Visit to St Mary’s Lake, East Glacier

175We decide to get up at 6:30 this am to get an early start to Glacier which we have been told gets very busy if you don’t get there early. I am expecting to be able to just walk up to the registration desk downstairs at the hotel and pick up my rental car. I approach the desk and ask, “How do I go about getting my rental car?”

The desk attendant looks at my strangely and says, “We don’t have any rental cars here. And the person who takes care of that won’t be here until 8 am.”

“But I was told when I called a couple of months ago, that I didn’t need to worry about a rental car. I could rent it at the hotel.” I respond, my frustration level rising.

“Well, she shouldn’t have told you that,” is the response fired back at me. “This is the busy time of year and you need to reserve a rental car ahead of time if you expect to get one.”

I bite my lip and try to push down my mounting anxiety. “So, what am I supposed to do?”

The desk attendant sends us to the valet attendant to see if he can help us. He promises to make some phone calls to see if he can find an available rental car. “No one is open until 8 am.” He tells us.

So much for our getting started early so we can get ahead of the crowds. We decide to get ourselves some breakfast while we wait. Soon I am working on downing my yogurt, fruit, and granola. The valet attendant checks back in with us and tells us he is pretty sure he has found a car for us at the Kalispell airport. “It will be ready by 9 am,” he informs us.

I want to cry. “But the day keeps getting later and we have an appointment at 2pm at St. Mary’s Lake for a boat ride,” I blurt out.163

“Don’t worry,” he says. “We will get you the car and if you go around on the south side of the park on US 2, you will be able to get there on time.” There is not much else to do so I take a deep breath and try to make the best of the situation. This was my plan for Wednesday but I guess it will become Sunday’s plan. The valet attendant has us to the airport by 8:45am and we are on our way by 9. The road along the south side of the park offers beautiful views of the river and of the train track that we traveled the day before. We stop at an overlook and lo and behold, we spot a moose pulling up weeds for lunch out of the river below.130

We stop in East Glacier for some quick lunch food bought at a grocery store and then enter Glacier. We make it to Rising Sun for our boat ride by 1pm. A short nap is in order while we wait. We board the boat right at 2pm and push off. A ½ hour ride on St Mary’s Lake follows. The wind is quite strong and the water keeps splashing back at us through the open window.

The boat is docked and we begin a 1.5-mile hike through the forest to St. Mary’s Falls. 169The sun is hot and beats down on us. The temperature is in the 90s. There is no tree cover due to a forest fire in 2015. We are told that we must be able to walk 2 miles/hour on this ranger led hike. Hubby is not sure that he can maintain that pace. The ranger instructs us to clap our hands and holler, “Hey, bear” periodically to scare away any Grizzlies that might be lurking about. Hubby and I and, I am sure a few others, feel a little self-conscious with this behavior. There are carpets of purple and blue flowers everywhere. After what seems like an eternity, the falls comes into view. The water is beautiful as it cascades over the rock.

But we cannot stay long as we are told we have 45 minutes to get back to the boat which leaves at 5 pm regardless of whether you are there or not. Hubby is dragging and the pain between his shoulders that he sometimes has is stabbing him by the time we trek back to the boat. We plunk down on the outside deck as I want to feel the cool breeze. As I look up at the mountain that towers above us, I see a white goat high up on the rock face. One of hubby’s desires is to see mountain goats.

It is 5:30 by the time we tie up at the dock and we are far from the hotel. We resume our drive west on the “going to the sun” road. The overwhelming majesty of these mountains takes one’s breath away. There are no words to describe the towering peaks with snow when looking up and the valleys that fall away into depths below just over the edge of the road. We make one last stop at Logan Pass which is located at the continental divide.

There we see two wild rams and one wild sheep just wandering about. After a long drive along a steep winding narrow road, we finally arrive weary back at our hotel.

Traveling By Amtrak

017Friday, July 21, 2017 is the happily anticipated day for the beginning of our trip to Whitefish, Montana. Whitefish is the chosen destination for my annual anesthesia conference this year. The plan is to combine my husband’s love of trains with our need to travel there by boarding the only long-distance passenger train service left in the US, Amtrak. Since Amtrak goes right through Whitefish, this will work splendidly for us.020

Hubby and I arrive at our daughter’s house in Chatfield by 5:45pm. She will deliver us to the depot so that our car does not sit there unattended for nine days. We are on the road and headed towards Winona by 6pm. The heavy rain from the day has stopped and the sun is peaking out. The train is to arrive by 7:47pm. We hear the whistle in the distance and it comes chugging around the corner right on time. Hugs are shared and we turn to search for our assigned train car. Car number 730 is midway along the towering berths awaiting us. We board and trudge up the narrow staircase to the upper floor of a sleeper car. In the small space, two seats face each other. It is a very compact space with little extra room for storage. One suitcase fits nicely under the seat but our big suitcase begs to be stored downstairs in the main luggage area.024

We are told that our supper is at 8:30pm and will be announced when they are ready to seat us. An announcement is made around that time but the speaker does not seem to work in our room and we cannot understand what is being said.  By 8:40, we decide to check out the dining car which conveniently is located right next to our sleeping berth. We have almost missed supper as we are the last ones to be seated. I am not very hungry anyway as I was not expecting to get food this late on the train. Because of this, we ate before we left home. It is just as well as it takes forever to have our order taken and then another forever until the food comes. I look at my order of tortillas and say, “That is not what I ordered.”

“I’m sorry,” the waitress responds, “I will get you the right order.” By now it is 9:30pm and I am not much interested in food any more. I am more concerned about the effect of trying to sleep with a full stomach. Just to be polite, we wait until the food comes, take a few bites, and head back to our small home. While we wait for our car attendant to come and make up our beds, our attention is drawn towards the fireworks exploding above the skyline just outside our window at our St. Paul stop.

Making up our beds involves pulling down the upper bunk which is two feet wide and six feet long. Hubby gets the bottom bunk which is just a little longer and three feet wide. There is little room for anything once this is done except going to sleep. I climb the little steps to the top bunk and shimmy onto the bunk. There is no room for sitting up and I am cold. Thankfully, we have both been provided with two pillows and two blankets. This is not like my bed at home but is quite comfortable compared to the sleeping in the seat option. We have been told to sleep with our heads toward the back of the train in case of an emergency stop so our feet take the brunt and not our all-important heads. It is a little like trying to sleep in a hammock – gentle swaying and rocking. If I was a child, it would rock me to sleep but I am an old woman who needs everything quiet and still to sleep. At one point, I hear rain pounding against the side of the train as we travel through MN and I wonder if we are in the middle of a severe thunderstorm. We both get up to the bathroom around 2 am and then I lose some time in my brain so I must sleep some. This is the ideal way to travel. It is quite relaxing – no paying attention to driving-  eating in a restaurant, sleeping in a bed, and reading while all the while hurtling towards our destination.

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Grain Elevator in Montana

The sun is shining when I open my eyes again. I peer at my watch and conclude that it is 7:30 am. As we both are getting our shoes on, the 6:30am announcement for breakfast comes over the intercom. Oh dear, I guess I looked at my watch wrong. Well, we are up so we might as well head for breakfast. I pull the call button before we head for the dining room to have the car attendant take down our bunks. My order of hot chocolate turns out to be orange juice but once that is straightened out, the French toast is quite tasty. This waitress needs a different system for keeping track of orders but overall the food is scrumptious.

We return to our room an hour later to find our bunks still not taken care of. “Would you mind doing ours next?” I ask the attendant.

“I turned off the call button because you said you were not ready to have me do it yet,” is her response.

That’s strange. I don’t remember even seeing the attendant this morning. “We never talked to you this morning,” we respond.

“I thought sure it was you. You must think I am terribly confused,” is her comeback.

Confused yes, but not a big deal. After all, this is an adventure.

Our next trek is back through the dining car and three more coaches to the observation car while our room is being prepared for the day. The North Dakota landscape speckled with herds of beef cattle flashes by. When we return, our room is ready for us to spend a relaxing morning reading and watching the landscape streak by, with occasionally interspersed walks through the train and outside at the 30-minute stop at Minot, ND.

Before we know it, lunch is being served. We are paired with a couple from Iowa who is taking 21 young people on a mission trip to an Indian reservation near Glacier National Park. One meets lots of people with interesting lives at meal time. And this time, lunch orders go off without a hitch.

The rest of the afternoon drags as miles and miles of flat Big Sky Montana wheat fields and barren lands fly by. I take a nap which kills a little time. Soon it is time for supper. We choose the 5:30 pm time slot due to fear of not getting done in time to get off the train at 8:47pm when we are due in. This meal, we are paired with another couple from our sleeper car who reside in Florida. They have many travel adventures to share.

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Piled wheat at an elevator

Before long, we start to notice the mountains rising on the horizon to the west. Then there are stops at East Glacier, Essex, and West Glacier. The sun is casting long shadows over the mountains as we crawl along the mountain side. At times, one can look out and straight down into the valley and the river below. We finally approach Whitefish and grind to a halt. “We are waiting for a train that is in the way to pass through before we can pull into the station,” the train engineer informs us. We have collected our baggage and impatiently wait by the door as the opposing train clatters by going the opposite direction. And then we slowly roll into the station. My body moves in rhythmic swaying as I stand on the curb waiting for the hotel van to pick us up. 26 hours of swaying back and forth has left its mark and that sweet soft bed in the hotel room looks so inviting.

Our week in Montana exploring Glacier passes far too quickly and before I know it, it is time to think about heading home. I keep waking up during the night because I am afraid the alarm won’t go off. I finally roll out of bed at 5:50 am. The air is crisply cool as we walk to our rental car. The valet man tells us that the train is only five minutes late. The first order of business is to top off our rental car gas tank and drop off the car at the train station.

We settle in the waiting room but soon notice a long BSNF train is parked on the main track at the Whitefish station. He, obviously, needs to move before we can board a passenger train. Restlessness sets in as the minutes stretch endlessly into time and we move outdoors to the platform. Maybe, we think that standing outside will make the situation unfold faster. It is a beautiful, though cool morning to stand on the platform and wait. The posted arrival time comes and goes and still the freight train does not move. Eventually, a train employee walks back along the train and jumps up between each car to adjust something. Finally, forty minutes late, the freight train releases the brakes and slowly pulls away. I hear my cell phone chime. Who would be texting me? Ah, it is Amtrak letting us know the train is behind schedule and will be arriving at 8:03. I think I already figured out it is late and it had better hurry if it is going to be here in three minutes as it is already 8 am. Pretty soon, we see the headlight come around the curve. Maybe there is still hope.858

Figuring out which car is ours becomes the problem. We finally find a conductor who says,” Car 830 is the last one on the train.” We trudge through the mass of humanity going in the opposite direction. No one is at the door. Do we enter? Do we not? We finally get on. “Go immediately to the dining car if you would like breakfast.” We walk and we walk. Since we truly are in the last car of the train, it is quite a long journey to the dining car. Time to walk off some calories.

After breakfast, it is time to go back to our sleeper car. No one has scanned our ticket. We could be getting a free ride for all they know or so I think. They never do scan our ticket but when we mention this to the car attendant, he says, “You are in the system so I know you are here.” Ah, big brother is always watching.

We continue to be an hour behind throughout the day.  We spend the day enjoying the scenery. There are endless fields of wheat being harvested. I read until I finish my book, then catch up on my writing, and finally, I go searching for my computer cord in the suitcase downstairs so that I can read a kindle book from the computer. Of course, the computer locks up for a couple of hours as it thinks it needs to download and update systems which it cannot do without an internet access. In frustration, I finally am able to break its cycle by turning it off several times in a row.

We do not cross the border into North Dakota until supper time. This creates a quandary as the time zone also changes at the border. Do we go to supper on Mountain Time or Central time? We have a 6:45 pm supper reservation. Finally, we ask the car attendant. “Go to supper on Mountain Time,” he says. That means we are really eating at 7:45 pm central time. That is a little later than I would like but there is not much we can do about it. Both of us decide to have the steak topped off with a desert.

I know that this is a mistake as soon as we get back to our car. I am hoping for a few hours after supper before bedding down for the night but it is already going towards 9 pm and the attendant has a goal of all the beds being made up by ten. I have delusions that I can sit and read in the top bunk but there is no space for such an endeavor. Getting into the bunk almost causes me to have a panic attack as the car is reversed from the trip out. This means I need to try to slide my feet in from the head end and scoot down. That wouldn’t be so bad except that there is no head room.  I finally master this feat of gymnastics and decide now that I am in, I should just stay put. I wonder how the really old people manage on a top bunk. I am slightly nauseated from needing to lay down so soon after eating, but I do drift into a lullaby sleep, being rocked back and forth by the motion of the train. I had decided that I would not even try to get up during the night to go to the bathroom but by 3 am, that resolution needs to go out the window. I have realized that if I take down the strapping that keeps one from rolling out, I can actually get my legs out. The trick is to hit the steps without crashing first as there are no grab bars or any surfaces to grab onto for support. Considering the circumstances, the sleeper at night does offer better sleep than a coach seat would have.

 

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Lake Pepin – along the Mississippi

Sunday morning greets us with bright sun at 6 am. We decide to roll out at 7. The thought of traipsing the length of the train to the dining car to make reservations, then traipsing back to wait for our call (which we can’t hear in our car anyway), then making a third trip to actually get our breakfast is overwhelming this morning. Instead, we opt to go downstairs in the dome car for some yogurt, donut holes, and orange juice. We have some nuts and a granola bar in our sleeper. That will have to do until we get off. The train pulls into St Paul right on time so it looks like we will make our 10:11 scheduled arrival time in Winona in spite of being an hour late all day yesterday. We are more than ready to step onto the little step that leads to the sidewalk to be greeted by our daughter. Ah, there is no place like home.

 

 

 

Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus – Part 2

11-12-2016 Saturday

 

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The Shepherd

An early breakfast is served and we are on the bus by 7:30am. Our first stop is the village of Nazareth. It is a restored area designed like the original village of Nazareth. I really enjoy this stop. There are characters acting as the shepherd with the sheep and our guide explains passages of scripture such as “separating the sheep from the goats” that Jesus talked about and “going through the narrow gate”. This refers to the smaller door into the house so the animals couldn’t enter. We visit the carpenter shop where Son-in-law, as the youngest man, is chosen to try the rope run hand drill.

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The olive press

From the village of Nazareth, we move on to the Church of the Wedding of Cana. Due to double booking of the church, we wait almost an hour to get in. Once we get in, we sing “How Great Though Art” and then have a short devotional by one of the pastors, Pastor Mark. There is no dearth of pastors in our group.  I have counted 4 in this group of 120 people. Pastor Mark then leads those of us who want to through a reciting of our marriage vows.

We leave the church about noon and drive to the south side of the Sea of Galilee where the Jordan River leaves the sea. We drove from Cana across farmland spread in both directions. One could look to the left and see farms and then towns on the hill and to the right, farmland spread out away down into the valley. Just above the south side of the Sea of Galilee, we stopped and got off the bus. We could see across the valley to the Golan Heights, to Jordan, and where the border of Syria traversed those areas in the middle.

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Looking down at the Sea of Galilee where the Jordan exits

We re-boarded the bus to travel down to the restaurant at the Jordan River. We order our lunch in a large open room. Today, I chose the chicken and rice.

After lunch, those who want to be baptized, got their baptismal gowns and towels, and made their way to the area reserved for our group. There are steps going down into the water for those being baptized. There are concrete steps for us who are not being baptized to sit upon and watch.

There must be at least 100 people who line up to be baptized. All 4 pastors help with the baptisms (Chris Page, Steve Chupp, Mark Lantz, Paul Begley). Son-in-law chose to be baptized though none of the rest of us did. It was a warm, sunny, beautiful summer day for November. It was 4pm before all the baptisms were done and we wandered around for a short time before getting back on the bus and heading for the hotel. Hubby and I bought ice cream cones as we are getting goodie deprived.

There are 5 buses unloading when we get back to the hotel. I take one look at that and decide to walk up the 11 flights of stairs to our room. Hubby is puffing behind me and convinced I am trying to kill him but it was so much faster than waiting hours for an elevator. Supper is at 6 pm and then we can relax in our room. People just love to blow the shofar on the street below. I think it is potential customers trying out the instrument before buying it.

We were told to have our suitcases out between 9:30 – 10 pm. Hubby and I put ours out early (maybe 9pm) so we can go to sleep. I guess Son-in-law and Daughter put theirs out earlier (around 8pm) because they want to go to sleep too. It isn’t long before there is banging on their hotel room door. Son-in-law is already asleep and ignored the banging and Daughter was in the bathroom. She finally was able to answer the door.

“These your bags?” demands security.

“Yes.”

“You can’t leave them here.”

We had just been educated by Eli, our guide, today about the importance of not leaving any baggage lying around unattended and that such things were cause for the police to be called and the bomb squad to blow them up. So much for trying to put bags out before the allotted time so that one can go to sleep early.

Today is Sunday. We eat breakfast at 7am and are on the bus by 8am. Our first destination is a stop to help plant trees on public land.

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Planting trees

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Planting trees

Each one of us receives a tree and then we walk across a dry, thistle infested, rocky field to place our tree in a pre-dug hole. The soil is red in color, dry, and hard. It looks like all living plants need irrigation in this land. Everywhere one looks, there are hoses strung with small holes in them to water each plant. From there we board the bus and drive along the Jordan River valley to the excavated ruins of the Roman city of Beit She’an.

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Beit She’an

We explore the ruins of a Roman bath house, the amphitheater, and the remains of a Roman brothel. The temperature is warm, probably in the 80s and I am soon hot and sticky. By noon, it is time to get back on the bus and head to our dinner spot. It is at a hostel in the modern city of Beit She’an. There are not nearly as many people as other days making for a more relaxed time. The meal is served café style.

After we get back on the bus, we head south through the West Bank. The land is mostly barren and hilly. Where there are crops and trees, the farmers are irrigating with the small hoses that run everywhere. The closer we get to Jerusalem; we start to see herds of goats on the hillside with run down homesteads. These are the Bedouin people that no longer are nomads.

It is going towards 3:30 pm when we roll into Jerusalem. We are taken to the top of the hill above the Garden of Gethsemane.

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Garden of Gethsemane

The road is narrow, steep, and winding that we walk down to the garden. We spend a few minutes in the church of All Nations before re-boarding the bus for our trip to the hotel. The sun has pretty much set and the lights are coming on around the old city of Jerusalem. It is beautiful and old and distinguished. Our arrival at the hotel goes rather smoothly compared to the last hotel. We have our luggage within 5 minutes and then are off to the elevator that is fast, efficient, and sports no waiting lines. Supper is way more than I should eat and our group is the only one competing for spots tonight. This is the Dan Panorama Jerusalem hotel and it is a step up from our last hotel.

 

 

Traveling to Israel

325 I lay awake in bed waiting for the alarm to go off as I am slightly anxious about our upcoming trip. The phone rings at 6 am. I stumble out of bed to answer it as I can’t figure out how to answer the bedroom phone anymore. It is my brother. “We are leaving,” he tells me. I am not even out of bed yet. It’s like the tortoise and the hare. He has 6-7 hours to drive to Newark, NJ and we have 3 hours to fly.001

Son-in-law and Daughter arrive at 7:45am and we are soon on the road to my husband’s sister’s house in Richfield. She will drive us to the airport and then store our car until our return. I googled her address for directions last evening. Somehow, though, we miss the exit indicated and find ourselves having gone too far. We swing around and go back the way we came. I have a set of directions from 2007 that mentions one of the exits we have passed. We exit following the older directions and soon find our way. We are all somewhat tense and on edge. It doesn’t seem like we can travel without this anxiety.

We make our way through security without incident. The TSA lady tells us we can leave our shoes on. I feel like an idiot after I realize all of us have pre-checked TSA status. The flight leaves a little after 1 pm after a slight delay because the flight attendants arrived late on another flight. Our 3-hour flight arrives in Newark, NJ at around 4:45 pm. It is getting dark. We have no problem retrieving our luggage. In fact, ours is first and within 15 minutes, we are ready to look for the hotel van. I realize my TSA approved lock on the big suitcase along with the zipper tags are gone again. This is the same thing that happened in January when we traveled to Florida.

We ask a lady at the information desk where to catch the Best Western bus. She says, “Go out that door and wait for the bus in lane 2.” As we stand along the curb, we have a group discussion about what “lane 2” means. We are standing at “pickup 2”. After little agreement, Hubby instructs me to return to the information desk to re-inquire. The man this time tells me that I need to go up 2 flights on the escalator and catch the Air train which will take us to “pickup 4.” This is a totally different affair than previous. Back inside we go and back up the escalator to the train. His instructions are correct and we soon find ourselves where the hotel buses actually pick up people. 5:30 we pull up outside the hotel and there is my brother waiting for us in the lobby. The tortoise has beaten the hare. After acquiring our rooms, we all gather in the restaurant for a well-deserved meal. We soon discover that all the other patrons there are also going on this trip. Then it is time to relax.

11-9-2016  Wednesday Continuing Journey

After a somewhat restless night during which I keep falling toward the middle of the bed, the alarm bids us to awaken at 6:15. Our agreed upon breakfast time is 7 am. Brother and his wife, Son-in-law and Daughter are already there when Hubby and I arrive. For me, it is a breakfast of yogurt, coffee cake, a bun, and milk. Son-in-law and Brother and Hubby pile on the potatoes, eggs, sausage etc. Brother and Son-in-law have seconds. A short relaxation period follows during which we watch all the hype and reporting about the election in which Donald Trump is the winner. “Such an unexpected upset,” the commentators say. By 8:30am, it is time to meet the hotel van for a ride back to the airport. The van driver drops us directly off at the El Al airlines. This is an unexpected nice touch. Potential passengers are starting to mingle around but nothing seems open and/or ready for business. I spy some self-service machines and we are all able to get boarding passes printed with no problem. That is the last of our check-in that goes smoothly. One of the security people tells waiting travelers to line up in the strapped off lanes and to make two lines. The line, we choose, does not seem to move. The security agents set up temporary podiums and start to call couples from the other line over and over. The guy behind us sneaks over to the other line and soon so do Son-in-law and Daughter. Hubby thinks it is rude to jump lines and insists that we stay where we are. I am just getting frustrated by this lack of progress. Soon it is Son-in-law and Daughter’s turn and I can see within the first five minutes that they are having trouble. They nod towards us and the agent goes to talk to another agent over and over. Soon we are asked to join them at their podium. They have told the agent that they are married and that they are living with their parents because the addresses on the passports are still their pre-married addresses. Because they got married in September and I knew this trip was coming up in November, I had advised Daughter not to try to change her name on her passport lest they not get them back in time. I never realized that the addresses might be a problem too. Of course, I do not know that they have said they are living with parents so now I tell the agent that they live together in their house at a different address. What a tangled web we have weaved. Oh dear! The next question is, “Do you have a marriage certificate with you?” All of us shake our head, “no.”

“Do you have some way of proving you are married?” is the next question. Ah, social media does sometimes come in handy. Son-in-law is able to pull up on Facebook a picture of them just after they have been proclaimed husband and wife standing in the front of the church. This the agent accepts. My stomach by now has turned into a knot and I am starting to feel hot and suffocated. I have visions of Son-in-law and Daughter being sent back home. Finally, I think the Israeli security people are satisfied and Hubby and I move on to checking our luggage. But Daughter and Son-in-law still are not being allowed to go. They have confiscated their carry-on backpacks so they can search them. They are instructed to wait. We decide to wait with them. “Why did I think this trip was a good idea?” I ask Daughter. The cell phone dings and the message from Sister-in-law says, “We are through security. What is happening?” As time ticks on for over an hour, I am becoming increasingly restless by the minute. Son-in-law starts to pace. Finally, the bags are returned and we are on our way to the real security check. That goes well except for forgetting to take the laptop out of my bag.

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On the plane to Tel Aviv

Around 12:30pm, we begin boarding. Poor Daughter has ended up in a seat between 2 random guys far from the rest of us due to Hubby and I switching to the exit row seats. I did not realize that she was the one between us and that Son-in-law had gotten seated with Brother and his wife.

Take off is smooth and supper is served at 2:30 pm Eastern Time. I have figured out that we will get to Tel Aviv at 11pm eastern time but it will actually be 6 am Tel Aviv time. We will have missed the night.

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Tel Aviv airport

Destination – Whistle Stop

win_20160925_07_46_51_proWe leave the house on this sunny but cool September morning around 8 a.m. The trees are just starting to display the bright reds and yellows of autumn as we begin our 250-mile drive. We are headed for New York Mills, MN, a small town located in northwestern Minnesota. So what is the attraction about New York Mills and why do we wish to travel there, you might ask? Situated there is the Whistle Stop Bed and Breakfast. win_20160925_07_44_00_proIt is a unique bed and breakfast in that the owners have purchased and refurbished four old rail cars into sleeping quarters for guests. My hubby has always been in love with trains and as a special weekend to celebrate our 25th anniversary month, this seems like a cool adventure.

We decide to deviate from the printed Google directions which direct us towards all four-lane, high-speed freeways. Who wants to see the same old stuff while distracted by the mass of humanity that crowds the expressways? We begin our journey, instead, by winding our way north on Hwy 63 and then somewhat westward on the twisting Hwy 60 to Mazeppa. As we continue our journey westward on MN 19, we soon come to a detour. It seems that we drive ever further south instead of north and west. After going a fair number of miles out of the way, we are headed, at least, back in the right direction but on a different road than was our original plan. We can get where we want to go using this road too, we reason so we might as well go this way. We haven’t gone more than 10 miles or so and we come to another detour sign. You have got to be kidding. We repeat the going out of our way process all over again. By noon and after the appearance of the fourth detour in a little under 100 miles, I am starting to become paranoid every time I see an orange sign. Frustration is mounting and our progress towards our destination has been slow.win_20160925_07_44_27_pro

This whole driving experience reminds me of our 25 years of married life. As a young (relatively at 34 and 36 years old) couple, we set out on our life adventure with an image of our years together. And then there are detours – side trips that take us places we would rather not go. I think our first major detour was 3 years into our marriage when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Our dream of having more than one child was delegated to the file of “wishes only.” The “maybe we can adopt” six-year second detour ended up on the road to nurse anesthesia school instead. There is some beautiful country along this road. Our latest bumpy side trip has taken us on a spiritual detour that is confusing, lonely and seems like it has no road that returns to the one that leads to our destination. We can only cling to each other and faithfully attempt to search for the road signs of God’s leading hand. So our life is mirroring this road trip.

A little after noon, we get back on our original planned route and do make our way to the quaint town of New York Mills by 2:30 p.m. Just 100 feet behind the Imperial Car that welcomes us is a modern-day railroad tracks hidden behind the trees. win_20160925_07_39_36_proThis feature presents us with authentic shrill whistles and the clacking of speeding wheels approximately every ½ hour. This is a thrilling treat for hubby but creates a problem for restful sleep. I lay there in bed several hours into the night and wonder, “Why did I think that coming to a bed and breakfast would be relaxing and restful?” I guess it is all in how one looks at the experience just like married life. After all, an adventure is supposed to be exciting, terrifying, and exhilarating; it is not supposed to be a relaxing, restful journey.win_20160925_07_48_35_pro

Sunshine Finally? and an Ill-Fated Sail

557Bright, cheerful sunshine greets us this Saturday morning. What a delight! The weatherman is predicting a beautiful warm day in the 70s. Finally, I can book that sunset sail for this afternoon at 4:30. But by the time I am done with the conference at 1 p.m., wisps of clouds have started to appear overhead. It is still sunny though. Maybe, those clouds don’t mean anything, I tell myself.

Our first stop of the afternoon is the beach at Curry Hannock State Park located between Key Largo and Big Pine Key. The sandy beach faces the Atlantic Ocean. We beachcomb along the shoreline enjoying the sunshine and the ocean breeze. This beach is also sprinkled with jellyfish who have become stranded here and a few Portuguese Men-Of-War who lie silent and unmoving among the sea weed.

554Curry Hannock State Park also protects a large area of mangrove swamp with a walking trail through it. We decide to get some actual exercise by hiking the trail. It takes us several attempts and a stop to ask before we can find its entrance. Then we disappear into what feels like a South American rain forest. The ground underneath is spongy and muddy but one does not sink into it. We finally realize that the under support to this land is coral and not the usual dirt we think of in Minnesota. A sign along the trail tells us that we are 5 feet above sea level – a “mountain” on these islands. The grove is intertwined with palm trees, mangrove trees, and Poisonwood trees, a species of tree that acts like poison ivy if touched. By the time we see the sign informing us about that kind of tree, I have touched numerous trees. I wonder when I will start to itch and turn into a pumpkin. Thankfully, neither one of us develops any rash or itching so we must have seen the sign in time. An hour of walking winds us around the 1.5 mile trail and back to our car.

We have about an hour yet before our boat ride so we drive to a beach close to the marina we are to sail out of to kill some time. The clouds overhead have increased to the point that the sun only gets a chance to peek out occasionally. I keep trying to convince myself that they are not rain clouds. It is not supposed to rain at all today. By the time 4:30 p.m. rolls around, the clouds have become dark and ominous to the west. This is not looking good. Captain Mike, a US citizen originally from Cuba, meets us at the dock beside his racing schooner.

“Do you think this is a good idea? Should we just forget it?” I ask.

He checks a couple of weather websites on his smartphone and shrugs, “I think the storm miss us but it up to you. How many days you here yet?”

“This is our last chance,” I say, “We leave tomorrow.”

“All right. Let’s go. Leave shoes in that box so they won’t get wet if it rains,” he instructs.

Barefooted we jump over the water gap by the dock and into the sailboat. We have no rain gear. We do both have light jackets and the camera bag. 564Captain Mike starts the engine and begins trolling out through the channel to the ocean. The wind is quiet but the sky continues to darken. I look up at the tall mast above us. I wonder how safe this is being out in a storm in a sailboat. Why did I think this was a good idea?

“Oh, there’s a lightning arrestor on the mast,” he comforts us.

In spite of his assurances that the storm will miss us, he throws open the side hatch and motions for us to place the camera bag and our jackets in it. There will be no taking pictures I guess. The first hour heading out goes smoothly in spite of the ever darkening skies. I am wondering if we are crazy and I am ready to head back but Captain Mike keeps put-putting along with the 9.9 HP motor. “There’s not enough wind to put up the sails,” he says.

Suddenly, he points out across the water. “It’s raining over there.” He reaches into his small hatch and pulls out a canvas. “You wrap up in it,” he instructs.

We have no more than gotten the canvas tucked around us than the heavens release a torrent. I am hoping it will only be a short burst of rain but the deluge goes on and on, showing no sign of letting up. We have taken up a position on the opposite side of the boat so that the wind is at our backs but that provides little refuge from the pouring on our heads from the overhead bucket. Trickles of water begin to creep down my back and into my underwear. My once warm dry space begins to shrink. I pull the canvas over my head the best that I can and snuggle up to my hubby for warmth. I am sure it is not that cold but the combination of the wind and the water soon leads to misery. Captain Mike begins to shake violently.567

“I am Cuban,” he declares. “I cannot stand the cold.” He stops for a few minutes and rummages through his supplies. He soon pulls out a dry canvas for us and a couple of towels to wrap himself in under his raincoat. The ride back seems to go on for ages while the water continues to drench us. Will this ever end? As we motor through the harbor towards our destination, hundreds of sailboats, houseboats, big cruisers, small, medium, and large ocean going vessels are anchored in their bays. Only we troll by huddled down in the cold wet rain. I am sure the people are wondering what is wrong with those idiots. I am only too happy to reach the slip. After that miserable ride, I am thinking that our host will give us a discount. I ask him how much we owe him and he rattles off the full fare amount. I am a little surprised but I guess if you are miserable taking idiotic guests for a sail, you would want your full fare.656

We are soaked to the skin and we leave tomorrow so now the question is, how am I going to get these clothes dry? They will not air dry in this humid air. I have a brilliant idea when we reach our hotel room. There hangs an iron and ironing board. I watch the steam rise off the clothes as I iron each piece two or three times. It works. Only the jeans are still moist in the morning.

Soggy Beach

 

239

Palm tree reflection

Our third day in Florida again greets us with dark, low hanging clouds. It is warm and muggy. The prediction is for showers and thunderstorms all day with temperatures in the 70s. Hubby went out and bought cheap rain ponchos while I was at my conference with the hopes that we can explore some outdoors in spite of the rain.

We eat a modest lunch of cold cut meat, lettuce, and cheese on flat bread while we try to decide what we can do in the rain. We decide to drive to Sombrero Beach in Marathon. I don’t think we will have too many people sunning themselves to worry about. The rain is intermittent and has mostly stopped by the time we stroll onto the beach. The beach is actually a very narrow strip of sand along the shore that, at this point in time, is mostly covered with green seaweed, garbage, and strange creatures who have been washed ashore. It looks deserted. It isn’t until later that we learn that the tide for the last couple of days has been record setting high resulting in the garbage strewn beach that we are seeing. No one really has an explanation for this except possibly the unusual presence this time of year of a hurricane in the mid-Atlantic.

The wind is howling off of the ocean and our rain ponchos flap like terrified creatures escaping the wind driven rain. Wind speeds of 30-40 miles per hour were predicted for today. I wonder if this must be a small taste of what it would be like in the early stages of a hurricane. As we walk along the beach, we watch the various sea creatures who have been washed ashore trying to survive. There are brown blobs of soft jellyfish just barely being covered by water and others who have succumbed for lack of water higher up on the beach. Small horseshoe crabs skitter away from us. Mixed among the clumps of seaweed are bright blue things that look like un-popped balloons. They are obviously dead but when stepped on, they also pop like a balloon. Later we spy a sign that identifies these creatures as Portuguese Men-Of-War and warns us that they are the most dangerous jelly fish in Florida. It is a good thing I had shoes on.390498

A deluge from the sky sends us back to our car and headed back to the resort. The rain is so heavy that we edge along through the spreading torrent of water on the road. Later, at the hotel, when I check my phone, I realize that we had been sent an emergency management text, “Tornado Warning – take shelter immediately.”  The warning was for the town of Marathon right while we were driving through it. We didn’t see any tornado but then we really couldn’t see much of anything.

384We retire to our hotel room to rest and relax until the evening when the sky crying stops. We spend our evening strolling around Hawks Cay. It is a beautiful place of palm trees, brightly colored flowers, and stately houses situated on the water. Along the dock are boats neatly lined up in their slips.

Thursday, January 14, 2016    Key West – Here We Come

423I wake up numerous times during the night. I squint at the clock to see what time it is. I am afraid that the alarm won’t go off and I will be late for the seminar. I always forget to bring a travel alarm along and the motel alarm clocks frustrate me to no end. I can never figure out how to set them. Each one seems to be different and in need of having an accompanying operator’s manual. The same could be said for my cell phone. I don’t know how many times I have set it for a certain time but no sound ever comes out of it at the designated time. Apparently, I am missing something in the setting that should be obvious. That just leaves my hubby’s cell phone. At 6:20 a.m., I tiptoe over to Hubby’s side of the bed and attempt to turn it off before it wakes him too. But the click, click of doing so causes him to stir anyway. We both might as well get up and begin the day.

The sky is cloudy and rain drips from the soggy darkness as we peek outside of our ocean view window. The temperature is in the mid-60s. The people here think it is cold but to us Minnesotans, it seems quite nice. I don’t know what I was thinking when I packed as I am hot with my long sleeve turtle necks and sweaters. I make a mental note that we are going to need to stop and buy some t-shirts if I am to avoid melting while we are here. However, in the conference hall, I am thankful for my winter clothes. Even with them, I am freezing.

372The first day of my conference ends at 1 p.m. and we are ready to go exploring. The clouds hang dark and heavy and the sky still cries its tears. It does not look like a good day to go to the beach or boating. We decide that our best choice is to take a road trip to Key West down US Hwy 1. Not that we have much choice. It is the only road through “the Keys” and a very busy one. The Gulf of Mexico lies to our right and the Atlantic Ocean to the left. This very small strip of land is a 120-mile conglomeration of small coral-based islands knit together by overseas bridges. Everyone’s house is built up on concrete stilts in preparation for the waves of water destined to flow over the land when the hurricane winds blow. Dotted with palm trees and tropical vegetation, it is a beautiful place. But the only available recreational activities seem to be water related. Everyone owns a house with a boat parked outback in the canal.

270

Electric poles in the ocean

One of our first stops is at the Sandal Shop which has been advertising on big signs “10 t-shirts for $10”. As you can guess, that is not quite the truth. With the exception of a few plain t-shirts for the advertised price, most of them are over $20 per shirt. I choose a pastel blue one with a design of the Keys on it. Excitedly, I hold another one up for my Hubby to see. It declares, “Mariner’s rule: The Captain is always right… I’m the Captain.”

“Well, you might as well buy it. It’s true,” he retorts. And so I do. Now I have a couple of t-shirts to wear while motoring around Florida.

273It takes us several hours to creep our way to Key West. The rain continues to fall unabated. Sometimes, it cascades in torrents that obscure our vision making it hard to drive. Sometimes, it just drips on the backs of the dedicated bike riders along the road. At least, it is warm. Our main desire is to tour the lighthouse in Key West but as we drive around the town, we give up that idea also. The only parking spots, if one can find any, require walking down the street to some guy in a booth to pay. We are really not interested in getting soaked even if it is warm. We content ourselves with driving past and waving at the big buoy that marks the most southernmost point in the United States. Mark that off our bucket list. It is too bad we don’t even have a picture to memorialize the event. It is amazing to think that just across the strip of water to the south is Cuba.

Travel Day – Trip to Florida 2016

187              With anticipation, we roll out of bed at 3:30 a.m. on this Wednesday, January 13. The goal is to leave the house by 4 a.m. The thermometer declares the temperature to be 9 degrees below zero on this fine Minnesota day. I think it is a great day to head for Florida. My hubby is the one having trouble getting ready in ½ an hour today and I am the one chomping at the bit to leave. As we are motoring down County Rd 2, I ask, “Did you take your pills this morning?” Soon, we are turning around and heading back to the house. I do not have any extra pills along. They are counted out to the exact number. I bite my tongue and soon we are on our way again. The airport is just opening as we park at 4:55 and I am the second in line to check our one bag. Before we know it, we are on the plane but because of the cold weather, de-icing takes 30 minutes.

004

Flying into the Sunrise

My breakfast is tomato juice. My hubby is behind me on this smaller plane in which he cannot even stand up straight. We fly towards a beautiful sun rise with streaks of blazing orange and yellow. By 8 a.m., we are on the ground in Chicago. We have a long walk to the next concourse with just enough time to grab some nuts to complete the tomato juice breakfast. My assigned seat is the middle of the three seats on this flight to Charlotte, NC. I take one look at the big man by the window and realize that I will not survive in the middle seat between him and my hubby as I am claustrophobic and one of my nightmares is being suffocated between two oversized people in these undersized seats.

“You need to sit in the middle seat,” I instruct my better half. This is not a great option for him either as his legs are too long but what is one to do.

By noon, we are rolling into Charlotte. We have just under an hour before boarding our next flight. We are making good time. Another long walk is required to reach our last departure gate. This time I decide to grab some sandwiches for us. There is no price on the chicken salad sandwich that I choose from the display freezer. That seems faster than waiting in line for handmade ones from behind the service counter. As I hand them to the checkout lady, she casually enlightens me, “These are really expensive. Are you sure you really want them?” I stare blankly at her. It takes me a second to comprehend what she is trying to communicate. It seems like a really strange thing to say after I have already waited 15 minutes to arrive at the checkout counter. I don’t have time to go back and start over looking for a cheaper choice so I guess I am buying $14 sandwiches. If it is important enough to inform the customer of this at the cash register, wouldn’t you think it would be important enough to mark the price on them in the cooler?

After enjoying our overpriced sandwiches, we are ready to board the last leg of our flight today to Miami. Again, I am assigned the middle seat. This time I luck out and my window partner is a slim petit young lady. Good – I can breathe. As the flight gets underway, she falls asleep. I notice that in her hands she holds a book entitled Serving God in Dangerous Places. I am intrigued by the book and by my seat partner. In my younger days, serving God in dangerous places would have fit right in with my adventurous spirit. I reach over and gently slide the book out of her limp hands and begin to read. This is a book I must buy. I finally return the book to her unsuspecting hands while she doses on. Later, we talk and I learn that she is on her way to the Dominican Republic to teach in a Christian school there. Before I know it, we are landing in Miami.044

There are only two more tasks to check off our list and then we will we on our way towards Duck Keys, FL. We need to pick up our luggage and then find our way to the rental car area. We flow along with the mass of humanity towards the luggage pickup zone. We walk and we walk and we walk. And we walk some more. I swear we must be half way across Miami by the time we finally reach the designated area. Finding the rental car agencies is a reverse of the long walk in the opposite direction. Our steps have begun to drag along the floor and the stumbles have increased. As we follow the signs to “Rental Cars,” we find ourselves at a dead end. There are doors on either side that open and close as other travelers get off and on a subway type transportation.

“Are we supposed to get on the train?” we ask each other. There are no directions posted to guide us.

“I don’t know,” is my frustrated response. “I have no idea where we are or what we are supposed to do.” Well, I guess we get on and go for an “El” ride to somewhere. As we step off when it stops, there is the sign pointing to the rental cars. Yippee!

“What we have reserved for you,” says the Budget rental agent “is a VW bug. Will that be big enough for you?” My hubby and I look at each other – “A VW bug???” How is my 6’ 4” husband going to fit in that? Noticing our hesitation, she continues, “We can upgrade you to a bigger car.”  But we instantly reject the upgrade. It seems the rental agencies are always trying to make more money by sneaking in upgrades and extras and we are always getting caught in these endeavors. We soon have secured our shiny black VW bug. With the seat pushed all the way back, my hubby’s ample frame fits nicely into it. There is no back seat left but we don’t need one.010

The roads leaving the airport remind us all too soon that we are in the east and out of our driving element. There is not much to do about that but hang onto the wheel and go. We have a four-hour drive to Hawks Cay Resort at Duck Keys which is our destination. It is dark and raining but warm when we arrive. As my hubby slides the seat ahead in our VW to retrieve his camera which he has lain on the floor, a strangled sound escapes his lips.

“What’s wrong,” I ask.

His distressed voice responds, “My camera lens is shattered. It must have gotten crushed by pushing the seat back. I’ve never had a problem with putting it on the floor before.”

“Oh, NO! What are we going to do? How are we going to take any pictures here?”

“I don’t know,” concedes my hubby, “I am hoping the inner lens is not damaged. If it’s not, I can maybe just change the outer lens. If the inner lens is shattered too, my expensive camera is useless.”

What a bummer of a way to end our day of travel. We are both depressed. But given an hour, my resourceful husband has been able to remove the damaged lens and replace it with a new one. The camera is as good as new and we are ready for our adventure in the Florida Keys.077

Virginia Family Visit – The Williamsburg Trip Conclusion

556Friday is the last day of my anesthesia conference. Like most conferences that I have attended, the crowd has thinned to a sparse few by the last presentation. We are done by 11:30 am. I stand in the heat and call my hubby to pick me up in front of the conference center. Because of hotel rules about check-out of the room by 11 am, husband and daughter have been homeless and wandering around the town of Williamsburg waiting for me to get done.

After a quick stop at Kentucky Fried Chicken, we are on the road to my younger brother’s house in the Charlottesville, VA area. We are hoping to be there in time for supper. Once we get off Interstate 64, the roads become narrow and curvy. My brother’s driving instructions were to follow the road which twists, turns, curves, and goes up hill and down for 15 miles. I guess that describes what roads that lie in the foothills of the mountains are like. It is beautiful country except the trees are a little too close to the side of the road for what Minnesotans are used to. We arrive around 4 pm in the afternoon. We had been instructed that once we left the hard top road and transitioned onto a gravel road that we were to turn left at the next driveway. Turn left we do, into a driveway in a forested area. My mother used to say that my husband and I lived in the “boonies.” I think this seems like the “boonies” to me too. The two story house is set against a backdrop of a hill that disappears into the sky – a lovely setting of peace and privacy. It is cooler here than on the east shore, a relief from the unrelenting heat of the last few days.

Mama deer with albino and normal spotted fawns

Mama deer with albino and normal spotted fawns

That evening while sitting and chatting, my 9 year old nephew, draws our attention to a deer that has been visiting them every evening. The doe has two fawns – one is pure white, an albino. They come very close to the house and Nephew creeps out to photograph them. They are beautiful.

My brother and his wife graciously offer their bed to us for our use while our daughter sleeps upstairs in our nephew’s bedroom. There is no air conditioning here so the windows are open. I notice that the night is silent except for the sounds of the night creatures – no voices, no far off car or truck sounds. I used to love to fall asleep to the chirping of the crickets. I, however, have a hard time falling and staying asleep here. I have started to develop the dreaded rash on my legs from the mosquito bites I received on Wednesday. I notice some hydrocortisone cream on the bathroom counter and help myself to it even though I know that in the past, it has not helped. Hubby and I have also switched bed sides because the only outlet available to run his CPAP machine for sleep apnea is on “my” side. As creatures of habit, we collide in the middle of the slanting mattress as we roll.

300 267Saturday dawns bright and sunny. We all pile into my brother’s van. The 3 young, not quite so wide ones, are delegated to the rear seat. That means us old ones get the middle seats. My brother has kindly planned a family day for us visiting some of Virginia’s natural wonders. We visit the Virginia Safari Park, the Natural Bridge Park and the Natural Bridge Caverns, all located in Natural Bridge, VA. The whole town and these attractions revolve around the theme of the natural bridge. The natural bridge is a huge rock arch formation that was formed years ago when a cavern collapsed leaving the 215 foot tall towering rock bridge. It has a span of 90 feet and, we are told, has a road that runs over the top of it.

The Safari Park contains numerous wild animals much like a zoo though which one can drive to view the animals. It is a great place but I can’t help but think that none of these man-made parks begins to compare to God’s wild animals in the natural habitat of the African plains. Since our trip to Africa, I am always somewhat disappointed in the man-made parks and zoos.

We dutifully stand in line after lunch to buy our tickets to the bridge and the cavern. We all decide to buy the combo ticket pack which allows us to see both the caverns and the natural rock bridge for a cheaper price. At least, that is what we think. Because of the time of day, the caverns becomes our first stop of the two. Imagine my shock when we approach the check-in at the caverns and the lady there says, “That will be $56.”

“What?” is the response of both my brother and me. “We paid for the combo tickets down below.”

“Oh,” responds the lady, “We don’t do that anymore. You only pay for the Natural Bridge admission tickets down there and we charge the rest up here.”

I am really confused but as I look at the receipt, we did only pay the single admission price. I notice the confused looks of my brother and the building frustration of my hubby. I quickly pay the extra as I assure my brother and hubby that everything is OK and that I will explain later. We all agree that this is a really misleading way to handle things – make people believe they are paying for both attractions and then ask them later for the additional amount.

345We have arrived just in the nick of time as the next group is starting their decent into the caverns. I am wishing that I had a coat but I don’t. I will have to survive without it. If I could just absorb some of this cold and use it when we get back out into the sunshine, I could actually enjoy this chilly atmosphere. We do have a grand tour into the depths of the earth and then it is time to hike to the natural bridge.

A group is milling around under the bridge preparing for a military wedding. This is a beautiful place to have a wedding. The only problem is the constant stream of people who will be tromping through the ceremony. The magnificent rock formation frames a small staging area nestled between the bridge and the tree lined gorge behind it. The temperature is moderate in this ravine as the path is shaded by the rock wall and trees that grow from it. A stream runs beside the path, tumbling down from a higher elevation. A mile walk along this path will take us to Lace Waterfall. By the time we reach the waterfall, it is pushing 4 pm and we retrace our steps back down the path to the natural bridge. The wedding is just getting ready to begin. Respectfully, people pause as the wedding proceeds and the crowds gather to watch. It is a short wedding – probably not even 30 minutes. The military wedding theme is culminated with the bride and groom passing under the raised swords of the honor guard as they depart. Just as the couple passes under the swords of the last two men in the row, the one soldier reaches out with his sword and smacks the bride of the butt. Ouch! I don’t think that was the way it was supposed to end.

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge

On our way “home,” my brother takes us on a fast tour of the Blueridge Mountains via Blue Ridge Parkway. We climb up and up as we speed around curves for a number of miles.

“Would you like to see Crabbtree Falls?” asks my brother.

“If we are anywhere close, I would like to at least see it. But I don’t think I want to climb a 3 mile trail tonight yet.” I respond.

Soon we are plunging downhill and around corners at breakneck speed. I am not too worried or frightened as my brother is a truck driver and travels Virginia roads every day. My husband tells me later that he was hanging onto his seat for dear life. I worry about our daughter as she is in the back and she tends to get car sick. I keep asking her if she is OK. As we pull into the Crabtree Falls parking lot and get out of the car, a strong smell of burning brakes assaults our noses. Oops! Someone just about burnt up the brakes.

436“Let’s just climb to the first platform,” I suggest. Everyone agrees. A short .2 miles later, we are there. Brother says, “How about going to the next platform?”

“No o…” I groan but my hubby thinks that is a great idea so off we go. I can do anything that he can do. Even he agrees to not go to the third platform when it is suggested. It is time to find some food and go “home.”

By Sunday morning and our departure time, the mosquito itch and rash on my legs has grown to a frenzied roar. Nothing makes it stop except numbing my legs with ice cubes. At my brother’s house, I can do that. How am I going to make it home without going insane as anything touching my legs only makes the itch worse? This is like a form of torture. I discover that if I roll up my pant legs as high as they will go so nothing is touching my skin, the itch is tolerable. But I don’t want to look like a world class dork in public. But as I look around the airport at the bustling crowds of people, I realize no one, except my family, knows me and I will never see these people again. The creeping insanity of the itch soon overrides my self-conscious desire to be socially proper. I walk around with my pants rolled up. And on the airplane, I ask for only ice when the stewardess comes around with drinks. Ah, that ice provides immeasurable relief. At least, I can make it home without losing my mind although I am not sure, as a Minnesotan where mosquitos are the state bird, how I am going to avoid these situations in the future if I want to spend any time in my beloved outdoors.

The end.