

Line dancing!

The waltzing part. I got dizzy!!

 

Jane and Hil flew out the next morning, and Catherine and I commenced to settling in, trying to remember where everything goes and how everything works, etc.   The best part is that, after all the doubt and worry at the outset, we arrived in good health and spirits.

The weather is cool and cloudy, which makes staying indoors to get some stuff done more attractive.  (For those of you interested in the knitting project, it will be ongoing — didn’t grow much since the last picture, I’m afraid.)  When the sun comes out, we rush out to soak up the warmth, then flee back inside when it clouds over again.  We are hearing horrendous weather reports from up north, where the polar vortex has once again split in two, driving arctic cold far south of where it usually stops — 10 people dead at last report!!  We’re too lucky for words.  I hope you all survive your terrible winter and we will think of you with kindness.  Thanks for keeping us company on yet another of our sojourns south.  See you again in the spring for the northward leg!

 

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Texas Blues

Texas is a short word, but a long, long drive. The Beaumont Holiday Inn was a cold and forgettable downer after New Orleans; and the YO Ranch in Kerrville was a weird mixed bag of anachronistic cultural references, complete with an array of stuffed game in the lobby, fake fire in the fireplaces, servers that lacked even the basics of professionalism — but a huge room and a really excellent filet mignon.

The display was strangely funny at first to four road-weary lesbians, and easy to pretend that these were just big toys in a make-believe world until …

… the reality and wrongness of this tender, exotic, endangered pair hit hard.

And then we realized that all of these had been magnificent sentient creatures and it felt that we had wandered into a place of cruelty and indifference to nature, and we all just wanted to leave, and had we not been exhausted and had we not already paid in advance for the rooms, I think we would have. I know that some people have to kill wild animals to survive, and there’s dignity in that, but NOBODY has to kill a mother giraffe and her baby so they can stuff them and display them in a hotel lobby!!

So the next morning, on Texas day 3, we were back on the long, flat, boring I-10. I worked on my knitting project and listened to our story on tape.

I’ve never done cables before, so it’s going slowly. It will be a vest eventually.

The miles went by. Too many miles between gas stations had us holding our breath at one point as the gauge slipped towards zero, which is where it was when we finally drifted into a fortuitously placed station!

The scenery got more interesting as we pushed further west across vast mesas dotted with buttes and approached the little town of Marfa, an artists community that we had heard about on a PBS special.

The renovated Saint George Hotel is gorgeous and very modern; the dinner we ordered in the hotel’s dining room was outstanding!! Our first glance at the imaginative menu told us this was definitely not your average small-town Texas road food.

But disabled Hoyer lift users beware! the beds are on those great heavy platforms that make it impossible to use your lift. Thus, for the second time this trip, Catherine was stuck sleeping in her chair. In the morning, I explained the missing accessibility feature to the hotel manager in hopes that, with knowledge and a minor investment, their ADA rooms could have a bed on legs for the likes of us when we return, perhaps in May. Because Marfa is worth a return trip with a bit more time to look around at all the little galleries, workshops and other features that have thrived there over the years since the minimalist, Donald Judd, found it a place conducive to his creativity back in the day.

Art by local artists and non-locals with some connection to the place is displayed on every wall of the hotel, it seems; they also have a bookstore on the main floor in which we could have spent more time (and money, of course).

Catherine loved this atmospheric cowboy photo outside our room.

One of Judd’s outdoor installations — our group had mixed responses.

But the cats just thought they looked great in orange!

After this, only one more night on the road, then finally back to Tucson, Home Two!

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Oh Alabama! Oh New Orleans!

We reserved 2 nights in Montgomery* in order to have an unhurried visit to the amazing new Legacy Museum, a project of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in downtown Montgomery.  No photos allowed inside the building which was a slave warehouse in the dark days of history, but the outdoor memorial was as moving and solemn as it was beautiful.

One of several slaves sculpted in concrete and rusted metal

The Lynching Memorial

Each suspended column represents a county in the US in which EJI was able to find solid evidence of murders of black people, whether by hanging, burning, beating or any other means or combination thereof, up until 1950. Most — but NOT all! — were in the South. Some of the columns bear only one name, while others have many. Many individual victims have been positively ID’d, while some remain nameless.

The entire project is stunning not only for its heart-breaking documentary content but equally for its many artworks and overall museological design! If you’re anywhere near Montgomery on your travels, please add this to your list of must-visits and/or make a generous donation to EJI’s ongoing work to address the impact of this heinous history right up to the present day, in the form of continuing poverty and mass incarceration of black people in America.

That evening, Jane and Hilary joined us in our room to watch a movie: The Hate U Give. Trust me, it was perfect!

Catherine, Jane Hil and two contented cats!

There is so much more to say, think and feel about Alabama and the history of slavery in the south, including Louisiana, of course, but we have learned that nothing shifts the mood like New Orleans!

An uneventful 3-state drive through the rest of Alabama, Mississippi, then Louisiana, culminated in our arrival at the amazingly swish Waldorf Astoria. An outstanding dinner was had in the Fountain Room off the very fancy lobby, starting with “the best Brussels sprouts ever”! Jane declared her martini “the best martini ever”. Hilary and I both gorged ourselves on Gulf shrimp with “the creamiest Parmesan risotto ever”, while Jane had chicken breast on same risotto. My cocktail, a Daisy Bartlett was also memorable, and even teetotaller Hil enjoyed her custom-made NadaColada!

The four of us at dinner, with a jazz pianist in the background

After dinner, Catherine and I headed to our room while Jane and Hil ventured out into the NOLA Night and stumbled into the magical world of jazz coming from every doorway, some happening right out on the street. They will return! As will we if we possibly can.

Terrazzo floor in our bathroom. It’s just SO New Orleans!

Today, we crossed the bayous then entered The Lone Star State, winding up in Beaumont, TX, about which there is absolutely nothing interesting to report, at least so far.

*This endnote fulfills a promise to tell the story of night 1 in Montgomery, which Catherine endured in her wheelchair because the hoist that lifts her into bed was non-functional. It had been developing a problem which we had become very good at ignoring and working around, but that night, no workaround was possible. When we called down to the front desk to ask for help in identifying a local repair shop, the young woman on night staff recalled that when her grannie had required a walker, her family went to Mid-State and were happy with their experience. That was all the recommendation we needed. We called them, got their after-hours emergency service and spoke to Richard, who was willing to come out the next morning (which just coincidentally was MLK Day, a national holiday) to rent us a new lift, or try and fix us up if he could. So he did come out and, bless him, found not one but two problems, one a fairly simple plug adjustment, the other a short in the lift’s hand control. And miracle of miracles, the hand control of the rental, which was a different brand from our lift, worked immediately. So here’s a BIG THANK YOU to Richard and Mid-State in Montgomery, Alabama!

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