Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Wednesday Sept 21
I expected Kansas to be boring having heard cross country tales of Kansas and Nebraska having so much sameness. Instead, by sticking to secondary freeways (Rts 36 & 50) we got to see a great deal. Roadside banks were covered with a 'new' bright yellow flower which a little research turned up to be a Maximillian Sunflower. Sunflower is the state flower of Kansas. 

Equally ubiquitous are the wind farms and parts of the huge wind turbines. We drive past one area that had acres of parts! Fields of turbines follow in Spearville Kansas.  
Near Dodge City, we pass 
acre after acre of feed lots brimming with cattle being fattened before the kill. Once in Colorado, near the southern town of Lamarr we encountered a solid mile long of feedlot after feedlot, filled to capacity. This is no small farmer operation but a corporate one. No signs!  We pull into the John Martin Reservoir State Park outside of Lamarr where we choose the upper campground on the reservoir. It is deserted except for us, all the electric sites being below the dam. Alone, we watch a spectacular sunset followed by thunder storms that flash and light up the sky for hours to the south. 

An hour later, I understand why it is deserted - thrips & mosquitos invade our space. Armed with a Citronella candle and a fly swatter, I declare war. Hours later and over a hundred dead bugs littering our surfaces, I concede as somewhere the little buggers are getting in the van and the task is never ending. We sleep with the high pitched zings in our ears.

Thursday Sept 22
We are in SE Colorado and heading for Denver today and an evening with my other Kentucky cousin Bobbi Walker. Since it is only a 3-4 hr drive, we decide to take the long way thru the Rockies.  From Salida north, every mile gets better! We peak at Leadville (literally) where piles of lead stacked to their 'angle of repose' line the road at 10,200'.
Our destination in Denver is Walker Fine Art, Bobbi's gallery of fifteen years. She specializes in abstract paintings and sculpture, installations and corporate art. Her dedication to her dream coupled with her determination, never-quit attitude, and masterful layered marketing has paid off! I'm in awe at the pieces she has on display. One artist has cut and dipped in resin books into three pieces unlike anything I've ever imagined! 

Working closely with her artists, Bobbi's counseling has paid off for both parties. This is the kind of relationship most artists yearn for with their galleries. Bobbi is a size one powerhouse who lights up any room she walks into. She is an active participant in the Denver Art Community and her gallery is declared one of the Top Ten in Denver!
We stay overnight in her home of 25 years, an art-deco era building with original woodwork, chandeliers and pewter door knobs! We walk to an excellent restaurant where we dine al fresco.

Friday Sept 23
More nostalgia in the morning for me as we head to Boulder where I attended college at Dear Old CU - Univ of Colorado - from 1966-1970. We drive thru the campus that has augmented by over 5 times! I recognize little but the lovely sandstone they use for all the buildings. I knock on the door of the Pi Phi House, my home for Soph- Senior years. I'm let in and allowed to freely roam the three stories of this, the largest Pi Phi house west of the Mississippi. Little has changed but for updates to the baths and kitchen area. The girls are super friendly and I talk with several for a while. 

Our destination today is Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
As we travel along the 3/4 loop of the park road, we are in awe and Collin remarks that it is every bit as grand as the Road to the Sun in Glacier National Park. 

We find a campsite at Timber Creek CG on the west side of the park. A front is coming in as we wander across the meadow to the Colorado River's beginnings. It is the rutting season for the elk. We hear the haunting ethereal bugling of multiple elk across the valley as we wander along the stream.

As we approach camp, we encounter a small group of five elk just 15 yds from the CG. No one else in the campground notices them and we tuck away our private memory.

Saturday Sept 24
We awake to a 3" dusting of snow, thankful for our cozy tiny home and our warm night's sleep. 

Our intention of driving back thru the park, perhaps stopping to hike, is dashed with the news that the pass at the summit at 12183 is closed till the weather lifts and thaws the icy roads. We've already booked a second night at Timber Creek CG so we head out to make a larger clockwise northern loop to get back to the town of Estes Park. It's cloudy with intermittent soft flurries or sleet and patches of sun. And it's spectacular! The turning of the aspen leaves is at its peak! Elk are everywhere.

Our northern loop thru Walden and Marshville is through the Poudre (Poo-der) Canyon - a 90 mile ride of extraordinary scenery. Not the dramatic peaks of the Park but a luscious fertile landscape of cascading streams, rocky cliffs and brilliantly colored aspen.

Once back in Estes Park we find it filled to capacity.  We luck into a parking spot and a table with view at the Sun Deck Restaurant where I wax poetic over the fresh trout almandine and fried onion rings. 
Too late to try to return to Timber Creek CG on the west side of the park, we chance that the Full Aspenglen CG might have a cancellation due to weather. The nice woman at the CG tells us there is one tent sight reservation cancelled and we go to see that indeed our van will fit perfectly! 
Once settled, we hike upward along a horse trail to a vista of the valley on the other side.

Sunday Sept 25
Up early, we drive thru the southern part of the park to Bear Lake. It's early enough that the roads are not chocked full and it is a spectacularly sunny day at a crisp 40 degrees. I long to paint but we are going to cover a lot of miles and a lot of mountains today. We spot a coyote carrying a deer or elk femur.

Once out of the park, we head down to Golden, then south to Evergreen and over the Kenosha Pass.  Apparently the word is out that there is a spectacular display of aspen at the pass as the line of cars coming from the west side is over 20 miles in length! Thankfully we're going the other way!  It is a great patch of Aspen but truly we've been seeing comparably awesome spectacles the whole day.  We turn west again in Buena Vista to go over the Cottonwood Pass at 12,126. We see a hiker I speculate may be attempting the Continental Divide Trail, one of the big 3 (with Appalachian and Pacific Crest) and reputed the most difficult. 
All waters run eastward from this side

and west from this side.

At the 'base' of the divide is Taylor Park Reservoir where we find a fabulous campsite overlooking the reservoir. I count 26 peaks in front of us of the Elk Mountains! 

Collin calls his dear friend Bernie in Sequim WA and tells him how much he loves Colorado and, had he known of this wonderland, he would have moved here 30 years ago! We have been talking all day of the idea of moving to Colorado.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


This weeks travel takes us from New York & Pennsylvania through six states in the Mid West - WEST VIRGINIA, OHIO, KENTUCKY, briefly thru INDIANA and ILLINOIS on our way to visit nephew Tony in MISSOURI.

Wednesday Sept 14
We head for Goshen Ohio to visit Collin's cousin Jon and wife Julie who moved back to her home area after years of living in the San Fernando Valley of California.  They have found and created a beautiful home in a park-like setting with a swimming pool. Foodies and world travelers, we have tons to talk about, not to mention Jon's fascinating tales as a turbo-charger consultant

Thursday Sept 15
Julie is a nurse and we are fortunate she has the day off. She takes me to a darling town near by, Milford, whose historic downtown is now full of shops, an art gallery and a stained glass workshop. The art gallery is top notch and the gallery owner talks art with us for a long while. Collin is home with Jon who is entertaining him with stories of his fascinating life as a consultant of turbo-chargers on automobiles and airplanes. In the evening we head to a favorite restaurant - Copper Blue -where Jon & Julie are greeted by the owner who shares their love for the food network shows. The food is mouthwatering!

Friday Sept 16
Today's destination is a fairly short drive through Ohio to Louisville KY where we stop at a Mercedes dealership and are helped through the 19 steps to turn off the service alert bleeping beeping message!  We have been invited to stay at 'Grandma's house.  They have kept the 1920s bungalow in which my Aunt Mildred (Grandma) and Uncle Percy raised their family.
 As we come into Glendale I feel like I am returning to my roots. Even tho I have never lived in Kentucky, this is where my mom and dad are from. As an Air Force 'Brat' all my life, I moved every three years of my life until I reached Sacramento Ca in '78 at age 30, never having known a place to be 'home'. It is a unique sense of belonging I feel here as I get reacquainted with these roots. Bob and Susie Walker are both gone now and I miss them sorely. Thankfully, their 3 children - Bobbi (in Denver where we will visit her), Jerry (& Amanda) who lives next to Grandmas on the right, and Cathy (& Mark plus 3) who lives on the left having renovated her parent's-Bob & Susie's-house, have kept the Walker properties and farm, for now at least. The barn where we used to play brings waves of nostalgia to me. Jerry has three beloved Passofino horses. 

I long to paint the barn and horses but visiting is much more important. Cathy & Jerry come over after work, both their mates having other obligations. We eat at Grandmas table, then sit on the back porch in rocking chairs, jawing till midnight. 

Saturday Sept 17 Glendale KY
It's pouring! Cathy invites us down the road to see their fabulous remodel of Susie and Bob's old house that she and her family are living in. The brick home looks modern and stylish and still retains its family feeling. 
We head into Glendale to go by my grandparent's, Edgar & Mamie's, home

and visit the excruciatingly cute village of Glendale, formerly Walker's Station - founded by our great great grandfather, Lewis B. Walker, and now on the National Historic Registry. 
I visit my parents grave 

and Susie and Bob's, then knock on former preacher Mike Bell's door where we spend an hour chatting with him. He lost his beloved wife Sharon just two years ago and the great love and great loss for him fills and breaks my heart at the same time.
Jerry calls and invites us to a special treat. He is a member of a Barbershop Quartet - he's the bass. There is a fundraiser at the State Theater in E-Town featuring the Kentucky Vocal Union who placed 3rd in the most prestigious International Barbershop Championship. The singing is wonderful - even more so as Jerry explains the vocal ranges and all to us. We love it! 

We head back to Grandma's house where we again sit on the porch and tell each other stories til past 11.

Sunday Sept 18
Jerry comes to have a last chat with us before he goes to church 

and we head out to Mammoth Cave where we take an hour fifteen minute tour. No stalagmites or tites but lots of history told by a ranger whose looks, accent and story-telling ways remind me of my dad. I'm convinced that Kentuckians (and Walkers in particular) are descended from a long line of marvelous story- tellers! The intonations, the dramatic pauses, all of it - flows thru my veins and to my husbands bane - out my mouth! 
Kentucky is so beautiful to drive through I don't want to leave! But we have to cross a couple of states to continue on our way to our next stop to visit my nephew Tony Tappan and his household of beauties - wife Laura, daughters Allison, Sarah and Tess - in Kansas City Missouri. We cross the Ohio River as we enter Indiana at Evansville. Next up is southern Illinois where we overnight at Carlyle Lake, the largest campground in Illinois at the largest man-made lake. It is darn near deserted and we find a great site overlooking the vast lake. We dub the site The Pecan and Blue Heron Site as we listen to the baseball sized pecans drop on our roof during the night.  The moon, just one night past full, casts a beautiful reflection in the lake.

Monday Sept 19  - Missouri bound
Collin tells me we have a max of 20 more days in the road as that is when his inhaler runs out. Goody, I think, hoping we can spend some extra time in Colorado.
We hit 10,000 miles on our trip today, 224 hrs of driving (all Collin except for 2 hrs he let me drive!), averaging 20.9 miles to the gallon!!
We head to St Louis and decide to take in the Missouri Botanical Gardens, considered to be one of the top three in the WORLD! It is an outstanding Botanical garden.  Mature 100' trees abound and lots of shade which we sorely need as Missouri is having a hot spell with soaring humidity! Chihuly glass works are everywhere blending with the botanicals.

Onward to Kansas City Missouri where my nephew Tony Tappan and his family live in a classic 1920s era Tudor home. They underwent a massive remodel just two years ago that required their family of five to move out for seven months! The result is perfection in a traditional updated home - right out of an architectural magazine. The kitchen is fabulous and the two new baths perfect. 

Tuesday Sept 20
We spend two nights here. Family time is the best! Allie, their eldest at 18, is super busy, holding down a job and in her Senior year of high school. She has applied for and been accepted at multiple colleges. We get the news while we are there that she has take her ACT scores up by a significant amount by studying for and retaking them a third time! This will result in a significant increase in available scholarship funds - an initiative she took totally on her own! She a gorgeous blonde now and looks like a young Norma Jean! Sarah (16) is a Sophomore and already being sought after by colleges. She is also gorgeous with waist length hair and a smile that lights up any room! Tess is now 12 - beautiful, bright, talented! She studies singing and dancing. All three girls seem totally unaware of how beautiful they are, concentrating on developing their inner beauties, skills, arts and studies. 
Sarah and Tess at dinner

Mom Laura is... well, yea, I'm prejudiced but she really is the loveliest of human beings I know. With beauty in her soul, her even-tempered bright spirit is shared by every family member. The newest member, gangly puppy Zack, is her latest raising project - along with her full time IT profession of course! 

Tony is the luckiest of men and happily realizes it daily. He is successful in all ways, especially the ones that matter most - home and hearth, family and friends. I feel blessed to be related to this family of five extraordinary people!  

Wednesday Sept 21
Collin and I depart in the morning heading across Kansas for our next and last segment of our trip - the West. Today we will book some miles (8 hrs worth) to get into Colorado tonight.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The BACK IN THE USA - Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania

Thursday Sept 8
We drive down the Bay of Fundy, going thru Calais as our point of entry. US Customs is far more relaxed than our Canadian counterparts were. Here a series of questions suffice and we on our way to Acadia National Park, reputed to be the 10th most visited NP in the states. When we arrive we are told the campground is full (a 2nd one is closed early for the season) and that this is their busiest year on record. Our Golden Age Pass gets us in for free and we drive around the park loop. It is foggy and misty and there are almost no views at all. We head to the Mount Desert Campground in the middle of the island where we find a spot in the woods. It's almost full too but we find a spot. It's 4:30 so I pull out my easel and set up on the camping platform provided for tents. I spend the next hour and a half enjoying myself immensely painting a small 6x8 of the Cape Breton coastline. 

Pink Granite Coastline | Pastel |6x8

We have Butter Chicken with rice and I do my yoga which I now look forward to each evening. 

Friday, Sept 9
We're on our way today to Portsmouth area is New Hampshire where my friend Chris Erickson lives. Chris is a close friend of Suzi Long and I met her at Suzi's at the Mendocino Open Paint Out- MOPO- its first year in 2013.  I use the Wi-Fi at the campground and we start a leisurely 4 hour drive down the coast, stopping for lobster roll and photo ops.
It's lovely to see Chris again and she shows us why she chose Portsmouth and the town of Stratham as her domicile. She has lived in her lovely new home since November. She makes a great suggestion for our Friday night - Taj Majal is playing in the park in Portsmouth! Off we go into the darling town of apx 28,000 and it's great harbor and new bridge where we sit for several hours listening to the blues of Taj Majal! Amazing fortitude of this (I'm guessing) +80 year old blues player! 

Saturday Sept 10
Today is Remembrance Day for me. We are headed to drive by three places I lived during my time in the Boston area. First, we head for Rockport to see the infamous Motif #1 (pronounced 'motive'). This fishing shack on the pier is one of the iconic artist scenes of America. No time for painting today but we do stop for clam chowdah as it is called here and I sample fried clams.

I lived in Massachusetts twice- after college, while flying for Pan Am, I married a Bostonian I'd met at Univ of Colorado, Peter Carleton. We married and lived on Beacon Hill in the heart of Boston. 

I believe this is our old home on Chestnut Street. We lived in the third floor which we accessed by walking thru the oval door on the left to behind the house and up a teeny elevator that was added to the outside of the building.  I moved from Boston to Charlottesville Virginia after splitting from Peter and falling deeply for David Greene, an engineer with Stone & Webster who was transferred to the Charlottesville area while I was on a six week vacation to Nepal and Bali. When I returned, I followed him there. A year later, he was transferred back to Boston where we bought a wonderful old house on a granite rock with a marsh out front in Hingham Mass. I find the home again and, seeing a man out front, head up the driveway. He and his wife and three children have bought the home just a year ago and have beautifully transformed it! They show us the inside and photos of the old house I remember nostalgically. I loved this home but it was also the place where my heart was broken. It is heart warming to see it loved and lived in by a family who will keep it for generations.

When David and I split, I moved just a few miles away to Hull - a peninsula south of Boston where I commuted to work by ferry. The house on Beach Avenue I rented- right on the ocean -  also has many memories attached to it as 4 of us lived there for the winter of '77-'78 when the Blizzard of '78 came thru the home in February, leaving seaweed on the fireplace mantle. Rendered uninhabitable, after evacuating to a friends house for two weeks (huge wine cellar, 7 of us feasting on lobsters washing in with each tide!), I moved out west. 

Memory Lane has exhausted my patient husband and we head for a nearby state park in Hingham that turns out to be a true hidden gem in the middle of the affluent Hingham/Cohasset area. 

Sunday Sept 11
Flags are flying at half mast today in remembrance of 9/11. We head due west in the direction of Niagara Falls which I haven't seen before. It's too far for one day's travel so we head a bit north in upstate New York to the Adirondacks. We're enchanted! It's beautiful country. We find an open campground on Sacandaga Lake and it's early enough for me to paint a quick one. 

Collin directs me to a particularly gorgeous kayak launch, then brings over two glasses of wine just as the sun is setting. 

We return to camp for steak cooked over the fire and baked potatoes. It's chilly and the lake is special. 

Monday Sept 12
Upper New York State is very pretty but the roads are horrible. It is shocking to me that the main travel route to Niagara Falls is one butt wrenching pothole after another. Along the way, I see signs for 'Maple Syrup. No Sun Service'. We stop and it is an Amish farmstead where the men are planing logs and constructing wooden sheds. I snap a surreptitious photo of a small child with her kitty.

We arrive at our campsite just 16 miles from the Falls at around 4:30. Collin makes the brilliant suggestion that we go see the falls at night. The parking gates are open and free and there's not even 20 people on the point! The Canada side is truly impressive with huge high rise hotels. 

The falls are lit up, the mist of the Horseshoe Falls rises high up into the sky!

Tuesday Sept 13
Now heading south thru Buffalo, we stop in Salamanca, NY to visit Collins former brother-in law, Bill Taylor and his wife Jane. It is Election Day and Bill is running for Alderman. A most interesting town, the land on which Salamanca is built is owned by the Seneca Indians and leased to the home owners. A former rail town, the place is dieing a painful death. The old downtown is deserted. A great many of the former residents have left and many old homes have sold to slumlords. Bill tells us drugs are rife. The Seneca who formerly stayed in a separate town, now enriched by their Casino, have moved in. Since they are a sovereign nation, white man's laws do not apply to them. If a cop pulls an Indian over, he has to notify one of the Indian Marshall's who basically don't prosecute or punish or take any action. They do not have to pay property or any kind of taxes, leaving the town in further decline from having no funds to work with or to attract new business. When the current lease on the lands expires in 2070, it is believed the Indians will not renew it as they want to take back the town. We had a lovely visit with Bill and Jane but I can't help but leave slightly depressed at the Catch-22 predicament they are in. Bill grew up here and has dedicated his life and time to the town, having been an Alderman twice previously. His desire to be involved and try to unite the two sides of the town are most admirable. 

We head into the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania just a few miles south for the night.