Totality

Totality

Over several months, RM planned our five hundred mile road trip to northeast Kansas to view the recent solar eclipse in the so-called totality zone. He plotted and printed maps, researched websites, purchased the necessary protective eye glasses and not-so-necessary commemorative t-shirts, and timed our journey to coincide with the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st. We stayed with some dear friends on their picturesque farm near Holton, Kansas.

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We were one of many visitors to the zone last Monday — stretching across a width of 70 miles from Oregon to South Carolina  — who made it a point to travel to a place where the moon’s shadow will touch the earth.  We were not disappointed in the experience even after dodging traffic, rain clouds and showers to get to our destination.  For us, we ended up on an isolated, dirt road that straddled the Nebraska/Kansas border not too far from Du Bois, NE., surrounded by miles of ripening corn and soybean fields.

While RM was the champion of this excursion, the rest of us in our small party were willing but uninformed, highly supportive accompaniments.  We agreed to stock up the SUV with a picnic lunch and celebratory spirits, keep the phones and iPad charged for tracking and other necessary communication updates from NASA, and drive Ruby (yes, the SUV has a name), over and across this nation’s bread basket back roads to get us in line for the perfect viewing of the total eclipse, weather conditions be damned. While we didn’t fully understand RM’s fixation with getting the perfect spot, we knew it was important to him so we followed our leader’s direction to head up Highway 75 from Holton, over to Sabetha and then north and west to his predetermined, viewing point.

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Through our safety glasses, we saw early glimpses of the partial eclipse but the clouds were thickening and the viewing was sporadic so under RM’s worried brow, we packed up and moved about 10 miles to an area on the radar that looked clear.  We were not disappointed with the audible as we pulled off the road into a pasture, the sky cleared and we could see the eclipse as it moved from partial to total at 1:04 p.m. central Kansas time. At full eclipse, the sky darkened and a 360 degree sunset magically appeared all around us as we admired Bailey’s beads — pearls of sunlight shining through the valleys and mountains of the moon. We saw the beads around the edges of the moon as it passed over the sun.  We took many pictures but mostly we stood and stared up at the eclipse in awe.

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I  first noticed the immense quiet and the surrealism of the space with light reflecting oddly over the fields around us, no sounds of animals or man except for us hooting and comparing comments of what each of us saw and felt.  It was truly an  ‘awe’ moment — one that reached, for me, the upper levels of pleasure but also on the boundary of fear or perhaps better described as the feeling of the unknown.  After the experience, I felt rich in time, somehow better connected to nature with a renewed boost of hope for our future.  We are already plotting for the next eclipse in 2024.  Come join us in Texas, in the the totality zone, and experience the awe.

 

Dave

 

 

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Urban Walks in NYC

Urban Walks in NYC

When RM and I visit a city, we like to walk the streets, feel the pavement under our feet, and begin to understand what makes this unique urban space tick.  When we walk, there is time to appreciate the architecture, to observe the river, to revel in the nooks and crannies and hidden sight lines. A peek-a-boo into the city soul.

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Our tour guide, C1

The traffic stops and starts, sidewalk cafes beckon us over as we look for the past in the shuttered windows and trellised ledges.  The smell of spices and exhaust fumes mix along with the potent piles of rubbish oozing the remains of the day. We wince and turn away but continue our journey across Midtown streets in the light rain.  51st to 49th to catch a risqué Broadway musical or down to lower Manhattan to pose with the Fearless Girl facing down the Wall Street Bull, stepping carefully around and over obstacles, avoiding the flagpole banner-bearing pied pipers.

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City trash, everywhere

A good wander unveils many truths and unexpected gems of discovery some painful to observe like the crack zombies stumbling beside us on our way to Red Rooster brunch or the morning after remnants from a night too hard on Times Square. Getting lost is part and parcel to the urban walking experience.  Getting found again with someone you love is like renewing your vows all over again.

Nowhere is walking more surreally varied and trance-inducing than in New York City. We boomerang from Harlem to Greenpoint to Lower Manhattan to the Upper East Side and back down again to the Brooklyn Bridge. We cross the East River by ferry to Smorgasburg, an open-air food mecca held every Saturday in an empty lot on the Williamsburg waterfront.  It is like a summer rock festival for foodies both alluring and sweaty.  We balance small plates on a rock ledge abandoned from a Domino sugar refinery while sipping fresh coconut water directly out of it’s cracked, greenish hull.  The whole place smells like Marrakesh, I imagine. We trek on through the heat to the cool insides of the Artists and Fleas to find a treasure or two.

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RM & I on the Brooklyn Bridge

We shuffle slowly through the Guggenheim, spiraling down beside masterpieces by Klee and Pollack inspired to try a sketch or two.  We look up at the Freedom Tower and down into the reflecting pools and worry when will it happen again, and where, and how many. We rest in Central Park until the algal bloom drives us up and out for gasps of fresher air and back to our pod for the night.

Reinvigorated in the morning after a good night’s sleep, clean socks, and a NY bagel, we complete one of the most popular walks in NYC.  We cross over the Brooklyn Bridge on foot, feed our pizza pie-hole at the popular Juliana’s, located next to the more famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, and then journey back over in the moonlight with a throng of tourists snapping selfies from every angle while strolling the crowded boardwalk straddling this proud American architectural feat. Back to the pod by Metro this time, too tired for another trek uptown by foot.

C1 joins us on our walking itinerary as she is living in the Big Apple this summer and is excited to see all that NYC offers in two short months.  We took the Metro when prudent but enjoyed strolls along High Line Park one late afternoon before the summer heat wave necessitated a call for Uber. Too hot to walk even to the nearest Metro station.

Whether seeing the city on foot, by subway, taxi or ferry, the important part is to experience travel with the ones you love, even if it is only you. So, find yourself a path to follow and learn to walk again. You’ve waited too long. Happy Independence Day, sweet travelers.

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My niece joins us for bruch at the Red Rooster
Thousand Steps Beach

Thousand Steps Beach

Thousand Steps Beach is a rocky beach below homes high on the bluff  near Shoreline Park in Santa Barbara, California.  To reach the beach at low tide, requires a long hike down a stairway.  The concrete stairs, originally constructed in 1923, have what seems like 1000 steps, but is actually closer to 150. On our recent holiday to California, we enjoyed watching the sunset from Shoreline Park and searched out Thousand Steps Beach one evening but returned the next morning to discover that the tides, at high tide, cover the entire beach and come up several feet on the concrete stairs which explains the erosion of the steps on the lower half.  So pretty that I had to take a posed picture of C2 and her fiance on the steps.

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Another fun find on our journey was the largest Moreton Bay Fig Tree in the United States.  It is hidden behind a very active Amtrak Train Station near State Street and the Stearns Wharf and was planted in 1876 and is estimated to be 80 feet tall.  There are signs all over it to keep folks off but when we stopped by two young kids were climbing all over her grand branches.  Hard to resist.

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It was a beautiful day to explore all of Santa Barbara and beside finding the majestic fig, we explored the more common tourists stops of the Courthouse and Mission Santa Barbara as well as walked State Street (all shopping and restaurants) and the wharf area.  While we were visiting some foolish tourist from Chicago, drove his car off the side of the wharf. Thankfully, he had just dropped of his wife and daughter at the ice cream store before he drove his rental off the side of the dock.  Something about mistaking the brake for the gas pedal?  How do you explain that one around the water cooler?

We had lunch on the one rainy day at the Cold Spring Tavern, outside of SB, warmed by a two-sided rock fireplace and great service. This place was originally a stagecoach stop back in 1865 and has been serving good grub ever since. We sampled buffalo burgers, venison and Tri-tip sandwiches.  Tri-tip is everywhere in this part of CA as I learned it originated just up the 101 at Santa Maria as a great cut to prepare like we do brisket or pot roast in Texas.

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As an alternative to wine, which is everywhere in these parts, we enjoyed an afternoon of watching bowl games and drinking Davy Brown Ale at the Fig Brewing Company  located near our motel.  We did the wine tasting thing, driving up into the scenic Santa Ynez Valley, but I have to say after a couple of stops, all four in our party were done with commenting about how “oaky” or “spicy” we found the small sips. How many souvenir wine glasses and bottles of wine can a girl pack in her suitcase?  Three to be exact.

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New Years Eve we dined at The Lark in the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara.  We sat outside between a heater and a fireplace on a very cool night, after a day of rain. The highlights for me were the oysters on the half shell sprinkled with chilled wine granita and salmon roe along with the scallops swimming in a lobster bisque.  Our dessert and New Year toast was with a great bourbon just to warm up.  Why is it that some of the warmest places to visit often seem the chilliest when you are not expecting it?

Did you know that Santa Barbara is very proud of their tacos?  Taco Trail is how it is billed. We tried a couple different varieties at La-Super Rica.  We were hyped up for fish tacos but on the night we visited we were limited to only beef and pork.  My favorite was the hand-made tortillas made fresh for each plate, grilled just right, as well as the general vibe of the place. The prices can’t be beat at $2.50/taco for most options.

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As always, travel experiences often bring surprises, plans not quite to perfection, but always we learn something new and unexpected about ourselves, the world we live in, as we take a thousand steps and more together in 2017.  Try not to fall off the dock.

Aspen Leaves in the High Country

Aspen Leaves in the High Country

As the temperatures begin to get colder, aspen, cottonwood and willow in the eastern Sierra Mountains suspend production of chlorophyll, which is essential for photosynthesis, and attempt to save energy in anticipation of the coming winter. As the chlorophyll left in leaves breaks down (and with it the green coloring), other colors begin to shine through.  And boy do they.


RM and I had the opportunity to drive over 1,000 miles this last week exploring over a 1100 square miles of Yosemite National Park along 214 miles of paved roads as well as the surrounding areas near Milo Basin and Mammoth Falls to the east of Yosemite.  We also drove through the Fresno Valley area and found it to be traumatized by the infamous California drought.  Very sad to see first hand.

But the leaves.  Oh, my.


We timed our trip in hopes of experiencing cooler temps and a bit of a nip in the air in mid October in the mountains and we were not disappointed.  We had sunshine nearly all week with just a dusting of snow on the highest elevation the night before we departed.  Nearly a perfect week of viewing the changing season up close and personal.


Happy Fall y’all!