2017 Holiday Kickoff

Cooler temperatures in Charlotte and Christmas lights at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens kicked off this year’s holiday celebration. We started the weekend camping and cooking over a campfire Thursday night.

Then Friday morning started with a hike before going to the gardens only a short distance from McDowell Nature Preserve where we were camping. Our afternoon visit started in the Orchid House before walking throughout the park.

Much of the space incorporated holiday displays among the plants. Orchids decorated trees instead of the usual poinsettias.

When the Gardens closed to prepare for the evening event we prepared and ate dinner in the RV before returning after dark for the holiday lights.

Lights and music covered the grounds.

To be honest, we didn’t drive to Charlotte simply to camp and go to a light display. We were in the city to attend the ACC Championship Game. Unfortunately, there was some confusion when the Canes heard meteorologists in Florida celebrating the end of the 2017 hurricane season. It seems the team thought that meant the football season was over. Coach Richt will need to work on that before the team’s next game in the Orange Bowl.

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

When I looked at my phone, and it shouted today’s date as December 1st, I thought back to how we started December a year ago. We flew to Washington, D.C. on the final day of November to attend the lighting of the National Christmas Tree after being selected in a lottery for the annual event sponsored by the National Park Service.

Upon arrival in D.C., we toured the National Cathedral before heading to the zoo for Zoolights, a chance to wander the grounds decorated for the holiday.

Of course my favorite decoration was the well light Uncle Beasley, the triceratops and main character from The Enormous Egg, a book we read as a family on our first trip to D.C. and New England over twenty years earlier.

Then on the 1st, we crowded in the viewing area at the Eclipse for the lighting of the tree by President Obama and Christmas music by artists Chance the Rapper, James Taylor and others.

Tonight we’re attending another Christmas event away from home. This time at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens in Charlotte, NC. A little cool air and a light display is a good way to get in the holiday spirit.

I’d love to hear how you get in the holiday spirit. If you’d like to comment on this post, please do so on the blog. While you may see this on Facebook, I haven’t signed in to my Facebook account for well over a year and will not see comments left on Facebook. 

It’s Omaha Time!

Two years ago this weekend, we were packing for our first trip post retirement. We’d be immersed in college baseball for four days in Omaha at the College World Series.

We will not be making a return trip this year but as pictures of this year’s teams arriving continue to show up in my Twitter feed, it seems like a good time to revisit a bucket list event and share want we learned.

You don’t need to buy tickets in advance. I used the CWS ticket site and purchased all tickets a couple of weeks before the games. Tickets would have been much cheaper in Omaha, either general admission or using the same ticket site purchasing resell tickets.

Attend all games, regardless of which teams are playing. You’re in Omaha. You’re there to watch baseball. Make the most of the experience.

Four of the teams we watched play in 2015 are making return appearances this year: LSU, TCU, Cal St, and UF.

Wear sunscreen and a hat. Games start at 2:00 each afternoon and since the sun doesn’t set until after 9:00, you’ll need to protect yourself from the heat.

Take pictures at the entrance gate, the dog pile statue and from inside the stadium. You need to prove you really were there!

Meet a winning team exiting the stadium to board the team bus. After each game, the teams board their buses around the side of the stadium. It’s easy to find the location since these 45 foot monsters are lined up waiting for the team long before the game ends. Players celebrate with family, friends and fans.

Visit Rosenblatt. The site of the previous home of the College World Series, across the street from the zoo, houses memorabilia making it an outdoor museum to the game.

Eat at the stadium. It may seem like a good idea to get away from the stadium for a meal, but grazing on ballpark food is definitely the way to go.

NO! THIS IS NOT STADIUM FOOD! Omaha is famous for steak and in the stadium you can feast on Omaha Steaks Burger, Steak Sandwich or Gourmet Frank. No need to search for a steak dinner.

Walk across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge and straddle the Nebraska Iowa border. Within site of the stadium, this 3,000 foot bridge crosses the Missouri River and provides a wonderful view of Omaha. Since it’s also connected to miles and miles of nature trails, it’s a good place to stretch your legs and get some exercise.

Spend some time at the Lauritzen Gardens. Omaha’s botanical gardens provide a change of scenery and since no afternoon games are scheduled on some days, this is a good place to spend some relaxing down time.

No trip to Omaha this year. Instead we’ll be watching from home. A good way to spend rainy afternoons and evenings in Florida.

Celebrating Nature Photography Day

Today the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) along with millions of photographers and photography lovers across the nation will observe Nature Photography Day.

Sunrise at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah.

Nature Photography Day was designated by NANPA in 2009 to promote the enjoyment of nature photography and since my phone is filled with this type of photography, I thought I should participate. It only seemed appropriate to start with a sunrise.

Mount Moran and reflection in Lake Jackson, Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”~Albert Einstein

Bison and geyser, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

“Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more.” ~Vincent Van Gogh

Green oasis of Fruita surrounded by eroded rock layers in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

“The Earth has music for those who listen.” ~George Santayana

Tributary of Colorado River, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” ~William Shakespeare

Tulip Prickly Pear Cactus, Natural Bridges National Monument.

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” ~Lady Bird Johnson

Owachomo Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Colorado River, Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to the body and soul alike.” ~John Muir”

Arch in Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

“Those who dwell among the beauties of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” ~Rachel Carson

Courthouse Towers, Arches National Park, Utah.

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” ~Frank Lloyd Wright

Broken Arch, Arches National Park, Utah.

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ~Ansel Adams

La Sal Mountains at sunset as seen from Hell’s Revenge, Moab Utah.

Celebrate nature photography day by posting your nature pictures and use #NaturePhotographyDay in social media.

(I took all photos using the camera on my phone, an iPhone 7, no special equipment or filters.)


Not Exactly What We Planned

A three week trip begins with planning so we started researching destinations and activities in January for a May departure. With plans penciled in, we encountered our first stumbling block. The church conference John would be attending in June was a week earlier than we thought resulting in five days and two National Parks being eliminated from our itinerary.

Then just a week before our departure flooding in Missouri meant another change. We wouldn’t be riding our bikes on the Katy Trail. Instead, we decided to spend those days in Rocky Mountain National Park. And while we knew it would be cold with a couple of inches of snow possible, we were surprised by the events on this leg of the trip.

We pulled into Aspenglen Campground in the Rocky Mountains. Snow started to fall immediately after we set up camp. The couple of inches of snow predicted before we left home turned out to be a foot when we awoke in the morning.

Our first reaction: amazement, not only by the amount of snow but by the beauty.

After building a snowman and taking a selfie,we quickly packed so we could follow the snowplow out of the campground.

Since snow was still falling, we were afraid we could find ourselves unable to drive if we didn’t hit the road when we had a chance.
Our next problem, where could we stay? Hotels were not taking additional guests due to concerns about taking care of those already registered, campgrounds said their sites were inaccessible and roads were closed so leaving the area was not possible.

Finally Elk Meadows Campground in Estes Park agreed to clear a path to a campsite. Safe place to park. Electricity, water and heated bathroom. Time to settle in for a bowl of taco soup, a little reading and then some games.
The next morning was time to make our escape. John worked with campground employees to dig the RV out of the snow that was now almost three feet deep, and after lunch in Estes Park and hearing reports of clear roads to Cheyenne, we were back on the road.

Cheyenne was not on our original plan, but it turned out to be a good stop. We got the last campsite. Took a hot shower. Filled the RV with water and propane and emptied holding tanks ready for our days in the Tetons.

However, we decided to pass on taking a dip in the pool.

Don’t click it!

Another day, another scam opportunity.

I open Safari on my phone ready to search for a lab coat. (That’s another story.) But instead of a list of shopping sites, I’m greeted by a warning: Your Apple iPhone is severely damaged by (6) viruses.

The pop up appears to come from the App Store with its official icon shown in the upper left hand corner of the message, and it instructs the user to click the Remove Virus button at the bottom of the screen.

While not impossible, it’s unlikely that an iPhone will be infected by a virus, much less six of them…especially if your apps were downloaded from the Apple App Store.

Don’t get scammed. To protect your phone, don’t jailbreak it and DON’T CLICK THE REMOVE VIRUS BUTTON.



If you have a pop up that just won’t go away, try this.




It’s Best Friends Day!

So today, June 8th, has been declared National Best Friends Day or just another strange, fun, unique reason to celebrate. A day to join National Ferret Day, National Beer Day and National Picnic Day, but it’s also a day when we can tell a friend or maybe more than one friend that we appreciate their friendship.

As defined by Urban Dictionary: Best Friends are very special people in your life. They are the first people you think about when you make plans. They are the first people you go to when you need someone to talk to. You will phone them up just to talk about nothing, or the most important things in your life. When you’re sad they will try their hardest to cheer you up. They give the best hugs in the world! They are the shoulder to cry on, because you know that they truly care about you. In most cases they would take a bullet for you, coz it would be too painful to watch you get hurt.

“Throughout life you meet one person who is unlike any other. You could talk to that person for hours and never get bored, you could tell them things and they won’t judge you. This is your soulmate, your best friend. Don’t ever let them go.” ~Unknown (Certainly this is how I knew I’d met my best friend since only months after we met, John and I could talk for hours.)

“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” ~Henry Ford”

I like you because you join in on my weirdness.” ~Unknown

“Best friends are people you can do anything with and nothing with and still have the best time.” ~Unknown

And, they’re even there for you when you throw out your back. 😉

The goal of this special day, to celebrate National Best Friends Day by letting your best friends know how much they mean to you!

To John, my best friend of forty years, happy National Best Friends Day.

6000 miles later…

Continue reading “6000 miles later…”

Barbara…look familiar?

In April 1977, my college roommate Barbara and another friend, Jill joined me for a Spring Break trip to South Florida. I don’t remember if Jill had been to Florida before, but Barbara hadn’t been out of her home state of North Carolina (with the exception of Myrtle Beach) until she accompanied me on trips home from Western Carolina University.

So I really shouldn’t have been surprised when she was excited by the pretty blue bubble floating next to her in Biscayne Bay. As John was maneuvering his Hobie Cat to pickup Barbara from the middle of the bay after she flew off the trapeze of the boat, he started yelling to Barbara to stay away from the blue bubble…don’t touch it…it’s a Portuguese Man-of-War…it will sting.

So yesterday, 40 years later, when we encountered more of those blue bubbles, this time on Flagler Beach, John and I enjoyed reminiscing about the first time he took me sailing.

I’m glad Portuguese Man-of-War washed up on the beach today to bring back memories, but I didn’t touch those beautiful blue bubbles…they really do sting!

Sunrise Sunset 2017: One of 17 in 17

Make it five years in a row! Yes, for the fifth straight year, we awoke on the east coast of Florida to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and then ended the day by watching the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico.

This year we began the day at Hillsboro Inlet watching the sunrise only minutes from the house I lived in while in high school.

Boats parading through the channel and a lighthouse were an extra bonus, and the sunrise did not disappoint.

Cooking and eating breakfast on the picnic tables at Hillsboro Inlet Park served as fuel for our cross state road trip.

Next stop: Corkscrew Swamp for a stroll among wild things on the boardwalk cutting through the path of Landmark Cypress.

Then on to the island for a bike ride, walk on the beach

and obligatory sundae at Dairy Queen.

Waiting for sunset included a few casts and even a couple of trout.

With waves washing over our feet, the sky changed from gold to orange and finally pinks and purples as 2017 Sunrise Sunset came to an end.

Where would you suggest we plan this adventure in 2018?