Florida here we come! I think?

Back in January my daughter told me that her and her son’s spring breaks were the same week, not like last year. This was great because hubby had been informed he needed to use up some vacation hours before he lost them.

The coincidence: Her break was in March and he had to use the hours by the end of March-perfect symmetry. So the plans were on for the four of us to travel to Florida to see my son and his wife, go to DisneyWorld, visit Kennedy Space Center and if enough time to go to the ocean. We had two weeks, but Melissa and Charlie only had one. Another fun thing we planned was to visit my cousin and her family in Jacksonville, NC on our way to Orlando. It was going to be awesome!

As we were down to the last week before we left my son said the park was still open, Kennedy was still open and everything was a go. Yay!

Daisy

Hubby and son had some work to do on the 5th wheel they live in, new flooring and new hot water heater, so we began to get Daisy (the travel trailer) loaded with food and such, and the F250 truck loaded with tools-lots of stuff like saw horses, a ladder and three tool boxes.

Then, we got word from my cousin in NC that the base ( Camp Lejeune) where her husband works had some cases diagnosed and he felt it wouldn’t be wise for us to come to stay since he had been exposed. Okay.

Then our daughter called and said one of the workers where our grandson goes to school had been exposed, however the test results weren’t back yet so no idea if she was infected. So after much debating and deliberation she felt they shouldn’t go. Okay.

So we pulled the stuff we had for them out of Daisy and left a day later March 15th to head east. BTW Head East was a really good band. On the morning after our first stop in Fort Stanton TX our son called to say the park was closing, Kennedy was closing, and the beaches were closing. Okay.

We headed on, Winter Garden FL on the GPS.

Then Covid-19 arrived big time in the good ole USA.

By the time we reached Winter Garden things were updating daily and hourly with each news report. Because my daughter-in-law, Chelsea, works in an essential field (vehicle titles) she was working from home, then going in to do copying, bringing a huge box of files back and forth every day.

Aaron

My son, Aaron, was on paid furlough at that time and so momma got to spend lots of time hugging, kissing and cuddling her baby boy so it totally worked for me.

The beautiful Chelsea

When Chelsea was done each day the men would get busy doing stuff. Often Chelsea and I would run errands  😉😉 (getting away from the house) to get take out, shop for groceries, just drive around, and make the requisite Walmart stop. We were seeing more and more humans wearing masks.

Once the work was finished on the floor it looked fabulous, and the hot water was very hot. Each day hubby and I would head back to wee Daisy. She is a tiny vintage trailer but with a toilet/shower combo, a fridge, stove top and a very comfy bed she worked perfectly.

So we headed home. It was and is always hard for me to leave my babies. I was sad to leave, but the dog/cat/house sitter was paid through Saturday the 28th, and hubby had to be back for work.

One day out from Catalina he heard from work that since he was coming back from being out of state he had to quarantine for 14 days before coming back. Okay.

So that is how things went down for our travels across country and back during the Covid-19 crisis. I know you are all happy to read this exciting narrative. Masks are still on, Aaron is still furloughed, Chelsea is still working, Melissa and Charlie didn’t get exposed because the worker did not test positive, and hubby finally went back to work.

Cheers!

-N

 

 

Physics and Hurricane Michael

I am a meteorology, geology, astronomy geek. Yep, and proud of it.

Last Wednesday I went to a presentation at the University of Arizona by the folks who helped get the image of the black hole M87. I had chills. It made my mind fly with excitement, and frustration.

The frustration was because I was never encourage, pushed, or helped to do well in school. My folks were not those kind of parents. I was never asked if I had homework, much less if I did my homework. If I got a good grade that was nice, if I didn’t (math specifically) I was told I probably wasn’t good at it, instead of working with me to improve.

My father was in the Air Force, and we lived lots of places. This gave me the chance to experience every kind of meteorological and geological event. Hurricanes in the Philippines and earthquakes in Japan. Tornadoes in Texas and monsoon flooding in southern Arizona. I’ve chased storms in tornado alley, and sat on a cliff in Hawaii watching the lava flow into the sea.

When I came back from helping my son move to Florida I took a side trip to Pass Christian MS to see where storm surge of Hurricane Camille washed the coast clean back in 1969.

I get notifications from NASA whenever the ISS is visible in my area and I watch for it. I’ve learned parts of the sky with my star charts. I eagerly followed the courses of Voyager 1 and 2 out of our solar system, kept track of the arrival of Osiris Rex at asteroid Bennu, watched the images of New Horizons when it flew by Pluto, and set my alarm to wake up so I could watch live the reveal of the first images of a black hole the Event Horizon Telescope captured.

I dig this stuff.

I want to know how they did this stuff. How do scientists figure out the way to image a black hole with six telescopes around the planet? How do geologists measure the movement of the plates? How did meteorologists come up with the CAPE measurement?

I mentioned in a previous blog about observing the damage done by Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle back in October 2018. The damage six months later gives the evidence why this storm was recently upgraded to a category 5. All of these photos were taken on I-10.

I know I have a science leaning. I worked in a cell culture lab for seven years where I was taught how to grow cells, titer antibodies, and make tissue blocks used in cancer diagnosis. I used high school algebra I thought long forgotten, and learned the same sterile technique for a biological safety hood taught to freshmen biology students at the University of Arizona. I had my own projects, and developed procedures I taught to incoming staff with PhD’s. With just a high school diploma.

What more could I have done with the proper encouragement in math and science?

Woulda, shoulda, coulda – physics.

So I still try to learn, my curiosity is as strong as ever.

Cheers!

-N

 

Roads and bridges and tunnels – Oh my!

I live in the arid country of southern Arizona. We have bridges, but the go over washes, which are dry river beds that only have water during monsoon season. They are boring flat bridges, grey-brown in color to match the desert.

But…then…in Florida… Yeah we were crossing a bridge through an amazing preserve and low and behold there was water under that bridge. Lots of water, for miles and miles.

I got a view of this bridge as we were coming up to it.

Seriously,how cool is this!?!? Ok, there are no cool bridges like this anywhere in Arizona.

Official bridge geek here.

I believe bridges are forms of art.

So amazing, and thrilling to drive over and through.

The geek in me wonders how engineers design these so they will continue to stand during hurricane winds. It’s math – physics, yes but it is fascinating.

Some are so elegant and graceful you feel grateful to have the opportunity to use them.

Some we drove on really looked as if they might need a bit of reinforcement or elevating.

 

 

When we were crossing the Mississippi River into Memphis on a rainy night it was pretty spectacular and bumpy. 

You can see the rain drops on the windshield and the Tennessee sign on the cool bridge spanning the river, and the lights of the city in the distance.

Big  river,  pretty  lights.

And then, in Mississippi (the state) we ran into this awesomeness.

A freaking tunnel that took us through the bay and under downtown Biloxi!!

Fabulous.

 

 

 

 

Yep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very cool at night too.

 

Cheers!

-N

Nerdy travel things

Most families who do road trips have the nerdy things they do, things kid remember when they are older and may incorporate into their own road trips as grownups.

Ours is signs! continental divide sign

Not just any signs but signs that tell a story about our trip. We try to catch the state signs as we cross the border. Most times it works, but occasionally, especially on bumpy roads or at night, the picture is blurry.

There are some signs we always try to get like the continental divide or time zones, or the one that makes you wonder “huh?” Bat cave

 

During our trip across country we saw a lot of interesting things, but the most startling were in the panhandle area of Florida, and the surprising evidence that remained of Hurricane Michael from last October. I just read this morning that this hurricane was upgraded to a category 5 and after our drive through its damage path I am not surprised.

The huge stumps of massive trees ripped from the ground, the ripped and tossed interstate signs, and houses and barns that looked like they exploded gave hubby and I pause at the power of nature’s fury. Interstate 10 was closed for quite a while due to downed trees and storm debris. Huge swaths of land were cleared where trees had been uprooted.

I’ve enjoyed road trips, mostly, especially when I go places I’ve never been and this trip took us through areas of our country that are the polar opposite of southern Arizona. I dug it!! Especially when we have plenty of time for side trips. We hit several places indicated in our National Parks Passport. This really gives us an even more diverse travel experience.

So now I have memories from which to compose, what I hope are interesting narratives, and photos of locations that might make you curious to go see for yourself.

So here we go…

Cheers!

-N

 

Monumental Road Trip – Introduction

Yep, we did it! We took two weeks and one day to drive from Catalina AZ to Orlando FL. As anyone who has done something like this knows not everything can be prepared for or anticipated, and the best perspective is “expect the unexpected.”

The first hurdle was hubby working 12 hour days right up to our departure. That made things hard to get ready and I hate packing for him! I mean seriously, I never get things quite right, so…this waited until the absolute last moment – like, the middle of the night before we planned to pull out at 7am. We packed the truck and the trailer, hooked the trailer _DSC0059 (2) (here after referred to as Daisy,) filled the truck with gas and managed to be on the road by 9am.

Ok so we tried!

Two weeks is quite a while, but in retrospect I brought way too many clothes and shoes. I know part of my rational was I would be in at least two different climates so I wasn’t sure what to bring. Our stop in eastern Tennessee would be during winter, with cold rain and fog, but central Florida would be warm spring tropical so you tell me – what would you bring?? Another thing that was big were the amount of tools hubby brought. Those filled the back of the truck. He and Aaron had plans to do a bunch of stuff to the 5th wheel while we were in Florida and since hubby has way more tools than son he brought them along. I’m talking shop vac, a ladder, a bag full of tie-downs, three tool boxes, etc., you get my drift.

_DSC0069 (2).jpg

It was a fun trip. The best part is always the humans who are part of the adventure. We learned some history, saw a musical production, roamed three DisneyWorld parks, and spent too much money $$$, but we had a good time and didn’t fight too much. 😉👍

Cheers!

-N

 

I’m Back!!

Well fantastic followers, after two weeks and nearly 4,000 road miles later I am finally back online and ready to blog. I have a ton of photos and stories to share with everyone. Still getting the pics downloaded and sorted so it will probably be a series of blogs.

Hubby and I had fun visiting (in order round trip from Arizona) New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, ending back home in Arizona of course.

Our sweet little 15 foot travel trailer we have fondly named “Daisy” performed exceptionally well. She is a vintage 1982 Sport and we look forward to sprucing her up. We got a lot of attention and great comments about her.

We spent a week with Aaron and Chelsea. Hubby and son working on some RV repairs, going to Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and Animal Kingdom at DisneyWorld, watching Chelsea be excellent in a production of Beauty and the Beast, and eating way too many donuts!

Our place and our pets were well cared for by Heather Herman, with help from Kristopher and Trinity. It was such a relief not to have to worry about anything. Millie was crazy to see us again, and Cleo was mildly interested that we returned.

I finished the laundry, we’ve got most of everything put away, Daisy is cleaned out and now it’s the getting back to normal.

More to come!

Cheers!

-N

Hungry While Passing Through Catalina AZ?

Catalina is a rural village, just north of Tucson on Hwy 79. We have a beautiful view of the Santa Catalina mountains and are far enough from Tucson that the only signs are the bedroom community aspects of traffic and new construction. As is usual in communities like ours we don’t have all the dining options a metropolitan area would have.

However…

We do have a little gem called It’s Greek to Me. It is the best. The food is fresh, and prepared with love. The atmosphere is like sitting in the dining room of a Greek family home, with wonderful smells, laughter, children’s voices, and people enjoying the music. It is a place where you can sit at your table for however long you want, no rushing your meal. The wait staff, which can include the couple who own it, are super friendly and accommodating. 

Hubby and I we there last Friday for a late lunch. It is like visiting with friends. The owners David and Kaitlyn are hands on, cooking, serving, and going out of their way to  make the best dining experience possible. Their toddler son, was asleep in his playpen while his pregnant mom cooked – this is the way it goes in this family oriented place. She is due in June.

Kaitlyn had told me, whenever I came in, to ask if they had mussels, which I did. I was thrilled to hear an affirmative response! Yep, I ordered them in red sauce, along with a glass of a dry Greek (Skouras Saint George) red wine. Perfect!!

The lovely Rebecca was an attentive and friendly server. She enjoyed how much we loved our food, which feels wonderful to a customer.

Hubby had the Gyro Platter, always a favorite, for his meal. We started off with the hummus (so good) and warm pita bread, cheese and olives. They don’t scrimp on the portions so I had to go easy to make room for my mussels.  

We dug in and had a wonderful and extremely filling meal. I highly recommend the honey yogurt cake😋. It was my mother’s favorite. A side note, they have very fresh and wonderful vegan/vegetarian options as well.

This place is worth making a special stop in Catalina. Check out their website to see a menu, and don’t blame me if you get hungry.  https://itsgreektomecatalina.com/

Cheers!

-N

(no compensation was received for post)

Memphis, Yeah I’ve Been There😎 part 2

Memphis…music, people, food, music. It is a remarkable place. Yes the Mississippi River is muddy, broad, and moves forcefully past this amazing city.

But it is the inside of the town. The guts, the brain, the voice of a place filled with the passage of people and time that grabs you. I really dug it.

The sidewalks were well worn. The stores and club fronts showed the appearance of years of bodies leaning against them to get out of the heat or rain and watch humanity pass by. Beale Street had the character and style of an old railroad car with a fresh coat of paint. While we were there part of the street was cordoned off for a mass of bikers, a bikers meet and greet if you will. 

There were dozens of bikes, with riders milling around, laughing, drinking, smoking, and calling out to people passing by. It was friendly and fun.

I was raised by a man who loved motorcycles, and when I see one, especially a Harley, I am warmed by memories of riding with my dad. I wanted to get right down in the middle of them. 😍

Beale St is full of music.

Passing clubs, pubs, and bars the music pours out, drenching the sidewalk with jazz, blues, rock, and country. The first three are the ones I wanted to hear. I craved sittingt near the stage listening to live musicians give it their all. We popped into several establishments on our way to the place I wanted to be.

BB Kings House of Blues. Yeah dog! I did that. That’s me and BB Kings guitar. The food was good, we took our time, and then Corey Osborn and his band took the stage. It was a religious experience.

Corey was a teenage prodigal guitarist when BB King discovered him. We sat through two or three hours of food and music. Hubby and I were loving it. We met him and his band, bought a CD and had it autographed by them all. Looking back it was a special moment in time because only a few years later Corey was killed in a car accident. It’s hard to find his music now. That CD is really special.

Elvis was there too, in music, and memorabilia.

Even a musical note on the sidewalk bears his name. We left BB Kings and walked around in the evening, lots of lights shining and people milling around, such atmosphere in this city by the Mississippi River.

We asked for a random guy to take our picture together, he laughed and told hubby to cozy up to that woman!

He did and it was a wonderful memory of the park across the street from the House of Blues.

I would love to go back and spend more time there. The food, music, and history of this city is compelling, exciting, and covers you in mood. That mood is up to you.

 

Cheers!

-N

 

Memphis, Yeah I’ve Been There 😎 part 1

When we realized how close we were and that we had enough time, hubby and I took off for Memphis from Tulsa. We were in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a family reunion, so in our rental car we started east. This trip was full of some amazing and interesting places along the round trip. I had never been to the Ozarks or Little Rock. Never been to Arkansas. We got to Memphis, having spent a lot of time deciding what we would want to see. I had two places that were must see for me: Graceland and Beale Street. Fortunately hubby was with me on those. We also wanted to get some Memphis BBQ.

Graceland, what can I say. My parents were huge Elvis fans, they took us to every movie, listened to his music and we loved to hear the story dad told about meeting him in Paris while he was stationed in Germany. I had to go and I was so glad I did. It was great.

The business of Elvis is vast. When we arrived we parked, bought our tickets and waited for the shuttle to Graceland. Elvis Presley Blvd is a tree lined, busy road with the Elvis complex – a huge museum across the street from Graceland, and his private aircraft parked there, available for tours.

My favorite was the mansion itself, and I was a bit surprised at it’s size. It appears larger in photos, but it was still majestic. It is a time capsule, a trip into the late 1970’s. The carpet, the furnishings, the TV’s, it was so special. As we walked in, our tour group, a chatty group of humans suddenly hushed, gasped, and sighed. Almost in an orchestrated manner. We stood, heads turning, mouths open and we took in this place, this shrine, this home.

It sparkled and shone, the glass free of prints, nary a speck of dust, nothing out of place. Yes, we all felt the fortune of being one of thousands who have passed through the columns flanking the open door.

The first thought I had was my favorite Elvis song “Return to Sender.” I started humming it as we passed though the house. The kitchen had appliances, counters, and arrangements were typical of the Brady Bunch house!😉 Then we were at the jungle room. OMG, I loved it!!

The TV room was also so cool, with yellow and blue,

TV’s banked the walls.

I could picture Elvis and his “mafia” gathered on the long couches.

Part of the grounds are a museum filled with movies, costumes, photos and his gold and platinum records.

We used devices that narrated the displays. I enjoyed it. Those costumes blew me away.

When we came out I saw the pool, then realized we were at

his grave.

He was flanked by his parents and as you can see it was filled with flowers and mementos from visitors. The thing I noticed was the murmuring of the crowds. It wasn’t noisy.

The museum had cars, ones of his videos running, and his music filling the cavernous museum.

We also went out to where his plane, the “Lisa Marie” was parked. It was set up for comfort and as his home, very colorful. When I was living in Texas, I saw it parked at Meacham Field in north Fort Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent a wonderful day in a magic place, then that evening found a fun diner where we enjoyed their memorabilia and in Elvis’ favorite fried pickles.

Next is Beale Street.

Cheers!

-N

 

Really? A Winery Here?

That’s what I exclaimed as hubby and I were driving back through Arkansas toward Tulsa from Memphis. We tend to travel the back roads when possible because you never know what and who you will find. If we like something we will grab a bottle or two to bring home, and if they sell them a couple of wine glasses.

We drove west out of Clarksville, AR on old hwy 64, crossed I-40, passed through Hartman and Coal Hill, and unbeknownst to us were entering Arkansas wine country. I will admit it was simply beautiful. The green hills along the Arkansas River running south of the Ozarks blew me away. After passing a couple of signs for wine tasting I said lets stop at one of them. He was onboard, so we stopped at the Post Familie Winery in Altus, AR. It was a very friendly tasting room, rustic and comfortable. They had a couple of good dry wines. A Seyval (similar to a savignon blanc) that I liked (rare for me,) and a red I had never tried but enjoyed, a Chambourcin.  We bought a couple of bottles.

FYI, I am a dry red wine fan. I love a really good Cabernet Savignon.

Another time I said the same thing was on the southern tip of the Big Island, HI. We drove south out of Kailua-Kona where we had been staying for seven days and heading to a B&B in Volcano for a couple of nights. The two-lane highway wound and twisted through the most brilliantly colored flora and vivid green trees and ferns I had ever seen. This desert girl was enraptured. We saw a sign for Volcano Winery! We had enjoyed the best coffee and now a winery. I was ready to toss my return ticket in the lava. The wines in Hawaii have amazing fruits blended into the grapes, very floral. They packaged very nicely for us the three bottles we brought back.

Hubby and I had a great trip with our destination actually in the middle of the whole vacation. We headed to Red Lodge, MT for a family reunion which took us through Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, and New Mexico. We used our National Parks Passports to find places to visit on our travels. We were pulling a fifth wheel so we could stop in RV parks or road side rest areas, and the occasional Walmart boon-dock. On our way through Nebraska (on a back road) we found an RV park and a winery in a small town near Scotts Bluff in western Nebraska. The winery has since closed and I don’t remember the name. I will admit these were not the best overall wines, but there were a couple we liked and brought some bottles back with us.

The Arizona wine country has some award winning bottles, and the area is in the rolling hills of Southeastern Arizona. Many of the vineyards were started with vines from Napa, Sonoma, and Europe. You drive south out of Tucson to Sonoita, AZ on AZ-83. In Sonoita you will find some retailers who can provide maps to the area wineries. There are also a few in the Willcox area. I really like Coronado Winery, Flying Leap, and Kief-Joshua the best. Many of these have their own vineyards and supplement with area grown grapes from different vineyards. If you are in Southern Arizona and have the time it is worth the trip through the area.

With a road trip coming up in a few months we are looking forward to finding new wines to try and fill our Passport to the National Parks book with some new stickers and cancellations!

Cheers!

-N