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New adventure! This one doesn’t involve much travel but does involve a huge life change. I have hearing loss – one of millions of Americans who do. My loss is quite severe and had interfered with who I am. I love people, I love talking to and connecting with people. With hearing loss, communicating verbally becomes terribly difficult. I’ve been posting on the Mayo Clinic Hearing Loss forum about my adventure toward improved communication:

I’ve been loosing my hearing for around 25 years. It started a couple years after my first kidney transplant – or that’s when it got bad enough to go see an audiologist to see why I was saying “What?” “Pardon?” “Could you restate that?” I would get home from work seeing clients and would be utterly exhausted, for no apparent reason. The audiologist I met with, Dr. Robert Sweetlow, advised a hearing aid (HA) for my right ear. I can’t even tell you how many HAs I’ve had since then – about enough to buy a nice new car I’d guess, since they run between 2 and 8,000 dollars each.

As my blog readers know, my wife and I work and play for an RV Caravan tour company, we are wagon masters and/or tail gunners as assigned by the company. We usually travel with 16 to 25 RVs and go all over North America.  Amazing work and all about connecting with people. I’m with groups of people in all kinds of challenging hearing/understanding situations.

Interestingly, for many with hearing loss, raising the volume becomes less and less of a problem. In fact, after a while one’s ears can become sensitive to volume. I am sensitive to volume, so loud speech or noises throw me off. It’s called Recruitment for some odd reason. What happens though, as recruitment becomes a problem speech recognition (especially of certain parts of speech) goes down. So I lost the ability to discriminate between sounds like

In 2015 my discrimination (an index of how well we understand words using 50 single syllable words, score is a percentage) was at R-46, L-32. In 2017, I got Resound 3D Linx HAs (they’re for severe/profound hearing loss) and they help a lot with my declining speech understanding and work with an iPhone app for great adjustability. Those aids are wonderful. I love how versatile they are!

This year (2019), after a particularly challenging caravan, I decided to make an appointment for another hearing test and adjustment – my aides were just not working! I just wasn’t understanding people and was cranky and exhausted all the time. In Albuquerque, NM I met with Dr. Terry Sankovitz.  After the exam, Dr. Terry showed me my discrimination score… R- 14, L-12. Whaaat? Seeing it on paper my whole insides went cold and still and I got really scared, I was stunned. Barb, my best friend and wife, was just as shocked when Dr. Terry shared the test with her. 

This was a different Discrimination test. For the first time in all the years of tests, this doctor didn’t read the usual list of 50 words to me with her mouth covered. She used a recording of a professional speaker, male, speaking at normal speed. The test is given without HAs, wearing ear buds and the volume is adjusted to my comfort level.

Dr. Terry said that there is no point adjusting my hearing aids further, louder wasn’t working. When asked what improvement to my hearing I dream of, I answered, “To hear and understand my son’s and grandchildren when they talk to me!” For some reason, male voices can be difficult for many with hearing loss to understand. She talked about my options, one of which is cochlear implant and gave me a lot of information – even explained the testing for CI qualification. Dr. Terry offered to get me in for testing soon so I could begin the process and boy was I tempted! We had an appointment to see some people and couldn’t miss the only window of time they had for us to visit. Besides, I had to let everything I’d learned sink in and figure out what I was going to do.

With a cochlear implant, there is no going back. You’re implanted period. But wait… with my ‘discrim’ I couldn’t go back anyway. The other option would be continuing to isolate and eventually to withdraw.

Understanding .4 in one ear and .1 in the other is deaf. I am highly functional because I speech read; read bodies, context and situations – in the right situation I do okay. However, in vehicles, in low light or when someone’s face is backlit, in places busy with conversation, when music is playing, with there is crackling or static noise – I am utterly at sea.

It just happened that Cochlear America was hosting a panel discussion the next day, for people interested in CI (cochlear implant) and for those with CIs. Did we jump on that opportunity!!! WOW. What an eye opening experience. The group moderator was a woman who had been deafened as a child and as an adult had chosen bilateral cochlear implants. The panel talked about their personal cochlear experience. Here’s the best part. They hired a court reporter to transcribe speech and captions popped on a screen for all to see. I am not sure anyone in the room needed those as badly as did I – what a miracle it was to see what everyone was saying.

A rep from one of the three Cochlear Implant companies was at the meeting answering tech questions from recipients. She had a box that contained the whole Cochlear Implant (CI) system, internal and external.

When I walked in the door, I felt unsure and when I left I felt elated. Arms full of booklets and information, Barb and I talked about the meeting and agreed that both of us felt a sense of hope, at last.

 

RVing Women! Whoo hoo!

Tucson, Pima County Fairgrounds.

To get the ‘dead’ parts we need for Barb’s classes, we scavenge RV shop back lots. This was a treasure trove even if the guy did charge us for the stuff (never had that happen before).

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Fairgrounds sunset!

Barb’s class was held in a huge warehouse space because so many woman had signed up!

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Barb’s RV Tech training comes out all over in her teaching. She is patient, takes questions, works hands on with folks…

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These Tucson sunsets are fabulous, no?

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Barb the Post-Teaching Goggle-eyed Woman. 

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And we both take off the Maintenance Class hats and slip into vendor hats! We had so much fun at this booth. Several gals from our Alaska Caravan gifted us with their testimonials and help with set up and take down. We are so grateful to our friends Cindy H, Barb E, Naomi & Cindy T. and Inee and Diane. We couldn’t have done it without them. 

THE GREAT 2019 RVW RODEO!

I am the tail of the calf being run through the barrels blind with only our guide’s words to tell us where to put our feet. You know me and why I’m at the tail, right? I’d likely lead us off into the never never my hearing is so bad. What a blast. I also chased balloons and roped a PVC calf. This huge space was full of stations for the rodeo, this is only our corner.

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From line dancing, to calf running, to roping to prize giveaways and wonderful classes – this conference was a BLAST!

On this note we head home to Alabama. Barb and I have big changes ahead on so many levels.

Breathe, the time will pass and we will carry on!

 

Ancient Peoples and Places

We couldn’t resist going to the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest NP, we were right there, relatively. F7D6C93D-C1E3-47B7-B326-21E367B241FF892EB4E6-58B1-463D-8ABB-9236B3F824C5

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Lodge at the Painted Desert.

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Bazillion year old pictograph! It’s about 4′ tall!

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The old lodge at Painted Desert NP

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Petrified Forest  NP

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This little log, looks just like it was just cut and tumbled over. It’s petrified wood though!

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Those dark red things are huge logs. The ground around them has eroded and left them up there on top. So interesting and amazing colors to boot.

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The trees were related to Sequoia Sempervirens.

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Barb in a logjam.

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Agate house.

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I’m only here to give you some sense of proportion. These trees were huge.

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Knot hole. Not hole…hole!

Hubbell Trading Post on the way to Canyon De Chelly. We don’t seem able to stop the exploration we started on the Grand Circle Tour!!!

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Hubbell Trading Post

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The barns.

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Very old adobe peeking through.

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Inside the house.. .the baskets and art? WOW! This is the ceiling.

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They keep the lights low to preserve the baskets, blankets and artworks.

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The main plaza, where the people came to trade.

On the way out to Canyon de Chelly (canyon day shay), we stopped at the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. This is an excellent site full of information Hubbell Trading Post – history. We toured the house (free) with a guide whose family had come to this Trading Post. She talked about how John Hubbell would give folks flour, sugar and salt to help them get through the winters. the Hubbell were canny traders though and the house stands as testament to the incredible artworks of the Navajo (Diné) Peoples.

Today Hubbell Trading Post continues the traditional trading and is one of the premier spots to shop if one is looking for authentic Diné weavings; whether old or contemporary. While we were there I was paging through a pile of larger weavings and found a lovely large piece dyed using cochineal – strands colored from pale pink to rich rose and near maroon moved randomly through the weaving. I could see the hands of more than one woman, perhaps a grandmother and granddaughter? It was sold to a woman who visibly paled when I pulled it out of the pile… she wanted that weaving badly. Lucky for her, we were living in the RV… no space at all, none at all.

So what’s next? How did you guess? More pictographs and petroglyphs!

Canyon De Chelly! This is Navajo land so the only way inside the canyon is with a guide. We duly hired a guide, a grandfather who grew up in Canyon De Chelly and who was happy to take us to his grandparents fields. In the summer The People move from the high canyon rim down into the canyon for summer farming, animal raising and to escape the heat. Canyon de Chelly is relatively narrow and as the sun moves across the sky, shadows fall and cool the canyon. Our guide talked us through Diné history as told through the generations.

He told of how all tribes were created from the Navajo and choices between a White and a Black egg caused the People to diverge. The one that chose the Dark egg became the Apaché and other tribes who were nomadic horse warriors. The one that chose the Light egg became Navajo and other tribes who were linked to the land and farmed.

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This last photo is behind the little tienda we rode to for bathroom, coffee and stretching. We just walked back to these ruins. The little 4-WD SUV we drove up the canyon in did a fine job through the riverbed that forms the ‘road’. Luckily, it didn’t rain while we were in the canyon.

From inside the canyon, the next day we toured the two rim roads for the nearly birds eye views.

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The rock slags down in wide droops, like curtains or antebellum skirts.

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Canyon de Chelly is off the beaten track. Both of us highly recommend the trip. The drive is beautiful, the canyon is amazing.

This is the last set of rock art you’ll have to see! Barb and I were so entranced by the art we had seen over these two months that we almost couldn’t stop! This time, we went to Zuni Pueblo and hired another guide at the Zuni Visitors Center.  Kenny Bowkaty (lead guide) took us out to an undisclosed location to hike back to an ancient Pueblo. Likely Zuni in origin, the pueblo spread like a C around a the rock mound pictured below.

Led up the mound to the rock art that floats on the inside of the C, we climbed and listened. Out guide is an archaeology instructor at the Univ. New Mexico so he had a lot to teach. We learned how the people organized and built and that they had disappeared, probably to follow trade routes to better water. Some of the art was created in 1935, but most is ancient.

We learned the Zuni creation myth and that all other tribes came from the Zuni Peoples. Sometime I would like to take a course to learn more about the peoples of the southwest. There are many myths / legends and I’d love to study the patterns they share. Stay tuned, you’ll hear it first!

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Modern Pictograph

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From here, we head to Tucson for the RVing Women Conference where Barb teaches Basic and Advanced RV Maintenance and we managed to erect and staff the Adventure Caravan’s Booth – sharing our adventures.

Breathe in the ancients, breathe out the stress, time passes.

Grand Circle – 6 + we keep traveling!

 

Camp Verde, AZ is our final caravan destination. It is a small town with a good museum and quite a casino. We visited Montezuma’s well among other sites, toured a couple more museums, went up to Jerome, Az – a copper mining town perched overlooking the Verde Valley, and had an elegant dinner at the premier restaurant of the local Casino. Then it was HUGS AND GOODBYES to new friends and fun times. We learned so much about the area, the tour is designed to dig into culture, geology, geography, history, archeology and architecture of this portion of the southwest and it does an darn good job of it! I look forward to doing the tour again in two years!

Barb and I were on our own! We explored the area some, made plans to meet up with Tina (our boss) in Albuquerque and planned to travel to our visit family in the Albuquerque area. We were both pretty exhausted. I’d simply had it with my hearing aids and scheduled an appointment with an audiologist in Albuquerque to have them adjusted.

We went to Winslow, AZ – Homolovi State Park – merely to camp and clean the RV after working but the visit was much richer than we anticipated. Homolovi is a wonderful State Park that includes trails and tours of extensive Puebloan / Anasazi ruins of pit houses and communities. We’ve stayed there several times and explored the park more each time. Pottery sherds!

Barb found out about an 1850’s ranch, still in family hands, north of Wilcox. Both of us were entranced by the rock art – pictographs & petroglyphs we had been learning about on the Tour – this was a natural extension. Rock Art Ranch.

Barb made us an appointment and we headed out on the appointed day with directions in hand (“GPS don’t work out here so good.”). Miles of dirt roads and strange geologic formations later we turned in to the ranch. Mr. Baird is the great-grandson of the original buyer of the ranch – I think I have that right, or grandson. He discussed the family buying the ranch and talked about when he was a youngster on the ranch.

He described working cattle after a windstorm and coming upon a large Puebloan-Anasazi black and white ware pot exposed by the wind, sitting on it’s rim in the dust. There’s a picture of him with that pot – it’s also in several of the books that have been written about the ranch. They have an extensive collection of ancient pottery that was found on the ranch – museums would love to get their hands on it!

The ranch has a pit house – that was excavated by the University of New Mexico who “Made us put a roof over top of it.” Mr. Baird’s granddaughter (our tour guide) explained. There were pottery sherds all over the ground inside and outside the pit house. It looks very much like Homolovi but here are layers and layers of sherds here.

We continued the tour out to a funny parking lot with an even funnier outhouse. That had a fully functioning bathroom inside! IMG_6025

 

The parking lot led to a tin building that was perched on the rim of a small canyon carved by a creek. Until we saw the canyon we had no idea it was there! The family had build the rough building and outfitted it so experts could study the canyon’s contents. The stairway down incorporated those carved foot holds that had been made hundreds of years ago. The canyon walls are decorated with some of the most unique and ancient pictographs in the area. Some are so old, desert varnish has nearly erased them. Desert varnish can take from 50 years to 2000 years to form, depending on the area.

The pictograph of Woman and Birth is the only such known in the US. There are hundreds of unique works, antelope, raptors, goats, people hunting, snakes, maps, birds, frogs and lizards… Some are picked out over top of others and one can see faint outlines behind the fresher works. We were told that the art has been dated to between 5000 BC to 1400 BC. We spent at least an hour in the canyon, alone, with the water gently running past and imaginations picturing the People resting, eating and working the art into the rocks.

Breathe deep and slow

 

Grand Circle – 5

Lake Powell has a wonderful set of campgrounds and visiting the dam is certainly interesting. One can see that in the high season, when’s schools are out, it would have many many people using that area.

In the afternoon, we drove up to a strip mall in town and met with a Navajo guide for another ride in open backed trucks this time with benches along each side. Everyone was excited, we were going to tour famed Antelope Canyon.

Below are some of the photos I took. I’ve tried to give you an idea of colors, light, the contortions of the slot canyon and scale. It is an inspiring place to visit if you like to be awed by nature’s hand upon the landscape.

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From Lake Powell we next camped right next to the Grand Canyon Railway depot in Williams, Arizona. Next morning we went over to the Depot but got waylaid by an argument between some gunslingers that resulted in a shoot out. Fun to watch – I couldn’t understand a bit of the dialog, as usual, because my hearing is so bad. Even though I wear very high powered (and horrendously expensive) hearing aids, my any experience involving a guide, a play, a group talking together leaves me asking Barb for interpretation. Ugh.

We all boarded the train and went up to our seats in the dome car. Soon we were joined by a singing cowboy and that set the tone for the whole ride up to the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. Weeee-ha!

We rode up to the Canyon, greatly entertained by the scenery and the entertainment…

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Barb and I walked as much of the rim as we had time to do, made a new friend (I love tarantulas) and met the train on time. And then we rode back to Williams and got ROBBED! The sheriff came around questioning folks but nobody remembered the robber – we were traumatized, he had a six-shooter, after all!

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Another day, in Williams, we went to Bearizona. Photos follow.

From the White Board, you see we’re going to Sedona area – circling around and up and down seeing the sights from the window. The next day was a free day so folks, having had that overview, could explore on their own.

The next travel day we landed at Camp Verde, settled in and begin learning the history of the area.

Grand Circle – 4

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Four Corners Monument is a monument to changing technology. The monument commemorates the original placement of the marker of the joined corners of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. It is the only such place in the US. Also referred to as Teec Nos Pos, it is the border of the Navajo Nation and Ute Mountain tribal land. Wiki has the interesting history of how this spot came to be declared the official border between the states in 1925 despite increasingly accurate technology that would place it elsewhere.

The group settled in camping in Monument Valley at Goulding’s RV Park. Wonderful place to stay right in the thick of things! The group hopped in open backed trucks – bandana’s and dust protection applied – for a tour of Monument Valley tribal park. Our Navajo – Diné – guide had grown up in a sheepherding family nearby. First we visited a traditional Hogan. I had to wonder, where did all the wood come from? A Diné weaver gave a demonstration and answered questions about the Hogan. There was a large shade structure which adjacent, it would have been used in summer weather.

The trucks then bumped down a dusty road (following other similarly loaded trucks) and we toured around in the Valley of Big Rocks. Some of the formations are 1000′ feet tall. Commercials have been made on top of the largest – helicopters lifted a truck up top and then photographed the vehicle from all sides.

One morning, or was it afternoon? We took the little hike behind the campground to an arch. The view of the valley was wide and long- so many towering rock formations! The group had a good time posing and playing under the huge arch. At the beginning of the trip I did a tutorial on using walking sticks so the group had them out and used them to good effect along the narrow trail. The Goulding’s store and their home above the store made for an interesting peek into the lives of this important couple.

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Breathe, friends.

Grand Circle – 3

Arches National Park. Just go there. We hiked back to Dainty Arch and watched several bus loads worth of folk climbing around trying the get just that iconic photo with only themselves featured. The views throughout most of the National Parks in the Grand Circle tour seem to go forever. I cannot imagine what it was like 50 years ago, before air quality closed in the distances with its grey or muddy smudges.

IMG_5578skMHwQ02G8cHvnV+49QgyPs2+fNQoimMvZUdkDcmAIMG_5591IMG_5567IMG_5562IMG_5588IMG_5586I have mentioned before that we went rafting. In Moab we went for a pretty decent buffet dinner followed by loading onto jet boats. The jet boat tour guide provided an interesting bit of history, desert ecology and local lore (“see over there at 1 o’clock the face of the old witch?” “YES!”) at the beginning, but as dark fell? Oh my! We were treated to a light show on the cliffs complete with blaring music and narration of more historic occurrences – imagine a shadow of a wagon train cast by the lights on a large bucket type truck that was covered by klieg lights. It was pretty corny – but that’s my opinion. Other folks really liked the show.

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We took a nice bus up to Silverton, CO on a drizzly, cold rainy day (elevation 9318′). Wandered around a bit and had a (for me with my Gluten issues, a horrible lunch – tho the staff did try) mediocre lunch. In our wanderings, Barb and I came across a weaving shop. Though the owner was initially unfriendly (and never allowed a photo taken inside the shop), he did warm up. He explained the workings of the loom and his jacquard pattern work. The coolest thing? There were twinkle lights and twiggy branches around the front windows of the shop and while we were there a hummingbird joined us! The owner said the hummingbird sometimes spends the night (and poops) but goes in and out of the shop at will. It was terrific fun watching the little one dart about and settle on twigs. We took the Durango Silverton railroad down the mountain through back country with few roads. Gorgeous trip – I have a million photos which I will not torment you with (editing as we speak).

Breathe, my friends.

Grand Circle – 2

Canyonlands National Park to Moab, UT.

There is so much to see in this area, I’ll just share highlights.

Barb and I had a lot of fun arranging extra activities for folks. The trip calendar is already packed with activities (we rafted in Moab, visited museums and watched living history acted out) but we think some elective activities make checks on folks bucket lists.

In Canyonlands we went hiking with a group through the most amazing landscape – highlights here…

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The John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River, UT was a great stop – big parking lot for folks RVs and lots to learn.

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We went to Moab, UT – several folks on the trip remarked that they liked the place enough to live there and so did we! Barb and three others from the tour signed up for rappelling – we went to Ephedra’s Cave and a grotto below a stone arch. A surprising experience for each of us! I was surprised at how calm and centered I felt as I walked down the first descent (90′) and the beauty of the second (120′) took my breath away.

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Barb and I side tripped off to Newspaper Rock. We’d been to another one in Oregon. This was marked by people long ago and of course folks through the years put their marks down as well.

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Thanks for keeping up with our travels. It’s fun having you along, thank you also for your expressions of appreciation!

Another Travelog! The Grand Circle!

Hello all, so glad to be back! 

After we crossed the border in Washington State, we flew through Portland and briefly visited our family (shortest visit in history). All because we accepted another assignment – to go on The Grand Circle RV Adventure.

Within two weeks of crossing the border, we were in St. George, Utah. We met up with a new group of RVers to be Assistant Wagon Masters. Purpose? Learn the route, vendors and see how many new activities we could generate and help the wagon masters have a positive final trip before retirement. 

We had a great time meeting everyone and looked forward to helping make their trip wonderful.  After diving in to prepping the RVs, shopping and planning, off we went – 16 RV’s full of excited travelers. Luckily, Adventure Caravan’s keeps their caravans to a manageable size – that way we get to dig in and show off each area and make sure everyone gets a chance to do those bucket list things they’ve dreamed about doing.

We traveled the Four Corners area: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico & Arizona; because the area is mind bogglingly gorgeous – photos will need to tell the story. I’ll interject a note here and there though. The trip was intellectually challenging and we all had the opportunity to learn about archeology, ancient peoples, geography, and the different desert environments we traveled.

One of the interesting things about beginning the trip in St. George, UT is Mormon History. I have my own bit of Mormon history – my grandfather’s people were Mormon, throughout their history on this continent. My grandfather Tom Witt was a descendent of the settlers of Provo, UT.  Well, anyway, St. George was on the Wedding Trail for Mormon’s who wished to marry. It was a major settlement with elders who could marry (and marry, and marry) and became a renowned center, with an ever growing Temple on the Wedding Trail.

Zion National Park was lovely – what we could see of it. I highly advise visiting at the start or tail of winter or summer. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there and our guide for the day told everyone not to bother to [go on the shuttle deeper into the park – it would be crowded and just take too much time. So, we all went hiking nearby and some of us had a wonderful time in the creek.

The Grand Canyon North Rim, I heard, was amazing.  I was sick and ended up going to the ER in Kaibab. Barb said the lodge was just wonderful.

Bryce Canyon was completely amazing. We hiked, ogled, went star walking at the furthest point and were astonished so see tiny pinpricks of human habitation so far in the distance that they were almost invisible! The silence and beauty of the evening left an imprint. I look forward to visiting again.

Endings…

  • this was posted after the Alaska trip had wound down to its end. If you have questions, email us at twogalsgo@gmail.com

We are at the end of Adventure Caravan’s RVing Women 2019 59-day Alaska tour. Gosh it’s hard to say goodbye to our new friends.

Remembering group rig washes in Tok. Zip lining. Birding trips. That first long walk in Banff NP – where some saw bears, some saw three-toed wood peckers, most saw the herd of elk and got to experience the newest additions to the camping areas of the park. Gosh, so many memories.

Group travel is not for all but after 30 years of making our own way, our own discoveries and doing our own thing… well, it’s been mighty nice to be part of a community of folks doing those same things.

 

 

I paged back through photos posted here on the blog. What a terrific trip this has been. My secret? I know Barb and I will be back to do it again, to show another community of women BC, the Yukon Territory and Alaska. I know we’ll both be just as awed as we have been on this trip. I know we will make new friends to add the wealth of friends we’ve gained since we started traveling with Adventure.  Thank you to Tina Poole for the faith you have in the RVing Women – Adventure Caravan’s ‘partnership’ and in Barb and I. It was a wonderful learning experience traveling with you and Claudia. We look forward to our 2020 Gaspé Peninsula trip together!

Happy trails, y’all.

Breathe.