Posted in Life, travel

Tuesday Tour: cruising through the 80’s

Sometimes I jokingly retort that I missed the 80’s.

Oh, I don’t necessarily pine nostalgically for that particular decade of time. Instead, I have to pause and try to recall events that occurred during the 1980’s. Those 10 years of my life whipped by me like a runaway train on a steep downhill track.

So the 80’s? A blur in my memory bank because then I was preoccupied with birthing and taking care of my babies. Three to be exact.  All our children were born in that decade, and I spent many sleepless days and nights rocking babies, nursing babies, worrying over babies, being a hospital patient delivering babies, and even recovering from surgery to remove a pesky gall bladder.

Is it possible I walked around in a daze of fatigue for much of that decade? Probably.

The 80’s became a decade of major life changes for us. Papa decided to leave the military and became a traveling sales representative for a national company which deposited us in the Midwest.

His sales territory covered two large states so when he traveled by company car for two or three nights a week, much of his time away from home was on the road. And since none of our family lived near us, my days and nights were consumed being a stay-at-home mother 24/7 to three little ones.

Not only were we attempting to make ends meet on one salary, but we had purchased our first home (whew, mortgage interest rates were sky high at that time!), spent time and money updating and modifying that house, and thus, funds for extravagant family vacations just did not exist.

Vacations with three tots under the age of six also didn’t sound super relaxing in our minds either. Our last child was born in the late 80’s hence he was just a baby/toddler and the sheer magnitude of packing everything needed for a week for our family of five boggled my mind and shredded my nerves.

So, travel for vacations to exciting and scenic locales were practically non-existent during that decade, yet I can share one highlight of that era for my Tuesday Tour today.

Since far-away grandparents were eager to spend quality time with their far-away grandchildren, most of our “vacations” were trips back east to our home state. On one occasion, we relished the opportunity to spend a few days with extended family in a lovely cottage on the Atlantic Ocean shore in New Jersey.

And occasionally, we managed a side trip of some interest on the way to or from visiting family. We lived in the Kansas City metro area back then, and on our way east, we always traveled through the city of St. Louis located in Missouri on the mighty Mississippi River.  

We always spied the famous Gateway to the West archway as we buzzed through that city, but because we adhered to a strict timetable for travel, we didn’t take time to stop there. Our itinerary was a bit crazy but it worked for us.

Papa worked on Friday, come home a bit early to load up all our luggage and what seemed like tons of other stuff for the children that I had already packed.

We would hit the road around 4 pm, drive until dinner time, stop and eat then change the kiddies into their jammies and keep on driving through the night, changing drivers between the two of us while they slept.

A long 17-hour drive straight through and we would then arrive at my folks’ home Saturday morning exhausted. Grandma and Grandpa would look after the children and Papa and I would take a little nap.

But on one of our trips back to Kansas City, we decided to stop in St. Louis to visit the iconic Arch located inside a U.S. National Park along the river.

Papa and I, with two little ones in tow (prior to our last child’s birth), enjoyed a short cruise on the Mississippi River via a 19th century paddle-wheel riverboat replica. I do recall the excursion was fun and cool on the river on a hot, muggy summer day. Along the way, we had a nice view of the Gateway Arch and also downtown St. Louis.

Today, visitors can still take various cruises on riverboats, including those named Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer, which were originally utilized beginning in 1964 to allow tourists to view the Arch as it was being constructed from the river.

Next, we visited the Gateway Arch itself. An amazing monument it truly is. Standing 630 feet tall, the 63-stories high monument was constructed using 43 thousand tons of concrete and steel to commemorate President Thomas Jefferson’s vision of expanding the United States westward. The city of St. Louis and the many pioneers who made that possible are celebrated by the Arch. 

Designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, construction on the Arch, touted as the America’s tallest monument, began in 1963 and was completed by the fall of 1965. Building the arch itself cost $11 million, with 75% of the cost supplied by federal funding and 25% by St. Louis city funds. An additional $2 million financed the arch transportation system (trams inside the monument which take visitors to the top of it) which was completed in 1967-68.

Millions of sightseers have traveled to the top of the Gateway Arch to view the Mississippi River, which flows below the arch east windows, and look 30 miles to both the east and west of the city on a clear day.

I’m happy to say we were some of those millions who took the tram ride to the top of the arch. Going up takes about four minutes but to someone a bit claustrophobic, it might seem longer.

I just remember I was relieved to reach the top, where there are narrow, small windows on each side of the arch in the viewing area, although since it was a hazy, humid day, our view wasn’t the greatest. 

Of course, what goes up must come down and even though there is a stairway, that is only used by arch personnel and is not open to the public, so you must ride the tram back down to ground level.

Looking up at the arch from ground level

Once we arrived on solid ground again, we toured the arch museum, not overwhelmingly interesting for our very young children but my history loving husband enjoyed the exhibits featuring over 200 years of history.

It was just a short stop – one day of touring – as we traveled through St. Louis on our way back to our Midwest home in 1986, but it was a worthwhile stop. And the photos I managed with an inexpensive point and shoot film camera give me memories of it.

Sometimes a deviation from the tried-and-true path is exactly what’s needed. That proved evident both in our travels as well as during that 80’s decade.  That much I certainly remember.

“Take the long way home.” ~ Unknown

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Home, Life, technology

Words for Wednesday: book life

At the risk of sounding like a luddite, some thoughts about the differences between digital books on e-readers and a real, honest-to-goodness paperback or hardback book printed on paper pages have been rolling around in my mind lately.

Why? Because of the photo above. In a concerted and time-consuming effort, Mama has been clearing out this ol’ empty nest. We’ve lived in our country home for 21 years now and the accumulation of stuff tells me so.

So short of selling the house and moving (which always helped de-cluttering in the past but is precisely what Mama and Papa don’t want to do), I set my sights on eliminating the ever-growing assortment lurking in closets, drawers, and especially our very large unfinished basement.

What a job it was! Middle daughter contributed quite an assortment of no longer wanted items herself, so we decided to hold a garage sale or a tag sale as some folks call such an event. Sorting, marking items with prices, and setting up tables to display it all seemed like a herculean task, but I remained undaunted. We advertised our sale – where else but Facebook?

After two days of selling (and praying people would show up to peruse our stuff and take it home with them), we did manage to unload sell a good bit of our former belongings, including some bigger items. But WAY too much remained, and we hauled two very full SUV-loads to our nearest thrift shop to donate.

After all was said and done though, an observation I made saddened me. Papa and I are readers, and we own shelves and shelves of books. We decided it was time to reduce those collections, so many boxes filled with paperbacks, hardbacks, and even children’s chapter books all priced inexpensively and ready for new homes were added to the sale.

To my dismay, hardly anyone even looked at the books. Out of the scads of people who rummaged through our offerings, practically every one of them walked right by the books without a glance. I think we sold a grand total of two hardback books to an older woman and a handful of children’s paperbacks to one lady who mentioned she was trying to entice her son to read more.

What? No one wants “real” books anymore? I get it. You can download books digitally on your kindles or e-readers. But still….for me, reading  electronically isn’t as relaxing as cozying up on my couch with a nice cup of hot tea and a book in my hand. And finishing that book gives me a kind of satisfying fulfillment concluding a digital copy just doesn’t provide.

And I don’t know about you, but when I’m at the beach, I’d much rather read from a printed paperback then haul my kindle down onto the sand.

When I get distracted by the soothing sounds of ocean waves or that seagull who keeps trying to get close enough to see if I’ll throw it some crumbs or I simply get drowsy, I can put a physical bookmark in my book and set it aside.

I don’t have to readjust my focus on reading to realize my e-reader resorted to sleep mode while I was inactive, or squint in the bright sunlight to try to read it, or shut it down because it needs recharged, or locate a safe, non-sandy spot to store it.   

I assume I’m not the only person who prefers printed books to electronic ones, but I searched the all-knowing internet just to make sure I wasn’t the only off-the-wall hermit of a real book lover still in existence. (Don’t get your shorts in a knot, I know there are still some of you out there in cyber-land.)

And here’s one of the sites – 5o Reasons Real Books Are Vastly Superior to eBooks –  I found that caused me to nod my head often as I read it even though the guy who wrote the article called it satire.

I also found a non-satirical site comparing the two that spouted good common sense about why physical books are better than eBooks. It stated that reading on a screen is more tiring for your eyes than reading printed matter. And interestingly, studies have shown that students comprehend less when reading electronically than with traditional printed books.

You know what? I have found that to be true myself. I will buzz through an eBook quickly and then not even really remember much about the storyline but with a printed hard copy, I remember it well.

Sometimes I look at the library of eBooks I have and don’t even remember reading the ones that my kindle app marks as read. Plus, to be honest, some eBooks just really aren’t as well-written as traditionally published ones.

When it comes to books, I’d rather hold a printed one in my hands, go to the library to borrow as many as I want, and enjoy reading that way.

So what to do with all of the boxes of books still sitting in our garage? I could establish a free little lending library like one of my blogging friends has done. I love noticing those and have often photographed some on our excursions.

Somewhere on Cape Cod
At a children’s playground

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never-failing spring in the desert.” ~ Andrew Carnegie

But a few things might hamper that idea – we live in a very rural area and honestly, I sincerely doubt if anyone would even utilize one here. I’m not sure placing it in any nearby towns would work well either because lately I’ve noticed a lot of vandalism. Plus that wouldn’t be purging all of those boxes of many books at one time.

Thus, I may contact a used bookstore in the city and see if they would be willing to take some of them and, more than likely, I’ll donate the books to some community libraries in our area and thrift shops.

I just hope my assumption that folks don’t read printed books, or any kind of books for that matter, is wrong because I recall a quote once made by the writer, Ray Bradbury: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

Anyone interested in a couple boxes of real books? Or do any of you readers out there have another suggestion for me? There’s still lots of good reading in those books.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R.R. Martin

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: million dollar highway

I bet you’ve heard it many times – life is a highway. Possibly a song queues up in your brain’s juke box like it does in mine.

That song, Life is a Highway, immediately starts playing in my head and lyrics blast from my mouth. Originally written and sung by Tom Cochrane in the early 1990’s, the song was made popular by Rascal Flatts as the theme song for the Disney animated movie, Cars.

Traveling by car on a spectacular highway is today’s focus on my Tuesday Tour as I continue to share Papa’s and my 1979 autumn trip to the San Juan Mountains (part of the Rockies) in southwestern Colorado.

“All roads are tough, but you have to choose the one you know you’ll never be sorry for taking.” ~ Chris Burkmenn

One of the roads we traveled during our week-long stay was definitely a spectacular scenic drive, yet also a nail biter, but one we weren’t sorry we took. Dubbed the Million Dollar Highway, this two-lane road tests your driving skills as you maneuver through Mineral Creek Valley and encounter sharp grades, hairpin turns, and cross over three mountain passes.

There are varying theories on why this scenic highway is named thusly. Some say constructing the highway in the 1920’s cost over $1 million per mile. Other folks think the highway’s name came from the awe-inspiring views. And yet another claim is that literally the dirt used to fill in the road contained a million dollars’ worth of gold ore.

Whatever the truth may be, it is one highway visitors won’t soon forget. One stretch of road that traverses travelers from the Red Mountain Pass, with an elevation of over 11,000 feet, through the Uncompahgre Gorge is one that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

I have to surmise that this drive was so scary that I stayed busy ascertaining that Papa didn’t drive us over the side of the mountain and that’s why I don’t have many photos taken with my 35 mm film camera from way back then.

Million Dollar Highway consists of narrow lanes of traffic overlooking very steep cliffs and there are no guardrails. You read that correctly, no guard rails! And apparently, it remains the same now as it did in 1979 when we drove on it.

A co-worker recommended this drive as a “must see” for us and we learned she was right. We started out on the Million Dollar Highway (US Route 550) from the mining town of Silverton, where we previously visited via the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway. The drive eventually took us to a lookout point, where we could view another tiny town of just 0.8 square miles, Ouray.

Nestled in the mountains, Ouray’s nickname is “Switzerland of America.” Its history began in 1876 when the town became incorporated, not long after Colorado became a US state. Ouray also calls itself the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Colorado,” with many outdoor activities available.

One of the well-visited sites on our itinerary to see in Ouray was Box Canyon Falls. The falls, an 85-foot torrent of water, is located inside a park of the same name. Canyon Creek narrows and shoots through boulders there gushing thousands of gallons of water a minute.

Quite a sight to behold and I recall how loud is was as the falls thundered down into a 100-foot walled canyon of quartzite. My old film photos and not-so-great photography skills truly don’t show how dramatic and astonishing it is, but you can tell how dark it was at the bottom of the falls where the creek continued on by the photo below.

All too soon, it was time for us to leave the mountains and the forest and head back to the prairie – the plains of Oklahoma where duty and work called our names.

On our way back, we traveled through Wolf Creek Pass, a high and very steep mountain pass on the Continental Divide. We stopped at the summit (elevation 11.904 feet) in hopes of seeing some snow but all we found was one little patch.  

One memorable sight and decent photograph I captured was a copse of aspen trees just beginning to turn their lovely lemon-yellow color as we traveled through the San Juan Mountains. Our mountain getaway was one we’ll not forget.

As I look back on the many highways we’ve traveled during our 40+ years of marriage, some roads we traveled in life turned out great, some were difficult and trying, but all were blessings in some way. I’m grateful for them and hopeful for more roadways of life to capture on my Tuesday Tour.

“They say life is a highway and we all travel our own roads, some good, some bad, yet each is a blessing of its own.” ~ Jess “Chief” Brynjulson

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Aging, Life

Words for Wednesday: with these hands

Since observing a recent birthday – notice I did not say celebrating a birthday because as you get older, the day just isn’t as exciting as it was when you were a youngster.

So after passing certain decades of living, I don’t find myself celebrating the day of my birth. But I do observe it and give thanks for another year of life.

As a senior citizen, my mind is a bit boggled at how quickly I’ve arrived at that status. I mean, really, just the other day wasn’t I racing around chasing after three children, juggling chores at home and lots of volunteer opportunities, and even working part-time?

Wasn’t it not so long ago that my calendar was filled with my children’s school, sports, and social activities instead of reminders to accomplish tasks I tend to forget?

Let’s face facts. Even though my mind stills thinks I’m young, my body signals me all too well that I’m not. A prime example of this is when I glanced at my hands one day while I was reading (a real book, not an e-reader) and thought, “Whose hands ARE these?”

And that set my mind to contemplating these hands that don’t look like they used to.

Hands. Do we really consider those appendages? How we’ve used them? What they’ve done? How they’ve helped or hurt others?

We can use our hands to accomplish beneficial and compassionate actions in the world or we can utilize them for negative, downright wicked deeds as well.

“What the hand does the mind remembers.” ~ Maria Montessori

We may bite the hand that feeds us, gain the upper hand, force someone’s hand, be underhanded, act with a heavy hand, or have blood on our hands.

Or we may give a hand, lend a hand, take someone by the hand, or hand it to someone to give them a compliment.

We might know something firsthand or like the back of one’s hand. Perhaps we’re even an old hand at something.

But sometimes, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and we throw our hands up in frustration or even defeat with a hands-off attitude.

If we have our hands full, maybe it’s because we are too hands-on. Perhaps we played into someone’s hands or just simply got our own hands dirty.

On the other hand, it’s possible to overplay your hand, allow situations to get out of hand, and end up washing our hands of it all.

To win hands down, it’s better if one hand washes the other, and we call for all hands on deck.  That way, we all feel like we’re in good or safe hands.

We can hand something down, hand something in, hand something off, hand something on, hand something out, or hand something over.

Whatever the case, our hands are on hand, available to us to use them wisely or not. I’m reminded of an old adage that says, “The devil makes work for idle hands.” What goes hand in hand with that is when we aren’t busy using our hands for good, we are easily tempted to do wrong.

That saying may have come from a verse, Proverbs 16:27, in the Living Bible: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece.”

And that reminds me of something I want to always keep on hand – God’s Word. If I line up my hands with His Word, I can’t go wrong.

Martin Luther, the famous German theologian who initiated the Protestant Reformation, once wrote: “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

That sounds like excellent advice to me. Place everything in God’s hands instead of my own. I need to remember that every time I look at these aging hands.

“The hand expresses what the heart already knows.” ~ Samuel Mockbee

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: a different landscape

After a couple of years living on the plains of Oklahoma (where the wind truly does come sweeping down the plain), our fall vacation to the mountains of southwestern Colorado in 1979 was unquestionably a change of landscape.

Continuing our Tuesday Tour of this area, today my old 35mm film photos of another attraction we visited during that trip so long ago tell the story. Reaching back over 40 years in my memory bank in order to recall details of this trip, these old pictures came to my aid. My photography skills weren’t all that great back then, but the photos do jog my remembrances.

After our day trip on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (click here if you missed that post), we ventured out on another day trip from our little one-bedroom log cabin in the San Juan Mountains to Mesa Verde.

Plummeting caverns like we’d not seen before (this was four decades before we’d viewed the Grand Canyon) and vast views that enable visitors, on a clear day, to see four states located in this “four corners region” – Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah – proved to be a landscape of a different kind.  

 

Amazing and intriguing sights can be found in Mesa Verde National Park, consisting of archaeological sites that were once inhabited by ancestral Pueblo people.  They built their communities not just on the mesas there but within the overhanging cliffs. Hundreds of these cliff dwellings are some of the best-preserved archeological areas in North America.

The arrow points to a cliff dwelling seen from a distance

For some reason after living on top of the mesas for centuries, the Puebloans moved their community dwellings cliffside, ranging from one-room to villages with numerous rooms.

Getting a little closer to the huge community

According to park information, these ancient people farmed on top of the mesas, but lived in the alcoves of the canyons for almost 100 years. Eventually, they moved into what is now New Mexico and Arizona and by the year 1300, Mesa Verde was no longer inhabited by the ancestral Pueblo people.

It was mind-boggling to view the almost unbelievable structures tucked into the side of steep cliffs from a distance as we drove around the park via winding roads, but when we actually hiked down to view them up-close, we marveled at these ancient people’s ingenuity and adeptness.

Going down the trail to explore Cliff Palace

Because the altitude is rather high at Mesa Verde and it was a scorching hot day, I endured a wicked headache while we visited so we didn’t explore as much as we could have. Since I wasn’t feeling well, we chose to forgo visiting Balcony House which is only accessible by climbing a 32-foot ladder and then crawling through a tunnel. A pounding headache, slight nausea, and no remedy available caused me to nix that idea.

But we did hike down the pathway to view Cliff Palace, which is the largest and most famous of the cliff dwellings, containing over 150 rooms as well as kivas, which were rooms used for religious rituals.

Another area of Mesa Verde is Wetherill Mesa where Long House is located. This area was excavated in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Today you can only visit it by ranger-guided tours. Of course, in the over 40 years since we visited, much has been added to the park including a visitor center, where sightseers can purchase tour tickets.

Papa before he became a papa (just to show scale of the dwellings)

Even though my memory of visiting Mesa Verde is hampered by not forgetting a touch of “altitude sickness,” I’ve never forgotten the sights we viewed in that very different terrain from any we’d seen before. I’m glad I still have those old photographs to catalog that unusual landscape.

“We are a landscape of all we have seen.” ~  Isamu Noguchi 

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in History, Life

Words for Wednesday: nostalgic day

Several decades ago on this very day, a baby girl was born to a mother and father, welcomed into a family with two older sisters, and brought home from a community hospital in the one car the family owned at the time to live in a modest two-bedroom, one bath home a few miles outside a small, picturesque town in middle class America.

It was during the 1950’s, a decade that many older Americans reflect back upon with nostalgia and pleasant memories.  That era became a period of prosperity and well-being after the perils and difficult times of World War 2 in the 1940’s.

At the onset of the 50’s, one could purchase a new house for an average cost of around $10,000 and a new car for between $1500-2000. The average wage earner made around $4000 a year and it only cost 21 cents a gallon to fill up your vehicle’s gas tank. You could buy a can of Campbell’s tomato soup for a dime, a pound of coffee for less than 40 cents, and a roll of toilet paper for a nickel.

It was a decade when newly birthed rock and roll reigned the radio airwaves and Elvis the Pelvis (Elvis Presley) started his skyrocket to fame. Poodle skirts, bobby socks, hula hoops, and other fads became popular.  

Television shows like I Love Lucy and The Rifleman rapidly replaced radio serial programs as one of the top forms of entertainment and the first frozen TV dinners were produced by the Swanson company. Movies galore were made starring Charlton Heston, Marlon Brando, James Dean, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, just to name a few and a movie ticket only cost a few cents.

Children gathered around huge television consoles with small screens called picture tubes and watched Howdy Doody, Captain Kangaroo, and the Mickey Mouse Club. And visionary Walt Disney opened his dream called Disneyland in California for families to enjoy a magical world together.

The population of the United States soared to over 150 million because of a baby boom, which is why those of us born during those years are called baby boomers. Both Alaska and Hawaii were added as states to our country. And by the end of the decade, the first astronauts, former military pilots, were chosen to begin training for ventures into outer space.

But all was not rosy and perfect in the 1950’s. Another outbreak of war occurred in Korea and the American military was back in battle. Stirrings of another conflict to come in Vietnam were beginning. The threat of communism’s spread initiated a Cold War, while U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy sought to weed out communists on our home turf but was later censured for his ‘witch hunt’.

African American seamstress Rosa Park refused to acquiesce her bus seat to a Caucasian man beginning boycotts that eventually led to a federal court declaring bus segregation laws were unconstitutional. Civil rights struggles ensued, which eventually resulted in the first civil rights bill approved by U.S. Congress since Civil War reconstruction.

For more interesting aspects about that decade in America, you can view this video I found on YouTube. It’s a trifle long and is broken up by some ads (which you can skip), but it’s fun to watch if you lived in the 1950’s and even if you didn’t.

How do I know all of these facts about the nostalgic 50’s? I was the baby born on this day in the early years of that decade of history. And even though I was a young child during those years, I do remember many details about that era of time.

And I can hardly believe that the onset of the 1950’s decade was 70 years ago. I have a couple more years before I hit that landmark, but today on this day of my birth, I am left wondering how all those years have slipped by.  

My father, wise in his 90 years of life, once warned me that as you get older, the years fly by in a whirlwind. And he was correct.

“In retirement, the passage of time seems accelerated. Nothing warns us of its flight. It is a wave which never murmurs because there is no obstacle to its flow.” ~ Sophie Swetchine

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: the mountains are calling

It was our first real vacation as a married couple in the fall of 1979. Papa was a military officer; I worked as a newspaper assistant editor/reporter in a place far from our home state. Consequently, our vacations were jaunts back ‘home’ to visit our families.

But we wanted to explore places new to us and after growing a tad weary of seemingly endless flat prairie land, we longed to visit mountains and forests. So that September, we decided to drive from Oklahoma through New Mexico and into the San Juan Mountains (part of the Rockies) of southwestern Colorado.

Luckily for us, one of my co-workers traveled there every summer for a family reunion, so she suggested a great itinerary of spots to visit.

We booked a little one-bedroom log cabin at Silver Streams Lodge near Vallecito Lake, CO in the San Juan National Forest in September and were surprised to find we were the only people there other than the owners/managers. Of course, summers and winters are busier seasons for that area.

View from the lodge

We hiked and enjoyed the peace, quiet, and change of scenery. But the highlight of our vacation was day trips to Durango, Silverton, Ouray, and Mesa Verde. Today on our Tuesday Tour, I’m showcasing the Durango-Silverton area.

Even back then in his 20’s, Papa was a railroad enthusiast, and he was excited for us to embark on a day-long excursion via the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a train with both steam and diesel locomotives that has continued operation for almost 140 years to date.  

What an amazing trip! Boarding the train in the historic town of Durango, passengers travel 45 miles up the mountains for 3½ hours and arrive in the old mining settlement of Silverton.

In 1880, Durango was founded by the Denver and Rio Grande Railway. Once the railroad was established there the next year, construction on tracks up the mountain to Silverton began and were completed by the summer of 1882. The train hauled both passengers and freight, especially silver and gold ore mined in the San Juan Mountains.

We departed in the morning and arrived in Silverton, nestled in the valley of the mountains, where we ate lunch and enjoyed a couple hours browsing the shops there. Of course, Papa posed in front of the train’s engine on our arrival, and I posed in the open rail car, our choice on the way back down the mountain to Durango on another 3 ½ hour trip.

Arrival in Silverton
Departure from Silverton

The magnificent views we experienced, inaccessible by highway, awed us. My old 35mm film photos and my not-so-great photography skills back then don’t do them justice, but you get the idea.

Animas River Gorge as seen from the train

Even back in the late 1970’s, both Durango and Silverton (watch a nice video here) had plenty of restaurants and shops to visit and now even more so (500 shops in the Durango area), but nature and outdoor activities as well as the narrow gauge train trip are the true gems and tourist attractions of that area of Colorado.

Next week on our Tuesday Tour, I’ll show you other spectacular spots we visited on our trip to southwestern Colorado including Ouray and Mesa Verde.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” ~ John Muir

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: home on the range

Since my series of Tuesday Tour highlighting covered bridges ended last week, I’ve been contemplating where to venture next. Unfortunately, since travel was restricted for so long during the you know what, Papa and I haven’t hit the road as much as we usually do in search of new adventures.  

Hopefully, that changes soon but, in the meantime, I reminisced about past excursions we’ve taken in our 40+ years of marriage. Because, you know, that’s what you do when you can’t move forward, you look back to the past.

With hopes that I don’t bore my readers (please excuse me and let me know if I do), just yesterday on one of those rainy, dreary, is it Monday already moments, I decided to continue Tuesday Tour highlighting places we’ve visited in the past.

Maybe it’s desperation for something to blog about, but it’s also a bit of fun to see how far Papa and I have come in our travels as well as how my photography skills have fared.

So with photos I shot in the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s with a 35 mm film camera, here goes…

Way back when we were newlyweds, Papa and I said goodbye to our native land and headed for the OK state – Oklahoma. Some folks claim this panhandled place sandwiched in between Kansas and Texas is a southwestern state, others categorize its location as Midwest.

Whatever it is, Oklahoma seemed like a foreign country to two young’uns born and raised in a hilly, mountainous (Allegheny Mountains), and forested northeastern or middle Atlantic state as it is sometimes called. 

The area of Oklahoma that we landed in for a four-year sojourn was a flat prairie, mostly treeless, with a heap of huge boulders they call mountains.

The scenario was like the old cowboy folk song, “Home on the Range,” originally written as a poem by Dr. Brewster M. Higley in 1872 or 73, came to life.

“Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play. Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the sky is not cloudy all day.”

I vividly recall one of the first times Papa and I explored our surroundings when we were in search of Geronimo’s grave (a famous Native American leader from the Apache tribe).

Geronimo’s gravesite

Driving out onto the flat plains where there were no signs of civilization and the horizon seemed to spread out for eternity, I felt not just awestruck but a bit frightened as well.

Right then, I decided I never would have been a pioneer heading west in a covered wagon into uncharted territory. Nope, this gal would have stayed back east in civilization with hills, wooded areas, and people. That expanse of uninhabited prairie kind of scared me.

One of our favorite pastimes in the five years we lived in that area of Oklahoma was visiting the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge which was practically at our back door.

The most prominent aspect of the national refuge, established in 1901 to provide a habitat for an assortment of native animals, is Mount Scott. Visitors can drive a winding, curving road (which can provide a nail-biting experience for some) to the mountain’s top 2,464 feet above sea level, where a parking lot is located.

View from Mount Scott

From that spot, one can gaze out forever it seems, viewing the grassland prairie and plenty of rocks. It’s a windy place reminding visitors what those song lyrics from the musical Oklahoma, “where the wind comes sweeping down the plain” are all about.

Even more astonishing for us while motoring through the 59,000+ acre refuge was meeting free range American bison roaming about, crossing the road in front of our car, and staring at us while we stared at them, worrying they might charge at us. And believe me, when bison want to cross the road, you stop and let them!

Rocky Mountain elk and white-tailed deer also abound there as well as Texas longhorn cattle (in photo at beginning of this post). We managed to see them all on our visits, as well as get our first look at tarantulas in their natural habitats.

We distinctly remember stopping for a “tarantula train” crossing the road. They were huge and caused me to shudder quite a bit as I’m definitely not fond of spiders of even the tiny kind.

Rocky Mountain Elk

The refuge offered lots of opportunities for watching wildlife, fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking, rappelling, and rock climbing and still does. But watch out for rattlesnakes and scorpions!

We enjoyed many picnics there as well as visiting the nearby Holy City of the Wichitas, site of a long-time running Easter pageant, and some interesting restaurants that I’m surprised to say still exist now.

The Old Plantation restaurant was a great place to dine on steaks and view the eclectic and unusual décor, while we could feast on delicious, gigantic hamburgers the size of a dinner plate at Meers Store and Restaurant.

One of my favorite aspects of the wildlife refuge was the prairie dog town. Prairie dogs are rodents related to squirrels, can be up to 15 inches long, but they live in underground colonies of tunnels that can spread for many miles.  They also emit a noise that sounds like the bark of a dog.

Watching them pop in and out of their underground homes was a source of amusement and I loved watching these cute critters.

For over five years, we called the Lawton-Fort Sill area of Oklahoma home. After over 40 years, memories of those home on the range places still bring a smile to my face. Maybe you’ll smile too and visit there someday.

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” ~ Pascal Mercier

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Home, Life

Words for Wednesday: Slow and steady

I imagine that most of my readers know the old tale of the tortoise and the hare.

The racing rabbit always moved at top speed and was so confident that he would win a race with the slow-moving, creeping-along pace of the tortoise hands down. Harry the hare was so darn sure he’d win he not only boasted about it, but he also stopped and took a nap along the way. But Terry the tortoise, plodding along but not ceasing, ultimately became the winner.

Moral of the story: slow and steady wins the race.

That old Aesop’s fable, especially the moral, came to my mind as I sat down this week to compose a new blog post and I remembered the photo above stored in my picture cache. On morning walks with my friend, we often see rabbits and once we met a turtle on the sidewalk. He ever so slowly moseyed along and of course, we passed him with flying colors, but not before I snapped a photo of him with my cell phone.  (I’m glad he didn’t ‘snap’ back.)

And that reminded me that all too many times I’m like the hare – racing hither and yon to accomplish a task. However, unlike the hare in Aesop’s tale, I often don’t take time to just sit and rest. My motto has always been once you start a job, finish it first, then you can stop and relax. I’m one of those impatient types of people who want the job done NOW.

“Your speed doesn’t matter. Forward is forward.” ~ unknown

But in the last few months, a household chore – no, call it a gargantuan task – had me racing as if I were a contestant in an old television game show from the 1950’s and early 60’s called “Beat the Clock.”  Anyone besides me remember that one?

What prodded me into warp speed? Papa and I have called our country house home for 21 years now – the longest amount of time we have ever lived in one place.  Being stationary in one spot, we’ve accumulated a lot of “stuff.” When we moved more often in the first 20-some years of marriage, we always purged. But now, our basement seriously looked like a hoarder’s treasure trove.

And I was determined to clear it out. With the onset of our oldest daughter and son-in-love moving into a house, where they now have plenty of storage, we hauled a load of her belongings to them. That made a bit of a dent.

Middle daughter has also stored way too many possessions in our basement, and she and I began sorting through it all, packing up items in plastic storage tubs for future use, and eliminating others. That made another dent.

But how to get rid of a boatload of perfectly good stuff that might bring a little extra cash for her and us as well? Why, hold a garage sale of course. You know, there’s a very good reason why I haven’t succumbed to this kind of expunging for 20 years – it’s a lot of WORK!

For months now, I have been culling through the basement stash, separating the wheat from the chaff so to speak. Setting aside the usable items that could most likely be sold and determining the rest which, frankly, just needed to be deep sixed in the trash or recycling bins.

As usual, I tried to work at Harry the hare’s pace, sorting, categorizing, pricing items, and packing them into boxes so that all that was required during the couple of days before the sale would be to unpack and set it all up.

Whew! It proved to be a huge task and I still had other household responsibilities to handle as well, not to mention conjuring up creative ideas for blog posts, advertising the sale on social media, scrounging up tables, making direction signs, etc.

Something had to give which is why I took a longer than a week-long break from blogging.

In the end, I found that working like Terry the turtle was far more productive for me. And as we hauled all the garage sale boxes to our actual garage and outside onto the driveway for the sale last weekend, lo and behold, our basement walls became visible!

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” ~Confucius

We did manage to eliminate much of it and make some garage sale goers happy with their finds. But there’s still quite a few items left over. Now it’s time to sort through it once more, pack it up, and find a donation center that will accept it. Unfortunately, right now, some of our thrift shop/non-profits are not accepting donations of this kind.

I’m determined, however, that the stuff doesn’t claim our basement as its home once more, so I’m reminding myself again…slow and steady wins the race.

Can I interest anyone in a few boxes of garage sale leftovers? I just may have something you might need because one man’s trash is another’s treasure, you know.

“Some quit due to slow progress, never grasping the fact that slow progress is progress.” ~ unknown

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: loop’s end

And so, we reach the end of the loop – the Ashtabula Covered Bridges Trail or the “Covered Bridge Loop” in Ashtabula County, Ohio – as this is my last post about historic covered bridges on my Tuesday Tour. Hopefully, Papa and I will uncover some more of these picturesque bridges in future travels.

Today, please enjoy the last four bridges we viewed on our driving tour one day last summer. In addition to the 12 total we located, four more drivable ones exist in Ashtabula County, but we didn’t have time to visit those since this was just a day trip.

As we drove through Benetka Road Covered Bridge, a 138-foot long, single span with a Town truss lattice and arch design, we weren’t aware of its history.  Later, I learned this bridge, located on a road of the same name and crossing the Ashtabula River, was built near a water-powered saw, grist, and flour mill constructed in 1829. Some historians believe the Benetka bridge was erected around 1900, but others claim that the bridge’s timbers have two different kinds of saw marks – some circular and some vertical – most likely created by sash saws powered by the old mill. Some covered bridge aficionados speculate those particular timbers were cut around 1860 or even earlier, so it is possible Benetka was first constructed then and maybe rebuilt in 1900. Either way, it is a nice example of that era of time. The bridge was rehabilitated by the county in 1985 when laminated arches were added to its length. Drivers are warned that a blind spot exists at the bridge’s south approach because of a curve, and local drivers beep their car horns to signal they are coming through.

Our next stop located on Dewey Road in Plymouth Township was the Olin Covered Bridge.  Once known as the Dewey Road Bridge, this 115-foot, single span Town lattice structure also crosses the Ashtabula River, and was repaired, restored and renamed Olin Covered Bridge in 1994. Originally built in 1873, it is the only bridge in Ashtabula County named for a family, the Olins, pioneers who owned property beside the bridge for well over 150 years. Alson and Alvina Olin arrived in Ashtabula County from New York in 1832 and their son, Almon, purchased the land in 1860 beside where the bridge now exists. You can learn more about this historic bridge by visiting a small museum and gift shop located less than a mile away and operated by members of this family. The Olin’s Museum of Covered Bridges, opened in 2003, claims to be the country’s first covered bridge museum, and contains educational displays as well as an Olin family collection.  We didn’t know of its existence in a 100-year-old house when we drove through the Olin bridge, so we did not visit it, but the museum is only open Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 pm from July through October.  

From the old and historic to the modern and amazing, our driving tour included motoring through the longest covered bridge in the United States at 613 feet and the fourth longest covered bridge in the world, Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge. The engineering and structural design of this Pratt Truss bridge was created by former County Engineer John Smolen with current County Engineer Timothy Martin, providing architectural design. This bridge was dedicated in 2008. An interesting aspect of the structure is it stands 93 feet above the Ashtabula River, is wide and high enough to support two-lane legal weight, modern traffic, and is expected to last 100 years.  

The Smolen–Gulf Bridge cost approximately $7.78 million to build, rests on concrete piers and abutments, and consists of three-foot-thick Douglas fir and yellow pine wood. The siding is constructed of Hemlock and yellow poplar wood.  Features include walkways on both sides of the bridge and a visitor’s pavilion, from which I snapped a number of photos. Below the Smolen-Gulf bridge, a small Riverview Covered Pedestrian Bridge also exists for visitors to amble through on foot.

The last covered bridge we viewed on our driving tour was the Doyle Road Covered Bridge, spanning Mill Creek, a tributary of Grand River. At 94 feet long, this single span Town truss and lattice bridge was erected in 1868 and renovated in 1987. In my research, I did not find a lot of history about this particular covered bridge, except for that fact that the creek it crosses – Mill Creek – was named after a Mills family who were early pioneer settlers in the area. It was a lovely bridge and just as enjoyable to drive through as all the other bridges on the loop tour.

As I climbed back in our vehicle and fastened my seat belt, Papa and I heard the distinct clip-clop of a trotting horse coming through the bridge. Alas, I couldn’t grab my camera fast enough to catch the Amish buggy that came through. But we did see several on all the country roads we traveled upon on our tour.

A fun fact for visitors who want to travel to this area of Ohio: each fall, a covered bridge festival takes place during the second weekend of October in Ashtabula County. The festival includes crafts, entertainment, quilt shows, food, and of course, beautiful fall scenery provided by nature as folks take the covered bridge driving tour through the county. And the festival is free to the public. For those who love exploring these quaint, historic bridges, it would make a great fall getaway trip.

Just like visiting lighthouses, exploring covered bridges provides fun and beautiful scenic sights for this retired, empty nest Mama and Papa to visit on our travels. We enjoy seeking them out, but also are happy to come home to our own little neck of the woods, grateful for the opportunities.

“Never to forget where we came from and always praise the bridges that carried us over.” ~ Fannie Lou Hamer

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021